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New Kids' BathroomI’m about to show you a really horrible bathroom. Are you ready? I mean really ready? You’re going to wonder how we lived eight years with this bathroom and, let’s be honest, I’m wondering the same thing. But bathroom remodels are expensive and there was always a financial reason to put it off (wedding, baby, another baby, etc). Then the shower stall in the other bathroom broke (that bathroom got a facelift, which I’ll try to show you soon), our toddler started out-growing the ducky float she’d been bathing in and the baby got too big for the sink … I saw an opening and I took it.

Now brace yourself. This bathroom was the color of mucus. The kind you see when you have the flu. This bathroom was kind of like having the flu. It made you sick and achy all over just looking at it. Our contractor even got the flu while he was working on it.  It was bad, guys. Bad.

The medicine cabinet was so big I could’ve fit both kids in there (but it was gross and that’s weird so I didn’t), the leaky tub faucet turned that damn grout black almost instantly and no amount of harsh chemicals and elbow grease could get that hideous mucus tub looking clean. The ceiling/wall above the window was crumbling, the shower head was falling out of the wall, the floor and half of the walls (also mucus yellow) were chipped, ugly, old, worn and just gross. And there were these metal handlebars everywhere. Someone who lived here before the people before us (did you get that?) needed some handlebars in the shower. I totally get that, but all these years later they were still there, because how do you remove rusted metal bars that are drilled into a cast iron tub and 50-year-old tile? You don’t. You gut the damn thing. And gut it we did.

Did you already cheat and scroll ahead to see it? You did, didn’t you? Whatever. I don’t blame you because now you see I am not exaggerating. For those who didn’t cheat, go ahead, see for yourself …

Bathroom Remodel Before

Okay, now you’ve seen it. It was horrible and I apologize because you can’t unsee it.

Now feast your eyes on the after …Modern kids' bathroom Before and AfterBathroom Before and After Bathroom Before and After Bathroom Before and AfterBathroom Before and After

Now how about a quick side-by-side for good measure?

Modern bathroom before and afterDear New Bathroom: I think I love you. So much. So, so much.

I went with brass fixtures, charcoal floors, white subway tile with gray grout and white, white, white, white, white everywhere else. Everything is new except the loo. And I mean everything. This baby was gutted and rebuilt because nothing was worth saving. Except the old pedestal sink, which is probably getting sold on Craigslist because have you seen the stuff people sell on Craigslist?

Now let me be frank. Going gold is expensive, and we didn’t even go expensive. We went less expensive because even that was expensive. In hindsight, while I love that wall mounted sink so much I might just marry it, matching brass pipes to a brass faucet from a company that doesn’t make brass pipes to match its brass faucet was kind of the bane of my existence these last few months. Have any questions about p-traps? Want to know who makes them and in what shapes, sizes and colors? Go ahead. Ask me. Do you know how many shades of brass exist in the world? I do. One million. Do you know how many match my faucet? Zero. None. Zippo. Nada. Did you know I didn’t know that until we had already bought the sink and faucet and it was too late to go back? Oops.

Here’s the thing about gutting a bathroom and not knowing what you’re doing because you’ve never gutted anything before, let alone a bathroom. There’s a bit of a learning curve. Like a Sandy Koufax curve. Here, let me give you an example. When Pat, our friend/contractor, and Chris, my husband/financier, told me the wires and knobs and all the other plumber-like things would be exposed under the sink I gave them a horrified look and told them they were wrong. I assured them that I would buy a pretty p-trap, but that there would be no other ugly plumber-like things under that sink. Pat scratched his head and very gently asked me, “Well then where will they be?” I promptly told him, “Well on Pinterest there are no ugly plumber-like things.” And in that very moment I lost all credibility and those two, bless them, tried their hardest not to laugh at me. So listen. Unless you plan on living in a showroom you find on Pinterest, maybe do some research before you gut your bathroom.

Now that you know how clueless I am about bathrooms, you can appreciate that we picked out everything in this bathroom all by ourselves (and by “we” I mean mostly me because my husband did not want to hear the words “brass p-trap” one more godforsaken time) and it turned out pretty stinking nice, if I do say so myself. And, bonus, it cost less than we anticipated.

