Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shop This Look

I mentioned that Jon and I are so happy with how our most recent update turned out. It came together pretty close to how I had envisioned it, which is not always an easy feat to achieve. Surely, after my kids start using the chairs as a jungle gym and Blue inevitably finds his way onto them, it won't continue to look quite so photo worthy, but for the time being we're treating our new area with kid gloves. Truly though, one of my most favorite things about the space is that none of it is precious. I pieced everything together from affordable retailers, and while there were certainly costs involved, I think I got everything at really fair prices. If you want to achieve something similar, it is so possible, and I put together a cheat sheet to help you do so.


We haven't had everything for long enough to really see how they will wear in time, but here are my reviews based on first impressions:

Chairs: Only the test of time will tell how these babies stand up to the beating our family will surely give them, but as for looks, stability, and comfort I'm completely happy with them. The fact that they are slipcovered leaves me breathing easy when Nolan plops himself down on them. We purchased the chair-and-a-halfs, coming in at a whopping 54" wide, but if your space is smaller, try them out in the traditional size of 42" wide. And remember you never have to pay full price on them. Expect to get them at 40-50% off their full retail if you wait for a sale.

Area Rug: If you're in the market for a natural fiber area rug, but want something soft under foot and easy on the pocketbook, then I highly recommend this RUGS USA version.  I may be singing a different tune in a year after seeing how it wears, but at $200.00 if something gets spilled, it's not a shot to the ego to replace it.  I would even recommend it for a kids room.

Side Table: I'm so happy with the look of this wicker table, and the price tag of $59.00 makes me like the look even more. But, it is an Ikea piece of furniture and it was collapsed (it took me forever to find it in the store, because I wasn't expecting it to be on a shelf folded up!) and needed minor assembly after purchase. Nolan has been running some serious quality control tests on this thing, and I cringe slightly each time he climbs inside it, but then I remember that it was less then sixty dollars. I can zip tie and duct tape that thing back together if needed and I won't give it a second thought. It's a bit wobbly, but it will work for us and was sixty dollars well spent.

Wall Sconces: These babies are currently on sale for only $80.00 ,which is a great price if you're in the market for something with this look. Jon questions their sturdiness a bit, but as long as you don't plan on doing pull ups from them and adjusting their positioning all of the time, I think they're great. And did I mention that they are only $80.00?

Galvanized Tray: I knew that the uneven texture of the wicker table would drive me bananas and I loved the look of the galvanized tray up top, so when Jon gave me the go ahead to just pull the trigger and buy one, I ordered one from OneKingsLane. I had spied it a couple of months ago and hadn't forgotten about it. It was $35.00 and available with free shipping (and arrived within only a few days), but the crazy part is….it was made for this wicker basket! They have the exact same dimensions. So there is plenty of space to rest a beverage without concern for it tipping over. You can get a smaller and more affordable version at Target for just $20.00.

Threshold Frames: Oh, divine affordable frames. How I love thee. I was able to take advantage of sales  and nab ours for about $13.00 each. I love their contrast to the white wall and the character of the walnut wood. I have them in several rooms in our house, and they continue to be a favorite piece of mine. I have to resist the urge to use them everywhere!

Pillows: I picked up the yellow striped pottery barn pillows at our local thrift store in amazing condition for $10 bucks each (including down fill inserts), but there are countless sources for affordable pillows, and I thought these target versions were a comparable option.

West Elm Throw: I found so many sources for throws that I loved, but most of them came with big price tags. These striped versions were on clearance for $10.00 each at West Elm, and I had a store credit, so I brought them home for free. Nolan gravitates towards blankets so whenever I find him rolled up in one on the floor, I don't give it a second because they can be replaced no-prob.

Happy Decorating Peeps.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Behemoth Wall: A Progress Report

I am so happy to finally be writing this post. You'll see why in just one moment (don't you go scrolling down on me now). You might remember that way back when, I began talking to you about our big ole' behemoth wall that flanks one side of our living room.
It looked like this on our final walk through before receiving our keys.
And, very sadly, it looked like this for several months while we settled in.

