A Guide to Updating your Doors and Hardware

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

When was the last time you thought about updating your doors, door/trim color and hardware? With so much of our focus on décor, doors tend to be an often overlooked part of the renovation process.

They may not be the first thing your eyes jump to when walking into a home, but doors certainly impact the overall look and feel of a space. They can instantly breathe new life into a home while making it feel unified and cohesive.

The doors at the Riverside Retreat were a hodgepodge of original and new, in various working conditions, collected over the past 70 years.

A few of them were replaced as we’ve updated the rooms, and I was pleasantly surprised to find an affordable solid-core Jeld-Wen replica of our original 1940’s doors.

The door was available in a variety of standard sizes, so we were able to replace all of our swing doors with this style, along with matching vintage-style glass knobs.

I’ve had experience selecting and installing every type of door over the years, and since it’s a reader question that pops up a lot, I thought I’d organize all of my knowledge, tips and advice in one post to reference. If you’re considering updating your door(s), I’ve broken down everything you need to know to get started, including round-ups of some of my favorite doors and hardware. Let’s dive in!

Door Types

Swing doors: Standard everywhere in homes

Bi-fold: Commonly used for closets that don’t need a lock, saves space

Pocket: Ideal in scenarios where there isn’t enough room for a swinging door, requires a more involved installation

Barn/sliding: Used to make the door a design feature, best suited for spaces where privacy/sound control isn’t critical

French doors: A popular double door choice for patios/exteriors, also a classic and elegant alternative for interior rooms

Saloon/cafe: These partial height bi-directional swinging doors allow for an easy hands-free passage between rooms

At the Riverside Retreat, we replaced all of the existing swing doors with matching replicas, preserving the original two panel style. Two of the bedroom closet doors use bi-folds (check out our custom “French door” bi-fold project from last year).

We also built custom sliding doors as a design feature in the living room, and decided to do something a little unexpected with the kitchen/laundry room passageway. Full privacy wasn’t needed, but we wanted some separation from the laundry area and back door so we opted for café doors (which we painted Valspar Cracked Pepper).

We’re planning to hang a large chalkboard on the kitchen wall to the right of the door, and a standard swing door would hit/block the chalkboard, so these smaller swinging doors were a great solution.

Slab vs Pre-hung

Slab doors are a more cost effective option if you are replacing an existing door and don’t need a new frame or door trim. You’ll want to make sure the new door is exactly the same size with the same hinge location/shape, and bore hole size/placement. On older houses especially, it can be tricky to get the new door to fit perfectly and operate smoothly. For this reason, I usually prefer spending a little extra on a pre-hung door—you can still try installing it without the frame, but it’s there as a backup just in case.

We attempted to replace just the doors to save on labor/materials, but our frames were so old and crooked that they all had to be replaced (and the hinge placements didn’t match up). We also took this opportunity to update some of the original wood trim that was in bad shape after years of neglect.

Door Style

There are many affordable style options to suit your home, from traditional to modern, craftsman to mid-century. I recommend choosing a design that matches the time period and style of the house.

For cohesiveness, make sure to use the same doors throughout the house, with the exception of any “feature” doors such as exterior, sliding/barn doors, closet and glass or partial glass doors (ie pantry or laundry).

Lowe’s carries a wide range of door options to suit a variety of different home styles. Here are some of my favorite interior doors—each come pre-hung, pre-drilled for hardware, primed and ready to install:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12

And if you’re in the market for a new exterior door, here’s a handful of those that caught my eye:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10

Door Material

For interior doors the most common options are wood, MDF, and particle board composite (either solid or hollow core). My personal favorite for most homes is solid core composite, as it provides sound protection, resists temperature/humidity shifts, and they’re a cheaper alternative to wood.

Exterior doors are available in a wider range of materials such as fiberglass, aluminum, wood, glass, steel and iron. They range greatly by price, size and style, and each material has its own pros and cons. Fiberglass and steel are my top choices if you’re looking for something low maintenance and budget friendly.

Paint color

While white doors and trim are still the default throughout homes in America, you don’t have to follow the status quo! Paint is an easy way to make doors more than just a functional building element, but rather a way to enhance the design and style of your home. I’ve been painting my white interior doors since 2014 and it has always dramatically improved the look of my homes. White walls and contrasting trim/doors have become my signature, but you could just as easily keep the trim white and paint only the doors.

My general rule of thumb for door/trim color is to make sure they all match within the common areas, but anything goes for the interior of rooms. I treat each room separately with its own design concept and color palette, so it can be different than the trim and door color throughout the rest of the house.

Doors that are a different style, like exterior doors and glass doors can also be a different color. I often go for rich black or a natural wood on these “feature doors”.

For this house, I chose Sherwin Williams Loggia for the main trim and door color. It’s a warm mushroomy-beige that works well as a neutral backdrop for a wide range of shades found throughout the home. You can read more about the paint selection process in this post.

The interior doors and trim for both the Rainforest Room and the In the Clouds bedroom are painted white, since Loggia would have clashed next to the blue walls (when using contrasting trim, I recommend keeping the main wall color white).

Paint sheen

A semi-gloss finish is the standard interior door choice for builders in my area due to its durability and ease of cleaning. I’ve also used satin in the past as I normally prefer the richer look of matte surfaces, but both of our current homes have semi-gloss on the main doors and trim, and we’re happy with that choice.

If you’re unsure, semi-gloss is a safe bet (especially if you have children or higher traffic rooms!) A high quality paint is important as well—my go-to’s are Sherwin Williams Showcase and Valspar Signature. For exterior doors, you’ll want to use exterior paint which is specially formulated to withstand the elements.

Our Jeld-Wen doors came primed and required 1-2 coats of Loggia paint. A fine woven paint roller (like Purdy’s White Dove) makes quick work of the task and helps eliminate visible brush/roller marks. For the edges and trim, we skip the painter’s tape and use a short handle angle brush for clean, straight lines.

A question I’m often asked is how to manage the transition of two different door colors. If you look at the inside of the door frame, there is a natural dividing line along the door stop trim piece. When the door is closed, you won’t be able to see the other color from either side. I use my angle brush to cut in along this line and it works like a charm!


Now for the fun part—choosing the ‘jewelry’ for your door! There are so many different options these days, and while hardware selection is a personal choice, there are a few guidelines I abide by.

First: consider the color of your doors. Your hardware should stand out, so if your doors are painted dark, choose a lighter colored metal when possible. The hardware style should be complementary to the style of the door—our vintage glass knobs with a classic matte black plate are a great match for our traditional doors.

Knobs or levers can both look great, so think about function and if you’d have a reason to choose one over the other. Example—our cat figured out that she could open a door by jumping and pulling on the lever, so knobs would have been a better choice if we didn’t want her trespassing in certain rooms!

Most hardware styles are available in privacy, passage and dummy forms. With the glass knob style we chose, the privacy handles have a little push pin on the inside to lock it. So much more aesthetically pleasing than a clunky turn lock in the middle of the knob, don’t you think?

Schlage is a favorite brand as they have a huge product selection at a reasonable price point. I used their Georgian antique brass knobs throughout the Cottage House and they looked sharp against the black doors.

schlage georgian antique brass

Most of Schlage’s hardware sets are completely customizable, so you can choose any style knob or lever with any backplate, in any metal finish. I’ve rounded up some of my favorite combinations below:

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13 / 14

One of my favorite inventions in recent years is the keyless entry system—something I implement in every house now, and it’s especially important for the Riverside Retreat as a vacation rental.

We updated both front and back doors with the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt with programmable codes for easy access. The smart technology connects to our phone so we can get notifications, check the status and lock/unlock the doors from anywhere (a backup key is also included in case of emergencies).

To make the house completely keyless and simplify the cleaning and turnover process, we also installed a smart deadbolt on the hallway closet designated for supplies.

While the Riverside Retreat still has a long list of to-do’s before it’s ready to host our first guests, it feels much more finished now with matching painted doors, trim and hardware. 

