Category Archives: Small Space Solutions

The Uncluttered Life: Kid’s Toys

Are you tired of spending your free time dusting, picking up toys or generally taking care of your possessions?  Wouldn’t you rather be reading a book, taking a walk with a friend or hanging out with your kids?  Around two ago, my husband and I decided to make a conscious effort to get rid of our ‘junk’.  Basically, we grew tired of not being able to find items when we needed them.

Fast forward six months, and I would say there is definite progress being made.  I am now a regular in the donating line at the thrift stores instead of in the purchasing line.

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I can easily find items in the kitchen, our bedroom and in every closet in the house. Progress has been made in every room, but one area that we are still really struggling with is the kid’s room!

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So, this photo was taken over a year ago, but if you really look at this picture, you will notice that our kids like to play with the laundry baskets, toy baskets, blankets and pillows.  I tried sorting toys into plastic bins and plastic shoe boxes, but the system is hard for my 5 and 3 year old kids.  I love sorted toys and the kids could care less.  I have also used pretty cloth baskets to corral toys, but they either don’t play with the toys inside or they dump the entire bag out to find what they are looking for.

In my search for a solution, I came across the book, Clutterfree with Kids: Change your thinking. Discover new habits. Free your home, by Joshua Becker.  I was sold from the beginning where he writes, “Living life is more enjoyable than managing and organizing stuff.”  We spend so much time trying to organize our possessions, only to have to do it again in a week or so.  If we owned less stuff, we could spend our time and money on efforts that actually bring us joy.

While the messages and tips in the book were very helpful for all aspects of downsizing, there were some great hints for making it work with kids.  One of my favorites was ‘periodic minimizing,’ where you go in every month or so and remove toys that aren’t being played with.  I’ll admit to ‘sorting’ toys into a toy basket that I then snuck out to dump into a donation bag. This eliminates excess clutter and allows kids easier access to the toys they love.

Another tip I loved was to be intentional in your buying (or not buying) of toys.  Instead of a lot of cheap toys that will likely break in 10 minutes, consider holding out for quality toys that encourage creativity and exploration.

Kids playing

Legos everywhere

We have eliminated a lot of excess toys over the past year, and the kids haven’t missed any of them.  These days, our biggest (littlest?) problem with clutter is Legos!  Both of our kids love Legos, and honestly, I do too.  Aspen is incredibly creative with all of these colorful little pieces, and Landry loves the Lego duplo sets.

Yesterday, the kids and I very purposefully went through all the clothes and toys in their bedroom once again.    They spent the remainder of the day playing in their room with their favorite toys.  I call that a win/win!

Any tips for keeping Legos in check?  I am all ears!

 

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DIY Picture Ledges

Is it just me, or does anyone else like to update a room every few years or so?  Jer thinks I am crazy, especially when I talk about redoing things that he thinks of as ‘done,’  Every time I look through old photos or blog posts and realize how long a picture has been hanging in the same place or the walls have been a certain color, I get the urge to start changing things.  I just tell Jer that is what he gets for marrying an interior designer!

Lately I have been feeling the need to give our living room a bit of an update.  It was one of the first rooms that I painted when we moved into our home almost five years ago.

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One of the main walls has a gallery wall full of photos and art that are fun and meaningful to our family.  I have added to the wall over the years, but it is getting too full to add much more.  I started thinking about some options that would allow me to rearrange the wall and change out items a lot more easily, and with fewer nails pounded into the wall.

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Hanging picture ledges was an obvious solution.  Picture ledges are screwed into the wall and then you can just lean your photos and art on it without the more ‘permanent’ nails.  This means you can layer items, and you can also switch them out a lot more easily.  I have looked at hundreds of images for inspiration, but this one is what finally motivated me:

one kings lane_rebecca minkoff_FAMILY PORTRAIT IN FRONT OF GALLERY WALL

I have looked into purchasing picture ledges, but most were either too small, too expensive or not good quality.  This week, I decided to tackle building my own ledges.  After researching several tutorials and plans on the internet, I found Ana White’s Ten Dollar Ledge tutorials.  She has both written instructions and a video.  Both are very helpful if you are relatively new to woodworking.  I ended up purchasing four 8-foot 1×4 boards and two 8-foot 1×2 boards.

