Inspired Interiors: Beams, Texture, Subdued Hues

Here’s this week’s round-up of interiors that are inspiring me. This post is the first of many that I will feature as part of the Inspired Interiors series on my blog. In this post I’m talkin’ a whole lot of reclaimed wood, rich stone & brick textures, distressed furniture & furnishings, light walls & cool, earth tones, and… did I already say wood?

Here are my favorites that are a mix of the refined farmhouse + refined rustic styles (scroll through). Share with me which ones really draw your attention, and why!

When determining the kind of space you desire, inspiration images are an easy way to narrow down a variety of things, from a certain overall look to a design/architectural feature to accent pieces. These will contribute toward planning for yourself an optimal space that is both visually appealing and functional. Call out what you like and think why, save/pin it, and build from there.

Remember the Joy of Your Salvation

House projects aside, last week was also a week of celebrations in our domestic church. With all the unrest and uncertainty of the world and within our lives, this was a week we really looked forward to. On the 28th we celebrated my 31st birthday and on the 30th, Jon and I celebrated five years of marriage. Here are highlights from our week.

The day before my birthday we made an afternoon trip to Colonial Beach, VA, which to our surprise was an easy 45 minute drive, give or take. It was a perfect Spring day – 80s, moderate humidity, and the beach was bare making social distancing practically effortless. Despite the little presence at the beach, what felt so normal was sitting on the sand, listening to & watching the waves crash, and walking along the shore.

The rest of the day the kids kept telling us how much they loved our day together and kept asking if we could come back. It was so good for us to be out there; so healing – physically and mentally. Also a really awesome part about this particular location is that the town’s Catholic Church and rectory was literally behind us, so the reality of Christ’s True Presence in the tabernacle only being 100 yards away was comforting. It was an “I’m here” nudge.

On the drive back, Jon surprised me and said we’d have the opportunity to attend Mass privately for my birthday. Of course, in true Fatima fashion, I cried tears of joy. It was really the perfect gift.

The morning of my birthday Jon and the kids made waffles from scratch (thanks to Magnolia Table Volume 2), fruit salad with simple syrup + mint, and bacon. Of course, bacon! Then we got ready for Mass. This would be the first time the kids would attend (Jon and I attended 1-2 times since quarantine began to help assist with live streaming), and as expected, they were super disruptive at times.

After Mass I asked our pastor if he could hear my Confession, and he happily obliged. I hadn’t cried that much during a Confession in really long time. It was so freeing and healing for my soul, and I am so grateful for the gift of that powerful sacrament.

The next celebration was our wedding anniversary. It’s so crazy to think about how time has flown, and how crazy this journey has been.

To celebrate, we first attended Sunday vigil Mass at our former parish and the place where we got married, St. Rita in Alexandria, VA. I can’t tell you how much we missed this place, and it was good to see our former pastor again; he baptized both James and Lucy. To my great surprise, the kids were very well-behaved and were barely disruptive. I guess that was their anniversary gift to us! We also got to receive the Eucharist for the first time in three months. More tears.

Afterwards we got our wedding cupcakes from Buzz Bakery, picked up a tray of Italian food from Mia’s Italian Kitchen in Old Town, and went back home to feast as we finished watching the rest of our wedding videos.

I also wanted to share a reflection I had earlier that morning. This year has been the most difficult year of our marriage thus far, so much so that our cross felt too heavy to bear at times. Though we suffered in more ways than we could have imagined, we also experienced a new depth of God’s grace and mercy in ways we hadn’t before.

The Magnificat reflection I read was from Blessed Charles de Foucauld, titled “Our Only Concern: Following Him”:

All we are trying to do is be one with Jesus, to reproduce his life in our own, to proclaim his teaching from the rooftops in our thoughts, words, and actions, to let him rule and live in us. He comes into us so frequently in the Holy Eucharist—may he establish his Kingdom within us!

If he gives us joys, we should accept them gratefully: the Good Shepherd gives us such sweet grasses to strengthen us and make us fit to follow him later along dry pathways.

If he gives us crosses, we should embrace them. To be given a cross is the best grace of all: it is to walk hand-in-hand with Jesus more closely than ever, to relieve him by carrying his cross for him, as Simon of Cyrene did. It is our Beloved’s invitation to us to delcare and prove our love for him.

In torments of soul and bodily suffering, let us rejoice and be glad; Jesus is calling us, telling us to tell him we love him, and to go on telling him as long as our suffering lasts.

