Elsie Larson photographed by ©AlyssaRosenheckQ: My question is I love DIYs, thrift shopping, upcycling furniture and vintage anything but don't love my house looking like a hodgepodge secondhand shop. I recently had a friend say to me, "I love how nothing in your house matches." Not exactly an insult, but not what I'm going for either. How do I balance my quirky finds and DIYs with also wanting a space that feels cohesive, classy and intentional? -Shelly 

A: Hi, Shelly! Great question! 

I've always been a huge fan of collecting fun finds from flea markets, DIY and sentimental decor. About five years ago, when Jeremy and I were living in our first house, we spent a lot of time decorating, painting and improving our spaces. But in the end, I still felt like they were kind of random and not as cohesive as I wanted them to be. Fast forward—we now have a home that's full of plenty of vintage finds, art from the kids in our family and things we've collected from our travels. But it feels intentional and, for the most part, is a design I am pretty proud of. 

What made such a big difference? Here are a few habits and approaches we changed! 

Color Scheme 
Choosing a color scheme for your home is one of the most important things you can do to create a cohesive feel. For example, all the light fixtures in our home are brass. When people come in they often ask me, "Where do you buy all your light fixtures?" And the truth is, they are from a bunch of different places and the color is what ties them together. 

Limiting the number of colors in your home will greatly improve the feeling of cohesion and intention. It ties everything together! 

See How To Choose a Color Story for Your Home for more on that! 

White Walls 
Now, I know that white walls are a topic of much debate. But I have to credit them as one of the reasons that our house feels so consistent throughout. Keeping it simple with a lack of color makes it possible for me to highlight my quirkier collections like this without it feeling cluttered or hodgepodge. 

Now I'm not saying white walls are for everyone, but a neutral base (even if it's patterned) is a good, reliable design trick for helping your home feel cohesive from room to room. 

Neutral Furniture 
I am a massive fan of a colored sofa, a bright Turkish rug or a set of candy colored dining room chairs. LOVE them. That said, making some more neutral choices on the big pieces in this home helped create a more flexible, easygoing look. I've been mixing white, light wood, rattan and gold like it's my job and really loving the results. 

Similar to choosing a color palette, I think it's important to choose your finishes from wood stains, to metals, to fun quirky accents like wicker or lucite. It's just one more layer of your style to develop! 

Seasonal Editing 
Trends change, our taste changes, and season by season I think it's important to look at your spaces with fresh eyes and make sure you are still loving everything. I am a big believer that making small, tiny tweaks will help you avoid the crash & burn of just getting so sick everything and wanting to change it all. Seasonal editing is your best friend! 

To summarize, I don't think you need to buy all your home stuff from one place to create a pulled together cohesive home. Not at all! Collecting from all over and DIY are amazing resources (and so much fun too!). If a room isn't feeling as on point as you would have hoped, try using some of these suggestions to give it a mini-makeover. Editing, in particular, is such a HUGE part of creating amazing spaces. 

I really hope this was helpful! I have a lot of really interesting questions from you guys via the comments here and social media! I'll be back soon with more! xx -Elsie 

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson. Photo by Alyssa Rosenheck

 

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarI've always adored traditions at Christmastime, but as an adult, I'm learning sometimes you have to sacrifice traditions because of schedules, sickness, family situations, and just for sanity's sake. After getting married, it was really frustrating for me to give up doing the same things every year on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and I definitely felt some of the warm fuzzies associated with the holiday season begin to slip away.

Through the years I've figured out ways to come up with consistent holiday traditions that can be adjusted as life throws curveballs our way—the recipes I make, the records we play, and the few activities we can depend on every year, like decorating the tree together and driving around to look at Christmas lights. And this year I've thrown a new tradition into the mix: An advent calendar!

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarThis is the first time I've made a full 25-day advent calendar, and I think I'm just as excited about it as my kids. I had made an advent calendar with surprise activities and gifts for my husband a few years ago, but it was pretty stressful making sure our calendars allowed for the surprise activities, not to mention our budget allowing for the gifts. So when I set out to make this calendar, I made sure the activities and gifts would be easy and simple. For me, the fun of an advent calendar is just being together and setting aside a bit of time, as small as it might be, to connect with one another, even if it's just to open a little box with candy inside.

