How to DIY a Paint-by-Numbers Wall

Hi everyone, thank you so much for the nice comments on the paint-by-numbers wall and checking out my link for the Creating with the Stars contest. Obviously, I didn’t make the cut or there would be a post that contained only a video of me hyperventilating. Oh well, there is always next year!

I had several requests for some details on how I actually completed the paint by number mural, so I am here to accommodate. The first thing I will say is that it is not “hard” to do, but it takes a lot of time so it is quite a commitment.

Supplies Needed:

An awesome paint-by-numbers inspiration picture.

An electronic projector…not the old school kind.

Several artist paint brushes, in different sizes. I found that square-shaped brushes worked the best for getting clean lines and for detail areas.

A pencil

Acrylic craft paint


1. Find your inspiration image. I started looking online for something that I thought would fit our color scheme, our theme and whether or not I liked it. You’ve all seen the outcome, but here is another one that I considered. I thought that this fall scene would have more overall appeal, especially in the summer when we might think that a snow scene would look weird. Ultimately, I decided not to go with this as I preferred the colors in the one I ended up choosing, and this one had a lot more detail. It would have taken me even longer to complete!

other option

2. Once you have found your image, print your image in color. I found that printing it in an 11×17 size (rectangular was better for my wall size) worked well. Once it is printed, it’s time to get out the fine point Sharpie marker and start outlining each color. I apologize for the crappy iPhone pic but this gives you an idea of what it will look like completely outlined.


Note: you might be wondering why there are two deer in the picture above. We felt that the deer on the right would be too close to the center and get cut off when we eventually installed our fireplace. Therefore, I printed two sheets, cut the deer out with an Xacto knife and taped him down in the new location, a little further to the left.

3. The next step is to start assigning colors. I knew it would quickly get complicated trying to figure that out, so there had to be a system. Hey, it’s called a Paint-by-Numbers for a reason.  I wanted to use a system though, so came up with this: 0 is white, 100′s are grays, 200′s are blues, 300′s are browns, 400′s are greens and so on.  Then it was time to break it down further…101 is silver gray, 102 is medium gray, 103 is charcoal gray, etc. Here is a closer view of how I labeled each section with a number. Once you’re done labeling, scan it back to your computer.


4. The next step is to get that baby up on the wall.  You’ll have your image saved on your computer, so at this point you’ll need to borrow or find an electronic projector that will project your image on the wall. I borrowed one from work, hooked it up to my laptop and adjusted it carefully so it covered as much of the wall as possible. So why do I insist on an electronic projector? First, the detail on an electronic projector is so much better than the old-school transparency projects. Secondly, you can use a different sized image, i.e. an 11×17 rectangular image rather than the standard 8.5×11 size. Lastly, the nicer electronic projectors have something called auto-keystoning. Basically, that just means that when you project something on the wall, the shape of your image starts to narrow at the bottom the farther away you get from your destination. When it aut0-keystones, it automatically returns your shape back into a perfect rectangle. Below is a quick shot of my progress as I’m transferring it to the wall.

111At this point, I still had to pull it back to get it wider and take up the full wall space. It cut off some of my image, but it worked out okay in the end. Then, use your pencil to trace your lines on the wall. I’ve seen other tutorials where they used a grid system on the sheet and then on the wall to re-create the image without using a projector, but honestly, that just seems a whole lot harder.

5. Here’s the fun part, go buy some paint! At first I thought I would use sample pots from Lowe’s, but I knew that would add up quickly and for some of the least used colors, I would use just a fraction of the paint. I decided then to buy acrylic craft paint from Hobby Lobby.  There was a huge selection so I just picked out the colors I thought most closely matched, or the colors I liked best. The craft paint is all within a close price range, anywhere from $0.97 to $1.37 each, and I bought it when it was all 30% off. All together, I spent just under $40 for paint, and ending up returning about $12 of that in unused paint. Here is my collection of paints, all corralled in a shoe box. I may have slight obsession with arranging things by color, including my craft paint and all the clothes in my closet :). Another handy tip is to write the color code on the bottom of each bottle, so you don’t get confused about which color is which, especially if some the shades are pretty close.


