What to Do During a Long Weekend in New Orleans

At the beginning of February I met up with two of my best friends in New Orleans, LA to celebrate 17 years of friendship. While the trip didn’t fall on our anniversary (you better believe we have one!), we wanted to make it a celebration of our relationship and strove to create an awesome long weekend of fun, friends, and so much food! Spoiler alert: we were successful! The three of us are scattered in different cities around the United States now (Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; and Philadelphia, PA) and we picked New Orleans since it was kinda-sorta in the middle.

I’m splitting this post into the cliff notes of where we ate and what we did as well as a larger journal of our trip below. That way you can find the quick hits or read about all the details! I’m wordy, so this is going to be a long one!

Where to Eat in New Orleans

Breakfast

  • Bywater Bakery – a lovely little bakery that felt very local. I loved the red building and the scones were delicious! We went here our first morning and were delighted by the jazz music playing on the stereo and the funky, fun interior design.
  • Elizabeth’s – a nice local joint serving ginormous plates of creole brunch, we devoured half the menu! The restaurant is colorful, fun, and very New Orleans. Hidden away in the Bywater neighborhood, it was a fun destination for a morning walk.
  • Paloma Cafe – a quite and pretty little cafe with amazing food, but not great service. The chia seed pudding was to DIE FOR, but the wait staff was watching youtube videos on their phones and uninterested in any of their customers.
  • Cafe Du Monde – famous, touristy spot, a NOLA must, known for their beignets. We were able to walk right in on a weekday, but by the weekend the line wrapped around the corner.
    Cafe Beignet – a less well known beignet cafe with even yummier beignets than Du Monde! I wanted to try at least one other beignet to compare to Du Monde and was so happy I did! This one had a better crunch and the restaurant was far less crowded.
  • The Country Club – a fun, hopping joint with amazing food, fabulous design, delicious cocktails, a pool, and a famous Saturday Drag Brunch. The interior design was delightfully spontaneous and exciting, they definitely pushed boundaries with great results. I oooo-ed and ahhh-ed all over this place!
  • The Elysian Bar – the Elysian Bar is part of the newly opened Hotel Peter & Paul, they have everything from breakfast to dinner, a delightful spread of cocktail options, and one of the best and most relaxing atmosphere’s of anywhere I’ve ever eaten. We stopped for a mid-morning break and everything we ate and drank was amazing.
  • The Station Coffee Shop & Bakery – a cute coffee shop with delicious chai and quick snacks. A great place to stop and relax on their outdoor benches enjoying the sunshine.
  • The Ruby Slipper – a good brunch spot with a menu full of classics with a southern twist. Everything is huge, filling, and worth a try.

Lunch / Dinner

  • N7 – we went here for our first dinner in New Orleans and it did not disappoint! We split a number of small plates between the three of us and loved absolutely every single one of them. This is a good place to make reservations for, as it’s small and we just barely squeezed in after a 30 min wait. It was well worth it for the delights of the menu though!
  • The Elysian Bar – we went here for dinner on our third night in New Orleans after walking by a couple of times. Boy, were we glad we stopped. The food was AMAZING, the atmosphere STUNNING, and the service EXCELLENT. Definitely my favorite place we went all weekend!
  • Auction House Market – this was such a fun place to visit! With a number of different restaurants inside, everything looked delicious, and it was so hard to decide what to choose! There was Indian, Thai, empanadas, seafood, coffee, macaroons, the whole shebang! A great place for a group, because the tables for each of the food vendors are shared, so everyone can order what they are in the mood for and then all sit together.
  • Bacchanal Wine – a New Orleans classic, I knew we couldn’t make the trip without stopping here. We listened to live jazz outside and snagged a table right next to the stage. We sat late into the evening enjoying our wine and snacks (hard to believe we snacked after everything we’d already eaten that day, but the food looked too good to pass up!). We waited in line about 30 mins as the bouncer let groups in and it would definitely be a good idea to arrive and plan for a full dinner here. Nothing like music under the stars and a garden full of twinkly lights!
  • The Rum House – we stopped here after a long day of walking for an afternoon cocktail and a big plate of nachos. We devoured the huge mound of nachos so quickly and it was delicious! The drinks here are strong, large, and island inspired. What else could you want?

