Let There Be Beauty

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Here’s a peek at some decorating updates I recently made to our entry.

I love and hate that quote. I often wish I could meander down every shiny path I fancy, but at the same time, it’s nice to have the wise permission not to, at least not all at once. If I could, though, I’d learn how to paint flowers, dance like an angel, dig into the art of flower farming and floral design; I’d be a songwriter, publish lovely little children’s books, have a formal education in interior design, and manage all that’s required to have a successful Style Me Marie blog. (Add to that list a clean house and a thriving family, and I think I’d die happy.)  

In the last few years, I’ve contemplated the wisdom in that quote often, and it’s inspired me to push some dreams to the wayside and focus on a select few, mainly this blog. Still, even with cutting a lot out, often my dreams feel out of reach and frivolous. Do interiors and flowers really matter when there are such hefty problems in the world, plus my own children to raise and nurture who, for nearly the last decade, we’ve chosen to homeschool, a constant weight and pull and joy.

Although not necessarily needed, maybe pursuing a blog featuring beautiful design and intricate flower arrangements would feel more justified if it were guaranteed to contribute financially to our family. Maybe then I’d feel more validated in my efforts. Maybe then it would matter how I decorated my house. So often my dreams feel like second-rate ambitions in the test of life, or so I’ve been tempted to believe. 

But as I sit here and write, I gaze out the window at my gorgeous and fragrant lilac tree and think, God created it and thousands of other flowering plants for the purpose of beautifying the earth, and what about all the glorious sunsets He paints for us each evening? The many ways He’s created beauty on earth are endless, and if it’s important to God, it can be important to me. 

Another liberating moment I had was while I was worshipping in one of our church’s many temples and contemplating whether God would have me put so much care and effort toward continually improving the aesthetic of our home. And not only that, but whether I should take it a big step further and promote the venture on this blog. After sincerely praying for His approval, I opened my eyes and immediately noticed the intricate detail on the chairs we were sitting in. Our temples, which we believe to be houses of God here on earth, are nothing short of immaculate elegance. I had my answer; while beautifying our homes might not be the most important pursuit in life, it’s still a worthy one if it brings peace and harmony. It’s also a skill I can bless others with and take with me into the eternities. (As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we also believe that the only things we can take with us after we die are our relationships and any knowledge we acquired during our time here on earth.) 

God and family will always come first, but I’d love to intertwine Style Me Marie into the fabric of a life that prioritizes the most important things. So, in my spare time as a God-fearing homeschool mom who adores her husband and kids, you can find me postponing the painting, dancing and songwriting for another day, and instead sharing the flowers we’re growing and designing–the beautiful, yet often messy, and hopefully happy home we’re trying to create. 

How to Paint a Piano

Years back, I wanted a piano so desperately it hurt. While I’m no concert pianist, playing the piano felt like a part of me that was missing. Thankfully, I was able to convey these heartfelt yearnings to my husband, who finally agreed that we could get one. I was elated! If I’m remembering right, I found one for free! I wanted to paint it, but I was so worried I’d ruin it, that I hired a professional to paint it for me. Watching the painting process was really eye opening. It was my first introduction to the world of chalk paint, and my color of choice was light blue. Dug these photos up…I couldn’t get enough blue back then!

Fast forward several years and we were moving. I wasn’t sure a blue piano suited our new living room, so I had it hauled upstairs to the great room. Then, one day on a whim, my mom and I decided to spend one of our project days painting it black because the chalk paint was chipping in places, and the color blue was still feeling out of place, even upstairs. Below is the best picture I could find!

By this point, I’d painted all types of furniture, so I wasn’t nearly as worried about painting a piano, although the tiny nooks and crevices around the keys had me slightly intimidated. I shouldn’t have been! And that’s what today’s post is about: how painting a piano is a doable project! 

This topic is fresh on my mind because I recently visited my sister in Spokane who had just convinced her husband to get a piano. (I’m noticing a trend with men and pianos…all that heavy lifting!) My sister has been wanting a black piano for years, and so my mom and I helped her paint her newly acquired vintage 1930s piano that was given to them. We just worked on it a little everyday after the kids were in bed for about three nights, and it turned out gorgeous!  