Yes, we lived like that.
I revealed my thoughts and ideas for it here,
and shared my original design plan for the space.
It took us about five weeks, but we finally got that wall planked,
and hung up some frames and new wall sconces.
I never shared a full update after that,  but we did change out the switch plates and put some photos in our beloved frames. The next time you really saw it was a glimpse I shared of how the wall was looking  just after we finished the floors (sans frames, as they had yet to been rehung).
But now I have some more fun to show you. Are you on the edge of your seat yet? I finally ordered two large chairs to fill the void of this 17' wall, but they were on back order and set to be delivered in early June. I was hopeful that the delivery schedule would get bumped up, and amazingly it did. I got a call while sitting in the hotel room, displaced from our house during the flooring install, that our new delivery date was April 2nd (I think that bit of good news helped us to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel). April 2nd was also about two weeks after we finished our install, which was our most preferred time to be setting furniture out (so that the sealer was fully hardened). When does timing like this with a home reno project actually work out? Sometime around then, I also purchased this rug at an absolute steal of a price (it was 50% off at the time), as well as picked up the side table I had mentioned, AND purchased a couple of throw blankets on clearance with a store credit that I had. I was going crazy with the idea of actually being able to install this area of our house…and actually have a nearly completed space.

Well, guess what? The chairs were delivered on Wednesday, and I've been smiling from ear to ear ever since.


This is now the view just to the left of our front door 
and kitchen area, taken from the same spot as the first
image in this post.



This space isn't done yet.  I'm not sure if they ever are.  I shopped the house quickly and styled it with some pillows that I had on hand, books, and a plant from our bedroom, so that will all be evolving a bit. Shopping for just the right floor poufs has literally turned into a full time job for me. And, I've got plans for that half window (as well as the window to it's right). We should have everything on hand that we need to install the window treatments this weekend, and I'm predicting another big transformation in the space when those go up.

The best part of this all, is that Jon and I are equally smitten. It captures how we wanted our home to feel. It has given us hope that we really can turn this place into a home that we love and it's keeping us motivated to push onward to the next thing on our list. 

If you aren't quite tired of hearing me babble on about this space yet, come back later this week where I'll break down all of the details and  tell you how you can very easily (and fairly affordably I might add) put together a similar look in your house. I also wanted to thank my photog assistant, who really helped me put this all together this past weekend.
Thanks Buzz.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Tips on Surviving a Flooring Installation

Jon described the week of installation as the worst week of his life.  And he wasn't kidding. As mentally prepared and emotionally ready for the overhaul as we were, it was a large project for us to tackle unassisted. In retrospect, it's easy to look back on the project and see how worth it it was and we're definitely looking forward to hosting a small reveal/one-year-in housewarming/Spring party in the next few weeks, but at the time it was all a bit scary.

While the installation was painful on his body, energy, and soul, I actually feel like we survived together pretty unscathed. I thought I should share my tips on what helped us to manage this crazy renovation, with children,  while living in the house.


1) Go with the flow
I'm not really your "go with the flow" type of person. I'm more of the high strung type. Not everyone sees that side of me, but my family does. Daily. However, I knew to survive the chaos and mess of living in a construction zone I would have to "go with the flow". And that' was my mantra, morning, noon, and night.

When I was cleaning dishes in the master bathroom sink, I reminded myself to just go with it.

While I was warming bottles up in the microwave on our bedroom floor, I just took a deep breath.

When my dog was sleeping in my closet because there was no other available floor space in our bedroom (and yes, we have royal blue carpet in our master closet), I laughed.
When the floors were drying and I really wanted a glass of wine, but only had a baby bottle as a vessel to drink from. I just drank from it.
Luckily three year olds think that watching television on the floor, on couch cushions, in any room but the living room qualifies as camping, and three year olds think camping is amazing. So that helped to. He was going with the flow.
When our garage looked like a small bomb went off (we usually enter and exit through the garage and we like to keep is as functional and tidy as possible), I flowed.

The state of mind really and truly helped.

2) Not questioning Jon
This was key. Really it was. Do not question your partner who is doing all of the work, putting in the long hours, lacking sleep, missing most meals, and hasn't been outside for five days straight. Just don't do it. I avoided asking Jon about his pace of work (around day 6 of the install I broke this rule a bit, and it's the only time tension arose between us. But we moved on quickly). I didn't question his techniques. I've never installed flooring myself, so I figured I wasn't in a position to question him in any sense of the word. He knew what he was doing, and he needed my faith in him, not my scrutiny.

3) Be a cheerleader
Instead of questioning, texting, or frustrating him, my goal was to be a cheerleader. If I wasn't one, who would be? Jon certainly didn't have the energy to fill that role too. I tried my best to not bug him or check in on him. When I did, I offered encouraging words, praise, and affirmation. He was saving us so much money! He was transforming our home! His craftsmanship was amazing! I picked him up food when I could, and stocked the fridge a bit with easy frozen meals.
One evening when we stopped by with food to say hello.
4) Good weather
We had some really good luck on our side. I know that often road bumps present themselves during renovations, and one thing that might have broken the camels proverbial back would have been bad weather.

