Tag Archives | Rethinking Home

The Ministry of Mediocrity

It came at a time that I needed it most. I was knee deep in comparisons; trying to keep up with the Joneses (and failing miserably) and that’s when I read it.  A friend of mine wrote a blog post about her “ministry of mediocrity.”  This was years ago and she doesn’t blog anymore but recently I contacted her to ask if I could write about it here. I still think about that post often and I’m so thankful she said yes.  It has to do with the “purpose” side of home-keeping, hospitality.  And it has nothing to do with a perfectly made bed, fluffed pillows, or a well curated gallery wall.

It has to do with being mediocre.

So what is this ministry of mediocrity, exactly?  Well, it could mean inviting friends over to hang out with a sink/counter/table full of dishes and not apologizing for them.  It could also mean not shaving your legs or repainting your chipped toe nail polish and still wearing shorts and sandals because its hot outside.  Its remembering that we’re all human, nobody’s perfect, and revealing your own imperfections creates a space for true connection.  Sound scary?  Maybe it is, a little.  But its also brave and leads to intimacy and realness- creating a sense of belonging that we all crave.


When we furiously scrub our houses, selves, and lives to gleaming perfection before interacting with anyone, we give this impression that this is how life really is.  We appear untouchable and unreachable. Our homes may be even a little uncomfortable.

But what if instead of perfection we purposefully aimed for mediocrity with the intent of ministering to others?  What if we aimed for just “good enough” housekeeping?  Just “good enough” cooking, party-throwing, hair-fixing, decorating?  Whatever it is that eats you up because you’re just not perfect or its just not your thing- let it go. Enough of this super-woman “I-can-do-it-all” lie.  When we reveal our imperfections to one another, we actually minister to eachother, saying “you are free to be exactly who you are.”


When someone invites me in from the perspective of a ministry of mediocrity, I feel at ease, I feel comfortable. I know they are more interested in connection and friendship rather than creating a mirage of perfection. I am allowed to be myself and reveal my own imperfections: messy house, unshaven legs, at times ill-behaved children, and all.  They have ministered to my soul by just being themselves: which is at times genuinely, perfectly mediocre.

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Rethinking Home: Seeing with New Eyes

This is my 6th and final post in the Rethinking Home series.  You can find the rest of the series here.  Its been a fun series for me and I hope you have found some inspiration.  

I debated on titling this post “Pinterest: Friend or Frenemy”  Have you ever felt that way? We have access to so many beautiful and perfect images of homes out there that can in some ways inspire and move us to action in our own homes.  But so often (maybe more often?) they can lead us to comparison, discouragement, and flat out resentment of the homes we have.

Pinterest : Friend or Frenemy

Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Pinterest.  I use it all the time to find inspiration for myself and clients and I love when readers pin my images for their own inspiration!  But I’ve found the secret to using it as a tool and a friend rather than a frenemy.  In photographing my own home for this blog and for instagram I’ve learned those images are not as perfect as they seem.  There’s always some lighting tricks involved, and have you noticed they never have blinds?  There is sunlight pouring in.  You can’t see a neighbor through those windows for miles, so there’s no need for privacy.

There are also never any baby gates in sight, usually no cords anywhere either.  Everything is clean and well placed.  Even if there are toys or kitchen utensils out, it is styled to be that way.

Nothing is an accident.

I fluff my pillows when my husband does photo shoots in our house.  I style my kitchen and dining room.  I want the pictures we take to tell a story, to draw in whoever sees them.  For me it’s an art form. I want to accentuate the strengths of the room and downplay the negatives.  Cropping and photoshopping takes place.  There’s lighting involved.

But the rest of the house is often a wreck.  We take down blinds.  All of the practical stuff, like the roll of paper towels, the K-cup carousel, the baby monitor, the dirty laundry, it all gets piled up just outside of the frame of the picture.

This is behind the scenes from one of our most recent photo shoots.

This is behind the scenes from one of our most recent photo shoots.

