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…


3-Day Project: Molding and Paint

Just in time for Labor Day Weekend, I’ve teamed up with Lowe’s to bring you a DIY project you can tackle over the holiday while you still have those extra daylight hours…

I’m excited to announce that this is the first of many sponsored projects I’ll be working with Lowe’s on over the next several months—so get ready for tons of tutorials coming your way (just like the good ‘ol days! 😉 )

Let’s be honest, most of us have a love/hate relationship with crown molding. We love the way it looks, but hate the installation process. I remember the frustration during my first attempt years ago, and then again on the second try, but figured I’d give it another shot to see if I could finally get it right.

The problem is, it’s not the same for everyone because there’s so many variables—your walls, your materials, your tools to name a few. There’s no “one size fits all” way to do it, although there are plenty of tips and lessons learned from those who have been successful. Lucas and I spent a ton of time researching, planning and preparing for this—and while it wasn’t as easy as we had hoped, we did learn a few lessons that will hopefully help you guys out!

Watch below for our experience in video form:

The video focuses only on the method we used, since we wanted to keep it short and simple (videos can get long and confusing really fast!) but I’ll go into a little more detail in this post, including what we could have done differently to make things easier.

PLANNING

We decided to tackle our living room first (the other rooms will follow eventually):

I love the look of thicker molding (especially with our 9′ ceilings), and after much research, selected this polyurethane crown molding made by Ekena Millwork at Lowe’s:

I’ve used Ekena products in the past and they have a huge selection, so I felt good about committing to ordering it all online without seeing it in person first. The best thing about it is that it’s lightweight (like foam) which makes install much easier—especially given that our walls are plaster. I’ve only dealt with drywall in the past, and read some horror stories online about people not being able to find the studs, and plaster walls cracking and shooting the nails back out. Yikes!

I think it may depend a lot on the condition/age of your plaster, but I’m happy to report that our walls gave us no problems with the nails (as long as we kept the nail gun perpendicular to the wall/ceiling), no cracks and it held just fine. Our house is also only around 60 years old so the walls aren’t in too bad of shape.

After taking measurements, we ordered a little more than we needed which is always recommended, especially with crown (the molding comes in 7.88′ pieces).

I also ordered an Ekena ceiling medallion and decorative molding to frame out our wall mural, which you can read all about in last weeks post!

INSTALLATION

Crown molding is both an art and a science. All those tricky cuts and angles can be calculated with the right tools and problem-solving, but fortunately for the more right-brained folks like myself, a little artistic puttying skills can hide even the worst scientific miscalculations. You don’t need to be good at both, but you do need master at least one.

After watching about 50 different crown molding install videos on YouTube, I still felt pretty overwhelmed because again, there’s so many different ways to do it. Knowing that I had this tutorial to write, I tried to stick to one simple method without any fancy tools, geared towards beginning DIYers.

Here’s what we used:

Crown molding

Caulk

Putty/spackle

Liquid nails (not needed if you’re nailing into studs)

Tape measure

Zircon stud finder (ended up not being necessary)

Bostitch 16 gauge nailer w/ 2.5″ nails

Dewalt miter saw (a regular saw or even a miter box is fine)

I found this cheat sheet on Dewalt’s website, which was a lifesaver:

Fortunately for us, our living room only has inside corners, so we only had to worry about the two cuts on the left side of the diagram.

The most common way to cut crown molding is to place it on the saw in the position it will be installed onto the wall, like so:

Except it must be flipped upside down, so that the wall side rests against the fence, and the ceiling is against the table. Every time you cut. Easy to forget when you’re in the middle of working, but it’s critical to remember!

With a fancy compound miter saw like we have, we could instead lay the trim flat and use the bevel function in addition to rotating the saw angle. This would certainly make it easier to hold in place, but it also requires a bunch of complicated angles—so for this project, we stuck with the good old fashioned way of cutting.

Let’s back up a second. Before getting started, it’s helpful to know where your studs are behind the wall. Neither drywall nor plaster are designed to grip nails, so you’re supposed to shoot into the studs. We used our stud finder to locate them (it actually worked quite well with our plaster).

We used tape to mark our studs (so we wouldn’t have to paint over lines on the wall).  Then we picked a corner of the room for our first cut, starting with a right side piece (doesn’t matter where you begin).

(Our studs are spaced 16″ apart, except for a couple confused ones in the middle). Following the diagram, we rotated our saw 45° to the left, and trimmed the right edge off.

