Who doesn’t love a 4-day weekend? This one was much needed. I started my new job the day after waking up at 3:30 AM and getting to bed at 12 AM and I was still behind on sleep 2 weeks later. I know, some people say sleep debts aren’t real but tell that to my lazy butt.
I say that but in reality I had a very busy weekend. I woke up early Thursday morning and drove 30 minutes to head to a Turkey Trot. My husband and I ran our first 5K run together! I had trained but switching jobs to something with a longer commute + the end of daylight savings time really cut into the hours I could run in a day. The race was hard, lots of hills in a mall parking area but in the end I finished and ran the whole way. My husband stayed by my side (even though he’s a much faster runner) and I shaved over 4 minutes off my previous best.
After the run I cleaned up a bit and then headed to Thanksgiving lunch with my in-laws. She had turkey, dinner rolls, sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. My sisters-in-law each made desserts and I brought a very empty stomach. I definitely didn’t leave with an empty one though. I didn’t take pictures because I was devouring but I did want to share my mother-in-law’s pretty centerpiece.
After a filling lunch, Dan and I then headed over to my parents’ house. Luckily our house is about 10 minutes away from each of their houses and they live about 10 minutes away from each other. Unluckily that did not allow a lot of time to digest. We had a deep-fried turkey that my dad fried, my mom tried out my sweet potato recipe, there were at least 2 casseroles, a jello salad (a true must), and a Thanksgiving miracle occurred when my baby brother tried and liked my cornbread dressing. We ate on my great great grandma’s china that my mom was just given.
That was all in one day!
The rest of my weekend was spent on a project I highly regret starting. Remember: when your husband says “Do you want to start on the fireplace or just put up the Christmas tree?” choose wisely. I was desperate to start on a makeover of the ugliest fireplace ever. I did not realize I would be dealing with moving furniture, flying debris, dust, 3 extra loads of laundry, eating on my bed, buying new tools, and realizing public enemy #1 is my former homeowner.
Has your past homeowner ever done anything to deserve a public shaming? Uncle Albert sure does. Letting someone set tile in concrete and using concrete as a grout is the.worst.idea.ever. There are not enough evers in a Taylor Swift song to cover the amount of worst idea evers in this situation.
I know this sounds like a busy weekend but I promise you I slept in till 10 AM, ate chili dogs, and watched The Walking Dead. I also caught up on giving my puppy some extra loving and I did not do a bit of shopping all weekend. It was bliss! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with your families, friends, or just yourselves. I’d love to hear about how you do Thanksgiving your style.
Do you by chance remember my messiest closet ever? I don’t blame you if you don’t. I posted about that renovation back in May with a goal of being done in June. To be fair, I was 95% of the way done in June. I just had two tricky parts, one I eventually found a solution for and one that is still ongoing. To recap, this is the closet before.
I know, it is like a room on Hoarders.
I started off by doing just as I planned. I painted the door to match the trim in my house. I had planned to buy a door organizer from Home Depot but when I arrived in my car I realized the organizer would probably not fit in my car. I could borrow my mom’s van but I’d remembered seeing a smaller organizer at Target. Enter the ClosetMaid 8-Tier Adjustable Door Rack. (You might also want its buddy, some hollow door anchors that I ended up having to run back to Home Depot for). I then used that door organizer to put all my cleaning supplies in it. I’m still working on reducing how many containers I’m using but as I run out I’ll be replacing with more multi-purpose products.
Next up was emptying the closet, patching, priming, and painting. I had no clue that my crooked house had a closet with walls that sloped in random directions. I ended up spending nearly a week just on patching and sanding to try to make the walls straight.
In an effort to keep costs low, my husband and I thought we should reuse the original shelves and just hang them with two boards. In the photo above you can see the new boards attached to the wall while the white stripes represent how the shelves used to be hung. Wonder why they had a back shelf hanger? Those crooked walls. Apparently the walls were crooked even when they built the house so they just made small shelves and used an extra-wide shelf rack to accommodate their mistakes and laziness. So by being cheap/lazy, we ended up with the same issue. We had to create one more shelf hanger but luckily our entire basement is full of scrap wood so we still saved on cash.
