Gardening Plans for the Front

Remember how we spent all last summer digging up and waterproofing our foundation? Well, this summer’s project is trying to make our yard look halfway respectable again. This is going to be an interesting project, because we will have a “Before, Before” with our flower beds and yard looking lovely, a “Before” for when we tore it all out to fix the foundation, and an “After” for when we redo all the grading, planting, and landscaping. I’m sure the neighbors were watching us last year and weeping for the previous owners, who apparently loved to garden- as indicated by the well maintained and lovingly tended perennials we used to have.

I tried to keep some of the plants but there just wasn’t the time to plant them somewhere else and salvage them. I feel super guilty about the planticide we are responsible for, but let’s face it, a leaky basement doesn’t make up for a beautiful garden!

Here’s how the front of our house looked before we tore it all up last year.

DSC_1916_blurredDSC_1920_blurredDSC_1921_DSC_1922_.blurredjpgDSC_1917_blurredIt might be too cringeworthy to share how it looks now. Imagine all the grass is brown, all the plants are gone, the front steps are sitting in the middle of the yard and there is treacherous boot-eating mud everywhere. Got that? Ok.

Now for my plans… I’m not going to be reinventing the wheel here. I quite liked how it looked to begin with- the bush beside the front door turned a beautiful red colour in the fall (a Burning Bush I think?) and I liked the variation in heights of the plants in the front bed. I’ll probably do something pretty similar to how it looked before. For the bed below the large front window, I’m thinking a few shrubs flanking a row of white hydrangeas with hostas in front.

hydrangeas and hostas

A La Campagne on Facebook

I haven’t decided yet what to do with the other bed below the two smaller windows. The same thing as the other bed? Something different? My mother-in-law offered me some of her bleeding hearts, so I might do a couple of those, maybe with something that can climb up the wall on a trellis? I like how astilbes look and that area gets a lot of shade in the afternoon… Obviously I still have some work to do on my plans. But seeing as we got snow a few days ago I probably still have some time!

bleeding hearts and trellisPinterest

astilbes hostas bleeding heartsPinterest

Of course all of this can’t take place until we have regraded the yard, planted grass seed, and leveled out all the tread marks in our lawn from the excavator! Looks like this summer will be just as busy as last. Anyone have a green thumb I could borrow?


PS. Oh yeah, we totally had the baby. My husband was right all along; Baby H is a girl! She is healthy and happy and keeping us very busy. Being a parent is just as hectic, terrifying, and amazing as we thought it would be… maybe more. :)

Front Entrance Shelf Styling

First things first, hope you like my new theme- I was getting tired of the cutesy pink bunting banner. Time for a more modern and streamlined layout! I’m still tweaking things so let me know if anything strange happens. Ok now for the actual topic of today’s post:

Hooray! I have a shame shelf no more. Do you remember what our front entrance shelf used to look like?


Womp womp. Pretty sad, right? It’s been on my list of things to improve around the house for a while and I’m really happy with how it looks now, after unpacking our (many) books and adding in a few decor pieces- most of them functional! A while back, I shared my Winter To-Do List, and it’s helped motivate me through more than a few slumps where all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with my cat and Season 5 of Gilmore Girls. I’ve managed to tick a lot of things off, like finishing the paint in our third bedroom. So I rewarded myself with a little retail therapy courtesy of Home Sense, and now it looks like this!

book shelf syling

My inspiration for styling the shelf came from good ol’ Pinterest, where I found this from Up to Date Interiors:


You can check out Kathy’s post for her great tips, which I loosely followed. Basically, start off with groupings of books and then add in whatever objects (or “tchotchkes” for the Lorelai Gilmores of the world) you want! What makes this look for me is grouping the books by similar colour, and also using a variety of finishes/colours on the items on display- gold, silver, black, white. I opted to stick with black and various finishes of silver and brass since I haven’t quite hopped on the gold bandwagon yet.

book shelf styling

I love the little wooden men with the hearts- they came from my mom’s last visit to South Africa. The lantern and the silver picture frames all came from HS, along with the wood/brass boxes. The black collage frame was one my husband made for me a few years ago. I just noticed all the photos feature either a canoe, a lake, or my cottage- can you tell I’m missing summer?!

book shelf styling

As great as it looks, it’s still super-functional. The cubby on the bottom shelf holds our gift cards, receipts, Canadian Tire money, spare change… anything that usually collects here! Al and I each have a spot to put our phones and keys, as well as stuff like receipts and other paper that hasn’t made it to the filing cabinet. I’m still on the lookout for a couple more things to finish it up, like a big metal “H” and maybe a terrarium??

But for now, I’m calling this one a mission accomplished!


Living Room Progress Pics

Hi there! I’m back after a much-needed break. It was great to relax over Christmas and New Year’s, and then get back into the swing of work for a few weeks. And then I swear I tried to get some posts up, but turns out my domain name expired because someone hacked my credit card and the auto-renew didn’t kick in! Oops. I know it cost one friend a lost argument with her husband, and for that I am very sorry.

Today I thought I’d share some pics of how our living room looks these days. It’s easy to forget how much we’ve actually done when it changes a little bit at a time, so it’s nice to see the comparison with the “before” photos from the real estate listing!

Dining Room Before:

dining room 1

Dining Room Today:

Dining room and papasan chair

Dining room with lantern light fixture

I really love that light fixture. I splurged on it and I’m so glad; the initial anger about how much it cost has been replaced by a warm fuzzy feeling about how awesome it looks. You can read about where I got it here! The chairs were a hand-me-down from my sister and I’ve reupholstered them twice now; the fabric is from

Living Room Before:

living room 1

living room 2

Living Room today:

Living room fireplace and KIVIK sofa

A very realistic portrayal of a typical Saturday in our house (without me in my usual spot on the chaise). I’m surprised the cat didn’t waltz through the shot actually.

