Front Porch Reveal: Riverside Retreat

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

Happy May, happy day… our front porch makeover is finally complete!

Before I get into the details, check out this timelapse I made of the final stage of our porch makeover:

If you’ve been following this renovation, you may remember we started it way back in January with the goal of finishing in March (ha!) but have been distracted with other projects like the backyard, guest bathroom and master bath in the Heights House.

After adding a window on the left side of the house during our Reading Nook project, our first big porch project was to replace the old metal railing, which you can read all about in this DIY railing post.

Next, we updated the tile steps with this simple wood & paint treatment:

And that brings us to two weeks ago, when it was time to add the finishing touches. A follower on Instagram made a great suggestion to create a faux planter bed around the porch with potted plants, which would add some much needed greenery.

The idea seemed simple enough, so we measured out the area and bought a handful of inexpensive 2×4’s (pressure treated for outdoor use).

After they were cut to size, I stained them with a couple coats of the same deck stain + sealer used on the other porch wood (in Dark Walnut).

After the wood was dried and lined up in place, we used L brackets to attach them together.

They were also attached to the house with brackets (using Tapcon concrete anchors).

2×4’s ripped in half were used as spacers for extra reinforcement and to keep the spacing consistent.

And the hardest part was over! Next, it was time to fill in our planter bed. Keep in mind we’re on a tight budget for this house, so we have to get creative and stick with low cost solutions. Fortunately, I found these black planters at Lowe’s for under $10 each and bought 14 without breaking the budget.

Bonus—they’re self watering planters, which is great news when you have a black thumb like us and can’t be at the property every day to water, especially once the house is rented! As complete novice gardeners, we asked the Lowe’s garden specialists for guidance and they recommended Sta-Green potting soil which has fertilizer to keep our plants fed for the rest of the year.

We loved these yellow flowering Thryallis (only $11/ea) and were reassured after learning that plants sold at Lowe’s come with a 1 year guarantee (did you guys know that?!)

Even with the extra insurance, we’ve been diligent about caring for them and are doing our best to keep these beauties alive and healthy (so far, so good!)

We chose Scott’s mulch (in deep forest brown) to cover the concrete and blend in with the dark stained wood.

What a difference!

Next it was time to move onto one of my favorite easy bang-for-your-buck exterior upgrades: shutters.

We used 1×6’s for the verticals and 1×4’s for the horizontal pieces (all pressure treated wood). The verticals were cut to the height of the window, and horizontals were cut to the width of the shutter (plus a small gap in between, just over 11″ wide total). A quick test fit before assembling:

I painted them in Valspar’s Cracked Pepper and let them dry before moving onto the next step.

Laying the 1×4’s face down first, we positioned the 1×6’s on top (the 1×4’s can be as low or high as you’d like—ours was 6″ from the top and bottom) and pre-drilled holes for the screws—two screws per board.

The process was then repeated on the other side of the shutter…

Easy peasy! You can watch a timelapse of this process in the video at the top of the post to see it in action.

Here’s our window before…

To attach the shutters to the house, we used tapcon anchors (special screws designed for concrete) which require pre-drilling into the concrete first with a drill bit they provide. We lined up our shutter and drilled through it to mark our locations, then predrilled the holes, then held the shutter back up and attached it with the tapcon screws.

Drilling into concrete/brick requires a couple more steps than wood siding, but anyone with a drill can do it (we can’t live without our hammer drill—a necessary tool if you have concrete walls!)

We also took the time to build shutters for the naked windows on the back of the house (more on that soon) and I painted the original dingy white shutters the same black for a more uniform look.

All of the old white trim needed to be refreshed as well, but before doing that, I thought it’d be fun to add corbels to the porch just to give it a little bit of extra personality.

They’re primed polyurethane (extra durable for outdoor use), hollow and lightweight for easy installation. We cut down a couple blocks from 2×4’s and screwed those into the wood first.

Then we slipped the corbels snugly over the 2×4’s and attached on both sides with finish nails.

Repeated on the other side…

Then I caulked around the edges and gave everything a fresh coat of white paint (SW Extra White).

It’s a small detail, but I think it really adds character!

Moving along… I’ve never been very fond of this glass front door panel.

I looked into replacing the entire door and found some nice options at Lowe’s, like this Jeld-Wen Craftsman style for $261 which I almost pulled the trigger on…

But then you add in the cost of delivery plus added time and cost of installation and the hassle of removing the entire frame/door trim and starting over when we have a perfectly good door frame that closes smoothly—it just didn’t make sense in this situation. I called Lowe’s and talked to the millwork department, and they were able to order a replacement glass panel for just $50 delivered the next week—score!

Installation took just minutes—the panel is attached from the inside with screws around the trim.

Simply remove the screws, pull off the back piece of trim on the inside, then pull out the panel from the front.

The new panel is reattached the exact same way.

It’s great to know this affordable option is available and you don’t have to replace your entire front door!

Once the new panel was in, I wasted no time giving the door a couple coats of Valspar’s Cracked Pepper in semigloss.

The mailbox and planters, too…

Next it was time to bring this house into the 21st century with smart technology. After reading lots of reviews, I landed on the Schlage Smart Sense deadbolt and Century handle combination.

Since this house will soon be a vacation rental, a smart lock is a must for easy guest access. The Smart Sense also runs on an app so we can get notifications, check the status and lock/unlock the doors from our phone, no matter where we are. It has already made life much easier—if for no other reason than not having to fumble through my purse to find the keys anymore! Thank you, technology.

The fun didn’t stop there, though. Our doorbell had stopped working and figured we might as well upgrade that while we were at it, so we picked up a Ring doorbell. It has video monitoring, motion sensors, two-way audio so we can communicate with our guests and everything is also on an app so we can access it anywhere from our phones.

These two additions have easily been the most useful updates we’ve done to the porch, and definitely worth the investment—even if you don’t plan on turning your home into a rental!

A rug, rocking chairs and a few accessories later… and our 12-week long porch makeover was complete!

I think the wood railing made the biggest difference, visually. It took the longest but was absolutely worth the effort.

Choosing a natural stained wood brings warmth to the space and balances out the black, white and beige.

And what a great idea for the potted planter bed! How much better does this look than a sea of concrete?

Greenery changes everything.

Now the porch is much more inviting, and somewhere you’d actually want to sit down for a while! To make it feel more cozy, I rolled out a patterned indoor/outdoor rug.

I also snagged two of these white rocking chairs when they were on sale…

And an inexpensive cedar wood table (which I stained to match the railings).

A $15 welcome mat was the final piece of the puzzle!

What do you think of this budget-friendly DIY transformation?

How about a few more side by side Before and Afters…

It’s no Heights House, but we’re pretty proud of what we were able to do entirely on our own with limited funds!

I hope this transformation provides some inspiration for those of you who are looking for simple/affordable ways you can update your own curb appeal this summer. Little updates over time can have a big impact!

Next up: backyard progress at the Riverside Retreat and a Master Bathroom reveal at the Heights House!

Master Bathroom Progress: Heights House

From one bathroom to the next! As in love as I am with our recent guest bathroom makeover, I have to say… I’m even more excited about this one!

A couple months ago I shared my vision and detailed plans for this room (along with all the Before photos) but here’s a quick refresh…

The footprint is quite small at just 10’x6′ (plus a few extra feet for the shower), not quite big enough to stand back and capture it all even with a wide angle lens.

But the 9’4″ ceilings go a long way to help it feel more spacious, and the 4′ window lets in a good amount of light.

The vision for this bathroom is elegant, rich and refined, warm and luxurious with attention to detail. I was obsessed with the idea of floor to ceiling marble/stone walls and that became my first design decision.


I landed on the Lincoln Super White porcelain panels from Bedrosians’ Magnifica line, and ordered four to cover the entire back wall and shower (they offer four unique faces, below)

The slabs are available in 10′ tall which were cut down to fit our ceilings, and they come in both 1/4″ and 1/2″ thickness. I ordered the 1/4″ to save on cost since they’d just be attached to a wall (you can also use them as countertops or on any surface—they’re amazing!) The cost is certainly more than regular tile but a lot less than standard thickness stone slabs in that size, mine was around $26/sf. It’s a splurge, but 100% worth it in my opinion as it’s so dramatic and stunning in person (bonus: durable and easy to clean, too!)

One important thing to note—since these panels are very thin and very large (read: fragile), they need special installation equipment and are supposed to be installed by someone certified for this type of work to keep the warranty. Bedrosians has a network of these installers and can recommend someone in your area (reach out to @Bedrosianstile on Instagram for any questions, they’re super responsive and helpful!)

Our slabs arrived a couple weeks ago and I could hardly contain my excitement.

It took several strong guys an evening to carefully load them into the house with this giant contraption:

Installation began the following day, and it was a sight to behold. At one point they didn’t think they could fit the huge slab through the door and around the tight corner (the slab was 5’x9’4″ and the room is only 6’x10′! By some miracle, it barely squeezed through…

I shared updates live on Instagram as the drama unfolded…

Fortunately, the first two panels went up safely after a full day of work. WHEW.

The following day, Lucas and I were upstairs working on the guest bathroom while the installers were cutting the final two slabs. Then we received the news we’d been dreading… the last slab cracked in half as it was being cut.

Oh, the devastation. Getting a new slab wasn’t really an option because it would take several weeks (we’re on a deadline to finish this house and get our final inspections) and we’d likely be responsible for covering the cost which wasn’t in the budget. Our builder assured us that he’d be able to patch the cracked seam to where it wouldn’t be visible…

Fortunately, it’s in a spot on the inside of the shower where no one but Lucas and I will see it. I’m hopeful it can be covered up but I’m also not going to be OCD about it. There are bigger problems in life and it’s not worth stressing over! (I’ve had to repeat this to myself almost on a daily basis during this build—you’ll drive yourself crazy if you don’t learn to let go of perfection).

And this is where we focus on what HAS gone right, like these gorgeous handmade diamond tiles (from Bedrosians Paseo line)…

I shared the install of these beauties in my Instagram stories a few weeks ago…

Every bit as beautiful in person as I had imagined. These were also a splurge at almost $8/tile, but there’s nothing else like it out there (I’ve looked). I was set on a black diamond floor and nothing else would do!

Since the tile is naturally porous and unsealed, the ivory grout became embedded into the surface and gave it a hazy/discolored look after installation. Cleaning did nothing to remove the haze and I was worried they were ruined, so I reached out to Bedrosians and they recommended this grout restore treatment. You can see the difference in the treated vs untreated tiles:

It took a few hours of scrubbing, but as of last night the tiles are good as new! I also bought this grout sealer which we’ll be applying tonight to ensure they stay sparkling clean.