What to Do in New Orleans

  • Walk Around – we stayed at an AirBnB right on the border of St. Claude and Bywater, our favorite thing to do each day was walk from there to and from our various destinations. The architecture and culture of New Orleans was so beautiful and readily apparent during our walks. I’d highly recommend spending a day wandering through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods enjoying the architecture and various street murals!
  • Do a Walking Tour – we did this free self guided walking tour of the Faubourg-Marigny neighborhood which was so much fun and incredibly informative. Armed with the knowledge gained from that tour, we were better able to navigate the city with an understanding of its architecture and history. A few days later we did another free walking tour — this one guided — looking at the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and the Garden District Mansions. This felt very informative at the Cemetery, but after that it was more pointing out which celebrity owned which mansions and a bit less historical / architectural information. We enjoyed both walking tours immensely!
  • Wander Magazine Street – there are lots of fun shops and eateries on this street and it’s far less touristy than the French Quarter
  • City Park & Besthoff Sculpture Garden – we enjoyed wandering through City Park and ended up renting one of those bike pedal powered carts! We squeezed the three of us on the seat with some strategic angling of our hips and pedaled off and away through the park and by the sculpture garden. It was tons of fun and a great way to cover a large portion of the park and save our poor, sore feet for afternoon walks!
  • New Orleans Historic Voodoo Museum – more of a series of shrines with some informative papers framed nearby than a true historical museum, this tiny space was still a fun place to see and leave an offering to the voodoo masters for good luck!
  • Walk through Jackson Square by the St. Louis Cathedral and over to Bourbon Street – this is the home of the tourists of New Orleans, but still worth a gander! The square is right near the river and the Cathedral overlooks it on the opposite end. It’s quite stunning and completely packed with people! Bourbon Street might be better known as Disneyland for drunk adults. I truly haven’t walked anywhere that felt more like an adult version of a college frat party! It was rocking! Music pours out of all the venues (we heard more hip hop and pop than jazz, by far) and crowds of various intoxication fill each club, spilling out onto the street. There were tons of bachelor and bachelorette parties and everyone was celebrating something! We navigated the crowds — making our way to get frozen daiquiris — and wandered through briefly, but mostly avoided this area.
  • Wander down Frenchman Street – we had a ton of fun walking through this area which felt more like an authentic experience. We wandered into a couple clubs and listened to jazz. There are lots a good looking restaurants and fun shops!

Our Trip to New Orleans

Hannah and I booked tickets separately to arrive in Portland late Thursday evening. We figured whoever got their first could hang around the airport and then we’d uber together to our AirBnb. Claudia (is in med school) had a big test on Friday and wouldn’t arrive until that evening. Thus Hannah and I planned to get the lay of the land and figure out everything we wanted to do while we were there, before Claud arrived. We were all so excited!

I was flying through Dallas on the way there and actually arrived at PDX only about 35 mins before my flight boarded since I’d been running late at work. Luckily, PDX is a breeze to get through. I made my way through security, grabbed a chai, stopped to use the restrooms, and read four pages of my book before the flight attendant began boarding at the scheduled time. Off to a good start!

I sent a quick text to Hannah and Claudia to let them know my good fortune and mentioned I was flying through Texas. Hannah replied that she was also flying through Texas. Turns out we had the same final leg! Even better! We chatted with the flight attendant and swiched from two middle seats to the back row of the plane which was empty. There we could sit and chat and catch up! It was really like something out of a movie.

We grabbed an uber and headed to our AirBnb in the St. Claude neighborhood of New Orleans, just a couple blocks from Bywater, which my research had told me was a cool, fun area. Our uber driver didn’t think so, though, and as we got out of the car, told us to “be careful and not walk around at night!” Hmmm… not the best thing to hear before arriving at your Airbnb! We then unlocked the 7 locks on the door (also confidence boosting!) and made our way inside. It was totally pleasant, thank goodness! We pretty much just locked our seven locks and crashed into our beds.

I didn’t sleep very well. Since I’d found the AirBnb, the uber driver’s words haunted me, and I hoped I hadn’t steered us wrong! Luckily, when we woke the next morning and the light was out, we ended up feeling completely fine about our surroundings! The houses in our neighborhood were not all fancy, but they were certainly all pretty cute!

That Friday morning, we headed to our first destination in New Orleans: the Bywater Bakery where we split a savory pastry and grabbed a coffee and a chair. The place was charming, right from the minute you saw the poppy red building! Inside, jazz was playing on the stereo and the design had a collected and found vibe that was very authentic feeling.

From there, we wandered further through Bywater, exclaiming at all the colorful houses and taking one thousand pictures of buildings and the many beautiful murals in the neighborhood!

I also became entirely obsessed with the lanterns of New Orleans, THEY ARE GAS LANTERNS, Y’ALL, AND THEY ARE FLICKERING ALL DAY! I have never seen gas lanterns on houses or commercial buildings before, they look magical! And so old world feeling! There is apparently a factory in New Orleans that makes them and when I was taking the below picture the woman who owned the house pulled up in her car and told me about it and said it was worth checking out. Unfortunately our schedule didn’t allow for it, but I wish we’d gotten the chance to take a peek!

Eventually, we ended up at Paloma Cafe, also in Bywater and got lunch. We loved what we ate here! I had veggie tacos and Hannah got a biscuit with an egg. We split a chai seed pudding with bananas and toasted coconut which ended up being our favorite thing! Although our food was fantastic, we were a little surprised at how slow our service was at the nearly empty restaurant, which had three waiters and three customers. It felt a little awkward! The staff was literally ignoring us and watching videos together on their phones until one of the chefs came out and literally, physically pushed one of them over towards us to take our order, about 25 minutes after we’d first sat down.

After lunch, we wandered into the Marigny neighborhood and did an awesome little self-guided walking tour, which resulted in seeing more adorable and colorful houses! Hannah was sure I’d conned her into taking an architectural tour, and while it was definitely architecture focused (as most city tours are!), we learned a ton about the both the neighborhood and the larger city of New Orleans.

We learned about the differences between Creole style houses and the Victorian American houses. This cutie is a Creole, which has a more simple design and traditionally would be red, blue and yellow.

