One Room Challenge Week 8 "The Reveal"
Eight weeks ago when I asked my friend Cerissa over @piranhadesign what the ORC was about, I never knew it would take me on a journey that would help me grow both as a designer and as a person. She was partaking as a guest participant in the ORC and I have laughed and learned so much from her friendship and knowledge. I can't wait to see her reveal. I had heard of the One Room Challenge, but I didn't know enough about it to realize that I , a newly self-employed, self-named, Interior Designer could participate in it. I always thought it was a competition meant for Interior Designers with years of experience chock' full of accolades and many clients. Little did I know, it was not a competition at all, but a challenge for yourself to complete a room in 6 weeks (8 weeks because of COVID). Thank God for those extra two weeks!
Some of the featured designers of the ORC have blogs and instagrams with thousands of followers, and here I was, an ex-Special Ed Teacher living in an apartment with my husband and dog dreaming of a home, expanding our family, and working on growing my Blog and Interior Design business one piece of furniture at a time.
My husband and I first moved into this tiny apartment in Greenwich, CT this year back in February of 2021. during the Pandemic. I had wanted to move out of my old apartment in Queens, NY in order to start our life together in a new space before we were to be married in May. We looked everywhere North of Queens for an apartment since we could not afford to buy a house just yet. We wanted to end up in Mahopac where his family resides, but every apartment we looked at, or inquired about was either taken or had a bunch of people bidding on it in order to move out of the city.
Can you imagine? Bidding on an apartment! People were so hell bent on moving out of the city that they were willing to pay more for a rental and we were not about to be part of that since our main goal was to save and buy a home of our own. With that said, a rental does not mean it is not your home. I try to help my clients see that where you reside is your home whether your name is on the deed or on a lease. When we found our home in Cos Cob with one bedroom with a walk in closet, and an open layout kitchen/living space with a fireplace (ahhh finally!) and that accepted pets in our price range, we were in love.
The bedroom was a blank slate that I wanted to make the heart of our home. Usually people refer to the kitchen as the central spot in our home, but our bedroom was one I wanted to focus on since it would be the place I would bring back my first child (when we are blessed with one that is). When we started the One Room Challenge, we had already painted it a dark, moody green from Benjamin Moore called Salamander. We had a new bed frame and headboard from my in laws from our wedding registry and hand me down furniture that I painted and stained before we moved in. I had always refurbished furniture and I wanted to redo the pieces we had in order to make a statement in the room.
Since we were renting and I loved the color we just had painted, I thought about what could make the biggest impact and change in the room and I instantly thought of furniture. I wanted to showcase what I was able to do; simply with a sander, paint and varnish stripper, oven cleaner, paint and new hardware. The furniture I had was either found on the side of the road or handed down to me by family. I had a cherry stained dresser and two nightstands and a cabinet that I had painted white and distressed with vintage wax. My old bedroom was a shabby chic style that had soft pastels of blue and pink and I loved the look of my hand painted furniture.
However, with the moody green color, I wasn't feeling the white furniture with the cherry dresser and beige bed and curtains. Our room started to feel like it was acquiring more mismatched knick knacks and felt kitschy. I had an idea to make the room feel more earthy, cozy and inspired by the "Emerald City of OZ," I dreamt up the green and gold vintage vibes that would give us peace and calm when we laid our heads to rest. There's no place like home after all.
When I created my mood board on Instagram for the challenge, I was motivated by so many others I had never met face to face. I had a small following on my Instagram that I have been growing since I left teaching in June of this year. After eleven years I was mentally and physically ill from the politics of education, never the children. I had begun my Interior Design business Aurora By Jacqueline back in 2019 when I originally left the Department of Education. I wasn't able to sustain my business full time since I was a single woman, so I was an ABA Therapist for Babies with Autism and had to return to the classroom in a private, Catholic School until this year. Luckily I met the man of my dreams, the man who supports those dreams; and I was able to work from home and grow this tiny business into a reality while hoping to grow our family as well.
I had my current website and blog that I designed on wix.com on my own but knew I needed some help making it more user friendly for my clients. My husband gifted me a the help of a Web Designer and Business Consultant from GJG Business Consulting for my 35th birthday this year. He helped me to clean up my site and make my blogs more accessible to my readers. I am forever grateful for all of the knowledge he gave me. We also had our wedding photographer, Nick Carter Weddings, photograph our apartment for my website. Looking back on our bedroom from early this summer, I can see the change in the vibe instantly after the 8 weeks of the ORC. So much thought and effort went into making this room a safe haven as well as blood, sweat and tears. When you make something with your own two hands, it gives you so much pride.
Suffering from anxiety, depression and mood changes since I was a little girl, I always used writing and working with my hands on projects to help me as therapy. These past 8 weeks have kept me so busy during such a difficult time of my life trying to grow our family that I feel as if this room was a rebirth for me in a way. Giving all of my love and attention to the details of the furniture, stripping and painting, spray painting and hammering, helped me focus on staying in the moment. It wasn't easy. I also had about 8 new pieces of furniture that I was working on leading up to my first Pop Up Shop Furniture Sale back in October, as well as client projects that I was attending to. Busy was an understatement.
