Quick Bedroom Makeover

With all the construction going on at our house, it was nice to get away for a day and help my mom update her bedroom. I don’t have any before pictures, but basically she and my dad had simply never gotten around to painting their bedroom. He was the one who decorated the rest of the house, so she was feeling a little overwhelmed by taking on the responsibility of making those decisions.

I think a lot of people, regardless of their situation, feel overwhelmed about making these decisions. Knowing that I’ve renovated a couple houses, people will ask me questions about how they should update a room. I think you have to consider what the function of the room will be, and find some sort of inspiration to guide you as a design starting point. My mom had already found a bedding set at Target, so we based everything around that.

Once you determine your design starting point, it’s pretty easy to find similar items at stores, or even around your house. Using items you already have is free, and it’s fun to hunt around for things that match your inspiration. It might be a picture frame or candle from another room. It could even something like a book or plate that happens to have the same colors in it.


Choosing a paint color can be another intimidating part of the process. She wanted her walls to be the color of the coral accents. I felt that, like in the bedspread, her walls should be closer to the color of the background. The white in the design would be picked up by her trim and ceilings. Her accents throughout the room could be coral, the same way the color is used throughout the bedding set.

Of course, there are a hundred different tones of beige at the hardware store. Another important consideration is that the lighting in the store likely be different than the lighting in your house. The lighting at the store is bluish white, where the lighting in your home is more likely to be warmer and more yellow. A paint chip that looks grey-ish and washed out in the store will look warmer and richer in your house.

If your inspiration item is small enough, take it into the store with you. You’ll see both items in the same lighting, and be able to make a better decision. You may also be tempted to hold the paint chip flat, parallel to the floor, to look at it. You will never be seeing your paint like this (unless you are painting the floor). Hold it up perpendicular to the floor, like it will be on your walls. The light will hit it in a different way, generally making it seem a little darker.

She wanted me to just pick a color for her, but I shared these tips and encouraged her to pick a color for herself. She was a little surprised how different the color was as we painted it on, and felt like it had a tinge of purple that she didn’t notice in the store. I should probably mention that my mom is an art teacher. So, even for someone very knowledgeable about color, painting a room was still intimidating.

Painting can feel like a gargantuan task, but in my opinion preparing to paint is more work than anything else. We had to take down all the pictures, blinds, and curtains, and do a little patchwork over one of her doors. She has quality, solid wood furniture (not like what we have), which we had to push to the center of the room. She thought we would have to leave everything away from the walls until it completely dried, but baseboards usually keep furniture from actually touching the walls anyways.


With the painting done, we got out all the new stuff! The room feels calm and relaxing, exactly what she was going for. It’s amazing how fresh and new the room feels. Having done a lot of the work and decisions herself, I think she feels more accomplished and capable as a result. She’s still looking for something to go over her bed.




1950s Kitchen Renovation: Phase One

The Basement Flood caused our fridge to defrost, which curled our linoleum tile flooring. At this point I made the executive decision to renovate our kitchen (though I would later learn that the tiles dry flat and re-adhere themselves like magic).

Our plan was to remove the bathroom at the back of the kitchen, push out the wall and turn it into a butler’s pantry with a sink and our microwave. Then, we will add a dishwasher, standard range, and some extra cabinets.

To get started, we picked GE Artistry Series Appliances to respect the time period of the house.  We’re going with unfinished cabinets from Home Depot (which are always in stock at the store), and using a rustoleum kit again to finish them once they are hung.  We found a crazy cheap laminate that we are going to use until we want to invest in something more permanent. Finally, we rented a dumpster from Greenway Dumpsters, a local company that offers smaller-sized roll-off dumpsters.

Just before we started tearing down the bathroom wall, we had a change of heart and decided to hire a contractor. Because we could not take time off work to dedicate to the project, we were worried our timeline would stretch beyond our comfort zone. Unlike an office or spare bedroom, this wasn’t something we could put off mid-project. We wanted to ensure it was done well, and were confident that we would have 100% return on anything we spent on our 60 year old kitchen.

The contractors found two surprises: Our walls were a drywall / plaster hybrid, and there was a cast iron vent stack running through the wall we wanted to remove. We decided to leave the wall where it was, and just update our plans on the fly. Matching the drywall to the plaster hybrid took a lot of extra coats of compound, which pushed the contractors from finishing on Thursday to the next Tuesday.

We installed the cabinets from the pantry to the stove, and installed the sink and countertop. We messed up the countertop a bit on the install, but we intend to replace it with some kind of solid surface in the future. When the plumber came back to install the vent under the sink, we decided to pay him to finish connecting the drains and installing the appliances. This was work we could have done ourselves, but it had been 12 days without a kitchen, and our one bathroom sink was backed up. With so much work ahead of us, we decided it was better to get this knocked out before the weekend.

