Laura Rennie


Admiring // Five spring gifts under $40

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I recently shared here that I am in a season of having to mostly say no to pretty decor items. I haven't been to a Home Goods or Target since February! Y'all know I love decorating (shocker!) and not being able to snatch up things I love for my home is hard. But it's spring, which means there are lots of events to gather gifts for: Mother's Day, graduation, showers, weddings... you get the picture! Buying something for someone else often satisfies my desire to shop, plus I can do it guilt-free (if I stay within budget).

I've found five decorative pieces that would make great gifts this spring, and they're all under $40:


Mason jar collection from Relish Decor: $14-38

My sister and I were searching for a housewarming gift she could give to a friend, and we came across these cheerful jars at Relish Decor. Each color and size is so fun, it's hard to choose one over the other! 

Best for: any occasion!


Monogrammed trinket dish from Anthropologie: $12

These trinket dishes are too cute for words. Each dish features hand painted florals and most include a small illustration based on the letter of the dish. ("L" has a tiny ladybug on it!) I have two trinket dishes and both are meaningful to me. The one on my nightstand belonged to my grandmother and the one on my bathroom counter was handmade in Kazakhstan and given to me by a friend who traveled there.

Best for: birthday, graduation or baby shower (with the baby's initial!)


Striped tray from Target: $29.99 (currently on sale online)

Blue and white stripes? Target, you're speaking my love language. This gorgeous glazed tray with gold trim would be a piece I'd want to pull out for every occasion. Actually, I'd probably keep it out on display! It would be stunning on an entry table, coffee table or bar cart. 

Best for: birthday, housewarming, wedding


Adra vase from Crate & Barrel: $39.95

Speaking of bar carts, how gorgeous is the vase on that cart? I love the subtle chevron pattern and crisp white color. I own several vases from Crate & Barrel and they are all beautifully made.

Best for: Mother's Day, birthday, wedding


Parisienne basket from Silk & Burlap: $34

If you manage to buy this basket as a gift and not keep it for yourself, you are a saint. It can be used for shopping or as home decór (fill it with knitting supplies, bedside reads or a cozy blanket).

Best for: Mother's day, birthday, graduation

Which of these gifts would you most likely buy for someone else? Which would go on your own wish list? I'd love to know! 


Decorating on a budget // A season of (mostly) saying no

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Last fall my husband and I noticed we were spending a lot of money on fun things. Eating out, playing golf (him), getting pedicures (me)... it was all adding up. Our savings account wasn't suffering much, but it wasn't growing, either. We decided to go back to a budgeting method we had used in the past: "play money." We both receive a set amount of cash each month to spend on things we do on our own. If I want to get coffee with a friend or take a barre class, I have to spend my play money. If Andy wants to hit the driving range or get a snack at Taco Bell, he has to spend his play money.

In addition to our play money system, we both agreed it would be best to watch our spending in all areas of our budget. I "shop" our pantry and freezer before heading to the grocery store so that the bulk of our meals come from items we previously purchased and need to use up. Knowing I would receive birthday and Christmas presents, I didn't purchase any shoes or tops for the winter season. (I did buy these jeans, which I truly needed. I love them.) I even tried to cut our dog's hair by myself to avoid a visit to the groomer! Bad idea.

Our decorating spending has been affected, too. I had big plans to purchase new lighting for our main floor, but the timing hasn't been right. There are so many things I would love to buy that I have to say "no" or "not right now" to. Most things are not a need, and I cringe to think of the many times I've told myself or others I NEED wedges or I NEED a new chandelier or I NEED a new yoga mat.

Can you relate?

I recently discovered the website "Our Freaking Budget" (great title, right?) and think their post "Budgeting Means You Don't Like Nice Stuff" is genius. (The post addresses how this concept is not true at all.) Joanna writes, "We save because it’s the right thing to do (not, contrary to popular belief, because it's the [most fun] thing)." Amen, sister! We are not tightening our purse strings because we are poor. We want to be good stewards of what we've been given, grow our savings account and increase our generosity. Let me tell you, I would go bananas in West Elm if I could do so with a good conscience! In fact, one of the best things I can do to avoid the temptation to spend is to simply not go to stores where I am tempted. (*cough* Target.) I stupidly browsed Craigslist yesterday even though I don't need anything, and I discovered a gorgeous pair of black lacquer cabinets that I 1) really really really want 2) can't afford and 3) don't have a space for. Get a grip, Laura!

While I've been working on spending less, I haven't given up spending altogether. I've used gift cards, Christmas money and occasionally some of our shared money for decorating purchases. I keep my decorating goals in mind when I shop and try not to purchase things that don't line up with my list. I'm also strict about filing receipts and returning items I don't love, which is why I'm making a trip back to IKEA this week to return the curtains I bought for our master bedroom.