So check out how I made this advent calendar garland, and take a peek at what we planned for our 25 days!

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarDIY Star Garland Advent CalendarMaterials:
-star boxes—I used these 4" paper mache boxes as well as these 2" paper mache boxes.
-twine, string, or ribbon
-eyelet screws
-gold liquid gilding or gold leaf kit (leaf sheets + sizing + sealer—I prefer this for texture.)
-acrylic paint
-numbered stamp set or number stickers (I ended up using these American Crafts stickers.)
-ink pad (if using stamps)

Tools:
-scissors
-brush
-fine cloth (if using gold leaf)

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarStep One: Decorate the outside of all 25 boxes. I chose to gold leaf rather than paint because I love the shine and texture gold leafing adds. Perfect for the holiday season! This was definitely a time consuming process, though, so if you're not up for the task, you could choose to brush on paint or liquid gilding, or perhaps spray the boxes with primer and metallic paint.

If you choose to gold leaf the boxes, as I did, you'll need to make sure you have enough gold leaf sheets for all boxes. I had plenty of sizing and sealant in one gold leaf kit, but I did end up purchasing additional sheets at Michaels to finish all of my boxes. I sliced the sheets into strips to help me conserve them when applying the sheets to the sides of the boxes.

To apply gold leaf, brush a coat of sizing onto the box, let the sizing dry a bit (wait about 15 minutes), then lay sheets of gold leaf onto the sticky sizing. Use a fine cloth to burnish the gold leaf onto the box, and try not to handle too much with your fingers. The oils from your hand will cause the metal to tarnish. Seal the gold leaf as soon as possible.

Work with just a few boxes or lids at a time, as letting the sizing sit for too long will make them less tacky, making it difficult for the gold leaf to adhere to the boxes. I found working with 4-5 boxes or lids as a time was a good amount for the time it took to apply the gold leaf.

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarStep Two: Paint the interior of the boxes. It took me 3 coats of acrylic paint to completely cover the paper mache boxes I used.

Step Three: Add numbers to the box lids. I had intended to use stamps for this, but I couldn't get any of my ink pads to work with the shiny metal surface created by gold leafing the lids. So I decided to use stickers instead. If you're a scrapbooker like me, you'll probably have a lot of random numbers from old sticker sets that you could use in combination with each other to come up with enough ones and twos for all of the days in an advent calendar.

IMG_7758DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarStep Four: Poke or drill tiny holes into the tops of your boxes, then screw in the eyelet screws. If you don't want to use eyelet screws, you could certainly poke holes for threading the string through, but it will be less polished looking and more difficult to thread.

Step Five: Thread the string or ribbon through the hooks and tie it in place. I spaced my stars about 5" from each other.

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarStep Six: Fill the boxes and hang up the garland in your home. I chose to hang my garland on a leaning ladder because I sadly don't have a mantel to decorate. But I love the way it looks draped on the ladder!

Most of the lids fit snugly onto the boxes, but the looser lids are secured with clear tape. I might use tape on all of the boxes to discourage curious little hands from taking premature peeks at the surprises inside.

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarDIY Star Garland Advent CalendarMy husband and I went out for dinner and planned each of the days' gifts or activities in our advent calendar together. Here's what we came up with for the boxes, reserving the right to change around the box contents to better fit our schedules! :)

Day 1: Light-up Christmas lights necklaces
Day 2: Paint—Paint mini stain glass window decals
Day 3: Mini marshmallows—Drink hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie together
Day 4: Mini book—Unwrap a new Christmas book to read together
Day 5: Chocolates
Day 6: Colored beads—Make bracelets with elastic string
Day 7: Mini teddy bears
Day 8: Mini wooden peg people—Kids paint the pegs and Mom adds faces
Day 9: Life Saver candies
Day 10: Dice—Family game night
Day 11: Mini gingerbread house—Decorate gingerbread houses
Day 12: Mini deer figurines
Day 13: Mini wreath—Make pipe cleaner wreaths for the dollhouse
Day 14: Chocolates
Day 15: Jingle bells—Make jingle bell necklaces
Day 16: Life Saver candies
Day 17: Mini Christmas light bulb ornaments—Drive around to look at Christmas lights
Day 18: Mini gingerbread ornament—Decorate gingerbread cookies
Day 19: Dice—Family game night
Day 20: Wooden snowflakes—Paint snowflakes to make magnets for the refrigerator
Day 21: Disco ball ornament—Family dance party to Christmas party playlist
Day 22: Mini marshmallows—Drink hot chocolate and watch a Christmas movie together
Day 23: Mini stand mixer—Bake cookies with Mom
Day 24: Mini pillow—Camp out in the living room beside the Christmas tree
Day 25: Mini book—Read the Christmas story together

