Our Current House

We Couldn’t Take It Any Longer

I realize four months isn’t an eternity, but it was about 3.9 months longer than we wanted to spend with the last vestiges of the old carpet upstairs. Especially since it was in our master bathroom. Ah, carpeted bathrooms.

We didn’t remove it – or the portion that extended into our closet – back when we removed the rest of the upstairs carpet because we knew we didn’t want hardwood floors in the bathroom. So, in the absence of a new flooring decision, we just left the old stuff. The old, wrinkly, creamy stuff that blended right in with the creamy walls and creamy trim.

But yesterday morning (yup, about 24 hours ago!) we decided to oust the carpet for good. So we cleared out the floor of our messy closet for full flooring access.

We covered the steps for removing our carpet in this video, but here’s a quick recap of how it went down came up. First we yanked the carpet loose from the tack strips that held it in place along each wall, then rolled it up and removed it. Next went the blue foam padding, which easily tore up from the staples that kept it down. These were the fast and easy parts.

Next was the get-sweaty phase: prying up all of the tack strips with a crowbar and then using a floor scraper to pop all of the staples out. This, plus sweeping and shopvac-ing the whole space clean took me a solid hour.

Meanwhile Sherry was in the garage getting something else done (weekend naptime = a mad dash at as many projects as we can squeeze in) but we’ll get to that in a second.

Now’s the part where you probably expect us to tell you about our plan for new flooring… buuuuut we don’t really have one yet. Well, I mean, long term we want to tile the bathroom area, but that first involves lots of demo so that we can combine the sink area with the shower/toilet area for a nice big open masterful space (we don’t need two single sinks separated by a wall, and much prefer one larger bathroom instead of two smaller choppy rooms). We may eventually end up putting hardwood in the closet, or maybe a wall-to-wall low-pile jute rug or something. We have enough leftover wood flooring to make that call later, but big bathroom & closet reconfigurations are things we like to do after we live in a house for a nice long time before rushing into stuff, so they’re not now plans, they’re later plans.

We’re pretty sure our “for now” plan is to paint the particle board with a floor paint so it at least looks a bit more finished and doesn’t feel as, I dunno, dusty? Then we can toss down a few sheepskins or area rugs/runners to cozy things up in the meantime before making any much-harder-to-redo decisions like knocking down walls and tiling floors.

We also debated peel and stick floor tiles or buying a large seagrass rug and cutting it to lay it wall-to-wall in both spaces, but we both thinking paint + area rugs will serve us well in the short term without being a whole lot of money/effort that we’ll later end up undoing. Since our future tiling plans would require us to rip this stuff up and put backer board in place anyway (you can’t tile over particle board since it’s not a secure base – even if you screw backer board on top of it) there’s no harm in slapping some paint on it in the interim.

But this post isn’t just to tell you about our somewhat short-sighted “must get this carpet out of here!” adventure yesterday. It’s also to tell you about this mirror that we spotted at HomeGoods last week. As soon as we saw it, it gave us flashbacks of the quatrefoil mirror that we hung above the sink in our last master bath. I should clarify: these are the good kind of flashbacks.

So since we were in desperate need of a bigger mirror over the vanity (see the first photo in this post for proof) and we knew it would bounce a whole lot of light around our closed off little sink nook (while sort of mimicking the look of a nice big window) we were sold. It was huge (over 40 inches wide!) so we thought $89 (down from $299) for such a large mirror with an interesting shape was a good deal, too.

We also liked the little beaded detail around the border, but the rustic paint job wasn’t doing it for us.

That’s actually what Sherry was doing in the garage while I yanked up the old carpet. She laid out our new mirror on a dropcloth and primed and painted it. It ended up needing one coat of primer + two coats of white paint (she used eggshell Simply White leftover from Clara’s bedroom walls because we thought a less glossy finish would be nice with the textured detailing). We debated going with a color instead (and even considered the dark blue tone from our nearby bedroom walls) but decided we’d rather do something on the walls or the vanity before going bold with the mirror. That way it would still look window-ish with a big ol’ pane of glass + a white almost-rectangular frame around it.

Removing the frameless half mirror upstairs was nice and easy, thanks to no adhesive behind it (thank goodness). We just had to loosen the clips that were screwed in on the top and bottom and out it came. No shattering. No seven years of bad luck.

Then we hung the new mirror… and it looked ridiculously cramped. Harumph. Our measurements told us it’d be tight, but we didn’t expect it to look this “cozy.”

