Big Announcement!

Big news in the Chapin Household.  We’re thrilled to officially announce…



We made a website!





Isn’t it GORGEOUS?!

And no, we are NOT pregnant (made you look :) ).

My new site,, is the home base for my growing professional organizing & interior styling business.  Right now, I’m thrilled to be spending most of my time subcontracting with more experienced organizers and learning about the business.  If you’re in Pittsburgh and in need of organizing services, I’d be happy to help alongside (or under the guidance of) one of my more seasoned colleagues as I continue to gain experience.

I’ll still be blogging about my own organizing and design projects on  You can also find me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and other social media that’s all conveniently linked at the bottom of my new site.  So, update your RSS feeds and go check out!


Living Within Your Means

10 years of my 25 year life were spent in pursuit of a career in Architecture until I realized that a life spent drafting in front of a computer was not the life for me.  Last fall, after taking most of the summer off to soul search and renovate our kitchen, I was still feeling lost when my mom suggested that I look into working as a professional organizer/downsizing consultant since I seem to have a knack for spatial reorganization and furniture layouts.  In November, I was able to connect with a local Certified Professional Organizer/Certified Relocation Transition Specialist and have been working with her as an independent contractor (and loving it) ever since.  Thanks, Mom!

I recently took another step in this direction and decided to join the National Association of Professional Organizers.  With this latest life development, I was excited to see this post from Apartment Therapy pop up on my RSS feed the other day.  I love how Amelia Meena of Appleshine Lifestyle Organization defines “living within your means.”  I have always thought about this phrase in regard to financial means — but it makes so much sense to apply it to your space!  I’ve seen so many episodes of House Hunters where families move to accommodate their excess possessions, sure to continue collecting more and more until they have to move again.  So many resources could be conserved if we all made a better effort to live within our means (and stay organized!).

Thanks Amelia, and Apartment Therapy, for sharing!

Alex in a Box

Happy Valentine’s Day!  In celebration of my Valentine, Alex, I’m sharing some photos of his office at work — a space I tried to tailor to his unique personality.

If you know Alex, you know that he is a passionate, educated, earth-loving, sports & gadget-obsessed, Civil-turned-Energy Engineer.  And no, I’m sure his 6’4″ frame does not easily fit in your average box.  That’s not what happened.  What did occur –some time ago now — was an experiment where I unsuccessfully attempted to artfully arrange items that I thought were representative of him in this black photography box/tray.  Clearly, he could not be contained.

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Items that I selected included a vintage Erector set and mechanical design books (for his engineering spirit); a bowl made of recycled paper, recycled beer bottle glasses, and recycled light bulbs (ever the conservator); mementos from his time at the University of Virginia and travels; a golf box and sports poster (the sports enthusiast); his diploma and certifications; and of course, a picture from our wedding.

All of these items were earmarked to go with him to work.


Before – Desk

His office, which is far more generous than your average cubicle, was relatively bare to start.


Before – Wall


Before – Entry



With the addition of his things, it’s feeling a bit more like Alex in there these days.


Pops of red around the room help add some life and color to the space.


Items like his childhood coke bottle collection and diploma distinguish the room as his own.


And, my favorite part of the room by far are these hanging recycled light bulb vases.  Because he deals with energy at work (and loves to recycle), this just seemed like a perfect addition to the space.  To make them, I followed this tutorial from  To hang them, I carefully tied and secured string to each bulb, suspended them from the drop ceiling, and filled them with a very minimal amount of water.


Unique touches for my unique husband.

Made with Love

In celebration of the soon-to-arrive Valentine’s Day, a piece of art, made with love.

Awhile ago, I had the idea to create something I would call an “ancestral collage” – a self-portrait comprised of features inherited from my parents and grandparents.


Image: Self-Portrait, (c) Lauren G. Chapin

Based on this image of myself from 2 years ago,

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This is who I am made of:

family portrait summer 1981

My father’s family (left to right): Pappy (my grandfather) with cousin Allison, Gamma (my grandmother), Uncle Tom, Aunt Linda with cousin Franklin, Dad, Mom


My dad (left) with his best friend, Howie (right)

My father’s face.


My parents

His nose, smile, and chin.


My maternal grandmother, Kay

My grandmother’s eyes and “drip” on the end of her nose.

senior pic

A hint of my mother’s jaw, her cheeks, and her “swan neck.”

Knit together in my mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made.

Home Renderings

After high school, I spent a couple summers interning at an architectural firm in Fairfax, VA.  Mostly, I was tackling “redlines” (corrections on blueprints) which is generally speaking, horribly boring, tedious work.  The best days were those when I was allowed to help their resident artist with architectural renderings.  He would tweak home elevations in CAD, print them, and then color them in with fancy markers.  When I got to help, he would let me color in different elements of the facades, coaching me on color selection and technique.  It absolutely blew my mind that I could be paid to sit and color.

