Monthly Archives: July 2013

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Let Me In!

I have been thinking about a recurring post for quite some time now, and it just so happened to work out that our house could be the first subject of the very first “Let Me In!” blog post!

Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved seeing other people’s homes; how they decorate, what they choose to surround themselves with. Driving through the Encanto-Palmcroft neighborhood at night, I get dizzy because I can’t look quickly enough into the homes with their drapes pulled back, and every light on. Who lives there? What do they do? Are they watching Netflix like we normally are?

It is amazing how things come together sometimes, and I’m very excited to let you know that I’ll be working with Esther Martinez on the Let Me In blog posts. I’ve got a standard list of questions which I’ll do my best to stick to, but they also might vary depending on who’s home we are working on, and Esther will be taking the beautiful photos. She recently came to our house and photographed the interior, and aside from having a lot of fun (and a lot of tacos) while she was there, she also captured the house in a way that I couldn’t have even imagined. Looking through the photos, I kept thinking “I want to live there!” which I know is ridiculous since I DO live there, but you get what I’m saying. There is something magical about her skills!

Also, the Let Me In blog posts will be photo-heavy so get ready for it.

Let Me In – John and Liz Tavarez

1. Who are you? What do you do?

John and Liz Tavarez. John works in auto parts and Liz works in insurance. We also make up 2/5ths of the band Russian Arms and Optics. In our spare time, we love watching movies, eating good food, rescuing stray animals, hanging out with friends and just relaxing!

2. What made you decide to move into the residence that you did? Location? Potential?
A lot of it was location, but also availability. We knew we wanted to be close to downtown Phoenix, and of course we bought at the height of the market, so there wasn’t a ton of inventory at the time. We knew we wanted historic, and the fact that it had original wood floors and a big back yard helped! Aside from those things, there wasn’t a lot of “charm” – but we knew the house had potential.
3. What renovations/changes have you made?
The biggest renovation was a gut remodel of the kitchen. And it still isn’t done! But those are just details. It’s functioning, and we got lazy. Other than that, it’s been smaller things; having the cast iron tub refinished, having the exterior painted, having the roof replaced, painting the interior… other than that, we haven’t done any other major remodeling or renovating.
4. What is your favorite part of your place, and why?
I would have to say it would be the kitchen. When I’m in there, I remember how it used to be, and I feel like it is really beautiful now. It took so much work and a lot of blood, sweat and tears to finish it. There were several challenges that we faced while remodeling it, and I guess aside from it being aesthetically pleasing to me, I am just really proud of what we accomplished together.
5. If money were no object, what is one thing you would renovate or purchase for your place?
If money were no object, I would add on to our bedroom in the back of house. I would make the existing bedroom into a bathroom and walk in closet (can you even fathom TWO bathrooms? and a closet that will fit more than 20 items??), and then add a totally separate bedroom where the back concrete slab is. I already have it all drawn out! Now we just need to win the lottery.
6. Biggest pet peeve of your place?
I would have to say the biggest pet peeve is the lack of storage space. Our house is only 1,004 square feet, so it’s challenging to have places to put things away. We have one small closet in both bedrooms, and one super small closet in the living room. That’s it. Our laundry room was purposely NOT photographed because it kind of looks like a controlled explosion of cleaning supplies, pet supplies, old towels, paint cans, unfinished projects… It makes me anxious just thinking about it. I also have clear bins under our bed that store my winter boots and sweaters, extra blankets are stored underneath a cabinet in the dining room… It’s pretty ridiculous, actually. More space would just mean that I could organize things better and buy more junk! Kidding, kind of. I do tell John that eventually we may have to rent a warehouse so I can buy furniture pieces that I love but have no room for.
The other thing is the ghost that steals our forks. You read that right. I don’t mind the ghost itself, I’m just tired of buying new forks.

I hope you enjoyed the first Let Me In! blog post. I enjoyed sharing the photos with you and am excited to see what other homes we will feature on here. There will surely be more to come! If you have a living space that you are proud of and would like to have a Let Me In! post done on your place, please shoot me an email so that we can talk. Special thanks to Esther Martinez for the beautiful photos of our place.

No colors anymore, I want them to turn black

black on black


Sure I’m quoting the Rolling Stones but this song just speaks the truth to me! I’ve always been fascinated with the macabre, and in the past, the color associated most with this has been black. Whether it’s a black house, woman with long black hair, children with black eyes (OK I’m creeping myself out here), black has been associated with the DARK SIDE.

More and more, I am seeing black used in the most classic, beautiful and breathtaking ways in Interior Design. Check these rooms out!