A few weeks ago I shared some new pictures of my living room that we took.  I love those pictures and I got some great feedback on them.  Shortly after that we took some new dining room pictures too. I love doing those and it’s fun for me to see the rooms I’ve designed really shine in that way.  But in all reality, it doesn’t look like that on a day to day basis.  It has the potential to look similar to that- I’d have to rearrange the pillows, clean up a few things, open up the shades, etc, but even if I cleaned it all up and snapped a few pictures of it with my iPhone, it wouldn’t have the same effect.  There’s some camera and skill behind the lens that goes in to getting those beautiful photos.

Those photos are fun to have and to look at, but they are like glamour shots.

Living Room // The House of Figs

And now when I see all those pictures on Pinterest or in magazines, I know a little bit more of the story.  I know that it isn’t quite reality.  It’s not that they’re trying to trick us or trying to make us feel bad.  We have the choice to determine how we are going to let pictures and images affect us.  Are we going to be discouraged?  Depressed?  Or can we see with new eyes, realizing that nothing is exactly as it seems?  Can we appreciate the creativity, the details, the lighting, and accept it basically as a work of art frozen in time for that moment?  A glamor shot that can inspire us with its beauty and craftsmanship?

I’ve been on Pinterest a lot lately looking at gorgeous bathroom inspiration and I’ve noticed something about all these beautiful images.

Bathrooms on Pinterest

They whet our appetites and sometimes even stir in us a longing, a desire to fulfill something we think we are missing.  Do we think we’ll always have a happy family if we had a home that looked like that?  Do I think my bathroom would always be spotless if it was designed that way? Or that we could cook healthy and delicious meals if only we had a kitchen like that?   But these are just snapshots, just images.  Just like candy.  Or just appetizers, not the full meal.  Glamour shots aren’t the full picture.  They’re fun and pretty, they make us feel glamorous, but we can’t go around holding up feathered boas and only showing people the tops of our shoulders and talk with our lips in a glossy pout all the time.

We have to live our lives.  We want the full meal.  We want the abundant life.

That means real living, digging deep, making messes, having relationships, getting in arguments, making up.  Yeah, sometimes its a delicious home cooked meal, but then there’s the clean up afterward.  We put some music on, we have a dance party, but we’re tip toeing around the legos on the floor and there’s dishes in the sink but when we have grateful hearts and new eyes we don’t care.Legos :: Rethinking Home

When we can see those photos with new eyes, we can see our own homes with new eyes.  With gratitude for what exists- we can appreciate the artistry in our own homes and in the homes of others.  We can know that here and now is reality- this is what it means to really live in a home and give life to that beautiful picture: legos, dishes, dust bunnies and all.

Dirty Dishes :: Rethinking Home

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Rethinking Home with the Domestic Fashionista

I get so excited when I have the chance to connect with and “meet” bloggers doing great things on their blogs and in their homes.  Ashley is no exception to that.  I was first drawn to her beautiful instagram feed and quickly realized she had some great stuff happening over at her blog too that went along so well with my Rethinking Home series.  She was kind enough to let me show you some pictures of her gorgeous home and also share with us her philosophy and heart behind it all in a little interview.  So without further delay, meet the Domestic Fashionista

