6.01.2015

MASTER BEDROOM

The bed isn't made very nicely, but since I have a newborn even this is a miracle.
Whenever people ask whether we'll miss our house when we move, I invariably say I will miss certain things about it, particularly the master bedroom. I love the high ceilings, the exposed logs and beams, and the 150-year-old brick chimney -- all the best elements of this house tucked into one space. This room is just calm and peaceful, and I will surely miss waking up in here in the mornings.

I took this picture the day before I gave birth -- hence the slightly swollen feet. :)
It helps that the only furniture in this room is the bed, the nightstand shelves, and a small white dresser that we brought in for changing the baby. (Willa's Rock and Play Sleeper is easily folded up and stowed under our bed when necessary, so I don't count that as furniture.) Since our clothes are stored in other rooms, there's really nowhere for clutter to accumulate, and though I sometimes wish we had a TV, it has a much better vibe without one. Personal preference confirmed: sparse is good in a bedroom.

We've been sleeping in this room for about 15 months, and the novelty has not worn off for me. I'd say that's a sign we did it right.

5.28.2015

A WEEK OF BLESSINGS


Last time I gave birth, the big event was sandwiched between an earthquake and a hurricane. This time was equally eventful, though a bit less natural disaster-oriented.

We welcomed sweet Willa Emmylou into our family on Saturday, May 16 at 2:01pm -- a week ahead of schedule. She was 7lb. 12oz. and 20-1/4 inches long. She has one dimple and is, so far, the chillest member of our household.

Okay so she has her moments, but pretty much only when she's hungry or when you mess with her when she's trying to sleep. :) 
Our house was on the market less than 48 hours when I started feeling contractions. Ez was working on a handful of final details early Saturday in preparation for our first showing that afternoon when I told him there was going to be a change of plans. The contractions were irregular but definitely the real deal, so we decided to head to the hospital right away, given a) how fast Johnnie was born and b) that I was Group B Strep positive and needed a round of antibiotics in my system before delivery in order to protect the baby from potentially getting sick. (Though this is really common, I took it seriously because we have a friend whose baby passed away from GBS infection.)

So we made our way calmly to the hospital, very unlike the mad rush of the late-night, going-through-transition-in-the-car experience we had 3 years ago. We checked in around 9:45am and got the IV started around 11. By 1pm the antibiotics were in so my beloved doctor, who by some miracle was on call that day, broke my water to move things along. Contractions immediately ramped up, and within an hour we were holding our perfect baby girl. Again I missed the window for the epidural, but the worst of things only lasted about 10-15 minutes. I didn't even have to push -- Willa was coming and all I had to do was get out of her way! It went so smoothly that within a few minutes afterward I felt better than I had in weeks. Again, very unlike my first go-round. 

Meanwhile, the house was getting a lot of attention. We had a couple more showings during our first days home (not recommended with a newborn, but we managed), and by Friday we found ourselves in the middle of a bidding war. Coincidentally we closed on our new house that morning, our six-day-old baby in tow, and that evening we signed a contract to sell this old log house -- eight days after it officially went up for sale. The new buyers love the house so much they even want to buy the majority of our furniture. Over the weekend they came by to chat and show the house to their kids, and they were so excited they wondered if everything was too good to be true.

The outside finally looking legit and ready for a new family.
We know the feeling, and we remain in a state of thankful shock. What a week! We knew someone would love this place, but we weren't so confident they'd be house hunting at just the right time. Of course something could still fall through between now and closing, but we could not have imagined a better outcome. In addition to deep gratitude, I have so many mixed emotions right now: sadness to say goodbye to the house where we lived and toiled for almost seven years... excitement for our new house, neighborhood and lifestyle... concern for Johnnie as she deals with all these enormous changes in her little life... elation at seeing our hard work pay off... anxiousness about moving farther from family... and loads of love for my husband and girls. All those postpartum hormones probably aren't helping with this truly crazy swirl of emotions. 


So if you need me, I'll just be hanging out for the next few weeks -- snuggling with Willa, coloring with Johnnie, soaking up my favorite parts of this finally-finished house, and marveling over all these blessings with Ez.


5.15.2015

RUSTIC INDUSTRIAL KITCHEN


There's something about this kitchen. For a long time, I wasn't sure it was going to work out. Early on we discovered half the room had no foundation, and then there was the fireplace fiasco, and we seemed to hit a dozen other speed bumps along the way. And now somehow, in the blur of the past 6 years, we're done and everything is legit! 

We still need to install the pulls on the cabinet doors under and flanking the range top, but for now I'm just thrilled that all the tools and dust are finally gone. (The kitchen has been our makeshift workshop--again--for about 6 months now.) 

In addition to having floor drains, which allow for easy cleanup, we also have a ceiling outlet hanging over the island. It's not the prettiest thing, but so very useful!

