How to Turn A Mid Century Dresser into a Bathroom Vanity

And other remodeling adventures…

Ali here, folks!

We are on the tail end of our second remodel.  The first, a mountain cabin by Donner Lake (that we still, 3 years later, have a punch list of about 100 items on, but that you can rent HERE on airbnb if you need a mountain getaway) and the second, a Southern California ranch house, originally built in 1959 and nestled into the coastal suburb of Point Loma (of which we intended on “updating” not completely remodeling). 

As elitist as all this sounds, the only way we are even able to buy a home in either of those places is by picking a ‘fixer upper’ and then ‘fixing it up’ ourselves, cutting the cost in half.  Or should I say, himself.  My husband is the ethereal workhorse of it all and, let me tell you, he is the most handy guy I know.  He can pretty much do anything.  Plumbing, electrical, tile, woodwork, knocking down walls and putting them back up; you name it, he can do it and do it well.  And has been doing it consistently for the past 3 years.  Quite honestly, (and maybe best said in a whisper) we are both just so ready to be done with it all. 

Upstairs loft with original built in bookcase and raw steel beam brackets

Upstairs loft with original built in bookcase and raw steel beam brackets

Living room decorated with vintage skis and trunk coffee table

Living room decorated with vintage skis and trunk coffee table

As good as he is in the construction side of a remodel, he is equally lacking in the design side.  Not that he can’t do it, but he just doesn’t really care about style or vibe or uniqueness.  He likes to pick something that is clean and nice and good looking (and in stock), install it and move on to the next thing.  

That’s where I come in.  I care about sticking to the bones of the original, preserving the historic, staying true to an era and keeping things inline with the original intention of the house or the surroundings it finds itself in.  As reluctant as I was on this second remodel to really dig into all the design elements, I cared about only one thing, preserving the mid-century vibe.  Unfortunately, what may have been notable 1950’s elements to keep, such as wallpaper or tile, had already been removed in a remodel years before we moved in and the remaining mid-century touches were in such disrepair that they were beyond saving.  I kept what I could, hardware from drawers and cabinets, the original front door and doorknobs, an entire wall of wood paneling, shuttered doors and the brass fireplace casing accompanying the whitewashed brick fireplace.  I resigned to refresh, update and renew by mixing the contemporary with the vintage and filling the house with as much of a nod to the 50’s as our pocketbook could accommodate, whether through actual construction touches, or simply in decor. 

1950 and early 60’s modern was full of rich walnut, brass, symmetrical and geometric design.  Being that I am already a fan of this era, I already had quite a few furniture and decor pieces wrangled from craigslist, garage sales or my local San Diego dealer, Alfonso, of Nok Nok Living (more about him in next paragraph) to move straight in.  The rest of it I filled with artwork created by friends (cactus print from Reno High School classmate + Reno native Matthew Lew of Silver State 98) or myself (desert photograph and black and white portrait painting) and little odds and ends from The Nest (blue ceramic pot and bird) or other local boutiques.  

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One of my all time favorite design elements was our master bathroom.  After much debate on how to restructure by tearing down walls, closets and moving toilets we decided on a design that was functional and beautiful.  I scoured the internet for mid-century furniture dealers and ended up in the storage unit of a local San Diego dealer (from whom I have now bought 4 pieces of furniture and who I also now call friend…amazing things happen when you choose to buy local from a small business owner, hint, hint) talking about all things old and interesting, his new baby and figuring out how to refurbish my newly acquired piece of history and make it into my bathroom vanity.  I definitely put a bit of elbow grease on this one, refinishing the top and cutting out a square notch of shelves on either side to make room for sink pipes, oiling the drawers and removing a built in utensil tray, but it was totally worth it.  We added a bit of elegant 50’s flair with hexagon tile and brass finishes.  All in all, it is the perfect mix match of mid-century modern and contemporary and well worth the attention we put into the details.

