Help! My S-I-L is Coming For The Christmas Holiday!

Dear Laurel,

Some Christmas holiday! It’s turning out to be a Christmas nightmare!

Please don’t be too harsh with me. I’m a dead woman and it’s not nice to crap all over dead people, ya know.

And, I’m fully aware that it’s only two weeks before Christmas. But my sister-in-law and her two unruly brats my two adorable nephews and my bro are coming to celebrate the holiday with us. Just found this out.

Normally, we go to see them, because their house is at least twice the size of ours, but my younger son is scheduled for some surgery to repair a torn ligament, the day after Christmas and we won’t be able to travel.

So, I thought that we were going to just spend a quiet Christmas holiday, hanging in our humble abode– just the four of us, plus my husband’s brother and wife who are local and his mom.


I’m sure that you know what’s coming.

It’s our house. Our 2,500 sq ft builder’s colonial.

Laurel, have to tell you; it’s an absolute shit-show.

We bought it 10 years ago when I was pregnant with our second son. It was a tough time. I was working full-time, plus very busy running after a toddler, making a new baby and of course, getting ready for him. Then, I had son #2 and went back to work… And some how ten years has flown by.

There are some things that I’ve never liked, like the baby blue polyester drapes in the living/dining room. They seem to get shinier by the day.


Sadly my mom passed away a few years ago.


And no one wanted her dining room set or the wing chairs, so not wanting to give them away, I took them.


It’s a little formal for me and as you can see, a big bloody mess. Oh why are they outside? Don’t ask. Please. But I only have six of these side chairs and I need two more chairs for the ends. There are also two leaves that are not in the table.


white wing chairs from Chairish- christmas decor help


Here are the wing chairs.  I think my son was playing fort with a friend. They’re not normally set up like this. I do think that they have nice lines, but hang on.

Then, my neighbor went through a nasty divorce. Her husband left her for his massage therapist.


And ya know… I thought that they were the perfect family. Lovely people, always seemed so happy. Just goes to show you something or other.


Anyway, she sold me this quite lovely leather sofa from Crate and Barrel.

Well, it was lovely. But the leather has gotten so scratched up that my kids use it as a board game now. Clearly, doesn’t really work with the wing chairs or the dining set.

The rug is old and stained. The lighting is horrible. Geez. The whole place needs painting, but that’s not happening.

This is the first floor layout. As you can see, the living room and dining room flow into each other. It’s not a huge house. There are three bedrooms upstairs and a small study. We use the downstairs study as a den.


So WHY am I so freaked out?

Well, my sister-in-law is from a very wealthy family and she has superb taste. Plus her home is immaculate. I mean, you will never see so much as a spoon in the sink. And her furniture is sublime. Fabulous taste.

Laurel, I hate to say it, but I feel so inferior and oh well. And we’re not wealthy, but I could spend maybe 10k. Maybe there’s something to be done?

Thanks much,

Sally Sadowski


Oh Sally,

If I thought that you were the biggest idiot, that would make me the biggest hypocrite. Not only do I not think that you’re an idiot, I can relate to EVERYTHING you said and I bet that a lot of other blog readers can too. So, let’s take a deep breath…


These are universal issues and by golly Sally, at least you’re going to be with family. And IMO for whatever it’s worth, there’s really nothing else that matters. I’m so sorry to hear about your mom too.


Alas… my sad story is that my older son is going to be with his girlfriend at her mom’s in northeastern MA. That leaves me with no one and no plans which might sound hard to believe. But that’s the way things are, at the moment. I’m praying daily that someone will rescue me for Christmas. That’s the only present I’d like.

At least for one day. If not, well, there’s always that closet that needs cleaning out.


Buttttttt… Did it ever occur to you dear Sally that your S-I-L is freaking out about seeing YOU???


Maybe she’s embarrassed by the way her children act out and fearful that you will judge her parenting skills. Or maybe she’s gained 20 pounds since last Christmas and feels gross and ugly.

