7th House on the Left

Way back in the day (technically, back in October), we removed the window panes from the two back doors (read the post here).

By the way, that’s my dad helping me with the windows back in October : )

Fast forward ten-ish months and the windows are still naked. No window treatments. No blinds. Naked. Until the kitchen is finished, we don’t want to do anything too permanent or expensive. So I guess you could say we’ve been in window-treatment-limbo. The back door in the living room faces our neighbors’ backyard. Even though their deck is a pretty good distance away, sometimes we felt like we’re giving them a front row seat to everything going in Casa de Brown. On top of that, at night, the window of dark nothingness kind of freaked me out…

To cover up the “scary dark nothingness”, we’ve resorted to covering the window with craft paper, wrapping paper, and even pages from magazines. A more attractive alternative was well overdue. We came up with several low-cost options, but ultimately decided to give the ‘ole contact paper method a try.

At first, we thought about trying out this technique (via Design*Sponge) using a paint pen on contact paper for a detailed, artsy look…

Even though it’s a very cool technique, we want to be able to see out the window a little bit, rather than covering the entire window. We also wanted something a little more graphic yet subtle. So we decided to design and cut our own contact paper pattern.

I played around with a few different patterns, keeping in mind I would have to cut each peace and place it on the window by hand. In other words, simplicity was key. I then came across this Moroccan-Vintage-esque tile on Pinterest (here). Not only would it make a dreamy backsplash for a kitchen, but I loved the overall shape. I imported the image over into Photoshop, traced it, then started to lay out my window. I drew everything to scale so I could see how big I wanted each piece to be. This also helped me know how many pieces I would have to cut.

tile inspiration

I printed the pattern on a piece of card stock to make a stencil (Click here to download the stencil!). With my DIY stencil, contact paper, scissors, and fine-tip Sharpee, and the Doris Day & Rock Hudson box set in hand, I hunkered down for a long night of tracing, cutting, and movie-watching.

contact paper window supplies

It was tedious, but I felt really proud of myself when I had all 76 perfectly-cut stickers – enough for both back doors.

From this point on, the process is pretty self-explanatory. The contact-paper-as-window-film concept isn’t rocket science and has been done a bajillion times, I’m sure. But here are a few things I wish I would have known before I got started:

  • When tracing the stencil onto the contact paper, draw on the paper side, not contact paper itself. Yeah, I know. I had a total blonde-moment.
  • Rather than making a lot of little, short cuts when cutting out your design, keep the scissors moving. This will give you a much cleaner line.
  • Make sure you clean the window as well as humanly possible before starting to applying the pieces to the window. After you finish applying each row, wipe off any finger prints you left on the window with a dry cloth before you start on the next row.
  • When peeling the contact paper backing, do it slowly. If the contact paper creases or wrinkles the slightest bit, it will show up on the window, no matter how much you try to smooth it out.
  • If you have a bubble, don’t try to rub it out too hard. When I first started, I would get a bubble and freak out and try to rub it out really hard and quickly. That always ended up with a crease so I had to do it over. I later found that rubbing out the bubble lightly and slowly worked much better.

When it was all said and done, and my hands had a chance to rest, Greg and I were both really happy with the end result….

contact paper window film

We were actually kind of surprised how non-DIY it looked. If we end up loving it after the kitchen is installed, we might look into a more permanent application of the same design, like etching.

We’re also digging how it adds a layer of unexpected pattern to the not-finished-yet living room…

living room

In case you have a naked window, and you’re wanting to try this out for yourself, I put together a handy dandy PDF for you to download – complete with the pattern template and the tips listed above. Click here to download!

**If you have any questions, be sure to check out the comments on this post.**

TRAY CHIC

posted by Ashley  /  17 Comments

It seems like just yesterday we were talking about Spring making its mark on our yard. And now, here we are; school supplies are flying off the shelves and fall decor ideas are flying around the Blogosphere. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Fall (and so does Greg). It’s just weird how time flies.

