Archive for May, 2011
I learned in grade school that trying to be perfect would probably result in a caffeine-pill-fueled freakout a la Jesse Spano (yes, many of my life lessons were learned thanks to Saved By The Bell). Pretty much since then I’ve been in the camp of try-to-do-it-right-but-perfect-isn’t-possible.
So sometimes it’s weird when people mention that they think we live in this perfect world where nothing goes wrong and we never fight and life is just hunky-dory from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to bed. Unicorns and rainbows if you will. I think sharing Clara’s birth story helped a little in that regard (that day was definitely not the fairytale that we expected). But beyond dealing with some serious and scary moments like that, we’re also no strangers to everyday stresses. In other words, just like the rest of the world, stuff doesn’t always go our way. We fight, our house gets messy, we go over budget, projects take way longer than we expected, our moving truck gets stuck in the snow. We like to joke that we’re so normal it’s crazy, so chances are if you deal with it at home (dust bunnies, burned dinners, stupid arguments, spilled milk, broken
china ceramic animals) it also goes down here.
But since our blog is mainly just a big diary about our home improvement projects and making our house a home, it’s hardly fitting to devote a post to our latest argument about Clara’s missed nap or the dust bunny under our TV stand (this just in: dust happens, and if you don’t see it we’re just not zoomed in enough, haha). But when things don’t work out like we hoped in the home improvement realm we always try to share those trials right along with our triumphs (the good, the bad, and the ugly all have a place here). Like this post about a ton of mistakes that we hope we don’t make again and this post about a failed recycled glass project and this one about a bummer of a string lantern attempt. We’ve even posted a super candid average day video with junk all over the place and I’ve shared my goo-related secret. Our house is not a showroom, that’s for sure.
And although we pride ourselves on being cheap-os who hunt down deals, save our pennies, and research projects within an inch of their life as we go, we still totally
break obliterate the budget from time to time. Take the patio we’re currently putting in, for example. Going into it I was intensely naive. “I’m certain it’s a two day under $500 project.” Famous last words, right? Originally we were going to go for those cheap 12 x 12″ gray concrete pavers at Lowe’s and Home Depot (I think they’re around $1 a pop) so I thought we’d just need to dig out a flat spot and lay ‘em down. Maybe it would come to $450 tops with some ground tamping tools and all the pavers. Then we decided we should do it right and match the fancier cobblestone pavers in our driveway, which turned out to be around $2.67 a square foot at Home Depot…
…and a whopping $3+ at Lowe’s. Our patio will be around 300 square feet, so $3 a square foot = $900 in just stone (let alone other supplies). We hoped that pricing out something local might save our budget and headed to a place nearby (Southside Builder’s Supply) and found out that they offered even higher quality cobblestone pavers than Home Depot and Lowe’s (that match our driveway and are made locally- score) for just $2 a square foot (67 cents cheaper than Orange and a dollar cheaper than Blue – which really adds up). Plus it was just fun to walk around their multi-stone sample patios to see what things would look like all laid out:
So after our local stone yard reconnaissance mission we felt pretty good about our deal seeking skillz and returned home to start digging up the side yard. And in a post about that I mentioned that the patio project would hopefully run us under 1K (I readjusted from my original $500 guess after realizing that cobblestone pavers to match our driveway would be pricier than the cheap $1 concrete square pavers that we originally planned to use). How did I get to 1K? Well, 300 square feet of stone at $2 a square foot = $600. And we figured that around $400 in gravel and sand and other materials and supplies should be about right.
More famous last words. But we’ll get to that.
First, we figured we’d do some digging before heading back over to the stone yard to place our order. Just to be sure we could get a nice level bed to place stones and not hit some unforseen craziness like a buried car or something that would make a non-returnable $600 purchase of cobblestone pavers a bad move. Remember that John had a little liriope digging party last week but we still had that brick path to remove? Well, at first it came up really easily…
… until we learned that half of it was laid on top of a huge thick slab of concrete…
… which took some pretty major sledgehammering to get through (and effectively demonstrated how NOT a two day project this was, seeing as we were already on day two without a single paver in sight).
But lo and behold, John got ‘er done. Ding dong the path is out. It took longer than we guessed and hubs was more than a little sore but it was a pretty sweet victory indeed (we worried we’d have to rent a demolition hammer for the thick concrete slab but John was a rock star with the sledgehammer).