If the colors along several brands were similar, I tended to go with the cheaper paint, and let me tell you, BAD DECISION! The paint that was forty cents more covered in one coat, but the cheaper paints took two coats. Not good, my friends. By that time I had painted my ass off and I was tired of doing second coats.

6. Get paintin’. I started with number 100 and tried to find all the sections with that number and then just worked my way up. I inevitably missed some and had to go back later to fill in areas, but it helped to keep me organized. I also found that it was helpful to have a larger square brush and a smaller square brush for each color. The larger brush helped me cover big areas more quickly and the smaller one helped with the detail areas.

7. The final step is to pry your fingers out of the permanent claw you got from holding a paint brush for weeks on end and celebrate your finished product!

paint-by-number mural, accent wall, basement reveal

mural closeup


I love that it really brings some much needed color and vibrance to our basement living room. Plus, it’s a conversation piece and it’s just plain fun. I don’t believe in taking my interiors all that seriously, so I love having quirky and off-the-wall elements all over my house. This definitely fits the bill.

So how long did it take? OMG, I don’t even like to think of how many hours I spent in the basement. Here is the best way I can think to quantify it, as I ended up listening/halfway-watching several TV shows while I painted. So, to do a wall that is approximately 14-feet wide, it will take you:

3 seasons of Scandal

4 episodes of Parenthood

8 episodes of Breaking Bad

and several movies.

Yeah, that’s scary. Not for the faint of heart, but for the steady of hand. Catch you all later!



Easy DIY Charging Station

Is anyone else getting the feeling that technology and cords are taking over their lives? Its a tough balance, to be sure. I really like technology and all the ways it can save us time and do cool things. Most of the work I do is internet based, so I feel pretty darn attached to my laptop as well. Around Christmastime, the situation with cords and charging our various items got out of control. My husband and I each have a phone, I was given a tablet from work, and we received an iPad mini as a Christmas gift. Our counter was definitely getting a little crazy. A couple years ago, I bought a small charging station at Goodwill for a couple bucks and spray painted it orange. It worked for our phones, but clearly wasn’t cutting it for the additional devices. In addition to the usual craziness that goes on in our “junk counter” (clearly I have no shame and showed you how it typically looks), we had cords and devices strung about and inexplicably perched on a k-cup stand. Yeah, that totally doesn’t make any sense.


After I living with this for a couple weeks, I decided I’d had enough and set out to DIY myself a charging station. You’re probably sensing a them here, but my main goal was to do it as cheap as possible. I hit up our nearest Dollar General and bought a desktop organizer for $5, knowing I could hack it into something that would work for me.  And boy, did I ever hack.  The end result, however is this easy DIY charging station.118

Here is the back of my “letter organizer”. It’s one of those cardboard thingies with several divided sections. As per usual, I didn’t really have a concrete plan of how to make it work, so I started grabbing random sharp objects from around the house to make it work. The only thing I did have planned is that I wanted a power strip plugged into the wall, and the the charging cords for the various devices to feed into the back of the organizer and into the different compartments.

I started making my holes with a screwdriver. It worked well to get the hole going into the cardboard. I quickly realized, however, that some of the ends of the cords were pretty massive so I had to resort to a steak knife to make the hold bigger. It was well thought out, I know! Honestly, it didn’t look pretty either, but no one can see the ugly part.  Then I simple threaded the cords through.

120This truly is my kind of DIY project, with a five minute maximum investment, but a whole lot of functionality thrown in.



Here is a side view of the how it works with the power strip. I used velcro strips to attach the power strip to the wall right above the backsplash, which allowed me to push it further back tot he wall. It still sticks out a couple inches, but it is better than our previous setup by miles, so I’m happy with it.


_DSC0023I’m really not in love with the lovely clock pattern on this, so I will update the aesthetics on this beauty at some point, I just haven’t decided what I wanted it to look like.  For now, I’m just so happy with my organized counter!