Now can we talk about the marble backsplash for a second? It was part of the original plan. I didn’t care how it was accomplished, but I was getting a marble backsplash for my wall-mounted sink. You see, our whole house has marble windowsills and we added marble for the built-in shower shelves to match so, naturally, we needed a marble backsplash. This makes total sense, no? Well, long story short, our faucet was too close to the wall so I needed a super thin chunk of marble in a very specific size and color and every single marble seller in all of Philadelphia and South Jersey told me “Yea, um, no. That’s not possible. The marble you want doesn’t exist in the world. You’re up a creek, paddle got eaten by a river monster.” Well don’t you know it, I found the exact piece of marble, in the exact color, size and width I needed (drumroll please) for $12 at Home Depot.

Bam. [insert inappropriate gesture]

I win.

Are you still with me? Just a few more things.

I wanted a fancy brass or black medicine cabinet, but for a house we probably won’t live in forever it didn’t seem worth the expense. I’m surprised how much I like the clean lines of the frameless one we settled on. (If you haven’t noticed, the theme here is “clean.”)

I wanted fancy brass sconces, too, and I got them. I fell in love with every single light fixture I saw at Cedar and Moss, but I went with simple, since it’s a small space, and chose a style that was a bit easier on the budget. I ordered a new brass ceiling fixture, too, but it hasn’t been installed yet.

I’d like a small rug for outside the tub but I just can’t decide. I’d love a beautiful Persian, but it seems to me like Persian rugs and kids splashing in the tub and moisture in general maybe aren’t so great together. I love the look, but Persian rugs are not cheap and I couldn’t stomach destroying one. So back to the drawing board.

We need a new door but pick your battles, you know?

The tub. It’s not cast iron (because they are 300 pounds) and not acrylic either. We went with Americast. It has mixed reviews but it was unbelievably affordable, much lighter than cast iron, sturdier than acrylic and did I mention affordable? We’ll see how it holds up but so far it’s been lovely. Or as Isla says every single time she’s in there, “It’s Won-er-ful!”

We don’t have any storage in this bathroom except that medicine cabinet so I bought that beautiful basket to hold toilet paper, my hair dryer, extra towels, the kids’ bath toys and some lady things hidden in a Baggu bag. Surprisingly, there’s room to spare.

Side note: I love the brass so much, but copper might just be my next obsession.

Alright. This is the longest blog post ever and most of you probably aren’t still reading anyway so I’ll just stop now. Here are the full details on where we got all the stuff:

{Delta Faucet tub/shower faucet + sink faucet + towel ring + toilet paper holder in “champagne bronze” | Cedar and Moss sconces | Industrial Light Electric ceiling mount light | American Standard “Princeton” tub | Kohler medicine cabinet | tile from M.T.O. Bath & Tile | sink | Serena & Lily basket | Target shower curtain | Signature Hardware shower curtain rod + rings in “polished brass” | Etsy Turkish towels | Rail 19 copper soap dispenser}



Minted Framed Abstract Art Print

When I chose this abstract art print from Minted this is not the wall I had in mind for it. Remember that spot in our house with the colorful kilim rug from Istanbul where Isla’s teepee, kiddie table and toy basket are located? Well I had big plans for this piece to hang on that monster wall and highlight the colors in the rug. I changed my mind for two reasons: 1. At 24″x18″, the print is too small for the wall so I might eventually make a gallery wall with this beauty as the center piece, and 2. Our Christmas tree currently resides in that very space, which means the print would’ve been hidden and we cannot have that. Instead I removed a black-framed mirror by the staircase and replaced it with this print by Artsy Canvas Girl Designs, which was gifted to me by Minted.

I’ve been updating the living room for a while — piece-by-piece. We replaced our set of oversized, lumpy couches with this leather sofa from West Elm and a set of vintage mid-century wooden armchairs I had re-upholstered in blue. The rug (also West Elm) was purchased about six months after Isla was born. I also replaced the big, black Ikea book shelf with a wicker toy chest (also from Ikea) and added a marble-based, brass floor lamp. (Lamps with marble bases can be ridiculously expensive but this one is only $99 and I purchased it during a 20 percent off sale, which is a steal considering it’s incredibly sturdy and cannot be knocked over no matter how hard my toddler tries.) Oh, and we got rid of those celery green walls that were making me nauseous and painted the room bright white. The result is a crisp, clean, much larger looking room. It’s night and day, really.

