About charltonchristyj

I am a Louisville native who has lived creatively for 25+ years. “Creatively” meaning that I have a deep love for and experience in writing, design, photography, and fine art… but also meaning I’ve had to be resourceful to live the way I want, within the budget and time limitations of a single mom. My blog is a demonstration of the way I live. If it’s not pretty and easy, it will not be on PrettyEasyLiving.com.

Open your mind to narrow-space solutions

I am not a carpenter, nor will I ever be. But I love solid wood furniture in homes for their timeless beauty and sturdiness. The problem is, when you have a small space, it is often difficult to find quality-crafted wood pieces (especially vintage ones) that are not bulky and oversized for your area. And if you’re not handy with tools and woodworking, you’re not apt to carve out your own solution-piece from scratch.

One particular area with which I see many people struggle — whether in their first starter home/apartment or when trying to scale down to more minimalist living — is the foyer or entryway. This is your home’s first impression, where family and guests are welcomed, and you want it to be warm and inviting. A foyer table or console is a great way to help accomplish your goal, whether accompanied by a mirror or pictures, or adorned with plants, candles, or a lamp. So how do you find a quality wood foyer table that fits your narrow entryway and small budget?

Repurposed headboards! Now when I say “repurposed,” again, I’m not suggesting that you get out your saw and measuring devices. My solution is simple: Take an old headboard, preferably one with some built-in shelving, and use it as your new foyer table. Painting is optional. Wood headboards, of all varieties, are easily found on CraigsList and at yardsales, for scant dollars. They are naturally slim in depth, and the length can be whatever works best for you (twin, full, queen, king).

While I love Ikea and similar stores that offer fabricated wood or particle board furniture, catering to those who like simple designs without breaking the bank, I guess I am a traditionalist when it comes to certain areas of your home where you are setting the stage and tone, such as your entryway. If you’re going to choose something with a bit more workmanship and quality, why not here?

Of course, you can do much more with headboards in other places in which your home needs similar narrow furniture solutions: As a media console to house your flat screen TV or as a sofa table (between your sofa and wall) to hold a small lamp, a drinking glass, or books, for instance.

This is an easy afternoon project that anyone can do, that frees up your space, time, and dollars for other things. Narrow solutions for open minds!

Photo credits: Compliments of Pinterest

headboard entry-way table

My colorful journey: Lessons in color and wall paint


That’s the word my plumber exclaimed when flipping a light switch, illuminating my bathroom some-odd years ago. No, he didn’t get an electric shock. Nor did he smell something horrible from the toilet. Rather, he was utterly stunned by the fluorescent-like green paint on the walls when he came to unclog a drain. I’ll admit, I should’ve warned him, as I had the same reaction the night before when I finished the paint job.

I’m sure the marketing-savvy paint company named the color “Green Apple” or “Fresh Lime,” and it looked absolutely AMAZING in that Pottery Barn photo I hoped to emulate. But little did I know at the time that this paint color only had a shot at looking decent if bathed in massive amounts of natural light and with some space to breathe. Lo and behold, when used in my tiny, non-windowed bathroom, I gave birth to “Neon Puke.”

That bathroom was painted over the following night because I could stand it no longer. Sadly, it was not the first time I had a “paint do-over.”

Of all the lessons I’ve learned over the years related to design and décor, “color” has been one of the hardest. So many factors come into play when choosing the right colors for décor, especially wall paint. Below are just some of the considerations to be made when selecting a color:

Amount and type of light – e.g., Is there mostly natural, incandescent, or fluorescent light in the space? Is the room northern-facing or southern-facing?
Other colors in the room – e.g., What are the colors of the floors, furniture, fixtures, artwork, accent or adjoining walls, trim and ceiling?
Time of day (related to light) – e.g., How does it look in the morning? Mid-day? Evening?
Amount or coverage of color – e.g., Are you planning to paint all walls or just one area (under the chair rail)? How big is the room?
Primary use of room (mood and function) – e.g., Will the room be used for sleeping? Preparing food? Reading? Socializing?
Other colors in your house or neighboring spaces – e.g., Do you wish to create harmony with complementary nearby colors? Are you looking for a contrast?
Resale value – e.g., Do you plan to sell your house in the near future, requiring you to pick colors with more mass appeal?