DIY Star Garland Advent CalendarDIY Star Garland Advent CalendarI'd love to hear what kinds of things you put in your advent calendars. Since this is my first year making one, I have a feeling it's on the ambitious side, and each subsequent year will be simpler and perhaps full of more candy! Ha! But we'll see. Wish me luck! -Mandi

Credits //Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions.

Baked Mini Falafel Salad (via abeautifulmess.com)  Finding salads to make at home that are both filling and flavorful can sometimes be a challenge. A current favorite: baked mini falafel salad. It's basically a souped-up Greek salad with a sweet and creamy tahini dressing and almost-too-cute-to-eat mini falafel babies. They are SO good I usually end up popping a few in my mouth after they come out of the oven, so I have to hurry to get the rest of the salad together before I eat them all! 

Baked Mini Falafel Salad (via abeautifulmess.com)And I know this post is about salad, but, I have to tell you a secret. These mini falafels work great in a grilled cheese and tomato sauce sandwich as well. :) I also suspect they would be delicious in tomato soup, but I haven't technically tried that theory out yet. #weekendgoals

You ready to make some baby falafels?!

Baked falafel recipeBaked Mini Falafel Salad, serves two 
The falafel in this recipe is basically the same as this falafel recipe, but the cooking method changes. 

For the falafel:
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 small red onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons parsley
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil 
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 head of lettuce
1/2 small red onion (the remainder from the falafel recipe)
1 tomato or a handful or cherry tomatoes cut in half
5-8 black olives, pitted and sliced
1/4 cup feta cheese, optional (dairy-free otherwise)

First make the falafel. In a food processor or good blender, combine the chickpeas, 1/2 small red onion, garlic, parsley, and cilantro. Pulse until a thick paste forms. Then remove to a bowl and stir in the salt and flour. Cover and chill for 30 minutes. 

Tahini and honey salad dressingOnce the falafel batter has chilled, cover a rimmed baking sheet in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Pinch off about a heaping teaspoon of batter at a time and roll into a small ball, and place on the oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350°F for 10 minutes. Flip each ball over and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and drizzle another tablespoon of oil on the baking sheet and gently toss so all the falafels get coated in a little more oil. Then bake for another 10 minutes (30 minutes total). Remove from the oven. 

For the dressing, combine all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk well, or in a jar with a lid and shake well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. 

Baked Mini Falafel Salad (via abeautifulmess.com) Divide the salad on to two plates, drizzle in dressing, and top with the mini baked falafels. Enjoy! xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with the NEW A Beautiful Mess actions

Emma ChapmanPastel purple purseEmma Chapman Plaid and flats  I tend to think of the majority of my days as two main occasions (for dressing purposes). I have work from home outfits, and I have going out outfits. Yes, of course I also have gym clothes, pajamas, and a few fancy things for special occasions. But overall I tend to think, "Can I easily cook, photograph, run errands, and/or do computer work in this?" If yes, then it's a work from home outfit. I TRY to make my work from home clothes something I would be fine to wear out of the house, but I don't succeed every day. :)

I would consider this outfit a work from home success story. It's comfy but still pretty cute. I don't feel like I'm trying too hard, but if I ran into someone from high school while at the fabric store, I wouldn't be embarrassed. 

Hmm. Maybe my standards are a bit low in this area? Hmm... 

;)

Emma of A Beautiful MessPlaid and flats Plaid and flatsEmma's Wearing: Shirt/Dylan (similar), Jeans/F21, Shoes/Van's, Purse/ShopSosie. 