But after all that the room needed a little more color. It’s a little embarrassing that we’re in our 30s and don’t own any real art (except a small oil painting by my grandmother), so I was thrilled to team up with Minted. They have a large selection of gorgeous art, textiles, home accessories and stationary. (We recently ordered Theo’s birth announcements from there and love the way they turned out.) I scoured the art collection for the perfect piece for our house and I’m thrilled with our choice. It’s truly gorgeous in person and would look great in any room of our house. Plus, I love to support independent artists. Thank you Minted for adding a touch of beauty to our updated living room!

Here’s a look at the new space with a few Christmas-y touches. (all item details listed at bottom)

Minted Framed Abstract Art PrintChristmas TreeKids Christmas DecorChristmas DecorationsMinted Framed Abstract Art PrintFine Little Day Christmas Tree BlanketLiving Room UpdatesTurkish Kilim{Minted framed art | Ikea kids’ table + chairs | silver tree from Target | mercury glass tree from Marshalls | nutcracker from A.C. Moore | Pottery Barn Kids kitty ornament + stockings | West Elm sofa + rug | Target lamp + pillows | vintage Mexican blanket | vintage chairs (Etsy) | gifted Fine Little Day tree blanket | vintage Turkish kilim rug (Etsy) | Ikea wicker toy chest}

{disclaimer: The art print featured in this post was a gift from Minted. I selected the print myself, with no influence from Minted, and all opinions are my own. I promise.}


mad for metallics | holiday decor on a budget

Target gold bead garland in a metallic Christmas tree mug | really risa

 Gold bead garland (Target) + Christmas tree mug (Marshalls)

Right around Thanksgiving I realized we owned not one piece of holiday decor other than a few ornaments. I’m not kidding. Not even one. Since we’re hosting Christmas at our house for the very first time this year we clearly needed to step up our decorating game. But with Chris’ birthday (yesterday), my mom’s birthday (tomorrow), Isla’s birthday (January) and all the gift-giving that comes with Christmas, our budget is kind of limited (read: SPENT!). Challenge accepted. I scoured Target, A.C. Moore, Marshalls, Etsy and everything in between to find inexpensive decor that will work both for Christmas and for Isla’s birthday party, as well as some things that will work year-round. I’m obsessed with everything gold and brass and already own a lot of silver mercury glass from our wedding so I did my best to find both shimmery pieces and muted elements to tame the metallic chaos, like feathers, ceramics, greenery and acorns. Gaudy is just not my thing. Here’s a look.

Using Christmas Tree Branches as holiday decor

We had to cut a few branches off of our Christmas tree so I chopped up some of the remains and used them around the house, like here on the marble ledge in our kitchen. Then I added candles I already owned and fake metallic and red berries (A.C. Moore). Tip: Every time I’ve been to A.C. Moore this season its entire holiday decor selection has been 50 percent off!

Metallic Christmas decor |really risa

 I found this pretty deer bell (Home Goods) a few weeks ago for only a few dollars. I’m thinking this guy is going to stick around even after the holidays.

Christmas tree branches in mini vases on desk in home office

More fresh snips from our tree on the desk in the office/guest room. I’m determined to make the entire house smell like Christmas.

Metallic Christmas decor | really risa

The nutcracker + the tall, sparkly strands were also only a few dollars (A.C. Moore).

Metallic and rustic holiday decor | really risa

I love the gold branches (A.C. Moore) in the rustic vase (from our minimoon in Cape May two years ago).

Dining Room Decor: Eucalyptus in white pitcher

Black furniture shows EVERYTHING. It also makes our dining room feel really dark. To brighten it up a bit I opted for a simple white pitcher (from our wedding registry at Pottery Barn) with stems of Eucalyptus (A.C. Moore). I’ll fancy our table up a bit for our Christmas Day buffet, but I like this simple, clean look for every day.

Succulents in Moscow Mule mugs | really risa

I’m planning to use succulents to decorate the dessert table at Isla’s birthday party but I love having them around the house. I bought seven for about $2 each (at a local garden shop in our neighborhood called Urban Jungle) and planted them in the many mercury glass votive holders (Pottery Barn) leftover from our wedding, mint julep cups (from Amazon a few years ago) and a Moscow Mule mug (Target).

