Heights House Paint Colors

Dropping in with a rare Monday post because the paint colors for the Heights House have officially been chosen and I couldn’t wait to share!

A few weeks ago I shared our decision for the exterior color, which was painted SW Oyster White.

But I also needed to find a color for our new window trim.

Since the trim is designed to look like stone, I figured a natural gray-beige stone color would be perfect. Enter test samples of my top 9 greiges…

anew gray amazing gray exterior

These are my top colors narrowed down after months of research and testing (a few are leftover from the Riverside Retreat paint search). I painted both sides of a few scrap pieces of wood leftover from projects, and would recommend this method because you can easily move these around to different parts of the room to test different lighting. They’re large enough to get a good idea of the results, BUT I’d also make sure to paint the actual surface first before committing 100% (see why below!)

Here’s another round of colors (the no-name custom Behr sample was something I found in an old paint stash, so I figured I’d throw it in the mix).

accessible beige paint

After staring at my options for a while, I was leaning towards Valspar Ivory Brown. These photos are taken at the back of the house though, so I relocated everything to the front.

worldly gray exterior

Hmmm… they look a little different next to that stone, don’t they? Being the main entrance and focal point of the house, this area was top priority.

accessible beige exterior

The other factor to consider, of course, is lighting. These shots were taken on a bright day with just enough cloud cover to minimize the shadows. There was no clear winner, so I decided to wait and come back another day.

Last weekend the sun was out, and look how different yet again!

exterior gray paint

At this point, I knew I had to break out the paintbrush and really test them out. The clouds rolled in and I couldn’t believe how different they looked…

best exterior greige paint colors

They look so much warmer painted on the trim! Check out the two Gallery Grey’s next to each other in the photo above. Thankfully I didn’t neglect this step, otherwise I’d be regretting my decision!

After nixing the two Valspar colors, I gave SW Worldly Gray (top left) and SW Accessible Beige (top right) a shot. And the winner became clear (as seen in my Instagram stories)…

The top left, SW Worldly Gray! It was very close to Accessible Beige (top right), but Accessible Beige had the slightest hint of yellow which eliminated it from the running. Oddly enough, everyone who responded via DM guessed it correctly. I think that confirms it’s the right choice!

Here it is on the window trim. I love that it’s a subtle contrast from the walls.

With the exterior walls and trim colors out of the way, it was time to experiment with these window arches. I had mentioned wanting arched windows in my Window Buying Guide post, but they were way out of budget. Instead, I figured I could have my builder add arched trim and then fill in the top with black paint. It worked like a charm…

Seriously, even better than I thought. I’m still high-fiving myself for this idea.

I used SW Tricorn Black which is slightly too dark in person, so I grabbed a sample of SW Black Magic and I’ll be testing that out soon.

Okay, the paint selecting fun continues inside!

From the start I knew I wanted white walls and light greige trim. I had already decided on Alabaster for the walls, which is a versatile neutral white (not a stark white) and one of the most popular choices by designers. The interior walls have not been painted yet, only primed, FYI.

Worldly Gray Amazing Gray

I used the same greige samples indoors, and no surprise, they look different in every room. The samples are extra useful in here because they look just like baseboards (the doors, door trim and baseboards will all be painted this color).

Same lighting, direct comparison:

Best Greige paint colors

After discovering Accessible Beige a few months ago (remember I used it on our laundry room door?) I fell in love and had a sneaking suspicion I’d want to use it for the trim in this house.

Here’s the samples in the living room, with different lighting:

anew gray balanced beige

Now suddenly they’re all dark and gray.

valspar gallery grey ivory brown

After evaluating how the colors look in multiple areas of the house, I had to go with my initial gut—Accessible Beige. It really is such a versatile gray with no strong undertones (I would say it’s closest to yellow) and I think it’s lovely with the floors (those matter when choosing paint colors!)

SW Accessible Beige

I’ll be sure to update this post after everything has been painted so you can see the finished product. Choosing paint is a big decision (especially when it’s exterior paint or walls/trim for the entire house) so make sure to be thorough when testing! Never just pick from a swatch (unless you don’t mind if it looks different on the wall).

Alabaster Accessible Beige

I hope this post is helpful to those on the hunt for the perfect greige, or choosing any paint in general. If you don’t want to wait weeks to see the results, make sure you’re following me on Instagram where I’ll share updates as soon as they happen!

Speaking of updates, make sure to check back here Thursday for a special Valentine’s Day post <3


Heights House Build: 20 Week Update

Checking in at the 20 week milestone, sharing what’s coming next and new DIY projects underway at the Riverside Retreat! Watch it all in today’s vlog episode:

Click on the photos below to see the progression since breaking ground in September:

Onto the first big update… we have FLOORS!

I posted video & photo in my Instagram during the installation a couple weeks ago, and you guys went nuts over them… more than anything else I’ve posted in a long time. I can see why…

These are the Villa Barcelona engineered French oak wood planks from Lowe’s, in the color Terassa. They are a newer product so no reviews yet and I ordered them sight unseen—luckily, the risk paid off!

They come in varying lengths of 5″ and 7″ planks, and the tone ranges from a light natural oak to a light-medium oak with cool brown undertones.

A wire brushed and sawmark texture gives them an aged reclaimed look, which is enhanced by the matte finish. It seems like these will be very durable, easy to clean and any dents/scratches will blend right in with the natural texture. These are our “forever floors” in this house and we couldn’t be happier!

I’ll wait until we’ve lived with them for a while to post my review, but so far this is one of the best decisions we’ve made for this new build. Huge relief!

Another fun update is the new flagstone on our turret:

It was a bit of a struggle trying to explain my vision to the installer (space the stones out farther! More mortar!) and getting the right mortar color was a bit of an ordeal, BUT all things considered, I don’t think it turned out too bad.

It was fun to watch the technique. Like icing a cake!

Then came the exterior window trim. I’ll admit, I was more nervous about this than anything.

I had chosen the shape and texture of the mold, but couldn’t visualize exactly how it would look. Especially the shape of the arches on the front and back windows—there was some miscommunication and I was worried it’d be a disaster.

Fortunately, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I pulled up the next day and loved what I saw.

Yep… I can live with this.

The window trim will be painted a natural stone color (medium warm gray—still deciding on color) and I think I’ll fill in the eyebrow area above the windows with black to give the illusion of arched windows. We’ll be testing that out this weekend!

As for the rest of the exterior—today we’re headed to the nursery to work through our landscaping plans. We’ve been drawing up ideas to fill our 10,000sf lot…

Tell me in the comments: would you be interested in learning more about our landscaping plans? This is the first time we’ve ever done anything like this, so we’re trying to learn as much as we can, and I’d be happy to share our process for anyone who is curious.

After our plans are in place, we can begin irrigation, hardscaping, and laying sod. We also need to have concrete steps poured in the front, along with sidewalks and a driveway in the back.

Let’s head back inside… our kitchen cabinets are arriving today!!

I’ll keep you posted on that (check my Instagram stories for live updates) as they are installed later this week.

Our custom 7′ doors are also ready to be installed…

Along with all of the door trim and baseboards.

And remember that antique door I scored from a local salvage shop almost a year ago?

Hello, laundry room door! We’ll have to modify it a bit to make it work, but what a stunner.

On Monday, the first delivery for the master bathroom arrived…

Soon I’ll share all the details about our plans for this room so I won’t give anything else away now… but hello DREAM TILE.

While we’re on the topic of fun pretty things, I placed the first orders for lighting! Starting with the foyer… this was a tough decision that I went back and forth on.

I posted a poll in my IG stories, and there was a pretty clear winner

I was leaning towards this one too, and I ended up getting the polished nickel version because it’s $177 less (what?!) so I’ll just spray paint it black and no one will know the difference.

I also found this really cool lantern for above the front door…

It fits perfectly with the old European castle feel, don’t you think?

Also, I can no longer make decisions without the help of Photoshop. Thank you, Adobe.

Another big decision that I’ve been mulling over for months is the living room chandelier. This will be one of the first things you see when you walk in, and it’s the largest and grandest room in the house, so it needed something special.

I was so close to pulling the trigger on this wagon wheel style chandelier

But the price was a bit steep considering we have to buy a ton of fixtures to fill this entire house, and I’ve been seeing this style a lot lately so I thought I’d go for something a little less common.

And then I found the one

Sleek lines, simple and elegant, oversized for a large room and super affordable for the size. It actually comes in a smaller size and I debated on which one to get. Photoshop saves the day, once again.