Every cross, great or small, every discomfort even, is an appeal from our Beloved, asking us to delcare our love and goon doing so while the cross lasts. When we think of it like this, could we not wish that our cross could last forever? It will last long as Jesus wishes. However sweet it may be, however greatly loved, we desire it only as long as it is Jesus’ will for us. Your will, not ours, Brother Jesus.

As for ourselves, we should think no more of ourselves…. We should think only of you, our beloved spouse. We want not what seems good to us, but what is good to you. We ask nothing for ourselves; all we ask is your glory. Hallowed be thy name; thy Kingdom come; thy will be done in your children, in all men.

May these things be done in us. May we give all possible glory to you throughout our lives. May we do your will—may we give all possible solace to your Heart. That is all we want and all we need. We are at your feet, do with us as you will—whatever it may be, do it according to your will. We have no will, no wish except to fulfill your will, to do what seems good to you.

Blessed Charles de Foucauld
Our Marriage Crucifix

After having read that, I knew God was speaking so clearly to us. It was an acknowledgement of the cross of Christ that we, too, bear and the guidance we needed for what we are to do next, so that we can move forward faithfully as husband and wife and as parents for the next fifty, sixty years.

It goes without saying that there is just so much happening in our world, and even within our own family. Our week of celebrations was without a doubt the reminder we needed to remember the joy of our salvation to propel us forward in faith and confidence in following Him during tumultuous times. Yes, there’s unrest and uncertainty in our lives, but our joy is not dependent on these circumstances. True Christian joy is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In your charity, please keep us in your prayers! Know of ours, as well.

Our Home Entryway Refresh

Here we are at another weekend, just like that. Last week I used up a week’s worth of much needed PTO, and I can’t stress just how grateful and necessary that time off was for me.

Days leading up to my time off, Jon and I created and arranged a bunch of sticky notes under major areas of our family life; one of which was to paint the interior side of our front door in the entryway (under our house projects/purge list). Of all the rooms in our house, the entryway has evolved the most as I tried out different things periodically. This time, however, the plan was to give it a refresh that would make a more lasting impact. Enter in, paint.

I probably stood in front of paint cards at Lowe’s for a good 45 minutes trying to contrive a natural scheme that wasn’t bland and would still make a bold statement. Painting the door was the only task for that room initially, until I realized that even within a small budget there was more potential that we could tap into – in addition with what we already had, of course.

Enter, rug.

L to R: faux tree from IKEA; Unique Loom Hoover Chateau rug; Front door painted in Sherwin Williams Intellectual Gray SW7045; 30″ French Country Mirror; vintage telephone bench from Facebook Marketplace (this particular photo was found in Google Images to help me get an idea), painted in Sherwin Williams Rare Gray HGSW3275.

After putting together a little mood board, I realized that with our dark floors, the rug I selected, and the color scheme in place, painting the vintage telephone bench came to mind as well. When I first purchased it off of Facebook Marketplace two years ago, I wanted to keep it as is. But then when I put all the pieces together and looked at the wood frame of the mirror, the different wood felt too conflicting for me. When I closely focused on the space as a whole, I knew painting it would provide cohesiveness. (FYI: I used the little sample paint from the color that we didn’t select for the door.)

before + after

The rug was shipped on my birthday, so in a sense it was my birthday gift to myself – ha! As soon as we unrolled it and positioned it on the floor per my initial measurements, my response was literally: “YUP – THAT’S IT, THAT’S THE ONE!” I’m pretty sure that’s how you know you’ve selected a winning piece.

If you feel like selecting a rug can be a daunting task, here was my thought process as considerations were made:

  • Color:
    • When considering color, I kept in mind the colors in adjacent rooms to ensure unity between them, especially because our first floor layout is open concept.
    • Another key was selecting a rug that would provide good contrast since we have dark wood floors. I didn’t want a dark rug, nor did I want a light one that would easily showcase dirt and stains.
  • Size:
    • We originally had a typical runner size since moving in. When determining size this time around I decided not to skimp out on the rest of the entryway space’s area rug coverage.
    • Before making a final decision, I moved an existing 5×8 rug from another room into the space to give me the most accurate proportion. This was after I had simply used a measuring tape, as it didn’t give me the full picture I was hoping for. Immediately I noticed that the 5×8 rug in our 6×13 entryway made the space feel much bigger.
  • Practicals:
    • I made sure to purchase a low pile rug as this will be an area with heavy foot traffic. Low pile rugs are easier to clean and prevent things from getting stuck within the fibers of the rug (shout out to my friends with kids). Most websites have filters where you can select it based on that criteria.
    • I left the little doormat right as is to capture most of the dirt upon entering so that this low pile rug wouldn’t get the brunt of it, though we always ask our guests to remove their shoes anyway. This size is also great because it extends to the mud room entrance (door to the right of the tree) as well, so there’s a size + practical win right there.

before + after 1

before + after 2

Two final things I’ll eventually get to are adding a semi-flush mount light in lieu of the recessed light and adding some board and batten to the walls. All in due time.

