Our Current House

Night Lights

There’s something illuminating going on in our sunroom. And I’m not talking about the fireflies Clara is constantly trying to catch and befriend (she told me the other day that she wants one to live in her room FOREVER). Befriend? Imprison? Potato, potahto.

Yep, our sunroom – er, veranda if you’re nasty fancy – is finally sporting some lighting, courtesy of the new fixtures that we added to the posts in the four corners of the room.

Our original plan last summer had been to install light kits on the two fans in the room, but we never found fan lights we liked… and then we slowly warmed up to the idea of sconces around the perimeter of the space instead of two overhead fan lights (we thought they’d add more in the charm/ambiance department). Until now the room’s usefulness had been setting with the sun every day…. but thankfully our go-to electricians (S.J. Ryan for any locals) changed that by coming out to help us add the new fixture boxes we needed. For anyone wondering about costs, they work on a per hour basis, and we’ll dive into the benjamins a little later for you.

To get all the sconces on the same switch, they tapped into an existing outlet in the space (the one pulled out in the right photo above) that was operated by a switch in the house right by the sunroom door. Then they ran conduit under the deck to each of the other three posts. It was definitely more on the “complicated” end of things since there’s a slab foundation under the sunroom itself (so nothing could be run/drilled under there), which meant that most of the wiring had to be within the posts or run under the deck. If we had realized we wanted sconces on the posts instead of fan lights back when we had the room torn apart (after raising the ceiling and before planking it) this process would have been much easier. Picture Sherry channeling Cher and singing “If I could tuuuuurn back toooooowwwwwwm.”

Now instead we have these small conduit things on the outside of each of the four posts, but we think once we paint them the color of the house they should blend in better. Sherry has big plans to drop some planters in front of them if they still bug her after that. Big plans, people. Huge.

But back to the fun stuff. The lights were Joss & Main finds, which caught our eyes because (A) they were similar to our other outdoor lights, (B) they were the right size, (C) we could get four matching ones (not so easy on craigslist or at our favorite lighting outlet), and (D) they were within our budget ($51 each with free shipping).

They’re not so big that we – well, mainly me – have to worry about walking into them, and the dark bronze finish brings some nice contrast to the room along with the fans.

While we had the pros here, we also got their help removing the old intercom from the wall and terminating the wires properly. Sherry and I were just grateful it didn’t leave any major marks in the wall. Just a small dot where the wires came out (see arrow below) and a couple of subtle holes in the mortar where it was screwed in. We were picturing a giant hole lurking under it with a missing brick or something, so this was a much better outcome. Picture Sherry channeling Cher and singing “Do you belieeeeeeeeeve in life after intercom?”

The sunroom was just one of several rooms that got some electrical attention (here’s a peek at the office before getting a ceiling fixture box and floor outlet under the floating desk).

We’ve been keeping a running list of wiring/lighting to-dos and decided to finally pull the trigger on them all at once for efficiency’s sake. We’ve still got some fixtures to add and drywall to patch, so we’ll dive into those other updates when a few are a little more finished looking, but bulking all the wiring work saved us a good amount of money, so we’ll break that down for you in that update too (still waiting on the itemized bill).

Although a bunch of other indoor spaces got some work done, the new lights outside are the highlight of our electrical punch list. Just as we hoped, they illuminate enough without feeling like giant search lights, they make things feel a lot cozier, and we love that they extend the amount of time that we can use this space. Some nights it means a later bedtime (and maybe a popsicle or two). Other nights it just means not having to sit in the dark while Burger takes his last potty break of the night. Either way, we’ll take it.

How are you guys enjoying your summer nights? Is it weird that I’m tempted to rent a projector or something and watch a movie out here? Not that that requires lighting, so I’m not sure why I’m just having this idea now…

Psst- Teddy’s weekly picture is up, and I’m pretty sure he’s the man.

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How You Like Me Now?

You guys have been curious about everything from how our concrete counters are wearing and how our refinished foyer grout is holding up to how our new blogging schedule is working for us. And since we’re not always great at updating you guys (blogging tends to follow an “on to the next thing!” pattern), here’s a big ol’ rundown, which marks the third one in this series (here’s our first one and our second one so you can check out if we covered other topics you’ve wondered about there).