More of what you’d expect to see in New Orleans, is the Victorian American style house with the detailed ironwork. We saw lots of these too. I was gaga for both! So many buildings here are great punchy colors too. It’s so refreshing to see a sea of color in a city rather than just one shade of greige after another!

Following our tour of the neighborhood, we meandered through some of the shops along Frenchman street before walking to the French Quarter. There, we stopped for the classic beignets at the famous Cafe Du Monde. They were delicious and just what we needed before continuing on with our adventures that day!

From there we walked through Jackson Square and by the St. Louis Cathedral. The French Quarter was strikingly different from Bywater and the Marigny, since it was PACKED with people (mainly tourists), where as the other neighborhoods we’d walked around felt strangely quiet (almost eerily so!). We’d spend the morning remarking on how few people we’d seen wandering around, and now that we were in the French Quarter we could barely walk down the packed sidewalks!

We walked up to Bourbon Street and while I’m not sure what I expected, I didn’t expect to see what we found. Like the best Disneyland for alcoholics, the street was lined with bars and clubs blasting jazz, hip hop, and pop music and packed with people day-drinking and gyrating on the dance floor. It felt like one giant college party, but the median age was closer to 40! We grabbed some daiquiris to-go and wandered the street (it’s legal to drink on the street there!). We weren’t really ready to party after walking all over the city. So we left soon after getting our drinks and ended up walking around Louis Armstrong Park, before heading to Rite-Aid and picking up new insole inserts for our shoes (poor sore feet!) and then walking back to St. Claude.

We passed by a cute little place called the Elysian Bar on the way home and noted we needed to stop there for a drink during our trip.

Claudia’s flight was delayed so she arrived a couple hours after we’d gotten back to our AirBnb. We let her settle into the house for a few minutes before we all headed out for a late (9:30pm) dinner at N7 which was just a few blocks away. Oh my goooood, was that food delicious. We sat inside and it was fairly dark, so I didn’t get a great picture of our food, but everything was mouthwateringly delicious! We ended up splitting a bottle of wine and about 5 small plates and our favorite was a kabocha pumpkin and daikon tarte tatin. It was smooth, rich, and just melted in your mouth. Soon after our meal, we went to bed, full, happy, and exhausted with sore feet!

The next morning we woke up and all crawled into bed together chatting, before we finally got ready, and headed out for breakfast. We made it to Elizabeth’s in Bywater by about 11am, showing Claudia all the cute houses we’d found the day before along the way.

From there we headed back to Cafe Du Monde and Jackson Square so Claudia could revel in some of the madness and eat a beignet (oh my god, did we eat on this trip!), before we hopped into a Lyft to go to the Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 for our guided tour. I was so glad we did the tour! We learned so much about the famous New Orleans cemeteries and all about how the dead are buried in this old city! These tombs hold hundreds of bodies and utilize solar heating to increase the rate of decomposition, allowing multiple generations of multiple families to be buried together. The tombs are beautiful and some are very well restored, but I love the patina on the slowly decaying tombs!

From there our tour headed into the Garden District looking at some of the various mansions that are homes to celebrities like Sandra Bullock and John Goodman. The houses in this area are so beautiful and large with nice big yards and such beautiful detailing!

Our tour guide was able to tell us some interesting historical and pop cultural facts (like showing us the house where Drake shot the music video for “In My Feelings”). I ate up all the pretty houses and could have walked around this neighborhood for ages staring at all the wonderful detailing!

My very sore feet prevented us from looping around the neighborhood endlessly though and we walked from the cemetery to Magazine Street (admiring all the cute houses along the way of course!). Again, I simply couldn’t get enough of the use of color in the city! So many fun color pairings and striking contrast!

On Magazine Street, we found the Rum House and grabbed a table. We ordered three very over the top cocktails and sipped them quickly as we devoured a huge plate of nachos, suddenly ravenous after walking around all day! It was late afternoon and we had plans to meet up with one of Hannah’s friends (who lives in the city working for Teach for America) around dinner time. We held ourselves to just nachos at the Rum House (knowing dinner was coming up soon!), before walking around Magazine Street.

Of course, there were a number of cute buildings on this street as well! The picture below is actually from the French Quarter, but everywhere we walked I simply drooled over all the amazing, colorful, and unique old homes! From a design perspective, this city is spectacular!

Hannah’s friend, Meg, met up with us on Magazine Street and we all headed downtown with her and parked near Auction House Market. I used to work above a similar style market, so I was very excited to check this place out!

It did not disappoint and everything we ate was delicious! We each ordered different things from different vendors and shared occasional bites with each other. I was very tempted to get Indian Street Food from Tava, but ended up with vegetarian ramen from Long Chim Thai. It was a bit lighter fare and exactly what my still-full belly needed! We were all absolutely stuffed by the end of the meal!

The restrooms at Auction House Market were super cool too! I just love when designers go the extra mile in these more utilitarian spaces. Why let a restroom be boring when it can be fantastic?!

Meg was so sweet and drove us from Downtown all the way to Bywater to drop us off at Bacchanal even though she was headed in the opposite direction. It was just too kind and so generous! We waited in line on the sidewalk outside the club for about 30 minutes, reveling in the perfect not too hot / not too cold / all you need is a light sweater kinda weather. Perfect for listening to outdoor jazz! Once the bouncer let our trio inside, we bought a bottle of wine that Hannah picked out (our team wino).

