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Honestly, This Is Tillary

August 14, 2014   //  Posted in: Decor, Living Room   //  By: Emily   //  3 responses

After living with the West Elm Tillary sectional for about 10 months and receiving countless emails that politely inquired about how the couch has been holding up to our lifestyle, I’ve finally gathered my thoughts into one concise place. If you missed the first post I wrote on this product, check it out here.

Before I get into anything that presents negativity, I have to say, I still do like this couch for our house. With its deep seat and low height, its size is perfect for our large living room and I know that I would have a challenging time finding something comparable with those qualities. We really love that the back supports are so low that they are just below our windowsill so when we push the couch up to the window, we’re not blocking line of sight, and the depth of the seat mirrors our deep fireplace hearth, a stone sill which spans one whole wall of our room and engulfs about 45 sq. ft.. Feels pretty Feng Shui, if I were to be pretending that I was an expert in Feng Shui (totally not).

West Elm's Tillary Sectional Sofa in our house. A real review. Check it out.

On to other points. The fact that the back rests are loose (not at all connected to the bases) is a bit of a pain in the ass when it comes to working on the couch for extended periods, or snuggling up with pillows and a blanket to watch a movie. The smaller/straight back supports do slide (the corner piece, considerably less so because it’s larger and heavier), and we usually end up pulling the supports “towards us” so they are positioned more on top of the seat, rather than teetering on the edge like in this next photo. Because they’re weighted, when they tip off, they’re loud, like, “Did one of the kids just bust open their head?” loud. And also, if you’re relying on them when they crash, you crash too.

It’s because of the backs that I usually tell people that it’s a couch that’s better for entertaining, when people might be more inclined to be sitting with their feet on the ground and their tush at the edge of the seat with a glass of wine balanced in hand. It’s also the same stance I sit in when I’m folding laundry, so sometimes, less wine, more housekeeping. You can sit cross-legged on it pretty easily though too, because it’s a firm seat, and deep.

West Elm's Tillary Sectional has moveable back supports. Check out my review.

The other thing about the backs though, the thing that I really like, is that we can position them however we want. So, we’ve tried dozens of configurations, and you can really change the look of the couch by moving (or removing) certain back rests. Our daughter will rearrange them to suit too, and because they have a nice flat top, they make for a nice play surface, not that “playability” is a major selling point for you, I suppose. And sometimes we move them right onto the floor for when we’re playing games spread out, or just reclining… I find that easier than propping myself up with 6 throw pillows.

West Elm’s photo that I’m showing here, demonstrates another way we like to position the cushions, on the short end of the seat to create a sort of chaise styling.

Hello, pretty West Elm Tillary Sectional.

We bought the Tillary in a Heather Gray color; zero complaints on the quality of the fabric itself. No signs of wear, no pilling, no discoloration. When I sit on it for a long time, sometimes when I get up it looks like the fabric has stretched to be a little loose/wavy, but so far it has always retracted back to its original smoothness… I do wonder when its elasticity will wear out.

Since Day 1, we haven’t been thrilled at the seams and puckering all around. Sometimes we can smooth them down a bit, but for the most part, the couch always looks like this. It’s just aesthetic and I assume that guests are more focused on giant drifts of dog fur in the corners of the living room, but for a couch in the $2,000 range, I would not expect this. IKEA, maybe, but not West Elm.

West Elm's Tillary Sectional Sofa in our house. Check out my review.

We’ve been taking advantage of the fact that the bases move about so easily (none of them are connected together, and we added little low-pile carpet pieces to the undersides of the feet so they can slide easily on our hardwood floors). Sometimes the sections are pushed together like a square when Julia wants to have a sleepover on the couch. Sometimes, it’s arranged into a long, straight line against the back wall when there are 15 kids lined up watching a movie projected wall. For awhile, we had the two long sections separated and parallel to one another, just to see how that would work (good, except that it limited seating space when we wanted to watch TV).

So, right now we actually reduced the size of our sectional so that it’s just the two long bases forming an L. We shifted the square base that was previously the corner “hinge” over to the other side of the living room as a place to sit amongst baby central. Honestly, it’s only been like this for about a week and it’s fine for now, especially since the back support can’t shift when it’s against the stone wall, but we’re looking to get a smaller love seat for this space eventually. (Psst, that round rug is the West Elm Bordered Round Jute Rug in Horseradish that was 30% off recently, and I love it, but we’re still figuring out where it’s going to go in our house.)

The square piece of our Tillary Sectional is separated from the rest of the sofa.

