Welcome to Berrybrier!

I bought a house! AHHHHHHHHH!! That is the sounds of my brain doing somersaults with my stomach. It’s a lovely feeling. But, truly, this is an incredibly exciting thing I’ve been wanting for a looong time. To have a place of my own feels fantastic! We closed on August 18th and I’ve been up to my ears in dirt, dust, and tools ever since. It’s the best thing ever. I finally feel settled in to my own home and you can bet that I’ll be tearing up DIYing the heck out of this place. In fact, I’ve already gotten started, but before I share that, I’ll give you a look around the place!

This moneypit house is a real fixer-upper and not in a cute Joanna Gains farmhouse-y style. As in, this house needs help. BIG HELP. And I’m here to lend a hand! Pretty much everything needs fixing on this place, and yes I do mean everything. Name something that could need to be repaired on a home and this house needs it. Although to some, that could be completely daunting, I’m just looking forward to many years of projects ahead! Which is excellent considering that’s all I’ll be doing for the next long while.

From the very first moment I saw the first pictures of this house on Redfin, I knew it was my house. I literally gasped aloud and got a strange feeling in my gut. THIS was my house. I knew it. After seven months of looking and putting in offer after offer, I had found the one. It checked all the boxes: pre-1940s, 2+ bedrooms, a big yard, room to grow, good location near shops and restaurants, easy commute, plenty of projects. Y’all are going to think I’m crazy when you get a look at these pictures, but something about this house is just so right. Enough preamble, though! Let’s dive in.

That very first image I ever saw of the house looked something like this one below. Basically, you could tell there was a house and that it was blue, but mostly all you saw was greenery!

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At some point, someone really loved this yard and planted tons of wonderful things like walnut trees, redbuds, hydrangeas, asparagus, mint, dill, parsley, fuschias, roses, etc etc etc. That person has not lived in this house for a loooong time though and in the last many years, this yards have become completely overgrown. It’s a mess! But a glorious mess full of glorious surpises like late blooming Magnolia trees and hidden troves of bricks!

You walk to the front door of the house through the driveway, which isn’t ideal, but I’m unlikely to be able to afford to change that any time soon. So everyone who comes over is greeted by the sight of my lovely garage. Don’t mind the doors. That’s just what they look like when they think they’re “closed.”

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The garage is basically falling down. But don’t worry, it’s not the garage’s fault. The garage has a terrible parasite: poorly planned additions. Yup, that’s right folks, the garage has not one, not two, but three additions! Awww, bless it’s little heart, it is still  hanging in there.

If we walk down the driveway to the back of the house, you get to meet yet another fun add-on: an octagonal deck and it’s multi-material roof. Now this is beauty, ladies and gentleman. Oh and yes, it is also basically falling down.

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Does the above picture confuse  you a little bit? Here, let me help. This should explain things better…

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Still confused? Me too. Let me try to state a few facts to help clarify. The above picture shows two of the garage additions: a workshop and a chicken coop. The structure coming out of the garage is the roof that covers the deck. It’s made of corrugated fiberglass, plywood(??), and a whole lot of screws. The supports for this little DIY roof, descend into the garage and chicken coop roofs, essentially ensuring that all water will collect there and all the things will rot. It’s a fantastic design. Truly, I could not have thought of it myself. The octagonal deck is made of 8 sides of different lengths varying from 15′ to 2′, just because, why not? The stairs of the deck descend into the corner of the garage and end about 4″ from it. As far as I can tell, this is designed specifically so that when you fall down the stairs your skull will crack completely open. That’s just my interpretation though. Also, this deck? Covers seemingly perfect condition original concrete steps. God, I love this house.

On to the backyard. This – and no sarcasm here – is what truly won my heart. This yard is bursting with potential. Potential and a whole lot of berries. On the far right is a huge magnolia tree that provides plenty of shade for a future table and chairs. Beyond that? All berries. Yup that huge mound of greenery is all RASPBERRIES!! AKA the best thing on earth except for chocolate. I spent my time touring this house eating raspberries from the backyard and it was heavenly. I cannot wait until next summer! You can also see a falling down fence, 1940s laundry line, and the huge chicken coop window in this picture. Why your chicken coop needs such a large window is a little beyond me, but I am assuming it’s so your chickens can torture Portland’s raccoons and coyotes.

