All posts tagged: Before + After

Business in the Front, Party in the Back: Garage Edition.

I’ve owned my house for over five years now, and I have never—not once—parked a car in my garage. Honestly I often forget that it’s even a potential option, even though it’s right behind the house and I see it everyday. Both online and in real life, people persistently tend to refer to my garage as a “shed” or a “shack,” which for a while confused me. It has a garage door that faces the street and everything! But then I realized…that I use it as a shed-shack…and think of it as a shed-shack…and more than likely talk about it like a shed-shack while I continue to not utilize the ENTIRE SEPARATE BUILDING that I have ON MY VERY PROPERTY built SPECIFICALLY for the ultra-fancy purpose of sheltering THE THIRD MOST EXPENSIVE THING I OWN, behind my house and my debt, and MAYHAPS I should really start thinking of it as a garage?

Which really conflicts with my evident aspiration to also have a personal lumberyard, so it’s a tough call. I don’t know. We don’t need to dwell on it. We’re just talking about what the shed-shack is like right at this moment in time. To do that, let’s look at where we’ve been. Behold:

This is when I bought the house. The great thing about having such dire before photos is that I can never really feel that bad about how things stand today because, well…look! Evidently, there had been some kind of half-baked effort to extend the garage to accommodate a boat, which—speaking as a person who can barely maneuver my small utility trailer into my own driveway (or any kind of space, really)—sounds patently absurd. Clearly the project was abandoned before it had really gotten off the ground, though, leaving this…weed and trash pit?

Additionally, take note of the little door in that first image, because it becomes relevant shortly. OMG HANG ON, we’ll get there.

SO. When ALL THAT ASPHALT got removed from the backyard (prompting the insane summer of dirt-hauling and praying for the sweet relief of death), so did that cinderblock foundation, which left this charming view! There’s something about an old sloppy siding patch that I’m actually kind of fond of, even though I have NO patience for new sloppy patch jobs. I finally made the connection that the missing window on the back of the garage never actually left the premises, but rather got recycled as the old laundry room window! Which has now also been replaced, but anyway. What an odd choice.

Inside the garage, things had gotten a JUST A LITTLE crowded. Demo over at Bluestone Cottage had left me with piles and piles of wood trim to store until it gets cleaned up and re-installed. My first fencing project had left behind an extra panel. Upstairs kitchen demo supplied a kitchen’s worth of base cabinets and formica countertops, poor decisions granted me a bunch of falling-apart shutters that I intercepted at the dump, a twenty-dollar price tag on a cute art deco dresser had saddled me with…an extra dresser. And so on. You get the idea.

I’m not really sure when or exactly why somebody drywalled the whole interior of the garage, and in retrospect it might have been kind of nice…but it wasn’t in good condition, appeared moldy in some spots, and somewhat interfered with the plan to install new electric in here to run power tools, new exterior lighting, etc.

SO! I gutted all the drywall, exposing the unpainted backside of the shiplap siding and the studs. Rustic? Sure. Rustic.

A couple months before, my friends Kim and Scott over at Yellow Brick Home had put some super impressive work into their own detached garage, including adding these simple and strong wood brackets for storing excess lumber. Their garage is what garage dreams are made of. “Great!” I said. “I’ll do that, too!”

So I did that too.

Except I have a lot more wood than Kim and Scott do. And also a much smaller garage. These are two facts you might think I would have considered beforehand, but evidently I’m incapable of thinking this many steps ahead.

Simple brackets. I can build simple brackets. Here I am, building simple brackets as day turns to dusk. Brackets out of scrap wood to hold more scrap wood.

Turns out there is a real compatibility problem between me and these brackets. You also might think I would have foreseen this, but once again. Too many steps ahead. Lower those expectations PLEASE.

See, each one takes up a lot of space. The space that is a particular issue is that diagonal brace, because once your wood pile gets to the base of that diagonal brace, subsequent pieces of wood inch forward, causing your pile to be weird and uneven, and things to fall, and general mishap. The solution here is obviously to not have so much goddamned wood that the piles ever get higher than the bottom of the diagonal brace, but that’s obviously too much to ask of me at this moment in my life. Someday I will have used up a lot of this wood (I SWEAR I HAVE PLANS FOR ALMOST ALL OF IT PROBABLY I THINK) and this might not be an issue anymore. Even still, though, it’s not an especially space-efficient design.

What I SHOULD HAVE DONE (and later did do on one wall) was suck it up and buy these storage racks, because they’re a) made for this very purpose b) well-designed and very sturdy c) pretty macho. Unfortunately once I started building my simple brackets I couldn’t stop building my simple brackets.

Because I simply must tell you EVERYTHING, demo revealed another now-covered window on the other side of the garage, directly opposite the other window!

Siding is patched over on the exterior, and this window faces the fence that divides my property line from the neighbor’s. Maybe someday I’ll restore it but for now it’s kinda not hurting anybody.

SO. Back to the wall opposite the garage door. At this point there is lumber everywhere so I take a break to use a very small amount of it.

Remember when I said to take note of the skinny door on the side of the garage? It’s only 28″ wide—which is fine for just walking in and out, but try carrying a table saw through it. Or a long piece of wood. Or the lawnmower.

YES there’s a big garage door on the opposite end of the garage, but it’s outside of the fence, doesn’t have an electric opener, and stays locked for security…so using it means making sure the dog is in the house, opening the garage door from the inside, out onto the sidewalk with whatever the probably heavy thing is, back into the backyard through the gate, back into the garage to close it, back to the house to let the dog out who has now eaten something I forgot I left on the table…this was a pain.

Long ago I dazzled you with this beautiful SketchUp rendering of my backyard, which is mostly different than anything I’ve done or plan to do anymore, but adding doors to the back of the garage didn’t change! The idea is that it allows more light into the garage, and provides an easy, convenient, and LARGE access to bring big things in and out. In theory you could put a table saw or a planer in the middle of the garage, open up both sides, and feed a long board through. In practice, thusfar there has always been too much stuff for this concept to become a reality, but I HAVE DREAMS, OK?

