Nursery Planning and Picking a "Theme"

While my pregnancy has progressed (hello 6 months!) I’ve got the normal curiosity about how we’re prepping the house for baby.  A lot of people specifically have asked what is our nursery theme?  While picking a “theme” would make a lot of things easier, I never had planned to go this more traditional route.  My plan was to design a more masculine grown-up room and add layers of whimsy and fun in the decorations, toys, and books. 


Mike really surprised me one night when he shared the “theme” he wanted for our son’s room!

The room is small and, thanks to my impatience, already a blank slate from starting the office redo.  

I had the top image in my mind as inspiration and knew adding toys and colorful books would add the layer of "fun" I was looking for.  When Mike and I were discussing the room he surprised me by having his own, very distinct, opinion.  Not to say Mike having an opinion is surprising, anyone who's a longtime reader or knows him in person knows that he's very opinionated, but he usually lets me do my thing decorating because at this point he trusts me.  Even though he doesn't like some things I bring into the house, he recognizes that many people do and that I have relatively good taste.

His idea for a theme? Tibetian Sherpa. 

Ha! Let me explain.  He has this snowboarding game that he said is kinda the feel for what he had in mind.  It's called Alto's Adventure and it really does have visually cool and interesting graphics.  

Basically, Alto, a snowboarding Shepard, forgets to close his llama gate and they escape and he has to collect them all.

As we were talking, Mike said he doesn't want little sherpa's in the corners or kid-sized llamas, just the overall feel of the imagery of the game.  We talked about colors and textures like leather and fur and wouldn't you know it was basically the direction I was already going!

So while the "theme" is kind of a joke, it's also the direction we're heading and in addition to the basic colors and furniture, I'm sourcing a llama or two for fun!

We've got a lot of the major furniture, like a new rug, dresser and crib, either installed or en route and the room's painted, so now we work on adding a little Alto to the room!  

Replacing Perfectly Good Lights with New Ones

This is a short post, but basically I’ve been relatively happy with our bathroom vanity lights we installed almost 5 years ago (I had to look that number up and the seems really crazy that that project was that long ago!). 

Bathroom Vanity Lights
The style wasn’t something I loved, but they were okay.  What I didn’t love was the dust.

It may be difficult to see in photos, but the frosted glass made it impossible to clean off the dust.

Regular Swiffer dusters were out of the question, and even using a damp paper towel left it dirty and little paper towel pieces behind.  Besides, I know my cleaning limitations and I barely want to get on the counter now to hand clean these bad boys, I know when a baby comes it’s definitely not happening!

So I went on the hunt for something with a smooth glass cover, but I also liked the diffused light from the frosted glass.  When I came across these Oslo 3-Light Brushed Nickel Vanity Lights from Home Depot I felt like it was a winner.
While I don’t absolutely love the style, it works for our somewhat traditional bathroom, and it has both a smooth glass exterior while still providing the diffused light as the old lights.

Like the original installation, we installed with the bulbs facing down because the room is small and facing it upwards would loose light as it bounced off the ceiling first.

Installation was relatively easy, except that the screws on the mounting plate were a little too long for the new fixture.  Mike was able to get one to work, but ended up needing to cut the other set down.  Strange and annoying, but like most things, he figured it out!

While it’s not a huge change, we did add LED bulbs and the lighting is now brighter and a little cooler in temperature, it’s a nice little upgrade.  Also, knowing that cleaning them will be much easier makes me smile a little every time I turn them on!


Adding New Outlets to an Older Home

While we work on moving furniture around in the bedrooms to make room for the nursery, there were a few projects that we had to complete first.

First up, was installing two new outlets upstairs, one in the (future) office and the other in our bedroom.  You see, one of the perks of our 90-year-old house is there are no outlets on any exterior walls upstairs.  When I first mentioned this to Mike he was living in Chicago and he 100% thought I was wrong.  I assured him that as someone who’s had to decorate around this quirk, it was true, (I’m pretty sure he went and checked the next time he was in town just in case I was wrong)!