She may project an air of confidence and beauty and still feel completely different on the inside. You really don’t know.

I mean you REALLY DO NOT KNOW what goes on with other people. Even people who you live with that you think you know really well!

And no, you are not going to have a perfect home. So what? Not to make light of your feelings, but believe me, as the mom who raised two hellions into adulthood, I doubt that the state of your home will be your sister-in-law’s first concern. Just go and have your hair done. Put on make-up and wear a big, warm smile.

Not enough?

Fine. I understand.

But, let’s try to think positively and then see what’s possible before the Christmas holiday descends upon us.

Don’t blink!

First, you’ll need to act fast. I mean REALLY FAST. And I can’t promise that you’ll be able to get everything on the list in time, but a lot of it, yes, it’s possible.

Next, you’ll need to clear out all of the crap. Just get some big garbage bags and if it’s worth saving, put it in the Goodwill bin or wherever. The rest, dump.




Sorry to shout. Just don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did. Of course it’s okay to dump broken toys, no longer played with! If they should happen to come out of their Nintendo hangover and remember that they once had a cool transformer and want to know where it is… this is what you say.

“I don’t know sweetie. When did you last play with it?”

The truth is that you don’t know where it is, because after you dumped it, it could’ve ended up in some China landfill for all you know.

Wait. Is that a little smile I see?

Good. See??? Life’s not all that bad.


I have taken the liberty to put some things together for you.


In fact, a few things are from this week’s HOT SALES. Please check it out because there’s some awesome stuff on sale this week.

But let’s begin with some cosmetic fixes. Below is a little widget of items to restore wood finishes and others to restore your leather. I’ve not used any of them, but have heard good things about them all.



The chalk paint will probably not happen due to lack of time. But if you do have time you could paint your existing chairs as an option and then reupholster them.


I found these wonderful host chairs on Chairish. I think that they would look awesome with your side chairs. They are a little on the expensive side, but you could probably talk them down. The fabric is quite expensive. You can find it by clicking on the link below. That’s a very good retail price.


Plaisirs de La Chine by F Schumacher


It is easy to reupholster slip seats with a staple gun. I’m sure that you can find a tutorial on youtube.

Do not try to match the repeat. Just let it fall wherever it lands. It’s more modern. For the six chairs, You can get two seats per width and you’ll need about two feet of fabric to be able to tuck it under from front to back. Therefore, you’ll need two yards to do the six slip seats. An upholsterer might ask for more, but two yards should be fine as long as you don’t make any mistakes.

If not painting, I put an alternative fabric in the widget coming up. You use the Restor A Finish. It comes in numerous colors, so get the one that’s best for your finish.


Next, the rugs.


I found a wonderful 9 x 12 sea grass rug on One King’s Lane for only $325!!! You can do two of those. And you’ll need a non-skid rug pad for each of them.


custom giltwood mirror on Chairish

For over the buffet in the dining room, I found the most smashing giltwood mirror on Chairish.

BTW, I also found the mirror on First Dibs.


uh huh… crazy, right?


Do they think that we’re stupid or something? These online places, if selling the same items should really be selling it for the same price no matter who the online vendor is. But that is not always the case, I have found. I do try to find the lowest prices for y’all.


Below is the widget with lots of other accents to liven up your living and dining room. There’s more info in the captions and if you click on the images, you can go directly to the source.




OH! and if you haven’t decorated your tree and want one that coordinates, please look at the holiday shop in the tree decorating section and particularly the aqua and celadon tree I put together.

Also, if anyone needs curated gift ideas, please check out the holiday shop, the hot sales page (items are all on sale) and the hot clothes on sale (for women) pages. Some very beautiful things from super casual to pretty party dresses.

Well, that’s pretty much it. But, in case some of you don’t realize, Sally Sadowsky is a fictious character. But I believe that there’s a Sally lurking in pretty much every one of us.



Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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