So, I invited my friends over for a relaxing afternoon of light framing work and demolition. And by friends I mean Edwin and Edgar, the ride-or-die power duo I rope into pretty much everything I do. We built a header with hoarded lumber and supported it with hoarded jack and king studs. Evil plan in action!

Then we cut a big hole! Light streamed in! Angels sang!

Into the opening, we inserted this set of pre-hung french doors. Pre-hung doors are so simple! So drama-free! A few shims, a few screws, and viola! Doors!

Edgar, who is magic with a circular saw, ripped off the ends of the siding around the door to accommodate a new casing.

The hardest part of assembling the new cashing is, luckily, not very hard! A few passes on the table saw and I had a good replica of the drip cap that sits over the other doors and windows on the garage and parts of the house. Some lumber yards have this piece available, too.

Some more scrap wood and a hefty dose of Bondo later…looking pretty good, doors!

Speaking of Bondo: Bondo is a bit tricky and, I find, unreliable for exterior wood repairs, at least in this climate. Some people swear by it, some people won’t touch the stuff—I fall somewhere in the middle. I’ve had repairs fail after just one year on bare wood, although repairs where I’ve used at least 1-2 coats of primer on bare wood before applying Bondo have been fine—for now, at least. A much better product—although more expensive and time-consuming (it takes about a week to cure)— is Abatron WoodEpox. For what it’s worth, although not recommended, I’ve never seen a Bondo repair on interior painted woodwork fail—just outside. It can’t seem to take the expansion and contraction that occurs with exterior woodwork in the upstate NY climate.

SO. Way back when I said I was going to do this, and then a bit later did it, and then neglected to blog about it, there was comment drama about the doors. They are pine. They are made for interior, not exterior use. They are single pane and not particularly weatherproof. I chose them in large part because they were affordable at $377, and I figured worst case scenario, someday I’ll have to replace them into a now-existing standard-sized opening, which isn’t really such a big deal. I stand by it! They’ve been through 3 whole winters at this point and haven’t shifted or shown separation at joints, etc., and I think they should last many more years without issue.

SO. Current Status: TOO MUCH WOOD. In fairness there are many not-wood items like a few large tools, 2 spare cast iron sinks (as one does), various gardening and landscaping accoutrement, roofing shingles for a rainy day (get it?), window sash (pl.), extra corbels, uh…I don’t know, stuff. It’s an overcrowded disaster which I swear is not nearly as disorganized as it might appear. I have a LOT of interior finishing work coming up (THANK GOD. I AM SO TIRED OF FRAMING AND PLUMBING AND ELECTRIC AND INSULATION AND SIDING I COULD SCREAM. I AM SCREAMING.), so I’m kind of perversely excited to see how thinned out I can get this in the coming months. Also, intensely motivated to get this garage back under control because this is driving me nuts. At a certain point the strategy backfires because there’s too much to even see what you have, and fishing it out becomes a big hassle.

Additionally. You may note. That the last two are recent pictures. And I mentioned these doors were installed 3 years ago. There is a simple explanation for this. I never actually finished painting the doors. Because I just did not. The options were to finish painting the doors or do something other than finish painting the doors, and I have consistently chosen the latter option for multiple years now.

Also, they really need hardware. The lack of hardware is an issue.

TA-DA!!!

The Laundry Room, 2018 Edition!

At some point in the past couple of years, I got a little…stuck with my own house. I know for a lot of people this feeling might not be especially out of the ordinary, but to me it was novel. The house itself was going through a decidedly “rough patch” in the course of this whole renovation/restoration madness, and to some extent my mental health followed suit. My ability to make decisions and actionable plans seemed to evaporate, which of course made everything feel worse. I’m not sure if I was looking for answers, or trying to remind myself that beautiful things do, in fact, still exist, or just to try to un-block something in my brain, but I found myself looking more and more to visual inspiration.

I’ve had the inkling for a very long time that too much “inspiration” can actually produce the opposite result. I’ve seen this with various clients over the years—they’ll send me a Pinterest board they’ve assembled over some time for a given project, hoping that each image might in some way be represented in the final product. The trouble is that most people aren’t only attracted to one particular aesthetic: they’re attracted to lots of them. It’s much easier to recognize what we think is beautiful than it is to create it. So then, armed with too much inspiration, we try to devise a way to incorporate all these things into a given space, which is usually not possible. Or at least not possible if the goal is to produce a beautiful result. So then we have to start making sacrifices, but now we’ve fallen in love with all of these disjointed elements, all generally done by other people who are really good at this and have lots of money, and we don’t feel confident in making those calls, or even know which calls we have to make, and then we’re paralyzed.

Then, seeking clarity, we bury ourselves in more “inspiration,” as though the image that will make all of this come together could be just the next click away. This, of course, is not especially productive, but it feels like it is.

Being somewhat aware of this, I’ve never used Pinterest except when a client gig required me to. This seemed like a good way to avoid this issue for myself, but I think I failed to appreciate the extent to which the Pinterest mentality has really permeated so many other spaces. The Inspiration Overload is everywhere—Instagram, Facebook, other blogs—and this crept up on me a bit. Soon all of my own work felt so small and shitty and lame, and making simple decisions became an extended exercise in self-doubt and insecurity. Each project in my house became an opportunity to create something amazinggggg but then only if I could remove the very real limitations of time and budget. When it came to my laundry room, I got so caught up in all these things I could see doing: beautiful and spacious custom built-in storage, a sink-to-end-all-sinks, a gorgeous tiled floor, and of course something more interesting for the walls than just painted plaster. Right? I wanted it to look fresh and original and like nothing I’d seen before, while at the same time wanting it to look just like a thousand things I’d seen and bookmarked or screen-capped or otherwise “pinned” without the benefit of organization that I suppose Pinterest provides.

Naturally, once these ideas entered my brain, it became impossible to dispense with them. The floor tile would have cost about $1,000 I didn’t have, but felt so essential to the very premise of renovating the laundry room that I couldn’t see a way around it. Since about half the room would be taken up by the machines, the sink, and storage, I thought maybe I’d compromise and save the expensive tile for the visible part of the floor, but then I’d need the sink and attending cabinetry to be installed first, which of course would mean buying or making those, which I also didn’t have the time/money for. I also really wanted to get the laundry done before being completely occupied with the much more involved kitchen renovation, but in order to do that I’d have to actually start working on it, which would mean finalizing these decisions, which of course I couldn’t do. This all rolled around in my mind for months while my washer and dryer sat useless in the spare room.

