Posts tagged ‘Home Improvement’

January 24, 2015

One and Done

I’m hop-skipping around the different assignments from Apartment Therapy’s January Cure. Last weekend, I was able to strike off assignment #5, “Pick a Project” and assignment #9, “Hey! It’s Time to (Fill in the Blank)“, by completing one of the more inconsequential projects on my list, “Hang new drapes in master bedroom closet”.

If there is any reality of our home that I hide from the blog, it is my closet. If you look back through my posts on the master bedroom, you’ll notice that I never include an angle that shows my closet. The closet is the traditional 6 foot wide, 2 foot deep space with bifold doors. It’s nothing special to look at when the bifold doors are closed. Unfortunately, the reality is that we’re not allowed to close the doors.

Cats are interesting creatures…

If we close the closet doors, like most normal folks do, our beloved Jin would paw and meow at the door and otherwise cause an annoying ruckus, most often while we’re trying to sleep. So the doors were left open, giving us the wonderful view of my entire wardrobe, which, to everyone’s surprise, is not arranged by style, color, and sleeve-length. Sorry.

I hated it. I always felt like my garments were on display and like our bedroom was more chaotic than it should be. For years, I had the idea that I would add drapes to the closet and I was finally able to pick up my favorite Aina drapes on a recent trip to IKEA. Normally, I buy Cambria drapery hardware from Bed Bath and Beyond, but since I knew the hardware would be installed inside the closet and wouldn’t be seen, I decided I’d rather spend less money on more basic hardware. I opted to use IKEA’s Racka drapery rod with Syrlig curtain rings and clips. Using curtain rings, rather than the hidden tabs on the back of the Aina drapes, would allow for faster, smoother opening and closing of the drapes. In other words, I would be more likely to create a habit of closing the drapes when I’m done in my closet.

I was going to include a ‘Before’ photo of my closet with the doors wide open, but realized it exposed just a bit too much of my wardrobe to include on the blog. So you’re missing out on the nitty-gritty, but here’s a pretty picture instead. I present to you, a never-before-seen corner of the house on Penny Lane complete with the culprit that caused all of the aforementioned events.


 Have you completed a January Cure project? Tell me about it!

January 11, 2015

Punch List

The second assignment from Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is “Make a List of Projects“. The idea is to tour your home and take note of any areas requiring attention. Putting the items in list-form is meant to encourage focus on each item, rather than overwhelm.

My list consists mostly of prospective or incomplete projects. Interestingly, I found many projects that spanned multiple rooms, which should help me feel like the tasks are being completed faster. I typed up my list and colored like-items to help me focus. Thankfully, the list isn’t meant to be completed in January, but over the course of the year.

Here’s a peek at my list.

Punch List copy


Obviously, I’m a bit behind on my assignments. Since this it my first time attempting the Cure, and since it’s been an unusually busy January already, I’ll probably pick and choose which assignments I do based on their benefits. I really liked this assignment because it helped me very clearly identify the things I’ve been wanting to do around the house.

Has anyone else been participating in the Cure? Tell me about your experience so far in the comments.

June 16, 2013

The Year of Ugly Money

If 2012 was the Year of the Exterior (which, in actuality, will really span several years), then 2013 must be the Year of Ugly Money. It started back in February, when we had an unchecked slab leak. In March, the slab leak turned into upgrades to our floor duct and insulation situations – unseen but still very important. During that process, our air conditioning unit was checked and it was brought to our attention that it may not last through the summer.


Our A/C in this house has never worked properly, and every summer there has been something to address with it. We didn’t know why until a couple weeks ago when… you guessed it… the A/C went out again. Turns out, most air conditioners need to be replaced every 10 years or so. Our air conditioner was installed in the 80s.

So more ugly money spent, but hopefully we will be reaping the rewards by having a more efficient system that will lower the electricity bills.

Have you spent any ugly money lately? Or did you spend it a while back and are now seeing the benefits? Tell me about it below!

March 13, 2013

Ugly Money

All over the blog-o-sphere, including The House on Penny Lane, the consensus is that pretty money is the best kind of money. Whether it is spent on paint, furniture, or landscaping, pretty money is fun to spend. Ugly money… not so fun. But sometimes, spending ugly money is necessary.

With the slab leak, we’re having to spend a lot of ugly money. It’s so ugly, you won’t even see it.