All in all, this little project was a fun one to tackle during my week off. I think it was a helpful one to do first (as we attempt a string of other house projects moving on) because it’s almost like we get to start fresh in reentering in – this project being the entryway into our home after all.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, or answer any questions you might have if you’re considering refreshing your own entryway!

Our Low Waste Journey

Happy Earth Day! For some time I’ve been wanting to share more in depth about our low waste journey, so what better day to do so than today?

Disclaimer: The purpose of this post isn’t to educate on how many years it takes for certain materials to decompose, nor is it to go over the statistics of materials thrown into landfills. While these are good things to be informed on, these can be googled!

Here’s the gist of our story.

When we were still living in Northern Virginia we would frequent Tysons Corner Mall. Adjacent to the food court & theater was a sizable play area for children, which had a “Save the Planet” theme. I mention this because one certain floor area had the inscription: “start at home.”

Professionally as a sustainability strategist in the built environment, my work on small commercial interiors projects to large scale base buildings have only fueled me to respond to a more sustainable lifestyle on a personal level. Sustainability is such broad discipline, and after learning more than I could’ve imagined in the last five years alone, I thought: how can I make it applicable to my life, my family, and my home? I then proposed to my husband that we adopt certain practices to reduce our waste production as a family, among other things, and care more about our health by understanding what products we use and what they’re made up of. If I’m helping my clients, proposing strategies for making their spaces more sustainable and healthier from a well-being standpoint, why not on a personal level, too?

For some time I grew tired of the excess waste we would produce – whether it was an accumulation of cardboard packaging, plastic bags from grocery shopping, or the clutter of things we already owned – clothes, files, toys. Why? Because eventually those things end up in a landfill and can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose. So finally, with the mix of my professional experience and this personal resolve to reduce waste berthed the beginning of our low waste journey over a year ago.

Down below is a list of some practices we have adopted here at home. I would be remiss not to mention first that adopting sustainable practices do not work under a “one size fits all” approach as every family and every situation varies (apartment in the city versus a detached single family home in the country, as just one example). In fact, before we seriously considered certain practices we discerned what made the most sense for us right now and what was most realistic. (One day maybe we’ll get those solar panels or purchase RECs, grow our own garden, own a Tesla (Jon) – we do live far from the city, ha! We’re dreaming big!)

Without further ado, here are some of the practices we have adopted. For ones with products mentioned, I added links for your convenience. Note: I am not affiliated or sponsored by any of these below.

  1. Reusable Kitchen Towels
    (…though in the spirit of transparency, once Covid hit we bought paper towels specifically for disinfecting stuff from outside of the house and tossing straight in the trash.) Reusing towels has certainly one of the bigger challenges, and one my husband was less a fan of; I can understand why – especially with cleaning the bathroom. For washing, we simply toss in all the soiled towels in the laundry, hang ’em to dry, and voila, good as new. We use microfiber clothes for cleaning. The waffle Mieco towels (purchased from Amazon) we use are great for drying wet dishes or to use as napkins during dinner time. For cleaning the garage or cars, we use old t-shirts.
  2. Cleaning Supplies: Zero Waste + Non-Toxic Laundry and DIY Hand Soap
    We officially switched over to non-toxic laundry detergent and love it! We had a scare almost two years ago with little Downy Unstoppables tablets. I had missed some that had fallen on the floor of the laundry room and thought Lucy may have ingested one. Whether she did or not (I don’t think so because she didn’t have a reaction), it was a wake-up call to get rid of anything in our home that is not safe, not just for kids but even for us. Thanks to the Urban Oreganics Laundry Detergent, I don’t have any fears anymore. Also, it had very little packaging which is also a plus and the wool dryer ball is also an excellent substitute for the dryer sheets. No more laundry waste from plastic bottles. The detergent and wool dryer ball are unscented so I put in 10-15 drops of Lavender Essential Oil right into the laundry as it fills up with water, and then another 5-10 drops again directly on the wool dryer ball. Our clothes smell fantastic and are just as soft.