I guess when I started this whole renovation “journey,” I felt like the only logical path forward was escalation. Bigger projects. More advanced DIYs. An ever-expanding collection of tools and technical skills that I’d use to create the most amazing spaces I could dream of, because otherwise what’s the point? Putting this much time and effort and money into something should not yield mediocrity.

And then it hit me. It’s not the first time and won’t be the last, but I’m really trying to actively keep it in mind: Not. Everything. Has. To. Be. The. Very. Best. It. Can. Be. IT REALLY IS OK. A lot of things can be improved and changed down the line, when the time and money materializes. It doesn’t all have to happen in one take. At the end of the day, this laundry room has to accomplish one thing: wash my dirty clothes. Everything else is bonus. Also, it’s JUST A LAUNDRY ROOM.

And then something happened: I FELT SO LIBERATED. Without realizing it, and largely out of necessity, I took away the pressure of perfection and replaced it with the momentum of just GETTING IT DONE. Added to this was the challenge of doing it as inexpensively as possible, because the goal was no longer incredible beauty but instead just getting to a place of very basic functionality—and still being able to afford a kitchen stove.

And then another thing happened: in spite of my best efforts, the room actually turned out kinda cute, if you’ll permit me just a little bit of self-congratulation. Because I actually do like my stuff. I actually am generally happy with the decisions I make about my own living space. I actually am capable of making those decisions if I just lighten the fuck up a little and stop freaking out about having the coolest laundry room that my brain can conjure, and creating it in one shot.

Because only a monster would post an after image without a before, here’s the now-laundry room way back when I bought the house! It was one of the first rooms I really tackled, trying to get my renovation sea legs, and I turned it into this office:

I loved that little office, but for various reasons it eventually made way more sense to make this little space into the laundry room. It was sad for a while. Out came the desk, down came the obsolete chimney, in went new electric and plumbing, and up went new drywall and a couple fresh coats of paint annnndddddd…

Laundry room! With a utility sink! And a pink floor! I ain’t mad about it!

By the way, YES. It feels very weird/kinda embarrassing to now have “after” photos of the “after” photos from 4 years ago. I’m also 100% positive that there are those among us who will view this as a downgrade rather than an improvement, but in the context of the whole house I SWEAR this is so much better. Second floor laundry with all this natural light is such an insane luxury. My clothes are literally cleaner because I can see stains and stuff so much more easily, so my pre-treatment game is now ON POINT. I feel very on top of my laundry situation generally and it’s a great feeling.

ALSO, due to my chronic condition of over-sharing—here is the room like a day or two before I snapped the “after” photos. And honestly this is more of what I had in mind when I was all “I HAVE NO NEED FOR CUTE I ONLY NEED CLEAN UNDIES,” but then I sort of liked the additional challenge (/let’s be honest, procrastination) of trying to dress her up a little and add some storage without spending a dime. So I spent the next day just puttering around the house and hanging things up and messing around and it got kind of nice while I wasn’t looking!

Anyway. Point being, that little bit of extra effort was totally worth it and made me feel like I don’t have to really mess with this room for a long time. It also got some of my shit out of indefinite storage and put to good use!

The single biggest new purchase in this room was this cheap plastic utility sink. Various commenters were gravely concerned about this sink choice when I first mentioned it, encouraging me to go with something higher-quality/prettier/ceramic/stone/fireclay/stainless/vintage/antique BUT honestly even trolling Craigslist for some amazing $100 antique soapstone sink STILL involves trolling Craigslist, going to pick up the thing, overcoming the lurking fear of getting Craigslist-murdered, getting it home, cleaning/restoring it, getting it upstairs, probably special-ordering various parts to hook it up, maybe needing to enlist a plumber who wouldn’t show up anyway…SO WHILE I APPRECIATE ALL THE SUGGESTIONS, I am also so very happy that all I had to do was give $95 to Lowe’s and it wasn’t some whole production. When the perfect sink shows up, all the plumbing is there waiting for it.

I still spray-painted the legs black, because I can’t help myself.

Regarding the sink, it is exactly as mediocre as you might expect. It is decidedly un-fancy. It’s very lightweight and therefore doesn’t feel solid or substantial, although I did screw it right into the wall to keep it stable. It stains REALLY easily and stubbornly. It’s also HUGE and was so cheap and I LOVE IT SO MUCH, UNAPOLOGETICALLY. But like, get something nicer if you can swing it. Tell me all about it.

The plumbing under the sink isn’t so great looking either, so I spent 10 minutes making it a little modesty skirt. It’s just a tea towel folded in half with some velcro pinned to it, so it’s all easily removable and the tea towel is intact whenever I want it to be a tea towel again.

Maybe I’ll make a bunch of them so I can change the sink’s outfits seasonally. Hawt lewks for my stained plastic tub sink.

I hung up an old mirror just behind the sink to provide a little backsplash. Problem solved! I kinda love those little plastic clips that hold it up—they were a couple bucks at the hardware store but feel so 60s kitschy. Like not something you should be able to still go buy.

I put up a shelf! My pal Anna gave me like six of those IKEA brackets when she moved and they’ve just been cluttering my basement since. They were white and I spray painted them black and hung them up with some brass screws. Cute! I don’t think IKEA still makes these exact ones, but these are really similar.

The wood came off of the house at some point over the course of renovation, but I’m really struggling to remember what it did in its former life. I guess it doesn’t matter. I gave it a quick sand and a few coats of shellac and BOOM, shelf.

On the shelf is an assortment of things I have accumulated in my short but hoard-y lifetime. The yellowware bowls are antique—one holds detergent pods and the other holds those Affresh tablets that are supposed to rid the washing drum of that swamp smell in the summer. This is to prove once again that I will decant anything.

