before + after

Before + After – Painted Blanket Chest

In the bedroom of today’s woman, it’s absolutely, 100%, no bull crap essential to have a place where you can slump your clothes, sit and zip up your moto boots or rest a stack of clean laundry for a week before you finally get around to putting it away. Double bonus points if said place can also store extra blankets or bulky sweaters that don’t fit in your closet.

Ever since we moved into the smaller bedroom I’ve been searching for the right piece to go at the end of our bed. This toy chest from my childhood bedroom fit perfectly, but it needed a little love to go from 80’s nursery life to grown-ass lady bedroom.

Before and After - Raised by Design painted bedroom chest

Sometimes, all you need to pull off a good Before + After is a couple coats of paint, for real. All designers will tell you that paint is their best pal – the quickest (and cheapest) route to big time change.

For this project I used two coats of Benjamin Moore’s Midnight – a deep navy with slate gray undertones. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Benjamin Moore Midnight

In natural light, it looks more blue but by lamplight it looks almost black. It’s moody and lovely, just like me.

Raised by Design - Before and After - Painted Bedroom Chest

I’m especially happy with the way it makes the colorful art we hung above it pop.

The top work is a 1980 Mary Engelbreit original of three girls that reads “Koki, Muffie, and Bitsy shop for circle pins.” I love this drawing dearly because “Muffie” is my Mom, “Koki” is Mary – my faerie/art godmother – and “Bitsy” is Nicki Dwyer – my actual Godmother. I love these ladies and I love the cherry red frame Mary chose all those years back. This illustration hung right where I had my timeouts growing up. I wonder if Mom did that on purpose so we had to sit and reflect on how cute she was while we were being punished.

The bottom piece is an original masterpiece by my little sister, Mo, from when she was probably four or five years old – elevated to legit abstract art in an IKEA matte and frame. I adore the colors she chose – she had an eye for style even back then.

Raised by Design - Before and After Painted Bedroom Chest

Here’s a view from the door of our bedroom:

Raised by Design - Before and After Painted Bedroom Chest

And here’s a closeup of the dreamy breakfast in bed that I’ve never enjoyed in real life but totally makes the picture feel cozy:

Raised by Design - Before and After Painted Bedroom Chest

And that, my friends, is all there is to it. Paint saves the day. Now you’ll have to excuse me while I eat that piece of apple cake in two bites.

Loveyoubye! Maggie

Office Update

I’m in full blown nesting mode these days (as opposed to medium nesting as my normal mode). These supposed productivity hormones are a good thing for the long list of small projects that we’ve left undone since finishing the major renovations around here, including finally fixing up my workspace just in time to have it trashed by a baby.

This room was the last room we tackled in the house and although we finished it up in the fall of 2012 it has remained a hodgepodge of homeless furniture and ‘I’ll deal with it later‘ projects. The arrival of a tiny Natarelli is just the kind of kick in the uterus I need to finally whip this room into shape. Here’s what it looks like today:

Raised by Design Maggie Natarelli - Office Update - Home Office

In the original floor plan this room was the kitchen. Stained linoleum flooring and a green and yellow vintage kitchen once lived here. We relocated the kitchen to the back of the house to create open concept living and access to the backyard. Here’s the Before from the day we closed on the house, looking at the opposite side of the room.

(Disclaimer for those of you scoffing at the idea of tearing out this cute vintage kitchen: the [very cute, very worn] Homart cabinets are still in the house, being loved and repurposed in the laundry area downstairs. The range, whose oven door had to be held closed with a broomstick, was sent to a salvage company along with the cracked sink and yellow formica countertops. The light fixtures are still in the room.) 

raised by design - kitchen before

For the last two years this side of the room has functioned as a guest room but will be transformed into a nursery early next year for Bambino. (Here’s a sneak peak of our beloved driftwood mobile, made for us by a friend as a wedding present. Rumor has it, my Mom and Michael Kors are the only other owners of these mobiles. Oh heyyy!)

Raised by Design - maggie natarelli - driftwood mobile by Tom Cassadei

The opposite side will pretty much stay the way it is until Bambino is old enough to fuck with my shit and accumulate a significant dowry of toys. Then it will probably become a total kid zone and I’ll be squeezed out and relegated to the kitchen or basement. But for a little bit longer…

raised by design - maggie natarelli - home office

There are a few unique features in this space. For starters, it’s a long and narrow room measuring 18′ long by 9′ wide. There is also a doorway that exits to the driveway. That doorway creates an avenue down the middle of the room, separating it into two spaces roughly 7 ½’ x 9′. (Floorplans would be good, I know.)

