Archive for October, 2012
Now that we’ve cleared out our backyard’s weed & liriope convention, let’s move on to another area that has been sorely lacking our attention. Yes, let’s spend some time in our basement, shall we? Oh wait – that sounds like an invitation to get murdered or something. Um, let’s just talk about our basement. You may recall that it recently went from a shameful deck-debris-filled no man’s land…
…to a slightly more presentable space thanks to our Bagster rental a few weeks ago.
Well, that Bagster purge and our recent yard sale were the kick in the butt that I’ve needed to finally put some energy into this room. Because honestly, we’ve put ZERO effort into organizing or fixing up this space since moving in nearly two years ago. It’s been kind of a dumping ground. But I guess that first picture gave that away.
We tackled a similar basement in our last house – a small cinder block fortress accessible from a separate exterior door only.
But there are some key differences to these basements – and some lessons that we learned from the last one that will guide how we approach this one. For instance, the last one was kind of a glorified storage space. We didn’t work down there ever (that’s what the garage was for) so some of the effort that we put into “finishing” the room ended up being overkill. Sure it was nice to have the walls and floor painted (and it definitely seemed to help with resale) but we were barely down there to ever enjoy it. It was mostly just where all of our holiday decorations lived in the off-season, which now live in the attic of this house.
This new basement is MUCH more functional because it still serves as a helpful storage space for some things (like paint, unfinished furniture, tools, etc) but in the absence of a garage, it has also become my workshop. And as seen in our Day One post, we inherited some pretty awesome features – shelving, pegboards and even a large built-in work table.
I’ve spent plenty of time working on plenty of projects down here: from the living room console to Clara’s dollhouse. So it’s kind of a shame that I’ve spent so many hours in a space that kind of depresses me (talk about Dude, Get On That).
So I’m putting an end to it. My exact plan of attack is still kind of forming in my brain, but regardless of where I end up – I know the starting point is cleaning and organizing. And to that end, I’ve made it my mission to steal away for a few minutes here and there (mainly during Clara naps or on random Sherry’s-watching-housewives evenings) and I’ve gone through just about every nook and cranny of that room to figure out what should stay and what should most definitely not. Right at the top of the “definitely not” list was a strange collection of items leftover from the old owners. Some things – like the fire extinguisher below – dating back as far as 1984!
How creepy is that pig in the top right? We think he’s an old dog toy. Clara saw it when I brought it up to show Sherry and she was both delighted and impressed by it, but I was scared. Also, among a pile of old yard tools they left for us I found not one, not two, but three axes. I feel like there’s a Mike Meyers movie in there somewhere…
Speaking of yard tools, those were one of the first things that I decided to tackle. I started by taking inventory and seeing if what I had was what I actually needed (what didn’t make that list? Three axes).
This part of the organizing mission was actually before our yard sale, so whatever I didn’t need anymore (i.e. extra rakes) was sold there. And as for where to put the stuff I was keeping, I figured storing the (sometimes dirty) yard stuff far away from my work table was best. And luckily the area that looked like this a few months ago…
…now looked like this post Bagster/yard sale.
I zeroed in on that pegboard on the far left as my new yard tool headquarters, which did mean I had to get rid of this old rotting slash bug-eaten shelf that the previous owners left.
Good thing rotting = easy to break apart and toss into the Bagster before it got picked up.
Plus, I discovered the spare section of fence that I’ve been storing since this project fit perfectly into the little recessed nook next to the pegboard (so perfectly that when I wedged it in there it didn’t want to come back out). I did bolt it to the cinder at the top just to be safe though – just so it doesn’t fly down and get me someday after intense hammering or sawing nearby. Even though it’s upside down, I like that the wood texture breaks up the cinder a bit.
But my crowning achievement of this process so far is this baby. Oh yeah. It took me a good hour to figure this out, but it was so worth it. Organizing stuff like this makes my pulse race. And I may have developed a new obsession with pegboards in the process. Seriously, I was walking around for days afterwards looking at things and thinking “ooh, I could put that on my pegboard.” Or “my girlfriend Peggy” as I call her.
