Heights House Build: 10 Week Update

I know you’ve been waiting on pins and needles for a new build update, and today is your lucky day! It has officially been 10 weeks since our lot was prepped, and since then it has felt like Christmas morning every few days as we check in on the progress.

Click on the images below to watch the construction unfold…

Pretty amazing, right? We are blown away by how fast it’s coming together, especially in the past month after the first concrete wall went up. It’s like watching the birth of our child after months of dreaming & designing it on paper 🙂

Speaking of walls—let’s start with the exterior. I went into detail about the plans in this post back in September, sharing my rough rendering of the vision for the front:

Nothing has really changed much here, though we haven’t made it too far into the process of choosing exterior finishes. The biggest wild card are the window headers—I wanted an arched top look, and found this image to use as inspiration (source unknown):

Ours won’t have the keystone at the top, but I love the shape/texture of the frame and the illusion that the arched shape gives without having to spend double for arched windows. Our builder (Zenun Homes) works with a talented exterior finishes guy who we met at the site to discuss our options, and he said that he’d be able to recreate this look without a problem. Since everything we’re doing is custom, we don’t have examples to look at so we’re hoping it all works out like we think it will!

One bit of good news on the front exterior—I had mentioned in my last post about wanting to clad the turret in stone but thought it might be out of our budget… fortunately, our builder said it was doable! This isn’t the exact stone we’ll be using, but similar (source: Coronado Stone)

For the front door, we’re sourcing it locally from a custom door shop who is also building our french patio doors. It ended up being more than we wanted to spend, but we decided it was worth the convenience to have it done locally to avoid complications, and since it also requires special curved molding. This is the photo we gave them to replicate (it’s an 8′ door):

 

We will be choosing our roof shingles this week (yay!) so I’ll be able to share that in the next update. And we’re still planning to use a warm white smooth stucco, dark bronze fascia & gutters, light warm gray shutters for the front door & accent window. Can you picture it yet?

Many of you have been watching the progress on Instagram and were curious about why we used block construction. Here’s my answer:

The vast majority of new builds around here are block construction for these reasons, but it does come at a higher cost. Second stories are often built with wood frame, which you can get away with since it’s not part of the foundational structure rooted in the ground.

Let’s walk around to the left side of the house:

We’re on a corner lot and this side will be exposed, but we plan to add trees and shrubs for privacy and shade. As you can see we’re still waiting on the upstairs windows to be installed—they’re all the same Jeld-Wen black exterior/white interior (I’ll do a detailed post on them soon). From left to right in the photo above, downstairs we have the window for the master closet, master bath, and guest bath. The two windows upstairs go to the two bedrooms.

Onto the back of the house…

The backyard is one of our favorite views. There’s a large oak tree covered in Spanish moss that extends well beyond our 10,000 sf lot. Above you can see our master bedroom section on the right.

Eventually we plan to build a patio in this area off the house for dining and lounging. The three windows on the lower left are part of the kitchen (the sink will be below the center window), and the opening to the right will contain our 8′ french doors. The skinny 2×6′ windows on the far right are on another wall of our master bedroom, and the upstairs windows go to the bonus room (left) and a bathroom (right).

Another look at the skinny windows… sigh.

Back in the front, the two windows on the lower left go to the office/smallest bedroom, above that is a third bedroom, and the right side of the house is our living room. How fun is that little arched window? It was the only one we could afford!

I still can’t believe the house looked like this just two weeks ago! Our builder says our truss system was crazy complicated and there was a lot of problem solving to build the conical roof on the turret. I guess this is what happens when you DIY the plans from scratch 😉 We are eternally appreciative for his patience and determination to make this perfect!

As dramatic as the exterior progression has been, we’ve been having the most fun inside. A couple weeks ago, I decided I wanted the stairs to curve at the bottom of our staircase and drew my idea onto a sheet of plywood:

A day later we came back to this:

It’s as close to waving a magic wand as you can get. This crew is unbelievably quick and talented!

To the right of the staircase, the front door opens up into the living room/dining area, with the kitchen in the back. Here’s looking straight into the open dining space, with an opening for the patio doors on the left, bank of kitchen windows in the middle, and laundry room/pantry closet on the right.

Now take a few steps forward and look back to your right to the living room:

How bout that vaulted ceiling? We’ll be adding straight wood beams running parallel to the floor. It’s not a huge room, but it’ll be gorgeous.

If you’re standing in the back corner of the living room, here’s the view looking back to the front entrance on the left, dining space in the middle:

And now back to the main kitchen area. A 48″ stove with a custom range hood enclosure will be centered on that back wall.

Now it’s time for my FAVORITE PART OF THE HOUSE! Check out this custom archway…

I designed this on the computer and sent it over to my builder, who said “consider it done.” Now that’s the language you want your builder to speak.

We stopped by when they were in the middle of cutting out the shape and had them adjust the measurements until it was just right. I’m not sure exactly how they finish it off, but I can’t wait to find out during the drywall stage.

This archway leads to the master bed/bath, guest bath and office on the left side of the house.

On the right you can see the under-the-stair storage closet (the living room is visible on the left).

If you turn right to the back of the house, you’ll enter the master suite.

It’s not a very large room (around 13’x15′) but the vaulted ceilings will make it feel open and spacious.

And guess what… WE HAVE ANOTHER ARCH!

I had my builder make a condensed version of the same hallway arch for our master closet *swoon*.

It’s an open hallway-style closet and will have custom floor to ceiling cabinetry on either side. This space is one of my most anticipated features of the home!

The rest of the left side of the house is currently just a bunch of partitions so you can’t really tell what’s going from photos (you can see the floor plans in the original post):

Upstairs looks about the same at the moment. Two bedrooms, one bathroom and a bonus room within approx 950 sf.

Here’s how the whole floor looked a couple weeks ago, before the partitions went up:

We originally weren’t intending to build out the bonus room, but this unexpected code requirement turned out to be a blessing because now we have so many options to utilize this space! If nothing else, it’s nice to have the extra storage room and space to hold out of town guests.

I love that all of the ceilings upstairs are sloped from the roofline. I think it adds so much character! Although there’s still some areas where it’s hard to visualize exactly how it will look with drywall…

That will just be one of many surprises to look forward to 🙂

One important decision has been made—our interior doors:

We wanted something you don’t see every day, and an arched top just seemed fitting with the front door and other accents in the home. I found these pre-hung solid core 7′ doors on Ebay and placed the order last week. There’s a 5-7 week lead time but we don’t mind the wait, as it won’t hold anything up. These will be so gorgeous painted in a soft warm gray with vintage style brass hardware! Counting down the days to their arrival.

In other important interior news, we’ve finalized our plans for the kitchen but haven’t placed the order just yet—I’ll do a dedicated kitchen post soon (the cabinets won’t need to arrive until January most likely) and we are 90% sure on our flooring but haven’t ordered that yet either:

It’s an engineered French Oak in a beautiful handsawn matte finish, and $5/sf. The lead time is less than a week so we still have a while before we need to order. Stay tuned for our final decision!

Our AC system is almost fully installed as of today, and next comes electric and plumbing rough-in. If anyone is dying to know, here’s the electric layout we came up with for the first floor (there will probably be some adjustments once we do a walkthrough with the electrician):

The plumbing is the trickiest part, since we have to have not only all of the fixture locations figured out, but we need the rough-in valves ordered and installed as well—which means we need to decide on shower fixtures. This poses a slight issue because I don’t have all of my bathroom design plans finalized, or even halfway figured out, and I can’t commit to anything without a complete design plan in place. This is the trouble with building or remodeling an entire house at once! I know I’ll make some decisions I’ll come to regret or have to redo in the near future, but that’s the nature of the beast.

Even still, building a house has been the most exciting and rewarding process—night and day from remodeling a home, in my experience. Much of that is because we have an incredible builder who handles all of the logistics and issues that arise without us even knowing. But even with so much happening at once, this process is more predictable than opening up walls in an old house where you’re guaranteed to uncover surprises (aka problems and setbacks). And, you see results much faster with a dedicated crew working 10 hour days vs. two novice DIYers fumbling their way through projects between work schedules 😉

I know we’re not even halfway through this build yet, but I would trade remodeling old homes for building new all day, and going through this process has made us reconsider our options moving forward as investors. I don’t think this will be the last custom home build I’m involved with. We’ll see what the future holds!

If you aren’t following the new build progress on my Instagram stories, make sure you head over now and catch up on everything you’ve missed! I try to update at least weekly, and will be sharing more frequently now that we’re getting to the fun parts.

Next up: countdown to the dining room reveal in the Riverside Retreat! See you back here before Thanksgiving,


Guest Bedroom Reveal: Riverside Retreat

The first bedroom in the Riverside Retreat is officially finished and ready for guests!

We started on this project last month, but I had been planning out the design well beforehand (planning is the most important part!)

The bedroom is small at just over 11′ x 12′ in size, so a more youthful design seemed fitting.

This future vacation rental home will have a unique design for every room, and after finding the perfect wallpaper as inspiration, I thought it’d be fun to go with a rainforest theme.

Phase 1 of this makeover included new floors, paint, crown molding and baseboard, wallpaper and a fan.

