Category Archives: Decorating Dilemmas

My Vintage Kilim Rug Dilemma

I don’t think you ever met one of my favorite Craigslist scores, my bright red Kilim rug.  I found it years ago when I moved to my first apartment in the DC area, and it was a ridiculous deal – only $25.  I love the bold colors and patterns; it’s one of the least fussy vintage rugs I’ve ever seen.First Condo Living room 1

Despite my love for the awesome rug, it really hasn’t made an appearance on the blog, because it’s been folded up in storage.

Why?  Because Ryan hates it.  He thinks it’s ugly, but he also said this:

“That rug probably has enough residual pet DNA to clone every pet Jane has owned in the last 10years. And looks like it.”

I say he’s being dramatic. Yes, Charlie had two accidents on it back in the day, and despite my attempts to clean them up with enzyme cleaner, the rug still had stains.

So a few weeks ago I had the rug professionally cleaned, in an attempt to change Ryan’s mind.  I’ve never had an oriental rug professionally washed before, and was a little shocked at the price of $200.  They supposedly hand wash it with a special process, and my rug is supposedly worth more than $700, so I guess the cleaning fee was worth it.

However, the cleaning company advised me that you should never use enzyme cleaner on a rug like this because it could affect the vegetable dyes in it, and could cause colors to run.  Oriental rugs, especially those with natural fibers and dyes, require special cleaning.

I got the rug back from the cleaner last week, and rolled it out in the kitchen just to take a look at it. (I won’t use it in the kitchen, because the red rug makes the wood cabinets look even more orange than usual.)


The colors are much brighter now that the rug is clean.  Unfortunately, the stains didn’t come out all the way.  I guess the enzyme cleaner and/or the dog urine permanently discolored the fibers.  It’s not super noticeable, but it’s there.

Kilim Rug Pet Stains

I still love the rug, and Ryan still hates it.   For now I’ll keep it – it’s rolled up and back in storage – but I don’t know what the long term plan is.  I’ve always dreamed of using the rug when decorating a room for a little boy, but I don’t know when that will happen.

Reupholstering Our Sofa: Choosing the Leather

Blog photos often convey a much cleaner version of real life.  I know this for a fact now, because our white living room sofa looks so much better in blog photos than in real life.  It’s become embarrassing to have guests see it in person.

Living Room The Borrowed Abode June 2012

We’ve gotten 4.5 good years out of the Petrie Sofa since I bought it on Craigslist for $350, and I am very glad that I didn’t pay full price to get it new at Crate and Barrel.  Many of the buttons in the seat cushions have tears around where they’re attached, and some of the folds in the seat upholstery have torn apart.  The fabric stains easily and wears poorly, too.

Want to see some proof?

Crate and Barrel Petrie White Sofa Problems

I scored it for a steal because of the tear in the arm rest. But now it’s gross all over.

It’s finally time:  Ryan and I have saved up to have the sofa reupholstered in top-grain leather*.  In the context of home decorating, this is an intimidating decision because of the cost and the longevity we’re going for – 10+ years or more.

When it came to leather, I knew exactly what I wanted.  A few years ago I saw a distressed leather sofa in medium brown at Crate and Barrel. It immediately brought to mind a Ralph Lauren catalog – I have no idea why – but I pictured it in an awesome lodge with a roaring fire.  And maybe a Ralph Lauren male model sitting on the arm of the sofa.  😉

Ryan and I agreed we should go with medium brown distressed leather. Distressed, because it would be already soft and worn and pre-scratched, and future scratches would only add to its loved, comfy look.  The square modern lines of the sofa will keep the distressed leather looking elegant.

With this image firmly implanted in my mind, I thought it would be easy to pick the leather we’d use on the couch.  Boy was I wrong.  There are so many different colors in the swatch books.

Here are the colors we’re trying to choose from:

Leather Sofa Swatches

Considering Undertones

Ryan leans towards the bottom left, Nutmeg – while I lean towards the bottom middle, Pecan.  I just worry that the Nutmeg leather is a little too dark.  I was hoping to have a lighter feel. We need to come to a compromise somehow.

I think the Lynx is too light and yellowish even though I like it.  We need to be careful about the leather’s tone. Just like paint colors, there are undertones to leather.  Because we rent, it is so important to keep our sofa neutral – something that will adapt to many different spaces and possible wall colors over the years.

Some brown leathers have red undertones, and some have yellow ones.  Beware of both!  I held our two favorites up to the mid-century credenza because we have several pieces of wood furniture in that stain color:

Leather Swatch Wooden Furniture

I think we want the leather to match, or at least not clash with, the furniture stain colors.  What do you think?  Advice on how to choose the color is very welcome.

*I know the choice of using real leather may be controversial, and I plan to share our reasons for choosing leather in a different post.

PS:  Jeannine at Small Chic Home went through a similar process to choose her new leather sofa.  She had even more choices since she had to choose nail-head trim and leg stain colors.  Thank goodness I’m only choosing leather!

Disguising Ugly Ceiling Fans in Rental Apartment

Disguising ugly ceiling fans in a rental apartment is something I’ve wanted to write about for a while, because several of my pre-blogging rentals had really ugly ceiling fans in them.

While I don’t currently have any ugly fans in this house, I was able to find other fabulously creative bloggers who have dealt with the situation in many different ways.  You may rely on ceiling fans for air circulation and cooling in the warmer months.  Therefore, some ideas include leaving the blades intact, while others tackle removal of the blades to remove the problem.

1.  Disguise Ugly Blades

Some old ceiling fans have the most atrocious wicker or fake wood blades.  Others are off white with patterns painted on them.  I have had all of these designs, and more, in past apartments.  If only I’d thought to cover them with contact paper!  It comes in pretty patterns, sticks on well, and peels off clean when it’s time to move out.