But before I get too hot and bothered talking about pegboards, I’ll share another one of my loves in a not-so-lovely storage solution. This is the bike rack from our old basement that is so cramped in this basement that I can barely weasel both bikes onto it (the top one grinds up against our lower ceiling).
So I grabbed two of these heavy duty bike hooks at Home Depot (about $2.50 a piece) and screwed them into one of the exposed beams near my wood fence nook.
MUCH better. Especially since it doesn’t take me 15 minutes to get the bikes on or off like the last solution. Is it hot in here or is it just me? Plus, putting them in the recessed area means the fact that they stick out into the room a bit isn’t a big deal.
And I realized Clara’s bike seat and our bike rack for the car hang nicely on the ledges created by the fence rail. Oh how I love getting things up off of the floor.
I’d love to end with some big beauty shot of the whole room, but there were like five other organization projects going on simultaneously so I’ll be back with more progress as I go. Isn’t it funny that no matter if you’re chipping away at a lawn makeover or a kitchen redo or a basement refresh, it just seems to come down to tackling things in phases? What are you guys doing one step at a time these days? Do pegboards get your pulse racing or is it just me? Hubba hubba.
Quick note: We’ll be in Cincinnati tomorrow at the Books By The Banks festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center where we’ll be giving a talk at 11am and then signing books (advanced copies will be available for sale there!) and most likely being fantastically awkward (more details here). Hope to see some of you there!
And now for a fabric-fest. I know not all husbands enjoy being as involved in decorating decisions as I do, but I’d be willing to guess that many guys are more interested than you’d expect. We’re opinionated creatures. Heck, even I fall into that I’m-pretending-not-to-care-about-that-lampshade-as-much-as-I-really-do trap sometimes (and then later I end up disputing its purchase to a shocked you-never-said-anything wife), so I thought that it might be enlightening to peek into the male brain – well, at least this particular male’s brain – on a topic that we fellas may pretend not to care about.
The word “fabric” itself sounds like it’s a subject that guys shouldn’t care much about (like it should fall somewhere on the list between mascara and handbags), but men actually choose which ties and shirts they like (while saying things like “I’d never wear that” about others) so they must have at least a few thoughts on the subject. And since fabrics are such a big player in how your house looks (pillows, curtains, bedding, upholstery, etc) it ends up making a huge difference. So I, for one, think it’s worth sticking my manly nose in when fabric decisions are being made – so I feel just as home in our house as Sherry does. And in case any of you have trouble getting an opinion out of your man – or if as a dude who’s reading, you’re hesitant to give one – here’s this guy’s take (*points to self with thumbs*).
THE SAFE ZONE:
It should come as no shock that sticking with a stereotypical “male” color palette is usually a pretty safe bet. Blues, green, browns, grays (nothing too bright or neon, but more deep and muted) usually will make me say “this one’s not hurting my eyes.” Along with that, another safe approach can be sticking with masculine patterns: stripes, checks, plaids or even a plain old solid color. Just think of things you might see on a shirt in the men’s department. There’s something about subtle patterns that are smal-ish in scale that usually make me feel more comfortable than something really bold. And generally anything with sharp corners and crisp lines rubs me the right way. So if you stick within both of these zones, there’s probably a good chance that it’s dude-friendly.
But if you stick with both a masculine color and a masculine pattern you could, well, end up with a very masculine fabric and – if it’s not balanced by distinctly feminine items in the same space – you could end up with a very masculine room. Which is cool, but if that’s not the look you’re going for, the next option is to go masculine in either color OR pattern, but not both. I think Sherry and I do this a lot. We have ornate gray & white patterned curtains in the living room (ornate = Sherry’s jam, gray and white = my jam). Same thing for the green (my thing) and ikat (Sherry’s thing) curtains in the dining room. Take these fabrics for example. The top two are man-friendly patterns (as least to my eye) with a bit of feminine color worked in for balance. And the bottom two are manly colors with subtly feminine curves or shapes, so they seem to even out in my head as well.
A NOTE ABOUT FLORALS:
Sometimes people (myself included) are quick to write off flowery fabrics as distinctly non-man-friendly. But when I think about it more, I don’t actually think it’s true. I love our headboard fabric. It’s leafy and graphic and nature-ish and the colors are really us… but guess what, it could be described as a floral. Shocker, I know. But when it’s balanced with the moody gray walls, a rustic wood dresser, and graphic blue rug it doesn’t make the room feel too girly for me.
