Welcome To Our New Pantry

Oh, hi there!  Do I know you?  Have we met?  Oh, right…. way back in December we spoke about fancy wreaths and crafts and such.  Then I kinda bailed for about eight or nine months.  But let’s not talk about that.  No use living in the past.  Today, I’d like to introduce you to my new best friend.  She’s practical and good-looking.  Two very important qualities in a bestie in my opinion.

Ladies and gentlemen (?), let me introduce you to my pantry:

Whenever I walk past I hear Stevie Wonder singing softly in the background.  Yes, Mr. Wonder.  She’s totes lovely.

No ‘reveal’ post would be complete without a horrific ‘before’.

Ummm…. yeah.  I originally didn’t want to show this photo.  It’s full-on Hoarders, I know.  The funny part is that this was only concealed from my kitchen by a a pair of curtains I temporarily (for a year) hung.

People would come over and sit in the kitchen and casually ask what was in there and I’d break into a cold sweat.  It was like the scene from the Wizard of Oz – “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!”   What curtain?  I don’t see anything!  Here! Have more coffee!  Some quinoa salad or something!  Look!  Elvis!

The WORST part was when the boys had friends over.  For some reason, every kid that entered my house insisted on playing hide and seek in that damn pantry.  They’d go running for the curtain not realizing that they were about to run right smack into twelve bottles of ketchup on the floor and six ceramic pie plates I bought on clearance for future Christmas gifts.  Ha.  Joke’s on them.  That’ll learn ’em.

I knew I couldn’t go on like this any longer.  We needed some semblance of organization and it needed to happen STAT.  When we demo’ed the kitchen this past summer (complete kitchen post comin’ atcha), we saved every scrap of 3/4″ plywood we could with the hopes of reusing it later.  Well, later was now.

I started by taking everything out of the pantry and randomly throwing it around the kitchen in the most haphazard way possible.  That always lowers my blood pressure.

We found lots of hidden treasures – like a Tupperware bowl full of peanuts that the boys proceeded to eat off of the floor like a couple of refugees.

Once I had it cleared out, I could assess the damage and figure out my game plan. I’ve been hoarding Adel cabinet fronts from Ikea for a couple years now and I’ve amassed a pretty impressive collection.

I figured out what doors I had, what cabinet frames I needed to buy to match them up and went from there.  One side of the pantry was exactly 36″ wide and I had 36″ drawer fronts already on hand (all but the top, little ones), so I chose the wide, deep drawers for storing things like lunch bags, cooler bags and miscellaneous pantry crap that never seems to find a home anywhere else in the kitchen.  I also had a couple 39″ doors for the upper cabinets, so I purchased a tall wall cabinet to fit above the drawers.

There was a 6″ gap to the left of the wall cabinet, so I built a little bottle holder out of scrap mdf and melamine-covered particle board to fit perfectly in that spot and to add a little storage at the same time.

Once I had that side roughed in, I could get to work on building some storage into the other side of the pantry.  John had the amazing idea to use an old hollow-core door to create the divider down the almost-center of that old closet space.

I opted to cover the doorknob holes with more scrap trim and just started building from there as my guide.  As you can see, I had to work around the hvac duct on the bottom – that posed a little bit of a challenge, but nothing a little scrap mdf couldn’t handle.

The one thing that was causing my psoriasis to act up was that big opening on the back wall and how I was going to get that covered up and looking even with the rest of the paneling.  Up until that moment, my plan had been to paint out all of the fake paneling and give it a bit of a country cottage charmy feel.  In order to do that, I was going to have to buy another piece of ugly paneling (that isn’t even sold anymore around here) for about $27-$35.  I was bummin’ hard because I had my heart set on doing this whole pantry renovation with minimal costs and reusing as much as I could.  Then, John had the BRILLIANT idea to use some old wallpaper that I had been hoarding (just shut up, it obviously pays off) years ago on clearance from Lowe’s.  The poor guy hadn’t even finished his sentence before I was practically running to the garage to scout out a crappy piece of plywood to patch the big ol’ hole in my wall.

