Bookshelf Styling Tips

forbetterdays4@gmail.com
forbetterdays4@gmail.com

Oddly enough, I’d have to say styling our downstairs built ins was one of the toughest design challenges I’ve taken on, and I’m still not sure if I love them (plus I’d like to get some good photos of them, so I’ll share the final result on here eventually, but not quite yet. Apologies again to my wonderful roommate for all of the random weeknights I spent moving things around only to give up halfway through!). I found it difficult to make everything look interesting and put together without looking too cluttered or too sterile, and I relied on Pinterest/Google images/articles a lot. So, while the final product may not be the most original-looking, it at least matches the style that my roommate and I had in mind (stacked books, not too color-coded). What would a girl do without Emily Henderson’s advice?!

However, I have some built in shelves that are a much more manageable size upstairs in my room, and those, which are pictured in this post, have been a lot easier to decorate and kind of have the same look that I was going for downstairs–pretty books, interesting accessories, not too crowded.

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While I’m barely a pro at bookshelf styling, I’ve picked up some techniques along the way that I thought I’d share here:

1) Flea markets/thrift stores/yard sales are your friend when it comes to finding unique accessories. The chinoiserie cake stand, silver dish, woven basket tray, mini foo dog, and even the Hermes boxes were all items I purchased secondhand (even though I totally wish I had a stash of Hermes scarves somewhere in my closet). The boxes are stylish and added a fun pop of color, the woven basket was like $2 but reminds me of something you’d find in a funky/boho store for much more, and I was ecstatic to come across the gold foo dog for 99 cents (if only its pair hadn’t been missing!). Take your time finding accessories that match your style rather than splurging on something more mainstream that may not even match your true style. In addition to these thrift finds, I added in a favorite Laduree box that I brought back from Paris, a fun basket purse, and my college yearbook (it’s stacked in one of the big piles!).

2) That said, if you do find yourself wanting to place a big accessories order and getting everything over with, I recommend checking out H&M home! When it came to our downstairs shelves, I didn’t want to wait forever since they’re something people see frequently when they come over and really are the focal point of our living room. H&M home has amazing, stylish, CHEAP home accessories that look great on bookshelves. For example, how great is this little gold pot? I also love this small vase. I placed a big order from there last week and the items arrived super quickly and go well with our existing decor.

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3) Focus on one shelf at a time. This was more key when it came to our huge downstairs shelves because each is relatively large. Rather than trying to get everything done at once, I focused on a section at a time. Put all of your accessories in a pile and think about which ones work in which spot. Laying everything out in front of you will make it easy to see what you already own and what’s missing. Emily Henderson’s technique of putting books and larger items on a shelf first and then going back and adding decorative objects is a great idea, since these things are truly meant to serve as accents rather than major focal points.

4) If all else fails, call your mom! Seriously, though…my mom stopped by to drop off our tree, (which I’d been storing at home!), and I roped her in to doing an hour or so of shelf decorating…haha. I’d also recommend taking a picture of a shelf as well as the entire space and coming back to look at it later, because even within the span of a few hours you may think of a totally different idea or realize that the basket on the left side of the room could totally work on a right side shelf. The decorating process should be fun, and if it isn’t, take a break (I definitely gave up plenty of times!).

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Friends’ Favorite Holiday Traditions

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It seemed like over Thanksgiving everyone’s Insta stories were filled with fun family activities and traditions, and I loved getting a glimpse into other people’s lives during the holidays. It’s funny how some activities can seem like a total surprise when you’ve grown up doing things a certain way–for example, my family always eats Thanksgiving dinner around 6 pm, and while I’ve always realized that other people have it somewhat earlier, I was shocked when I saw how many people were eating around 1 or 2! There were other things that I’m totally adding to my list for the future…Thanksgiving morning mimosa making, anyone?!

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So because I’m nosy, I thought it would be fun to poll a few friends about their favorite holiday traditions either from growing up or now…take a peak at a few below. I love how many people have had “kid” traditions carry on into adulthood!

“On Christmas we go to a Chinese restaurant and see a movie. My friend and I also used to make gingerbread houses from scratch!” -Molly

“I do father-daughter cookie decorating every year with one of my grandma’s cookie recipes. We also still do the traditional cookies and milk for Santa!” -Becca (She also gets Chinese food but on Christmas Eve, and my family always did that, too! And now I’m hungry…).

