How Do You Spell ‘Pretentious’?

L-I-B-R-A-R-Y.  That’s how.

Standing in Ikea, talking about a Billy bookcase combination, I hear myself say the words, “That would look really nice in the library.”

Who am I?  Just who do I think I am having a library in my house?  It sounds so hoity-toity.  So full of one’s self (oneself?  onesself?  Clearly, I need a dictionary in mah libarry.)

So here’s the thing:  We have an extra room in the house, just off of the dining room.  It’s not large by any means.  In fact, it only measures about 9’x9′.  I really don’t know what else to do with this room other than turn it into a library.  I like the idea of a quiet place to kick my feet up and relax and read a book.  Maybe fall asleep and nap, maybe not.

There *are* a few things that make this room whisper ‘Make me a library.’  One, is the fact that this little room HASITSOWNFIREPLACE!  I know, right?  Can you imagine the chilly evenings spent curled up with a hot cup of tea in front of a roaring fire?  No?  Neither can I.  But I sure do love having that option should the situation present itself.

Secondly, it’s got a big bay window (that is going to need to be replaced soon, but shhhhhhh! don’t tell it, yet) and it lets the light just stream on in.

Lastly, and most importantly, we got books, yo.  Lots of them.  Like, MASSIVE amounts of books.  And they need a proper home in which we can refer to such titles as, ‘Putting Anger To Work For You’, ‘Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes’ and of course ‘Great Cases In Psychoanalysis.’

My inner 13 year-old just noticed Karen Horney

What’s left on my library to-do list?  I’m so glad you asked…

  • Install built-in bookshelves
  • Either paint wooden walls or create a plank treatment similar to kitchen
  • Build fireplace surround
  • New furniture (chaise? chairs?  La-Z-Boy recliners?)
I think it’ll be a nice winter project — now let me show you some of my inspiration…..
The strange thing is that after looking at my inspiration photos, I realize I’m all over the map style-wise.  Traditional, modern, transitional….  What would *your* style be?  What favorite book would you read in your library?

Pantry Eye-Candy

Now that Fall is here, I’m dreaming of a proper pantry.  I’ve started sketching and measuring, but before I share that with you, let’s take a look at some of the pantry spaces that are inspiring my next big makeover.

I think the pantry above is a close idea of what the end result for me will be.  I plan on utilizing my stockpile of ikea Adel cabinet doors and drawer fronts that I’ve been amassing like a true-to-life hoarder.  Whenever I hit up my local Ikea, I make a beeline for the ‘As-Is’ section and hone in on the $3.00, $5.00 and $6.00 cabinet doors.  Those puppies are normally $50-$90 a piece, and I’ve managed to amass an impressive collection.  So, with regards to the above photo, I think I’ll have more closed storage on the bottom for larger, less-used appliances and heavier, bulkier items like bags of rice and potatoes.
I don’t know what that machine is on the left, but I think I might want one in my pantry, too.  Coffee machine?  Ice maker?  I like it.  It’s fancy.  My pantry isn’t as deep as this one, but I like the closed storage on the bottom and I like the pull-out baskets for things like bread, certain veggies, etc.

Those doors!  I LOVE those doors.  The trim color is pretty sweet, too, and it makes me want to see what the rest of the house is all about.  I don’t really care for the U-shaped open shelving, but I think the lighting is fun and seriously, the doors and trim make this one a real winner for me.

