Kitchen Renovation – Baby steps edition

It’s Friday! Word of warning, this is a wordy post (Pun intended!). So remember this room? Yeah, I know it looks pretty awful here, but this the original Kitchen when we moved in.

Granted, in this picture Zach was using it as command central for his great gardening experiment of 2014, and for pretty much every other project around the house before we lived there. But you get the picture. Our kitchen is small and needs some updating badly.

FullSizeRenderMy main beef with the kitchen comes down to two things; the actual room that houses the kitchen and dining room is a spacious and the length of half of the house, yet the kitchen is a tiny little U-shap on one side, leaving the bulk of the room for the dining area. Second beef is the upper cabinets pictured above.

FullSizeRender 2You can see in this picture that although the counter they are resting on is large enough to provide a good prep space in the kitchen, the upper cabinets are sitting too low and in the middle of the lower countertop. This wiped out the largest section of free counter in the kitchen and rendered it basically useless, merely a resting place for food as I transported it from the refrigerator to the small corner wedged between the sink and the stove.

FullSizeRender 17All of my cooking has been done on this little section of counter top. Proximity to the stove plays into this, but also this is the only semi-large spot where I can actually have an unobstructed view of what I am doing in our kitchen.

As soon as we bought the house I knew I was going to redo the kitchen. Zach and I did some preliminary pricing at Lowe’s to get an idea of what we were looking at as far as cost. As I perused through the myriad of wood cabinet options I was so conscious of price that I was very conservative in my choices. I prefer kitchens that are painted and the only non stain-ed option they had was black or white, and the different door options were all very basic and nothing really stood out to me. Zach told me to choose exactly what I liked so we could at least get a starting figure and then go from there, but the problem was I didn’t really like anything they had to choose from.

When everything was selected and designed I had a kitchen of which the cabinets I didn’t really love, the layout was scrabbled together, and the price tag was over $15,000. The kitchen designer assured us that the price was only for face value and did not include the different sales and promotions that were going on at any given time. I was not ok with that price considering I didn’t even really LOVE the plans we took away. Perhaps dropping that much would have been viable had it been my dream kitchen.

I turned to Ikea and redesigned a couple of kitchen options to see what their price difference was. The total hovered right around $8000, which considering that the end result would have been something a I liked style-wise much more than the Lowe’s option, was much more reasonable. But still, too much for us at the moment.

I talked to my Aunt who is a design ninja and she urged me to at least paint the existing kitchen so that I could be happier with it in the mean time, and I could play around with things in a way that I wouldn’t do with a new one. I perused through kitchen images that stood out to me I realized that not only was she right, but that more than a new kitchen I wanted to make my existing one work for a couple of reasons. The first reason was if I were to buy a new kitchen I would play it safe and choose something that maybe I didn’t LOVE but that would be beautiful and guaranteed to be timeless and provide good resale for the house. I don’t want to be safe with this kitchen, I want to be daring; the only way I will be daring is if I am working with what I already have, because ultimately if I hate it, I am only back at where I was in the beginning with the option of a whole new one.

The second reason was that the more money devoted to the renovation the longer it would take for us to actually get around to completing it. I enjoy the challenge of creating a beautiful space on a tiny budget (don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a larger budget if I could). With having a small budget I think outside the box more and am far more creative than I would be otherwise. Having only a tiny investment in something gives one the courage to be daring because if it fails (which it seems for me rarely to happen. I frequently love the results) I am not out much other than my time.

All that to say I have decided to work with what I have, and the first step was getting rid of that upper section of cabinets. It proved as simple as removing three screws and one odd nail from the wall, four screws from the base, and the help of my sister-in-law to lift it down and carry it to the basement. The results are dramatic.


FullSizeRender 2After!

FullSizeRender 3It has totally changed the space. I am so happy with the results, that if it weren’t for the problem of needing a space for a dishwasher, I would almost just leave the kitchen as it is now. It opens up the room so much to light and gives me a huge section of functional counter-space now. Since taking it down, I have been able to add decor touches to the room (including the gallery wall on the far end) and I simply love spending time here.