Doing this challenge wasn't only a way to makeover a room, but it was a way to hold myself accountable for my dreams, mental and physical health and daily life. I worked so much day and night on my business, bedroom and clients that I was forgetting to work on myself and my little family. Me, a Black Belt in Taekwondo who had less time for breaking boards and more time for painting them.
The first piece of furniture I wanted to find and refurbish was an old antique armoire. I figured we would need a large storage piece for when we grew our family and needed more wardrobe space. I scoured Facebook Marketplace and found this amazing vintage beauty. It was huge. It had several shelf compartments inside, as well as four deep drawers. The cabinet doors opened to a full length mirror and had intricate flower details on the wood. I couldn't believe it was only $40 dollars! And yes, that is still my wedding dress hanging on my closet door. I can't bear to put it away in a box. It is too beautiful not to look at each day. The armoire paired with the wedding dress and the new wood, sunburst mirror makes me so happy. The armoire reminds me of the singing chest from the Beauty and the Beast. It makes me feel like I'm living in my very own Disney Princess Castle.
My husband and I had to rent a Home Depot truck to pick up the marketplace find and take the doors and drawers out to move it, it was so incredibly heavy. I worked on it on my front porch, sanding and bleaching it until I felt it was just right. I wanted the wood to have almost a primitive look. My father was a carpenter and it almost reminded me of a carved wood, smoking Native American statue at his wood shop. He passed away from Cancer a few years ago and while I was sanding my new armoire, I felt him surround me with each breath of sawdust I inhaled. I feel as if I am channeling him and doing the work he left behind, even though he always wanted me to keep teaching and get the pension, be smart and work hard. I know he would be proud of me now, following my heart and in his footsteps. I can't wait to have our own home one day with a garage I can turn into a woodshop and really make a house a home with much bigger tools and skillset.
My next project was my hand me down dresser from my godmother. My Aunt had this gorgeous and heavy dark wood dresser that I had already sanded and stained a cherry red before I moved. I wanted all the furniture to match, light, sanded to an earthy tone, kind of having a burnt wood look. It took me two days to sand the base and drawers down completely and then brushed on straight bleach to lighten it up more. I also purchased wood flower scroll appliquès from Amazon that I glued on with liquid nails to match the armoire.
Keeping that piece of furniture in my family was very important to me. I want to use it as a changing table one day for a baby. It is sturdy, and has 9 drawers which is great for storage. It is also very sentimental to me. Our large Italian family has a thing for passing down furniture when we buy new pieces. We exchange furniture and decor like playing cards. It is so nice to keep pieces in the family. We all know how to fix things and make them look new and fresh. I guess it comes from my grandfather who is no longer with us, he was a Fire Marshall who was able to "Macguyver" anything. A man who taught his three daughters and his granddaughters never to depend on a man for anything. To always be independent and resourceful no matter what.
To make the room seem more cohesive, I made sure to find floating shelves that were light wood and would be able to hold the spray painted gold frames for our pictures. I love having framed pictures around. It helps tell the story of your life. Using old and new photographs, layering frames and spray painting them are a simple DIY project that anyone can do to make their room flow with their theme and tell the story of their lives. It is an intimate look into your life that helps you feel comforted and cozy. I get tons of inspiration from so many different DIY friends. My friend Carrie over at @honeydohoney_home just inspired me by making a simple shelf ledge to layer pictures on over her couch. I can't wait to invest in large power tools when I have more room so I can accomplish bigger projects instead of using Home Depot to cut my wood for me.
I also love to keep pieces of sentimental value around our home. For instance, I framed a love letter to my husband next to our wedding photo. We also have a Spanish Conquistador sword that belonged to my husband's grandfather who passed away. It reminds him of the man who taught him so much and lends a hand to the romantic gold vibe that the room has now. A simple cleaning and some nails to hang it up and it's a perfect decor piece. I often layer objects in groups of odd numbers as well. It helps to bring attention to the details of the space and add dimension and depth. The small black model Mustang car draws your eye amidst the gold frames. It is a nod to my husband's '95 mustang he was restoring that he sold to buy my engagement ring. Against my protests, he sold it to his father. We both loved it so much, hopefully one day we can find another when the time is right.
Painting things that exist in a rental and adding lighting, textures and fabrics are another way to transform a space. I hand painted this weirdly placed arm light next to our flat screen TV on the wall gold. It was a chrome color that obviously did not fit into our decor style. It felt cold to me and I wanted the room to feel more warm and cozy. I look for cozy inspiration from the Queen of cozy herself, LizMarie Galvan. One day I dream of having a farmhouse like she has. A home filled with cozy textures, antique collections and full of love. She is a true inspiration to me both as a writer and a blogger. My husband jokes with me all the time about being a Queens girl who secretly wants to live on a farm. Nevertheless, the painted gold light definitely added to the regal style that is present throughout the fixtures that existed already and the one we added ourselves.
