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Rather Square - Modern life and design in our historical American Foursquare home

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[ 5 ]

One Year House-iversary!

By on April 23, 2014


Almost one year ago, we closed on the Rather Square house! In honor of our one-year “house-iversary” coming up next week, we thought we’d take a look back and share how some of our experiences and projects have added up in the past 365 days.

Here it is, by the numbers:


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


One Year House-iversary | Rather Square


Believe it or not, this is just a partial list of things we’ve worked on in the past year. And we’re nowhere near done with our plans for this house.

It’s been such a fun and crazy year of homeowning and making this place our own. We’ve succeeded and failed at projects, learned so much, and still love this 92-year-old pile of wood and stucco that we bought.

In the coming week, we’ll share how the Rather Square blog itself has evolved since we started it a year ago. And we’re also putting together a fun little survey for you guys!

Here’s to our second year of adventures (and many more, we hope)!

Links may contain affiliates.

April 23, 2014

category: Inspiration + Fun  • 
[ 2 ]

Spring buds on our Annabelle hydrangeas

By on April 17, 2014


Look what I found budding on our hydrangeas this morning!

Hydrangea Buds | Rather Square
(photo originally published on Instagram)

You may remember that I drastically pruned back our Annabelle hydrangeas last fall, based on some research I did on how to keep them growing big and beautiful for years to come. Not being well-versed in ornamental gardening (vegetables and herbs are more my thing), I worried that this pruning technique might harm or kill the plants entirely. Which would be a travesty – they’re so pretty in full bloom!

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Last autumn, I pruned the branches down to about 24 inches or so. It was a little scary, but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

Pruning Hydrangeas | Rather Square

Pruning Hydrangeas | Rather Square

So imagine my relief and delight when I saw some buds on these branches today! Annabelle lives!

Hydrangea Buds | Rather Square

Does this mean it’s finally spring? (I vote yes!)

April 17, 2014

[ 8 ]

The great DIY cover-up

By on April 9, 2014


Today I’m sharing a fun little DIY project that I did recently as part of our built-in bookcase renovation.

The Great DIY Cover-Up | Rather Square

As you saw in this post where we styled our built-in bookcase, we were looking for a way to hide the DVD collection we’d stored on the shelves under our flat-screen TV. Even though John designed the height of those shelves specifically to fit DVD cases, we didn’t want our DVDs visibly “front and center” all the time. They don’t integrate too well with the rest of our (admittedly user-friendly but still curated) bookcase style.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

We are planning to adapt these long open horizontal spaces with some pull-out or pull-down drawer fronts sometime in the future, but for now I brainstormed for ideas to hide the DVDs. I needed a simple fix that wouldn’t be too much of a time or cost investment, but still be effective and visually pleasing until we were ready for something more permanent.

My solution: fabric-wrapped foamcore covers!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

This was such a cost-effective and easy DIY project, and a great way to add a fun pattern to the bookcase. I used the following materials:

The only material I had to actually go out and buy was the foamcore – I already had the rest on hand. We also happen to have a large stash of leftover fabric remnants* that I was able to rummage through to find a color and pattern that would work for these covers. So all in all, the cost for this project was only about $4 for the foamcore (which I got at Michaels).

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

First, I measured the height and width of the shelves I wanted to cover, then cut the foamcore to fit. I had to make a few minor adjustment trims to make sure it would fit snugly into the shelves – it didn’t have to be perfect, but I also had to be careful not to cut the pieces too small (otherwise they might tip over and fall out). In addition, I also had to remember to allow a few millimeters of room for the fabric to cover the edges.

Then I placed the foamcore pieces on my larger fabric remnant and cut the fabric out with scissors, allowing a few inches on each side to wrap around to the back. One thing I kept in mind while positioning the fabric was to make sure each cover would show the same design area of the pattern (instead of running on different angles or showing slightly different pattern sections). This way, the covers would all look unified and cohesive as a group. My flowery fabric pattern was variable enough that I had to pay special attention to this – it would probably be easier with more uniform patterns or solid colors.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

Next, I stretched the fabric around the edges of the foam core and secured it with masking tape, working from the centers of each side and then moving along toward the corners. I went with masking tape over glue for less mess, a faster process (no drying time), and the ability to remove and reposition the fabric on the fly if necessary.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

I trimmed the corners of the fabric before folding those over to minimize bulkiness, and taped them down as well.