So maybe instead of ruling out florals completely, just try to think of them as “organic” patterns (since the word “floral” can evoke some pastel lace monstrosity). Sure, they might still have flowers on them, but they also include leafy patterns with vines, branches, and, um, leaves. And at that point you’re like two degrees away from natural items like wood, tree bark, and rocks. And I, for one, love rocks. So maybe we should stop thinking that patterns with flowers are off-limits to guys. I think these four are pretty cool, actually. Especially the one on the top right. Come to papa.
I said earlier that I tend to lean towards small scale patterns since they remind me of men’s shirts. I think it’s mostly because the smaller the scale, the less crazy-pattern-y it looks. But I’ve learned there’s any easy way to go bolder with pattern without scaring myself off: keeping it to two or three colors (even better if one of those colors is white). Large patterns are less scary to me if they’re graphic and crisp. And if they’re geometric enough, I’m usually even willing to step out of my color comfort zone. I think all four of these are pretty darn snappy.
So that’s one man’s dork-tastic fabric analysis (I like grids, what can I say?). Just like with anything else, there are definitely exceptions and we’re not all the same (we’re not just pieces of man-meat and eye-candy you know) so what one guy may like might be deemed “completely terrible” by another. For example, in certain applications I kinda really like toile. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone. Maybe it’s the history nerd in me, but the little detailed scenes are very amusing to me in a weird way. Some guys may love damask, or leopard print, or the floweriest pastel pink floral the world has ever seen. You never know. That’s why the best bet is always just to ask (or to speak up if you’re a quiet-but-secretly-rooting-for-something lad). I’m 99.9% sure the world won’t spontaneously combust if guys get on the fabric train a little too.
It’s not often that a before photo actually makes me laugh out loud. But I did so I’ll cop to it right now. Just check out the shower tile in Erin’s main bathroom for yourself. Thankfully the incredible overhaul that she and her husband did means that old tile is nothing but a (somewhat hilarious) memory. Here’s her letter:
Hi John & Sherry, we’ve been working on remodeling our foreclosure mess for just over a year now, and so far we’ve completed three bathroom remodels! I’m still doing a happy dance from how this last one turned out. This room started out as bad as it could get with dirty white tile & brown grout, a rain shower mural in the bathtub, and pink walls with a goopy, drippy texture applied to them.
Every time I used it I thought, “I can’t believe we bought this dump.” Note the rain shower mural in the tub.
We were going for a very modern and natural look – something that was minimal but not cold. The piece de resistance was a shoji style inspired sliding door that I custom built to fit the space (it slides to the right to close off the toilet/shower without blocking too much light). I’m still shocked that it fit and worked well in the space right away. Those moments when what you had in mind actually works out perfectly… yeah, those never happen to me, so score 1 point for the DIYers.
The best part is that doing all of our own labor and using affordable items like the Ikea vanity and mirror (along with clearance 12” x 24” floor tiles for just $1.22 a tile!) made this renovation incredibly affordable. The whole project was less than $2k.
We also added lighting underneath the floating vanity, which not only accentuates the open floor space down there but provides a really cool nightlight to the room.
The lights are plugged into an outlet directly under the vanity, and that outlet is controlled by a switch right at the door so it’s just a flick of the switch to turn them on. I hope you like it! -Erin
I just gotta give Erin another “bravo” for that door she built. I mean, the whole space makes me want to come over for a visit, but I’ve gotta hand over some serious props for making a door that fits on the first try. Erin’s got more photos (including a close up of that before shower!) on her blog, so be sure to check it out. Thanks so much for sharing your awesome bathroom, Erin! What do you guys think? Any favorite parts? Sherry’s obsessed with the mirror that also doubles as a shelf and of course that stripe of penny tile. As for me, you already know I’m crushing on that sliding door.
Psst- The latest round of Clara Conversations are up on Young House Life, including one exchange that’s probably our favorite of all time (it involves talk of a future sibling and what Clara hopes will come with the deal).