Winter never really arrived in Tahoe this year. We have received very little (minuscule really) snow, and temperatures have been unseasonably warm. Tackling a big reno project in Tahoe in the winter can be risky business, as 4' of new snow can make any effort challenging. For us, it would have made things nearly unbearable.

We were entering and existing our house via our side yard and backyard. We had carpet piled up in our driveway and packages arriving daily on our doorstep. Not to mention buckets of tools and work tables on our decks. The dry weather and comfortable temps meant we were able to picnic outdoors and Nolan could entertain himself on our lawn or in our dirt. We could also keep windows open for ventilation. So yeah, try to plan your renovation for when temps will be in the low seventies, with a hint of a light breeze. Easy peasy, right?
5)  We left ourselves some financial wiggle room
Money (or lack there of), will elevate stress levels under any circumstances, and even more so during a home renovation. After the expense of the hardwood flooring materials, we had some wiggle room to cover the cost of tools we anticipated purchasing, as well as the subflooring materials, etc. While we had still underestimated the total cost, having some wiggle room helped to keep stress to a minimum. Which helps to keep spirits higher. Which helps on day seven, in hour sixteen, when everyone is tired.

We were also super fortunate that we all stayed healthy through the almost two week long ordeal (no easy matter for a  family with small kids), that we didn't discover any huge issues like mold in our base flooring, and that the materials we needed were all in stock when we needed them. The process was challenging, but could have been far worse. I'll have to keep that in mind when we tackle the stairs and downstairs hallway.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Out with the Old, in with the Schoolhouse

I've mentioned my despise for our ceiling fan many times. It. killed. me. Literally, the sight of it physically pained me. And, I had to face it so many times a day.  You can see our ceiling fan from almost every room in our house.
You see it immediately when you walk in the front door.
(Talk about bad first impressions).
And first thing in the morning when you walk upstairs to grab a cup of coffee.
(…And no, we absolutely have not finished painting our ceiling. We stopped where the kitchen begins, just as I'm sure any professional home builder would. It's on my short list of projects to get done. And yes, we still have that ugly front door with no molding. We have issues, I'm completely aware). You see it from the living room, dining room, and kitchen. This brassy beast was staring at me everyday, several times a day and I developed a passionate dislike for it. 

Ceiling fans can't be that big of an expense, why not just replace it immediately when we moved in? That was my common train of thought before I was a homeowner. "It can't cost that much to change that out, just buy a new one". But then I realized that you had to prioritize. A pretty fan whirring over wall to wall blue carpeting wouldn't really help our home, so it got bumped down on our to do list.

But now, it's at the top.

You WOULD NOT believe how much time I spent shopping for a new ceiling fan. I'm sure I could have learned French in the same amount of time that I spent looking for just the right option.  And maybe located flight 370.  Because again, it's only a ceiling fan, but because you see it from so many vantage points in our house,  the upgrade had to be good.

I identified this fan early on in my hunt as my favorite.
It's the Schoolhouse Ceiling Fan from the Period Arts Light Company, and I found that Lumens had the best price on it (after several months of online stalking, I found that this brand never goes on sale). I liked it for its clean lines, simplicity, and schoolhouse fixture. But it was certainly an expensive choice. You can find ceiling fans at big box stores like Home Depot and Lowe's for under $100.00, but after scouring loads of sites for a more affordable option, I always came back to this one. If this was going to be so visible in our house, it was okay to spend a little more money on it, right?

 I had concerns about it for our home though. Was the light too large? Could I really handle another wood tone in our house? To add to that, I couldn't find a sample image of it in a home, anywhere. Would it be proportional to our space? I found some other options that I was attracted to, but they all came at similar price points, some even more expensive. My favorite retailer of ceiling fans turned out to be Restoration Hardware. Here's the round up that I put together of the best options I found on the market.

After over thinking this decision for far too long,  I was exhausted of ceiling fan shopping, so I decided to just freak'n purchase it already.  I decided to order mine with black blades, as opposed to the maple shown above. The problem was, I had no idea how it actually looked with black blades (it is always shown retailing with the maple blades). So I was taking a leap of ceiling fan faith, ordering an expensive item (that would be expensive to ship back), without actually knowing how it would look in all black.