After throwing a brief and solemn pity party, we figured out a pretty simple solution. Nix the light fixture – just for now. There are two lights in this little nook (a ceiling light and the one that was mysteriously not-at-all-centered over the old mirror, so we decided we could safely cap the wires and install a fixture box cover – that way we could hang the mirror higher. Then once we find a fixture that we love for above the mirror it’ll be easy to move the fixture box about a foot higher to sit nicely above the new mirror without cramping it and install a new light fixture (since the wires to the fixture box come down from the attic, moving it up should be a really simple process). We just want to wait to see what light fixture we find before moving the fixture box prematurely, since the measurements of the light will inform where we place the new fixture box.

With the fixture box safely sealed off, we could raise the mirror to exactly where we wanted it – about 6″ above the top of the counter (rather than nearly resting on it like it was doing before). It actually completely conceals the covered fixture (we also temporarily capped and covered an outlet, which is also on our to-be-moved list). But future electrical-to-do-lists aside, we’re very pleased with the progress that our bathroom made yesterday. The floors may not be prettier yet, but the mirror makes the space feel much bigger already, and even though the vanity is a lot heavier on one side, the nook is already feeling more balanced.

And because impatience (to get rid of the carpet) and serendipity (finding that mirror) kind of got the mental wheels spinning about this room, we’re starting to formulate a vision for some other quick and easy updates to tide us over until we work up enough steam and funds for a full gut job down the line. Sherry even Photoshopped a bit of what’s swirling around in our brains right now. Warning: we’re still in the “changing our minds every second” phase of this project since we just started it 24 hours ago, so who knows where we’ll really end up.

Obviously there’ll be wall and trim painting (so don’t mind the unchanged wall color above  – we just have no idea where we’ll end up yet, so we’ll have to get swatches and see what we think). We’re also planning some sort of paint or stain on the vanity (maybe a muted grayed out navy?) plus some new knobs for contrast. The floor will likely get the aforementioned paint treatment, and I thought we could make use of the dead space on the right side by building some open shelves for towel storage (although we have also debated just closing that in and trying to locate matching doors for a completely-concealed front. And of course we want to move up the capped fixture box and add a vanity light after we find one that we like.

But for now, we’re just excited to be rid of the old carpet and to be diving into a new corner of the house. What did you guys do this weekend?



What Our First & Second Houses Taught Us

Q: Now that you’re in your third house, I’m sure there are things you’ve learned about budgeting, decorating, house hunting, etc. having been through the process a few times now. Would you ever consider writing a post about what your first and second house taught you? -Alison

A: Sure we’d consider it. In fact, here it is! Like anything in life, you hope your previous experiences will help make you smarter about your next one. And I think having our first home influenced the selection and design of our second and now the same thing is happening again – plus we now have the extra benefit of comparing the first two. We talked in this post already about how stylistically (well, at least color palette-ly) we’ll probably land somewhere between our light & beachy first house and the bold & colorful second house. But beyond that, there are some other influences that those first two places had on the selection and continued evolution of this place. Here’s a sampling of them in no particular order:

We want to splurge less than we did in the first house, but more than the second. In hindsight (which always seems to be 20/20) we feel like we may have overspent in the first house and underspent in the second one (we spent around 35K on improvements to our first house and around 15K on improvements to our second house). A great example of this is to compare our two kitchen remodels. The first one cost us around $17,000 because we splurged on materials (granite counters, custom cabinets) and labor (the only thing we DIYed was painting – so we even had pros gut the room and hang cabinets for us back then). Our second house’s kitchen reno came in under 7K (including all new appliances) because we tightened our belts in both areas, like painting the existing cabinets and doing all of the labor ourselves, except for electrical and counter installation.

We’re happy with the end products of both, but realize our modestly-sized first house probably didn’t need a $17,000 kitchen and our second one probably could’ve been taken up a notch now that we’re looking back (at the time of course we were clutching our wallets and trying not to spare an extra penny if we didn’t have to). I, for one, wish we had gone with new cabinets in our second kitchen because while the paint made them look updated, they didn’t necessarily feel new in our day-to-day life (they didn’t feel like new cabinets when you opened them, we couldn’t configure them to have hidden hinges like modern cabinetry, etc). So for this third kitchen we plan to save on labor whenever we can like we did for our second kitchen, but put more of our savings into higher end finishes whenever we can – especially because we plan to be here for the long haul.