Realistically, this is probably closest to my own pantry’s dimensions.  I think I would prefer a more consistent counter running the entire length and possibly around the corner, too.  The open shelving on the bottom, for me, makes it a bit cluttered-looking, but I’m willing to bet they keep those nifty pocket doors closed most of the time.
What’s not to like here? This underground-cellar-looking  space is gorgeous with it’s matching creamware and baskets.  However, in the real world, soup can labels and pasta boxes don’t look nearly as pretty.  I like the rustic (zinc?) counters and the simple, consistent plywood shelving is so clean and fresh.
This pantry really makes me do a double-take.  I LOVE the stainless counters and pull-out bins.  The grey-taupe shelves are top-notch and instead of a fridge, I think I would toss in a small, round sink for scrubbing potatoes or rinsing rice.  The subway backsplash and under-cabinet lighting makes it feel airy, fresh and high-end.  And of course, there are those pocket doors.  Such a great space-saver.  I don’t have the room to install them, but I think sliding track doors might be another option.
Maybe instead of built-in open shelving on one side, I could build a shelf unit like this to store my mason jars, spices, napkins, serving platters, bowls and creamware?  
I like the drawers and the rustic shelving with this space.  I think having a window letting in all that extra light helps to make the medium/dark tone of the wood not feel too heavy.  The wrap-around countertop is what really catches my eye, though.
So many to choose from!  So many options!  Where to begin?  What are some of the aspects of YOUR pantry that really make it functional?  What are some things that drive you nuts?

Take-A-Bite Tutorial : How To Paint Your Exterior Wood Siding

One of the things that was sorely neglected for the past few years was the back of the house.  By the time we were wrapping up the majority of the exterior renovations last year, it was getting late in the year and I had just enough time to slap a perfunctory coat of paint on the front of the house.  And let’s be honest here – Mama needed to get a LOT done inside of the house.  The interior work felt much more pressing – laying the flooring, getting the bathrooms working and moving us all in upstairs.  Things like painting the outside of the back of the house, didn’t feel all that important.

Now that the weather has changed to dry and cool-ish, it felt like the perfect time to get started on making the back of the house look as nice as the front.  The boys play in the yard a lot, the neighbors visit with their kiddos, we like to barbecue and eat outside (even though it’s getting a bit brisk earlier in the evening).  It means a lot to me that this place looks as good going as it does coming.  I don’t know if that even makes sense right now – just go with it.  Let’s just say the back of the house was really starting to look weary and totally not matching the new vinyl siding on the upstairs addition:
(I hired a worker to clean up the backyard for me before I started painting.
He promised me he was 16 and was legal to work — I have my doubts)
So, if you’re like me (of course you are!) and you wanna slap some paint up on your house, there’s a few things you’re going to want to take into consideration:
(Please note that this tutorial is meant mainly for painting your wood siding.  Painting things like vinyl and fiber-cement board have different requirements)
1.  Check the weather  – Fall is a great time to get your painting done.  You’re not dying of heat exhaustion and being eaten alive by mosquitoes (if you live in the Midwest).  However, if the temps are dipping well below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 Celcius), then you might run into problems.  If latex paint doesn’t have enough time to cure, you might be dealing with adhesion issues and mildew growth.  Neither of these things sound like fun.  My usual rule of thumb is to try to wait for a clear, sunny week when the temperatures don’t go below 50F at night.  I also try to get all of my coats of paint on during the sunniest and warmest times of the day.  Keep in mind that if you’re painting a sunny location of your home, the sun is going to warm the house itself and you may need to work fast if the siding is getting too warm and drying your paint at a quicker rate.  Paint drying too fast = ugly brush strokes.
My working conditions were awful.
Seriously, terrible.  The sunshine.  The cool breeze.  The sounds of seagulls.  Ugh.  Inhumane.
2. Scrape it like you mean it – Now things start to go downhill for a while.  Take a minute to assess what you’re working with and break out your scraper.  You’re looking for loose, chipping paint and you need to get rid of it.  If you don’t, you’re new paint is going to do the same thing and look like crap.  Trust me on this one.
3. Fill the gaps – Grab your interior/exterior spackle, wood filler and caulk and get fillin’!  Spots like nail holes and small recesses in the wood will get wood filler, seams and spots that could allow water to penetrate beneath the siding get a healthy dose of caulk.
4. Take a moment to step back and realize that your house now looks a million times worse than when you first started

5. Prime all of your newly-exposed wood and spots that were filled – I used Zinnser exterior water-based primer for this particular application.  If I was dealing with something like knots in wood or stained wood, I’d probably go with a heavier-duty oil-based primer.  