At first, we drank our glasses standing at one of the hightop tables in the left corner of the garden, but we were super full, and standing was not aiding our digestion. After about 10 minutes, I spotted a group getting up from a table to the immediate right of the stage and dashed over to secure our new seats! From there we got a great, up-close view of the stage and happily listened to the music as we sat, contented, satiated, and exhausted. It was loverly!

After a bit I wandered up to the window and ordered us pana cotta, because what day is complete without dessert? Even though all of us were full, we finished every last bite and cursed our very full stomachs from holding us back from procuring a cheese plate! We ubered home late that night and fell into bed at our AirBnb. It had been a perfect day and an even better evening.

The next day was Sunday and we had things to do! Mostly: places to eat. We started out the day at The Country Club. We were sad to miss their Saturday Drag Brunch, but since reservations had sold out weeks beforehand, we wouldn’t have made it anyways. The spot did not disappoint, even without the entertainment! The design was overthetop fabulous! And the food was delicious. I loved the huge floral mural in the dining room.

And the bathrooms were absolutely gorgeous and oh so fun! Wallpaper! Dark green trim! Neon, water bubble art! Green subway tile! Brass! Marble! YES, PLEASE! This is what I want to see more of in commercial design! I find spaces like this to be like dessert for the eyeballs, so inspiring and exciting. The baseboards in this bathroom were like 20″ high. Yum.

Basically, go to the Country Club just to delight in the design! Each room was different, exciting, and just completely stellar. I love dramatic design that makes you smile and so I just adored this place!

Since we rarely made it out of our AirBnb before 10am, by the time brunch was over it was already close to noon. We ubered up to City Park with the intent to wander through and check out the Sculpture Garden. A short ways into the park, however we found the bicycle cart rental and signed our names up. We hopped into a cart and with Claudia at the wheel, began our ride through the park. I attempted to read a walking tour of the park as we pedaled, but it went far slower than we cycled and we got rather confused throughout. We stopped and enjoyed the views along the ride though and took many a selfie with our cart!

It was cool to see how swampy the park was on the bayou and although I was hoping to spot an alligator or two, we must have missed them! It was just so fun to see how different the environment was here from all of our home towns. The Spanish moss felt very southern!

Eventually, we returned the cart to the the rental place and decided to walk back to properly look at the Besthoff Sculpture Garden. We wandered through, chatting constantly, and taking pictures of the fun art we found. It was so lovely to be able to check this all out for free! What a great public offering in a local park.

After, walked to the Station, to refuel ourselves up, drinking chai and eating various snacks. Then we ubered back to the Marigny and walked around, stopping at various shops along the way. We particularly enjoyed, Blue Dream, a little vintage clothing shop with several great jewelry artists.

We soon ended up back on Frenchman Street where we sipped more cocktails and listened to jazz for an hour or two before heading to the Elysian Bar for dinner. The place is stunning inside and out. It’s all housed in a former church / school / rectory / convent and they’ve done a wonderful job with the restoration while incorporating so much fun design!

LOOK AT THIS PLACE. IT MAKES MY DREAMS COME TRUE. And that’s a bad iPhone shot because the focus on my real camera was messed up on every picture I took with it! Think about how much more amazing this space must be in reality! Don’t cha want to just sit and play a game of cards here and win hundreds of dollars?

The whole Hotel Peter and Paul is owned by the same group at Bacchanal and although they have totally different vibes, there is no debate that both places are absolutely lovely.

We ordered more cocktails and split more small plates (noticing a trend?) and I pretty much died wandering through the restaurant and looking at all the wonderfully detailed, interior design. And the food was as amazing as the architectural design!

I tried to not look too weird taking 100000 pictures of the interiors, but now I wish I’d taken more shots! Mine were mostly quick, not white balanced, and slightly out of focus. Dang it! You simply have to check them out online though. And if you’re visiting New Orleans, stay here! The rooms are equally as stunning at the amenity spaces, and surprisingly, not shockingly expensive.

I wanted to plop my bum in every single seat in this place, just to see the design from every perspective (and determine the most comfortable chair of course!).

After dinner we wandered back out onto the street and hurried to the St. Louis Cathedral where the Vampire Tour I’d booked was meeting! I was super, ridiculously excited about this (as I get about many such things). We met with our guide, who may or may not have had a fake Transylvanian accent and he told us his dreams of one day becoming an author living in San Francisco, before the tour. He led us all around the French Quarter and told us tales of various New Orleans Vampires. I carefully noted each tale and we googled them later to see if the stories were documented elsewhere. Mostly… the tour wasn’t all that fantastic. I wanted to be terrified! Instead, it was slightly cheesy. We still enjoyed it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to others, unless you’re truly obsessed with this sort of thing. Hannah and Claudia were good team players along for this ride though!

Afterwards, we walked back to Frenchman Street where we found a club with live music. It wasn’t jazz, but the band was great and the lead singer had an amazing voice! More cocktails were drunk and we stayed for an hour or two before our beds called us back to them.