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My ledges would be called Twelve Dollar Ledges (inflation since 2010), but that is still a great price.  I also purchased a Kreg jig to make pocket holes, so I could hide the screws on the underside of the shelf.

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It was incredibly cool and rewarding to end up with such a sturdy and professional-looking product when it was finished.

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I built two 6-foot ledges for our living room wall, and plan to use the remaining 2-foot pieces to make bookshelves for our kids.  Many people paint their picture ledges black or white, but I decided a light pine stain would give me the desired look.  

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I can always paint later if we get tired of the wood.  Once the ledges were aired-out enough to bring into the house, I marked their placement on the wall and located the studs.  

Underneath view

(The above picture reminds me; make sure the boards you purchase are straight.  I laid all mine on the floor on all sides, and still one of the 1×2 pieces ended up a little wonky on the end).  

Since the ledges are 6 feet long and will be holding quite a number of pictures, I wanted them to be as secure as possible on the wall.  To make sure they were in the right place and level, I first used painter’s tape as a guide.  I screwed in the center screw first, and then rechecked to make sure it was level before putting in more.

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Once the ledges were hung safely on the wall, it was time to arrange the pictures.  My ledges are about 4 inches deep, which means there is room to layer frames, and I can also add in smaller objects for display.  

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I started by placing the larger frames in the background, and then began adding in the medium and small frames.  I am sure things will be rearranged often, but to me that makes it the perfect solution.  I quickly realized that the round frames were not going to work on the ledge, so I ended up hanging them on the wall instead.

Final ledge

We can have the gallery of photos and art we love, but I can change things up whenever things start to look stale.  I finally got around to updating some of the photos and filling in some blank spots.  I still want to repaint soon, but this little project helped give me a needed change in only a few hours.

 

Bright and Breezy Office Update

Pretty much everyone has some sort of ‘office’ in their home these days, whether it be at the dining room table or in a room by itself.  It is where you sit to pay your bills, organize your finances, search the internet and maybe even do some paid work.  I am currently working on a home office remodel for a local couple, and want to share some of the thoughts and ideas in the early stages.

Bunker Office Ideas Numbered

1. Color Palette: BHG 2016  2.  3. Ceiling Light  4. Orange Mirror 5. Gray Bookcase  6. Corner Desk with Hutch  7. A Little Window Photo: Minted.com 8. Ranunculus Photo 9. Tape Dispenser and Stapler  10. Desk Lamp  11. Blue Monday Photo: Minted.com  12. Storage Basket  13. Desk (similar to client’s)  14. Succulents: Image  15. Blue Box Planter and Mint Planter  16. Orange File Cabinet

The first thing I like to do is to make a list where I break down the requirements and challenges of the space.  

-The office needs to accommodate two people and their furniture.  

-The room is small (~10’x10’), with three desks currently in it.  Two of the desks will be staying, because one is a family heirloom and the other is a corner desk that does help maximize the space.  The heirloom desk is nice looking, but the corner desk isn’t beautiful.  The corner desk is also the home of a desktop computer.  

-The office now has a tall almond colored filing cabinet and two shorter ones, which are topped with a printer/copier.  The closet is filled with books and other miscellaneous supplies.  There is florescent lighting and tan carpet, both of which need updating.

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My clients are a fun couple who will be retiring in the next few years.  They like bright and unfussy spaces, so there will be no dark ‘den’ or ‘man-cave’ designs here!  We both fell in love with Better Homes and Gardens 2016 color palette, which includes a light gray, dusty blue, bright orange, mint green and blush pink.  In the right combination, it is both masculine and feminine, which is ideal for this couple’s shared office.  Adding in black or a dark stain on the desks also keeps the look from being too soft.

 A few DIY projects using some of the existing furniture will help keep the budget down.  Their current filing system will likely be downsized, but we plan to paint the filing cabinets that remain, since they are high quality.  We will be working on the two desks to help them blend more cohesively.  My clients are happy with the comfort of their current office chairs, so we will be recovering at least one of them with new upholstery.  Fresh paint on the walls and ceiling will brighten up everything, as will the addition of a new ceiling fixture and a desk lamp or two.

The closet space will be reconfigured to store books and office supplies more efficiently.  Quality shelving might have a combination of open and closed storage, possibly with some baskets or closed doors.  They are considering a small chair for a reading nook, so we will see how the space goes together once we get the space plan worked out.  For now, check out the idea board I created for a bright and breezy office space. 