Here’s the large 53.5″ size:

And the smaller 40×40″: 

I always err on the side of larger, so it was a pretty easy choice! Once all of the furniture is in place, I think it’ll work out nicely.

Next up, the master bedroom chandelier

This one caught my eye months ago, and it’s SUCH a bargain I couldn’t pass it up. I love the wagon wheel style and the gold finish is lovely. It just arrived yesterday!

My last lighting purchase was three of these brass picture lights:

The plan is to install them here on the main wall behind the dining table (the sconce boxes have already been installed):

In my search for these lights, I realized how insanely expensive picture lights are! I don’t really understand it—maybe because they’re not super common? I ran across several (cheap looking) LED/plug-in/battery operated or frame-mounted types that didn’t fit the bill, and I was very close to splurging on these

But couldn’t bring myself to spend almost $900 for 3 lights. The ones I chose have good ratings online, so I’m hoping for the best.

Of course there’s still many more light fixtures to purchase, but I don’t want to make any impulse buys so I’m in no rush. We can install the rest later on our own time!

I was going to talk about trim paint colors next but realized there’s enough there to save for its own post. And because paint colors are such a popular topic, I didn’t want it to get buried and lost at the bottom of another post, so stay tuned to see what we chose and if I was able to find the perfect greige!

Signing off with loads more projects coming your way soon…


The Window Buying Guide

Let’s have a conversation about windows. We ordered ours for the Heights House many months ago but I wanted to wait until they were all installed before sharing our experience. So many of you have been asking for details, so I decided to put together a shopping guide with everything we’ve learned throughout this process, as window shopping can be overwhelming!

As many of you know, I’ve been working with Lowe’s on several projects over the past year. They’ve been especially involved after the fire, generously offering their support to help with the rebuild. We had already selected our windows before they stepped in as a sponsor, and today I want to share what went into those decisions and lessons learned.

Windows are a major design element, especially when it comes to exteriors, and they have the power to completely transform a home. In my perfect world they’d all look something like this:

Source: @laurelhpowell on Instagram

Or this…

Builder: @robertelliotthomes Design: @jenkinsinteriors

But steel windows are mega expensive and would have to be custom fabricated, so that was out. The closest we were able to get to the look we wanted (that passed strict Florida building code and didn’t cost half as much as the house) were special order Jeld-Wen windows.

We decided to make our windows a priority as much as possible and cut back in other areas. I think you should splurge for the best windows you can afford, since those aren’t something you can easily change out later and they make such a big impact.

Here’s the window order sheet I gave to my builder, which outlines all of the sizes, window type and location on the house:

The Window Schedule chart was pulled from the architect’s floor plan (the ‘type mark’ is labeled in the hexagon shapes, if you want to match them to the list) and I also described each location in red above. There are 19 windows downstairs (first image), and 6 windows upstairs (second image):

 

All of the windows have a “bronze” exterior and white interior—note that “bronze” in our case actually means black. With this line of windows you can choose either black or white (or beige) for both interior and exterior, which was a must for us!

I went back and forth on the interior color for ages, and as much as I love a dramatic black window, I decided white was a safer choice and I’d be less likely to regret it years from now. They’re made from vinyl, and we can paint the interior if we choose (I’m considering it in a couple rooms!)

Source: Pinterest/unknown

All of our windows have the ‘colonial’ grille style (most with two vertical bars) and they’re all simulated divided lights—which means the grids are on the exterior of the window so it looks more like traditional windows with individual panes of glass, instead of the grids in between the glass.

I believe the SDL style is a bit more expensive, but I don’t care—this is a non-negotiable feature to me. I think the difference is night and day. With the grille between glass, you can’t even see the lines in certain lighting. This makes them easier to clean, but definitely not worth the tradeoff IMO. Another thing to keep in mind: you can always paint SDL windows (using vinyl-safe paint and primer) if you decide to change the color in the future, but with the GBG, you’re stuck with that color!

We had the option to customize the number of grids or ‘lites’, and I considered going with a more modern look with just one vertical divider (a slightly higher cost), but in the end we stuck with the more traditional style of 3×4 or 3×5 lites.

Here in central Florida, new builds are required to use special impact resistant glass and low emission tint, so Jeld-Wen’s ‘premium atlantic vinyl‘ line was the only option. I love the look of wood and metal, but vinyl seems to be the standard these days, and I’ll take the energy efficiency.

Now for the big decisions… which type of window? We went with a mix of fixed, single hung, and casement. Let me explain each:

Fixed: Windows that don’t open. These are arguably the best looking with slim frames and no hardware, and they’re also the least expensive. By code, you have to have at least one window that opens in every room (large enough to use as an emergency escape), which limits the amount of fixed windows you can have.

Source: Artisan Signature Homes

Single hung: This is the most popular style of window used today, where the top half of the window is stationary and the bottom opens vertically upwards. It’s the most economical type of functioning window, but it also doesn’t look as streamlined with the window split into two sections. Double hung is the same idea, except both the top and bottom are moveable.

Single hung / Source: huntedinterior.com

Casement: These are windows that open outward as one single unit on a hinge. They’re common on older homes (our current 1940’s house has all the original casement windows) and have a thicker frame. They’re the most expensive of the bunch, but they have a uniform look like fixed windows.

Casement / Source: @our_coastal_farmhouse on Instagram

We knew absolutely nothing about windows going into this, so it took weeks of back and forth with our architect trying to figure out what was required by code, getting quotes on all the different types and sizes from Lowe’s to see what was in our budget, and researching online to determine our best options. Jeld-Wen was a more economical choice than Pella, and the product lines were essentially the same for what we needed so it was an easy choice. We used casement and fixed in the more visible/used spaces like the living room, kitchen and bedrooms, and opted for the more economical single hung in the bathrooms and laundry room on the sides of the house. Below you can see the visual difference of the single hung windows on the first floor, and casement on the second.

If you’re thinking about adding or updating your old windows, I would highly recommend visiting your local Lowe’s and talking to their window specialist in person. They will be able to guide you through the process, tell you what’s available and what is required. Building codes vary by region and state, as does the availability of window types. Our store associate, Mark, was extremely helpful and thorough in walking us through the different options and what each one meant. We worked with him over the course of weeks in person, via phone and email, and he was able to take care of the entire order & delivery as well. Lowe’s also runs multiple sales throughout the year so wait and keep an eye out for when those pop up (they were 20% off when we ordered which really adds up!)

One thing we learned was that if you are only adding/replacing a few windows, there is a lot more flexibility in what you can choose since you don’t have to follow the new construction code requirements. However if you’re replacing a certain percentage of the windows in your home, you’ll need to follow the new build code guidelines. Your Lowe’s associate will be able to explain what is required for your situation.

They can also take care of the installation so you won’t have to coordinate or worry about any of it! I normally use them for bigger installs, but our builder already had his crews set up to do everything at the new build.

I’ve already covered the most important considerations: size, window type, window style + color, and code requirements—but there’s a long checklist of options that need to be submitted with the window order. Here’s the breakdown for just one of our windows:

It’s a lot to take in, but fortunately you don’t have to worry about most of it. Lowe’s will know what to input and the majority is technical information around code requirements. I’ll point out a few other things that you may want to be aware of before going in and double check on your own before the order is submitted.

Frame type: If your house is wood frame, your windows will need to have a Nail Fin frame. If your house is block/concrete construction, you’ll need a 5/8-in flange frame. Our first story is block, and the second story is wood frame, so we had to be extremely diligent in triple checking the order since we had some of the same size/type windows on both stories. Our order was submitted correctly, but unfortunately we still ended up with one window that had the wrong frame type and couldn’t be installed. Fortunately, Jeld-Wen was able to expedite a replacement window and all is well!

Prep for Mull: Mulling is when you join multiple windows together, rather than framing them out individually. We decided to mull three windows together over our kitchen sink to give the illusion of one larger window.  Windows that will be mulled need to be prepped at the factory first, and that is indicated by “Prep at Left/Right jamb” on the order sheet. When I put in the request, I was visualizing the windows from standing inside the kitchen, and later learned that the left/right side is indicated from standing outside. Oops. Luckily, Jeld-Wen came through again with an expedited replacement, and now you can learn from my mistake!

Glass type: There are several options for glass type including tinted, textured or adding decorative inserts. This could be useful in a bathroom window where there isn’t enough privacy, though we chose to keep all of ours clear for consistency.