The new shelves were much less obtrusive than the old ones and we painted them the same paint color as the walls to help them blend in. The paint color is a mistint from Home Depot. My local Home Depot seems to only have orange and forest green no matter when I go but this was one in West County so let’s call this right place, right time.
Now it was time to put everything back and get it all off my dining room table. I used some Closetmaid cubes to add some color and hide all the messy things. More on them in a minute. I bought an iron and ironing board holder from Walmart. Those cool things on the back wall are all from my Ikea trip last November. I have two Rationell Variera that are made to dispense plastic bags but I use them to hold towels and washcloths and they work like a dream. The bar and hooks are all part of Ikea’s Bygel rail system. I installed two of these. (Locals- Ikea will be coming to Kansas City in 2014)
To make things even more organized I spent about $2 on small wooden tags from Michaels. I spray-painted them with chalkboard paint and used them to label those Closetmaid cubes. The basket above holds all my extra lightbulbs, 3m strips, and candles. I have another one for seasonal gear like gloves and bags, and the third basket holds my extra cleaning items like vacuum bags or my shoe shining kit. Everything is labeled so I don’t need the products out in the open.
I also decided that I should probably get a full-sized ironing board instead of using my 9 year old dorm ironing board. I’ve already used it and it’s amazing the difference it brings. As a bonus, it really brightens up the closet and it matches my cubes I already had.
Ready for the final effect?
The top now easily fits all those items that used to sit on my closet floor. I have space for paper products, trash bags, vinegar for cleaning, all my bins, and even extra picture frames at the top.
The bottom of my closet it worlds better. You can actually see the floor! Over on the right I hung my swiffer and broom with a rack from The Container Store. I hung several cleaning items from my top Bygel rail and you can see my Rationell stuffed with the cloths. I decided to use the bottom rail to include the bags I use for shopping and day trips so the closet is even more practical. It might not be as pretty as without them but let’s be real, the practical has to win when you live in your house. Somehow I managed to actually put more items into this closet and it miraculously looks emptier. I am still needing a light in there (hence the dark photos) but having a lighter paint color and a more open space helps immensely in the meantime.
This project is being put in the finished category and I’m ready to tackle a new one. Home Depot sent me a coupon in the mail this month that I need to use soon so maybe that’ll jumpstart a big project once again. Hopefully this gets my closet out of the “Worst Closet Ever” category and into something a little more flattering.Pin It
My front flower bed wasn’t the only eyesore in my front yard. I have a second flower bed that sits on the front corner of my house that is just as bad or worse. My husband and I had pulled out all the eyesore plants but the remaining dirt and weeds became an eyesore themselves.
You can see that we’re testing out pavers for yet another retaining wall and we have one bush we plan to save. We’ll also be making a second rain barrel base for our other rain barrel. We also would love to see a pathway to walk on, one that would connect our front door to our side door. We’re not sure if we’re thinking concrete or stepping stones or some other material but we know a path of some kind is in order.
Our plans include designing an inner and an outer corner flower bed. You can see where our tentative dividing retaining wall would fall between the two but that bush would be in the outer ring. Then we’d build a sidewalk that would curve around the house to the side yard. We’ll dead end it where we hope to build a patio in phase 2 of this project. Phase 2 will be at some point in the future, probably next summer. Then we’ll expand the shade garden to follow the curve of our new path.
You can see it all on my super-awesome guide. The blue area is the front flower bed we just finished. The orange will be the new corner flower beds, the brown will be our path, and the yellow is phase 2 of the project.
I’m still working on the timeline for this project and it’ll probably take a bit of a backseat until we get the closet done. It’s been bumped up the list though so we’ll be working on this before our fireplace. I’ll keep you updated on the progress of the garden but for the most recent updates, make sure to follow my facebook page. I usually include progress pictures along the way over there.