You guys. Let's talk curtains. This is a great example of what can happen when you don't rush a purchase:

Nearly all of the curtains and curtain hardware in our home were left by the previous homeowner, and I really don't care for them. As in, I HATE THEM. Curtains and hardware can add up, though! Plus, switching out curtain hardware would require patching wall paint, and our efforts to color match in the past didn't go well. Long story short, I'm choosing to live with the hardware for now. The rooms that bother me the most curtain-wise are our master bedroom, which has maroon curtains that aren't my style at all, and our living room, which has curtains I picked out for the room four years ago when we moved in. I used to LOVE those living room curtains! I got compliments on them all the time. Then, last fall, we got rid of a solid blue rug and brought in a new rug (we went with option 1). The new rug looked fantastic, but the room overall suddenly looked very ivory/beige. I realized the curtains were no longer my style and I began looking for affordable thin white curtains with a touch of color to tie into the colors of our rug. I looked and looked and looked, but nothing was quite what I wanted. I thought these would be fun and brought home both the tan and teal versions, but the thick stripes overwhelmed our narrow living room and blocked too much of our precious light. 

Last week I was at JCPenney's doing a return and decided to wander into the home department. As I walked over I thought, Where are you going? You never shop here for home items. You aren't going to find anything. Why are you tempting yourself? I can't explain it, but it was like a magnet drew me to the window treatments department. Guess what happened? I found THE curtains, people!

oh hey cute new curtains!

They're white, they have navy trim, they were on clearance... I had to try them. Happily, they look right at home in our living room. My husband (who normally could care less about decor) likes them too! These were a great purchase to say "yes" to.

You might notice I arranged the curtains so the trim would face outward instead of inward. Also, my fiddle leaf resides in a random spot on the floor because it likes it there. Fiddle leafs are fiddly little things!

Knowing I'm returning the IKEA curtains made purchasing these panels for the living room an easy choice. I'm going to continue using the ugly maroon curtains in our bedroom for now. Even though I don't love them, they do a great job of keeping our room dark and private at night and during the day their color isn't as noticeable because we open them up.

I'm glad I took my time and waited until the right curtains came along (five months later). This whole budgeting situation has been a good lesson in patience and willpower. It's hard to say no! It's hard to wait! But I'm choosing to appreciate items I already own while making careful purchases slowly over time. Maybe we will never replace our main-floor lighting, or maybe that purchase is just around the corner! (One can hope.)

Are you decorating on a budget, too? What budget-friendly purchase are you most proud about? What's on your dream buy list? I'd love to know!


Decor ideas // Black and white accents

DecoratingLaura RennieComment

I've recently adopted a new attitude regarding both my decorating and clothing style: I want to pump up the modern and playful factor while still keeping my overall look classy. I don't know if it's the spring air or what, but I'm craving a healthy dose of freshness in each room of the house. Many black and white accents fit the bill for being modern and/or classy, and you can't get any fresher than white! Here are some ideas for how to add these contrasting colors into your home:


top row

Diver print — Society6  / Plus-sign pillow cover — Society6 / Striped marble bookends — West Elm / Table lamp — Target

middle row

Tribal throw — Target / Geometric bath bath — Target / Planter — CB2

bottom row

Canister — CB2 / Striped wall hook — Anthropologie / Oil and vinegar bottles — Crate and Barrel / Abstract print — Minted


I recently purchased this pillow (at a store) and this art print, and I actually won the abstract print above in a giveaway! I've also been working on slowly replacing the curtains in several rooms of the house. I'm in a season of having to closely watch my spending, which I'll be writing about later this week. If you haven't noticed, I recently added the tag #WelcomeToTheRennies to pictures of my home on Instagram. Check them out here.

Which of these items would you pick for your home? 

Admiring // Five finds to inspire you this week

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Happy Monday! I know, I know. Mondays can feel like the worst. It's dreary and chilly here in Maryland and it's going to take a lot of coffee to get me through the day. I've put together a short list of links to brighten your lunch break and give you a dose of inspiration for the start of your week.

1. 55 before and after photos of the tiny shotgun house featured on last week's episode of "Fixer Upper."

photo by Rachel Whyte

photo by Rachel Whyte

!!! I think I had a stupid grin on my face the entire time I watched this episode. I find tiny house living extremely fascinating and I was crossing my fingers that the clients would choose this house! I loved that this episode included a lot of "firsts" for Chip and Joanna. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I love "Fixer Upper," but Joanna Gaines does the same style over and over again and it gets old." Many of Joanna's clients want their homes to reflect her style — they're all for shiplap and reclaimed wood islands. But not EVERY project on "Fixer Upper" is like that. (Season 3 has had a great variety of styles so far.) I've enjoyed watching Joanna try out different types of tile as well as cabinet and countertop finishes.