Helpful tip: if you don’t have crown stops or something on your saw to hold the trim in place, use tape to mark where the crown should line up (on both sides) so you know where to position it every time. Make sure the crown is lined up flush against both the fence and table before doing this!

This proved to be very helpful, though crown stops (or a DIY jig) are a better solution since it can be tricky to hold the molding in place (especially lightweight foam), and just the slightest movement can result in a cut that’s way off.

Before nailing our first piece up, we had to address the opposite end. Most carpenters recommend using a scarf joint to connect two pieces of molding, which is simply an angled cut.

This joint has more surface area to grip onto, and it normally hides the seam better. But with this material, there was no noticeable difference between the seams of a scarf joint and a regular 90° cut (below):

And since this material won’t expand and contract like wood does (which tends to buckle and loosen the joints over time) we felt good about making straight cuts, which made measuring easier. Just to be sure, we gave both cuts a shot:

We found that the evenness of the wall & ceiling underneath was the only factor in how well the cuts matched up.

Back to our first piece! Once both edges were cut, we applied a bead of liquid nails to the back where it meets the wall and ceiling, and fit it snugly into our first corner. It didn’t take very many nails to hold it up!

In fact, the nails held it so well that we didn’t need to hit a single stud (although we still did). I can’t confirm, but I suspect it’d be the same situation with drywall. This molding is so lightweight that it really doesn’t take much to hang it—and the finish nails really only serve to hold it in place as the liquid nails dry.

Speaking of nails, we upgraded our 18 gauge nailer to a 16 gauge Bostitch (love this thing, it’s so easy to use):

I was worried about my 18 gauge nails being heavy duty enough to hold. I’m sure they’d be just fine with this type of molding, but I’d stick with 16 gauge for heavier wood/MDF materials. This gun is only $99 and will come in handy for a lot of projects we have coming up!

Don’t forget to set the proper air pressure on your compressor. We had to adjust ours from 130psi (nailing into the wall on the thicker part of the molding) to around 100psi for the ceiling where the molding was thinner. The nail should sink just below the surface, so you can putty & sand over it:

Once we reached the last piece on our wall, it was time to make our left side cut. You’ll want to measure the bottom/wall side, and very carefully, because there’s a small margin for error.

The left cut is done the same way as our very first right cut, except you rotate the saw 45° to the right and keep the right side.

Once that piece is nailed up and your wall is finished, you get to start from the top and do it all over again!

Here’s our two corner cuts next to each other:

Both of these cuts together form a perfect 90° angle:

Problem is, most walls are not a perfect 90°. This is where an angle finder would come in handy, but we didn’t have one for this project, so this tutorial is now “how to install crown molding in less than ideal situations.”

We got lucky with one of our corners. Look how nice and clean!

The other 3? Not so much. We’ll talk about how to deal with those in the next section.

FINISHING TOUCHES

Once all the molding is installed (whew, the hard part is over!) it’s time to put your artistic skills to work. Keep in mind that if you failed the science portion of this project, you’ll need to step up your art game. Fortunately, putty and caulk are pretty much magic in a tube.

Exhibit A (I didn’t even take a photo of this before putty because it was so embarrassing, but picture a gaping hole where the putty is):

It took a couple passes with putty and some masterful maneuvers of the putty knife, but today you’d never even know the sins that lie below the surface. Especially at ground level:

That wasn’t even the worst of it. In one corner, the ceiling was sloping so bad that we had to actually remove a 2 foot section and patch it with drywall. Even then, It was still so crooked that we actually had to use screws to bend & hold the molding to the ceiling, and were left with a 1/2 inch gap in the corner. Would you believe this is the same spot?

A few of you asked about when to use spackle vs caulk, and while they can often be used on the same problem areas, caulk is generally to join seams/cracks, while putty fills holes and areas you need to sand. Caulking is not sandable—don’t even try because you’ll be left with a big mess!

Caulk also tends to shrink unlike putty, so make sure to apply it liberally or you’ll be making a second pass.

Above you can see the nail holes filled with putty, and the corner joint partially covered with caulk. Since no one will be standing this close to the molding, I could have easily used caulk to fill the nail holes instead—however it wouldn’t give me that perfectly smooth surface like putty & sanding. Caulk is certainly easier to work with though (and instant gratification) so it’s your call.

On the decorative molding pieces I did use caulk for the nail holes, since there wasn’t any room to sand. But really, who’s gonna stare at it this closely?

