Our Current House

Stairs: A Novelty To Ranch Owners Everywhere

At least that’s how I feel about them. I know some people hate stairs, but after seeing about a million gorgeous staircases on Pinterest and a whole bunch of awesome DIY stair upgrades, I was all “I waaaant stairs.” A la that girl in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory who sings about wanting a bean feast (?!). And then, as luck would have it, after seven years of owning one-level houses we fell in love with a house that has stairs. Half of me feared I’d live to regret the change, and half of me couldn’t wait to go on a blind spree, pinning ten million staircases per minute. I was like Ariel singing about being “part of that world” but instead of daydreaming about strolling around on that – what’s the word again? street! – I was daydreaming about stairs and runners with a shell bra on.

Well, after three and a half months of living in a house with stairs, I’m certain about two things:

  1. We actually like stairs! It’s nice to have some division between the living areas of the house and the private/sleeping/getting ready areas that are tucked away on the second floor. We’ll always have a soft spot for a cool mid-century ranch, but now when we have people over we don’t have to clean every last room – we just tend to the first floor and it’s all good if there’s a pair of underwear or seven million toe-murdering legos on the floor upstairs.
  2. We have woefully ignored our stairs this entire time – even after being intensely excited to make them over. Yup, between the blue baseboards and balusters to the old carpet, it’s looking pretty bleak.

Why is that stair runner still there? Well, we were going to pull it out before moving day, but John mentioned that it might be nice to keep it there to protect the wood stairs from any moving-day beatings they might have been subjected to as we dragged half of our worldly possessions up there. We also thought Burger and Clara might benefit from us keeping the stairs covered with some sort of a runner, so we didn’t want to rip it up until we had something new to put down. So we gave it a thorough cleaning, moved in, and figured we’d get to it within a few weeks.

A few weeks turned into a few months (oops) but I’m finally ready to pull the trigger on a new runner thanks to seeing a few pictures of black and white stair runners on (where else?) Pinterest.

*Spontaneous drinking game (the secret word is balusters).

Anyway, I showed John those links (he’s a visual creature, so it’s nearly impossible to get him on board with anything using words alone) and it was enough to spur both of us into “let’s really do this” action. So I did some googling in the hopes of finding a runner that was well rated to stand up to lots of wear and tear (no sense putting in something that’ll look terrible in six months) and also in the hopes of finding something that we liked when it came to the look of it (without spending 1K on a new stair update). My BFF swears by Dash & Albert (she has two crazy active kids who each have ten of their friends over and beat up on all of her rugs, but they still look great years later thanks to being well made) so it was nice to have that lead to pursue. And after clicking around over there, I found it. Almost the exact same (if not THE exact same) rug from my initial inspiration pic – the one I liked best of all:

It was nice to see it used on a staircase in the photo, since that suggested to me that they thought it would be good for that application (guess I’m a visual creature too) and even though the stairs were all white with a modern black & white railing, I had this original inspiration photo to remind me what it could look like on wood stairs, and this one to remind me what adding a dark railing and some white ballusters might do to the whole shebang.

When I showed John what I had found, he was sold (I even earned a highly coveted hubby-high-five) but before entering our credit card number I searched for other Dash & Albert vendors, just in the off chance that someone was running a sale. Bingo.

A site called rugstudio.com came up, and I was psyched to score a discounted runner price (we’d need two 2’5′ x 12′ runners, so we saved $32 through this sale) along with free shipping. On top of that they were also offering 20% off every order with the code CLEARANCE20, so it sort of felt like stacking three coupons. In the end it was under $199 (instead of $280!) for two extra long runners that we hope will last a crazy long time once we tear up the old carpeting and install them ourselves. They’re back-ordered for another week or so, but we hope they’ll show up soon so I can work on my rug-pulling muscles and send the old runner packing in lieu of our swanky new striped one.

So while we waited I thought it was time to start painting all of that blue baseboard and those blue balusters on the bottom half of the staircase.

Oh but we can’t forget about the two up here in the hallway now, can we?

First I broke out some primer and did two coats (I know the drill with this blue trim by now, it takes four coats – two of primer and two of paint).

This is it after two coats of primer and one of Simply White paint (in semi-gloss). See those blue lines peeking through? Infuriating, I tell you.

No sirree, third time’s just not the charm in this case.

But something magical happens after coat #4 and everything dries and it’s white! Glorious not-blue-peeking-through white! So even though it took about five hours over the course of two days to have at it with a short handled brush (that’s my secret to not having to tape off – it gives me a lot more control) it was WORTH IT.

There might have even been a mic drop in the middle of the foyer. And by mic drop I mean paintbrush drop. After it was clean and dry. Because $herdog’s no fool.

Boom. We’re one step closer to the whole striped runner + white balusters + dark railing equation than we were back when these stairs were blue city.

In fact I had a little fun with Photoshop on the railing. Are you picking up what I’m putting down?

Oh man, I still can’t believe we have stairs.

