Category: Home Improvement

We’ve been working on the living room…

For a while after we had the baby, we didn’t really do any work on the house. It was livable, and we were too busy trying to survive being hit by the bus that is having a first child. But Grace has since gotten easier to deal with. She sleeps through the night, is happy and playful during the day, and is a great napper! (Crossing my fingers in hopes that I didn’t just jinx myself). So we’ve started working on a few other things that needed attending to…

Such as the cavernous living room that had hitherto been a repository for all of our moving in boxes, Chris’ tools, random bags of junk, old shoes, and a couple of wetsuits. It was kind of embarrassing because it was the first room people saw as they walked in the door, and it was full of junk. But because the lights didn’t work (the previous owners had installed can lights but they were not wired yet!) and we were planning to paint, the room had fallen by the wayside as we got engrossed in more pressing matters.

What pushed us to finally get started on the room was a microfiber sectional that we found on Craigslist. I had been scouting for armchairs online, and when I saw this couch, it was in such great condition and was such a great price that I jumped on it. I’ll show pictures of it once we put it back in the living room. But it was a shame to have a beautiful couch in the living room and SUCH a mess, so we got our butts in motion and started on this room.

This picture gives you an idea of how cavernous the room truly is.

It is a super long room and there is only one window, so it already lacks light. To make matters worse, the walls and ceiling had been painted a really dark mocha color, which made the ceiling look really low and the whole room rather claustrophobic.

You can’t really see in these pictures, but the whole room, including the ceiling, was textured with very very thick, gloppy wall texture. So it really did feel like you were in a cave. The lack of working electrical lights didn’t help either.

I like the wainscoting though, and I thought with a fresh coat of light paint, this room could really look great. So we hauled our butts over to Home Depot and came back with several gallons of primer, ceiling paint, and a gallon of Behr Silver Drop in eggshell.

I really wanted to do the complete opposite of what the room looked like before. We painted the ceiling a bright white, and the walls a very pale gray to bring some more light into the room.

We still have to paint the wainscoting (it was primed but not painted), and then we’ll be ready to move the furniture in!

I’m a little bummed that the window has that wooden valance over the top of it. It wouldn’t be so bad if it only didn’t stop right at the width of the window, but as it is, any curtains hung there would completely obscure the window. I’d love to remove it, but the wall is not textured underneath and we’ll have to match the molding…too much work right now, so window treatments will have to wait.

Anyway, there’s your sneak peek of our living room situation. Can’t wait to start furnishing it! We’ve got the tan microfiber couch to move in, a Persian-esque rug, and a couple of side tables that I love. I’ve also got my eye on a couple of leatherette club chairs from IKEA, but may have to wait a couple months before we get those…

I just love seeing progress, don’t you?


Laundry Room, With Walls

Last time I posted about framing out the new laundry room and tiling the floor.  Now, the laundry room is ALMOST done.  In fact, it is done except for the obvious cosmetic touches of taping off and texturing the drywall, adding baseboard trim, and painting.

Here it is after we finished grouting.  After this, we put up more drywall and fixed the cruddiness of the wall to the left.

We grouted the tile after letting it cure for a couple of days.  Adding the grout was pretty easy, and there are lots of tutorials for it on YouTube.  Basically, you mix the grout with water until it’s the consistency of a stiff buttercream frosting, and scrape it into the cracks using a rubber trowel.  After scraping off the excess, you go over the whole thing with a damp sponge to smooth the lines and remove any extra.  We went over the tile again with a soft damp cloth to remove any film on the tile.  Then after it dried, we sealed the grout to keep it clean and nice.

I think it looks pretty good considering it was about the cheapest porcelain tile they had at Home Depot, and considering it was our first time.

After the tile floor was done, Chris and his dad put in the drywall.  The most challenging thing about the drywall was first supporting all of the copper pipe in the wall, and measuring and cutting the holes for the plumbing to come out of the wall.  We had to make sure that there was enough room around the pipes to attach the fixtures once the drywall was up. Then, there were a few new electrical outlets that needed to be wired as well as a 3-way switch for the light.  Fortunately, Chris’ dad is pretty experienced at electrical, and Chris is learning quickly, but it’s not a DIY that I would do if I didn’t have someone experienced helping me.

So that’s about where our little laundry room is right now.  I apologize for the grainy pictures–it’s a bit dark in there right now.  And obviously it hasn’t been prettied up with paint and decor yet.  But you get the idea.

Our water heater, washer and dryer, and a new laundry room sink fit in there perfectly.  Eventually, we’re planning to build cabinets above the washer and dryer and enclose the bottom of the laundry sink in a cabinet as well.

It has been nice to have the laundry room wall and ceiling closed up, as cold air had been seeping into the house through the attic and other construction zones.  The finished half of the house is much warmer now.

Which is good because Baby Brownie is on her way sometime in the next 3-4 weeks!

Oh me oh my!

Laundry Room Progress and Our First Tile Job

The last couple of weekends have been a race to get the laundry room finished.

Just so you have an idea of what we were working with, here’s a before pic:

I know, it’s extremely icky.  The hallway led into the master bedroom, and on the left was the laundry closet with broken louver doors, LOTS of dirt and grime, broken vinyl tiles, and “popcorn” texture ceiling.

After scraping the ceilings, removing the tile, and taking out the closet frame, we decided to close off the doorway to the master bedroom and enlarge the laundry closet to make a laundry ROOM.

The master bedroom is also being enlarged and there will be a different entrance to it, so we didn’t need the current doorway.  Also, removing the doorway allows us to enlarge the master bath.