Then it was time for the fun part: furniture and accessories! I partnered with Overstock for this project because they had everything I needed to bring my design to life, and I know you guys appreciate when I share budget-friendly pieces that you can use in your home too!

Welcome to our Rainforest Room…

Envision the sound of leaves rustling in the wind, exotic birds chirping, the roar of a distant waterfall and sunlight filtering through the canopy above.

We want our guests to feel as though they’ve been transported to another place, where their imagination can run free.

When you walk into the room, you’ll notice floor to ceiling curtains which draw your eye up and make the room appear taller, while rich velvet fabric and a champagne gold rod add a little bit of a luxury.

Immediately to your left, an empty wall has been utilized by an antique bench and accordion rack—functional storage space for travelers (cat not included).

Of course, the tropical wallpaper backdrop steals the show.

But the two main players in this room are those matching pink velvet beds. As soon as I spotted these beauties on Overstock, I knew they were perfect for the space.

The pastel pink is a perfect complement to the deep blue and green palette, and pops beautifully against the rich backdrop. The subtle curved shape of the headboard mimics the flow of the leaves, and the plush velvet contrasts nicely against the hard surfaces in the room. Design is all about balance, and I couldn’t have dreamed up a better bed for this space!

Speaking of beds—comfort is of utmost importance in a vacation rental.  Each one has the cushiest memory foam mattress (no box spring required with these beds), and I kept the bedding simple as to not compete for attention with the rest of the room.

Layered basic neutrals—ivory microfiber sheets, a fluffy down comforter and white duvet cover, and my favorite stitched pom-pom throw set (only $20 for 2!) make these beds extra comfy and inviting (and affordable). And I just couldn’t resist this emerald green velvet accent pillow…

It comes in many colors and might be my favorite throw pillow of the year (and that’s a huge honor).

I know you’ve been eyeing that gold pineapple sconce

This caught my attention online, and I couldn’t decide if it was the coolest thing ever or just weird… and that’s how I knew I needed it. I’ve never seen anything like it before, and it certainly leaves an impression!

I can’t stress enough how important lighting is in a room. Adding these sconces made the single biggest difference in here—more than the new floors and wallpaper combined. That’s because lighting completely changes the mood of a space—it dictates the ambiance and therefore your experience. This is why every room setup in Ikea feels so warm and inviting, and doesn’t necessarily have that same feeling when you try to recreate in your own home. It’s because they have all the right lighting! /rant over.

When it starts to get dark outside and the sconces turn on… this little space is magic. The warm glow gives the room depth, and makes the wallpaper almost come alive. I think we might need to make this our master bedroom instead…

Running wiring for these sconces was the best decision I made in here. The pineapples represent hospitality, the intricate details are really a work of art, and they bring so much warmth to the room.

Between the beds, an antique trunk full of aged character serves as a shared nightstand.

Realistic monstera palm leaves and ferns from the yard in handmade ceramic jars bring the outdoors in, and a refinished bamboo mirror (secondhand find) divides the room and makes it feel larger.

Between the beds, I found this 6′ round jute rug, which has just enough detail to make it interesting, but still simple enough to not steal the attention. The woven fibers balance the design with natural texture.

On the far right wall, a set of quirky pink flamingos tie in with the pink bed and add an extra dose of personality, perfect for this youthful space.

The tropical elements, pastel colors and mix of old and new pieces give the room depth and dimension, and make it feel like a truly unique space that has been collected over time.

Vacation rentals are all about creating an experience for guests, and designing a home that captures some of the flavor of the destination.

Over the past few weeks we’ve turned this empty bedroom into a little slice of a rainforest retreat, and I really think it’ll be a relaxing and memorable escape for future guests.

Tell me, what is your favorite part? Are you ready to book a ticket to Tampa to be our first guest? 😉 We still have several months (and a lot of DIYing) before we can open our doors to the world, but I think we’re off to a good start!

Next week I’ll be sharing a long overdue update on our new build progress, so buckle up for that!


Dining Room Plans: Riverside Retreat

While we patiently await the arrival of our furniture & accessories to complete the Rainforest Room, we’ve been hard at work on our new dining room. Take a look at this week’s vlog episode to watch the progress unfold—and get a Heights House update too!

Before I dive into the Dining Room Design Plan, I have to give you a quick update on our new build. You guys, this progress is INSANE.

Just 10 days ago the house looked like this…

And now it’s basically move-in ready:

I can’t explain the level of excitement this process has been, especially the past week as we’ve started talking details with our builder (custom archways, antique pocket doors, stone facade and custom window details). There’s a lot more to share, and I’ll put it all together in a blog update for you in a couple weeks!

But for now, let’s talk about the topic of the day—our new dining room. This room is situated directly in the center of the house, and our goal is to make it truly feel like the heart of the home—the main gathering space. Here’s the floor plan, for reference:

You may remember it looked like this when we moved in a few months ago:

In came the new floors and fresh paint:

Standing at the kitchen doorway, looking back towards the living room:

As you know, we’re renovating this house to use as a vacation rental so we’re making a point to go bold with the design (at least compared to my usual style) and give our guests a fun Florida-esque experience. Each room will have its own style, but all in keeping with the overall tropical/jungle/nature/resort vibe.

Here’s what I came up with for the dining room:

 

It took a few iterations to get here, so let me share a bit more about the evolution of this plan.

The first requirement was a large round table, which I spent weeks scouring the internet for (Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, OfferUp, Letgo). It’s surprisingly difficult to find a 60″ round table, by the way. Eventually I found this beauty in Orlando and hired someone off Craigslist to transport it 2 hours to me:

Did you know that pineapples are a symbol of southern hospitality? It was meant to be! (this won’t be the last pineapple, fyi).

I’ll be painting the table white this week (sorry wood purists, there’s no way I’d keep all these different wood tones in this room).

The next piece I found was this Geome sideboard from Article:

I was captivated by that geometric texture and wood tones—seriously how gorgeous is the craftsmanship here?

It brings such a nice earthy element to ground the space and contrast with the lighter tones and pastel colors.

Next came the chairs. Originally I was thinking I’d do a wicker/rattan style for texture, and had it narrowed down to these three options (click for the sources):

But then, right as I was I was about to make my final decision, these pink velvet beauties came out of nowhere…

Pink was not even on my radar, but these were speaking to me and I couldn’t ignore it. So I switched up the design plan to make them work. NO REGRETS.

Next up: the ever important chandelier. It needed to be eye-catching, statement making, and give off a tropical yet elegant feel. Wood beads were the solution.

I spotted this one months ago, and thought it was on the small side, but I couldn’t find anything else similar (and it’s a good price!) so I was ready to place my order:

Before pulling the trigger, I did one last internet deep dive looking for possible alternatives, and then I found it

It was larger, more elegant, and certainly more of a statement maker. I worried it may have even been too large, but I’d much rather err on the side of oversized than undersized.

It’s worth mentioning that I found this chandelier after I had already placed my order, and was a little heartbroken because I had been looking for one just like this but couldn’t find it (somehow it never came up in the 80 hours I spent looking through every option on Wayfair):

At least now you have the chance to get it! You’re welcome 🙂

Our goods have been arriving and I’m LOVING how well they’re getting along…

The vintage map is something I picked up earlier this year (it’s such a bargain!) and so is the vase, and I chose this pretty light aqua lamp to sit atop the sideboard:

I love the way the curves play off the hard lines of the sideboard:

Above the sideboard I found this large round gold mirror:

We needed something simple to let the sideboard shine, and round to contrast with the geometric shapes. This mirror fit the bill, and bonus points for the unique aged/patina finish. I haven’t unboxed it yet but I’m looking forward to getting it on the wall!

And finally… what to do with this giant 10′ blank wall?

There wasn’t room for furniture (or a need for it) and we already had a big mirror on one wall, so large scale art was the answer!

Most people make the mistake of displaying undersized art, so I always recommend going larger when in doubt. I measured the wall and decided that a total size of somewhere around 6′ x 6′ would be sufficient.

One tip to save on expensive framing is to have your artwork enlarged and split up into multiple standard sized frames (or just hang several pieces of art in a grid). There are a handful of standard sized frames that will always be cheaper than going with a custom size. With my wall, six 24×36″ frames (a standard poster size) displayed in a grid was my best option to fill the space.

I chose to partner with Art To Frames for this project, because they have the widest range of customization options at the best prices I could find online. They had a lot of styles to choose from in my size, and I settled on these lovelies:

It’s hard to find slim profile frames and these are just what I was looking for, at only .625″ thick. The warm gold ties in with the wood tones in the room, and the egg and dart pattern coordinates with the ceiling trim. Perfect!

Now for the artwork. I wanted something with a local flavor for this space, especially since this will be a temporary home to out of town guests. It’s important to represent the area within the home, and you can never go wrong with maps as art. So I designed this abstract aerial cityscape of Tampa Bay:

Here’s another trick to save on framing costs—faux mats. I think art looks so much better framed with mats (the white space around the artwork), it’s a more classic and professional look. However, mats can be expensive. If you don’t have the budget for one, consider having your artwork printed with a white border around it instead. It’ll mimic the look of a mat and save you lots of moolah.

Since I was splitting up one larger piece of art, I designed the white border around the edge of the entire design instead of inside the individual frames. It gives it a more interesting look, don’t you think?