_DSC0026Do you have a charging station to accommodate all your devices? Is it a dedicated charging station or one you hacked yourself?





Basement Reveal-Office and Bedroom

Thank you all for the nice comments about our basement reveal, it was so kind of you. Today, I’m back to show you the other part of the basement…the spare room/office/playroom and adjoining bathroom.

Yes, this little room carries a lot of purpose, but that is what we love about it. We decided it was absolutely a must to make this extra room be code-conforming, not only for practical reasons, but also for re-sale value. With this basement renovation, we turned our 3 bedroom/1.5 bathroom house into a 4 bedroom/2.5 bathroom house. We’re not experts by any means, but we’re guessing that the whole renovation has added an additional $25,000 in value, but  the good news is we didn’t spend nearly that much by doing all the work ourselves.

While this might turn into Buddy Bear’s room when he’s all grown up, right now it’s our office and playroom. I’m currently working from home, so it’s great to have a dedicated space to use as an office; I find I’m more productive and focused.

desk sideThe other side of the room is my kids’ toy area. Sorry I didn’t bother to make it more pretty for my pictures!  On the left side, you can just see a door opening, which is a small walk-in closet. I’m so excited for this closet to have more space to store extra bedding, board games and out of season clothes. In the long run, I’m planning on adding some freestanding shelves and baskets to this wall to make better use of the space and have a little more organized storage for the kids’ toys.


Opposite the desk is a credenza and the opening to the bathroom. Obviously, we still have some work to do, a couple strips of flooring, outlets,  doors and trim. But for now, it’s usable! The credenza is an authentic Jens Risom piece that I was using upstairs but it makes more sense in the office to hold supplies and the printer.  Although it’s truly a classic piece, the walnut is in pretty bad shape so I think an update of some nature is in order, I just haven’t decided what that is yet. The wood pieces on the top are placeholders right now. I have some plans to turn those into custom art, but they’re just hanging out until I get some free time.

_DSC0027Here is a head-on shot of my desk area, home of 421 Design!


I was so excited to put this space together , but as always, wanted to spend as little money on it as possible. Would you believe I put this whole room together with materials I already owned? With the exception of $5 for copper spray paint and an $8 chair from Goodwill, this room was      F-R-E-E.  How did I do it? Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • I purchased the rug earlier this summer for $30 at Menards, knowing I would need something, if even temporarily for this room.
  • The legs came off an old Formica table from the 1960′s I bought from a lady for $30 this past summer. The table top was in bad shape, so I just unscrewed the legs and spray painted them white. Although the table was a bust, the legs themselves are worth well over $30, so I thought it was a good investment. They sat in my garage for months, just waiting to be used.
  • The desk top is actually a solid core wood door. My husband and I bought this when we were first married to use as a desk over two file cabinets but as we moved from place to place, it got thrown in storage in Brandon’s family’s seed shed. Brandon braved waist-high snow drifts to pull this out for me…what a guy :) The top was in pretty bad shape, so it received a faux-malachite painted finish.
  • The red wastebasket was a Target clearance find for $5 this fall. I didn’t know what I was going to use it for at the time, but it’s a great recycling bin for all my paper.
  • The desk chair was $8 at Goodwill and I like its 60′s industrial vibe.
  • The copper lamp was a thrift store find for $12 (I think) that I picked up this fall.
  • The accessories were all stuff I had on hand…pictures frames of my kids, pencil cup from my old desk and old spaghetti sauce jars hold my huge collection of paintbrushes.
  • Cheap cork tiles hold more pictures of my kids and any important fabric swatches or samples.
  • My new “whiteboard” message area are just two old frames I had tucked away in my supply closet. They came with some art that got re-framed, so I re-purposed them by painting the frames white and painting the back of the glass with a cute minty color. The glass is a perfect writing surface for a dry erase marker and cleans off perfectly every time, no ghosting!
  • The big canvas on the left was leftover from a different project and I have plans for more artwork there.