 

 

Focal Point Range Tile

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Ok, so clear back in August when we were starting to tear apart out bathroom, I found a small box of shiny gray square tiles at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Pocatello.  My idea was to ‘practice’ hanging tiles by putting those behind my stove as a focal point backsplash.

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Yeah. So in the middle of my bathroom renovation, I mixed up a batch of thinset and attempted to put tiles up behind the stove in my kitchen.  They slid down the wall.  I had a momentary breakdown/panic session as I thought I would have to call in someone to tile my whole bathroom, since I was obviously failing.  My mom wisely told me I was taking on too much, and to just focus on the bathroom.

Obviously, she was right.  I eventually figured out the right consistency for my thinset, and the bathroom tiling went pretty smoothly.  I did learn that it was much easier to lay tile on the floor than on the wall, but I made it through to a pretty decent finish.

Fast forward 8 months (!), and the area behind my stove was still splattered with old thinset.  I had to avoid photographing that area, because it was obviously not finished.  But, all of the tile materials were finally put away, and it was hard to think about getting that mess started again.

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Lately I have been trying to finish projects that I already have materials for, so I got out the little box of gray tiles and started playing around with the layout.   Then, I added in a few tiles I had remaining from the bathroom floor.  And I eventually decided (after taking lots of pictures) to use just the prettier tiles. 🙂  They are from the Merola line at Home Depot.

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Of course, then I had to decide on a pattern for those tiles that would best fit the small space behind the stove.

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We decided on the last one, so then I had to get out all the messy tile stuff and get to work.

Unfortunately, even with all my bathroom tiling, I didn’t really learn the concept of tiling UP the wall, instead of down.  I started at the most obvious place to me: in the center, right under the range vent.

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Which meant I spent a LOT of time doing this:

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Which was very tedious, especially since the kids were hollering for something every two minutes (they were sick all spring break).  But Landry did step in and help.

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So, what I should have done is to measure out where my bottom row would be and nail up a ledger board.  Then, start the tile at the bottom and build up.  Yep, much easier and much less time-consuming.

Many, many hours later, I finally made it to the end.

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I framed in the tile with some 3/4 inch wood slats I had from another project.  I painted them a dark charcoal (the same as our table) and it really tied everything together with the charcoal grout left over from the bathroom remodel.

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I ended up tiling a whole row below what is seen behind the range.  I figured this way, if we ever get a lower profile range, the backsplash will still work really well!  I know I sure wouldn’t mind seeing a little more of that awesome tile!

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Loving Our Homes

Since Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, I thought it would be nice to take a moment to stop and appreciate our homes for all of the warmth and security they give us.  As a designer who is always looking at images and plans for beautiful spaces, sometimes I get caught up in everything I want to do to change our home.

I have all these ideas to make it better and often focus more on the problems our home has than on all of its great attributes.  So, at least for today, I want to think about what makes our home special.

I like the idea of taking a minute to write down three things about your house that you are thankful for.  It could be that you are thankful for a kitchen that supports you in making food for your family.  A refrigerator that keeps your food cold and fresh, or a table where your family can all sit down and have a meal together.  I am grateful for the sliding doors leading out to our backyard and garage.  They allow me to see the kids playing outside, and they let in beautiful sunlight to warm the kitchen.

sliding door in sun

It might also help to focus on all of the areas you have already improved your home.  Instead of stressing about the horribly desolate laundry room, I can focus on the beautiful bathroom we just carefully remodeled.  The kitchen floors might still be ugly, but the cabinets and shelves are a huge improvement from when we moved in.  Taking before and after photos can help remind you of all the love and hard work you may have been pouring into your home.

Think about the connections you make with family and friends in your home. The games you play around the coffee table, the forts you build with sheets and sofa cushions, and the conversations with your friends and family around the dinner table.  If we appreciate and focus on the small joys, it helps us to see the beauty in all of our home’s imperfections.

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As I look around my home, I see a lot of messes.  But if I look at the meaning behind the messes, I can be thankful for many things.  The legos strewn all over the kid’s room means that my five-year-old daughter is building and creating, using fine-motor skills and her incredible imagination.    IMG_5548

The fort in the corner of the living room was a labor of love between my three-year-old son and his daddy.  

