Getting adjusted in this house was a little more difficult, as the layout and size were so different from our previous houses. There is no dining room, all the rooms are smaller. On the other hand, there’s a lot more space and a wide open basement.

We wanted to put our living room couches in the basement, but the basement door was too narrow. Our dining table was too big for the kitchen, so we put int in the living room. There’s only one light in the living room, so we tend to move our table to the middle of the room whenever we have a game night.

Our bed and dresser exactly fit in the room we chose as our bedroom, with no space to spare. Our closet is much smaller than the last house, so we had to store extra clothes in other closets throughout the house.

My next priority was getting the game room set up. I don’t play games as much as I used too, not for lack of interest. There always something else to do, it seems. Regardless, I still wanted to get this room ready so I could get all my gaming stuff out of boxes.

Aaron’s next priority was getting a pool table into the basement. It was his childhood dream to own a pool table, and it wasn’t until this third house that he had a place to put one. He was motivated to refinish the cement floor immediately so the pool table could be delivered.

We left a fair bit of furniture at the last house, including our futon. The buyers were coming from a small one bedroom apartment, and didn’t really have anything to fill their new, comparatively large home. This left us with nothing for the guest room, though we don’t really have guests very often.We bought a full size bed soon, but mostly left the rest of the room as storage.

The fourth bedroom was storage for about a year – every random thing that we didn’t know what to do with went into this room.

We left boxes in the kitchen for quite a while. This was part laziness, and part strategy – we briefly thought about putting an island in the kitchen. After finding it annoying to walk around the boxes, we reasoned it would be just as annoying to walk around an island. 


The New Place

Our new house is a quaint 1-story brick ranch, nestled at the edge of a mature neighborhood, backed up to a newer housing development with a golf course. The yard is about .5 acres, which is much larger than any we’ve had so far. It was built in 1956 and has most of the original features, such as the appliances, linoleum floor, and a built in pantry and bookshelf.

And it has a basement! We looked almost exclusively at homes with basements this time. Though we tried to get a couple newer homes, this one had a wide open, dry, solid wall basement with two sump pumps. It’s green and yellow, for unknown reasons.

New countertops

Unfortunately, our second house had blue countertops in the kitchen and imitation pink marble in the master bathroom.

We replaced both with the cheapest available laminate option from Home Depot.

We used a jig saw (which is probably not the right saw) to cut the holes for the kitchen and bathroom sinks.

We were able to use the scrap piece from the short side of the kitchen corner as the top for the bathroom. Because kitchen countertops are deeper than bathroom vanities (fun fact!) we cut a few inches off the back so it would fit on our existing vanity. Laminate countertops aren’t exactly luxurious, but the are a perfectly acceptable option for a range of projects. Due to digital photography, the laminate images are better than ever, with less repetition. They are easy to cut and install, too.

Edges can be a bit tricky. Exposed edges must be finished by gluing on a strip of laminate, then filing it until flush with the countertop. You have to be careful not to damage the countertop as you file down the edge. It’s not to difficult, but it took me a couple tries to feel competent. Luckily, the vanity top in the master bathroom sits between two walls.  

Assembling corners isn’t exactly a walk in the park. You have to buy a joining kit, which comes with special glue and hardware that tightens to pull the two pieces together. The actual assembly isn’t as difficult as trying to find a decent place to do the work. I cobbled together an appropriate workstation using sawhorses and random bits of wood.

If you need to cut down the countertops to the correct size, a table saw is the best choice. …I take that back. The best choice is getting the countertops cut professionally. Depending on how much you are ordering, it is completely worth the extra money for laser straight, perfectly measured cuts. 

Refinishing Troubles

I had more trouble than I expected refinishing the cabinets in our second house. They all started the same wretched honey oak color, with the master bath and kitchen having the added bonus of weirdly colored countertops. I thought that I would try painting all the cabinets white this time, instead of dark brown like last time.

It didn’t look too bad, but it did look clearly painted. I’m not sure if it was the oak color vaguely showing through, or if that was just because it was white and not brown. Additionally, to get it to this solid of a white took three coats. This was the first cabinet I tried, and I couldn’t imagine painting all the cabinets in the kitchen three times. I had already bought the kit with white paint as well, and I had no way to buy the paint from the kit without buying a second kit. Therefore, I tried to find another suitable not-brown color.

I painted this cabinet with a $3 color sample (and even had some left over). I used the decorative glaze from the kit on top of the paint before applying the clear top coat. Though I like the color, I wasn’t confident about using it in the kitchen. I bought a gallon of good, old, reliable brown for all the other cabinets. I thought of detailing the progress of refinishing the kitchen cabinets in a post, but I’ve already done that.