There are still quite a few things to be done in here, but I’m taking my time and not stressing. I really want a curtain over the window to add some softness and color. I found the perfect one, but it’s going to take some sewing…more details to come on that. I also want to add some color to the rug somehow. Lots of design decisions to be made!


paintbrush closeup


desk closeup

corkboard closeup

desk side closeup

Moving onto the bathroom…it’s a small but functional bathroom with the requisite toilet, vanity and shower. We got the tile and vanity at Lowe’s and the shower at Menards.

vanity straight on

vanity closeup

toilet angle


vanity angle

A feature that I’m so glad we added was the small niche in the wall adjacent to the sink. The sink is fairly small and doesn’t have a lot of storage, so I wanted to add this niche to store hairspray, shaving cream or any type of bathroom stuff. I don’t think the drywaller charged us any extra for this, so it was well worth it.

The space needs some color and I haven’t yet decided what to do on that yet. Maybe some art next to the sink or over the toilet? Who doesn’t love some good toilet art, he he?

I did pick up this vintage rug at a thrift store for $10 and I think it adds a little somethin’, somethin’. As always, it’s always a work in progress and things come over time, slowly but surely.

vanity rug


That about wraps up the big “reveals” for our basement, but I’ve got some more details on specific projects coming at you, stay tuned!



Poppin – Seriously Cute Office Supplies

Who gets excited about staplers and erasers? Ok, besides this guy…office-space-09_l

I’ve been working more and more in my home office and loving accessorizing my own personal workspace. I’m working on pictures and a post to show you how I outfitted the whole room for FREE using things I already owned, and this process has been so fun. Last week I wrote about using spray paint to update a leftover watch tin and it has turned out to be one of my favorite desk accessories so far.

I must have cool office stuff on the brain because I ran across an awesome site that I wanted to share with you all (disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post, I just think this company is really cool). Poppin is a company that is devoted to the idea of Work Happy. They offer everything office related in fun, bold colors. From the lowly pen all the way up to an ergonomic office chair, you can find all things office here. As an interior designer who is practically a color expert (totally tongue in cheek, although I did write an honors thesis on color theory!) the importance of adding color to your everyday environment is not to be underestimated. As you slog through your workday, it just can’t hurt to add a little happy to your desktop.

Here are some of my favorites from Poppin, which suit a huge price range, accessible to every budget for every office.

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Since it’s Friday, I hope you all have a Work Happy Day! Enjoy your weekend and I’ll catch you back here next week!


Reader Submission – Mad Modern

A couple days after I posted about the mid-century shop in Cedar Rapids, Mad Modern, I got an email from a reader stating that she is a big fan of Mad Modern and has purchased several of Dave’s pieces. I was so excited to hear of people breathing new life into old furniture and combining them with new pieces to create modern, functional and comfortable interiors. Lori was kind  enough to share some pictures of her home.

I absolutely love how Lori has mixed in the vintage pieces to create a welcoming and serene environment. I love her game table and white bench; she shows how using unique pieces such as a bench can provide adequate seating for large groups, but it doesn’t overcrowd the space like several sofas would.

Congrats to Lori on curating such a wonderful collection of MCM furniture and incorporating it so beautifully in her home. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking!photo 1

photo 3

photo 2

photo 4

photo 5


Enjoy your weekend everyone, and see you next week!


2014 Trend Report: Copper

For the past couple years, decorating with metallics has really been on an upswing. At one time, it was considered a faux pas to even mix metals…if you had silver hardware on your cabinetry, you’d better believe that every doorknob, light fixture and accessory was the exact same finish. It seems the “rules” are loosening up and it’s okay to mix and match more. In the past 2 years brass has made a huge comeback and can have absolutely beautiful results. I was a little hesitant about it as I have vivid memories of the shiny brass everywhere in the 90′s, but it can absolutely be done in an understated and classy way. Kate with Centsational  Girl did this so successfully with her office bookshelves, using brass library lights and other gold-toned accessories to style the shelves. besta-and-billy-with-lights