We only have about 1/4 of the kitchen done, but that includes the range, sink, and dishwasher. We’re taking a short break to catch up on other housework before starting Phase 2


The Basement Flood

I take pictures of everything, but there are no pictures of the Basement Flood of June 2016. We actually had two floods back to back – a small flood that was manageable, and a larger flood that was anxiety inducing. Both of these happened just days before our vacation, which we had been planning for over a year.

The first flood was due to clogged gutters and an open window well during a rainstorm. The window well quickly filled with water, which leaked in through the window. This has happened from time to time, but one of our pumps was not working properly, so a fair amount of water entered the basement. We were able to move things out of the way and get the water pushed out to the other pump. We also replaced the faulty pump.

Then, we had another major storm, which knocked out our power. Foolishly, we did not get battery backups for our pumps after the first flood, so the basement flooded again. We hauled out furniture and got everything up off the floor as the water continued to rise. All in all in was only a few inches, but a few inches across 1600 sq ft of basement is a lot of water.

We tried to call Servepro, but there is nothing they can do while the power is out. We bought extension cords and a small generator so that we could run the pumps. That generator leaked oil, so 12 hours later we bought a bigger generator that could run both pumps at once.

When we left for our trip the power was still out, but we had a family friend stop by every few hours to start the generator. The power was out for a total of 53 hours. Nothing important was damaged, but between the new pump, the generator, and other miscellaneous expenses, this flood costs us a fair amount of money.

This is the status of our basement post flood:

It’s easy to take passive conveniences like power for granted. This flood made us realize that there is no point in investing not one dollar into our basement until we get a subpanel and backup generator installed.


Sharpening the (metaphorical) Axe

A year ago, we imagined that we would have many of our renovations done by now. Instead, we have done next to nothing.

There were certainly other life projects and events during this time: We started living that Thug Kitchen life, Aaron got a new job and lost 60 lbs, and we’ve helped friends and family with their minor renovations needs. We’ve also started a tabletop gaming group called Variant Hex with some friends of ours. We learned about the life-changing magic of tidying up, and as a result better identified what we want our house to be.

We feel discouraged by how little progress we have made, but we’re trying to refocus on what we have gained in this time as we push forward with renovations. We’ve been “sharpening the axe” throughout this time, and should be able to execute more efficiently.

We are currently in the middle of our kitchen renovation. This is our first big project, and we’ve already had a few surprises. Because we took time out to sharpen the axe, we have been better able to tackle problems that arise and adapt to what needs to be done.

Geometric Art Desk

Because fully intend to turn our new office into a master closet and bath one day, we just needed a simple desk for our temporary office. We considered a few different desk options on a trip to Ikea, but ultimately decided a cheap, makeshift desk would be the best idea.
We wanted a desk in a very specific size, so we used a pressboard countertop meant for a garage work bench. We could have used MDF for a very similar price… and maybe we should have. The MDF would have soaked up more paint, but the finished surface would have been smoother than the pressboard. But, the workbench top didn’t require any extra cutting, and we were feeling lazy. The legs were sold individually, bringing the cost of the basic desk to about $40.

Then things got a bit crazy. The plain workbench top looked too much like… well, a workbench top. I decided to paint it. I first made a basic design on graph paper, which I used as tracing paper to create a design for the desk.

I sketched out a few shape ideas that could be created from it. Aaron liked the triangles and diamonds the most, saying that he wanted the triangles on his side pointing to the squares on my side. I drew a box to scale with the table top, and created a design by tracing over my custom template above.

Geometric designs are a great way for anyone, despite artistic ability, to make something awesome. It all boils down to straight lines and tracing. I initially tried to spray paint the desktop, but this would have taken too much paint and time. I used two coats of a flat, very light gray paint and primer in one instead.

