Bridal | Autumn

We are one day shy of 11 months apart, our dads are brothers and we look more like sisters than my actual sister and I do. merrimon wynne wedding

Just after Autumn got engaged she booked an engagement session and we got rained out…. THREE times. Eventually she decided to swap and change it to a bridal session. I was thrilled to capture her in her gown back in July (on yet again, another rain filled day!) This time it didn’t matter, as we were shooting at their wedding venue, The Merrimon-Wynne House in downtown Raleigh (a new wedding venue for any of you guys on the hunt!) So many times I’ve gone into historic homes  to shoot events and they are filled to the brim with “furnishings” from the home’s original glory. This is great for historic purposes, but when you’re trying to host events there it’s wonderful to have a crisp, blank slate to work with…. The Merrimon-Wynne house provides exactly that. The arched doorways, beautiful moldings, high ceilings and stunning architectural features don’t get lost behind tons of furniture and kick-knacks! The few furniture they do have is so beautiful though, we couldn’t resist using it!

I did snap a few film shots on her wedding day and I’ll share them whenever I get them back…. but I was a good guest ;-)

Autumn, you looked incredible at your bridal session, and just beamed on Saturday as you walked down the aisle. Many years of happiness to you and Kyle. Don’t worry, we’ll be coming out to San Diego to visit ;-)

Want to see ALL the images from Autumn’s bridal session? Click here!

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Below is the image she chose to have framed at the reception. I absolutely love it…. it’s classy and a little bit sassy!autumn-1057(1)

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Personal | Furnishing the beach house

Tuesday’s financial breakdown of how we afforded to build the house was met with much…. enthusiasm? nosiness? curiosity? Whatever it was, you guys sure were interested! I think I got more hits on this site Tuesday than I ever have! I hope it was enlightening and encouraging to live your dream now…. not wait for retirement (not that anyone without a lot of hard work will really be able to fully retire!)

Today I want to talk about how we furnished the house…. because let’s face it, furniture, curtains, plates, towels and rugs are expensive. beach house feature

Keep your eyes open for deals everywhere/Start collecting things way before move-in

One of the first things I do when I walk in Target is peruse the Dollar Spot at the front of the store. I went in and saw they had clear beer glasses and stemless wine glasses there! I grabbed 12 of each. Now- was I looking for beer & wine glasses? No. Certainly not at the Target Dollar Spot…. but had I passed by, I might have spent more on the same thing in the housewares aisle. My mom had a motto when shopping (TJ Maxx & Marshalls, usually!) that if you go hunting for something you’ll never find it. If you go in not looking for anything, you’ll find everything you didn’t know you needed/wanted.

We bought our fridge in August 2012 (before we even had a loan!)… slowly I filled it up with kitchen things, like the glasses from Target. I also spotted a navy pitcher and cake stand on trips to Marshall’s and TJMaxx, so I picked them up and stored them in the fridge too. I didn’t need these things, but knowing I was going to have a lot of open shelves in the kitchen, I was going to need pretty things to display!

The very first thing purchased for this home was all the patio furniture (table, 4 chairs, coffee table & 2 club chairs). Maybe 2 months after we bought the lot, this furniture was 90% off in the seasonal clearance at Target. Thankfully, Jeremy’s mom, sister & brother-in-law bought all they had for us, and stored it for 3 years until the house was done!


Think about the usability of space when you design the house

Where are you going to want lamps, sconces, outlets, etc.? If you have a plan of where your furniture will be, you can make a plan with your electrician. You don’t want to have to pay an electrician to come back out when you discover you things added or moved. We had a good idea of how the furniture would lay out after the initial design of the house was drawn, so when we had our electrical walk-thru we could place outlets accordingly (ie: we have 3 floor outlets in the living room for lamps, laptops, chargers, etc. and no one is tripping over cords walking around the room!)

We also had the custom banquette built where our table is, this will seat lots of people and eliminates the table from sticking out into the room because people need to pull chairs in and out. I feel like we saved quite a bit of square footage by doing this.

The last major space saver/high function are the beds upstairs in the loft. Having them built in made use of a potentially awkward space (sloped ceiling) and having them placed end-to-end gives everyone privacy in their bed.


Don’t be afraid of the sewing machine.