The next day was our last in New Orleans! We packed up all our things at the AirBnb and took them to Hotel Peter and Paul where they kindly checked our bags. We then went to the Ruby Slipper for breakfast. We devoured our last hearty New Orleans meal, yum! Of course, we each got our own meal and then split a brunch cocktail and table pancakes! You simply can’t go wrong with table pancakes! We actually got some version of table pancakes at multiple meals. Gotta try all the things!

We then walked around our neighborhood one last time before heading back to the Elysian Bar (our favorite place from our trip!) for coffee and tea. Claudia then had to head out to catch her flight.

The little cafe at the Elysian bar is just too cute! They have tiled and painted it to look like the inside of a tent and it’s such a fun design element! Again, check out their website to see more of the amazing design. I was seriously inspired.

Hannah and I dawdled at the Elysian Bar, catching up on emails and such for an hour or two and enjoying the lovely daytime atmosphere inside the restaurant, before we too caught an Uber and drove to the airport. Our seventeenth anniversary trip thus came to a close and we were all sad to say goodbye!

Overall, we could not have had a better time in New Orleans and managed to see and eat at almost all the destinations from our pre-trip spreadsheet (yes, we’re all very type A!). Although there are some things I wish we could have squeezed in (a swamp tour or a historical plantation slavery tour), we utilized every minute of our long weekend to the fullest and got to do so very many things and eat some truly amazing food!

Have you been to New Orleans before? What was your favorite part of your trip? Are you a local? What did we miss that we need to check out next time we’re there?! If you’re headed there soon, was this a helpful guide?!

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One Room Challenge: Week One – Master Powder Before Pictures and Inspiration

First off, hello to all of you new to this blog! I’m so excited to be guest posting as part of the One Room Challenge this Spring 2019. I’m Laurel and I’ve been working on my house — which I named Berrybrier after the brambles of blackberries and raspberries in the backyard — since I bought it in Summer 2017. It’s been a huge project full of ups and downs and I’ve been living here throughout it! I painted the house a happy, salmonberry, coral pink color and finished a DIY gut reno on the Main Bathroom all by myself. I am currently working on the Kitchen as well as the other main spaces! Click around and check out the progress while you’re here!

But while other renovations were taking place, the little Powder Bathroom off my Master Bedroom was neglected! So this room has become my One Room Challenge guest project! It’s difficult to force myself to finish and style a space before moving on to the next one, so this is a great incentive!

This space was a delightful shade of yellow when I bought the house. A 24″ wide door (very narrow!) allowed you to squeeze into the room from the Master Bedroom. 1970’s or ’80’s faux wood wainscot paneling did not help the overall space. The room was absolutely tiny at 54″ deep and only 30″ wide! You could barely scootch yourself around the sink to get to the toilet, let alone use this space to get ready for work! It felt immediately dated and old in here and it didn’t belong with the house. The layer of dirt, grime, and gross that coated the space did not help at all!

The sink in the Powder Bathroom was falling off the wall since the bolts holding it to the wall had missed the backing. It was so large for the space you could quite literally wash your hands while sitting on the toilet. During the demo of the Main Bathroom at Berrybrier I ended up removing some of the paneling in the room in order to get at the bath tub pipes which had to be cut from this side in order to remove the tub. When I took off the paneling I discovered that there already was a nice, small, square hole underneath to access those pipes, so that’s probably why that paneling was added!

I made the hole a LOOOOT bigger to cut the pipes and then I left it like this for four months. And yes, I did still use this bathroom every single day to brush my teeth and get ready for my 9-5 job. Go me!

After I completed the Main Bathroom, this space still got ignored until the rest of the house improved. But no longer! I am finally ready to attack this poor room and make it something that functional for getting ready in the mornings, packed full of storage, and beautiful to boot!

Since I love a challenge, things are a bit tight at the moment, and because I don’t plan this to be a long term bathroom, my renovation budget is going to be $650. That’s right, a full gut renovation of my bathroom for less than $650! In order to meet that goal I’m going to use as much as I can get for free and make some other smart decisions.

So let’s check out some inspiration so you know where I am headed!

I will need to significantly reduce the size of the sink so this room is easier to navigate around in! The one now is a pretty average size, but this room is just not an average size. As much as I’ve tried to make the existing sink work to save money, it’s just not working. So I’m taking a page out of Young House Love’s book and splurging on a tiny sink! I know they didn’t think their sink was right for their large Master Bathroom and eventually replaced it, but it’s the perfect size for my tiny Master Powder! I found something similar on Wayfair and bought it.

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The plumbing will all be staying in the same locations, but I’ll be adding lots of storage around it. I’ve decided to add wall to wall shelving above the toilet and use simple wooden brackets to keep costs down. I love this picture of a kitchen which shows how classic and aged this look can be. It doesn’t feel cheap at all, even though it is super affordable at only a few bucks a bracket!

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I watched Sharp Objects around the time I first started brainstorming for this room and fell in love with the pink beadboard in the bathroom featured heavily on the show. Since the walls were a mess in here and I decided to use as many of the scraps of drywall I already had, trying to tape and mud would have taken a thousand years. I decided the best use of my budget would be to cover the drywall with beadboard panels from floor to ceiling. The Sharp Objects bathroom served as an inspiration for the beadboard and the color though.