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My plants are happy about having more light.IMG_7453As for the future, I have worked out a floor plan and I can’t wait to get started on the project, although it likely wont be for several months.

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Home Office

I work from home so one of the first spaces that I really wanted to be completed was my office. Our living room is L shaped and the small end was originally a dining space, but Zach and I decided that we didn’t need two dining spaces. Since I didn’t want to be shut up in one room of the house all day while working and watching our dogs the extra dining space was the perfect solution.


Here is my handy man figuring out how high to hand the shelves. He cleverly figured out how to mount the shelves to white boards that he had attached to the walls directly to the studs. That way we didn’t have to worry about making sure that all the shelf mounts were lined up with studs and offset the placement. With his mounting system we made sure that the shelves were centered like we wanted.IMG_6402 Ikea Besta storage systems on the one wall create the perfect place for me to my office and craft supplies, and display plants and photos.IMG_6404IMG_6408

I liked the paint in the entryway so much that I decided to use it for two walls in my office. I left the third wall white because it connects with the living room and I will eventually paint it the color I do the rest of the room. I love how it turned out. IMG_6423_2

After going crazy sitting all day, I decided a desk that I can stand up at while working is a must. I got the Ikea Finnvard trestle legs and by mistake I grabbed a top that was a little too small but it was only $5 and I have plants to eventually replace it with a great cut of wood.

Zach cut this piece of walnut out in his Grandpa’s woods after finding the tree down. It was not perfectly level so he had left it in his shop for ages where I found it. The second I found it I pounced on it and asked if I could keep it. Zach didn’t care because he told me he could get me a better piece eventually. After sanding it for ages with a belt sander and then using a clear varnish coat on it, its now one of my favorite pieces and a lot of people ask about it. Zach was even surprised how well it turned out.IMG_6431

IMG_3379Although this is before painting, this is usually how things turn out while I am working. I never work alone!



Steal of a Deal

This weekend was our official town-wide garage sale. After yoga this morning, I decided to take a spin through a few neighborhoods to see what was out there since I had found a great old picture frame and mat for $3 the night before. I have been collecting frames and matting to makeover so I was thrilled to find this baby to add to that collection. You can read more about the gallery wall DIY process here.



The picture in this frame is pretty awful. Actually the whole thing is pretty outdated. The frame is a little more ornate than I would choose perhaps if I was purchasing it from a store, but as I didn’t I can live with it. Still trying to decide if this baby should be black or white.

I found the frame while I was driving back into town Friday afternoon and almost passed on it, but then decided to turn around and go back. That seems to be my style with garage sales because today I did the same thing. I saw this table from the road and drove by three times before deciding to stop and get out. I know.
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From the road it looked pretty promising, but there have been a few occasions that I have been disappointed on closer inspection by what looks to be a great piece from the road. This coffee table was bigger than I thought from the road, but other than wear on the top it was in great condition. The price listed it at $10, and then the owner said that everything was half price to help get rid of it all since it was Saturday. I had to hide my excitement when I heard him say it would be $5. It was very sturdy and I decided it would hold up to my rambunctious brood of dogs better than my current table was.
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I love how it goes with my couch (Ikea Karlstad!) and the style is a lot more me than the other coffee table.



This is not my current living room setup, but it shows the tiny little coffee table that we were using before. The picture doesn’t show it but it has a mirror top. It was an antique from that belonged to my Grandma, but the joints were all rickety and the constant tussling of the dogs knocking up against it was taking its toll. I really don’t want to lose it because it was my Grandma’s, so I have been thinking about finding a replacement for a while.FullSizeRender 13I love how this table ended up working perfectly. Piper, our German Shorthair Pointer absolutely loves it already.



The detail of the wood is incredible, and the dovetail joints add a unique flair to the top of the table. Other than surface damage its in wonderful condition, and I am grateful there are no deep gauges in the wood that couldn’t be fixed by a light sanding.

After a little research on it, I found that my $5 deal was an incredible steal. The Acclaim coffee table was made by Lane Furniture base in Altevista, Virginia in 1960. In addition to being a great quality piece that was expensive in its day, it is going for between $200-$300 today, sometimes even more. I’d say that’s a pretty good days work for bargain hunting. I can’t wait to get the top sanded off and refinished and I’ll be sure to document how that goes.