I will say that the seams in the middle of the wall were more difficult. You can’t just fill those with spackle & caulk and call it a day—any interruption in the surface will be noticeable. Make sure to line them up as closely as possible when installing.

The molding on the left stuck out a smidge further than the right, and that slight edge was enough to catch the light and make it pretty obvious. I ended up sanding it down with a mouse sander, which was tricky since it’s foam…

Bottom line, pay extra careful attention to your seams in the middle of the wall and don’t worry too much if your corner angles aren’t right.

One thing that will help hide the flaws is a low sheen paint. I had originally purchased HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams Pure White in a semi-gloss finish, since that’s what sheen most folks use for trim:

But once we installed the trim, I wasn’t loving the way it looked (and the fact that it highlights every imperfection). I’m just not a fan of shiny paint, no matter what it’s used for. So I went back over it with the paint we used on the walls—the same color but in their Matte finish. I also used this paint for the decorative trim, ceiling & ceiling medallion. Keeping things nice and simple over here!

Oh, and don’t forget to paint your molding before you install it! It didn’t really matter for our crown since the molding, walls and ceiling were all the same color—but it’s a huge, time consuming pain to carefully brush 1-2 coats around the perimeter of both your entire wall and ceiling (or even worse, mask it all off with tape—no thank you!) That’s at least half a days worth of work in itself.

I shared our paint colors a few weeks ago, and talked about choosing a warm mushroom color (SW Loggia) for the doors, trim and baseboards. We’ll be replacing these baseboards when the new floors go in, but I decided to see how the color looked next to the mural for fun:

Yep, still very happy with my choice! I love the warmth of it next to all the black & white. Can’t wait to see how everything looks with the new floors!

LESSONS LEARNED

If I had to do it all over again, I’d consider two different options:

1. Use corner blocks. These are decorative molding blocks that eliminate the need for any miters—which is the most difficult part of crown! They have 90° edges that you can butt the crown right up to. I think they add a nice unique look as well (Ekena also sells some fancier ones):

We actually planned to do this from the beginning, but realized after it was too late that our crown was too large to fit. The blocks would have made this process a lot quicker and easier!

2. Use a cutting guide. Our carpenter raved about the Kreg Jig crown guide, which includes an angle finder so you can make precise cuts, and it holds the crown in place when you cut it. The online reviews and YouTube demonstration sold me on it and I was just about to go buy it—until I realized our crown was, yet again, too big to fit! So disappointing.

 

Despite not using these and making the process more difficult for ourselves, the results turned out beautifully thanks to the magic of putty & caulk. But now we get to do this process all over again in the dining room (using the same materials) so we have a chance to modify our approach.

We still can’t use corner blocks or the cutting guide since we’re using the same crown, but I’m either going to buy crown stops for the saw (so we don’t have to hold it in place by hand) or try the compound miter cut method so we can lay the molding flat onto the table of the saw. We may also get an angle finder so we can make the proper cuts and save ourselves from hours of sculpting & sanding later. There’s a whole house to do so these handy tools should be worth it! We’ll be pros by the time we move out.

Even with this project taking longer than expected, the atmosphere in the room feels completely different when I step inside now, and the struggles are all a distant memory. We’ve created this beautiful environment that makes me so happy just to be present in.  It was so worth it. 

Hover your mouse over the photo below (or tap on your phone) to see the materials I used!

 

Okay, who is ready to tackle their own molding & paint project this Labor Day Weekend? If we can do it, you can do it!

I’ll be back next week laundry room updates 🙂


DIY Framed Wall Mural

You know the feeling when you have this perfect dreamy vision in your head and then it comes to life?

Well, I do! We’ve had one heck of a week around here, but it all came together at the end and this was the cherry on top that made the effort worth it.

Let’s back up a second and recall what this wall in our living room looked like when we moved in last month:

In the last few weeks we’ve painted and added crown molding (tutorial on that and more details/photos coming next week), but today I want to talk about our latest project we wrapped up a couple days ago: installing a wall mural, framing it out with trim, and our new ceiling medallion & chandelier.

Last month after weeks of research, I purchased this Anthropologie wall mural (I scored it on eBay for $250 shipped, unfortunately it’s no longer available there). I still think it’s well worth the retail price.

I love this design for so many reasons, and think it’s neutral and classic enough to go with any style and won’t look trendy in a few years.