Master bathroom with refurbished credenza as vanity and his/hers closets with shuttered doors

Master bathroom with refurbished credenza as vanity and his/hers closets with shuttered doors

Hexagon tile (splurge) and faux brass mirrors (un-splurge)

Hexagon tile (splurge) and faux brass mirrors (un-splurge)

Remodeling can be daunting, draining and will pull on every last thread that is holding you (and your significant relationships) together.  Whether you are doing the work yourself or hiring contractors, remodels almost always take way longer and cost way more money than originally planned.  But, they don’t necessarily have to.  We chose to splurge on certain structural elements, like a new roof and new plumbing, but also chose to be thoughtful and unique about other elements.  I’m not ok with knock-off versions.  There are plenty of ways to pull off a vintage hack using things from IKEA or even break your bank by buying brand new ‘vintage looking’ pieces from high end decor stores.  But for me, the value isn’t just in the look of the item.  It’s in the quality of the piece, the history of what you are preserving and putting into your home.  I hold out sometimes, having plenty of bare walls and corners until I find the perfect thing I’m looking for…and it’s almost always something that is old, getting new life in a new way.

Needless to say, The Nest is The. Perfect. Spot. to find the old to turn into the new. From light fixtures and vintage hardware to incredible mid-century goods like this credenza with matching dresser. It is literally floor to ceiling full things to use for your next remodel or Spring redecorating project. I know it doesn’t really feel like Spring yet, but, I promise it is coming and freshening up with unique goods is in your near future! Heading into a bathroom remodel? This credenza would be a perfect dual vanity! Click the pic to take you directly to this item in our online store!

The Top 5 Things That Have Helped Me Get My Health Back on Track

Photo by  Ali Denney

Photo by Ali Denney

Many of you—bless your hearts—have been following me for many years, through the death of my mom and birth of my son, my crazy health problems, so many harrowing business ups and downs, and oh yeah, to see what kind of vintage gems I have in the shop. ;)

The biggest outpouring of love I get from y’all is when something happens to me that you can relate to. Maybe you have lost someone you love or have struggled with a serious unknown health problem that doctors tell you you’re making up because they don’t have an answer for you. When I open up about my troubles in my posts, I always get a crazy amount of heartfelt responses to my blog posts but also a lot of people who are going through the same struggles and are seeking guidance and camaraderie.

Well, my health has been on the mend (yay!), and because I know so many of you have been dealing with the same sorts of issues…

I’d like to share some resources that have helped me along the way. In a nutshell, they all boil down to…

spirituality

connection

intuition

venturing deep down into childhood traumas to heal them.

Not sure what all of those things have to do with improving your health? Start here…

{These are in order of least amount of commitment to most commitment both time and money-wise.}


I just watched this documentary on Netflix the other day, and it explains pretty much all of the things that I’ve researched and learned within the last couple of years, but you (lucky duck) can be up to speed in less than two hours from the comfort of your couch.

Basically, stress causes illness. Decrease your stress, and your health will improve. Sounds simple, and it truly is, but in our culture we make that much harder than it needs to be. Really, what is more important than your health? When you have a disease like cancer, none of these things that you’re stressing out about right now matter in the least. You’ve got to put on your gas mask first, and a health issue is just a wake up call from your body that you need to take care of yourself. If you do nothing else, watch this movie!


Tapping+Points+Diagram

The Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as Tapping, is briefly shown in Heal. I was introduced to it through my therapist, Zoe Gerhart. {Side note: getting a therapist you trust is key. I had a hard time finding one that did more good than bad, so once I found Zoe, I stuck with her.} It’s a simple, free technique for reducing stress. Because it’s not a prescription that a large pharmaceutical company can make money on, it’s not pushed by doctors, although I would be so bold as to say that if you got the hang of tapping and did it consistently you could get probably get off those anxiety and antidepressant meds…

Literally, you just tap on different points of your body. That’s it. I’m not going to go on about the exact method and science behind it because I’ll butcher it, but watch this video and learn more about it there.

Also, the main catalyst for this blog post is that the Tapping World Summit is going on right now. It’s a series of recorded interviews about a myriad of different issues that we pretty much all can relate to with accompanying tapping sessions to help people work through these issues.

I listened to my first one two years ago, and it changed the way I looked at just about everything. Highly recommend you take the time to see which ones spark your interest and listen this week. They are free for 10 days (3-4 presentations are available each day for 24 hours) and then you have the option to purchase. I bought the first one that I listened to because I wanted to go back and reference a lot of them. If you aren’t able to listen to the summit while it’s free, write a little comment below, and I’ll send you the link to the ones I bought two years ago, which are still and will always be very relevant.


3. REIKI

reiki
Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive.
— www.reiki.org

I just got certified to the second level of Reiki, and I’ll tell you, it has really amped up my intuition, which has been an integral part of my healing. I practice on myself 1-2 times per day, and it has helped with my stress levels tremendously. For me, it is a form of meditation.