I wanted to use thing masking tape for the design, eventually ordering .125″ tape from Amazon. It’s clear that whoever was selling this tape was merely buying regular sized tape and cutting it into thinner rolls on some sort of saw… but whatever. I couldn’t find anything thinner than .5″ in stores near me. I marked the edges of the table with little lines every inch, then connected the lines according to my design.
Obviously, this resulted in a lot of wasted tape, but it was the easiest way to recreate the design. Unfortunately, once I was on the squares side, I realized I had made a sight error in laying out the tape. The boxes were slowly going askew as I continued. I adjusted the design on the fly to make the mistake less apparent, so that side differs from the original design.
I used cheap acrylic craft paint from Michaels to fill the shapes. I sort of randomly picked the colors, going for whatever felt about right. There’s a mix of flat, satin, and metallic colors. I was able to get 13 bottles for $9 dollars, and still have a ton left. I intend to use the extra paint later to make wall art in the same colors as the desk.
I thought foam brushes would be the best way to paint this, but just a regular paint brush would have worked fine. The foam brushes came in assorted packs of 9 for $5 at Home Depot.
In addition to just sort of guessing what colors to use, I just sort of guessed where to use them. I started at the triangles end and painted toward the squares, trying not to rely on one color too much or using the same color right next to itself. I used the flat and satin colors the most, and used the metallics sparingly.
One of the most rewarding parts about this whole project was pulling off the tape once the design was complete. This was also terrifying, as I still needed to cover it with a top coat. I used triple thick polyurethane. Some type of epoxy might have been better, but I didn’t want to deal with the mess or stress. I prefer to use epoxy on things with edges.

Because the surface of the desk is slightly textured, I was unable to sand between coats. The polyurethane was self leveling, so the brushstrokes could not be seen once it dried. We’re very happy with how it turned out, and are now impatiently waiting for the polyurethane to fully cure so we can start using it!

Renovating Poker Chairs

Aaron found a couple chairs at Goodwill that he thought we could refinish and resell. I thought we’d be able to use them for our new desk, but it turns out they are a bit short. The original fabric was billiards themed and rather faded. 
Removing the chair cushions wasn’t too hard, aside from digging out the wood plugs. Once the chairs were disassembled, we lightly sanded the frames with stain and poly in one. I hadn’t used this product before, and I’m not sure that I like it. Even though staining and sealing separately takes more time and effort, I think it’s easier to control that this product. At first, I tried to use too much at once – I expected the consistency to be in between stain and poly, but it was nearly as watery as regular stain.
This was also my first fabric recovering job. It was like wrapping an awkward gift with staples. I don’t think it’s that great, but Aaron things I’m being overly critical. Because of how the chairs were constructed, I was advised to just cover the existing fabric instead of removing it. This was probably wise, but I had to scrub them down well before starting. 
The original fabric was heavier, so getting the staples in at some of the corners was tough. I bought three yards of fabric, but used less than two. I think the finished product looks fine, but I think I’d prefer regular desk chairs.

Now Hanging

Cleaning up the rest of the house meant consolidating some of our excess junk into the basement. There’s plenty of space down there, but I’m cautious of storing more than we need. Until we find the time to sort through this stuff, we’ve stacked it on either side of the stairs. This space is completely unused otherwise, but it was still a bit unsightly for the time being.

While cleaning I found a couple gigantic posters from when I worked at a movie theater in college. I hung them on either side for the staircase, in front of the piles of stuff we brought down from upstairs. The posters are actually taller than the basement is deep, but for now they are sufficiently hiding our random, unsorted junk.

Makeshift Office

For the last year, our fourth bedroom was more like a public storage unit for stuff that we didn’t want to deal with. While we were both on staycation, we bought some metal frame shelves and boxes from home depot to get it all tucked away in the basement.

Getting everything sorted and moved out of the room was a bit tedious, but didn’t take too long. Now that we have the room back to a blank slate, we are turning it into a temporary office. The temporary part hinges on us actually turning the room into a master bathroom and closet, which if I’m being honest, may never happen. Maybe that’s why I’m overdoing it a bit for a makeshift office.

We’re going to have a long desk for both of us to work on, a couple bookshelves, and probably a large recliner. I’m thinking the recliner will actually be a secret birthday gift for Aaron next week. I know it doesn’t seem secret if I’m posting it to this blog, but I doubt he’ll read this before then…

Guest Room Clean-Up

Our guest room and fourth bedroom were mostly holding a bunch of random things that had no home. My sister and brother-in-law’s visit gave us the motivation to get ourselves together and get things cleaned up.
I changed the direction of the bed, moved the media bookshelf, brought in a chair from downstairs, and unrolled a rug that use to be under our dining room table.
The things in this room don’t really match right now… but, our guests enjoyed it all the same (and so did Roxas).

One Small Step

Because we live in our home while we renovate, everything tends to get a bit scattered as we take on projects. Every few months, we take a break to deep clean the house and get everything tidy again. Cleaning out the pantry was an easy place to start, and helped get us mentally ready for our new goal of being vegan flexitarians, (which for us means eating about 80% vegan).

 I still intend to strip the paint off of this pantry and the bookcase in the living room and refinish them one day… but for now it’s serving as motivation to tackle bigger organization chores.