Landry grin

The stack of bills on my desk means that we have heat and water, and a roof over our heads.  We are living life, and that is why there are a few messes.

If you like to take pictures, one way to appreciate our homes more is to carry your camera around and take photos of the little things that really matter.

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What makes you smile?  It could be the dog napping in the sun, your kids playing together, a good book waiting to be read or the chairs you lovingly painted to bring color into your home.  I think we would all be surprised at how many positive and wonderful things are happening in our imperfect homes!

 

Creating a Reading Nook

Have you ever wondered what to do with that extra corner space on a stair landing, or an odd shaped bump-out in a bedroom?

My friend Stephanie had this great extra space at the top of her stairs that she wanted to make into a reading nook for her girls.  Stephanie had a few key pieces picked out, but she enlisted my help to put it all together.  After the back-and-forth texting, pinning and emailing of many images and ideas, I put together an idea board of our favorites.  Idea boards are great, because they help you envision all of the elements on one page.  

Martinez Reading Corner Idea Board_edited-4

1. Gold Paper Garland, etsy.

2. Watercolor Fox, etsy.

3. Adventurers print, etsy.  Stephanie ended up ordering Stay Clever, Little Fox, etsy, which is so sweet!

4. Rustic Arrows, etsy.  Stephanie ended up getting these arrows instead, from the same artist.

5. Executive Nod Chair, Land of Nod.

6. Blue Clamp Light, IKEA.  We eventually chose this copper one.

7. Spice Racks, IKEA. Painted Gold with Martha Stewart craft paint.

8. Squirrel Pillow, The Company Store.

9. Blue throw. We ended up using one of the girl’s blankets, made by her grandma. 🙂

We had a few key things in mind when we were gathering our ideas for the kid’s reading space:

  1. Provide a comfortable place to sit.  Whether it is a pile of pillows, a bean bag or a kid-sized chair, a cozy spot to read will encourage kids to settle in.  Stephanie chose a soft child’s chair from landofnod.com.  I have also seen little tents or teepees made into reading spots.  Think about your child’s interests and current reading habits when choosing a seating type.  Here is Miss Reese in the chair, before we worked our magic:

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2. Place books at their level.  You want to have the books very accessible so they can easily grab the one they want.  We also chose to place the books with the fronts facing out, using spice racks from IKEA.  When kids can see the covers, they are more likely to pick up the book and start reading it.  Just pay attention to what the kids are reading/looking at and rotate the selection when they get tired of the ones that are out.

We installed four shelves, using self-drilling drywall anchors and screws.

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3. Provide adequate light.  The corner at the top of the stairs was a little dark, so we attached a small led clip-on light to one of the shelves.  It can be angled easily to spotlight on the book.  Some other options are pendants or fairy lights, depending on the location and the amount of light needed.

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Those three things are really the only necessities for a reading spot, but we added some color and decorations in a self-titled ‘woodland animals and mixed metals’ theme.  The watercolor print of a fox with flowers on her hat tied right in with the tiny flowers on the chair.  We also wanted an uplifting quote, which was found in another fox print from etsy.  

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A gold paper garland, copper lamp, and gold painted shelves added a bit of metallic glam for two fun little girls.  We are still waiting on some wooden arrows, but they will compliment the wood frames and add another ‘wood’land touch.

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The girls love their special reading corner and it adds a sweet welcoming scene from several viewpoints in their home.  Thanks Stephanie and Tyson!

Clearing some clutter before the New Year

Today I learned about a Japanese end-of-year tradition called Oosouji.  It literally means “big clean” and is very similar to spring cleaning.  Before starting the new year, Japanese homes, businesses and schools get a deep cleaning to get rid of dirt, clutter and disorganization.  I love the thought of starting the fresh goals and resolutions of the New Year with a clean home!

Instead of being overwhelmed at the thought of deep cleaning my entire home, I decided to start with the holiday stuff.  When I take down the lights and decorations, I make sure everything is still in good working order. If you happen to have some items that need replaced, do it now when everything is on sale!  When you dig things out again next year you will be able to get right to decorating, rather than having to go to the store for an overpriced string of colored lights.  