Of course if you have the budget, go for the mat! Art to Frames allows you to completely customize your mat color, size, even add multiple mats. And you can preview it before ordering:

That’s actually one of my favorite parts about the website—you can upload your art, play around with different frame styles & sizes, and see exactly what your finished result will look like before ordering (you can even see it mocked up in a room at scale):

I also pulled my previews into my design plan in Photoshop just to make sure before ordering:

Art to Frames is a full service shop too, so they can print your design and have it delivered to you framed and ready to hang. I used my own printer, but it’s nice to have that option and save a step!

My frames arrived in just 3 days and the they look much more expensive in person!

I opted for the non-glare plexiglass since the wall has light hitting it at weird angles, and I wanted to help reduce the reflections. If you aren’t planning on doing photo/video shoots in the space though, that’s not as important 😉

I love love love the way it came together! It’s bold, beautiful, and a nice dark contrast against the white walls and light accessories.

I also love the abstract nature and that you don’t immediately recognize what it is. It’s a great way to represent the area and I think it’ll be a fun addition for our guests 🙂

Friendly reminder: if you’ve never noticed the ‘Shop‘ section of this website, I have hundreds of abstract city maps and I’d love to design something custom for your home too! Just send me a photo of your space and we can come up with the perfect solution.

OK—with all the walls addressed, I couldn’t forget about the 5th and arguably the most important wall in this design… the ceiling!

It was painted blue when we moved in, and I decided to keep it blue (to represent the sky) but paint alone wasn’t enough of a wow factor. Enter fancy molding:

Look familiar? This is the same molding we used in the adjacent living room a couple months back:

Except this time instead of attaching it to the wall to frame a mural, we decided to replicate the same design on the ceiling around our blue accent color. We chose a slightly different blue (SW Pristine Skies) and installed the same crown molding first:

Then we attached our ceiling medallion and molding pieces. It was so much quicker and easier this time around! (get the tutorial here if you missed it).

The blue ceiling portion will only be inside of the molding design, as we plan to paint the outside perimeter white (between the crown and outside of the fancy molding).

It has already made our 9′ ceilings feel so much taller by drawing your attention upwards, and I think it’s the perfect way to balance the large chandelier.

We still have to caulk, spackle & paint, and I can’t wait to show you the end result! There’s a lot of moving parts to this design and a lot of different styles to balance, which has made piecing this puzzle together that much more fun.

Before we get to that, I’ve got a bedroom reveal to share… that’s coming next!


Designing a Guest Bedroom: Phase 1

This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Introducing our next project in the Riverside Retreat… the guest bedroom!

I get a lot of questions about where to begin when designing a room. There’s so many pieces that all need to work together, and it can be overwhelming—especially when you’re starting with a blank slate! That was my situation with this small guest bedroom:

After years of trial and error, there’s a certain strategy I like to follow that seems to be the most successful. It’s the same process for every room whether it’s a bedroom, kitchen or even outdoor space, and it’s becoming second nature with more practice.

Today I’m going to walk you through Phase 1 of this design process, which focuses on the large surfaces—walls, floors, ceiling and architectural details. These are all very important components as they visually make up the largest part of the design, and should be well thought out in the planning stages.

It all starts with a single piece of inspiration—this can be anything from a color to a pattern, a piece of furniture, textile, fixture, etc. Fall in love with something and use that as the foundation to build your design. Let it be your guide to envision how you want the space to feel when you walk inside. Focus on the feeling first, and the design will follow.

With this room, my inspiration was this eye-catching tropical wallpaper:

Since we’re renovating this house to use as a vacation rental, we’ve gotta go bold with the design (our new build will be much more traditional so I’m letting my creativity go wild in this house!) I spotted this wallpaper months ago and it instantly evoked the feeling of a youthful, tropical themed bedroom with twin beds and lush materials + colors. From there, I dreamed up our Rainforest Room:

Can’t you just hear the birds chirping and monkeys howling? Maybe I should hide a speaker in there that plays jungle noises full time. Hmmm… now that would be an experience! But before we get too ahead of ourselves and talk about the furniture + accessories (Phase 2), we need to focus on the foundation of the room.

You may remember that we had Pergo laminate installed last month, so the ‘flooring’ portion of Phase 1 was already taken care of. Warm wood floors go beautifully with pretty much any design, and it’ll give the space an earthy grounded element.

Since this wallpaper is so bold, I decided to use it on just one wall as to not overwhelm the small room. The focal wall of any bedroom is where the headboards will go, so it made the most sense to direct the attention there.

Before tackling that wall though, we had to plan out our lighting situation. You always want multiple light sources in every room, whether that’s overhead lighting, natural light, recessed lights, sconces or lamps. This room has a nice large window but only one overhead light, so we decided to add two wall sconces on for a little extra ambiance. We’ll have two matching twin beds with a sconce centered above each:

With the electricians job done, it was time to decide on a paint color for the walls. One of my favorite design tips to make spaces feel cohesive is to pull a color directly from a pattern in the room. I wanted the wallpaper to stand out but still blend in with the rest of the walls, so I selected a handful of paint swatches from the HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams line at Lowe’s that matched to a color in the wallpaper (I brought the wallpaper into Lowe’s so I could hold the paint swatches up to it):

I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted a blue or green tone, so I selected 5 different shades in a range of tones.

From top to bottom: Tree Swallow, Interesting Aqua, Racing the Rain, Falkland Blue, Rice Terrace. And here they are on the wall (same order):

I’ve preached this before and I’ll keep on preachin’ it forever—always get paint samples! It’s crazy how different those swatches look not only in the store, but on different walls in your home and at different times of day. Here’s the same shot with the light turned on. See how different the colors look?

Same time of day, different wall. The colors even look different just a few feet away.

This just proves that there is no one “right paint color”—many shades can work, because they’re all constantly changing anyway!

After getting the swatches on the wall, my bluest options looked purple so those were out. It was a tough call between the other three, but in the end, Rice Terrace (the bottom shade) won out.

The swatch looked green in the store, but in this room it ranges from light to mid-toned, teal to turquoise. I tried out Sherwin Williams higher end ‘Infinity‘ line, and it covered in a single coat.

I opted for an eggshell finish, only because kids rooms tend to be considered ‘high traffic’ with a higher potential of destruction, and this paint is scrubbable so I won’t have to worry about repainting! As a future vacation rental, durability and longevity is top priority.

I also repainted all of the trim & doors in HGTV Home by SW Pure White to match the rest of the house (also in an eggshell finish because it’s what I had at hand, but satin or semi-gloss is a better choice FYI). I went for an extra crisp white to balance out all of the dark tones and give the room that nice clean contrast.

One product I recently discovered is ceiling paint—have you heard of this? It’s a specially formulated paint that is spatter resistant, blocks stains and comes in a matte finish, which is ideal especially for textured ceilings like ours.

We had a few stains and this covered right over them. I plan to use this for all of the white ceilings in the house—it’s nice to have consistency and not worry about choosing the right shade of white and proper sheen.

With all the painting done, it was time to install our wallpaper!

We used Brewster paper in our laundry room makeover so we were familiar with it and knew what to expect. It’s thinner than pre-pasted paper (at least the mural we used in our living room) which makes it a lot easier to cut, and it’s less messy because you can control how much adhesive is used.

Tip: the more you use, the more easily you can slide the paper into place—so use a lot!  You can always sponge off the excess, but it’s hard to glue the edges back down after everything has dried. I’ve found that Roman adhesive is easy to work with and gets the job done.

We started our first panel in the center of the wall, drawing a straight line with a laser level and working our way out from there. We knew we’d have to trim the paper along the edges of the wall no matter what, so we calculated an ideal starting point that left us with around 10″ of paper to trim on each edge.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to worry about making straight cuts at the top and bottom since we’d be covering that up with baseboard & crown.

Oh, and I should mention we got lucky because this is the only wall in the room that was (relatively) smooth—all the others were highly textured. We would have had to either cover the wall or skim coat it before installing the paper, since you’d be able to see the texture underneath. Whew, one less project!

Oooh yeah… look at that dimension! Can you start to see my vision yet? 🙌 It took us one evening (maybe 3-4 hours) to finish the wall, and to trim at the wall edges we used a straight edge and a sharp utility knife.

It turned out quite decent considering the bumpy walls made the corners uneven.

With all our surfaces covered, it was time for my favorite part—adding architectural detail! If you’ve been paying attention this year, you know how obsessed I am with finding ways to bring in unique architectural details. Like our framed wall mural and ceiling medallion in the living room…

I think of trim and molding as a necessary design element to make any room feel polished and complete. It’s like dotting your i’s and crossing your t’s. Bonus points if it has pretty detailing!

We already had new baseboard installed with our new floors, so now it was time to choose crown molding. I could have picked out any average crown molding, but I thought why not use this as an opportunity to do something unexpected?

Luckily, Lowe’s has a giant selection of fancy crown molding where you can get just about any design under the sun…

Ahh browsing for crown, I’ll take that over clothes shopping any day! Who’s with me?

I knew I had found The One when I stumbled across this…

Doesn’t it remind you of leaves? That’s what I immediately thought of—it was meant to be.

This is the same manufacturer and lightweight poly molding we used for our living room crown, and we chose it again because it’s the easiest to work with. This time around I also ordered the Kreg crown guide after our contractor friend swore by it. Couldn’t hurt to try it!

