Category Archives: Blog

Spring Cleanup!

Since we have been having so much rain lately, some of the outdoor projects have been on hold a bit.  Luckily, the garden was planted before all the rain, so I have been LOVING not having to water!  We might just be a crazy family of rain-lovers. IMG_2937

Since Summer is getting close (but some of us are still Spring Cleaning), I thought I would share an article I wrote for the Idaho State Journal in April:

While the exact origin of ‘Spring Cleaning’ is debatable and spans many cultures, people throughout history have been stricken by the urge to clean when the days get longer.  Whether added daylight hours cause us to have more energy or the bright sun illuminates cobwebs in the corners, we feel the need to freshen up our spaces.  When you are gripped with the urge to clean, there are a few cleaning tasks that are much easier to do when the weather is nice.

  1. Scrubbing out garbage cans.  While I would like to say these get cleaned on a regular basis, they don’t.  On one of the first nice days of the year, I bring every garbage and recycling can in the house out on to the lawn.  I give them a good spray with the hose and scrub them as needed with some mild dish soap.  When they are sparkling clean, I let them dry and air out in the sun before bringing them in again.
  2. Shaking out rugs.  Even with vacuuming, a few of the rugs in our house tend to look a little dingy after winter.  Take them outside and give them a good shake, or even give them a few whacks with a broom handle or baseball bat.  If the rugs are washable, toss them in your washing machine or spray them down with a hose.  The sun helps speed up drying time and makes them smell fresh.
  3. Wash dining chairs, folding chairs and kid chairs.  Our dining chairs are all metal, so I love taking them outside and making them sparkle with the hose and a scrub brush to get in all the little nooks and crannies where crumbs and popsicles get stuck.  The kids loved spraying their own chairs and booster seats!IMG_6713 IMG_6716
  4. Wash windows, inside and out.  If you are peering out at the pretty blossoms on your tree through dirty fingerprinted windows, you are missing out!  Take advantage of the slightly warmer days to wipe off the grim and make your windows sparkle.  Your whole room will feel brighter through that streak-free glass.  My preferred method: A mix of about 2 cups of water, ¼ cup of vinegar, and a small squirt of dish soap.  Wipe with a microfiber cloth (indoors) or a squeegee (outdoors).
  5. Wash your front door, sweep the entry and shake the mat.  Our front door tends to get dirty quickly with the wind and rain.  A quick dusting with the vacuum or a soft damp cloth brightens the color again.  If your door is in need of some TLC, Spring is a perfect time to paint it a color that compliments your home.  A little cleaning of the steps and the door mat make our home feel welcoming again.  As soon as the weather allows, I also plant something gorgeous in the pots on the front porch.IMG_2974

Welcome, Spring!  Open all the windows, put on some happy music, and let the scrubbing begin.  Who knows, you might even feel like rearranging the furniture.

*Look for progress pictures of the guest room this coming week!

 

Host a Painting Party!

The phrase “painting party” might bring to mind a venue where you and a group of friends can go hang out and each paint a picture on canvas.  In a less artistically creative, but still entertaining way to hang out with friends, my friend Holly hosted a wall painting party last Saturday.  With a floor installation quickly approaching, she needed the walls and trim painted in her laundry room.  An email plea for help found three of us knocking on her door at 9:30 am, wearing our best painting clothes.

After a quick breakfast of bagels, coffee and fruit, we divided up jobs and got to work.  Since four of us were working in a smaller room, we all started in different spots, so that we would not be in each other’s way.

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Brook got the high parts, but still had a great smile.

I painted trim, while Brook and Lori took turns with rollers and a paint brush. Holly removed nails, patched holes, wiped things down and took a turn with the roller.

IMG_2413Holly and Lori discussing weekend plans.

Three hours passed before we knew it, with plenty of laughing, talking and general getting to know one another.  It was a lot of fun, and the end result was a bright clean laundry room that is ready for new floors to be installed.  The best part was that it was pretty much finished, and it didn’t take Holly a week to do it on her own!  I also found a new favorite white paint: Sherwin Williams Ultra White.

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If you are inspired to paint a room in your home, but overwhelmed at the thought of tackling it alone, consider having a painting party of your own.  Here are some tips for making sure things go smoothly:

  1. Think about how many people could work efficiently in the space you are working on.  Too many people and no one will be able to move.  Too few, and it may take a longer time commitment from your friends.
  2. Ask friends who have painted walls before, or have tasks for non-painters.  Jobs like removing nails, filling holes, sanding rough spots or removing hardware and blinds always need to be done.
  3. Have plenty of drop cloths and damp rags to catch messes. You will want to protect floors and any other surfaces in the room.  Paint drips and splatters happen, and you don’t want to be stressing about it the whole time.
  4. Make sure there are brushes or rollers and buckets or trays for everyone, whether you provide them, or they bring their favorite from home.  It is much easier to work with the right supplies.
  5. Provide refreshments according to the time of day.  Food keeps people happy and willing to work.
  6. Set a time frame.  Two to three hours seems like a viable amount of time for most people, and you will be amazed at how much a group of people can accomplish in that time.
  7. Invite a diverse group of friends.  It is always fun to meet new people, and a painting party gives you an opportunity to really get to know one another.