I have a secret. There is one room in my house that is not fit for human eyes, and that’s saying something considering the state my home has been in during the renovation process. This space is a tiny space between my dining room and my kitchen. I’m talking about my one and only hall closet. It still has the original shelves in there, it has no lighting, and it’s very dark in color. There is a lack of storage and so items end up falling or being dumped on the floor. Yes, it’s that bad in there.
I’ll admit that this eyesore has actually gotten worse since I took this photo. Don’t ask me how that’s possible. Let’s just say I am hoping for a very dramatic transformation in the end.
The first stage of updating this closet was to define what I want this space to be. I want it to hold a vacuum, my steam mop, my iron, and all my cleaning supplies. I want my overstock of paper towels, napkins, and tissues in here as well. I don’t need the coat storage anymore so that rod can go. The games might stay or they might find a new home. Either way, it looks like this closet is due to be transformed into a cleaning closet.
The way I go about a renovation might seem a little strange so I’ll share my process with you. I do this behind the scenes of every project, though some have a much looser timeline. This project is on track to be finished right around the official start date of summer. Of course, we’ll be overlapping it with a few other projects so hopefully it won’t shift around too much.
First, I list out every step of the project. I’ll then reorder my list chronologically. Next, I map out a timeline for the project. On this project I am leaving the schedule very open, giving us entire weeks or weekends to accomplish tasks since my husband and I will have varying work schedules. It’s better to finish a project early than to have it drag out for months beyond what we expected. The last thing I do is assign each task to a person. Sometimes we’ll both need to consult on it, sometimes it just depends on who wants to work inside that day, while other tasks are claimed in a deathmatch. Or you know, just assigned because I like to micromanage.
The only real issue I foresee in this project is figuring out how to light it. We don’t really have the option of hardwiring it due to some limitations in the attic space above. I’d love to find a light bright enough to light the whole space and my two little wall lights that you can see by the ironing board just aren’t cutting it. Has anyone ever found success with a bright but not hardwired light?
Last week I shared my flower bed plans. I’m happy to say that all of the planned plants are in the ground. We still have a planter to build and one corner to add some height in with plants but those are long-term plans. The only other short-term plan we have going on in the flower bed is hooking up our rain barrel. We wanted to create a nice base for it but first we had to drain out our 65 gallons of rain collected inside it so we took some time doing that and then it rained on us again. Such is life.
We’re making progress on the base this week but within a 6 hour period we usually go from a 0% chance of rain to it actually raining (no love STL weather forecasters). That’s why my husband and I have decided to split our projects into indoor and outdoor projects. A few months back I mentioned we were starting our living room makeover but then the nice weather came and we had to do yardwork. All that got done in the living room was a nice paint job, some new trim, putting up blinds, and some furniture rearranging. If we split our energy doing indoor work on rainy days and outdoor work on nicer days, we won’t waste time yelling at weather forecasters for ruining our lives so often. Maybe.
Here’s the current eyesore of the living room. (Click to enlarge) You can see our paint updates and window updates but with all the decorations removed you can see all the flaws too. The fireplace is very oversized in the room. The mantel is undersized in comparison.
The tiles clash, the brickwork is done in a strange pattern, and there’s a random letter H on the front for the last name of the original owners. Let’s not even get into the inside of the fireplace. Right now it’s non-functional with a board propping up some sort of method the original owners used to close off the chimney. We’ve been too terrified to pull it out and we fully expect some animals may be living in there. Either that or we really do have a ghost. More cleaning will have to be done inside as well.
Here’s a closer look at some of the problems. The old toekick around the fireplace stopped the floors from being finished underneath it so we’ll need to address that. Our tiles are not even close to our taste and don’t look good in the house. The groutline is 3/4″ minimum and almost an inch thick between the tile and the brick of the fireplace. We have our work cut out for us.