6. Finally, you can start painting – After your primer has had time to dry (always read the labels), it’s time to get down to business.  I like to paint my door frames first and I go super-sloppy.  Then, once dry, I cut in all nice and neat with my wall paint.
Invest in a good, quality brush for your paint.  It’ll go on smoother, be easier to cut-in and will just be an all-around nicer experience.  I used to just pick up a few dollar-store brushes, do my project and keep moving.  The difference in the finish when you use a higher-quality brush shows.  Buy a couple, take good care of them (washing, combing, storing) and they’ll be worth it in the long run.
The house paint that I used was Olympic exterior latex in Wistful Willow.  It was a color that came in closest to the siding on the upper portion of the house.  I still think it could have had a bit more brown in it, but as for the paint itself, I’m pretty pleased with its performance.  It took me two coats and touch-ups here and there to get full coverage.
7. Go pour yourself a drink and admire your work – Seriously, go get a drink.  You earned it!  Let’s take a look at the ‘before’ one more time:
And here’s what it looks like after with some Fall pizazz thrown in:
It’s not the most dramatic transformation ever, but I think the sunny, washed-out photos really don’t do it justice.  It’s so much cleaner-looking in person and just feels fresh.  
Did you see who came by to say ‘hello’?

Fall Mantel (and a tip for scaring your mailman)

If you’ve been with me, you’ll remember I built our fireplace mantel just before Christmas last year.  And when I say “just before”, I really mean it.  I was practically touching up paint and wrapping presents at the same time.


Once I built the mirror to go above it not long after, it kinda just sat like that up until this past weekend.

Certainly nothing wrong with it.  I prefer the clean, stark lines for sure.  However, not that most of the BIG renovations are wrapping up, it feels really, really good to putter and decorate and tweak things.  I haven’t had a chance to fuss over little details for almost a year.  I’ve been too busy laying flooring or trimming out rooms or tiling showers or, or, or….

I hit up a local greenhouse/farm stand and scooped up a few gourds and pulled out my awesome black crows.

No, not those Black Crowes.

I’m talking about this little guy:

How great is he, right?  I think I paid a dollar for him at a Dollarama.  Totally worth every penny for his cool, aloof presence all up in my mantel.

The candles were an awesome find in a Target clearance aisle a million years ago.  They’re battery-operated with timers and have a lovely, low glow at night.  I think I paid about four bucks for each of them.  Not bad considering a single, similar candle at Pottery Barn goes for $29.50.  Come on now…
The creamy, white gourds (are they really just mini pumpkins?), white beans and candles contrast perfectly against the dark wood of the mirror and our little feathered friend.  I also scored some free succulents at that same greenhouse and teamed them up with a simple, white pot.

Nailed it.

Now, let me get back to that crow for a minute.

He seems harmless enough, right?  Well, he has a bigger, badder brother.
In an attempt to Halloween-ify the front porch, I stuck his big brother in my oh-so-sad boxwood next to my front door.  I had intentions of getting some sparkly bats or spiders added to the wreath on the front door, but, somehow I got sidetracked (shiny things!) and my outdoor decorating stopped after I put the crow in the boxwood.  
I had completely forgotten about it and was doing the dishes in the kitchen when I noticed the mailman come to a dead stop before he got to my porch.  His entire body was motionless, except for his legs.  He crept up to the mailbox (also next to the front door), and extended his arm just enough to quietly and carefully slip the mail into the box.  He stepped gently off of the step with his eyes fixed on something and backed slowly away.  The entire time, I’m standing there, water running and dish-in-hand, confused.
And then it hit me.

You guys, he thought it was real.  He thought it was a real crow.  It must have been the absence of anything else even remotely resembling Halloween decorations.  Just this lone, menacing bird staring him down.

Since then, he has scared 100% of the visitors on my porch.  Including my husband and children.
He’s a keeper.