Here’s what we did:

  1. If possible, it’s always a good idea to rough the surface up with sandpaper. We just sanded it by hand and tried to protect the piano from getting dust inside of it by covering the keys and any openings in the piano.
  2. We wiped down the dust with a wet rag and then wiped it down again with liquid deglosser for good measure.
  3. We taped off the pedals and the keys.
  4. We wiped the piano down with tack cloth to get any lurking dust.
  5. We used Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint to put on a first coat, and it went on like silk!
  6. The next night, we put on another coat. For Advance paint, you’re technically supposed to wait 24 hours and lightly sand between coats, but we didn’t wait a full 24 hours nor did we sand. #rebels
  7. On the third night, we put on our third and final coat. We taped off the keys and when I was painting around the keys, I pressed down on the keys so that I could get into the crevices. You will probably have to take a very small paintbrush and touch up any spots you’ve missed after you pull off the tape.

And that’s it! No need to fear; pianos can be painted, and you can be the one to do it!

Design Advice You’ll Love

All three of my sisters are artistically talented. Whether it be dance, songwriting, makeup, fashion, decorating–I get so much encouragement and inspiration from them! Honestly, they should be the ones blogging. But since they’re not, from time to time I’ll pass along some of the things I learn from them. My sister Emma is in the middle of building the modern English country cottage of her dreams, and it’s been so fun to watch from a distance. She is a natural at interior decorating and design, and I’ve learned a lot from her over the years, so today I want to share three of her unforgettable design mantras!

1. “I want it to feel lived in.”

This might be my favorite thing she says. As I was showing her the painted tile in my powder bathroom several months after I’d finished the project, I was apprehensive about what she’d think because they weren’t holding up perfectly. They had a bit of a worn look to them from all the foot traffic and also because I never put a sealant on them. I was still trying to decide if I should start over and seal them off. But she told me she loved how they looked a little worn. “It looks lived in!” she said. Her response changed my whole outlook, and now I think the painted tile looks less like a paint-your-tile DIY and more like charming old-world floors. 

2. “I don’t want anything to be the star of the show.”

When Emma first said this, as she was considering different light fixtures for her dining room, her words stopped me in my tracks. I thought it was so profound that I think I even asked her where she learned that. “I’m sure I read it somewhere,” she said. 

I think it’s such a wise approach, especially when you’re making more permanent choices for your home. For example, instead of having the chandelier or backsplash or wallpaper command the attention of a room, make design choices that compliment the other things going on in a space and have everything blend and work together. Save the “stars of the show” for decorations and things because otherwise you run the risk of those “stars” quickly falling into an outdated abyss.

3. “Baskets! Plants in a basket. Toys in a basket. Bread/fruit in a basket. Baskets = homey.”

Ok, so you don’t have to put literally everything in a basket ; my sister just sent me this photo meme of a fridge with baskets inside of it–ha ha!

We don’t recommend taking it that far, but it would be a rare case indeed for someone to own too many baskets. They really do add an orderly texture and depth pretty much anywhere you can think of. I have some on the bookshelves in our offices, on the seat of our fireplace, near the couch, and on and on. I’m thinking about getting some metal baskets I saw at The Dollar Store the other day for my pantry–they don’t have to be high-end to be attractive! 

So, yes, I love these little mantras of Emma’s. She’s got me asking myself if there are “stars of the show” in my house that command too much attention and helps me remember that while creating a home is an art–it shouldn’t feel like an art museum. Our homes are where we live and can and should be a beautiful reflection of that, which requires embracing the quirks and imperfections and the life that’s happening inside.

That, and embracing all the baskets, of course!

Pink Chairs for my Office!

Over on my Instagram stories, I left everyone hanging about the makeover on my office chairs! My mom found these gorgeous and incredibly comfy chairs for 10 bucks apiece at a garage sale! The cushions were in pristine condition, while the wood frames needed a little love, so we decided to freshen things up with my all-time favorite paint: Advance by Benjamin Moore (satin). The color Black Ink (also by Benjamin Moore) seems to be my signature these days, so I bought some more of it knowing our front door could use some touching up. Had I not needed more paint in this color anyway, I would have considered painting them in a true black (or maybe a lighter shade of pink?), but I’m happy with how they turned out, and they certainly go with the flow around here.

Now, let’s play two truths and a lie, shall we?