While I really appreciate the look of silver and gold (I have both in my house and really like both), the brass especially seems a bit too formal for my more modern and spare aesthetic. That is why I’m so excited about a new metallic that is hitting the design scene this year…copper. Copper was starting to pop up a little bit last year but seems it’s really hitting its stride, now available in more products and designs.  It’s a little more relaxed and casual in feel, but it still has a bit of a glam feel. A quick web search found these wonderful gems. copper collage

1  |   2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6

Earlier this fall, I posted about some deals I scored at thrift stores, one of them being this copper lamp.

copper lamp

I guess I was a little ahead of the 2014 design trends, but I knew it would be perfect in  my basement office someday, and here it sits on my desk, as I type this post right now. I’m especially loving it with the new desktop that I painted in a faux malachite finish. Talk about a perfect combo… malachite n copper   The lamp looks perfect on the desk, pretty much like it was made for it, but I wanted to add at least one more copper accessory to really bring out that combo. While at Hobby Lobby a week ago, I ran across this spray paint by Krylon. I have looked for copper spray paint at home improvement stores but they mostly seem to carry ones that are hammered copper or more of a dull finish…I wanted this to look authentically copper and this one did not disappoint. It costs a couple dollars more than your typical can, but the shiny, reflective finish is totally worth it. krylon   Here is the accessory I worked on for my desk. It originally was a Fossil watch tin,  leftover from my husband’s birthday present. He was going to toss it, but I save it from the garbage because of my tendency to hoard items “in case I might need them.”  Here in Iowa we lucked out with one 35-degree day so I opened the garage door and got spraying. 193 This little box now holds my paper clips, rubber bands and other odds and ends. I love how it turned out and am looking around the house for other things to paint this fabulous copper color…if only we could thaw out from our below zero temps. Have you all seen copper pop up more and more? Will you be using it, or will you hang on to the tried and true brass and silver? megan

Mad for Modern

If you know me well, you know that I have a serious thing for mid-century modern furniture. I have always been drawn to a clean and spare aesthetic, the embodiment of mid-century design. This love for modern was cemented when my first job out of college was for a Herman Miller dealership, where I learned and was immersed in the world of modern furniture. For those unfamiliar, Herman Miller had a close partnership with several of the mid-century masters and they produced and still sell today some of the most recognized modern pieces.

George Nelson’s Marshmallow Sofa


Isamu Noguchi’s famous table


And a dynamic duo you may have heard of…Charles and Ray Eames.

The amazing lounge chair

eames loungevia

The molded plywood chair

molded plywoodvia

The molded fiberglass chairs


I would most likely give my right arm to have any of these pieces in my home. While I have a decent knowledge of the Herman Miller portfolio of classics, there are so many mid-century designers out there that produced amazing quality pieces in that era, pieces that have stood the test of time and fit within any interior today. These pieces are meant to be collected and appreciated for their quality, their amazing lines and attention to detail. Today, I’d like to introduce you to a fellow lover of MCM who seriously knows his stuff. Dave Owens is the owner of Mad Modern, located in Cedar Rapids and dedicated to collecting the very best that mid-century design has to offer, and provide a source for all us MCM freaks out there frantically trying to source this furniture.

mad modern logo


I asked Dave to share how he developed a love for MCM and how his shop, Mad Modern came about.

What began your interest in MCM furniture?

About 7 years ago I bought house built in 1956. I noticed the house didn’t need to be renovated, just re-decorated. I started furnishing my home with 50′s furniture and my interest grew. I kept buying furniture even after I had enough to fill my house. It turned into a fun hobby and I became more interested in the history and origins of the pieces I was buying.

wall light

George Nelson Tension Bubble Lamp, for sale at Mad Modern

How did Mad Modern get started?