Note that there are a handful of other choices to be made such as screen type, window lock hardware, custom window shapes—and the variety of options really opens up with wood and aluminum frames.

I plan to hang light curtains in front of the larger windows so the black grids will pop and not fade into the background of a dark room like they do now 🙂 I think it will all really come together once we put the finishing touches on.

Speaking of finishing, we have so much to catch up on! New flooring, gutters, exterior window trim, exterior stone work, paint colors… you caught a glimpse of some of these in today’s blog post, and if you follow my Instagram stories, you’ve seen it all in real-time. Don’t worry if you missed it—I’m working on another blog post + vlog update and will share all the details with you guys next week.

The first month of 2019 is in the books! See ya in February,


The Heights House Kitchen Plans

This kitchen has been almost a year in the making, if you can remember the first post last February sharing our plans for the original Heights House.

Oddly enough, even though we have built an entirely new house, the kitchen plans have remained close to the same. The location and layout were perfect (with a wall of windows and patio doors facing the giant oak in the backyard) and we were really happy with the design, so there was no reason to reinvent the wheel.

Here’s how the kitchen looks today (actually, as of yesterday our wood floors are installed! More on that in the next post, or see it now in my Instagram stories):

The door on the right is for the laundry room/pantry area.

The french doors below step out onto the patio, and the arch on the left divides the hallway to the master suite, guest bath and bedroom.

I shared more details about our floor plans and design of the new house in this post if you missed it… here’s the new first level floor plan for comparison (note that a few minor things have been changed since the last post, and these measurements are not all accurate):

I’ll be sure to go through the design plan for each room in depth in upcoming posts, but today we’re focusing on the heart of the home—the kitchen!

Last year I came across an inspiring blog post by Laurel Bern Interiors that really resonated with me—the unkitchen, as she calls it, is a growing movement towards kitchens that don’t feature the typical walls of upper & lower cabinets, matching stainless steel appliances, granite etc that has been the American status quo for the past decade:

The unkitchen feels more like an extension of a home’s living space—it utilizes furniture, open shelving, vintage pieces and appliances, as if it has been collected over time. It feels fresh and cozy, not uniform and sterile. Laurel’s description and images were such an a-ha moment for me—I have been drawn to this idea for a while, especially after living in other parts of the world for the majority of 2017, and I want this to be reflected in my own kitchen.

via Marie Flanigan Interiors

Lucas and I have given a lot of thought to what our needs are for the space, and the main functional desires are a large, high quality range (I love to cook), large windows with a backyard view, and storage features that maximize cabinet space and make workflow easier. It’s just the two of us and we don’t have a lot of stuff, but we do like to entertain and need the capacity to host larger gatherings.

via DeVol Kitchens

On the design side, I’ve been pinning inspiration and narrowing down my aesthetic for well over a year so I had a good idea of what I wanted going into this, and even with a new house to design for, the plan hasn’t changed: mushroom shaker cabinets, marble (quartz) countertops, wood floors, white + integrated/hidden appliances only, a large custom range hood, open wood shelving, an antique wood hutch, vintage-style lighting and brass accents. No upper cabinets, no stainless steel, no tile backsplash. If I had to use labels, this kitchen would be classic, European, earthy, casual, minimal.

I had the amazing opportunity to work with Lowe’s on this kitchen again (you may remember my first Modern Farmhouse kitchen from in 2012 and the Cottage Flip kitchen in 2016, both used Lowe’s cabinets, counters & appliances). They decided to step in as a sponsor on this project and have stuck with us through all the setbacks last year, and we’re so grateful for their patience—especially our kitchen designer Angela, who has sat through countless hours of meetings and revisions with us!

Without further ado, let me break down our plans for each part of the kitchen. Starting with perhaps the most important (and most difficult) decision for me…

Cabinets

I was sure from Day 1 that I wanted mushroom shaker style cabinets (thanks to the DeVol Kitchen image above) so my primary mission going into this was to find the perfect shade of mushroom, no matter the brand.

We considered ordering unfinished cabinets and having them painted, but after a lot of research decided it wouldn’t be cost-effective, it’s more time consuming, and the factory finish is more durable. With that decided, we narrowed it down to three options:

From top to bottom: Diamond Egret, Diamond Lambswool, and Kraftmaid Mushroom. These are shown next to the Pergo flooring that we were going to install in the original house, but ended up using at the Riverside Retreat instead.

I went back and forth between all three colors for the longest time. Cabinet color choices are even trickier than choosing paint, especially since they’re permanent. I ordered small samples to take home with me, but they look different in every light so it’s still a tough choice—especially when there’s no house to look at the samples in!

What helped me to finalize my decision was searching the cabinet color online to find real-life examples. I was leaning towards the Kraftmaid Mushroom (shown in the middle above) and I dug around for weeks trying to find as many examples as I could. There weren’t many, but I did like what I saw (these were spotted on Houzz):

And with that, our final choice was the Kraftmaid Durham Maple Square in Mushroom. With the cabinet brand, color and style solidified, our kitchen designer worked with us to design the layout. We already had an overall plan in mind (placement of appliances, general idea of sizes/cabinet types) but Angela helped us choose the exact cabinets we needed to fit our measurements.

In the layout above, the cluster of cabinets on the top right is the fridge location (along with a custom mix of upper cabinets which I’ll explain in a second), the large purple box on the left wall is the 48″ range, the dishwasher is the other purple box on the bottom wall, and to the right of that is the sink. The rest are a mix of drawer/door lower cabinets.

Here’s the rendering from Lowe’s:

This isn’t representational of the actual color, of course—just the cabinet type/sizes. We chose two extra large drawers on either side of the stove, which have hidden pull-out shelves and storage compartments for spices, pots and pans, cooking utensils and baking dishes.

Above the fridge, the right half of the cabinet will be wine bottle storage, and we plan to mount a ladder to a rail on the side of the cabinet for easy access (and because it’ll look awesome).

In the open wall space between the doors and windows, I plan to find an antique wood hutch to set on top of the cabinets. This will hold all of our glasses/barware, and potentially the microwave if it’s deep enough. The 48″ lower cabinet with doors will have pull-out drawers and will hold all of our smaller appliances.

The cabinet with drawers to the right of that will hold all of the utensils, and the drawer/door to the right will have a knife block with a pull-out garbage underneath. Then we have the sink cabinet, integrated dishwasher, and corner cabinet which will hold mixing bowls/tupperware/containers.

We opted not to add cabinets along the whole fridge wall, as we’ll have open shelving that runs across the entire range wall. Above the fridge, the left side of the cabinet will be operational, and the right side will have a door to hide the wine cabinet (which is exposed on the right).

I did my best to mockup the design using the Homestyler app, and I’m hesitant to even post this because it’s NOT how the kitchen is going to look—but it’s the best I can do with the very limited options in this free software. You’ll have to really use your imagination here…

Pretend the cabinets are mushroom, the stove isn’t stainless, the wood hutch is more antique and the sconces & hood are different. Then you’re getting closer. The open shelves will hold all of our bowls, plates, ramekins, perhaps a few books and any display-worthy items.

To the left of the fridge I’m considering adding a glass bookcase of some sort (ideally with a black frame), perhaps lining the glass with curtains and using it as dry food/pantry storage. Or possibly to hold the microwave if it’s deep enough. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’d prefer to live with the kitchen as-is for a while to see what our needs actually are, and go from there.

Keep in mind that we plan to add cabinets with cleaning supplies and pantry storage in the laundry area just to the right of the fridge (you can see the door to that room in the image above).

Just so you can see how everything flows together, here’s a birds-eye view:

Below, you can see the front entrance at the top right:

Is it all starting to make sense now? Good—let’s move onto the details!

Counters & Backsplash

This was perhaps the easiest decision of all. There were no doubts about wanting a stone that looked like marble, but not wanting to deal with the maintenance and upkeep of real marble. Silestone had recently launched a new Eternal Series and I was immediately drawn to the Calacatta Gold:

It’s a quartz stone, which is non-porous and stain resistant. I used Silestone quartz in my Modern Farmhouse kitchen and loved the look and durability, so it was an easy choice to use them again.

We visited our local stone yard to see the slabs in person and make sure it was what we wanted. I’d highly recommend considering this as an option if you love the look of marble but don’t want to stress about the maintenance!

