Me – 1; Wallpaper – 0

This is the lovely basement bathroom before we bought the house.  The wallpaper in this room made you dizzy.  It was also separated and peeling up at some of the seams.  The vanity literally fell apart when you tried to open a drawer and was pretty gross so it wasn’t exactly enticing to see what those old drawers might hold.  The medicine cabinet was too small for the vanity and there were some pretty hideous globe track lights.  The overhead light shade also transported you back a few decades and there was an acrylic & brass towel rod.  The shower head looks and functions more like a garden hose than a shower head.  Luckily the floor tile was in good shape, the shower stall is clean & the toilet is a low flow model.

Before (from the real estate listing):

Here’s a close up of the wallpaper just so you can get the full dizzying effect.

To Do:

  • Rip down wallpaper
  • Paint walls & trim
  • Replace ceiling light
  • Replace vanity light
  • Replace vanity & faucet
  • Replace medicine cabinet with mirror
  • Add backsplash
  • New TP holder
  • Hang art

One day in April, I went down to the basement to exercise and got distracted by the bathroom wallpaper.  I found a seam that was separated in the wallpaper and pulled a little to see what would happen….who am I kidding…I just ripped it off.  It turns out that the wallpaper was just glued on at the seams and it pulled right off the wall in a huge sheet.  I also saw some potential water damage on the wall so I had to keep going.  Just HAD TO.

It turns out that the builder put the wallpaper up BEFORE the ceiling & trim were installed.  The walls were in pretty good shape except for the leftover stuck behind the trim and ceiling and the glue on the seams.  This still felt like a huge improvement/accomplishment.

We left the walls bare for a few months until we changed our plans on the basement and decided to go ahead and make it habitable now instead of in a few years.  In July, we called back in the pros (Greenwave Solutions) to finish the wallpaper & faux wood paneling removal in the main room (the wallpaper tied our score in there) & to paint the bathroom at the same time.   Kevin and I did the rest ourselves.  We found a vanity, vanity top, mirror combo at Home Depot that was a great deal and fit the space perfectly.  We installed the new vanity light and found that the ceiling light just needed a new glass shade to look updated.  I added the backsplash a few months later (October) with tiles leftover from the master bath renovation in the last house which looked great with the dark grey blue walls.  I added the Guinness art that was in the kitchen at the old house and also had some of the grey blue tones.

After:

Since I like to cross things off lists:

To Do

  • Rip down wallpaper
  • Paint walls & trim
  • Replace ceiling light
  • Replace vanity light
  • Replace vanity & faucet
  • Replace medicine cabinet with mirror
  • Add backsplash
  • New TP holder
  • Hang art

Only one thing left on that list!  This may be the only room that I can declare officially (almost) complete!  And here is the before & after shot for personal gratification:

It’s Alright, ”cause I’m Saved by the Bell

I watched endless episodes of Saved by the Bell when I was in elementary school and the basement wallpaper reminded me of the Saved by the Bell intro. Despite the wallpaper & faux wood paneling, the basement was a nice selling point of the house.  The main room is 15′ x 29′ with sliding doors that come out under the screen porch.  There were some great aluminum blinds on the windows and verticals on the sliding doors.  The room has a big closet w/ bifold doors and double doors to the unfinished storage area.  There is also a full bath and bedroom that we are using as a gym and a large cedar closet.

Before (from real estate listing photos):

To Do:

  • Remove wallpaper
  • Remove or paint faux wood paneling
  • Paint walls & trim
  • Furnish room
  • Replace brass knobs on bifold doors with brushed nickle
  • Replace vertical blinds with curtains
  • Replace aluminum blinds with faux wood blinds
  • Replace outlet & switch covers
  • Replace off white outlets & switches with white
  • Replace sliding doors with french doors (or better sliding ones?)
  • Hang stuff on the walls

Around June-July some family moved out of state to a smaller house and gave us a great deal on their basement furniture that they would not be moving to the new house so we jumped on the offer since we had an empty basement.  The bathroom wallpaper came off so easily that I decided to see if I could remove the wallpaper in this room myself.  It didn’t work.  Some of it came off dry in large strips but most just peeled off and left a weird grey backing.  We tried several things to get that backing off and I spent more hours than I care to admit peeling small pieces of it off by hand.

