Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The best things I’ve ever done

Hello my friends! Our recent family room renovation has had me thinking lately…about the things that I’ve done in our house that have made the biggest difference. Some are little that only cost a few bucks. Some are bigger, but all are projects that I look at every time I walk by them and say “I’m so glad I did that.”

There are a lot of them, but these are my favorites. :)

This one is just “looks pretty” item but it was so easy and cheap! Last year I added some $10 hardware to the garage door to make it look more like a custom carriage door and less like the basic one that it is. I LOVE how it looks every time we pull up to our house:

diy carriage door hardware

It’s such a little thing but it makes me so happy. They’ve held up well too – no rusting at all. I’ve heard these kits went up in cost a bit but I believe they’re still under $30 – not too bad.

One that wasn’t so cheap but was still cheaper than paying someone were the DIY bookcases in our dining room. They are the first thing you see when you walk in our house and they make a BIG impact:

DIY built ins with kitchen cabinets

Our plan all along was to make this less of a dining room and more of a lounging space – but I’m playing with the idea of a larger table again. We’ll see. I’m SO proud of these built ins – not only because they’re pretty but because they are a perfect functional solution for us. The added serving ware storage is an extra bonus.

Another cheap and easy project that I am SO glad I did – adding some privacy to our bathroom window:

covering window for privacy privacy window

It took months before I stopped ducking when I walked by it at night, but now we’re used to it and I LOVE that it offers privacy but still lets the light in. And it was just a few bucks! I thought I not being able to see outside might bug me, but it doesn’t at all.

Of course a BIG one, the project that got me thinking about all of these – the removal of the wall between our family room and office. Oh that was a happy day!:

removing a wall

It’s come a long way since this photo but this shows where the walls were. From the very first day all I could think of was that it should have always been like this – and I knew it was the right decision. This project is the most expensive of all I’m mentioning here, but it’s nothing compared to the estimates we got to add on to the house. (And it was a whole lot less mess too.) You can follow along with the progress on this room here.

Years ago I wanted to brighten up our kitchen and I started by covering the black outdated tiles on our backsplash with white beadboard. It made a HUGE difference in this room:

beadboard backsplash

Yes, someday I will paint the cabinets, but in the meantime I can’t believe the difference it made in this space. All for less than $50 if I remember correctly. And yes, it’s held up incredibly well, I have no complaints! As long as it’s painted in a glossy white paint that you can wipe up easily there shouldn’t be any water or mess issues.

Another big project was our master closet storage that I created out of kitchen cabinets:

closet system with kitchen cabinets

Our closet was truly the thorn in my side for years and years – an utter disaster area and I was so fed up with it. I wanted more storage but wanted it to be closed storage – not just shelves that I knew we would clutter up like before. The cabinets have worked BRILLIANTLY. Ugh, why didn’t I do it earlier?? I still have plans to add shelves in the corners for even more storage. Again, the cost of the cabinets was way, way less than a custom closet system.

And finally, I know I mention it a lot but ripping the carpet off our stairs was one of the BEST things I’ve done, both for looks and functionally:

taking carpet off stairs

It is SO much easier to clean wood stairs than carpet! Just last week we had a drink spill down the steps and it was so easy just to wipe it up. All I do is vacuum them once every week (or two!) because we have three cats and a dog and you do see the fluff balls after awhile. Many have worried about how slippery the wood stairs are and I can tell you without a doubt that our carpeted stairs were more slippery than these. We each slid down the carpeted stairs a few times – it hasn’t happened once with the wood (knock on wood!!). This is just the case for our home, but I still think in general it’s easier to slip on that curved edge of carpet.

Because we had real wood under our carpet this project cost me less than $50 – I just needed some wood for the landing, stain and supplies. It was one of the cheapest projects but also one that was a lot of work. Pulling up the carpet and tack strips was no joke – but so worth it in the end!

There you go – my short list of the things that have made the biggest difference in our home, both in appearance and function. Function is HUGE for me – if it’s not going to work well for our family I’m not going to do it no matter how pretty it is.

Are there things you’ve done to your home that you think made a big difference? Things you want to do that you know you would love?

Monday, August 18, 2014

Late summer backyard tour

Hello!! How was your weekend? Wonderful I hope! Sorry for the absence last Friday – I was traveling home from an amazing trip to Des Moines Iowa. I got to visit the Better Homes and Gardens headquarters and was pinching myself the whole time.

I’ll tell you more about that trip soon, but for now I’m enjoying no more travel for quite some time. I LOVE to travel am such a homebody as I get older. Now that I’m home for a while I feel like I can really tackle some projects I’ve been putting off.

