Master Bath Tile

We're inching towards the finish line in the bathroom and we've completed a huge hurdle in the last week.

All the bathroom tile is complete!

The floor was done shortly after my last update and I love the black hex tile with the dark gray grout.  I took these really quickly with my iPad before the babies woke up so the lighting is bad and it's making it look like the grout is half done, but once we get more done in here I'll take better photos for sure.

The shower tile took the longest, and I'm really proud of the detail Mike put into this.  Both of our pet peeves in tile work is small slivers left on the edges where the spacing wasn't laid out in a thoughtful way.  Mike measured everything a dozen times and used a laser level to keep his lines straight.  He made sure he left at least half of a tile at the top so that it mimicked the half tile at the base of the step.

We both were a little disappointed with the grout lines, and I had hoped they would be smaller.  The tiles were self-spacing, but Mike had thought he was making the thinnest lines he could by spacing only 3/32".  I know that eventually the thicker lines won't seem so noticeable once we install everything else in the room, but it's something we're keeping in mind for tile projects in the future.    

The marble topped ledge and shower step are two of my favorite details and I'm so happy we went with the ledge instead of a niche.  I think it's works well with the tile design and achieves my goal of a step to shave my legs, as well as a ledge for shampoo and stuff.

We got a couple quotes for the glass shower door and just gave the official approval last week, so hopefully we have that show in a few weeks!

We're waiting to figure out a solution to a problem we have with the pocket door right now, but once we finish that we can wrap up the trim in here and start installing the vanity and toilet.  I'm not making any deadlines for us, but we're very much looking forward to moving into our new room and it's motivation for us to keep moving ahead!

Master Bedroom Closet Organization & An Elfa Review

One of the things I did early on was design our bedroom closet organizational system.  We knew we wanted to work with the white wire shelving we used in our old house.  I know there are tons of systems out there, but we liked it for it's price as well as the option to reconfigure.  I actually reconfigured our old closet a couple times while living there to better utilize the space.  And, we completely redesigned the office closet into a nursery closet easily using the same rail system.

I had wanted to try the Pax system from Ikea, but all my designs either didn't fit our dimensions, or didn't maximize the space we did have, so I went back to the wire systems.  I knew I wanted to incorporate drawers (I like drawers way more than shelves - in all organizing situations), so I looked at The Container Store since I loved their wire drawers in Archer's closet above.  Anything was going to be a vast improvement over the one sagging clothes hanger/shelf situation that we started with. 

I inputted our dimensions and they're planning tool asked questions like was it a male or female, or combined closet, and then what types of doors.  Then it gives you a couple premade designs.  You can modify it a little like adding in more long hang space if you have more dresses (I do not), or shoe storage for example.  I had to be very cognizant of where the drawers were because of the bi-fold doors.  I needed them to line up with the openings to be able to open fully.  After some tweaking, I came up with this design.

Because everything is 2' wide, I knew I could switch the pants hanger and shoe drawers (the shoes lined up right where the bi-fold doors were so they wouldn't work in that location), I just wasn't able to change the design online to show this.  Because I made this while I was 8+ months pregnant I didn't want to drive to the nearest store and spend time designing with someone so I just bought this whole premade design and also some extra drawers and shoe drawers to switch out in our final design.

To prep the closet, Mike skim-coated the walls after removing the old shelf/hanger and to even out the texture, and installed the base trim before I painted everything.  I like to use semi-gloss in closets because it adds a little more forgiveness to all the bumps and scratches that happen when you're moving things in and out.

It was actually at this point that we realized that adding a light inside the closet would be really helpful.  Mike wakes and gets dressed while I'm still sleeping and usually uses a headlamp to get his clothes out of the closet so he doesn't wake me or Finn, who's still sharing our room.  That's love right there!  Having a light inside would mean he doesn't have to wander around our room with a silly headlamp and creates minimal disruption.  It was relatively easy because there's an attic above where Mike ran some wire to the new LED light and added a switch right out side the doors.  He installed it above the closet doors, so it kind of shines at (as opposed to down if it were mounted on the ceiling) the clothes.

The installation of the closet system was pretty easy, but I will say, Mike was not a fan of the "Easy Hang Standards" as their called.  Basically you screw in the top rail and then just hang those rails off of it, they don't get screwed to the wall.  Because they're not attached to the wall, they can swing and shift, even after adding all the components like shelves and rods.  Maybe once you add clothes and more weight they don't, but Mike didn't like that idea and drilled and attached them to the walls.  We later found out they make wall clips so you don't have to but for free we can just drill holes too.