  1. I had the bouquet specifically designed at our flower shops for this pink chair reveal.
  2. It was easy to paint around the cushions without getting paint on them.
  3. I’ve never read the book I’m holding–Wuthering Heights.

See below this before photo for some answers!

  1. Lie. Will gave this lovely bundle of flowers to me for Valentine’s Day and they just happened to look right at home with my chairs!
  2. Truth! I actually thought this project would be trickier than it was because I was worried about getting paint on the cushions, especially where the cushions meet the cane webbing on the sides. But we just wedged cardstock between the arms and the caning, and it blocked the paint flawlessly!
  3. Truth. This pretty green book has been in many a photoshoot, but I’ve never read it; should I add Wuthering Heights to my book list?

Pixie Dust

This is a little off-topic, but remember how I was so excited to make a music video for the song my sister Lissie and I wrote together about my kids when they were little? Well, not only did we make a music video, with the help of my brother Christian, we also entered it into the RootsTech Song Contest! And we’re semi-finalists! I’d be so thankful if you’d give it a listen and vote for us here: https://rootstechsongcontest.org/pixie-dust/

Update: We didn’t make the next round, but a heartfelt thanks to all who voted!

A Mood Board for our Mudroom!

In addition to the relentless stream of dirty clothes practically attacking me whenever I open the cupboard door to the laundry chute in our mudroom, our laundry-slash-mudroom is also the junk drawer of our home right now and has been pitiful lately! Needless to say, I loved gathering inspiration pictures and creating my very first mood board for our mudroom makeover, which is at the top of my list for big projects to accomplish in 2021.

And it’s not just cosmetics that needs fixing. Due to some water damage and rot issues we had when we first moved into our home, there are literally missing tiles and disintegrating baseboards to be dealt with before I can get started. The first step will be to replace the missing tiles and repair the baseboards, and then I’m planning on painting the tile in a charcoal grey color with Rustoleum Home Floor Coating to achieve a similar (but much less expensive) vibe to the inspiration picture (below/right) for our floors. I definitely want to have hooks for hats and bags in this room, too!

Ok, I’m obsessed with the green color and vertical paneling in the inspiration photo (below left). And paired with that floral rug and the charcoal floors I’m dreaming of? Eeeek! I could look at these pictures all day!

Below are some more vertical paneling and hooks to swoon over. Those stand-alone hooks are everything! I also love the built-in bench…but I’d have to forego having a folding table in our laundry room if I did a bench. Might be worth it. Something tells me I’ll still take all our clean clothes to our bedroom to fold even if I had a folding table in this room. Thoughts?

And now for my very first mood board! I created it in Photoshop and have included links below. Oh, and if you’re wondering why I added a shower curtain to the board, it’s because we have a shower in our mudroom, so it’ll be fun to get a new curtain for that! Like I mentioned, we don’t have a place for folding laundry, so I’m considering getting an industrial-looking utility table and storing a few cute hampers on wheels underneath it–a landing place for the dirty laundry that won’t ever go away for as long as I live! See, beautifying a room I spend so much time in should definitely be a priority, right?

I’d love to hear what’s on your project list this year!

Pretty Pity Party

As promised, here is the music video that I helped my sister make for her band Salem Swing’s latest song, “Pretty Pity Party!” It was so fun filming this in my freshly painted kitchen, making over the garden table and chairs and helping with some of the fun little details! She is an incredibly talented singer and songwriter, so I’ll hope you’ll give this a listen.

A Little More Christmas

Everyone has a different opinion about when it’s time to tuck away their Christmas decorations. I tend to put it away in phases, the same way I put them up. I think that helps me enjoy the process on both ends even more. Tell me I’m not the only one who still has at least some of theirs up?

My favorite decoration this year–the fresh garland I made for the first time–was, unfortunately, the last to go up and the first to come down. Like a fresh bouquet of flowers, organic decor never quite lasts long enough, but the way they breathe so much life into a space makes them totally worth all the effort. Here’s my garland a couple weeks old and honestly, on its deathbed, but I still love it and can’t wait to make them again next year!

A few days after Christmas, I had so much fun shopping the holiday clearance section at World Market (went twice in two days!), that instead of coming home and cleaning up Christmas, I came home and had fun decorating with my new half-off finds! This put post-Christmas decorating into stiff competition with pre-Christmas decorating! It was really fun.