“Cookie baking is a new one. We get together, bring a recipe and ingredients, and bake a whole bunch of cookies together. This happens a couple days before Christmas. Santa comes on Christmas Eve while we’re at church. When we get back from church in the early evening, Santa (yes, “he” still comes even though we’re all adults) has formed piles of presents that are unwrapped and a stocking embroidered with our name is placed on our pile to indicate whose it is. For Thanksgiving, we play a football game on the beach with the whole family!” -Maddie

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“My in-laws have a tradition of giving pajamas and a book on Christmas Eve. Everyone gets cozy to celebrate and also has pajamas for the year. When I visited their home during the holidays for the first time while (my now-husband) and I were dating, his mom pulled out a wrapped set for me. That’s how I knew they thought of me as part of the family!” -Callie

“One of my favorite things is decorating gingerbread houses with family, and also seeing The Nutcracker!” -Olivia

“From the time I was born, my older sister and I had matching Christmas pajamas. Every Christmas morning (to this very day), we wear matching/fun pajamas as our dad tapes us walking down the steps to the tree. We’ve had a lot of fun with it. Since we were old enough to start picking out our own, we keep our selections a surprise from our parents, which makes it even more fun. Even though my sister is married with a kid we still keep the tradition…now we just add my niece! It’s something I can’t wait to do with my own kids one day.” -Shelby

As for mine? When I was little, my dad would take me (and maybe my sister if she was old enough? It’s bad I can’t remember!) on a little “nature walk” in a nearby neighborhood on Thanksgiving day. I’d pick up pinecones and pretty leaves and bring them back home, where we’d use them to decorate the table. On Christmas morning, we always take a break midway through opening presents and my dad heads to the bagel store to pick up tons of bagels for our family to eat for breakfast. (However, we haven’t done this in years because we’ve been in Florida where there aren’t any bagel stores–not kidding! This year, though, we’ll be in town, so I can’t wait to get my hands on a Bethesda Bagel or two!). My parents would also usually let us open one present (from a relative, though I’m not sure how this rule was formed) on Christmas Eve.

What I love about these traditions (and all of the above!) is that they go to show that you don’t need to do anything elaborate or fancy to create lasting memories; instead, it’s the idea of doing the same thing year after year that’s so special.

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

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Christmas Decor Tips

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As much as I love decorating, I didn’t always really enjoy buying items that only last one season. My style tends to stay the same year-round, and as much fun as I have admiring cute seasonal bar carts or living rooms covered in plaid throws and pillows, it had never really been for me…until now! Since living with a roommate, I’ve gotten much more excited about holiday decor, partly because I know that there will always be two people around to appreciate it. When I lived alone, I liked to host friends at my place a lot, but they obviously weren’t around to admire the tree every day! Since we’re hosting a brunch this weekend (which has now become holiday-themed due to the timing, making things extra festive), I’ve expanded my collection of holiday decor quite a bit and made some useful realizations in the process. Here are my tips for making the most of your seasonal stuff.

Reuse. Evergreen garlands are SO pretty but tend to dry up quickly, from what I’ve heard (not to mention, they certainly won’t last beyond one holiday season). Faux greenery isn’t the same thing but does the job minus the cleanup (!). I’ve purchased several fake garlands for our apartment and draped one around the banister and another on our mantle. Other reusable Christmas items I own include our fake tree, white lights (which may date back to my dorm room days!), evergreen-scented candles that will last at least a couple of seasons, ornaments, ribbon, stockings, and other small decorative pieces. These are all things that are easy enough to stash in a box or drawer in the off-season and, while already inexpensive from the get go, will totally see their money’s worth.

Invest in classics. Those holiday cups and plates that say things like “get lit” may be fun and cute in 2017, but trendy phrases are easily overdone and aren’t something that you’ll want to use season after season. (Of course, if you’re having a large party and are relying on disposable items, do your thing! I picked up a bunch of fun plates from Target in advance of our brunch since who wants to do 10 people’s worth of dishes? I’m planning on pairing them with some reusable plaid napkins I purchased for a more special touch). My mom has always raved about Spode pieces (you’ve definitely seen them even if you don’t know them by name), and I’ve loved spotting them while out and about. I have a cute mug but see pieces in the collection everywhere–they even sell the brand at TJ Maxx, making it super easy to pick up something for your own home.