Hi! Tell us a little about yourself, your home, your family, and your blog!
Hi, I am Ashley and I blog over at Domestic Fashionista where I share about “creative homemaking for the modern day woman”!  My husband, Brent, and I have been married for six years where we have been living in our current home.  I work from home taking care of my two nephews and blogging.
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At Domestic Fashionista my goal is to share creative but realistic solutions for the everyday woman who desires to bring tangible beauty into their life and home.  I desire to encourage women to take care of their home in a way that is meaningful and a blessing to others.Domestic Fashionista 6
How would you describe your approach to decorating?
Over the past six years I have experienced many different approaches to decorating my home.  When we first got married I took anything that I could get for free and re-purposed it to work for our home.  Many of those side of the road and hand me down items are still in our home today even though my decorating style is completely different! Domestic Fashionista 1 I believe in having a few core neutral bones to the house – a great couch or dining table.  From there the design of my home can change with simple accessories or DIY projects without breaking the bank!  While I love to read home design blogs, I try really hard to focus in on what I specifically like and not get pulled into every new trend.
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I am currently focused on purging my home and having more minimal but large impact decor.  I found that I was tired of always tidying my home and so I have decided to pull back and have fewer items that I really love.  I am currently turning my design style towards colonial interiors.  I really love the timeless and simplistic European feel.
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You mention “life after purging” in many of your recent posts.  Tell us about that big purge- when did you do it?  What led you to it? 
I undertook a big purge this summer after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and as a result, much of my decor changed.  I was getting rid of things and moving stuff around which forced me to reevaluate everything.
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 While I did not bring anything new into my home, things started to look different.  I wanted to show what life after purging looked like – a still personal and welcoming home, just with less stuff!
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I love how you recently rethought the layout of your home and shared it on your blog.  You swapped your dining room and your living room!  Tell us about that change, what led you to make it, and how its been working for you and your family!
It seems that one thing always leads to another!  After I had new eyes for all my stuff – Do I really need this?  Is it meaningful? – I started asking similar questions about my home.  Just because the previous dining room and living room set up seemed like an obvious choice from the beginning, I started to question how they functioned.  Domestic Fashionista 4I wondered if we could be using the individual rooms more often and more efficiently if I made the change.  I was letting outside opinions and design rules I had read bout make the decisions of how I used my home.  Instead I realized that I am actually the one who gets to decide these things and I wanted my home to work for me and my unique family situation!
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Where do you like to shop for your home?
My favorite places to shop for my home are TJ-Maxx and HomeGoods.  I love that I can find quality items at a reduced cost. I also have grown fond of collecting things for my home when we travel.  Much of the art on my walls has been collected from different places we have visited and I love that it tells the story of places we have been in a fun way.Domestic Fashionista 9
Where do you find inspiration?  Other bloggers or books, etc?
I look to inspiration everywhere!  Like most women these days I love blogs, magazines, and Pinterest!  These are great for putting together design boards and focusing in on what style I am trying to achieve.  But I also take a lot of inspiration from traveling, homes in my own neighborhood, and hotels.  There is something about experiencing a space in real life versus seeing it in a photo.  Experiencing unique architecture, boutique hotels, and real life homes makes me feel something.  I take note of how beauty can wow me or how perfectly fitted sheets can feel so luxurious.  I not only want my home to be pretty, but I desire it to have a certain feeling.
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Thank you so much, Ashley!!  
Doesn’t she have a beautiful home? I love how she rethought her home to work for her and didn’t worry about anyone else’s opinion.  I also love the philosophy of not just wanting a pretty home but looking to create an authentic feeling as well.  Her big purge has me inspired, too.  I totally relate to the feeling of being tired of tidying up my home! Has anyone else read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up?  I’ve been hearing good things about it but honestly, it scares me a little, haha!
I’d love for you to leave Ashley some comment love and then go check out her blog at Domestic Fashionista
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Rethinking Home: Points of Frustration

No home is perfect.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Did you build your own home?  Did you design it?  Can I please ask you if it is perfect and fulfills your every house-dream come true?  I just have this sneaking suspicion that the answer is going to be no.  I think homes are just like everything else- imperfect.  Though I do agree that some, due to ingenious design or beautiful decor may seem more perfect than others.  You know, the ones with the huge pantries or the outlets inside the bathroom drawers.  I knew someone with a house that had all of the bedrooms upstairs and so the laundry room was up there too.  Brilliant, right?  Seems like a simple thing but not to the mom who’s constantly dragging everyone’s laundry downstairs.  Whoever thought of that was a design genius.

Now maybe  you can’t reroute your laundry room to the upstairs (or maybe you can!), but maybe there’s something frustrating you over and over again that you could fix?  Maybe it just takes a little brainstorming, a little rethinking of your home, a little going outside the box?

Rethinking Home :: Points of Frustration

I recently listened to an interview with Gabrielle Blair, blogger at Design Mom (you can catch the interview here if you’re interested) and she was talking about this very thing.  She gave an example saying that if your bedroom is set up in a way that you’re waking up and stubbing your toe on a dresser every single morning, that just puts you in a bad mood.  Then you go out and see your kids and you’re already frustrated.  If this is happening every single day, why not move the dresser or get a new one?  Or if you’re yelling at your kids every morning because they can’t find the hairbrush.  Why not buy a few more to keep in different bathrooms in the house?  Spending maybe $15 to stop yelling at your kids every morning?  Sign me up!