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

And that’s it!

DIY Fabric Covers | Rather Square

I went ahead and set them into the DVD shelves. The fit was perfect – just snug enough to keep them upright, but we can still easily remove them to access the DVDs whenever we want.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

So far, it’s turned out to be a great solution. The DVDs, once directly in our line of sight, are now hidden – instead we see a nice band of color and pattern that functions as a visual break from the rest of the shelves holding books, objects and electronic equipment.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

What DIY projects have you been up to lately?

P.S. Want to learn more about our built-in bookcase project? Read our previous posts on:
The built-in bookcase: Cut-out customization
The built-in bookcase: Two-toned painting
The built-in bookcase: Shelves and drawers
The built-in bookcase: Intentional style
DIY bookends: If it’s (a little too) Baroque, fix it!

*What’s the story behind our stash ‘o fabric? When the toddler was born, we did a yearlong weekly photo shoot with her, similar to Young House Love’s baby photo project. Like YHL, we used a different fabric as a backdrop for each week’s photo, so we now have lots of assorted fabric remnants left from that project. We’d like to make a quilt or some other memento with it all, but we haven’t gotten around to that yet. Meanwhile, our personal in-house fabric store sometimes comes in handy for other projects… like this one!

(linked on Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic)

April 9, 2014

[ 10 ]

The built-in bookcase: Intentional style

By on April 3, 2014


It’s been a few months since we finished the custom carpentry and the painting of our built-in bookcase, and now we’ve finally styled it with our favorite books, treasures, and more!

The Built-In Bookcase | Rather Square

I’ll admit to feeling intimidated by the thought of filling our bookcase with actual contents. There are so many ways to style a bookcase (thanks, Pinterest!), and it’s been a little overwhelming to consider all the design possibilities. One of the most difficult tasks was finding a good balance of aesthetics and functionality. Since we bought this house, John and I have tried to make careful and intentional decisions for how we’ll use the rooms and the furniture. It’s fun to explore cosmetic things like color palettes and accessories, but we also want everything to be well-designed with a clear purpose in mind. That’s a tall order, and we’re constantly evolving and revisiting our ideas.

After the renovations we did last fall, the bookcase looked great with its fresh white-and-gray/green color and new shelving arrangement. Here’s what we last showed you:

The Built-In Bookcase | Rather Square

Since then, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the best way to configure this major focal point of our living room. We’ve been watching shows and movies on our flat-screen TV mounted in the center, or doing puzzles and games with the toddler on the floor near the lower shelves, or browsing through our randomly stacked books and records. This helped us get a sense of how we would utilize this furniture piece, so that we could arrange everything into a cohesive design that would work for our family. And today we’re sharing the finished look!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The two lowest rows of shelves are easily accessible by our toddler. Rather than storing anything breakable or delicate here (and then trying to protect it from curious young hands with child-proof doors, locks or other barriers), we decided instead to make it into an organized area for our toddler’s books and toys. With the shelves at her level, she can help herself to anything she feels like reading or playing with (and can also put things away on her own when she’s done). We just make sure it doesn’t get too cluttered by carefully curating what goes there and switching items out on a regular basis as she grows and develops. So far, this arrangement is working well!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Styling | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Just above the kid-friendly area, we’ve got our DVD collection.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Wait, you don’t see any DVDs? Look a little closer…

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

When John re-designed the center shelves of the built-in, he constructed the shelving underneath the TV to be the same height as a standard DVD case (with an inch or two extra to spare), so we could store our DVDs here. While this is an ideal storage solution, we don’t really like looking at the DVD cases all the time, especially since these shelves are at direct eye level when you’re sitting on the sofa. So I came up with a fun and easy solution: fabric covers.

