Our Current House
So sorry to everyone who requested an update on this sooner! We first shared our new house to-do list back in May and later updated it at the end of July, so this check-in is well overdue. But one fun thing about going longer than you meant to before updating a list is getting to cross things off like crazy. Picture me grinning maniacally for a far too extended period like the people in this video who think they’re getting their photos taken while the camera’s really on video mode.
These posts came about when people asked us how we organize all the stuff that we have on our to-do list and we explained that we basically have one long run-on document that we update as we go. They said “share it!” and I said “aight, boo” and now we update it every few months, just to see where we’re going and to take a moment to appreciate what we’ve accomplished. I love lists like this because even when it feels like we’re all over the place and some projects are taking forever, seeing nearly 90 things crossed off after five and a half months of living here is pretty dang exciting. And addicting. Just looking at this list makes us want to dive into about five more projects simultaneously.
- The Front Yard (20% Complete) -
Remove the trees that are dead/decaying/diseased beyond repair (an arborist and a home inspector helped confirm which ones should go) Get all exterior siding and trim repainted (there’s peeling paint, some rot, etc) Dig up all the quickly spreading ground cover(we still have some mulch beds to tackle, but the parts we graded and seeded are groundcover free) Aerate, level, and seed the yard
- Make planting beds up front and mulch and plant them
- Transplant some of the crowded/overlapping boxwoods on either side of the portico (around the back or into other planting beds out front?)
- Redo old cracked concrete walkway from the driveway to the front door (add curves and pretty planting beds on both sides)
- Add some nice hard-scaping around the front (we’re so inspired by this house’s landscaping – so we’d love to add some raised stone beds)
- Plant a few green dwarf maples (it’s our favorite thing that we planted one at our previous house – you can see it in this post under the window on the right)
- Add low curved brick borders on either side of the driveway wired with lights (some of the houses nearby have ‘em and we love them)
- Get the driveway paved
- The Portico (25% Complete) -
Repaint the portico and sidelights (peeling paint = everywhere) Paint the front door
- Arch the portico ceiling (it’s low and one house up the street has an arched ceiling with a gorgeous hanging lantern)
- Add a few planters, a new double-wide door mat, new porch lighting, etc
- The Garage (3% Complete) -
Change out the tiny/rusty light over the garage doors(we attempted this, hence the 3% ranking, but we’re not sold on it, so we might return/replace it)
- Repaint garage doors and add some nice hardware to beef them up
- Add a pergola over the double garage doors with vines creeping over it
- Finish the interior of the garage with drywall to create a workshop on one side and storage around the perimeter (add pegboards, shelving for paint and tools, etc)
- Reuse kitchen cabinets in the garage (they’re dinged up in a bunch of spots around the doors and frames, but would be great for the garage)
- Redo the four steps that lead from the garage to the kitchen (remove old carpeting and paint them? rebuild them completely?)
- Build a box on casters for scrap wood storage in the garage (we need a system to keep it from being all over the place)
- Maybe we should get old lockers and paint them fun colors and remove some of the doors for storage? (love these!)
- Possibly add plumbing for a utility sink out there (we’ve always wanted one in our “workshop”)
- The Foyer (70% Complete) -
Remove the doors that block the flow into the kitchen (and the pretty view out the back windows that will someday be french doors) Paint blue trim, doors, and sidelights
Remove wallpaper and repaint the walls Replace the old foyer light Turn the extra toy closet in the foyer into a craft and toy closet for Clara
- Repaint the foyer ceiling
- Replace tile? (only if it’s unsalvageable – there are a few areas where it’s pretty beat up)
- Turn the other foyer closet into a shoe/coat closet with some functional built-ins
- The Stairs (90% Complete) -
Remove the old carpet from the wood stairs Paint blue railing spindles and trim Stain the top rails dark to match the runner Paint the walls and ceiling Paint the stair risers Install new striped runner with a rug pad under it
- Hang some art
- Possibly hang a big chandelier overhead since the ceiling is so lofted above the top of the stairs
- The Half Bathroom (35% Complete) -
Remove wallpaper Repaint all blue trim (and door) Upgrade door hardware & hinges Paint walls New mirror (something larger and higher – John can only see up to his shoulders now) Paint vanity (use odor blocking primer) Upgrade lighting Replace leaky faucet
- Replace vanity & seashell sink (Phase 2) Note: We like to live with kitchens and bathrooms (and give them smaller budget-friendly updates) for at least a year before doing any major gut-jobs or renovations (this helps us get a better feel for how we use the space, and allows us to save our pennies for something thoughtful that we won’t regret (more on that here)
- Replace unsalvageable tile floor? (Phase 2)
- Here’s a shocker since this house is covered with old wallpaper, but we’re actually flirting with adding some cool new wallpaper since there’s no tub/shower in there (grass cloth? something charming like this or this?). Could be fun! Or a tiled accent wall could be fun. (Phase 2)
- The Dining Room (7% Complete) -
Clean and reseal the wood floors
- Upgrade built-ins (remove scrolly tops? build up to ceiling? paint white?)