We wanted to bring some of the cozy back. The main motivation for moving from our first to our second house was the need for more space. I had just started working from home and Clara was fresh out of the oven, so 1,290 square feet and only one full bathroom was suddenly feeling very cramped – especially with so many relatives and friends staying with us to visit Clara. So we nearly doubled our square footage with our second house, thanks in large part to the big living room addition in the back. One surprising result was that after 2.5 years there we missed the coziness of our first living room (aka “the den“), which is why we were so drawn to the living room in this house, which reminds us of that space. Our current house is nearly the exact same square footage as our last one, it’s just more evenly divvied up across all of the rooms rather than having one football-stadium-sized living space. So it feels like we have the best of both worlds here: 2.5 bathrooms so we’re not all fighting to use one, but a cozy living room and slightly larger bedrooms (since every bedroom other than the master in our first and second house were pretty modestly sized).

We want openness too, but where it counts. I realize “openness” is kind of opposite of coziness, but an airy feeling and a nice easy flow is still something that we want out of this house – just like we did in our last two. In our first house we tried to let the rooms breathe a bit by widening a few doorways and painting almost all of the spaces in a light and cohesive color palette. And in our second house we took out a big wall to connect the kitchen and dining room.

But one thing we’ve yet to achieve in either house is openness between the kitchen and living room, which has always been something that appeals to us. Coincidentally, both of our previous living rooms (well, the den in the first house) were additions to the original structure, meaning they were separated from the kitchen by an exterior brick wall… a wall that could only be opened so much since it was load bearing to the max. But not this time around. The only thing that stands in our way is a wet bar and a bookshelf (okay, and the associated plumbing) so we’re excited to finally connect the two most used spaces in our home like so many model homes and house crashings that we’ve admired like this one, this one and this one.

We made floors a top priority. By the time we’d left our first house, every inch of floor was new – from having new hardwoods installed in the kitchen/living/laundry to getting the rest of the house’s old oak flooring refinished. It was a pain having to shuffle all of our furniture around to make that all possible (evidence pictured below), but it was well worth it in the end. Yet for various reasons we never got around to doing it in our second house, and it’s probably our #1 regret of that house. Somewhere between having more furniture to get out of the way and working on our book behind the scenes while trying not to displace Clara for too long it just never happened. So that’s why we jumped on redoing the floors upstairs and polishing them downstairs right away here. We’re not completely done with all of our flooring updates (hello faux brick linoleum in the kitchen) but we’re glad we dealt with all of our hardwoods right off the bat.

We wanted to get outside easily. This may sound silly, but convenient access to our outdoor areas was a must for us. All four of us (Burger included) like being outside, but in the last two houses we were never quite able to incorporate our outdoor areas into our daily routine as much as we wanted. For instance, cookouts were inconvenient because getting from kitchen to grill involved a trip through one or two other rooms in both houses. So when we saw the big deck off the back of this house we saw lots of potential – especially once we convert our big bay of windows in the kitchen to doors (you still have to go through the living room to get out there now). Plus, having it all on the same level as our first floor (rather than down some steps like our last two patios) has already made it a more natural extension of our indoor living spaces. We’ve never been outside as much as we were this summer. I think we could star in a series called Deck Dynasty.

Patience is paramount. Our previous experiences as homeowners have also taught us to be comfortable with transformations not happening overnight. We very wrongly assumed that we’d be done painting our entire first house along with fully renovating the kitchen in the first three months of home ownership. We were off by… oh, about four years. And at first we were really frustrated and disappointed by how long it was taking and how not-instant most of the transformations were. But by our second house we’d learned (and learned to love) that homes take years to evolve and come together. Especially the good ones full of thought and heart and meaningful touches. There’s actually a lot of excitement and freedom in letting go of the idea that a house should be done within a few months or even within a few years. So in this house we hope to continue enjoying the journey and having fun living in a full-of-potential-but-not-at-all-finished home. Not only do we enjoy planning and saving our pennies for updates, we also like thinking things through and taking the time to do things right – especially because we plan to be here forever and a day.

I’m sure there are other things we’ve learned along the way (maybe even subconsciously) but I figure these are a good start. Now what about you guys? How have your previous living experiences (everything from renting or living with roommates to living at home with the rents or traveling abroad) informed the way you’re living now – or what you’re looking for in a future home?


As a little Friday bonus, here are four fun projects, chats, or questions going on over on the Forums. We also announced this week’s giveaway winners, so you can click here (and scroll down to the Rafflecopter box) to see if it’s you.

by PrettyOrganized by curvyfurniture by crabandfishblog by karazzies