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One Opportunity Missed, One Opportunity Seized

And now for some “never thought we’d type that in our entire lives” news before we dive into today’s post. Remember when we Instagrammed this (well, I guess technically we Regrammed it) back in May? It was from our day of shooting a little segment with the OWN crew (as in Oprah’s crew). #ahhhhhh #more screaming

Well, that “short film” is airing this Sunday! It’ll be on towards the end of their Super Soul Sunday season premiere (info here) and we’re practically ready to faint at the possibility of Oprah saying our names out loud. Seriously, somebody get me a fan, a ruffled dress, and a chaise lounge so I can dramatically swoon.

But now back to the opportunities that we seized and missed. First the one that we missed (I’m a “tell me the bad news first” kinda girl). A few blocks away from us we noticed that a neighbor was mid-renovation (the sizable dumpster in their driveway was our first clue). One day we spotted a bunch of outdoor furniture peeking out over its top edge. Was that some chunky wicker Restoration-Hardware-ish stuff? And some iron chairs and a table? Why was it in the dumpster? It looked to be in good condition. Could this be our new sunroom furniture?

Our brains started fantasizing a trash-to-treasure rescue story. Maybe a little cleaning or rust-removing spray paint was all they needed? But then again, maybe they were in the trash pile for good reason. And would it be super awkward to knock on a stranger’s door and ask to raid their dumpster? Oh, but it would suck for salvageable stuff to go to waste…

We spent a couple of days trying to decide if our idea was genius or crazy. Would the neighbors think we were thoughtful or out of our minds? Finally I decided we should just satisfy our curiosity and ask. No sooner had I mustered the courage did John burst my bubble: “I meant to tell you, I noticed on the way back from preschool that the dumpster had been emptied.” $herdog = sad clown. I know it could have just been old broken furniture anyway, but now I’ll never know. I guess I’ll have to find another dumpster to dive into…

But in other “hey-what-are-the-neighbors-up-to?” news (here comes the good part) the family two doors down is in the midst of some major landscaping work involving all sorts of awesome things like an outdoor fireplace and a stone patio. We love them and Burger is even on decent terms with their dog which is a small animal miracle because Burger only likes cats. Anyway, we don’t have anything major that needs to be done (yet) but it did give us one of those “since you’re in the neighborhood” ideas. The tree work that we had done a few months back left us with some high spots, some low spots, and some grass-won’t-grow-on-that-pile-of-ground-tree-stump spots. Photos don’t do the ankle-breaking-potential justice. At their worst there were some areas that were about 15″ off (either too high or too low) so don’t let what look like small piles fool you. We’re talking about 30 wheelbarrows full o’ mulch in that mound on the right.

We had been meaning to slowly-but-surely wheelbarrow out the piles ourselves, but we eventually came to the conclusion that this was a job for some heavier duty equipment. We considered renting some sort of mini earthmoving dozer (um, John would be in heaven) but even the smallest dozer rental was $425 a day from local rental places like this. So we thought it couldn’t hurt to ask the guys pushing dirt around just two doors down, right?

I strolled down there one afternoon, found someone who appeared to be in charge, and asked if they had an opening in their schedule to roll up the street and roll around on our yard a little. We figured it’d be easier (i.e. cheaper) than calling another company who would have to lug their equipment all the way over just for us, and hopefully they’d like the idea of earning some extra cash whenever they had a spare moment to stop by. They were very friendly and, more importantly, totally game. They said we’d have to get Miss Utility to mark our yard first (so they didn’t hit any pipes or wires in the process) so I dialed 8-1-1 and just a couple of days later the yard was marked and, fortunately, nothing was in the path of our piles.

With our yard all flagged up, we checked back in with the landscaping crew and before we knew it we had front row seats. Clara was in awe of her own personal “digger show.”

The crazy thing is that what we guessed would take a few hours, literally only took the guy about thirty minutes. He was a total PRO. And John was only a little jealous.

He even scooped all of the too-acidic-to-allow-grass-to-grow-on-it mulch and rolled it into our wooded side yard before meticulously spreading it out for us in there. Can’t even tell it’s there, right?

After his 30 minute flattening spree he said “how about $60 for that?” and we were elated! Sure beats the time and money we would’ve spent renting something. Dude, our front yard is sooo much better. Okay, maybe it’s still kinda brown and weedy, but at least it’s flat. And flat means it’s ready for grass seed!

Speaking of grass seed, we may actually get a quote from the landscaping guys (the neighbor’s project still has a few weeks to go) to see how much they’d charge to drop off some top soil for us before we seed. It’s not a must-have, but a fresh layer of topsoil certainly wouldn’t hurt our first season of grass-growing. Plus, they mentioned we might be able to piggyback on a delivery they’re bringing to the other house. Is that efficiency I smell?

So there’s one moment missed and one moment grabbed and squeezed like a lemon in my sweet tea. Sidenote: How much do the end of our railings look like hamburgers? I’m tempted to paint them like this. You know, in honor of Burger.

What have you guys been noticing around the neighborhood? Now that it’s getting cooler and kids are back in school it seems like a lot of people are getting house stuff done – which of course we LOVE to watch. There have been some pretty amazing new fences going up and a whole lot of house-painting. Tis the season!

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