Dinning Room

Our dining room/kitchen is a blank slate. The previous owners had taken up the flooring before we purchased the house and it is still sub-flooring currently because we want to remodel the kitchen and do some great tile, but our in between solution will be some linoleum (meh) as soon as we can get it. In the mean time, I have been working on getting everything else the way I want it.



At first after getting married Zach and I were borrowing a round table from his parents but it was only a temporary arrangement and I wanted to get a table that we could fit more people around for Sunday brunches, etc..

After looking around I realized the table I wanted was pretty much out of our budget at the moment. I considered building a table, but I couldn’t decide on exactly what I wanted. In the end I decided spending $200 on the Ikea Bjursta extendable table was a good way of getting us a table we could keep and allow us to have more seating space.

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The table can seat 6-10, which for the price was perfect. Plus I have a set of dining chairs that I had been itching to get out and redo and they would work with the Bjursta table.



I couldn’t wait to take a picture of the table after I set it up with the chairs in place, and you can even see the old table dismantled against the wall.



The chairs were waiting room chairs from my Dad’s dental office. They are 1970s so technically a little after the midcentury design phase, but they are similar style. The original upholstery on the chairs was a dark brown tweed and the backs the same color of leather, and then my Dad had them redone with this fabric. Considering the state of the house when we bought it these chairs would have fit in perfectly with the 70s era decor. Perhaps I should have kept it and done a retro look!

IMG_6376_2I decided to do a similar look to the original chairs by doing the backs in leather and the seats in fabric. I love how they turned out and you can read about how I redid them here.

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I love how the chairs turned out and how they look with the new table. I contemplated refinishing the chairs a darker stain to match the table, but since the table will likely be replaced as soon as I can I decided to keep them original.

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Front Door Inspiration

If you read my entryway makeover I already mentioned that I want to do a new front door fairly soon. I painted our entryway a deep charcoal gray, which I love, but I now really want a new door to let in more light.

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Our current front doors are double, which is pretty unnecessary. We have used them both on a couple of occasions when moving initially into our house, but otherwise we mainly use one side.

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I would love to do a really wide front door with windows on either side, maybe some windows above the door or in the upper half of the door. Since the house doesn’t have air conditioning (which I like a lot of the time) a screen would be nice to get a breeze through the house. Ideally I would want a door with a screen for summer and glass for winter so we could leave it open at times for full light.

I have been looking for inspiration for the front door and I found some via Pinterest and some blogs that I think could work for our slanted roof over the front door and would get more light into the entryway. These are from a great blog SL by Stephanie Lynn who put together 55 front doors from various magazines.


The height of the windows on this door is along the lines of something I would do, although I would never choose the glass designs like this example. To me intricate glass pains take away from the door being the focal point, and its too old fashioned for my taste. The window height is great however, as the idea of someone on the other side being able to see right in even if you don’t necessarily want them to is not what I am looking for.small-changes-front-door-de

This door shows the same type of window height-wise as the last one, with a lovely bold color and no glass designs. The three long windows are really nice to let in some light without being too revealing, and the cheery color of the door makes it pop against the smokey blue of the house.

This door is fabulous, although the wood is a little on the red side which might not go with all house colors. This door is unique how it simply knocks out the top two panels on a standard door and replaces them with glass. The side windows being divided into panes mimics the look of antique windows and brings a timeless elegance to this entryway.traditional_door_300

This door shares the antique side panel window look with the previous door, but keeps things simple with black and white paint which creates a timeless color pallet that is still quite a pretty combination. The design on the door is a little different then most which keeps it feeling classic and still unique. Ultimately for our door I would still want some windows in the actual door.

untitled-4This window shows the option of doing a small curved window above the doorway, combined with side panel windows that don’t go all the way to the floor. With three dogs in the house, keeping the windows above nose height is a serious practical consideration in anything that we do with our entryway, so this door is a good example of what we could do that would still allow maximum light. The class storm door is a nice addition and the subtle coloring of the storm door is great because it doesn’t stand out much from the actual front door. This would definitely be something I would try to do with ours if we did a storm door to keep it from taking over the focal point of the entryway. which would allow us to leave the front door open entirely and let in full light. There would still be the dog nose prints to deal with though…

The over the door window would be tricky because of our slanted roof line. This low profile curved window would likely be the only window that might fit over our front door. Ideally I would combine side windows, windows in the upper third of the door, and the curved window at the top. That would let in a ton of light and give me the bright entryway that I have been hoping for!