The use of white crown moulding, a white mantle, crystal chandelier and natural wood table help to balance out the matte balck walls, and keep the room from feeling too closed in. And check out those baseboards! Making me have palpitations right now!

photos from


This library is absolutely gorgeous with the semi-gloss black painted shelves, the white circle detail on the crown and the amazing grey tufted chair. The black and white desk blends in while coordinating with the chair (see how they chose the same leg shape?).

photo from Ruth Burts Interiors


Now this room manages to be both masculine and feminine at the same time, without being over the top. I don’t particularly LOVE the pink, and I think that’s just because it seems so matchy-matchy. I would have done a patterned black and white or neutral toned pillow on the seat, or if I wanted to keep the pink pillows, would have done a different accessory on the mirrored coffee table. this would just be to keep it from looking too “decorator-ish”.

photo from


THIS room is not matchy-matchy and I love it. Black on the walls, black pillows, black window treatments, black lamp shade… all with some natural wood, some dark wood, some gold, a persian carpet… It sounds like a hot mess, but it looks beautiful and coordinated and LIVED IN (aside from the fact that there is no clutter, cat hair, torn blanket – which is what we’d find in my home).

photo from


I saved the best for last. This room just hurts me, in the very best way. Leaving the ceiling in a creamy white helps to add height, and the black ceiling fixture ties in with the matte black walls. They painted the shelves in a metallic gold which really pops against the wall color. The saddle leather chairs were absolutely the right choice in this room as they pull warmth in, and coordinate with the gold shelves. And the acrylic desk? Forget it. I’m a sucker for acrylic and this one is functional without visually taking up any space in the room, and without having to add another color/finish to the current scheme.

photo from


As you can see, black rooms can be really beautiful, and not at all scary! Black is bold and confident; a statement-making color for your home! I have been toying with idea of doing our bathroom in black once we reno that, but that’s another story for another time. Don’t be scared to take chances like a black wall, or black room. First of all, it’s only paint, and you can truly transform a room with a little time and money! Secondly, why not live a bit on the wild side?

A Boring Bar Cart Gets an Update

Grey House Design Studio
  • We’ve been working on making our back patio more inviting. With the weather outside right now, it’s kind of like inviting you to hell, but I digress.Having a seating area has long been on my agenda, but outdoor furniture is SO expensive! Have you looked? John suggested a big sectional and coffee table. Um… is there $5k laying around somewhere that I don’t know about? It’s just not affordable for us at this point, so I knew I’d need to buy used pieces and update them myself.We saw this simple bar cart at a thrift store, and even though it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I knew with some updates and paint, I could use it for a small coffee/drink table outside.I first started by spray painting it with Rustoleum’s indoor/outdoor white spray paint. I made sure to tape off all of the silver handles, edges and wheels with painter’s tape.

    I did three coats of the white spray paint, letting it dry completely between coats.

    I knew I wanted some sort of stencil or design on the top, but just wasn’t quite sure what. Or how. Do I measure the top, then go inside and get drafting paper, draw something up, trace onto the table and then paint? SO MANY STEPS. I don’t have time for this.

    Sidenote but completely related: We’ve been watching all the seasons of LA Ink lately. It may sound ridiculous, but this has totally made John and I want to A) both get a bunch of tattoos and B) be creative and draw stuff. Since I’m not tough enough to get a bunch of tattoos, I decided the latter would be the better choice.

    I created a stencil by googling things on the internet like “cool looking crest” and “old english T” (first letter of my last name). I put those together to create this:

    I then used my exact-o knife and sat for a really long time (while watching LA Ink) and cut out all of the sections that I wanted to be painted onto the table.

    After that, I eyeballed the center of the table, and taped the stencil onto it, using painter’s tape so that it didn’t mess with the new white finish.

    I didn’t have any black paint aside from spray paint, and I really never have good luck with spraying stencils. Does anyone have a secret to doing that without the spray paint getting underneath? So, instead, I grabbed my black Prismacolor marker and started filling in the spaces. Because it has a fine tip on one end, it was really easy to control and get precise lines within the stencil guidelines.

    After everything was colored in and looked good to me, I let the marker dry. I then added a clear coat to the entire cart so that the white paint wouldn’t get messed up, and my new stencil wouldn’t get rubbed off when the ice from my G&T melts all over it!

    I think it looks pretty decent, considering I did this on the cheap basically with what I already had around the house. It’s also totally custom, a little bit badass, and a little bit classy. I added a couple of straight, overlapping lines around the frame of the bar cart just so that the design wasn’t floating alone in space on the top. It anchors everything and frames in the artwork. I can’t wait for the weather to ease up a bit so that I can hang out outside with John and the pups and enjoy some drinks!

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