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Storage containers are also on sale right now, but I am refusing to buy any.  All of my current storage problems can be solved by decluttering, rather than buying more containers.  All of our holiday decorations fit into one lime green tote, with room to spare.  I actually threw in the Christmas themed books and cookie cutters too, so when we open the box next year, it will all be in one place!  Now I just need to make a label for it and put it back under the stairs.

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After the decorations are stored, it is time to think about where those holiday gifts are going.  If you received appliances or tools, can they replace other things in your kitchen or garage?  When you are making space for that new blender, take a good look at what you are storing in the pantry closet.  Did you use that bread machine this year? The cupcake maker?  Be honest and ruthless.  If your new blender is buried under so much stuff that you can’t easily get to it, you won’t use it either!

The same goes for clothes in your closet.  I can pretty much tell you which clothes I don’t like and rarely wear without even looking in my closet.  Those all went in the donation bag today, to make room for clothes that I am excited to wear.  Last week I went shopping with my mom, sister and sis-in-law and scored some awesome new clothes!  I am trying to get rid of two things for every one thing I bring in, but I have already gotten rid of most of the items I don’t wear.  One for one might have to work for now.

Our kids got some pajamas for Christmas, so out go a pair (or two) of old ones that are too small.  They are also outgrowing some of their toys, so clearing them out will make room for the new ones.  The tricky part for me is getting the old stuff out of the house before the kids ‘remember’ the toys they don’t play with anymore.  If you can possibly get your kids on board with the clearing out/donation process, I am sure it would be much easier.

I love the feeling of a decluttered home, so I am hoping to get to my little office space this week also.  I have a lot of personal and professional goals I hope to accomplish this year, and starting off with a clean slate seems like a great way to welcome the New Year.  Happy 2016!

Guest Room Accent Wall

Wooden accent wall

A few months back, I told you I was giving our guest room an update.

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Yikes! A scary catch-all room.

I scoured Pinterest for some inspiration on an accent wall that would be unique, warm and fun.  My attention was caught by the wide array of wood clad walls, and especially by the ones using reclaimed wood or recycled pallets.  After sifting through many images that were too dark and rustic for our personal taste and the style of our home, I came across this image that felt much more modern and industrial.  The photo showed a wall in a studio office where pallets were used and there were occasional swatches of color remaining from the edges of the pallets.

 As I began to search for wood pallets, I soon learned that they are neither easy to come by or inexpensive/free anymore!  After pricing pallets and deciding how many it would take, along with the excessive time it would take to disassemble them all, Jer talked me into a ‘browsing’ trip at Home Depot.

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I ended up being so glad I hadn’t pulled the trigger on the wood pallets.  We found a product called Tri-PLY, which is advertised as a Multipurpose Project Panel.  Tri-PLY is a 3/16in thick  panel that comes in 4 x 4 ft sheets, with a very thin wood grain veneer.  It is moisture resistant, which is an added bonus since we used it on a basement wall.  We loaded up our car with five panels and an idea. IMG_3022

Using our table saw, Jer and I ripped the panels into 4 inch widths.  After that, I took the more manageable pieces and cut them into ⅔ and ⅓ sections (32 inches and 16 inches).

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Following that somewhat tedious process, I hauled the newly fashioned ‘boards’ inside and began to nail them to the wall.  Since there is a window on the wall with a bed centered under it, I started attaching the boards under the window sill.  I used brown paneling nails to make them just slightly visible on the boards.  I attempted to alternate sizes and wood grain patterns and colors for interest.  I pounded nails for several hours while Jer took our kids to a movie.

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As you get to the edge of the wall, you most likely will not end up having a piece that fits exactly.  So, the saw skills get to come in handy again!  I held up each piece and marked it top and bottom with a pencil.  Then I numbered the piece and the wall so I remembered where it went.  I usually only took five or six at a time to cut, so things wouldn’t get too crazy.  I had to cut one or two of them twice, but I was overall very happy with the fit.

IMG_3030 Since the swatches of color on the wall was one of the major attractions of my inspiration photo, I decided to add some color to our wall also.  I used a combination of acrylic craft paint and some leftover wall paint.  I wanted a somewhat ‘worn’ look, so I watered down the paint before loosely brushing it on.  I sanded some areas where I thought it was too dark, and dry brushed others.  I tried to stop before it got too crazy looking, since my goal was modern cozy, not circus.

