Family Room Refresh

Hi there! Gonna do my best to keep this one brief! We’ve lived in this house, (our first!), for quite a few years now - going on 9, actually! Our home has always been my ‘canvas’ of sorts to try new ideas and learn more about how I want our home to feel - both to us and to those whose company we get to enjoy within these walls. Our family room is in our basement, but it’s only partially underground so we do get some good light down here! It’s got some weird quirks, like an old brick hearth from a previous owners wood stove, and a 12” ‘bump out’ that provides extra insulation where the space is underground. But I love brick, I love wood, and I love built-in shelves! Until recently, I hadn’t touched the shelves flanking the brick:

5 years ago:


This winter I was feeling the need to wake this space up. I have loved it as-is since we moved in, but I just wanted to freshen it a bit, you know? I know there is a lot out on the web for how to decorate for less, but I still want to share how I refreshed this space for $75. You can create a lot of impact with a little!

First, here is what I spent at a glance:
Thrifted mirror: $20
Thrifted file cabinet: $20
Thrifted accessories: $10
Plants & containers: $25

The theme here is thrifted. It took me a couple months to gather these items, and each time I walked into a thrift store I tried to just look around with an open mind. I had measured the heights of my shelves so I wouldn’t get anything that didn’t fit, and knew I wanted a couple interesting shapes. Other than looking for a wood file cabinet that I could refinish, and a large mirror, I was pretty open to items that simply stood out for the shelves.



All accessories here are thrifted accept the art! The trees print was on clearance at Target, and the abstract on the bottom shelf was a GIFT. I still can’t believe it. Our sweet friend Melissa is a talented abstract artist using the most unusual techniques, (like avocado oil, thread….she never ceases to amaze me). Her work is so striking but even more so is her heart behind her work. You can find out more about her and her work here if interested!


While Craigslist, Facebook, and thrift stores are busting with file cabinets, I really wanted a wood one with brass hardware that I could refinish. I finally found this one and grabbed my black chalkpaint, (by Valspar at Lowes!), the same day! It was a quick afternoon job and I love how it turned out. Our basement doubles as office space and so I figured our functional file cabinet could at least serve as a cute end table, too. At the end of the day it’s still just a file cabinet. Not my favorite piece of furniture, but it doesn’t bother me as much in this matte black finish.


I really don’t care for excessive decorative pillows, (they get sat on and thrown on the floor in this house), so when I want to change things up I prefer to ‘shop my house’ and steal from other rooms. All of these pillows have been around for a while in various rooms,, and I’ve discovered that 20x20s or 22x22s are our magic size for our TV lounging sofa here. Anything smaller just doesn’t work for us.


Two tricks I’ve discovered when styling shelves with a lot of books: 1) Break the books up into stacks and mix in with small accessories. Have a row of vertical books on one shelf, then a few stacks of horizontal books on another. Shelves of JUST books can feel a lot like college again. 2) If you’ve got books with covers offensive to your eyes, take em’ off. Matt’s Harry Potter set was sticking out like a sore thumb to me. I just like more muted tones, when possible. So I took the neon covers off and prefer the naked bindings, (top left).


Mixing in a plant or two here and there is another great way to break up books.


Our TV has sat on the same refinished/converted dresser I thrifted 8 years ago. I think this piece was less than $20! It’s not my style now, but it also doesn’t bother me one bit! We’ve definitely got a few pieces like that that aren’t what I would pick now, but also just don’t bother me to the point of urgeny to replace.


This desk Matt built along our stairs is as useful as it looks depressing. He settles here when he has work to do from home - I can’t do it. Hah! But it’s a great way to make use of a nook in a small home.


That’s a wrap! Hope you feel empowered to shop used or even around your own home the next time you’re looking to refresh a space. It’s always a great place to start. And a can of paint doesn’t hurt, either!

Thank you so much for coming by today! Have a wonderful weekend!

SMH E-Design Projects in Progress!

Hi Friends! It’s been a little while! I realized when catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a while that I’ve neglected sharing StyleMutt Home design work on here in a big way! I have to be honest, if I don’t have a final reveal to share with you guys, I don’t really know what to share. The truth is I am up to my ears in design projects but have very little hope of seeing many, if any, of the jobs completed. For one thing, many clients are not local. This presents the hurdle of coordinating travel, (and paying for it), to go take pictures of any projects that are actually completed according to the design plan. The design plan is another hurdle! Even when I deliver a design within the clients budget, with all the tools to make purchasing the items a cinch and an annotated floorplan indicating where every single item goes, many jobs don’t get completed exactly according to the vision. And as a homeowner I TOTALLY get it. Financial ‘surprises’ come up and sometimes the budget you had for fun stuff, (think art, pillows, a pretty rug or lamp), goes to not-so-fun stuff. This is the number one reason why more jobs don’t ever make it on here, and even though I absolutely understand it as a homeowner myself, it’s a tough reality to face.

This is, indeed, a creative job. It’s a profession that attracts creative personalities! Creativity has always been a part of my life in a very tangible way, and my favorite part of the creative process has been seeing a vision come to life. It just so happens that in this particular creative field of work, I very rarely see the vision come to life. I’m working on some ideas to improve the process, but I have had to really come to terms with that and press forward with my best effort. While this has been an unexpected challenge, I am so incredibly grateful that I have the opportunity to work and make some income on such a flexible schedule. I feel like I am able to be ‘all in’ with my kids and be available and present in their lives, and I am able to work around our family time. What a gift!!! So, despite some unexpected challenges with the job, it is still a dream come true.