I am NOT a sewing expert, but I can thread my machine and sew a semi-straight line. That’s about all it takes to make curtains and pillows. The pinch pleat curtains in the living room were a labor of love, but I knew they’d have to be to fit in the budget. Buying 108-120″ lined, pinch pleat drapes will run you a ton, so I decide to tackle making them (using this tutorial). I also made loads of pillows in the house. All the lumbar pillows (sailboats in the master bedroom & floral in the guest room) I made. I also rigged up the curtains in the loft for the beds. They’re just really thin blankets folded over one edge to make a pocket (from Ikea, although the size of this blanket has now changed)

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Stalk Craigslist/Yard Sales/ReStore

I routinely searched craigslist for dressers & buffets to be made into vanities, chairs for the living room, a sectional for upstairs, etc. The only thing that came from searching were the living room chairs. On Instagram I shared how these less than pretty chairs became easier on the eyes. We found the plaid chairs for $25 each and the seller even delivered them! It was quite time consuming to make the slip covers, but they match well now and I love I can take the covers off and throw them in the wash. This is about the only thing we purchased that wasn’t a long-term piece, but for the next few years, they’ll work great and we’ll get our $50 worth!

I’m part of a Facebook group that hosts buying/selling/trading of Lilly Pulitzer items. The moderator got wind that the Lilly Pulitzer Home line was going out of business, and all remaining inventory was at the Charlotte ReStore. They posted the items, and among them were counter-height stools. I hightailed it over and bought 4 for about 75% off! The duponi silk, pinch pleat drapes in the guest room are also from the ReStore. I got 4 panels for $10 on a whim (before the house was ever built). I realized they would be great in the guest room, but they needed some altering (they were too short). I took apart 2 panels and added them to the others to lengthen them.


Look for things you already own and give them new purpose.

This is a HUGE one. There’s a ton in the beach house that had lived a previous life. The 4-post bed in the master was bought for me when I was in the 9th grade. My dad has kept it for me all these years (actually sleeping on it!) along with the nightstands and dust ruffle. The master bedroom curtains, coffee table and end tables in the living room were from my old photography office (both of which came from the Cornelius ReStore). The current dining table is actually my old desk (a large stainless steel table from Ikea)… Jeremy hopes to build one soon.

We also had an abundance of bake-ware at our house in Davidson, so I divided it up and took a lot to the beach house kitchen. Our tiny Davidson kitchen, thanked me.  The bench in the living room is actually the base to an old wood stove from my grandfathers house. My mom made it into a bench when I was little. I’ve kept it all these years and glad it has a home now.

The lounge chairs on the porch were probably purchased 20 years ago from Big Lots. They are a favorite spot for coffee!

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Get to know places that have “open box” items & go often.

We routinely stalked 3 different Lowe’s (Huntersville, Northlake & Concord Mills) and Best Buy for open box appliances. The fridge, cook-top & oven were all from Lowes. The oven we purchased had been sitting on the floor for weeks and weeks, they finally marked it down to about $550, I think and I joked with the sales girl that we should get it for $500…. and she did!!! It was missing a vent cover (which we ordered online for $25!). The cook-top had been a special order that someone returned because the glass on top was cracked. They fixed it and sold it to us for $600 less than retail. The dishwasher, washer & dryer all came from Best Buy. They have a nifty online “open box” feature now that you can sort by store. I found the washer & dryer online, printed the prices and took it into the store. The sales guy found be the floor model of the washer, and then tagged a still-in-the-box dryer in the back for me. The dishwasher was a display model.

Apart from the appliances, we also got our leather Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams sofa this way. They have an outlet in Hickory, and we spotted it there. Went home, thought about it…. decided on it. Jeremy called the store the next day and we got an additional 20% off! It’s probably a $5,000+ sofa and we scored it for about $1900. Not cheap, but well worth the investment.

Our tv the living room and the one in the loft were both open box specials at Best Buy.


Use items not for their intended purpose.

The curtains over the beds in the loft are actually blankets from Ikea. The orange shower curtain in the hall bath is a regular curtain that I found on Target clearance end-cap for $7. I hemmed it and had the “H” stitched on at Poppies. In the same bathroom there’s a framed piece of wrapping paper over the toilet.  There are 2 greeting cards framed in the kitchen from the Southern Weddings Shop.


It’s ok to splurge on things that need to last a long time.

About the only real splurge in the house for furnishings is the sectional sofa in the loft. I knew I wanted a navy sectional and finding a ready-made one would be near impossible (although Mitchell Gold did have one, and blogger Emily got it!)   We ordered it from Furnitureland South, which you can read about that experience here


Don’t fill your home to have it full. Fill it with things you love, even if that means taking your time to find them or afford them.