Metallic Christmas trees and succulents in mint julep cups | really risa

My trio of trees. I wanted one of those bottle brush trees in gold but instead found this silver one (Target) + that gold mercury glass beauty (Marshalls).

Holiday Decor: Eucalyptus in a gilded vase | really risa

Eucalyptus in a gilded vase (from local shop Occasionette) on my bedside table.

Metallic Christmas ornaments | really risa

I love childhood ornaments, like this gold and white silver dollar, circa 1993. While I was decorating this year I broke the ceramic ballet slippers with my name on them from 1988. I nearly cried. I’m hoping they can be saved with some super glue. Shame on me.

Holiday decor: feathers and eucalyptus | really risa

Feathers are another element I picked up for Isla’s first birthday party (from Plumule Feathers on Etsy). In my opinion, feathers have the potential to be very cheesy so I went with neutral colors and simple containers, like this glass apothecary jar I’ve had for forever.

Metallic Christmas ornaments | really risa

This gorgeous bowl was a wedding gift and we already owned these gold and red ornaments. Though now our tree is looking a bit naked!

Metallic holiday decor plus feathers and acorns | really risa

Acorns (from Target) + more feathers in a gifted vase (from HOME Boutique) + a (crooked) look at the bookshelf.

Target gold tinsel garland and silver mercury glass candlesticks | really risa

Metallic tinsel garland (Target) + a mercury glass candlestick (I think I bought it at Home Goods a few years ago).

Metallic Christmas ornaments | really risa

Gold, platinum and bronze ornaments in a gold polka dot bowl (Marshalls). I plan to use this bowl year-round. I just love it! There were matching mugs, too, but I had to talk myself down.

White ceramic vase of feathers | really risa

Another look at these muted feathers in a ceramic vase (HOME Boutique).

Metallic Holiday Decor | really risa

I bought the gold and white trophy cup (HOME Boutique) a few months ago. And now let’s talk about these gorgeous brass candlesticks …

Vintage brass candlesticks and Metallic Christmas Decor | really risa

I bought this set of seven vintage solid brass candlesticks for less than $2 each on Etsy. EACH! I felt like I was stealing! It was the best price I found for such a gorgeous set all across the internet. They were a bit tarnished but cleaned right up with a little lemon juice and baking soda. I am obsessed! I’ll be using them to decorate our Christmas food table as well as for Isla’s birthday decor and beyond. One of my best purchases in a long time.

So that’s that! I’d love to see pictures of your holiday decor, especially if you love metallics as much as I do. Mention me (@reallyrisa) or tag #madformetallics on Instagram so I can see!

Happy Holidays!


kitchen before and after + new metal prints

Decluttered Kitchen with Tiny Prints Metal Prints

In my dreams our kitchen gets a complete makeover. I paint the walls and cabinets white, install new countertops, throw out that hideous old microwave, replace all the nickel with brass and get rid of that horrible track lighting and matching pendant. In my dreams (and also on my Pinterest board dedicated to making those dreams come true). In real life, a little decluttering and new artwork does the trick.

Our kitchen is big compared to those found in your typical city townhouse, but over the years it became crowded and cluttered. My husband brought that wooden Ikea wine rack with him when he moved in and at the time it seemed like a good idea to use it as an island. Then we got married and acquired a whole lot of stuff we neither needed nor had cabinet space for and so the wine rack became a catch-all for everything. I’ve been looking for an excuse to clean up the rack itself and the whole space when, like magic, a baby came along! Suddenly my entire day was spent trying to stop a 10-month-old from pulling every single breakable serving dish she could reach off that rack. Then one day while Isla was taking the longest nap in the history of her short but busy life, I emptied not just the rack, but every single cabinet and completely rearranged and reorganized everything. The end result is a wide open space that is better/safer for a crawling/playing baby and a more functional kitchen for us … at no cost! Then I ordered new prints for the wall to replace the generic Ikea black and white ones my husband bought when he moved in and the space finally feels (almost) complete. I went with these gorgeous metal prints from Tiny Prints’ new home decor collection and I think they really pull the space together. Plus, how cute is our little bee in all her messy glory?!