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Here’s another view of the backyard looking towards the front. Here you see a huge rosemary bush, tons and tons of mint, a redbud tree, some parsley, and plenty of bees & butterflies. It’s really gorgeous if you can get past the flaking paint on the house. Yup the house needs painting. And a roof. Somehow I can afford this? I am surprised too. Luckily the windows are all updated! They’re double-paned which is pretty essential here in the Pacific Northwest. They are dark green vinyl exterior, wood interior windows which although it’s not my first choice, I’m pretty happy to have updated windows. I get to pick a really awesome paint color for the house’s siding to coordinate with the hunter green exterior windows and I can paint the inside any thing I want!

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Let’s go inside shall we? Here is the foyer! I am obsessed with this multi-paneled door. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and just needs to be sanded down and re-stained a darker walnut tone. That will make it look far less orange and 1980s. The foyer is open to the living room. Originally, this part of the house was an exterior porch that was converted into living space in the earlier part of the century. You can see the transition of the flooring. When they enclosed the porch they decided to keep the downward slope of the floor (that all porches have for drainage). That, my friends, is called “character.” The light fixture is kind of hideous, but also weird and beautiful, so I’m keeping it. The opening on the right to the dining room.

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The floors in the house are softwood – fir. They’re gorgeous and miraculously in good shape! The living room is relatively spacious and gets great light through south and west facing windows. The fireplace is an “update” from the 1960s or maybe 1970s. I’ll be completely reworking it down the line, but for now, it’s a functional fireplace! Which means s’mores! And fire! The pyro in me is just too pleased.

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This picture explains some of the flow of the house too. Standing in the corner of the room by the fireplace you can look out of the big front window to the front jungle yard and almost see the front door tucked in the niche in the corner. The dining room opens to the living room and you can almost see it on the right.

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The dining room is a little less bright since it has more northern light, but it’s a great size and fits my round table with room to grow. There is also a closet which we can’t close the door to, because it gets stuck shut. Which it is right now. Stuck shut, I mean. Just add that to my to do list, mmkay, thanks! Shout out to my dad about to walk up the front steps carrying tools though!

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Next you go through this teeny hall that has the basement door on one side and this strange hall to the lower floor bedroom on the other side. This is from the end of the hall looking towards the living room. The ceiling in the hall here drops lower because of the stairs. This lovely accordion door could be closed if you wanted to hide the kitchen from view. But yeah, that door already bit the dust. No thanks, accordion door!

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The weird little hall to the bedroom is kinda gross, but there’s a big closet at the end. This will end up being my closet because there isn’t actually a closet in the lower floor bedroom. PFffft. Closets. Whatever. So last year.

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The lower floor bedroom will end up being my bedroom. The other two I will be renting out. This room has nice high ceilings, picture railing, and northern light (good for sleeping). It also has a 24″ wide door to Portland’s smallest powder room.

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If you ever wanted to wash your hands while peeing, this bathroom is for you. Your knees literally tuck right under the wall mounted sink. In a bathroom this small, you’d better add 1970’s faux-paneling though. That’s the cherry on top. Truly, it’s precious, vct flooring and all. Plus look! The previous owner left us toilet paper.

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Let’s go into the kitchen. Look at these cabinets! The wallpaper! The old cast iron sink! This room is pretty dim from the roof that’s over the back deck, but I have a quick fix for that. It’s called demo. I wanted to try to keep these cabinets, they’re not in bad shape at all! Two weeks into the house, and I’m not positive they’re salvageable though. The flooring in this room though? The exact same as what my Oma had in her kitchen!

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Here’s a shot of the room that helps with layout. I took this standing on the landing of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the house. Look how cute the glass cabinets are though! SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

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This is one of my favorite details of the house. a little paint, a little crown moulding, and these will be cute cute cute!

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But why talk about the cute when we can talk about the ugly? Let’s go into the bathroom! Space planning these bathrooms was an issue. They’re also located in part of the house that was originally the back porch and it’s only about 54″ wide. So clearly you should put a ginormous bathtub in there, slap sheet vinyl on the floor AND the vanity, paint the walls dark magenta, and buy a pink toilet to match. It’s only right!

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Okay, let’s move on. The stairs! They’re not so bad! I mean the railing is black because it’s apparently NEVER been cleaned, but other than that, they’re quite pretty and not super narrow like most added to this era of home.

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The bedrooms on the second level are both under the eaves and just so cute. They both get fantastic light and are super cozy. And by cozy, I mean hot as balls right now, but you get the picture. The plaster is looking not so great on that back wall because someone plastered over wallpaper, because… well I’ve already said it.