For many of us it’s an afterthought, but doors are something we use multiple times per day, so I think it’s one of the most important parts of a home. If you have quality solid doors and hardware that operates smoothly and provides sound protection, the attention to detail won’t go unnoticed.

I think it’s absolutely worth the investment, and worth taking the time to shop around and find the right door and hardware combination to suit your home.

I hope this guide has been helpful, and inspired you to look at your doors in a new way. Whether you’re updating the hardware, changing the color or replacing the whole door, you’ll be surprised at the impact these changes have on your home!

Next up: bedroom reveals at the Riverside Retreat!


DIY Hanging Bed

After 1 ½ years of renovations at the Riverside Retreat, we’ve finally come to our last and final room—the third bedroom, now formally known as our “In the Clouds” room. The centerpiece of this room, and the idea that started the entire concept was a bed hanging by ropes from the ceiling…

Eucalyptus garlands / Dresser / Mirror / Curtains / Rug

I’ve always thought the idea of a hanging bed was so fun and different—not the most practical for every day use, but for a unique vacation rental experience, why not? (YOLO!) Here’s the bedroom we were working with:

The tile floors were replaced with Pergo laminate along with the rest of the house, but other than that, we hadn’t touched it since September 2018. Lucas initially wasn’t thrilled with the idea of building this bed (because of our tight timeline) so it was put off all these months, but I finally convinced him it was worth the effort (and now that it’s finished, he agrees! 😉)

The idea for this room is to feel like you’re floating in the clouds when you walk in. You’ll sink into a plush bed suspended by rope wrapped in eucalyptus, surrounded by a dreamy, ethereal sky. Natural textures, muted blues and crisp whites create a peaceful and calming atmosphere. I gathered some inspiration in my Pinterest board, and was struck by this rope bed in particular:

Source unknown

Before the bed was built, we had to address the plain white walls. Wallpaper was a no-go since they were super textured, so I hired a local mural artist to paint an abstract ombre/cloudscape. I showed her two ideas I found on Pinterest and asked her to combine these concepts…

I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of the room in daylight before the bed was built (oops!) and this isn’t the best lighting, but I snapped a quick photo as the paint was drying…

I think she did a great job! A lot of the walls will actually be covered by curtains, a dresser and mirror, but you’ll still get the ombre effect and the feeling as if you’re in the sky. Lucas didn’t waste any time, and got to work last week after we sketched out a plan. Just like the DIY loft bed, he took charge of this project from start to finish since this mama is on baby duty 24/7 these days…

We searched far and wide for a good hanging bed tutorial to follow and came up short. So Lucas was forced kind enough to take photos and write up this tutorial for anyone else out there who wants to give it a shot! He did 95% of this intermediate-level project by himself over a several nights and a weekend, but it’s much faster and easier as a two person job.

Take it away, Lucas!

Shopping List


50 ft 1.5″ Rope

(4) Triangle quick links

(4) 1/2 ” x 8″ eye bolts

2″ hole saw

4×4 joist hangers

Fender washers

2″ and 3″ wood screws

Finishing nails

Liquid nails (or wood glue)


4x4x8 (for attic reinforcement)

2x4x8’s (for bed frame)

1x6x6’s and 1x6x8’s (for bed trim)

(2) 4×8′ 1/2″ plywood (for mattress base)

Cove molding (for inside corners of frame)

Before building the bed, I had to make sure it was properly supported from the attic. The first step was to identify where on the ceiling the eye bolts would need to be, which would determine the location of the 4×4 blocking in the attic.

For our queen sized bed, we wanted the mattress to sit inside of the ropes head to foot, and fill the whole platform side to side with 1” of room on either side. Our bed would be centered on the window, so using that as a guide (starting 6″ away from the window wall) I measured from all three walls to carefully plot the exact locations of the eye bolts.

I tested out our new laser measuring tool, which was extremely valuable to get precise measurements.

Once I had the spots marked, I drilled a hole up into the attic using a ⅜” bit.

Now came the fun part: climb into the attic to see where the holes came through! Since I was going to be near insulation, I made sure to wear a safety mask.

Once in the attic, I located the holes by searching for the tiny spot of light coming through:

Safe to say I was extremely relieved that our holes fell right in the middle of the ceiling joists! This would make it much easier to attach the supports and not have to work closely with the joists. If it was too close, I would have adjusted the distance away from the wall we put the bed.

The next step was to install the supports. I used 4×4’s and joist hangers to attach them between the ceiling joists. Here it is next to the eye bolt that would be later attached from below:

After cutting the 4×4’s to the correct length, I attached the joist hangers before going into the attic, as it would be difficult to do in the tight space. 

In addition to the screws in the joist hangers, I also used 3” screws from the other side of the joist to go into the end of the 4×4. No chance of this baby going anywhere!

Attaching these supports in the attic was the hardest part of this project. Working in a very small space and getting everything aligned properly was quite difficult. At one point I was fully outstretched on my stomach with my head sideways under the rafters reaching as far as I could to get a screw in…

Once the 4×4’s were secured in the attic, I went back into the bedroom and drilled holes all the way through the 4×4 for the eye bolt. Since I was using a ½” eye bolt, I used a ⅜” drill bit to ensure a tight fit. To tighten the eye bolt, a scrap piece of wood acted as a lever to help twist it into place.

Next, I went back up into the attic and attached the fender washers and nuts on the other side of the eye bolt that was now sticking through the 4×4.

The triangle quick links (which the rope would loop around) were then hooked onto the bolts (I later spray painted these white to blend into the ceiling).

With the hanging support system in place, now it was time to build the bed frame.

I came up with a very simple 2×4 plan for the frame, using two side supports underneath five top slats. I was sure to mark where the hole for the rope was going to go before attaching the pieces together, mirroring my eye bolt measurements.

This is what the finished frame looked like:

I also attached two 2×4’s for the headboard at the top of the bed using liquid nails and screws, making sure everything was flush and level.

Using paint cans to prop the frame up, I drilled the holes for the rope using a 2” circle bit.

The bit I had couldn’t go deeper than 2”, so I had to drill a small pilot hole through and turn the bed on its side to drill the hole from the bottom as well.

With the frame built and the holes cut, it was time to install the trim pieces. I used smooth pine 1x6s for both the side rails and the headboard, and attached them using a combination of screws and finishing nails.

Our plan was to stain the bed, so I wanted to limit the screw holes that would need to be filled, but still added a few for extra strength.

Before moving on to the headboard pieces, I needed to attach the plywood mattress platform, as the headboard would be sitting on it.

I used two 4×8′ sheets of  smooth ½” plywood and cut them down to size using our table saw. I made it so the two pieces both ended on the middle slat, and secured them down with 1¼” screws.

Plywood can be difficult to counter sink screws into, so I first used a ⅜” drill bit to make a divot that the screw head would fit into.

Next, I used the circle saw again to drill the rope holes in the plywood to match up with the holes in the frame below.

Now it was time for the headboard. Because of the side trim piece, the bottom headboard 1×6 had to be notched out to fit using our Dremel multi-max (you could also use a jigsaw for this).

I used liquid nails and finishing nails to attach four 1×6’s onto the 2×4 frame.

The edges were mitered to wrap the 1×6 pieces around to cover the side of the frame.

To hide the gaps on the edges where the plywood base met the frame, I used liquid nails and cove molding trim.

Our trusty mouse sander rounded out all of the sharp edges.

Finally, stainable wood putty was used to fill all the holes (you can use any type of wood filler if you plan on painting your bed).

With the frame now complete, it was time to move onto the rope portion. Jenna found this super strong 1.5” polypropelene “manila” rope, which I’d weave into itself at the top and tie a knot below the frame at the bottom. First, I had to thread the rope through the triangle quick links attached to the eye bolts.

Then I  weaved the rope into itself for strength. The thickness of the rope meant it wasn’t the easiest to work with, so I had to use a little (all of my) forearm strength and creativity with an empty liquid nails container to help get the rope through the tight spaces.