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Don’t underestimate simple touches. I did pick up some real greenery from Trader Joe’s a few weeks back, and it’s held up super well! I split up the “bouquet” that I purchased and put some in a glass downstairs and some in my room. I love the little pop of holiday cheer it adds up there without being too busy or chaotic. Likewise, a scented candle or small jar filled with ornaments can make a great accent piece if you feel like your mantle or nightstand is missing a seasonal touch.

Think creatively. I picked up a super cute cookie tin for 25 CENTS (!) at a thrift store last weekend and plan to use it to display treats at our brunch because I don’t want to give it away. 🙂 I also looked around for things I already had that could double as Christmas decor…for example, I already had red and white striped straws and they look adorable in a little jar alongside some candy canes. Christmas (decor) is truly everywhere… 😉

I’ll post pictures of our final setup this weekend, but in the meantime, happy decorating!

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Week off in Review

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Today is my first day of work (ish)–tomorrow is my first official day, but today is a half day orientation. I’m excited to learn more about my new role and community and am definitely going to be mainly focused on all things work-related and commute-related as I settle into a new routine. I didn’t do a ton of blogging during my week off because I needed a bit of a mental break, but I thought I’d pop in with a quick post about what I’ve been up to these past few days!

  • Went to NYC with my mom and saw the Rockettes and walked around admiring all of the Christmas decorations! I’ll post a full recap soon, but I’m so glad we made it up there this time of year. It was a little different not doing a “friend” trip this time around (I didn’t see anyone else!), but a low-key getaway was what I needed, and my mom and I tried some great restaurants, explored the West Village, and visited my old neighborhood on the Upper East Side. I wasn’t in the best mood at points due to feeling a little worn out from a number of different things this fall, so I’m glad we took it easy, though wish I could’ve been fully present the entire time.
  • Did some DC things–namely went to Zoo Lights and ate at Duke’s Grocery for the first time (I know!). I’d heard that they’re famous for their burgers, but I went after a spin class and hadn’t eaten all morning (terrible, I know) and just didn’t want to start the day with a burger, haha. It’s on my list for next time! I did make my friend order it and she loved it, and I got a delicious (huge) BLT. My roommate and I also had our first night going out together, which was long overdue! We’ve tried some restaurants during the week but have been so busy this fall to the point where we were barely ever both home on the same weekends! We also finished decorating our tree and are prepping for a brunch we’re hosting next weekend…things are getting festive in our little apartment.
  • Speaking of spin class, I’ve been getting back into a workout routine, but it doesn’t make sense for me to join the gym at work until after the holidays. In the meantime, I’ve been using some ClassPass credits–I purchased a 10 pack for the price of 5 classes during Cyber Week, and it’s honestly the perfect solution for not having access to a gym at the moment. I’ve tried all sorts of things on ClassPass but have found that I really only look forward to spin, so I’m using the credits at 5 or so studios in the area, since you can only go to the same place two times max. I’ve also taken a leap of faith and signed up for my first (free!) Orange Theory class next weekend (ahhhh…and yes, I will plan to eat beforehand). My super athletic friend Catherine loves it, but I’m terrified! However, I’ve heard great things, and if you have any tips for prepping for the first class, let me know (I already talked the rep’s ear off!).
  • Got the iPhone 8+. My good ole iPhone 5 had been lasting about 25 minutes max before dying, so I thought an upgrade was an order. I didn’t see the need to shell out $$ for the 10, but I’d heard that the 8 Plus had an amazing camera, so I decided to go with that. Update: I love it! I’d been curious about getting a “nice” camera for awhile now, but I think this will do just fine for now!
  • Oh, and if you missed my latest Insta, I found the adorable Ashley Brooke Designs must pictured above while browsing at TJ Maxx last week. At $2.99 a pop, they’re great gift ideas (or you know, great gifts for yourself!). I picked up a few for me and my roommate to use (as if we don’t have enough mugs) as well as some extras that I’ve stashed away for Christmas gifts.

What are you up to this week/what did you do over the weekend? I loved seeing the first snow of the season on Saturday and wish I’d had my phone then to get some good pics–the city looked beautiful and seeing all of the greenery covered with a dusting of snow made me feel like I was living in a Christmas movie. 🙂

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FRIDAY FEELS, #17

Hado Photo
Hado Photo

Popping in with a quick post today…happy FRIYAY!