One of those was cleaning up the outside this past weekend – we tend to let things go during the summer. Although I have no excuse for it this year since it’s been so lovely. Usually I can blame the heat and humidity for my laziness but not so much this year. Just lazy. :)

I cleaned up the patio and deck and did some fall planting in the containers and figured it was a good time to share the backyard. I shared it early summer last year and we’ve added quite a few plants since.

Our backyard isn’t tiny but it isn’t large by any stretch. And it has a big slope that made it hard to use. We had a deck installed soon after moving in and then our patio was added a few years ago as our yay-we-are-finally-out-of-debt present to ourselves. ;)

I took a lot of pictures, bear with me! I just love it! Here’s the view on the side of the house as we walk to the backyard:

black mulch gardening beds

Those tall maples to the left used to be in our front yard and we replaced them about eight years ago because they would NOT grow. They grew all skinny and weird and looked horrible. We had the landscapers put them in the side yard, not thinking they would do any better. But now they are HUGE. I mean, almost taller than the house. And the newer ones up front still won’t grow. Don’t get it. :)

My limelight hydrangea to the right is doing AMAZING this year. Gah. It’s so beautiful and still growing!:

limelight hydrangea

The burning bushes lined up on the left are doing OK considering the trauma from this winter. After one of the many heavy snowfalls we walked out to find every single one of them gnawed down to half their size:

burning bushes

They were SO big and beautiful – turns out some hungry bunnies sat on the snow (that was half way up the bushes), ate the buds, and in the process gnawed off every. single. branch. I’m surprised the plants came back, but they did. It will take a few years for them to get back to the size they were last year.

To the right are some of my (many, MANY) hydrangeas:

growing hydrangeas

These aren’t getting as much light with those trees blocking most of the morning sun so I may have to move them. One is only blooming underneath, which is totally weird. The other is doing well:

pink hydrangeas

Love those pink blooms!

Last year we added a few trees to the backyard around the patio. We get full sun back there all day so we’re always trying to figure out ways to add some shade. The river birch are SO beautiful!:  river birch trees

I’ve always dreamed of having them in my landscaping. I’m obsessed with their peeling bark. They are a lovely “light” tree but do shade well.

Remember, here in about a month to six weeks plants will go on sale and it’s a perfect time to purchase and plant! I got my PeeGee trees years ago on clearance --they are probably my favorites in the backyard:

PeeGee hydrangea

The one on the left has fully bloomed, the one on the right is still finishing up. See how heavy they get when they bloom? The branches bend almost to the ground and the trunk bends as well. It’s because the blooms can get as big as my head. :)

It scares me though – I feel like they might just snap, so I may stake them to take some of that pressure off:

PeeGee hydrangea

In the fall those white blooms turn the most gorgeous pinkish green color I’ve ever seen. I adore them.

Around the corner to the back I have more hydrangea and another river birch:

river birch tree

There are four hydrangeas just right there. I’m unabashedly obsessed. :)

Most of those rocks were put in when we did the patio and goodness…who knew how expensive rocks would be?? I added a few more a couple summers ago when a friend was redoing her landscaping and getting rid of a bunch. I was happy to take them.

I have a favorite rock. Is that weird?:

growing moss on rocks

This is the only rock that grows moss every year. The moss grows between the pavers on the patio too and I’m in love.

Here’s a view to the patio from the back of the yard:

stone patio off deck

See those big fat hydrangea blooms on the right? That’s happiness right there. :)

This is one of my favorite views as you come through the other side:

flagstones in landscaping

And as you come around the corner – two of my peonies are here and a start to a butterfly garden:

white railings red deck

We have very little grass in the backyard – it’s mostly mulch. Mulch is awesome because it’s low maintenance but the mulch bill makes me sob a little bit every year:

white railings on deck

On this side of the yard I have knockouts, some evergreen bushes and another favorite, the lamb’s ear:

knockout rose bushes

The knockouts had a rough year because of the harsh winter. They did OK, but not nearly as well as most summers.

Here’s the view from the other side of the house, looking back:

I have big plans for this side – hoping next year I can make that happen. :)

Our favorite place to be in the fall is on our patio – this past spring I found a little pergola on clearance that I placed at the entrance:

stone patio

Earlier this summer I moved some furniture around on the patio and deck and I like it SO much more this way. Now the sectional (craigslist find years ago) is down here:

outdoor sectional

I reworked the small tables that went with it years back and now they are the coffee table in front of it – you can see how I did that here.

