We're Getting Clo(the)ser

This weekend we took over our first load of non-construction related items to the house! Although we've been pretty lucky to have the time to do most of our projects at our own pace, (which is pretty fast to begin with), we were all of a sudden in an all around time crunch this weekend to clear out our office in the townhouse.

You see, Mike's good friend Kyle has found himself between an apartment and a house and will be sharing our casa for the time being while he finds his own 'first nest'. I think everyone's acclimated to the change, everyone except his cat, Cabella. While Benelli is over the moon for his new companion, (there might even be a little crush), Cabella does not share the same feelings. I think we are making progress though, she's stopped waking Mike and I up in the middle of the night standing between us growling and hissing (think about waking up to that for a second, creepy right?).

A rare moment of them together.

Back to our Nest, to further prepare for our impending onslaught of stuff, we've taken to the closets. We knew (or I did and I politely convinced Mike) that we wanted storage solutions that could change depending on the room usage. For example, my office needs to have shelves for all my craftiness, but in the case of the room being used as a small bedroom in the future we wanted to have a system that could easily be changed to traditional reach-in for hanging clothes. Enter ClosetMaid at Home Depot. I haven't always been a fan, since I think the wiring and tracks look a little builder-basic, but they do have about a gazillion configurations somewhat affordable options for complete closet systems. I know after we stuff the closets full of our junk the not-so attractive tracks will disappear and all that will be visible will be organization.

Here's a look at the closet in the Office after it's organization overhaul:

The shelves can be moved to accommodate different heights or taken out completely to add a hanging rod.

The Master Bedroom closet would always be used for hanging clothes so we chose the permanent installation which also allowed us to add the neat quarter circle shelf which made the "L" shape to create a mini walk-in.

The Guest Bedroom was the trickiest closet to design. It will be used as main closet, so that we can use the room as a changing room and not disturb each other in the morning. The closet was large enough that we knew we didn't want to waste it on just one hanging rod. We chose to add shelves along the right side behind the register and two hanging rods for optimum storage.

I'm not sure how Mike found our iron, since I thought I did a sufficient job of hiding it at the townhouse, but he might be trying to tell me something.

Hallway Our Way

Time for another reveal! This time it's the upstairs hallway. When we walked through for the first time, we knew we wanted to lighten up the area with some paint and uncover the floor beneath the carpet. What we didn't realize was the ceiling would need replaced, (along with some plaster patches along the walls), the trim would need stripped and a new attic access would be added. Here's the before, try not to get claustrophobic.

The progress picture with skim coat and naked trim.

And the after with a fresh coat of paint (SW Repose Grey), refinished floors, and new doorfronts and hardware on the built-in.

(Exhale), now that's more like it.

A Word From Our "Sponsors"

I work for a Construction Management / General Contracting company that also has painting and powder coating divisions.  Since I've worked my way up from the receptionist when I was still in college, I've worked in a lot of the divisions.  This means that I've got some perks.  I get a wicked discount at Sherwin Williams, (we do hundred's of thousands of dollars of sales there every month), and powder coating privileges.  Mike actually worked in the shop one summer when we were in school.  When we were looking at our original register covers, we knew we wanted them white, and knew powder coating was the way to go.

One of the benefits is they sandblast it down to the metal, (so much easier than striping ourselves), and then the powder is applied and a perfect coating.  They came out amazing, probably better then when they were new. Here's a picture to show you guys our gorgeous (like) new register covers:

Closet Case

Mike completed the guest room closet the other day and I thought I'd share the mini before and after to keep everyone up to speed. Here's a picture of the closet before to refresh your memories, (and it's more satisfying putting the before and after back to back):

Like I hinted at in the House Tour we removed the built-in cabinet and the cedar plywood. Mike took it down to the studs and re-routed the HVAC vent and covered the attic access (and moved it to the hallway). He also removed the carpet and the hardwood underneath.

Some of our good friends bought some land to build in the future and had an old house they needed to tear down. Luckily for us they were willing to allow Mike to take some of the oak flooring that matched our flooring. We weren't sure how well it would match, but after Mike patched it into the closet and the floors were refinished, I'm sure you can see we were ecstatic to see it matched perfectly! We bought new doors at ReStore (only $17!), painted, and installed new hardware. What a difference!

And a close-up of Mike's handiwork, the flooring patching, the molding, and drywall!


Today was the Great Garage Demolition. Mike and a couple of his friends took great pleasure in destroying our termite-infested, musty-smelling, dark, too-small shed that someone tried to pass off as a garage. I took great pleasure in watching the annihilation from the safety of the house out of the rain/snow mix.