Bookmarked: A new-to-me Instagram–I have the fortune of being able to meet Alysse in a few hours as we profile her space for Houzz! How amazing is her sense of style?! Also, a PSA–I’ve talked about Thriftbooks on here before, but I recently grabbed some new titles off of there for a STEAL. These are a few of the items that were in my cart…check out those prices! Plus, shipping is free over $15 and they also offer additional promo codes.
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DC to-do list: A friend and I went to Zoo Lights last night–if you haven’t been, go! It’s free and is a great way to get into the holiday spirit. Plus, there are tons of good restaurants nearby in Woodley Park, so go check out the sights and then grab a drink and a delicious meal.

Pinning: This could also fall into the “tackling” category, but I’ve been trying forever to style our living room bookshelves…this is seriously round 3, and they’re slowly coming together but I’m waiting on a few more accessories to arrive. This article by Emily Henderson has been super helpful, although now I want our shelves to look exactly like hers! As much as I like decorating, these built-ins have really been a design challenge…they’re definitely a blessing and a curse!

Tackling: How do weeks off go by so quickly?! I’m busy tackling appointments and errands as I get ready to start my new job next week. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t also been able to enjoy a few nights out with friends…excited for more of that this weekend, along with some additional spin classes! Oh, and I’ve managed to put up some more Christmas decorations…I think living with someone else has made me more excited to decorate for the holidays. When I lived alone I didn’t always get super into it!

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A Few Things to Try, Thanks to Pinterest (Round 4)

Popping in with one of my favorite posts to write…probably because I spend WAY too much time scrolling through Pinterest and getting excited about things that I may or may not try. Here are a few for you:

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1) Try an at-home beauty remedy like this one, since it’s the time of year where everyone is complaining about their dry skin (I suffer from it and always have, so it’s about time I find a good solution!).

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2) Get inspired by this amazingly colorful home tour (look at all of those books! And that bar cart!) and pin away.

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3) Have a Christmas movie marathon because it’s an essential part of the season. I’m a sucker for cheesy Christmas movies on Netflix (A Christmas Prince, anyone?) and this list will have me covered for awhile…

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4) Master a new recipe for the holidays. This spiked hazelnut chocolate fondue sounds amazing.

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5) Update your bedroom with a rug that looks WAY more expensive than it actually is…how perfect is this Target beauty?

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Finding My Zero

forbetterdays4@gmail.com
forbetterdays4@gmail.com

I was taking a spin class the other day when the instructor told us all to slow down and find our “zero.” Unwind, take all the pressure off, and just ride. Of course this wasn’t necessarily meant to be symbolic in any way, but to me it was an “aha” moment.

I’m taking this week off before starting my new job on Monday (seriously can’t wait!) and am really trying to use my time off to focus on self care. And not in the “read magazines, do face masks, watch Netflix” kind of way (although that’s great too, trust me!). More so in the “figure out why I’ve been dizzy all the time and schedule a doctor’s appointment for that,” sleep without setting 8 different alarms, and work out nearly every day like I used to kind of way.

I think blogging is funny because most of us come off as 100 percent happy in our posts, when obviously that isn’t the case every day (not an original observation by any means, but something that totally resonates). And while I do consider myself a genuinely happy, upbeat person, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that these past several months have been insanely stressful in a number of ways. As a result, I developed a number of bad habits physically, felt over-scheduled during the week, and sometimes felt like I didn’t know how to be a supportive friend for someone else. Plus, while blogging was the creative release that I needed, I sometimes got caught up in the comparison game or took things too personally.

However, it’s always easier to recognize these issues after the fact, and now that things are shaping up, I finally am beginning to understand what drives me off the wall as well as what I can do in the moment to make things better.

What got me through the past few months? Chatting with my roommate at the kitchen table in the evenings, getting manicures and champagne with my mom on a random Thursday night, long text conversations and pep talks with a friend, lots of dinners with my parents, cutting out things and people that made me feel negative. Getting back into an exercise routine this week has also been amazing–working out does so much for me physically and mentally, and while getting over to the studio when it’s cold and dark out is less than appealing, it’s so worth it.

I don’t know if there’s really a point to this post other than to show that we’re all normal. Everyone has ups and downs, and I’m thankful I have few days to breathe and take care of myself before starting a new adventure. If you have any tips on how to manage stress, I’m all ears. 🙂

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Creating a Cozy Living Space

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Happy Tuesday! I wanted to pop in with a few pictures of our living space and share some decorating tips in case your space needs a little refresh.