Okay, let’s get onto this wall treatment. I’ve done all kinds of molding in my day, but this two-part technique was new to me. The first step, as always, was to mock up the design in Illustrator with the correct dimensions (you can ignore my measurements as they’ll probably just confuse you, but this was the template we used…)

This layout was chosen after several iterations, and it was trickier than normal because I had to work around the sconce, outlet and vanity locations. I felt good about the plan though, and headed to Lowe’s for the materials. Primed 1×6’s were selected for the cross pieces as they’re inexpensive, easy to work with and readily available.

For the accent molding, base cap is traditionally used with these installations (all of the baseboards in our house are 1×6’s plus base cap molding). When I was browsing Lowe’s I came across this PVC base cap, which is moisture/mildew proof designed for exterior applications and perfect for a bathroom. And less than $5/ea—no brainer!

We also grabbed a couple pieces of molding for the ceiling (you can use anything here). The only other materials needed for this project were liquid nails, caulk, paint, and basic tools including a miter saw and nail gun.

The 1×6’s were first installed along the bottom and corners, and then we measured out equal spacing for the inside verticals and drew a straight line all the way down using a level.

The trickiest part of this operation is dealing with walls that aren’t completely flat. Our plumbing had to be relocated at one point and the patched drywall area wasn’t level, so the 1×6 wouldn’t sit flat against the wall and there was a large gap at the top. Since this area would be entirely hidden behind the vanity, we decided to cut the bottom of the piece off where the wall started bowing so the visible part could sit flush.

The only other major obstacle was the far right sconce, which was easily remedied by a jigsaw + steady hand:

Once the long pieces were in, the shorter ones went up without a fight.

With most of them we encountered problems getting the edges to line up perfectly flush, due to a combination of neither the wall nor the 1×6 being completely straight all the way through (yep, this happens even with new construction). We had marked the studs out in advance and nailed into them whenever we could, but not every board hit a stud so we could only do so much to pull them to the wall (we also used a decent amount of liquid nails to keep them in place).

After all the 1×6’s were in (we also added them just to the top/bottom/edges of the other two walls) it was time to add the base cap. This part is easy—measuring and 45º miter cuts (just make sure your molding is facing the right way on the saw!)

The pieces are somewhat flexible which means they’re forgiving and easy to work with.

Liquid nails + a few finish nails is all it takes.

As long as your 1×6’s are straight and form 90º angles (which they should if you used a level!) these 45º cuts will line up perfectly each time.

With Lucas measuring/cutting and myself installing, we finished this part in just a couple hours (and basically inside a sauna as it was 90º that day with no breeze and the house has no power/AC yet). If I can do it, so can you! 😉

The PVC base cap was perfect to use along the shower for a nice clean waterproof edge. I much prefer the simple look of this to bullnose or pencil liner.

Once all the molding was attached, it was time to start puttying & sanding. This is where we get to fix those uneven 1×6 seams…

This is a critical step because once its painted, these transitions will stand out like a sore thumb.

Mouse sander to the rescue! It takes some time, but the effort is worth it.

The next day I came back to begin caulking. This was easily my least favorite part of the process. It’s one thing to caulk 1×6’s around a wall, but the base cap adds a lot of extra work. You have to caulk every single edge and intersection of every piece of molding.

The corners and edges are easy, but any curved areas and especially the trench between the 1×6′ and base cap requires some expert level caulking to make it smooth.

You have to get just the right amount in there and use just the right amount of pressure and speed and do it all in one continuous pass.

If you’re a beginner level caulker going into this, rest assured you’ll emerge as an expert. It took me over a day to finish.

But I was happy with the results, and ready for paint! Earlier that day the electrician had come to finish the house and installed our sconces

So gorgeous, right? And affordable too! I partnered with Overstock and shopped for bargains to get almost all the accessories for this bathroom, since most of our budget was put towards tile.

Now it was finally time for the moment I had been waiting for… PAINT!

Accessible Beige is the color we’re using on all the trim/doors throughout the house, so it was a natural fit to use here as well. I fell in love with it after using it in our laundry room makeover last year, and knew it’d be the perfect calming greige for this space.

I chose an eggshell finish just because I love matte paint so much, though satin is a more common (durable) choice for a bathroom. I would have been happy with either, to be honest!

Accessible Beige is a dynamic color that reads beige in certain lighting and gray in others. I love how it changes the mood of room depending on the time of day.

And as of today (the day this is published) we should have our vanities installed with a custom stone countertop! I ordered two of these 42″ vanities from Overstock which were the perfect size for this wall, and we modified the existing top (the new stone will wrap around it):

Another shot of the window wall:

And the door which leads into the walk-in closet (the shower is just to the right):

Just a few more things to do in here, like hang these oval mirrors:

The sinks, sink faucets and shower faucet should be installed by Friday, and we’ll put the finishing touches on this weekend (as long as there are no hiccups!)

Ahhh we’re so close I can taste it! Who else is looking forward to this reveal!? We have a ton of projects we’re trying to finish over the next couple weeks between both houses, so I’ll squeeze in a photoshoot & reveal post at some point within that time. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, I’ve been sharing all the daily updates in my stories so make sure to add me there or on Facebook to keep up with all the fun!

More to come,


Stenciled Patio Makeover Tutorial

If you’ve been following my weeks-long stenciling saga on my Instagram stories, the day we’ve all been waiting for is FINALLY here! It’s the most thorough patio stenciling tutorial I could possibly deliver, so enjoy…

This story goes deeper than just stenciling, though. It begins in a world of a patio partially covered in mismatched brown and white giraffe tile.

We’ll never know what was going through the minds of the people who thought this was a great idea.

In February we began the process of removing the offending tiles, and luckily since they weren’t installed properly, they came up without a fight.

Underneath the surface was what I assumed to be mold and mildew after who knows how many Florida summers.

But then, upon closer inspection, we realized that nope, this was in fact, green paint.

Power washing quickly commenced, revealing not just one layer of paint, but two… the always in-style, neon and emerald green.

More hues of pink and purple were slowly uncovered, revealing a colorful and curious past life. Oh, if this patio could talk.

A full afternoon of pressure washing was as good as it was going to get, and we called it a night.

But this surface was far from ready for its next paint job. First, we had to address the layers of cracked and flaking paint that were no match for the pressure washer.

I used a putty knife and did my best to scrape it all up…

But the loose paint was everywhere, very stubborn and I could only do so much by hand on a 650+ sq ft patio. I knew the concrete paint would also be thick enough to cover up and eliminate most of the smaller flakes. This isn’t an interior surface that has to be perfect!

There were multiple cracks that needed to be addressed, and I picked up this concrete crack seal to do the job.

It worked beautifully and was instant gratification! I love this stuff.

With the cracks sealed and old paint scraped off as much as possible, it was time to paint the surface.

I did a TON of research on this (and I mean hours) trying to find the best option. It had to be durable, long lasting, affordable, easy to use/apply, and the right color. I scoured Amazon and the big box stores, reading every word and photo of every customer review. I was leaning toward a couple options on Amazon, but the color options were very limited and the gray read as a blue-gray (not a fan).

Eventually I landed on this Behr Concrete & Garage floor paint, after finding that it was available in a ton of Behr colors (other manufacturers take note!)

I ordered two gallons in Battleship Gray, which is a very neutral light/medium gray without those pesky blue undertones (go custom and don’t get their off the shelf Slate Gray unless you like the blue-gray).

I started by cutting in around the edges with a good short angled brush (you’ll have to excuse the lighting in some of these photos)…

Then rolled out the center with a nap roller made for textured surfaces.

After snapping the first roller handle in half, I realized that this job wasn’t going to be quite as easy as I thought due to the uneven surface. In order to fully cover, I had to completely soak the roller in paint and reapply every few feet.

Worried that I’d run out of paint, I used as little as possible, rolling over the surface multiple times with more pressure. It was a tiring job that took up most of the day (the sun out in full force didn’t help either.). Here’s how far one gallon went:

By the end I realized I wouldn’t have enough, and ended up with this much to go on the side of the house:

I’m definitely a fan of this paint though. It easily covered in one coat and dried within minutes. The color is nice too, no blue tint at all (don’t let the early morning light and poor iphone 6 white balance sensor fool you):

Okay, NOW for the fun part—stenciling!

I ordered my stencil months ago, after spotting it at Royal Stencils… how gorgeous is their Mandala Fusion stencil?

It reminded me of tile, which was the look I wanted, and it’s available in a 26×26″ size, making it perfect for larger spaces like walls and floors. I’ve used Royal Stencils in the past (twice, actually) and even posted a blog and video tutorial if you need a guide for stenciling walls.

Stenciling a concrete patio, however, is a slightly different beast so keep reading to see how I did it!

Tools/materials needed:


Concrete paint (I used less than a gallon for 600+ sq ft, in White)

A good stencil brush

Tape (I found duct tape worked best on textured concrete)

Paper towels

Towel to sit on

Hydration, sunscreen, bug spray (specifically if you live in the south)

Music and/or podcasts (couldn’t have done this without my Bluetooth speaker)

Optional but very helpful: leaf blower

The good news is that if you’ve ever stenciled a wall before—this is EASIER! For a few reasons:

  1. On the ground you don’t have gravity working against you
  2. Textured surfaces hide all the small imperfections
  3. It’s outdoors, so it’s not held to the same standards of perfection of an interior space!

All of these reasons should take the pressure off and make it a much more enjoyable experience. Even though this took me 27 hours, it was easy breezy compared to my past wall stenciling experiences.

Now that you have your supplies ready to go, the biggest decision you have to make is where to start. On a wall, you just have to make sure it’s level.

On a floor, it usually means aligning your first row to one edge/wall. The problem with the wall around my patio was that it wasn’t straight or parallel with the house, so the pattern would have ran at a slight angle. I don’t think it would have been too noticeable, but instead I chose to start at one of the concrete expansion joints, which were all nice and straight.

It didn’t really matter where along this line I started, but I roughly measured out to both ends to ensure I wouldn’t be left with a tiny sliver on either side (spoiler alert: you’ll probably still end up with those)

Once I was happy with the positioning, I taped the stencil down with painters tape and dabbed my brush into the paint. I ordered this extra large stencil brush (also from Royal Studios) which gives much more control and better coverage.

After lightly dipping the edge of the brush, you have to offload it by swirling it onto a paper towel to remove any excess paint. There should be no wet/dripping paint on the bristles, as it can cause bleed through underneath the stencil.

It’s a good idea to do a practice run first before your first stencil to get the hang of the proper technique. Not surprisingly, I had some bleed through on my first stencil and quickly had to clean it up with wet q-tips.