I even wore this comfy outfit out later this day when I went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—which ruled! But don't even get me started on that—ha!

What do you think, sister? You on the comfy clothes band wagon too?

Casual VibesLately I've been experimenting with a casual, but not lazy, way of dressing. It's something I've needed in my life for a long time (you've heard my yoga pants confessions). When we moved to Nashville last year, I vowed to stop wearing my pajamas in public, and then I lasted all of three days!!! Haha! I feel like it's not fair that you guys only get to see my cute outfits, but you'll have to use your imagination because there's a 0% chance I'm going to do a yoga pants sister style. 

Anyway! I've been looking for outfits that are comfortable, casual, easy and still put together and cute. This shift dress is a new favorite of mine, and I'm loving comfy dresses (and sometimes tights) a whole lot this season. 

Casual Vibes Casual Vibes I took a poll for, like, two weeks and found out that about 80% of people thought my Larry David pin was Bernie Sanders. Haha! I guess they're kind of the same person (via SNL). Too funny! 

Casual Vibes Casual Vibes Casual Vibes Elsie's Wearing: Shift Dress/Shop Studio DIY, Jacket/Madewell, Hat/F21 (similar), Bag/Fossil, Clogs/Swedish Hasbeens, Necklace/MadewellPins: Bernie Sanders Pin (haha jk), Dolly Parton Pin, Pizza BFF Pin, Black Tulip Pin.  xoxo! Emma + Elsie  

OMG! We're adopting a baby!I am beyond excited to share with you guys that Jeremy and I are ADOPTING!!! 

Yep, still #notpregnant. Also, YES, that means there will be TWO ABM babies coming soon. Woooo!!! 

Jeremy and I began the adoption process last summer, and it's not super quick (our program takes an average of 18 months), but, luckily, I already feel like it's flying by! I answer all the questions about timing, where we are adopting from and fertility on my family blog, The Larson House, in case you are curious. 

After six months of keeping this huge secret, it's so fun and surreal to finally share with you all! There are no words to express how excited and overwhelmed with love we feel. It's the happiest time in my entire life. 

Finding out Laura was expecting was one of the best days I can remember! There are so many things about adoption that are much different than pregnancy, but knowing I get to enter the "new mom" stage of life with her has been immensely comforting and exciting! We have been sending nursery ideas back and forth, talking about strollers and all that fun stuff. It's so unbelievably exciting! I feel so lucky to share this season with her as well as so many other women I love. 

Here are a bunch of photos we took to announce our new addition. We used some of these for our holiday cards, which went out last week. Eeeeek! 

OMG! We're adopting a baby! OMG! We're adopting a baby! OMG! We're adopting a baby! OMG! We're adopting a baby! OMG! We're adopting a baby! OMG! We're adopting a baby! I'll never forget when we were taking this photo a woman at the park walked by and yelled, "LOOK AT THE BABY BOOTS!!!!" Haha! Such a fun moment to share with a kind stranger. 

OK, one last thing I wanted to share! 

Many of you have asked (for literally years, but also recently in Laura's pregnancy announcement post) how adding kiddos to our families might change the content of A Beautiful Mess. It's a very valid question because many of my very favorite blogs have morphed into full-on family blogs (and away from whatever content they focused on before) after a baby has arrived. We get that. 

But it's important for me to let you know that we feel very strongly that we want to continue blogging primarily about Home Decor, Crafts and Food. I'm not saying we won't ever include our kiddos, we probably will. And we will absolutely share things like our nursery tours and useful DIY projects in the kiddo category with you here (Laura has an awesome DIY coming up soon for how to make your own maternity jeans). That said, the main theme of this website will not change. We plan to keep doing what we do here. We love what we have created here, and we are still 100% passionate about DIY, crafts and recipes! That's not going to change. 

So for those of you who don't want this to become a baby blog, you're in luck—it won't. And for those of you who want to read about my adoption and baby nonstop, I have already started a family blog for those types of stories. So you can follow that if you would like to! 

Ah! You guys! I could go on all day about how excited I am, but I guess I'll just leave it at that for now. Thank you so much for sharing my joy!!!! I love you guys more than you even know. xx -Elsie 

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson, Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with the New A Beautiful Actions.

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