There you go. That is how we do a painting party, Pocatello style!  Have you ever been to a painting party?  Canvas or wall?  What is your favorite white paint?

Kitchen Shelving Reveal!

I am so excited to finally show you some pictures of our newly reconfigured refrigerator wall!  Over the last month or so, we took down all the existing cabinets on that wall to make room for a new refrigerator.  All two cabinets and some shelves, so it wasn’t a huge deal.  But we had just moved the cabinets up and caulked them a few months before, so it was sort of a big deal. ha.

Anyway, here is our current and hopefully longer-lasting rendition!

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Moving from the original single upper cabinet over the base cabinet to this setup has increased our storage space exponentially.  It allows me to display the platters and plates that don’t fit in a normal cabinet.  I find I use them a lot more when they aren’t packed away in the back of the pantry closet.

IMG_6670 IMG_6671 IMG_6678 IMG_6681 IMG_6686 IMG_6689A few things to note if you are considering something like this for yourself:

1. You might want to consider buying a pipe threader and cutting your own pipes, depending on your own arrangement.  All of the little pieces add up and can get expensive

2. All of the threads aren’t the same, so it was hard to get things as tight as we wanted.

3. Look around for pieces without labels taped to them! After completing the entire project, we found that one store had pipe pieces in bags, so you wouldn’t have to try to take the stickers off of each piece.  As you might have noticed, we are still working on getting those stickers off!

4. Our project cost around $300.  We used 1/2 inch pipe and fittings and 2 x 12 douglas fir for the shelves.  The microwave shelf was custom joined to be 16 inches deep. We used Minwax oil based wood finish in Classic Gray 271.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I will do my best to answer them!  Check back later this week for some tips on living with open shelving.

 

Redo! Another Kitchen Challenge

When I was an elementary school teacher, I often gave my older students an opportunity to redo an essay or project if they wanted to improve their work.  By rereading or redesigning their previous attempt, they often learned much more about the topic (which was the ultimate goal) and hopefully even discovered a bit about their own thinking process.  It seems like a valuable skill to have, because let’s face it, many of us spend a lot of time at our jobs redoing or updating things.  Unfortunately, when it comes to our homes, we often get stuck in a mindset where we think things need to stay exactly how they were when we moved in, or when they were built or when we first arranged them.

IMG_0865 IMG_0866Kitchen: When we bought our house in 2010.

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IMG_6519Refrigerator wall: a few weeks ago…

It is a good thing my husband and I are both used to working and reworking projects until we are happy with them.  A few weeks ago, we bought a new refrigerator, which ended up changing a few (very recently completed) key arrangements in our kitchen.

Our new fridge lured us in with the promise of much more interior space along with ice and water on demand.  Plus it was on a fantastic sale at Home Depot.  Unfortunately, the larger size meant we had to take down the recently added cabinet above the fridge, which meant things on that wall were looking unbalanced and a little crazy.  Also, the new fridge is stainless so it doesn’t match the stove and dishwasher anymore.  It was classic chain reaction where one thing leads to another.

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Instead of bemoaning the loss of a storage/display cabinet, we decided to take the opportunity to rework things and try something new.  We took down the remaining cabinet on the fridge wall and put it over the stove, filling out that space a bit better.

Then, my handy hubby began building a wall of shelves using ½ inch galvanized steel pipe and 2 x 12 boards.  The mix of steel and wood fits really well in our kitchen, and the industrial modern look of the shelves works well with our simple 1950s home.  It also makes it so the mix of stainless and white appliances isn’t so obvious.

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Since we used pipes that screw together, we were able add to it as time and budget allowed.  IMG_6662

IMG_6655After considering a natural wood look via a clear coat, we decided to stain the wood gray.  I am happy we did, because it really makes the whole system work with the concrete countertops and the stainless refrigerator.

While I wouldn’t have spent all the time painting and caulking cabinets last month if I had known we were going to change things this month, I don’t regret it at all.  We gained a lot in the process, and I feel like we are really learning how to make our home more functional and beautiful within the space we have.  Our end result will greatly exceed what we started with, both in usability and appearance.

The lesson: Don’t be afraid to take a redo.

Check back Monday morning for completed shelf pictures!