This house is definitely not for everyone. I could get over walking through the bedroom to get to the bathroom, but I could not deal with the noise (and slowwwwness) of the stair pulley. I have absurdly sensitive ears.

What did you think of the space?

2. A fun gallery wall for your kids' artwork

How happy is this gallery wall? My friend Cassie (Primitive and Proper) displays her kids' artwork in their hallway, which I imagine makes her son and daughter feel pretty great about themselves! Using mismatched frames in gallery walls can be fun, but in this example the use of all white frames allows the artwork to pop and be the main focus. Check out her post to see how she added artist palettes to the wall — I LOVE them!

3. Jenny's new website includes the ability to search for inspiration by room OR by color



Little Green Notebook has a new site design with lots of fun features. I love the ability to search by room or by color! Her site is chock full of inspiration and I used to find myself going down the rabbit hole to try to find an old project of hers. Now everything is nicely organized! (But I still think I'll spend hours and hours on here, simply because it's fun!)

4. A design gesture that made me weep

photo by Julia Robbs

photo by Julia Robbs

If you follow me on Facebook or read A Cup of Jo, you may have already caught this post. I had to include it in this list JUST IN CASE, because I would hate for you to have missed it! Jenny Komenda (author of the website mentioned above) designed a lovely home makeover for Lucy Kalinithi, whose husband Paul passed away last year. I recently read Paul's book and my heart broke for Lucy. I love the idea of gifting a home makeover and hope to be a part of something similar one day.

5. These slow cooker lentils with coconut blew my mind

Photo by Andrew Purcell

Photo by Andrew Purcell

I am a big fan of Dinner: A Love Story and often head there for cooking inspiration. I found myself salivating as I read over the ingredient list for these slow cooker lentils! I made them yesterday and I'm already counting down the hours until I can eat them again for dinner tonight. (I chose not to buy pomegranate seeds for garnishing.) We ate the lentils with raita and naan. You could also serve the lentils over rice, if desired. 

Still in a "I hate Mondays" slump? This should do the trick.

What has inspired you lately? I'd love to know!

Decorating tips // Stick to your decorating budget with itsums

DecoratingLaura RennieComment

This is a long post, friends, but I think it's worth checking out! I'm excited to share a new budgeting tool called itsums that you can use when decorating your home OR doing anything that you want to budget for — from a new wardrobe to a birthday party to makeup supplies. I have no doubt this site is going to blow up — it's so easy to use, and it's super helpful for people like me who like to know exactly where their money is going.

I even made my first ever video tutorial (eee!) to explain itsums, so check it out if you want to see how I use the site. Yes, I am SUPER aware of my weird tsk-ing habit. Love me anyway?


Or, if you don't want to watch the video, refer to the notes and screen shots below.

(Also, while I would love to make money off of this, this is not a sponsored post. I'm simply sharing my knowledge and experience because I truly enjoy this site.)

With itsums you create a budget for a project by starting a "board" and then you bring items from outside websites into your boards (similar to Pinterest). As you add items to your board, itsums shows you how much money remains in your budget. It's truly as simple as that, but there are additional features that are worth checking out! 

1. itsums shows how much a project will cost, how much you've already spent and what remains in your project budget

One feature I appreciate is that the user enters the price of an item (as opposed to the website automatically doing it). You can choose if you want to round up, include shipping costs or tax, or subtract a percentage if you're going to use a coupon.

Here's what my guest bathroom update board looked like when I first created it. Notice on the right it shows my budget is $70, and if I were to purchase everything on my board I would have $6 left to work with.


Here's what the board looks like once I've started marking purchased items. Notice my board now states I have $38 to spend until I reach my budgeted amount of $70. 


2. You can "hide" items to see how your project cost is affected

I just discovered this feature and I LOVE it. Say I'm trying to find a pretty white shower curtain and a fancy hand soap for my guests, but I like more than one curtain and soap. You can put all of your options on one board and hide specific items in order to try out various combinations and see how your budget is affected. In this next example, I hid the $30 curtain and the $5 soap and added in new options. 


3. You can categorize items in your board to REALLY see where your money is going

I'm going to use my master bedroom board for this example. I categorized items to see how much I was spending on any given type of item, such as art. See how the wheel is broken up into colored pieces, like a pie chart? Art is clearly a priority in this space! 


HOLD UP — how do I do all of that?

It's so easy! Hover your cursor over an item to mark it as purchased and/or to hide it from the sum. Click the little pencil graphic to categorize your item, add notes and edit the name, quantity and price. 