I did go back to the store to return the extra drawers and things that I switched (like switching out a high heeled shoe rack for a regular shoe drawer) and grabbed some extras like shelf liners and a valet rod, because I'm fancy, ha!

We were able to install everything in an hour or so, and we can't wait to load it up with all of our stuff.  Mike keeps pushing to start putting everything in there now, but I know it'll be easier to paint all the trim without worrying about our clothes getting splattered.  Patience is neither one of our virtues!

This is our first time using a complete Elfa system and we had to make some modifications for personal preference, but I really like the system.  We also probably could have made it cheaper by utilizing different systems like we did in the old house (like the rails and hanging supports from Home Depot) and only purchasing the fancier items from The Container store (like the drawers and extras).  But, at 8 months pregnant I didn't have the brain capacity for that type of designing so it is what it is!

Because we were restricted by the doors, our design wasn't centered and after a lot of thought I decided to put the long hanger behind the left wall.  I don't wear dresses that often so it made more sense that way.

This left about 18" empty on the right side.  The online design tool only lets you design 104" wide, so I didn't have anything here.  Mike pointed out that we could extend the top hanging rod and gain a little more space, duh!  We had to go back to the store to get the extra pieces, and by a happy accident our laundry basket fits in that space on the bottom!

Next closet on the agenda is Archer's "big kid" room so I think I may suck it up and head up to the store to design it since they don't offer a premade kids closet.  I want lots of shelves and drawers so that the boys can grow up putting things in the proper place.  Hey, a mama can dream, right?!     

Casing and Base Molding Decisions

Heading back up to the bed/bath project, one of the major decisions we had to make when redoing these rooms was the trim. This was particularly important because it would be what we would replace the entire house with one day, so no pressure!  I needed to pick the base molding, (somewhat easy), as well as the casing molding, (so much more difficult than I thought).

The base was somewhat easy because we knew we wanted to beef up the 3 1/2" dark-stained base the house currently had. We came from a charming 1927 house with most of it's original trim and loved the large base molding.

I didn't want to copy this exact style and found a similar style that I thought was more appropriate for our new home's style and age.  Instead of the 7 1/4" height, I went with 5 1/4".  Still substantial (and much better than the builder basic), but the shorter style felt more appropriate for this 1970's home.  The cheapest I found locally was from Lumber Liquidators.

We actually bought a piece similar to the old style for different project and you can see the difference between the two.

We're working smarter, not harder, on these remodels and bought everything pre-primed.  It's saving me tons of time and that's a hot commodity over here!

For the window and door casings, I struggled for awhile on the style.  I couldn't find a lot of inspiration out there, mostly because the rooms I looked at were styled rooms and the trim details usually gets washed out in all the pictures.  It wasn't until I noticed the casings in Young House Love's Instagram progress photos of their duplex that I found the style that I wanted.  It's a simple Craftsman style casing, without the top casing cap (illustrated below).  I loved the simplicity, and it worked well with the base molding.

 Source unknown

Since we started in a room that had two large door openings (the sliding exterior door and the 4 bi-fold-door closet) Mike needed to come up with a method to create the profile while using readily available pre-primed pieces.  That's the reason we bought the 7 1/4" base shown above, it came in 12' pieces which he needed.  He ripped that down and used it for the top casing.  We still have to sand and paint everything, but here's where we're at right now:

We also are updating all the doors.  We went with a three-panel shaker style solid core for the doors and think they'll not only update the style of the house, but provide some necessary sound proofing as well.  We haven't had many instances of brothers waking each other up with crying, but I'm not risking it!

Once every things painted, we'll be adding matte black hardware.  I'm excited to try something different.  Even though I loved the black doors in our old house, this house needs more lightening up, and I think white doors and trim will make everything look completely different and updated.     

A Quick Front Door Update

The previous owners of our house were the original owners and had the house custom made in 1973.  It's not a very innovative or unique layout (my sister's house actually has a very similar layout), and a lot of the materials and styles used are very "builder basic".  There were several updates made about a year before we bought the house, to get the house ready for the market.  Unfortunately, these updates were done not exactly up to our level of craftsmanship, and not really our style.  While we appreciate the thought, we almost wish they weren't done because we are now removing very recent updates, or trying to modify to fit our style.

One of those modifications was to the front doors. 