It’s also important to decide the look you want beforehand—do you want fully opaque color with crisp edges? Or more of a subtle sheer pattern with some variation? If you add too much paint to any part of the stencil, you’re pretty much stuck with that level of coverage because it will be very noticeable next to all the lighter stencils. Decide what you want first, and then stay consistent (you can always go back and add more paint!)

I started out on the cautious side, using very light coats to avoid bleed through, resulting in a semi-opaque finish. I noticed that the paint tends to dry lighter, so I began using a bit more coverage to help combat the inevitable fading from the sun.

Once you’re happy with the first stencil, simply peel it off and reposition it so the pattern overlaps on the edge. It’s important to be precise with this as a little deviation can add up over multiple stencils. There was no waiting time in between for me as the paint dried right away.

From there it was simply rinse and repeat. The brush worked very well, but faced with days of work ahead of me, I tried a roller brush just to see if it would be faster.

NOPE. It just doesn’t cover over highly textured surfaces, especially uneven ones with gaping crevices like mine. If you have a super smooth concrete finish give it a shot as it will save you hours, but the brush was my only option.

You’d think that with such an uneven surface where the stencil can’t lay flat, there’d be paint going everywhere and the shapes wouldn’t stay intact—but you’d be surprised. These stencils are very forgiving, and pretty much fool proof on a surface like this that hides all the imperfections.

When you reach a wall, the process is quite simple. Cover the edge with painters tape, push the stencil down with one hand, and press the brush into the corner.

When the stencil needs to wrap around multiple angles, you just do one edge at a time using the same technique.

Looks a bit daunting but it’s really easy. A smaller brush helps (I could only wedge mine into a corner so far) but it doesn’t need to be perfect (again, because this is an outdoor space!)

On Day 1 I put in six hours and was exhausted. The Florida sun and being four months pregnant didn’t help, either.

By the way, I bought these knee pads thinking they’d be necessary but stopped using them after the first day. It’s much easier sitting on a towel closer to the ground than kneeling over!

Then it was time to clean the stencil, and here’s where things go wrong. I remember this being the most frustrating part of the process years ago when I stenciled last, but this time around it was even worse—perhaps because of the epoxy paint? I tried soaking the stencil in the tub using scalding hot water and dish soap, and scrubbing with every means that I could—repeating this process several times over 24 hours. Some of the paint came off, but a lot of it wouldn’t budge.

Lucas and I took turns cleaning, and by the next day I was so frustrated that I ended up bending and ripping it in a couple spots. Oops! Fortunately, even with my abuse, and the stencil no longer lying flat, there was no difference in the results.

The following day I clocked in another six hours, and made some great progress. By this point it was taking me around 15 minutes per stencil.

One tool I found incredibly helpful was a leaf blower. Since our patio is exposed to the elements and it’s pollen season here, the trees are constantly dropping gifts and sweeping a patio this large is very energy consuming and inefficient. With the leaf blower, I’d tackle a couple stencils at a time then simply blow off any dirt/tree droppings as I went (I’m a big fan of my Black+Decker, it’s lightweight and easy to use)

With that said, I have to mention again that the wonderful thing about stenciling outdoors is that your surface does not have to be super clean! There’s no way to avoid dirt and bits of nature blowing underneath the stencil at all times, and you would never notice the difference anyway.

I can’t even count how many ants snuck their way into the stencil and were met with the brush of death. A moment of silence, please, for all the insects who perished in the Stencil Massacre of 2019. Their lives were not taken in vain.

By the end of Day 2 (another 6 hour stretch) it was time to clean the stencil once again, but this time I came prepared after researching my options online. Krud Kutter Latex Paint remover was one of the most recommended products I found, though I was still skeptical based on the traumatic experience of the last cleaning session…

We saturated both sides of the stencil and let it sit in a garbage bag overnight…

And miraculously woke up to this:

Peeling paint everywhere! It easily slid right off the plastic and we were able to take it all up with a brush in minutes. I will NEVER stencil without this stuff again.

Over the next couple weeks, I squeezed in stencil session whenever I could, which was only in the early morning/late evening or periods of intermittent cloudiness, because working in the summer sun in Florida will basically kill a pregnant woman in minutes.

Fortunately, I also had it down to a science by the end, and was clocking in at around 5 minutes per stencil. If there’s a stenciling Olympics, sign me up.

I found that the fastest method is to saturate the brush, very lightly offload (or sometimes not at all), and repeatedly stipple the brush rather than swirl it around. This creates a thicker layer of paint without any bleeding, and you don’t need to go over the same area 2-3 times for decent coverage.

The edges may not be quite as crisp this way, but it’s really not noticeable at all, especially on a rough concrete surface.

Another tip—try not to go over the ‘registration mark’ areas that have already been painted. If your stencil is misaligned with the previous design even a little, you’ll get this ghosting effect which is probably the most noticeable mistake you can make.

I was pretty cautious about this and managed to avoid it for the most part, but again these flaws tend to disappear when you look at the full picture.

The very last row was a milestone moment. My stenciling obligations had finally come to an end, and I felt like a part of my life had been restored.

But it wasn’t over yet!

Originally I wasn’t planning on sealing it, thinking that since this was special concrete paint, it would have no problem holding up to what it was designed to do. Several hours into this project and I thought there’s NO way I’m ever redoing this so I set out to find the best sealer out there. After thoroughly reading through all the reviews, I landed on the Seal Krete Clear Seal:

And ater days of rain and tree droppings, I realized how necessary a sealer was…

There are lots of dips and low areas in the patio where water would pool and sit for nearly a day, leaving behind stains from the pollen:

Before sealing, I gently scrubbed the affected areas with dish soap to remove the stains…

The paint wore off if I scrubbed too hard (yet another reason to seal) but eventually it cleaned up:

After the problem areas were addressed and the entire patio washed clean, it was time to seal.

I was worried this would be as long and arduous of a process as the gray paint application, but it couldn’t have been easier.

The paint glided across the surface like butter, and it was hard to tell the areas I had already covered. I used a super thick coating to ensure full coverage (you can see the brush marks from the roller in the photo above). In the right light, you could tell by a subtle sheen.

I used a brush to cut in around the edges (not necessary, but I wanted to be extra thorough).

The paint claims only 150-300 square feet of coverage per can, but I found it to be MUCH more. I covered the entire surface (over 600 square feet) with a very thick coating with less than 2/3 a can.

Only one coat is needed but few hours later I came back with another coat, even thicker this time because I am taking ZERO chances.

The sealer has a satin finish which is only visible in the sun…

You can see the sheen from this direction:

The sealer has only been on for a few days, but it rained last night and this morning there was no pooling of water and no stains anywhere to be found. So far so good!

Now that the hardest part is over, it’s time to really transform this backyard with landscaping, lighting and furniture!

Still a long way to go back here, but I think stenciling was sure worth a couple weeks and couple hundred dollars to go from this…

to this:

Four months of this belly to go!

Pssst… I posted a vlog this morning with lots of updates on our new build, so make sure to give it a watch to see what else has been keeping us busy over these past few weeks!

This weekend we’ll be focusing on the front porch (once again) and hopefully finishing it once and for all! As always, you can follow all the action over on my Instagram stories 🙂

Guest Bathroom Reveal: Heights House

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

We did it! In less than six weeks, we’ve transformed an under-construction shell of a room into the bold, luxurious guest bathroom of my dreams. The very first room at the Heights House is complete! Watch to see the transformation:


In case you missed anything, make sure to get caught up from the beginning:

Bathroom Design Plan

A twist on subway tile

DIY lattice wall molding

While I planned the design out back in February, work didn’t actually begin until three weeks ago, so we’ve been busy in here almost every day! This is how it looked last month:

I had my work cut out for this space—aiming for a rich and luxurious design, but also affordable and easily accessible for others to recreate.

Shower tile was the first task on the to-do list, and I shared our Lowe’s shopping trip mission to find the perfect budget-friendly tile.

This unique American Olean subway tile was the clear winner, at just $1 a piece (FYI, the tile is on sale right now for only 78 cents each!)

Next came the floor tile install

Followed by a DIY wood beam using local reclaimed wood

And then a few days of non-stop DIY wall molding…

And then a little black magic…

The last week was spent completing the install and adding the finishing touches, and that brings us to today! Ladies and gents, here is our Bold Luxury Bathroom on a Budget:

Someone pointed out that the drawers on the vanity match the look of the subway tile… I’ll pretend like I planned that on purpose 😉

There’s plenty of light and white accents to make this space feel cozy rather than cave-like (the walls are painted in the richest Valspar black, Cracked Pepper).

And a healthy dose of champagne gold and wood tones to warm it up.

I’m loving this whole vanity area situation.

This gorgeous arched mirror is only $75(!) and was such an easy choice to stay on budget.

The sconces were also something I couldn’t resist and an unexpected touch for a bathroom.

I fell in love with the vintage look of the Delta Victorian champagne bronze faucet which was a bit of a splurge for me (the price has dropped quite a bit since I bought it) but with functional pieces like this, quality is often worth paying for.

I love finding ways to customize furniture, and bathroom vanities are no exception. I swapped out the factory chrome handles for Amerock backplates and oval knobs, which go a long way in giving it a more high end look.

Every room needs a fun little detail or two, and this Anthro towel ring fit the bill.

I can’t get over the look of this textured plaid tile. Or the fact that so many of you thought it was carpet 😉

I also can’t decide which view of the bathroom I like more…

I used $13 Ikea Hovsta frames, made my own “mats” with white posterboard from CVS, and cut up a free wallpaper sample from Rebel Walls for the art.

And of course, another appearance from my all time favorite $6 champagne gold hooks.

The shower faucet/tub combo is also Delta champagne bronze to match the sink faucet, and it’s surprisingly super affordable (the price has dropped even more since I purchased!) The hand sprayer option should really come in handy for baby bathtime.

Is it possible to love a toilet? Because this is my first true toilet love—it’s just so handsome. I ended up buying two more for the other bathrooms.

Why settle for a boring toilet paper holder when you can have this work of art? Another Anthro find.

One more small but important detail—thank goodness for black outlets! Do you see it hiding to the right of the mirror?

There’s another one on the wall next to the hand towel, but you’d never know because it blends in so seamlessly. I used these GFCIs and black wall plates. If you look closely in the mirror, you can see the reflection of the black light switches too. Can’t forget these small  but important details!

Alright friends, time to wrap up our tour. Make sure to watch the reveal video as well if you haven’t, so you can feel like you’re actually there in real life (or at least the closest you can get until we’re all walking around with virtual reality goggles!)

Thank you, Lowe’s, for collaborating with me on this project and proving that high end style is very doable for those of us on a budget!