IMG_3028Overall, I am very pleased with the results.  The thin panels were very easy to work with, and the thin nails won’t leave huge marks when the wood is eventually removed.

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I would recommend this product for a light-use room, such as a guest room or office.  It might not hold up well in a kid’s room.  One thing I didn’t like about the panels was a sticker right on the front that was impossible to remove.  I ended up having plenty leftover, but I also used those sticker pieces for the edges and just cut off the sticker.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

wood panel accent wall with eyeball sconces and colorful throw.

There you have it! An accent wall inspired by wood pallets, but created for about a third of the price.  We reused some narrow IKEA shelves from the kitchen for floating nightstands and I purchased these fantastic eyeball sconces from Urban Outfitters.  The throw is from Lulu & Georgia, but it is temporarily out of stock, and quite a bit more expensive than when I bought it.

We are loving the look, and it feels so much more comfortable and welcoming.  Updates on the rest of the room coming soon!

Renovation Diary, Part 4: The Bathroom Reveal

Fifty-two days after the fateful peeling up of ‘just one’ vinyl tile on our bathroom floor, the bathroom renovation is complete.  Instead of feeling dated, grungy and pieced together, our bathroom now feels happy, spacious and clean.  Natural daylight floods the space and the bright colors are refreshing and uplifting.

Bright and Peaceful Bathroom Remodel, Black and White, Merona Tile, Ikea vanity, cb2 mirror

Details, details!  Who knew it would take over a month and a half to get a window in the bathroom and to finish caulking everything?  The most important parts of the bathroom–aka the toilet, sink and bathtub, were useable by the first week or two of September, but the missing window prevented the use of the shower for several more weeks.

Installing glass block in a shower

 Thankfully, the warm fall weather in Pocatello held out and my crazy plan to combine a regular window with glass blocks worked fantastically.  

Glass blocks and an awning window

Exposed cinder block, round mirror, Ikea vanity

Many aspects of our Do-It-Yourself bathroom renovation have been incredible learning experiences.  One of the more stressful lessons is that when you order tile shipped to your house, half of it may arrive smashed to pieces.  Luckily, I could take it right down to Home Depot for a refund and I quickly reordered the amount I needed.  It’s a good thing it was a pretty painless process, because next the glass block window I ordered arrived with about 12 chips in it.  I ended up just ordering loose glass blocks on the second go-round and Jer and I put them together ourselves.  We are much happier with the finished appearance and we were able to fill the window space perfectly with an awning window above the glass blocks.  I was pretty stubborn about wanting glass blocks in the bathroom, but with a large window on top that would open and vent.  Our awning window ended up being 32in x 16in, and the glass blocks were 32in x 24in below it.  I am really glad I stayed true to my vision, even when it seemed like such a hassle.

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Another eye-opener for us is that tub and shower fixtures are not all made the same.  Of course, we didn’t find this out until the end, when all of the tile was completely done.  We ended up coming in from the back side and cutting a large hole in our kitchen/dining room wall to replace the pressure balance valve.  What would have taken less than an hour while everything was out in the open ended up taking all day.  And now there is that little issue of the hole in the kitchen wall…

One of our favorite things about the bathroom is the statement tile on the floor.

Merola Tile Twenties Diamond

It completely fits our family’s style, but it will also work very well with other styles.  Simply changing the art and the color of the towels gives the bathroom a different vibe.

Bathroom Remodel: Black and White with a bit of color

 We also love the modern look of the vertically stacked white subway tile with the charcoal grout.  The tile fits well with the style and era of our home, but also has a fresh twist.  At the last minute, I decided to add black tile around the window, and I am so glad I did.

Target clock, DIY shelf

We no longer have to fear that the tub or toilet may fall through the floor unexpectedly.  Gone is the plexiglass nailed to the old shower window to prevent leaks into the wall.

Back of door hooks

 We know the amount of hard work and attention to detail that was put into every inch of the room.  There are a few details remaining, such as knobs for hanging towels and maybe a small cabinet for storage, but that’s all part of the fun.  

Wash cloths in a basket

Towel basket by tub

Can I just tell you how awesome it was to take that first shower in the new bathroom?!?

Renovation Diary, Part 3: Getting to Work

One day you are making a plan and tearing out your bathroom floor, and the next day you realize you have to put it all back together again.  Let me give you a heads up–it is a lot quicker and easier to tear old junk out of a bathroom than it is to put the new stuff in.