Before moving the desk I wanted to add an outlet so I didn’t have extension cords running across the room, and while we’re adding one, we might as well add another on the other side of the house in our bedroom to get rid of the extension cords we were already using!

While the pictures aren’t anything to look at, some aren’t even in focus because I was also acting as “apprentice” during installation, I found the process interesting and actually it’s not that hard at all!  Although, if you’ve never done electrical work before I definitely wouldn’t recommend this, but by knowing the process it can help you stay informed when getting quotes by licensed electricians.

First, you cut a hole.  We determined the new outlet should fall somewhere in the middle of the wall where my desk would sit.  We used the cable outlet (which were installed in all the bedrooms prior to us moving in) to match the height.  Mike chose to use an old work box (the blue plastic kind) because we are installing into the original lathe and plaster walls, also you don’t need to find and attach to a stud.  We used the stud finder to determine we weren’t hitting a stud and then used a multi-tool (oscillating saw) to cut the hole.

Then came the fun part, and by fun, I mean worst part for Mike because he had to get up in the attic.

We attached a pull string to the original outlet wiring in the room and from the attic, Mike pulled the existing wire up (making sure the string didn't get pulled out and I had something to grab on to).  Then he attached the new wire to the string and existing wire.  From below, I pulled both back through the outlet.  The gray is the exisiting, and the yellow is the new wire.

By connecting the new wire to the existing receptacle, this is where the power to the new outlets will come from (they'll also all be on the same breaker which will make it easier for future work).  Mike then moved to the other side of the room (in the attic) and since we had measured where the new outlet was cut in relation to the corner of the house, he knew where to drill the holes to drop down the new wire.  Here's the relation of the existing outlet (on the bottom right) to the new outlet across the room.

I was in the room in charge of making sure I saw sawdust through the new hole as he drilled the hole up in the attic (check!) and then I had to grab the wire as he fed it down.  Once the first wire was pulled, then he sent down another one, which would then feed to our bedroom across the attic.

At this point, it's basically 90% done.  We did the same procedure to the new outlet in our bedroom, (Mike laid out the second wire across the attic and after cutting it with more than enough slack, he pushed that down the wall as I grabbed it through the new hole and pulled it through).

Mike then added receptacles, which was a little difficult due to the 12-gauge wire, but of course, he made it work.  We decided to add receptacles with USB ports (these ones specifically) knowing that I'll be charging my phone and electronics in my office sometimes, and we charge our kindles on our bedside tables in our bedroom.

With that project done, I'm basically ready to paint this room!  I have a lot more energy now that I've hit the second trimester, but I still can't get excited about this project.  I'm hoping to just push through it this weekend so we can start setting up the nursery, which is both overwhelming and exciting!

We tackled another smaller electrical project this weekend, which I'll share later this week.

Baby Danks is a…

Two weeks ago we had a small cookout for about 25 of our close friends and family (small in terms of our usual parties!) to announce the gender of our baby!  Mike wanted to make “baby” back ribs (ha!) and pork butt sliders and everyone brought a dish to share.  It was an awesome informal gathering and Mike and I felt so lucky to have some many loved ones who are just as happy to share in this exciting time for us.  The kick ass food may have helped too!

I thought of a million different ways to share the news, but in the end I went with my old favorite, a giant balloon!

At the beginning, I'm talking to my mom via Facetime from Florida.

Although I’m only 17 weeks along right now, we chose to get the optional non-invasive chromosomal screening test at 11 weeks and had the option to test for the baby’s gender as well. We received the results less than a week later, and didn’t waste any time ripping open the envelope to see the XY MALE!

Mike and I both had a feeling it was a boy.  Mike based on the fact that he really wanted a son, and mine based on my symptoms ( for example, I had a severe aversion to sweets for the first couple of months).  We're both really excited for our little boy to join our family!

Danks & Honey & Baby!