I opened the shop in June of 2011 as 1st Class Finds. At first I sold MCM, plus other re-sale items, but I quickly realized I wanted to specialize in modern furniture. I re-branded as Mad Modern in 2013.

danish dresser

Danish modern dresser, for sale at Mad Modern

How do you do your research to know if you have an authentic vintage piece or a reproduction?

I started buying vintage decorating books wherever I could find them, as well as new identification guides  to help me learn more about the companies/designers of the pieces I was buying. I also began searching on the internet for images to gain more knowledge. After a while, I began recognizing the design, construction methods and materials, and I could make an educated guess as to who might have designed it. I like to use books more than the internet to identify as you can’t always trust information there. I believe there is no substitute for experience when it comes to identifying pieces. You gain knowledge through buying and researching, and collaborating with other colleagues who are knowledgeable and reliable. 

flatbar chair

 Howell chrome flatbar chair, for sale at Mad Modern

How do you fill up your store with all that awesome furniture?

When I first started, my inventory was derived from things I was buying at sales, auctions, and thrift shops. Now, since most of my time is spent at the shop, I have less time to travel around and I rely more heavily on consignment and house calls for inventory. Word of mouth has greatly helped foster consignment for me. People are glad to know there is somewhere they can take vintage items where they have value.

kagan gaming table

Vladimir Kagan gaming table and slipper chairs, previously sold at Mad Modern

Have you seen the demand for MCM furniture increase in past years?

I’ve seen demand increase in the past two years. When I first opened, people were surprised when they came in. I don’t  think they were ready for what I what I was offering, but I knew going in that it would take time for things to take off. I’ve noticed attitudes have changed since the onset of the TV show Mad Men and increase exposure to design shows on HGTV. People are seeing that this period of design is really timeless. Today’s youth can relate to this style for its clean lines and organic forms. I find that people who lived through this time period have already “been there, done that” and the next generation  of collectors are really drawn to MCM. 

Knoll sofa

Florence Knoll sofa, previously sold at Mad Modern

How do you anticipate the market changing or how do you want to grow and develop Mad Modern?

One challenge I face is that I’m not in a big city market. I’m selling some of the same inventory as galleries in Chicago, New York and LA. In Iowa, the demand is still growing, so in some cases I have trouble selling inventory that is selling for big bucks elsewhere. In the future, I’m definitely looking forward to expanding. I’d love to be able to deliver to more areas in the Midwest, develop a website and add employees.

Mad Modern shopA shot of Mad Modern’s newly remodeled shop, showing some of his amazing pieces for sale.

I had the opportunity to visit Dave’s shop about a year and half ago as Brandon and I were in Cedar Rapids for something and I made him promise we could visit while in town. Poor Brandon had to talk me down most of the time we were there, as I wanted to take so many things home with me. If you’re in the area, please go visit Dave and say hi. If you’re looking for any unique piece in your home, his shop is a great place to start. Your home doesn’t have to be completely filled with MCM pieces to make this work…it’s about layering and mixing. Remember my post about breaking out of the Midwest style box? Well, here’s your opportunity to start. If you don’t get to Cedar Rapids often, feel free to check out his inventory on Facebook, Dave is great about taking pictures of all his new items with prices listed.

So tell me, what is your favorite MCM piece or designer?


My Long Absence

Wow, somewhere between the middle of December and the beginning of February, time just got sucked into a vortex. I had all good intentions of taking a short break over Christmas and then jumping back on the blogging bandwagon shortly thereafter. Obviously….that didn’t quite happen.

Life just got in the way.

We’ve had a very busy couple of months, and to be perfectly honest, I lacked some serious motivation to jump on the computer at night after spending the whole day at work.  Also factor in some sick kids, a sick husband and an unexpected outpatient surgery for me, there were some days that getting laundry and dishes done, kids fed and bathed seemed like a great accomplishment.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t accomplished some cool projects though, ones that I’m very excited to share with you. I busted my buns over Christmas break trying to finish a “feature” wall in my basement. It’s truly amazing, but I kid you not that I probably spent 30-40 hours on it and still have several hours more to go. I was hoping to show you all this picture perfect, perfectly styled basement renovation, but that may be a year before it’s up to magazine photo shoot standards. My perfectionist side is battling with my realistic side, and that if I wait until everything is perfect, I’ll just never show you guys anything. So, plan to see some updates of our basement remodel, but know that we still have some things to do. I figure that seeing the process of how we came to certain design decisions is half the fun anyway.