I would love to have every little piece in it’s place, but my wallet won’t allow it…. and really, what fun is that?! I get a great joy and accomplishment when I find just the right piece. I am glad I started hunting out things over a year in advance. The blow to my wallet wasn’t so bad, and I had plenty of time.I was able to shop the black Friday/Cyber Monday sales and get great deals on our guest room headboards (from Joss & Main) and our dining chairs (from Serena & Lilly)


Where things are from:

Kitchen: Stools: ReStore, Plates/Mugs/Cake Plate/Pitcher: HomeGoods, Ikat bowls: West Elm, Light over sink: Urban Outfitters, Lights over Island: Pottery Barn Outlet, Dining chairs: Serena & Lilly, Chandelier: World Market, Farmhouse sink, cabinets, hardware & counters: Prestige Kitchen & Bath (Wilmington NC) brand is Amerock, Mulholland Collection

Living Room: Sofa: Mitchell Gold Bob Williams Outlet, Chairs: Craigslist, Rug:, Tables: ReStore, Lamp: Goodwill, Entertainment Center: Built in by carpenter, Curtains: handmade, Tall candlesticks: Recollections (store in Wilmington), Gold garden stool/end table between chairs: Target, Pouf: Joss & Main, Gold curtain rods: Overstock, Gold frames & navy mats: Amazon

Master Bedroom: Bed & nightsands: Furnitureland South (15 years ago), Sheets & duvet: TJMaxx, Plaid shams: Land’s End, Boat pillow: handmade, Lamp: Goodwill

Master Bath: Sink & shower faucets are Delta Cassidy, Towels: Target, Vanity/Buffet: Consign on a Dime (Cornelius NC), Curtains: handmade, Stool: Target

Guest Room: Headboards: Joss & Main, Blue sheets: TJMaxx, Anchor Pillowcases: Garnet Hill, Floral pillow: handmade, Lamp & Sunglasses pillow: Homegoods, Orange tray: West Elm, Curtains: ReStore

Guest Bath: Shower curtain: Target, Vanity: Allen Roth at Lowes, Mirror: Wayfair, Light: Lowes, Framed paper: Paper Source, Towel hooks: Target (Young House Love collection), Octagon hand towel ring: Urban Outfitters, Light: Lowes, Faucets are Moen Eva, Towels: Homegoods, Cabinet hardware: Prestige Kitchen & Bath (Wilmington NC) brand is Amerock, Mulholland Collection

Loft: Stripe sheets: Homegoods, Whale pillowcases: Garnet Hill, Stripe shams & duvets: Pottery Barn Kids, Navy blankets: Ikea, Sectional: Furnitureland South (Fuller sofa by Klaussner), black mirror: Lowes, Towels: Target, Lights in loft beds: Lowes

Other: Dog Light & Orb Light: (both Young House Love collection), Settee in entry: Consign on a Dime (Cornelius NC store)


Let me know if you have any questions!

Personal | Building a Beach House on a Budget

Since we completed the beach house last summer I’ve contemplated sharing the financials of how we afforded this…. since the house was shared on Southern Weddings last Friday, I thought this seemed like an appropriate time to share. I’m not one to be shy about money, and hate how taboo it seems to discuss. So, here it is… all out there. building a beach house on a budget

In January 2008, my grandmother passed away and left me money. I tried to make sure this money found a productive home, and used some as a down-payment for my house in Davidson. We got married a year later, and used some to pay for our wedding. After that, we were left with about $37,000. It was floating us though Jeremy’s layoff. Over July 4th we were contracted to shoot an engagement session in Wilmington, so we drove down that afternoon, shot the session at sunset, visited with family that was there on vacation and drove home late that night. While visiting with family we dreamed of having our own spot there. I got curious a few days later and started to look at lots (keeping in mind our savings amount). I located 703 Texas Avenue quickly, it was listed for about $30,000. My sister (a Triangle based realtor) got me in touch with a local realtor and we learned that the owner had so much activity, they decided to raise the price to $45,000. We put in an offer (I think for $35,000) and it was countered. We ended up with a sale price of $43,000, we put our cash down and then they owner financed the remaining few thousand. By January 2011 we owned it free and clear.