After the rope was woven into itself, I used ¼” sisal rope to wrap it tight and keep it all together.

Finally,it was time to get this bed hanging!

With the ropes threaded through, I used a combination of paint cans and scrap wood to lift the bed about 20” off the floor. This would allow me to tie the rope and let the bed settle into place—we were aiming for 10-12” of space underneath. I tied the knots as close to the top as I could, knowing the weight of the bed would make it settle and tighten everything down.

It took a few adjustments to get the bed the correct height and level all around.

The final step was to stain the wood. I taped off the inside to create a cleaner edge as we didn’t need to stain the entire surface that will be covered by the mattress.

I used a mixture of two Minwax stains to try and match our floors: Driftwood and Special Walnut.

Once the stain was dry, I cut the rope to its final length and unraveled the bottom to fray the edges. 

And with that, the bed was DONE! We unboxed the mattress and brought in our model to test it out…

This bed is baby approved! And if you’re wondering how safe it is, we took extra precaution to make sure it was reinforced at every step. Lucas swung from each rope and confirmed each eye bolt was as secure as it could be.

As far as the bed movement goes, it didn’t seem to be an issue when getting in and out of bed and as a light sleeper I don’t think it would bother me. We’ll invite some friends over to test it out and give us their feedback to be sure. Initially, we planned on attaching the headboard to the wall to eliminate any movement, but then realized the curtains wouldn’t be able to close if we did that…

If the movement proves to be a problem with guests, we can secure the bed with rope and another eye bolt in the center of the floor. I’m hoping whoever decides to sleep this room will enjoy the gentle rocking, but we have backup plans just in case!

What’s next for this room? Blackout shades and velvet drapes, a super soft faux sheepskin rug, a dresser and night stands, round wall mirror, eucalyptus garlands wrapped around the rope, bedding and accessories. As I type this we’re in the middle of replacing the doors, trim and hardware so as soon as that’s completed (this weekend) we can bring in all the finishing touches.

So close to making this dreamy bedroom come to life!

At the same time we’re still working on the master bedroom, bunk room, exterior landscaping and a bunch of other odds and ends, so we’re aiming to have this room revealed in the next few weeks. It seems like forever but there just aren’t enough hours in the day lately! While you’re waiting patiently, you can follow my Instagram stories for updates so you don’t miss anything.

Next up: all the details on our brand new doors and hardware!



DIY Antique Elm Stool

You’ve probably seen them in your Instagram feed, Pinterest and in the pages of magazines: antique elm wood stools. They come in the form of tables and benches as well, as you can see here in Michelle Janeen‘s living room:

They’re the perfect mix of simple, rustic and chic, and I’ve been wanting to get my hands on one. The only problem? The price tag is usually in the hundreds, and they’re in limited supply since these are antiques and not mass produced.

I knew there had to be a way to recreate the look on a budget, and set out to find the most inexpensive stool to start with. Amazon to the rescue!

At only $35, it was a no-brainer. I bought the 18″ size, which is perfect for a small side table in our living room (update: they just raised the price yesterday after a bunch of you bought them up, but it’s still a great deal!)  Here it is next to our sofa:

It looks out of place in this photo because it clashes with the deeper wood tone and rustic style of our coffee table.

The goal was to make the smooth, new wood look authentically aged and rustic, and stain it to match the tone of the coffee table. I’ve done my fair share of rustic wood DIY’s in the past, but this time I decided to introduce a couple new tools to my arsenal.

  1. Orbital Sander – one of my most used and loved tools. A Mouse sander works just as well (in fact it’s easier to get into tight spaces) but the orbital is a bit faster.
  2. Planer – this tool shaves down wood with a spinning blade and is super useful for many woodworking projects. If you don’t own one and don’t want to get one, try using a hand planer or wood rasp (it will just take a lot longer!)
  3. Jigsaw – a basic DIYer’s essential, this tool has a reciprocating blade that makes quick straight cuts.
  4. Drill with wire brush attachment These coarse wire brushes are designed for heavy duty surface removal (rust, layers of paint, etc). This set on Amazon is a great deal!

There are many different ways to go about making new wood look old, and I’ve tried a lot of them, but the combination of the above tools have produced the best results in the shortest amount of time. I always recommend experimenting with your technique and seeing what you like! There is no one “right” approach.

I tested each tool on a piece of scrap wood first to get the hang of things, and I’d highly advise you to do the same. To begin, I grabbed the tool that does the most damage—the planer.

I started by planing down the edges in random spots, then did the same along the flat surfaces. The goal is to make the wood look worn and uneven by getting rid of the straight, smooth lines.

Don’t be afraid to take a few bigger chunks out, too! It can look pretty extreme but the sander will smooth it all out. The planer is a powerful tool and can take a little while to get comfortable with it, so make sure to get some practice runs in first.

Once the wood was sufficiently mangled, it was time for the next step: the jigsaw.

This is where you’ll recreate the look of saw marks, etching grooves and lines as you run the jigsaw back and forth along the wood. I shared a couple videos of this process in my Instagram stories (definitely give those a watch if you plan on doing this project!)

You’ll want to spend some extra time on the edges, cutting deeper grooves to make it look like raw wood edges.

Make sure to carry the grooves over along the top, and cut some at an angle.

Keep going until you’ve covered each surface and are happy with the level of distressing.

Alright, the heavy duty stuff is over!

Now it’s time to sand everything down. Real aged wood that has been around for decades is smooth as it has been worn down over time. We don’t want any visible fresh cuts or rough edges.

An orbital sander makes fast work of this, but you’ll find that if you sand too much, you’ll start to erase some of the jigsaw marks. You can either sand those areas a little less or go back and make deeper grooves with the jigsaw. This is the fastest step and shouldn’t take longer than 15-20 min or so.

Finally, we have the last and most important step. The secret ingredient to getting that real aged look—a wire brush:

This was actually my first time using wire brush attachments on my drill, and I found a great deal on this set on Amazon:

I played around with a couple different attachments, but the largest disc was my favorite so I stuck with that. The coarse wire cuts deep, tiny grooves into the wood, opening up the grain.

This is the texture you’ll find on old wood that has been worn away by the elements and fluctuating conditions over time. I was pretty blown away with the results and wondered how I’d never thought to try this sooner…

After running the brush along the wood going with the grain, I held it perpendicular to the wood and went against the grain in random areas. This step definitely takes the longest, but it makes the biggest difference (and it’s pretty fun!). I also went over any areas that the sander missed where the cut marks were too clean.

This step took me a couple hours, but you can do less or more to your preference. Finally, it’s ready to stain!

I grabbed a couple stains from my garage that I thought could be a good match, and did a quick test. Here I’m using two of my favorites, Minwax Weathered Oak and Special Walnut.

I assumed since the wood was so light that it would play nicely with the stains, but it applied much warmer.

Special Walnut would have been way too brown, so I went with Weathered Oak and brushed on a light coat.

This proves you can never trust the color in the can! Your wood is what determines the color output.

I looked in the garage again and found a can of Driftwood, which is slightly grayer than Weathered Oak.

After the first coat was dry, I gave the stool a second coat of Driftwood. And it looked pretty good!

If I had to do it all over again, I’d skip the Weathered Oak stain and only use Driftwood.

Time for the real test… a side by side next to our coffee table.

Not an exact match, but I wasn’t done yet. I found a can of black wax and figured I’d give it a shot (I’m using Maison Blanche chalk wax, but any black or dark wax will do).

You simply rub it on the wood with a cloth and it settles into the grooves, making the texture more defined. The wax also darkened and neutralized the wood tone a little. I’d say the color is pretty close!

You’ll want to protect your finish by sealing it with a varnish. I gave mine a few coats of this matte polyurethane, which is water based for easy cleanup and dries invisible.

Now this side table fits right in with the coffee table!

Haven’t decided if I’ll keep it next to the chair or over by the couch yet…

I considered getting two, but we haven’t had a need for the extra table space yet. I can always make another one!

What do you think? Pretty convincing as an antique, right?