Here is a little sneak peak of what I’ve been working on…prepare to be amazed with full pictures of the finished product…

paint by number

In short, I hope I haven’t lost you guys and trust me when I say I’ve got lots up my sleeve. In between chasing after my naked 22 year old daughter, who I’m trying to forcefully potty-train, I’ll get those posts written and pictures uploaded.

I promise.


Cutting the Cord…How We Ditched Cable TV in 2014

Hey everyone, did you think I’d quit blogging already? Not a chance. I’ve been putting every spare minute of my time into my “feature” wall in the basement. It’s going to be amazing, and so worth the wait, I promise!

I didn’t want to totally fall off the grid, however, so I’ll try to be a little more regular with my posts. Back in the fall, I posted on Facebook asking my followers to share their experiences with completely giving up cable TV and going with streamed content only. I didn’t get much feedback, so I did a lot of research on the pros and cons, the devices needed, the entertainment available and the quality  of the content we would receive. Why did I do so much research? Well, I had a very tough customer to sell this idea to, and his name is Brandon. I usually come  up with at least 3 harebrained ideas once a week. Some I’m passionate about, some are half-hearted. If there is something I’m desperate to accomplish, I know the key will be to have all the information, facts, potential pitfalls and success stories at the ready to share with my skeptical husband.

This time, the great idea was to get rid of our cable TV. Seeing the obscene amount subtracted from our bank account each month made me nauseous. We subscribed to DirecTV (this is not a dis against them or their service, just over-charging cable companies in general) and our monthly bill was $120. I know, totally ridiculous. Granted, Brandon had some kind of 3-month football package in order to watch all his precious games, and we also had HBO because all the shows we love are on that network. We weren’t exactly skimping it, but that is how they get you. We probably regularly watched 5 of the 250+ channels that we were paying for. It just seemed like a big waste of our precious resources.

I had heard some of the buzzwords start popping up on the Internet….Roku, streaming Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, Apple TV…so I began my research. Here were some of my major concerns.

1. How would we still get our local channels in order to keep up with news, weather, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and the Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad…oops, now you know all my guilty pleasures.

2. Would we still get good quality hi-def content to our HD TV’s?

3. How are we going to stream this stuff to our various TV’s?

4. What about sports? My hubby is a big football fan, specifically of the Redskins, which rarely plays on local channels as it is, so he would have a really hard time catching them on TV if we cancelled cable.

Let me give you a run-down of how we successfully ditched cable and why we are so happy we did it.

To answer the first question, I started research HD antenna’s. These are a more high-tech version of rabbit ears that used to sit on your TV. We ordered this antenna from Amazon, and Brandon got up on the roof on an incredibly cold day to bolt it into the post previously occupied by DirecTV’s antenna. I think from there, he just connected it to the coaxial cable that was already out there. (Disclaimer: if you’re looking for technical details, I’ll probably have to have Brandon write a follow-up post, I’m amazed I even know what a coax cable is, and that right there is the extent of my knowledge).



Amazon has hundreds of different antennas to choose from, depending on your needs, both for indoor and outdoor use.  I also used this government website to give me more information about antennas, the coverage maps for different stations and what stations I was likely to receive using this particular antenna. I totally memorized all this technical knowledge and spewed it back at Brandon, just to give a little street cred and make it sound like I knew exactly what I was talking about. Obviously, it worked!