She gave those examples to illustrate a bigger idea- that when you look for the repetitive triggers of frustration throughout your home and try to solve them, they can really help create this calm and well designed home that we’d all like to have.

So I’ve pinpointed a few of those “triggers” for me.  I’ve discovered that in our home and for me, the points of frustration have to do with a drop spot, dirty socks, and “smalls.”

  1.  The Drop Spot:  This one is huge.  Every home needs a drop spot in my opinion.  When you come in the door, you have things you need to drop- keys, backpacks, wallets.  A lot of times you need to deal with those things- like mail, homework, receipts, etc.  But sometimes you just don’t want to deal with those things yet, you just want a place to put them for a while so you can rest your weary self from the outside world and put your feet up for a while.  Here enters the drop spot!  This cute little back pack/purse/jacket spot is from my friend Julie’s house.  I love those hooks she hung up!  Below that is my foyer.  The baskets are for my kids shoes and the tray is for my man-keys, wallet, sunglasses- all corralled into one rectangular tray.  Hallelujah for the drop spot!Backpack drop spot :: The House of Figs
  2. The Drop Spot : The House of FigsDirty Socks:  We have a spot for shoes when my kids walk in.  But surely they couldn’t be expected to put their dirty socks all the way upstairs in their hampers?   Or maybe into the laundry room?  Its just a few steps away!!  The dirty socks on the couch, on the rug, sometimes even outside were driving me batty. And I was becoming that nagging mom- put away your dirty socks!  Finally, I came up with a solution. Why not use one of these little baskets for dirty laundry, too?  Okay, its a little unconventional to have a dirty basket in your foyer, but its hidden and oh so convenient.Rethinking Home : The House of Figs
  3. “Smalls”:  These are the little papers, crafts, legos, you know, the tiny things that have a place somewhere but not here and no one really wants to put them away right this minute.  Those small things don’t bother me so much when I have a place to temporarily keep them, so the tray in our foyer also pulls double duty during the day when not being used as the man drop spot.  In ideal world, my kids would grab their littles from this spot at the end of the day and return them to where they go, but that doesn’t always happen of course.  Things do pile up and we do a clean up sweep every once in a while, but just having a temporary place for them to stay helps in a big way.Corral the Smalls :: The House of Figs

An area where I still need some work:  Paperwork.  I tend to deal with mail pretty quickly as it comes in- throw out the junk and deal with what I need to deal with.  But school paperwork is another story.  It piles up and has been pretty hard for me to handle!  There’s just so much of it especially with having two in school this year!  I have this hanging in between our kitchen and breakfast nook that I use but truthfully, it rarely gets checked and cleaned out.

Paper Organization : The House of Figs

I end up just making a pile on the kitchen counter because that will motivate me to look at it, deal with it, and clean it up.  Anyone have any school paperwork solutions for me?  I’d love to hear!

And what are the spots in your home that trigger frustration for you?  How can you rethink your home to make it work for you?

As always, thanks so much for reading, hope you have a wonderful weekend and a Happy Halloween!



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Three Things I’m Loving

Every once in a while (okay, this is only the second time) I like to share a few things I’m loving.  See the last post here.

So the first thing I’m loving lately is Netflix.  I know I’m totally late to the party here!  We had Netflix back in the day when it involved DVDs being sent to your house and there was an added fee for streaming.  We cancelled it and have been using Amazon Prime ever since, but recently just started the one month free trial.  I think I’m hooked!  We’ve been watching Chef’s Table (obsessed!) and just recently True Cost.  I highly recommend both.

Netflix Favorites :: The House of Figs


I love it when Paul and I find shows/movies that we both enjoy watching together.  We don’t have a TV in our bedroom, which I’m okay with, but its fun to snuggle up in bed with the laptop and watch a good show!  Any good recommendations are welcome!

Okay the next thing I’m loving is this amazing painted tile from Mysha at Remington Avenue! What a way to rethink renovation!! You can find the step by step tutorial along with pictures over on her blog here. Can you believe this is painted on?? Absolutely gorgeous.