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Our first weekend started off very productively with demolition and putting in a new subfloor.  

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At the beginning of the week, I proactively added a waterproofing goop to the floor under the tub and we moved the tub back in from the yard.  On Tuesday evening, Jer was putting up cement board in the shower while I put the kids to bed.  All of the sudden, there was an extremely loud crash and a yell from the bathroom.  In the middle of a balancing act involving a drill, screws and heavy backerboard, the drill fell into the tub and chipped the finish.  Argh!

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After a night spend researching the pros and mostly cons of fixing a chip on the bottom of a bathtub, we decided to replace it while we still could.  Thankfully, there was one in stock and Jer picked it up on his lunch break.  He fortunately realized while still in the parking lot that the drain hole was on the wrong side!  After another painstaking tub wrangling, we had the chipped tub out and the new one in that evening.  Time gets sort of blurry after that.

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Even knowing how much prep work was involved, it still took way longer than I wanted it to.  Perhaps it was because I mostly worked on it after the kids were in bed or when my wonderful mom had a day off to help watch them.  When I got things to the point where I needed Jer’s help again, I worked on the detail things.  I painted the ceiling black.

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I got pretty good at mixing up small batches of thinset, but the cleanup was less than enjoyable.  After the shower walls were mostly tiled, I  had a day or two where I contemplated not tiling the lower walls in the rest of the bathroom.  I took a break and painted the ceiling again.  This time I used two coats of primer on it before painting it a light mint color.  I really think the black ceiling would have worked if the ceilings were taller, but it just didn’t feel right in this space.  Also, my mom got claustrophobic every time I even talked about it, so there was that. 😉

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After the shower and walls were tiled, I moved on to the floors.  Tiling the floors was incredibly rewarding and much easier than the walls.  Something to say for gravity working for you instead of against you.  

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After that came the grouting.  I wanted a very dark grout, but I worried because I knew my tile setting job wasn’t perfect and dark grout would accentuate the flaws. I was also overwhelmed at the thought of having to mix up yet another powder and water.  Thankfully, my dad talked me into exchanging the powder for a premixed grout that never has to be sealed.  It was considerably more expensive, but it likely saved my sanity.  Since it came in a little container with a lid, I could grab a half hour here and there to work when I had the time.  We are happy with the final result, and the contrast between the white tiles and the dark grout makes the whole space look more modern.

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Several weeks More than a month and a half after the fateful start, we are nearing the finish line.  True to form, even those little details at the end take way more time than you think they should.  You will notice that we are still missing a window in these photos.  It’s a very good thing it was summertime!

Next up…Renovation Diary, Part 4: Bathroom Reveal!!

 

Things that take longer than you expect…

A LOT longer.

I have been wanting to strip the paint of the doors and drawers on our hallway ‘linen’ closet since we moved in.  They had a least 5 layers of paint, and it was really drippy and goopy, especially around the edges and the handles.  It was also starting to chip off, and I was mildly worried that some of the original coats might have been lead-based paint (I did test this, but couldn’t really get a clear reading–I just made sure the paint was gone before sanding).

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Since we have been having some nice sunny days, my little helpers and I took the project outside!  (I really don’t know what they were doing in this picture. Probably watching bugs).

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I have fond memories of stripping paint from an old piano with my mom when I was a teenager (eleven layers of paint!), I decided to give it a try on the doors and drawer fronts.  Instead of the highly toxic stuff we used 20 years ago, I used Citristrip, which is safer, biodegradable, has no harsh fumes and instead smells like an orange creamsicle.  It says it is safe to use indoors, but I am sort of really messy, so I went outside.  I laid all the pieces on a drop cloth and proceeded to paint on the orange gel.

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After waiting over an hour for the gel to work, I eagerly ran my putty knife through the goo, getting a satisfying layer of old paint on my knife.  That first run through is always the most fun.  IMG_3647

Then I just used my putty knife and scraped off all the rest of the paint!  Just kidding.  I scraped off the top layer of paint, leaving the next layer exposed.

You can see that the first layer didn’t bubble up like my future layers did.  I don’t know why…it did peel off in big sheets though.  I wonder if that top layer was just too thick? Or maybe I needed an even thicker coating of Citristrip?

