Balcony Patio Design Reveal

I’m very excited to share my bedroom balcony patio reveal with you today! This project has been a labor of love and took me three years to complete. Now that the weather is warming up, I love coming outside any time of day to look at the garden and the pool. I also found it is the perfect place to hide from the kids, they don’t even think to check here! (I’m kidding, sort of).

A hot tip for anyone thinking of decorating a new house is to wait a while and see how you truly will use the space before doing anything. I thought I would be using this balcony as a yoga and meditation space, but after some time I realized it wasn’t private enough nor quiet enough for me – even with the added curtains. After about two years of living here, I knew I wanted my balcony to serve three functions: a place to chill and take a break, a place to work outside on a nice day, and a place to relax in the evenings with Tom and have a drink and catch a sunset.

The layout is long and narrow, so I created two seating zones. What is cool about the space is the brick fireplace-ish wall and mantle (the actual fireplace is inside). I created the first conversation area around it, adding plenty of seating and small garden stools and tables that can be moved around as needed. I already had the bistro table and chairs, so I used them as another seating area perfect for working from home, out facing the pool and the garden area. The cute birdhouse that looks like a miniature version of our house was left by the previous owner, and I love it so much. The balcony directly faces my neighbor’s house so I added outdoor curtains for some privacy. The curtains also do double-duty as a bit of a shady reprieve from the summer heat.

I used a palette of calm neutrals, taupe, grey, ivory, and some blues to give it a relaxed elegance. It wouldn’t be a true outdoor space without plants, so I added three boxwoods, two large vining jasmine (that smell absolutely divine), a fern, and a gorgeous dracaena. The hydrangeas on the table are going to be planted in the garden soon – but I couldn’t resist using them for styling this space. For the mantle, I went with some outdoor candles and a set of rattan wall art, which I hung asymmetrically.

When we first moved into our home, which was built in 1916, I found an old window in the attic that had to be from the original structure. I always like to add some vintage and found items to any of my designs, so I was beyond excited to find a place for it here. I hung it on the wall and placed a jasmine plant in front of it that will eventually grow up to cover the window at some point. Another unique find is the vase with the fern in it. I found it at a goodwill shop and fell in love with the design – at the time I had no idea what I was going to use it for. I lined the bowl with a coco fiber liner and planted my cute baby fern.

A boring but important note: one of the most important things to have for your uncovered patio has to be a large deck box for putting away pillows and blankets and storing furniture covers, especially if you live in a harsh weather climate. We get crazy winters and equally wild rainstorms in Spring. I’ve ruined more outdoor furniture and pillows than I’d like to admit out of sheer laziness to bring inside pillows and blankets or cover the furniture before a storm. Keeping storage containers accessible is key to maintaining the life of your patio decor.

Scroll down for pictures, then scroll down even further for the before!

balcony design reveal
second floor patio decor design bistro chairs

BEFORE:

2nd floor patio balcony design before

SHOP THE LOOK:

Many of my items are either discontinued or were found on Facebook Marketplace, so if I can’t find the exact item, below are links to similar items to shop. Click on the links/images below:

Bistro Chair / Bistro Table / Rug / Garden Stool / Woven Stool/ Patio Chairs / Striped lumbar pillow / Blue Square Pillow / Throw Blanket

Thanks for visiting as always! xx – Zahra

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2022 Luxury Wishlist

Happy New Year! I created this Luxury Wishlist for 2022 because I am currently snowed in and it is just fun for me to daydream about what I would want if money weren’t a factor and if I didn’t have to be practical. For example, there is in fact a crystal thong on my list. Why? Because – why not?! Why wouldn’t there be a crystal thong is what you really should be asking. I shared a peek of this list over on my instagram stories and so many of you wanted me to put a blog post together with my picks, so here it is!

I get so excited watching my favorite fashion influencers on social media, or on tv shows like Dynasty or Emily in Paris. Some of that is what inspires what is on my list – all just fun fashion that makes me happy. Maybe you want to do some shopping and need inspiration, or maybe you just want to drool over pretty things (like me!), either way, I hope you enjoy it!

Some of these items are more of an ‘investment’ (cough, cough) than others. I’ll keep updating with more items so feel free to come back and check often!

Also, don’t forget – buying stuff does not in any way increase your self-worth – you are worth so much more than material things! Like the quote on the Melody Ehsani Jordans (on the list) says ‘if you knew what you had was rare you would never waste it’ xx

Cozy + Luxe Sitting Room Reveal with Havenly

I recently partnered with Havenly to transform my boring sitting area into a cozy and luxurious environment. Yes, I now refer to a room in my home as an environment, thanks to this makeover.