I love how Amy at Home Happy Home painted bold stripes on the blades below.   But you could easily replicate this look by wrapping the blades in white contact paper, then adding stripes with a colored duct or masking tape of your choice.  The fan ties in with the rest of the room, and has even become a decorative accent!

Ceiling Fan Makeover at Home Happy HomeVia Home Happy Home

2.  Paint the Metal Body

Have a fan with an ugly brassy metal body that needs more help than fresh new blades?  Consider painting the metal body of the ceiling fan, but it’s probably best to get permission from the landlord before doing so.

***When you make the case for painting the fan, keep it simple with either white or a modern metallic.  Oil Rubbed Bronze (ORB) would be a great way to modernize even the oldest fan.  Find some photos to show how good it would look, and agree to follow the best painting process (i.e. draping the surrounding spaces to protect them, using good primer made for metal, then several thin coats of paint, then a sealant) in order to ensure the best results.

Please note:  Paint without landlord permission at your own risk.  My old landlord wouldn’t have noticed if I’d painted the brassy ceiling fan a different metallic color, but not every landlord is that clueless.  I don’t want to advocate any behavior that will result in your losing a security deposit.  Use your judgement.

Jennifer from Dimples and Tangles did an awesome job transforming her ceiling fan with some paint and fabric.  This might be my most favorite ceiling fan of all time:

Ceiling Fan at Dimples and Tangles

Via Dimples and Tangles

3.  Add a Lamp Shade

If painting the metal body of the fan isn’t an option, try improving it by adding a fun drum lampshade to the bottom of it.  If the drum lampshade coordinates with your room, the fan fixture immediately becomes more a part of the style.

How pretty is this shade added by Ashley at Domestic Imperfection?

Ceiling Fan at Domestic Imperfection

Via Domestic Imperfection

4.  Add a Lamp Shade & Remove the Blades

Maybe you can’t risk painting the metal fan body, your blades are hideous, and you don’t need a fan?  In that case, consider removing the blades and popping on a decorative shade instead?  Just save the hardware and blades and storing them for move-out day.  That’s exactly what Linda at Restyled Home did, and talk about a great, simple solution!

Ceiling Fan at Restyled Home

Via Restyled Home

If you’ve got an ugly, outdated ceiling fan in your rental, hopefully one of these ideas can help you!  And if you have a different rental decorating issue, maybe you can find a solution here.

Have a rental design dilemma?  Share in the comments and maybe yours will be selected for discussion in a later post!

How NOT to Decorate a Rental Property (My Cabin Weekend)

This past weekend my good friends and I celebrated 10 years of friendship with a girls’ weekend away at a cabin.  The first few years, when we were all working together at the vet hospital and living in the same town, we went camping all the time, either in tents or in rustic log cabins with no running water or electricity.

This time, however, the new mother of twins needed electricity & a fridge so she could pump and store milk for the babies.  So we went with a more modern cabin.  Modern being relative. . .

In my various cabin rental experiences over the last few years, I determined that the majority of vacation cabin owners do not understand how to decorate, especially when going for that “rustic” feel.

1.  Less is More, not More is More. 

Empty wall space doesn’t need to be covered with clutter.  Every wall of the cabin had random pieces of art hanging on it – as though every time the owner found more framed art at the thrift store they tried to fit it somewhere on the wall.  And not in a nice “gallery wall” way.

There was also a lot of random decor taking up space, like a little dish of stones and flower pots on top of an unused wicker box in the bathroom.  Bizarre.

Bathroom Decor Clouds Cabin Luray VA

2.  Ditch the Fake Flowers & Vines. 

Many of the mountain vacation homes had fake flowers and vines in their photos.  Winding around the ceiling.  Tacked to the wall. Trailing over the otherwise cool wood-beam mantel.

Fireplace Clouds Cabin Luray VA

Do you know what I think when I see fake flowers? Dust.  Lots and lots of dust.  And in some cases, they get in the way of actually being able to put your stuff down when you’re staying:

Fake Flowers In Rental Cabin Bedroom

Decor in one of their other properties.

3.  Stickers Are Not a Decorative Accent.   I was marveling at the more than 12 pieces of framed art hanging in the small bathroom when suddenly I noticed . . . there were stickers all over the electrical panel.  Placed upon it as if to disguise the fact that there was, in fact, a fuse box over the toilet.

A Team Cabin 2013 Oct 5

Trust me when I say that a beige fuse box over the toilet was the least of the cabin’s decor issues.

4. Using 5 different types of fake wood paneling does not equal rustic.

The stairway was paneled in what looked like veneer plywood, stained dark brown. It looked pretty sweet.  Unfortunately there were 4 other types of wood paneling used – some painted, some not.  Just keep it simple and consistent, people!

The Good Parts:

I’m definitely being a bit dramatic about the decor, but all three of my friends agreed it was a bit ridiculous. There were definitely some good aspects to this cabin.

It was cozy but spacious enough for us 4, it was dog friendly (huge plus!), had clean and comfy leather sofas, and there would have been an awesome view had it not been pouring down rain all weekend.  Most importantly, there was a roomy hot tub outside in the woods that we enjoyed, even in the constant rain:

Hot Tub Clouds Cabin Luray VA

And, when you’re with good friends, you really can enjoy anything.  And so we did.  We visited 6 wineries (over two days), enjoyed some fires in the wood stove, and had a blast despite the rain – and the ugly curtains surrounding us. :)

Virginia Winery A Team

A Team Cabin 2013 Oct 4

But I have to admit I look forward to renting a rustic, no electricity, peeing-in-the-woods cabin again in the future.

If you want to pay $250 a night, and still have to bring your own bed sheets, pillows, towels, dish towels, firewood, matches, kindling, and toilet paper, you can find the property (and others!) here