Again, if you missed the first review I posted on this product, check it out here. And if you have any additional questions, please feel free to drop me a note at

The West Elm Tillary Sectional Sofa in our modern home - An honest review!

Baby’s First Area Rug

August 13, 2014   //  Posted in: Flooring, Living Room, Supporting Sponsors   //  By: Emily   //  one response

The rug pad shown in this post was provided to me by in exchange for a test run in our home and a good ol’ American review. The rug itself, something we bought ourselves.

We ripped out around 1,500 sq. ft. of tan carpeting last fall, and I spent a lot of months recovering from the process of installing hardwood floors in their place. And then we had a baby who decided she’s ready to start crawling, and short of having a FLOR runner in our hallway and a bear-shaped rug covering a small part of the floor in her room, we had still been living on our bare wood floors – lux in its own right, but not cozy.

Layering towels and blankets on the floor of the living room was never intended to be a long term solution for our wiggly kid, so we began the hunt for a carpet that we could use to further cozy-up our home. Turns out, Pete and I have very different tastes when it comes to buying area rugs, which did not make this process easy, and in fact, it took several months. You know when you completely fall in love with something only to have your significant other tell you they don’t like it at all? A lot of that, and it went both ways.

By the end, Julia was probably the only one of us who enjoyed the rug shopping process, and it was because she could completely bury herself in those tall, hanging racks and “be in charge” of flipping the carpet pages to reveal the next product. It was on our 3rd or 4th trip to Homegoods that we found our carpet. (I don’t find a lot of decor there–it was more fitting for our last house than the current one–but the rug selection is usually decent [and also, occasionally they have super cool modern chairs]).

FOUND: A carpet that we could agree upon. HomeGoods.

At $299 and 7’10” x 10’1″, it was a great price and size and (for Pete) more plush than a woven rug, and right, it’s super beige, you don’t have to remind me about how much beige I just evicted… but have a closer look and notice that there are lots of variegations in the shaggy material, some threading and weaving that’s visually more reminiscent of something handwoven, or more Moroccan or Indian. A little more intriguing than a solid booorrring shag that we might have gotten, and still not at a quality or price point that is going to make me angry if a fruit smoothie tips on it… we’re not the type of people to enforce “no food in the living room” types of laws. Simply put, people like us shouldn’t be allowed to have nice rugs, so this works.

Sometimes when you bring home a new rug, you just have to pet it (and play Yahtzee… Yahtzee peek).

Varieagations in the pretty beige carpet that we just bought for our living room (Homegoods.).

This is where the rug pad comes in. The only other “rug pad” I’ve ever used was “low-profile” like this product, so as semi-cushy as that seemed, this 1/4″ thick pad is a completely different experience, and makes our new rug feel a bit more lush and cush.

Rug pad from

The Premium Lock Rug Pad has a natural rubber base and is eco-friendly and safe for hardwood floors like ours (I’ve learned that some PVC rug pads can discolor polyurethane over the years, so it’s nice to not have to give a second thought to this one). And as it is marketed as being eco-friendly, I can attest to there being no weird plasticy smells, and it being durable to the touch on both sides of the pad.

The new premium lock carpet pad from Rug Pad USA.

Pre-pad, our rug was heavy enough to not slide around and wasn’t lumpy in any way, but a rug pad is great for securing and evening out rugs that aren’t. It adds a nice, firm cushion underfoot, and though realistically it’ll be years/decades before I can attest to whether it’ll hold up or disintegrate (I think this happened to a rug pad in my youth?), right now, first impressions, it feels nice. Even before this company wrote to me, I had been shopping around for a rug pad that would fit the slightly “off” size of our 7’10” x 10’1″ area rug, because I figured if we were pushing around our couch at all and grinding the rough rug underside against the floorboards, we could end up with scratches. It was nice to learn that Rug Pad USA will cut the order to size, which helps for some of the weird, non-standard rug sizes that you find when you (ah-hem) bargain shop for rugs at places like Overstock, Amazon, IKEA, and… HomeGoods. Our pad sits about 1″ inside each edge, so it’s completely hidden.

The living room itself is coming along nicely with the help of that coffee table and our new rug, except that a little vignette like this is pretty good at hiding the big bounce-a-roo and unnecessarily large stack of baby toys on the other side of the couch, so don’t be fooled. And fans of the Tillary sectional who are spying those wrinkles in the cushions, I still owe you a new review of how we like this couch (I get a lot of emails and questions, so lemme work to get something up here soon).

Living room, coming together with the addition of the Tillary Couch and A new rug.


Our Great Treehouse (Railings + A Modern Roofline)

August 06, 2014   //  Posted in: Backyard   //  By: Emily   //  10 responses

Stained treehouse, ready for railings.