I love it when DIYs work out so well, especially when anyone can do it in 1 day on a budget!

Save this one to your Pinterest board for later, and make sure to go back and watch my Instagram stories to see videos of the process.

Next up, we’re keeping the DIY train going with a custom built hanging bed at The Riverside Retreat. You’ll definitely want to tune in for this one!

Riverside Retreat Bunk Room Design

Are you ready for the wildest room at the Riverside Retreat?! We’re not holding back with the design of the “bunk room”—a bonus area just off the living room:

We decided to turn this space into a multi-purpose lounge, media room, and sleeping area for four, bringing the house’s total occupancy to ten. Because the Riverside Retreat is geared towards small groups and families, we figured this will be the cool spot the kids will want to hang out in. It’s close enough for parents to keep an eye on, but can also feel private with sliding doors to close it off from the living room:

The rest of the house is pretty eclectic with an “earthy, jungle, tropical boho” vibe that leans more sophisticated for the most part, but for this room we’re letting loose and just having fun with the design. It will be the statement-making Instagram worthy photo op part of the home—the space that will make it stand out from the rest. Every good vacation rental needs that wow factor, right?

Once upon a time, the Bunk Room was a single car garage that was later converted into a long, narrow room that didn’t seem to serve a purpose…

We replaced the tile with durable Pergo laminate, added a window and built a huge custom reading nook:

Then just last month, we DIY’d a loft bed on the other side of the room:

And that brings us to today! We’re waiting on a few more pieces and expect the room to be done by the end of the month, but let’s talk about the star of the show—the green wall! I teamed up with Afloral after searching far and wide for the perfect lush greenery to cover a large space. Their faux fern mat was the perfect solution:

Each mat is a 19.5″ square and they lock together, creating a seamless ivy wall effect. You’ve seen these before in fancy hotels, restaurants and weddings—they make for awesome photo backdrops and I know our guests will have a lot of fun with it!

There are many different ways to use these mats, but we decided to go with a more permanent installation and secure them directly to the wall (we have no plans to ‘redecorate’ anytime soon!) Here’s how we did it:


Fern mats (we needed approx 50 to cover ~160 square feet)

Self drilling drywall anchors

Self drilling stud anchors (for plaster part of the wall)

#8 Fender Washers

Concrete Screws



Hammer drill (for concrete part of our wall)

Impact driver (for Tapcons on concrete part of wall)

Tape measure


The sheets are designed for a simple installation, with a plastic mesh backing that the greenery is attached to.

Each sheet has little tabs which lock together:

For a perfect fit around objects, the plastic mesh is easy to cut down to the exact size you need.

To attach the sheets to the wall, we used anchors and washers to hold the mesh in place. Our wall was a little tricky because it’s a mix of plaster (original house wall), drywall (where the previous owners blocked in an interior door), and concrete (it used to be a garage so the bottom two feet are solid concrete). We had to use a different type of fastener on each section:

Concrete: concrete screws

Drywall: self drilling drywall anchors

Plaster: self drilling zinc drywall/stud anchors (the plastic version doesn’t make it through the plaster without breaking)

Lucas captured a time lapse of the install which you can watch in my Instagram stories—starting from the top left corner to allow gravity to help:

The first step is to mark and install the anchors in the wall. He used two anchors on each sheet for the top row. With the sheet held in place, he secured the screw and washer on top of the mesh to pull it tight.

This step was repeated for each sheet across the top, attaching them together with the locking tabs.

For the second row, the anchors were attached where the mats overlapped, then the washer pulled all four pieces tight to the wall. This process was continued from left to right and top to bottom for the whole wall.

When working around obstacles, it’s as simple as cutting the mesh backing to the size/shape you need. He had to be careful to use the side of the mesh with the correct tabs to attach to the piece next to it.

Once the sheets are all installed, you have to fluff the pieces so the lines between sheets blend in. At this stage in this picture, you can see the top had been fluffed, but the bottom hadn’t yet:

It is an easy beginner level install, but it does take time. For our 13.5’w x 12’h wall, it took Lucas about 7 hours over two days.

Definitely something you don’t see every day!

Here’s how it looks now…

But it’s not finished yet! The focal point of this room will be a neon sign centered on the wall. I enlisted the help of Amped & Co and worked with them on a custom design, which we’re finalizing now…

Can you picture it??

In the meantime, we’ve been pulling together the rest of the elements for this room, like our floating TV stand, round jute rug, and live edge table set.

One of the most important pieces we had to select was the sleeper sofa. It had to be small enough to fit inside the nook under our loft bed, in a durable kid-friendly fabric, and (most importantly) comfortable for our guests to sleep in. After a ton of searching to find one that ticked all the boxes, I decided on the Oneira ‘Deep Sea Blue’ sofa from Article:

I’ve worked with Article before and was impressed with the quality of their furniture, so I knew I could rely them again with a sofa that had had to be just as functional as it was stylish. The memory foam mattress was a big selling point for me, as we want to ensure all of our guests get a good night’s sleep (even if they’re on the sofa!)

We have velvet fabric all throughout the house (living room sofa, dining room chairs, twin beds, curtains) so it fits right in with the rest of our decor, and the neutral gray-blue doesn’t compete with the green focal wall.

Because the Bunk Room is so narrow and there’s not a lot of space for seating, we had to get creative. I found these inexpensive patterned ottomans on Amazon which will tuck underneath the floating TV stand when not in use.


I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add this hanging chair I found for under $50… is it really a jungle room unless you can swing from ropes? I think not.

Lucas spent some time in the attic reinforcing the joists and installing heavy duty eye hooks to knot the rope around. The weight capacity is rated at 265 lbs and this baby isn’t going anywhere!

To take it a step further, I picked up a couple of these fern and eucalyptus garlands from Afloral and secured them to the ropes.

Now it’s a jungle party!

Last but not least… we’ve got something special planned for this empty wall. It’s the first thing you see when you enter the room, and visible from the living room/front door:

Originally the plan was to turn it into a giant chalkboard with ‘Welcome to the Riverside Retreat’, but we decided that could get pretty messy and we’d risk our text getting scribbled over/erased. Instead, I tracked down one of the most talented local mural artists here in Tampa to paint the design, and this is the mockup he sent:

Pretty cool, right? He’s scheduled to start next week and I’ll be sharing updates on my Instagram if you want to follow along!

Just waiting on a few more pieces and finishing touches before the big reveal, and in the meantime we’re still working on pulling together the Tropical Oasis bedroom, the third and final bedroom, replacing the old doors, updating some of the electrical, and a few exterior updates. I’ll be sharing everything here on the blog over the next month so don’t go anywhere!



Rub N Buff Gold Test + DIY Tutorial

Last weekend I finally got around to a project I’ve been wanting to do for some time, and today I’m here to share the results along with my best tips and secrets to get a perfect antique gold finish on almost any surface!

I discovered Rub N Buff last year and instantly fell in love with it after testing it out on some knobs and hooks. It’s the easiest and quickest way to achieve a realistic antique metal finish, and it’s an enjoyable process too!

These hooks in the nursery used to look like this!


The application of Rub N Buff is unlike anything I’ve used before (different than paint, wax, or gel) and requires a certain technique to get the aged look just right. It took a few failed tries and some experimentation, but I finally figured out the best way to get consistent, beautiful results. Let’s jump right into it!

To get started, you’ll just need a few materials:

  1. Rub N Buff — I purchased this set of five different golds that I’ve tested for you in this post. I recommend getting more than one color to do your own experimentation!
  2. Black spray paint — Any kind will do, even Oil Rubbed Bronze or dark brown is fine.
  3. Makeup brush — Obviously you won’t be using it on your face again, so don’t use your favorite brush! It must be stiff and not fluffy (a blending brush works well) and you’ll want super fine/soft bristles for best results. If you don’t have any handy, I’m obsessed with this inexpensive brush set and use it for makeup, but the stiffer large brushes will work for this project!)

And of course, you’ll need the object you’ll be transforming along with a paper plate, paper towel or any clean surface to blend the Rub N Buff.