We weren’t quite sure how we would be using this space in the long term, so we left the external door in tact but we don’t use it anymore. We also didn’t bother to move the outlets down to the baseboards so they are still counter height – as fit for a kitchen – which annoys the crap out of me, but maybe less than patching and painting which I hateses.

raised by design - bar cart styling in office

raised by design - desktop shot

raised by design - desktop styling

Behind my desk we used IKEA shelving to create floor to ceiling storage and a printing station. My inspiration board is made from two magnet boards also from IKEA. (The shelves are no longer sold at IKEA but these are pretty badass and would be good for an office.

raised by design - office shelving

raised by design - inspiration board office

raised by design - home office

raised by design - office shelving

raised by design - inspiration board office


Above the desk I hung a collection of artwork that has personal meaning to us (as all artwork should!). The Cosmic Bunny print is signed and numbered by one of my favorite illustrators, Diana Sudyka. It was a gift from my mom. Below it hangs a snapshot of my late Grandpa and his buddy taken in 1967.

raised by design - maggie natarelli - office artwork - cosmic bunny by diana sudyka

Cosmic Bunny by Diana Sudyka

For our wedding a dear friend and mentor, Jeff O’Connor, gifted us this original illustration of a warren of Eastern Cottontails. Bunnies were the main motif of our wedding and his wife, a Chicago-based graphic designer, designed all of our paper goods. Jeff is a natural science illustrator and his work populates several of the exhibits at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. Some of his beautiful entomology sketches are pinned on my inspiration board.

Below hangs a collection of vintage postcards including one from Emerald Bay in Lake Tahoe, where I lived after college and one from Samoa, where my other Grandfather lived. The framed print is titled Mountains by Karina Eibatova which I blogged about here.

raised by design - home office - bunny illustration by jeff o'connor

Original Illustration by Jeff O’Connor

I’m enjoying having the space to myself while I can, and daydreaming about a (napping) baby on the other side of the room.

Loveyoubye! Maggie



Before + After – Lettered Tray Table

before and after - printers tray table

Years ago, my Mom carted this beat up table home from someone’s trash pile.  Dumpster diving isn’t exactly a competitive sport up here in Westchester – most wouldn’t be caught dead getting out of their black SUV to throw a vintage castaway in the back. Ok, maybe I’m not being fair. They wouldn’t get out of their Mini. But my Mom’s an old pro and I love her for not letting go of her “One Man’s Trash” credo. She passed that credo, and this table, onto me.

 before and after - printers tray table

The table then sat in my place with its fate undecided for months. It had a worn look that dangerously teetered on shabby chic (blegh!) with its perfectly chipped paint, cabriole legs and Queen Anne profile. But it also had a recessed tray top that was begging to be crafted.

Finally one day we had the idea to use that cool old box of ceramic marquee letters that Mom scored at a thrift shop. I pulled the title of one of my favorite Talking Heads songs and used white premixed tile grout to arrange the letters at random around the quote (with a few hidden messages).

before and after printers table tray

before and after printers table tray

Shit was fun. To finish the table and make it usable, Mom and I cut a template from kraft paper and took it to the glass shop to have a piece of tempered glass cut for the top, which costs under $50.

This table is now one of my favorite pieces in the house because it was the first thing I made when we bought Lil’ Spot. Between the sans-serif font of the letters and the white on white canvas, I think we’ve successfully rescued it from its shabby chic bad dream. Maybe one day I’ll seal the deal and sand down the driftwood-y finish and paint it hot pink or cobalt blue. Maybe. IDK. Should I?

before and after printers tray table


before and after printers tray table


before and after printers tray table


Supplies Needed:

Good to Know:

  • the pre-mixed grout is latex so you can mix any color acrylic craft paint into it to change the color – just remember that since it’s already white, your color will be lightened…
  • the grout has the consistency of brownie mix, as my Mom puts it in her classes – so you can use it on any vessel or surface, really, and this project translates really well to pots, vases, plaques, etc.
  • when you’re working with the grout work pretty quickly; it dries within about 20 minutes so it’s a good idea to lay out your pattern, if you’re going to use one, beforehand so the grout isn’t drying while you’re figuring out what you’re going to do
  • if you’re using objects or letters that are different sizes, make sure you set aside 4 pieces that are the thickest and set them at each corner so your glass rests level
  • definitely download the Talking Heads song – you won’t regret it



Before + After – Lil’ Spot Renovations The Bathroom

Hi hi hi. So yesterday I shared all of the dingy ‘BEFORE’ pics of our pink and black tile bathroom. Today it’s time to get to the goods. Real quick – here’s what the bathroom looked like when we bought the house:

raised by design - our house - pink bathroom

The space was super cramped, poorly lit, without ventilation and, other than the medicine cabinet, completely without storage. The one thing that the room had going for it was a nice, big American Standard cast iron bathtub in great condition. (By the way – that nice vignette of a hand mirror, roll of toilet paper and bottle of Suave shampoo came with the house. Bonus!)