We made sure to paint the molding before cutting and installing it (this is very important, you do not want to tape off all of your walls and ceilings after the fact!) and got to work, following the instructions on our crown guide. Then we realized that our molding didn’t fit onto the guide since the back of it wasn’t flat—womp womp. However, we were still able to use the angle finder which made our lives much easier…

Almost all of our cuts fit together quite nicely (unlike our first living room attempt) and the great thing about this foam-like molding is that it has some flex to it, so it was forgiving with our highly uneven walls.

Not too bad, right? Spackle and caulk made all those gaps disappear.

With all the bigger projects out of the way, we had one last installation to tackle—our ceiling fan:

Let’s be honest, ceiling fans aren’t exactly the most exciting or beautiful thing in a room and I prefer to look at a chandelier, however, this is Florida, and sometimes you just need a little airflow in the bedroom. Since we’ll have guests sleeping here, comfort comes first, so a ceiling fan it is!

I figured I may as well make it a design feature rather than try to camouflage it, and I knew I had found my dream fan the moment I saw it in Lowe’s.

I think it gives off a quintessential tropical resort-style vibe, and it ties in nicely with the wood floors. Definitely sets the tone for the room! (psst… hover or tap the image below for all the sources):

 

 

 

And this crown… I just can’t get enough.

Never underestimate the power of molding, my friends.

Are you as excited as I am to see Phase 2 of this room design?

Bring on the pink velvet, gold pineapple sconces and flamingos!

Shipments have already started to arrive and I’ll be sharing them as they come in over on my Instagram stories! Make sure you’re following me there, because we’re juggling multiple projects and they’re all moving faster than I can keep up with. Lots of exciting progress is being made and you won’t want to miss a single post!

 


Our Wedding Recap + House Updates

It has been a whole three weeks since we left for our wedding, and as much as we’re staying busy with house projects, those post-wedding blues still creep in from time to time. We talked about our big weekend & shared some video and photos in our vlog last week:

It was a non-traditional wedding, with a courthouse ceremony on a Thursday in Salt Lake City (attended by only our immediately family), and then a weekend-long celebration at the US’s largest privately owned log cabin in nearby Heber City, with a group of our closest family & friends.

Our biggest wish was to have everyone under one roof so we could spend quality time with them, vs the standard hello/thank you/goodbye greeting at traditional weddings. We knew that this would likely be the only opportunity we’d ever get to be surrounded by all of our favorite people at once, and we wanted to make the most of it.

On Friday night, we had a costume party (the theme was international) and can I just say… Best Idea Ever. So many fond memories from that night.

Lucas and I were a Greek God & Goddess, and we served Greek food in honor of my favorite country.

On Saturday we dressed up in more formal wedding gear, barbecued and played games, and caught up with our loved ones.

We got all dressed up in our formal wedding attire, took a few photos and gathered everyone into the Grand Room where we exchanged vows we had written.

The celebration continued with food, drink & dancing until the wee hours of the morning. We couldn’t have asked for more—beautiful autumn scenery, perfect weather, an abundance of love and laughter and happy memories.  As sad as we are that it’s all over, we’re truly so blessed for those precious few days, and will always look back at this time as the happiest of our lives.

(Photo by the amazing Adam Black Photography)

We skipped the big honeymoon and opted instead for a couple nights at the darling little A-Frame Haus just up the street.

It was so nice, just the two of us and quiet solitude. Reflecting on the whirlwind that had just passed.

This place is so special to us now, we can’t wait to come back once we have a family of our own and make it a tradition.

Would it be weird if I just never took off my wedding dress? I’m thinking about wearing it full time.

So much joy. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, and if I hadn’t hit rock bottom three years ago, I wouldn’t be here now. Beauty from ashes, my friends—always.

Switching gears now to more happy updates… our new build is coming together fast! When we left for the wedding, there was just a foundation:

And when we returned, the walls were going up!

Backyard view with the kitchen on the left and master bedroom on the right:

And over the past couple weeks our builder has really kicked things into high gear. The entire first floor exterior walls done!

Naturally, I’m most excited to see the turret front entrance take shape:

And we’re starting to get a sense of the layout and how it feels to walk through the rooms. To be honest, the house feels quite a bit smaller than we thought—to the point where Lucas and I got nervous and had to double check the measurements. Our builder says this is common and that the rooms will feel larger as they become finished. We thought the house would be too big, but I’m already kinda wishing we went a little bigger on the first floor!

Above view from the front of the left side of the house, looking into the guest room, then the guest bath (first window on left), then master bath (second window on left), master closet (third window on left), and master bedroom with 3 windows and a vaulted ceiling.

Above view from the front entrance looking straight into the dining area, with the kitchen on the back wall (sink centered below the window) and french doors to the backyard.

Above view standing at the french doors off the kitchen looking back towards the front of the house. The living room will have five large windows with a vaulted ceiling. The small window on the left will be the laundry room.

Standing at the back french doors again, looking towards the right with the living room on the left, the front entrance in the center, and the front guest room on the right. Stairs leading to the second floor will be on the right side of that concrete wall in the center.

If you missed last month’s post with the floor plans & layout, you can find that here.

I’ve been sharing all the new build progress updates on my Instagram stories, and many of you have been asking why we’re using concrete blocks instead of wood frame. My answer?

Yesterday the roof trusses arrived, and you know I’ll be continuing to share all the updates over on Instagram! I can’t believe how fast things are happening now—it’s really incredible to watch!

Meanwhile at the Riverside Retreat, our next project is our first Guest Bedroom!

I’m tackling this makeover in two phases, and will be breaking down Phase 1 of my design process next week. There will be some helpful information in there if you’re struggling with a room redesign and don’t know where to start!

Here’s a peek at my design inspiration…

Gimme some of that lush goodness, yum! This has been a fun departure from my normal neutral palette and a chance to really dive into my creativity. I can’t wait to share more!

In other new content, this morning I published a video tutorial on how to build your own corn hole board game set:

We actually shot this video months ago, but were waiting for the green light by Black+Decker to publish it and finally got approval! Better late than never 😉 I love these little DIY weekend projects, and here in Florida we still have plenty of time to use them before it gets too chilly outside (and by too chilly I mean below 70° 😆) Give it a watch and tell me what you think!

Aaaand finally… in the spirit of autumn, I recently posted a handful of deals that caught my eye on Instagram…

A few highlights:

  1. This $20 knit blanket that comes in lots of colors
  2. Plaid scarves are my #1 fall essential—I use them as blankets, tablecloths, hanging decor, staging and photo props, and live in them as scarves when the temps drop! Lots of colors to choose from and only $13 shipped.
  3. These pleated velvet pillows (I ordered two in emerald for our guest bedroom)
  4. These versatile striped pillowcases for only $6.77 shipped!
  5. Buffalo check pillows—a seasonal staple and on super sale right now for under $5/ea as a set!
  6. Storage bins + leather + a match made in heaven.
  7. White craft pumpkins you can paint or leave as is, use everywhere from your front porch to your mantel or tablescape. A must!
  8. Obsessed with this faux eucalyptus and cotton wreath. Can actually work in any season.

While we’re talking about fall, I’d like to remind you that my popular Give Thanks printable is still available as a free download! You can get all the details in this blog post.

Alright, I think that’s enough random information for one post! We’re juggling a lot of things right now so I’m trying my best to organize these updates. Our agenda over the next week is to wallpaper our guest bedroom, add crown molding and new lighting, photograph/shoot video/edit that content to share with you next week, as well as tackling the crown and ceiling molding and new paint in the dining room, dining table refinishing, finalize our shopping list and get everything ordered so we can finish that room by Thanksgiving. And this is a light work week for us  😬

Don’t forget to follow me over on Instagram for daily behind the scenes updates!

 

 

 


Laundry Room Makeover: Riverside Retreat

This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

The dust on our new floors hadn’t even settled yet before we were moving onto our next project in the Riverside Retreat…

With so much to do in this house in so little time, we decided to start with the smallest room first: our laundry room!

When I say small, I mean just enough room for a washer, dryer, and one person to comfortably stand in while doing laundry. The size and configuration certainly limits the potential in here, but I was determined to make the most of it on a small budget and timeframe.

This room was originally an exterior porch, later converted into a utility room. This means the walls are thick, textured stucco (the worst kind of wall) with exterior shutters and a window to the kitchen. I’m all about those unique features so that part I don’t mind.

The only functional part of this room were two small shelves, which weren’t the best use of the space. The problem was, the washer/dryer wall is essentially the only usable wall space since the room is too narrow to mount shelves/cabinets on the side walls.

The wall opposite the washer/dryer is a passageway between the kitchen and back door, so we couldn’t do much there either. There was a window in the center of the back wall which also limited our options (removing it was not in the budget).

I had to put my thinking cap on and come up with a plan to maximize storage, functionality, design and budget—I shared my design inspiration and plans in the ‘Before’ post last month:

The floors would become the focal point with a fun custom penny tile design, I’d keep the room light and airy with soft earthy colors, introduce organic elements like wood shelves/counter and botanical wallpaper, warm it up with gold accents, upgrade our barely-working Craigslist washer/dryer with the highest rated large capacity Samsung models, and make the space more functional with a mix of open and closed storage.