Let’s talk about the backsplash. In an effort to keep the kitchen minimal and visually light, I opted to skip the backsplash and instead run a small lip of quartz along the back. However, the stone will be used as an accent above the range, in between the hood corbels. Kinda like this:

by Marco Meneguzzi via desiretoinspire.net

The stove wall will be the main focal point in the kitchen, so I wanted to enhance it with a large area of natural stone to break up all the white & mushroom cabinets. I’m really excited about this feature and I hope it turns out as beautifully as I’m envisioning! And while we’re on the topic…

Range hood

This is actually something I haven’t entirely figured out yet. I know the size and overall look I want to achieve, but I haven’t been able to pinpoint the exact shape/design. Here’s a few that stood out to me on Pinterest—although none are exactly what I had in mind.

This one is probably the closest, but the sides would need to reach down to the counters to create a cave-like surround for the stove:

via Brit Jones Interiors

I love the clean design, smooth finish and the curved sides of this one, but I’d want the top to be tapered:

via Joel Kelly

Beautiful detailing on this one, but the sides would need to be thicker and reach the counters:

via Giannetti Home

Some combination of the three styles above would be great, so I’ve been sketching out ideas of my own. Here’s a few options I came up with:

I’ll be working with a carpenter on this to bring the design to life, and I’m not sure how he plans to fabricate this so I wanted to have a few different options to run by him. I’m leaning towards #1, but the curvature may be too labor-intensive (read: costly) to make it worth it, so I’d also be quite happy with option #2. Some of the measurements may have to be adjusted as well, and I’m trying to stay flexible and open to changes that may be necessary. Either way, I’ll be sure to keep you all in the loop and share the process with you! Speaking of that range…

Appliances

Another no-brainer going into the planning stages was to minimize the look of the appliances, and/or make sure they enhance the design. With the stove being the main focal point in the kitchen and also the most used/functionally important appliance, it had to be right.

Originally, I decided on this gorgeous white AGA range:

And I picked out a matching white AGA fridge to go with it:

This was decided back in February. It wasn’t until recently when we re-visited our design plans that I came across this show-stopping work of art

A finely crafted 48″ duel-fuel Italian range in white with brass accents—at just over half the cost of the AGA. TAKE MY MONEY.

The only problem? It’s custom made in Italy with a 17 week lead time… which means we would be going months without a stove. In the end, we decided it was worth the wait and placed the order a couple weeks ago. This range is available from a few different stores online, but Appliances Connection had the best price (we used their SAVE30 coupon code for $30 off) plus they have a rewards program which we signed up for as we’ll be needing more appliances in the future. We also opted to buy the matching toe kick which I think it makes it look much cleaner.

With the most important appliance out of the way, I started reconsidering my refrigerator options and decided I’d prefer a panel-ready model for an integrated look. This counter-depth Kitchen Aid model was the winner (it’s also on sale right now):

I love the clean and simple design, and it’s a well-known brand with solid reviews. The panels would be replaced with matching Kraftmaid cabinet fronts, of course. The cabinets won’t arrive until February 6th, so we aren’t in a big rush to order the appliances just yet since they’ll need to be installed after the cabinets.

The dishwasher was an easy choice—there’s lots of panel-ready options and they don’t cost much more than standard dishwashers. After some research and reading reviews, I decided to go with this integrated Bosch model (also on sale right now):

We haven’t ordered this yet either, but will be doing that within the next week!

Fixtures

I debated on switching it up and going with an undermount sink this time, but I’m forever drawn to the classic French-country look of a farmhouse sink so that won out. I will be trying a new style, however, and I’m leaning towards this one by VIGO:

But I’m also digging this one from Superior Sinks:

Both are 30″ sinks that will be fit into a 33″ cabinet.

For the faucet, I’m smitten with this solid brass antique-style bridge faucet (can’t beat the price either!)

We’re also installing a pot filler above the stove—can you picture this vintage style brass hardware against the stone backsplash?

The drawer pulls will be brass also, although I haven’t quite decided on the winner. I’m pretty sure about using cup pulls for the drawers and simple round knobs for the doors. A few of the pull options I’m considering… (click on the images for the source):

You’ll just have to stay tuned to find out what I choose! 😉

While the main accents will be brass, I want to make sure there’s a few pops of black in there as well.That’s where the wall sconces come in, and I’m 99% sure I’m going with these beauties:

 

There will be 4 in total—two above the sink windows, and one on each side of the range hood centered over the shelves. I love that they’re simple, vintage looking, and only $79!

Future Additions

You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about an island in this plan. As much as I love a good island, I’m not sure if it will be needed or if we’ll even have room.

If we were to add a small island (24″ wide as depicted above) in the center, that would leave 3′ of space to walk on either side. To me that would feel a bit cramped, but it’s hard to tell until we’re actually in the room. While the additional counter space may come in handy, we plan to utilize every inch of storage space in the cabinets (plus the pantry room) so I can’t imagine storage will be an issue. The 9′ dining table will also be nearby, so that could easily serve as extra counter or workspace when we have larger gatherings.

Rather than an island, my first thought is to find a nice vintage rug to make it feel cozy and lived-in.

While we had to plan the majority of the kitchen in advance, I don’t want to rush into making every decision before we even have a chance to move in and live with the house for a while. That’s why I’m in no rush to find the antique wood hutch and come up with a plan for the additional cabinet next to the fridge.

It may look and feel a little bare for a while (especially without a stove, ha) but we would much prefer to take our time and find the perfect pieces to complete the space. Unfortunately for you guys, that means no big dramatic kitchen reveal right away—this will be an evolution over time! I hope you understand 🙂

Ok guys—I think that covers everything! In a few weeks our cabinets should be installed and then things will really start to take shape. I’ll be back with another big update for you then, and in the meantime I’ll be sharing all of the updates in real-time over in my Instagram stories.

Next week I’ll be back with all the details about our new floors and the windows that so many of you have been asking about! If the window buying process seems overwhelming, you’ll want to stay tuned for my advice 🙂


Heights House and Riverside Retreat Updates

Major updates about to drop on our Heights House and Riverside Retreat projects! Watch today’s vlog for the full experience:

First let’s talk about the most exciting project, which is of course our beloved Heights House. If you missed the original post with all the design & floor plans, get caught up first here!

Up until the past month or so, the construction process wasn’t too exciting visually—a lot of mechanics (concrete & trusses, plumbing, electric) but now with the addition of a roof, drywall and stucco, we can start to see the finishing touches come together.

On the exterior, the stucco was finished last week and sprayed with a primer + first coat.

We tested out a few different swatches of Sherwin Williams white paint, hoping for a neutral medium white (not too creamy, dark or light).

Sherwin WIlliams exterior white

Oyster White became a pretty clear winner, and the first coat is looking gorgeous!

sw oyster white

The stucco itself is smooth but we had the finishers use a rough application, in keeping with the ‘centuries-old European’ look.

sw oyster white

The turret will be clad with stone reminiscent of French limestone with heavy mortar. Really looking forward to watching that installation!

turret

In the backyard, we decided to remove an old shed that was falling apart and didn’t serve much of a purpose. Here it is before…

And now our yard is even more spacious!

We plan to carry the paver patio over to where the shed used to be under the tree, and create a dining area with a pergola and built-in grill (eventually).

Directly behind the house, we’ll have outdoor seating and potentially a fire pit.

Another view of the back corner (the master suite is the whole section on the right, and the doors lead into the kitchen/dining area):

Exterior window moldings, fascia/soffit and gutters go in next. And we have a 10,000 square foot lot which means a LOT of landscaping to plan. I think we’ll have to consult with a landscape designer for that, as it’s definitely not my forté!

Meanwhile on the inside…

When you walk in the front door, there’s the staircase on the left, the dining room/kitchen straight ahead and living room on the right. I chose SW Alabaster for all of the walls/ceilings (they haven’t finished painting yet).

The living room has vaulted ceilings, and we plan to add horizontal wood beams to accent them.

Adjacent to the living room is the dining area, which is a large open space in the middle of the house that divides the living room and kitchen. We plan to add a large 9′ table here in the center.

Standing at the back patio doors, you get a straight view to the dining space with the living room at the front of the house. The small room on the left will be for laundry and pantry/storage.

And above is the kitchen with the patio doors on the left and laundry room on the right. Lower cabinets will run along all three walls, with the stove in the center and built-in fridge on the right. The cabinets are scheduled to arrive February 6th, and I’ll be sharing all of the design plans and details next week!