And last but not least (and assuming you don’t need to consider resale appeal) – personal preference. Cool grey paints may be the current trend, but if you “feel” better surrounded by warm colors, don’t fight your gut. Ultimately, it’s your space. You have to live in it and be happy.

See the three photos below for an example of how my living room was radically transformed by paint and color.

Original yellow living room

Original yellow-painted living room we “inherited” from past owners

Same living room painted cool grey, with brown furniture and turquoise rug

Final living room changes, with neutral white paint, orange sofas, and cream rug.

Also, make sure to paint a sample area on your wall first! Those tiny cardboard paint chips/swatches do precious little in giving you a true sense of how the paint will look in your room. You can use them as an initial guide, but take the time to buy a small can of paint (or two or three) to test out in your space. (Most paint stores offer these smaller, less expensive “sample-sized” cans.) Then, once you’ve painted a test area on your wall, leave it for a couple of days. Watch how it changes with the time of day. See how it looks with neighboring colors. Pay attention to how it makes you feel when you’re looking at it.


Small paint chips will only give you basic color direction.

Painting sample colors on your wall will give you the best preview.

Painting sample colors on your wall will give you the best preview.

As they say, paint is one of the quickest and easiest ways to transform a space. If you take a little time on the front end when making a selection, you’re much more likely to get a result you will love … and not scare your plumber.





Top 10 CraigsList Tips

image1Hello, my name is Christy, and I’m a CraigsList addict. Admitting you have a problem is half the battle, they say. Except I don’t view it as a problem. I am known among my friends and colleagues as the Bargain-Finder Extraordinaire, and I don’t shirk away from that title. As a thrifty person by nature, as well as one who appreciates and upcycles old or worn-out items, CraigsList is my mecca. I visit it daily and pay homage to its treasures.

Years ago, my friend Sarah introduced me to CraigsList, so I owe her for the habit of the hunt. Since that time, I’ve both sold and bought numerous items from the site, mostly in the Furniture category, since home décor is my true love. Have I met a few “interesting” people along the way? Yes. Have I been disappointed with what I came to buy once I saw it in person? Yes. But, truly, I’ve never felt like I’ve had a bad experience. Mostly, people are honest and nice, just doing their best to make or save a buck; and quality pieces do exist for the taking.

My house is really a CraigsList museum of sorts, as the majority of my furniture has resulted from said purchases. Here’s a quick list (along with a few pics) of some of my faves, which were all in great condition:

• An entire white solid-wood girls’ bedroom suite from Bassett (circa 1960s) – $65!
• Set of 6 Pier One rattan-woven dining room chairs – $50 total
• Antique black-painted secretary – $50
• 2 black mid-century modern leather chairs – $100 total
• 2 reupholstered houndstooth mid-century modern slipper chairs – $150 total
• White Ikea sofa table (which I turned into a bar) – $50
• Large round upholstered ottoman – $40
• 2 orange retro vinyl chairs for playroom – $40 total
• 3 solid-wood cabinets originally used to house LPs (turned into bookcases)- $125 total
• Solid-wood desk – $25

Inevitably, I get asked the question: “How do you find such great deals? I can’t find anything out there!” So I have decided to share with you some of my secrets. Part of me hopes you do not start using my tips because, then, you will be my competition. But I like you guys (and feel a little sorry for you), so I’ll take my chances. 🙂 Here are my Top 10 tips for CraigsList finds:

1. Misspell your search item. That’s right. Spell it wrong. Sometimes, I have found that the best deals have become lost in the search-shuffle because searchers type in “dining table” or “dining chairs” when there are zillion posted by sellers who have misspelled them “dinning.” As a former English major, I cringe at these mistakes. As a bargain-hunter, I delight.
2. Search for the most basic term. As you probably understood from my first tip, the CraigsList search function is not the most sophisticated. As such, if you type in “bookcase,” it will not necessarily bring up “book shelves.” Go simpler and just type in “book” to see much of what may fall into your category.
3. Try alternate names for your search item.
• Couch, sofa
• Ottoman, stool
• Cabinet, console, bureau, credenza
• Foyer table, sofa table, entry table
• Bedside/bed side table, nightstand or night stand, side table
• Desk, secretary, writing table
• Hutch, China cabinet, sideboard
4. Looking for something unique.. with personality? Search by color. If you’re interested in cheering up a room or adding a little pizazz to your décor, try searching by color alone. Some of the best items will come up, for example, under orange, yellow, turquoise, and pink – especially quirky vintage ones.
5. Check daily – the good ones go quickly. Yes, it takes some time. However, if you get into the habit of checking regularly, it is a very manageable task.
6. Questions to ask the seller: Is it real wood? Who is the manufacturer? What is the history of the item? Is it from a smoke- or pet-free home? What are the dimensions? The last one sounds kind of lame, but there have been times when I saw a piece online and imagined it to be a certain size (which fit my space), only to be surprised that it was actually quite larger or smaller when I saw it in person.
7. Don’t bargain until you’re there. So you see something you like, but it’s $20 more than you want to pay for it. Rather than email or call the owner to ask about a price reduction, wait until you set an appointment to go see it in person. You’d be surprised how much more someone is willing to bargain when you’re standing right there in from of him with your sweet smile and cash in hand (ready to port away the thing they want to ditch).
8. Mark it as a “Favorite.” CraigsList allows you to mark up to five items as a “favorite,” so you can quickly find them again if you are not ready to purchase immediately. This comes in handy when you’re on the fence about something OR if an item is marked too high and you want to take a “wait and watch” approach before you pounce. As you can guess, people often mark down their prices if things don’t sell quickly enough for their liking.
9. Think “repurpose” or “revamp” and use your imagination. Sometimes, we all get in the habit of just seeing things very superficially, without projecting what something might look like with relatively minor changes. Ask yourself: Would it be perfect if it was… refinished? painted? reupholstered? Or, can I make that ugly console into a cool piece simply by adding baskets instead of a lower drawer or replacing the old hardware? Also, if you’re searching for something old which you can fix up, remember search words like “vintage,” “antique,” “primitive,” “retro” and “rustic”
10. Think twice before you block “Dealers.” One of the nice features of CraigsList is that it allows you to narrow your search parameters or view-settings by blocking those listed by Dealers, for example. Believe me, I’m just as tired as you of seeing the umpteen mattress ads by that wearisome outlet that over-posts. However, some of these Dealers are second-hand, vintage or consignment furniture stores with really great stuff! If you’re really struggling to find something, you may want to keep Dealers in your search to expand your scope of possibilities.

Well, that’s it. Those are my Top 10 tips, in no certain order. I hope this inspires you to save money, find something amazing, and minimize full-cost retail purchases. It’s true that they don’t make things like they used to – with a certain quality, style and craftsmanship – so you’re doing yourself a favor by preserving something used or old. Send me pics of your CraigsList treasures, and I will post the best on my site. Oh, and happy hunting!