I made the little sink skirt out of a canvas drop cloth last week. I'm still undecided about whether I like it or not, but I thought some prospective buyers might not like seeing exposed plumbing. It does add some softness to the room, which is kind of nice in relation to all the concrete and stainless steel. 


I didn't do the stained stair runner as planned, because I didn't know if that would be universally liked, but I still love how this staircase and pantry corner turned out.


I know it's not everyone's style by any means, but I'm really happy with how it turned out overall! What do you think?

5.14.2015

THE BIG REVEAL: MASTER BATHROOM

Ez has decided his favorite room in our house is the master bathroom. It's a tough space for me to photograph with my limited skills and the lack of natural light (this room's biggest drawback), but I think you can get the idea...



 Some fun facts:

  • The bathtub was a craigslist score for $125. (Thanks for picking it up for us, dad!) It was originally painted bright yellow. 
  • The swing arm light above the tub is from Restoration Hardware.
  • The mirror was a free hand-me-down from Ez's aunt. I had looked high and low for a mirror for that oddly shaped space, and nothing seemed to fit right. Then I yanked this one out of the guest room a whim. Perfect! 
  • The marble countertop is a remnant from the bar at the new Petit Louis restaurant in Columbia, Maryland. Ez's dad did the plumbing for the restaurant and bought the leftover piece from the tile guys. 
  • All the rustic wood trim was salvaged from various parts of our house.



If we were staying in this house, I'd hang a pretty piece of art in an antique frame above the tub and get an interesting rug for the floor, because I recognize that it's seriously lacking in color and personality at the moment. And I'd continue asking for the skylight I had really wanted in here. (We couldn't add any new windows because our log guy said it would compromise the house's structural integrity.)





I really love getting ready in here every morning! Our new home's bathroom is cute and retro with original black and white tile, but it's a tiny space. This is one room I'll definitely miss when we move, and one we're really proud of. It's been a very long time coming, and I'm thrilled to share it with you!

And, as a reminder of how far we've come, here are the few pictures I have from "before":

There used to be a staircase going from what is currently the dining room up to this room. We took out the stairs and closed up the hole, and that area is now the bathroom sink and shelving. 

This is my mother-in-law, and the wall behind her is where the bathtub is now. The 6' ceilings had to go. 


Not the best angles for comparison, but then again there's no comparison! 

5.13.2015

SETTLING AND UPROOTING


Remember how I said we were settling on our new house in July? Well, scratch that. We just confirmed that we're settling on May 22 -- just 3 days before my due date. (If we've learned nothing else from our adventures in this house, it's that, in true gluttons-for-punishment fashion, we tend to bite off way more than we can chew.)

Our house will officially be on the market tomorrow! The realtor and photographer came yesterday, and we've been in a tizzy lately trying to get camera ready. I did what I could to purge, declutter, stage, and deep clean a little bit every day over the course of the past few weeks. Whenever I overdo it, I pay for it with a sleepless night of hip pain, so it's been a long process just to accomplish little things, but thankfully this final push has coincided nicely with my nesting urges. Ez was still finishing up installing the master bathtub when the realtor pulled in the driveway, but we made it! The effort has been worth it though, and the house is finally looking the way I've been envisioning it all along.

Though we still have some tiny details here and there, we can officially call this house DONE. Can you believe it? I'll try to post lots more photos over the next few days, because the vibe in here is just so good.

Lately I've been trying to find last minute "staging" items like lamps and mirrors that will both cozy up our rooms for showings and that we know we'll use in the new house as well. Last weekend I did manage to score this beat-up old mirror at an antique store for $18 for our entry.



I'd been all over town -- Target, HomeGoods, Pier 1, etc. -- and hated everything I saw. (How can things that cost as much as $250 still look so cheap? And when did I become such a lamp snob?) As a last-ditch effort, I popped into the local antique barn and tried to home in on any mirrors I saw, ignoring all the other cool stuff I would normally look at. (So hard!) I found this at the end of the first row, 10 minutes after walking in the door. Mission accomplished, even if it reflects a slightly hazy and distorted reality -- which is really why I like it anyway.

As predicted, the dining room remains one of my favorite spots in the house. Though a little controversial at the time, I maintain that the planked walls were a good idea. (It helps that Joanna Gaines sings the praises of shiplap on every episode of Fixer Upper!)


It's weird to finally be at the settling in and decorating phase of this project, knowing that we'll be packing it all up in settling in somewhere else in a matter of weeks. It's simultaneously feeling more and more yet less and less like home.

3.26.2015

COOL

This old blog has been growing some moss lately, but I got an email today letting me know it was featured on Porch.com, a home network partnered with Lowe's, as one of "The 10 Blogs Every Old House Lover Should Follow."