Tucked into the mirror frame are my two Laundry Idols, my mother below and my grandmother above. My grandma’s favorite task was laundry, and she passed much of her wisdom on to my mother, and I feel some grave sense of duty to, like, not ruin my clothes and bring shame on the family. So they watch over the goings-ons in this room.

I’m sorry I’m not sorry for loving that portrait but I can’t help myself. Her expression is SO GOOD. I bought her at an auction (I think I paid ten actual American greenbacks for that!), and then they told me the staining was because someone was storing her in a laundry room and she got bleach spilled on her. So it seemed right to carry on the grand tradition of this poor little old lady getting stuck in the laundry room, but maybe with a little more respect this time around.

I love my little hooks! These just came from various closets and stuff around the house, I don’t know. The long Turkish towel hides the supply lines which are hooked up under the sink.

Here we find a small sampling of my childhood collection of dog figurines. I’ve gotten rid of most of them, but some were actually kind of cool and maybe I’m pulling it off and maybe I’m not but I don’t care. It’s sort of fun seeing these guys again.

OH RIGHT, THAT HUGE SLAB OF MARBLE. So here’s the deal. Craigslist, $300. It’s a little over 5’x3′, and I bought it with the intention of it being my kitchen island (and therefore not considering it part of the money spent on this room). It’s 2″ thick and came out of this contractor’s garage, where he’d been storing it for the same purpose for the last 30 years. He got it out of another contractor’s garage who’d also been storing it for 30 years, also for that same purpose! The original contractor had pulled it out of a Victorian-era candy shop that was being demolished—can you imagine that?! So ANYWAY it’s huge and probably weighs 400 pounds and I needed to put it SOMEWHERE since custom-kitchen-island is still a ways away, so I just put it right on top of the machines.

I recognize that this sounds like a very bad idea, but I figured….hey. If the washer can stack on top of the dryer, SURELY it can handle a 400 pound slab of natural stone, right??? So I did it, and it’s been three months, and it hasn’t budged, and the machines didn’t collapse, so obviously there’s nothing to worry about here. Lol. If I ever need to call LG out for service, let’s keep this between us OK?

The marble is COVERED in 100 years worth of dings and scratches and pitting and I think that’s pretty perfect, personally. I’ll likely want to seal it with SOMETHING but I’m not super concerned about it continuing to age and patina.

I bought those two big hooks years ago, and it turned out they they make a good rack for the ironing board and iron! For the ~2 times per year that I use them.

There wasn’t really a great spot in this laundry room to hang the drying rack I had in my old laundry room, so instead I put up my Eames Hang-it-All! Anything that needs to dry flat can go on the marble, and anything that needs to be hung can go on a hanger off of this. I love my Hang-it-All and it’s so nice the be using it again after it collected dust for a few years!

It’s hard to get a good picture of, but that little tiny closet under the stairs is my new cleaning cupboard! Those stainless steel shelves used to hang in Anna’s kitchen in Newburgh—they were part of the GRUNDTAL series at IKEA but I’m not sure they still make them. The red bucket has all the cleaning basics so I can carry it around from room to room when I clean and it feels SO ADULT I can’t even stand myself. A cleaning caddy of my very own! Talk about peak experiences.

I mentioned this before, but I re-painted the floor from white (WHICH MADE ME INSANE) to this soft Farrow & Ball pink called “Setting Plaster.” I love it! Painted floors do show a lot of dirt and dust no matter what, I think, but shifting away from white makes it much more manageable. And the rug! I have a weird soft spot for old braided rugs—they just feel so homespun and sweet. I think this one was $10 a while ago and it happens to be the PERFECT size for this room.

OH! And this is neither here nor there, but I did want to circle back on the now-painted-white-but-originally-PURPLE XP drywall I used in this room! This is the Soundbreak XP, which is recommended for rooms you want to contain noise in (or keep it out of), and it’s GREAT. My bedroom is on the other side of this wall, and I really can’t hear the machines when they’re on at all. Cars just driving down the street are louder! I do get a bit of structural vibration during the spin cycles, but nothing dramatic. Everything I was worried about with moving the machines upstairs has thus far turned out to be completely fine. Better than fine! Because I have laundry again!

And it’s sorta cute, IMHO.

A Night In…the New Den!

This post is in partnership with Article!

Oh hello. Funny seeing you here at this time of night. Looks like you had a hard day? It’s almost the freakin’ weekend, so let’s get started early and chill: opium den style.

Here’s a Manhattan. I’m on my second.

If you’ve been following along recently, you know I’ve been working (here, here, here, and here) on this small-ish weird-ish room on the second floor of my house to make a cozy little den, the primary purpose of which is to watch TV and relax forever. I wanted it to be super cozy, full of things I love, and simple enough for the small size of the space but still layered and intimate—a nice little hideaway for myself and some friends if and when I procure some. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been at the futzing stage with this room, which is when I put on some back-season of my recently reignited old love, Survivor (if you don’t look up who won, you can pretend it didn’t happen 10 years ago!), and put up art and swap around chairs and lamps and take frequent breaks to collapse on the sofa because I CAN. I love how it’s come together! This room needed a lot of the same work as the recently-completed-ish bedroom, but for some reason this one felt so much easier, both to renovate and get some decor happening that I actually like. Let’s pretend it’s because I’m getting better at this, and not that I’m just HIGHLY motivated by using my TV again?

We’ll go with that.

The other night, bae came over and we broke in the opium den officially. Here’s how I like to do it:

Step 1. Order Chinese food.

Step 2. Kick back.

Step 3. Take a drink. Take a hit. Take whatever floats your boat. Not the hard stuff.

Step 4. Do that thing where you scroll through iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, and HBOGO indefinitely until you land back at the thing you wanted to watch in the first place. We bought Get Out on iTunes which, sadly, I missed in theaters because I never leave the house. It always feels like a big commitment to actually purchase a movie on iTunes, and then I remember it’s less than the cost of two movie tickets. I don’t know what that’s about. Anyway.

Step 5. Receive Chinese food delivery, pig out.

So one excellent addition to my life has been that bae brings with him an impressive dowry of not one but two dogs. So essentially I have four dogs now. It’s so many dogs. I love dogs.