Here’s the view from the back left corner of the kitchen, looking out to the front door on the left and the hallway on the right:

Possibly my favorite design feature of the interior of the home is this custom archway I designed. My builder loved the idea and I was able to watch and guide them during installation—it’s so neat watching these skilled craftsman do their thing!

From the other side of the arch looking back towards the kitchen:

And at the back of the house is the master suite:

Another vaulted ceiling, and beams will be added here as well.

From the window wall, looking towards the bedroom entrance and closet/master bath:

I decided on an open hallway-style closet, and will eventually add custom floor to ceiling cabinetry on both sides:

Beyond the closet is our master bathroom. This is one area where we had to sacrifice size. Fortunately the ceilings are 9’4″ throughout which makes the home feel more spacious!

It’s really too small to even photograph properly, but it’s essentially one long vanity wall plus a shower. I’m not much of a bath person so that was not a necessity for us!

Standing at our master bedroom door, looking towards the hallway. We added a storage closet underneath the stairs:

Down the hallway is a powder bath:

And a guest bedroom. These are the windows you see at the front left side of the house:

We decided to use half of the closet as an open nook for a dresser/mirror to make the small room feel a bit more spacious.

That’s all for downstairs—let’s head upstairs!

From the top of the landing you can turn left to reach both bedrooms, continue straight into a bathroom, or turn right to access the bonus room. Here’s the bedroom at the front of the house:

And the bedroom at the side of the house:

And the bathroom:

The bonus room is 700 square feet and wasn’t part of our original plan, but our architect said it wasn’t allowed to be empty attic space per building code.

That ended up being a blessing because we realized we do need the space for storage and a TV/media/game room!

For now it’s just going to be storage as we focus on completing other rooms.

Back at the top of the landing, looking down at the front door:

Our builder is aiming to have the house completed by the end of February which seems crazy fast to me, but then again it has all gone by so fast already! The floors will be delivered tomorrow,  and after those are installed along with the cabinets/vanities, the rest is just finishing touches. Pretty soon we’ll be packing up and moving out of the Riverside Retreat!

And speaking of the Riverside Retreat

Remember how I said the plan was to get this house vacation rental ready by the time we moved into the Heights House? Well, that plan went out the window. Partly because our new build will finish ahead of schedule, but mostly because we need to allocate all of our resources towards finishing the new build, since that is our home and our priority.

Nonetheless, I’d say it’s been a pretty productive six months here. We’ve squeezed in a lot of DIY projects and managed to complete a handful of spaces, including the laundry room:

A guest bedroom:

The dining room:

The living room:

And a reading nook:

PS—if you missed my post on Instagram last week, we finally completed the reading nook with a custom linen roman shade from Barn & Willow. They’ll send free swatches and the ordering & installation process is super simple. I got a lot of questions about it and would highly recommend checking them out if you are in need of a quality custom shade or curtains!

These projects have certainly kept us busy, but we’re not even halfway done with this house. We have yet to tackle the biggest spaces, like the kitchen:

Two bathrooms (including building one from scratch):

Two bedrooms, which look like this right now (warning, you may want to shield your eyes from the horrors):

The rest of the downstairs bonus room (equally as sad):

A big backyard:

And the front porch:

We’ve decided to focus on smaller/low cost projects here for the next couple months, like patching/retexturing damaged walls, taking up old tile in the backyard, giving the front porch a facelift, and starting on one of the bedrooms. After the Heights House is finished and we’re all settled in, we can complete the rest of the to-do list here at the Riverside Retreat and hopefully have it ready to hit the vacation rental market by summer.

Keep in mind that we’re almost to the point where we can step in and start taking on DIY projects at the Heights House, so that means you can finally look forward to new content there! We’ll be focusing on the bathrooms first, backyard/patio design is also a priority, and we’ll have an entire empty house to fill so you can expect lots of decor posts over the next few months (and years!)

As much fun as I’m having with our current house, designing for our own home will be even more rewarding on a different level. I’ve been waiting for this for a long time—it was nearly a year ago when we put an offer in on the original Heights House, and while we now realize the fire was a blessing in disguise, we’re so ready for this chapter to be over and to start our lives here in our own home!

So close to the finish line—what a wonderful way to start the new year! I hope your 2019 is equally as blessed. Stay tuned next week for allll the juicy kitchen details!

 


DIY Sliding X Door Tutorial

 

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know my obsession for doors runs deep. I have more door tutorials on my Projects page than any other kind, and for good reason. Unique doors add instant character, it can be a simple and cost effective beginner/weekend DIY project, and there’s a million ways to spruce up an existing plain door or build your own from scratch. Today we’re tackling the latter—a custom X style sliding door made from just 1×3’s and plywood:

This is a weekend project that’s beginner friendly and requires basic tools (we also used a router but that’s not necessary, depending on how you want to hang your doors).

I came up with this project as a solution to the open entryway between the living room and downstairs bonus room here in The Riverside Retreat.

We needed a way to separate the two spaces, since we’ll be using the downstairs space as a TV/game room and sleeping area. Here’s the view from downstairs:

Plus, that empty wall was just calling out for something tall and dark to give this room a little drama!

I already had a vision in my head of the perfect design, and spent some time working through my options. I used Illustrator to mock it up to scale, until I finally settled on the right look and dimensions.

If you look closely, you can see that there’s a few different ways to overlap the X’s, and I thought Option 3 looked the most balanced. We already had a couple 1x3x10’s leftover from our window seat project, so I calculated the amount still needed based on our door size. This will vary depending on your opening/door size, of course, and you can get the 1×3’s in any length that makes sense for you. We wanted our doors to have some overlap when closed, so we made them 38″ wide. And I love a tall door, so an 8′ height was just right for our 9′ ceilings.

Here’s the materials list along with the tools you’ll need for this project:

Materials

1×3’s – We ended up using (6) 1x3x10‘s and (4) 1x3x8‘s to cover both doors. Spend a few bucks more and get a higher grade wood like poplar or oak, to ensure the boards are straight and free of knots/imperfections (I recommend selecting these in person so you can pick the best boards).

1/2″ 4×8′ stain/paint grade plywood – Quality matters here—you want a smooth, flat surface. We used top choice blondewood. Note: you can also use thicker 3/4″ plywood, but we preferred the lighter weight 1/2″.

Wood glue

Wood filler Spackle can work in a pinch

Door handles – I picked out these really cool rustic iron handles for the front, and simple bronze recessed pulls for the back.

Paint or stain – I used Tricorn Black from HGTV Home by Sherwin Williams in a satin finish (the deepest black I know of)

Tools

Miter saw – Can’t say enough good things about our Dewalt 12″ miter saw

Nail gun – We used our 16 gauge Bostitch nailer and 1″ nails

Air compressor (for pneumatic nail guns) – We just replaced ours with this 6 gal Craftsman, easy to carry around and can’t beat the price!

Detail sander – You can do this by hand but there’s no reason not to pick up a $40 Mouse if you don’t have one already!

Optional: 

Table saw – We used our 10″ Dewalt table saw to cut our plywood to size, but Lowe’s can also do this for you.

Router – Lucas has been anxious to try routing, and we thought this project would be the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill. After a few uses, our Bosch fixed/plunge router has already become a favorite tool of his.

Clamps – to keep the wood pieces secured together when nailing

Let’s get to building! 

First, you want to cut your sheet of plywood to the size of your door. This will be the entire backside of your door. Since our doors were 8′ tall and the plywood came in 8′ sheets, we only had to trim the width down to 38″.

A couple passes with the table saw and voila! Half of both doors were done.

Now for the 1×3’s. We attached our tall vertical sides first, and since we were using 8′ lengths for those, all we had to do was miter the edges to a 45° angle (note that a miter cut isn’t necessary, but I think it looks a lot cleaner this way).

Using wood glue and clamps to secure the 1×3″ flush with the edge of the plywood, we nailed the board in place and moved onto the top and bottom pieces.

Lucas went ahead and routed a groove along the bottom edge before installing, which is where the floor guide would go.

Depending on how you plan to install the doors, this isn’t absolutely necessary (I’ve installed my fair share of barn doors without this) but it does prevent the door from wobbling which is important for us since this will be a rental.

With the top and bottom pieces cut to size, we repeated the wood glue/clamp/nailing process for both.

And the outside perimeter is complete!

