I’ve told you I’ve moved but I never did a farewell post to my first house. This house means a lot to me, even though it also drove me crazy at times. My husband bought this house when he was still my boyfriend, I was in college and had just finished chemotherapy. He bought it in 2006, I moved in during the fall of 2007 the day after our wedding, and we moved out just before Christmas in 2014. I lived in this house when there was no kitchen, when we had no bathroom doors and had to cross those delicate boundaries, through cars that drove into the yard and into trees (but thankfully never the house), through getting our first dog, through a break in, and through our learning curve as DIYers.
This house was built in the early 1940s by my husband’s great aunt and uncle. My husband bought it from his great aunt before she died, and now another family member has bought it from us. Because it stayed in the family, we were able to have a simple transaction and the family member was very flexible while we had our infinite house hunting process. Additionally, the relative assured us he wanted to change things like paint colors so he didn’t require us to touch up before we moved. Nice guy, huh? So while I’m not proud of how every room looks here, I can tell you that there’s now a Blues shrine in the space we used as the office and that room seems to get a lot of love. Here’s a shot of the room before we moved in and when we moved out.
And again with the dining room
Here’s a glance at the living room:
The bathroom ended up changing places in the house, hence the major redesign. Here’s what we started with:
And here’s what we ended with:
We had a can of paint ready to go for this room and thankfully the new homeowner has already painted it in a color of his choice. This room was our test room for yellow and we ended up finding the perfect color and putting it in the kitchen. This picture is the last trace of our failed experiments.
That kitchen was really my favorite part of the house. It came out looking so good and while I love my new one, there’s a sense of pride that comes from planning and designing a space of your own.
I’m leaving out the bedrooms and some older exterior shots on this tour to protect our privacy and the new homeowner’s as well. I always thought this house had so much potential and while we found some of it, I know that the new owner will find even more.
I mentioned before that I was looking for a way to turn my little dining area into some sort of drink bar. In February I was expecting some friends over for Galentine’s Day Brunch so it was a perfect time to set up the drink area.
I bought an older model Keurig for the area and stocked up on a few K-cups. In winter I’m definitely more of a hot coffee and cocoa drinker so I wanted to have some warm options.
I bought some cute mini spoons and a creamer from World Market, something to hold sweeteners from Target, a sugar dispenser from even before my time, a mason jar leftover from a batch of salsa, a sweets jar from Pier 1 and corralled it all on a tray from Ikea.
In the cabinets up above I keep some of the good stuff. You can see my Anthropologie mugs (gold available around Christmas), my every day mugs, some travel mugs, and a much nicer tea set for company. I have a few more sets still packed up. I also keep some tea and cocoa up here (and more cocoa in the cookie jar).
Kcups go in the drawer now that I have some handles on them. It makes it so much easier to open!
I also wanted to share a bit of my themed party for Galentine’s Day that I had. Galentine’s is a beloved day in the world of Parks & Rec and I wanted to honor it and some of my closest friends. The girls drove all the way across the river to come see my new house, drink some of that coffee/tea/cocoa or one of the endless mimosa combinations, and eat some skillet potatoes, a pancake bar, mini quiches, and croissants.
I wanted to spend as much time with them as I could so I only took some photos before and none during. Sometimes you just have to put the camera down and enjoy the moment! (And the mimosas)
My new house is located in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of St. Louis City. I didn’t even know about the neighborhood until late 2013/early 2014 when I started scouting future neighborhoods. I’ll include a neighborhood description in a later post, preferably after it gets warmer and I can start taking longer walks.
The new house is 3 stories tall and was built in 1899 as a 2-family home. I’ve been compiling a house history too so expect a history lesson at some point too. In 2012 it was combined into a single family home. We bought it from the buyers who took it over after that renovation was complete.
Since the house is a little overwhelming, I want to break down some of the house tour by floor. It’s easy to get lost in the layout so here’s the basic map of the first floor:
It’s a long and skinny room that’s wide open. I tend to hate open floor plans and when I first walked into this house back in July (5 months before we closed but yet another story for another day) I remember saying “Why did we pick this house again?” which was a little harsh. This house is pretty cool on the first floor but every floor just gets cooler. It just so happens that the first floor is super intimidating from a decorating standpoint. I have many ideas and yet none at all. If you have ideas as you look through the pictures, please oh please scream them out.
This is a shot from the front end of the house looking straight to the back.
And now looking from the back door to the front entry. There’s a lot of square footage in between so I’ll show you some of that too.
One of the coolest things in the living room is the fireplace. This is the best maintained one in the home and one of the best I saw in all my house hunting. That cool design on the front of it is hand painted and all of this tile is original. I’m fairly certain the exterior color scheme is based around the colors here.