Then we called in the pros, Greenwave Solutions, that we used for the upstairs removal of wallpaper in the family room and the dining room.  They helped us figure out that the faux wood paneling was installed OVER drywall and could be removed and the dry wall painted for less than painting the paneling would cost.  They did the job (along with the basement bathroom & upstairs playroom) in about 3 days and got it schedule & finished in less than 2 weeks so that it would be complete before we had a big party at our house for friends that were moving to Florida.

We are using the basement several times a week now that its so much more pleasant to be in with the new paint & furniture!  Liam loves going down there to play since it has the bigger play toys like cars & slides.   We have a couple things left on the list to tackle in this room to finish it but it is very close to being done (for now).

To Do:

  • Remove wallpaper
  • Remove or paint faux wood paneling
  • Paint walls & trim
  • Furnish room
  • Replace brass knobs on bifold doors with brushed nickle
  • Replace vertical blinds with curtains
  • Replace aluminum blinds with faux wood blinds (sitting in the boxes)
  • Replace outlet & switch covers
  • Replace off white outlets & switches with white
  • Replace sliding doors with french doors (or better sliding ones?)
  • Hang stuff on the walls

Phase 1 Kitchen

The kitchen in our house is spacious and has nice natural from the large bay window/greenhouse that overlooks the backyard.  There is also a bar area that joins the kitchen & family room.  The layout has been working out very well for us for both daily routines and entertaining.  We’ve had a couple large parties where the food was set up on the bar area and it worked great.   The cabinets are not in bad shape but the boxes are just mdf/laminate and show some wear & tear after 27 years so the plan is to replace them in a few years with pretty white shaker style.  In order to do that, we need a tree of money so while we

Before (original listing & pre-sale pictures):

Check out that grey backsplash and the discolored plastic light over the cooktop.

This shows the nice bay window with the backyard view.  It is also a preferred perch for Mac to harass the neighbor’s dogs.  Again you see the plethora of brown trim.  Lovely.

The bar area that is connected to the family room.

From the bar out to the family room

The original appliances are dinosaurs.  They may have been top of the line 27 years ago but not anymore.  The cooktop only had 2 burners & an indoor grill.  The best part about the grill was that you have to screw a mason jar in underneath the cabinet to catch the grease.  Yummy.

The microwave doesn’t have a turntable & you can’t cook in the microwave while using the min/sec timer to time the oven.  Do you remember the last time you had to turn your food every 30 seconds to heat it evenly?  I do.  I was 7.  Our plates & wine glasses didn’t fit in the dishwasher and washing that many wine glasses by hand was just not an option so the dishwasher was the first to be replaced.

Since kitchens are expensive to replace, we’ve concentrated on a few easy projects to make it look nicer and replaced a couple major appliances to make it function until we save enough for the full renovation.

To Do:

  • Replace dishwasher
  • Paint trim white
  • Cover backsplash
  • Remove light over cooktop & cap wires
  • Hang stuff on walls
  • Replace oven/microwave
  • Replace cooktop grill with burners
  • Replace refridgerator
  • Full kitchen reno (new cabinets, counters, tile, paint)
  • Convert bay window to french doors & add a deck off kitchen & screen porch

The first project was painting.  All the brown trim was painted white (SW – Snowbound) as part of the larger wall paper removal & painting project in January 2013.

Painting just the trim made a huge difference in the feel of the room.  Even the faux wall finish looked a little fresher with the crisp white trim.  Of course the cabinets also look a little more dated against the white but C’est la vie.  

We also tackled updating the backsplash with a (relatively) easy fix to cover up the grey tile.  We used the Fascade tin panels in our last house and knew they would be a perfect interim solution until the new dream kitchen.  The panels are actually plastic and can be cut with scissors or scored with a box cutter and snapped apart.  You stick them up with construction adhesive and use matching trim to cover any ends that will show.  The only frustrating part of the install is dealing with non-square cabinets.