Now for the fun part—making the X’s. Someone had commented on Instagram that I must be a math whiz to figure out all these angles—well guess what my friends, today is your lucky day! Would you believe that there is no math required whatsoever for this? It’s all visual (fellow right-brainers rejoice!)

Here’s how easy it is: first, measure and mark the center of the door height on the inside edge of your 1×3. Ours was 48″:

Then grab a 1×3″ and lay it diagonally across the top, as shown in the door mockup. The top should line up with the 90° corner, and the bottom should intersect with your center mark.

Once it’s lined up, go ahead and put a pencil mark on the bottom edge of both sides of the 1×3, where it intersects the vertical piece.

Once both sides are marked, you can flip the board over and draw a straight line connecting your two marks.

Then set your board down on the miter saw and line up the blade/laser level to the angle that matches up with your line (you can watch the video for a visual of this process):

Look at those perfect angles! Shout out to Lucas for coming up with this method.

Once your first cross piece is in, it’s time to repeat the process with your overlapping board. This one requires you to mark where the boards intersect in the center as well, since you’ll need to cut two pieces this time.

Same process, just two more cuts.

Before you know it, the first X is done!

Now it’s just rinse and repeat…

Until you end up with these:

Next is the easy part, patching the nail holes and any gaps.

And putting the mouse to work, making sure all the edges are smooth (sidenote: I actually sanded the edges of my boards before installation as well, since they can be tricky to reach once they’re attached)

Lucas also used the router to notch out a section for the recessed pulls.

Last but not least, paint! You could choose to stain the doors, but I wanted a less rustic and more sophisticated look, so I gave it a couple coats of the richest black out there:

A smooth roller for the flat surfaces and (the best ever) short handled brush for the corners makes the job go by super quick:

Finally the jewelry—how gorgeous is this hand forged antique iron pull?

We used a 13′ double track to hang the doors, and followed the installation instructions:

And we’re ready to roll!

How about this Before + After?

Tall, dark and handsome has entered the room…

Good thing Lucas isn’t the jealous type  😉

These doors just took this room to a whole new level. So much class and style.

And best of all, the two rooms can finally be separated!

Gotta love these projects that are equal parts form and function.

Loving the rich and earthy tones in here, what do you think?

And guess what—this was the last to-do item in the living room! This space is officially Done—well, with the exception of the perfect faux tree I’m still on the hunt for—but I’m calling this room finished and it feels great to cross another one off our list.

With the finish line in sight for our Heights House, we’ll soon begin to shift our focus towards projects in that house (our builder is hoping to have it completed by March!) so you can expect some changes around here over the next couple months. I’ll explain our new plans/timeline to complete the Riverside Retreat in an upcoming blog post and vlog, so stay tuned for some important updates on that shortly.

I hope you’re enjoying these first days of 2019 (and sticking to those resolutions! 😉)


DIY Simple Rustic Log Bench

It’s the first DIY project of 2019, and this one came together much easier (and faster & cheaper) than I was expecting…

The mural wall is the first area you walk into here at the Riverside Retreat, so it needed to serve as a foyer space with storage and seating. The plan was always to have a long, rustic bench to go with the “tropical earthy oasis” theme and I spent months browsing for something to fit the bill with no luck.

I even reached out to local shops on Facebook to have something custom made, but didn’t want to spend hundreds and I never really fell in love with anything I saw. So one day we took a drive to the nearest sawmill to see what we could find…

This particular sawmill carried cypress wood, which I’ve never used before, but it had nice coloring and we were able to choose the sizes. We walked away with two stumps for the legs and one 12″ x 7′ board for around $60 — what a deal!

The first step was to plane down the legs so they were straight and sturdy. I’ve had this $60 Black+Decker planer for years—it’s easy to use and gets the job done quick!

The legs were too tall so we took about an inch off the height and kept making passes until they were nice and level.

Next, it was time to sand everything down. The bark on this wood is super thin and easily sands right off, especially with an orbital sander. We got our Dewalt as a wedding gift and it’s a lifesaver—this has now replaced my Mouse as my most-used sander!

To attach the top to the legs, we debated on simply drilling a couple screws straight through the top. This would certainly be the easiest solution and I didn’t mind visible holes since this was supposed to be a rustic bench. But in the end, we opted to go for a cleaner look and use wood dowels—partly so we could try out a new technique to share with you guys 🙂

You can get dowels in every size at the hardware store, and we chose a 5/8″ size (we actually would have used 3/4″ but couldn’t find our drill bit in that size). 1″ seemed slightly overkill for this bench, but anything in that range would be fine. The most important part of this build is making sure your measurements are *exact* when marking your drill locations, since there is no wiggle room at all.

I placed the holes exactly 5″ apart (and triple checked those measurements), drilling about 1″ deep into the top and a few inches into the legs.

Then, we cut the dowels into pieces just a bit shorter than the depth of both holes.

The pieces were brought inside for assembly, and I liberally applied wood glue (the key ingredient) to both sides of the dowel and hammered them in.

The glue will harden and bond the wood together, essentially replacing the need for screws.

Finally, we flipped the top piece over and lined up the dowels with the holes, pushing them firmly into place. This wood is relatively lightweight and the bench won’t be lifted and moved around often (or ever), so there’s no need for further reinforcements.

These legs are on there good and they’re not going anywhere!

I love the natural color of the sanded wood so I’m leaving it as is. I may put a coat of my favorite matte varnish just to protect it, but it could go either way. The bench is simple, rustic and perfect in its natural state!

The Christmas decorations were put away last weekend, and it feels so nice and calm in here now.

PS—the scarf is my *favorite* $13 find from Amazon (same with the $13 checkered pillow / the deer pillow is discontinued).

And the crowning jewel, that crazy affordable chandelier. The living room vision is almost there…

I added two of those removable command hooks to hang stockings, but I think they’re the perfect solution to avoid drilling holes into the mural, so I’ll probably grab a couple more. You can find more sources in my last living room update blog post.

In the coming months I’ll continue to tweak things here and there, but I think this is a nice winter look.

Our next (and final) project in here will be custom sliding doors, which will be coming (with a tutorial) in the next post.

What do you think? Does this inspire you to take a trip to your local sawmill? Go for it—you never know what you’ll find!

Happy January from sunny + warm Florida,


2018 Highlights + Recap

It didn’t seem right to let 2018 fade away without taking a moment to recap and reflect on what has been such a monumental year for us. The latter half especially has been a bit of a whirlwind, so if you’ve lost track of things around here, I don’t blame you! Even I have trouble remembering everything that’s happened over the past 12 months.

Let’s take a walk down memory lane, month by month, highlighting the noteworthy events of this rollercoaster ride of a year…

January

  • Moved from San Francisco, CA to Tampa, FL to embark on a new journey of real estate investing. Started a vlog to document our progress

February

  • Closed on our first property, and went under contract on a 5-unit Bungalow

  • Began renovations on first property (dubbed the Heights House)

March

  • Still under contract for the Bungalow, waiting patiently as the seller delays escrow
  • Get a late night call from a future neighbor telling us our Heights house is on fire. More than half of the house is destroyed (cause was never determined by fire investigators)

  • After already committing to the One Room Challenge weeks prior, I decide to stick with it and instead makeover our apartment bedroom.

April

  • Shared a “Real Life Home Tour” Spring edition to memorialize our transient, termite-infested existence

May

  • More delays and challenges with the Bungalow contract

  • The burned Heights House sits vacant as we work with insurance and come up with a plan to rebuild

June

  • We make the decision to demolish the old Heights House and build new. It’s a big commitment both financially and time-wise, but we know it will be the right move in the end
  • The Bungalow headache continues, with the seller requesting yet another 30 day extension. We feel helpless, frustrated and stuck. Until…

  • A new opportunity pops up out of nowhere and we jump on it: our third property. We go under contract as a lease to own, which means we can live in and renovate it over the next several months, and will purchase the property before the contracted date in April 2019

  • We decide to turn this property into a vacation rental (after we move out) named “The Riverside Retreat”, and put together a tropical earthy oasis design plan

July

  • I head north to work on a special client design project and document Part 1 (I know Part 2 is long overdue—there have been lots of delays out of my control with this one unfortunately! It’s coming…)

  • We move into the Riverside Retreat and and tackle our bedroom first

  • After permitting delays, the old Heights House is finally demolished to make way for our new build

  • After nearly half a year, we FINALLY CLOSE ON BUNGALOW!