Mission accomplished 💪

Here’s how we pulled it all together in 3 weeks (I’m not counting the week we were off getting married ;).

First, I lightened up the dark wood ceiling with HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Softened Green—a gorgeous neutral sage green.

Next, we swapped out the old back door with a Jeld-Wen glass patio door. You can never have too much light in a tiny space!

The old windows had layers of thick, baked on paint (one window was painted shut) that we meticulously scraped clean with razorblades (it took us about a week) and we gave them a fresh coat of Accessible Beige—also in the SW HGTV Home line, and a new favorite color!

The new door and shutters were painted to match (everything in a satin finish).

Now for the main event: tile! I haven’t tiled in years — since the 2015 One Room Challenge, so my skills and memory were a bit rusty. Luckily, we were able to follow in the footsteps of the great penny tile pioneers who have come before us.

We followed this blog tutorial from YHL (they’re always so thorough, I love it) and took our time, working on the project over the course of a few days.

I picked up this Skil wet tile saw before starting, thanks to the great reviews (and it’s only $69!) and then realized that this project doesn’t require a saw at all… oops. The penny tiles simply peel right off the mesh backing, and any cuts that need to be made are done by hand with tile nippers.

Fortunately(?) we have lots of DIY tile projects in our future, so this saw will get put to good use soon.

Penny (or hex) tile is one of those risk/reward scenarios—it can take more effort and attention to detail than other types of tile, but the payoff can be great if done right. You have to be super precise with this type of tile as every small imperfection will be obvious, but the reward can be something completely unique since you have creative freedom to do any design you wish.

I’ve been dying to experiment with this and try out my own design, and I spent weeks working on a plan and making adjustments in Photoshop, until settling on the winner:

Isn’t it cheerful? That’s what laundry rooms should be all about. Let’s not make chore time any more depressing, right?

I used Bedrosians penny tile from Lowe’s, in white, charcoal and silver sage (which is a little more teal in person). For the grout, I decided on Mapei’s UltracolorPlus in Timberwolf (which eliminates the need for a sealer). Tip: if you’re worried about imperfections, use a grout color that’s similar to your tile color. I actually prefer the look of dark grout with black tile and light grout with white tile, but since I was using both black and white tile, I figured that a medium gray would be the best compromise.

Once the concrete floors were prepped and cleared of debris, we spent a few hours dry fitting the tile and cutting out the individual pieces for our design. It was very much a ‘figure it out as we went’ scenario, involving a lot of adjusting and readjusting until everything look centered and matched our mockup.

Setting our pre-arranged sheets of tile was pretty straightforward. It went by surprisingly fast, starting in one corner and weaving our way across the room as we raced the clock to get our sheets in place before the mortar dried. Once you get the hang of the proper mortar thickness, you’re off to the races. We finished half the room in one evening and the other half the next day.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the updates in real time on my stories. The full recap is still saved there on my Laundry Room story highlights if you missed any of the action.

Grouting was a piece of cake—or perhaps frosting is a better word to use here? Pretending the grout is frosting makes it more enjoyable 🙂 It took just a few hours to do the whole room (and a loooot of wiping down/buffing the haze with a clean sponge over several days).

These ‘permanent’ DIY projects are always nerve wracking, even for me after all these years, but even the most difficult ones are truly always worth it in the end (as long as you’re safe and don’t lose a finger, of course). I encourage you all to get out there and JUST DO IT 😉

With the floor tile and paint out of the way, we moved onto one of my favorite parts—wallpaper! Originally this was out of the question given that you can’t wallpaper over textured drywall let alone stucco, but I was determined to sneak wallpaper into this room somehow… enter, MDF:

You can use any smooth/flat surface for this, and drywall probably would have been a better option but 1/2” MDF is what popped into my head first so we went with it. We had to use special concrete anchors (Tapcon) with a masonry bit and hammer drill to attach them to the wall (I’m telling you, stucco is the worst) and our walls are wavy and crooked on the sides so the boards were far from a perfect fit. But all we needed was a smooth foundation for the wallpaper.

The MDF was given a few coats of Zinsser water-based primer/sealer as a base for the wallpaper, and then it was off to the races!

I found this super cute botanical wallpaper by Brewster and picked up a container of Roman adhesive, since the wallpaper is not pre-pasted. This was my first time using non-pasted wallpaper and I thought it’d be extra work, but it really wasn’t!

This paper is relatively thin so it’s easy to cut with a razor blade, and we ended up using the entire roll.

There’s a ledge that goes around the room about a foot from the ceiling, so we decided to align our wallpaper wall with that instead of the ceiling, mostly to avoid having to remove the crown molding and reinstall it—which would have opened up a whole can of worms that we had zero desire/time to do right before our wedding. DIY Sanity 101: Pick and choose your battles, folks.

Notice that pretty little gold thing up there? That’s our new chandelier, and I’m in love.

In such a utilitarian space, you’ve gotta add a dose of glamour to balance things out. Design is all about opposites and contrast. This delicate beauty brings a subtle elegance to the space, and the best part is, it’s under $100!

Speaking of gold, I found these awesome hooks for just $6 a piece, and we installed five of them using a laser level:

Now that formerly plain stucco wall is functional and pretty—my favorite combination!

The day before we left for our wedding, the Samsung washer and dryer were delivered—whew!

We’ve done a handful of loads already, and can I just say that I feel like I’ve upgraded to a Maserati after being stuck with Ford Pintos for the last few months. What a difference!

Apart from the much larger capacity and no longer having to worry about the washer spinning violently out of control, my favorite part is the simplicity of the controls and the preset cycles. The countdown timer is also a necessity, and I’m so glad to have that back!

I chose these models because they had the highest ratings and thousands of reviews just on Lowe’s, and I didn’t need the extra features of the fancier models. Keep in mind, this house will be a rental soon, which means everything needs to be simple and easy to operate.

The day after we returned home from our wedding, we were installing our butcher block countertops.

I used this same product back in the Cottage Flip Kitchen and they’re my favorite wood countertop material. I love that they’re thick, solid and stainable, and at 39” they’re plenty deep enough to use one piece as counters (we actually had to rip ours down 5.5” to fit).

I bought two 6’ pieces—one for the countertop, and another to cut into two matching shelves. For the counter, we secured 2×4’s into the concrete walls with heavy duty Tapcon anchors, screwed a 1×4” ledge on top of that, and screwed the ledge into the butcher block from underneath (fyi—prior to this we relocated the electric & plumbing which is hidden by the washer).

For the shelves, we ripped 4 small pieces of the butcher block to use as ledges (with Tapcon screws and I patched, filled and sanded the holes).

After everything was installed, I finished them off with Minwax’s Weathered Oak stain.

The open shelving looks great and keeps the small space from feeling crowded, but hidden storage is important, so I came up with a quick solution utilizing the small gap between the washer and dryer.

There was around 8” of empty space between the appliances, so I decided to push them to one side and fill the gap with a DIY rolling cart (I prefer it to one side/out of the way vs in the middle of the appliances, but it can go anywhere).

Pinterest came to my rescue with this DIY tutorial, and we picked up the supplies at Lowe’s for under $50. All you need is wood, glue, screws, a nail gun, drawer pull and some casters (we used 1×8’s and 1×4’s, skipped the Kreg Jig and made our own pocket holes with a paddle bit).

It was a quick and easy evening project, and look how functional!

The day before the reveal shoot was spent installing quarter round along the vertical sides of the wallpaper wall and new baseboard—a five step process that involves 2 drills and 3 drill bits, PER SCREW (have I mentioned how much I despise stucco?)

By the way, I’ve owned a wide range of power tools in my day and DeWalt wins them all. I got this cordless drill a few months ago and we just bought the hammer drill for this project, but they’re quickly becoming our most used and loved tools. It has taken me years of headaches to learn that high quality tools make all the difference!

If you have a room with stucco walls, or even highly textured plaster or drywall, I hope that this transformation can give you some encouragement that all is not lost. You can still have a beautiful room with unfortunate walls!

And your tiny room can be a shower stopper! Our laundry room is certainly the crown jewel of this home.

At least, for now… we’ve got a guest bedroom makeover, coming up next! As soon as I hit publish on this post I’ll be in there cutting crown molding.

But first, I’ll take in that “fresh new laundry room” smell for another moment…

Ahhhh… smells delicious.

Hover or tap on the photos below for paint colors and links to the products used:

 

 

All of the materials, supplies, tools etc for this project were from Lowe’s and totaled under $5k, which I think is great for such a drastic transformation. I also think it’s pretty convenient to be able to get everything you need online in one order, or in my case, over a handful of trips to my Lowe’s 10 minutes away.

It feels so nice to have our first finished room, and now we’re in the habit of scheduling daily DIY time to stay on track for the rest of the house. These reveals are fun but we must remember that this is a marathon even though it’s felt like a sprint lately, and we have to enjoy the journey! Trying to stay in that mindset as we go on to the next project.

Happy October…


Pre-Wedding Updates

Checking in with a quick update this week before we fly out today for our wedding! Tomorrow we’ll be married, and this past week has been non-stop as you can imagine, trying to balance DIY projects with last minute wedding prep.