Dreams of building one day were put on hold while Jeremy was jobless, but come April he got hired at his current company. At this point, I’d booked a healthy amount of weddings and put everything I was making into savings. By January 2012 we thought it might be safe to meet with an architect and start to draw plans. The plans were finished about early March and we continued to put money into savings. Hiring an architect to draw custom plans costs us $1500.beach house floorplan

In May I began to research builders. I contacted about 4 or 5 and only 3 got back to me. The only builder that went into any amount of detail with their quote was with Bass Built. We sent Bryant the floor plan and then he asked us lots of questions about the finishes (because they would greatly impact the final cost… think laminate counters vs. marble). To our surprise, his quote came in at about $270,000…. a lot less than the other two (generic!) quotes we got. We met with them in person on July 5th and signed a contract, contingent on us gaining financing.

**The proposal included quite a few things we didn’t want to spend money on, but we left them in there knowing we could pull that money away from those items to use towards other items that we thought were more important. For example we left the $3,300 landscaping, and $6,000 appliances in there, knowing we would nix the landscaping for now and we would provide our own appliances. **

We then took the proposal to Liz at NCSECU (credit union) to see if we could qualify for a loan. As part of the builders contract we had to give a 10% deposit (~$27,000) directly to him to start construction. This isn’t really in the “rules” of lending with the credit union, but they worked with us (they give money upon work completed, not work to-be completed). We were able to use our land as collateral on top of the 10% and the loan worked out! We closed on the construction loan in September and construction was to start the following week. Somehow we had saved about $8,000 more than we needed for the down-payment…. so we promptly booked a trip to Hawaii (why not!). While this trip was wonderful, I do wish we had held onto more of that cash than we did.

We did have a few snags getting construction going, but they finally broke ground about Thanksgiving. We went down over Christmas and got to see the house starting to take shape.building a house

Once the contracts were signed, we began to collect items for the house. Our home in Davidson became a make-shift storage unit for about 8 months….  we housed all the appliances, bathroom vanities and lighting in our living & dining rooms. It was total chaos, but worth it! We saved a ton of money on these things. The appliances (fridge, oven, cooktop, dishwasher, washer, dryer) with the builder would have cost $6617. We purchased all these items (higher quality) through big box store clearance. Nearly everything we bought was an “open box” special…. in total we spent about $2500 on all these things. The kicker with doing this, is you must come out of pocket that money… we had to pay cash for those appliances, but it was worth freeing up $6k to use somewhere else!

Saving the landscaping, appliance and some on lighting freed up money to upgrade our kitchen counter and bathroom tile.

My biggest piece of advice is to not feel pressure to just pick something. I really loathe most specific lighting (bathroom vanity lights especially) so I couldn’t justify spending my $3300 allowance on things like boob lights… so we didn’t. Instead, the electrician stuck in temporary light sockets or covered them for us. This has allowed us to purchase the lights we love later on. Even a year and a half later, we still need a light in the guest bedroom, sconces and overhead light for the master, a ceiling fan in the living room and sconces on the deck…. but they can wait.

Another thing to go along with not picking things you hate…. I traditionally hate builder bathroom cabinets. I like “permanent” things that look more like furniture… this is where our bathroom vanities come into play. We had an $11,000 cabinet/counter allowance, which needed to cover our kitchen and all three bathrooms… that was going to be tight. Instead of doing the normal bathroom vanities, I wanted something custom. I thought a nice dresser or buffet would work well. I spotted the master bath buffet in a local consignment shop for $250, we had it modified by a local carpenter so that it could house 2 sinks. I was still hunting for a 2nd vanity  when time was ticking down…. we had been into Lowe’s to look at something and spotted a lot of clearance items. Their was a vanity there that had been a floor model marked down to $200 from $400. I looked it over, but passed on it. The next week I was back in and the vanity was still there, this time it was only $100! Sold (It’s from their Allen & Roth collection, but I can’t find it online anymore). I bought it right then. I didn’t love the espresso finish (although I didn’t hate it… it’s above in the far left image), we had the same carpenter paint it for us a lovely shade of navy. I think the carpenter cost us maybe $200 to do both these pieces. I really think they are both so special, and everyone always comments on them. We did concede and put in a non-custom vanity upstairs, but our theory is, that’s the kids bathroom and they’ll beat it up. Maybe one day we’ll change it out.

To help afford this, we have a cheap mortgage in Davidson ($600) and had no car payments at the time of construction. We live a pretty modest lifestyle full of coupon clipping, clearance rack shopping and fuel efficient cars to afford the payment on the beach house.

I’ll be back on Thursday to talk about how we furnished the house on a budget! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!