Oh, and Jon was opposed to the black blades. But I went ahead and did it anyways (without telling him, mind you). The reason being,  I could not wrap my head around having yet another tone of wood in our house. I. just. couldn't. do. it. That was the same reason that I couldn't get on board with most of the options above. The other reason being some of their price tags.

Anyways, this is all the long way of saying that we finally FINALLY switched out our ceiling fan.


Now, this was almost an "I messed up post," as I didn't love it when I first saw it in our house. It was certainly an upgrade, but was it worth the money? Before purchasing, one of my fears had been that with all of the black, it would seem like a spider was a clinging to our ceiling and spinning overhead. When I first saw it, my suspicions seamed valid. 

And Jon and I both agreed that yes, the schoolhouse light was too large. 

BUT, after several days, I warmed to it. Jon likes it, and he loves it for the amount of light it puts off (this thing can light up our whole main living floor, but not obnoxiously so). And we love that it is on only a 12"rod, as opposed to our previous fan, which was on a 24" rod. Having the fan so much closer to the ceiling really opens up our entrance. So my takeaway advise for you: if you're replacing a fan, consider hanging it high, on a shorter rod, to help bring your eyes up. 

And of course, if you're in need of an old ceiling fan, let us know. Otherwise the first taker on craigslist gets it (I really hope there's a taker, because I hate creating waste, and my brass beauty is taking up space in the garage.).

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Our Hardwood Floors: The Reveal

Last night we started moving furniture back into our dining and living room, and finally got our garage, workshop, and life back in order a bit. I'm so looking forward to having a functioning home again. We're dusting off every wall, windowsill, light fixture and counter surface, and trying to get tools put back in their rightful places. Our fridge is still in our mudroom, and our TV is not yet hung, so there is still lots of "moving back in" to do. But, I didn't want our slow pace of cleanup to delay me from finally showing you our floors.

After the floors were fully laid, here's how the home front was looking just after Jon finished sanding (vacuuming up remaining dust here). He sanded for about eleven hours, with four different grits of sand paper. Did you know it takes that many hours to sand a floor?
Immediately, the orange-ish pine trim around our windows
started sticking out like a soar thumb.
Add those to our project list.
We were overjoyed that they were finally all in place,
but we knew we wanted the tone to be a bit darker then their natural color.
So on went the sealer, and coat one of the water based poly finish.
We wanted as matte a finish as possible, 
and just as we hoped, the products we used helped to darken up the floors
and pull out the brown tones just a tad.
I haven't talked about our kitchen a whole ton, but I will. Someday.
It's in need of new light fixtures and lots of styling
(and yes, we've finally cleaned up the counters after taking this pic).
We had a few things going on this past week, what with work, a ceremony at Jon's department, doctor appointments, etc. so we stayed off of the floors for several more days giving them more time to dry and the sealer to harden further. Just to jog your memory, here's a look back at some before's again:
The real estate listing photos of the dining and living room, 
from about one year ago.


And then we moved in, and things looked like this for a while.

Dining room with our stuff parked there.
And finally, how it's all looking today.



Does it look like a different house? I hope so. That's kind of what we were going for.

In case you're considering a similar project, here are our floors by the numbers:
White Oak Character Grade Hardwood Flooring, 800 sq feet: $3,800.00
Plywood for subfloor: Approximately $600.00
Underlayment: Approximately $500.00
Bona Seal & Bona Traffic sealer and finishing system: $550.00
Miter Saw: $340.00
Floor Nailer: $250.00
Rental Sander: $80.00
Misc. supplies (Tack cloth, knee pads, etc.): $400.00
Misc. expenses (Including meals out, hotel room, additional gas): $250.00
Square Footage covered: Approximately 725-800 Square Feet
Days to complete: 12 days and nights of installation + 3 days of drying
Amount of fast/pre-packaged food consumed: far too much
Marital spats: 1 

It's estimated that we saved approximately $6,800+ by handling the demo, disposal of materials, install, sanding, and staining ourselves. That's about $6,800 that I desperately need to put towards new furnishings, so I'll take it.

We'll be taking a breather before we jump in to all of the finishing work that's to be done. Jon is in need of some fresh air (ie. time on his dirt bike) and some rest (ie. a few well deserved naps). There are baseboards to choose and install, walls to be patched and touched up, door trim to take care of, and now we have to figure out what to do with the too-orange-for-us window trim. So you might consider this a flooring progress post, instead of a full on reveal. It's already crazy for me to look back at the blue carpeting. I've already forgotten what it looked like.