While we’re relieved the new floors are installed and we won’t have to come home to a complete construction zone, we weren’t able to cross the laundry room off our to-do list—partly because the washer and dryer didn’t arrive until yesterday which didn’t leave us enough time to wrap up and do a photoshoot.

We’re better off waiting anyway though—we would have been killing ourselves pulling all nighters to try and finish on time, and who wants that added stress before their wedding? Not this girl.

At least the hardest part is out of the way—that floor tile! Our bodies took a week to recover but oh it was so worth it. You can check out highlights of the installation on my IG stories in case you missed it (I’ll recap it in the laundry room reveal post as well).

We also put up an MDF wall and my new favorite wallpaper

How gorgeous is this pattern?

This was a relatively easy & fun project (I’ll go into more detail in the laundry room reveal post). We still need to add trim on the sides to conceal our crooked walls.

And how about the new door color? It’s a match made in floral heaven (yes we’re replacing the brass doorknob).

The color is Sherwin William’s Accessible Beige, and I may have found my new favorite greige 

We also installed this fabulous brass chandelier…. can you believe it’s under $100?!

A touch of gold just makes every room better, don’t you agree?

All that’s left to do in here is install the custom butcher block counter & shelves, trim, patch & touchup paint, bring in some storage/accessories and do the photoshoot. Aiming to wrap this project up by the first week of October and the big reveal shortly after!

In other news… our living room is quickly becoming my favorite in the house:

My emerald velvet dreams have come true with this gorgeous mid-century sofa from Inmod:

I’ll be slowly adding & sharing more about this room soon!

And the dining room has finally made some progress as well, with the addition of our first piece of furniture (if you follow me on Instagram you already know):

It’s the Geome Sideboard from Article, and I can’t get enough of this texture detail:

It’s looking a little lonely right now but I’m working on a few accessories to bring this wall to life!

And after months of scouring the internet, we finally have our centerpiece of the room—behold the dining table:

I found this carved beauty in Facebook Marketplace and talked them down to $180, paid $130 to have it delivered from Orlando, and now she’s ALL MINE! It’s the pineapple that did it for me, really. And the fact that it seats 8 people. I’ll be painting her white (otherwise there’d be way too many different wood tones going on in here, you wood purists) and adding pink velvet chairs. YUM. The goal is to complete this room by the end of November.

That’s about it for our Riverside Retreat updates, but my builder has been hard at work on the new Heights House!

The foundation has been poured, plumbing roughed in, windows have been ordered and the walls are going to start going up any day now. I know it’s not a very pretty photo but we’re celebrating every milestone over here and still pinching ourselves that we get to go through this process.

2018 hasn’t been the smoothest year for us, but we knew the best was yet to come, and it’s finally here—these are the happiest days of our lives. I may have taken a different path than I thought to get here, but I wouldn’t trade this journey for the world. Or this boy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some marrying to do!

 


Choosing the right flooring for your home

This post is a paid collaboration with Lowe’s Home Improvement. All opinions are my own.

Those of you who have been following this story for the past few weeks on Instagram know just how much of a milestone this project has been for us! After over a month of planning, prepping and overseeing the install of our new floors, I’ve put together a guide for those who are just starting their flooring journey:

Choosing flooring is one of the biggest decisions and house projects to tackle, so I’ve partnered once again with Lowe’s to walk you through the entire process, and help you make the right choice for your own home. Come shopping with me as I pick out our new floors!

We moved into our current house (the Riverside Retreat) back in July, and immediately started considering our flooring options. The existing floors were a disaster—each room with a different type of tile, cracked and missing grout, uneven transitions and slippery surfaces (hello lawsuit). It all had to go.

We plan to live in this house until our new build is ready to move into next year, and will be renovating it to use as a vacation rental once we move out. Replacing the flooring is a big job and it’s not ideal to do while you’re living in the house, but we didn’t have a choice with our timeline so we just wanted to get it out of the way as soon as possible.

As real estate investors, our priorities for flooring were very specific: durable, low maintenance, and budget-friendly. And as a designer, it goes without saying that it has to look great too.

There’s endless flooring options out there suited for every type of need and preference, so it’s no wonder I get this question on repeat: What type of flooring should I choose?

The right answer is as varied as there are options to choose from, so I’m going to break down the different types, including pros and cons along with my personal experience & thoughts on each.

Solid Wood

All things considered, I don’t think you can beat the look of real hardwood. It’s so classic and inviting, can warm up any space and it’ll go with any decorating style. It’ll last forever and can be refinished over and over again. In a perfect world with an unlimited budget and no maintenance to worry about, I’d choose hardwood all day.

But in the real world, there are some negatives. First off, it’s not ideal for wet areas like kitchens, baths and laundry rooms, and you shouldn’t even use them at all here in central Florida. The wood buckles and warps in the humidity, and if you talk to most local homeowners who decided to install them anyway, they regret it within months.

If you live in a cooler/dry climate it can make sense, but you do have to consider the maintenance (wood gets scratched & damaged!) and cost of upkeep. And the price for a good quality solid wood can be steep. If you love the look and feel of real wood, consider the next option…

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is simply a layer of real wood on top of a composite. It’s the best of both worlds! I used this in my first 3 houses and would generally choose it over solid wood.

There’s plenty of species, styles and price points to choose from and they can be installed different ways—floating, glue down or nail down. Cost varies but they’re generally more affordable than solid wood, and you can find some really nice options in the $5-$8/sf range (or less).

The average person won’t be able to tell that it’s not solid wood (nor care, really). Since the top layer is real wood, you can usually refinish it at least once or twice so they’ll last a long time. I’ll continue to use engineered wood in homes where looks & quality matter most.

Tile

When it comes to design, tile certainly offers the most variety of choices. You’ll never run out of new materials, patterns, shapes and sizes to discover and it gives you the most creative freedom. Tile can steal the show and it’s the best choice if you want to make your flooring a focal point.

Here in Florida and in other warm/humid climates, tile flooring throughout the home is very common as it’s impervious to water and weather, durable and relatively low maintenance. But there’s also some drawbacks.

Installation is more involved than other flooring types after you factor in all the extra materials needed (cement board, thinset, grout, saw & tools) and labor costs add up fast if you hire out—suddenly that affordable tile you found isn’t so affordable after all. There are some scenarios where it can look beautiful, warm and classic (like brick pavers and rustic French limestone) but often it will make a room look and feel cold, especially bedrooms & living spaces.

And removing tile? The worst. Trust me, we just lived through a whole-house tile removal and it was not a fun experience. I’ll be second guessing any thoughts to use tile in large areas after this.

With that said, tile will always be my favorite choice for bathrooms, laundry rooms and other utility or indoor/outdoor areas. You just can’t beat it as a design feature!

Luxury vinyl tile/planks

LVT or LVP is a buzzword in circles of real estate investors & house flippers these days. These are thin strips of flexible vinyl with a printed photograph layer that glue or stick down. You can find it for as low as $1/sf, and to the untrained eye (or in photographs) it can look like real wood.

Peel and stick vinyl has been around a long time, but the recent addition of this new “luxury” variety has changed the game and provided a range of options for those needing a cheap bang for your buck solution. It’s a DIY friendly installation, too.

There’s plenty of styles and levels of quality with vinyl and I wouldn’t be opposed to using it in the right scenario (like inside a tiny house or trailer), but I’m not sure I’d use it in my own home, considering there are higher end options at a comparable price point. If you’re considering this for an investment property, you should always keep in mind the comparable homes in the neighborhood and what’s expected for resale.

Carpet

Most of us have lived with and have our own opinions about carpet, but for me, the cons far outweigh the pros.

It’s one of the most affordable initial investments—but it’s also not a permanent solution. So much maintenance and upkeep and constant worrying about stains and damage. You’ll spend a lot more to regularly deep clean and/or replace it every several years than paying slightly more for a permanent floor.

It’s soft and comfortable underfoot… but that’s what rugs are for, right? And from a design perspective, I don’t think it will ever look good as a solid surface. I just can’t get past these drawbacks, so I’m fairly confident in saying that you won’t see me installing carpet anytime soon (unless it’s a temporary solution that I’m forced into due to budget constraints).

Laminate

Laminate is the happy medium between engineered wood and luxury vinyl. Like engineered wood, the base is made of a composite wood (think MDF), and like vinyl, the top layer is a printed photograph of wood under a protective layer of plastic.

Not all laminate is created equal, but there are a handful of higher end options that give engineered wood a run for its’ money, like the Pergo TimberCraft line. Looking at these next to the displays of engineered wood in the store, I was much more drawn to the look of the laminate.

There were more color options, it had a nicer texture (matte finish with an embossed grain) and I love that it’s a wide plank (those tend to be pricey with real wood). But there are major benefits beyond just looks—price point, for one, at just $2.99/sf. Durability and maintenance are probably the biggest differentiator. I can’t speak for other types of laminate, but the Pergo Timbercraft line is waterproof, scratch resistant and pretty much indestructible. I used them in the Cottage Flip and was so pleased with the results (this color was discontinued, but they have a wider selection now):

The Pergo laminate was also the only flooring type that met all four of my requirements: durable, low maintenance, budget-friendly and beautiful, so it was a pretty clear winner for this house. It’ll withstand the heavy foot traffic of a vacation rental, and we won’t have to stress about any potential issues later thanks to Pergo’s limited lifetime warranty.