As a design enthusiast (and a stereotypical Virgo control freak), I usually decorate my home myself with the occasional input from Tom. However, after taking on all of the projects since moving into our home in 2019, (like Sophia’s room and the kitchen) coupled with the added stress of the pandemic, I was feeling a bit stretched thin and excited to give a professional designer from Havenly the reigns. What a great decision that was!

The whole design process from initial consult to final rendering was a piece of cake, and I’m beyond thrilled with the results! Scroll down to see the before and after!

THE BEFORE:

The room didn’t have personality, it was filled with old furniture that we had brought over with us in the move.

THE GOAL:

I walk through this space every day – so I wanted it to look beautiful and styled instead of hodge-podge. Functionally, I needed to have a dresser for quick access to the loungewear, undies, and pj’s I keep in there, which is basically all I wear these days. I also wanted more seating because this ends up being the family hanging-out spot whenever I’m getting ready or doing my makeup or hair in the bathroom.

The process of working with Havenly was a breeze. I chose my designer Namita after seeing some of her work that I felt aligned with my style. Immediately I began communicating with her and sharing my ideas and likes and dislikes. She shared multiple design ideas, and we did a lot of back and forth tweaks to make it perfect. Finally, we agreed upon an idea that I absolutely loved.

THE DESIGN PLAN:

THE AFTER:

PRODUCTS:

Curved Sofa | Side Tables | Rug | Bench | Floor Lamp | Dresser (couldn’t find a link to it in white)|Floor Mirror|Ceiling Light |Wall Mirror: thrifted | Leopard Chair: Vintage | Pillows/Throw Blankets: Home Goods | Faux Plant: Home Depot |

Our Budget Kitchen Makeover: Before + After

The kitchen is easily the busiest room in most homes – and that proved to be even more true after 2020. Finishing our budget kitchen makeover made our quarantine life a little easier, and a whole lot more aesthetically pleasing. We decided pretty early on that we would prefer to start small, and I’m glad we did. Read on to learn about how we dramatically changed our kitchen, all for under 10K!

THE BEFORE:

The home came with traditional style, dark cherry wood cabinetry, ornate corbels, and busy granite counters. By hiring a contractor for kitchen remodeling boston (or nearby), my intention was to brighten up the space while keeping the sophisticated vibe that I love, without doing a full gut job. We wanted to keep the high-quality cabinetry and granite countertops that were in great shape. I don’t believe in being wasteful with materials unless it is really necessary, and in our case – it wasn’t!

Luckily for us, keeping the cabinets and countertops also meant we saved a ton of money. The entire makeover was less than 10K! Read on for details about our budget kitchen makeover, including cost, paint colors, and links to the backsplash, lighting, and accessories.

But first here are some visuals of the BEFORE:

THE AFTER:

The first and most dramatic change we made was painting the cabinets. The new taupe color actually made me appreciate the countertops more. The color we used was ‘Shitake’ by Sherwin Williams. We painted the walls around the cabinets the window trim, and the baseboards in Sherwin Williams ‘Aesthetic White’ for contrast.

COST BREAKDOWN

The cost of painting your cabinets completely depends on the number of doors you have – so if you have a smaller kitchen or less cabinets, the cost will be lower. I got three quotes for painting – ranging from $3,500-20,000. Kitchen Design firms usually provide their design expertise and suggestions in addition to the painting so they are on the higher end. If we were going to do any major design changes I would have gone this route.

We chose a small painting company on the lower end of the scale, because we already had our chosen paint colors. We did end up paying more than we expected because we decided to paint the adjacent eat-in area and family room doors and windows to coordinate with our new pretty kitchen.

In total we spent $5,000 for painting. While budget was a factor, I really focused on choosing a painter with a great reputation and references. I also made sure the cabinets would be spray painted at a factory for the professionally painted cabinet look, as well as to keep the mess out of the house.

Next we removed the existing metal backsplash, and opted for a bright white beveled subway tile. I chose this style because it is classic and timeless. I wanted to really brighten up the space so we decided to remove the two cabinets that were flanking the window, and tile all the way to the ceiling.

The tile was approximately $100, and installation was $600.

We added floating shelves for both function and aesthetics. I was surprised how much use we get out of these shelves – they aren’t just pretty! I know some people think floating shelves are just a trend, but I love them – so even if they go out of style, I won’t care!