Painted Tile- Remington Avenue


Lastly, I’ve been loving these for a while- antique rugs.  They are everywhere in the design world right now.  Here are a few of my favorite recent finds from around the web…

Kitchen Rug


Foyer Rug


Living Room Rug


Dining Room rug


They are so versatile (hello, every room in the house!) and add so much color and texture to an otherwise neutral space. They also add a richness and I love the juxtaposition when paired with modern furnishings and accessories.  Contrast is my favorite.

So that’s it for me today. What about you?  Three things you’re loving right now- it can be anything!  I’d love to hear from you!

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Rethinking Home: Toy Storage

This is my third post in the Rethinking Home series.  You can find the other posts here.

I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I love the idea of having attractive and creative toy storage in the main living areas, especially for a stay at home mom who is primarily home playing with kids during the day.

Toy Storage // The House of Figs

(This is from a client’s living room, see the rest of the room here)

But as my kids get older and two of them are in school all day, I’m realizing this idea still remains true for me.  I want to be intentional about the hours we spend together so I still want there to be a space for their games, books, and activities in our main living areas.  I don’t want my kids to immediately retreat upstairs after being gone at school all day to the distant playroom for video games or all their toys & books.  Does this mean I have to sacrifice my living room and turn it into an all kid hang out space?  Not at all.

When you have preschoolers, does this mean it has to look like a daycare all the time or like a toy store blew up?  I don’t think so.  With a reasonable amount of creative storage, and rethinking the idea of your home as a place for your entire family (its your kids’ home too!) I feel like you can achieve a look you enjoy and make an intentional space for everyone.

The House Of Figs - Kraus Haus Small_2wm

(Metal baskets under the coffee table in this living room are great storage for books and puzzles.)

So here are a few ideas I’ve come up with for rethinking the idea of toy storage in your home.

  1. Purge:  If your family is like mine you probably have too many toys.  Get rid of some- they probably won’t even notice.  Even after you do that, not every toy your child owns has to be in the living room.  Be selective.  Rotate things out.  As stuff makes its way downstairs, every once in a while I go through the baskets and do a big sweep and have them take their things back to their rooms and the playroom, leaving only a few favorites downstairs.
  2. Bring in attractive storage: Use baskets, decorative bins, bookshelves, even ottomans.  We even keep a canvas bin on our stairs for things that need to go back to the designated kid spaces.
  3. Corral the small stuff: We have a tray in our foyer and a tray on our coffee table.  When I step on a tiny lego during the day I can throw it on the tray and my son can take it upstairs before bedtime. When my husband comes home from work, he can drop his keys, wallet, loose change, etc in the foyer tray.  Any time small things like that are corralled into a defined space they look and feel less junky and more like they are part of a system.
  4. See the toys & books as part of your decor, not something that competes with it: Decorate with what you love and decorate for your family.  When you use bright color and pattern and don’t worry about sticking to a specific color “scheme” or “theme” the toys and books are better able to blend right in.  They are just a part of life and make a home feel lived in and natural- less like a show home or model home and more like a place you (and your family) really want to be!

Rethinking Toy Storage // The House of Figs

Like I shared earlier this week, our living room bookshelves house books for everyone and the bottom few shelves store games and toys as well.  In the spirit of full disclosure though (you know I like to show the real deal), it is not always pretty back there.

Behind the Shelves

But I can tell you everything does have a place either here or upstairs and when it starts to get like this, I know its probably time to purge and/or bring some things back up.

Lauren Liess (one of my favorite designers & bloggers), talks a little about this idea in her new book Habitat.  (By the way, the book is amazing and beautiful, I highly recommend it!!!) She says family rooms “should be stylish, comfortable and able to stand up to wear and abuse.  They should not only look good, but also be simple to maintain with easy to care for materials and plenty of storage to corral all the items that make their way into the space.”  She goes on to say that in her house they have what they call the five-minute rule, meaning that “I’ve made sure to include enough storage in each room that anyone can clean up a mess in five minutes or less.”

All of this I love.  Five minutes or less?  So doable.

 Our family rooms are meant to serve us, not the other way around.