Here’s a before picture to remind you what the offensive structure looked like before:

The men started by tearing down the addition that was added to the back. This was done by knocking down the plywood siding, then cutting the studs, leaving a couple supports, then tying some toe straps to the supports and pulling it down. Here’s a shot of the missing back:

Here’s a shot looking through the front to the gaping hole in the back:

Now for the main structure Mike had spent countless hours planning the demo. From the tools needed to the fall pattern of the roof. His plans even included tying a toe strap to the truck and pulling it down that way. I won’t mention that throughout all this planning I said that I figured if you cut enough out of it, a few capable men could pull it down. I won’t mention that. In the end that’s exactly what happened and the guys could have huffed and puffed and blew it down, it was so unstable.

And of course I was on hand with the camera to catch it on video!

At the end of the day we had a full dumpster, empty garage site, no major injuries, and thankful hearts for all of our friends that came out to help! Thanks again to Kyle, Tony, Kyle, Kevin, and even our neighbor Chris (not pictured) for pitching in to help Mike and I!

I'm Floored!

Our floors are finished! The idea of giving someone money and complete control over essentially every room in our house did more than just frighten a pair of do-it-yourselfers like Mike and I. Luckily for us we had a wonderful hardwood refinisher, who helped ease our minds, (a little). What we thought would be an anxious 2 weeks while we patiently stood at the edge of our linoleum and hardwood intersection in the kitchen was actually only 6 days. The first day showed us that Brian the re-finisher was not your normal contractor when after arriving at 9:00 am he was still there at 10:30 pm. Even Mike couldn't keep up with him and had to leave.

The first step was to sand everything. To be honest, I thought the floors looked amazing after this step but it wouldn't have looked so nice after a couple weeks of shoe traffic and furniture scuffing.

Here's a couple pictures when I snuck in after Brian left:

After a layer of stain and a couple layers of polyurethane and a couple hours drying time in between, we were golden, well actually dark walnut.

For any locals, we can't say enough great things about Brian.  If you're looking for someone be sure to give him a call.

Pardon My Math

To date, I (and a little Mike) have painted:

8,232 square feet of walls
1,594 square feet of ceilings
1,586 linear feet of trim

and used:

7 gallons of primer
13 gallons of paint

I feel tired and poor just writing about it. Fortunately I loved the painting, even with the late nights, sore hands and arms, and going to work with spots of paint I didn't catch the night before. And I know I would not have been able to use so many different colors, or use Sherwin Williams higher quality paint if it wasn't for my employee contractor account. With all the work we've put into the painting, it's an amazing feeling when I walk in the door and see my crisp white trim with the colors I painstakingly picked.

Now that I'm pretty much an expert at painting, there are some products that were a must-have I picked up along the way.

I would not have survived, (or had neat edges), without the Premium XL Tight Spots 2″ Angle Short Handle Brush from Sherwin Williams. This brush saved my life and sanity. The short handle made it easy to get into the tight corners and was easier to handle. Only found at Sherwin Williams, I tried to get away with a cheap knockoff after a late night trip to Ace Hardware. I didn't make it 8" before I tossed it and waited until the next day to go back to SW when they opened.

The ZIBRA AIR GLIDE Quick Eject 9" Paint Frame saved me from cursing like a sailor everytime I needed to change rollers. With the touch of a button the frame opens and releases the wet roller without touching it.

The Craftsman 36" Creeper. Something not intended for painting, but thanks to Mike's thinking outside the box, helped me expedite my trim and baseboards. If not for this little guy, I would have bruises all over my legs and hips from scooting along the hard floors.

The last painting tool was the 12" pole extender. Not that inventive or even expensive, but attaching this to the end of my roller helped me reach to the ceiling and the floor with out jumping or squatting, and also was small enough to allow full motion to paint everything in between.

A picture of my painting pot of gold:

Window Seat to My Soul

Ever time I think of window seats, I think of curling up on a sunny day with Benelli by my side, a good book, and a couple hours to kill. Hey, a girl can dream. Well thanks to my amazingly talented boyfriend, I only have to dream of having time to read a book.

Thanks to an underused bump-out in the Dining Room, we now have our very own window seat. If you've been to the house lately you understand how obsessed I am with it. I think the window is happy to have had such a dramatic face lift as well.

The idea actually arose as an alternative to the patch of plywood that occupied the space previously. Mike was less than excited to retrofit some reclaimed wood to try to match the hardwood.

I think the finished product looks 100 times better than it did before, not to mention like it was always destined to become a window seat.

Here's a before to refresh your memories:

The progress photo before the top was installed and molding added:

After the top was added and the drywall patched:

After trim was added:


As promised, I've got some photos to post showing the splatter job in the Master Bedroom. Excuse the joint compound, I guess Mike was so excited to get rid of the offending colors that he immediately skim coated the walls before I could get in and take a picture. You can still see the rainbow of color through even through the compound.