- Paint all of the blue trim
the wallpaper(I’m about halfway done, hence the half-crossed off line)
- Repaint the walls
- Upgrade lighting and curtains
furniture, a rug (?) and art
- The Living Room (10% Complete) -
Clean and re-seal the wood floors Prime and paint the bright pink walls Take down the old curtains Whitewash the brick fireplace wall
- Prime and paint the thick woodwork that wraps around the bottom half of the room’s walls (we LOVE it, and think it’ll be gorgeous in white)
- Figure out window treatments (bamboo blinds + curtains? printed roman shades?)
- Add more recessed lights to evenly light the room (there are just three near the fireplace)
- Turn the overhead beams into a coffered ceiling (like this)
- Build/find a nice big built-in-looking cabinet that holds the TV?
- Get gas logs after we save up our bucks (Phase 2)
- Add stacked stone or built-in molding around the fireplace? (Phase 2)
- The Office (7% Complete) -
Take down the old curtains Clean and re-seal the wood floors
- Paint walls and trim and ceiling (don’t mind that little white table in the middle of everything, we were using that to shoot something)
- Add a double desk work area somewhere – perhaps coming out from the middle of the left wall like a peninsula (or the right wall between the windows)?
- Bring in storage (bookcase, file cabinet, etc) – possibly cool build-ins around the bay window?
- Add curtains/window treatments
- Hang art & create a brainstorm-zone on the walls (bulletin board? chalkboard?)
- Add two large potted plants (lemon trees? fiddle leaf figs?) in front of the two front-facing windows
- The Kitchen (7% Complete) -
Take down the old curtains Remove the wallpaper Remove shelves thank flank the sink windowand add shelves there Move the cabinet over the fridge forward so it’s accessible Get a table for the eat-in area
- Paint the walls
- Update the old kitchen lights
- Paint the pantry door and the door to the garage
- Prime and paint the woodwork and trim
- Paint the cabinets (they’re too beat up to keep forever, but they’ll eventually end up in the garage when we do a full kitchen reno)
- Remove almond microwave over stove and add an inexpensive vent (put microwave in pantry?)
- Convert giant triple window behind table into french doors leading onto the deck
- Open the wall between the kitchen & living room and add built-ins on either side (sort of like the dining room built-ins in our last house)
- Full kitchen reno for Phase 2 (replace the faux brick vinyl floors, damaged cabinets, laminate counters, old broken appliances, etc)
- Perhaps try our hand at heated floors under some fresh tile (that might spill into the foyer and hall bath if we can’t salvage that tile)
- Organize the pantry with pull out drawers and bins and containers (and replace the door with frosted glass?)
- Amp up the “command center” area across from the triple windows
- Paint the new kitchen french doors and door to the sunroom (black? charcoal? soft turquoise? white?)
- The Sunroom-Turned-Veranda (80% Complete) -
Rip up old carpet and padding Permanently remove the broken base heater Convert sunroom to an open covered porch with new columns and no more sliders (many of the sliders are bad and the posts are rotten) Loft the ceiling Add beadboard to the ceiling and paint it soft blue Redo the electrical to get two fans in there Paint all the trim, window trim, walls, and the french door into the living room Retile the floor with outdoor-safe stone to upgrade the old concrete floors so they’re less slick, more level, and less stained
- Add sconces to the posts around the room
- Build a box to hide the wires that creep down the brick wall near the french door
- Furnish the room with deck-friendly outdoor furniture
- Build a brick outdoor fireplace off of the sunroom after we open it up? Kind of like this, but different…
- The Master Bedroom (15% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods Repaint all of the cream trim and doors white
Add faux wood blinds to all windows for privacy/light blocking
Repaint the walls
- Repaint the ceiling (or even plank it or wallpaper it like this for texture?)