Last but definitely not least, we changed all of the light fixtures. I wanted to have something substantial over the huge island, and I wanted an aged brass/vintage look. I found these large globe pendant lights, some may opt for led pendant lights, and fell in love. For the dining nook, I chose a fluted-style pendant that coordinates with the colors and tones. For the kitchen sink area, I added a small clear globe pendant and some vintage style sconces over the shelves.

Overall I’m really happy with the makeover. I love having coffee in here every morning before the kids wake up, and enjoying our new space. Now on to the next project!

PRODUCTS & PAINT COLORS

Paint Colors: Cabinets: Sherwin Williams ‘Shitake’ Walls and Trim: Sherwin Williams ‘Aesthetic White’ Inside of windows and backyard door: Sherwin WIlliams ‘Iron ore’

Backsplash Tile

Pendant Lights Over Island

Counter Stools

Floating Shelves

Pendant Light in dining nook (sold out Anthropologie but here is a similar style under $200!)

Sconce lighting above floating shelves

Pendant light above sink

Dining Room Chairs

Kitchen Rugs

New Year Life Update

Hi guys! Time for a New Year life update! As I sat down to write this post I realized how much I missed blogging. In case you haven’t been following along with me on instagram – I took a break from creating content last year. I started off the year 2020 posting weekly videos and instagram posts almost daily. I had some help with childcare for Sophia, and Adam was in school during the day – that was until everything came to a screeching halt mid-March 2020.

It felt as though an apocalypse was coming, and I’d argue we are probably still in the midst of it. We are in the biggest civil rights reckoning (at least in my lifetime), we have endured the obnoxious reality tv show that was the Presidential election (thank the LORD that is over), and of course there’s the worldwide pandemic. If that doesn’t define the apocalypse, I don’t know what does. Actually, the definition of apocalypse, (ok yes I looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly…) comes from an ancient Greek word literally meaning ‘an uncovering’, or a ‘revelation’. With all that is going on right now, that seems pretty accurate to me. What will be revealed, I am anxious to see.

While away from the interwebs, I rekindled my love for gardening, reading, decorating, cooking, and painting. I had to let go of what I thought I knew, my plans and goals, and just surrender to the universe and try to find the lesson in all of it.

I started therapy, and I’ve already quit, but that’s a story for another day, but I did pick up a few helpful tools anyone can use. Here are some of them:

I learned to manage my stress by squeezing in moments for ‘me time’. Early morning journaling while sipping an espresso before the kids wake, late-night reading a novel or a bubble bath before bed, and sprinkling in quick guided meditations (usually while hiding from the kids in a bathroom) during the day whenever I felt myself getting frazzled. Working out has also been a lifesaver – I notice the days I break a sweat I am usually happier and calmer overall. These seemingly small actions have been absolute game changers for my mental well-being.

Even though we aren’t out of the woods yet, I’m feeling hopeful for the future and I finally feel ready to get back to sharing things here on the blog. I really miss the creativity and connection I have with you all. Stay tuned for more regular posts soon! If you want to stay informed of new posts, please subscribe if you haven’t already. I won’t spam you, promise!

It should go without saying that I’m so grateful that as a family we were fortunate enough to be able to weather this storm. I feel for everyone who lost their job, or becomes ill, or lost a loved one during this difficult time. I’m not taking that for granted at all.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting my little piece of the internet, wishing you a safe, happy, and healthy 2021!

xx, Z

Sophia’s Big Girl Room Reveal

I am so excited to finally share Sophia’s big girl room with you today! When I say ‘big girl’ room I mean that weird period of time between baby nursery and kids room, in other words, the toddler phase. (If you are curious, here is what Sophia’s Nursery looked like in our old house). We stopped using the crib when Sophia was about two, and she started sleeping on the daybed, so it made sense for us to keep it for her new room. It is in great shape, we put a really great mattress on it, and the extra trundle bed is great to have in case we are called to her room in the middle of the night. I also pull out the trundle bed for a soft landing in case she rolls off the bed in the middle of the night.

I knew I wanted to use this cute Mitchell Black wallpaper, which is just so adorable and looks like a pineapple and a flower. Last time I collaborated with Mitchell Black was on my powder bathroom, and I was so happy with the results I couldn’t wait to work with them again. Almost all of their wallpaper is customizable, so you can change the size, and color, and really make your dream wallpaper come alive!

They also created a custom colorway on the paper I loved, in order for me to tie in the color palette of the room. I might not use the wallpaper in every corner since I was thinking of painting parts of the room. One of my friends suggested that I look for a local painter from My House Painter or another similar website. I’m thinking of doing it once these wallpapers start to wear off.