They even called us charming!

Thanks, Porch people!

3.25.2015

Under Contract


It's true! We're buying a new house -- a well-kept, 60-year-old, end-of-group brick townhouse, in a busier suburb with a postage stamp of grass, off-street parking and a significant reduction in square footage.

I know some of you thought we'd never follow through on that threat, but it's actually happening!

We are still finishing up the final details of our current house before we can officially put it on the market in the next couple weeks, but the very right house came along (we toured about 15 similar homes) and we have some time to get ours sold since closing on our new place is not scheduled until July. Of course something could fall through between now and then, but right now the plan is full steam ahead.

And yes, I'll show you pictures of ol' 3820 when it's done! There's a lot you haven't seen yet.

I'll admit to the irony -- most of our friends are leaving their urban and suburban homes to flee to the country these days, in search of bigger, more elaborate houses and more land, while we're going the opposite direction. In fact, the house we're buying belongs to friends who essentially want what we currently have, except not quite so far from the city. We've thought long and hard about this though, and we feel this decision is what's best for our family. And we're very excited!

FAQs

Considering we're going against the flow here, most of our friends, family and strangers think we are crazy. In response, here I will attempt to address the FAQs we're hearing over and over:

Really? After all the hard work you put into your house? 
Yep. After a certain point, the excitement of renovating turned into a slog, as long-time readers know, and it's hard to get the joy back. It's been 6 years. The house looks great, but we're just done. And this move is not just about the house itself -- it's about lifestyle. We want to reduce Ez's commute so that he can get two hours of his life back every day and be a part of our kids' activities. (Johnnie started dance this year!) We also want to move from a place where we'd be considering private schools to an area with award-winning (free!) public schools.

Won't you miss your kitchen/bedroom/custom features?
Yes, to a degree. Mostly, I will miss our bedroom with its high ceiling and beautiful old beams, and our spacious master bathroom. However, we'll be trading those things for other conveniences. For example, I am really looking forward to the more open floor plan in our new house, so I can keep an eye on the kiddos in the living room while I'm in the kitchen, etc.

How will you deal with having less square footage?
Even with another baby coming, our current house is just too big for us -- we simply don't use or need the extra space we have. The new house has a finished basement with a family room and 4th bedroom, so we will actually have more rooms than before. They're just a bit smaller and more efficient. This blog post about downsizing sums up our feelings very well.

Won't you miss your huge yard? 
Not really. Most of our time outdoors is spent mowing, trimming and keeping up the massive yard. Our new yard is small but flat, fenced in and has beautiful trees, so it'll be a fun change. I'm still hoping to find a sunny spot to grow some veggies. Plus, we'll be able to walk to the playground for a change of scenery or visit the grandparents!

Do you really want to deal with having neighbors so close and being in a busier area? 
Yep. We are looking forward to being much closer to a much bigger variety of stores and restaurants, and we're excited to have a more walkable lifestyle again. The neighborhood we chose is very family and community oriented, so there are block parties during holidays and a more neighborly vibe with plenty of kids around. After feeling somewhat isolated out in the country, we are excited for a more energetic neighborhood.

Won't you miss having your family close by?
Very much. This has been the hardest part of the decision. After the baby comes, at this point I am planning to work part-time -- one day a week in the office, and the rest of my hours from home. (Thank you, employer, for being so flexible and awesome!) I still plan to bring our kids to their grandparents' once a week when I go into the office, and we still plan to attend the same church, so we'll still see them quite regularly.

So that's that. We definitely have a lot to handle right now with only 9 weeks to go until my due date, a house to prep for sale and other to buy, but I'm thankful that these are circumstances we chose. Though I feel stressed at times, there is a lot of freedom in being able to choose your future path and work toward your goals as a family.

Are there any other burning questions that I missed?


2.26.2015

MASTER BATH SNEAK PEEK


The master bathroom is becoming everything I hoped it would. Ez finished up the shelving nooks a few weeks ago, and I snapped this photo 5 minutes later on my phone. He claims these shelves are the best work he's done in the house yet, and they do make a truly huge impact both aesthetically and functionally.

Because the nooks weren't very square in this very old house, he made plywood boxes to fit and framed them with reclaimed wood. They blend in really well and are pretty much perfect. I had originally wanted floating shelves (kind of like this), but our stud situation wasn't ideal and everything was so off square Ez would've had to custom shape each shelf so there wouldn't be huge gaps between the shelves and the wall in certain places. He came up with this as Plan B (he's great at those), and I love how it turned out with the framing around all the edges.

I'm waiting to show you the whole bathroom until the claw foot tub is installed, the nail clippers behind the sink are put away, and it's all more put together in general. Right now it's pretty bare bones, but it's still one of my favorite rooms in this house.