This is Gertie, alternately known as Officer Gert. She keeps the crew in line. She’s squat on her legs and big in her behind and does not like anyone acting up or seeming like they might be thinking about acting up. Gertie spends all day taking care of Linus: cleaning his face and ears and sometimes a part of his back she seems particularly fond of, and steps in when the other dogs get rowdy too close to him.

Linus. Linus! He needs a grooming. I love and cherish when he’s more of a muppet, but this is about as long as his hair can get without curls starting to mat.

That is, by the way, the best dog in the world. I don’t play favorites but yes I do and Linus is my favorite. It’s been five whole years since that guy stumbled into my life, which makes him around 15 years old now. I think that means Linus needs a whole separate post because otherwise I’ll get carried away, but man. My little man. Still trucking.

This is Fox’s ear, because his face is buried in my sweatpants’d crotch. It’s pretty much where he lives unless he’s running around causing terror. Fox is not an actual fox but rather an oversized Papillion who looks a lot like a fox. Also, bae shares my everlasting love of The X-Files, so. Fox.

Fox and Mekko are inseparable. Poor Mekko used to just have Gertie and Linus who are no fun as playmates, and now she has Fox who is a little too much fun. He’s such an annoying younger brother. I love him.

Bae is in the background there. He likes a striped hoodie and long walks on the beach. Calm down.

We’ll talk way more about the room when I can show you in daylight, because night photos are tricky and I feel like we need the light of day to really appreciate things like that bright orange naked lady in her guilded frame. Anyway, this corner of the sofa I think is the most comfortable place in the house. The seat portion of the sofa is pretty much the size of a twin bed, which is honestly kind of too amazing, in that I want to live on it. That discontinued IKEA lamp dims and gives off great light—I’m glad I found a spot where I like it! I love that lamp but it’s never landed anywhere that it felt right before.

Gertie’s favorite spot in the house is sprawled on this sheepskin across the back of the sofa, which comes from the fairly new-to-me company, Article! Especially if your style leans more modern, do yourself a favor and scroll through their products—so much good stuff (big and small!) and really well-priced. This sheepskin is perfect here because it’s almost exactly as long as the back of the sofa, wide enough that it can be draped over the back but stays in place, and covers an otherwise noticeable dip in the back where Susan and Will’s dogs used to love to nap! It’s also super soft and cozy and adds a nice shot of texture, and it’s ethically sourced from New Zealand or Australia and non-toxic, so it should last for decades. The sofa itself is a well broken-in black leather, and I really dig the combo of dark browns and off blacks in here. I know it’s a faux pas maybe and I don’t care!

Also I have been carting around that pillowcase since HIGH SCHOOL because I loved it and held out hope that someday it would look good somewhere. It brings me joy so leave me alone about it. It’s originally from IKEA.

I’m not really a fan of most scented things, but I love (LOOOVVVVE) some Palo Santo wood to burn as incense. I scaled back my candle game for the purposes of not looking crazy in pictures on the internet, but it can get reallllll witchy up in here. Sticks burning, candles everywhere, lamps dimmed down or off…yes. I aim to be as witchy as possible during relaxation time.

By the way, back behind my weird piece of thrift store pottery in the foreground, there’s a little notepad and a pen, which I’ve realized I have some version of around me at all times. I make notes constantly of ideas or little sketches or lists, because otherwise it’s all just in my head and it makes me crazy? So I write a lot of stuff down. I’m really opening up here, I don’t know.

Also, that chair back there is my womb chair, which I was lucky enough to inherit when my parents downsized! I thought it would be too big in here, but it ended up feeling just right. It’s been in a few different places in the house, but so far I like it in here best. This seems to be a theme with this room! I’m not really sure why. Do dark rooms kind of decorate themselves?

Lighting that corner behind the chair was a challenge (you know, the kind with zero stakes)—even though I have tons of lamps, not a single one of them felt right! It always felt too bright and too directed either down at the chair or up at the ceiling, and I just wanted something very slim and simple with a soft light. The Rise floor lamp—also from Article—ended up being pretty perfect! It comes in white too, but I love how the matte black finish of the shade disappears with the wall color to keep the corner from feeling too crowded. Having never bought anything Article before I wasn’t sure what to expect from the quality, but it really is excellent! The shade swivels around to any direction you want, and the height adjusts, and the whole thing is very sturdy on a heavy substantial base. It turns off with a push-button on cord at floor height, which is great since it’s a slightly awkward squeeze to lean in and turn something on at the top. I’m into it illuminating a painting—just enough light bounces off the painting and the wall for the corner to feel super inviting and not like a black hole. For now I’m enjoying this strange painting I found in the trash. I don’t know what’s going on with this guy but I figure I’ll stare at it for a while and try to figure it out. I move art around like a crazy person.

Oh yeah, that cabinet. Whipped it up one fine Sunday a couple weeks ago. It was really fun. And I finally used some of my lath!! It sorta made me want to abandon most of my other goals to play with lath all day instead. We’ll discuss more soon.

The movie, by the way? SO GOOD. I’m glad I bought it so I can watch it again. Which I already did.

Thank you for stopping by! And thank you to Julia and Kim for bringing me in on the A Night In series fun! It wouldn’t really occur to me to take artificially lit photos at midnight, because I am blogger and we shoot always by the light of the sun,  but this room was pretty much designed for Netflix & Chill so now you know what that looks like! We’ll do a day-lit reveal soon!

Want to see more bloggers betraying their secret training and showing their spaces at night? Hop on over to…

Chris Loves Julia ++ Yellow Brick Home ++ The Gold Hive ++ I Heart Organizing ++ The DIY Playbook ++ The Fox & She ++ Room for Tuesday ++ In Honor of Design

New Knobs for My Old Dresser!

Three years ago, I bought a big antique dresser that I put in the bedroom. Then I blogged about it. This one:

I love this dresser! It’s probably from the mid-1800s, which is sort of fun because so is my house! I obviously don’t want a time capsule house, but it’s always fun to pepper pieces around that could have been there originally, I think. It’s something I’d like to do more of as I’m able to find and afford this stuff. I think this dresser is actually intended more for linens, so I can see eventually moving it out of the bedroom and putting it somewhere else in the house, too. Ya know. Versatile unique cool piece that I expect to have for a long ass time.

