Risk & Results


Sometimes people ask ‘how do you know exactly what to get for a room?’.  For me it’s not very scientific.  But the answer is, I don’t know what to get for a room at all.  I try to not risk wasting money but I do want to take a risk to make a room look fantastic and my style instead of just done.  So I do what I can to eliminate as much risk as possible.

Here’s part of my process from yesterday.  I’m looking for a smaller coffee table or ottoman for our front room.  I’m considering something dark.  So naturally, I brought in my black velvet chair from another room to see how I like black in the room. I’ve got a little credit at Joss & Main after doing a group curated sale before Christmas and they have a black ottoman available.  So I measured out how big it would be (couldn’t find our measuring tape but for some reason I was able to find four rulers) and mapped it out on the floor. Then I laid out the computer right in front of the sofa and where I’d put the ottoman so I could envision it.

I sat and thought about it. I let it all stay there a few hours and so far I haven’t ordered the ottoman.  If I do order it and hate it I’m pretty sure I can sell it, but, I also think it’s pretty expensive for what it is and I’m not sure I’m ready to risk that. I’ll think about it some more today. It’s a process.


Usually it’s  the riskiest choices that have the biggest impact.  It didn’t feel natural to order a new grandfather clock and then take it apart and paint it as soon as it arrived. But I’m glad I did. It’s one of my favorite things. Sometimes taking a risk doesn’t pay off, but oftentimes, the ruined risk can still be salvaged–if I hated the clock painted white, I’m pretty sure I could have found a color that I did like. 

I usually ask myself: what’s the worst that can happen?

If the worst that can happen is that I have to repaint something or use it in another room or sell it for close to what I bought it for, or patch a few nail holes that’s always a risk worth taking.

What’s the last risk you took in your home?


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  1. I absolutely love your grandfather clock. I’ve never really been a fan of them but now I’m debating getting one and painting it out! What a great idea… I should start taking risks a little more often.

  2. I painted my office a very DARK slate color. I was afraid that a charcoal/navy color might make it seem like a dungeon…but instead it’s a very cozy finished product. I love it!

  3. karen sunday says

    HI Nester, You are the reason I have redone all my rooms in the last 2.5 years thank you from the bottom of my heart all diy nothing hired. I found your blog and the rest is history. I needed a small coffee table I bought a small black table at ballard I think it was 300.00 I love it it is the right size and I had shopped around to all second hand stores and didn’t find anything. Thank you again you had me at change the theme of your decor without breaking the bank.( Ha ha) sincerely Karen Sunday

  4. Tina Matteson says

    We inherited a very ugly bathroom with a claw foot tub (not my style AT ALL) but till we can afford to remodel the bathroom, I decided to paint the wall a bright green, which seemed like a mistake till, in a moment of crazy inspiration, I painted the outside of the tub turquoise. Now the bathroom is BEAUTIFUL! Who would have thought…?!

    Thanks for all your great ideas! I love your blog.

  5. I love the whimsy in your home. Very cute, interesting rooms. I enjoy your blog, love reading it.

    I love to nest and decorate but i have a studio apartment and i’ve decorated it to the brim. But i like what i’ve done. Just wanting to do some more.

    Good luck with the coffee table. Thank you for your ideas.

  6. I love the antlers behind the clock–very fun! We are starting the hunt for a new couch for our living room. If feels like such a risk! My husband has many opinions and it may take awhile. And I need to resist the urge to “change everything” when we just need a new couch.

  7. Love your clock! It is too cool!

  8. I love the antlers on the clock! Question – I picked up the BH&G DIY magazine yesterday and there is your name!! What happened to the secret? I love your name btw!

  9. I painted one wall in my very khaki living/dining room a bright peacock blue. It was a whim, a risk – I love it. Now I found a burnt orange velvet sofa and chair with tufted backs on Craigslist for a song. ORANGE sofa. Really thinking if I could live with an orange sofa, but against that blue wall it’d be lovely! Just got to figure out what the rest of the house would do with it. Gotta keep thinking “whole room”….

  10. Good morning~
    As creative as you are, I can’t believe that you aren’t contemplating building your own ottoman/coffee table! I’d build my own and save the J&M credit for something trickier. ;)

    By the way, loved the article about you in the latest BH&G do it yourself mag.

    • So true, people do that all the time, don’t they? You all give me so much more credit (not Joss & Main credit I’m talking about here) than I deserve, I’m not as much as a DIYer as many people think! I’m SOOOO incredibly short cutty! But you are right, I think I’m gonna google some DIY ottomans!

  11. The riskiest thing I ever do is reupholster furniture. I don’t do it myself, so it’s expensive. You have to really take a risk, because you’re not ever going to be sure what it’s going to look like until it’s back from the upholstery person. So there’s my very risky life! Oh dear!

  12. You are so right about the biggest risks having the biggest impact! Who wants a room that looks like everyone else’s? Everybody I know has a home that looks like they went into Kirkland’s and said, “I’ll take one of everything.” Boring.