Reiki 1 is a few hour long class consisting of learning about chakras and enough practical information and training to practice on yourself, small children and pets. Reiki 2 is a 5-6 hours long class where you fine tune your reiki skills enough to be able to practice on others.

Kelly Aguilera was my teacher. She is about to give birth here soon, so I don’t know what her course offerings will be for the near future, but I highly recommend her. She cuts to the chase, gives you all the information you need to know and is available post-class for questions and help.


High Sierra Allergy


At first, I was hesitant to go to High Sierra Allergy because I didn’t think my problem was an allergy one. But then I heard from multiple trusted friends with an assortment of seemingly non-allergy related illnesses that they went to her, and she helped when no other doctor could.

I’m a huge fan of Melissa. She is down-to-earth, empathetic, patient and thorough. It can take a while to get in to see her as a new patient, and it’s not cheap (although if you really do the math on what you’re spending with your western medicine doctor on co-pays, insurance and other bills then add those up because you have to go to every doc in town and they still don’t know what’s wrong with you, it ends up saving money, time & heartache in the long run!)

Appointments at her office are extremely refreshing. She is super friendly, and she truly cares. She never rushes me out. She always answers all of my questions and brings it down to a level that I can understand without having gone to med school. I always leave feeling hopeful and with a clear plan of action to which I usually see marked results. I don’t think I’ve had an appointment with her that went less than a full hour.

And the allergy part—well, from my rudimentary knowledge of all of this, I’ll sum it up like this: our diets are garbage. Even when we try to eat healthy and organic, our food supply is crap. Perhaps you have heard of leaky gut: basically our digestive systems are beat up and have holes where our food can leak out into our bloodstream. Because that’s not where food is supposed to be, our body marks it as a pathogen and attacks it. With leaky gut, eating something repeatedly can cause a sensitivity to that particular food. Now, I’m no expert on it, but that’s the Cliff Notes version of what I understand about it. I would suggest everyone do a little research because it can manifest itself into a myriad of illnesses, and I think it’s more widespread and under-diagnosed than most people realize.


Couples Weekend

This set of three weekend retreats are all facets of the same philosophy geared towards, you guessed it: men, women and couples. Now the Woman Within is a wild card for me. I haven’t gone yet, so I can’t personally speak to it at this moment, although I will be attending it this coming weekend! My husband went to the men’s version called the Mankind Project. Boys, you are not men until you go to this weekend retreat.

Let me set the scene for you: it was a tumultuous time in our relationship. My mom had passed away, and things were rocky at best. We were on the precipice of really calling it quits, and MKP was the thing that turned it around. The transformation that occurred in my husband was nothing short of miraculous. Over the course of one weekend, he learned how to call out emotions and childhood traumas that were stuffed so deep that he didn’t even know they existed. He learned how those traumas became triggers and how to deal with those triggers when they present themselves in day to day life. It has done wonders for our relationship, and he continues to go to an integration group every other week.

Then we attended A Couples Weekend together. Man oh man. I’ve never felt so raw as I did after that weekend. Another attendee summed it up well at the end when he said, “I don’t think I have an emotion left in me now.” It was super intense but so amazing. We learned so much about ourselves, each other and how we get into cycles of triggering each other and how to stop those cycles.

We have a much more solid foundation now, and even though we hit road bumps just as often as everyone else, we have a set of tools now to deal with our triggers—both our own and each other’s. So the fights that used to be a 10 are now 5s. We don’t spend days on end pissed off at each other. We air our grievances in a clean way so that our fights may only last a few hours or less.

These weekend retreats, my friends, are not for the faint of heart. But if you are serious about wanting to make a profound change in your life, relationships and ultimately health and want to do it quickly, these weekends will certainly do that. I’m up for the challenge but also honestly terrified about this upcoming weekend. Please wish me luck! I can’t wait to share with you all that I learn!


In summary…

This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list of all of the things that have been helpful for me (yoga, exercise, changes in diet—you know, all that stuff that we should all know about by now—have also been extremely wonderful), but this list is a good start for any of you looking to go a little bit deeper.

I tried to keep it short and sweet so you could pick and choose what resonates with you, but I am an open book and am more than willing to talk more in depth with you all about any of this stuff.

Because if I’ve learned anything, it’s that COMMUNITY plays a vital role in healing. All of these resources are wonderful, but being able to open up and share your advice, experiences and highs & lows with people who you trust and can connect with makes all the difference.

