Inspirational Gallery Wall via Modify Ink

I had the pleasure of meeting some extraordinary women during the Build Your Blog Conference 2015. Not only fellow bloggers, but a team of women who developed and built Modify Ink. They work with a team of artists, designers, and developers to offer a range of custom art work. Choose your design and customize the colors, textures, and patterns to create something truly unique and personalized.

When I saw this quote by Mary Oliver with graphics designed by Nicole LaRue and Clairice Gifford I knew I had to have it! The design gallery is simple to use and offers a multitude of styles. I chose colors that would fit perfectly in my home office, placed my order, and within a few days I received my 16×20″ immaculate print and fell in love.

ModifyInk Print
ModifyInk Print

This is the beginning of my gallery wall in my new home office. I centered the print and all my other wall art will fill in around it. I’m so excited!

Inspirational Gallery Wall via Modify Ink

DIY – Parisian-Inspired Side Table

I found another gem spot for treasure hunting! Hilltop Consignment in Culpeper always has tons of furniture at affordable prices. I cleaned them out of side tables, nightstands, and coffee tables during my last visit so I have a good month’s worth of projects all for $125 TOTAL! First up, a Parisian-inspired side table.

Sidetable Facelift



I used a damp cloth to wipe down the entire table and removed all the hardware. I use the all in one spray primer because it’s the easiest to apply to the furniture.

Side Table IMG_5621 IMG_5623_2 IMG_5624 Prepping the table


I used an antique white chalk paint for the body, legs, and drawer of the table. I like strong contrast of black and white so I painted the table top black. Initially, I used black spray paint but it looked horrible. It was splotchy and just looked cheap. So, I re-did it with an interior semi-gloss paint and it looked so much better. I used the same black paint for the hardware too.

Black table top IMG_5632 IMG_5629Painted hardware


Stenciling is probably one of the most time consuming and irritating craft projects I have ever tried. More is not better! Use very little paint and just keep going over the area in small circles. Otherwise, the paint bleeds under the stencil and it comes out looking blurry. This is exactly what I did on my first try and I painted over the entire thing with the black paint and let it dry so I could start over. My second attempt was better but still not perfect. I used a teensy paint brush and went around the edges of the stencil that had bled to touch it up.

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The picture above is the “before” photo. I hated it and painted over it to start from scratch.

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I used a spray clear sealant (again because it’s easier) and sprayed the entire piece to protect the paint. I’m pretty happy with the final product!

Parisian-Inspired Side Table

DIY – Parisian-Inspired Side Table

How to Dress Like Claire Underwood

Now that my binge of Season 3 of House of Cards is complete, I can focus on my latest fashion obsession: Claire Underwood. Her ultra-chic, simplistically elegant, and subtly sexy style makes her the hottest fictional First Lady ever. Check out the inspiration, splurge v. steal styles, and full outfits below!


Season three shows a soft shift in style for Claire. She has to be more conservative as the first lady but that does not mean any reduction in style of class. She wore this navy dress which has a fantastic shape for everyone:

*Photo Courtesy of Netflix*
*Photo Courtesy of Netflix*

This Neiman Marcus Lafayette 148 New York Full-Skirt Jacquard dress is pure structured perfection. However, the price tag is not. The Nordstrom Halogen Fit and Flare dress is a comparable substitute and a very similar shape for only $99!

Navy Claire Underwood Style Dress

My personal opinion is to land somewhere in the middle which is where Alfred Sung’s Dupioni Fit & Flare dress makes a strong entrance at $164:

Claire Underwood Navy Dress Style


If it’s before Labor Day it’s white; if it’s after Labor Day it’s winter-white. Either way, I don’t care because I’ll wear it year round paired with the right layers and accessories. I chose this gorgeous cream dress Claire wore for a press conference on the front steps of their Georgetown home for inspiration:

Claire Underwood White Dress
*Photo Courtesy of Netflix*

This dress is classic and chic and perfect for layering. So, I went on the hunt for a versatile white/ivory dress that could work 12 months out of the year.

White Sheath Dress Claire Underwood Style

The Neiman Marcus dress is by Elie Tarahi “Maria Fit & Flare” and is simply classic. My favorite is the “Marianna Sheath Dress” by T Tahari at Nordstrom because of the neckline and subtle ruching on the side. So, I built this outfit out:

Claire Underwood White Dress Style


During season 1 of House of Cards Claire wore a dress that “looked like steel” according to Zoe Barnes:

Photo Courtesy of Netflix
*Photo Courtesy of Netflix*

It is more formal than anything I would need lately so I found a more business-casual look.