It’s been pretty quiet around here and that’s because Mike and I are trying to wrap our heads around the fact that we’re having a baby!

We're so excited to start this adventure and have lots to share!

$50 Deck Fix

I’m still slowly putting my office back together, but with the weather finally cooperating we’ve spent a lot of time focusing getting the outdoors summer-ready.  Last year we created plant beds and filled them with mulch and this year our goal was to fill them up!  We’ve got almost all of the plants bought and in place, and a couple weeknights, or one good weekend, we’ll have it completed!

A last minute scope addition was to paint the posts and some of the girders of the deck.  It’s no secret that I’ve hated the deck stain since the mis-tint fiasco of 2015, but one thing that has bothered me even more is our laziness (time-crunch + frustration with the color) in not staining the posts and some of the beams the same color. 


As we were finalizing our plant plans I came up with a crazy idea to stain these posts/beam black so that they almost disappear.  Also, since they are covered from the elements we won’t have to restain them every time we do the rest of the deck because they won’t wear at the same rate, win-win!

I stopped by Sherwin Williams and grabbed a gallon of SuperDeck tinted black (I initially made the mistake of getting semi-transparent and it was way too transparent, I went back and a total of 3 oz of black made the stain almost solid – learn from me and just go solid!).  While Mike planted some shrubs near the front of the house, I got to work painting the posts.  When I stepped back, it was such a huge improvement I couldn’t believe we didn’t think of it sooner!




After I worked my way down the line, Mike was right behind me digging holes and planting everything, so it was even more of an improvement.  The black worked really well because the posts fade into the shadows underneath the deck, and it blends with the black mulch.



This area is behind where our garbage containers sit and the rubber matting is where the snow blower is housed during the summer.  The black stain really hides everything now!



On the other side we had this area that Mike wanted to keep open to store things, but it was such an eye sore for our sweet neighbor.  I convinced Mike to part with the old plastic chairs (that were such a hassle to get in and out) and he organized the ladder extension a little better as well.  We added some stepping stones to allow him easier access to getting the ladder and we’ll add some hostas that will make the area more tidy, but not to precious if he tramples them every once in a while. 



The additional arborvitaes really hid the underside of the deck, but painting everything black just helped camouflage even more.  Also, I hope I never have to paint behind them again now that they are all in place!

Overall, it took two afternoons to paint everything since we were doing it after work. But now that it’s complete I’m so happy with my last minute idea!

Office Progress | Walls Painted

I wasted no time after the doors were cured and rehung on their respective frames to paint the office walls.

Office Painted SW6203 Spare White

When we bought the house 7 years ago we painted everything before moving in.  Which means I had to pick every room color without any furniture.  Seven years ago I would have never painted a room white and while I knew I wanted this room to be neutral, beige was my safe choice.


Now, (like everyone else) I find myself drawn to white rooms and I chose Sherwin Williams - Spare White (SW6203) which is a creamy white with a slightly gray undertone.  My first thought was to use SW Alabaster like my sister did in her family room, but it has a beige undertone and living with beige for so long I wanted something that read a little cooler.


Even though the color wasn’t too dark before, it took 3 coats to get full coverage, also the paint was really thick which I don’t usually have trouble with so maybe it was just a bad can.  Either way, it was worth it because the room looks and feels completely different now.

Office Painted SW6203 Spare White 2

Spare White is just gray enough to offset the true white trim and everything looks so clean and modern now!  I’m super happy with the black doors in here and can’t wait to add gold accents and some greenery as well as more white and wood from the furniture I’ve selected

Office Painted SW6203 Spare White 3

The room is a small rectangle, only slightly longer than it is wide, so it’s hard to take photos in, but there’s a small closet, 1 window and the door to the hallway.  Our neighbor cut down the tree that used to be outside this window a couple years ago which was sad for the privacy/greenery, but it’s also allowed a lot more light to come in as well which has been nice.

I took all these photos with the overhead light on and the walls read a tiny bit warm.  With no artificial light, the walls are definitely a creamy, cool white.