This meant that Chris and his dad (aka Jamie, our secret weapon) spent the last couple of weekends rerouting the plumbing, moving the water heater, putting in faucets for the washer/dryer and laundry room sink, as well as new drains.  They also had to move the attic trapdoor so that it would be right in the center of the laundry room (instead of half in the master bedroom).  They framed in the new attic trapdoor as well as a new “plumbing” wall.

Chris got to work with a blowtorch, which was fun and very manly/sexy.

After the plumbing was done and the new wall framed, it still wasn’t looking pretty, but you could definitely visualize the new laundry “room”.

We got right to work tiling the concrete floor.

We thought the laundry room would be a good place for us to do our first tiling job, since if we mess up, at least it’s not a room a lot of guests will see.  Even as novice tilers, though, we found that tiling wasn’t very difficult.  Of course, having Chris’ dad as a teacher helped a lot.

First Chris and Jamie chalked out a line on the bare concrete floor, that was squared with the walls and would act as a guideline.  Then Chris applied the thinset, scraping it against the concrete floor to ensure that it adhered well.  Then, he evened it out with a notched trowel:

Then he laid the tile up against the already-set tiles.  I handed him a few plastic spacers, and he used the spacers to push the tile out with 1/8″ space for grout.

He pressed the tiles down with a scrap 2×4 to level them all out evenly.

The tiles on the sides of the room had to be cut, so Chris measured them out using another tile as a guide, and marked them with a tile marker.

Chris’ dad already had the tile saw, so Chris got to play with another cool new tool.  I’m happy to say, we did not ruin even one piece of tile!

The tiles along the sides were applied with the same principles as the whole tiles, except with a smaller notched trowel.

Coming up next time, the fully tiled floor and our next project, installing the drywall in the laundry room!  I’m looking forward to the ceiling being finished so cold air doesn’t keep blowing into the house through the attic!  Finishing the laundry room will effectively seal off half of the house from cold air and construction dust/debris from the master bedroom, which is a top priority for us with the baby coming so soon.

6 weeks left till D-day! Oh my.


Guest Room Progress

Even though the guest room is, like most of the rooms in our casa, still a work in progress, it’s fun to see how far it has come since the day we got the keys.

The room is just a 10×9 foot box, and it seemed even smaller because of the unfinished pine wainscoting that lined the room.

The wainscoting was pretty old, and it had several pieces of trim and molding missing.  It also had a lot of paint and plaster splotches that had absorbed into the unfinished wood.  After briefly considering either a) removing the wainscoting all together and replastering the walls or b) staining the wood a darker color, we decided it would be easiest to simply paint all of the wood semi-gloss white.

I know some people think it’s a crime to paint wood, but c’mon.  These pine boards were in pretty bad shape, and it would have been next to impossible to find matching pine to replace the missing pieces of trim (the pine was at least 20 years old and had aged to a different color than new wood).  The splashes of paint and plaster would have been awful to scrub/sand off.  And under the window, an entire row of boards needed to be replaced in order to bring the wainscoting up to the level of the windowframe:

Painting all of the wainscoting white made it so much easier to cut new boards to frame the window, router new pieces of trim, and open up the small space so it looked a LOT more spacious.  Here’s the after:

The top part of the window was replastered, and new boards were cut for the bottom.  Chris and his dad routered new trim for the windowframe, and new trim to finish off other parts of the room, using leftover pieces of pine that had been salvaged from other parts of the house.  The plastered walls got a new coat of creamy paint.

We moved our bed and our cheap RAST chests from IKEA (refinished in IKEA red stain) into the room, and are sleeping in this room for the time being until the master bedroom is done.  But do you see how the white wainscoting looks fresher, cleaner, and more Anne-of-Green-Gables-y?

The bohemian tab curtains were sewed by me from discount fabric I bought over a year ago at $1 a yard — they’re the first curtains I’ve ever made and I’m pretty impressed that they look decent.  Although next time, I might not bother with tabs but buy clip-on curtain rings instead.

We took the old folding doors off the closet and repainted them, but we haven’t reattached them yet.  The inside of the closet was lined with unfinished pine boards too, that had collected a LOT of dust and dirt over the years.  We cleaned and painted the closet walls white to make the closet feel fresh and clean, but stained the boards on the floor with Minwax Special Walnut and finished them off with a coat of polyurethane.  The closet floor doesn’t match the oak laminate we put in the room, but it actually looks really good in person.  In fact, this closet may be one of my favorite parts of the house right now.

Having the dirty laundry basket in the corner of the closet has been AWESOME!  Chris actually puts his dirty laundry into it now!  Who knew all it took was strategic hamper placement?

There are still a few pieces of trim missing and we need to get some T-pieces to fill in the gaps between the different kinds of flooring, but this room is definitely livable now.

Quick Front Door Light Revamp

Our front door is still a work in progress.  Actually, it’s more like a construction zone right now with paint splatters, dozens of cardboard boxes, landscaping materials, tools, and a broken pool pump lying on the patio by the front entrance.  But still, we wanted to do something about this lamp.


Not the prettiest lamp, you see.  Not only was it old and cruddy and covered in paint, but it’s also builder’s standard brass, which we weren’t huge fans of.  We were so eager to change it we didn’t even take a before pic of it on the wall.

We headed to the Habitat Restore and scored a cute copper-toned number for just $20.  It was a floor model from Home Depot (or some other type hardware store).  We know because it still had the display bracket attached to it.  Although it’s a discontinued model, we estimate that it probably cost at least $50 originally, so we feel pretty good about our find.

Why helloooo beautiful…

Much better.

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