Getting to this point wasn't pretty, and unfortunately some of our helpful friends and family came over at the most inopportune time. Mike was all too willing to put them to work with nothing more then scrappers and safety glasses. Even after scrapping, Mike still had to take the belt sander to the walls. Four belt replacements later, most of it was sanded away. A thin skim coat smoothed everything out.

A big THANK YOU to the Tony's (Ackerman and Mueller) and Mike's dad, Chad!

Smitten Kitten

Many of you know that Mike and I recently lost our kitten Vespa, whom became a part of our family. We were both devastated when he was diagnosed with FIP and it became apparent he wouldn't make it.

Although we were both in a pretty sad place for awhile, many people we talked to said the best way to get over a lost pet is to get another one. We knew this was what was best, but with the impending house purchase and the constant back and forth while we were working on the house we didn't think it was the right time.

After casually perusing Craigslist for kittens (something I'm not ashamed to say I did often), we came across a listing that broke our hearts. A girl who lived in a one-bedroom apartment in Cleveland had 3 cats and 6 kittens and was getting desperate. She went on to say that if she didn't find homes she would have to dump them at a farm she frequented. Now, I'm not sure if she really would have or not, but I didn't want to take that chance.

Mike and I drove up, saying out loud that if we didn't feel right we wouldn't take one of the kittens, but both secretly thinking that we were going to be kitten parents again. After hanging out with the cats and kittens, there was only one kitten that walked up to us and let us hold him without much fuss. We knew he was the one.

Benelli started out very skittish and even hid behind the furnace the first day we left him at home by himself. After a couple days of pure spoiling and love he came around. He effortlessly fit into our little family and is both a terror (when he wakes us up at 4:00 in the morning wanting to hang out) and a joy (when he cuddles up to your neck while watching tv). Though it's been hard with the long days we spend at the house, he doesn't seem to hold it against us!

Now for some excruciatingly cute pictures of our Mascot:


Color Me Curious

Mike and I are the perfect renovating pair. While he’s better at the heavy duty stuff, i.e. re-wiring the electric, building window seats, and drywalling, I’m better at the finishing touches like painting and decorating. This weekend I really shined! All day Friday and the weekend was spent with a paint brush fused to my right hand and a paint roller in the left, (although that’s somewhat of an exaggeration, at some points I really was in that position). While Mike and our (heaven-sent) friends have done a lot of the dirty work, my major contribution to this reno is the painting. Mike detests it, and lucky for him I love it! We haven’t completely finished, but I wanted to give everyone a sneak peek at the colors I chose.

Here is the Living Room color. It changes in the light and sometimes it looks beige but most of the time it is a soft green.

The Hallway and Stairs are in a soft gray. I wanted to lighten the space to make it feel bigger, but also wanted something that would set off the trim.

The Hallway goes into the Master Bedroom which I picked a calming blue.

I wanted the Guest Bedroom to be similar in tone and feel to the Master Bedroom, but with a more crisp feeling. I plan to use green and yellow accessories to accentuate the gray walls.

The Dining Room and Office both are the same Bungolow Beige SW7511 which I wasn't able to find a swatch for. But like the name says, it's beige, although there's about 77 different shades of beige, they're all the same, boring beige. I wanted the dining room to be clean and crisp and not too loud. I wanted the office to have a neutral background so that the papers and projects I make don't clash with the walls.

The overall palate is somewhat muted, but before I began, Mike capped my color selection to three colors! How anyone decorates a whole house with three colors is beyond me, but his fear was walking into each room and being assaulted with a new color and the rooms feeling detached from each other. Through many hours of deliberation I came up with five hoping that he would give his approval. Last night after finishing the Master Bedroom and Guest Bedroom he was standing in the hallway looking at each room back and forth and said "I know you don't want to hear this but, these rooms look like the same color." I'm not sure what he's talking about because they're completely different, but it let's me know I'm doing my job!

Will Strip for Cash

On second thought, maybe not. One of the problems with renovating a house old enough to be our grandparent, not to mention one that in its previous life was a rental, is what seems like an overall 3 inch layer of paint over everything. This isn’t so bad on the walls, hey, it sometimes smooths out the slight imperfections in the plaster. When it becomes unbearable is the trim. Although I’m not a historical perfectionist and need/want the natural wood trim, I would like my trim not to have bubbles/peels/scratches or an overall paint layer that is so thick it makes the trim details indistinguishable.

So what does any sane home renovator do, you ask? Definitely not strip it. But, no one ever said Mike and I were sane! After some help from friends, we tried every option out there. Highly caustic, smelly chemical stripper? Check. Low-odor organic stripper? Check. Heat gun? Check. The best option? A $10 sharp blade scrapper from Ace Hardware. At least for the trim that had paint (no primer) over high gloss, which was pretty much everywhere. I think this was the one time the previous homeowners less than inadequate painting worked in our favor. After it’s all said and done, I’m glad we did it. The new paint will look great on our freshly stripped trim.