One thing I love about the changing seasons is the changing out of home accessories at stores like Target, Kohl’s, Pottery Barn, and Crate & Barrel. Around this time is when the summer lines are going out and the fall-inspired accessories are coming in. Not only do I find new things to add to my wish list, but I also get the chance to pick up some great pieces on the cheap. While browsing the clearance aisles of Target the other day, I managed to get my hands on a lot of goodies. Here’s the photo I texted to my mom saying, “This is why I shouldn’t go to Target alone!”

Among my finds, I found a huge faux leather tray tucked in the back of a shelf. (You can see it sticking of my cart in the top right corner of my photo.) According to the price tag, it was originally priced at $25, but it had been marked down to just $17! However, I’m pretty sure I saw the same tray a couple of aisles over a few months ago for around $50. Maybe the $25 was the sale price? I’m not sure. Regardless, $17 is a very good price for a 16 x 26 tray – especially when I found a very similar one (though made from authentic leather) online to the tune of $499! A classic “Look for Less” moment. Elisabeth Hasselbeck would be proud.

When I got the tray home, it practically gravitated to the living room coffee table…

tray, coffee table

Ideally, I’d like there to be more contrast between the tray and the coffee table. However, that doesn’t bother me too much due to the fact that the coffee table isn’t going to be with us forever. I’ve been not-so-secretly obsessing over this one I found at Home Goods a while back.

I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not going ahead and snatching it up. The reclaimed wood look would tie in with the reclaimed wood mantle that’s on our wish list. For now, we’re working with what we’ve got. So, I digress.

Now time to “dress” the tray. I didn’t want to use a bunch of impractical “foo foo” items that would end up being dust collectors. Instead, I wanted to make sure what made the cut tray were things we would use on an everyday (or semi-everyday) basis. With this in mind, I decided to approach the task Emily Henderson-style: layers. For the first “layer”, though it seems like the obvious choice, I wanted a place for some magazines and a current favorite book or two.

The tray ended up being the perfect size for a good amount of magazines and a few of my current favorite books. I didn’t want to stack things too high because I knew I wanted to add something on top of each stack (for layers 2 and 3) and I didn’t want to block the view from the love seat to the TV.

I love, love, love having fresh flowers in the house. By the way, I recently realized it’s much cheaper to get fresh cut flowers from our local florist (Strange’s, for you Richmond-ers) rather than the grocery store. They look better and last longer, to boot. While I was trying to decide what to do with the tray, I asked Greg to pick up some flowers on his way home from work (doesn’t that sound awful… I asked him to pick up flowers. He totally does that on his own from time to time. Promise.). When he came home, I put them in a short vase I picked up at the Williamsburg Pottery for $6 a few months back. Et voila… “Layer 2″ is born.

coffee table, tray, flowers, books

Now obviously, life isn’t a Disney movie (unfortunately) and we don’t live in a fantasy land where we have fresh cut flowers around all the time. No worries, though, because I can always find something else to put in the vase. For example, in the fall, I could fill the vase with acorns and add a chunky pillar candle. Once winter hits, I’m thinking faux snowballs… the possibilities are pretty much endless.

For “Layer 3″, I decided to use this cute little dish I bought on Etsy (from this shop) for $8.50. Since we’re not really candy dish people, and Greg and I enjoy playing card games from time to time, I opted to add a few decks of cards to the mix.

I feel like I’ve reached the goal of putting together something that’s aesthetically pleasing yet functional. You can get to everything on the table without too much effort, but it looks “together” at the same time. Over the last few days, we’ve especially enjoyed the fact that the playing cards are now within arm’s reach. Where ordinarily we’d play four games in a month, we’ve played four games in the last three days.

Overall, Greg and I are pretty pleased with what has become of my $17 Target find. He’s really digging the balance of form and function, and I love how everything is neatly organized and easy to maintain. Yay for the Target clearance aisle! So how about you… find any good clearance items lately? While you’re at it, do you have a favorite two-person card game?

By the way, don’t forget about our new daily feature in the sidebar to the right, “Side Notes”!