Our most recent improvement was sort of by accident.  The front right stove burner popped loudly one day while I was cooking but it seemed to still work so I wasn’t too concerned.  A couple days later I was making bacon (BACON! Yum Yum Yum) when I noticed that it was literally disintegrating in the pan.  I’ve never had bacon turn into basically black liquid before so we checked the burner.  It turns out that the pop was apparently the burner temperature regulator going out so the large front burner would only heat to the higher than HI setting.   Great.  It was really difficult to try to make any meal using only the 1 wimpy burner in the back.  While checking PartSelect.com for a new part for the ancient cooktop – we found a magic 2 burner insert that just plugged into the left half of the stove where the grill was.   Luckily it was in stock and arrived at the house in just a few days.   It took longer to open the box than to plug in the part so Voila’ a FOUR burner stove!  What a luxury!

With the extra burners and the new wall oven/microwave combo unit that will be delivered on Friday, we decided that we really can wait on a full kitchen remodel for a few years so that we can really do it right.

Here is the new oven.  The install was a bit tricky (& expensive) since it was very heavy, the guys didn’t read any instructions and trim pieces had to be removed for it to fit.   At one point the installer actually asked if we would mind having it stick out from the cabinets 3 inches & not secured to anything.  Ummm – excuse me that isn’t why I”m paying you over $400 to INSTALL the thing.  Obviously I’m not especially pleased with that part of the experience.

We still have to put the trim back up on the top and figure out what to do with the bottom piece since there is now a gap opening to the drawer below.  The oven/microwave combo looks so much nicer but the important part is how much better it is for cooking!  That baby makes great Easy Mac & chicken nuggets!

Hopefully we will be fixing the trim in the next few days and will post a final picture.

To Do:

  • Replace dishwasher
  • Paint trim white
  • Cover backsplash
  • Remove light over cooktop & cap wires
  • Hang stuff on walls
  • Replace oven/microwave
  • Replace cooktop grill with burners
  • Fix oven trim
  • Rewire old cooktop burners
  • Replace refridgerator
  • Full kitchen reno (new cabinets, counters, tile, paint)
  • Convert bay window to french doors & add a deck off kitchen & screen porch

Stroke the Furry Walls

So. Much. Brown. Trim.  And wallpaper.  You just can’t forget the fuzzy wallpaper with the hotel corners (you know – those tacky clear plastic strips that keep the wallpaper from peeling at the edges).  This room has come a LONG WAY.

Before (listing pics again – previous owner’s furniture):

The last shot is towards the front door and shows the entertaining bar that joins the kitchen & living room.  (That’s a little Liam head from the first time we saw the house)

In memory of our furry walls and because I love Russell Brand:

To Do:

  • Remove wallpaper
  • Paint walls, trim, wainscoting & built ins
  • Hang stuff on the walls
  • Add outlet in cabinets for electronics
  • Style bookcases
  • Replace ceiling fan
  • Paint brass outlet covers
  • Replace brown outlets with white
  • Replace door hardware to screen porch

The paint color selection process had some ups and downs.  I was nervous about choosing colors since the floor plan is open and you can see several rooms from any point.  We also had to leave the faux finish in the kitchen and wanted it to blend.  I contacted a local designer/blogger that I liked and asked if she was available for a color consultation & was very excited when she said yes.  I got some ideas together and waited (im)patiently for the 3 weeks prior to our appointment only to have her cancel on me 2 days ahead of time due to a busy schedule.  I drank some wine went to Sherwin-Williams the next day to get some samples.  I was happy to find that HGTV had collections of colors that were made for exactly this purpose – to ensure your house doesn’t clash but isn’t boring.  After some deliberation, we decided to go with the Liveable Luxe collection because it had very nice updated neutral greys & tans.  All the trim in the house will be SW – Snowbound & the Family Room walls are SW – Gateway Gray.  The foyer is SW – Relaxed Khaki.

We had professional help with the trim and the wallpaper removal.  Let’s face it – this job was WAYYY too big to not bring in the pros.  Greenwave Solutions did an excellent job with this hairy task (I mean that literally).