For tile we’d love to go with a slab but pricing will probably lead us to use tiles again. We’re favoring some white shades but after we get up our new trim we might end up wanting contrast. If you do know of a (very) affordable place to buy fireplace hearth slabs or remnants in the St. Louis area, please let me know. I’d love to go that route but the $25/sqft pricing I’ve seen does not make me think I’ll be going that route.
As far as trim goes, I find myself drawn to the looks of Sarah of Thrifty Decor Chick’s fireplace
and the fireplace by Julia of Pawleys Island Plush
I’m not sure which route we’ll end up going at our house but we do want to cover up plenty of that brick so our fireplace has a better sense of scale in the living room. I hope you’ll have patience with me as I bounce indoors and outdoors. My husband and I plan to be working in overdrive from now until the first of September when we’ll shift gears to start on another idea. You’ll see when we get there. In the meantime, I’m going to try to update as often as I can (3-4 times a week) and I’ll keep taking photos so I’ll get around to showing off every project eventually.
If you have any tips for working on a fireplace, I’d love to hear them because I’m planning on attacking with my chisel the next day the weather forecasters are wrong about the odds of rain and that’s looking like tomorrow.
One of the biggest projects in our house has been redoing the windows. Our original windows were from the original 1940s build. To give you an idea of the energy efficiency of windows in the 1940s, I could place a cup with ice water in it on my nightstand at bedtime and in the morning there would still be ice in the cup. Yup, the breeze from my window was that bad. Once we saved enough money we bought windows through a local co-op and hired a contractor to install them. It was up to us to do the window trim as part of our money-saving scheme.
- Trim (we get ours from Lowes)
- Finishing Nails
- Wood Filler
- Spackling Paste
How We Do It
While I would hardly call us experts on window trim, this is how we’ve done the process. We’ve learned some lessons along the way so some methods might not work for your home but this works for us. By us, I mostly mean my awesome husband Daniel who is the brains behind the renovation. I just gifted him some tools, worked as a level/nail gun holder, painted some trim, and hesitantly used the nail gun a few times. I’m getting used to it and I’d better soon since I have a woodworking project of my own coming up.
Here’s some photos showing the process. Click any to enlarge it.
First, trim a piece of trim to length. We used a straight cut on the base and a mitered corner at the top.
After trimming one piece of trim to length, use your level and make sure you have the trim hanging straight. Then use your nail gun to nail it into the wall. Always wear goggles and safety gear for this step. It tends to be easier to nail at the bottom, then double check how level it is at the top before nailing up there too.
You’ll want to measure some trim along the top next. Both corners will be miter cuts so make sure to keep your angles even. Nail this piece as even and level as you can.
Repeat these steps with the piece of trim on the right side. Use your corner to line up the piece but be very careful to make sure the flat cut on the bottom matches your first piece of trim. You can always use filler to fill a tiny gap at the top.
We then attached a piece of flat trim to the bottom. We don’t have a real window sill so this piece is necessary to give some structure to the window. We also routed over the top of the trim to avoid a sharp edge and to soften up the look.
You can see a large gap at the bottom here. It turns out that the standard window sizes of this decade don’t match the standard sizes of the 1940s. We used the closest match and chose to patch the extra space ourselves. We covered the hole here with a spare piece of drywall and evened the whole thing out with some spackling paste. The paste needed to dry overnight before finishing the window trim.
Once the paste is dry, you can attach your bottom piece of trim. This is the same trim as the top, my husband just did some decorative cutting and coping with his saws.
Next up- filling in all those holes.
Most people will use caulk to fill in all the gaps. We soon discovered caulk wasn’t enough for us. Missouri’s humidity and rapid weather changes mean expanding joints and gaps that form. Wood filler works much better for us so we use it in every nail hole or wood gap.