Originally I had envisioned the mural covering the entire wall, but our wall is 159″ wide and the mural was only 144″. I almost didn’t buy it because of this, but I loved it so much that I figured out a way around that—which has now become my favorite detail of the room. And that is how you turn lemons into lemonade!

I’ve been so inspired by classic European architecture and history through our travels last year (see what I’ve been obsessing over on this Pinterest board) and have been especially drawn to decorative molding—on walls, ceilings, doors, furniture, you name it. This project was the perfect opportunity to test it out!

I found these corner pieces from Ekena Millwork on Lowe’s—aren’t they gorgeous?

Ekena specializes in lightweight polyurethane molding (I’ve used them in the past and love their products) with a huge selection in their online catalog. From there I was able to find the matching connector pieces and locate them by part number on Lowe’s:

For this project I needed 4 corner pieces and 5 connector pieces (they come in 7.88′ lengths). I also bought this same setup to use on the dining room ceiling, which we’ll be installing soon!

All of the molding was delivered last Wednesday, and before anything was installed I made sure to paint it (very important to do this first!) I used Sherwin Williams Pure White in their Matte finish, which looks somewhere between a flat and eggshell, and it’s washable. Satin or semigloss is more commonly used on trim, but I wanted mine to blend in with the walls and crown (also painted in the Pure White Matte) to keep things simple and cohesive. There’s no right or wrong on the finish you choose, it’s just a personal preference.

If you watch my Instagram stories, you may remember seeing this:

That gorgeous ceiling medallion is another Lowe’s find from Ekena Millwork, and it’s something I’ve always dreamed about using…

The chandelier is a Wayfair find I scooped up on sale for $101—it’s huge and has to be one of my favorite bargains ever!

 

First thing’s first—get rid of this fan situation:

There was one small problem—the canopy of the chandelier was larger than the 3″ medallion opening, and the threaded rod that connects the chandelier to the ceiling wasn’t long enough for the canopy to sit on the outside of the medallion. Fortunately, the foam-like material is super easy to cut into, so we went at it with a jigsaw:

In no time at all we had our little shelf for the canopy to sit inside:

Our ceiling isn’t perfectly straight, so we had to rotate the two halves of the medallion until they were as flush as possible. Once we got them into the proper position, we applied liquid nails to back and shot a few 16 gauge nails into the medallion (no studs needed, the ceiling grabbed just fine):

Later I went back and filled the holes and seam with putty (you could also use caulk if you don’t have any big holes or seams) and then caulked around the perimeter where it met the ceiling:

A test fit of the chandelier—and we have lift off!

Alright, now let’s get to the good stuff. I’m talking, of course, about that dreamy wall mural.

It’s advised to hang murals/wallpaper on smooth walls, because you’ll be able to see bumps and texture through the paper. Our wall isn’t super textured, but it’s not smooth either:

I figured the pattern would camouflage most of it, but just to be safe I used a putty knife to scrape down the bumps as best as I could.

Here are the supplies I gathered for this job:

You’ll also need a tub of water large enough to hold one roll, and extra rags/sponges are very useful. That black thing in the middle is a laser level from IKEA which is also nice to have (and recommended), though we certainly could have done without it.

Here are the instructions that came with the mural:

We ignored the “prime with a pre-mixed, specialty wallcovering primer” part after watching/reading a ton of tutorials that say it’s not necessary—even the SureStrip instructional videos didn’t use it, so I think we’re safe. I did wipe down the wall with a damp sponge to ensure a clean surface.

Since the mural wasn’t going to fill the entire wall, we had to mark a line where it would start. Our wall is 15″ wider than the 144″ mural, so we split the difference and decided to start the mural 7.5″ in from the left side.

We marked that measurement at the top, middle and bottom, then used a laser level to compare:

Way off! I know most walls aren’t perfectly straight, but I didn’t think ours was that crooked. We taped up a piece of trim along the laser level line and stepped back for an analysis.

The wall still looked straighter than the laser level (at least in person, this photo is deceiving), but surely a level is more accurate than my eyes, no? Against my better judgment, I decided to use the laser line instead of the wall line.

This was our guide for the first panel, and the only mark we needed to make since we’d be trimming off the top and bottom of the mural.

With the wall prep complete, we rolled out our paper, trimming each panel as labeled:

Since we’re only installing one at a time, we rolled each labeled panel back up and set them aside.

The panel needs to be re-rolled with the adhesive side out, so that it can easily unroll in the proper position when you remove it from the water.

The next part is easy—submerge the panel into the water and count to 30.