Color repetition makes for harmonious home

When I was a kid — even a teenager — I had an odd way of picking out clothes. I had no idea that certain shades looked better on me than others due to my natural complexion, hair, and eye color. Thus, I would shop for clothes according to what colors I already had vs. didn’t. Let me demonstrate: “Hmm, that’s a nice mint green sweater, but I already have something in that color. Scratch. But here is a shade of pink that I’ve never bought before. Score!” Then, poof, it was added to my Rainbow Connection… er Collection. My wardrobe was literally a smorgasbord of every imaginable hue. Unfortunately, I borrowed that strategy when decorating the rooms in my first house.
While I didn’t have a blue room, green room, and red room, I did decorate as if each room was disconnected from the other. As a result, my house did not “flow well.” It was choppy. Bad feng shui. A bit schizophrenic. Although I’m not a fan of everything in a wardrobe or home design being overly matchy-matchy, I am a firm believer that there must be some consistent design elements, including color, which pull it all together.
DSC_0072     DSC_0102
Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing, but it is practical, too. Once you pick some foundational shades, pieces in your home become interchangeable, letting you switch things up once in a while without having to reinvent an entire scheme. Pick a few neutrals as a foundation and then select a handful of colors which work well together, sprinkling them throughout. This doesn’t mean you can’t add other pieces not in your main palette, but you do want to make it look like there is a method to your madness — some type of underlying plan that makes your home appear cohesive rather than a hodge-podge of completely independent room units.
DSC_0089         DSC_0085
For the last few years, I’ve gravitated toward a black, white, and greige (grayish beige) base, with a good measure of turquoise, orange, and yellow accents, in varying degrees of saturation. It’s simply what makes me happy — pure personal preference. However, I will say that most people who come to my home comment on how everything works well together and leaves them with a feeling of harmony. It’s more about the repetition of colors and patterns than “magic” colors, I promise you.
image19 image17
I do like variety (as evidenced by my colorful past!), so I move furniture and trade out pieces fairly regularly. It keeps things interesting and inexpensive, yet always in synch. I don’t have to stay married to all of these colors forever, either. Styles and fashions come and go, just as do personal tastes. If and when I want to try a new look, I can merely replace one or two accents with others which still work with the remaining. Paint is the cheapest way to pull off the switch. No need to buy all new things!

What’s the best way to learn what colors look best with each other? In my opinion, it’s by example. Look around you. There’s no shame in being a copy-cat when you’re doing so in good taste. Find some photos or color schemes you like and replicate their essence. Then, add your own personal touch. Just remember, less is usually more.. and rainbows look better in the sky than in your closet or house. 🙂

Go out on a limb: Try sticks for kicks

The other day, I found myself in a checkout line behind a woman who was buying sticks. That’s right, sticks. A nice bundle of them, too — each labeled with a price tag of $3.99. Were they magical sticks… or at least painted a cool color, with twinkly lights attached? Nope. Just plain sticks. I wanted to grab her arm and say, “You know, you can find a huge quantity of those, free-for-the-taking, right in my backyard… and probably in your backyard, too.” But I didn’t. I let her walk out with her sticks and realized a blog post was about to be born. (I’m not quite a Craft Interventionist yet, but I’m getting there.)

It’s the tail-end of winter here in Louisville, Kentucky; and let me tell you, sticks are aplenty. The tree branches are bare… everywhere, I swear! (I’ve always loved Seuss.) It’s perfect stick-gathering time. The snow is melting, and branches, big and small, have fallen. They can either be bundled for the curb or for your own craft projects. I’m choosing the latter.

It’s always great to bring part of the outdoors inside. Live, green plants are lovely; however, if you’re a non-green thumb like me, sticks may be more your style. You can’t kill “dead.” 🙂 I love the variety of colors, textures, sizes, and shapes. They are versatile for use, as well, and can be placed in mantle vases, floor pots, or even in frames as wall art.

If you want to liven things up a bit, you can always spray-paint them, gild them, add lights, or other embellishments. I once mounted a large branch on my daughter’s bedroom ceiling using clear fishing wire and a screw hook and, then, hung beautiful bird and butterfly ornaments from it. No cost, no fuss.

I realize that not all parts of the world have trees. If you live in such a place, then I guess you are stuck buying them in a craft or home decor store. But if you do have trees, the next time there’s a breeze, go out on your knees, and pick up sticks, please! (Ah, Seuss.) As always, send in photos of your creations so that I can share them with others on my blog. You’ll be glad you went out on a limb. 🙂

Photo credits in order of display: Home of PrettyEasyLiving.com Blogger; Decozilla; Remade Simple; Sunshine on the Inside; Free Home Decorating Ideas; Curbly – Mod Home Ec Teacher

Perk up! Coffee stations at home make low-cost hot spot

IMG_0946I didn’t begin drinking coffee until I was 40. Somehow, that milestone age found me more tired than usual, and I succumbed to caffeine as the safest addiction to get me through the day. However, I didn’t slip into that dark dependence easily.  Enter all the modern-day accoutrements: sugar, cream, syrups, whipped cream, drizzle.