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The closets in this room are a little funky, but that’s just vintage. A little rehab-ing and it will be completely adorable. Look at the gorgeous door though! Five panels!!!! I love it, love it, love it. Also the daisy flower heat register? THERE IS NOTHING MORE CHARMING.

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The other bedroom is where I am currently sweating sleeping, because I’ve given the lower floor bedroom to my parents who are helping me jump start the renovations on this place. Yay! Parents! The closet in here is a little more spacious and a little less funky. The room is a sweat sweet blue color that will be great in the fall or whenever Oregon decides to no longer be 100+ degrees. It’s just a tad hot at the moment. But my tried and true method of sleeping with a washcloth full of ice is doing the trick.

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And that’s it! That’s the house! I can’t wait to share all that I’ve been up to in the last few weeks and all that I’ve been dreaming about starting in the months to come. Get ready for oversharing and lots of learning experiences. Like this one for instance: I recently learned that I look like this after spending 3 hours moving bricks in 100° heat.

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I promise, give me a few months and this house will be almost as beautiful as that face. If that’s even possible. And if the spiders I keep finding EVERYWHERE don’t eat me first. Only time will tell!

Oh! And I named the house. Or I named the property. I am a total nerd, but I’ve always loved when people named their homes. This place is officially named Berrybrier. I’ll get into all the reasons later, but a good part of the origin starts with that out of control raspberry bush in the backyard!

So what do you think? Am I totally crazy, in over my head? Probably. Did you buy a fixer upper? Have tips for laying brick patios? What is your house called?

 

 

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Sheets Search

Some people spend their free time dreaming of vacations and planning their futures, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about sheets. My patterned bed sheets had finally had enough. They’d given up, they’d ripped, they’d torn, they’d stained. It was the end. They knew it. Malary knew it. I was in denial, but deep down, I still knew it. What I could not find though was the perfect sheets for my bed! Bring on the bloodhounds, because this was about to get serious. I needed new sheets and I was going to find some good ones. You can see my old sheets here, both before and after I got my quilt. They were part of this collection from the Target Threshold line about a year ago. They’ve since discontinued the pattern, but the new patterns are pretty cute! I love that blue geo.

 

 

I was tempted to go with one of the new patterns from the same line, but they just weren’t right. Plus, I’d really only had my sheets from this line for one year and they’d already ripped along a couple seams and they were worn and stained on the fitted sheet where I slept. Not a gross, unidentifiable stain or anything. But there was kind of an outline of my body, probably from sweat and oil and the fact that I sleep in exactly the same place every night. The sheets also felt different in this spot. They pilled a little bit and were not as crisp feeling as the rest of the sheets. You couldn’t tell any of this unless you were actively making the bed up, so it wasn’t overt in the least, but I knew about it. Is this too much information? I just wanted y’all to be totally informed about the quality of these sheets. My verdict? They did not last as long as I’d expected. Nosiree!

 

My problem when I’m looking for things for my home is my vivid imagination. Usually, before I even start searching, I know exactly what the item I want looks like. Vividly, from the scale of the pattern, to the exact shade (in this case) of green. Obviously, this makes things tricky as I don’t have a line of sheets I’ve designed, and thus cannot pluck my imagined sheet set from my imagination and wrap them over my bed. Maybe one day. But now? I am stuck on the search and have to find a compromise.

 

West Elm Duvet and Quilt | Land of Laurel

 

I think that there are a range of compromises. When anyone is looking to buy anything, I think it is best to go in with a set of guidelines, a list of must haves. These are the things you cannot, will not, compromise on. For my search for the perfect sheets my must have list looked like this:

  • Organic I believe in organic cotton, because I am going to sleep on these sheets for 8+ hours every night for as long as they’ll last, and I simply do not want any residue of pesticides that close to my skin for that length of time. If I could, every piece of linen or clothing item I bought would be organic and colored with natural dyes. Since this is not feasible (budget, style, etc) for me at this point in my life, I have to pick and choose. For me, sheets are a priority and organic sheets are easy to find!
  • Patterned, some people love the look of simple, clean, all white bedding with the only accent or color coming from a pillow or throw blanket, but not me! I love pattern and color and mixing the two. Since my bedding is made up of a busy, multi-colored, large scale patterned duvet and euros; a dark red quilt with simple square stitching; simple, white standard shams; and gold sequined throw pillows, I wanted to balance the solids with another pattern. The patterning, however, needed to be dual color and pretty small scaled in order to not compete with the rest of the fabrics.
  • Queen-sized, there are always some concessions to be made, but for sheets, size is not one of them!
  • 50% or more white in the patterning, so much of my bedding is saturated in color, there is only mild contrast with my dark headboard and furnishings. I wanted my sheets to help lighten the bedding and room.
  • Green, I knew exactly what shade of green I wanted my sheets to be. That perfect green- somewhere between yellow, lime, and split pea soup- was the same green found in the greenery in my floral my duvet cover.