The changes to the kitchen as a whole are pretty subtle, but what a difference they make. Some day I’ll get that all-white kitchen I’ve been dreaming about, but for now, this will definitely do.

Scroll for before and after pictures and details on the prints.

Cluttered Kitchen: Before

BEFORE: See the wine rack taking up the whole space? It was actually very convenient for chopping vegetables and displaying snacks, but it was always in the way. Also notice the clutter on top of the cabinets, on the counters and on the wine rack itself. We used plastic bins from Target to store the items we rarely use and found new homes for everyday necessities in our cabinets. We debated hanging the pots and pans on a ceiling rack above the wine rack to open some cabinet space, but pot racks are expensive and I was afraid it would only add to the clutter and block that gorgeous natural light. In the end, I found the pots a more permanent home in the cabinets and saved the money for other things.

Decluttered Kitchen: After

AFTER: We moved the wine rack against the big, yellow wall, and replaced the Ikea prints with gorgeous metal prints of Isla eating. I cleaned off the counters (except for items we use regularly) and removed everything from above the cabinets. Look how much cleaner the whole space looks! I spend a lot of time in this kitchen cooking for Isla so having everything organized makes life so much easier. Plus, now she can crawl around and bang on her pots and pans and Charles Chips tin without getting stepped on! I’d like to add a bigger rug to make the space look a bit warmer, but I have a few other big items to purchase for other rooms in the house first.

Tin of Charlie's Chips

Decluttered Kitchen: After

Ugh, that track lighting really makes my skin crawl. I think it needs to go sooner rather than later.

Kitchen before and after with TIny Prints Metal Prints

Good riddance black and white prints. They really did not work in this space. They’re in our basement storage if anyone wants them. My husband is apparently very attached to them (he’s apparently allergic to change). I also like having a little corner for our plants. They were getting too much sunlight in their previous homes and now they’re doing quite well. Isla tries to eat them though so that’s not ideal.

Tiny Prints Metal Prints

I mean, could she be any cuter?

Tiny Prints Metal Prints in the Kitchen

It took me two months to choose just three photos out of the literally thousands (I’m embarrassed) I have taken of Isla eating. We debated going with a gallery wall (I even created another Pinterest board for inspiration), but in the end we decided to make Isla the focal point and opted for less is more. I have so many gorgeous photos of Isla and our family together that really need to be printed and hung somewhere in our house, but messy food photos seemed appropriate for the kitchen. I also looked into canvas prints but those felt a bit too formal. Then Tiny Prints launched its home decor collection and I stumbled on these metal prints. They look like real, shiny photographs, but instead they’re, you guessed it, metal. They’re sleek and clean and the color is perfect. The images really pop on the metal. They’re also extremely light, thin and easy to hang with a tiny, pin-sized nail (my husband has an aversion to holes in the wall so this is a very good thing). I absolutely love them.

Tiny Prints Metal Prints in the Kitchen

See. So thin. I’d love to get smaller ones for other spaces in the house. They would also make great gifts for family (since the holidays are right around the corner and I haven’t even started thinking about what to get everyone!)

Tiny Prints Metal Prints in decluttered kitchen

Project Undo Everything My Husband Did When He Moved In feels like it will never end, but I love when a room finally feels like home. In case you missed it, here’s a living room update, another living room update, our vintage chairs that will soon complete the living room update and Isla’s room.

(full disclosure: I found and picked out the metal prints, but they were gifted to me by Tiny Prints.)


living room play nook + six tips for styling your shelves

Vintage Turkish Kilim rug from Istanbul

We’d been living in our house for about five years before my husband let me make any changes or get rid of any of his all-black furniture. “But we’re not staying here,” he kept saying to me. Then we had a baby on the way and I finally convinced him that whether we’re staying for one more year or 10, this is our home. That worked, amazingly. It helped that I was pregnant, huge and could barely move or tie my shoes and shamelessly used it to get my way. (Judge me if you must.) So now that we have a baby who is into E V E R Y T H I N G, I get to say things like “oh that table is not safe for a baby and will pinch her fingers and poke out her eye.” (Translation: that table is ugly and I’ve been waiting five years to get it out of my sight.) It’s working. Sort of. This gorgeous Turkish kilim straight from Istanbul: brand spanking new. Well, it’s 80 years old, so it’s new to us. That blackish-brown Ikea bookshelf: from my husband’s bachelor days.