During our build we installed these brass picture lights in our dining room. They were just the right size, style and price point.

We’ve lived with them for almost a year and I liked them, but I wasn’t completely in love with the brass finish.

They just looked a bit too new, and the color wasn’t quite right with the decor in our home.

I knew Rub N Buff was the answer, and I was finally able to carve out some time last weekend to make it happen. But first, I thought it’d be fun (and helpful for everyone!) to test out all five shades of gold I had on hand.

The outside color of the tubes are a lie, don’t believe them!

Here’s a secret to getting a vintage look: paint it black first! A dark base coat will create the depth and dimension required for a patina effect. If you don’t want it to look aged then feel free to skip this part. For this color test, I sacrificed some old spoons and gave them a couple coats of black spray paint:

The black paint doesn’t have to be perfect or even cover completely, we’re just aiming for a darker base coat. I found that the spray paint will also “grab” onto the Rub N Buff and make it adhere to the surface very well.

These are the golds that came in my set:

Autumn Gold: More like a rose gold or a copper

European Gold: The most desaturated gold of the bunch, very neutral

Gold Leaf: Similar to European Gold but a bit brighter/more saturated

Grecian Gold: The darkest gold with bronze tones

Antique Gold: A warm gold with peach undertones

Time to test them on our spoon subjects! I dabbed a small amount of Rub N Buff onto a paper plate, grabbed my makeup brush and used the stiffer end to blend thoroughly. A tiny bit goes a long way!

You’ll want to start very lightly, because the black paint grabs the pigment and unlike paint or wax, it ‘dries’ right away—meaning you can’t blend it in or spread it around. Think of it as a concentrated powder paste that immediately transfers to the surface. Remember, you can always add more pigment but you can’t easily take it away! This is why a fine bristle blending brush is so important. The first time I tried using a cotton ball and that didn’t work at all, so take my advice and use a good makeup brush!

I found that shorter movements and a swirly motion helped to eliminate any visible brush strokes. You can experiment with the patina effect and go for more contrast by letting the base coat show through, or a subtler look by adding more layers of gold (including multiple colors, if you choose).

I gave each spoon a coat of a different shade, allowing the black to peek through just a little. Here’s how they turned out:

It’s tough to capture the metallic qualities through a photo. Do you have a favorite?

Honestly I would have been happy with a few of them, but the more subtle European Gold was my favorite:

With the winner chosen, it was time for the transformation to begin!

To prep the sconces, I first used painters tape to protect the light.

This is a little trick I use when I don’t want to paint all of something. The shape is easily cut away with a razor blade knife.

Then I brought them outside to paint. The Rustoleum spray paint dries super fast so this didn’t take long at all.

You’ll want to make sure the paint is completely dry, I’d give it at least a couple hours so the finish won’t rub off.

Now it’s time for the fun part! I loaded up my brush with European Gold (making sure to thoroughly offload the color first) and gently swirled it on.

The process didn’t take long at all (I posted a timelapse in my Instagram stories, in case you want to see a video of it!)

Here’s a little before -> during -> after progression…

I was aiming for a more subtle patina, so two coats were needed. I found that brushing side to side on the top layer gave the finish a more realistic texture. At this point the brush had been sitting overnight with the Rub N Buff dried on (I forgot to wash it out) so it wasn’t going on as smoothly, and even buffing parts of the first layer off. I switched to using my finger to apply a thicker finish and cover completely in some areas.

In total, it took around 15-20 minutes per light and I used maybe 1/3 of the tube. And had fun doing it!

A huge improvement, I’d say!

Don’t these look like super expensive antique lights?

I’m amazed at how authentic it looks. You’d never know these weren’t the real deal.

Even Susie couldn’t believe her eyes…

I’m already looking around the house to find my next Rub N Buff project. This stuff is addicting!

Q: When should I use Rub N Buff instead of spray paint?

  1. On medium to smaller pieces without a large surface area
  2. On fixtures that aren’t easily removable to spray paint outside
  3. For an aged look instead of a “new” factory smooth finish
  4. If you want more color variety than the few gold spray paint options

Q: Will this work on door knobs and faucets?

It will work great on any metal! However, durability over time is the real question. Objects that aren’t handled regularly (like light fixtures) are ideal, as you’ll never have to worry about the finish coming off. Rub N Buff is permanent and I would trust the staying power of it over any paint or spray paint, but if you scratch the metal with another hard surface, it will scrape off.

You’ll definitely want to scuff up the surface first using fine steel wool or a sanding block for better adhesion. You’ll also want to protect the finish with a lacquer/varnish. I bought this spray lacquer to use on a faucet refinish project that I never ended up doing—if you try it, let me know and I’ll update here! Note that Rub N Buff adheres very well to more porous surfaces like wood and should not come off, even with a lot of physical contact.

I hope this post was helpful if you’ve been wanting an easy and inexpensive way to antique almost anything. There’s several other color options like silver, pewter, white and ebony, so the sky is the limit. Leave a comment and let me know what you plan to makeover!

heights house living room

Heights House Winter Living Room

Now that our fireplace project is complete and Christmas decorations put away, our living room is officially finished because our second chair from Sixpenny has arrived!

I selected their Wyatt Chair in the ‘poppy seed’ lightweight linen, after ordering several swatches to compare them with the sofa and rug.

The room had only warm tones, so I opted for a neutral gray fabric to keep the palette balanced. It has the same relaxed linen fit as the sofa, and I love that it’s large and deep enough to curl up on with my babe 🙂

The living room is our favorite and most used spot in the house, and now it can comfortably seat a group of people. A huge thank you to Sixpenny for working with me as a sponsor! Don’t miss their gorgeous linen sofas if you haven’t seen them around Instagram yet (a couple of them made my Budget Linen Sofa roundup).

The live edge accent table is another recent addition but a temporary placeholder. I actually bought it to use at the Riverside Retreat, but I’m working on a DIY replacement soon (stay tuned!)

Our Christmas tree has been replaced with the olive tree, and I replaced the burgundy accents with olive green and winter neutrals. Still just as obsessed as ever with our rug and how it goes with everything.

Nothing like a clean slate and fresh start to the new decade!

A new season is also the perfect opportunity to change your look by switching up throw pillows. Linen + Cloth offered to let me try out one of their curated collections, and I chose the Fall Collection #3:

I love the way these look as a set, but I think I’ll steal a few to use in the Riverside Retreat bonus room.

Susie fits right in as the 5th pillow! 😉

The morning light is the best in this room…

Summer has always been my favorite season but now that I’m living in central Florida, you really can’t beat the winter weather. It’s just the right mix of cool and warm days, perfect for afternoon family walks and curling up by the “fire” at night 🙂

What you don’t see in these photos are Esmé’s play mat and toys, normally kept in this room as this is where we play and work during the day. The toys are manageable right now since she’s still a new baby and doesn’t need a lot to keep her entertained, but who knows when that will change…

Speaking of—we’re about to transition her into her new crib this weekend! It will be her first night alone in the nursery and we’re hoping it will result in more sleep for everyone. Here’s to hoping we survive the transition!

DIY Electric Fireplace

If you’ve been watching my stories on Instagram, you may have seen us installing our electric fireplace last week, and many of you requested a full tutorial so here it is!

Let’s rewind to the beginning. There was an empty wall in our living room that I was planning to hang some sort of large scale artwork on…

Until last month when I found this oak mantel for $75 on OfferUp and bought it on a whim…

We attached it to the wall with a couple 2×4’s on each side and I painted it black…

And decorated it just in time for Christmas photos.

The plan was to turn it into a functional fireplace, so I spent some time researching electric inserts. Our fireplace mantel is shallow (around 6″ deep) so our options were pretty limited, but I was able to find this 36″ insert on Amazon:

It was the slimmest I could find at 5.5″ deep, one of the most affordable at $205, with great reviews and features (remote control, timer, flame display control and two heater settings). It was a pretty easy decision! Here’s how it looked out of the box:

To mount it to the wall, we first had to build a frame. We realized we could avoid having to remove the mantel from the wall by building the frame to the size of the opening, and attaching a panel cut to the same opening size (with a cut out for the insert). Lucas drew up a quick sketch of our frame, using 2×4’s:

The numbers indicate the measurement of the opening size for the insert, and the rest of the 2×4’s were essentially just there for support. First step: building the center section around the insert.