Here’s what our Master/Guest/Family/Only Bathroom looks like today:

raised by design - bathroom renovation after

We went with a relaxed, neutral palette of bright white walls and slate blue/gray floors. I like that it skews a little masculine but is still elegant and airy. We installed and painted bead board along the ‘dry’ wall of the bathroom and classic white subway tile along the ‘wet’ wall – the tile is wrapped around the tub/shower surround and behind the new sink.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

We solved the layout and storage issues by reclaiming some square footage from the second bedroom (now our Master) that was being used as an extra closet. We robbed Peter to pay Paul, you could say. It hurts to get rid of closet space in a small house, but Paul the bathroom really needed the space, so we didn’t lose sleep over it. Plus, we didn’t take all of the storage of the other room – the remaining space was used for custom built-in shelves which now function as my vanity and shoe storage.

The added square footage allowed for a clear path and more spacious layout without any crowding. Hoo-ray! The nook we created also accommodated a full size vanity with plenty of storage. The vanity is actually a vintage sideboard that I spray painted and chopped up to accommodate a sink and plumbing. There are loads of DIY tutorials out there for this move and in our case, it was the best solution for maximizing counter space and storage and it’s much easier on the budget than a brand new vanity. Plus, look at that sexy hardware!

raised by design - bathroom renovation - vanity redo

raised by design - bathroom renovation

We opted for a wall mounted faucet and vessel sink to make converting the vanity easier. I found a giant vintage mirror that was perfectly sized for our space and paired it with industrial cage pendants.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

We keep our everyday toiletries corralled on a tray to cut down on clutter (my all-time favorite styling tip). When guests come and we feel fancy, we stash our toothbrushes away and just leave out the hand soap, a lightly scented candle (like one of these) and some pretty hand towels.

raised by design - bathroom renovation - soap tray

Above the litany of light switches and outlets we added, I hung this sweet trio of miniature house collages in vintage gold frames that my Mom made for me.

raised by design - bathroom renovation - house collages

I like the way the antique gold finish is repeated in the mirror frame and original brass door knob.

raised by design - bathroom renovation - gold frames

For a long time, the bright, bare walls on the opposite side of the bathroom were too pretty to mess with. Something happens when you take the trouble to paint a room yourself: you have nightmares about patching a poorly place nail hole so you chicken out on hanging anything at all.

Last winter I finally got over it and hung a gallery wall of vintage class photos I’ve collected and charcoal nudes drawn by James’ late grandmother. She was such a glamorous woman and I love the ultra feminine touch that her drawings lend to the otherwise masculine space.

raised be design - bathroom renovation - framed art - gallery wall

We added a ledge to help transition between the bead board and dry wall – a trick we borrowed from my parents’ bathroom. The ledge is low profile, but creates a spot to keep small things like a clock or eyeglasses.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

My collection of vintage black and white class photos includes a photo of my 8th grade class trip to Washington D.C. I remember thinking it was just silly that my Mom wanted to order the framed photo (“Whaddya want that for?”), but I’m so thankful for the time capsule and it’s one of my favorite pieces of art. Gosh, she’s always right. We hung it right next to the commode and when we have parties the conversation inevitably comes around to the number of flannels, Nirvana t-shirts and Air Jordans in the pic. It was 1995…

raised by design - bathroom renovation - DC class trip photo

It’s also fun to let guests play ‘Where’s Waldo’ to find me. Here, I solved it for you… Also in this closeup are my kindergarten bestie, my first kiss, the friend I got in the most trouble with and the kid who moved into my house when we move to New York a couple years later (whose sister is now a cast member on SNL!).