Note that with a decision as major and permanent as this, I’d always recommend seeing samples of the flooring in person, as you can’t accurately assess the product based on photos alone. It rarely looks exactly the same in your space as it does in other houses online!

Lowe’s carries small samples of wood you can buy in the store, and I also ordered a larger sample of the Brier Creek Oak from Pergo’s website to try out at home. At the time we were deciding on a paint color for the trim, so seeing them side by side helped solidify my choice:

Pro tip: you should always take your flooring into account when choosing a paint color! The undertones matter and you want something that complements each other (please think twice about using gray floors with gray walls, it’s so hard to get right).

Once we felt confident about our choices, we talked to a Lowe’s associate in the flooring department and he got us on the schedule right away. A few days later, someone dropped by to take measurements of the house and they determined the amount of flooring, underlayment, baseboard and transition pieces needed.

A week later, our floors were delivered and we received a call from the installers to schedule demolition of our old tile (Lowe’s handles that part too, whew!) If you ever plan to move out of your house one day, please think of the poor future buyers before you cover every inch in cheap tile.

I wish I could say that once the tile was gone it was all smooth sailing, but sadly, it was just the start of The Great Dustpression of 2018. If you followed my Instagram stories through those dark times, you may remember the horrors.

It took us over two weeks of living like this to finally repair the joists & subfloors so our Lowe’s crew could come back and do the install, but that just made install day feel like Christmas morning…

I was overjoyed, practically in tears watching each board go in. They did have to add leveler in some areas, which is expected with an old house that settles over time.

The floors are floating, which means they simply lock into place, no glue or nails required. The planks were laid on top of the Pergo gold underlayment, which acts as a moisture and sound/thermal barrier (you can use this underlayment with other types of laminate, too).

Even with the extra prep work, the crew worked fast and they were able to finish 2/3rd of the house in one day! Hallelujah.

We decided to take advantage of the waterproof nature of the floors and continue them into the kitchen. Since this house doesn’t have an open layout and we aren’t changing any walls, we wanted to make the rooms flow together as much as possible.

The kitchen needs a complete remodel, but these floors are a great start!

As mentioned earlier, it’s tough to get an accurate assessment of flooring online since photos can vary so much between different lighting, cameras and monitors, but this shot is probably the best representation of how they appear in real life (under incandescent lighting):

Here’s a closer look showing the wood grain texture (you can feel it too). I love that the edges of the wood are beveled to define each plank so they don’t all blend together (which, according to Pergo, also helps make it waterproof):

I almost went with the Wheaton Oak, but I’m glad I opted for the Brier Creek Oak instead. I love the warmer natural tone and minimal color variation. It feels very earthy, which is just the look we want for the tropical-jungle-chic vibe we’re going for.

The floors were installed in only two days, and the baseboard install took another day. We still have to paint the new baseboards (in HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams ‘Loggia’) but it already feels like we’re living in a different house!

Lowe’s has been great to work with throughout this process (and patient with us through all the unexpected subfloor issues) so we couldn’t recommend using their install services enough. With big projects like these, it’s always nice to let someone else handle all the ordering/coordinating and get it done as quickly as possible so you can return to normal life. Even if our normal life looks like this right now…

The house feels so much more warm and inviting, and I can’t wait to start layering in furniture and accessories next (spoiler alert: we just got a new sofa & dining table!) and show you all the other projects we have in store. Think we can finish this whole house before our new house is built? 😉

Thanks again to Lowe’s for sponsoring this project and the install crew for staying on top of our deadline—I’d say it was a major MISSION ACCOMPLISHED 👊

With one week to go before our wedding, having these floors finished is such a weight lifted off our shoulders. But in the midst of the flooring install we’ve been working hard on the laundry room (and preparing for several other projects) so I should have some updates to share soon! I’ll try my best to squeeze one more post in before the wedding, but in the meantime you can follow all the latest happenings over on Instagram and Facebook.

Happy (almost) fall y’all,


The (New) Heights House Plans

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about anything house related (and that’s saying a lot) than this latest and greatest undertaking of ours.

If you’re just joining the party, here’s the deal: back in February, we bought a modest little house in a great neighborhood, a month after moving to Tampa.

It was going to be our primary residence, and we had big plans for a major transformation. Five weeks into the renovation, it caught on fire.

Insurance couldn’t pinpoint a cause and declared most of it to be a loss. We were faced with a major decision: try to salvage what was left, or tear it down and build new?

After crunching the numbers, we determined that financially we’d be much better off to start fresh. Insurance would cover a good portion and we’d pay out of pocket for the rest, but in the end we’ll have a significant amount of equity since the neighborhood can support it. The median price per square foot is $230 in this area, and we expect to see a near 50% ROI, which is pretty much unheard of in any market. Just to clarify, there is no mortgage on this property (I explained more about financing in this post) so we will be refinancing once the new house is built, paying back our investors and using the equity towards more investments. This is a very common wealth building strategy used by investors.

This is also a perfect example of why you should buy the worst house on the block. Our house was the neighborhood eyesore, surrounded by homes triple the value. Because of this, we won’t have to worry about over-spending, since we’ll get every dollar back (and then some).

Speaking of the neighborhood, there’s a lot of custom homes in a range of architectural styles which is what makes it so unique. Like this medieval castle across the street…

We don’t have to worry about sticking to a specific design style to ‘fit in’ with the neighborhood, although ours does share some characteristics with the castle across the street. A friend who we met at a local real estate meetup is a custom home builder in Tampa, and offered to take on this project for us after hearing about the house fire. Juan is a great guy with a hardworking team and attention to detail, and we couldn’t be more excited to work with him! He’ll be documenting our build on his Instagram so make sure to follow him there for a behind the scenes look.

Let’s talk design, shall we?!

Months ago, this photo popped up on Instagram and it was love at first sight:

Source unknown

This to me is pure perfection. I wanted to scoop it up, exactly the way it is, and plop it right down onto our lot.

If only it were that easy. Throughout the weeks of meetings with our builder and architect, my bubble would get burst, little by little, as we ran through the details. That extra steep gable roof? Not hurricane-friendly, and that pitch costs exponentially more than your common 8/12 roof (I’ve learned a whole lot about roofs throughout this process). A fireplace in Florida? Forget it, not worth the expense and maintenance. Arched windows? How about tripling your window budget.

We did our best to strike a balance between design and practicality, and had to make a lot of tough decisions about where to cut costs. Let me tell you, designing a custom home from scratch is a daunting and overwhelming task—especially if you’re not an architect and have no idea what you’re doing.

Before we began renovating the original house, we took measurements and mocked up the floor plan using the free Homestyler software to help visualize the new design. Below are those original plans—you can read more about it in the Before Tour post:

 

We liked a lot of things about this floor plan, so we decided to use it as our starting point for the new house. Specifically, we kept the location and layout of the kitchen facing the backyard, an open dining area just off the kitchen, living room near the front entrance, and two bedrooms separated by a bathroom on the left side of the house. The biggest change we made was adding a second story, and going in a completely different direction with the exterior façade and architectural style.

We presented our updated floor plan to our architect, who then made the necessary adjustments for the house to be structurally sound, code compliant, and fit within our budget. The quaint cottage tudor I had originally envisioned morphed into more of a French country style since we had to compromise on the roofline and add a second story, and this photo became our second main source of exterior inspiration:

And what we ended up with was a love child of our two inspiration photos (if their baby had to live in Florida on a budget).

Okay, you ready to see these plans?! Drumroll please…..

Front:

Back:

Left and right side:

 

These technical drawings are hard to visualize, so I did a little photoshop magic to the front…

Much better! Let’s take a peek inside the first level:

And the second level:

Again, these plans aren’t the easiest to read, so here’s the Homestyler version we mocked up (not 100% accurate but close enough):

Second floor:

So much to talk about! I’ll be breaking down the details and design plans for each room over the coming months, so for now let’s just get the basics out of the way. The floor plans are pretty self explanatory, but one thing they don’t show (that I’m most excited about) are the cathedral ceilings in the living room and master bedroom. Those horizontal rectangles indicate the (faux) beams we’ll be adding to both of those rooms—though the sizes/positions shown are not accurate, they’re just there for reference. The ceilings throughout the rest of the house will be 9’4″—NO MORE SHORT CEILINGS FOR ME!!! After living with so many sub-8′ ceilings, I’m over the moon about this.

There is no garage in the plans because we have an existing detached garage in the back (it was not harmed in the fire). The back door entrance by the kitchen will therefore be the entrance we use regularly. Eventually we’ll build a big patio back there, but that won’t be until after the house is complete.