    Also I have been making our own hand soap. Too many times have we had to purchase new cleaning supplies, thus accumulating more plastic or glass bottles. Now I just reuse those bottles and make my go-to recipe in the same soap dispensers thanks to Clean Mama (linked above)!
  3. Stasher Bags
    We use these in lieu of Ziploc bags and they are fantastic. We use them for storing the kids’ snacks when we go out and storing food in the fridge or freezer. They’re dishwasher safe and you can even sous vide with these. Can’t speak highly enough about these bags.
  4. Simple Ecology Starter Set
    These bags have been a game changer for our grocery experience. Not only do we get bag credit at grocery stores (like at MOM’s Organic Market), but the muslin produce bags in particular help keep vegetables fresh when stored in the refrigerator much longer than a typical plastic bag. We have the Jute Tote and XL Canvas String Bag, 2 muslin produce bags, and 2 mesh produce bags so far and use other reusable totes we already have in our stash. When the set gets soiled we just toss them into the laundry as well and line dry them.
  5. Beeswax Wrap
  6. Silicone Straws (kids) and Stainless Steel with Silicone tips (us)
  7. Bulk Shopping
    I go to MOM’s Organic Market in Waldorf, MD for this. Upon entering I take our Simple Ecology bags and other containers and dispense different oats, legumes, nuts, and/or granola that we’re in need of directly into them. It was intimidating at first, but I got the hang of it by the second time. All it is is getting the tare weight of the containers at the register, fill them up with what’s needed, and pay. Once I get home, for anything that was in a muslin produce bag I transfer into one of the glass jars we have. No package waste at all, and let me tell ya, it is a fantastic feeling.
  8. Supporting Local Farms
    We love and appreciate our local farms so going to farmer’s markets or purchasing through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) has been our go-to when in season. For those local, we are big fans of Shlagel Farms (Waldorf, MD) and Hancock Family Farms (La Plata, MD). Also I think it’s important to mention that it’s fresh food directly from the farm to your home – no in-betweens. The great thing about Shlagel Farm’s CSA approach is that they don’t require an upfront annual subscription/payment, which we appreciate especially if we can’t commit to it as often as we’d like. We love these farms for their fresh produce, eggs, various berries (when in season), and wide assortment of meat & poultry. Plus, it entails very little product packaging waste. At most I would receive a cardboard box for all the produce, which is minimal (and it’s cardboard). Both have excellent customer service as well and I can’t speak highly enough. I would definitely recommend going this route for fresh groceries.
  9. Buy Secondhand Furniture
    I first scavenge Facebook Marketplace and then other local groups online. Since owning our home we have been very intentional about what we purchase and stay within a rather modest budget depending on what piece of furniture it is that we need. In fact, the majority of the furniture on our first floor is secondhand – dining table, coffee table, morning room table, three-fourths of our dining chairs, counter stools, pew, telephone bench in foyer. You know furniture is made of good quality when it can last more than one user and is purchased for an unbeatable price.
  10. Avoid Fast Fashion
    I think I may have only purchased less than 5 brand new clothes in the past 6-8 months. Like furniture, I try my best to be intentional about what I’m buying. If I’m considering new, I look into where it’s made and what’s made out of, if it’s good quality. It’s not about quantity for me as it was in years past. I’m totally an outfit repeater and hope to build a solid capsule in the near future. For clothes considered “new to me”, I follow a handful of online thrift shops, two of which are Ever Thrift and @GoodLifeThrift. Consignment stores are great, too! I was excited to find a new, local consignment shop in the area as well, called Clothes Mentor.

There are many more that I didn’t list (using a smart themostat, only using LED bulbs, blackout curtains/shades, etc.), but I’ll leave it at these 10 for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts and/or if you want to share something that you have adopted and works great for you! Know that it’s never to late to begin – perhaps today is the day you can add something. Also, please don’t feel pressure that you need things to start this journey. Many practices can be done with what you already have. Reuse, reduce, recycle.

Finally, our low waste journey is not a perfect one, but I think what’s important as a household is that we’ve become much more intentional about materials, and cognizant of the lasting impact it can have after it’s removed from our home. Next time I hope to share more about our transition to becoming a low-toxic home as well, which is very much so interrelated to our low waste journey.

My dear friends, God’s creation is one and it is good. The concerns for nonviolence, sustainable development, justice and peace, and care for our environment are of vital importance for humanity. They cannot, however, be understood apart from a profound reflection on the innate dignity of every human life from conception to natural death: a dignity conferred by God himself and thus inviolable.