Lately, I’ve been pondering the idea of selling custom home renderings on Etsy, but am still having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that anyone might ever again pay me to color.  It just seems too good to even be possible.  In the meantime, I’ve been focusing a little on just drawing for myself, meditating on a few important places from my present & past.

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My first is a drawing of our current house (obviously a very meaningful place!), drawn freehand with a standard #2 pencil and rendered with color pencil.


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Something I enjoy about drawing architecture is that the artistic process enhances my understanding of the building design.  When I draw an elevation like this, I first break down the geometric proportions of the building through the use of lightly drawn guidelines.  Rather than erase them, I keep them as a layer on the page.  As I continue to darken and fill in the page, the drawing becomes a palimpsest (n: something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form).  Just as the drawing is a palimpsest, so is the home – a place that will change over time but retains the memory of those who have been there.


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The second depiction – a home that my grandparents built in Locust Grove, VA, and a favorite place from my childhood.



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The third drawing – a place that I passed often during my years at the University of Virginia, the Chapel.  Though I only worshiped here a few times, I find a lot of meaning and irony in this architecture.

At minimum, it’s been fun to practice some mindfulness through these drawings.  Whether I will ever get paid for them or not, time will tell.


House Tour | Progress

Two days – two posts! Don’t get too used to this pace.

It’s a new year so I figured it’s time for another video tour.  Some of the updates in here I haven’t blogged about yet so lucky you!  You get a sneak preview of the changes that have occurred since the last tour I posted, almost a year and a half ago.   Ditto to what I said last time: I filmed it with my iPhone so the quality is awful.  I hope you don’t get motion sickness watching it!  Enjoy.

Back Porch Upgrades

[Insert comment about frigid temperatures here.]   In the meantime, let us take refuge in these photos commemorating the warmth of early fall.

One of the few talents I pride myself on is my ability to reuse, reinvent, and rearrange.  Over the summer, my sisters, Alex, and I gave our back porch/patio a small makeover, mostly using items and supplies we already owned.

Exterior Rear2

This “before” photo of our back porch is from the MLS listing.

Exterior Rear

From a different angle, you can see that the patio is a bit small and was in need of some serious love.  The paint was peeling on the posts (which should actually probably be replaced) and the back door had been damaged during an attempted burglary while the house was vacant.


After a few small improvements, here is the after, or, uh, progress photo.  Ideally, I would really like to put in concrete pavers to extend the entertaining area (a patio table on the grass is kind of pain when we have to mow).  For now, I think this is a vastly better than where we started.


We had the back door replaced in the fall of 2012 when we replaced our windows.  It took us awhile to get around to painting it (which my younger sister, Amy, tackled while she was helping me with our kitchen) but I went with the same teal color we used on the front door (already had the paint!).   My older sister, Jenny, also helped clean, scrape, and repaint the posts.


Though the previous owners managed to squeeze their table on this patio, I decided to relocate our rocking chairs here instead (we had them around the side of the house initially).  Truth be told, we had our table and chairs on the patio for awhile…but I scooted my chair back off the concrete and/or into the laundry room window well a few too many times to warrant keeping it there.  The rocking chairs, which were admittedly very cheap (purchased when we lived in Virginia), had weathered quite a bit so I freshened/sealed them with a couple coats of white exterior semi-gloss we had leftover from the front of the house. The concrete sculptures in between have traveled with me since college — remnants of a wall design project in Architecture school.  I think they transition from sculpture to table quite nicely.   DSC_0427

Our patio table, which is fabulous for summer dining, was previously owned by the couple we housesat for in Virginia. They graciously let us keep it when we found out we were moving to Pittsburgh.  On the grass, it’s a little safer to move the chairs around.


All we did to update these was wash them down and re-coat with spray paint to keep them from rusting. DSC_0421

The addition of our (already owned) navy blue pillows and gray umbrella make it a bit more comfortable to lounge here, all while adding some color and visual softness.


One of my favorite parts of this makeover is definitely the hanging pallet planter.  The pallet, leftover from our kitchen tile delivery, adds extra storage and visual interest to the space.   We fixed it up a bit by securing some loose boards and then followed this tutorial to hang it on the wall.


I did invest a little in some new colorful garden tools, hung on S-hooks, and a couple hanging pots from Target (all on sale for the end of the season!) but I think they really help tie the space together.


The last addition to the space was this sideboard.  My sister, Jenny, spotted it at Goodwill and suggested I buy it and use it for storage.  After almost losing it to indecision, I snagged it on my third visit to the store and painted it with some black exterior paint I had bought for another project but never used.  I replaced the dated hardware with some handles I made of twine leftover from our wedding.  It’s great for storing our pillows and gardening supplies.  The watering can, which matches the gardening tools, was a sale purchase from Target.  The galvanized tub was something I used for herbs in Virginia, and the coir mat by the door was a gift when we lived in our first married apartment.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with this mini-makeover.  Now, if only spring would get here so we can enjoy it again…

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