 

The Rise of the Kitchen Cabinet

 

What happens when you try something new and don’t totally love it?  At our house, we try, try again!  Over the past year, I painted our kitchen cabinets white, and the walls a light gray.  I still am really happy with both of those choices.  Because our kitchen is pretty small, I wanted to make use of the space above the cabinets, and also try to conceal the lumps on the ceiling from someone else’s soffit removal job.  I tried using labeled bins and some other containers above the cabinets, and it actually worked very well for storage. IMG_6162The only thing I didn’t love was that it felt a bit crowded or dark for the high space.  I left it for awhile, because I really liked the increased functionality.

Then, I saw this image, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do:

Raised Cabinet InspirationImage Source

IMG_6476 I am not sure why I hadn’t thought of it before, but raising the cabinets to the ceiling and putting a shelf underneath was a brilliant solution!  It would work perfectly for a space like ours, and would also camouflage the wonky ceiling.

Right after I finished the concrete overlay on the countertops, we decided to moved the cabinets up.

It was a two person job a lot of the time, and the car jack was even involved at one point (ahem, rednecks).

Behind the cabinets was a bit of a mess, so I scraped off the big chunks and then primed and painted everything gray to match the walls.

IMG_6473I really like the open feeling of no upper cabinets, but since our space is smaller, we need the additional storage.IMG_6479After the cabinets were reinstalled, there were noticeable gaps along the upper edge by the ceiling.

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I ended up just using a paintable caulk to fill in the spaces.  It made a huge different in how finished and clean the final result looked.

IMG_6489The ceiling needs a bit of paint touch up when you get up close, but it looks so much better than it did.

IMG_6488We decided to leave the space above the microwave open for now.  I like the idea of building an open box around the space also, but for now it is perfect for large platters and a spiky plant.

IMG_6508We added an open shelf underneath the cabinets at typical cabinet height (18 inches).  We used the same shelving from IKEA that we used for the open shelves above the dishwasher.  We made a few modifications in the corner, and Jer reinforced underneath with some wood pieces.

I store most often used items on the open shelf, like spices and flours.  IMG_6528We opted to hang mugs from underneath the cabinet by the coffee prep area instead of adding a shelf.  We love the convenience and the added color from the mugs.

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The cost of the shelves and a few brackets was our only expense for this project (so about $75).  It feels so much more open to us, and having the lower open shelf has been really handy for cooking and baking.  What do you think?

Before

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After

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Get This Party Started!

You Guys. Let’s start by taking a moment of silence in support of my amazingly patient and supportive husband.

You see, I am one of those people who has like 1,000 ideas in my head all at once, and I am constantly switching from one thing to another.  I call it Design ADD.  Jer is great about listening to my ramblings and occasionally adding his own crazy ideas to the mix.  He is also a fantastic accomplice when I am trying to actually materialize some of these ideas into projects.

This week for the Idaho State Journal, I wrote about Getting Started with Projects.  Oftentimes that is the hardest part of the job.  Just getting started.  I evidently took my advice to heart this week, so that is why I have a deconstructed headboard on the floor in the center of my living room, an upturned piano bench waiting for a leg repair, and I have been prying old base moldings off in the hallway.

My little helpers make each project even more interesting to complete!

I have about 50 more projects started (I wish I was joking), but those are the ones I am focusing on today. ha.

Speaking of base moldings, the reason I am excited about removing them is because we took the carpet out of our hall and living room two weekends ago!

The wood floors underneath are completely passable by our standards, and we are loving the cleaner feel.  Unfortunately, there is about an inch gap between the base moldings and the floor now.

Removing and replacing them all wasn’t really on my priority list, but we were donated a few pieces of molding from our friends after their basement remodel, and I decided to see if I liked the look and fit of the taller molding in our house.  I do.

Anyway, I hope to finish our headboard after the kids are in bed tonight, and we will likely be working on baseboard or sticky tile removal this weekend.  We also went to IKEA last weekend, so I have some shelves to install in the kitchen.  And I would like to start my countertop refinishing project.  And…and…and.   But at least I’ve got a few things started.

 

Details: Amazing Tile Refresh

Could your tile floors use some attention? Maybe the grout is too light, too dark, or an outdated color.  If your tile is still in good shape, you have a few options that can make a big difference in the look of your tile floors.

One of my clients had tile installed in their kitchen and dining area about 15 years ago, and chose a terra cotta grout.  Over the years, their tastes have changed and they were wanting a lighter color without so much contrast between the tile and the grout.

One option is to remove the existing grout entirely and replace it with new grout.  If your grout is in good condition though, a much easier option is to clean and paint it.  Since their grout was not cracking or chipping, my clients decided to try out the relatively new grout paint and sealer.