I’ll start by saying that I really, really appreciate all of the natural light that we get in our apartment. Getting plenty of sunlight has always been at the top of my list when apartment hunting, even when I’ve gone into the search knowing that wherever I lived would be temporary (like when I was in graduate school). In our current place, I was originally a bit nervous about taking the lofted room, but thanks to the skylights and windows up there, it’s all good. I’d been seriously considering some basement rooms before I began the apartment search with Carrie, and while they were pretty spacious and reasonably priced, I don’t think I personally would’ve been happy in the long run because of the lack of natural light (not to mention, most people living in basement rooms keep their blinds closed for privacy, so on top of having small windows, I wouldn’t have planned to keep them open much anyway).

We absolutely love how bright our living room gets during the day (at night, the odd placement of light switches in our apartment is a different story!). I brought a lot of my living room furniture from my old place, but Carrie ordered the above chairs on Wayfair, and I think they look fabulous! We paired them with a Target lamp and table that I scored for even cheaper via Craigslist (funny story, the table unknowingly came from a college friend’s girlfriend and I didn’t make the connection until after I’d left her house! Could DC be a smaller world? We’ve toyed with spray painting it gold, but I don’t know if/when that will happen!). The pouf adds a little bit of character to the space, as does my beloved CatStudio pillow and a cozy throw. Our unit is pretty high up, so we enjoy being able to look out the window and people watch.

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I think there’s something to be said for keeping this little nook pretty simple. The larger part of our living room houses a large rug, a tv (which sits on my campaign dresser), the couch, tons of books, and a console table. As much as I love accessories and throw pillows, adding more over here would’ve overwhelmed the space. Carrie and I like a lot of the same types of decorations which made it easy to put our common space together, but we still bounced purchases off one another to make sure the other person liked an item. Since we each have large bedrooms, we didn’t need to worry about cramming everything into the common space, which also made things easier.

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We love using this space to drink coffee and check our email before work (Carrie is better at doing this than I am–I always feel like I’m in a rush in the mornings!). It’s also a nice place to sit and read on the weekends. I’m sure once it starts snowing, this will be a beautiful spot to sit and look out the window, too.

Photos: forbetterdays4@gmail.com 

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Gift Guide: The Best of Amazon Prime

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Bookmark this post for when you need to scramble. If you’re left with a last-minute holiday party invite or realize that you totally forgot that gift for your family’s white elephant exchange, look no further and put that Prime membership to good use!

A coffee table book that matches their interests (or their aesthetic ;)) is never a bad choice. I just got this Matcha one and love it!

Spode Christmas dishwater is such a classic. Gift these to someone who is building their kitchenware collection. They’ll last forever!

Glitter earrings that are less than $15 and can be worn on NYE? The perfect gift option for the girl who’s never met a neutral.

Bartending glasses, because solo cups are so 2006.

Cozy mittens for him (that you’ll totally want to borrow anyway).

A Cards Against Humanity expansion pack paired with a bottle of wine would be the perfect thing to bring to a holiday party if you know the host loves the game.

Buy a four pack of this hot chocolate mix and divvy it up amongst roommates, teachers, or anyone else on your list.

I have the NEST holiday candle and it’s amazing. Even the little size will last a long time!

Candy cane spoons, because #tistheseason.

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Wicker Finds on Etsy

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It all started when I came across the above pin. I filed it away after recently purchasing a similar-looking cane and bamboo (!) mirror from Miss Pixie’s (y’all, it is so dangerous having this place right around the corner now!). However, I pulled up the image again the other night to get some styling inspiration and basically got sucked into an Etsy trap.

I had wanted to find a wicker ice bucket like the one in the picture, and Etsy had several cute options. I mean, look at these below:

Wayyyy classier than your average ice bucket.
This guy is wayyyy classier than your average ice bucket.
Cute but not overpowering
A cute option without being over the top (can an ice bucket be over the top?).
Two words for this baby: tortoise. shell.
Two words for this baby: tortoise. shell.

Then I started searching for other wicker items and had to practice serious restraint, because how perfect are these?!

How fun would this be for entertaining?
How fun would this be for entertaining?
So cute but also totally useful!
So cute but also totally useful!

Score any great finds on Etsy lately? It’s always been a go-to for me in terms of prints and smaller jewelry pieces, but I always forget about the one-of-a-kind items on there, like the things shown above. Snag ’em while they’re still for sale (slash so that I can’t buy them all)!

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