The adhesive is immediately activated, and you can then grab the panel from the top and let it unroll out of the water.

It seems like this part would be slightly nerve-wracking, but this paper is so easy to work with. You can fold it any way you want and it won’t get stuck or damaged—the adhesive is thick and goopey and takes a long time to dry. Lucas stood on the ladder and positioned it at the top, while I made sure it lined up to our mark at the bottom.

You can position and reposition it as many times as you want—it easily slides across the wall without any struggle. And I’m not kidding when I say this adhesive stuff is gloopey globby.

Be prepared for a mess of goop and water all over your floor.

Once the panel was in position, we both smoothed it to the wall from left to right (doesn’t really matter which way you go, as long as you’re pushing out the glop and air bubbles). We used a combination of our hands (with a sponge glove) and a putty knife with a damp rag. Whatever you have to do to make it look smooth.

I have to say—if this wallpaper were a solid color, our textured wall would be pretty noticeable underneath. This pattern conceals every little bump and even air bubble—it really is the perfect design for a wall application and I’m relieved I chose it over anything else. Food for thought if you’re shopping for wallpaper.

We gave it one final wipe down with a clean, damp rag and after around 10 minutes, our first panel was done!

For the next panel, all you need to worry about is lining up the pattern with the first and butting up right next to it without overlapping. We got our pattern lined up perfectly at the top…

but then noticed it was off at the bottom:

Assuming it’s not a defect from the manufacturer, this told us that our panels weren’t perfectly level. Dang you cheap IKEA level, I knew you were wrong.

But alas, when we stepped back, we couldn’t tell at all. So we carried on.

When we encountered an obstacle, a razor blade easily did the trick. Note that your blade must be extra sharp, because the paper is thick and snags easily.

By the time we neared the end, each panel took under 10 minutes. Hanging them is the easiest part!

When we got to the end, we discovered that the 144″ total width advertised on the paper was inaccurate, it’s actually a few inches wider. I’m assuming this is because you’re supposed to allow for extra width on the edges for a buffer to trim it to size. Just an FYI!

When we took a step back, it was clear that our laser line was not straight (you can see how much lower the top of the right side is) but fortunately, it didn’t matter because the edges would be covered with trim. Not only that, but the horizontal lines in the pattern are wavy so you can’t tell if it’s hung straight (yet another reason to love this mural).

The plan now was to frame the edges of the mural, and I wanted there to be an equal gap on all 4 sides (from the bottom of the crown and top of the baseboard). So we simply measured and marked 7″ all the way around (we added slightly extra to be safe and overlap the trim with the mural).

I worked on one panel at a time, measuring and marking by hand.

The cut didn’t have to be perfectly straight since it’d be covered up by trim.

By the time I trimmed the first panel, it had been on the wall for a few hours, and it came off SO CLEAN! It slid off like butter and the wall was completely dry and smooth. Not that I’d ever dream of removing this mural in my lifetime—but it’s nice to know that it’s a temporary paper (hello renters!) This next photo shows one of the last panels where the adhesive is still wet (removes just as easy):

All trimmed and ready for the next phase!

I laid one of my corner pieces down next to two connectors:

(yep, travel sandals still going strong, now they’re my DIY sandals)

The cut edges of the molding aren’t perfectly straight and crisp from the factory, so we had to trim off just a teeny bit with our miter saw to get them to fit together nicely. We also tried to match up the pattern so it looked like one continuous piece. Once the corner piece was trimmed and ready to go, we applied liquid nails on the back:

And attached it to the wall with a few 16 gauge nails. This baby is going NOWHERE.

Before attaching, we measured from both the wall & crown molding, and marked the wall to ensure it was lined up evenly.

Then, we attached the first connector piece, ensuring it was also evenly spaced from the wall (we gave up on the level after it failed us, and decided that it was more important to be visually centered from the edges).

Rinse and repeat for the bottom corner…

Making our marks for the top pieces:

And measuring for the final piece:

Finished with daylight to spare!

The next day I went back and filled the holes & seams with caulk, a little touch up paint and the masterpiece was complete:

Be still my heart.

Please ignore those floors—those will be gone in a few weeks!

How bout that view from the dining room?

I’m loving the new trim color (SW Loggia) next to the black & white tones. We plan to replace all of the old baseboards and those will be repainted in Loggia as well (still a work in progress folks, don’t judge these photos too hard).