One thing that’s never been quite right about the dresser (and probably the reason I was able to snag it for $300 in the first place) is the knobs. They’re reproductions, definitely not original or at all old. Whoever installed them did a pretty good job matching the stain, but not amazing, so I’ve always planned to do something about it. Then one broke in half in my hand one day, and another one fell off, so I put on a random knob I had laying around “temporarily,” a solution that lasted a mere two years. Every now and then I’d feel a burst of inspiration to try to find a new set of 8 knobs only to give up and forget it. It was a fun thing to get momentarily fixated on every couple of months.

The problem was that I didn’t feel confident that a new set of wood knobs would be any kind of improvement, but the real complicating factor was the size! The replacement wood knobs were the right size at 2″ in diameter, but typical knobs are between maybe 3/4″ and 1.5″ on the large end and that would look too dinky.

See? Major struggle.

Then a few weeks ago, somebody kindly alerted me in the comments to a lot of 8 Sandwich Glass knobs on eBay that would look good on my dresser! So I dashed to eBay! I found nothing!

Like I said, major struggle. But thank you for trying, kind stranger. This is the kind of help and support that I need.

ANYWAY. I don’t know what the original knobs on this dresser were, but it’s possible they were glass. Brief history corner, here we go! The Sandwich Glass Company operated out of Massachusetts from 1826-1888 and notably made pressed glass knobs among other things. So glass knobs became a big thing, and by the middle of the century were pretty ubiquitous. Fun facts.

Now, glass knobs are very beautiful and there are some AMAZING antique ones out there. But finding a set of 8 is tough, and when they do come up, they are not cheap. In addition, you may be aware that I’m renovating a 150 year old house, so my motivation and available funds to address this very small aspect of my life is low. Like lower on the priority list than changing the dead lightbulb on my garage, but easier because I don’t have to go outside. Point is, I wanted to order a nice thing from the Internet, have it delivered to my home, install, admire, and move on with my mess of a life.

Then I found reproduction Sandwich glass knobs at House of Antique Hardware for $8.29 a pop. They come in 6 colors! They’re 1.75″ across instead of 2″, so I made the lazy courageous decision to let it go and just buy them. Enough hassle. End the madness.

House of Antique Hardware is a GREAT resource, by the way. I’ve ordered a number of things from them over the years and the quality has always been excellent, prices are fair, and there’s a big selection of products. I love them.

In anticipation of my new knobs arriving in the mail, I figured it was a good time to give the dresser a little bit of attention. It’s a little beat up generally and the last few years have not been especially kind to any of my possessions.

Little dings and scratches and discoloration, ya know. These things happen. I think those scratches look suspiciously like Mekko nails. Dogs are so great but they also fuck up your stuff.

I love Restor-A-Finish. What’s not to love? It’s so easy and quick and great for blending in small damage (like what’s all over this piece) without losing the existing patina. The last thing I want is for this to look new or newly refinished. I had a couple different cans in the basement that I mixed together and buffed in with part of an old t-shirt. Easy peesy.

Then I put my new knobs on, and done! I think it looks cute. I am satisfied.

By the way, can we also appreciate that the walls are not crumbling plaster and the moldings are freshly painted and it looks like a real room that someone lives in? I love the wall color with the tones of wood in this piece. It’s working for me! I don’t know what to do up top in terms of art and stuff. I think the fact that I secretly had a 47″ TV on top of it before I renovated the bedroom did not prepare me well for imagining this wall ever being pretty. Now that the room is nice I can’t bear to put the TV back, so I have to try to remember how to be stylish?

(You have to be in some strange positions to ever see that little Sonos speaker tucked underneath the dresser when you’re actually in the room, but I know it looks silly in this photo. Forgive me! I do love my Sonos system, though.)

Good job, new knob. You’re cute.

Of COURSE when I was writing this post I found these Paxton Hardware folks that are selling repro Sandwich Glass knobs in a different pattern in the 2″ diameter I was searching for all along. They’re over $20 a piece though, so I’m kind of glad didn’t know about this earlier. I have put all the shits into this that I can muster for now and I am not doing a thing about it.

Knobs. They’re a good thing.

My Lowe’s Spring Makeover: Alex and Apryl’s Backyard!

Remember a few months ago when I partnered up with Lowe’s to do a spring makeover for a reader? WELL! IT IS DONE! Wanna see?

before2

OK, this is clearly a before photo. I never make it that easy. C’mon.

This is the backyard of a rowhouse in Washington, D.C., and clearly it needed some love. This sweet young couple of first-time homeowners named Alex and Apryl bought this house roughly a year ago. They knew it needed major renovation, but thought that would take a few months and they’d be sitting pretty in their new digs by last fall, hosting Thanksgiving. That didn’t happen (sound familiar??), but after months of hard work, they’re finally reaching the finish line of overhauling the entire house! Except for one big piece of it—the backyard! Unless you count using it as a dumpster during renovation, in which case it had performed admirably. But they had bigger dreams for it. I can relate to those dreams because they are also my dreams.

Like many attached urban houses, this one has a really little backyard. I mean really little. The whole thing is only about 20 x 20 feet, but there’s a set of stairs right in the middle going to the first floor and another one down to the basement, eating up over 20% of that space! So we’re left with about 315 square feet to play with, which I think is roughly the size of most outdoor sectionals.

before1

before3

They included a few photos of the space on their application (can anyone say dreamyyyy?), as well a short list of what they wanted the space to achieve, which included:

  1. New fence.
  2. Patio pavers.
  3. An outdoor grilling/kitchen set-up with bar seating.
  4. Plenty of green space to plant.
  5. Entertaining space with comfy lounge seating, possibly set up to double as an outdoor movie theater.
  6. A fire pit hang-out zone.

All in 315 square feet. There was also mention of a soaking tub but I’m choosing to believe that was a joke. Then they showed me some inspiration images they had gathered of these GORGEOUS backyards and I got real intimidated, real fast.

