Soapstone Countertops are Tops

We're wrapping up some client projects this month and next that I'm super excited to share with you! In two of the projects, we've gone with black soapstone for the countertops. I love the dramatic contrast of dark counters with light/white cabinetry!

I was going for a similar look with the black concrete counters we DIYed for our kitchen in an attempt to save some cash. The truth is though that soapstone is actually a pretty affordable countertop choice. It costs about the same as a standard granite option (about $75-100/sq ft installed) and it wears about as well as a granite too! When we change the layout of our kitchen some day, I'd love to install real soapstone.

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I love that there is still some soft veining and movement in the stone. It's not a solid or flecked black, which is the case with Jet Black granite. Soapstone also has a super high heat threshold (you can put hot pans right on the surface!) and it is scratch and stain resistant. Any little problems can usually be buffed right out using a little mineral oil (this one is my favorite for natural stone and butcher blocks). But I think the best thing about soapstone is the feel - that smooth, buttery surface!! There's nothing like it.

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Here's a progress shot from a home we're working on locally. This is from a couple of weeks ago - I'm so excited to share this space with you guys! It's going to be beautiful! We've got some gorgeous satin brass plumbing fixtures going in that will look amazing against the black soapstone we installed on the perimeter cabinets!

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And how great is the soapstone paired with the white marble on the island?! I feel like the black and white combo is so timeless! Even once we get all the finishes, lighting, hardware, rugs and accessories in here, I know the stone will still be the star of the show!

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What's your dream countertop material? Or what do you have now? The pro/con list for natural stone countertops is a long one, but I feel like soapstone is a pretty smart option!

Xerographica, My New BFF

I don't have the greenest thumb, so I try to stick with house plants that are very forgiving. I've discovered the easiest plant to care for of all is a Xerographica, or an air plant. They need only a little water once or twice a month and THEY DON'T NEED TO BE PLANTED! You can pick them up out of their container and move them to another spot or vessel without any mess. They're basically the perfect plant for styling, especially with their soft sagey curly stems! So pretty! I bought a couple for my mom's house and we put one in her kitchen and another in her guest bath

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I like the ease of putting air plants in pretty little containers best, but there are some really cool ideas out there for displaying air plants in unique ways.

There are so many things to love about these plants - gorgeous, easy to care for, last forever, etc - but the icing on the cake is they are super cheap if you buy them at the right places! The teeny tiny ones cost almost nothing:

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They grow fast, so don't worry too much about paying for the bigger-sized plants at West Elm (which usually run $20-25 each), just grab a few of these inexpensive ones and bunch them together as they grow.

1 - 5 for $13  //  2 - Starter kit for $32  //  3 - 5 for $9  //  
4 - 1 pretty pink for $6  //  5 - 10 for $16  //  6 - Variety 12 for $20

Have you ventured into the world of air plants yet? I'd love to see how you're using them!

Five More Minutes - Hosting an Awards Show Party

Do you know what the best kind of party is? An awards-show-watching party! You get to spend a few hours with your favorite people AND there is built-in entertainment, and of course lots of lounging....and eating. :)

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We had a couple of friends over to watch the Emmy's this weekend and I wanted to spruce things up a little in our family room beforehand. I swung into Target on Saturday to shop their new *AMAZING* fall line, which I'm sure you've seen all over social media. It's good, guys. Real good. I think it only takes a few key additions - and just about five minutes of effort - to make your home party-worthy! Here are my best party-prep tips:

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Tip #1: Splurge on fresh flowers

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I grabbed some Dahlias for this big, tall white vase (on clearance!) and thistles (for this amazing vessel) on Friday and they make me SO happy. 

Michael teases me that I like to have people over just so I can go buy flowers guilt-free. It's definitely only like 50% true though. I just know that whenever I am at a party at a friend's house, it's such a sweet surprise to see fresh flowers out! You know what I mean? It's definitely not necessary, but it's a very nice gesture, I think.

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Tip #2: Set up a refreshment station

Let's be real. Parties are mostly just a great excuse to eat delicious snacks, right? I wanted to keep it simple for us with this little refreshment station on our tiger wood chest right in our living room. This way no one had to venture into the kitchen for a refresh and potentially miss some especially juicy red carpet moment or Andy Samberg joke. I put out the mixings for Dirty Diet Coke (add pebble ice, a little coconut syrup, a dash of heavy cream and lime wedge or two) and a couple big bowls of homemade kettle corn (a new family favorite). It's so easy to make it on the stove and it tastes SO much better than microwave popcorn.

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I heat up a few tablespoons of coconut oil in a big lidded pot with three kernels in the oil. As soon as the oil is hot enough to pop all three of the test kernels, I add a half cup of popcorn kernels and a quarter cup of sugar, and shake the pan until the popping starts to slow down. Add a little salt, and you'll never go back to microwave popcorn again! This big, wide bowl is gorgeous and perfect for serving your sweet/salty masterpiece. And of course, a handful of peanut butter M&Ms makes life worth living, especially when served in such a pretty footed bowl!