I think there’s a lot to be said about making long term investments like this at your home. The whole process of building the treehouse for our kids challenged us to create something that we’ll have for a long time, and we’ll be happy with for as long. Something suitable for everyday play, fun for a wide range of ages, and also, good lookin’, since we’ll be staring at it through our kitchen window for the next however many forever. I consider myself healthily frugal, but went into this project with a budget realistic of what it would cost to buy a play set (and the better versions of those things aren’t cheap). We saved here and there by reusing hardware that we had on hand, wood scraps from previous projects, and by being efficient and using almost all of the new wood we bought, but longevity was a main consideration in every stage of construction, and where we needed to invest to guarantee that this treehouse would stand up to wind, rain, rot, and anything else fathomable, we did. It repels elements.

I’ll go through all of the receipts to see what this structure has actually cost us (goal: <$1,000?).

Safety features, obviously, weren’t something that we’d cheap out on, and this treehouse probably has the best railing that we’ve ever built. More than anything else, I think this proves that practice in DIY makes perfect because sturdy railings are more complex than you would think, and it was the step of the project that I was most weary about. I’ve built some railing systems in the past that required a lot of tweaking (not twerking, there was almost an embarrassing typo right there) to prevent them from feeling loose, and I wanted/needed these to be right on the first try. From experience, it’s really best to anchor the railing posts to real structure (don’t even bother screwing around with those metal cups, metal cups are phonies). To do this here, I cut away part of the T1-11 paneling that I had already installed and stained so that I could bolt the vertical railing posts down and through the installed floorboards, directly to the structural end joist.

Removing some of the t1-11 facade to accommodate the railing.

The order of operations of construction may have been a little bit whacked in this case since I ended up removing something I had already deemed “complete,” but it got done well, and I can rest easier now that it’s installed. The placement of the ladder was something we hadn’t firmly landed upon prior to this step, and the 11th hour decision to install it coming up the backside meant that we would be able to have one long stretch of railings, which would look good, and promise a more sturdy railing structure.

Installing the railings on our modern treehouse.

For the balusters, I loosely followed a railing design that I liked in one of my inspiration photos, but retrofitted the materials list to fit a modest budget because cute railings made of premium wood can be damn expensive. Instead of buying ridiculously priced lumber that might look like crap after one season out in the snow and rain, I bought a bunch of 6-foot 1×6 fence boards, and ripped them to size. They’re pressure-treated, and fence boards are notorious for lasting a long ass time.

Buying fence boards at Home Depot to cut and make into a treehouse railing.

A single 6-foot 1×6 fence board, even after chopping off that classically fancy fence post end, was enough to yield 4 individual homemade balusters at the length we needed for our 30″ high railings. We used the chop saw and table saw here, which made the process quicker and more accurate than using a circular saw.

Cutting down fence posts to become railing balusters.

My ol’ friend the Kreg Jig doesn’t get much use these days, but came in handy while constructing the horizontal structure of the railing so there are no awkwardly exposed screws or bolts. We attached the 3″ wide balusters with 1-1/2″ deck screws by starting in the center, and working outwards, using a spare baluster as a spacer. Without much planning, this worked out pretty well. We later went on to add a 2×6 board across the top to create a flat rail, which you’ll notice in some of the photos later in this post.

Cutting down fence posts to become railing balusters.

The ladders for the treehouse were another big decision; we actually had two to make, the second of which you can sort of see if you look really hard through the chop saw in this picture.

Installing the ladders into our modern treehouse.

The first resembles your everyday ladder, but with foot treads like steps. Had we given a little more thought to the placement of each step, we definitely would have spaced them out a little bit more (we went with a standard 8″ rise, but didn’t account for there being virtually no tread “run” so if you’re not careful, anyone with adult-sized feet can get pretty tripped up (or down, I may have already fallen down). This one may get rebuilt eventually for convenience, but not immediately because so far the kids are nimble enough to not get tangled in their own sneakers (not to mention, tiny feet). It does look damn good though, and I’ll always appreciate the way Pete took the time to dado and chisel this to visual perfection.

Designing treehouse ladder that is more like steps.

That second ladder provides access into the treehouse through a small “trap door” opening in the floorboards (there’s still no “door” and may never be – pinched fingie alert!). This ladder style is a little more straight forward, and easier to climb too. Since you’re accessing straight up into the treehouse, I added dowels into the wall here to grasp onto as you’re entering the enclosure.

The cement pavers that we used beneath both ladders were something we inherited awhile back when we lived at the old house but never used (but since we bothered to haul them from house to house, and then left them leaning against a tree for 14 months, they weren’t easily forgotten about and happily found a permanent home).