The Girls

So, if you’re feeling a little lost, alone or needing to make a significant change in your relationships, thought processes and ultimately your health and life, just holler at ya girl. We’ll grab a cup of tea, roll up our sleeves, tap on our faces like crazy people and fix our health!

Why Engagement Rings Are Kind of Silly

Photo by  Lauren Weissler

It’s the month of love. Even though statistically more people get engaged over Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day is the next most popular time to pop the question. And with that comes the timeless tradition of the diamond engagement ring. Or maybe not…

Have you guys seen this video? If you haven’t, go ahead and take a couple minutes to watch it. It’s pretty crazy. I remember feeling pretty duped when I saw it. Not that I had always had my heart set on a diamond engagement ring by any means but just because I was a part of a collective society that was hoodwinked by an ad campaign then let it become sacrosanct.

Watermelon Tourmaline Engagement Ring

Today I wear a white gold band with a watermelon tourmaline stone custom made by D Street Designs. If you believe in the whole ‘metaphysical properties of crystals’ thing, watermelon tourmaline helps to get rid of any energetic blockages in the heart. It also balances male and female energies and helps resolve issues in relationships. Seemed pretty apropos for an engagement ring stone to me!

So, just like in the video, even knowing the whole idea was a scam, we went ahead with the whole engagement ring thing anyway—albeit sans diamond. (Notice the title of the post… Why Engagement Rings are Kind of Silly!) I guess I do like the idea of a symbol. It doesn’t need to be a flashy or expensive one, but a widely recognized symbol that I’m spoken for doesn’t seem all that ridiculous to me. And hey, if it gets me a little more uninterrupted conversation with my girls while I’m at the bar, that doesn’t hurt either.

My husband and I had an interesting conversation one time about engagement and wedding rings. I kind of jokingly lamented that sometimes my ring doesn’t go with my outfit. Maybe every once in a while I’d like a flash of gold or something that would match better with my mom’s wedding ring that I wear occasionally when I want to feel fancy. He replied that because I didn’t need some crazy expensive ring, maybe he would get me a new ring every once in a while, perhaps every few years, and that I could just switch it out whenever I felt like it. That felt pretty cool to me. It’s not traditional, per se, but as we’ve seen here, what does traditional really mean?

If you’re in that teeter totter of a place with engagement rings like I am, maybe think about a non-traditional vintage ring or a custom one with a less expensive stone. They’re unique, relatively inexpensive and give you more options to find a ring that resonates with you—not just some iteration of a diamond ring that deBeers has marketed the crap out of to make you believe that you need so you can keep up with the Joneses.

Here are some of my favorites in the shop…

Where do you stand? Diamond/no diamond? Ring/no ring? What resonates with you when it comes to the idea of engagement rings?

Cheers to 2019

For the love of God…I mean vintage.  And it really can be that big, that spiritual, that all encompassing.  And for Tessa Miller it really is.

I recently spent 3 days with this boss lady, taking pictures, talking life, sorting through the oft frazzled, frantic and chaotic corners of ourselves and her shop.  And I left with a better understanding of why I should be spending more time with her (and shopping in her store for that matter).  Tessa Miller is quirky.  Not pseudo quirky, not mainstream cool quirky, not ‘I run a vintage store because that’s what people like’ quirky.  But real, authentic ‘I own a needlepoint puppy dog foot stool because I totally love it’ quirky.  She breathes it, sweats it, talks-the-walk-and-walks-the-talk vintage-to-her-bones kind of quirky.  And we all need that.  We all need something unique to pull us through the trenches of the homogeneity of the American mainstream.  We need a strong dose of real life people to bring out the best in ourselves.

Over the course of a few days, I saw this woman in multiple different scenarios—from complete strangers’ homes picking up vintage furniture, to her own home playing with her kid, and to her store interacting with customers and I can’t say I saw a difference at all.  She oozed dignity.  She was personable and loving and treated everyone like her best friend.  And I loved every minute of that.  Because we all want—no, need—to be treated like that; to be listened to and touched on the shoulder and smiled at.  To be valued for no other reason than that we all are human, and being human means we need to be connected to other humans on whatever level we are capable of.  And, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with all of that, until today.  Because today, I resolved to spend more time with people like her. 