 

Little did I know, but in this situation, one of my “must” haves simply had to drop out. The sheets I found, though, still take the cake! Here are several I seriously considered, just in case any of you are on the hunt for sheets!

 

  1. The first sheets I looked at were again from the Target Threshold Organic Sheet Set   line. But, the plain white was the only one that would really work with the rest of my bedding and that felt too boring to me. Plus, for the reasons described above, I was a little skeptical of their quality.

 

 

2. I fell pretty hard for these Pottery Barn Marlo Organic Sheets when I first saw them over a year ago. The pattern is wonderful and small enough in scale to not compete with most other patterns. Having grown up in a Spanish style home, the Spanish/Moroccan influence in the pattern appeals to me. The dual-color palette was precisely what I was looking for, but it wasn’t green and I worried the pattern was still too large against my floral duvet cover. Still, in another world, I’d go for these in a heartbeat!

 

 

3. I knew Coyuchi organic cotton sheets were the height of luxury. West Elm even sells a sheet set from their line! These Sand Dollar Printed Sheets were the right scale and they even came in green, but the sand dollars don’t really fit in with my floral bedspread and the green wasn’t the exact right shade I wanted. Plus the $298.00 price tag for the queen sized set threw me a bit. That was way over my limited budget. I did love many of the other sheets Coyuchi sells though. Each and every single one is organic!

 

4. My search continued and after looking at many more patterned sheets, I looked for something more simple and found these Organic Mod Stripe Sheets at West Elm. I focused on the more neutral Belgian Flax color at first, before realizing I much preferred the Light Pool color. The dual-color pattern was precisely 50% white, like I was looking for and it was simple and small enough in scale to not compete with my duvet. But they did not come in any shade of green! The horizontal striping was interesting since sheets tend to come in vertical stripes.

 

 

5. I loved these Loomis Stripe Organic Sheets from Pottery Barn on first sight. The two colored stripe provided interest and allowed most of the sheet to be white. They contained the perfect shade of green I was so desperately searching for, but also a navy. I adored them, but did I really want to add another color to my already colorful room?

 

Pottery Barn Loomis Stripe Sheets | Land of Laurel

 

Can you guess which of the five I ended up springing for? Or which point I had concede on?

 

 

Prices lowered on one of the sets and the sale helped me snag those sheets for $69. Not cheap, but not as expensive as they could have gone for. As soon as they arrived at my door, I washed and dried them, and threw them on my bed. Instantly cute! Instantly more finished. Instantly tied in with all the other color!

 

Bedroom Sheets | Land of Laurel

 

Yup, that’s right! I went with the unexpected and choose the Organic Mod Stripe Sheets from West Elm. Blue, not green! A real curve ball (from my perspective at least!). It was actually a bit of a gamble, because I hoped (but wasn’t sure) that the “Light Pool” color of the sheets was the same aqua color in the little blue flowers on my duvet and euros. When the sheets arrived I heaved a big sigh of relief, they were a match!

 

New Sheets | Land of Laurel

 

That’s one of the best things about this duvet, it works in a few hues from several different colors (red, green, pink, aqua), allowing it to coordinate with nearly everything. It’s really very fortunate and makes me love the modern floral even more! You might also note the flowers on my nightstand. They were a cute birthday gift from my friend Hannah, the vase I inherited from my Oma, but how perfectly do they go with my bedding! Same aqua! Same red! Same pink! Totally perfect. Sigh… it’s the little things in life that make me smile.

 

Bedroom Updates | Land of Laurel

 

So there you have it. A couple months search, some compromises, and a win-win situation. I love the sheets, they help tie everything (including the red quilt ) together. I finally feel like this year long hunt for bedding can come to a close. The new sheets and the switching out the standard shams from the red quilted ones back to my original white shams, make the red quilt feel far less out of place. Now everything coordinates and I can sleep easy. Whew.

 

Stripes with Florals | Land of Laurel

 

Plus, I’ve totally proved that stripes go with florals! Just match the colors and you’re golden. Hooray! Any one else looking for new sheets? Coordinating patterns? Maybe I should take my stripes/florals and apply it to fashion. That would be an outfit!

