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tuesday tip: why breaking and entering is a good idea

I recently tackled two projects right here in my own neighborhood. I so love it when my business name makes total sense. I actually did work at The Neighbor's House. Houses? Homes? You know what I mean.

The first one was a surprise attack; my favorite. The Robinson family was headed out of town and Nancy's husband thought it would a great idea to surprise his wife with a new family room. He thought this because I basically said, “Wouldn’t it be great to surprise Nancy with a new family room?” So that's how that worked.

The thing about Nancy is that we have to be friends because we both have four children. People without four children do not want to be friends with people who have four children. Nobody wants to invite the family of six to dinner. But between me and Nancy we have eight children. Children whom we adore. Most of the time. I mean more than 50% of the time. Sometimes even as high as 52%! And that's pretty good. We understand one another in a way that only women who can stand in each other's driveways and literally sob over the fact that a 4-year-old insists on barking like a dog and licking people in greeting and preschool is 'concerned' or that a husband signed up for snack duty at soccer. Who doesn't know that you wait until the end to sign up for snack duty in hopes of a major snowstorm? Ridiculous. We've fed each other's children and then cleaned up after the kid who puked up dinner even if it wasn't a child biologically bound to us. That's friendship people.

The Robinsons deserve some TLC and because I can't afford the time and money to take both myself and my hard-working, funny kind friend on a yachting voyage I figured a room redo was the next best thing.

Of course, it's not the next best thing. Did you really think that if you saw a list and the first item was “Yacht Voyage” that right under that it would say “Room Redo?” Come on.

But it's all I've got to offer. So, Keith threw out a budget number and I got to work planning and purchasing in the weeks prior to their departure. The minute they pulled out of the driveway I made my move. The walls were painted, the art was hung the accessories added and fluffed and moved and then moved again and then fluffed one more time. Or twenty. I have problems.

We (and by 'we' I mean me and MY four children who helped themselves to two entire bags of potato chips and one package of gummy vitamins from the Robinson pantry because their mother didn't bring lunch for them) brought in flowers and lit candles and had the cable guy join in the party and dug through the basement for some original art from the Robinson children and we had a blast doing it.

Georgia found the stash of Halloween costumes. Guess which 4-year-old is the barker/licker. Go on, guess. So, want to see what it looked like before? Of course, you do.

They needed more seating, more storage, some updated pieces and a friend who is not afraid to move all those children's books to an area where the children can reach the books. The key to reading is being able to reach the books. I believe in challenging young readers but putting the books on a high shelf seems sort of too challenging.

I will say that this project did not break the bank. With a little creative repurposing and some hard-core bargain hunting the numbers weren't more than $2k. And that included curtains, paint, coffee table, blankets, accessories, art, pillows, candles and the cable guy who hated me.

Because the Robinsons are Colorado natives and because their favorite getaway is a working ranch outside of Denver. We created a space that felt a little bit like vacation. Here's the after shot taken by photographer Eric Sabato (

The Robinsons are thrilled with their new room. Granted, the first time they saw it they were bleary-eyed from a long travel day from a camp in Missouri. And Nancy didn't exactly jump for joy when she realized all those books were now in her dining room and in dire need of a new home. But because of that disaster/helpful nudge the Robinsons re-imagined their office space which is fabulous and functional. So, I bet secretly Nancy was happy to come home from a two-week vacation with piles of dirty camp clothes in addition to piles of books and a pantry that no longer contains two bags of chips and one bag of gummy vitamins. I just bet.

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