August

  • A difficult first month as landlords leaves us with a loss after having to evict one tenant, another fleeing the country, and the discovery of a major termite infestation requiring the tenting of both buildings

  • Renovations begin on the Riverside Retreat

September

  • We finally break ground on the new Heights House and I share all the plans

  • We also (literally) break ground on our tile floors at the Riverside Retreat and transform the house with new laminate floors

  • Bits and pieces of the Riverside Retreat come together, and our laundry room renovation is started and *almost* completed…

October

  • Exciting progress as the walls go up just weeks into construction of our Heights House:

Then the second floor a few weeks later:

  • Phase 1 of the Guest Bedroom makeover is completed

  • And progress on our Dining Room makeover gets underway

November

  • Interior walls and windows, followed shortly by electric, AC and plumbing are installed at the Heights House

  • Our Riverside Retreat Dining Room is complete, just in time to host Thanksgiving!

December

  • Took it slow with a break from DIY projects and easy holiday decor

  • Finally got our furniture and an arrangement down for the living room—just a couple projects left to tackle in here!

And that brings us to today, the very last day of 2018. Looking back at it all now, I can remember the heart-sinking moments, the days of frustration and doubt, the stress of juggling so many things at once. But I also feel a sense of progress and accomplishment, and peace knowing that even though we weren’t in control for so much of it… life always has a way of working itself out.

While 2019 is shaping up to be a year packed with even more projects and ‘to-dos’, there is certainly more stability now—and part of that is comforting to me. I’ve relished a lifestyle of change and unknowns over the past few years, but I think I’m ready to settle down in one place for a little while. Traveling will always be a priority for us (even though it has been put on hold for the time being) but it feels good to have a home base somewhere. I think we made the right choice in choosing Tampa to be that place.

See you on the other side,


The Big Pillow Post

Before we get into pillow talk, we are long overdue for a vlog update!

After the past few months of constant DIY/work/wedding things, we’ve made a conscious effort to slow down this month and enjoy the holidays. It’s our first Christmas in Florida and as a married couple, and it’s hard to believe this monumental year is already coming to an end. This phase of life will soon be over, and it’s easy to forget that the memories we create each day are the foundation of our lives. Cheers to a 2018 filled with positive change, and to an even brighter 2019 😎

Okay, let’s get onto the topic of the day!

My love affair with pillows has recently been rekindled, prompted by the completion of our reading nook and my passion for holiday decorating (and it’s also partly Amazon’s fault).

I’ve amassed a sizable collection of throw pillows over the years, and while most have been sitting in storage for a long time, I’ve recently jumped back into the pillow game and have been found some great new sources. I’ve also become more selective about what I buy as I want them to be versatile enough to live in different rooms, and the quality to stand the test of time.

My pillow catalog now consists of everything from inexpensive staples, to quality designer fabrics, to vintage handmade pieces picked up during our travels. When you have this many pillows, you need a way to keep track of and organize them—so I decided to lay them all out in one room and take inventory of what I had, what was missing and what I no longer want/need.

I counted 77 pillow covers and then remembered there’s even more bags of these in storage. Luckily, we have a lot of rooms to fill over the next several months so most will have a place to live.

I thought it’d be fun to style our reading nook with different combinations based on color/theme and snap a few photos. I also figured I’d take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts on sizing, types of cushions, and my favorite pillow sources.

Combinations

For this holiday look I went with a classic black, white and red Christmas theme with high contrast. It’s important to have a neutral foundation (white walls + bench, warm wood floors and beige cushion) so you can layer on the color and pattern without looking too busy.

Blankets are just as important as pillows! You can even get creative and use a scarf, tablecloth or any fabric of your choice (I pulled this one out of storage).

Pillow sources left to right: cable knit lumbar: Ikea / Black + white plaid: Set of 4 from Woven Nook / Red buffalo check: Ikea (discontinued, similar here) / Red corduroy: Amazon / Red ticking stripe: custom / Black/gray patterned: Pottery barn (discontinued) / Black linen: Amazon

You may remember this image from my Christmas tour last week, and I love this one because it’s mostly neutrals with a few pops of red. It doesn’t take much of that color to make a space feel festive!

The black lumbar is a handmade piece I picked up in Morocco and the deer pillow is from Ebay years ago (discontinued). The large quilted euro shams are from Pom Pom at Home—I’ve been using them on our bed but they’re the perfect size for this bench!

Next up is a neutral look…

This mix of black, brown and beige and simple patterns can work all year round. You can easily swap or add a couple florals/pastels for Spring, blue for summer, jewel tones for fall and red/green for Christmas.

Or stick with the neutrals and just add a garland. Notice the mix of textures — when working with all neutrals, you want a nice variety so it doesn’t fall flat.

Here we have a mix of velvet, linen, wool and cotton with a range of thickness and texture. The velvet pillow on the left is the Arthur from the RR x Tonic Living collection and the brown & black striped are from The Ivory Gull. The brown plaid came from Amazon.

Another neutral look, slightly bolder:

I picked up this black & white block print fabric in India last year. There’s so many uses for it—a tablecloth, folded over the end of a bed, draped over couch cushions or an ottoman, or a bench seat accent!

The smaller mudcloth pillows are from Pure Home LA, same goes for the tan & black patterned block print in the front left (and the black/gray peeking through in the back). This is one of my favorite shops for vintage & handmade pillows.

And now for the blues…

This is a great summer look as the navy & white theme hints to nautical without being too over-the-top. And of course, there’s lots of warm tones to help balance out the cool colors.

Most of these pillows I’ve had for a while like the white ruffle from H&M (discontinued) and the navy/white toile from Ikea. The blue gray + ivory vertical stripe on the left is a new addition from Amazon, and the navy stripe lumbar is from Julie Cowan on Etsy.

Size

Whether it’s a bench seat, a sofa or a bed, you want to aim for a variety of shapes and sizes (just like texture and color, variety is the spice of life!)

Generally, you’ll want to arrange the larger pillows in the back and on the outsides, and taper the smaller pillows towards the front and center. In the example above, I started with a euro pillow (26×26”) in each corner, mixed in a few 22×22’s and 20×20’s, and finished with my 18×18’s and lumbar in the center.

The sizes you need will vary depending on the size of your sofa/bed/seat, but in general, I prefer to use mostly 20×20’s with some 22×22’s and 18×18’s on sofas. My bench seat is the size of a twin bed so I needed a few 24×24’s and 26×26’s to help fill it out. Speaking of beds, I like using euro shams against the headboard, and 2-3 22×22’s or 24×24’s in the front, along with a lumbar. Lumbars are great for breaking up all the repetitive square shapes, so I always try to fit them in somewhere!

When it comes to quantity, you don’t need to overdo it—sometimes less is more. My general rule of thumb is between 3 and 5 on a couch or bed (apart from the standard sleeping pillows). For these pillow combination shots I added more, but I also love a more minimal look as well.

Inserts

Your pillow inserts are almost (or perhaps even just as) important as the pillow cover itself! This was confirmed to me recently when I pulled my old polyester inserts out of storage only to find sad, lumpy masses.

They look even worse stuffed into a pillow, and in fact, all of my polyester-filled inserts are now unusable. Below you can see the difference between a feather insert (left) and poly insert (right):

The poly is much flatter, and it doesn’t hold any form so you can’t manipulate it to look fuller (or karate chop if that’s your thing). Poly inserts are cheap, but after having to toss and replace mine, I can’t bring myself to buy them again. Down/feather only for me! The best price & quality I could find were these on Amazon. I bought them in 24×24 and 22×22 and they’re perfect — I’ll be using this source for future pillows.

I should also mention that this pillow from Tonic Living came with a microfiber insert that has the heavier weight of a down feather and it’s super soft and pliable. I actually like it even more than the feather inserts.

I wish you could see and feel the quality through your screen, but this velvet is so rich and the color is perfect—the depth ranges from a golden orange to an olive green in certain lighting. This will be a pillow I move around from room to room!

One more thing to note on inserts — I recommend going up a size larger than your pillow (i.e. ordering a 22×22” insert for a 20×20”). This can depend on the quality of your insert and how full you like your pillows to be, but I’ve never gone wrong going up a size. Case in point, take a look at the black and gold striped pillows. The black one has a 22×22 insert while the gold has a 20×20”—both 20×20” covers.

See the difference?

Sources

We are spoiled for choice these days, and I’ve traveled far and wide (online and on foot) hunting for pillows. In my early blogging days, most of them came from Ikea—you really can’t beat their prices and they do have some great staples.