This weekend I moved the chairs by the fireplace around just a bit and that little change made such a big difference!:

outdoor fireplace

We used to have the chairs on the sides with the table down the middle but this is SO much more comfy. Now everyone is near the fire – love it:

outdoor fireplace seating

Sitting out here with the fire going and a glass of wine…it doesn’t get much better my friends:

outdoor fireplace on patio

You can see more of the deck in this post. I love the furniture moved around – we finally moved the potting bench up near the table so I can use it as a buffet when we entertain:

deck design

And here’s a view from the back door:

deck design

Gardening has become a passion of mine since we added the patio – I find it incredibly satisfying. The upkeep takes some time and can be hard work, but it’s worth it to me. Over the next few years I want to learn more so I can “layer” some more plants into what we already have. I love the full look of an English garden and want to try to incorporate that feel.

It’s a space I’m really proud of – the backyard is our little oasis and we absolutely LOVE our it. Can you believe fall is almost here? Even though we’ve had a pretty mild summer I’m so excited. Do you have an outdoor space you love?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dream project, plan B

OK, so I’m back with an update on our dream plan I wrote about a few weeks back. We had big dreams people. Dreams of extending the back of our house, moving some things around and creating more space where we want it – in the family room and kitchen.

And then we got quotes. First, I need to send out a double chest thump to the contractors who actually called me back. Guess what? It’s rare that a contractor calls you back. Who would’ve thought?

I called about ten businesses, two I talked on the phone and they were great. Most never called back. I only had two actually come out and to give us a firm quote, and of those two only one gave us a true, hard quote on a piece of paper. I’m already discouraged by this process. :)

I understand many charge for the estimate process and I totally understand that and was willing to pay – but out of ten I got one real quote. Thing is, they were all high. Like, CRAZY, you-are-freakin-kidding-me high. As I mentioned, we’ve had friends locally who have added on similar square footage and the price was much more manageable. Of course the contractors they used are no longer doing it. :)

We did have a few different roof lines to work into the plan, which increased the price. And running HVAC gets expensive too but our friends did that as well, so who knows.

ANYWAY. We could have done it – but at the prices we were quoted it just wasn’t a good use of our money. I’m willing to put some money into this, especially since we plan on being here so long. But it just wouldn’t have made sense to spend that much on this house.

So, plan B. :) I told you I wouldn’t give up.

Here’s the family room and kitchen plan I’ve shown you before:

To see our original plan go to this post. It involved pushing out the kitchen and family room quite a bit.

A couple of you mentioned an alternative in the comments and it has crossed my mind briefly over the years – I just didn’t think it would work. The idea was to take down the wall between my office and the family room. The wall to the right: board and batten walls

At first I discarded the idea because I truly do use my office, every day. I do want a space. But a reader suggested the loft and duh, that would work just fine. It would take some getting used to and I like being our main level – but by the time I finished putting things on paper I realized I’d probably have room for a desk in the new family room plan.

The thing is, I took down the doors to my office years ago – so it’s already open to the family room. When I really started thinking about it I realized how the two spaces are practically one anyway. I watch the TV in the family room from my desk:

TV above dresser

Hello Charles. :)

And honestly, the more I thought about it, the more I loved the idea. And I think I would keep the board and batten look throughout the space, because taking all that down would just make me cry a little. I have a plan to just change it up a tad.

I contacted two realtor friends of mine and asked them if it was a good idea. I didn’t know if losing the office would be a bad thing -- I wasn’t going to consider anything that would hurt the value of our home. I sent them photos and both were totally excited about it and said it looked like a great idea.

Whew! So now, I have a new plan. Here’s the current look, as a refresher:

floor plan

The family room and kitchen table area are the ones that are tightest for us.

Because sometimes I just like to look at things on paper, here’s my rough sketch on graph paper, with the office included on the left:

It’s not totally to scale (but close!) and I forgot to add in a couple current windows, but you get the idea. The triangle in the corner of the family room is our fireplace and the open area on the right is the kitchen that will mostly stay put. 

Here’s the new plan:

Now there’s still an extension, but it’s much smaller and it’s just the kitchen. The bay window would be knocked out about six more feet. Eventually there would be a banquet there with the table.

I’d work with the windows that we already have in the family room and make those into French doors with access to the deck. Minimal messing with the current wall should cut down costs significantly.

Here’s an idea of the floor plan with furniture:

That table area in the kitchen is not final by any means – I’m still considering where I’d put the door, the table set up, etc. I need to make sure we’d have room to move around there. The space would be about 90 square feet, 60 of that new.

The fireplace would move to the back wall of the house. It’s a direct vent and I don’t even think we’d have to move the vent on the back of the house. My thought is to add another window in the corner to make that a double window to balance out the French doors.