- Add built-ins along the entire bed wall (with an integrated window seat, hidden storage, and a nook for the bed to tuck into)
- Add a ceiling light fixture (there’s nothing in there)
- Bring in art, curtains, etc.
- The Master Bedroom Sink Nook (50% Complete) -
Rip up the carpet in sink area (we didn’t put hardwoods there because we eventually want to tile it) Replace the mirror over the sink for something bigger Paint the walls and the trim and the ceiling Stencil and seal the subfloor (to tide us over until Phase 2) Add some simple shelves to the empty side of the vanity for balance Stain/paint the vanity and add new hardware
- Phase 2 (a full reno where we knock down a wall and combine the master bathroom with this sink nook area)
- The Master Bathroom (15% Complete) -
Remove the glass shower door Bring privacy to the window with some blinds
- Remove the wallpaper
- Paint the walls and trim and ceiling
- Replace the bathroom mirror & upgrade the lights
- Completely redo the master bath down the line for Phase 2 (the fun blue hex floor tile is in rough shape and we want to expand the footprint into the sink nook area so it’s all one space (soaker tub? tiled shower as well? double sink? should be fun!)
- The Master Closet (40% Complete) -
Repaint all of the cream trim Paint the walls and ceiling Rip up the carpet and stencil the subfloor Phase 2 (we’ll either extend the tile from the bathroom or the hardwoods from the bedroom into here, just have to decide if we’re moving the door or not)
- New light fixture
- Organize/build out/pimp the entire space (we’re envisioning cabinetry with drawers, shelves, rods at different heights, etc)
-Upstairs Hallway (60% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods Repaint all of the blue trim and doors glossy white Get all new hinges and door knobs (they’re not only bright brass, many of them are rusted/corroded so they can’t just be sprayed) Upgrade to a Nest thermostat (we hear nothing but great things about them, and John is drooling for one) Stain/paint the bannister and posts
- Paint the walls and ceiling
- Replace the old hallway lights (or paint existing ones? not sure)
- Convert hallway linen closet into built-in open shelves or cabinets with shelves over them (sort of like this?)
- Add crown molding
- Add thick wood wainscoting (like we have in the kitchen and living room) to the upstairs hallway to break up the long space?
- Clara’s Room (50% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods Repaint all of the blue trim and doors Add window blinds & curtains Paint the walls and ceiling Make a canopy wall for Clara’s bed (with lights) Paint the door to her closet bright pink Add crown molding
- Hang art & bring in things like her play kitchen when the crib moves to the nursery
- Make entire wall of built-ins somewhere?
- Build a bench seat in Clara’s deep sloped ceiling-ed closet nook with beadboard or shaker shingles on the ceiling and wallpaper on the back wall (we want it to feel like a little playhouse within her room)
- Add a ceiling light fixture (boo! there’s nothing in there!)
- Future Nursery (10% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods Repaint all of the mauve trim and doors Add wood blinds (for light blocking)and hang curtains
- Furnish the room (we’re going to hold off on major decorating decisions until we find out what this bun of ours is in early December)
- Repaint the walls and ceiling
- Add crown molding
- Add a ceiling light fixture (boo! there’s nothing in there!)
- The Guest Bedroom / Craft Room (10% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods Repaint all of the cream trim and doors
- Paint the walls and ceiling
- Bring in
a bed anda dresser/desk that can accommodate my sewing machine & crafting stuff so this room can multi-task (it has the prettiest view/light – I’d love to creep in there and sew/paint on Sunday afternoons)
- Organize and build out some craft/gift wrap shelving in the closet (lots of shelves and bins, etc)
- Add crown molding
- Add a ceiling light fixture (nope, there’s nothing in there either!)
- The Hall Bathroom (5% Complete) -
the door andtrim
- Paint the walls and ceiling
- Replace the faucets and mirrors and lights for a mini-update (Phase 1)
- A complete redo is in order (Phase 2) since the old tile is stained/cracked and the tub & fixtures leak. Maybe we’ll do herringbone slate? Marble? Extra long rectangles of tile like this?