4. You can compare projects

You can compare up to three boards by clicking "My Sum Boards" at the top right of the page and then clicking the scale graphic. I haven't needed to use this feature yet, but it's a nice option if you're trying to decide which project to prioritize. You might even make two or three boards for the same room and use the compare tool to see which one best suits you.


5. Additional features 

  • You can view your board in list form by clicking the graphic that looks like — can you guess? — a list. (It's part of the row of graphics that include the refresh option and "add item" option, which is a plus sign.) 
  • You can upload pictures of items from your desktop by clicking the plus sign graphic. See how I used a picture from instagram on my board? The pillow was purchased at an antique store. It would have been cheating to not include it! :)
  • You can see how much you're spending overall by clicking "My Sum Boards" at the top right of the page. In this example, I've hid the board for Lucy's den from my sum total. However, it still shows the total budget for all boards. Notice the dollar amount listed on each board is the sum of the items within the board, NOT the project budget. 
  • You can explore boards that other users have created.
  • You can recreate a board if you like what someone else has done and want to add your own flair.
  • Get tips and tricks (and the occasional free printable!) from the itsums blog.
  • You can e-mail your board to someone or share it on social media.
  • If you're having trouble noticing changes on your board, click the refresh button (the two arrows that form a circle). 

There you have it! Let me know if you have any questions and I'll do my best to help. What might you use itsums for?


E-design // Lucy's final den design

DecoratingLaura RennieComment

Lucy's den e-design has quickly become one of my favorite projects to date. Earlier this month I shared my initial mood boards. To catch you up, here's a bit of background on the project:

Lucy and Glenn live in Wyoming and have two young children, two dogs and a cat. The family uses the room on a daily basis for TV watching, reading and playing games, and the pets are content to curl up on the couch. The den has a tile floor and brick fireplace, and the wall colors are a mix of beige and what Lucy calls an "orangey-taupe." Lucy and Glenn both prefer traditional furnishings. Glenn enjoys displaying maps and doesn't want the room to feel too "girly" and Lucy specifically requested ideas for a reading nook. 

My rough mood boards:

We all agreed we liked the first mood board better, but we liked the industrial touches on the second board. Lucy and her husband were surprised by how much they liked the more contemporary lines of the first board's sofa and accent chair. That blue chair is just stunning — it's a perfect accent color for the paint color in the first board. (Edgecomb Gray by Benjamin Moore.) With the square tile floor, brick fireplace and Western location, this project was the perfect chance for me to work on how I approach shapes, mixing warm and cool colors and giving a room a proper sense of place. 

Confession: I know I can delete the white space around the individual pieces, but I've been having issues with my new version of Photoshop and decided I wanted to go ahead and show you what I have now. I know it's not a hard fix and it's KILLING me that I'm struggling with it. Anyone want to help this frustrated girl out? For now, please forgive the unsightly white blocks! I'll update these boards once I get my act together. :)

For the final look I'm showing the main sitting area, a reading nook and various decorative accents. The main sitting area will feature new shelving against the existing brick fireplace surround, as well as a patterned rug and framed maps over the sofa. A tiered unit will serve as a TV stand. DVDs and small toys can be stored in flat-bottomed baskets, while blankets and larger toys can be stored in round baskets. The reading nook features the same shelving to be used as a combination bookcase and console table.

Closed storage is usually ideal for families with small children, but Lucy's narrow den will look more spacious with the many open pieces I'm suggesting. Using baskets to corral *stuff* and decorating with a light hand will keep the space from looking messy.

I had a hard time deciding on coffee tables and accent lighting for Lucy's final board. There were so many pieces I liked that I thought would work well in the space! Here are four options — which is your favorite?

Option one: pedestal coffee table, blue table lamp (with a white shade to match floor lamp), white table lamp


Option two: pedestal table, blue lamp, tripod floor lamp


Option three: tiered coffee table (matches accent table in reading nook), blue lamp, fox lamp


Option four: tripod lamp, tiered coffee table, blue lamp with wider shade, fox lamp


What do you think? I know it's a lot to take in! I love the understated industrial details, the wood tones and the pops of blue. I want to bring green into the room with plants (shocker) and it's also no surprise that I want to see some brass objects on the shelves. I've had some clients who have totally different tastes than me, and it's important to me that the rooms I decorate reflect my client's personality. But I won't lie, it's fun when I get to do a project that is similar to my own personal style!

And it's even more fun when you send off your work and get this immediate response:

"Insert sound of me squealing!  Love, love, love all of it." - Lucy

I've decided to no longer share all of my e-design sources here on the blog, however, feel free to ask where an item is from!

Want an e-design of your own? Fill out a design questionnaire or shoot me a message.

Don't forget to leave a response with your favorite of the four boards!