  13. All I have to say is that you are more than welcome anytime in my home to help me restyle it. ;)

  14. Painted my walls gray and kept the brown flooring.

  15. kathy hanson says

    Loved this post. I get so hung up on, “What if it doesn’t work?” I need to learn how to just go for it. This is why my house still isn’t decorated. I’m afraid.

  16. Great photo and advice. It is a process isn’t it? It requires patience and persistence…and a good exit strategy.
    I recently painted my very small bathroom. It was all white. It felt cold. It needed some warming up, so I painted the walls a rich chocolate brown and kept the trim white. It is SO much better now, I can’t believe I waited so long. Fear stood in my way – fear of the loss of time and then fear of the possible loss of ‘future’ time to re-paint, if I didn’t like it… I’m so glad I faced that fear and thought – ‘what if I like it?’ instead of ‘what if I don’t?’ Now I really like my bathroom, SO worth the two nights of painting… Great post!

  17. You give me courage to step out and at least try. I sewed “new” living room curtains from an old drop cloth – previously used as a slip cover, then a patio cover over a hot summer. I folded down the top to the outside to make a placket, sewed it up leaving a six inch fringe, then cut the fringe into two inch strips and tied knots close to the stitching. I was afraid my hubs would hate it, but he actually liked it. It’s an idea I saw in a book years ago and have wanted to try it. I thought of you as I was sewing it up, as it looked really weird for the first few knots, then looked awesome as I hung them. I thought, if it doesn’t work, I’ll just try something else, and it worked. Thank you!

  18. LOVE the antlers on the clock! it makes it noticable (in a good way) and completes it as YOUR look. respectable whimsy…..

    • Nicely phrased…”respectable whimsy”. I think that’s what I’ve been looking for as I’m searching for a way to pull together a Parisian Steampunk living room…(I think that limiting myself with a “theme” seems to help a bit- then it’s like a party 8>D )
      THANK YOU, Nester, for helping me through my paralysis of analysis! I’m so stingy when it comes to decorating, because I don’t want to get it wrong! Then, I don’t want to spend any time at home because it feels BLAH and I spend money on going out! It’s a vicious cycle and tough to treat…thanks for the help!

  19. I am enjoying your posts and learning quite a bit! My latest is risk is that I bought a pillow (a feather one thanks to you!) and it reads “And they lived happily every after” because that is sort of a joke between my husband and I. I love to express myself with stuff and he is more of a “only necessary items” kind of guy. The risk is that he would store the pillow in the garage while I am at work. BUT the pillow case has a sipper and can be replaced (again thanks to you).

    Thanks for all the inspiration!

  20. Hey! My clock grew antlers! I am still coming for it someday. (P.S. If someone really broke into your house and stole your clock, would I get in trouble or be investigated for posting this?)

    • totally! Those antlers keep moving around, they are usually on my office on top of the armoire, but then I moved them to the clock for fun. then on top of my empty bust planter–LOVED them there too. And yes, you will be the first to be questioned if the clock is missing. I suggest you steal some other things as well, just to throw them off your scent. :}

  21. My latest splurge wasn’t much of a splurge at all. I purchased the coolest book about nature at a local antique store. I had planned on keeping it as a book and decorating with it. Once home, I flipped through it and decided to take it apart. The finished product is a gorgeous gallery grid, 15 framed and matted pictures in all. For 15 frames/the mattes/hardware, I spend around $200. A cheap price tag for the 5’x4′ area it consumes. My favorite part is that it’s original and imperfect! You ‘d be proud.

  22. I love the plates on the wall! However, my three-year-old twins (boys) would use them for target practice! Boo!!

  23. I pulled one of the anchor pieces from my gallery wall and moved it to another room on Saturday. Risky, as the room I pulled from serves as an office with clients coming in and out 2 days later. It depleted the room of it’s mojo and I thought I had shopped the house right out of stock. A couple of miracles and a gorgeous hand-me-down mirror later I was able to pull it off and I love the results, but I couldn’t have made it happen without the risk.

  24. The last risk I took in our home was twisting brown packing paper into “vines” and hanging them acroos my one year old son’s room, stapling paper leaves every so often into the vines. I turned out way better than I expected and was the key component to arriving at the theme of a “jungle room.”

  25. I took a few risks in our living room, I made a huge name sign and burlaped a wall to hide some hideous, unable to take down, wall paper. It is fun and us and never done ;)
    take a look…

  26. A year ago, I bought a long taupe bench that is probably an ottoman. I have used it several ways and consider it the best $20 deal of the year. Play games on it, put a large tray and serve food on it, use it for extra seating, and now it’s slid under a library table where it actually looks pretty good too. I say, get it but don’t be surprised if you write a lot of blogs saying where all it ends up. Wish mine was black.

  27. I’m not a risk taker at all.
    period. the end.
    how boring am I?

    I sit with naked bare spaces until I KNOW what I want for the space. The upside to how I do it is that I usually LOVE what I end up buying for the long haul.