Office Painted SW6203 Spare White - Natural Light

I’ve already laid out the rug and spent the weekend building the Ikea furniture, so I’ll share that progress soon, as well as another furniture piece which was a craigslist find that I’m hoping to paint this week.

Interior Doors Painted

Now that you’re caught up on the door saga, lets talk paint.  As I mentioned when we were modifying the doors 5 years ago, the plan was to paint them white.  I’ve waffled back and forth between a few different options, but for a while I’ve wanted black doors.  Mike and I recently were talking about this and he was a little concerned they would be too dark or too trendy.  I told him that black is actually a very classic door color and after 5 years I was pretty sold on the idea, plus I already had the paint!


The doors in their raw wood state were actually really great and I had thought that maybe I could add some sort of matte wax to protect, but keep the color we had going on now.  Ultimately, I decided that while the doors might look good (they’re cherry so I wasn’t sure if I could add wax/sealant without going too red), they would probably clash with the finished floors.

While still wanting some of the wood integrity I decided to try some ebony stain.  I thought this would be the best of both worlds since some of the doors had larger Bondo spots from the modification process.  Mike must have told me 27 times that stain might not be a good option because the plan at the beginning was paint and he wasn’t necessarily treating the modification process with any other option in mind. 

I bought some ebony stain and some matte poly and even though I was up at 4:45 in the morning for a work deadline I got enough energy to sand and stain the first door.  I coated the entire door with a brush and was feeling good (even though it was a little red for my taste) until I finished and started wiping it off.  I knew I wanted a dark, saturated color so I didn’t rush, but the spots where the wood glue wasn’t completely wiped off made for more than a couple streaks.


Mike seemed almost apologetic when he kept telling me he wasn’t exactly careful because the original plan was to paint. 


I really wasn’t too bummed because the ebony stain definitely was picking up more red tones than I cared for, and I was only disappointed because now I had to use an oil-based primer. 


For those wondering why I didn’t just sand the glue streaks out, you have to remember that this is just cherry veneer and sanding too much (I had already done a thorough sanding before this stain) would risk sanding through the veneer (which was actually happening towards the bottom at the spot Mike cut/modified). 

While I thought I was compromising by getting the dark look I wanted but keeping the wood grain, it wasn’t meant to be in the end.  I bought a gallon of Sherwin Williams ProMar 200 Primer (oil-based) and ProMar 200 in Eggshell – tinted to Tricorn Black (SW 6258). 

I painted everything in two batches – 3 doors at a time.  I sanded/primed all sides first, then it took 3 coats of black paint to cover completely.  I had hoped for a smooth matte finish, but the first 3 doors were almost chalky (I did add some Floetrol to prevent brush marks so I’m not sure if that was the reason) and every touch left little grayish marks.  I realized these couldn’t be babied forever, so I did a final coat of RustOleum Pro Finisher Water-Base Polyurethane for Floors in Satin (which I had left over from painting the basement stairs).  It left it less matte than I had originally wanted, but the extra protection is worth it.  I did all the black/poly coats per door, then flipped over and started over.  For the second set of doors I forgot to add the Floetrol and it wasn’t chalky (in case anyone else is thinking of painting a boatload of doors in their future), but I still think I would have wanted to add poly even if I had had the choice at this point, for the added piece of mind.

Overall the process took me over 3 weeks because of drying times and well, life, not to mention that 5 coats per side x 2 sides x 6 doors = 60 coats of painting!!


Overall I’m really happy with the black doors and they look really great against all of the white trim and our medium stained floors!

The final poly coat left them a little streaky, which can only be seen when light directly shines on it from the right angle, but of course as the painter I see them all the time.  I tried doing a second coat on one panel which made it read a little blue but I think it just wasn’t completely cured at that point.  If it dries clear, I’ll probably do a second coat on all the inside panels which is where it’s most noticeable.  If I do, I’m doing it quickly before I lose steam and another 5 years passes before these doors get finished (just kidding!).