He’ll drop in with more details about the entire digging process soon, but back to our stone order. After all that brick was up, we headed back over to the stone yard to place our order and were blown away when they worked up a grand total for us. Are you ready? $1,565. I almost dropped the baby. How could $600 worth of stone nearly triple when it came to the total cost? After I got a little color back into my cheeks I managed to stammer “ok, what can we do to get that down, because it’s waaaaaay over our budget.” Notice I was the one doing the
talking stammering – John hates negotiating so it falls into the things-I-do category. Oh well, he does laundry so it’s all good. Anyway, we worked with this lady Jeri (she was great) for at least an hour to get costs down (we reduced the amount of gravel we were getting, which then allowed all of our cargo to come in one truckload- which reduced the delivery fees we were being charged and we even negotiated a discount on the stone and downgraded from the fancy top layer of sand to regular sand).
In the end we got our total down substantially, but nowhere beneath our 1K goal. We walked out of there paying $1,260 for all of the stone, gravel, sand, border edging, and stakes that we needed (well actually $1,340 but we’ll get an $80 deposit back when we return some of the bags that our shipment comes in). But that total still doesn’t include the tamping tools, landscaping fabric, and a few other supplies we still have to purchase/rent. And you might remember that we mentioned wanting to add a 6′ privacy fence along the back wall, so if you toss that expense in on top of everything else it’s fair to say that this might end up being a $1,500-2K undertaking when it’s all said and done. Which is definitely a far cry from that original stupid-me $500 budget that I tossed out in the beginning. Oops.
But there’s no use whining about it right? I mean don’t get me wrong, I whined the whole way home from that stone yard, even after we negotiated our total from nearly $1,600 to $1,260, but there’s no sense in blog-whining about it (although sometimes sew-crying can lead to blog-whining). But we did want to share our budget explosion with you guys to demonstrate that junk like this just tends to happen in the home improvement game. Not all the time, but definitely some of the time.
In the end we’re still psyched to save some major money by tackling it ourselves (hiring someone to whip up a 300 square foot patio with the same materials would run us around 5K+) and we’re sure we’ll get a ton of use out of it so it’s still well worth the time, loot, and effort. See there I go being all cheerful about something annoying that happened. Haha. More pluses: I get to see John get all dirty. Which is always my idea of a good time. And Clara can have some fun with chalk and a baby pool out there when it’s done, which is going to be priceless. We just try to keep plugging away, even when curve balls like broken budgets or broken spirits threaten to derail us. Such is the DIY way I think. You just gotta keep on keeping on or you lose momentum and might never pick up the ol’ hammer (or crowbar or shovel or paintbrush) again.
So all of this is to say, I know that I’m annoyingly enthusiastic most of the time, and John can be a pretty chipper guy too. But crap happens. We just try to make the best of it. And you’d be surprised how helpful it is to blog/blab about failures and shortcomings (the entire reason we started this blog was because John wanted to blow off some kitchen-planning steam and we thought it would be fun to keep our family in the loop about it). So I highly recommend publicly airing your dirty home improvement laundry to come to terms with it and maybe even find a few folks who can commiserate, offer some helpful advice, and encourage you along the way. Seriously, blog-venting = our Prozac. And you guys are our therapists. So thanks. You know we love a good deal, and free therapy is up there with paint sales and appliance close-outs.
Psst- Ahhh, Mother’s Day is coming. Check out this week’s BabyCenter post about how I spent the last one and how I’m guessing we’ll spend this one (aside from hopefully laying some pavers).
***This giveaway is no longer accepting entries – see who won below!***
Thanks to random.org, these three ladies are getting a kick start to Mother’s Day: Traci (who inherited her mother’s worrying skills!), April (who got her mom’s love of shopping, travel and new things) and Stacy (who inherited the gift of being a good cook from her mom).
Because becoming a mom has mysteriously given Sherry the urge to learn how to sew (more on that here and here) we thought we’d use this pre-Mother’s Day giveaway to dish out TWO fabric-tastic prizes to THREE lucky winners. And they won’t have to sew a stitch because it has already been done for ‘em. The first comes from City Chic Country Mouse, whose Etsy shop caters to those who want to inject a bit of chic to their chore list (not that any moms should be doing housework on Mother’s Day). Each of our three winners can choose from any of their colorful, graphic, and punchy ironing board covers, which will definitely cheer up any laundry room:
Plus those same three lucky winners get a double dose this week. A customized fabric wreath from a local Richmonder who puts her sewing prowess to work in her Etsy shop, Love Elaine is also on the agenda. While she’s got cool modern spins on aprons, quilts, and bags – her fabric wreaths are always a favorite. And yup, each winner gets to pick our their own colors.