I absolutely love the details of this room, from the fluffy cloud-like light fixture to the vintage desk chair covered with scalamandre fabric. (Because every three-year-old needs a little bit of luxury in their life right? ha!) The decor could have been a lot better if we had put more time into it. I have seen people using Himalayan salt lamps (like the kind you can get at thelamplife) as an alternative to night lamps. It’s a wonderful idea actually, these lamps can work as a decor item as well as a relaxing night light. I might also consider getting one for our toddler. We spend so much time here, reading, playing tea parties, or just lounging around. It just really makes me so happy.

I am still thinking about painting the wood trim around the room. Fortunately, it’s in real good condition, and there’s definitely no sign of anything that might mean we would need to get someone like these Mold Remediation Services out – although it’s always reassuring to know that they are there! Tom jokes that I’m never actually done with a project and he isn’t wrong about that. Because I might feel like adding a division wall for Sophia’s study space or I might plan on painting the whole house blue! The latter is something I am now leaning towards doing for the entire house. But I don’t paint myself because I am a terrible painter, and due to the current crisis I don’t think I’ll be hiring anyone any time soon. So, for now, the trim stays!

Scroll through to see the entire room, and be sure to check out the before pictures way at the end! I have listed and linked sources to products below as well. Thanks for stopping by! Xx

Zahra

Wallpaper thanks to Mitchell Black | Rug | Pendant Light | Nightstand | Table Lamp | Wall Sconce | Bookshelf | Bench (reading nook) | Pom Garland | Ruffle Bedding | Bolster Pillows | Daybed | White Octagon Mirror | Round Brass Mirror | Play Tea Set |Desk chair: Vintage | Desk: FB Marketplace | Feather Dreamcatcher: FB Marketplace | Framed Art: Thrifted | Play table: Adam’s old table

And now for the BEFORE:

Six Spring 2020 Trends On My Wishlist

Get In My Closet!

(Bonus: Most of these are a part of the Shopbop sale! Get up to 25% off full-price styles with code SPRING)

  1. Sunglasses are the easiest way to incorporate a trend into your wardrobe. I’m really into this pair that is just as functional as it is stylish.

2. Strappy sandals are going to be the first thing I wear once the weather is even remotely appropriate for them. I love the heel detail on this Jacquemus pair.

3. Culottes – and board shorts for that matter – paired with the strappy sandals above will be perfect for everything from work meetings to weekend brunch. I love this pair especially because it is super high waist – I’d pair with a crop top that just barely grazes the waistline.

4. Loafers – besides my favorite sneakers I recently purchased, the other style of shoe I plan to wear all Spring, Summer, and Fall are loafers. They are so versatile – the slide on makes it really easy for everyday mom life, and it looks great casual paired with jeans, or even with dressy clothes.

5. Puff sleeves – A touch of a puff in the sleeve just makes it so much more interesting, and feminine. I love this tailored style with the simple collar.

6. Croc bags – I’m digging anything with a croc-effect texture, and this ivory bag is it for me – the color will work with everything in my closet, and it will brighten up my outfits for Spring!

Conscious-ish The Podcast

A long time dream of mine has finally come true – I started a podcast! I’ve been wanting to start a podcast for years. To be honest I feel like more than anything, this is my true calling. My mom said even before I could speak actual words, I was talking too much – haha. Seriously though, every single teacher in my elementary school had the same comment on my report card year after year – it read: ‘lovely child but…extremely talkative, which can be disruptive.’

I’ve also wanted a space where I can freely talk about the things that really matter to me. Moreover, I have always wanted people to join me in my discussions, providing more perspective, and breaking barriers regarding certain stereotypical topics. That is why when my friends got to know about my podcast adventure, they suggested I look for something like Agora’s interactive audio streaming (https://www.agora.io/en/solutions/live-audio-streaming/) that could allow my audience to drop in on live discussions. Honestly, I have these types of conversations on group chats with friends all the time, yet I never share this aspect of me online with my internet family, which is why I found the option of interactive audio streaming interesting.

Anyway, I just love podcasts, they are my favorite way to consume content, even more than video sometimes. I know it has become a major platform for marketing as well. Businesses can connect with their audience on a more personal level and it has the potential to be a key tool for digital marketing strategies. The audio production and content creation might sound complicated to a beginner, but you have the choice to leave it to the experts who can manage it professionally.

In this first episode, I am just venting about some things I care deeply about, and also encouraging people to get out there and vote. If I can get one person to vote who wouldn’t have otherwise, I would feel like this is a huge success. I do swear more than usual in this episode, I think I was just riled up from the topic, so please note that and maybe don’t play it aloud in front of your children.