Here are a few work in progress shots from the end of each paint day:

Day 1 – Tape everything off & remove the furry wallpaper

Day 2-3: Angels sing.  Trim is primed & painted.

A lack of planning and abundance of optimism (it can’t smell THAT bad) led us to this sleeping arrangement for a couple nights during the process.  The primer was some pretty hard-core stuff so we had to leave all the windows on the top 2 floors open, turn on the fans & turn off the heat (the basement & main floor share a HVAC unit so all the fumes circulated downstairs when the unit was running).  Liam slept in a Pack & Plan in the basement bedroom with our only space heater and Kevin and I (& Buddy) shared the main room in the basement.  We had no furniture, TVs, etc in the basement at this point so it was slightly uncomfortable & very COLD.

Last day: Now the decorating can begin!

The next few shots are from more recently.  I’ve arranged & re-arranged the bookshelves a few times.  We found a great piece of art at Virginia Highlands Summerfest to hang over the Juke Box.  The accent chairs were changed out when I found the pretty grey ones on sale at World Market.   We also replaced the fan and were lucky not to have to install it ourselves due to a great deal we made with our electrician.

One more side by side comparison for impact:

To Do:

  • Remove wallpaper
  • Paint walls, trim, wainscoting & built ins
  • Hang stuff on the walls
  • Add outlet in cabinets for electronics
  • Style bookcases
  • Replace ceiling fan
  • Paint brass outlet covers
  • Replace brown outlets with white
  • Replace door hardware to screen porch

Shred Baby Shred!

The front yard had some really nice mature landscaping and really just needed a little taming.  Notice how you can barely see the front door & porch due to all the overgrown shrubs?  Those babies were about 4 feet tall and only left about 2 feet of clearance for the walkway.   The juniper bushes were only green on the top & the under area is just prickly, vine type wood so there was only one solution: Shred Baby Shred!

Before (real estate listing picture):

One sunny weekend in January, we rented a big gigantic shredder and with the help of my parents and a very dedicated friend, we dug up and shredded all those juniper bushes.  We also tamed cut down to the base several other bushes as well.

It was a great feeling to be able to walk up the sidewalk to the front door without being attacked by juniper bushes.  The shredder was a big piece of equipment & we took advantage of the rental day (and the use of my brother-in-laws truck to tow it) and cleaned out some of the mess in the backyard too, but more on that in a future post.

HUGE improvement.  We’ve done additional work since January in the front yard including cutting the bushes next to the driveway down to a reasonable size, planting a butterfly garden, adding some flowers to the front porch and replacing the lights.

The butterfly garden grew really well.  We weren’t used to actually having plants grow at the last house so this was a pleasant surprise.  A few pretty butterflies have stopped by for a snack this summer.

This is a current picture with our Halloween decorations up.  The trees in front still overpower the house but they look like they may only last a few more years so no trimming yet.  They really are gorgeous in the spring.  We also don’t have a good shot of the trees or hydrangeas in full bloom – I’ll add that one next year.

We have a few more projects to tackle in the front including a quick garage makeover, painting the front door, replacing the brass door hardware and a full front porch fix.  We discovered after yanking out the juniper bushes that the ground under the front porch had settled about 5 inches over the years so it’s prime real estate for chipmunks right now.  We need to fix that as well as the weird/dangerous step layout but haven’t been thrilled with the solutions/quotes we’ve gotten so far.

Here’s the front porch in it’s fall finest.  The mums haven’t bloomed yet but should soon (hopefully).  You can see the new lights, chipmunk condos and odd stairs better in this close up.

Check out the wacky wavy inflatable ghost man.  He taught Liam what ghosts say….BOOO!  If you’re wondering about the white spots in the azalea – those are googly eyes.

To Do:

  • Remove overgrown juniper bushes
  • Paint front door (I bought the paint in January)
  • Tame boxwoods next to sidewalk & driveway
  • Add mulch/pinestraw where needed (partially complete)
  • Add drainage rocks to left side yard 
  • Replace brass lights
  • Replace brass door hardware
  • Add garage hardware
  • Fix front porch steps and add stone