So here’s a little sneak into how I’m giving the whole house a fresh new look with both old and new pieces, starting with our living room play nook.

Styling an Ikea Bookshelf

 My very talented Anya painted that canvas and I’m so happy it finally has a home!

We have a long and narrow living room (typical in a city townhouse), which makes decorating a little challenging. One half has our TV, couches, etc and this other half has been pretty much empty since we moved in. So we moved this bulky Ikea bookshelf up against the wall and added a little shelf styling (more on that in a minute), bins for Isla’s toys and a vintage Turkish kilim. Now we have a great space for Isla to play in that still looks like “nice living room” and not “messy playroom.”

The rug: I searched for months for the right kilim rug. I wanted something durable and very colorful to hide baby spillage. I looked EVERYWHERE and finally settled on this beauty I found in an Etsy shop based in Istanbul. It was a steal and it’s amazing and I am in love.

Styling an Ikea Bookshelf

Now let’s talk about the bookshelf. It’s black(ish), of course. Just like our TV stand and dining room table and that dreaded coffee table I finally expelled from the house. I’m tempted to paint this white, but that just seems like way too much work. So, alas, I’m making it work. I am a book collector. I love stacking up the books I’ve read, want to read, probably will never read and the tween fiction I freely admit to obsessing over like a 13-year-old girl (except those damn Hunger Games books. That’s a week of my life I wish I could get back. But I’ll still watch the movies.)

So anyway. One morning a few weeks ago I joined a few ladies for Sunday cocktails, a huge sprinkled donut and a shelf styling workshop hosted by my friend Sari at her adorable boutique HOME on East Passyunk. Who knew such little things could make a world of difference in making your space look organized? Clearly, I did not. The shelves in our bookcase are square, which makes styling a bit more challenging, but here are a few lessons I learned that I found helpful and that you’ve probably already mastered (and here are some examples in my shelf styling Pinterest board):

screen shot of pinterest board about shelf styling

1. Consider your needs. Are your shelves meant to hold objects and pretty items or every last book you own? Don’t be afraid to fill your shelves with actual books if that’s what it’s there for, but consider color coordinating for a more visually appealing look, switch between vertical and horizontal stacks and break up the shelves with objects wherever you can.

2. Balance and scale. If you have multiple items on one shelf, make sure they are different sizes, shapes and textures. Tall and skinny with short and stubby, textured with smooth, metallics with mattes, etc. For example, a metallic gold vase, a silver frame and mercury glass votive holders in all the same heights probably isn’t going to work.

3. Rule of threes. Three brass candlesticks, three gold figurines, three small vases. If you have multiples of items, it’s good to group them in threes rather than put them all together or spread them all out. For example, if you collect Eiffel Tower figurines, consider grouping three of them together on a shelf with a few other items. Ten on one shelf is way too many, but spreading them out so you have just one on every single shelf can make them look a little too scattered and disorganized.

4. Consider your colors. You don’t have to stick with objects of the same color palette, but at least make sure the colors are complimentary. As for the books, I was anti color coordinating books until recently. No matter what I did our bookshelf looked sloppy. It drove me crazy every time I walked by. So I bit the bullet and put the books together by color (except the series. I just couldn’t separate those.). Instantly the shelves seem clean, streamlined, better. Don’t get me wrong, it keeps me up at night knowing my pasta cookbook is next to my history of Yankees baseball and The Alchemist is next to Skinny Bitch: Bun in the Oven. But for some reason it just works.

5. Depth. Find pieces of different heights and sizes that can be layered from back to front. For example, prints and artwork can be layered in back of shorter items, tall vases behind small candles or frames, etc.

6. Think big picture. This sounds like a no-brainer but it’s so easy to obsess over one shelf and forget about the rest. Don’t focus on each shelf as if it’s floating on its own. Think about how it’ll look beside the others and change it up. For example, a shelf of vertical books next to horizontal ones, a big bowl above a skinny vase, a matte clay pot next to a metallic bowl, etc.

All that being said, nearly every single time I walk by our bookshelf I change something around to make it better. But that’s normal, right?