I patched up the knots and the unevenness of the whole thing because it didn’t match up perfectly with the wall on either side.  I read up quite a bit on whether I should prime the plywood first, use wallpaper size or just impulsively slap the wallpaper on with paste.  I’ll let you guess what option I went with.  I figured the worst-case scenario was that the wallpaper wouldn’t adhere properly and then I’d just redo it because it doesn’t take a ton of paper in the first place.  So, I got to rollin’ out my paper and matching the pattern.

Then, I drew a level vertical line on the wall, slopped on a crapload of paste and got to work.

Oh, man.  What a difference that made.  I wasn’t sure how John would feel about the floral wallpaper but he seems to dig it just told me that it looks like “giant grandma curtains”.  Let’s be honest,  ANYTHING is better than what this pantry looked like before.

Keeping with the spirit of reusing what we have, I grabbed some shelves that were originally in the pantry/closet and some scrap boards to make the countertop for the drawer cabinet.

Once I got some trim sliced and diced and slapped some more wallpaper (beadboard style) on the ceiling tiles, this puppy really came together.

I have a couple more bits of trim and hardware to add and I’m still waiting for the top drawers to come in, but as of now, I think it’s looking pretty sweet and way less hoardish.  It’s been really nice to be organized for the back-to-school rush and routines. And for all of the hide and seek.


Easy DIY Christmas Ornament Wreath (AKA – You’re Totally Gonna Do This)

The flu (or whatever this is) appears to have hit casa Lee pretty hard.  We’re allllllllll feelin’ it.  However, Christmas decoratin’ don’t stop for no dang illness round here.  In the midst of one of my Tylenol/Advil/Nyquil dazes, I was perusing Pinterest and came across this bit of gorgeousness:
Umm, hello!?  Where have you been all my life?  When I was decorating our tree this year, I totally overbought in the gold and silver ornament department and felt bad taking half a box of pretty ornaments back down to the basement.  I simply didn’t have any place to put them.  Until now, baby.
So, I dug around in the garage and found one of my wood (is it wood? grapevine? some other material?) wreath forms and took that sucker out of retirement.  I followed pretty much everyone else’s tutorial, so I’m definitely not inventing the wheel here.  I began by setting my outer layer of larger ornaments upside down. 
All of the tutorials say to take off the little metal hook-holder at the top before hot gluing.  That was an extra step that I just didn’t feel like doing.  Was I going to reuse them?  Would I see them?  Both of my answers came back as a resounding ‘no’.  I don’t know if that makes my end product less awesome or if I’ll regret it sometime in the future.  If I do, I’ll be sure to report back to ya.  (No, I won’t.  Let’s be honest.  My last post prior to this was October 22nd, guys.)
Then, I flipped it over and just started fillin’ things in!  There really wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the whole shebang, just glue ornaments into all the gaps so that I don’t see the wreath in the end.  I filled things in with smaller ornaments and tried to make sure the finishes were evenly spaced out because I have OCD like that. 

To hang it, I just grabbed a cheap-o piece of ribbon that I’ll probably change out next year when I buy all of my millions of spools of ribbon during the after-holiday sales.  I think it’s safe to say that I’m pretty pleased with the result.
Tell me about your holiday decorating!  Any great projects I should check out?  

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?

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:

A Bedroom For A Boy – Progress

When we last spoke, the bedroom in question was looking a LOT like this:

I’ve been watching episodes of ‘Hoarders – Buried Alive’ just to prove to myself that I didn’t have a problem.  This room has had become the catch-all throughout the renovation process.  A life-size junk drawer, if you will.  Someone’s coming over to visit?  No problem!  Open the door, literally throw something in, shut the door.
No more…..
That, my friends, is the result of six billion flights of stairs.  Almost every single thing in this upstairs bedroom belonged in the basement.  A basement that needed to be reorganized in order to accept the influx of *stuff* that I was about to introduce.  So, not only did I need to clean out the entire basement, I needed to clear out this room, as well.  You’d think I would have thinner thighs by now…
In order to get to this point, here’s what had to happen:
  • Trim out the windows
  • Caulk all trim around said windows
  • Paint the jambs and trim
  • Two coats of Benjamin Moore ‘Revere Pewter’ mixed in Behr Premium Plus, eggshell finish
  • Install baseboards and craftsman-style door casings
And that’s where I’m at.  I have seven days before this puppy needs to be birthday-boy ready.  Here’s what’s left:
  • Caulk and paint floor and door trim 
  • Hang artwork
  • Decide on room layout
  • Bring in furniture (desk, shelves, night table, lamps, etc)
The shelving that you see in the room right now is simple, cost-effective (read: super-cheap) shelving from Ikea.  Once assembled, it looks like this:
Once you spend an hour in the hot garage with a can of brain-cell diminishing dark walnut stain, it looks like this:
I have a couple options as far as placement of the shelves go— and I really don’t know which one I prefer.  I can go one on either side of the window, like so:
Or, I can gang them up between two windows and they would be the first thing you see when you walk up the stairs or past the door:
I think I kinda like them ganged together like this and I’m imagining white, soft, full curtains on either side of the windows to really lighten up this wall and create a welcoming effect.  However, once you bring in the bed where I wanted it, it doesn’t leave much walking space:
The tape measure shows exactly how far the bed would extend.
The room has a funky, little bump-out that I was hoping to tuck the headboard into and extend into the room.
Now, excuse me while I dazzle you with my ARTISTIC rendering of Jack’s bed in this space just to help you understand what I mean:
You’re floored.  I know.  I gots mad Paint skillz.  Don’t hate.
So that’s where we are right now.  No decisions on room layout, but I’ll get that figured out in the next couple days.  Any thoughts?  Recommendations?  Would you like me to offer tutorial classes on how to illustrate in MS Paint?

Snips and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails (Designing An Awesome Boys’ Room)

If you follow me on Pinterest, you’ll notice that I’ve been pinning a lot of this:

and this:

oh, and then there’s this:


and of course, let’s not forget this:


You guys.  That last image…..  Wow.  I love it so much.  I don’t know if it screams ‘7 year-old boy’ though….. I might have to file it away for myself….

The thing that sticks out most for me in these inspiration photos is contrast.  Lots of soft blues and greys coupled with striking black and dark walnut.  And to lighten the space, bright, creamy white accents in the form of trim or draperies.

You see, I’ve got a little monkey who just so happens to be turning 7 this month.  When we originally designed the second floor, we added a guest room knowing that it would eventually be Jack’s bedroom.  We figured the boys would duke it out in a shared bedroom until they were about 10 or so, and then want to spread their wings and go separate ways.

Not my kids.


I’ve decided to surprise Jack with his own room for his birthday.  Which just so happens to be in 20 days.  Now, I’m not expecting it to look exactly like those drool-worthy rooms up there in 20 days.  Especially considering that I’m currently working on finishing up the master ensuite, guest bathroom, kitchen and enough trim work to make me just want to just. give. up. right. now.

On top of all of that, the current space I’m working with looks like this:

Ugh.  That hurts.  Hurts bad.

Throughout the last year, whenever we’ve had to store something away for later or move items because we were working in a room, this is where it went.  And now it’s back to haunt me.

BUT!  I’ve got a plan and I’m sticking to it.  Kind of.  Here’s the master to-do for this space:

  • Clear out the room
  • Finish trimming out the windows and doors
  • Make a decision regarding whether to go basic wall trim or do a snazzy treatment
  • Paint
  • Window coverings/blinds/curtains
  • Install lighting

It will seriously be a miracle if I can get this done.  Little bites, Carol….little bites…

What about you?  Ever try to eat an elephant of this size in such a short time?  Got any inspiration photos?  Words of wisdom?