- Laundry Nook (10% Complete) -
Remove old carpeting and install hardwoods
- Lay a more washer-proof flooring under the appliances like tile (we ended the hardwoods right in front of them so we could use something more water-safe in there)
- Completely redo the nook (new doors for noise control, updated energy star appliances, new counter, new cabinets – or more cabs if we re-use the existing ones)
- Add a swanky tile backsplash and some great art/lighting (I want to make it a fun little surprise jewel box at the end of the hallway)
- Unfinished Storage Room (0% Complete) -
- This will serve as an awesomely large storage room for a while (we have no current need for additional finished rooms), but down the line we’d love to finish it – maybe as a movie room / bunk room for older kiddos? This’ll be waaay down the line, but we dream of:
- Adding drywall
- Getting flooring
- Adding lighting
- Possibly enlarging the windows to let in more light
- Building out the closets (so there’s still some storage under the eaves)
- Furnishing the space with built in beds, a TV, a big sectional for lounging, etc – wahoo!
- General Whole House Ideas (7% Complete) -
- Slowly upgrade all lights in the house to LEDs to save energy
- Replace all of the gold/wallpapered/off-white switchplates and outlets in the house (we’ve replaced around 15% of them so far)
- Upgrade to nicer frames, drapes, sheets, and curtain rods over time (they’re not cheap, but we’d love to be “grown ups” someday – even if it takes us 10 years or so to get there!)
- The Back Deck (50% Complete) -
Remove the giant oak tree that’s practically growing into the house Patch the deck hole after the tree is removed Strip and stain/seal the entire deck Replace any rotten/ warped boards as we go
- Add double wide stairs off the back of the deck that line up with the new french doors that we’ll add off of the kitchen
- Possibly build a pergola for more architecture and shade off of the back of house where the future kitchen french doors will be (square to the sunroom)?
- Build outdoor furniture like a table or lounge chairs for the deck
- The Backyard (15% Complete) -
Remove random slate pieces from the backyard Aerate or level the yard
Seed the yard in the fall Plant large holly bushes for privacy from the other houses that our wooded lot backs up to
- Transplant a few things for a better layout, like the pretty peony bushes in the middle of nowhere (not pictured)
- Reseed again in the spring/fall
- Build a fun wooden playhouse for Clara
- Plant an edible garden (not sure what the deer won’t eat, so I’ll have to do some research)
- Build a swing set
- Redo the old cracked concrete walkway between the garage and the deck
- Add more privacy plantings around the rest of the yard – tiered trees, bushes, and flowers (we plan to save up for these and add more each year)
- Build some raised planters and hardscaping
- Possibly add a patio area somewhere around the deck?
- Make a wooden teepee in the corner of the backyard with Clara and then plant some vines to grow around it to make a cool little hideaway (like this)
- Build an air conditioner cover with wood boards like this
Thankfully the journey is a lot more exciting than the destination is for us (more on that here), so if our list makes your brain fog up: 1) sorry about that, and 2) we’re a weird breed of human who actually loves stuff like this (we upgraded our house for fun for years well before this ever became a job of ours). We’ve also learned that taking things one day/project/victory at a time keeps us from getting too overwhelmed, so if you’re wondering how we choose what to do next or how we avoid getting overwhelmed, we just do whatever sounds fun and whatever works with our current budget (barring anything that needs to be moved to the top of the list for safety or other extreme-urgency reasons). We also jump around a lot, which seems to keep our momentum up. For example, right now we’re:
- halfway done peeling wallpaper in the dining room
- just getting our Phase 1 kitchen makeover rolling
- contemplating wall colors for the hall bathroom upstairs and the guest room
- beginning to brainstorm what we want in our office to make it functional for two people (and to add a lot more storage/work space)
So that’s what’s next on the agenda. How do you organize your house-related to-do lists? Do you use your smart phone? A good old fashioned notepad? Is it all up here (points to head)?