Quick and Easy Wall Art

If you looked closely at the after pictures from the family room post, you may have noticed that some wall art appeared above our TV from one after picture to the next. The family room was the last to get anything on the walls. The furniture in this room kept moving, so anything that was placed on the walls ended up getting moved too or put somewhere else entirely. I had lots of ideas for some wall art I could make, but my ideas were going to take a lot of time and probably create a mess in our newly cleaned home. I decided to bite the bullet and make some quick and easy art.

First, I picked up a 7 pack of cheap canvases on sale at Michaels. I think they are usually $20 and I got them for $11… If I find the receipt I’ll check and see what I paid, but in any case it was not very much. Next, I used painter’s tape to mask off simple designs.

If you get stuck trying to make each canvas unique, mimic the shapes of different letters. One of my canvasses looks sort of like an A, another like a W, another like a series of “T”s, and so on. You could even make words with your canvases, if you are so inclined.

After taping off all seven canvasses, I headed to the back yard with a can of spraypaint. I choose silver because there is a lot of silver in our kitchen and living room (in the appliances, , pillows, hardware, etc) and because I already had a can in the garage. I only used about half a can to do all seven canvasses. I pulled off the tape to reveal the designs.

You can’t tell in this picture, but I wasn’t completely satisfied with how blurry some of the lines looked. I thought about just pretending like this was part of the plan, but everything else in the room has such clean lines. Had I been more thorough when applying the tape, I wouldn’t have had this problem. I chose to paint all the lines with white craft paint by hand, which straightened up the edges. This was the longest step. In an hour or so I was finished and started to decide how to hang them.

At first I thought I’d plan out a design on the floor, then transfer it to the wall. Then I realized I wasn’t that patient. I just put six nails in the wall in random fashion around the TV, somewhat considering how big the canvases were and what direction they would hang. I shuffled them around on the wall until I landed on an order I liked. This picture is not the best, so I’ll update it when I take a better one.

Before and After: Odds and Ends

These are just a couple after pictures that weren’t really covered in the before stage. The top one shows the hallway leading from our kitchen to our front door. We had to replace the louvered doors for the utility room and took off the laundry room doors to move in the washer and dryer. Getting the doors back up took much longer than it should have, but the hallways looked so much neater once we did.

The second picture shows the wall at the top of the stairs, in between the game room and the linen closet. This wall is also what you see as you exit the hall bath. It was a boring nothing sort of wall, so we added a bunch of colorful pictures and frames.

The last photo is shows the other half of the dining room. It’s the same bottlecap bar from our last house. We never know quite what to do with it. For a while, it served as the distinction between our kitchen and family room, but all it did was collect clutter. I like it better in the dining room. To be honest, we don’t use it much. It seems like we should put food on it during our game nights, but that never happens.

Before and After: Kitchen

The kitchen easily took the majority of our time and money, as it should: bathrooms and kitchens are always the biggest investments. Everything in the kitchen is new or has been refinished.

Here’s the list of what we did:

  • Refinished the cabinets
  • Installed new cabinet hardware
  • New stainless steel appliances
  • Installed new kitchen countertops
  • Installed tile backsplash
  • New lighting 
  • New flooring
  • New steel sink
  • New faucet

Before and After: Family Room

The biggest change in this room was renovating the fireplace. After that, we took a while trying to figure out exactly where the furniture should go. We had a hard time deciding where the kitchen should end and where the family room should start. Also, we wanted the fireplace to remain a focal point of the room. Aaron was desperate to mount the TV over the fireplace, but after Dovahfest we decided to leave things mostly where they were.

Before and After: Master Closet

We did a few small things in the master closet that made a huge difference. We changed the light from a single bulb to a modern track light, raised the racks about eight inches, and put our existing dressers inside. These changes allowed us to store more and made the closet look bigger. The light was a miserable hassle to install. It runs on two tension wires, required huge anchors and lots of measuring. However, once we turned it on we were beyond impressed and felt like it was worth the trouble. There’s no picture of the closet from when we first moved in because I didn’t imagine we’d change anything. The before picture was taken when as we raised the closet rack.

I added a bonus picture of the light we installed. It’s the greatest closet light ever. After installing this light, I will always choose similar ones for closets because they’re bright, the tone of the bulbs is a mix of natural and artificial light, and it casts shadows like jewels on the wall. The amazingness of this light doesn’t come across in pictures as well as it does in person. It’s a random thing to gush over, but it is my favorite light in the house. 

Before and After: Stairs

I have much more to say about the stairs, but here’s a quick before and after. Depending on the lighting, the carpeting on the steps was either a dingy blue-grey or an unsusally bright blue. I’m against carpeting on stairs anyway, regardless of color. It gets dingy, easily wears out, and it’s hard to keep clean. I took off the carpet, knocked down the old bannister, and painted everything.

The stairs are positioned directly inside the front door, so I painted them a light grey and white so they wouldn’t be too imposing. I also switched the handrail to the other side of the steps and did not replace the old bannister on the right.