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This color was going to be tricky! I want this space to be blush against a formerly white cheek; hint of pink in a white climbing rose; a calm pink, mature, pale, and barely there. It was a tricky color to land on! This color was the closest inspiration I could find. It’s just a drop of pink in white without too many overt undertones.

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For the floor, I didn’t need much tile at all since it was such a tiny space! My parents had some left over tile from their bathroom renovation and offered it up. A marble mosaic for free? Yes, please! It’s a pretty two tone basket weave like this here. They also gave me a few leftover 12×12 marble tiles from the same renovation which I am planning to try to use as transition strip into the bedroom. The tile is very similar to what’s in this shot below, but I’m planning on using a black grout instead which will give it more contrast. Now if only my bathroom could expand to be this big too!

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I want the new bathroom to be packed with the storage I need, while still feeling light and open. It’s important that the space feel like it belongs to the rest of the house and isn’t a dated addition. Overall, I want the room to be light-filled and bright, with just the palest of calamine lotion pink on the walls and ceiling. After much debate, I landed on Benjamin Moore’s Pink Beach as the perfect barely pink and not beige color. The soft pink tone with be juxtaposed with a more dynamic black and white floor, a black faucet, and black accessories. The chrome accessories and lighting should thus fade nicely into the background. And of course, I’ll fill the shelves with houseplants!

Bath Accessories | Sink | Tile | Beadboard | Lighting (Similar) | Paint | Bracket | Faucet

Check out all the other One Room Challenge Guest Participants here!

What do you think of my plan? Would you get ready in the master bathroom as it currently is or would you hold out for the renovated space? Have you ever tried to put together a renovation project with only the cheapest and free materials you could find? Let me know in the comments!

What to Know Before Buying a Sofa

Sofas! Everybody needs ’em. Usually, you don’t buy them frequently, every 5-10 years or so. Sometimes, more years go by if you’re lucky. Unless, you’re me, of course. I buy a sofa at least once a month, sometimes I buy more like 4 in a month! Because I’m an interior designer, I am always hunting for sofas for my clients. I’m constantly keeping an eye out for new places to buy sofas and I’ve found quite a few great stores. So today, I’m going to show you my secret stash of sofas, as well as tips on what to check before you buy, just in case you’re in the market! People are constantly telling me they need to sit on a sofa before they buy it. But, really, you don’t! You just need to know what you like in a sofa and what to look for to get that comfort. And I’m about to dish, ya’ll!

Even if you read this now and buy a new sofa in a couple years, you can always search the blog for this post as a refresher course! Or better yet, head to the contact page and reach out to me for design services. Yep, I’m open for any consultation work you might need and am happy to discuss my fee structure. But first, some tips on buying a sofa!

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Sofa Sizing

If you’re in an apartment, one of the biggest mistakes people make is buying a sofa that’s way too small! When you have a small apartment, you really don’t want all your furniture to be mini too. It just makes it non-functional. Trust me. I design model apartments in large, luxury multi-family housing buildings monthly. You want a nice big sofa or even a sofa with a chaise that can help create a nice comfy zone. If your space is larger, add a lounge chair or two.

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Measure your space and get the biggest sofa you can, while still leaving at least 24″ on either side for accent tables. Yes, you need them on both sides; no, you shouldn’t shove your sofa up to the wall or, even worse, into a corner. Pull it out, let it breathe a little!

The average size for sofas is 84″ long by about 34″ deep and 32″ high. Anything less than 72″ long is really a loveseat, so don’t get mislead by it’s label! I’d say, 6 times out of 10, 84″ is a good fit for your space, but the other 4 times, go bigger! 96″ is still a very standard length. Anything under 100″ is an average sofa length. If you go over 100, it’s usually because you have an awesomely giant space to fill! Or you’re a professional athlete.

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Lead Time

The second thing about buying a sofa you need to know, is that it takes a good long time for a sofa to arrive. Even if you go to the store and look at sofas (unless you’re willing to buy the floor model which is only sometimes possible!) you’re likely to wait eight weeks on average for your sofa to arrive in your home. That’s right, eight weeks, not days, not minutes, not hours, weeks. And that’s on average. Sometimes it can take up to 16 weeks. So if you are getting an apartment, ask to measure for a sofa when or before you sign the lease, don’t wait until you’re in the space unless you have back-up places to sit! Of course, there are definitely some quick-ship options out there, but you often have to compromise on the design to go with one of them. So, when you can, plan ahead!

Components and Styles

There are so many sofa styles out there, how do you possibly choose the right one for your space amongst so many choices?! Well first narrow down your style. Are you traditional? Love a mid-century leg? Want something more subtle and transitional? The kinda gal that likes to make a bold statement? Answering that will help narrow it down from the huge number of styles out there. Then once you have that, what’s the purpose of your sofa? Do you want something lounge and comfortable for curling up your feet to watch TV? Or is this a sofa in a more formal living room, mainly used for sitting upright and chatting with friends.

Tufting

Tufting is something that looks so amazing and adds so much character to your sofa. A tufted, tight back sofa is never going to have the type of loungey feel an unattached cushion does though. Tufting inherantly creates tightness and a firmer feel. If you love a tufted look, but want a more plush feel, consider a tufted cushion rather than a tufted back since this will have more give.

