Our Current House

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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Basket Case

Remember how we had a trash compactor in our kitchen? Remember how we removed it waaaaay back in March? Well, we have officially filled the void with some slide out baskets.

Only took us three months.

Not that the hole it left wasn’t super attractive and crazy functional. I mean, if incorporating a “great Clara hiding spot” into our kitchen was the goal (and I put that in quotes because Clara’s hiding spots are frequently preceded by “I’m going to go hide in the [insert one of four usual locations here]“). So yeah, it’s time this hole worked a little harder.

We debated a few options – like putting a trash or recycling bin there (but this cabinet hack is already working nicely for us) or adding some open shelves (like we did in our master bath). Ultimately we decided to attempt some sliding basket storage, kind of like what we’ve admired here and here. It would help us get our dishcloths, cloth napkins, and paper napkins out of the various spots they’re housed throughout the kitchen and into one distinct spot, and it would satisfy our curiosity as to whether it’s a feature we’d appreciate in our eventual kitchen remodel (you know we love to use Phase 1 projects as a do-we-even-like-this test before committing long-term).

So with a few key measurements in hand, Sherry hit up HomeGoods and found these two perfectly-sized and nicely-colored winners. And she almost left our tape measure there. Close call, guys.

Before we could put those baskets to use, there was work to be done. I started by filling in two basic areas to make the hole look more cabinet-y thanks to a board across the top and the toe-kick. I attached both by screwing a brace piece into the back of the existing cabinet lip, then nailing the face pieces in.

Next I had to build out the sides of the cabinet to make them flush with the outer lip, that way the drawer slides could attach inside without being obstructed when we tried to slide them out. I did this by screwing in a few pieces of scrap wood that I cut to fit. Actually, up to this point in the project I was able to pull everything from my scrap pile. Am I the only one who feels a special kind of victory when this happens?

With the cabinet hole built out, it was time to create my drawers. Simply put, I used my Kreg Jig to create a frame that the tapered basket could then slide into. I built them out of 1.5″ square dowels from Lowe’s. That was a pretty precise thickness that I needed, so my scrap pile couldn’t help me here. Sad face emoji.

This was probably the most complicated part of the project to figure out. There was lots to take into account to make sure that the frame:

There was lots of triple-checking myself. Since my exact measurements would only work if you have exactly the same opening and exactly the same baskets, just use the descriptors below to create your own frame that should fit whatever specifications you’re working with.

The drawer slides we selected were these ball-bearing ones from Home Depot. They’re a little pricier than your basic wheeled slide ($15 vs. $5), but I thought the full-extension would come in handy – and who doesn’t love a soft close?

Per the instructions, I detached the drawer rail part and screwed it into each side of my two frames. I found it helpful to mark the holes with pen, drill pilot holes, and then come back with the screw to ensure careful placement.

I attached them along the bottom edge of my drawer frame. It not only made keeping them straight/level easier, but also meant when we reattached the rest of the slide (which was thicker) it didn’t stick up above the frame. #thinkingahead

Back inside, I held up my frame in the cabinet hole to mark its placement. Then I detached the cabinet rail part of the slide, held it in place, marked my hole, drilled pilot holes, and screwed the first one in place. This was possible with two hands, but easier with four, so I recommend recruiting your lovely burp cloth sporting spouse (or a friend, neighbor, relative, but probably not your dog) if you can. You can see below that we already had the bottom drawer done and in place.

Before screwing the second one in, I temporary reassembled everything so we could check that it was level first. Not only would this ensure that it looked straight, but it helps the drawers slide more smoothly.

With the second side screwed in, I reattached the drawer, held my breath and checked that everything worked. Insert sigh of relief here.

The next step was to place the basket into the frame. They sat in there nicely, but I shoved them down a bit to keep things snug.

Here are the two basket drawers installed (after we decided after the fact to shift the top one down a couple of inches). We contemplated doing a third, but HomeGoods only had two baskets, and we thought we’d take advantage of the fact that there’s already a working outlet back there (the trash compactor was plugged in, not hard-wired).

Taking advantage actually just meant adding a simple shelf (built from scrap wood!). Sherry suggested that we use it as a phone charging spot, but I saw it as an excuse to buy the Bluetooth speaker that I’ve been trying to justify buying for a while now. Our kitchen radio reception is really spotty at this house, and having my phone tethered to an auxiliary cable has meant that it has gone largely unused since we moved in.

One last finishing piece was to add a few thin boards to the front of each drawer (and the shelf) to give the fronts a clean and consistent look. Plus, it hid the drawer slides even more.

Here’s everything built. Now it was just a matter of staining everything to match. Well, match-ish.

We stained our existing cabinets with PolyShades in their Tudor color, so I wish it was as simple as just repeating that process. But obviously the raw wood finish here is pretty different from the medium brown-red stain that the other cabinets already had going on. So first Sherry darkened the new pieces with a coat of Dark Walnut stain that we had on hand.

After that dried she started in with the PolyShades coats. It ended up taking three coats of it to get a similar tone to the surrounding cabinets. It’s not a perfect match (the cabinets are a little redder) but its close enough for us.

Oh, and you can see that Sherry found a $12 HomeGoods runner to help cover the fact that the laminate floor under there wasn’t looking so hot. Not that the scratched up faux brick is looking very hot anywhere in here.

As planned, the baskets got filled with dishtowels & paper napkins (top basket) and cloth napkins (bottom basket).

Oh, and the bluetooth speaker that we ended up buying is this one from Target. It’s plugged in/charging below and can be has been easily removed for use around the house (so far mostly out back on the deck).

Sherry suggested I include a video of a drawer in action, specifically to demonstrate the soft-close function. Sure I could have uploaded a three second video and called it good, but I just couldn’t resist some music and some slow-mo action.

It’s almost as titillating as our console video from back in the day.

Not sure there’s much to say after those. I’m sorry? You’re welcome? But so far we’re digging the sliding baskets.

What projects have you guys been tackling lately? Kitchen stuff? Building? Painting? Outdoor updates? With these done we simultaneously want to deal with the kitchen floors rightthissecond and ignore them for a few more months.

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