Other Design Fails

Guess what guys? It’s Christmas. Yup, Christmas! You thought Christmas was in December? Nope. You’ve maybe heard of Christmas in July? Also wrong! It’s Christmas right now, today. Still confused? Here’s the 411.

 

When I moved into my house in Berkeley, I bought a lot of my existing furnishings and bedding with the idea of slowly updating a lot of it. It soon became clear that this might need to happen sooner rather than later for my bedding. Why? My comforter, barely warm enough during California winters in other rooms I’ve slept in, was excruciatingly hot in this 10 year old, properly insulated home. I woke up sweating almost every night and this was with the window left open in winter! Time for a change!

 

I went to IKEA and bought a new down comforter, one of their “coolest” models. This is it, I thought. This comforter weighs one third of my old one. It will be so much cooler. I will no longer get sweaty. I will sleep blissfully. Like an angel. This was right around when I bought my new West Elm duvet cover. I had high hopes for my new bedroom look!

 

A few nights in, I realized, although this new comforter was significantly cooler than my original one, it wasn’t cool enough. At all. I like to sleep snuggled up in warm bedding in a cool room and this was just too hot, even with the window open! Maybe I’m wearing the wrong pajamas, I thought. I tried long pants, I wore no pants, I tried tank tops. I wore just underwear, I tried nightgowns, I wore leggings, I wore REI moisture-wicking base layers. Nothing worked. Okay, fine, I thought, I can come up with another solution, this is so much better than having the opposite problem. And I’ve lived through that too. 

 

I started looking for quilts. A thin quilt would surely be cool enough! Now, I just need to find one in a great green color to match everything else in my room. Months past… I looked on every site and in every store I could think of. I found… nothing in green. Eventually, I stumbled on this quilt from West Elm. It didn’t come in green. At this point, I was sleep deprived from being too warm. I started to care less about green. I started to rely on my primitive lizard brain. My primitive lizard brain likes the color red. So does my frontal lobe, actually, but my frontal lobe is much better about regulating the amount of red. It’s good at mixing red with neutrals. My lizard brain doesn’t give a flying @!$&. My lizard brain wanted to sleep in a cool environment and not wake up sweating.

 

Then the quilt went on sale. My lizard brain just loves a good sale. It was definitely in control when I hopped on those nightstands I posted about Monday like they were big, juicy, lizard-food bugs. What happened next? I’m sure you can guess. I bought the quilt in the paprika color and the matching standard shams. When these came in the mail, I love them. They’re a beautiful red, my absolute favorite shade of red! I was excited. These will look fantastic, I thought.

 

Then I washed them and made up my bed…

 

West Elm Duvet and Quilt | Land of Laurel

 

Merry Christmas! Don’t you just love decorating with red and green? OOPS.

 

I’d convinced myself before pushing the “Place Order” button, that the red quilt would look fine in my bedroom. After all, the duvet had plenty of red in it!  In reality? Happy Christmas. My pale green walls, green throw, and even the floral duvet met up with the red quilt and started celebrating the birth of Jesus. Throw in some gold sequined throw pillows and you’ve really got a Christmas party! Doggoneit. Switching up the nightstands with the blue and green books was also an attempt to help with my new holiday inspired space.

 

Nightstands and Red Quilt | Land of Laurel

 

 

… it didn’t really help much.

 

The red completely dominated the other colors in my duvet. The shades of white, blue, green– they all disappeared. All I see now is red. And it’s not because I’m angry. Let’s call this learning. Let’s call this evolving.

 

Even Malary wasn’t happy with the new look.

 

New Bedding | Land of Laurel

 

Here’s the thing though, the quilt did solve some of my problems. It is the perfect weight. I am no longer super hot at night. I can even sleep with the window closed now! I don’t wake up all hot and sweaty. I no longer sing Nelly’s Hot in Herre at 2:00am. My roommates are much appreciative! So in some ways, this quilt is the best thing ever! Now, if only I had bought it in that pretty Natural/Flax color rather than Paprika… But, I am no good at keeping light neutrals, oh, how should I say it? Light and neutral. They usually become spotted and dark. Quickly. Nope, white and lights don’t mix well with clumsy ole me! Slate might have worked… but it was so dark!

 

So what am I going to do? Live with it for now. Maybe switch up the shams and get some different throw pillows. Or! Move to a place with a guest bedroom and split up the bedding, since I love them both so dearly. That’s not happening anytime soon though… And I do love throw pillows. Until I move forward with a new plan, I’ll just be over here celebrating Christmas. All day. Everyday. Good thing I love holidays!! I would like a design win though… I’m over failing!