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Sofa Back (Cushions)

Unattached cushions are one of the first areas that a sofa tends to fail as it reaches the end of its life span. The unattached cushions have no support from the internal framework of a sofa and take a huge beating. A tightback sofa, while firmer, tends to have a longer lifespan since the cushions and foam are attached to the frame of the sofa itself. Tight back sofa are also an awesome option for those of us who have pets who like to curl up on the back of the sofa. A loose cushion is damaged by this and will eventually begin to dip down in your pet’s favorite sleeping spot. A tight back sofa remains a lot less effected by this misuse. A semi-attached cushion will toe the middle line between the two, so that’s a good option if you don’t like the look or firmness of a tight back sofa.

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Seat Cushions and Depth

Seat depth is the measurement of a sofa from the edge of the seat to where the seat meets the back of the sofa. The average seat depth of a sofa is about 22″. If you prefer a deep sofa for lounging on and cuddling up next to someone, consider a sofa with a deeper seat. For more upright sofas, you can go with a narrower seat depth. Remember to look at the seat depth, not the overall depth of a sofa as things like slanted backs and rolled backs can be misleading on overall depth.

Seat cushions also fail on a sofa, the softer the cushion, the more likely it is to sooner fail! One of the popular looks right now is a loose bench seat cushion which is a long unattached seat cushion that stretches the entire length of the sofa. Within a few months of purchasing a sofa in this style, you’re going to see the seat cushion start to dip in the center since the foam can not support this kind of length. If you still love this look, consider a tight seat cushion, which while firmer, is supported by the internal sofa frame and will hold up far longer over time.

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Whichever option you choose and important thing to note is maintenance of cushions. You should be flipping any loose cushions weekly to maintain their shape. Yes, that is frequent, do it anyway! This prevents your cushions from wearing unevenly and prevents the favorite seat in the house from looking worn out far before any of the rest of the cushions. If it’s possible to flip your left and right or middle cushions amongst themselves, please do so. Cushions tend to start out at their firmest and get more cushy overtime. Which means if your sofa is feeling just a tad too firm at the start, it’s probably supposed to. Over time cushions will tend to dip in the center. This is normal as the foam breaks down. Rotating and flipping your cushions extends their lifespan.

Arms

Please don’t buy an American Roll Arm sofa. They are those sofas with the HUGE rounded arms with flat fronts that take up a ton of space. They are just not stylistically or practically functional. Turn away! Luckily, there are so many arm options out there and you definitely have tons of room to play. Before going with your preferred arm style, think about your space. Do you have lots of extra room and the circulation needed to go with a bolder thicker arm? Is space a consideration and number of seats a priority? Consider a thinner arm.

Chesterfield style sofas are some of my absolute favorite pieces of furniture out there (the red leather one above is a chesterfield!). They are stunningly gorgeous in leather and in velvets and add so much instant character and interest to a piece. They also have HUGE rolled and tufted arms that take up a ton of space. I would not recommend them in any room where space is a consideration. But if you have the room, they’re gorgeous!

There are lots of options out there with nice skinny arms that are as luxurious looking as a chesterfield and a bit more practical in tighter spaces. Take the English Roll Arm (below) for example, this low, tight arm style is still a traditional look, but allows for plenty of room on the sofa for sitting and room beside the sofa for a side table.

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Sit Test

The third thing about buying a sofa you need to know is how it’s going to feel. People think they need to sit on a sofa before they buy it. You don’t. You just need to know what things to look for and at to get the comfort level you’re looking for. Remember what you learned above about tufting and seat depth. Those are important considerations. Now let’s talk cushion fills. A foam, memory foam, or dacron wrapped foam are going to be your most firm sofa cushion options. A down fill will be your softest most cushy, sink back and watch a movie option. It’s also high maintenance, as to provide the cushy feel, it has minimal support within it and thus needs frequently floofing to maintain its shape. A great inbetweener is the down wrapped cushion, which has a nice give that lets you sink into the sofa while still maintaining the support of a foam cushion that springs back into place when you stand up.

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Fabrics and Finishes

Oh fabrics – a million options – or do you want leather? Leather is going to be a cool material to the touch, it tends to be a bit firmer and often is applied to tufted options. Leather is cozy in many ways, but also can be cold in winter months. Consider the summer too, as sweaty thighs on leather cushions are not ideal in un-air-conditioned spaces. Leather is also a bit slippery, so if you’re looking for a curl your feet up on the sofa setting, make sure your sofa is quite deep as the slidey leather may make it feel less so.

Fabrics vary in so many ways. Color is a whole post in and of itself, so I’m not going to get into that here. I will touch on types, content, and durability instead. Doublerubs are how fabric durability is measured. A fabric with a higher doublerub is more durable. Fabrics are usually measured by the thousand doublerubs and the definition is quite literal. Testing is done to measure doublerubs by literally having a machine rub over the fabric over and over, when the fabric begins to wear and fray, that’s when the doublerub content is measured. Generally for residential, you want a fabric that is at least 30,000 doublerubs. 50,000 is considered a good threshold for commercial settings. Anything lower is usually fine only for pillows or infrequently used settings. Or for those wealthy enough to be okay re-upholstering their furnishings on a frequent basis!