Grey Dress Claire Underwood Style

I tried really hard to use the less-expensive version of this look but I’m in love with the splurge. There’s something about a light grey color that carries a level of class and elegance to it for daytime that the dark grey doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I’d wear the darker version as well, but for this style buildout I chose the splurge:

Grey Claire Underwood Style Dress


The black turtleneck is a style we’ve seen Claire wear in every season. While I haven’t worn a turtleneck in years (it makes me feel claustrophobic) I think it’s a great style to look at for inspiration:

Claire Underwood Turtleneck
*Photo Courtesy of Netflix*

It’s unclear if this style is a turtleneck sweater and a pencil skirt or a turtleneck dress. So, I’ve built out both styles While having separate pieces allow for a greater wardrobe mix, I prefer a dress so I only have to pick out one piece for my work outfit.

Black Turtleneck Dress Claire Underwood StyleI love the short sleeves on the Neiman Marcus dress but I’m not sure it’s worth the price tag. This is where having an excellent tailor in your pocket is key! Shortening the sleeves on the Nordstrom dress wouldn’t cost more than $20ish with our local tailor and would be worth the price difference to order the less-expensive option.

Claire Underwood Black Turtleneck Style

Black Turtlenecks

Black Pencil Skirt Claire Underwood Style

I hope this post shows you how easy it can be to add a little of Claire’s flair to your wardrobe!

How to Dress Like Claire Underwood

DIY: Turn an Old Coffee Table into a Bench

I’m pretty proud of myself with this DIY project. I found a coffee table gem at an auction for a steal of $25. I loved the curved look and crackled paint on the sides. I knew instantly it would be mine and I would add it to my french country collection, but I already have a coffee table. So, I decided to turn it into a an entryway bench!

DIY Entryway Bench

Coffee Table Bench


  • Coffee table (check out thrift stores and auctions for good deals)
  • Spray Primer
  • Valspar Spray Paint in Riviera Dune ($4.98)
  • Clear Coat Sealant Spray
  • Fabric for the seat cushion (under $4 a yard at Walmart)
  • Foamology Project Foam (about $15 a roll and I bought two rolls from WalMart)
  • Plywood
  • Staple Gun ($3.99 on sale!)

STEP 1: Spray Primer on the Table

I decided that trying to sand the coffee table would be too much trouble given all the curves and grooves of it. I also didn’t want to ruin the crackle on the legs. So, I used a spray primer on the legs and sides of the table (I didn’t paint the top because it would be covered by a seat cushion).

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Priming Coffee Table


STEP 2: Paint and Seal the Coffee Table

I learned that I should have applied at least two layers of primer to the legs and sides because the paint did not stick well to the table. I painted 3 layers (4 in some spots) before I was satisfied with an even distribution. I used a clear coat sealant to protect the paint and the painting was done!

Paint Coffee Table

STEP 3: Make the Bench Cushion

This was the hardest part of me and my biggest learning opportunity. I had picked out burlap fabric with a fleur-de-lis print and planned to sew a sort of pillow case. I also bought rolls of foam and thought I would make a pillow out of it, sew it all together and be done. WRONG. The burlap didn’t sew well, I didn’t get enough fabric, and my dimensions were all off.

I started from scratch with a new fabric and a new idea. I rummaged my parents’ garage and found a piece of plywood that was literally the exact dimensions of the top of the coffee table! I took it as a sign and stole it (j.k. I asked first). I took it home, rolled out three layers of the foam to match the length and width of the plywood, and wrapped the fabric around it. I used the staple gun to staple all around the edges and I was done! Much easier and faster than sewing by hand.

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STEP 5: Put the Cushion on the Bench

Put the newly assembled seat cushion onto the bench and you’re done!

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DIY Entryway Bench

Lessons learned: Coffee tables are taller/wider than a normal bench so trying to find pre-made cushions that fit was impossible. Two sets of hands make stapling fabric to plywood significantly easier. Burlap is not a great choice for a cushion (I will probably use that fabric to make throw pillows instead). If you leave foam near your radiator it turns the foam yellow. Primer (and multiple coats) is a requirement if you’re not sanding!