Can’t you just picture an emerald green tufted velvet sofa in here? Because that’s what’s coming soon 😉

Medallion, chandelier, mural—the trifecta:

Next we’ll add a long wood bench (DIY) with storage baskets and wall hooks above. I’m hesitant to screw anything into this mural but this is technically a “foyer wall” and it has to be practical. I might chicken out.

I could stare up at this view all day…

Can I just say how great it feels to finally be making some real, tangible progress? Everything we’ve been working on this year is all preparation, planning and businessy/behind the scenes stuff but it’s nice to have something to show you. It’s finally starting to pay off! PS—checkout the install timelapse on IG if you haven’t seen it yet!

I promise this is just the beginning. I have an endless supply of new projects and never before seen designs I’ve been scheming up, and will be working on those 7 days/week with no end in sight. LET’S DO THIS!


Riverside Retreat paint colors & flooring

Stopping in for a quick (yet important) weekly update: We’ve chosen the paint colors & new flooring for the Riverside Retreat!

Whenever I begin a project, paint and flooring always come first. These are the foundation of every design—the rooms’ canvas, if you will. They’re decisions that have to be made before you can choose décor and accessories—and they’re perhaps the most important, which is why I’m thrilled to be past this hurdle so we can move full steam ahead!

As explained in the Before Tour, I knew right away that I wanted white walls and some shade of beige/taupe/mushroom for the trim and doors. After extensive research online, I narrowed my trim color samples down to the following (all Sherwin Williams);

And here they are, same order, in different lighting situations:

All so different, right? Promise me you’ll NEVER buy any paint without testing samples first. It has taken me years to finally convince myself of how necessary this step is, and if these photos don’t prove it, I’m not sure what will!

All of a sudden the clouds came out, and look how gray everything looks:

You’ve got to think of every paint color as a range of shades. There is no single ‘perfect color’—the swatch that you love on one wall in a room will look completely different just a few feet away in a shadow, or five hours later when the sun is at a different angle, or when a lamp is turned on. That’s why you need to get samples up on every wall and study them over the course of a day, with every possible combination of light. And from there, pick the one that works more often than the others. It’s a compromise.

With that said, I went back and forth on Loggia and Bungalow Beige for a while, until deciding with certainty that Loggia was the winner.

This was shot in the morning, at about the ‘beigest’ it looks. We’ll be painting all of the doors, door trim, windows and baseboards. Here it is next to the freshly painted windows (looking a little more gray in the late afternoon):

As for the walls, they were already white but a creamy-gray white, and since we were painting the trim, I wanted to brighten them up to get that nice crisp contrast. I chose SW Pure White, and you can see the difference here with the existing white in the center (see how much darker they are in the shadow on top?)

I’m not sure what the original color was, but it looks mighty close to this swatch of Alabaster:

Perhaps the most exciting news from the weekend—we’re getting all new flooring! We decided to go for it now and get it out of the way. The current tile floors aren’t in great shape—apart from the fact that they’re not even matching throughout the house. They’re loose, cracked, grout missing and uneven transitions which make them a tripping hazard. So relieved for them to be gone!

We decided on Pergo Brier Creek Oak and we’ll be working Lowe’s for the install:

You may recall that this is actually the flooring I had chosen for our last home (the one that caught fire) so I figured I’d go ahead and use it now. Not sure if I’ll use it again for our new build, but at least this way I’ll be able to test it out first! I have used Pergo in a similar color (now discontinued) in the Cottage House and loved it, so it was an easy choice this time around. I’ll be sharing a lot more about the selection & install process next month once they’re in!

Here’s a sample next to the new trim color—you should always take your floor color into consideration when choosing paint!

We’re laying the laminate in the whole house except for the bathroom. Unfortunately, the entire house is currently tiled and allllll of it (over 1600sf) will have to be removed before the floors can go down. We haven’t decided if we’re going to attempt to tackle it all ourselves or hire it out, but demo will begin this weekend. There’s a few dips and slanted floors in some of the rooms, so there’s also a decent chance we’ll need to repair some of the subfloor (hopefully not the floor joists). Follow along on my IG stories this weekend to watch the live demo action!

Within the next week we also plan to start adding crown molding in the living & dining room, along with some fancy molding accents on the dining room ceiling and a living room wall. There will also be a wall mural and painted ceiling involved—I haven’t done anything like this before so I’m looking forward to the results!

In other house updates: no word on the new build permit, and we’re still going through the eviction process.

And another update a few of you have been asking about—remember my Destination Design story?