Last month, a water supply line in our concrete slab broke and leaked for 2 weeks. When we finally realized we had a slab leak, our floor ducts, which had numerous compromised joints, began filling with sand, and more noticeably, water. Instead of tearing up the floors and jack hammering the slab to find the leak, the plumbers re-routed the lines through the attic.

The leak was fixed, but our plumbing was exposed to the untempered air in the attic. So we took the initiative and called out some insulation guys. We had fresh insulation blown in and batts laid over our new plumbing lines.

Next up, our ducts. Once the leak was fixed, the water receded from the ducts, but the sand stuck around. We would occasionally see sand on the floor (and the furniture and the counters and any other horizontal surface within 5 feet) around the floor vent. We could also smell sand when the heater kicked on. We thought all the ducts needed was a good, old fashioned cleaning. Too bad there wasn’t enough sand for us to bury our heads. We had our ducts scoped and were told they were in such bad shape that cleaning would only damage them more. We needed to seal those suckers blowers.

And that’s not cheap. It includes removing the furnace coil, hand patching the larger gaps, sealing the entire system, and replacing the furnace coil. In the end we will have sparkling, white ducts. Really.

Now it’s time to look on the bright side. Even though you’ll never see the ugly money, we likely will. New insulation in our attic should help keep warm air in during the winter and cool air in during the summer. Repairing the ducts should also repair any air leaks we never knew we had. And maybe, just maybe, that means Rob’s office could be temperature controlled. How novel. Best of all, we could see our utility bills drop and we could get a tax refund on the work.

Ugly Money Polaroid

February 28, 2013

Making Waves

I always said I wanted a beach vacation. I should have specified that the waves should be in the ocean, not in my air ducts.

This past week has been a doozy. But let me start off by saying, it could have been a lot worse. Long story short, we unknowingly had a slab leak for an extended period of time. The point at which we realized we had a slab leak? The water meter was spinning out of control and our floor ducts began filling with water. Let’s just say it was a little unsettling.

Thankfully, we had a reliable plumber on speed dial who put up with my panicking. Instead of tearing up my floors and jack hammering my slab to find the leak, they re-routed the lines through the attic. We still need to get our ducts cleaned, get some walls patched from accessing the plumbing and add insulation to our attic to ensure no frozen pipes.

Here’s a video of the unwelcome sloshing. For best results, turn your volume up.

February 2, 2013

Kitchen Improvement Baby Steps, Part 2

I promised a full post wrapping up my first baby step to improving the kitchen, so here goes. Let’s start with the Befores.

Kitchen 2011

Kitchen 2011

Kitchen 2011

These pictures were taken in 2011, but not all that much had changed before this past November, including my choice of pajamas. At this point, I was unhappy with practically every surface in the kitchen, but I knew I couldn’t afford any upgrades anytime soon… if ever. So, instead, I started thinking about ways I could improve the feel of the space without putting too much money into it. I came up with a plan, starting with addressing the items I disliked the most about the space.

1. The upper cabinets above the peninsula. I despised them. They got in the way of many conversations being had. I wanted to tear them down, but that meant patching the surfaces beyond. I had to be prepared for whatever state they may be in. I’ve had experience patching gypsum and texturing walls, so I felt confident I could fix whatever happened to the ceiling in the process. The wall, not so much. The backsplash tiles were cut around the upper cabinet, so if I took the cabinet off, the raw edges of the tile would be exposed. I do not have experience in tiling, so I did not feel good about that. Luckily, I had an idea. I designed a wood trim piece to cover the cut tiles and had a friend build it for me. I then painted it and liquid nailed it to the wall. You can see the down and dirty pictures here at my previous post on this subject.

Kitchen Progress

2. The dark and creepy window nook. I loved this window space when we first looked at the house. I thought it could be a cheerful space to grow herbs and other plants. Instead, it became a black hole that constantly felt empty, yet overcrowded. After staring at pretty kitchen windows on blogs, then at mine, I realized a curtain was the first step, and I could make it myself. But first, I painted the window frame to match my tile trim. Painting the trim white helped to brighten up the area and made it feel much cleaner than the old, worn stained frame did. I then got to constructing my curtain. I found a pretty simple tutorial here that is so easy I was able to start and finish the project in an evening. I then took the “less is more” approach to accessorizing the nook by removing everything I didn’t love. I was left with a knife block, a couple plants, three glass canisters (which each hold flour sack towels, dish detergent and fresh light bulbs) and a frosted mustard bowl to tie in my accent color.