1.02.2015

AT LONG LAST: A PORCH RAILING


First of all, let me wish you a very Happy New Year from our little corner of the world. I hope you've all had a fantastic set of holidays! Ours had some highs and lows--one of the lows being a late-night trip to the ER and a diagnosis of croup for Johnnie (who is thankfully feeling 100% better now), and one of the highs being the long-awaited completion of our front porch railing.

This railing was such a challenge. (Ez requested that if anyone asks how long this project took us, I should tell them anything but the embarrassing truth.) The brick, selected to match the house's original chimneys, is quite soft, and finding a way to firmly anchor the newel posts without cracking the brick proved difficult. Our first attempt, using the standard black metal newel posts (shown here) that matched the railings, failed because it required sinking four screws for each post, and a few of the bricks cracked during the drilling. As a result, we had to have the brick man come and replace six bricks--this time with one big hole pre-cut into each one. This new method necessitated a different type of post that could be anchored with one long threaded rod sunk a couple bricks deep. Our only option was a chunky pressure treated newel, which we happen to like exponentially more than the metal newels.


Hooray for Plan B being better than Plan A in every way! Once the wood newels are stained to match the logs, I think it will look just right. In addition to being the far sturdier solution, the wood newels make a more substantial statement visually than the dinkier metal ones. I'm so glad Plan A didn't pan out. Plus, the house looks almost done now, right? So much improvement with one project! (Also, SAFETY! WOOHOO!)

FYI, all the railing parts were off-the-shelf from Lowe's. Note #1: because this seems to matter more and more to blog readers nowadays, this post was not sponsored and we purchased everything ourselves. Note #2, and a tip: for a project like this one, you really need two people. One person can do it, but two people can do it three times faster.

Finally, for those interested, my Christmas/winter decorating took about 15 minutes (including screwing in the hooks for the door garland). Since our only evergreen tree (i.e. my source of free holiday decor) fell in a tornado last year, these decorations cost me between $25 and $30 in pine from the local market--$18 of which was just for the pre-made wreath. It's definitely not the fanciest house on the lane, but I think it works and looks like we at least made an effort this year. :)


Pardon the in-progress mess and oversized light bulb (it's dark way out here in the sticks)... 

I especially love the window boxes. I was going to just take them down until spring, but instead I chopped up two $4 pine swags and jammed the branches into the soil. Boom. Done. This is not the best photo, but it's my favorite thing. 


So that's the railing. Can you believe we finished something? It's been awhile since we've gotten to cross a project off the list. Let me tell you, it feels WAY better than falling down the steps.

12.02.2014

CABINETS AND CHRISTMAS THINGS

Is blogging dead? I don't know, but my blog is certainly taking a back burner lately. Speaking of burners, we've been stoveless (again) the past week. I snapped this with my phone on Saturday, one of the rare days when I am actually home during daylight hours.


Ez is currently building the cabinets for underneath the rangetop as well as the small cabinets flanking either side. (Our stove had previously been sitting on a semi-level stainless steel work table--workable but not ideal.) We'll be using butcher block for the countertops and a combination of white-painted pine and salvaged planks for the facing. Butcher block and reclaimed wood are probably on their way out, trend-wise, but if they will work in any house it's certainly ours.

I am looking forward to having this fairly major improvement checked off the list. It'll be much more convenient for cooking (though I've been lying around lately more than I've been cooking) and much tidier too. Having a place to put things is always nice, especially because I'm kind of a messy cook.

This is also one of the critical projects on our Resale To Do List. I will spare you the full list, but it includes things like closet shelving, installing the master bath tub, filling nail holes and painting baseboards, etc. -- mostly manageable things, I think. I have not been much help so far considering the extreme nausea and exhaustion, but thankfully I do feel a lot better than I had been. I'm officially in the second trimester, and I am spending less and less time on the couch just in time for the holidays. Which is really good, because the clutter and dust bunnies have been piling up, despite Ez's dedicated attempts to pick up my slack.

Aside from cleaning, Johnnie and I have been slowly working on our Christmas tree the past few days. In 8 years of marriage, this is only the second time Ez and I have put up a Christmas tree. Between continual renovation and spending Christmas mornings elsewhere, we haven't felt like putting in the effort. Now that Johnnie is 3 and gets excited about every little thing, we decided to stop being so austere. She picked out the colorful balls at Target, and together we cut the matching paper strips to make the chain. She's getting so good with scissors!

HomeGoods stools for reaching upper branches! And we still need to stain the steps and build a railing...
And while Ez was working on the kitchen cabinets, J and I also baked salt dough ornaments, which we then spent hours painting and glitter-gluing within an inch of their lives. After I shellac them, they'll go on the tree as well. So our bright and colorful tree is still very much a work in progress. Much like everything!