DIY: Turn an Old Coffee Table into a Bench

DIY – Antique Chair Facelift with Chalk Paint


I have been eyeing “french country” lounge chairs for at least a year but haven’t found one that I liked that wasn’t well over $400.

I was picking up an armoire (tutorial coming soon!) from an antique gallery in Ruckersville, Va when this chair caught my eye. I had been searching for months to find an antique to try out the chalk paint method but they were all at least $100+ and I worried about ruining a chair and wasting a ton of money. Imagine my surprise when the pricetag for this gem was only $45! I scooped it up immediately.

French country facelift tutorial

Shopping List

  • Annie Sloan Pure White Chalk Paint from The Empty Nest $38
  • Annie Solan Paris Grey Chalk Paint from The Empty Nest $38
  • Annie Sloan Soft Wax from The Empty Nest $25
  • Annie Sloan brush from The Empty Nest $40
  • 220 Grit Sandpaper
  • Kitties for adoption


I used a multipurpose cleaner to wipe down the fabric and the wood on the chair. There were several spots that looked like the color had started to fade but I wasn’t worried about it since I would be painting the whole thing. I wiped it down several times and let it dry a bit.



It definitely helps to have Sherman, one of our two tuxedo kitties, to inspect the chair after cleaning. IMG_5449 IMG_5448 IMG_5447


I used Pure White Annie Sloan chalk paint for the upholstery portion of the chair. I read multiple blogs that all gave different ratios of mixing the chalk paint with water. The purpose is for the chalk paint to adhere to the fabric and soak in better than using only the chalk paint. I tried the 1×1 ratio (one part paint to one part water) and found that it was too watery. Streaks dripped down the legs and the green was still very obvious. The second coat was more of a 1/3 water and 2/3 paint combination and it worked much better. I put a total of three coats on and then spot-painted where more paint was needed.

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I searched for several answers about how to make sure the upholstery wouldn’t be still after all the paint had been applied and dried but I didn’t find much (until after I was done!). I read about Martha Stewart’s “fabric medium” to mix with the paint and water to make the fabric softer.

Cindy from wrote a wonderful post on first-time use of these brushes and how to apply the wax; all of which I didn’t see until after I was done but wish I’d had!


I used Paris Grey Annie Sloan chalk paint to paint the wooden portions of the chair. I only needed one coat and spot-painted areas I had missed.


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Use the highest grit sandpaper you can find (220 was what I already had on hand) and lightly buff the upholstery to soften a bit. Apply the Annie Sloan Clear Wax all over the chair and let it set for about 24 hours.


Lightly sand the wood to distress the paint and use a lint-free cloth to buff the wax info the upholstery. And, voila! Sit back and appreciate all the hard work!

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DIY – Antique Chair Facelift with Chalk Paint

Boudoir Inspiration Day – Classic, Bridal, Floral, and Sultry

I’m so excited to host and style the latest boudoir minis this month with the amazingly talented Nikki from N.L.H. Photography! I’m working on four total concepts the ladies can choose from for the space, but new ideas are always welcome.

Here are the four inspiration boards I have so far:

bridal inspo

Classic inspo

Floral inspo

Sultry Inspo

Which is your favorite!?

Boudoir Inspiration Day – Classic, Bridal, Floral, and Sultry

DIY Rustic Wine Barrel Desk

One of the biggest hurdles Husband and I have experienced since moving into our 180 year old home (besides updating 1800’s structural damage) is deciding what kind of furniture to put into our first home. We agree that we want to keep things rustic, moderately time-specific, and simplistically elegant. We also want to build as much ourselves as we safely can so this was my first and biggest DIY endeavor yet!


I needed a desk big enough for crafting and organizing and I couldn’t find anything at the local unfinished wood furniture stores. Lam Brothers is an amazing local business with tons of high quality unfinished furniture and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of their pieces soon. But, for this project, I couldn’t find a desk or dining table long enough to suit my needs. I wanted a table that was at least 8-10 feet long! I also had a difficult time finding free tabletop design plans on Pinterest (most included the legs or were far beyond my capabilities). So, I decided to wing it and make my own tabletop with wood boards.

Step 1 – Go Shopping

Lowe’s is our closest home supply store so that’s where we get most of our DIY supplies. I made Husband accompany me because I’ve found I’m not very good at articulating what I’m looking for to the sales associates, “that flat metal thingy with holes,” … blank stare.