No fancy cuts or pocket screws here, just two wood screws (2.5 long”) per 2×4 board (making sure to predrill the screw holes to avoid splitting).

The width of the frame was just shy of our mantel opening size of 49″.

Test fit is a success!

From the side you can see how the lip of the insert sits on the outside of our frame.

We also had to test and make sure the frame fit nicely inside of the mantel opening.

Next it was time to add the upper and lower portion of the frame. I decided to center the insert within the opening, so Lucas measured to determine the correct height, cut down four 2×4’s and attached them along the bottom.

It was important for these to all be exactly the same length so that the insert would sit perfectly level.

The same process was repeated for the top pieces, though these were rotated to face the front of the frame so there would be more surface area to attach our panel to. Lucas also added vertical supports along each side for this purpose.

Now that the frame was built, we had to make sure it was the right depth. This was achieved by attaching L shaped braces made out of 2×4’s, cut to the proper depth.

We made two of these brackets and attached them at the top, and into wall studs.

A couple blocks were also attached into the frame at the bottom for extra support.

And our frame was done!

Now it was time to move onto the surround. There are many different surface options to choose from here—traditionally brick/stone or tile, but we could use anything from metal to concrete or even wood since it does not need to be flame resistant. I considered going with a marble tile, but decided to stick with something simple and inexpensive for now (I can always add tile later on!) Lowe’s and Home Depot sell these 1/4″ faux brick panels in 4×8′ sheets, and we had them cut one cut in half:

They’re textured to look like real brick, and look very convincing when painted (you could even add plaster for a realistic German smear effect). Our fireplace opening is 49″ and the panel width was only 48″, but we could cover the gap with trim.

The insert opening size was measured and drawn onto the front (you could also trace it before attaching the frame):

For all of the cuts we used our Dremel multi-max, which is easy to maneuver and more robust than our jigsaw.

Test fit…


Then a quick test fit with the insert to make sure everything was good to go:

With all our cuts out of the way, we used tape to mark the 2×4 locations so we knew where to nail into.

Liquid nails was applied liberally to the boards, since it would need to hold up the brick panel (finish nails into 1/4″ material aren’t very strong, and we didn’t want to use a ton of nails).

We used our 16 gauge finish nailer along the edges and it was up!

I patched the nail holes using a dab of plastic wood (my new favorite spackle):

Then gave them a quick sanding after they dried (honestly with the rough/uneven texture, you could probably get away without patching the holes at all):

Now it was time to address the exposed edges. With a 1/2″ gap on the left and right sides to hide, we selected this simple 7/8″ low profile wood trim. The only problem was, it barely covered the gap so there wasn’t anything to nail it to, so we ripped down a few shims from scrap 2×4’s to fill the gap.

To make them stay in place, we applied a thick strip of liquid nails to the 2×4 frame behind the gap.

After that dried, we did a test fit of our trim (with mitered edges):

Here’s how all three pieces look together:

But before attaching them, we had some painting to do! The surround was painted with the same paint as our wall color—SW Alabaster (flat).

And the trim was painted the same black as the rest of the mantel, using Maison Blanche vintage furniture paint in Wrought Iron.

Once everything was dry, it was time to attach our trim…

A bit of liquid nails on the shims and just a couple finish nails.

Before installing the insert, we had to have power! Our nearest outlet was just on the right side of the mantel. We thought about relocating it behind the mantel, but that would have required a lot more steps (removing the mantel, cutting open the wall, rewiring, patching/sanding/painting) and the outlet is in a corner of the room that no one sees. So instead, we drilled a hole into the side of the mantel for the plug to slide through.

We can always go back and move the outlet later if it bothers us, but, we have a million more important projects to do and my days of perfectionism are over.

Putting the insert in one last time…

The glass front has hooks that pull off, so you can access the tabs along the front. There are four screws that hold the insert in.

Then the glass front latches right back in.

You can cycle through different color/intensity settings, heat/temperature, and fan speed. There’s a small heater located behind the vent along the top, and it can put out a decent amount of heat (we tested it on the highest setting). The glass screen stays cool, except for right around the vent where the hot air blows out.

You can also turn the fan off and just have the display going for nice ambiance.

It’s ideal for our Florida “winters” that average 70° (although a cold front came through this week and it’s quite chilly outside—perfect timing to test out our new fireplace!)

The glow and warmth at night make our living room so much cozier!

Cost breakdown

Mantel: $75

Insert: $205

Brick panel: $37

2×4’s: $11

Trim: $10

Screws: $10

Total: $348

Under $350 for a functional and beautiful fireplace that would have cost us thousands to add during our build—amen to that! We already had the paint, adhesive and tools which helped keep our costs down, but regardless, this is an excellent alternative for anyone wishing for a fireplace. Make sure to check out my “DIY Fireplace” Instagram story highlight to see a recap if you missed the beginning!

I was going to share photos of our updated living room, but figured this post is long enough already so I’ll be back on Friday with more. Here’s a little preview to hold you over…

Tropical Oasis Master Bedroom: Design Plan

Introducing our next project at The Riverside Retreat: the master bedroom! Here’s how it looked when we moved in (July 2018):

The only thing it had going for it is the 9′ ceilings, and it’s a decent size at just over 13×13′.

Originally there was a closet in the corner that was added on at some point.

We added a few pieces of furniture to make it livable, but moved into one of the other bedrooms a few months later during the new floor install.

I ordered green velvet curtains and temporarily put them up—they were the first thing purchased and inspiration for the future room design…

And now I finally get to bring this design to life! The concept is a luxurious, rustic resort somewhere in the jungle of Bali…

1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9

The style is more sophisticated (compared to our Rainforest Room and the “In the Clouds” theme I have planned for the third bedroom), appropriate for the master suite of the house. Like every room design, I made sure there was a mix of textures and tones, using new and vintage pieces. Earthy colors, natural fibers, cozy linens and varied materials will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical oasis. It’s going to be unlike any room I’ve designed before! (Check out my inspiration for the entire home via my Pinterest)

Here’s what I chose: the deep green velvet curtains, which have been sitting in storage all year. I ordered four 6’x9′ panels in green, and you can see more photos and my review of them in this post (the coupon code LC15 still works!)

I already had the 8×10′ natural jute rug from a while back (it’s one of the most affordable ones I’ve found!) and I’ll be using a vintage trunk as a nightstand (similar to the one pictured above—still deciding if I want to use another chest for the second night stand).

Since the curtains are not 100% blackout and I love the look of layered window treatments, I partnered with BlindsGalore once again for custom shades. The plan was to bring in another woven wood texture, so I requested a handful of samples from their Natural Bamboo Shades line:

In the photo above they’re displayed on the bedroom floor, which was important to see how they’d complement each other. It was a really tough call between the bottom two and middle swatch and in the end it was a toss up, but I was drawn to the black accents and threading in the Hana Garden, so that was the lucky winner!

There’s many customization options with these but the biggest decision was inside or outside mount. Inside mount installations look custom and tailored, and normally I would use this on an encased window with trim. I almost went that route, but in the end decided to go with an outside mount, to make the windows look larger and prevent light from coming through the sides. I also chose a blackout liner and continuous cord, which is recommended for larger/heavier shades. The final size of these is 76″w x 68″h, so they’re pretty massive!

They’ll take a couple weeks to arrive as they are custom made to order, but I’m excited to see how they look in the finished room!

Another update we made was swapping out the outdated fan with this sleeker 44″ model. The wood blades give it tropical, resort style vibe and the dark trim fits in with the rest of the black accents. It’s also the perfect size for our room, and the price is right at $102!