I’ll detail how I made these in another post (update: here is the how-to!), but essentially they are just foamcore that I cut to fit the shelves’ height and width, then wrapped in fabric. We’ve been leaving them in place most of the time, and they’re easily removable when we want to pull out a movie to watch. Not only do they conceal our digital media, but the fabric is a nice visual “divider” between the toys and the more grown-up things we’ve stored further up in the built-in.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Above the DVD shelves, we’ve got our electronic media equipment: TV, DVD player, cable box, record player, and stereo system. We kept all of this stuff together at a comfortable adult-accessible height because we use it pretty frequently. And bonus – it’s also out of the toddler’s reach! Since electronic equipment can be pretty stark and industrial, I added some decorative touches here to break up the all-black-glass-metal look. A simple candle holder, a white ceramic crock with evergreen branches, a flower-shaped wooden mirror.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

On the left and right sides of the built-in above the electronics, I arranged selected titles from our book collection. Books are important to us and we wanted them to have a featured place here, but they don’t always see regular daily use, so I placed them up a little higher. They’re loosely organized by genre and include vintage paperbacks, non-fiction, monographs, and guidebooks from our travels. I also used our repainted bookends on these shelves – a nice glossy black against the white shelves and colorful books.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Finally, on the very top shelves, some bookcase eye candy! Here, we’ve set up John’s antique camera collection, as well as some framed photography and a Nuzzle that John made for me back when we were dating. This art display section is really nice to look up at from the vantage point of the sofa. And these objects are delicate/breakable/valuable, so it’s best to store them out of reach from grabby hands (kids and grown-ups alike)!

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

We’ve been enjoying our completed built-in bookcase for a few weeks now, and it’s really become the highlight of our living space. Even though we took a bit of time and a lot of thought to plan out its design, it still has a comfortable, real-life vibe. From custom carpentry to painting the case plus the shelves and drawers, and now filling it with treasured things, it’s gone from being just “okay” with good bones to becoming our favorite DIY project so far.

The Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

In the future, we may add some enhancements, such as building custom pull-out drawers for the DVD shelves and installing doors on the lower shelves (and once the toddler outgrows her toys, we can repurpose that area for general storage). One of the great things about this furniture piece is that it’s designed to be flexible for our evolving lives.

But for now, we’re calling this project DONE!

Missed part of this project? Read our previous posts on:
The built-in bookcase: Cut-out customization
The built-in bookcase: Two-toned painting
The built-in bookcase: Shelves and drawers
DIY bookends: If it’s (a little too) Baroque, fix it!
The great DIY cover-up

(linked on Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic and Thrifty Decor Chick)

April 3, 2014

[ 5 ]

Office bins and baskets

By on March 27, 2014


The toddler and I went shopping at HomeGoods and Target this weekend in search of some bin and basket storage options for the Ikea Expedit in our home office. We found some good potential candidates, and brought them home to try out.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

First, at HomeGoods, I saw these industrial wire baskets for $8 each. (They were originally $9.99 each, but two of the baskets were stuck together, and neither I nor the salesperson could pry them apart, so I bought both and she gave me a discount. Later at home, John pulled them apart in about 10 seconds!) I really like the old-school feel of these. One is a dull metallic silver and the other is kind of bronze-ish, but we’re thinking of spray-painting them both orange for a pop of color.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square
(Inspiration image: General Eclectic Wire Shopping Basket)

Next we hit up Target, where I picked up two of these warm gray patterned fabric bins for $17.99 each. Bonus – they have “pop-out” corners inside that we can use for divided storage if we need it. Or popped in along the sides if we don’t.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

Finally, I bought a couple of these white shallow “Branch Weave” plastic bins at Target for $9.99 each. I thought we could use these stacked as smaller pullout drawers, by building a simple inverted-U-shaped support inside one of the cubes.

Office Bins and Baskets | Rather Square

All different materials, but they seem to play well together in the shelving unit. I like the idea of a mix of patterns and textures, but still keeping within the same general color palette we envisioned in our moodboard: orange, gray, white and black. Having more than one bin size also makes sense so that we can store a variety of items in these.

But at the moment, we’re still working on the purging and organizing part of the office redo. I suspect we won’t be finished by our self-imposed early-April deadline – we keep getting a little distracted from this project lately by other things (such as furnace issues and general life happenings). So maybe finishing the office sometime by the end of April feels like a more realistic goal at this point. We’re very eager to get past the messy “sorting through paperwork and other odds-and-ends” phase and onto the fun design and decor phase.

So, what do you think of our bin and basket options?

(Linked at Miss Mustard Seed and Remodelaholic)

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March 27, 2014

category: Design + Projects  • Tags: ,