THE STATE OF THE BLOG

posted by Ashley  /  10 Comments

A few weeks ago, we asked you guys to answer a few questions for us in our very first Reader Survey (if you missed it, check it out here). Seeing as how it was the first time we’d ever done something like that, we weren’t sure how it would go. So we were over the moon when the responses started coming in. Thank you very much, for taking the time to answer our questions and giving us better insight on what you like and what you want more of. Knowing you guys on a more personal level makes blogging even more fun for us, and we hope it’s going to translate into a more enjoyable blog-reading experience for you!

Today, we want to share with you our findings as well as a few changes that are on the way (good ones, we promise!). We like to call this post our “State of the Blog Address” (and thanks to the White House for lending out their State of the Union logo). Let’s start off with our questions and what you had to say…

Question No. 1: Tell us a little about yourself. We asked this question because we wanted to get a general idea of who’s reading. Makes sense, right? We track our numbers using Google Analytics – which gives us insight on how many people come by each day, how long they stay, which city they’re from, and a bunch of other, more technical things. But none of that tells us who you are. Thanks to your oh-so-lovely cooperation, we now have a better understanding of who’s reading. A lot of you are just like us: 20-something-year-old new (or new-ish) homeowners. But the average is by no means the rule! Ages range from 19 to 61. You’re renters, you’re homeowners, and we’ve even got a dorm resident that responded to the questionnaire! (Ah, dorm life was so fun!) You’re from here in Virginia, and you’re on other side of the planet in Australia and everywhere in between. One thing’s for sure, we’re all interested in sprucing up our places (or future places) we live. In a way, it kind of feels like one big happy family, doesn’t it?

7th house on the left

Question No. 2: What would you like to see more of on 7th House? The most common response was, “More of the same.” I guess that means we’re doing something right, right? That makes us feel great! Our aim is to bring you great, relevant content in a very personal, conversational way. A lot of you mentioned wanting to know more about us as people, and we’re really going to work toward making that happen. We’re really grateful that you want to be involved in our lives, and that you were willing to share part of yours in this survey. It only makes sense to continue to develop this budding friendship! : )

Question No. 3: How did you find us? We added this question at the last minute and we’re so glad we did! Most of you said you found us through other blogs (mainly Young House Love) and a mention about our hall bathroom renovation over on Apartment Therapy. Thanks to this question, we even found out about a magazine mention! The majority of the rest of you guys found us via a Google search. Regardless of how you guys found us, we must say, it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside that you guys decided to stick around!

7th house on the left

Question No. 4: Out of our regular features, which one(s) do you enjoy the most (or least)? His + Her Favorite things took the cake on this one! We’re really happy to know you all love this feature as much as we love putting it together every month. I originally started this feature on my photography blog way back in the day (though at the time, it was called “Monthly Picks” and it featured my favorite things rather than ours). I had so much fun doing it there, we decided to bring it over to 7th House and make it a duo effort. We thought it would give you guys a little more insight to what we like and how we live. You can definitely tell a lot about a person by what they put in their shopping cart.

A close runner up to His + Her Favorite Things was Reader Renos and a few of you even begged for more! You asked, and we listened. We have some great Reader Renos lined up for the coming weeks, and we can’t wait to share them with you. One kitchen renovation in particular is just going to blow you away!

Not many of you pointed out your least favorite feature, but Etsy Thursday got the least nods. I suppose that counts as the least favorite. These days, we’ve been going Etsy Thursdays less and less. We want to make sure we only put great, high-quality products in the spotlight, and that takes some time. We still want to highlight great pieces from Etsy, but we’ll probably continue on the current trend unless we hear otherwise.

Question No. 5: On average, how many times a week do you stop by 7th House? Your answers were a mixture of “every day”, “a few times a week”, and “whenever you have a new post”. Most of you were even nice enough to mention how you read 7th House. A majority said you come directly to the site. The rest of you read via Google Reader (Yay for Google Reader!) and click over to the blog every once in a while. We also found out that a good number of you tend to read on the go – whether it be on your iPad, smart phone or Nook. It’s so exciting to see all the ways our blog makes it into your everyday lives!

centsational girl, young house love, apartment therapy, design sponge

Question No. 6: What are your top 3 daily blog reads? All-in-all, the top three (actually four) daily blog reads among 7th House readers (besides this blog) were Young House Love, Centsational Girl, and Apartment Therapy and Design*Sponge tied for third. I have to say, you guys have great taste! We’re huge fans of these blogs, and it’s humbling to be included with them in your list of daily reads.