And despite not getting to share as many finished projects with you as I would love, I’d like to make a better effort of sharing and celebrating project progress! I absolutely love putting design concepts together for our clients and since that’s what I am doing every week, I figured why not share them with you! So here we go; A quick breeze through of some recent design concepts that I’ve completed since New Years! For each project I create a design board that is more or less a ‘collage’ of the pieces that will fill the room, a floorplan that maps out where all the items will go, and a 3D rendering of the design as it would look in their own space. In addition to these, I also provide a complete shopping list that our clients can use to conveniently purchase through the pieces in the design. A single design project can take from two weeks to a year, depending on the scope of the job!

Project 1

Project goal: Transform the over crowded space with more comfortable pieces that will enable this basement to function as a lounge area, colorful play room, and small workspace.

Neesha's collage.jpg

Project 2

Project Goal: Use client’s existing sofa, rug and art to create a comfortable living room with surrounding pieces that still allow flow in this very narrow room.

Annies collage.jpg

Project 3

Project Goal: Create a modern, yet cozy formal living room suitable for entertaining.

Keristen Collage.jpg

Project 4

Project Goal: Work with the existing kitchen to blend the space in with the rest of the home - modern yet casual pieces that are warm and inviting.

Keristen Collage 2.jpg

Project 5

Project Goal: Create a very minimal yet warm formal dining space. Client needs space for their piano and favorite pieces of art.

PicMonkey Image-5.jpg

Project 6

Project Goal: Transform this sunroom into a relaxed but chic office and lounge space. Specific request for asian inspired art, shelves for books, and a chaise lounge to read.

PicMonkey Image-6.jpg

I have had such a blast with these projects over the past two months! In addition to starting these since we rang in the New Year, I also now have 4 additional projects that are on track to be completed this Spring. I’m feeling hopeful, guys! Fingers crossed there will be some really fun fresh design projects to share here soon! I do have a little refresh I worked on in our basement ready to share, so stay tuned!

Thank you all so much for stopping by!


Man Cave || 2019 Flip List Item No.1

So last Spring, my husband and I were on the hunt for our next lease with a very specific list of must-haves in mind:

  • End unit townhouse (less walls to share with noisy neighbors)

  • Green space (for Thor and also so Caleb could exercise his supreme lawn skills)

  • At least 3 bedrooms (little did we know one of them would become a nursery)

  • A garage (a girl’s gotta have her in-home workshop, you feel me?)

  • And a MAN CAVE (Caleb’s non-negotiable)

By some miracle, we managed to find something that checked everything off our list - complete with a dungeon-like ground-level media room worthy of Caleb’s video-game playing and sports-game watching needs. The only thing was it was a already painted a very distinctive shade of blue:

“Thalos Blue” to be exact

Photo Jan 12, 8 25 30 PM.jpg

It’s not that the blue was all that bad. In fact our landlord would have let us paint it if we really wanted, but after giving a fresh coat of paint to the other 80% of the house, we kind of ran out of steam. We decided that the color was workable even though I would have chosen a more masculine navy than a cornflower blue for a media room.


Caleb immediately took up residence down here and I set to work on the rest of the house (you can see our progress here and here). In exchange for giving me practically 100% design control of the upper 2 floors of the townhouse, Caleb asked that I limit my… interference… in his sacred basement space. I admit, this was very hard for me to do and I definitely snuck a few decorative items in there every once in a while. He did allow my expertise however to source a comfy sectional. I scoured Craigslist until I found an affordable leather one that was perfect for lengthy lounging and felt manly but still stylish enough for me to tolerate (I mean I have to watch movies down here too ya know ;).


But after a couple months, Caleb came to me with a surprising request to… interfere… with this space after all. See Caleb and I have often disagreed on form vs function when it comes to a space - meaning I like things “pretty” and he likes things “comfortable.” We’ve found little ways to compromise throughout the house but he was very resistant to my initial input on his man space. Me thinks he just wanted a place to set up shop without making any concessions for once. Hence my surprise when he actually approached me about making it feel a little more homey and how this item ended up on the 2019 Furniture Flip Bucket List.

Challenge Accepted

Man Cave 1.jpg

The plan was to use the blue to our advantage and make it as a backdrop for some rich colorful accents coupled with some touches brass to mature the space a bit.


The sectional was working out well, but I switched out the boxy man legs for some sexier gams to give the couch a more high-end look.


Legs Before

Low profile + a little frumpy


Legs After

Glam gams = soooo classy

Next we had to figure out what curtains to hang in a true blue room? I tried white for a bit but the contrast was too stark.  I could do red but I didn’t want to take away from all the pops of red I was adding elsewhere.  Eventually I landed on a blue to match the walls.  In a velvet no less to add texture and black-out any light on movie nights.


Finding the right TV stand was another fun project.  First we had to source one large enough for our monster TV (almost kept this guy for that very reason).  But we found a deal on this MCM credenza with minimal wear and tear.  I waterfalled the outer edges in a persimmon paint color for another fun by subtle pop.


My alternative coffee tables did get a little push-back from Caleb the Client. Instead of doing one large table, I found two brass martini side tables a varied heights. It’s not his favorite design concept (a coffee table should be more of a foot rest according to Caleb), but it allows us a classy take on TV trays when we are eating down there (which is basically on every movie night). 


Behind the couch is a small-space bar area when we want to get our Mad Men on.


Extra lighting sits on a narrow storage piece that flanks the back of the couch. We keep our small LP collection and record player on the shelves underneath.


A few of our records hang on the wall to make a “man art” moment. They can easily be switched out for a sports poster or two if the mood strikes.


Now this space has the family’s full stamp of approval - Thor included. 


And I’m crossing this project off this year’s list!


Two down, three to go. Catch up on the 2019 Furniture Flip Bucket List.