This inside view from House of Turquoise is almost exactly what I want. I even love how they painted the door a bright color to pop on the inside. So many times we put all the touches on the outside and forget about inside. That would let in a ton of light and give me my bright entryway!


Our home has certainly been a slow process in making it over. In a lot of ways thats a good thing because it allows me to have a lot of time to decide on exactly what I want to do. In a lot of other ways its a little frustrating too.

Our entry way needed some serious attention. After my mother-in-law removed the terrible old wallpaper the walls were rough and covered in old wallpaper adhesive.  I really wasn’t looking forward to sanding the hole thing but it turned out with a coat of Zinsser paint primer and a little light sanding, the texture disappeared under the three coats of dark gray paint.


The walls before priming and painting. The wallpaper did a real number on the walls.

The walls were uneven so I quickly did a light sanding over them to work out any of the really rough patches.


After the coat of primer the walls already looked so much better. Check out my styling linoleum…



When I first started painting I send a picture to my Zach while he was at the hospital. He nervously texted back, “Are you painting the walls black?” “It’s charcoal gray,” I replied. “It will look good. Trust me.” This is usually how our interactions go as far as home decor.


After finishing the entire entryway, the hanging lamp got some new life. Something about the color scheme I went with (and a thorough cleaning) made the light suddenly look pretty good. Instead of feeling like I needed to replace it immediately, I actually don’t mind it at all in the space and that gives me more time to find exactly what I want for the right price for its replacement.


I’d really like to get the front doors replaced soon and do a large door with side panel windows to let in more natural light. IMG_6069

I love how striking the color is from down the hall. You can see my weird lighting plug-in system in this photo. It is the oddest thing. IMG_6158



Without meaning to I started a collage of mirrors on the wall above our entryway console. Zach purchased the antique desk at an estate sale for me as a gift after I graduated with my Bachelors degree. Although it doesn’t functionally work for me as a desk, I love it in the entryway.

The photo collage that spells our last name was a wedding gift from a dear friend and my former piano teacher. We have a coat closet in the hallway, but I know Zach well enough to realize that we needed some places to hang things easily without using hangers, or they would just end up draped on furniture. Some antique cast iron hooks underneath that were my grandma’s were the perfect solution.IMG_6171_2 Here is a better view of the desk that acts as a console. I found two vintage school chairs at the Habitat for Humanity Restore for $5 and the mint green goes perfect in the entryway, and makes the floor more tolerable.IMG_6181The finished result got Eddie’s stamp of approval, which is of course the only opinion that truly counts.


House changes

We are so excited to be 1st time home owners.

It’s a grainy Snapchat photo, but we are so excited to be 1st time home owners.

I always thought I wanted to remodel a house. I love the idea of taking something and carefully realizing its full potential, that even the builders originally did not see. The idea of tearing old out and making new in its place sounded really exciting -and then came my house.

To set the stage here a little, Zach bought our current house in November 2013, after we got engaged in September 2013. I was in graduate school in Muncie, Indiana and had never even seen the house when he bought it. It pretty much went something like this. “I found a house. I know you will love it. It’s selling for auction tomorrow. Do you trust me to buy it without you having seen it?” There were about a dozen pictures on the listing website that I could look at, but otherwise I was going into this blind. Zach has a history of picking the perfect thing for me over the years without my asking; his hunch gifts have included a vintage typewriter, a set of monogrammed sheets, a 18 foot sailboat (long story there), custom designed jewelry, and more. I was pretty sure with his track record I would be fine by trusting him on this one, but it was a house after all, and thats not something you can easily take back if you don’t love it.