FINISHED Guest Bathroom – Before And After

This one’s been a long time comin’.  Last year, at about this same time, we were knee-deep in framing and construction.  In fact, the upstairs looked exactly like this:

Looking at that photo, it feels like it was AGES ago…..  But it was just one year. I was in a pretty big hurry to get the guest bathroom finished since it was the ‘easiest’ bathroom for us to finish.  This bathroom will basically be the boys’ bathroom and I worried about them running down the stairs at night in the dark for urgent bathroom business.  Plus, I was itching to not have to walk alllllllllll the way downstairs to the other side of the house – in the dark – in the middle of the night when I had to go to the bathroom.  (first world problems, I know)
We started by getting a solid base of 1/4″ HardieBacker cement board laid out for the entire flooring surface and then began laying our 13×13 charcoal ceramic tiles.
This was way before ‘Elephant Buffet’ and I was mainly taking photos for my personal Facebook account, so there are disastrously few pictures of the steps we took along the way.  Unfortunately, most of the picture taking ended here.  
I already talked about my awesome clearance tile score and how I tiled the shower here.  Let’s just move on to the pretty ‘after’ stuff:
I gotta tell ya, it feels pretty amazing to have a room complete.  After almost 14 months of renovations, we’re finally in the home stretch!
Linking up to:

Inspecting The Uninspected (Part One)

Let’s be honest here, unless you’re – a.) in the process of a remodeling project b.) about to embark or just finished something ridiculous c.) a creepy stalker (hi! and welcome!), then this post is going to be completely uninteresting and much like my first Thanksgiving turkey.

One of the many reasons posting has been eerily quiet around here is the incredible amount of hustle it takes to get a house (new build or renovation) to pass it’s myriad of inspections.  When we originally applied and were approved for our building permit, we basically agreed to have all new materials and structures be built to town code.  For our particular project, this lovely list includes having an inspection for each of the following:

  • Readiness to construct (pour) footings
  • Substantial completion of structural framing
  • Roughing in of HVAC systems
  • Substantial completion of HVAC systems
  • Readiness to inspect air barrier (prior to cover)
  • Substantial completion of insulation, vapour barriers and air barriers
  • Readiness for inspection and testing of underground plumbing system
  • Readiness for inspection and testing of the water distribution system
  • Readiness for inspection and testing of drainage systems and venting systems
  • Readiness for inspection and testing of plumbing fixtures and plumbing appliances
  • Readiness to construct the sewage systems
  • Substantial completion of the installation of the sewage system before the commencement of backfilling
  • Installation of components required to permit occupancy
  • Completion of construction
On top of these FOURTEEN inspection requirements, we also needed to file for a permit with the Electrical Safety Authority and that usually involves an inspection of the wiring prior to covering it with insulation and drywall, and then a final inspection to make sure everything works properly and the fixtures are to code.

Here’s the thing.  THE thing.  Before each inspection, I get nervous.  Really nervous.  Especially if it was an element that I had a hand in.  I take the work that I’ve done on this house VERY seriously and I’ve tried my very best to do each job damn near perfect or as perfect as I could possibly get it.  With a lot of this renovation, I’ve head to learn as I go.  Sometimes that means watching YouTube videos about how to install tile (and some that show you how to NOT do it properly), sometimes it means learning by having a massive failure.  Either way, one thing’s for sure, if I knew the proper way to do something, that’s the way I did it.  So, when it came time to have that which I *just* learned and implemented be inspected by a professional?  Oh, hell naw…. I get straight-up stressed.

I basically have spent the last 14 months in a constant state of frazzled-ness.  It doesn’t do good things to the soul.  Or to wrinkles.

The reason I want to bring all of this up is because we’ve managed to cross off every single one of those inspection bullets with the exception of one.  The last one.  The big kahuna.  The final inspection.
And finally, to that, I can say:
Except I am, kinda.
So, for the next few posts, I’m going to go over some of the finer points of the inspection process.  Things to keep in mind and some of the things that I encountered.  The most important thing to remember here if you are going through this process and don’t happen to live in the town of Kingsville, every town is different and building codes vary wildly.  Please, please do your homework when you’re tackling a renovation.  Call your local building department and ask them to forward specific documents regarding your project or check their website for information.  Trust me, it’ll save you from failing your inspections and having to go through the whole process all over again.  And again, that stuff just ain’t no good for the wrinkles.