Kitchen Curtain

3. Lack of interesting and cohesive accessories. What accessories I had were merely parts that did not add up to a cohesive look. Accessorizing is not my strong point, so I experimented with my accent color in various patterns. I mixed the geometric curtain with striped tea towels and a southwest style rug. Mustard colored bowls, a print with bits of yellow and produce helped add fresh color to the space.

Kitchen Accessories

4. The furniture in the space doesn’t accomodate the activities that take place there. Sure, a dinette table belongs in a dinette, but what if the dinette table only gets used as a mail sorter and a coat rack? The table just took up space and made it difficult to vacuum. What I noticed most was that guests preferred to stand close to the peninsula to watch whatever activities were happening in the kitchen. So how about some stools?

Kitchen Stools

Ok, enough ‘splainin’. Let’s get to the Afters!

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Baby step one is done. My plan, now, is to live with this progress a while and decide if anymore steps should be taken. At this point, those steps are painting the upper cabinets or painting all of the cabinets. We’ll see!

December 30, 2012

Kitchen Improvement Baby Steps, Part 1

Over the holidays, my focus has been on improving our kitchen. Even at its best, it has been strangely cavernous yet very bright. It lacked any interesting characteristics to warrant it being the heart of the home and where we would often find guest congregating during parties. I attempted, many times over, to rearrange countertop accessories to improve the interest, but it was never enough. We didn’t have the money for a complete kitchen renovation, so I came up with some baby steps in hopes that I would find a comfort zone somewhere in the middle.

Kitchen Before

Many times, I would find myself prepping food inside the kitchen and ducking to be able to chat with friends on the other side of the peninsula. So step one became tearing down the cabinets above the peninsula. It was a bit of a scary step to take, like stepping off a cliff, because we weren’t sure what kind of surfaces we would find behind the cabinets. Would we have to patch large areas of the ceiling with sheetrock? Would we have to patch the tile backsplash? These lingering questions became the reason why we waited so long to take this first step, but finally, I had had enough. The day after Thanksgiving, Rob and I tore that sucker down.

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

We were left with some surprising and not-so-surprising surfaces. Not-so-surprising were the tile edges cut around the now non-existent cabinet and the once hidden wall texture that was now exposed and out of place next to the remaining texture-less walls. The tile would either have to be patched or covered in some way so that the rough edges would not be exposed. The textured wall would either have to be sanded down or the remaining walls would have to be textured to match. The surprising was the already textured ceiling that required very little additional patching to blend with the exposed ceiling.

And then the real work began. I decided to go ahead and texture all of the walls in the kitchen because the flat walls felt cold and out of place with the rest of the house. I then primed and painted both the walls and the ceiling with Sherwin Williams Shoji White in a flat finish. I had a little wood ledge made to cover the cut tile pieces. I originally tried staining it, but couldn’t get the stain color dark enough. I also realized I didn’t want a dark brown stripe that was the trim seemingly hanging in space. Another reason I decided against staining the trim was because the next kitchen improvement baby steps would involve painting the upper cabinets white. So why stain the trim only to paint it later on?

Kitchen Progress

Kitchen Progress

Oh, we also replaced the outlet and switch covers and re-caulked the counter.  It’s amazing what a difference those small changes can make. The final item to complete before wrapping up baby step one is accessorizing – a big step all on its own. I created a quick mood board for the kitchen.

Kitchen Mood Board

The easiest way to unify a space is through color. I already had several yellow items in the kitchen, so it only seemed natural to continue with that theme. The rug was a Christmas gift from Rob. I’ll also make a curtain with white and yellow print fabric, frame and hang a print, and replace our kitchenette table and chairs with bar stools (the brass pull is for future baby steps).

Jin on the Kitchen Rug

Jin is already enjoying the new rug.

November 4, 2012

Laundry Room Re-do

Every house I have lived in has had one of those catch-all rooms. In the house on Penny Lane, that room is the laundry room. Not only is it the laundry room, it is also the utility room, the junk room, the litter box room, and the shoe closet. And it looked like it…

Total disorganization. Shoes piled on top of shoes and that Laundry Lift had been leaning against the wall for 2 years. This room is the first room that we enter when coming home and the last one to exit when leaving. I wanted it to be bright and welcoming but also useful as the laundry room that it is. My first order of business was corralling the shoes. I had my eye on the IKEA Stall unit for a while and finally talked Rob into buying it.