Sketches of the floor plan that Zach drew while out to dinner in Muncie after he purchased the house.


He got the house, and then we proceeded to begin thinking about what we needed to accomplish before it would be move-in ready.

For starters, the house was built by a couple in the 1970s who lived in it almost until the end of their lives around the 2010s. The house was like a time capsule of the 1970s. The original drapes hung on all the windows, velvety green wallpaper graced the entryway walls, original lighting fixtures….you get the picture. It was beautifully taken care of during their lives, and their children had started to update it to sell, before quarreling and sending it off to auction as-is. As-is meant no appliances (no stove, refrigerator, or laundry), no flooring in all but the laundry room, bathrooms, and entryway (from some carpet shards in the basement I surmise that most of the house had a lovely olive 1970s carpet so I am very glad that they did us the favor of tearing it out), no AC, windows in need of replacement, and a furnace as old as dirt.

Some of these pictures are pretty awful.

The first picture that I took of the house, probably early spring 2014.

The first picture that I took of the house, probably early spring 2014.

The half bath behind the laundry room.

The half bath behind the laundry room.

Looking from the laundry room (we found a used washer and dryer as quickly as we could) into the kitchen and dining room. Zach standing there.

Looking from the laundry room (we found a used washer and dryer as quickly as we could) into the kitchen and dining room. Zach standing there.

Of all the existing areas of the house, the kitchen is still in great condition, albeit a bit small for my taste.

Of all the existing areas of the house, the kitchen is still in great condition, albeit a bit small for my taste.

Dining room. Notice the orange curtains, the external wiring on the light fixtures (almost the whole house is externally wired like that), and the strange door for access to bathroom plumbing.

Dining room. Notice the orange curtains, the external wiring on the light fixtures (almost the whole house is externally wired like that), and the strange door for access to bathroom plumbing.

My mother-in-law generously striped the old wallpaper before I moved in. The linoleum is still terrible, but not nearly as noticeable as the wall paper had been.

My mother-in-law generously striped the old wallpaper before I moved in. The linoleum is still terrible, but not nearly as noticeable as the wall paper had been.

The front room is by far one of my favorite rooms. It gets great natural light and is so spacious. The layout can make it tricky to decorate, but it's a tradeoff I'd take any day. The dining alcove is now my office.

The front room is by far one of my favorite rooms. It gets great natural light and is so spacious. The layout can make it tricky to decorate, but it’s a tradeoff I’d take any day. The dining alcove is now my office.

Those are all the pictures I have of the house early on. There wasn’t much to be seen in the bedrooms aside from dated window coverings and sub-flooring. The house has proved a little tricky, because of the old windows and inefficient furnace, the electric bill was so high during the first winter that Zach kept the heat as low as he possible could and didn’t want to move in and have to tackle an even higher electric bill. That also stalled any early work, as it was difficult to justify spending the money to heat the place in order to work on it.

For me down in Muncie, Zach’s family had generously said they would start tackling they painting if I knew what colors I wanted, but without having lived or spent any serious time in the house I couldn’t pick out the paint colors I wanted. I had to get to know the house first.

When we finally moved in around the wedding, it was rather like an explosion. I had been moving things as organized as I could from Muncie, but then Zach’s things just landed here, along with all the wedding presents, and it was a terrible cluttered mess that made my organization loving heart do flips.

Ground zero in the living room. This was a nightmare and I am so glad its behind us.

Ground zero in the living room. This was a nightmare and I am so glad its behind us.

Getting a little better here but not much.

Getting a little better here but not much.

We didn't even have our bed put together before the wedding, and slept for the first week on the floor.

We didn’t even have our bed put together before the wedding, and slept for the first week on the floor.

I can't leave you with the mess as your last impression. These was after purchasing an Ikea couch and getting the living room into some semblance of order.

I can’t leave you with the mess as your last impression. These was after purchasing an Ikea couch and getting the living room into some semblance of order.

Despite the work that it required from the beginning, Zach was right. I do love the house and its been fun (and a trial at times) to slowly redo it. The house really only requires a soft remodel. The changes are mostly cosmetic and external, although there is endless potential if we would want to pull a hard remodel here in the future.