    I sure wish I was a little more like you….I’d sure have more to blog about. :)

  28. We are constant risk- takers. I think it’s in my and Baileyhusband’ s marriage contract! We are currently working on our boys’ bathroom….which happens to be the main bath guests use. Putting some fun DIY skills to the test! And loving the results so far! (work in progress!)~Kim

  29. We painted our bathroom ceiling in sea foam half (by dulux in aus.). Turned out it doesn’t work (particularly with our feature tile)…. It is still half turquoise, and every time I walk in there I am so proud of us for just giving it a go.

  30. My son gifted me with painting my kitchen table and chairs for Christmas. I chose a jade green all the while wondering if I made the right decision. (My kitchen is yellow and I have a huge old oak framed green chalkboard on the main wall.) It’s beautiful, but I think I’m going to antique the chairs to give it a less “stark” look. I’m glad the old bubbled, worn out table is now something pretty in my kitchen.

  31. I’m finally…FI NA LLY…doing something with my living room. I’ve been paralyzed for most of the six years we’ve lived here, thinking, “I don’t want to paint until I know what kind of furniture we’re putting in here…but I don’t want to buy furniture until I know what kind of rug we’ll get in here…but should I get the rug first or the paint first?” and there I sat for six years. I finally painted this weekend. I think the next month is going to be full of risk as I figure out what’s going on my walls and everywhere else in here. Bring it!

  32. Love these thoughts. Sometimes the best risks really pay off. Other times, not so much. But it never hurts trying. The last risk we took for our house was getting a new couch. It didn’t pay off (I’ve decided I’m not a fan of it), but we’re planning on selling it and starting with something fresh. As long as I’m ok with the process, I don’t get myself bummed out if something doesn’t work.

  33. Good food for thought, Nester… my risks are sometimes too big and then fail, so I’m learning to ratchet it back. Just hope I don’t go too far the other way!

  34. Great method! It’s horribleto buy something and then realize it doens’t fit or look right. I think that a touch of black in accents is a great idea. Can’t tell exactly how the large piece would look. Maybe a dark brown? I’m not the best risk taker to ask LOL! I love that rug, however! I’ve been looking for something similar and can’t find one. Probably the biggest risk I’ve taken in my home was painting my kitchen cabinets white. They were 1980’s oak stained and so blah! I just bought the paint and went to town and they look great! I’m glad that I did it – made such a huge difference for so little money! Hope you can find what you want for your room! Hugs, Leena

  35. I painted stripes on the white canvas kitchen cafe windows. It did NOT turn out well :) None of the tutorials I read mentioned how much paint those things suck up, so I ran out of my custom mixed color after one coat on the first curtain. I just love parking in front of the garage and seeing the streaky backside of the kitchen curtains when I get home at night (not)! I’ll have to get another white pair and sew on a ribbon border instead, I think. Cost: $6 or 7 in paint, plus replacing the curtains.

  36. I have a similar process. In our previous home, we completely gutted and remodeled the kitchen. I had always wanted an island, but the space was fairly small and we weren’t sure if an island would work, so we didn’t build one in. We felt we could always add a free-standing one if we wanted it. We were in Crate & Barrel around that time and saw a beauty of an island. I used a couple of small tables to equal the approximate size in the kitchen and left them in place for a week or so until we decided that there was ample room, then we ordered the island. Just measuring out the space wouldn’t have given us enough of an idea, but simulating with the small tables worked great.

    I would love to know how your plates are hung over the sofa. It is so striking. I want to add a decorative plate on the tile backslash between my microwave and the stove top, but don’t want to drill into the tile. Haven’t been able to figure out a way to do it.

    • I might suggest you use the Command hooks by 3M. They stick to almost any surface without leaving a mark if/when you remove them. My daugher used them to hang Christmas stockings in her apartment so she (I) didn’t have holes to patch.
      just make sure to use one that will carry the weight maybe use 2 side by side to be safe.

  37. Nester,
    My wife and I took our biggest risk yet with our house when we removed the upstairs hall closet. It WAS (already gone) almost 8 feet long 2 feet deep and had 6 foot wide bifold doors. It made the L shaped hall feel so tight and corner-y and blocked sunlight from the bedrooms. We had to move the central vac outlet to adjoining wall and add two electrical outlets. We still have to move the attic access door and repair the ceiling and walls, plus repair and prep the walls after removing the Toile wallpaper. We picked out the paint and will be doing a Strie wall finish to add interest and make the walls look better. We still need to pick out the carpet for the hall and stairs. The foyer got new tile five years ago while we wrestled with the closet idea. We took the shelves out of the closet and did not use it for storage to see if we needed it at all. Now the space is almost 6 x 14 and gets light from all sides. We will put the Curio-Secratary cabinet from Grandma upthere for wife’s teacup collection and as a peaceful place to write out a card or letter. Can’t wait to be done.

  38. The upside of not having space in the budget for a while yet to purchase new furniture is that I have no fear of “ruining” what we currently have. So far I have loved all my riskier choices: my poppy red desk with DIY silver-and-black fabric-covered pin boards hanging above makes me smile and instantly lifts my spirits when I walk into the office/guest room. Right now I’m remaking our ultra-boring wood and white dining table with a bronze hammered metal top and copper-finish legs (love Benjamin Moore’s molten metallics!).

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