Patio inspiration c/o Atlanta Homes

Originally we planned to add two small bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and keep the house closer to 2,000 square feet. We don’t need any more space than that, and we certainly didn’t want to pay to build extra square footage we didn’t need. We later found out that building code would not allow us to leave half of the upstairs unfinished, and we were required to build it out as if it were livable space—it was either that or eliminate the second floor entirely. So, now we have a 2,700 square foot house with a big bonus room. I’m sure I’ll find a use for it someday 🙂

The exterior will be smooth stucco (I wanted to do painted brick but it’s insanely more expensive) painted in a soft white. I’d love to clad the turret in stone (like the fireplace in the photo below) but haven’t priced that out… it might have to wait until later. I also haven’t chosen a paint color yet, but I’d love an earthy tone like this:

Source: https://www.grandtraditionhomes.com/

The accents (shutters & trim) will be a taupe/greige color (haven’t chosen that yet either) and the windows and potentially gutters and roofline detail will be bronze/black. More color palette inspiration…

We’re calling the overall style ‘French country cottage tudor’ and it will be heavily inspired by our travels through Europe last year. The plan as of now is to use light wood floors, white walls, some shade of greige for the doors and trim throughout. Here’s a glimpse into overall plans and the inspiration for each room (don’t take the photos too literally, they’re just representations of the overall feel I want for each space).

Foyer: we’ll add custom built-ins to a wall next to the back entrance near the kitchen. I’m thinking either black, dark gray, or some shade of green for the cabinets.

Source: https://www.homedsgn.com/2016/02/09/a-custom-renovation-in-flinders-by-canny-architecture/musk-creek-flinders-27/
Source: Becca Interiors

Kitchen: The focal point will be an extra large custom range hood surrounding a 48″ gas range with a matching white fridge. No uppers, mushroom colored lower cabinets (still deciding on color), marble-looking quartz counters, a large bank of windows above the sink, an antique wood armoire to hold barware.

Source: Devol Kitchens
Source: Barbara Westbrook Interiors

Dining room: This will be an open area between the living room & kitchen. I picture a large table with plenty of seating, cozy chairs and a statement chandelier (the next photo shows the style of beams we’ll be using in the living room & master):

Source: unknown
Source: https://www.hellolovelystudio.com/

Living room: The star of this show will be wood beams stretching across vaulted ceilings, lots of windows and light, an earthy/subdued color palette with a California-meets-European feel.

Source: unknown
Source: Martin Lawrence Bullard

Master Bedroom: More vaulted ceilings & beams, a canopy bed, tall windows and curtains, lush fabrics and textures, statement chandelier. Peaceful and calm.

Source: Alyssa Rosenheck
Source: Marie Flanigan Interiors

And… that’s pretty much all I’ve figured out. I hate rushing room designs, especially when the house hasn’t even been built yet and I haven’t had a chance to walk around and get a feel for the space.

I thought renovating an entire house on a deadline was a lot of pressure, but this is a whole new level. You have to make decisions about things you didn’t even know existed, and if you mess up, it’s all on you. There will undoubtedly be a lot of mistakes and regrets throughout this process, and things we’ll have to go back and change later—either because we didn’t realize it before it was too late, or we didn’t have the immediate budget to make it exactly the way we wanted.

Source: http://www.lonny.com/Home+Tour/articles/dvR9cdHd9js/Colonial+Home+Contemporary+Twist

Right now our goal is simply to get the house built and stay (reasonably) within our budget, which means we won’t get everything we want—far from it, actually. I wish we could build an empty shell and slowly complete the rooms over time, but a lot has to be finished and functional for it to pass inspections, and also to appraise at full value for the refinance. Normally it takes me weeks or even months to work out the design for a single room (I’m all about those details) but that’s not possible with this house. To be honest, I’ve been so consumed with projects at our current house, the Bungalow, work, client e-design and planning our wedding (in 2 weeks!) that I haven’t had one day to dedicate to planning our new build. Eek.

Source: Mirabel Estate. PHX Architecture, Scottsdale, AZ. Werner Segarra Photography.

Okay, rant over! Just trying to keep it real over here. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity that I didn’t think we’d get for years, but with it comes a lot of pressure. If you’ve ever built a house before, I’d love to hear any tips/advice you may have! We really need all the help we can get.

Let’s now remember what the house looked like after sitting vacant all summer…

And then as it was being demolished last month…

And last week, right before we broke ground…

Here’s how it looks today:

We can already see the outline of our future home as the concrete footers have been poured:

Let’s hope hurricane season is kind to us and we stay on track to finish by April!

I’ll be sure to document and share on this blog as much as time allows, including everything we learn that could be helpful to others in the same boat (I’ve got a big post all about choosing windows, coming up next!) In the meantime you can see what’s been inspiring me lately on Pinterest, and stay up to date on Instagram & Facebook. And go follow my builder to watch the construction progress and make sure he stays on top of our timeline 😉


Riverside Retreat Laundry Room Design Plan

If you haven’t been keeping up with the madness lately…

Yes my friends, the chaos has not subsided and we have exactly three weeks until our wedding. With all of the surprises that continue to pop up, I have a feeling we won’t accomplish our September to-do list before we fly to Utah on the 26th to begin our wedding festivities (we’re marrying in SLC on the 27th and throwing a party for the weekend at the country’s largest private log cabin)!

Our wedding plans aren’t even finalized yet because we’ve been too focused on repairing/cleaning/renting out two vacant units, meeting with contractors and preparing our termite-infested Bungalow for tenting (which starts today), living in an unsafe and dusty construction zone as progress on our floor demo ceases due to extensive subfloor damage, and now overseeing the build of our new home which just commenced this week (more on that next!)

In the middle of all of this, I’m constantly planning and working on projects in our current house, and the next one on our to-do list is the laundry room:

This is how it looks now, after buying the cheapest washer/dryer set we could find on Craigslist that barely work, and now with the tile gone:

This room was originally a porch that was later enclosed, so it has a window to the kitchen. How special.

The walls are all textured stucco, so they’ll be fun to drill into (sense the sarcasm).

The room is only 5′ wide so there’s not much room for anything.

Door to the backyard:

And standing from the backyard, looking into the kitchen:

So, what’s the plan for this space, you ask?

I can’t tell you how many times I went back and forth on this design.

One thing I knew immediately is that I’d be using penny tile—I’d been wanting to experiment with a fun design for a while now, and small rooms are the best place to go bold! I think you can get away with the most in a laundry room. This is where you should try out your crazy ideas, guys.

At first I was set on using blue as the accent color, as it seemed most fitting for a place to wash things. Then somewhere along the line I switched the color to green—I just couldn’t fight the urge. Green is 100% my 2018 color of the year and you’ll be seeing it all over this house.

I haven’t seen a whole lot of black, white and green used together but here are some of my recent inspirations…

https://www.beccainteriors.com
http://www.hughesdevelopments.co.uk
http://heidicaillierdesign.com
https://sincerelymariedesigns.com
http://buildingwalnutfarm.blogspot.com/

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about black, white, green and wood tones that make for the perfect mix of earthy and classic. So I’m going for it.

I’m partnering once again with Lowe’s on this project, and pretty much everything in the design plan is available to order from them.

Like this Bedrosians penny tile—it comes in an array of colorways, and I chose black, white and sage green. I spent several days adjusting the placement of these individual tiles in Photoshop until landing on something I was happy with. I’m actually still not 100% decided between these two options—do you have a favorite?

I’m also super excited to finally have a functional washer & dryer—I chose this Samsung set with the best reviews online (PSA—they’re 30% off right now!)

The goal is to keep this redesign relatively quick, inexpensive, and easy to replicate in your own space (no matter what you’re starting from). With that said, we nixed the idea of adding cabinets, so we’ll be using butcher block to make custom shelves (one counter on top of the washer/dryer and two narrower shelves on the wall above). We thought about using regular 3/4″ planks of wood to build these, but I really prefer the look of the thicker butcher block, and this one in particular because it’s stainable—I actually used this same stuff in the Cottage House Flip kitchen with a custom stain.

One feature that I’m excited about is the painted ceiling! I love that there’s tongue and groove up there now, but I’m not feeling the dark reddish stain, and it wouldn’t look cohesive with the light wood shelves. As soon as I get the green penny tile, I’ll find the closest Sherwin Williams match and give the ceiling an unexpected pop of color.

The old fan will also be replaced with this beauty:

I first spotted this chandelier months ago and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to use it (how is it only $100?!) It’ll warm up the small space and bring the classiness level up a notch or two. This room sure needs it.

Another big change will be swapping out the backyard door for this one

Let there be light! You can never have too much light in a tiny space. I haven’t quite decided what color to paint it yet but it won’t stay white. And the door will be equipped with a Schlage smart deadbolt and matte black lever:

On the small back wall next to the door, I came up with a pretty clever solution (if I do say so myself). Here’s the deal: I’m addicted to wallpaper. After my wall mural changed my world a couple weeks ago, I suddenly need to wallpaper all the things. Of course, you can’t wallpaper over stucco walls though—so what’s a girl to do?

Make a new wall! We’ll attach a couple smooth 1/2″ MDF boards to it and boom, instant wallpaper canvas. Something like this (use your imagination here)…

I’m realllllly excited about this wallpaper

It’s hard for me to get excited about anything more than wallpaper these days.

And five of these pretty little gold hooks will go on top:

 

This room may be small but it’ll pack a punch! What do you think of the design plan? We’ll be doing most of the work ourselves, or at least attempting to. I honestly don’t know where we’ll find the time, considering we won’t even have any of the materials this weekend. We basically have two weekends plus a handful of weeknights to get this done, and we still need to get through our flooring install first.

Maybe two big projects this month was too optimistic? We’ll find out soon enough 😬

Follow along on my instagram for daily updates in the meantime…