The kitchen is bigger than my last one but has fewer cabinets. You’ll see why that’s not a problem in another minute. What I really love about this kitchen is all the arches. It’s St Louis so you have to have some arches here. The door on the left here is a pantry. At my last house I had a floor-to-ceiling cabinet that functioned as a pantry so I was excited to have something bigger than that when I got here. I’ll post a pantry makeover soon since that’s one of the first projects I did. Next on my task list has to be drawer pulls since opening each drawer takes two hands right now and I can’t do that while cooking.
See why I don’t mind fewer kitchen cabinets? I have even more in my dining room in the wine bar. Or coffee bar. Or tea bar. Or brunch bar. I’m clearly undecided, though wine bar is probably a certainty with the built in wine glass storage and wine fridge.
That door to the left up there goes to the basement. To the right of the wine bar is a door to a powder room. Ordinarily I would assume you all know what a bathroom looks like but I do want to show off at least one neat thing about it.
Okay, that’s two things. The bathroom and many other rooms have functional transom windows. We tend to keep the powder room one closed because well, you know but even our front and back doors have the transom window feature. I’m also really into the vessel sink in this bathroom. It’s not usually my thing but somehow it just works in here.
There’s just so many features like that in this house. There’s original flooring refinished, 5 panel doors, transom windows, dental trim, 12-foot ceilings, 10-inch baseboards, original fireplaces, and all that exposed brick that appears on every floor of the house. Sure there’s growing pains after a move but this house has so many beautiful things that I’m willing to look past it.
Last post I was still trying to figure out where to start with the colors for my newest piece of furniture.
My bar cart came looking like this. The distressed light blue just wasn’t what I was looking for but I like the bones of the piece. I recently picked up a batch of color samples from the store. The shades on either end were ruled out immediately when I saw them in the room. The green blended into walls too much and the aqua was just too bright. I was down to two reds and two blues.
I did a crude Photoshop of the bar cart with the colors I had left. Nothing perfect, just an idea of what I liked. I think this was the most helpful way to rule out colors. I realized I really liked the idea of a pop of red in the room. Blue was just too safe for me and it will tie in perfectly to the red couch in the next room.
I’m not 100% sure which red I’ll grab when I get to the store but I feel like I’m on the right track.
This past weekend I tried a bit to get into the Christmas spirit. Christmas can be a hard holiday for me. I feel like if I don’t get something done then I’ve let people down and if I do get it done it’s often to the sacrifice of my own happiness. Awesome, right? I’m sure I’m not alone but it’s a constant struggle for me to find some balance.
This weekend was spent trying to find that sweet spot. I went with my mom down to Cherokee Street in St. Louis. If you’ve never been, it’s a walkable street with brick historic homes and storefronts. Many shops are filled with antiques or crafts. If you visit, you’ll notice the amazing food in this area too. It’s sort of the Mexican food capital of St. Louis. Today was also what is known as the Cookie Spree where every shop on the street that is participating has a cookie tray inside. Can you say way too stuffed?
I ate lunch at a place called Neveria La Vallesana. Very good burritos there. I also did a ton of window shopping. If you want some fun places to shop, The Purple Cow, Retro 101/Cherry Bomb Vintage, and St. Louis Curio Shoppe are your stops. If you want something practical, check out China Finders, Lady Jane’s, Haffner’s Antiques, or Hammond’s Books.
My two favorite shops of the day both heavily featured antiques. Elder’s Ltd had 3 stories of some of the most beautiful antique/mid-century furniture at reasonable prices. It’s a shame I wasn’t looking for that this time but I’ll definitely be back. My other favorite was the place I got my big purchase of the day, Bella. I’m not sure my dog is impressed but I’ve got high hopes for turning this tea cart from Bella’s into a bar cart. There was a 20% off sale going on today and they gave me a great deal and I can’t wait to get to work on this beautiful piece.
Oh and notice my blue dining room rug in the background? It got moved to the living room this week. I don’t know why, I just decided to mix it up. I might end up with a new rug in the dining room and it’ll work with this new bar cart look. I’m just trying to decide if I want to stick with blue as my accent in the dining room of if I’d rather go with a bolder color. Stay tuned for updates one day on that front.
The dining room did get a bit of a new look minus the rug being taken away. We put up our Christmas tree! It may not look like much, being a $16.99 purchase from back in 2005 but it means something. The year my husband bought it was his first in a new apartment back when he was still just my boyfriend. I was really sick that winter and had just gotten some bad news that I’d need more treatment so I am pretty sure he bought that cheap little tree to cheer me up at a time where money was tight.
I think that’s the important way for me to find some balance this season. Just stop and take a step back and remember all the little reasons to try hard this season. I don’t have to do everything right or everything perfect but I should try to do it with love and care and let the pieces fall where they may.
I’m actually on time with this month’s centerpiece! I know some people love to jump on fall themes in September but in Missouri it is often so warm that I’m not thinking about fall. This week has been quite crisp so I broke out some apples and had fun with a fall themed centerpiece.
I used a basket (previously seen in my June centerpiece) and stacked some books in the center to give it some height. Then I added in a candleholder from Pier 1 and some apples. I’ll have some apple recipes coming soon as a bonus. They’re perfect for some fall freezing.
