Week One | April 4 | The Before Tour

Where to start? And what are the plans? I’ll show you my inspiration board, the furniture we already have, and the guiding principles I’m using as the room evolves.

Welcome! Welcome! Welcome! I’m so happy you have stopped by for the first installation in the Spring 2019 One Room Challenge! This is my first time to participate in the challenge, but I am crazy-excited! It’s so good to have a goal — first of all — to finish one room in six weeks. And I’m delighted to connect with all of the other ORC participants who are doing inspirational work on their own rooms.

I have taken on a Guest Room Refresh for this One Room Challenge. We have lots of work to do on our home, but redoing the guest room is like picking the low-hanging fruit — no walls to move, no plumbing or electrical work — and we are doing it all on a budget of $800. My husband, an architect and guy with mad power-tool skills, helps me with all of the heavy work, but we will be doing the entire project ourselves, so this is a great DIY challenge.

We aren’t new to renovation, however. We have completely redone two other homes: a 1980s Cabin in the City and our 1948 Subdivision Sweetheart.

Why an $800 budget? Well, I’ve been using the KonMari Method in our house, and I have made almost $800 selling things we don’t need or that don’t spark joy! So now I have a budget for the Guest Room Refresh.
— Angela

Our current home was built in 1958. It is a split-level home in a whole neighborhood of Mid Century Modern houses. However, the last sixty years have not been kind to this house, and it needs a lot of love. But that’s what we do! We have always purchased the worst house in the best neighborhood — and then worked our magic a bit at a time.

So, where are we starting? In our very basic and boring Guest Room. Located on the lower level of our home, the guest room is in 1950s-speak at “garden level.” That means the windows are at ground level — and all of the outlets are in the middle of the wall because everything below the window is cement block.

Dimensions: 11’ x 14” | 154 sq. feet

My office: a carbon copy of the guest room

My office: a carbon copy of the guest room

The Guest Room taken from the corner between the two windows

The Guest Room taken from the corner between the two windows

The room is grey with white trim. In fact, all of the rooms in our house are the same color. That first photo — it’s not actually the guest room. It is my office. But they look almost exactly the same, so I didn’t even notice at first. The only difference: the guest room does not have painted paneling like my office does. And the window is slightly smaller. I don’t seem to have a photo of the room from that angle, but trust me — they are exactly the same. Both rooms even have the same “boob” ceiling fixture (seriously, once you see it that way, you’ll never not see it).

The Furniture

With an $800 budget, I don’t have money to go out and buy a bunch of furniture. And, honestly, what we have will work very well with a little creativity.

Two Espevar foundations stacked on top of each other as work begins.

Two Espevar foundations stacked on top of each other as work begins.


We have two Espevar foundations from IKEA plus mattresses. In our last home, these were in the guest room and Bambino’s room. We bought him a new bed recently, so we now have two twins for the guest room. I prefer twins to any other size in a guest room because they accommodate a variety of sleeping configurations depending on who comes to visit.

The Espevar foundations are relatively inexpensive, and you can buy covers for them. But you’ll see that we have other ideas.

I found this table with faux bamboo legs on the Facebook Marketplace.

I found this table with faux bamboo legs on the Facebook Marketplace.


I bought this table for $25 on the Facebook Marketplace when we lived in Dallas a few years ago. I love the faux bamboo legs — both a touch MCM and a little Asian/Hawaiian-influence. It will work well as the bedside table between the two beds.

This antique dresser was a big splurge at the Oronoco Gold Rush Days.

This antique dresser was a big splurge at the Oronoco Gold Rush Days.


We have owned this dresser for twenty years. I bought it for $50 at a flea market in our starving-teacher-years which was a huge splurge for us at that point in our lives. It is old and lovely and in pretty good shape. So we will just spruce it up a bit, and it will serve well.

My $5 bench used to sit at my dressing table. Now it will find another home.

My $5 bench used to sit at my dressing table. Now it will find another home.


I bought this Mid Century dressing table stool for $5 at a garage sale when I started my first teaching job. I was fresh out of graduate school and poor as a church mouse. But it has served me well. It was damaged in one of our moves — thus the blue strapping holding it together. But I plan to take it apart and repair it. Then a little paint or stain (not sure which) and a newly upholstered seat, and this will be a great bench for holding luggage.

We are going to make a few pieces and change up some of these to outfit the room fully.

The Inspiration Board

Before Bambino was born, I traveled. A lot. I have written several travel books, and I wrote about, dreamed about, and thought about little other than travel. Having a child and a husband who has to travel a lot for work changed that a little — but wanderlust is still a reality in my life.

A piece of our last renovation serves as the primary inspiration for the Guest Room Refresh. When we were gutting the 1948 Subdivision Sweetheart, workers in the attic found several artifacts which clearly had been up there for a long time — one of which was this vintage map of Hawaii from 1950. The prior owners didn’t want it, so I have been just waiting for the right place to use it — and now I have found it.

vintage map of hawaii 1950.jpg

I’ll be framing this map, and it will hang near the door. But the map — and our own travels — inspired the entire color scheme — turquoise, sea foam green, and hints of red. And while this isn’t a themed room, it will certainly have a vintage feel and provenance.

But it wasn’t just the map that inspired the room. As we discussed color schemes, my husband suddenly turned to me and said, “Oh, you mean this room will be like SusieCakes?” And it clicked! Yes, indeed, our favorite bakery from San Francisco — the bakery where we got Bambino’s first birthday cake — their retro-infused, colorful stores are another inspiration point for our Guest Room Refresh. Sweet!

Coupled with the vintage map and our favorite bakery inspiration, I will also be using a range of vintage pillowcases which I inherited from my grandmother last summer as well as my small collection of milk glass. We live in a home of a certain era, and we enjoy Mid Century design, so while we aren’t creating a museum or doing a historical restoration, I am keenly aware of the era, and I strive to incorporate as many era-appropriate elements as possible all while living firmly in the 21st century. Plus using what we already have in a new way is a great way to save money, so I will be shopping my house.

ORC 2019 Inspiration Board.jpg

Over the next five weeks, I'll be showing the progress as we transform this room from Basic and Boring to Beautiful. And since this is a Guest Room, I’m focused on imbuing the room with gracious touches which will make our guests feel at home, too.

Here’s my schedule for the coming weeks:

Week 2 | April 11 | Repurposing Old Furniture
Week 3 | April 18 | Lighting and Windows
Week 4 | April 25 | Vintage Linens
Week 5 | May 2 | Be Our Guest!
Week 6 | May 9 | The Big Reveal

I’ll be sharing the how-to for all of our projects along the way including our headboards for less than $10 and really cute window treatments that let in all of the sunlight (so important in the winter) as well as my favorite shopping sources for all things vintage and new.

And don’t forget — we are doing all of this on a budget of $800 or less!

You can follow along on Instagram or like Mid Modern Mama on Facebook for tips, tricks, and sneak peeks along the way, too.

Ok. Gotta get back to work!


Who was the artist?

I did some research into our inspirational piece, and the story of Joseph Feher is fascinating!

Don’t miss a single update!

Sign up and each installment of the One Room Challenge will come directly to your email on Thursdays! And be sure to stop by the One Room Challenge Blog to check out the other creative renovations happening across the country. You can also follow #oneroomchallenge and #bhgorc on Instagram for more inspiration! Be sure to follow me, too!


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