Well, Janice got a little surprise of her own—her husband was sent home from deployment early! It was too short of notice to finish the house (which is currently in the middle of construction projects) but he still got quite the surprise when walked in the door, and now we can breathe a little and not try to force an impossible timeline. Ideally, I’d still return to finish this month, but the to-do list somehow keeps growing and I’m not sure we’ll be able to squeeze everything in within the next few weeks. I’m doing my best to keep the ball rolling and hope to be able to share the Afters with you soon!

Cheers to a productive August,


Our first eviction!

Another summer month gone, and here we are in August! Watch below for the latest on all three properties, including the wonderful details on our first eviction (yep… already!):

The video explains it all so this post will be brief, but here’s a recap:

1. The Heights House

This is old news if you follow me on Instagram, but the heights house is officially NO MORE!

I watched as it was demolished two weeks ago, and now the rubble has been cleared and we’ve got a clean lot to build on.

There’s just one problem: we STILL don’t have our build permit! Last week they dropped the bomb on us that we are required to add sidewalks and a driveway to the tune of an additional $12-13k—even though the rest of the neighborhood has no sidewalks.

After talking with our builder, architect and several folks at the permit office, we have “settled” on adding a sidewalk on just one side of the house, and paving a skirt for the driveway. This will still cost us several thousand dollars that we did not budget for. Insert sad face here.

Our architect had to modify and resubmit the plans, and we were told that this would be the last hurdle before approval (but we’ve heard that before). Going on six + weeks now since first submitting this thing, so hopefully we’ll be able to start building soon.

2. The Riverside Retreat

You saw our new bedroom last week, but the rest of the house still looks like this:

We haven’t really unpacked yet because this place is only temporary, we have no furniture to put things away in, and everything will just be constantly shuffled from room to room anyway as we start DIYing. There’s also a chance we’re replacing the floors sooner than later *fingers crossed* so we’re waiting to see what happens. For now, boxes are fine with us!

This weekend I want to get some paint samples up on the wall and start that process, so tune into my Instagram stories for live updates!

3. The Bungalow

We jumped right into the deep end of landlording with this one. When we inherited this property last month, we inherited the problems that came with it.

The biggest problem being one tenant (who shouldn’t have been approved to live there in the first place) who wasn’t paying rent and had a disconnected number. We tried calling and knocking on the door every day for several days with no response.

Left with no other choice, we posted a 3-day notice to pay or vacate on her door—sure enough, still no response.

I spent a day at the court filing the eviction papers and arranging for a sheriff to serve her the summons. Last Monday, the eviction was served and she had another week to respond. Did she? Of course not. So this past Tuesday we made another trip to the court to close the case, and now we’re waiting on a judge to sign off. Once that happens, the sheriff will deliver a Writ of Possession at which point she’ll have a couple days to leave (if she isn’t gone already), and the final step is for us to meet the sheriff at the property to change the locks.

This eviction is costing us thousands in unpaid rent, court fees, plus the repairs & cleaning required to get the property rent ready again. I’m a little nervous about what we’ll find when we walk in that door next week. The apartment wasn’t exactly in tip top shape when we viewed the property several months ago, so I have a feeling these repairs won’t be quick and easy.

Hopefully I’m wrong, we’ll see. These are unchartered waters for us, and we’re just doing our best to navigate them and stay afloat.

But these little challenges are good—they keep us on our feet, learning, and there’s never a dull moment around here! I wouldn’t have it any other way 😉

Hope your August is off to an exciting start! Next week I should have a paint update for you, and a fun DIY project as well!

 

 


Our New Summer Bedroom

It’s been two weeks since we moved into the Riverside Retreat, and while the house is still full of unpacked boxes, I took some time over the weekend to focus on the most important room in the house—our bedroom!

Our room was the only place of calm in our last apartment, and with this house about to undergo perpetual construction for the next several months, having a clean and cozy space to curl up in at the end of the day is necessary for my sanity!

We were able to transfer most things from our last bedroom into this new one, but with the increasingly hot Florida summer weather and old drafty windows, we needed to switch over our bedding to something lightweight. In perfect timing, The Company Store reached out to see if I wanted to try some of their linens (um, yes please!) and that prompted this little bedroom refresh & photoshoot.

I think the best way to find the right combination is to switch things out one at a time. Here’s the first ‘draft’ of our new bedroom…

I used the same bed, rug, night stands, lamps and duvet (those sources linked in the One Room Challenge Reveal post) and layered in lightweight Company Quilt and Shams (in buff). They’re pure cotton and even softer than they look.