And it came at a cost, too.  Frou-frou drinks ain’t cheap, especially when you buy them at Starbucks or whatever hipster cafe you haunt.  I would do a little back-of-the-napkin math, from time to time, to compute how much this little habit was dipping into the kids’ future.  Hmm… mom’s $5/day cup o’ comfort vs. college fund.  So far, I’ve landed on the side of:  Kids might not survive ’til college if mom doesn’t get her java, so first things first, right?

SavvyCityFarmerOne “cheat” I have found is to open up shop in your home.  In other words, make a coffee station in your own humble abode.  By this, I do not mean setting up your Mr. Coffee machine in a dull corner on your kitchen countertop.  You’ve got to create some ambience (with props!), people, lest you incessantly keep turning over your dollars to vendors.  This can be fun, simple, and inexpensive… as well as provide you an opportunity to personalize your space a bit.

You can buy your coffee accompaniments at almost any grocery, Target, TJ Maxx — you name it.  Along with the usual suspects of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, pick out some fun or stylish mugs, storage containers, and syrup dispensers. Embellish your coffee and your stand with cinammon, honey, and stirrers.  If your set-up is on a different floor from your kitchen, try a dorm fridge to hold any cold items.  Add a vintage sign, chalk board, or picture to top it off and, voila — instant coffee… er… coffee station.

with white cupsIt doesn’t take up much space in your home, and you can readily find small painted cabinets and quaint coffee racks on CraigsList or at second-hand shops.  My particular version of a coffee bar found its way into my loft bedroom.  I may not have breakfast in bed but, by gosh, I will have hot coffee!

Whatever you do, make it your own.  Inviting, interesting, inspiring.  Perhaps your own little sanctuary.  Or a humming social center, replacing the water cooler, for your family and friends to gather.  Whatever you like.  Just make sure you want to come back for repeat business.

Photo credits (in order of use): Brittany’s Big Sky Blog; Savvy City Farmer; Two Poodles

Update to “Accessible accessories” — Bring back the bling

This blog post falls under the category of “better late than never.”  By that, I mean that it’s taken me over a year to keep my promise of actually ditching my unsightly old jewelry cabinet in lieu of a more creative way to display my baubles.

The cabinet, which I referenced in my earlier post, “Accessible Accessories,” screamed ’80s country oak catastrophe, devoid of charm, taste, or beauty.  In fact, it was so ugly (“How ugly was it?”) that I draped linens on top of it and relegated it to hidden corner of my sitting room, as if I had put it in Timeout.  Then, because it was “out of sight, out of mind,” I never opened it up and stopped wearing jewelry!  You may think I’m kidding for comedic effect but, unfortunately, this is a true story of my decline from bling to boring — all because I procrastinated an easy project!

So this weekend, with a bit more time on my hands, I unloaded my jewelry cabinet, apologized to my long-neglected lovely things, and decided to proudly display them so they would be easy to see and select forevermore.  A wooden-framed chalkboard was the unlikely hero which came to the rescue and became the backdrop for my new arrangement.


This was one of the easiest, most inexpensive projects I’ve ever done — merely using push pins at the top of the wooden frame and hanging my necklaces of varying lengths upon each pin.  Not only are the necklaces easy to see, but they look like an elegant tapestry of color and texture against the black background. And no more tangles!

I placed my bracelets, rings, and brooches in the small metal bins at the bottom of the chalkboard where you would normally find chalk and erasers.

Whatever happened to the Cabinet of Shame?  She currently sits curbside where, no doubt, some junk peddler will nab it in the night, thinking he’s found a gem…er…gem cabinet which will sell quickly at his store.  Meanwhile, my jewelry is happy and free from its confines, and I’m gonna bring the bling like never before. 🙂



Cool organization solutions for cool-weather scarves

Fall is my favorite season. Crisp weather, hot coffee, vibrant trees… and lots and lots of scarves to add some fashion flair to our outfits! Over the years, my collection of scarves has grown, but my storage space hasn’t. So this year, with scarves literally hanging around (and all over) my bedroom, I researched some ways to organize them.