Tiling Shower Walls – a.k.a.: Instant Gratification

John wants me to call this blog, ‘The House That Clearance Built’.  Not sure why……  could have something to do with this:

Or this:

Or possibly this:

But today, it has to do with this:

Yes.  Those are 8×16″ textured tiles marked down from $4.12 to $1.00.  One dollar!  I was home, struggling with our new paint sprayer (as it turns out, I am *not* the ‘paint whisperer’ like I thought I might be) and John brought the boys out on a routine trip to the hardware store.  About 5 minutes later, I got a call  from him saying something to the effect of “Get here.  Now.  You’re gonna wanna see this.”

Oh, and I DID want to see that.

We were ALL OVER the sparkly, white tiles and we did some math and figured out about how much tile would be needed to do the guest bathroom shower walls.  There weren’t enough tiles available in the clearance bin.  <sad song here>  Interestingly enough, there were some charcoal-ish grey tiles that were marked down and so we played around with a few patterns right there in the store and decided to go for it.

I’ve never tiled a shower wall before so to say I was a teeny, tiny bit intimidated would be an understatement.  I gathered all of my supplies, took a deep breath, and just dove right in.

I lined the bathtub with some leftover cardboard.
Hey look!  There’s a level!

I start to get hives when things fall out of symmetry, so I marked my center line so I would know where to begin.  With white mortar, I mixed up a small batch to get started and spread a good layer of mortar onto the cement board with a notched trowel.  And proceeded to drop GIANT globs of thinset onto the cardboard-lined bathtub.

After a little while, I had this:

Talk about satisfaction.  I had been staring at that unfinished wall for a while and it felt so good to see it starting to take shape.  I let that first round of tiling set up for a while before I started on a grey band and the side walls.  Also, I ran out of white mortar and continued with grey mortar.  I figured that if I kept my joints somewhat clear, I wouldn’t have too much of an issue with it coming through my white grout.

The corners required a quick snip on the tile cutter and for. the. love. of. pete. I kept chipping the edges of all of my cuts.  No matter what technique/method/wishful thinking I tried, the edges were chipping.  And I was quickly using up all of my ‘just in case’ tiles.  I ended up just taking the ones that were the least hacked up and using them – with the hopes that grout might help to cover up my sins.

Speaking of sins.

Remember how I said that I didn’t think using the grey mortar would be that big of a deal?

It was a big deal.

I am neither neat, nor careful when it comes to mortar.  When I came back the next day, I had grey mortar crustily oozing out errwhere.  It was not in the least bit attractive.  And neither was the sight of me frantically trying to scrape out the surprisingly (?) cement-like bulges from all of my seams.  It was brutal.  And this was the best I could muster:

I was really and truly hoping that the grout gods would be forgiving and help me out with concealing this travesty forever and ever.  Amen.

They totally delivered.

This is just after applying the grout, hence the haze.

I have to say, I thought grouting would be way more fun.  It was stressful to me.  I was really concerned about the coverage and I suppose standing on the sides of the tub and reaching up as high as I could – overhead – didn’t make it any more pleasurable.  I found that my hands were shaking and achy at the beginning, so I got some awesome (and handsome) assistance.

John jumped in and started grouting like a boss and I was able to follow from behind and make it pretty and uniform.  In the end, I’m pretty pleased with the result.

The finishing touch for this particular job was to add a bead of silicone to the perimeter of the tub where it meets the tile.  I had read that a good tip is to fill your bathtub prior to applying the silicone so that if there’s any flex when the tub is full, you’ll reduce any cracking or displacement of the silicone.

I placed a piece of scrap tile behind the running water to prevent any splashin’ onto my pre-siliconed area.

A little bit of painter’s tape and a nice, thick bead of silicone.

Remove the tape while the silicone is still wet and while the tub is still full and let that puppy sit for a while.

Once things are nice and set, drain the water and marvel at the awesomeness of it all.  I followed up a week later with some sealer and BOOM.

This is as clean as this bathtub will ever be.  Ever.