Are you a slave to your family room?  Do you feel like you’re constantly telling everyone to “get that stuff out of here?” Or clean up their mess?  Maybe there is a way to rethink how that mess is cleaned up or how the storage is approached.  Perhaps the decor scheme, while a lovely and serene one, is only inclusive of one person’s tastes and collectibles. If it is a family room, should it not reflect an atmosphere conducive to family time?  I feel like this can be achieved simply by adding in a little bit of color and pattern- maybe with throw pillows, a few books around the room, etc.  Also choosing durable fabrics and materials makes it family-welcome as well!

Just some thoughts to ponder here.  I’d love to hear what you think!   Let me know in the comments or if you have a picture of how you are rethinking home, share it with me on instagram!  Tag me (@thehouseoffigs) and add #rethinkinghome to your picture so I can see it.  Thank you so much for reading!

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Rethinking Home: Rethinking Renovation

Today is the second post in my Rethinking Home series.  Find the first post here.

Today I’m sharing with you a room in my house you’ve never seen before.  Its not in my house tour because, well, I guess I haven’t deemed it house tour “worthy.”  I’d like to do something to it, but I just haven’t figured out what to do yet.  It needs some updating and yet those updates feel overwhelming.

Master Bathroom :: The House of Figs

This would be our master bathroom. Our home was built in the year 2000 and the room hasn’t been touched much since then, except a few cosmetic things. We had wallpaper removed and painted it a neutral color when we first moved in (my favorite gray).  We also added some towel hooks, hung up a few things on the wall, and I always love adding in some greenery.

Greenery in the Master Bath :: The House of Figs

The natural light is nice and I’m so glad the tub and shower surround are white and bright.

Bathroom Vanity :: The House of Figs

The grout is old and cracking, the vanity is low, the countertops are yellowing, and the plumbing needs work.  I’d also love to update those mirrors and light fixtures.  I’m sure the vanity wood is not real wood, because the paint that covers it is peeling off not in the way paint peels.  Vinyl or something I guess?  I don’t really know much about it but it doesn’t seem like something I can just paint over.

Master Bath Cabinets

We had a contractor come look at it and give us an estimate to gut it all and start fresh, keeping the same footprint but really making all our dreams come true for the space.  One of the most concerning parts is a thin crack running all the way down the room that’s also starting to creep up the base of the toilet.  Floor Crack : Rethinking Renovation

The money required was enough to make our jaws drop and since then we’ve done nothing.

But why does it have to be all or nothing? We have decided that this is our house.  Its not perfect and of course it never will be, but we want to invest in it (and fix any issues it has) and I know that bathrooms and kitchens make the most difference for resale value.  We also are the ones living here now, so we’d like to enjoy it for ourselves too and not just fix it up for someone else to enjoy if we sell it one day.

So I just need to rethink this idea of renovation.  Renovation does not have to mean all or nothing.  It can definitely mean doing something and maximizing the results with just a few changes.  I mean, doing something is better than doing nothing, right? I don’t know why I’m having a harder time with this all or nothing thinking in my bathroom, because I was able to do it with our kitchen.

My Kitchen // The House of Figs

There was no major renovation that took place, but we changed out the floors and the backsplash and had the cabinets painted.  We added texture and charm, color and pattern.  I had a vision and then we made it come together on the budget we had.

So for now I’m in the dreaming stages but I’m also trying to think more creatively and open my mind to how I can change this bathroom without thinking it has to be all our dreams coming true or nothing at all. Here are some bathrooms that I love.  You know I’m a contrast girl, but I also love a casual, almost bohemian feeling.

Lonny Bathroom


Owens & Davis Bathroom


Bohemian Bathroom


I’m not exactly sure what will happen in this bathroom, but I know that we don’t plan to go into debt over it and that it doesn’t have to live up to perfection or dream home status to be beautiful and work for us.  While we still plan to wait a while to save up money and dream on Pinterest, we are definitely not waiting to discover oil in our backyard or win the lottery (which would mean it would never happen).  We’re rethinking renovation and in the process rethinking home.  It doesn’t have to be all or nothing!

Rethinking Renovation

What about you?  How have you rethought renovation for your home?  Have you done a facelift to a room that didn’t require a huge, all out Fixer Upper style renovation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments or see it on instagram!  Tag me (@thehouseoffigs) and use the hashtag #rethinkinghome to share it!

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