It’s been nearly a month since we talked about stenciling the floor in our sink nook (we’re all over the place lately – Clara’s room, outdoor tiling, installing our stair runner, landscaping adventures, starting in on the kitchen, etc) but that doesn’t mean we were done in there. We had a few more bullets to check off:
- sealing those stenciled floors
- loading in the closet after the floors dried (hopefully with more function/storage instead of the stuff we thoughtlessly shoved in there when we moved)
- updating the vanity with more function as well as a fresh finish (up close it was in pretty rough shape, and we thought we could gain more function from that empty cubby on the right side if we added some inexpensive shelves)
So to knock that first bullet off the list, Sherry used a small foam roller to apply two thin and even coats of SafeCoat Acrylaq to the floor (that’s our favorite non-toxic eco poly). She rolled those on about 24 hours apart, and wore a respirator just because it wasn’t fully odorless. It went on pretty fast, and she started in the furthest corner of the closet and just rolled her way out of the room. Then we blocked it off while it dried so we didn’t end up with puppy paw prints in it.
It has been a nice protective final step that has made us less worried about any chips or drips (heck, I was even able to scrape off a dried staining splatter later without damaging the stencil).
Once the floor sealer was fully cured (we waited around 72 hours) we could load in the closet, and this time we tried to be more thoughtful about what went where, and what would be the most functional. Bringing in a dresser and a mirror as well as a laundry room basket to use as a hamper really helped to make it a lot more storage-friendly than a bunch of random bins and piles. Although this dresser will probably end up in the nursery and our new West Elm dresser will most likely make its way in here after we add that wall of built-ins around our bed down the line.
Here’s a shot of Sherry’s side:
And my side (note the difference in shoe quantities):
Just as a refresher, here’s what the closet looked like when we moved in and threw everything down. It’s amazing what some fresh paint on the walls, trim, floor, and ceiling along with some much needed organization and some old furniture (the dresser’s a hand-me-down and the mirror was a $5 yard sale find) can do.
So with those first two bullets checked off, it was shelf o’ clock. They were actually a pretty easy build. We just had to keep two things in mind as we planned them out on paper:
- how to build supports for two shelves (function!)
- where to create places to attach the front-facing boards to make it look pretty (form!)
So here’s what we came up with (we like to map things out on paper together, and then we usually divide and conquer, so in this case Sherry did the polying and most of the closet organization, and I was happy to do the shelf building and staining, especially since the stain isn’t without VOCs). Then Sherry swooped back in and tackled the hinges and reattached the doors while I switched out the drawer and door hardware.
As for the building step, I started from the floor and worked my way up.
Step 1: I nailed a small piece of scrap wood into the side of the vanity (and another just like it into the baseboard on the opposite side) with one side resting on the floor and the other set back 3/4″ from the front of the vanity’s toe kick.
Step 2: This created a spot for me to attach a strip of plywood that would effectively extended the toe kick all the way across.
Step 3: Right above this, I nailed in matching strips of 1 x 2″ board (that I ripped in half on my table saw) that the bottom shelf could rest on. You’ll see in Step #10 why I didn’t line it up with the bottom of the vanity.
Step 4: I placed my first shelf, which I cut out of a piece of plywood I had leftover from the sunroom ceiling. It was such a tight fit I didn’t bother nailing it into place.
Step 5: After carefully measuring for the middle of the space, I nail-gunned another set of small strips on all 3 sides. I hadn’t done a back strip on the last shelf because it (coincidentally) rested perfectly on the top of the baseboard. Note: in this photo you can see how the vanity is a little dinged up in a few places, hence our desire to refinish it, which would also help us match the new wood with the old wood.
Step 6: I added my second shelf, cut from the same piece of plywood scrap.
Step 7: We wanted to add a face board at the top of the opening too, since we were trying to mimic the spacing and the look of the existing vanity. So by putting a face board here, it’d continue the strip of wood between the drawer face and cabinet doors that’s already on the left side. So, just like I did for the toe kick, I nailed small pieces of scrap wood here, set slightly back from the front of the cabinet.
Step 8: Time to start adding face boards. I started with a vertical one against the wall, which was a 1 x 3″ board (which really measured 1 x 2.5″) that I ripped on the table saw to be 1 x 2″ to match the width of the existing face boards. I glued and nailed it into place against the supports and shelves.
Step 9: Since that vertical face board got nailed into the small piece of scrap that I had placed at the top, I no longer had a place for the horizontal face board to attach. So I screwed another piece of scrap into the back of the vertical board to create one again.