Valspar Signature eggshell in Cracked Pepper

48″ Scott Living Vanity

Delta Victorian sink faucet

Kohler Memoirs toilet

American Olean subway tile

Delta Linden shower/tub faucet

Amerock cabinet backplates & knobs

Allen + Roth arched mirror

Brass wall sconces

Brainerd wall hooks

Bedrosians Tailor Art tile

Anthropologie towel ring

Anthropologie toilet paper holder

Large hyacinth storage bins

9′ long shower curtain

16×20″ picture frames (stained with dark wax)

Art: wallpaper sample from Rebel Walls

The final total for everything (not including installs, which is built into our new construction cost) came in at right around $3500, which I think is pretty amazing starting from primed drywall and subfloor to what we have now! Especially since there were a couple splurges like the Delta faucet and Kohler toilet. I really couldn’t be happier with the way this space turned out. What do you think of the renovation, and are you surprised at the cost? Let me know in the comments (or over on Instagram!)

Oh, and for you sleuths out there who noticed a couple unfinished parts, yes we still need to grout and get a drain/overflow cap for the tub. So this room is technically only 95% done… but that’s close enough for me at this point 😉

One room down in the Heights House—and a ton more to go! We’re just getting started over here, and this week we’ll be focusing on the master bathroom (along with continuing my weeks-long stenciling saga at the Riverside Retreat). Have you been following all the progress in my IG stories? There’s so much going on, I can’t keep it all straight! Catch you there,

Going Bold in the Bathroom: Black Wall Molding DIY

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

I’ve been looking forward to tackling this DIY project for weeks, and now that it’s done, I’m even more excited to share that it’s completely do-able for anyone with a little patience and basic tools on a budget!

I’ve said this many times and I’ll keep saying it forever—molding has to be my favorite easy and inexpensive way to add character to a blank wall, and I’m always looking for new styles and treatments to try. There’s unlimited options out there, from simple beadboard to shiplap, vertical or horizontal board and batten, picture frame molding, the list goes on.

Several weeks ago I shared my plans for our guest bathroom at the Heights House, along with an inspiration photo I fell in love with from Jean Stoffer Design:

The thin board and batten wall treatment caught my eye, as I’d never seen an application quite like this before (I did a similar look years ago but a more common style with thicker boards).

I knew I’d be able to find the materials needed to DIY this project at Lowe’s, so it was a no brainer—this was happening!

Let’s first rewind back to where we started:

A small bathroom—10′ wide by 7′ long (5′ not including the tub)…

With a nice sized 3×4′ window to let in light.

First we had to tile the shower:

Then our floor tile was installed (obsessed, by the way):

We also turned an an awkward section of drywall along the ceiling into a faux beam using two planks of reclaimed wood from my favorite local salvage yard (Schiller’s, for you locals).

Then it was wall treatment time!

Let me preface this tutorial by saying things did NOT go as planned… and it had nothing to do with the project itself (the DIY part was actually easier than I thought!) On Day 3 of shooting, my SD card failed, and after spending Sunday morning at a repair shop, everything was gone. All of my videos and photos for this project were unrecoverable. Luckily I had snapped a few iPhone photos and we were able to re-enact some of the shots in a different room, so if you notice anything that seems a little off, now you know why 😉

This is a beginner-mid level project that should take two people a few days (based on our bathroom size). It can be done with one person, but a second hand is recommended! Here’s what we used:


1.5″ x 10′ lattice molding (we needed 23 in total, you can use 8′ strips if you have standard height ceilings)

Valspar Signature Paint in Cracked Pepper, eggshell finish



Liquid Nails

Angled paint brush

Smooth roller


Craftsman Air Compressor

Bostitch 16 gauge nail gun

Dewalt miter saw

Mouse sander (or just sandpaper)

Plus a tape measure, level and optional angle finder

With only a vision in my head, I first measured each wall in the room and mocked them up on the computer (via Illustrator, but you can use a pencil and paper too!)

There were five walls in total, and my goal was to get as close to an even grid as possible. Since each wall was a different width, the spacing of the vertical lattice varied slightly, but luckily it worked out so that the three main walls were pretty uniform (the space between each vertical was around 29″). I also had to account for focal points like the vanity and window, so I opted to center the lattice on those, rather than even spacing on that wall.

The horizontal pieces, however, had to be consistent on each wall, since they’d be carried all the way around the room. To find this distance, I subtracted the width of the lattice and divided the main vanity/window wall into thirds. With my plan in place, I grabbed 26 pieces of 10′ lattice at $9/ea (we only used 23, but it’s always good to have extra just in case!)

They come in 8′ lengths too, but we needed 10′ because of our 9’4″ ceilings. We had all of the other tools/materials at home (minus the paint) which meant this whole project cost less than $250. Score!

With everything ready to go, we set up shop on our new patio (more on that in another post) and got to work.

Sidenote: the bathroom is that open window upstairs, so we had to run through the house and up a flight of stairs for every.single.cut. We definitely got our cardio in last weekend!

After installing the baseboards (we used simple primed 1×6 boards), the ceiling also had to be addressed. Ceiling trim tends to make a room feel much more finished (especially when the walls are a different color than the ceiling) so I figured I’d use the same lattice as a border. For most of you this will be super straightforward, but remember what our ceilings look like?

Crazy angles everywhere. Fortunately, I recently discovered angle finders (ours came with our Kreg crown guide) and I don’t know how I ever lived without it!

With all the guesswork out of the equation, we were off to the races.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a quality miter saw if you don’t have one. It makes all the difference!

Before attaching our first piece, we ran a bead of liquid nails along the back.

Then nailed it to the wall every couple feet, and onto the next piece!

At some point during this time I realized it would be smart to paint these strips before installation, to limit having to cut in with a paint brush along the ceiling.

Even with new construction, you’ll end up with some crooked walls. This little corner area was a fun puzzle…

The ceiling trim took us few hours, but happy to report all our angles matched up nicely! We’re getting better at this DIY stuff 😉

Once that stage was over, it was time to move onto the horizontal pieces. Starting in one corner, we measured the height from the baseboard to the ceiling trim. The piece was cut, glued and attached the same way.

Before attaching the next vertical piece, we had to mark the location on the wall. This was found by subtracting 4.5″(the width of the 3 pieces on that wall) from the total wall length and dividing by 3, for 3 even sections.

After marking the spot, we used a level to draw a straight line from the ceiling to the baseboard.

Then we took our next piece (already cut down to the right size with liquid nails) and lined it up along our mark.

This part is best with two people, so one can hold the lattice in place to make sure it stays lined up, and the other can nail it to the wall.

We repeated this step for each vertical piece, measuring each time to ensure accuracy.

When we got to a new wall, we’d have to remeasure and calculate the distance (which surprisingly ended up being around the same on all three main walls).

The vanity area had its own spacing, as I wanted to make sure these pieces were equidistant from the sconces and centered behind the mirror.

(^The notches in the baseboard are for the vanity legs, in case you’re wondering.)

The window also had its own spacing, with a vertical centered below it.

And then there was this wall adjacent to the shower…

Not shown are the two little walls next to the door, but we finished it all in one afternoon! (after 50 trips up and down the stairs and 4 trips back home for food/water/bathroom breaks). The next day, it was time to start adding our horizontal pieces.

Using the vanity wall as our starting point, we split the height into thirds (minus 4.5″) to get our horizontal board spacing, which would be consistent throughout the room. Ours was a little over 25″.

Along this mark, we then measured the horizontal distance between boards and cut the wood to fit snugly.

With the board in place (with liquid nails) we could adjust it until it was perfectly level before nailing it up.

It’s important to remeasure and check for level with each piece, because walls and wood are rarely 100% perfect and spacing can shift. You want the lattice to line up as evenly as possible for a seamless look.

This phase required the most measuring and cutting and was therefore the most time consuming, but it was a simple process to follow and there were no hiccups (aside from losing all my footage that day, of course…)

Pretty soon my belly will get in the way of all this DIY! Enjoying it while I can 🙂

It’s so rewarding when it all finally starts to come together…

The nail holes were spackled, along with any imperfections in the drywall and gaps between wood.

There were a couple areas where the wood was a slightly different thickness at the intersection, so we used our handy Mouse to even those out.

Next came the caulk. This is meant to be used along the edges of the wood where it meets another surface (drywall, trim, shower tile).

The lattice was pretty flush against the drywall with very minimal gaps (thank you, non-textured new construction walls) but I still ran a bead of caulking along most of the edges. This helps ensure a seamless and professional look.

An important note on walls—this look requires smooth walls, and will not look the same if your walls are textured. For best results, I’d cover textured walls with a smooth surface like thin hardboard (I did a tutorial on this with my last paneled wall DIY) or skim coat and sand, though I have no experience with the latter. If you have a very light texture like orange peel, you could try smoothing a first with an orbital sander, but it’s quite a dusty job and I’m not sure how even and smooth they’d end up. Our walls are primed drywall (this is my first house with non-textured drywall, and it’s amazing!) so that made this project much easier.

I’ve been asked how I keep all my trimwork clean, and let me tell about something that may change your life—an air blow gun!

It attaches to your compressor and pressurized air blows away the dust and dirt, and within seconds, your hard-to-reach trim is good as new. No more dusting! This has been a lifesaver, especially with all the construction we have going on at all times. I used it to clear out all the dust from sanding the walls and trim before painting this room.

Speaking of paint…

As much as I love painting everything black, this is the first black room I’ve taken the leap on. I don’t know why it took so long, but I’m never looking back!

I used my angled brush to cut in along the edges first, then rolled on all the flat surfaces.

The coverage on this Valspar Signature paint is exceptional. Can you believe this is just one coat? The darkest Valspar black easily covered white primer in two coats.

I opted for an eggshell finish, which I thought was a good compromise between matte walls (which I love the look of) and the practicality of being able to wipe them down, especially in a bathroom. We’ll see how they hold up!

Keep in mind that flat finishes hide more flaws, whereas paint with a sheen will accentuate them.

The baseboards & door trim were coated in a bright white semi-gloss for a nice crisp edge.

The rich black walls completely transform the room, making it feel both sophisticated and cozy.

This wall treatment feels traditional and modern at the same time, and I especially love that it looks high end, but anyone can do it on a budget with basic materials.

Now it’s time to pull together all of the finishing touches! Over the next few days we’ll take care of plumbing, electric, grouting and installing all the fun accessories in time for the photo/video shoot and reveal next week. There’s still a LOT of pieces that need to come together, so there can’t be any hiccups if we want to stay on schedule. Let’s hope the odds are in our favor this weekend!