raised by design - bathroom renovation - dc class photo

While we’re talking about what’s near the toilet, I have to show you the TP holder we installed, which is probably the smartest choice I’ve made in life besides going to college and marrying James. It’s the best and deserves a chance to shine. The price was ridiculous but it’s the only acceptable design for changing the roll in my book – one of my all-time least favorite things to do (besides replacing the trash liner). Once you go $100 toilet paper roll holder, you never go back. I’m bringing it with me to the next house.

raised by design - bathroom renovation - tp holder

Lastly, our beautiful porcelain throne. When my mother-in-law heard that we planned on just keeping the existing (60 year old) John, which was in fine shape as far as my back woods self was concerned, she insisted it was a much better idea to get a new one. We hemmed and hawed over adding the expense to our climbing budget, but in a ‘you’ll thank me later’ moment she put her foot down and offered to buy a new one for us. Moms…they’re always right! I LOVE this toilet and I now appreciate that Johns have a life span and when it’s up…it’s just up. She’s a beaut and uses less water so everyone’s happy. (I wish I’d moved our trash can or ironed my stubborn shower curtain for this shot. Oh well…real life.)

raised by design - bathroom renovation

The vignette behind the toilet changes with my mood. These days I have a porcelain and pewter tray, a vase of flowers from our backyard and one of my Great Aunt Virginia’s Herend figurines. Fancy! I’m feelin’ it.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

raised by design - bathroom renovation

And finally, I sewed a small cafe curtain from some cheap-o IKEA fabric and lined the windows with a stick-on film that gives the same opaque effect as frosted glass. Privacy + natural light = muy importante.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

So, there you have it. 4 years later I’m still happy with everything in the space and I don’t miss the pink and black tile one bit, it turns out.

raised by design - bathroom renovation

Here’s a source list for our project. Some of the items are discontinued because we completed this renovation 4 years ago, but I tried to list an alternate in those cases. Enjoy your project and love your bathroom, I say!

  • Wall Paint – Benjamin Moore Cloud Nine
  • White Subway Tile – Home Depot
  • Floor Tile – Home Depot
  • Vanity – John Street Antiques, Stamford, CT
  • Mirror – John Street Antiques, Stamford, CT
  • Pendants – Schoolhouse Electric
  • Sink – + don’t forget the drain
  • Wall-mounted Faucet – Kohler (we got a similar faucet with a right angle spout)
  • Hand Towel Holder – IKEA
  • Towel Bar – IKEA (I’m laughing because I just realized we installed it upside down…welp, still works!)
  • Tissue Holder – Kohler
  • Shower Head and Trim – Kohler
  • Soap Dispenser – CB2
  • House Candle Holder – CB2
  • Toothbrush Cup – a gift from friends, you can find here
  • Curtain Fabric – IKEA
  • Toilet – TOTO
  • Laundry Hamper – HomeGoods, here’s a cute alternative though
  • Bath Towels – West Elm (we didn’t monogram ours with a bossy red “RELAX” as pictured)
  • Trash Can – Simple Human
  • Frames for Nudes – IKEA
  • Pewter Tray – Arte Italica (a wedding gift that we use all over the house)
  • Black and White Vintage Class Photos – collected, easily found at vintage shops or on Etsy
  • Window Film – we used something like this

Loveyoubye! Mags


Backyard Work /// Before + After Porn

I wrote a couple weeks back about our back yard and the progress we’ve made since we moved in 4 years ago. The other day it was overcast and rainy, so I grabbed my camera and took some snaps of what it looks like back there these days. *Here’s a tip I picked up: An overcast day is actually one of the best times to photograph landscapes. In full sun, plants lose dimension and photos will turn out flat and washed out. Aim for overcast or partly cloudy days and choose early morning or twilight hours if you can. 

Lil' Spot Backyard

That big river birch is our favorite tree ever; it screens the 3-flat behind us for 3 seasons and provides some much needed shade to our full-sun yard. Can you believe it’s only 3 years old this year and already popping out of my frame?

Lil' Spot Backyard - hemlock and fire pit.

We’re also pretty proud of this eastern hemlock we planted the same year. It kinda looks like The Sorting Hat. But it’s hosted 2 robins’ nests in a row so I would say it’s WINNING!

I know you’re wondering WTF that piece of wood is about. It’s just a piece of weathered wood. I like to keep things a little trish-trash around here.

And don’t judge me because our fire pit needs a bikini wax. I have to pull up all of those rocks one by one and put down a proper weed barrier. Because it’s pretty much all weeds back here.

We’re not planning any major projects in the yard this season, after a couple years of some hardcore home improvement back there we are ready to just enjoy it. Wait, enjoy it? I mean let out a loud ass groan as we realize that it needs mowing…again.