Step 10: Now to put in all of the horizontal face boards, which were from the same 1 x 3″ board that I ripped to be 2″ wide. I was able to glue and nail these into the supports and the front edge of the shelves too. I wanted the bottom edge to match up with the existing vanity, which is why in Step 3 I had to account for the 2″ face board when placing my shelf support strips.
Here’s a pulled back shot of the whole thing once it was constructed. Putting it together was pretty fast (maybe an hour?). It was triple-checking all of my measurements and cutting my pieces that took the longest. I was certain I was going to mess something up along the way – like forgetting to account for the thickness of the plywood shelf when placing my support strips – so I tried to do the whole measure twice (and think twice) before cutting once thing.
Obviously the next challenge was getting the new shelves and the old vanity to be the same color. We wanted to maintain some semblance of wood grain texture, but also had some darker toned wood items in our bedroom (like a big leaning wall mirror near the doorway to this sink nook) that inspired us to go a little richer/darker with our new stain choice. We also learned from painting the vanity in our half bathroom that a deeper, less-orange shade can tone down the yellow in the sink top. So after having such a good experience with PolyShades on our stair railing (and having half a can leftover) we decided to go that route with the vanity.
The other can pictured above is some stain that we had leftover from Clara’s dresser makeover, which we first brushed onto the new shelves (to get them closer to the existing color on the left side of the vanity before PolyShading the whole thing to be uniform). I stupidly forgot to take a picture of that step, so unfortunately we’ll just have to skip ahead, but the color wasn’t a perfect match at all – just sort of within a tone or two instead of one side being bleach blonde. Apparently it was enough of a similarity that one coat of Espresso PolyShades (applied with a brush) did the trick in fully bridging the gap. Oh and before I brushed on the PolyShades, Sherry lightly sanded the existing vanity side so it was stain-ready just like the fresh wood was.
Before Sherry reattached the doors and put the drawer back in (all of which I had removed to make staining easier) we updated the knobs with some cheap ones (under $2 each!) that we found at Target. We thought that the octagon shape was a nice step-up from completely basic but the color would blend in nicely with our dark stain, so the knobs won’t compete with the patterned floor. In addition to using four of them to replace the existing knobs, I also drilled holes to add two more in the dummy drawer face that sits under the sink for a more balanced look.
And with that folks, we have a completed vanity. Wait, but let’s reminisce about what we started with:
And where we ended up:
I realize the dark stain color makes it a bit hard to see some of the detail in photos (in person it’s more wood-grain-ish without looking quite as goth-dark), but I’m happy to report that the new shelves look like they’ve always been there. We only did one coat of the PolyShades because we didn’t want it getting any darker, so there’s a little variation in the wood tone throughout the vanity. A second coat might’ve evened that out, but we both decided we like how the variation maintains the wood grain (although if you’re going for consistent overall coverage, we’d probably recommend two coats).
The best part is that the project was super cheap for us. Thanks to having the plywood and both types of stain on hand, our only costs were a 1 x 2″ board and a 1 x 3″ board ($12 total), along with the knobs ($12) and two pairs of new ORB hinges for the cabinet doors ($6). So this entire vanity update came to a grand total of $30. Note: if you don’t have plywood and stain on hand, you might want to add $30 to the budget.
Between this, our half bathroom, and our stair makeover, we’re starting to notice that we’re really gravitating towards high-contrast, almost monochromatic color schemes in the smaller nooks and crannies of this house. I don’t think it’s an indication that we’re ditching color (our adjoining bedroom has blue walls, a green rug, bright yellow pillows, and a patterned headboard – and we can’t forget Clara’s recent wall & door makeover) but I do think we’re appreciating the impact of some dark accents in the mix.
And just for fun, here’s a before shot from that angle from before we moved in:
So I’d say we’re getting pretty darn close to calling Phase 1 of the sink nook complete. Which is probably a good thing since we’re halfway through stripping wallpaper in the dining room and ready to start rolling on some kitchen updates before the chaos of the holidays (along with the showhouse kicking into high gear). What did you guys do this weekend? Any building? Sealing? Staining? New hardware? Closet organization? As boring as the closet organization part sounds, it’s pretty nice to finally have a real spot for all of our stuff after feeling like we were living out of bins and sorting through random piles since June.