I hope this tutorial was helpful to others looking for a unique DIY wall treatment. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any questions, and as always, you can follow my Instagram stories for live updates as the progress unfolds 🙂

Building a Backyard Fire pit

These past couple weeks have been especially hectic on the house—from long nights at the Bungalow trying to get three units rent ready, to hours of patio stenciling, to squeezing in DIY projects at the Heights house—you’ve seen a glimpse of the action if you’re following my Instagram stories.

Yesterday we paused for a moment to sit down and talk about what’s been going on since our last vlog (spoiler alert: the baby bump makes its first appearance!)

There’s too many updates to cover in this post so you’ll have to watch the vlog to catch up, because for this post I wanted to focus on one project in particular that we’ve been working on for two months. Remember how the backyard looked in January?

This concrete wall barricade is one of the many questionable choices that came with this house, and we couldn’t figure out what to do with it.

We really tried to come up with a solution that wouldn’t require tearing it all out and starting over. Cornhole? Shuffleboard? Mini bowling? Permanent Slip ‘N Slide? Nope, it was too small for all the games.

And definitely too small to accommodate seating around a fire pit (was that pile of rubble ever actually functional?) But the fire pit idea was pretty appealing, and would certainly be a great feature in a vacation rental geared towards groups and gatherings. (If you’re new here, we’re renovating this house to turn into a vacation rental on a very tight budget and timeline. That means lots of DIY, getting creative and embracing imperfections).

Even with a limited budget and timeline, we knew this was one big project we had to suck up and take care of, as it would make all the difference in this backyard. We weren’t exactly sure what we were getting ourselves into, so all we could do was take the first step—so long, mismatched striped giraffe tile!

We were relieved at how easily these tiles popped right off (improper installation + years of Florida humidity and weather will do that for you…)

In no time, the patio was completely rid of the ceramic offenders and ready for Step 2.

Goodbye wall!

Lucas got a great arm workout with the sledgehammer that weekend.

A sledgehammer and brute force was enough to take down the wall, but the concrete pad was another story.

We quickly realized this was a job for power tools, and Lucas learned the art of jackhammering.

It took the poor guy 6-7 hours to complete over the course of two days, but we were dealing with some very stubborn concrete.

The main section in the back was about 4″ thick and reinforced with some sort of mesh/rebar, so it could only break apart into small sections. Fortunately, the front portion wasn’t nearly as much of a headache and only took about an hour to break up. See the difference?

There’s your concrete fun fact for the day!

Now that we were left with a pile of rubble, we had to figure out how to dispose of it. Lacking a truck, time and energy, I found someone on Craigslist who was willing to remove and haul it away (including the giraffe tile) in one day at a very reasonable cost. Win-win!

The smaller debris was left behind, as we figured it would make a good base for our pea gravel. Now things started to get a little more fun, as we mapped out the border for our fire pit zone.

After (lots of) back and forth adjustments to the shape, Lucas dug out a small trench and removed the grass around the perimeter so we had a clean slate to work with.

We ended up spending most of the weekend removing weeds/old roots and buried tree stumps, and leveling out the very uneven grade of the yard. Landscaping in the Florida heat (while pregnant) really takes it out of you!

Here’s how the rest of the yard is looking at this point… this is one of those projects where it gets worse before it gets better.

After our fire pit area was leveled and ready, we loaded up our car with pavers (well, technically they’re ‘retaining wall blocks’) but they fit our needs:

Before setting them in place, we wet down and compacted the dirt so the pavers would have a more solid ground to rest on.

We opted not to use landscaping cloth, mostly because of the aforementioned reasons (lack of time/energy/budget) but I also learned it’s not always necessary and can create its own set of problems (I found this article from Remodelista helpful).

The fact that we already had a concrete rock base and nothing had been growing underneath it made the decision easy for us, although we’d reconsider if we were building this from scratch and it was our own permanent home. We fully expect to have to deal with a few weeds popping up here and there, and will use a weed killer of some sort to keep those at bay.

Once the trench was prepared, we lined the perimeter with our pavers to make sure they fit…

Then spread a little of the concrete sand over the dirt (no idea if this actually does anything to be honest, but we figured it couldn’t hurt!)

Then one by one, the pavers were locked into place.

Then it was just a matter of filling in and leveling the dirt around the outside, and spreading out the concrete base on the inside.

That sounds easy, but it was actually the most time consuming part of this project. Lots of small adjustments, standing back and re-evaluating, and moving dirt back and forth.

The next step was building a fire pit. We decided to keep things simple and buy a kit that had everything we needed, and we found this one at Lowe’s for only $199:

Assembly was by far the easiest step of this whole project. There’s no guesswork—you just decide where you want the fire pit, make sure the dirt is level and compacted, and start lining up the stones.

You can use concrete adhesive or polymer sand to bond them together, but we improvised and used leftover concrete dust and water.

Again, not sure if that’s useful, but it’s better than nothing! These stones are so heavy they don’t need anything to stay in place. Especially after the metal ring is inserted, you’d have to use some force to try and knock it down.

Rinse and repeat for the second and third rings.

Less than an hour later, and we’re done! If only they could all go this smoothly.

The last and final step—pea gravel! I had my heart set on gray pea gravel, assuming it’d be readily available everywhere, but the big box stores only had rusty colored brown gravel (who knew that was a thing?) and they looked at me like I was crazy when I asked about gray gravel.

So I called around to every landscaping/gravel place within driving distance, and finally found ONE who offered white pea gravel (or 1/2″ river rock per their description). It was about the same cost as Lowe’s—$127 per cubic yard. We needed less than 1.5 cubic yards, and they had a minimum order of 2 cubic yards plus a delivery fee, but this was the only place that offered white gravel so I sucked it up and paid the $350.

You can imagine my dismay (devastation would be a more appropriate term, thank you hormones) when the delivery truck dumped this in my driveway and sped off.

It sat there in our driveway for days as we debated what to do with it and made several ignored attempts to contact the owner/manager of the company. In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth paying another several hundred dollars to track down an alternative, and clearly Florida has a ban on gray and white pea gravel for some reason, so I filed this incident under “learning to let go.”

We still have 0.5 cubic yard of leftover stupid brown gravel in our driveway, if anyone wants it.

The good(ish) news is that the gravel does get lighter when it dries. Certainly not “white”, but less of an obnoxious orange. And raking it was quite cathartic… like my own life size Japanese zen garden.

At this point, we’re just relieved that this 2 month saga is over. Well, the fire pit portion at least…

Just wait until you see what we’ve been through with the patio! I’m saving that for another post.

If you have any tips to make grass grow fast, I’m all ears! We’re picking up some seeds tonight in hopes of filling in all the dirt patches before the backyard reveal.

Pretty soon this fire pit will be transformed with landscaping, string lighting and adirondack chairs. Can you picture it?

We still have a LONG way to go back here, but I would call this much improved from a few months ago…

Pin this to save for later!

While this has been our longest and potentially most labor-intensive project, we know it’s one that will pay off for years to come, and it’s worth putting in the sweat equity now. I’m currently in the middle of a stenciling project with a similar effort/reward outcome (I’ve been saving the full play-by-play on my Backyard Instagram story highlights if you’ve missed anything!) and hope to have that finished by the end of the week (maybe?) I need two of me to get this all done! Are we getting close to cloning humans yet?

Stay tuned for lots and lots of stenciling…


A Twist on Subway Tile: Heights House Guest Bathroom

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

Today I can finally share the very first tiling project at the Heights House! We’ve been stuck in the drywall stage for what seems like forever, so it feels great to get some of the finish work started.

Before I dive into the details—join me on a tour of the bathroom before we started, our date night tile-hunting at Lowe’s, the tile installation and finished results!

A few weeks ago I shared the full Guest Bathroom Design Plan of ‘bold luxury on a budget’:

The goal is to finish this space in just a few weeks, and we sure have our work cut out for us!

The first project to tackle was tiling the shower, and I talked about the design process and my decision for this tile in the last post. Since we’re using a patterned/textured tile on the floor, it was best to keep the tile simple, and glossy white to offset the black walls. The timeless, sophisticated theme of the bathroom called for a simple and classic shape like subway.

There are endless options when it comes to tile nowadays, and most importantly there’s so many great affordable options, so Lucas and I decided to check them out in person at our favorite Friday date night spot.

Yes, we were very excited about this date night

So many pretty distractions! But I had to stay focused on the mission: simple, white, classic, affordable.

I spotted these fun lantern shape mosaic tiles months ago and have them on my shortlist of “someday” tiles, but the price was a bit out of budget for this particular project.

This marble white + blue tile caught my attention, and while it wasn’t simple enough for this design, I’m definitely bookmarking it for the future! My love for diamonds runs deep.

I went to look it up online and just had to share—they just dropped the price by 75%! Killer deal for marble… I wish I had a project to use this on.

Further down the aisle was the subway tile, and there was no shortage of styles (<- so many rhymes in that sentence).

One of them jumped out at me immediately—can you guess which one?

If you guessed the middle right, you’re correct! Beveled subway tile is common but this particular design with the outlined edge was unique. And the long skinny shape gives it a clean, modern feel.

And after seeing the price, it was game over. I’ll take them all!

Fortunately Lowe’s had plenty in stock, so we loaded up our cart and called it a successful date night.

Now, it was time to figure out the tile arrangement. Most of us default to your traditional staggered subway tile, which I’ve done many times (tutorial here, here and here) and love—you can’t go wrong with a classic!

But this time, I wanted to try something new. My friends, are you aware of just how many different arrangements are possible? Here’s just a few, c/o A Beautiful Mess

And a few more, if you really wanna get fancy…

via Oregon Brick

While some of those more intricate layouts could be really interesting in the right space, I still wanted to keep things simple, with just a little something special. The stack bond look has been popping up on my radar lately, and I’m liking what I see.

via The Effortless Chic
via Amber Interiors

The tile I chose already had a unique design feature with the outlined edge, so there was no need to use an intricate layout to make it interesting. For this same reason, I opted for white grout, to emphasize the overall texture rather than the shapes of the individual tiles.

Our installer suggested skipping the spacers as these tiles already have a built in bevel the edges to allow for grout. I agreed and think it looks much cleaner this way.

Now for the fun part—installation! It was extra fun for me because this time I didn’t have to do any of the work (well, aside from placing a few tiles). Our time is running out to complete this house and fortunately, our builder has his guys lined up to get it all done.

It’s always fun to watch a skilled craftsman do his thing. Lucas and I combined would have no chance to work even half as fast or as precise.

We had a decision to make about where to start and end the tile, and took our installers suggestion of starting on a center line at the back wall and “wrapping” the tile around the corners.

This would create symmetry overall, and also allow for a finished edge along the two walls, which is important since we plan to line that edge with painted trim.