I also dressed up the table with some new napkins from Home Goods and what else- more apples. The room sure smells very fresh and crisp, just like the weather outside.
What’s on your table this fall?Pin It
I realized just today that I haven’t shown my May centerpiece and tablescape to you all yet. I went simple this month since our table seems to be taken over by projects these day. April showers bring May flowers so my table is covered in bright flowers.
Check out my napkin rings. Can you guess the secret item I used to make them?
Shower curtain rings! For $1.50 I bought 10 shower curtain rings and used them as the base for these napkin rings. Throw in a $1 set of flowers on sale at Michaels and some floral tape leftover from another project and I have a cheap napkin ring with plenty of leftover supplies for another month.
To make these super easy napkin rings, you’ll want to cut off your silk flower’s stem and wrap it around the shower curtain ring. Wrap the floral tape around the stem to secure it and continue your way around the entire shower curtain ring. Then just slide your napkin inside your ring and enjoy your work!Pin It
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
Now that I have a table and a complete dining room, I find myself wanting a monthly centerpiece. I’m still in the honeymoon phase with my dining room so consider my centerpiece the equivalent of me taking my dining room out for dinner and a movie.
As you can see my centerpiece has some romance for Valentine’s Day. I’ve got candles, flowers, chocolates, and plenty of shiny things.
I managed to keep this centerpiece very affordable. I used some dessert dishes that the original homeowner had left in the house, a vase from a Valentine’s Day years ago, heart shaped dishes I got in Target’s Dollar spot a few years back, candle holders I made myself, a $5 bouquet of baby’s breath, and chocolates I would have bought anyway. Plus, I’ve convinced my husband that I don’t need flowers for Valentine’s Day since I bought these and that’s a savings in itself. My favorite part (other than the chocolate) is how nice it looks at night.
That’s worth the full $5 I spent right there and definitely cheaper than taking my dining room to dinner and a movie.Pin It
Our dining room has been less of a dining room and more of a storage room for all of our renovation projects since we’ve started this whole crazy makeover. I can breathe a huge sigh of relief now that it’s all done, or at least mostly done. Here’s the room before so you can see where we started from.
You might remember this shot from the living room post. It’s a view into the dining room from the living room on the day we first toured the house. The junk is leftover after the house was abandoned.
This is the view from the dining room into the old hallway. The door you see in the back was to the bathroom and the chimes you see are from the doorbell. On the baseboard you’ll catch a glimpse of our air vent.
This is a view from that same hallway into the dining room. The door there lead to the original homeowner’s office/business and the curtains were not my first choice. Here’s a closeup of that light though:
Cool story about this light: my mother-in-law’s grandparents gave this light to the original homeowners (my MIL’s aunt and uncle) as a wedding gift. During our renovation we decided to swap the light for another so we cleaned this one up and gave it to her for Christmas. Now she has a lovely antique that’s been in her family for years and we don’t feel guilty for going more modern.
When my husband first moved in he had a new pathway cut to allow access to our new bathroom. One day I’ll get a floor plan up here to show how drastically we changed the layout. We had the path cut with an archway to mimic the arches found in the rest of our home. He also painted the walls a deep rose color that just ended up being too much color for such a small space.
We ended up replacing the windows and doors in the house and that required some new trim and some patching. We have plaster walls so they can crack from all the shifting so we patched that too. Do you spy the new baseboards too?
The view into the dining room from the living room
The old and the new archways. We’ve added some color to the doorbell, we’re testing a new air vent color, and the magnolia tree art is by my uncle.
The view from each of the archways back into the room. You can see the table makeover here. The wall color is Sharkey Gray by Martha Stewart for Home Depot. I used the Glidden paint they were already phasing in and I have to say the coverage was incredible. The light was from Lowes, the curtain rod and curtains are from Ikea and so is the hutch. Here is a closer view:
The hutch is actually the Edland linen cabinet from Ikea.
Here’s the view from the office back into the living room. You can see how many rooms lead into the dining room and why we wanted a light color to open the place up. The room is so bright that we added the tangier rug from the Martha Stewart collection at Home Decorators Collection to soften the place up. If you’ve never bought from them they offer coupons and discounts quite regularly and they’re affiliated with Home Depot. They even have a store based in St. Louis (and Atlanta) if you’re local.
To Do List
We’re mostly done but we still have a few more steps to make this room complete.
- Finish painting the air vent since it’s supposed to warm enough to have the heat off this weekend
- Paint the new door (it’s only primed right now)
- Decorate above the hope chest. I’m thinking shelves, art, or maybe a mirror.
- Refinish the hope chest. It has sustained some damage along the way so it’ll need some work and if it wants to stay in this room it needs to fit the look of the room.
- Add some color. We just need some warmth and more accessories so it doesn’t look so stark.
- Wash and hem curtains
- Order blinds
- Repaint ceiling. I’m waiting until all 3 rooms that open into each other are finished before I paint.