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Tip #3: Burn your best candles

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marble candle  //  tray

I'll admit it. I am a recovering candle hoarder. In the past I've had a tendency to buy a special candle only to tuck it away in the cleaning closet, never to be burned or enjoyed. That was the old Jenny though! Now there is no candle safe when I'm around. Light 'em up! Breathe in deep the sweet scents!

Tip #4: Keep your guests comfortable with extra pillows and foot stools!

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I really wanted a new bolster pillow for the blue velvet sofa so I whip-stitched together this adorable Nate Berkus throw rug to make a long pillow. It was the perfect size for an insert I already had on hand.

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I really love how the color looks in our living room!

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I also grabbed two new pillows for the chesterfield settee. A big part of me would love at least five of every thing in the new plaid line at Target, but for sure, I want to put these big, soft navy plaid pillows in every room in my house. They are so good! And I love how they pair with the faux fur pillow.

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I always like to have little stools and ottomans floating around my living room. It's nice to have a place to comfortably put up your feet - or even an extra place to sit in a pinch. This adorable pouf was on clearance (they have it in black and natural too - so cool!).

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These little belt strap stools were on clearance too! I love the Jens Risom inspiration!

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Tip #5: Free up some space on your coffee table

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If you're like me, you keep your coffee table loaded with books and magazines and all sorts of other bits and baubles. A party is a good time to clear everything away and get back to the essentials so there's room for your guests to get comfortable and have a place to set down their drinks and snacks.

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My coffee table is big, so my essentials included a beautiful wooden bowl to coral our remote, some emergency reading material (isn't that guilded antler sitting on top cool?), a tray with a candle and coasters, a couple little plants and a flower arrangement. That copper-faceted planter is pretty much my new favorite thing.

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What TV-watching party tips do you have? We only have a few shows that we watch religiously and Last Man on Earth is one of them, for sure. It is snort-laugh funny! The season premiere is this coming weekend, so I might just have to throw another party now that my living room's all ready to go. :)

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This post is brought to you by Target Style. Shop the new Home collection in stores and online.

DIY Cerused Oak Secretary


The fall issue of Domino is on news stands now and my latest story is right after cover girl Mindy Kaling's (adorable!) office feature.

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I was SO excited to get to share my transformation of this old tiger oak secretary. Remember this old thing?

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I had been debating whether or not to change the finish for a while, but after seeing this beautiful cerused side table on 1st Dibs, I knew I could achieve a similar finish with a little research and some elbow grease.

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I read about a million different articles about cerusing and liming oak furniture. It turns out that people have been doing basically the same steps for hundreds and hundreds of years! It's not too hard to do and requires absolutely zero artistic ability. You'll just need a piece of oak furniture - it has to be oak. And the more prominent the grain, the better.

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The first step is to strip the wood of any stains or varnish. I used a gel stripper and a brass-bristled brush to gently scrub the wood in the direction of the grain. See how the soft brass bristles pull out the little bits of old dark stain from the grain?

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If you've done it right, the grain marks will be open and clean and ready to fill with wax.

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If you want the wood to be a natural finish, you can go ahead and skip this next step, but if you want the wood stained at all, you'll need to use an aniline dye in lieu of a traditional stain that you can get at the hardware store. Dye will beautifully stain the wood without filling any of the grain. You can buy almost any color of dye online. I used the indigo shade for this project.

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I just followed the instructions on the dye container and mixed a few teaspoons of the powder with some denatured alcohol before brushing it on the secretary.

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It only takes a coat or two of the dye mixture to get a nice, deep color.

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As the stain starts to dry on the wood, it gets lighter and sort of chalky. But the color deepens again when you seal it. I don't have a photo of this step but it's important to seal it with shellac before adding the liming wax. I like Zinsser's shellac because it dries quickly and isn't too thick.

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After the shellac dries, the dyed wood will be a dark navy indigo color, and you'll be ready for liming wax. This wax is my favorite.

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The actual liming step is super easy - you just wipe the wax on with a soft cloth and then buff off the extra that's sitting on top. You only want the white liming wax to be in the grain and none on top.

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This is why it's important to shellac the wood before using the cerusing wax. The wax won't want to stay on the surface of the sealed wood as much, but it will be happy to hang out in the grain. Check out that beautiful pattern!

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I really love how this project turned out. I think cerusing is such a fun way to show off the natural wood grain of vintage/antique oak pieces!

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And the indigo stain is such a unique look too. I think color stains are perfect for this type of application. The secretary is such a fun statement piece now, sitting up in our landing by the girls rooms.

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Don't forget to check out the spread in the new Domino! xo


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