About 7 hours of tiling later…

And by the next afternoon, the tile setting was complete.

And finally, grout. We used Mapei’s Keracolor in ‘Avalanche’ (the brightest white they offer).

So satisfying to watch!

The white grout allows the tiles to blend together almost seamlessly, so from a distance it reads as an overall subtle texture.

I love the simplicity of the design, and the fact that you don’t see this same setup every day (or ever!) We bought (almost) 8 full boxes and ended up returning a box and a half, so this project came in at around just $300 for the tile (with the 5% discount using my Lowe’s card).

The room is a lifeless bright white box now, but deep black walls are lurking right around the corner…

That’s our next project to tackle in here, and I’ll be documenting and sharing the DIY in real time over on my Instagram stories, so make sure to follow along if you aren’t yet! I’ve been posting lots of progress updates lately as we’ve been working on multiple projects at once, trying to (finally) get this house move-in ready. Inching towards being able to share some pretty “After” photos… very soon, my friends! Until next week,

Simple DIY Wood Porch Steps Makeover

Last week I shared all the details about Phase 1 of our mission to maximize the curb appeal at the Riverside Retreat, and I’m happy to report that we’re one step closer to the finish line!

This project wasn’t in the original plan, but after a failed attempt at painting the tile, I turned to Instagram (and Photoshop) for help and came up with a new and improved plan of attack.

The plan was to cover the top of each step with stained wood (to match the railing) and paint the tile risers white. We could have wrapped the entire staircase in wood, but for our situation, that was unnecessary work/time/cost. Remember—the goal for this makeover is to maximize results with a minimal budget/timeline.

If this was our own house and not a future rental, we would have built a wood deck to cover the top of the porch too (I explained why that wasn’t an option for us in Phase 1) but cladding just the steps was much more do-able. I spent some time researching the plan, found several helpful tutorials on Pinterest, and was able to easily put together a plan.

Here’s what we used:

After sketching out the measurements, we were off to Lowe’s to grab our materials. Deck boards come in a few different sizes, and with the width of our steps (around 14″) it made the most sense to use 1×6 boards (which are technically 5.5″), to give us 3 boards on each step (2 full boards + one ripped down to 4″).

It’s not advised to attach these directly on top of the concrete steps, so we used 2×4’s as our spacers (or ‘sleepers’ as they’re called in this application), which we already had leftover from our DIY railing.

Since the deck boards would be sitting on top of the 2×4’s, we needed some sort of trim to wrap around the sides so you wouldn’t see the 2×4’s underneath. These 1×2 pressure treated furring strips were perfect, because they were just about the same height as the 2×4’s (1.5″). We bought five:

We had all the other tools and materials at home, so this project cost us less than $50! Score.

Back at home, we began measuring and cutting…

I had primed the tile border around the porch, including the risers, earlier in the week to give the primer time to cure before painting.

Applying a few light coats and letting it cure made me hopeful that this will last!

While Lucas was cutting wood, I was cutting in around the porch with a steady hand (using Behr’s Castle Path)—I repainted the entire porch since the old house paint wasn’t an exact match.

Then it was time to attach the sleepers. Living in a block construction house, Tapcon concrete screws have become our best friend, and fortunately they go right through tile as well. You have to pre-drill pilot holes for each screw, and our poor hammer drill was put to the test after a solid hour of drilling (it survived!)

After marking and drilling the pilot holes for each screw, we used an impact driver fitted with a special bit to drive the tapcon screws into the 2×4’s and concrete (you could use a regular drill, but an impact driver has more force and is easier to use for this job!)

Just to be safe, we used 5 sleepers per step (with 3 tapcon screws in each sleeper).

The regular drill (shown in the bottom of the photo above) had a paddle bit which was used to bore out the top of the 2×4, so the tapcon could be countersunk down and grab more of the concrete. This job would take so much longer if we had to stop and switch the bits out after each step—I highly recommend having all three drills in your arsenal!

Once the sleepers were secured, I gave the risers a couple coats of exterior paint (I shared the steps in real time in my Instagram stories, as usual!)

While this was happening, Lucas was cutting down the deck boards. Our steps are 60″ wide and we wanted there to be a little overhang on all sides, so each board was cut to 62.5″.

Two of the boards for the bottom two steps also had to be ripped down (we were able to slide the back board underneath the porch on the top step).

Accounting for a small gap in between the boards and overhang on the front, the back boards were ripped down to 4″.


The great thing about exterior projects is that they aren’t held to the same standards of perfection like interiors are. You can have dents and gaps and imperfections all day long—no one is looking at those details. It’s outdoors, it’s supposed to be rustic! So much less pressure.

After all the deck boards were cut and sanded, I applied a couple coats of waterproofing wood stain + sealer to match the railing. I figured this would be much easier to do beforehand than trying to avoid splatters on the fresh paint afterwards.

Meanwhile, Lucas worked on measuring and cutting the 1×2’s for the sides:

Those pieces were then sanded and stained.

The stain took less than an hour to dry, and it was time to start fitting the first step!

The first three boards were positioned into place, and we measured on all sides to make sure they were even.

We had to do some adjusting (the wood is not perfectly straight—welcome to outdoor projects where nothing is perfect) and we made sure to leave a small gap between the boards for water drainage.

The deck boards were attached to the 2×4’s with deck screws, 2 screws on the outside boards and one in each middle board. Tip: to reduce wood splintering, make sure to pre-drill holes before securing the screws. In minutes, our first piece was in!

Rinse and repeat for the next boards…

Aww, our baby’s first step! 😉

Six boards later, and the top of our steps are done.

Next, it was time to attach the 1×2’s. We used painters tape to mark the locations of the 2×4’s before clamping the front piece in place.

Pre-drilling first…

Followed by the screw (we did this at every stud location, so five screws for each front board).

Same process for the side pieces, but using three screws.

FYI, we skipped spring here in Florida and went straight to summer. I can only be in the sun for a few minutes without overheating, so poor Lucas was sweating it out by himself for this last part.

But thirty minutes or so later, he called me outside to celebrate our victory!

Happy dances for a completed Phase 2!

Well, almost. At dusk when it was cool enough to step back outside, I touched up the screw holes with a dab of stain on a Q-tip. Notice the finished middle row compared to the unfinished outside row.

Ahh, much better.

It’s amazing what paint and a few pieces of wood can do.

The wood treads also solved our problem of slippery tile (honestly, who puts slick tile on outdoor steps?!) Such an improvement from last week, don’t you think?

And especially from a few months ago…

We have even more improvements planned for Phase 3 (which should be the last and final for this project!) including a mulch planter bed around the front of the house, a new front door, porch accessories and more.

That should be getting underway here in the next few weeks, but first we’re turning our attention once again to the backyard…

We started this project even before the front porch, but keep getting pulled away to other things so we’re looking forward to finally finishing our backyard Phase 1 this week (yep, this will have even more phases than the porch!) I’ll be back soon with all the details, and as always, you can see the progress right as it happens over on my instagram stories.

But first, back next week with our first tiling project at the Heights House!

DIY Porch Railing: Riverside Retreat Curb Appeal Phase 1

Today was going to be the big reveal of our front porch at the Riverside Retreat—a project we started working on back in January—but then life happened. If you missed last week’s vlog (and gender reveal!) check it out to see what we’ve been up to:

Our intention was to finish both the backyard and front porch by March, but after a few setbacks (and spending a lot of our time trying to turn over/rent 3 of our Bungalow units) we’re maybe halfway done with the exterior. Who’s as excited as I am about that extra hour of daylight starting this weekend?!

Even though this post doesn’t follow the typical Before + After happy ending, this blog is more about the journey, right? So let’s recap the adventure from Day 1…

Background story for those of you new on the scene: we went under contract (lease to own) and moved into this property last July, and we’ve been renovating it room-by-room with plans to turn it into a vacation rental after we move out. The goal was to finish shortly after moving into our Heights House, which is expected to be completed in the next 6-8 weeks. At this point, the Riverside Retreat renovation timeline is looking closer to mid-summer (it has to be done before the baby arrives!) so the pressure is on.

Because our first priority is our new build (the Heights House) and the majority of our resources have been allocated there, we have a limited budget for the Riverside Retreat. We also wouldn’t get every dollar back into an expensive renovation if we decide to sell someday, so we’re focusing on “bang for your buck” projects that maximize the outcome at a relatively low cost. And, that also means a LOT of sweat equity + DIY (which I haven’t been able to contribute as much lately with this pregnancy).

The exterior facade is where I knew we’d be the most limited on—we can’t change the house color, windows, roofline, or any major structural/costly components. But we could update the porch!

We actually did add a window on the left side of the house when we did the reading nook, which we deemed absolutely necessary (we DIY’d and used stock windows so the cost wasn’t bad at all!)

But this old metal railing… I couldn’t help but cringe every time I pulled into the driveway. Much to my surprise, it turns out a lot of people love this stuff, so I happily donated it to a fellow Instagrammer to repurpose in her home.

Lucas made quick work of the removal with his grinder (we just got it last fall and have used it more times than we can count) and soon enough, the house was free from its swirly metal jail.

Now it was time to figure out what to do with the columns. We considered leaving the existing metal supports and wrapping them in wood, but decided they’d end up too large and it wouldn’t look balanced. Plus, it’d be just as easy to start from scratch.

Down the columns went, and up went temporary 2×4’s for support.

For the columns, we decided on pressure treated 4×4″ posts with treated 2×4’s as spacers, wrapped in 1x’s on the outside. But we couldn’t just wedge the 4×4’s into place, of course—they had to be secured to the concrete floor.

Our online research showed that the best (easiest?) way to do this was to drive a rod into the concrete, and attach that with a bracket to the wood posts. We found these brackets and threaded rods, which we secured with a washer and nut. (They do make special post bases for this but they were twice the cost and we figured our solution was the same)

To drill a hole large enough for the rods plus concrete, we used a 1″ carbide bit and hammer drill.

Sidenote: this shirt was a Christmas gift and I think it’s the best thing ever 😆

After the hole was drilled, we poured in some concrete and set our makeshift rod + bracket contraption in, letting it cure overnight.

Everything was good to go the next day, so the 4×4’s were cut snugly to fit and wedge in place (Lucas drilled out a hole at the bottom for the top of the rod to fit into).

Checking level to make sure we’re straight…


After securing the top of the posts with screws, we added 2×4″ spacers to the back and inside of the columns to beef them up a bit.

Before wrapping the columns, we went ahead and attached the remaining posts for the railing. After considering our options, we decided that stained wood railing would not only be the easiest/most economical option, but also the best way to break up all of the beige/black/white paint and add some warmth to the curb appeal.