Living room entrance shelf

My shame shelf is less shameful these days- putting up the mail organizer really helps cut down on the crap. I still haven’t quite figured out the books/picture frames/knick knacks to display here, but I’m on the look out for some cool looking bookends and maybe another basket or two. Al actually found a neat looking old wire basket in the basement so I might scrub it down and give it a facelift with some spray paint if it fits!

Front entrance organization

We put the mail organizer on the wall inside the front entrance closet so it’s right at hand when we walk in the door.

Closet organization

Not mentioning any names, but one of us has a shoe problem, so we bought a couple of chrome shelves from Canadian Tire to keep the closet organized and get the shoes off the floor.

Salvaged wood frame gallery wall

And here’s what I’m most excited about: we finally put up our salvaged wood picture frame gallery wall! We got these frames as a wedding gift, but there was never room in our apartment for them, so I’ve been waiting for 1.5 years to put them up.

Salvaged wood frame gallery wall

I love them! I’m going to be posting about how to hang a gallery wall soon, so stay tuned.

I’m really happy with everything we’ve done so far in this room. We still have a few things left to do, like mounting the TV above the fireplace and figuring out window treatments. We also need to put the quarter round/shoe molding back on the sideboards now that we’ve officially decided not to sand and refinish the floors (maybe one day, but not now). They are actually in great condition, they’re just a bit on the orange side for my tastes. But you gotta pick your battles, right?

Next up: we’ve finally made some decisions on our bathroom reno and will be placing orders for our vanity, tub, and faucets in the next week or so. Yay!

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Front entrance shelf (aka clutter catch-all)

One of the features I first loved about our house was the large built-in shelf that spans the wall near the front door. I imagined that we could display some of our book collection there with some cool bookends, maybe add in a few handy storage baskets, some framed photos, and the driftwood candle holder that my husband said I would never use after our wedding (ha!)- sort of an eclectic mix that would work as both a display and a functional storage solution. Here are some inspiration pics for the sort of look I had in mind.

Google Image search result,  original source unknown
Pinterest under stairs shelf
From Pinterest, original source unknown

I worked really hard on prepping it, filling in all of the cracks with caulk and taping it off before applying several coats of white trim paint. And it looked really great when it was done, the bright white really popped against the wall colour. But then real life set in, and this is what the shelf looks like after purging all the junk currently.


Pretty boring and not very functional. I haven’t decided what books I want to unpack/display, and I haven’t come up with a solution to corral all the stuff we dump here after getting home. Yes, that is a wrench in front of the bowl. Figure I better burst the illusion that renos happen overnight and every room looks like a spread in House & Home all the time. Adding to the tools, stack of mail, pile of mittens, and overall lackluster appearance are a few noticeable blemishes. See, my husband works pretty early shifts and usually leaves the house before 7 am. He is also not a morning person and likes to stay in bed until the last possible second, so his “routine” involves a lot of frantic stumbling around the house while he puts on his work boots, makes his lunch, drinks his coffee, brushes his teeth, and gets dressed (in no particular order). After a few weeks in the house, I started finding a few of these on my beautiful freshly painted shelf.


Of course they don’t wipe off and are now an integral part of the finish. Add that to the fact that we both usually walk in the door and dump our keys on the shelf, since it’s the first available surface when you enter the house, and now we have scratches and chips in the finish to complement the coffee rings.


Witness my shame, Internet. Witness it!

Since the shelf is the first thing you see when you walk in the door, it doesn’t really give the impression of a clean, organized, and stylish home that I had envisioned. My plan is to repaint it with the same melamine latex paint we used on our kitchen cabinet doors, because that stuff is super durable once it has set. Since melamine is kind of smelly and we are officially past open window and door weather, that will have to wait until next spring/summer. In the mean time, I’m going to look out for some storage baskets that we can use to organize the clutter and try to find some cool bookends. Also, since I saw Brit’s post about corralling mail I’ve been on the lookout for an organizer, and the other day I snagged a sweet magazine rack from HomeSense that will totally work.


Man, we really have to put the quarter round back on the floors, that looks terrible! Don’t mind the shoe apocalypse and general detritus going on the in the background there, either.

[Side note-I’ve been holding back on blogging lately because I still don’t know how to use my Nikon camera properly (and it’s pretty old and outdated as far as DSLRs go) and I don’t have any gosh-wow room reveals to share. And everything I’ve read about having a successful blog says you have to post gorgeous, well-shot photographs. But you know what? I still want to post on my blog, and this crap doesn’t happen overnight. Lots of my friends have said to me “Oh I wish I had your skill/creativity/vision”, like it’s some kind of miracle or unique talent to decorate and renovate a home. It’s really not, and I’m not trying to be modest or humble- I think home décor mags and some blogs make it look easy, so people feel guilty or bad that they can’t or haven’t done something they read about. Don’t! There is no magic wand- all it takes is hard work and a lot of time. And it’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. I can’t tell you how often I start something and then halfway through, I mess something up or realize I’ve bitten off way more than I can chew, but by that point I’ve committed too much time/money to give up, and if I’m one thing I’m stubborn, so I keep on going. And once it’s done it’s all worth it. So: persevere! You can do it too! My house certainly doesn’t look perfect all of the time, because we live in it, it’s not a show room. So in the future instead of feeling guilty that a photo isn’t perfectly staged, or I couldn’t be bothered to drag out and charge my Nikon so I grabbed my iPhone instead, or you can see into the messy closet in the background, I’m just going to post it and write about it. Ok, end rant.]

Do you have a “shame shelf”? Found any miracle solutions for clutter in a small entryway? I’d love to hear it!

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