LowesWe bought a couple extra boards and had them cut to use for shelving in our closet (new post on this soon!). We barely squeezed everything into my tiny Buick Encore (because Husband refused to even try to use his car).


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Step 2 – Sand the Boards

Neither Husband nor I realized we’d need a sawhorse or two in order to sand the boards until after we got back home. Instead of driving the 20 minutes back to the store we tried some sad improvisation and got to work. I had only planned to sand the edges but there was some stamped writing on almost every side so I/we sanded every surface.

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This only took about an hour to get all three boards done but the sun was setting so we pulled the boards onto the deck and called it a day. I immediately ordered two sawhorses from Lowe’s during their Black Friday sale because our upside-down chair idea was pretty pitiful.

Step 3 – Assemble the Boards

There were some learning opportunities in this step and I won’t hide them! We decided it was better to assemble all three boards together before we treated and stained them. It started snowing outside so we laid down a tarp in the back entry to protect our original hardwood floors. We applied the liquid nails to the sides of each board and pushed them together.

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We secured a vice to each end and tightened so it would have a strong seal. While I was at work the next day, Husband decided to test it so we had to repeat this process the next evening. He was also responsible for re-sanding the sides to remove the hardened chunks of wood glue before we could try to re-glue/vice. Note: let the liquid nails set for 24 hours before moving!


Step 4 – Condition the Boards

I had never heard of this step before so thankfully I read the directions on the can of stain while we were in the store and bought some. We used the tarp to avoid getting the dark stain on the deck. The new sawhorses arrived and worked beautifully compared to the plastic chairs.

The conditioner is very thin and easy to maneuver (plus it’s getting covered up so I wasn’t really worried on how well I distributed it). I tried a foam brush at first but didn’t like it so I used a regular paint brush for oil-based paint. It took about 5 minutes to pre-treat all three boards. Wait 15-20 minutes for it to soak in and then you can paint on the wood stain. You have to paint the stain on within two hours of applying the pre-treatment too.

IMG_4717The two boards to the right have been pre-treated and the board on the left is still un-treated. It definitely makes a difference immediately! We let it dry for about 20 minutes and brought it in the house to put on top of the barrels and test the length/stability.

unfished top

Cat tested too!

Step 5 – Stain the Boards 

The boards need two layers of the wood stain and it takes about 4-6 hours before you can apply the second coat. Our learning opportunity – stain the sides first because the dripping over the edge was clearly visible. I honestly still haven’t gotten much better at this step because I always have at least some small drippings that are noticeable and even with extra coats of stain I can’t cover it. We used Red Oak 215 so the wood was a little darker than our hardwood floors but you could still see the imperfections in the wood (which I like). Allow a minimum of 8 hours for the stain to dry before applying the clear coat.

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Step 6 – Apply Polyurethane

We applied two coats of the stain (one in the morning and one in the evening) and let it dry overnight. When I got home from work the next day I applied the polyurethane (henceforth “poly”) and let it dry overnight again. We could have applied a second coat of the poly but I didn’t want it to look too smooth and finished. I love rustic and rough so one layer was perfect.


Step 7 – Assemble Tabletop and Wine Barrels

I’ll be honest, we forgot a step at this point. We had bought brackets (metal thingies with holes) that I had fully intended to spray paint a dark color to give it that Restoration Hardware style. I’m going to blame Husband for storing them behind a box of books so I forgot about them. By the time we had done everything else and had put the tabletop on top of the wine barrels I really didn’t feel like painting the brackets and securing them to the ends of the tabletop. This will definitely make the top more secure as one solid piece, so I’ll do it eventually 🙂

We haven’t figured out how to actually secure the boards to the barrels so the tabletop is simply resting on top. It’s very heavy though so it hasn’t been an issue.

Here’s the finished product! 


I really do love it. I love the amount of space it gives me to do multiple projects at once. I was working on a framing project on one side, blogging in the middle, and organizing paperwork on the other. For my moderately ADD brain, being able to do multiple projects at once is amazing!

The barrels are pretty high so I needed to get a counter-height chair. I found a Low Back Counter Stool at Target that works perfectly because I can push it under the desk and keep the walk-thru area clear (did I mention this is actually in our back entryway?). I love it!

DIY Rustic Wine Barrel Desk