We used our pressure treated 4×4’s (cut down to 33″) and secured them to the ground using the same method. The new posts were placed at the same locations as the old railing posts.

Then it was time to wrap the columns! We purchased 1×8’s and 1×6’s, and ripped them (with our table saw) down to 1×5 and 1×7 so that they’d line up evenly.

They were attached using wood glue and counter-sunk screws (finish nails won’t cut it for exterior wood—it warps overnight in the humidity!)

Everything is going so smoothly, right?!

Not so fast. After letting the posts set up overnight, we gave them a wiggle and found that they weren’t completely secure. All that drilling and concreting for nothing, it seemed.

We knew that attaching the horizontal supports to the columns would stabilize the middle posts, but our biggest concern was the two end posts on either side of the stairs—those had to be solid. It was time to send out the reinforcements! We found these heavy duty angle braces and attached them to the tile (using Tapcon screws) for extra support.

Certainly not the prettiest option but it worked, and the plan was to add trim around the bottom and paint the tile so that it wouldn’t be too noticeable.

We decided to skip the stair railing because A) no railing is actually required at all by code because our porch is less than 30″ from the ground, and B) so much work, not enough time. At this point, DIY time is limited and every day counts!

With the posts secured, it was time to move onto the railing. We opted to assemble the railing ourselves (rather than buying the prefab wood rail kits) so we could customize the height (and save $$). The balusters were only 87 cents/piece and the top rails $9/ea. The wood comes pretty rough, so Lucas spent time sanding down the edges of each board before installing (our orbital sander is the best for these types of projects!)

We used 2×4’s horizontally along the bottom, attached to the posts with specialty metal brackets.

Checking for level during every step is crucial!

We left a 4″ gap below the 2×4’s (per code) and this step was the quickest one.

Interesting observation—remember how light the color of the wood columns were earlier? They darkened within just a couple days of exposure to the elements. All of the wood we bought for this project (the 2×4’s, posts, balusters and railing) were different wood tones (some of the 4×4’s were actually green!) and I was worried they wouldn’t match after staining, but in a matter of days, everything evened out to be the same color. What a relief! Not sure if the Florida climate has anything to do with it, but it’s definitely worth mentioning for those with the same concerns.

With the bottom of our railings in, it was time to secure the tops. Another straightforward installation using L brackets.

The top rails have notches predrilled, which makes attaching the balusters an easier process—you just have to make sure they’re cut to the right size and level.

Lucas drilled his own pocket holes and secured them with outdoor screws. Check it out, our first finished section!

From there it wasn’t difficult, just time consuming. Lots of measuring and cutting and drilling.

But worth the result, as always!

For the finishing touches, we topped the posts with decorative caps, and Lucas proceeded to custom fit 1×4’s at the bottom to help conceal the braces.

While he was wrapping that up, I used my trusty water putty to patch up all the holes in the columns and got it ready for priming.

I decided to paint the columns rather than stain them because I love the look of crisp white framing out a porch, and it would tie in with the horizontal support under the roofline. The wood had to be primed first, to seal/protect it from the elements and to block the knots from bleeding through.

Since the plan was to paint over the tile floor as well, I needed a good bonding primer that would stick to hard/glossy surfaces too. After lots of research and reading reviews, I settled on this Kilz primer.

It worked just as expected on the wood.

Before giving it a coat of paint, I decided to tackle the messier job of staining the railing. The stain I chose was also a result of lots of research, and my requirement for it to have a built-in sealer. Staining railing is a tedious process so you want to avoid doing double the work!

I landed on this stain + sealer in Dark Walnut after reading the reviews and seeing photos of real results (also very important).

I used my favorite short angle brush and got to it—this stuff dries almost instantly so you have to work fast! Here’s after one coat—this section took me around 30 minutes to complete.

By late afternoon, I had finally worked my way around the porch.

I had planned to do a second coat but after a full afternoon of staining, I was exhausted/sweaty/pregnant so I had to call it a night. If you’re using a stain and sealer in one, take my advice and finish it in one day! By the time I was able to get back to it a few days later, the first coat had cured and the stain didn’t take as well. I was still able to coat it but some areas didn’t stick properly. Even still, this stain does a great job of waterproofing and I’d recommend it.

With the stain taken care of, it was time to clean it all up with a fresh coat of paint. I figured this was the perfect time to touchup the house as well, like this eyesore around the window we added for the reading nook a few months ago:

The house had been painted in Behr’s Castle Path, so I picked up a new gallon and got to work, touching up all of the chips and scuffs and patches from the old railing. Much to my dismay, the color was not an exact match (maybe from the sun? maybe it wasn’t stirred or mixed properly?) and I ended up spending the whole morning repainting the entire front porch.

Fortunately, I don’t mind painting (hello, instant gratification) and by the afternoon, I was ready for the trim paint.

I bought a gallon of Sherwin Williams Exterior paint in Alabaster (semi-gloss), which is the white that the previous owners used all throughout the house. It seemed to match the swatch chip I had so I was pretty confident it was correct—NOPE. This new paint was noticeably brighter, so I spent the rest of the afternoon repainting all of the white trim.

At least everything looks nice and new!

The next day, it was time to work on those tile floors.

We went through ALL the possible options for the floor, and finally settled on painting the the tile. At one point we were leaning towards building a wood porch over the existing concrete (most definitely the nicest looking option), but that would require a ton of time and labor (removing all of the old tile and scraping the thinset, leveling the concrete, adding risers, attaching the wood, staining, etc). But the main reason we didn’t go that route is because our door is too low, so there would have been a small lip to step up onto the deck (hello, tripping hazard).

In the end, we decided we needed something relatively easy, low cost, and fast since this project should have been done a month ago. I’ve seen tons of tutorials by other folks painting their tile floors, so I spent a lot of time trying to hunt down the perfect products for our situation. I had already purchased the primer (which others had used successfully on their tile floors) and for the paint, I settled on this epoxy concrete & garage floor paint.

There are very few paints made specifically for tile, and even though this one is ideal for concrete/masonry, if it can withstand thousands of pounds and hot tires, a little foot traffic should be no big deal! This was also the only one I could find that offered tons of colors (the tile paints were all standard white/almond/blue-gray). Not only that, but we’ll be repainting our concrete backyard patio so this would do double duty.

I knew the importance of roughening the surface before starting, so I bought the roughest sandpaper I could find (60 grit) and went to town. I posted the disappointing results in my Instagram stories…

The glaze on this tile is so hard that nothing abrasive (short of a metal grinder) will penetrate it. I looked into acid etching as well, but I just can’t believe that any liquid would roughen the surface of this stuff—especially after I took a grinder to it and all it did was burn the tile (it was still smooth).

Not feeling very optimistic at this point, I went ahead and tested an area of the tile with two coats of primer and two coats of paint. The results were exactly what I had expected.

To be fair, I did this after it had dried but not cured. I tried again the next day and it was definitely resistant to rubbing and dull contact, but anything sharp still easily scratches through all the layers.

Yes, I could have waited several days for it to fully cure, then applied an epoxy sealer and waited for that to cure… then spent another 1-2 weeks repeating the process for the entire porch and hoping it all worked out. But I wasn’t married to this idea enough to make it worth all the waiting and risk of scratching was not one I wanted to take (can you imagine trying to remove all those layers if it DIDN’T work?)

Feeling defeated and hormonally unstable, I turned to Instagram to talk me down from the ledge. 

52% of you said the tile wasn’t the worst thing ever, and my inbox was flooded with hundreds of messages weighing in with ideas. Most were options I’d already considered, but a few of you pointed out that the stairs were the biggest issue and that I should just redo those. Light bulb moment! The curb appeal is our primary concern here (I can disguise the porch with a rug, chairs + plants) so now I just needed to come up with a simple fix for the tile visible from the front.

That got my creative juices flowing, and I drew up a quick idea in Photoshop…

I could paint just the lip of tile around the front of the porch, paint the stair risers and add wood on the tops stained to match the railing. So much better already! The primer should be sufficient enough to keep the paint on the vertical tile (that doesn’t get the same wear & tear of the flat surfaces), so I had no worries there.

A few tweaks later, some landscaping and a new front door really sealed the deal:

Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a winner! Now I’m glad the porch paint wasn’t a home run, because this option is so much better (Plan B always seems to work out better in the end!) We have our shopping list for the wood steps (which should be pretty straightforward) and the primer is drying on the tile as I write this. If all goes well, that part will be done by the end of the weekend (famous last words, right?)

The later finishing touches will include a new front door, new mailbox and doorbell, shutters on the left window, a rug and chairs. A green front door could be interesting, too (this will be a fun vacation rental, after all…)

Eventually, if we are bored and in need of a project (ha!) we might change the top of the porch tile beyond covering it with a rug (most likely either tiling over it or resurfacing with concrete) but for now, I think it’s perfectly fine the way it is and for the needs of this rental.

After this weekend, we’ll turn our attention to the backyard (which we also started in January) with the goal of finishing before it gets too unbearably hot to work outside. This project has proven to be much more labor intensive than the front porch, and we’re not even halfway there!

Lots to share on this, and it will be another two (or three? maybe four?) part series over the next few months. In the midst of backyard projects, we’re about to start tiling the guest bathroom in the Heights House (and a handful of other projects) so keep an eye out for those on my Instagram stories over the next week!


Heights House Guest Bathroom

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

Back to back bathroom design posts means things are really about to start kicking into high gear at the Heights House! Last week I shared our plans for the master bathroom, and today I’ll dive into the design for the main guest bathroom.

Straight ahead from the top of the staircase, the upstairs guest bathroom serves our two guest bedrooms (on the left) and the bonus room on the right.

It’s on the small side, and it’s the only bathroom (out of three) with a tub.

My favorite part is the window and roofline. Pretty unique, right? I’ve got plans to make it even better!

The trickiest part about these small spaces is that they’re so hard to photograph. But I’ll do my best for ya!

The vision for this space is bold, luxurious and cozy. We’re talking rich matte black, glossy white, champagne gold and textured tartan for an unexpected yet classic touch. And did I mention this will all be on a budget?

I’m really excited about this design, but it took some time (and a lot of back and forth) to get to this plan. Let’s get into the details and my thought process behind it all!

