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Living Room Storage Plus Toys: Is Chic and Uncluttered Possible?

The wonderful and lovely Tiffany wrote with this query:

Um, Miss NTB? Do you take requests? If so, may I request a home entry on incorporating kids toy storage into your living room? I mean like, serious storage. Not just one or two cute baskets for decor. We have the world’s smallest living room, which is now also the world’s worst decorated (thanks, kid-proofing). I have been TRYING to come up with something somewhat stylish and utilitarian, but I end up with dumpy and cluttered. I WOULD LOVE YOU FOR A BAZILLION YEARS.

A bazillion years? I like the sound of that. Of course, before I could effectively answer Tiffany’s question I needed to know just how small the world’s smallest living room actually is. The answer? About 14’x12′, which I think is about the size of my own, so I can definitely sympathize with the very real fact that a tiny space plus childproofing plus toys can equal a major bummer of a room. The good news is that you don’t need to be all LOOKIT MAH TOYBOX!

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No Love For This Combo

Nine times out of ten – make that nine-and-three-quarters times out of ten – Palmer Weiss hits a total home run with me. For real, I will tell anyone who listen that I just love how Palmer Weiss puts together a room. So hugs and kisses, Palmer Weiss. I adore you, but this, not so much:

Maybe it’s just me, but the prints and color combination in this old Victorian house family room just scream old lady to me. Or if they don’t scream old lady now, they will in five years. Of course, what do I know? Maybe an old lady lives there!

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Actually Living In Your Living Room

My husband said an interesting thing to me the other day. He said “Since the baby was born, I feel like we’re really living in the living room.” I knew exactly what he meant – prior to, say, the baby becoming mobile, our living room was a pretty room that didn’t have much going on. Our TV and all our books are downstairs in what you might call the family room, my workspace was in my home office, and the kitchen is so the hub of our house. We just didn’t spend much time in the living room unless we had people over who wanted to sit instead of hovering in the kitchen.

But once the baby was born and started getting into everything, it seemed like the living room was the easiest one to childproof because she still didn’t have her own room and my office was full of things like crafting supplies while the so-called family room contained my husband’s desk. So the living room became play central. We switched out the carpet for play mats, put a Little People’s Farm on the game trunk, and if you can imagine it, inflated a ball pit, right there in the middle of everything. Now we spend a lot of time in the living room (though the baby’s room is almost finished and certain things like play mats will be moving in there).

So how can you start living in your living room without having a baby and filling your living room with toy cars and build blocks and dollies? Think about how you’d like to use your living room – would you like a reading room? A place to hang with your kids? A media room? Then decide what you can put in your living room to make that happen, like floor-to-ceiling book shelves, play mats, a huge TV, or whatever. Don’t put a lot of other stuff in there that won’t fulfill those objectives. That will help you avoid the kind of clutter that will make the room feel uninviting. Make sure the lighting supports whatever it is you want to do in your living room.

And then spend time in your living room! Instead of sitting down at a kitchen chair to flip through that magazine, stretch out on the couch. If you’re writing a letter, sit down at that writing desk that usually does nothing but collect dust. In fact, keep your stationery, stamps, and envelopes in said desk. Make an effort to live in your living room until it becomes a habit, and just like that, you’ll have a whole new room in which to while away the hours.

Never’s Dream House

Imagine you could pull any room from any house or flat and replace the same room in your house or flat with a snap of your fingers or the flip of a switch. Too bad life doesn’t work that way, but it sure is fun to design a whole new house in your head! My current dream house boasts a lot of white, bright colors, and a baby pink clawfoot tub, mmmm.


(via – a way too cute blog!)


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(via – which is my new fave blog)


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Now, if you have a minute or two to spare for little ol’ me, post a link to a pic of your dream rooms!

Going Gray

gray grey

I’ve had a love affair with gray since my teens when I painted the walls of my bedroom varying shades of gray. As a color, gray is frequently associated with neutrality — being neither white, nor black — and cool self-control. Because of its versatility and ability to harmonize with a variety of other hues, the color gray often serves as a backdrop to other, more vivid colors. But shades of gray can be their own perfect palette instead of highlighting bright yellows or pinks. Used on their own, shades of gray can make for a dramatic and bold or calm and soothing space, depending on how they’re used.

According to Wikipedia: “Most grey pigments have a cool or warm cast to them, as the human eye can detect even a minute amount of saturation. Yellow, orange, and red create a “warm grey”. Green, blue, and violet create a “cool grey”. When there is no cast at all, it is referred to as “neutral grey”, “achromatic grey” or simply “grey”. The color grey is often associated with aging or the passage of time, likely due in part to the decreased pigment-production of hair follicles in time, corresponding to the greying of human hair. In this context, grey is often used synonymously with “elderly”, as in “the grey pound” or “grey power” (when referring to the economic or social influence of the elderly), or as used by groups such as the Gray Panthers.”

You have your choice – go gray on your walls, go gray with accessories, or go gray down to the smallest detail. It’s easy, when there are so many different grays to choose from! Here are some inspiring images to get you started, and tomorrow I’ll show you how you can go gray for less than $25!

gray bedroom
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gray bathroom
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gray dining room fromdesignsponge
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gray living room

gray office
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Creative Uses of Difficult Spaces

Difficult spaces make organizing… annoying. Having no logical places to put things makes it hard to keep anything for any length of time without clutter taking over. Luckily, one can create logic in a difficult space, sometimes using craftiness alone, but more often with a little money and the help of a clever contractor. To inspire those readers who deal with difficult spaces on a day to day basis, here are four fab solutions to problems of organization.

under stair wine rack

An under the stair wine rack might be particularly enticing for the homeowner who loves a glass or two or three but has a kitchen that simply won’t accommodate a little wine cooler.

loft storage space

Is that a bike up there? Why, yes… It might not be entirely convenient a place to store one’s bicycle year round, but perhaps it could live up there during the winter when it wouldn’t be in use much. Think of a storage loft as a smaller garage alternative. Those without bikes could store luggage or a fire safe or linens without anywhere else to live.

living room workspace

This is a great idea for those who, like me, work from home but don’t have the space or inclination to put together a private home office. I’m actually typing this at the writing desk in my living room because my home office has been taken over by baby supplies, so I know this solution works. Putting the writing table behind the couch isolates it to some extent from the rest of the living room so you can maintain that work/life divide.

stair bookcase

And then we have the stairway bookcase, which is a classic solution to the very real problem of possessing too many books. I think this one is rather novel, however, as each stair simply wraps around at a ninety-degree angle to create a shelf. Plus the stairway itself is narrow and steep, making it a great way to access upper floors without losing a lot of first floor real estate.

(Photos via micasa)

A Farmhouse, Not Farmy

I’m loving the 1840s farmhouse the painter Sean Scherer shares with his partner, Marc Mayer. It’s rather deceptive — outside it has all sorts of rustic charm, while the inside is home to botanical, zoological, and anatomical artifacts. Mercury glass shares space with transferware and precise renderings of human guts. Where else can you find an old slaughterhouse table share space with midcentury Scandinavian ceramics and newsprint wallpaper all in one space?

farmhouse bedroom

farmhouse kitchen

farmhouse living room

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A Little Bit Country

Your home can be a little bit country without animal heads on the walls, lots of dark exposed wood, or being a little bit rock and roll. Just like you can be mod without plastic chairs or inflatable furniture. Not that there’s anything wrong with going a really rustic route.

Check these country interiors out for down home inspiration without the gun rack:

country art

A recipe for rustic: take one piece distressed furniture and combine with old world landscapes, vintage art pieces, and crisp white furniture. (via)

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