Xin Lu (whose name is pronounced “sing, like sing a song”) lives in the Atlanta suburbs with her husband and two children. She is DIY enthusiast, and her home is a testament to her skills: stenciled walls, homemade lampshades, and a decade-old sofa she revived with velvet fabric! When COVID hit in 2020, her projects got even more ambitious: “I wanted to put my energy into something productive that was good for my mental health,” she says. Here, she walks us around…
On picking paints: When we first moved in, we painted the whole house in a light grey. I wanted to start with something light that wasn’t white, and then I slowly started incorporating colors into the rooms. I’m drawn to nature-inspired colors, especially green. I wish I had a special formula for choosing paints, but the truth is I just grab a bunch of swatches from the store, tape them up and start eliminating the ones I don’t like!
On a smaller paint project: My neighbor gave me this low metal cabinet when she moved. I loved it, but it was bright red, so I had to tone it down. I used regular house paint and then put a few coats of clear polycrylic to protect it.
On a relaxed room: This was originally the formal dining room, which we never used. But it has the best light in the house, so I thought, ‘How can I use this room so we can be in here every day?’ A play room seemed like the best fit. The kids do their crafting and homework at the table, and I like to keep the middle open so they can sit on the floor and play with Legos or trains.
On high-maintenance pets: We got two rabbits — Mango and Zooey – for my daughter’s birthday last summer. She really wanted a pet, and we thought rabbits would be easy. We were wrong! They poop. A lot.
On a calculated clock placement: I put the clock down low because I want the kids to learn to do things for themselves. Whenever they ask me what time it is, I say, ‘Oh! Go check your clock!’
OPEN KITCHEN/LIVING ROOM:
On a snack-proof sofa: We tucked a quilt over the sofa cushions, so crumbs and toys don’t fall between them. If it gets dirty, you can just shake it off and throw it in the wash. I got the idea from Emily Henderson.
On dinner: My husband is the cook in the family. We built a vegetable garden last year, and it’s his favorite place to hang out after work. He does a lot of Chinese cooking — stir-fries and soups with veggies and pork bones.
On a nightly ritual: We eat breakfast at the counter, but at dinner, we always sit at the table. We’ve actually started a routine I read about on Cup of Jo — rose, thorn & bud. We do it every single night!
On the meaning of home: To me, home means a place where I feel at ease. It’s the place where I know where every light switch is, and I can let my kids play without worrying about them breaking something.
On a prized project: This was my first DIY project. I wanted built-ins, but when I looked into having them made, it was really expensive. So, I did some research on DIY blogs and figured out how to make our own. We got the cabinets for the bottom at Home Depot, and the rest we built ourselves. It was my husband, my father-in-law and me, and we finished the project in about a week. It really wasn’t too bad!
On a multi-purpose place: My daughter, Mia, plays the piano, and we chose this as the music room because it has a door she close while practicing. This is also where the kids watch cartoons, for that same reason — so I can shut the door!
Wall paint: Sherwin Williams in Evergreen Fog. Moulding: Home Depot, similar. Curtains: Ikea (“I added the black ribbon”). Lampshades: DIY. Lamp base: thrifted. Bed: Wayfair, similar. Bedding: Sijo. Kantha quilt: Etsy. Painting: Juniper Print Shop. Rug: Loloi.
On saving a sofa: My husband and I bought this sofa together 10 years ago, before we were married. Over the past few years, the pleather started peeling off every time someone sat down. I wondered if we should get rid of it, but I still liked the clean lines. I’d never upholstered a big piece of furniture before — just little stools and ottomans — but I figured I might as well try. I watched some YouTube videos, but the key thing was taking photos as I took the sofa apart, and then using those photos to put it back together the same way. I used velvet fabric from Hobby Lobby.
On upcycling: I found our bedside table lamps at a thrift store, and the lampshades they came with were really old. Since we don’t sleep with a top sheet, I decided to use the one from our bedding set to make new lampshades. Also, that long, lumbar pillow? That used to be my old pregnancy pillow. I loved it so much and I didn’t want to get rid of it! But I didn’t want to have a pregnancy pillow lying around forever. So I thought, ‘How can I repurpose this so it’s still useful and looks nice?’ I made a new pillowcase (taking measurements from another lumbar pillow we had) and took the filling out of the pregnancy pillow and used it to stuff the new case.
On pandemic productivity: This room became my big project at the start of the pandemic. It’s right off our bedroom, and up until then, it had just been the place we threw extra stuff. I thought it would make a good office for my husband. That was the first time I documented a project by sharing process photos and videos on Instagram. Everyone was so supportive!
Wall paint: Behr in Heritage Park. Peg rails: DIY project. Bedside sconces: Passica. Bedside tables: DIY project. Bed: Ikea. Bedding: Target, similar. Printed Kantha quilt: Etsy. Rug: Loloi. Mirror: Target. Basket planter: Target, similar.
On a guest-room feature: I put together the double peg board myself. It’s useful for visitors, because they have a place to hang their stuff. I also like using it for decorations.
On going dark: I love the blue-green color on these walls. It’s Heritage Park from Behr. It was my first time using such a dark paint in a bedroom, but I immediately fell in love. The instant you walk into this room, it feels so calm.
On faking wallpaper: I wanted wallpaper on the top section of this wall, but wallpaper is expensive! So, I decided to paint it black, and then stencil on the flowers myself. I just used sample paint colors I had lying around — different blues and greens.
Shelves: DIY. Chair: thrifted.
On trying a trend: I kept seeing arches everywhere. All my favorite designers were using them — I guess I was influenced! I wanted to find a way to put an arch in my house without making structural changes. Painting was the easiest way — all I needed was a sample can from Home Depot. This whole DIY cost about $4. And tracing the arch is easier than you’d think. You put a pin with a string attached in the center of the wall, tie a pencil to the other end of the string and just draw up and over from one side to the other. I learned this trick from YouTube videos!
On a souvenir-turned-wall-art: When I visited New York City years ago, I went to the famous Strand bookstore and bought a pack of bird postcards. They were so beautiful that I didn’t want to mail them! Finally, it dawned on me to frame them and put them on a wall.
On affordable art: Many of our original pieces are thrift-shop finds. I also love Juniper Print Shop for their affordable artwork. They use matte paper, so it photographs beautifully. Another resource I use is the Met Museum’s public-domain gallery. It’s free, so all you have to do is print out the images. I made a gallery wall in our bedroom using that collection. Sometimes I cut things out of magazines and frame them. And in here, it’s the framed packet of postcards! Art doesn’t need to be complicated.
On the next big project: This is my daughter’s room. My son, Alex, still wants to sleep on a mattress in our bedroom, next to my side of the bed. But this year I’m hoping to redo a room so well that he’ll actually want to sleep in it. That’s my big plan for 2022!
On having fun with it: I’ve always loved climbing trees and passed that along to my daughter. Now tree-climbing is one of her favorite things to do. So, when I saw this wallpaper, I thought it was perfect. It’s just so fun — all the people eating ice cream and drinking coffee and feeding the birds. You only get to be a kid once, so why not?
Thank you so much, Xin!
(Photos courtesy of Xin Lu.)
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