Statement tile

To me, coming up with a design is like creating a new recipe. There are basic rules/ingredients that always work together, but the magic is in the small details/variations made which make it uniquely your own. You don’t have to worry about getting it ‘just right’, as ingredients can be delicious in many different recipes. Remember it’s an art, not a science (unless we’re talking about baking, that’s a whole other story…)

The floor tile was my ‘key ingredient’, and my starting point for the room. Months ago, I spotted this tartan tile on Instagram and literally got goosebumps—that’s how you know you’ve found a winner.

via @mhousedevelopment

I immediately assigned the tile to the upstairs bathroom and placed the order weeks ago. The only slight hiccup—it’s special order from Italy and won’t arrive until the end of March. I didn’t care, I’ll wait a lifetime for this tile. Even still, the bathroom show must go on as we need to finish our house ASAP to get our inspections passed and Certificate of Occupancy.

If you love the look of textured tile but don’t want to wait for a special order, Lowe’s has a few nice options, like these porcelain tiles which come in two different sizes (only $3.59/sf!)

And these ‘canvas’ porcelain tiles for $3.93/sf:

I don’t know about you, but I’m loving this textured tile trend! I hardly see anyone using it but I wouldn’t be surprised if it caught on and became the next patterned cement tile. Should we all band together and make it happen? I’ll go first! 😉


Color palette is always one of the first things I think about, because it helps define the mood of the space and clarify the direction you want to take the room in.

With just the tile to go off of, I could have taken this room in many different directions. Light and airy, dark and moody, soft and serene or bright and youthful. I’ve been on a dark and moody kick recently, especially for small spaces like bathrooms. There rest of our house will be white and bright, so I thought the guest bath would be the perfect space to get my dark fix.

Black was the first place my mind went—there’s just something about this bold yet timeless color that speaks to me. It makes a room feel luxurious and cozy, and I loved the idea pairing it with a classic pattern like tartan.

To bring warmth to the space, I chose champagne gold for the fixtures, which also represents luxury. And you can’t forget about including a healthy dose of white, which balances out all of the drama and allows your eyes to rest.

Throw in a couple natural accents like wood and woven baskets, and this recipe is set. It’s all about having a good variety of ingredients to make a room rich and flavorful.


After selecting the floor tile and deciding on my palette, the vanity was the first piece I looked for. I generally try to find the largest/most substantial piece OR the hardest thing to shop for in the room first, since it will be easier to find smaller pieces that play nicely with it afterwards.

Fortunately, I needed a 48″ vanity for this room which is one of the most common sizes, so there were options galore…

One in particular caught my eye right away:

I loved the simple design, the functional drawer storage, and the open area on the bottom for woven baskets or towels. And I couldn’t ignore the price at just $949—including the stone top and sink. Hard to beat!

I also loved the fact that it was customizable, so you could choose not only the vanity size, but the base color and the type of stone.

I decided to stick with the clean look of the white, and opted for the Carrara top (it’s a faux marble, which = easier maintenance!) though they do offer a real Carrara marble option.

Verdict is still out on whether or not I’ll use the backsplash it comes with (probably not, I think it looks cleaner without) and I’m also not very fond of chrome hardware so I’ll be switching those out with these oval oil rubbed bronze pulls:

Here’s where it pays off to pay attention to detail: I went to Lowe’s to check out the vanity in person so I could inspect it before buying (they didn’t have the 48″ model in stock but they did have a smaller one), and noticed the stock handles are attached with 2 screws. The new handles are only 1 screw which isn’t a problem (I’ll drill new holes) however the new handles aren’t large enough to hide the screw holes. Instead of looking for new handles, I took this opportunity to look for something I’ve been wanting to try for a while—backplates!

These instantly make knobs and pulls look more high end and they often have a vintage feel, so I thought it’d be a great way to customize the vanity. I highly recommend upgrading the knobs on stock vanities as an easy/affordable way to make it your own.

I came across these ORB backplates  from the same brand (which means they should match) and they don’t break the bank at $5.60/piece:

The next (and probably most important) part of customizing the vanity is the faucet. Usually vanities don’t come with a faucet (including mine, it’s just shown with one in the stock photos), but it’s an important way to support the design and style of your bathroom.

From the beginning I had decided on gold/brass hardware which instantly narrowed my options, but quality was another important factor. There are certain things that fall under the less functional/more decorative category like lighting, mirrors, hardware and wall decor where you can skimp on quality for price. At this stage in my life though (and with this house especially) I’m more hesitant to cut corners on functional pieces like plumbing fixtures. My goal is to limit the expensive plumber visits and make sure things are done right the first time!

With that said, it was a pretty easy choice for me to land on this Delta Victorian faucet:

What I love about it: the vintage look, the quality/high ratings, and the champagne gold finish. Delta has an entire line of products in this finish, which I prefer to polished brass and it’s one of the main reasons I decided to stick with this brand (I’ve used their Trinsic in the past and will be using their Dryden in the master bathroom).

After the vanity situation was worked out, I turned my attention to the walls.

Wall treatment

With tartan floors, a white vanity and a white ceiling, black was the only option in my mind for the wall color. But if you know me, you know I need more in my life than just painted drywall. Normally this means wallpaper or some sort of molding treatment. Wallpaper was nixed right away because I didn’t want any pattern competing with the floors, so bring on the trim!

I tossed around the usual ideas like shiplap, board & batten, picture frame molding, beadboard, etc. And then… then I found it:

via @jeanstofferdesign

Oh, my. Here’s another angle because I know you’re glued to the screen…

via @jeanstofferdesign

After picking my jaw up off the floor, it clicked that this wall treatment was exactly what I was looking for. Well, not exactly—I’ll be swapping the stained wood for black paint. Yes, those lines you see in my rendering aren’t representing stripes, but rather thin strips of molding…

Fortunately, Lowe’s carries just the right material for this! I roamed my favorite aisle (the molding aisle, of course) and found these 1.5″ strips of wood lattice that should be perfect for the job:

They come in a few different lengths and widths too, but I needed the 10′ strips since our ceiling is 9’4″ at the tallest point. I took a bunch of measurements and calculated that I’ll need 24 pieces (including a couple extra for mistakes) which comes to around $220 for the entire room—can’t beat that!

This will be a relatively time consuming process I’m sure (especially with the funky window/wall angles, and we’re covering every inch of the walls minus the shower), but the material is inexpensive and easy to work with. I predict this will pay off in a BIG way. Thank you, Jean Stoffer, for your endless design inspiration.

I mentioned I’ll be painting all of the walls black—I haven’t locked down a specific color yet, but I’ll do a whole separate post all about the wall treatment DIY and paint color next month. The ceiling, door/window trim and baseboards will all be white. Looking forward to that post!

One more fun element I wanted to squeeze in… you see that little section of drywall where the wall meets the ceiling?

Well, it’s covering something structural but I immediately envisioned an actual beam resting in that spot, so we’re going to give it a little makeover! The plan is to attached reclaimed boards to the face, so it looks like a real rustic beam. It’ll be a nice little detail and will bring a much needed wood element into the room.

Shower + toilet

A classy room needs a classy toilet, and it doesn’t get much classier than this Kohler

Truth be told, I saw this toilet on Pinterest years ago and have dreamed about it ever since (in a normal, non-creepy way). I always said that if I ever design a luxurious bathroom, this would be my toilet. It’s not the cheapest option at $358, but it’s definitely not the priciest either. Let me tell you though—it’s something most people don’t even think twice about, but you guys, toilets make a difference. It’s the forgotten chair in the house yet it gets used the most. Don’t forget about your special chair… it deserves love too. P.S. I plan on getting these for all 3 bathrooms. 

Now for the shower… this was the most difficult part for me to decide on. I was torn between wanting to do something interesting and unique, and wanting to keep it simple to not compete with the floors and walls. If you’ve been around for enough room reveals, you know I like to take every opportunity to do something I’ve never done or seen before. In my heart I knew that I had to keep the shower simple and white, but I couldn’t bring myself to install basic white subway tile in the shower (not that there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just been done so many times!)

I also couldn’t spend a fortune on cool textured/shaped tile, and I still wanted something timeless to match the style of the rest of the room. It needed to be simple and subdued, with just enough of a unique touch to make it interesting.

Enter these $0.98 3×12″ ceramic tiles:

I spotted them on Lowe’s and they immediately piqued my interest. The outlined edge is a neat touch, and I also loved the way they stacked them vertically here:

Luckily they’re readily in stock at Lowe’s, so I scoped them out in person. Definitely liking what I see.

Even though they’re labeled ‘subway tile’, I think the added detail and stacking them vertically will make this shower stand out from your typical subway tile walls, but it also won’t try to steal the attention from the rest of the room. In a couple weeks, I’ll do a whole blog post and video about our installation with the Before + After—stay tuned!

Mirror, lighting + accessories

With the big decisions out of the way, it was on to the funnest part—accessories! Unless I find and fall in love with something early on (or need a very specific size), I usually save this part for last since there’s so many great options out there.

I had to have the lighting locations planned out months ago during the electric rough-in stage, so I opted for two sconces—you can see the boxes below:

My original idea was to have a round mirror flanked by two taller sconces, like this:

I found this round gold 28″ mirror for a steal at $50, and these elegant brass lantern-style sconces (tip: when shopping for bathroom lighting, search for “wall sconces” instead of “vanity lights”—it’ll open up a lot more (and nicer) options!)

I didn’t mind that setup, but I thought the mirror was on the small side, and there was a whole lot of brass/gold tones going on. Thanks to the magic of Photoshop, I continued my search and and eventually settled on the winning combo: a ‘champagne silver’ arched mirror, and warm brass sconces:

What I love about the mirror: the arched shape, the light silver color to break up all of the gold tones, it’s the perfect size and it’s only $75! Best deal I’ve seen on a mirror with this style in a long time (maybe ever?)

What I love about the sconces: I’ve actually had these pinned for months, and it didn’t click right away to use these as vanity lights. I love that they’re unexpected, the unique shape, and the warm brass tone that I think will go nicely with the champagne gold faucet. And $112 isn’t too bad on the wallet…

For the shower faucet, I went with another Delta model in champagne gold (for the same reasons listed earlier) and also to keep the room finishes cohesive. The Linden is another one of their more affordable trims:


I love the functionality of the pull-out sprayer, and think it will come in handy for future baby baths 🙂

I also ordered 4 of these champagne gold hooks—remember how nicely they worked out in our laundry room? Favorite hooks under $6!

I’ll be using a champagne gold (or similar toned warm brass) for the towel and toilet paper holders, just haven’t found those yet. I also plan to add framed artwork of some sort, which will probably be a last minute decision after the room is closer to being finished.

Alright, guys—I think that just about covers it. I hope that by sharing all of these details and my thought process behind the design, you’ll feel more confident about making design decisions for your next remodel. There really is no one “right” way to approach design, and it gets easier (and more fun) with every room!

Any questions/comments, please leave them in the comments below, or head over to my Instagram and Facebook where I’m most active. This week will be another double-post—we’ve got another vlog update coming at you in a couple days so check back then!