Onto the second question…would the TV signal be of good quality? This was a huge concern for Brandon. A lot of times, when you think of an antenna, you think of the fuzzy stations coming in through the rabbit ears. We had just invested a lot of money in a new TV for our basement, and I knew Brandon would be very disappointed if we got static every time he wanted to watch a football game on ABC. Again, the internet was helpful to me as it explained that each station can decide if they want to provide hi-definition channels or not. It seems like the 3 big ones all provide HD content on their main channels, but they have offshoot channels that are not HD and therefore not as clear. Basically, since this is a digital  HD antenna it will pick up HD over the air stations from as far as Des Moines for us. We haven’t it long enough to know how it will withstand a rainstorm or other weather events that would typically knock out our satellite reception with DirecTV.

The third question is a doozy so buckle up. After we had determined to kick DirecTV out, we knew that we wanted some kind of streaming service to catch us up on awesome shows and movies. We don’t watch a lot of TV, but when we do, we are kind of discretionary about it. I won’t sit and watch a 1/2 hour sitcom that I’m not invested in (not to mention sitting through commercials!) just because nothing else is on. I knew we would get major usage out of services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant Video and others.  Then we just had to figure out how to get it to our TV’s. At this point we had 2 TV’s, one in our upstairs living room and one in our bedroom. Both are HD TV’s, but are several years old so aren’t “smart” and don’t have USB ports built it. We had just finished the basement as well, so we had to buy a TV for that living room. Here is how we ended up managing all of our devices and how we got each TV set up to stream:

1. The basement living room got the mac daddy Vizio Smart TV. What is a Smart TV? It basically means that it can pick up a Wi-Fi signal from your home internet        service and already has apps like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube built it. There is a Netflix button on the front of the remote and a keyboard on the back. That remote        is 10x  more advanced than my first cell phone, it’s just ridiculous. So far, the speed is great and the picture is AMAZING.

2. The upstairs living room got a new BluRay player with built-in WiFi. This functions the same in that it picks up a wireless signal from our router and connects to      apps. This works okay for now. It’s rather slow, so it’s frustrating trying to quickly pop on a cartoon for the kids. Getting something pulled up on Netflix could take      3-4 minutes when you’re all said and done. We may upgrade this at some point to what we have in the bedroom which is a….

3. Roku! We ordered a Roku player for our bedroom TV. We read good reviews on the Roku on Amazon, so decided to try this upstairs. This device streams the            fastest out of all three. They also have partnerships set up with many providers that offer free content, you just have to register. For example, they have PBS Kids      app that you log in to and then you access to all the great kids shows and cartoons that PBS airs. My kids love Wild Kratts, Super Why and Sesame Street. This is the Roku player we bought and let me tell you about my favorite feature of this model. There is a headphone jack and ear buds included with the remote. I don’t know about the rest of you, but my husband has to fall asleep to the TV, preferably to documentaries about the Civil War or Lewis & Clark. If I come to bed later or read in bed, I end up hearing the same narration over and over again, while he sleeps next to me. Also, some nights I’m just tired and want peace and quiet while I fall asleep. Now Brandon can watch and listen to his heart’s content as long as he has his earbuds in.

Now onto the question about sports. As far as I know, there isn’t really a good way to get a bunch of sports, especially something that’s not super popular, like Monday night football. Obviously, Brandon can still watch football on CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox, but there is no ESPN, NFL ticket or any live sports  Someone correct me if I’m wrong , or if you know of another service out there! That being said, we are saving so much money every month by not paying the cable company, if he wants to go to a sports bar and have wings and beer with buddies a couple times throughout the season to watch his favorite team play, we’ll still be money ahead.

The bottom line, are we happy with our decision to cut the cord? Yes, so far we feel very happy that we did. We love to save money where we can, and so far we’ve had no shortage of things to watch. I’ve been obsessively catching up on Scandal and Netflix definitely makes it easy to binge-watch. The kids are happy with it and so far, so is Brandon. That’s a lot of words about antennas and streaming, and not a lot of pretty pictures, but I hope it was informational about all the new technology for our TV’s that are available. I’d love to hear from you in the comments  about whether you have or are considering cutting the cord too. If you have any specific questions as well, please let me know, I’d love to hear from you!