Aside from the construction debris situation, I worried about the lack of barrier between the backyard and the stairs down to the basement. There ought to be some kind of railing or knee wall there to protect you from tumbling down. So I added that to the list of stuff to address.

It took me a week or two to sketch and think and hem and haw and figure out how to lay things out in these cramped quarters. With a space this size, there’s really no room to just wing it or figure it out when you get there, ya know? So here is what I came up with:

LOWE'S-DESIGN-PLAN-1

Once again, my Sketchup abilities pretty much cap out at “nearly sufficient,” but hey! There are shapes. Shapes help, I think.

Let’s go clockwise: A few evergreen trees in that skinny place next to the stairs to screen off the neighbor’s enclosed porch which is basically RIGHT there. Raised planting beds wrapping part of the side and part of the back of the yard. An outdoor sofa floated a little out from the raised beds, with a fire pit, maybe a side table, maybe a lounge chair to complete the hang-out zone. Then there’s a bar on the right side fence, with a shallow raised planting bed next to it for veggies and herbs, and right across from that there’s a grill with some prep space on both sides that sits in front of a knee wall to protect from the whole basement stair hazard situation.

Also there is a new fence and new pavers with spaces between them for either sod or a ground cover to fill in between, which I always think looks nice. Alex and Apryl knew they wanted pavers and it’s common in their area to just cover the whole outdoor space with them, but I think the gaps will make it feel so much warmer and nicer to hang out in.

Save for a couple small requests that I’ve already forgotten, Alex and Apryl were totally on board with the plan which automatically made them my favorite clients of all time. Then they claimed to be relatively handy and well-stocked in the tool department and I did some brief research on the polygamy laws in D.C., because break me off a piece of that. 

So anyway, Alex hauled the garbage to the dump and I packed up the car and drove to D.C. and it was MAKEOVER TIME.

AlexandApryl

First of all, nobody told me these people were also totally adorable. They wisely did not include a photo on their application because I would have passed immediately on the basis of not wanting to feel like a troll for an entire weekend. Clever move.

Gorgeousness aside, they could NOT have been more helpful! Day 1 was just me, the homeowners, and my friend John who generously volunteered to tag along, and Day 2 was just me and John! IT WAS ALL REALLY INTENSE.

aprylstaining

Alex and Apryl were TOTAL champs, from helping me wade through a longggg supply list at Lowe’s, to helping haul everything back to their house, to unloading and cutting and staining and assembling…it was non-stop action and there was NO WAY we would have gotten it all done without them.

Apryl, by the way? BEAST. You can kind of see a big pile of super heavy leftover concrete pavers behind her, which she moved out to the alley without so much as a water break, like it was nothing. Damn.

process1

The raised planting beds are simple 1×6 pressure-treated lumber that we stained with my old standby, Cabot’s Solid-Color Acrylic Siding Stain in black. I can’t say enough about how great this stuff is! Totally matte, solid, easy to work with, often fine with one coat, dries quickly, seems to work fine on pressure-treated lumber that hasn’t really had time to dry out…A+. It used to be kind of hard to find, but Lowe’s carries it now! We used 4×4 pressure-treated posts in the corners, with a few in between to keep them from bowing out and losing their shape once filled. The boards are attached to the posts with shanked siding and trim nails. I’m in the process of completing similar raised beds for my own backyard, so I’ll post a more detailed step-by-step then!

barbuilding

While I set the homeowners on staining wood, I worked on assembling the bar seating! I couldn’t find a stock option that worked for the space, so building it seemed like a good plan. I used 4×4 pressure-treated posts for the legs (it’s upside-down in this photo) and wrapped the whole thing in cedar planks, also using trim and siding nails.

By the way, to compensate for the lack of volunteers on the actual makeover weekend, Lowe’s very kindly helped coordinate having contractors come in prior to my arrival to install the fence and pavers. The pavers are set on a base of crushed stone and paver sand, which all has to be hauled in, leveled, and compacted, so just having it DONE was a HUGE help. The plan called for these 2’x2′ concrete patio stones, but those weren’t available in the D.C. store so we used 16″x16″ stones instead. Fine by me!

The fence is constructed of 4×4 pressure-treated posts with horizontal cedar boards attached, and I love how it came out! The cedar decreases in size as you move from the bottom to the top, and we left it untreated to allow it to fade to a silvery-grey in the next few years. If Alex and Apryl decide they don’t want that, they can always seal it to maintain its natural tone longer, but personally I like the faded look.

As the sun was setting on Day 1, we all went back to Lowe’s and bought plants! I was a little nervous about this part because we were just totally at the mercy of what the Lowe’s nursery would have in stock, but luckily we weren’t short on options. I’m glad the homeowners got to be involved in this part because I know they like what we planted. We did our best to choose plants that ranged in size and were appropriate for the different light conditions in the yard, and I can happily report that apparently everything is still alive and thriving! YAY!

BanisterProcess

We didn’t really do anything to the house itself aside from replace the light fixture next to the door, but I couldn’t just leave this sad iron railing alone, could I? It was covered in chipping paint, which John did an AMAZING job of removing with a wire-brush attachment to my drill. It’s best to use a corded drill for this kind of thing, since a battery-powered one will die pretty quickly. We masked everything off with plastic and hit it with a few coats of glossy black Rustoleum spray paint, and it looks sooooo goooood.

process2

Day 2 with just John and me was mildly insane! I think that poor guy made 3 different trips to Lowe’s to get enough bags of soil to fill those big raised beds, and mulch to top them off…I think 160 bags in all, which works out to about 6,400 POUNDS OF SOIL. WHICH WE MOVED. BAG BY BAG. From the shelves of Lowe’s, into the trunk of my car, from the trunk of my car across a sidewalk, up a set of stairs into the house, across the living room and dining room and kitchen, down a set of stairs and into the yard. FUN. TIMES. Anyway, we used a mix of topsoil and garden soil to fill the beds, so those plants should be mighty happy for years to come. We then used a nice thick layer of black mulch (of course we did!) to top everything off.