I’ll share more door photos when I show the office progress which will be later this week, because as crazy as it sounds, once all these doors were put back on the hinges I couldn’t wait to paint some more!

Our Old (New) Interior Doors Makeover

Alternate Title: If you give Mal a paintbrush…She’ll probably decide to paint all the interior doors as well. 


Several months ago I mentioned my next project would be redoing the office and I had a plan of the large pieces and the style direction.  I’m happy to report major progress has been made: new furniture purchased after a trip to Ikea, major purging action of unnecessary supplies, too many Craigslist/Facebook selling transactions to count, clearing out the room, and prepping for paint. 

While I was this close to painting the room and getting one step closer, I decided the empty room was the best opportunity to finally tackle the interior doors.  I made a quick confession of our door situation, or lack thereof, way back in 2011.  In a nutshell, when we first moved in we had planned to refinish all the original interior doors, but after failed attempts to remove the layers and layers of paint, (which were so thick the trim details were basically unrecognizable), we set them aside to deal with later.  That turned into years (yes we lived without doors on our bedrooms for a year or two), and in the meantime we found another solution when we found solid core cherry doors while shopping for our upstairs bathroom vanity at our local construction surplus store. 

We were able to get all the doors needed for a steal (it was so long ago I can’t even remember the total, but I think it was something like $40/piece) and they were similar two-panel style to the originals seen in this really old photo from our first walk-thru:


But, our 1927 house wasn’t going to make it that easy, and all the doors needed to be modified to the smaller frame dimensions.  Back in 2012, I took photos as Mike modified them so that I could write detailed instructions, but now I only barely remember what’s happening in these photos so I’m going to try my best, ha!  It should also be noted at this point that the plan was to paint all the doors white, like they were when we moved in. This becomes really important later on in the story.  But, on to the tutorial!

The first step was to use the table saw to cut one of the stiles off completely. 


Since the doors were solid core cherry veneer, the edges couldn’t be modified without exposing the particle board insides.  So Mike did this to get to the inside and modified the center so that all the stiles were still proportionate.

This next part was sort of a gamble, but we couldn’t figure out how to remove the inside panels from the rails/stiles so we figured we’d let gravity help.  Mike drilled holes in the panels (knowing at least that amount was going to be removed to get the final size) and we basically hung it from the ceiling and gently hit it (important to note we did this as uniformly as we could and with a rubber mallet) and the panel slid out from the rails.  This makes more sense looking at the photos:





It was slow going, and I was there to help “catch” it, but it worked (!) so we continued the same process for the rest of the panels (6 doors x 2 panels each).

Next, he chiseled out the insides from the stile.  This would later allow him to fit the shortened panel back in.



Then the rails, (top, middle, and bottom) were cut to the correct size.



The panels were also cut on the table saw, but I didn’t grab a photo of that. 

Everything was lined up and marked for new dowels.


And, new dowel holes were drilled into the stiles and rails.


At this point I must have gotten bored because that’s where the photos end, but the panels were gently slide back in and the stile was loaded with dowels and glue and pounded back into place as well.  Bondo was used on any spots that didn’t line up perfectly and lock sets and hinges were added.  Then repeat for all 9 doors (6 upstairs, then 3 for the basement)! 

Once everything was dry we were so happy we had new doors that Mike installed them, raw wood and all!  I do remember very vividly him saying that it was such a pain in the butt to carry each one up two flights up stairs (deck and inside) that I either had to paint them on the hinges or we would have to clear a room upstairs because he wasn’t carrying them downstairs again!

We have been living with them for the past 5 years like this and with the office completely cleared out I figured it was as good of a time as any to finally finish these bad boys.  I’m a little bummed because I could have finished the office by now, but having this giant task done will be really nice!

I’ll be back next time with the story of finishing the doors, and hopefully photos of them installed!  At this point we have half of the doors removed and the paint bought so I have a busy next couple of days ahead of me!