Loving these textured earthy neutrals.

The windows are original and beautiful, but they are so not energy efficient and turn this bedroom into a greenhouse. I needed to solve that ASAP without spending a fortune. Roller blinds seemed to be the cheapest option, and I ordered fabric samples from a few different places, but it still ended up being over $200/shade for anything halfway decent. I was almost ready to settle for cheap vinyl, until I found these outdoor shades on Amazon for only $50.

BEST FIND EVER. I even highlighted them to my Instagram stories since so many of you were asking (please don’t buy them all, I need two more!) Mine are 6×6′ (they’re a few inches larger than the window, mounted on the outside) in Sesame. They’re woven and super durable (made for outdoor use) but look like they could be expensive indoor fabric. I’m adding these to my arsenal of interior design secrets (shhh).

Next I decided to swap out one of the nightstands for a desk.

Oh yeah, I’m liking this way better. The desk is vintage and the chair is from Home Pop (from our last bedroom). Lamp is also an old Wayfair find.

The curtains I searched high and low for—there’s not a lot of options for 9′ ceilings! I wanted something semi-sheer that had a linen look, and these from Amazon were the most affordable option out there. I’m actually pleasantly surprised with the quality. They’re thin, but the perfect amount of sheerness and a great faux linen texture. PSA: These cotton duck curtains are a great alternative if you want something less sheer, and they’re only $16/panel!

This has to be my favorite color palette for summer… whites, creams, warm wood tones and sage green. Yes please.

Time for another switch! Going all neutrals now with ivory euro shams and linen sheets…

Favorite look yet. I wasn’t sure about mixing so many shades of white/ivory/beige, but I’m sold! Although a pop of black for contrast never hurts…

Lesson learned: don’t be afraid to mix those light neutrals. Also, beige has officially surpassed gray as my favorite neutral.

The linen sheets are from The Company Store (in parchment) and I chose them after reading all the great reviews. Our bed tends to get hot with the mattress topper (I’m already a hot sleeper) and I’ve learned that linen is the best choice for summer bedding because it stays cool. It also feels luxurious and wears so well over time! PSA: the sheets are on sale ending tomorrow!

As soon as Susie discovered new bed linens, she found her spot and refused to leave.

I don’t blame her—in fact I’m curled up with her in that spot now as I type this. I’ve never treated myself to nice linens before and I feel so spoiled with these!

Another bedding tip? Get a larger sized quilt. We have a queen bed but I got a King so it would drape to the floor on both sides. This gives it that extra cozy ‘bedding store catalog’ look.

Alright guys, now it’s time to level up—green velvet has just entered the building.

Holy guacamole.

Confession: these are my first non-white curtains. How have I lived 33 years without green velvet?! It’s about time things change around here.

So rich, so elegant, so Scarlett O’Hara. SO IN LOVE.

I shared these on my Instagram stories a few days ago and have been bombarded with questions about them. Well folks, today is your lucky day. After weeks of trial and error, I can confidently say I found the best (affordable) custom green velvet curtains around.

I didn’t get it right on the first try. 9′ green velvet drapes that don’t look cheap AND are affordable are incredibly difficult to find. I searched for weeks, and settled for these on Amazon:

Big mistake. They were shiny and cheap looking.

I continued my search online without any luck, until finally stumbling upon a shop called Lushes Curtains that makes custom velvet panels at very reasonable prices. I ordered two 6′ x 9′ flocked velvet panels in green (rod pocket), and they were absolutely perfect. Here’s a side by side with the Amazon panel:

Doesn’t the matte velvet look so much more elegant? I think so.

I got mine unlined, but they’re still thick enough to block out most of the light. Combined with the roller shade, it’s just right. I paid $45 shipped per panel (after finding a 10% off coupon code online) but I just found a 15% coupon code: LC15. I’ll be using it to buy two more for panels the other window!

The sheer white curtains will be moved into the living room. These window treatments are the only things that will stay as is in this room—we’ve got some fun plans in store over the next several months! For now, I’m just gonna enjoy this little piece of luxury while it lasts.

Tell me, what’s your favorite look? Are you feeling the green velvet or do you prefer the light neutrals for summer?

We owe you all a vlog update on everything that’s been going on (things have been a bit crazy over here) so I’ll be back soon with more! In the meantime, stay up to date with the latest news on my Instagram & Facebook,