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One Room Challenge: Week One — Dinette Disaster

Hello friends, old and new! Welcome to the One Room Challenge, wherein I and several other bloggers aim to transform a space in just six weeks. Say what? Am I crazy!? With two little dudes running around the house and a burgeoning interior design biz, it’s a wonder we have clean underwear around here much less time to decorate. On the other hand, a very serious situation has been brewing and it must be dealt with… Fresh whitey tighties may have to wait.


Before you stab your eyes out to stop the pain, let me (try to) explain myself. I am married to a man. I have a four year old man child. A little over a year ago, I found out I was pregnant with — you guessed it — another mini man. Now I love my boys to death and frankly cannot even imagine having a girl (although I am sure they are lovely, too), but for a little while there my pregnant hormones said PAINT IT PINK. My husband was horrified. My paint guru friend Sanders was apoplectic. But I couldn’t let all those XYs get in the way of my pink dinette.

I probably should have.


As soon as I painted it, I was like bow chicka bow bowwww and then I couldn’t get 1980s Hustler thoughts out of my mind. Plans to refinish the table and chairs ground to a halt, thwarted by this color which belongs either on Cinemaxxx after dark or perhaps in a grand mirrored ballroom with black and white marble floors, gilded candelabras, and enormous palms planted in turquoise and cinnabar pots — not in my very humble Browntown USA dinette.

But alas it was too late… I had a baby and put on my diaper blinders and just stopped caring for a while.  It happens. Now my little guy is walking and talking, spilled milk and jelly fingers are on the wane, and there are no more excuses for this miserable hovel. So let’s discuss the space.

We bought our 1970s Tudor home two years ago. It’s fairly modest by Texan standards — about 2400 sq ft. The “dining room” is located by the front entry, but it’s very small and disconnected from the living area so we decided to turn it into a study/play room:

teal dark harbor

I like it. But now the only place our family of four (plus friends and extended family) have to eat is the dinette.


It’s a charmless room. The bay window is not symmetrical and it’s topped by a soffit that conceals (wait for it) the roof. Nothing to be done about that, sadly. Also it’s very dim in here because it faces north, we have tons of trees, and it overlooks a covered patio. Finally the floors are disgusting but we’re not replacing them with wood until we redo the hideous kitchen. Please jeebus let that be soon.


This is a weird corner where a fugly built in desk used to live. I like this James Montish china cabinet, but if I found something more spacious to store my out of control gilded glassware problem I would buy it.

The first step in taming this beast is paint because there is no cheaper, faster, better way to transform a space. Period.

However, this is a very tough room to choose paint for — which is partly how I ended up with pink in the first place. It’s dark, there are tons of weird angles, and it’s small. Also, because it’s visible from many rooms I wanted the color to make sense with the peachy ivory of the living room and the deep teal of the study. And I wanted it to be a wow color.

I called Sanders.

one room challenge

For those of you new to my blog, this is Sanders Price Gibbs III. He manages the south Austin Benjamin Moore store and he picks colors for fancy places like the W Hotel, fancy people like coiffed Louis Vuitton toting decorators, and for regular people who just want to get it right. I think I’m pretty darn good at choosing colors but Sanders is a GENIUS and when I need an expert opinion I call him.

Sanders helped me choose something waaaaaaaayyyyy far out of my comfort zone of neutrals and dark muted colors (see my choices above). At first I thought he was crazy but you know what? It’s just paint. Also, it is ridiculous to call someone in for an expert opinion and not take it.


Still, I made my oldest son Ike walk the color card around the house while I took pictures of it next to paint, wallpaper, artwork, rugs, my face… he was very happy about the situation.

Then I made a mockup of what I think the room would look like with this wacky color:


Here’s the plan: Chain Sciolari fixture to the house because it’s awesome. Have broken marble table that I ordered over a year ago (!) glued together by Dr. Marble. Clean dirty grout on floors and toss a cowhide rug over the whole situation. Use the four mid century Italian chairs that I thrifted for $20. Add simple white linen curtains with black trim on the leading edge. Maybe replace the wood blinds… maybe not. Depends on budget. Create art wall — it will probably be a tall grouping of pictures because the chandelier obscures most singular pieces. Learn to set a swanky table like a big girl. And somehow I need two more seats… should I do a bench? Two header chairs? A banquette? This is very dependent on budget, but I need another layer of ooomph in here somewhere. I have some ideas percolating, of course.

And then there’s that Farrow and Ball Arsenic paint… will I or won’t I? Tune in next week to find out!

one room challenge

Until then, please do check out the other uber talented participants in the One Room Challenge.


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The Trouble With Photography (and My Curtains)

In a nutshell, the trouble is photographs lie. You aren’t really that fat (promise), the perfect gray paint color that looked amazing in a magazine looks like shit on your walls, and those pink curtains I lusted after weren’t even pink.

Remember this room? I was all, Oooh ahh magic! over it and how such a sophisticated room could pull off those pink curtains. Well get a load of this:

Same room. Not exactly pink pink, more of a rose…

Huh. Well I might consider that to be more of a clay red — something with a fair amount of brown in it.

Not pink at all.