When I got it home, I immediately started assembling it. Halfway into assembling, I realized the thing was mammoth. I had done some measuring before purchasing, but seeing it in person made me rethink my laundry room plan.

I originally wanted to place the new shoe cabinet on the same wall that the shoes were stacked against. Unfortunately, the existing cabinet was taking up far too much room. So we decided to take it out…

And with it, the tile and base boards were replaced and the walls patched and painted. It was a bit more work than we expected, but well worth the return on square footage.

With that additional square footage, I was able to push back the clothes drying rack to an area that didn’t require ducking and didn’t block the light. This also cleared up my walls for decor. We found a new use for an area rug that had been rolled up in our garage for a year – it did wonders for the warm, inviting feel I was after. And didn’t realize until later how much it would help to cut down on the amount of litter tracked by the cats.

Light and bright and 100% efficient!

March 25, 2012

A New, Fabulous Front Door

With the hard work from our friend Gavin (whom I now owe several hours of my painting services), the new front door has been installed and is swinging beautifully.

It’s been almost 2 years since we had a fully functioning lockset on our front door. The previous door’s deadbolt knob was loose and got lost during our tile installation of 2010. Every time we had guests they’d inevitably find themselves clawing at the door to leave due to my habitual door locking. We also never had a peep hole, which made for awkward peeps around windows to spy on unexpected visitors. So not only is this door squeaky new, it’s also way more functional than our previous door.

Here’s our before door.

Before Interior

Before Exterior

And our after.

After Interior

New Hardware

After Exterior

After Exterior

I don’t think I could be anymore pleased than I am.

The interior paint color is Sherwin Williams Coffee Bean; the exterior is SW Marquis Orange. You can follow our progress here and here.

March 18, 2012

To Do List

It’s been a long while since I’ve last updated my to do list, so here goes…

Those items highlighted green are those that have been completed since I last updated the list (June 2010)

To Do List

1)  Replace carpet with wood

2) Replace existing tile

3)  Replace all light fixtures

  • Entry – pendant
  • Dining – pendant
  • Living Room – recessed
  • Kitchen – pendant
  • Master Bedroom – pendant/close to ceiling
  • Master Bathroom – pendant or sconces
  • Bedrooms – close to ceiling
  • Guest Bathroom – sconce
  • Exterior Front – sconce

4)  Demolish partial wall/cover existing opening

5)  Replace Living Room doors with windows  (I haven’t decided if I still want to do this.  Originally, I thought the door was inoperable, but the wood had just swelled the door closed.)

6)  Replace window treatments (I’m about halfway through with this one, not enough to cross it off, unfortunately.)

7)  Remove upper cabinets above peninsula in kitchen

8 ) Paint Fireplace

9)  Add Fireplace doors (crossing both 8 and 9 off my list because I’m fairly certain I’ve changed my mind about both items)

10)  Add pocket/barn door to Master Bathroom

11)  Replace Master Bathroom sink

12)  Replace toilets with dual flush toilets

13)  Paint Interior (I decided to paint the kitchen the same color as the living room and to paint the cabinets. I may treat the laundry room completely different from the rest of the house since that room is so dark and depressing.)

  • Living Room/Dining Room/ Hallway/ Kitchen – SW Pearly White
  • Kitchen Cabinets – White (which white, I don’t know.)
  • Laundry Room – ???
  • Office – SW Pearly White
  • Guest Bathroom – SW Worldly Gray
  • Master Bedroom/Master Bathroom – SW Balanced Beige

14)  Paint Exterior (In progress, yes, still.)

  • Trim – SW Black Fox
  • Field – SW Universal Khaki

15)  Replace Kitchen counter with quartz or butcher block

16)  Replace all windows (4 out of 10 of these will be replaced this year!)

I’m hoping this will be inspiring to those who feel they need to tackle everything at once. We have actually made great progress here in under 3 years, but I try not to rush myself. I’ve learned that my ideas change with time (see items 8 and 9) and almost always for the better. If I had tried to tackle my whole To Do List at one time, I would not be as happy with the (in progress) outcome as I am!

Enjoy it!