Mainly, I replaced the brown paper stars on my mantle with some big yet delicate white paper snowflakes lanterns I found there. I really love them and just might keep them up until Valentine’s Day.

I also picked up some Star Shaped Pillar Candles that I’m saving to give away as little Christmas gifts next year, as well as smaller paper stars that I came home and added as ornaments on our Christmas tree. It’s up for debate at my house, but I think they’re just what our tree needed for New Years!

Oh, and have you ever heard of an angel chime? Also on clearance, this Gold Metal Angel Chime set could make great little gifts for next year, too! A few weeks before Christmas, some girlfriends and I had our own little “parade of homes” as an excuse to enjoy each other’s Christmas decor. At one of the homes, I was introduced to an angel chime for the first time. I love how in a dim room, the light from the candles flutters on the ceiling as the angels spin around.

The effect reminds me of a scene towards the beginning of The Greatest Showman when P. T. Barnum comes home to his darling family and lights a candle under what he calls “a wishing machine,” and it casts spinning light on the sheets they have hung up to dry that evening on the rooftop.

This is a wishing machine,” Barnum says. “You tell it your wishes, and it keeps them safe until they come true. Even if you forget them, they’re always there.”

The greatest Showman

I like to think that this is what an angel chime does! When I saw a bunch of them on clearance at World Market, I had to have one. To be honest, they’re a little finicky and tinsel-y, but I don’t even care because they’re just so charming. So, until I have Leonardo Da Vinci’s blueprints to make my very own wishing machine like P. T. Barnum does (wink), my angel chime should do the trick. I hope all of your wishes comes true in this new year!

The Magic of Christmas Decor

Even as a generally forgetful person, I have these incandescent moments when it comes to decorating where I’ll see something that inspires me so much it’s unforgettable. These occasions impact me enough that I can usually remember them in such detail that reminiscing feels like I’m standing right there in awe all over again.

And it’s the simplest things, too. Like the time I came home from college at Christmas and my mom had white lights strung along the banister leading up to our front steps. She’s not the first person to string lights up a banister, but it was the first time I recognized how much I appreciated the effect; it felt so warm and magical. Years later, as soon as I had a home and a banister of my own, I couldn’t wait to wind white lights around it for the holidays–a December decorating tradition I’ve kept ever since. 

On the other hand, from the get-go, my husband made it pretty clear that he had no desire to go through the hassle of putting Christmas lights on our house. Growing up, my dad never did either, so it didn’t phase me much. And I don’t blame them; I certainly don’t want that job! So, while visiting a friend one winter, I paused with wonder when I instantly noticed she’d hung icicle lights from the insides of her windows. Because of this, her home looked all the more classy and enchanting from both the interior and the exterior, and it thrilled me to discover a way to illuminate our home without having to climb a ladder out in the cold! 

Thankfully, my friend’s even more elegant than her house and didn’t mind me copying her. And so, for many years, I used packaging tape to hang icicle lights in my windows like her. I can’t say this was her approach, but for many years it worked well enough, albeit a time-consuming experience trying to get them to hang evenly, and it always left a ruthless residue to clean. I was thrilled when a few years ago I thought to attach Command Hooks to the top corners of my window frames. (The hooks stay in place year-round and are hardly noticeable.) That way, all I have to do is snap the strands of lights into the hooks each year–so easy! I love it. 

It’s probably the many years I spent living in Europe, admiring the beauty of castles and palaces, that attracted me to the hint of grandeur our home lends. I instantly knew I wanted to hang wreaths from our four symmetrical windows. (Outdoor Command Hooks have made that task incredibly easy, too.) I was giddy when I found wreaths for 75% off right after the first Christmas we moved in. It felt like a dream hanging them the next December and every December since. 

With each sail around the sun, it seems like there’s a new charming idea dancing through my mind. Last year it was making paper stars like the outlandishly talented Linda Lomelino. This year, it’s handmade garlands made of dried oranges, evergreens foraged from our backyard, and mini star sugar cookies. Original ideas always feel extra special–I’m using a big plaid blanket scarf as a tree skirt and festive wrapping paper as a table runner for our fancier festivities.

Like the wonder of a simple string of lights does for me, I hope the layers of decor that seem to magically fall into place at Christmastime leave you standing in awe all over again as you bask in the glow of Christmas.