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Then I repeated the process–three or four more times.  Don’t get me wrong, it was totally worth it, but it was a long and tedious journey over the course of several days.

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I tried to use a generous amount of gel, getting a nice thick layer on the paint.  I varied the waiting time from 30 minutes to 20 hours.  Even though they claim the gel will remain wet for 24 hours, it was super hot outside, so the gel was drying within an hour on one of the days I was working.  I am pretty sure it was much hotter than the recommended temperature on the bottle.  I did try misting it with water, which helped a little.  The closer I got to the wood, the easier the paint seemed to peel up, so that was a big plus in the project motivation category.

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After a nice sanding, the drawers looked good, so I decided to seal them with a natural stain.  I liked the look of the light wood, but it turns out that the doors were a different kind of wood, much more ‘red’ and grained.

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See the difference?  It became even more obvious after I applied the wood conditioner and natural stain.  So I tried to blend them a bit by adding some gray stain…

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…which made them look blotchy and dirty.  I am not a fan of the ‘already dirty’ look, and they still didn’t go well together so it was back to the drawing board.

Because I still was convinced I wanted to see some of the natural wood grain, I decided to try a paint ‘wash’ next.  I picked out a fun color because the hallway is a bit boring.  I put some water in a cup and mixed a bit of paint into it.

IMG_3731 I didn’t have a particular ratio, I just watered it down quite a bit.  I planned to do several coats, knowing the color would build up a bit with each layer.  This is after the first coat:

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And after the third coat:

 

 

 

 

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I loved how it built up without becoming thick, and you can still see the wood grain through it.

I chose to reuse the original large square pulls, since they reference the time period of the house and I liked the size.  Removing the paint from them was another test of my patience, but the gel actually took most of it off on the first try.

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After settling on the color for the doors, I sprayed the pulls gold, to give it a more modern look.

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And we officially love it!!  The color brightens up the hall without being too crazy–for us, anyway! 😉  Now everything closes so much better, and actually stays closed.

If I haven’t completely dissuaded you by this point, I will tell you that I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  Just start with a small project, use a thick layer of the gel and don’t expect it to be completely finished in an hour.  Garage sales and thrift stores have a ton of furniture pieces just begging for a good ‘safer’ chemical peel.

The Uncluttered Life: Office Revival

Whether your office consists of an entire room or a little desk tucked in somewhere, chances are it is a major clutter magnet.  Seeing your desk full of clutter can make the often stressful tasks of work and bill paying even more difficult.  Since I work from home and my office space is located in our living room, it was next on our agenda for decluttering and simplifying.  I was eager to get started, because I know I am a hundred times more productive and happy in a clean space.  Here are a few things I did to create some calm in the office:

1. Photograph the Before!  This is so important so you can see your amazing progress.  Every time I get discouraged, I look at the Before photo and see how much progress I have made.  Photos are also a more objective way to view your ‘stuff’ and can help you identify problem areas.

2.  Make a list of areas to work on: Mine are paper piles, shelf clutter, too many unused books, stacks of magazines and an inefficient desktop filing system.

3.  Tackle the most visible problems first.  I took care of the pile of papers and other miscellania to the right of my computer.  This also happened to involve my desktop filing system, which was taking up more valuable space to the left of my computer.  In the interest of simple living, I decided that I only want my computer on the desktop.  As I looked at photos of my desk area, I realized I could be using the side walls of my desk area much more efficiently.  I decided to hang a single file bin and a simple organizing system I found at Staples.  I used Command Strip picture hangers so I wouldn’t have to drill or pound a nail into my shelves.

4. What do we do with the paper!?  The main reason you could even see the top of my desk at all was because we go paperless whenever possible.  I set up automatic bill paying if it is available, and keep track of things on my desk calendar.  When I sorted my paper pile, I put it into categories and made a list.  Then, I made sure I had those files set up correctly in my file cabinet.

5.  Donate books that are outdated, no longer relevant or that you don’t plan to reread.  Be ruthless and realistic.  I also went through my magazines with a much colder eye than I usually do, and was able to part with a large number of them.  The extra room on my bookshelves allows me to see and use my remaining books more easily.

6.  Remember how refreshing it is to work at an uncluttered desk.  Even the process of clearing out has caused me to feel more energized.  Cheers to productivity!

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What are some things you do to keep your office space tidy?