Over the door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Over-the-door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

All of these methods are easy, inexpensive, and take little time. Have any other scarf organization ideas? Send them my way!

Photos Credits: Towel rack; Hanger; Tension rods; Ladder; Drawer cubbies

Clutter chaos? Pick a pocket

A couple of years ago, I conducted a little domestic experiment. I decided to not “pick up” sundry items lying around the house and see how long they stayed there. You know, miscellaneous things left out on the kitchen counters… tables… floors. I could only stand it a week when I realized that if I wasn’t proactively being the Tidy Tyrant, I would quickly find myself living in Clutter Castle.

Tired of being the consummate pick-up artist, I figured out how to get my messy family members to “put away” before Mama became “put out.” Enter: Over-the-door pocket organizers.

Do I want these plastic contraptions hanging over ALL of my doors? No way. Do I want them in discreet locations to keep their socks and my sanity intact? Hell, yes!

And so it came to be.

MittensWant one inside a coat/shoe closet to house:

  • Winter gear (mittens, toboggans, scarves, earmuffs, ice scraper)
  • Small sports gear (volleyball knee pads, soccer socks, swim goggles, baseball caps) or
  • General outdoor gear (sunglasses, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, visors, bug spray)? Why, yes, please.

    Or how about one on the back of the kids’ bedroom doors to organize Transformers or stuffed animals? Lovely. I’ll take two.Transformers
    Need a simple way to organize school supplies or craft/art paraphernalia? Boom! Slap one on the inside of a pantry door near a kitchen table and, voila — instant harmony in your humble abode.

    school stuff

  • So I say to all of you out there: Get it together! No, wait… correction: Let THEM get it together. Just buy the plastic pocketed “enablers” and make it easy for even the most rebellious of your lot to stay clean and clutter-free.


    Photograph credits: The Happy Housewife, Day Crafts, and Org Junkie

Nice flight to 40

Recently, I hosted a 40th birthday party for my boyfriend, who loves airplanes — especially vintage ones.  I wanted to use this as a theme for his party but not in an overly cutesy way that is reserved for the toddler set.  With some Internet sleuthing and some ingenuity, I think I earned my wings on this one. 🙂

First, I created the invitation in the style of a vintage airplane ticket. Sealed in a “Par Avion” envelope with a vintage biplane stamp, what better way to set the stage or the… er… runway?

InvitationThen, it was all about creating a party atmosphere to drive home the theme.  Having a photo booth area in the garage (“hangar”) labeled, “Passport Photos,” with some great travel-related props was a great way to get everyone in the mood… AND provide some mementos from the evening.  Props included a plane propeller, world map poster, actual vintage airplane seats (for only $35 off Craigslist!), a globe, a steamer trunk, bomber jackets, and goggles.

Photo BoothPassport Photos

Signs also added some whimsy — “Welcome Aboard,” “Baggage Claim Area” (for coats and purses), and “In-Flight Snacks” for food and beverages.  I also used a “Lavatory” sign for the bathroom, as well as “Authorized Personnel Only” for areas of the home I wanted to keep private.

Welcome SignPlanning the menu was so much fun and gave way to lots of creativity — including Soda Suitcase (a vintage one bought at Goodwill for $2), Cumulus Cupcakes, Jet Fuel (pumpkin pie martini), and Air-Devil Eggs, just to name a few.

Soda SuitcaseCumulus CupcakesJet FuelAir-Devil Eggs








I had planned to use mini-laminated map luggage tags for parting gifts, but they did not arrive in time.  Instead, I had a door-prize drawing for a basket filled with travel-sized items and an “In-Flight Movie” (DVD).

Travel Size Gifts & In Flight MovieWhen it was all said and done, I think everyone had a good time. All items were purchased or made on a minimal budget, and clean-up was a breeze.  A good take-off… a flight without turbulence… and definitely a happy landing. I’m ready for my next adventure.