Our Ardex-concrete counters: These guys have largely been awesome, and our sealer choice has made them even more durable than we expected. For example, we thought we’d end up with scratches/divots/marks, but after nearly two and a half months of use, there’s not a one! Not sure if it’s because we haven’t been chef-y enough (we tend to make pretty basic meals, and we hardly wield Top-Chef-sharp knives at all times) or just thanks to the two large wooden cutting boards that we keep on the counter (they’re where we place hot pots and slice things for the most part). We do hear that using the dark stain with the Ardex might show more scratches (we went au-naturale with ours) so that tip might help those considering that option.

As for staining, nearly everything we’ve spilled just sits on the surface and can be wiped away without issue (like how water beads up on sealed wood) so we have only noticed a few splatters (perhaps citrus?) that sat long enough on the counter to soak in and make subtle dark spots on the concrete that can’t be wiped off (below left). They don’t really bother us since the counter has that industrial vibe going on anyway. I did place piping hot tea on the counter and a very very very very vague ring of haze appeared (it’s nearly impossible to see unless you’re a inch away looking at the exact right angle), so we’re sure to use those cutting boards for hot things, and so far there haven’t been any others (below right).

The grout stain in the foyer: Still looks identical to when I applied this stuff back in early January. Even with semi-frequent moppings, muddy shoes/paws, and a whole lot of foot traffic, the grout is holding its own. And it was awesome to hear from folks who used this in spaces like showers many years ago who say theirs is doing just as well.

The appliance paint we used on our fridge:  Our bisque-turned-white fridge pretty much looks the same these days, other than having a lot more magnets on it thanks to Clara. The good news is that the magnets don’t seem to scratch or peel the paint off at all, but we did notice a bit of a scraped area along the right side of the door. We think we were carrying something large like lumber and it must have brushed against that edge and scraped it. D’oh. So in summary: everyday use doesn’t seem to hurt it at all (even on the handles where we touch it all the time – or the doors where Clara drags magnets around). Just don’t scrape heavy stuff along the corners and hopefully yours will be in good shape.

Our new washer & dryer: LOVE it! We have been using these guys HARDCORE with a newborn in the mix, and we couldn’t be happier. You can read more about how/why we picked them here, but so far the washer gets things super clean and spins them dry a bunch so they’re only damp when they go into the dryer (bonus: less dryer time, and more encouragement to sun-dry things since they’re not emerging soaking wet). We also really like crouching less thanks to the washer being a top-loader, which is surprisingly handy with a baby in your arms.

Our pantry re-org: This food-storage upgrade has been holding its own. It’s not as perfectly organized as it was back in the day, but it’s such a huge step up from the old dark shelves and no-system-at-all issues it had before. We really like having the microwave tucked in there, and the door organizer and the hanging bread baskets are the MVPs of this makeover. We gained a lot more narrow storage (read: nothing can fall to the back and get lost) and that has been invaluable.

The game closet: This is what our little “toy library” currently looks like after a newborn came into the mix. No, Teddy hasn’t been playing with that stuff, but with a baby in my arms (or on my chest) most of the time, I don’t spend as much time helping Clara put things back in an über organized fashion like I used to (well, most of the time). But although it’s completely messy, all that mess is tucked behind that door – and for that I’m eternally grateful. Clara miraculously still follows the one-thing-out-at-a-time rule, which explains why this chaos isn’t spread out all over our office or living room instead of being contained to this closet. So ultimately: this closet has been a lifesaver. Even if it’s kind of a pit these days. And yes, that’s my Kahleesi wig on the floor. Clara is obsessed. It’s all sorts of hilarious.

Our fiddle leaf figs: There have been a lot of questions about these guys, so the answers are: they were $58 from Home Depot on sale, the red pot is from Lowe’s, and the little wheeled cart that it’s on is also from Lowe’s. I just water them once a week (deeply, usually around 20 ounces or so) and they seem to like indirect sunlight. The one in the corner of the office seems happy for the most part (below left). The other one seemed pretty happy in that other office corner, but when we got the shelves for along that wall I moved him into the dining room. BAD IDEA. Turns out he hated me for it. Not sure why (there still seemed to be indirect light in there, and I kept watering him the same way I always did). So yesterday I moved him into the corner of the kitchen (below right). It’s like a fiddle leaf fig hail-mary. I hope it works.