After that all dries you’ll want to sand, sand, sand. Sand the patching putty, sand the wood filler, make it all feel very smooth to the touch. Afterwards you’ll want to paint the trim and try dressing your window. Here’s an after of one of our windows. Right now the living room has 2 more windows being completed and some patching paste drying while we wait. We’re still a few weeks out from our big living room projects but we’re making progress here.Pin It
For me, one of the hardest parts of finishing a room is the windows. I have a hard time deciding on what curtains (nevermind whether I should even have curtains or not), what blinds, or even what hardware I should be putting up. Once I’ve finally made that decision I have an impossible time with the installation of one or more parts of that because I have some serious issues following directions without words. It’s a total first world problem and yet I keep having it. With our new windows we needed new window dressings so I finally decided towels and sheets weren’t working when I saw some neighbors walking way too close to my house after I had just showered. It was time.
The easy part actually came on my November trip to Ikea. My husband and I had found some curtain rods called Skuggig that were really easy to install and had the clean simple lines we were looking for. (update: I hear they’ve since been discontinued. Anyone know of a similar product?) We also found some simple curtains that were both sturdy and sheer, all at the same time. Ikea’s Vivan was our new curtain of choice. They came with an iron-on hem tape so we could change the length easily.
For shade we decided we wanted a more natural look so we instantly knew we wanted bamboo roman blinds of some kind. After pricing out our options we found Overstock had the best rates. Even better, they almost always have a coupon code so all our blinds came in at less than $30 each. We went with the Tuscan Bamboo Roman Shade. The great thing about Overstock’s selection is that they have so many widths and heights that you likely won’t have to cut them down at all. It’s like having custom-made blinds for your house.
You may have spied the shades during the kitchen makeover. They were really easy to install. The key was to just space the base far enough outside the window and make them horizontally level. The easy-install brackets allow you just to slide the blinds back and forth until they’re evenly spaced around your window. Seriously, drill & screw, level, install, and slide- it’s that easy. Watch as my husband demonstrates. I swear he doesn’t usually coordinate his shirts to the room he is in.
Here’s the complete look, curtains, shades, and hardware, in the dining room.
I haven’t hemmed up the curtains because as you can see we’re still rearranging furniture. Despite how sheer the roman shades look when you stand outside you cannot see in. Even closed they let so much light into the house which is nice considering January has a tendency to be a very dark and cloudy month at times. If you checked out the dining room reveal you may have noticed we cheated a little. Still not sure how?
We hung the curtains a little outside the window trim and also hung the blinds above the trim to give the illusion of having larger windows than we actually do. I’ve noticed our barely-8-foot ceilings seem taller now than they ever did before thanks to that tip.
We finally addressed the trouble of windows and it turned out to be a lot easier than we planned. I’m not sure why I was convinced it would be so impossible (well, except we had a lot of past failures) but everything we did here was foolproof. Do you have a habit of building up projects to be impossible tasks?
Walking into the kitchen you now see the new door leading up to the attic and the chalkboard my husband built from scratch.
Here’s the way you just came from leading back into the dining room. That ladder bookshelf is one of my favorite things.
Here’s another shot of it along with the pantry and my little baker’s nook. Can you believe all of this used to be in the bathroom of the house?
Here’s another shot of the nook with a glimpse at the full row of cabinets. I use those tiny little stacked drawers to hold all my spices and they fit amazingly well.
Here’s a shot into the corner where we have a few more glass front cabinets.
This shot shows off the schoolhouse light we bought a few months ago from Lowe’s and the tile. Here’s a detailed tile shot.
It’s from Home Depot and so incredibly amazing looking.
Remember how we built a nook where a door once was? This shows off the new layout pretty well.
We still have some very minor things to touch-up in this room but we’ve hit the 95% mark so I think that my husband and I did amazingly well so far. Here’s some before and after shots. Check them out while listening to Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” for an authentic experience.
It’s been a few years, a ton of work, a chunk of change, lots of yelling, lots of love, but it all came together. You can’t believe how wonderful it is to cook a meal in such a beautiful and organized space and knowing how much I did and my husband did with our two hands (along with those of family and friends). I just feel so proud of this space. The rest of our home has quite a ways to go but I really believe we’re on the right path and some day all the rooms will look this good.
Linking up to Thrifty Decor Chick’s Show Us Your Kitchens! link party.