We like the double doors (they were awesome on move-in day!), but the stained glass isn't really our style.  They aren't bad at all, but we wanted something a little more modern.  Also, you couldn't see clearly out of them and it was kind of a hassle when I was trying to guess who was driving up our driveway or even if it was raining before I headed out.

On his current project, Mike was working with a glass company who could make new glass inserts for around $150 and we jumped at the opportunity.

Funny story, Mike made the mistake of relying on me to measure (only a couple weeks after Finn was born - mom brain was real strong!) and I must have measured the frame as well and when we got the new inserts, they were too big!  We had to wait another couple of weeks for new ones to be made.

We went with a simple pane of glass, no muntins (the framing over the window), to keep it modern and to allow the most visibility.  We sit far back from the road and there is a lot of tree coverage so we're not worried about anyone being able to see in by simply passing by.   

Mike had to track down the door company and request new frame covers for the screws, and I told him to hold off putting them back in until after I decide how I'd like to decorate this entry.  I'm thinking of painting the door black, but it may be too small of an area, and too big of a door to look right.  We'll see after we move downstairs with our improvements.  Until then, we're loving the modernization and the view out the windows!

The Not-So-Pretty House Progress

Before tackling the Master bed/bath rooms, and shortly after moving in, we completed a couple projects that weren't all pretty, but helped protect the house or just updated to more our style.  Before those updates get lost in the decorating of new rooms I wanted to share them here to remind ourselves of the progress we've made.

When we bought the house, we were aware of water issues, so one of the very first projects Mike took on was tying all the downspouts together and routing out towards our creek.  It destroyed our yard, but nothing is more important than keeping water out of the house!

We also learned why the garage was flooding, (driveway slopes toward it #facepalm) and why the water wasn't draining, (a shirt was stuffed down the drain (#doublefacepalm) and the drainpipe was crushed right outside the garage - probably why they stuffed the t-shirt down there).  There's very few things Mike and I hate more than throwing a cheap band-aid over a major issue, so Mike dug underneath the garage a bit and replaced the crushed pipe and tied that into everything as well.

The other major water issue was the crawlspace.  The main house structure has a full basement, but the living room behind the garage has a crawlspace beneath it.  During the inspection, Mike found that the basement access, as well as the outside vents had been sealed up, trapping all the moisture in there and allowing mold to grow.  It was so bad that the mold grew in stalagmite formations and not only were many of the block wet (on a dry day), but the floor joists supporting the living room and it's fireplace were completely rotted!  Here are some of the photos from the inspection:


It was actually a huge undertaking and Mike spent many weeks remediating the mold, replacing the joists, backfilling and waterproofing everything.  He even installed lighting!  Since I was pregnant and Archer was 8 months old, we were very grateful to still be living in our old home while Mike took care of the dirty work!

He started by opening up the basement access.  The fan was run almost nonstop to dry everything out.

He cleaned the mold and added a perforated pipe for proper drainage, and started backfilling with stone from the exterior window in the top right of the photo below.

It was a lot of stone and a tiny window so he made a little funnel to help the process!

He added insulation and waterproofing on the walls and, in Mike fashion, he went above and beyond what was necessary for a crawlspace, but unlike the creepy crawlspace memories of my childhood home, ours is now waterproofed, conditioned, and completely usable for storage!  We even added some of the old rugs that don't work in any of the rooms here for a little bit of comfort and protection for the things we store in here.  Right now it's just our extra air filters.

It's worth noting that we removed the moldy batt insulation from the floor joists and didn't replace it because this is a conditioned space (you can see the duct runs along it with a couple vents) and it's now the same as a room/basement below the living room, so there's no need to insulate it.

Because he's really extra (ha!), Mike finished the block edge with some solid surface leftover from one of his job demos. It helps finish off that edge, as well as adding something a little more comfortable to walk over when he has to get into the space.

The block work on the basement side was done around the same time we painted everything. When we moved in the first space to get any real attention was oddly enough the basement.  Because the barn isn't really usable yet, (we have to get it sealed up against all the critters that are living in there right now) all of what will be in the barn is housed in the garage, and all the garage stuff is in the family room next to the garage and in the basement.  Because we knew a lot of stuff would be going down there, not to mention once everything was down there it would be tough to move it all around, we decided to focus our efforts and paint and seal that space first.