So, you see, I was doomed from the start.


erin williamson

Oh me. Oh my.

The other trouble with photography is that it’s awfully labor intensive. I almost turned around to shoot the back of the room so you could see my secret piles of toys and laundry drifts, but I wanted propagate the myth that I keep a semi clean house. Still, why didn’t I move the speakers? Or restyle the fireplace? Or hang those curtains higher and replace my chesterfield and find a new place for the tv?

I have a lot of work to do. Focus.

erin williamson

Yet another problem with photography is that some of you are probably thinking, Those pink curtains are bananas, dawg!

Well, I hope your brain doesn’t think in those words, because that may be the trouble with you.

Anyway, those pink curtains were like eight year old sparkly bubblegum pink unicorns riding rainbows to My Little Pony land.

Hell. No.

erin williamson

It’s not like the flax curtains fared much better. Once again — they may look ok in the picture, but they were green in real life. Not pretty with my peachy pink walls.

So I took that crap back and now I have two totally different curtains up. Plus I just ordered two more.

And I’m trying to stop myself from ordering sandy beige… I think I’ll save super neutral for the double height curtains I might get around to someday.

The trouble with me is I am so used to taking photographs that I expect my house to look like one.

Also I am extremely overwhelmed and indecisive.

Will report later on the ever expanding curtain conundrum.

In the meantime, let me tell you why you aren’t as fat as you look in pictures. It’s because humans see with two eyes, and we can sort of see around objects to the background behind. Cameras only see with one eye and they flatten everything onto one big fat plane.

So there you go. You are 10 pounds thinner.

That’s something, right?

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These are a Few of My Favorite Pins

It’s all dreary today and I just don’t have the energy to reveal my crazy painted fireplace yet, so I’m going to rely on all the fabulous people out there in pinterest land to write this post for me. Thanks, guys. You’re the best.

The one thing I don’t like about pinterest is how easily sources are lost. I try to be careful about crediting the people I borrow images from, but who knows where many of the images originally came from? I wish there were a better way to track things.

[You Have Been Here Sometime, Elle Decor, This is Glamorous, My Interior Life, YHBHS]

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Clash of the Titans

I’ve been living with a caliente red dining room and a tequila blue living room for so long that my eyes were bleeding from the Mexican Restaurant strain of it all (not that I don’t love me some muy delicioso Mexican comidas!) when I looked from one room into to the next. One of those colors had to go, and after much agonizing DH and I decided to keep the red. The living room was painted a soothing pinky gray and I am hoping to post before and after pics very soon, but first major accessory shifts are needed to restore Casa Erin to top form.

In the meantime, I’ve been cruising color palettes for inspiration, and despite disparaging pink and red in my last post, that combo is still feeling very fresh to me. My favorite is Miles Redd‘s living room (Sorry Miles… I’m turning into such a stalker!):

miles redd

First of all, how sexy is that couch? I know it probably cost a bazillion dollars, but I think I’d give a tooth for it. Maybe even a front one. Anyway, Miles went for broke with this… NOT a subdued pink. NOT a subdued red. Full frontal nudity here. Raunchy.

While I totally want Miles’ entire apartment, I think pink and red are easiest for us mere mortals to pair when the furniture is kept streamlined. Check out this mod combo designed by Aussie firm BKH that was featured at the Kips Bay Showhouse (photo courtesy of Elite Choice):

kips bay

How much do you love that orangey red painting on those coolly pink walls? It just pops and clashes its little heart out, and the black scaled down furniture helps keep the look modern instead of 1980’s mauve disaster.

Y’all know by now that I’m a Jay Jeffers fan… That guy can go from kooky to classy in 2.2 seconds. This San Francisco apartment is carefully neutral, but the dining room has an ultra glam pink ceiling paired with pops of red for edge.

jay jeffers

The beigey walls go a long way toward keeping this look polished instead of claustrophobic. Here are a couple more examples of careful accessory choices to keep the look edgy, but not cluttered:

domino and wearstler

(Domino paint palette on the left and Kelly Wearstler‘s office on the right)

Simple black fireplaces add some much needed geometry to both spaces. I really hate those sconces in Kelly Wearstler’s office, but she shows (once again) that she is master of the plate wall, and the lime green apples are fabulous with that pink.

My friend Hope Perkins of Hot Pink Pistol fame had this amazing pink (of course!) house that looked gorgeous in pictures but kinda made me feel nervous in real life. So, I think that to be able to live in these spaces, I personally need some neutral air to breathe. Therefore I present to you this most appealing mix of space and color that I found whilst reading Habitually Chic‘s awesome blog:


This is the gorgeous Palazzo Ducale di Sassuolo in Modena, Italy, featuring color block paintings by Winston Roeth which were donated by legendary collector Giuseppe Panza. I love the gold, white, pink and red combo (with a teeny flash of lemon yellow) and I totally think I’m going to steal it. My new wall color isn’t white-white like this, but it’s pale and cool enough that I think it’ll work. I’m going to have to fake the gold fretwork, since I (sadly) don’t live in a 17th century castle, but I’m hoping the look will still be edgily sublime.

Stay tuned!

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