- PRIZE: Any ironing board cover from City Chic Country Mouse and a custom fabric wreath from Love Elaine
- TO ENTER: Comment on this post with the words “SEW ME!” and…
- BONUS QUESTION: … tell us one quality you’re glad you inherited – or wish you had inherited – from your mother (or other parental type figure). Are you grateful she instilled strong family values? Or that she passed down her sense of style / fabulous cooking abilities? Or do you keep waiting for her sewing skills to kick in like Sherry?
- GIVEAWAY CLOSES: Wednesday, May 4th at 8pm EST
- NUMBER OF WINNERS: Three
- PRIZE SHIPS: The United States and Canada
- USUAL STUFF: One entry per e-mail address is permitted. The winners will be selected using random.org and announced on Thursday as an update to this post. That’s right, come right back here on Thursday morning for the announcement of our winners. Good luck…
When Courtney of Little Glass Box sent us photos of her amazing 105 year old row house in Baltimore, we knew we had to house crash the heck out of her, so here we go. First lets meet the fam (there’s Courtney, her son Olly, and her hubby Ryan):
How funny is that photo? You can already tell their house is going to playful and charming, right? Here’s the dining room, full of geometric pattern and rustic elegance thanks to the mix of the stenciled wall (Ryan did it himself) and the reclaimed wood table (Ryan built it himself). Notice a theme here? Ryan is handy. And guess who’s obsessed with the big wood horse on the table and the white deer head from ZGallerie on the wall? Hint: me.
Here’s the lovely kitchen that overlooks the dining room. The island was scored at Target (for just $75, down from $300!) and the chandelier was from Home Depot (they tweaked it by adding a gray shade). Their counters are concrete to continue Courtney’s love of gray.
And here’s the living room, complete with a fun photo collage flanked by sconces…
… and a pretty vanity (which used to be her mom’s) that Courtney revived and repurposed as a desk. Oh and the curtains are from West Elm (scored on sale).
Their master bedroom is gorgeous too, with more fun patterns and colors coming into play (note: not only is Ryan handy, he’s down with pink and florals – what a guy). The curtains are actually shower curtains and the pink dresser was $50 from craigslist (Courtney painted it Coral Gables from Sherwin Williams). And I have two words about the gold rhino head on the wall: I die.
But easily the most playful and graphic room of the bunch is little Olly’s nursery. See that amazing geometric wall on the right? It’s actually another…
… stencil! Yup, they DIYed that whole thing a stencil and some paint over two months of on and off labor (clarification: Courtney wasn’t in labor for two months, the wall stenciling process was two months of manual labor).
Look how amazing that is! It looks so sweet with their painted four poster crib (how elegant is that by the way- they found it on craigslist) which happens to have a little homemade no-sew crib skirt just like Clara’s. Oh and as for the crib decor, the pillows are removed before bed and the garland has since been relocated (safety first).
Here’s another angle of Olly’s room complete with giant horse art and a big white resin rhino head (from ZGallerie). Yes, I am also obsessed with those. And Courtney found that amazing yellow mantel for just $50 (marked down from $200) so she knew it was perfect for the room.
And because sometimes the details do it for me, I thought I’d leave you with this pretty little tablescape from the kitchen. How sweet is that cheese cutter? Courtney found it at a store in DC called Trohv. Love it.
So a huge thanks goes out to Courtney, Ryan, and Olly for letting us share their gorgeous and oh so creative home. You can check out Courtney’s blog for more photos and info, but first lets play the what’s-your-favorite-part game. I’m obsessed with the wall stencils in the dining room and Olly’s room along with the huge rustic wooden horse on the dining room table. Yes please. Oh and that gold rhino in the bedroom? Saweeeet. And John loves the rustic dining table that Ryan built along with that hilarious cheese cutter. And he wants to know why we don’t have a mustached family photo of our own. Good question indeed.
Psst- Check out all the other houses that we’ve crashed right here.