I didn't get any before photos, but the whole space was a dingy yellow (the previous owner's loved blue and yellow, ek!).  One of the painters from work gave me several gallons of heavy duty waterproofing paint but they were all different colors.  I chose the grays and whitish colors and hoped that it came out decent when they were all mixed!  It's basically a light gray color and works perfectly for the basement.

The space outside of the crawlspace access is next to the washer and dryer, so I decided to create a laundry area with some storage and a space to fold clothes.    

I used Ikea cabinets because we're familiar with them, they're inexpensive, and it was easy to design and utilize the entire space and most importantly these days - have delivered to the house!  I went with the basic VEDDINGE fronts with the BAGGANĂ„S handle in black and the EKBACKEN countertop which is a light gray laminate that looks kinda like concrete.  Mike wanted to keep the basement "industrial" vibe going on

We added under cabinet lighting and I haven't filled a quarter of the cabinets or drawers with laundry items, so it's perfect!  The laminate was close enough in size that we didn't cut it down and it fits laundry baskets and an embarrassingly large amount of clothes piled up waiting to be folded too!

Also shown in the photo above is the work Mike did to the sump pump.  Here's what it looked like before we bought the house.

During our inspection we tested the radon and it was at levels necessary for a mitigation system.  Mike was able to buy all the supplies and install it himself (he was determined to find a system that didn't require the massive pipe up the back of the house).  I won't go into too much detail because it's best left to the professionals, but know that we went from around 4 plus pCi/L to less than 0.5 pCi/L and it's still monitored today. The radon mitigation system ran into the sump pump and when he was tying in all the downspouts, he also dug and ran conduit to the barn for water, electric, and gas.  

He cut out the old sump crock (it was a solid piece of vitrified clay pipe on end with a concrete cast bottom and he had to smash it to get it out) and replaced it with a new plastic perforated crock and back-filled with gravel so that any water that gets around the crock or radon laden air can be discharged.  He also tied-in the crawl space perforated drain pipe to the crock to drain any water picked up inside the crawl space.  

He patched back in the floor and sealed the crock with an air tight lid and gaskets around the lid and piping.  That was probably an incredibly boring paragraph and it's hard to take something ugly like a sump pump and do a whole heck of a lot of work to make it only slightly less ugly, but we take a lot of pride in the less glamorous projects too, because we know they make the house work efficiently and safely.

We're glad to have a lot of these upfront messy projects done so that we're able to move on to things like renovating bathrooms and painting bedrooms, but they're just as important and I wanted to make sure to show these steps of the journey to making this house a home that works best for us!

Mike recently finished the tile in the shower and just prepping for grout and I've started painting all the doors (so many doors!) so I'll be back with some progress in our bed and bath soon!  

Master Bedroom and Bath Updates

The last time I mentioned the bed and bathroom progress was a few months ago to show the demo progress.  A couple weeks after Finn was born, we found our groove again and Mike started building the rooms back together.  Mike's rebuilt everything and is in the middle of tiling the bath and I've painted the walls and will start on the doors and trim soon.

There was a lot of work that went into these still-very-much-in-progress shots above though.  Mike started by redoing most of the plumbing and electrical in the bathroom, and because we had most of the fixtures picked out, he also added in blocking for extra support before adding in the drywall.  This isn't necessary, but with careful planning it's really helpful and reduces drywall anchors.

We've got the towel bar on the left above the toilet and the vanity and mirror on the right.

Once he had finalized everything, Mike wrapped everything up with drywall and cement board. 

He also had a substantial amount of drywall work in the bedroom too.  He ended up taking the bottom half of the wall out from the window wall, because of the water damage.  It could have been smaller holes and patched back in, but with all the other work, it was just easier to replace with whole sheets.  While he thin-coated the new drywall, he also took care of all the imperfections on the existing drywall and damage from the wallpaper removal.  The purple walls are actually good for something - seeing all the work Mike put into making the walls smooth! 

Once he was done with that, it was my turn to paint everything.  I started with priming everything.  The walls were half new drywall and thinset so it was definitely needed, but what surprised me, and something Mike discovered early on, was none of the ceilings had been painted! The house was built in 1973 and they had never been painted in almost 50 years!! 

It's hard to get a good shot of the color right now but, I chose Sherwin Williams Moderne White. It's a soft white with a slight green undertone.  I wanted almost white, but enough warmth to let the white trim contrast. 

I'm more conservative with my sheen finishes and always use flat on ceilings, semi-gloss on trim, doors and in closets, and satin/eggshell on walls.