At this stage in life, my horizons have been expanded and I like to include a mix of higher end, handmade and unique pieces. I’ve been introduced to so many makers and curators in the home decor space and that has also influenced my style.

Being a small business owner myself, I love discovering other shops in the community and sharing them with you. Some of these (shown in this post) include Pure Home LA, Tonic Living, The Ivory Gull, Woven Nook and Julie Cowan—all of which are part of my own collection and come highly recommended.

My favorite source for bargain pillows lately has been Amazon. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past couple months digging through pages of search results and customer reviews. While they don’t have much in the way of high quality/handmade items, you simply can’t beat them for basic staples.

The faux linen material is nice and thick, has a great texture and looks/feels like quality (even though it’s machine-made). I have them in black, creamy-white, plaid and buffalo check — all from different sellers but very similar fabric and crazy low prices.

Unfortunately I don’t have the space or budget to buy them all, but I’ve added a bunch to my wish list (and Christmas list) if you want to see what else I’ve found.

And of course, there’s always the go-to home decor sites like Wayfair and Overstock that offer a ton of options in the affordable range, TJMaxx and Home Goods for in-store shopping, and Etsy for the handmade, rare/vintage and custom items. If you have any other favorite sources, please let me know! I’m always in search of more 🙂

Tell me, what’s your favorite look? Are you a believer of less is more, or do you like lots of interesting and colorful patterns? I always go back and forth and switch things up when the mood strikes. Gotta keep things fresh!

I’ll be back to the blog soon with our next project, and in the meantime you can find me on Instagram & Facebook (or see what I’ve been inspired by lately on Pinterest!)

Have a very Merry Christmas, and may Santa bring you bags of throw pillows…


Living Room Update: Riverside Retreat

Our living room transformation hasn’t been shared much and hasn’t followed my typical ‘one room at a time’ approach. It has been a slow evolution (a few months, that’s slow for me!) partly because we’ve been so preoccupied with other projects, but also because I’ve gone back and forth on the design.

I was fortunate enough to work with a few great sponsors (Lowe’s, Wayfair + Inmod) who helped bring this space to life and as always, I genuinely appreciate your support which allows me to continue sharing these projects 🙂

Early on I began collecting inspiration for this home on Pinterest, and was struck by this image I found…

And decided I’d give our living room my own earthy-oasis meets mid-century-modern meets sophisticated Victorian. There’s a combination you probably never thought you’d see together!

With plans to turn this house into a vacation rental, I keep having to remind myself to take more risks and make it one of a kind. This creative opportunity doesn’t come around very often so I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

There’s still a few things left to do in here, but I’m happy to say that most of the pieces are in place and it should be 100% complete by the new year (fingers crossed!)

While some of the details were last minute decisions, there were a few things I was absolutely sure on from the beginning.

Like this wall mural, of course. This was one of the first projects we did, and I’m just as in love with it as ever. Same goes for the gorgeous molding and ceiling medallion.

And that dramatic chandelier… as soon as I saw the price tag I scooped it up (Wayfair dropped the price even more now!)

From the beginning, I also knew I wanted a green velvet sofa. There’s a few different options for these online (all within the ~$1k price range) and it was a tough call, but in the end the Matilde sofa from Inmod in deep emerald green won me over (just saw that it’s on sale for $899 right now, if you’re in the market):

It’s absolutely stunning in person, the velvet is so rich and soft. It’s on the firmer side, but it’s still comfortable enough to curl up with pillows and a blanket for long stretches. It’s about as cushy as our reading nook.

For the past couple months, our living room has had nothing but that couch (okay, and a bunch of boxes and tools and sawdust) but a few weeks ago I decided to finally get serious about coming up with a plan and crossing this room off our to-do list!

Usually that first involves drawing up a mood board in Photoshop. Exhibit A:

I spotted those papasan chairs on Wayfair and they reminded me of my inspiration photo, but sadly they went out of stock. Then I found these, which I liked just as much (along with their 5 star reviews)…

They’re actually quite comfy draped with a sheepskin. I was also debating between this taller rattan armchair, but went with the more budget-friendly option.

My original plan was to use a marble + gold coffee table (love this design and only $105!) but after pulling an old trunk out of storage for our Rainforest Room, I realized it would make a perfect coffee table because it’s unique and has a story, and the antique/weathered appearance contrasts nicely with the polished green velvet. Also, anything travel-related is so fitting for a vacation home! I spent weeks looking for one in the right size and finally found mine at a local consignment store (for $95).

The most difficult decision for me was the rug. I had my heart set on a nice quality rug with a variety of colors in a beautifully detailed pattern, and narrowed it down to a handful of options, including this one from Wayfair (I love the hand-woven texture of this, and only $244!)

I also loved the warm colors and subtler design of this rug (also under $300):

And then I fell in love with this one, but the single bad review made me nervous…

And the last contender, which was also the most affordable at $214 (for an 8×10!):

In the end, I decided to go with the most neutral option because I didn’t want it to compete with the mural. That work of art should remain the focus of the room (okay, the sofa is allowed to steal some of the spotlight) but I think having a colorful busy rug would be too overwhelming (even though I preferred the design of the first 3 rugs).

Rug shopping online is tough! They’re hard to fully capture in photos online. Real customer reviews are critical to the decision making process and it was hard to commit without seeing any actual photos of it beforehand. Fortunately, this one was well represented in the manufacturers’ photos so there were no surprises.

The gray tones tie in nicely with the mural and the warm beige/brown tones with the trim and floor color. It’s on the thinner side, but it’s still comfy underfoot and I love the raised texture. It seems durable and easy to clean, and you honestly can’t beat the price! I think it’s a solid choice for a rental.

Can we talk about this amazing mirror?

A friend spotted it for me on Facebook Marketplace, and I was able to talk the guy down to $100. It actually looked a little different when it first came home:

It had a nice silvery-gold finish, but I wanted a warmer gold and to bring some of the details out. I started by applying a couple light coats of Maison Blanche‘s Metallique paint in Champagne (this process was documented live in my IG stories—all the action happens there!)

I was pretty subtle, but gave it a warmer/lighter tone (I also stippled the brush to give it an imperfect/aged look rather than smooth, even coverage):

After it dried, I took a brush and dabbed on a mix of Maison Blanche’s dark brown antique was and black chalk lime wax.

It was all random and experimental, but the wax settled nicely into the grooves and I gently wiped off the raised areas to give it depth.

It took less than an hour, and I’m so pleased with the results! Looks like it could be a real antique, right?

The finish also goes beautifully with my new brass floor lamp. I have a love affair with pharmacy lamps (brass ones, in particular) and this is the best deal I’ve been able to find on one (it’s also on sale right now for $85!)

The pillows you see in the photo above are from Ikea (knit) and Amazon (striped)—I’ll be doing a big pillow sources + round up post next on the blog so stay tuned! The curtains were purchased a couple months ago on Amazon.

It was a tough task to find curtains that were not only 9′ tall, but a nice quality fabric and affordable. These are labeled as “cotton duck” fabric but they have a woven linen-like texture and tabs on the back for hanging which is a requirement in my book. The trickiest part is, I technically needed them to be around 8.5′ tall since I had to mount them underneath our crown molding, but of course that isn’t a standard size (and I don’t sew). Fortunately, I was able to shrink them in the dryer (they actually shrunk close to a foot(!) and I had to rewash them, stretch them out and let them air dry. Thankfully I was able to easily manipulate them to just the right size.

I purchased 4 panels to fill them out (I try to double the width of my window for a nice, full look). At just $40/pair though, they’re still a bargain!

Our next DIY project will be building custom double sliding doors for the entrance (shown below) down to the bonus room. I’ve drawn up the plans and can’t wait to share our tutorial! We’re starting that this week, and I’ll be sharing all the details in my Instagram stories (I told you that’s where all the good stuff is!)

And now for the best part of every post, a few Susie outtakes…

Photobomb!

I’m loving how festive this room looks, but I’m also looking forward to “undecorating” after the holidays and getting this room back to its’ original, intended design style. There’s a lot going on right now but I know it’s all temporary, so I’m enjoying it while it lasts!

If you missed any of the earlier living room progress posts, you can get caught up here:

Choosing paint colors

Wall mural

Wall & ceiling molding

New floors

Just a couple more projects and this baby will be a wrap! Stay tuned for a final shoot in January.

Next up: we’re talking pillows!