The trap door ladder into our treehouse.

The ceiling structure was a detail I anticipated as much as I did the round window (read about how we cut that round window here); to keep in the modern look and feel, we constructed the roof to be slanted (I think it falls 16″ over 12-feet), which is also enough to allow rainwater to easily flow off. Best case scenario, the roof would have completely covered the front porch area too, but our measurements (or lack thereof) made the overall treehouse a little longer than we envisioned originally, and so we settled with an even ~12″ overhang on the front and back, which I think worked out beautifully.

Our modern treehouse, with the raw wood railing.

Each of the three boards up there was hand-notched out by Pete to allow it to sit in place, and was also toenailed securely with the framing nail gun (we used that tool a lot during this project; highly, highly recommended). We considered adding hurricane ties for added reinforcement, but without them it felt really sturdy, especially once we began layering on the ceiling structure that ran perpendicular. They’re always something that we could add on later, since it’s an open structure.

Our modern treehouse, with the raw wood railing.

Somewhere in between finishing the railings and ladders, and installing the roof, we sprayed the raw woods with more of the opaque Oxford Brown stain; in our second round of staining, I noted intentionally that we were diluting the opaque water-based stain by 50%, which did a lot to stretch our second gallon of stain and finish the job without completely eliminating the opacity of the stain. (Read more about the staining strategy here.)

Installing pieces of roof framing on our modern treehouse.

The roof was one of the only materials we knew we wanted to use when we started this project; we figured it would be easy to find something corrugated, like your average shed or your grandma’s carport. I like fabric roofs on play spaces well enough, but they’re a little more temporary than I cared to install here (my mom was always sewing new ones for my childhood treehouse using sailcloth, crafty lady). A roof finished with shingles was a viable option too, if it wouldn’t have made the treehouse seem too… professionally finished, and nicer than our barn. Our color preferences limited us in the corrugated department, and the fact that we needed pieces that were 12″ in length narrowed us down to a Polycarbonate roofing product at our local Lowe’s (those tall sheets on the right):

Polycarbonate and corrugated roofing options at Lowe's.

Naturally, can’t really see the actual product that we bought in that above photo; it’d be the dark/black panel peeking out to the left of Pete. It’s most closely described like sunglasses, transparent but tinted, so when used as a roofing material, you can see straight up through to the sky, but be shaded from the direct sunshine.

Installing the polycarbonate corrugated roof in our treehouse.

We had to get a couple of boxes of special screws to attach this – if you were to drill right through the plastic you’d be dealing with water leaking issues, so the recommended fasteners have a rubber gasket-like seal on them to help divert rainwater. At roughly $33/each, we needed 5 sheets of the polycarbonate and 2 boxes of screws to account for the necessary overlaps in panels, so it might not have been the least expensive route, but it has definitely been keeping our treehouse dry and letting in enough natural light to enjoy the space into the evening.

If you want to talk about saving a few dollars, the ceiling braces that run directly below the plastic roofing were ripped from leftover deck boards, a quick way we managed to save ~$15. I also didn’t stain the top of them, because why?

Installing the tinted polycarbonate roof on our modern treehouse.

We’re considering it “done” for awhile; we’re still going to install swings at some point in the coming weeks, but the novelty is in the treehouse itself right now, so we’re not rushing ourselves on it. Also, there are some finishing touches that I’ll add to the interior as I get around to it (paint treatments, pulley system, pegboards), and when I find the right set of outdoor children’s furniture, I’ll scoop it right up so Julia and her friends have a comfortable place to play with their toys and make me precious art. The kid art is incredible lately.

Before I head out, I’ll leave you with some photos that I took this morning:

Our pretty, modern, and huge treehouse.

Our pretty, modern, and huge kid's playhouse.

While spraying stain, Pete accidentally coated two of the cement blocks. May eventually go back and stain the others. May decide that I don’t care.

Our pretty, modern, and huge kid's playset.

The ladder to our modern treehouse.

Inside, super spacious. Hole in the floor is the secondary entrance… still in need of a guard rail of some sort. The view from the half wall is wonderful, looking through vines and down into our ravine.

Inside our pretty, modern, and huge kid's treehouse.

Inside our pretty, modern, and huge kid's treehouse.

Inside our pretty, modern, and huge kid's treehouse.

In any case, it’s still completely unreal that in April, this area was still entirely overgrown…

Making space for a new playset.

… and now it looks like this. (How’s that for a holy crap moment?)

Our modern treehouse with slanted roof and big, round window.