In the bathroom I painted the walls Sherwin Williams Spare White, the same color I used for the white walls in Archer's nursery in our last home.  It has less green than Moderne White and a little cooler in my opinion.  Everything looks very yellow right now due to the waterproofing, but even that bright yellow is still less yellow than when we started!

Mike had already finished the tile on the shower floor and I love the small white hexagon with contrasting grout.  You can also see the start of our ledge/shelf.  This was the compromise after countless discussions after I told Mike I wanted a niche to put shower stuff, but also make it low enough to put my foot up to shave my legs.  Mike wasn't a fan of the niche for various construction reasons, and we were concerned with sound carrying through the wall which is shared with the nursery.  There is nothing more important to me than my babies' sleep!

We'll have marble tops on both the ledge and the shower step and white subway tile in the shower.

On the bathroom floor, Mike has already finished laying the black hex tile, but first he installed the heated floor coils.  To offset the thickness of the coils and the areas where there is no heating (behind the toilet and beneath the vanity) Mike did a thin layer of thinset to even it all out for the tile. 

The flooring was actually installed last week and I'm really loving all the materials in this tiny room.  Mike hopes to start on the shower walls soon because then it'll be a lot less strenuous tasks to wrap the room up!

Some of the major tasks to finish are the trim around the room, installing the closet system, replacing electrical outlets/switches, and lighting.  Since Mike is working on this pretty much any free moment he has or after the boys go to bed, he had to get creative with his efficiency and brought the chop saw upstairs with a hood that hooks up to the shop-vac.  

It took a long time for me to allow Mike to test the babies' sleeping abilities, but we've appeased the baby sleep gods because throughout this whole reno the babies have slept through almost everything without issue!!  I can't believe it, but we're thanking our lucky stars and trying to get as much done as we can while they sleep so we can cuddle and hang with them while they are awake.

I've got some doors to paint and Mikes got a date with his tile saw, but we hope to have some more major progress done in the next week or so!

Introducing Baby Finn

The blog's been a little quiet lately and it's mostly because of this little cutie!

Meet Finnegan Michael, the littlest Danks!

Finn joined our family 3 months ago and has been the perfect little addition.  He's such a calm and happy baby that the fear of managing both a newborn and Archer hasn't been too difficult!  Finn usually hangs out watching and smiling while Archer runs around around him.

Finn may have caught us all by surprise at the very beginning, but his delivery wasn't too bad at all. While my epidural wore off before he came, he was ready and came out before my doctor made it to the hospital!  Recovery has been very mild and I'm very grateful since 14-month-olds don't really understand the concept of "taking it easy" ha!

When we talked about what Finn might look like when he arrived, I always assumed he would be another carbon copy of Mike, so it was pretty exciting when he came out looking much more like me!  There's definitely some of my distinct features like my lips, darker hair, and ears, but every once in a while I look over and see a tiny baby Archer, especially when Finn sleeps.

As for the dynamic between the two brothers, Archer began by treating Finn similar to the way he treats our cat, Benelli.  He would be in the same room and not pay too much attention, then he'd catch his eye and run over and giggle, then touch Finn and went back to what he was doing!  There's very little prep you can do at this age so we just emphasize that all "BABY" things are gentle and there are a couple of things like bottles and the tiny pacifiers that are just for baby.  Archer still steals his pacifier sometimes (it's actually hilarious when he puts them in his mouth, their so small and look ridiculous) but he's been so good with Finn and really does temper his actions around him.

Now, Archer is starting to want to be around him and will get on the furniture to sit next to him, or lay down next to Finn.  He gives these little hugs, which are basically just touching his head to Finn, and they are so cute!  He's even been known to rock his car seat if Finn starts getting fussy!

After working on Archer sleeping through the night before Finn arrived, I was determined to help Finn develop better sleep habits earlier.  I'm not sure if it was some of the things I implemented (like actually letting Finn sleep in a crib as a newborn - I always held Archer and it made it harder to break that habit later), or the fact that he's such a great baby, but he's a little sleeping champ and basically sleeps through the night and takes great naps throughout the day.

We've had some big changes around here with the new house and baby, but I think we're finding our groove and it feels good to make some progress on the house, but also to enjoy these little ones right now.

We've made some major progress on the master bath and bedroom and I'm looking forward to finishing that space up so that we can start on the boy's rooms.  Archer will be getting a bigger room and Finn will get his own nursery!  I'm not sure which directions I'll be going for in each room, but I'm so excited to give them their our spaces!