Archive for March, 2013

Reader Redesign: Raise The Roof

Before we dive into an incredible house-transformation from Erin, Sherry just shared a little Easter-related DIY project that she whipped up for Clara over on Young House Life, so feel free to pop over there for the details (there’s a sneak peek below):

But now back to Erin’s awesome makeover. Since both of our homes have had standard eight foot ceilings, Sherry and I have always fantasized about chopping off the roof and reattaching it just a couple of feet higher. So imagine how captivated we were by the story of a couple who pretty much lived out our dream – and crammed in some awesome room makeovers in the process. Here’s Erin’s letter:

Hi John and Sherry! We loved the 1938 cottage we live in near Lake Michigan in Wisconsin from the moment we laid eyes on it in 2002 but it was lacking in just a few things, headroom in the bedrooms and a roof that didn’t leak to name two.

We started with fixing the roof (a bad design destined to leak for all eternity, it seemed) which lead to redesigning the roof, which lead to a few additions, and ended with ripping the top half of the house off and sticking it back on higher.

In the back yard, we had a deck built, but we did put in the cable railings (we’re sailors and it turns out that cable railings are nothing but sailboat lifelines). I laid the entire stone walkway to the detached garage and the mini retaining walls around the garden, not to mention designing and planting the gardens. It’s by far the DIY project that I’m most proud of to date.

What we ended up doing was changing our upstairs from two small bedrooms with very low slanted ceilings to two pretty good-sized bedrooms, one with a walk-in closet, plus an extra bathroom (you don’t realize how much it stinks to not have a bathroom on the same floor as your bedroom until you live like that for eight years).

In the master bedroom, our best decision was the built-ins, which provide so much storage (along with the small walk-in closet) that we don’t need any other furniture (i.e. dressers) in the room. We laid the bamboo floors ourselves and did all of the painting throughout the house (other than the living room’s cathedral ceilings because I love my neck too much and we don’t have a chiropractor in the family).


The new bathroom is  only 8 x 8 feet, but we managed to squeeze in a 5 x 3 foot shower and more storage than we know what to do with. As with the bedroom built-ins, I designed them then had them built. You can get a glimpse into the upstairs hallway (open to the living room below) and my mini gallery wall, inspired, of course, by yours! One of the items on the wall is a piece of board that we found during demo that says “Put here July 11, 1938.” The door into the bathroom was salvaged from my grandparents house.

We couldn’t imagine loving our house any more than we did before the renovation and now we’re sure we’ll only ever live in one house: this one! – Erin

Don’t you just want to take a vacation there? You can check out some of the other makeovers that Erin has documented here on her blog. And feel free to pick your favorite part of this redesign (mine’s the old board they found and kept from 1938 and Sherry’s is that “bed and breakfast-y backyard” as she dubbed it). Thanks for sharing Erin!



Our $200 Fireplace Makeover (Marble Tile & A New Mantel)

We can officially stick a fork in it, guys. Well, Sherry actually stuck an oversized fauz clam shell in it, but that’s doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well. Either way, the fireplace makeover is complete.

To back up a smidge, you saw us devise a plan for this little refacing makeover, add some marble subway tile and then build out around it. Reminder: fireplace code is different in every area (and requirements vary if it’s wood burning or if it has a gas insert, etc) so it’s a good idea to check that before going nuts on your fireplace.

Our fireplace is non-working (we’d love to add a gas insert and even double-side it down the road) but for this phase of the process all that was left was to add some primer and paint.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of the painting process because it wasn’t all that exciting. First we primed (using what we already had on hand) then painted the whole thing with Benjamin Moore’s Cloud Cover since it’s what’s on the nearby cabinets (and because we had some leftover). After that we did some touch-ups, like giving the firebox itself a fresh coat of its original color (Benjamin Moore’s Temptation) Note: use fireplace-approved high heat paint if you have a working fireplace.

And after giving it a couple of days to “cure” we put everything back so that we could call this puppy complete. And it’s a puppy that I kind of want to curl up with (yes, Sherry pets it).

Update: A few folks are asking if we considered widening the tiled heath to match the width of the built-out sides of the fireplace – we did, but since it’s just a bit of shoe molding (which also extends around all of our cabinets) it didn’t bother us enough to rip up cork to make it happen. Perhaps down the line we’ll paint the brown floor trim white to make it appear wider if it bothers us :)

Here’s an obligatory before and after for ya:

But I much prefer this one, which shows what the fireplace looked like when we bought our house back in 2010…

Since the painting step didn’t cost us any extra money (we used supplies that we already owned), the total cost for the project is just the addition of the two budgets we’ve already shared (tiling was $99 and building out was $98.75) but here’s the full breakdown:

Definitely not our cheapest project, but we love it. The herringbone marble tile and the tailored built-out surround looks pretty darn expensive (at least in our humble opinion). We’ve never had a tiled fireplace so we suddenly feel very swanky indeed. Perchance I’ll start sporting an ascot.

Some of you were curious about how we concealed the exposed edge of the cement board around the firebox.

We just used a piece of trim that we had in our scrap pile (it’s slightly rounded on both sides). Before grouting we glued it in place to provide a clean edge to grout up against and now it’s painted to match everything else. Obviously for a functioning wood-burning fireplace that’s no bueno, so you’d probably want to use something like this. And if we ever convert our fireplace to a wood-burning one (which is unlikely since it would require a ton of chimney work) we’ll just pop out the wood trim and install tile edge pieces.

Now back to the gratuitous after shots.

Ok, one more and we’re done.

Just this guy and I’m out.

Oh wait, here’s a good comparison shot that shows how the original fireplace was pretty thin and even a little top-heavy, while the new chunkier tiled-and-framed-out version feels more “focal-point-ish.” In person has even more dimension (unfortunately photos of a white-ish surround with white-ish tile don’t depict all the texture and interest that they have in real life).

But perhaps best of all, our wall of penny tile on the other side of the room no longer feels like it’s “the fancy wall” while the rest of the kitchen struggles to keep up. The herringbone marble fireplace finally gives the penny tile a run for its money, in the best possible way. According to Sherry “it’s a swank-off in our kitchen.” Fireplace vs. wall o’ penny tile. Who will win? It’s anyone’s guess. (Spoiler alert: Sherry says the wall of penny tile wins because she pets it slightly more than the marble but it’s very close.)

So that’s the end of our little fireplace update. We’re really glad to have it done and are looking forward to some porch and carport updates. So come on end-of-March snow, give it a rest so we can get outside and start working! What are you guys doing? Any tiling, mantel building, priming, or painting? What about placing giant clam shells around the house? Any of that going on? That’s all in a days work for my lady.

PS: If you want to read about this makeover from the beginning, check out our planning process, how we tiled and how we built out the wood frame around it.