I’m typically not one for New Year’s Resolutions, especially not the type that involve strict lists of ‘to do’s’ and ‘not to do’s’.  But, I do place a lot of value on analyzing the past and letting it inform the future. And on that note, what better time for that than a new year?  It’s been a crapshoot of a year for me.  Maybe a little—no, a lot—like a pinball machine, running into and reacting to bumpers and hazards and circumstances with blinging lights, loud outbursts and sometimes even that weird jolting thing those machines do.  I’ve let too many things slip right between the flippers and haven’t had enough energy to make it up the ramp for the bonus ball.

After a good long weekend with Tessa, though,  I realized most of that is because I was playing alone in an empty arcade, feeding quarters into a machine that couldn’t spit anything back out but noise.  And with that, I’ve resolved to spend more time with the incredible people in my life.  To fill myself with the depth of interactions that come from real, authentic and quirky friends.  I often tell my teenage son, “We are who we hang out with.”  And, apparently, it takes working weekends and a new year celebration to realize that I need to take my own hint. 

So, cheers to a year filled with people who lift you up; to people who don’t judge you by your clutter; to people who invite you in to their messy rooms and let you play with their pajama-crazed-bed-jumping toddlers; to people who give their all to making something new out of something old; to people who encourage you to live a full, happy story; to people who defy the mainstream antics with dignity, humanity and enough quirkiness to push us into a new year with a hopeful smile on our face.

Christmas in SoCal

While Tessa is in Reno sitting by the fire, knitting and lamenting over the dreary weather, I’m in Southern California sitting at the beach, applying sunscreen and lamenting over the dreary weather.  First world problems, I know, but hear me out.  There are so many things I love about Southern California, but quite honestly, Christmas never actually arrives here.  It’s like a sun-drenched, palm tree dotted Narnia.  And it’s getting me down.

I grew up in Reno with the ring of the Sierra Nevadas as our ever-loving guardian of all things Winter.  I remember dry winters and wet winters and the childhood ecstasy of the morning radio waking me with ‘All Washoe County schools closed today’.  The amount of ice ball fights, disc sledding, green bikini’d-snow-woman building and icicle sucking I did with my siblings ranks in the top percentile of favorite 'growing up’ memories.  The magic of waking up to a white Christmas never got old (and still doesn’t, for that matter).

I now live in San Diego, the land of ‘Sunny and 70’.  Coupled with the official and sickeningly shallow tagline of ‘Where Happy Happens’, you can imagine why Christmas never arrives.  These SoCal native families are crazy.  The SoCal parents decorate their palm trees with Christmas lights and hang plastic, sparkly snowflakes in their windows.  The SoCal teens parade around in furry boots and beanies and clutch their jackets around them in the early morning.  The little SoCal children play in roped off ‘snow-play’ areas in the mall where all they can do is slog around in flip flops in plastic pools filled with slush.

But, all that effort points to the underlying desire for Christmas to be cold and snowy.  I’ve moved back and forth a few times between San Diego and Reno, including a 2 year stint in Truckee.  And let me tell you, Christmas arrived everyday of winter during those 2 years!  To the point where I was actually losing weight from shoveling so much!  Donner Lake froze over (see pics and read the blog HERE).   Trees fell from the weight of the snow.  Kids were sledding off the roofs of their A-frame cabins all the way straight to the ground.  Daily, I was covered, head to toe, in goose down and wool and all things waterproof to keep out the bite of those storms. And it was redemptive, really.  And it reminded me of the power of winter weather and the power of cherished memories from my past.  And it reminded me that although I knew I was soon moving back to the land of eternal sunshine, this would always be Christmas to me.

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So I stopped in at The Nest on my way out of town. To say goodbye to a dear friend, of course, but also to see if there was anything I could find to memorialize, per se, my time back in Reno.  Maybe even snag something from the WINTER LOOKBOOKLET photoshoot we did a few weeks prior (and blogged about HERE). And, as is always the case with The Nest, of course there was something.  A treasure chest of somethings, actually.  But most memorable for me is this pretty little something of a red jacket.  

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I don’t need to wear this in San Diego.  But at Christmas time I choose to.  It’s bold and colorful and lightweight enough that I don’t sweat.  Coupled with an amazing hat (also bought at The Nest) I might actually fit in with the SoCal Christmas crowd more than I want to!  More importantly, it’s a reminder that regardless of geographic location, I can carry that snowy spirit of Christmas with me anywhere.