In a perfect world, there would be a large mural covering the entire empty wall on the left when you walk in. Unfortunately, because these walls are so obnoxiously textured and we didn’t have the budget to skim coat or add new drywall, wallpaper was not an option. The next best thing? Framing a wall mural in a large gallery wall to disguise the texture! This Botanical Bliss wall mural from Rocky Mountain Decals caught my eye, and the width works out so that I can just cut four panels in half and frame the 8 sections. I’ll be using these inexpensive 24×36″ Ikea frames to fill the wall.

Next up, the centerpiece of the room—the bed! I spent so many hours hunting for the perfect tall dark metal canopy bed (that was budget friendly) and this one ended up at the top of my list. I haven’t pulled the trigger quite yet, but I’m 99% sure I’m going for it.

I picked up some inexpensive gauze, which I’ll be cutting into two panels and draping over the canopy like so:

So romantic, isn’t it?! Atop the antique chest night stand will sit these textured wood lamps (I’ve had them for a few years) and faux palms in a vase (can’t use real greens in a vacation rental!)

The walls and trim will match the rest of the house—SW Pure White on the walls, and SW Loggia on the doors/trim. Valspar’s Cracked Pepper will be used for the black accents (windows and closet doors). Ready to see the progress so far?

Last summer the old closet was removed, and we stole a couple feet of space from another wall to create a new closet and a small master bathroom:

The room became a junk/tool/dust collector for months, until we finally got our act together just recently.

We recovered the sagging, cracking plaster ceiling with fresh drywall:

Then cleaned up and patched the walls (painted SW Pure White), painted the trim and baseboards, and used Loggia at 50% strength on the ceiling.

Originally we had planned to do an intricate wood/bamboo treatment on the ceiling, but we ran out of time and have to get this house finished! I’m hoping we’ll get a chance one day to execute my plan when we have a free weekend. For now, a little color to keep things interesting is good enough.

Lucas also just finished painting the windows black, and here’s how it looks right this minute:

We still have a few paint touchups to do, and of course a very deep cleaning before we start bringing in the furniture and accessories.

Fortunately the hardest part is over—now I just need to get everything ordered and assembled. I think the green velvet curtains and artwork will really make it come alive!

Can you picture the “After”?

Soon, my friends! In the meantime, we have a downstairs bonus room to work on, a third bedroom to start on and a mile long punch list to get this house finished. I’ll be sharing updates on Instagram so make sure you’re following me there!



DIY Loft Bed

Our new year’s resolution is to get the Riverside Retreat up and running ASAP, and in addition to our latest kitchen reveal, we’ve been making good progress in other areas! Anyone remember the downstairs bonus room?

We built a reading nook on one end, tore down the closet and installed Pergo flooring throughout, but majority of the room had been ignored and used as tool storage (as the house has no garage). The plan is to make this the media/lounge room and go bold with the design—a floor to ceiling faux fern wall with a neon sign, loft bed, hanging chair and typographic wall mural. We’re not holding back! I’ll share the full design plans in an upcoming post, but here’s an idea of the vibe…

To best utilize the long and narrow room (and create additional sleeping space to host more guests) we thought it would be fun to build a full sized loft bed in the recessed area of the former closet. Here’s what it looked like originally:

Once upon a time those steps led up to a door to the kitchen in the original house (this room is a converted carport). This is how the corner looked after demo + floor install:

It was the perfect nook for a bed! But how do we make it happen? It was a lofty goal (ha ha, get it?) to build this thing ourselves, especially with the holidays and a new(ish) baby and needing to get this house finished months ago. Lucas was looking forward to the challenge but I didn’t think we had enough time and wanted to hire it out. Eventually I gave in and Lucas enlisted his dad’s help to execute the vision (super technical drawing, I know):

The final result would end up pretty different, but it was a start. Lucas was confident he could figure it out so I let him take the reins and handed over complete control (minus a couple small creative decisions, of course 😉 I wasn’t involved in the materials planning or present for any of the build, all of the documentation was done by Lucas and his dad. He even wrote up this tutorial for you guys (so if it is confusing, take it up with him :P)

Materials needed


2x6x8 (3)

2x4x8 (8)

1x10x8 (2)

1x6x8 (1)

1x3x8 (10)

1x4x8 (1)

4×8 ½” plywood sheet (2)

4×8 beadboard sheet

Tongue and groove boards

Quarter round trim


1x4x8 (3)


3” wood screws

1 ¼” wood screws

2 ½” wood screws

5” lag screws

4” bolts


Liquid nails

2” finishing nails

4” joist hangers

6” joist hangers

First we had to find the studs in the three walls. The wall at the head of the bed originally had a door leading to the kitchen, which was later filled and converted to a closet by the previous owners. The stud locations were a complete mystery, so I had to cut a strip in the wall to locate them (this wall will be covered, no worries). Our stud finder doesn’t work reliably on plaster walls, so there was a lot of drilling small holes to find the studs on the other walls.

The 2×6’s were attached to the three walls to create our bed frame. We used 5” lag screws and washers into the studs (at least two in each stud) to ensure it was as sturdy as possible.

For the fourth and final piece of the frame, we used joist hangers on each end:

Our frame was done!

The next step was to attach the 2×4 slats for the plywood mattress base to sit on. We used 2×4’ joist hangers for these.

One of the slats was placed closer to the end where the ladder was going to go since it would get more traffic, and the remaining three were evenly spaced out.

The frame was now ready to put the plywood on top.

One sheet of plywood covered the majority of our frame, but we had to rip down a second piece to fill the remaining space. We screwed the plywood into the 2×4 slats to keep it in place.

It passed the safety test!

Next: building the headboard.

A headboard was needed because the entire back wall would be covered in faux greenery—not something you want to lean up against! A simple design was decided on, with tongue and groove boards to mirror the window wall in this room.

2×4’s were used for the frame, and a few additional lag screws to attach the frame to the wall. We had to use a paddle bit to let the screw countersink about halfway into the 2×4 to ensure there was enough length to catch the wall stud.

The tongue and groove boards were cut down to size and attached starting from the bottom, using liquid nails and finishing nails.

We had to rip down the final piece to fit the size we chose, and finished it with a 1×6 along the top. We didn’t worry too much about the gaps along the wall or below the 1×6, as we planned on putting quarter round along those edges.

Next: install the railing vertical supports.

We started on the left, using wood screws to attach to the shiplap…

Since these verticals were going to be the main source of strength for the railing, we used 4 bolts that went through the 2×6 for additional support.

With the railing in place, we could now install the 1×10 that would serve as the finished front of the bed. We cut it down to length and notched out a section where we planned to mount the ladder (the ladder was moved here after we decided it would be too narrow at the bottom of the bed).

We had to notch out the back of the 1×10 where it hit the lag bolts on the vertical supports, so it could sit flush against the 2×6 frame.

The two handles in the photo above were going to be used to hook the ladder onto, so it  could be removed and out of the way when not in use (we later removed them!)

We finished building the railing by attaching two more 1×3’s for the horizontal pieces using 1.25″ screws (countersunk).

For the finished surface underneath the bed, a 4×8 sheet of bead board was screwed into the bottom of the 2×4 slats. 

Extra 2×4 blocks were added on each end to secure the bead board to.

Rather than buy a second full sheet of beadboard to fill the space, a 1×6 board was used along the back edge to cover the gap. 

1×3’s were used along the remaining edges.

Since the heads of a few of the lag screws were sticking out where the trim was going, we had to use spacers throughout. I ripped down some pieces of scrap wood and attached them to the 2×6 using liquid nails.

We also ripped down a few smaller pieces to fill the gaps left around the vertical railing, between the plywood and 1×10”. We could have notched the plywood out instead, but didn’t think about it until we had already screwed it down.

Since our nook was 89” long and a normal full size mattress is 75”, we decided to utilize the extra length and add a shelf at the end of the mattress for people to keep their belongings (phone, water, etc).

To do this, we built a simple frame out of 2×4’s and clad it with finish grade plywood, making sure to miter all the edges for a cleaner look.