This is us: Did you water the new grass this morning? Something dug up the seedling I planted yesterday and left a swath of dirt spread all over the deck. Nice. Is that fuckin’ raccoon back again? No? Maybe it was the skunk I saw the other night. Yeah, or the ground hog? IDK. Did you check for ticks in the shower? I think we should put a container of beer out to drown the slugs. I heard that shit works. Oh look, time to mow again.

Lil' Spot Backyard

We tried to plant fresh grass seed where our monstrous driveway once lived. It looks like a Chia pet on Day 3 or a botched Rogaine application. Think we need to reseed.

Lil' Spot Backyard

Now you see why we call it Lil’ Spot, right?! Our little suburban cabin. On a more serious design note, I would eventually like to get 2 big planters for either corner of the deck instead of a bunch of little pots. I think it will look cleaner and help anchor the asymmetric layout (lattice on one side, trees on the other). But did you know those shits are like $200 a piece? I feel a DIY comin’ on!

Lil' Spot Backyard

In the meantime, I planted some of my mom’s vintage pails and pots with herbs so I can grab them in the middle of cooking dinner. Working towards always having fresh herbs on hand…remember?

After I’m done griping about weeding and run-ins with nocturnal rodents or these bad boys, I try to remember that the payoff is major: a sunny semi-private place to sit and have coffee and read the paper iPad in the morning. It’s great to wake up to birds chirping in the trees that I planted. And it’s the best ever to have friends over to make pizzas on the grill and laugh so loud it wakes up our neighbors’ kids.

Lil' Spot Backyard

Our friends in the city always say the only reason they would move to the ‘burbs is so they can have a back yard. I get that. The only reason I would move to the city is so I can have a shorter commute and decent thai food.

If I had any sage advice for soon-to-be-suburbanites it’s this: this shit doesn’t just pop up like a blow-up castle. It takes a lot of sweaty, slimy, put-your-back-into-it work. At least for any homeowner who refuses to hire a landscaper, like me. It builds character. It ruins your shoes. It takes time out of your weekend. It’s a losing battle against weeds and pests. But yeah, it’s so totally worth it.

Lil's Spot Backyard

Here is the promised Before + After Porn:



Before + After - Backyard Redo


Loveyoubye! Maggie


Before + After – Bedside Tables

I mentioned in this post that our Master Bedroom is a bit small. Someday I’ll get my act together and post a floor plan of our teensy house so you believe me. For now, just know that our home’s entire livable space is 882 square feet. Which just means that we need to be creative about a few things. Clothing storage is one of them, and in addition to our built-in shelves and a shared closet, we decided that we needed our bedside tables to double as dressers. But DAG! Bedside tables are expensive!  And after scouring furniture stores and Craigslist, I found that most pieces are either on Team Tiny Nightstand or Team Full Blown Dresser. We had 36″ on either side of our queen-sized bed to work with so I needed to find something more like this:


Unfortunately, these guys weren’t available when we were redoing our bedroom, but at $500 a pop they would have been over my budget anyway. So I headed to my local antique and thrift shops and after a couple stops I came across these beauties:


I was drawn to their clean lines, quality construction and interesting pulls. Plus, I was psyched to find a matching pair (although I was open to rocking the mix + match look). Measuring 32″ x 20″ x 31″ they were the perfect dimensions for our space. And with a $500 price tag for the pair, I was scoring a pretty good deal for this muy importante piece of furniture compared to the options at the big retailers. SOLD.

The only snag was that they smelled a little funky, the wood finish was in bad shape and the pulls had been painted by a previous owner. To get rid of the musty smell, I wiped them inside and out with a solution of (very) diluted bleach and then set them outside to bake in the sun for a full day. There are a million suggestions online for curing musty smells, by the way. Anyone ever tried kitty litter?

To rehab the finish, I decided to give them a few coats of white semigloss paint (White Dove by Benjamin Moore) and to highlight those great pulls with a gray-green sample I had leftover from another project (Sag Harbor Gray by Benjamin Moore). Fast forward through a day or two of taping and painting and not taking “in progress” pics…

Here’s My Side:


And here’s James’ Side:


No, he did not voluntarily put a picture of us on our wedding day or a book about birds on his nightstand. Also, that plant does not usually live there, but it made the picture look a’nice. Whoever decorates decides what’s what.

We’re still pretty happy with our dressers two years later. Yay for Before + After projects!

Loveyoubye, Maggie