In the future I plan to post about everyday topics like Beauty, Fashion, Motherhood, Spirituality, and pretty much everything that is interesting! I hope you enjoy this podcast, if you do- please subscribe, rate it, and share with friends! Right now you can listen to the link below, or you can find it wherever you get your podcasts!

Conscious-ish with Zahra Sandberg

5 Fashion Styling Hacks To Make Your Clothes Fit Perfectly

It’s not what you wear, its how you wear it.

I used to hate how clothes never looked the same on me as they did in the clothing catalogue on the models. Then I started this little blog where I have to-date taken thousands of pictures of myself in different outfits – and let me tell you I’ve finally figured out the secret – these five fashion styling hacks. The fact is, most clothes today are mass produced, which means they simply aren’t always going to work for your unique shape. Learning how to adjust your wardrobe to fit you perfectly is the key to making everything you wear look infinitely better.

Here are five fashion styling hacks that will make your clothes fit perfectly:

butt shaper fashion styling hacks
  1. Invest in the right undergarments. It is the easiest way to enhance your shape without stepping foot in a gym. These are my favorite body shapers that have really changed the shape wear game, they lift and cinch *exactly* where you need it. It is, however, possible to choose to go braless if you feel uncomfortable wearing undergarments such as a bra. Alternatively, you can search for light weight braless support systems, such as those offered by Nuudii (visit https://nuudiisystem.com/ for more information).
@alwayscoco

2. Use hair ties to keep your sleeves casually rolled up. Take any hair tie and pull it over your shirt sleeve to your elbow. Roll up or push up sleeves (depending on your desired look) and tuck in to hair tie.

fashion-styling-hacks

3. Belt your loose dresses or long shirts to cinch your waist. This is my favorite simple way to make an outfit really fit right, and it works on every body shape.

4. Use a clear elastic to tighten loose or baggy shirts. Slouchy shirts can be cute but often times they can look sloppy. If you want to make it look a little more neat and tailored, try this trick. Pull fabric together in the front or back and secure with elastic – it will look like a little ponytail. Tuck in to pants. You can also tuck the ‘ponytail’ under into the shirt for a cropped look.

fashion-styling-hacks

5. Safety pins are your best friend! I use safety pins for everything from tightening my waist that one extra inch, to keeping bra straps from slipping out. You can use them to tuck and pin a sweashirt in the front to achieve a half tuck look that won’t budge. Or if you want to have the off-shoulder top look, pin one bra strap to your shirt. The options are endless.

6. Hem your pants to hit just above ankle. This is by far the most flattering hem length for most people and it works equally well with flat shoes and heels. You can do this yourself by using hem tape or scissors for a frayed hem look, or you can get a professional tailor to do it.

What are some of your favorite styling hacks??

Video: Muslim Women Interfaith Marriages

In this video: I talk to Imaad of @thelondonnikah about Interfaith Marriages. Imaad shares with us his own story, going from leading prayers in a traditional mosque for 12 years before completely changing course to where he is now, leading interfaith marriage ceremonies around the world. He has performed 200 marriage ceremonies to date, and therefore has a ton of great insights and advice to share.

Talking with Imaad and hearing his views on religion and spirituality was incredibly refreshing and inspiring. He also shares some practical tips and advice for interfaith couples who are looking to get married.

A little background: mainstream Muslims believe that Muslim women must only marry Muslim men. There has been some dissent on this, including an Imam who declared it is permissible, and a Muslim country that passed a law allowing women to marry outside of her faith. But despite all of this, the collective majority still puts these restrictions on women and most women tend to comply to this rule (however reluctantly).

Full disclosure: In my marriage, Tom converted. It was primarily for the purposes of convincing my family and community, but also as a way for me to ensure our kids would be raised Muslim. At the time I had also believed the mainstream idea that my husband had to be Muslim, which is something I no longer believe. I’ll talk more about my beliefs and how they have changed since I got married in my next video, stay tuned.

I sincerely believe this is one of the reasons why so many of my beautiful, successful, thriving Muslim sisters in the west are unable to find someone suitable to marry. For years I’ve been getting messages from Muslim women who are looking to marry outside of their faith. I’ve happily given my advice, telling them to follow their hearts and their gut instincts while also respecting their families. It is my hope that watching this video will give people some insight into interfaith marriage and the challenges they may face, and also some courage and hope for their future.

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Terms

all images and content, unless otherwise noted, are property of zahra sandberg. Please request permission prior to use of any of my images. if you have further questions, email me at zahra{at}lovezahra{dot}com.