Question No. 7: Any advice for us as we are getting ready to hit our 1-year mark? We got a lot of “more of the same”-type answers (which, again, makes us feel really good!), but there were some great constructive remarks here that we’re going to take to heart as well as a few funny tid bits including, “Please don’t have a baby and start blogging all things baby!” Rest assured, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. (Even though I do have a board on Pinterest called “If we had kids…” There’s just too much adorable kid stuff out there!) Even though we’re a “baby blog”, we don’t plan to be a baby blog. ; )

So that’s what you had to say, now for the part where we tell you what we’re going to do. We’ve been putting our heads together, and here are a few things to look forward to in the coming months:

  • A Bona Fide Blogging Schedule. Over the past few months, we’ve been trying to come up with a “groove” – a schedule of sorts that works for our individual schedules and brings you high-quality content on a regular basis, and we think we’ve come up with a solution! Our goal is to bring you three solid, high-quality posts every week – Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We’ll still post giveaways every now and then on Tuesdays (Psst… have you entered in the steam mop giveaway yet?)and sprinkle an Etsy Thursday in here and there. However, if you want to know that when you check our page, you’re going to find new content, a post will be waiting for you right here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday around 9:30ish in the morning (US Eastern time). Yay for schedules! I feel better when things are more organized, don’t you? Also, when a new post is up, we’ll be sure to let you guys know via Twitter and Facebook. Sound like a plan, Stan? Cool. Schedules make the world go around!
  • More Facebook Action. Along with letting you know when a new post is up, we’re going to be spending more time over on our Facebook page. We’ll be sharing links to articles we think you might find interesting, an occasional photo of our daily activities, answering some FAQs, and we might even do a Facebook-only giveaway now and then. So, if you don’t already “like” us on Facebook, head on over!
  • A FULL 7th House Etsy Store. I read an article once about how Apple store employees aren’t allowed to say “unfortunately” because they don’t want to bum out the customers. Instead they are told to say “as it turns out”. So in Apple-esque form… As it turns out, the grand opening of the Etsy store has been delayed due to a what Greg likes to call a PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard) error. Yeah… I spent some time cleaning up my computer, accidentally deleted a bunch of my files, emptied the trash can (twice), then realized I didn’t have a backup. Go me. In the mean time, we’ve added a few more pieces to our “soft opening” that are ready for purchase, including your favorites from the preview a while back. So be sure to stop by and check it out here or just click on the “Store” tab at the top of the page. When the store is “complete complete”, we’ll be sure to make a big blog announcement so you won’t miss it.
  • More free loot! We’ve been doing giveaways here and there to kind of test the waters and see if you like them. Now, because of the reader survey, we know you do! We’re going to try to bring you giveaways more and more often.
  • Mobile friendly reading. As we mentioned, a lot of you read our blog from mobile devices, and we want to make sure that’s a great experience. In the near future, we’re going to take some time to optimize our site for mobile browsers so that you can access 7th House on the go without having to worry about the site looking strange or the text being too small. Don’t worry–we’re not going to lock you into some alternate-reality version of the site that hides half of the content. We just want to make sure that you can hit the site from your smart phone or tablet without inordinate amounts of pinching, zooming, and scrolling.
  • More about us. We tend to be camera shy – well, except for Bentley. He likes to steal the show. Several of you mentioned that you liked our content, but didn’t feel like you didn’t know “us” as well as you’d like. Well, we’ve taken that to heart, and we’re going to do our best to show you more about our everyday lives and who we are as people. In doing so, we hope that we’ll be able to develop a real conversation with you, rather than just words on a web site. We’re excited about sharing our lives and getting to know you!

That’s about all we’re going to uncover for now, but rest assured there’s a lot more coming! Again, thank you all so very much for taking the time to introduce yourselves, and for the kind words about what we’re doing here at 7th House on the Left. We are truly grateful for all of you, and we hope that you’ll continue to keep us company on our journey as first-time homeowners!

Altered State of the Union photo found here. 1st Place ribbon found here.