Another thing to consider is fabric content. Polyester, Acrylic, and Wool fabrics tend to be the easiest to clean. Cotton and linen are possible to clean, but tend to be more difficult. Fabrics that are single solid colors are the most likely to show any dirt, so your first choice should always be to find a fabric that is woven from a variety of different colors. Dark fabrics will obviously hide more than light fabrics. Solid fabrics will still always show more than a multi-colored fabric though. By multi-colored, I don’t mean bold patterned either, just simply a fabric that has a variety of colors in it. From a distance, it will probably still look like a solid tone, but up close you can see the variety of tones within the weave.

If you have pets or children or wear jeans with stubby pocket metal pieces, consider the snag factor. Fabrics like velvets and, their more expensive cousin, mohairs will not snag as the fabric sticks up from the back and out, fabrics that are woven, like linens, will get snagged more easily. If your cats like to scratch, look for non-woven or very tightly fabrics. My cats don’t touch the velvet chairs in my house, but are very fond of scratching the teal woven linen fabric on a wingback chair.

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Where to Buy a Sofa

My favorite sofa resources are places that are affordable, great looking, and work in nearly every home. First, there’s Article. I love this online store for it’s endlessly stylish options and amazing pricepoint. I have a special place in my heart for the Leather Alcott sofa which toes the line between mid-century and traditional so perfectly. It comes in three leather colors. I love the Oxblood below, but the Black leather looks equally fantastic. It’s what Chris Loves Julia has in their front reading room as well. I’ve used their pieces in a number of living rooms with lots of success!

Another favorite source of mine is Joybird which specializes in so many mid-century gems, but also throws in a delightful sprinkle of other styles. The vertical channeling on their Chelsea sofa makes my heart sing! And those brass ferrules at the bottom of the leg? Yes please. It comes in a whole slew of fabric options (as do most of Joybird’s selections) so you can really make this sofa fit into your home and style. This is a high quality manufacturer that I’ve even installed in commercial settings.

A lesser know, but equally awesome place to find a sofa is Interior Define. I love them for their customizing abilities. They let you switch up the lengths by the inch on some sofas and nearly every sofa comes in several size options! Perfect for those tighter spaces that just need an exact fit. I adore their Rose by the Everygirl sofa which has the most perfect English vibe (and English roll arms!). I just want to host high tea looking at this piece! I love that Interior Define has such a range of styles too, you can get a very modern look on their site or go more traditional like this sofa. I installed one of their sofas in a freelance project in Oakland for a lovely young family and it’s still holding up well a few years down the line.

The well known West Elm is a favorite place of mine to check out as well. They have good quality for their price point and their range of styles is far better than so many of their competitors and sister companies. They can nail the mid-century look, go contemporary, or hit a slightly more transitional look. Since their stores are scattered all across the USA this is a good pick for those who insist on sitting on their sofas before buying. The Gold Hive has this Rochester Sleeper Sofa in her den and I am seriously considering it for Berrybrier. I love a sleeper sofa for creating a space to squeeze in guests when you don’t have an extra bedroom. The fact that this has a tight back is a huge sell for me since, particularly on a sleeper, this should extend the longevity of the piece. Plus the fact that it has a wooden plinth base means that nothing can get stuck under the sofa and my cat Auggie can’t hide beneath it and then attack my legs!

CB2 is another bigger box store that has lots of affordable options for sofa. They tend to be the more modern, young store compared with their sister, Crate and Barrel and often have some really fun options. Take a look at their new Curvo sofa, a true stunner that would make an amazing statement in any space. I love the blush color, but it also comes in grey. A sofa with this much style works best in a living room where the circulation goes around the sofa so you can check it out from all sides. Shoved against a wall, doesn’t do this sofa any justice.

Wayfair is another great source to find that special sofa. You tend to get what you pay for on this site, so although you can go really cheap, know what you’re paying for. They tend to have mostly what-you-see-is-what-you-get furniture items. Young House Love just launched their furniture line on the site though and since they’re one of my favorite blogs, I immediately kept a close eye on many of their pieces. Their Pivot Sofa makes me giddy for it’s clean, transitional lines and I can’t help but laugh a the name which is a reference to a Friends episode that I can’t help but quote every time I’m moving a piece of furniture around a corner.

Finally, some of the best places to check out are your local stores! Fenton MacLaren in Berkeley sells Rowe which is an awesome CA based upholstery line as well as a number of Amish made furniture lines that allow a lot of customizability. Highly recommend them if you’re looking for pieces in the Bay Area. In Portland, companies like City Home carry lines like Jonathan Louis Furniture which has really well priced upholstery goods as well as vintage furniture. Kuhnhausen’s (also in Portland) carries a local Oregon upholstery manufacturer name Biltwell as well as Rowe Furniture.

So, are you ready to pick out a sofa now that you have these tools? Are you confident enough to buy online now that you know what you’re looking at or do you still think you need to sit on the sofa to try it out first? What’s your favorite piece from the sofas I pulled above? Do you think I should splurge on the West Elm Rochester Sleeper Sofa? Imagine it in a dark green velvet…