We did not have any overhead light in the room, and with the dark moody green, we knew we needed a new light source. I think this boho chandelier we found on Amazon gave it the perfect nod to romance. I bought a gold extension chain from there as well and used rub n buff from Michael's Stores to make the nickel around the light fixture gold. We hung the chain to the adjacent wall and hid it down the back of the window curtains so you couldn't see it at all.
I was so impressed with my husband's idea to drape it so you couldn't see it. Sometimes when you're an overthinker the simplest of tasks seem difficult. It was such an eye sore before we decided to staple the cord to the top of the window frame and I painted it green to blend in with the wall. It was such a gorgeous addition to the space that wasn't hardwired so we can take it with us when we move and didn't even need an electrician since it plugged into a regular outlet!
The velvet curtains I also found on Amazon were the perfect shade of rusty blush and were such a soft material. I was surprised at the quality and was very pleased with the purchase. They were less than fifty dollars and have a bunch of colors to choose from. I was tempted to buy an evergreen or a gold also but i figured I'd save my money at the moment (ha). I bought the light-weight, white comforter from HomeGoods and added green velvet pillows and another accent pillow with gold stitching. On a seperate shopping trip I found more natural elements to add to the decor like a basket vase and faux plants to add to the earth tones and greenery I wanted. The plush, fluffy blanket was the perfect throw to layer on the bed and had gold flecks in the fibers of the blanket as well. Everything was thought out to make the room cozy and vintage.
I can't say which one of my furniture flips for the room was my favorite, but I can tell you which ones gave me a run for my money. These nightstands did not come out as I had planned but I love the final look. I had found the pair of these french provincial-style end tables in someone's garbage. They were white when I found them and have since been three different colors. I had painted them a light blue, then Martha Stewart's smoke colored chalk paint, distressed with vintage wax like my dresser cabinet. I decided to strip them completely for the one room challenge. However, chalk paint did NOT want to come off. I was so excited to try the easy off oven cleaner method that I saw on @teahousedesigns Instagram. Shannan, the queen of stripping furniture herself, had told me how hard it was to get the chalk paint off. She was right and you could call me stumped and frustrated.
Whoever had these nightstands before me made them so beautifully, but Frankensteined them together with different types of wood! As I slowly and vigorously stripped the layers of paint off, I noticed that three of the legs were a sort of a light wood and one was cherry. Then they used a pine wood top, plywood sides and a dark wood front for the cabinet door. My original plan of keeping them all primitive and bare light wood like the rest of the furniture flew right out the window.
Frustrated and crunched for time, since I had two of the same pieces to do, I decided to scrap the original idea and pivot to a new one. I thought of painting the entire piece of furniture the same deep green as the wall and keeping the front two legs bare wood so it would blend into the wall and showcase the gorgeous wood legs that I bleached a lighter color. I love seeing the wood grain peek through on a piece. I used to love painting furniture and now I appreciate the bare wood it began with. I primed the pieces using Stix Primer (my dad always told me to use this product for interior and exterior projects because it literally sticks to anything and gives you such a good base to paint over- I never forgot this tip). Then I painted them the Salamander green.
After I added the gold handles I purchased on Amazon it was just gorgeous. I can't describe the way I feel about these two pieces. Like I said, anything I refurbish makes me feel proud, but the way I worked diligently on them and the hiccups it caused, made me appreciate them even more. It's funny how we can plan for things so meticulously, but sometimes the final result is better than the original plan.
I saw so many snags in projects plans for the ORC that I felt for each designer who struggled. My good friend Joelle over @thecullimoreclan had her instagram hacked in the middle of the One Room Challenge. She was locked out of her account for weeks. Instagram and Facebook did nothing to help her at first, but with hard work and perseverance she got it back. Needless to say she didn't get her bedroom done on time, but her positivity and creative thought that still held true throughout was inspirational. We may not always get what we want, but we somehow get what we need to get by.
I guess we can say the same thing about life. We have all these plans growing up for our lives. As a little girl I always wanted to get married before 30, and I was married at 34. I wanted to have a baby by the time I was 30 so I could be a young mom and keep up with my kids, and I'm still trying at 35. I went to school for Journalism in college and wanted to be a writer my whole life and when I couldn't find a job after college I went back to school for my Master's Degree and became a Special Ed teacher to help children. Now I own my own Interior Design business and am a writer again, pursuing my career as a blogger on my own website.
Life really does come full circle. I am so excited to see where this career takes me and who I will grow up to be. I'm a self taught dreamer and truth seeker, with the wisdom of so many before me and support from all of the friendships I have made in the world of design and decor on social media. This One Room Challenge was never about the space. it was about the space in my heart that I needed to fill using a paint brush, some tools and my words written on a page. My business mantra is "Home is not a place, but a feeling furnished by the heart" and I believe that to be true, one hundred and ten percent.
Thank you for those who have supported me and continue to support me through my life's journey. I hope I can help you love your home again and yourselves through my words, actions and business. Congratulations to all of the Featured Designers and Guest Participants of the ORC. We made it! I am excited to take part in this challenge for years to come. Maybe I'll still be in a rental, or maybe I will be in my own home. Either way, home takes time, and with hard work, love and attention to yourself and your space, anything is possible.
Love, Jacqueline xoxo