The furniture layout would change significantly – and to do this I’d have to move our TV above the fireplace, which I’ve never wanted to do. But it may be the best/only option. I’d love to do some kind of small built ins next the fireplace to hold TV components. The placement of things is a little hard still because the office is only about ten feet deep – so I need to make sure we could place things well and still have plenty of space to walk around: 

It kills me that we shopped forever for a smaller sectional and that thing is still a beast! :)

I’m going to tape off shapes on the floor to see how it will work for sure. I have to say, I’m TOTALLY excited about how this could work. It would make our family room so much bigger and completely change the feel of it. And my office gets GREAT natural light so the thought of all of that in the family room makes me giddy.

The wall that would come down is not load bearing and I actually am considering taking that down on my own. :) I’m STOKED at the thought of that. The gas for the fireplace is in that wall so I’d need to have that moved. I’ve contacted our flooring guy and he says he can patch the floors just fine.

I think I could act as the contractor for that part of this job like I did for the basement. I’d need to coordinate the gas line, the fireplace rebuilding, some electrical work, adding the doors and windows, flooring fixes and a LOT of drywall.

So. That’s the new plan. I’ve already contacted the contractor who actually responded to me, so I’m hoping to get a new quote soon. And I’m going to call a couple more one more time – if you are in the Indy area let me know if you’ve used anyone you liked!

Do you have a TV above the fireplace? Have you ever taken down a wall in your home? Is it as thrilling as I imagine it? ;)

Friday, May 23, 2014

If you visit: Race weekend!

Goodness. Four more school days people! I’m not sure we’ll make it in this house! Even the dog was moody this morning. We are so looking forward to the long holiday weekend!

I’m a proud Hoosier and this is a HUGE weekend for Indianapolis because of a little race called the Indy 500. :) I find many people visit Indy and are surprised with what we have to offer – it really is a fun city. When we hosted the Super Bowl a few years back I shared a few of my favorite spots. Those were mostly indoor activities and restaurants, but the trees are green, the sun is shining and if you’ll be in town with kids this weekend our zoo is a great spot to visit!

We LOVE our zoo. I’ve not been to many others so I can’t compare it much, but we think it’s pretty awesome. There are two sections to the Indy Zoo – the White River Gardens and the animal exhibits. White River Gardens is one of my favorite spots in all of Indianapolis:

white river gardens Indy

Throughout the spring and summer you can see the butterflies at the Hilbert Conservatory, along with hundreds of tropical plants.

That building itself is pretty awesome, but then you walk out to the gardens – my favorite: white river gardens Indy

white river gardens Indianapolis

It’s three acres of some of the prettiest gardens. There are fountains, shade gardens, gazebos, beautiful stonework, a lily pad pond, (yes, complete with frogs), and flowers! So many flowers!

It’s just gorgeous:

white river gardens Indianapolis

It’s a large space but they break it down into little “secret” gardens – all so beautiful. You just want to bring a book and sit on a bench all day:

white river gardens Indy

white river gardens Indianapolis

There are a ton of little statues throughout – our favorites are the spitting frogs:

spitting frogs white river gardens

I took most of these pics a couple weeks ago when things were still growing in. It’s even more stunning now. There are flowering vines throughout that grow thick and cover everything so beautifully:

white river gardens Indianapolis

We were there to catch the tail end of the tulips in bloom: white river gardens Indianapolis

white river gardens Indianapolis

At the end of the gardens is a huge lawn where weddings are held:

white river gardens Indianapolis

The pergola wraps around and is covered in vines in the summer – it’s one of my favorite areas in the gardens! I have a lot of favorite spots in there, if you can’t tell. :)

The zoo itself is full of fun stuff as well, but the big event this weekend is the opening of the new orangutan exhibit – we’ve been watching it go up and were so excited to finally get inside:

orangutan exhibit indy zoo

It opens to the public tomorrow but members got to see it a little early. I’ve never seen anything like it! The orangutans are able to go outside and climb up onto poles that go around the whole exhibit – they go across the wires right above you. There’s also a gondola ride that you can take around the whole thing – I’m sure it will offer some awesome views of the city! (And you’ll go right by the orangutans!)

This guy was going back down into the exhibit:

orangutans indy zoo

It is seriously SO cool to see them just hanging (literally) right over your heads! It’s fascinating to watch.

Inside you can get up close and personal with them:

orangutans indy zoo orangutans indy zoo orangutans indy zoo

It was so cool to get that close to them! I don’t know their temperament but from where we were standing they seemed like very calm, sweet souls.

There are so many spots outside to see them too – windows everywhere:orangutan exhibit indy zooIf you’re in our lovely city for the race this weekend or live nearby and want to do a quick trip, don’t miss the zoo! It’s fun with the family or not. :)

I’m so proud of our city – there’s so much to do in Indy! Are you visiting for the race? Have you ever been? If you are coming into town be safe and have a blast!