Then Alex and Apryl got home and they were all:

alexandaprylreveal

Because their backyard used to look like this:

before1

And now it looks like this:

aerialafter

Not bad for a couple days of super intense work, am I right??

after1

Let’s take a walk around, shall we?

before2

after2

The real star of the show here is that fire pit, which Alex and Apryl made a while ago from a washing machine drum they found at the dump! People after my own heart, let me tell you. I don’t think they’d ever actually gotten to USE the thing, so being able to light that inaugural fire was an honor.

Also, I love fire. Some people call it a problem. I don’t.

yellowchair

How cute is that sunny lemon yellow adirondack chair? SEE?! I LIKE COLOR. I kind of want a couple for myself, but don’t tell anyone or I’ll ruin my rep.

beds1

bed2

I’m so thrilled with how the raised beds came out! I tried to plant things so that there was a nice mix of textures, colors, and height, but leaving enough room for things to fill in over time. It’s oddly hard to lay out raised beds! These are only two feet deep, so you can do some layering but not a ton. I’m sorry to say that I don’t know the names of everything we planted, but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that my readers are kinda brilliant so if you have specific questions on plantings, shout them out in the comments and hopefully someone smarter than me can come to your rescue.

ajuga

We filled in between the pavers with the same topsoil/garden soil mix and planted ajuga all over the place between the stones. Ajuga should do well in their low light conditions, and it’s hearty enough to take kind of a beating with foot traffic. I want updated photos in a couple years when things really fill in!

pillows

The sectional and pillows are all from Lowe’s! Look at those trendy-ass pillows! So cute. Lowe’s carries such a nice selection of pillows that are super easy to mix and match, and the quality seems great. I used these and these and these. The sofa is this one!

bar2

The bar seating worked out! I don’t have a lot of experience building furniture, but it’s solid and pretty and I like it! The top is nominal 1×2 cedar with about 1/4″ space in between (I used my iPhone as a spacer because I’m a pro, haha), so rainwater should be able to easily drain through.

It was pretty dark by the time we were ready for the full reveal, so I came back the next day to take more after pictures. Because I am Blogger and I couldn’t help myself, they are staged somewhat like a fake party. Forgive me.

bar

The bar seating area got rounded out with these simple stools, which look like wood but are really plastic! The quality is great. The bar area comfortably seats three, and the stools can easily be stowed underneath if they ever have a bash where they just want to just use the table as a bar space. I love how many people you can comfortably fit in this yard now!

grillarea

One of the areas I’m MOST proud of is the grill area! I built a knee wall anchored to the brick masonry wall next to the stairs, which accomplishes the safety goal I discussed earlier. ALSO! One of the things I never really thought about is that grills generally aren’t that deep, but opening the top drastically increases the depth…making them difficult to place in small spaces, because you can’t place them against the wall without floating them out a foot or so. I built the knee wall so that it was low enough for the grill top to flip over the back of it, meaning the grill can sit right up against it and doesn’t take up any extra space when open. Hooray!

alex

We used this Weber grill but removed the side panel made for prep space to allow for more space for this custom prep space. How many times can I say “space” in a single sentence? That many times.

prepspace

Here’s a glamor shot of the prep area, because typically you are cutting up asparagus and watermelon at the same time. Right? I’ve never been to a barbecue.

watermelon

So the back of the knee wall matches the planters and the top of the prep space matches the bar and the fence and I’m so predictable, but…it took some self-restraint to not go CRAZY on this little space and do all sorts of different things. I feel like the result is nicely balanced with a good repetition of materials and finishes. Or something.

hosestorage

Underneath the prep space is the hose, so Alex and Apryl can keep all this stuff alive! I love these coiled hoses especially for small spaces—it does the job and fits easily into a cute perforated metal bucket. There’s plenty more space for extra propane tanks, and it would be easy for them to add a shelf if they wanted.

vegetablebed

The raised bed across from the grill area worked out so well! It’s about a foot and a half deep and 8 feet long, so there’s a nice amount of space to grow herbs and vegetables. Here they have rosemary, mint, basil, a couple different types of peppers, and thyme. I can see a tomato plant or two doing well here, too. Alex and Apryl were advised that the mint might need to be transferred to a pot to keep it from overtaking everything.

By the way…I know there’s a negative knee-jerk reaction to using pressure-treated lumber for beds made for edibles, but from everything I’ve read about it, it sounds like the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil is extremely minimal to non-existent. The process used to create pressure-treated lumber has changed dramatically in recent years, so the risks associated with it no longer seem to apply. Only the top course of the planters are stained, so the stain’s contact with the soil is also very minimal.

drinkdispensor

Ahhhhh, I can taste it now! Here’s my favorite cocktail, which is one part bourbon and one part…oh wait, never mind, it’s just watered down Brisk Iced Tea with some lemons and ice floating in it. #blogger

russiansage

Let’s take a look at the plants! I love Russian Sage. It has such a great color and texture.

hydrangea

In the corner, there’s a nice hydrangea that should fill out beautifully and provide some nice height up in that corner.

foxglove2

foxglove1

Foxgloves are peppered around the planters, which I LOVE. I LOVE THEM. Why don’t I have any foxgloves yet?? Working on it. They’ll have to be a front garden plant for me, as they’re toxic for dogs.

cypress

Next to the steps up to the house, we planted this sweet cypress tree. The Sketchup plan shows three trees here, but that was crazy, so we just did one to give it room to grow and spread out. Hopefully it’ll provide a little privacy screening from the neighbors as it continues to mature.

candle

Between the tree and the raised beds, we planted some ornamental grasses. So pretty! I think they’ll really fill in this area nicely as they mature.

throughgate

So there it is! I’m so happy with how this came out. Alex and Apryl, I hope you get to enjoy it for years and years to come! You couldn’t have been more gracious and wonderful hosts. Thank you for making this so much fun!

Psssst…want to see the other Lowe’s Spring Makeovers? Head on over to…

Yellow Brick Home’s living room transformation

Chris Loves Julia’s entryway/sitting room makeover

French Country Cottage’s outdoor living space 

Emily A. Clark’s patio overhaul

Design Post Interior’s patio makeover

Wit & Delight’s artist’s studio makeover

Simple Styling’s backyard makeover

 

This post has been in partnership with my wonderful sponsors, Lowe’s

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