When it came time to order cabinets, one look stuck in our minds. We had seen it while collecting brochures and this one in particular came from Home Depot.
It was everything our first kitchen wasn’t: bright, airy, and open. Obviously we weren’t going to be able to replicate the entire look but we knew that those were the cabinets we wanted. We loved the simple modern lines but the classic Shaker style of the cabinets. The name of the cabinets were Del Ray in Maple Spice from Woodmark Cabinetry, available at Home Depot. Another shot:
Virtually the same kitchen, just with different tile. Check out the detailing on the doors:
When you get cabinets installed, you might be surprised how long it takes for the actual installation to begin. First you have a consult where you schedule the measurement and discuss your basic budget and plans. Then a contractor comes to your home to measure the space from walls to windows, outlets to doors. Then you meet with your consultant again and plan out your space. We started by discussing our preferred cabinet design, placing the appliances and sink, and building cabinets around those needs. From there we talked countertops, sinks, faucets, and the ordering process. We sat on it for a few days, then placed our order. That was about a 10-day process in itself.
After that we had the long process of waiting. When the cabinets arrived they had to be inspected for defects before they could be installed. The installation took only about 3 days but we ran into an issue where one cabinet was the wrong size (but not defective so it was missed in the inspection) so they had to reorder it. While we waited we bought handles but the downside was that our counters would be delayed until the new cabinet arrived and could be installed. Finally the new cabinet arrived and we could schedule our countertop measure. Another 10 days from the measure and we got our counters in. It took over 2 months from start to finish while we lived with just a laundry sink, a stove, a fridge, and a card table as a counter. Be prepared to rough it folks. But here was the result of all the wait:
The kitchen view from the old doorway.
Look at that huge open workspace!
Here’s that former bathroom area (and my dog’s behind). On the left is the pantry and on the right we installed what was actually a bathroom vanity as a baker’s nook to fit below the kitchen window.
Here’s that nook we built by building a false wall where the door once stood. Now it holds a stove, a fridge, a microwave, and cabinets.
The countertop we ended up choosing was a Corian sold surface counter in Silt. We wanted the look of a slab without the high price of granite and it’s held up pretty well over the last 4 years.
But our kitchen wasn’t complete yet. My husband and I had failed to agree on a wall color before the cabinets went up so we just decided we’d paint it later. (Huge mistake by the way) We also had the cheapest lights on the market installed and we had held off on putting up window trim till the counters were installed. Plus, we wanted to add some decorations.
Here’s a sneak peek at the look we ended up with. You can see the actual room tomorrow in its final form.
Welcome to renovation time! It’s about Spring 2006 in this timeline and the wall between the kitchen and bathroom is coming down along with a lot of other walls.
Here we are with the inner walls torn out, the outer walls torn out, and working on tearing out the soffits too. My husband is on the step ladder working on demolishing everything. Can you believe we didn’t find a speck of insulation between the inner and outer walls? Suddenly the chill in the house made sense.
Here’s a shot that gives you a better look at the layout of the house. On the left are the stairs leading down to the basement (with yet another brilliant shade of aqua) and on the right are the stairs leading up to the attic.
The bathroom wasn’t safe from destruction either. No insulation here either, though we did find some nice old razor blades in the wall.
Meanwhile my brother-in-law rests after helping haul out the cast iron tub. I’m very thankful no one asked me to help haul that thing.
Next, we installed new windows and had an electrician come out to install new lights and upgrade the existing electrical to work with modern appliances. I have two brother-in-laws and one worked as a plumber and the other worked in HVAC so both were able to help us out with the necessary plumbing and ductwork changes. After that we were ready to drywall.
You can see here that we built onto an old wall on the right of the screen. This is actually where the original kitchen door stood. In that nook we built we planned to fit in a full sized range, fridge, and even cabinetry.
This is the same wall where that awful sink and toilet once stood. Is drywall better than pink tile?
Find out how we decided to fill the space in tomorrow’s post.