Our organic mattress: This mattress is half a decade old, and we have been really happy with it. We heard from others who had issues with dents from where their bodies are, but ours doesn’t feel pitted or dented after all this use, and it’s still nice and firm (we like a firm mattress, so we “built” this mattress to that specification).

Our Target hooks: You guys have been asking if we’ve used any of our hooks besides this picture hanger in our house. I put a mismatched group of white ones to use in the closet to hold all of the necklaces that were formerly tangled and crammed into a drawer in my night table. Now I actually wear necklaces! Also: necklaces hypnotize Teddy.

Our white & stained kitchen cabinets: The white painted upper cabinets and wood stained lower cabs are still doing well. It has only been about half a year, but so far, so good. The white isn’t too hard to keep clean (I occasionally wipe down a drip if I see one, or dust the ledges a few times a month when I remember) and the stained lowers have been good too (they hide more dirt and splatters, but I can’t figure out if I like that or if that’s a con, since at least with the white uppers I know they’re clean and a big glob of syrup isn’t blending in). Nothing has chipped off or bubbled or anything, which is nice. We definitely recommend good prep work (sanding, deglosser, etc) and good primer/paint if you’re going the painted route (it can scrape right off without those steps).

Our homemade terrarium: A moment of silence please. This guy is dead as a doornail. Womp-womp. Regardless of keeping it in the sun and using that supposedly helpful “activated charcoal” somehow this one went wrong. So let’s file this under Black Thumb Petersik.

Our Expedit changing table: So far this has been great. We have a big basket of diapers and the wipes are kept on top to the right of the pad. We both have been using it a lot (we even walk upstairs to change him there sometimes since it’s more comfortable than using the ottoman downstairs, where we set up a little station). We haven’t switched to cloth dipes yet (tried them but they’re still a little loose and I live in fear of blowouts these days) but I’m looking forward to seeing how the changing table works for those as well. We’ll probably store the cloth diapers in the same basket where we keep our disposables, and line the white trash pail with a wet-bag and possibly move that into the bathroom so we don’t have to bring diapers that we spray back into the room. Will keep you posted.

Our upstairs hardwoods laid with Elastilon: The hardwoods we chose and the underlayment choice of Elastilon have been awesome for the most part. Our wood floors themselves haven’t felt too soft or scratched/dented, even with a dog and a preschooler beating on them. As for how the flooring is laid, it hasn’t appeared to flex or have any gaps or anything after over a year of use (through extreme heat and extreme cold). The seams look just as good as they did when we laid them, and everywhere that had nice level underlayment feels super solid and nailed down. In other words, you would never know it was a floating hardwood floor instead of a traditional nailed-down version in our hallway, our bedroom, Clara’s room, or Teddy’s room. BUT… (here comes the but)…

… there’s one spot in the guest room where we think the underlayment wasn’t level and we WISH we had known that so we could have fixed it because now that area feels a wee bit bouncy. It doesn’t look janky at all, and guests have said they don’t even notice it when I confess how much that spot bugs us, but it doesn’t have that nailed-down super solid feeling like the rest of the floors do. Boo. But for the most part we love Elastilon, and our hardwoods. Just a warning to anyone using it: unlevel subfloors might make things feel a little flex-y and less solid.

Our scaled back blogging schedule: We’ve been really happy with our decision to slow down. As some of you have wondered, fewer posts have correlated to lower traffic and less income just as we expected, but the change has felt really good to us. I’ve never been a more hands on mom than I’ve been for the last two months, and I’m so grateful that I didn’t miss out on those moments in the name of one more project or one more post.

Do you have anything that you’ve tried and ended up loving or loathing? Feel free to share the gushiness (or the warnings)!

Psst- In the “oops that was a bad call” arena, you can check out this post, this post, & this post. Sometimes the best choice is elusive, but there’s something comforting about the whole if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed-try-try-again thing.

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