Pope Benedict XVI, Address, Welcoming Celebration by Young People for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia, July 17, 2008

He Is Risen Indeed!

Happy Easter, dear friends! I hope you are still basking in the joy of the Resurrection. What an Easter season it’s been, and the church is just getting started.

It all kicked off on Saturday evening, what the Church refers to as the Great Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter. For the first time in more than a month, I had the opportunity to attend Mass in person. My husband has been volunteering his time at our parish to stream Masses, including the events of the Sacred Triduum. Earlier in the week he offered that I take his place for one of them – and without thinking I said, “Easter Vigil…please and thank you!”

The Great Easter Vigil is my most favorite liturgy of the year. As I grew in my faith as an adult, it was always the Easter Vigil I preferred to attend. Though long, it is the most elaborate and tangible way for us to experience but a taste, with all of our senses, salvation history: listening to readings from the Old Testament to New, seeing darkness then light, hearing the Exsultet sung then hearing the triumphant Gloria once again with all the bells ringing, smelling the incense, witnessing catechumens enter into the church, and so much more. Since the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve, it has been a very long and very complicated journey, but what has remained constant through it all was God’s never-ending pursuit of His people. That night for me, despite the messy state of our world, was filled with great hope and lasting peace. I kept you all close in prayer, as I know so many of us have been physically aching to be near our Lord.

As a family we celebrated a lot of firsts. Normally we spend Easter with our extended family; this time it was just us four. I also volunteered to cook the whole spread of dishes, we dyed Easter eggs, we made a simple Paschal candle for our home oratory, and I scavenged the house the night prior for things to add to the kids’ baskets, which they were so appreciative foryes, even if the basket included unopened Happy Meal toys (Anna from Frozen and Luke from Star Wars), unused coloring pages and stickers, fruit/veggie pouches from the diaper bag, pop tarts from the pantry. Seeing their reactions and how happy they were totally goes to show how kids really don’t need stuff we might think they do.

On that note, having gone to the Easter Vigil at my parish the night prior, a recurring thought this Holy Week and start to the Easter season was making the most with what we have already at our disposal. There were many things different about the Vigil. In fact many components that typically happen, which I mentioned above, couldn’t happen. The catechumen coming into the Catholic Church has been delayed. There was no fire (at least at our parish), and we didn’t hold candles. We didn’t taste the Risen Lord as we didn’t receive Holy Communion. Nevertheless, it was still good and what was offered to the Lord was the best we could offer despite the given circumstances. Similarly, what we did as a family, with what we already had, was the best we could do. And I believe it was still good.

Finally, one particular thing I have been pondering on throughout this is Octave is a vision of the Risen Christ within our home among us, our domestic church. I’m not talking about seeing Christ by way of sacred artwork or statues, but actually seeing Him – His resurrected body – just like when He visited to homes of the apostles, Our Blessed Mother, or the two disciples with whom He broke bread with in Emmaus.

During this time where the faithful are still unable to attend public Masses, this vision of Christ coming into our homes and bringing peace and comfort to our days has been one of great consolation and hope this Easter. In fact there was a moment this week when I actually got into an argument with Jon, so much so that afterwards I randomly envisioned Christ appearing in our midst and saying “Peace be with you.” This only prompted me to hug my husband and say I’m sorry for being uncharitable. I say envisioned, but I truly believe Christ was present, and said that same greeting to us.

He is present.

We recently transformed our morning room into our little oratory.

This Easter season, though very different, will be good even amidst our trials because of the life-changing reality, that Christ rose from the dead, trampled sin & death, and we, as baptized sons and daughters of God, are called to take this truth—the culmination of salvation history—to everyone. This is the story we were born into. And this is the truth we believe and must bear courageously everywhere we go by the witness of our lives, even right now if it’s within our homes and welcoming the Risen Lord into the messiness of family life – literally and figuratively. He not only brings peace to our homes, but also reassures us to be not afraid.

We will continue to suffer, and things may take some time until they get better. Or perhaps they won’t get better. Who really knows. But the message of Easter is that with Christ, our Victor over sin and death, our true victory lies not in this life, but in the next. We, too, will rise from the dead. Our earthly pilgrimage is merely a preparation for our ultimate home in Heaven.

May the peace of the Risen Christ be with you this Easter season and beyond.

Christ is risen.

He is Risen indeed!

Happy Easter from the Perez family!