To prep the grout for painting, it was first scrubbed with a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda.  They used 7 cups water, 1/3 cup lemon juice, 1/4 cup vinegar, and 1/2 cup of baking soda. Apply it liberally to the tile and grout and let it  sit for 15 minutes, then scrub with a brush.  If you just want to clean your floors, you can stop at this step, because it is amazing!

The directions on the grout paint say to use an acid cleaner before applying the paint, so you might decide you want to do that.  My clients decided the acid from the vinegar and lemon juice was good enough for them, and less toxic.

To apply the paint we used flat craft brushes.  We found the size 6 brushes to work the best for us, but it would depend on the width of your grout.  We just poured a bit of paint onto a plastic lid and applied it to the grout lines with the brush and let it dry.

 

The whole process was a bit time consuming, but not as much as chipping the grout from between the tile would have been.  And the results were amazing.  We chose a medium gray color, and it brightened up the look of the entire kitchen and dining area.  Instead of pulling out the orange colors from the tile, like the terra cotta colored grout did, the gray grout picks up on the subtle gray colors in the tile.

 

Now that my client’s floors are now more neutral, they are working on reupholstering their dining room chairs in a cheery bright red.  One small change in the flooring has allowed them to make some much-desired updates in the rest of the kitchen and dining area.

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After

If you have some tile with grout that could use a fresh look, give some grout paint a try!  It is an inexpensive update that brings a significant change to your flooring.

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House Painting Update

Early this spring, I posted about updating exterior paint colors. We had a cream colored house with black trim, and we were thinking about a navy blue with light/medium gray trim.

Before: Cream with Black trim

Idea: Navy with Gray trim

As we talked about it and looked at paint colors, my husband encouraged me to be adventurous instead of sticking with a ‘safe’ color choice.  And so, adventurous we went!

  We LOVE the color, and have had so many compliments on it from our neighbors.  It really feels like it fits the style of the house, and our own unique style as well.  I went with a sunny yellow door, and I changed out the porch light and house numbers.  A few things are still in progress (like the upper trim), but I might just be done until Spring.  I’ve decided that exterior painting is not my favorite thing ever.

What do you think about our bold colors?  It’s not for everyone, I know.  Any takers for painting trim from the top of a ladder?

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Details: Global Update

**FYI  For those of you who live in Pocatello or the surrounding area, I am teaching some classes this fall through ISU’s Workforce Training/Continuing Education.  This Monday night (9/15/14) is DIY Interior Updates from 6:00-8:30.  Check out http://cetrain.isu.edu/enrollment/home-improvement/ for a list of classes or for enrollment information!**

I picked up this old globe for a few dollars at a thrift store a few months ago.  It had seen better days, but was still in relatively good shape.

It sat for awhile above my desk while I decided what to do with it.  The other day we had perfect weather for spray painting.

Among other things, I took the plastic base and arm off the globe and sprayed it orange!  Then I cut a piece of washi tape and put it around the equator to cover the split in the globe.

We love the fun update and are thinking about adding colorful pins to the places we have visited.  Does your family have a fun way to record your travels?  Any creative global updates?

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Details: Curtain Time!

I finally added curtains to the closet in our bedroom!  Neither Jer or I minded the open closet look, especially after we painted and organized in there, but it is amazing how ‘finished’ curtains made the room look.  I made matching curtains for the windows, but will photograph and post them later.  Here’s the ‘Before’ of the closet without curtains:

And the ‘After’ with curtains!

And…how it looks most of the time (even with the wonky hanger that I just noticed!):

We are loving the updates and our closet is feeling really organized and functional right now!

 

The Uncluttered Life: Kitchen Continued

I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it feels to have our kitchen cleaned and organized!  I finished the cupboards and tackled the countertops early this week, and it was a full day job (with two little messers and lots of play breaks).  I feel so much less stressed that I am even more committed to keeping the clutter out.

I put everything that was using the kitchen as ‘limbo-land’ back in it’s proper place, and found places for things that used to reside on the countertop.  I decided the mixer wasn’t used enough to warrant a permanent place on the counter, even though I loved the cheery red color.  Having it in the corner just seemed to attract more items to want to congregate with it!  Into the lower cabinet it went, fitting in nicely with the red crock pot.  The only things on the counter are the Keurig and our kombucha brew. The kombucha is waiting for a hidden spot in the pantry, because really, it’s not the most beautiful thing to look at.

I am embarrassed to show you the ‘Before’ photos of my counters, but in the name of keeping it real and knowing that there are others out there just like me who are ‘creatives’ with a thousand things going at once, here they are:

I forgot to take photos before I put the mixer away…

And now the ‘Afters,’ our Fresh Start.

For those of you who love a true Before and After, here’s a comparison of when we moved in and how it looks now…

 

Lots of changes, and it feels like us.  Now that we can see the counters again, I have plans to resurface them.  But for right now, I am going to enjoy the simple feeling of clean and organized.