At this point we installed quarter round along the edges and used wood filler to cover the corners, screw holes, and finishing nail holes around the entire bed.

Next up: building the ladder

We liked the size and the angle of our 6’ step ladder and decided to use it as a template. Having an example to copy allowed us to avoid trying to figure out those complicated cuts on our own!

We cut two of the 1×4’s down to length for the sides, then used the angle finder to cut the top and bottom. The bottom was flush with the floor and the top edge sat flush against the 1×10 frame of the bed.

We then measured and laid out where the rungs would go:

The two side rails were attached at the top, using a ripped down piece of finish plywood and bunk bed ladder hooks we got on Amazon.

With the ladder hooked to the bed, we attached each rung, starting from the bottom, using two 2 ½” wood screws from each side.

We were very careful to make sure each rung was the correct distance apart as well as level. 2×4 blocks were used to ensure the spacing between each step was the same all the way up.

We also very carefully pre-drilled the holes to make sure the screws went straight in and didn’t stick out of the top or bottom of the step.

For additional strength, we added another piece below each step and secured it with 3” wood screws from the side, and liquid nails on the top against the step.

It was at this point that I tried moving the ladder against the wall like we originally planned. After we built the bed frame, I thought the spacing would be too tight to have the ladder permanently on that side, but after trying it out, we realized it was perfectly comfortable and easier to get up to the bed. Back to Plan A, and we were able to permanently attach the ladder to the wall and to the bed frame.

At this point all that was left to do was fill the remaining holes (most of the holes required two applications of wood filler, as the counter-sunk screw holes were too big to get a smooth finish after just one pass), and paint!

Of course, Jenna chose black. We used the same SW Tricorn Black (in semi-gloss) that we painted the sliding doors leading down into the room.

Most of the bed took just one coat of paint, with the exception of the bead board and a few touch ups.

Painting was completed over a couple days.

In total, this project was completed over the course of ten days (three full days, the rest evenings/a few hours at a time). Not the quickest project, but we wanted to take our time and had to figure a lot out as we went without a blueprint to follow. The total cost was around $400, but I already had a lot of the screws, liquid nails and paint on hand. Huge thanks to Dad for helping! I really enjoyed working with you on this one.

The paint was barely dry before we jumped right into the next project—our greenery wall!

Told you things were getting wild. I’ll share a blog update with those details soon…

A pull-out sofa will go underneath the bed, and a TV mounted on the wall across from that. Here’s the view from underneath the loft bed, looking towards the future TV:

Hang tight, more on the way!



Riverside Retreat Kitchen Reveal

Ringing in the new decade with a new kitchen!!! After months of tireless work transforming this space, I’m thrilled to share the results!

If you’re just joining the party, make sure to get caught up on the whole process with Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Here’s how the kitchen looked before:

It’s your standard 13×13′ room, L shaped layout.

There’s a doorway leading from the dining room and another to the laundry room.

With the floor plan of the house, we didn’t have the option to change or increase the footprint (including widening the main doorway, which borders a bedroom).

But even if we did, the goal was to transform this room on a budget—this house will be a vacation rental and as an investment property, we need to minimize our costs.

For this makeover, that meant choosing inexpensive finishes and lots of DIY! We first replaced the old tile with durable Pergo laminate back in 2018 (currently on sale for only $2.48/sf right now, I highly recommend these for wear/durability!):

Over the last summer, we gutted the kitchen, redid some of the rotted joists, ran new plumbing and electric.

We also repaired the walls and added smooth drywall to the uneven ceiling.

We waited for Ikea’s kitchen sale and purchased all of the cabinets, built-in dishwasher and countertops for around $5800 (more details on that in this post).

The backsplash tile was installed (we hired this part out to save time) …

And then Lucas took over and spent his nights and weekends finishing the rest. So much custom work went into this, like building a custom range hood (which we finished with wallpaper!)…

Custom wood panels around the fridge…

And around the pantry cabinet…

And of course, the weeks-long process of painting the lower wood cabinets (our first time using a paint gun):

And all of the custom fit trim and baseboard around the lower cabinets…

It was truly a learning experience for Lucas, who did 95% of the work (I wish I could have helped more, but someone’s gotta watch the baby!) It was his first time figuring out most of this and I’m so proud of his work ethic and determination to complete this project.

In the end, it took significantly longer than we had expected/hoped but going into the new year we have a brand new custom kitchen that I think anyone would be happy with!

The star of this show is arguably those rich green cabinets.

I’m digging the BM Peale Green.

The warm gold finishes are a really nice compliment and I’m happy with the way they turned out. I used inexpensive pulls and knobs I had been eyeing on Lowe’s for a long time, and the finish is close to Delta’s champagne bronze faucets (a personal favorite).

I went with an affordable drop in sink for easy installation, and because the counters are not solid butcher block so we didn’t want the cut to be visible.

How neat are these shelves? I knew I wanted open shelving but thought it’d be fun to try something different than the typical floating shelves. I partnered with Shelfology to customize this Verne shelf system to perfectly fit our space.

You can get them in any size with any type of wood (I ordered the 12″d unfinished Ash and we stained them to match our countertops). They’re installed using 3 screws & anchors in each bracket—much easier than our experiences installing floating shelves!

My favorite part is that you can make the brackets any color you want. They offer custom powder coating in hundreds of colors, so I was able to choose a metallic gold that matched our faucet. Can you tell how much I love these shelves? 🙂

And can we take a moment of appreciation for this Cloe tile? I knew it would be lovely (we installed it in baby blue in the Blue Lagoon Bathroom) but man, it’s pretty in white too.

It adds such a nice iridescent texture to the room.

Speaking of shiny things… did you notice the appliances?! I was nervous about ordering these without seeing them in person (and very little photos of them ‘in the wild’ online) but I have to say, I’m a big fan of the Whirlpool Sunset Bronze…

We ordered the counter-depth fridge (10% off right now!) with the ice/water dispenser—very convenient for a rental! The inside is still covered in plastic but so far, so good 🙂

The matching stove is my favorite, though. It’s a touch screen with smart technology and the most high tech appliance I’ve ever owned.

We’ll be able to connect it to our smart app and monitor/control it via phone if needed, which could come in handy later on.

As for the dishwasher, we opted for the Ikea Spolad to fit with the Torhamn door for a built-in look. Haven’t ran a cycle yet so I can’t speak on the quality, but we don’t love the fact that it isn’t flush with the rest of the doors. Live and learn…

The “island” is a $50 table I refinished (Maison Blanche‘s Wrought Iron) and put on 4″ casters.

There isn’t a lot of counter space in this kitchen so this is an easy fix for that, and the bar stools provide the added bonus of seating.

You barely notice the low profile ceiling fan, but it was a necessity in this room that can quickly turn into a greenhouse with west facing single pane windows and heat from the oven and stovetop.

Does the rug look familiar to you? It’s the same rug we have in our living room (my favorite rug of all time)! I loved it so much I had to get one for this house. It looks brownish in photos but in person it has a lot of deep green in it—a perfect match for our cabinets.

Using a grasscloth wallpaper treatment on our range hood was an experiment (I’ve never seen it done before) but I’m glad we took the risk, I think it turned out to be a pretty unique feature (and so simple!)

Side note: I haven’t finished stocking the kitchen with vacation rental supplies yet, so some of these photo props were borrowed from our house and won’t be staying permanently 😉

The tall cabinet on the left will hold the microwave + broom storage. We still need to customize the shelves to make that happen…

Since no one is living here full time and we only need the basic necessities, there’s an abundance of storage space!

Painting the metal windows black was a quick and easy way to make them pop.

And you can never go wrong with a classic schoolhouse pendant light and inexpensive woven shade.

We can just imagine all the families that will soon get to enjoy this kitchen and make memories here!

A lot of love and time went into every detail, and we hope it shows.

The kitchen isn’t 100% finished though, we still have to swap out the laundry room door and build a large chalkboard for the back wall (between the two doorways).

The other side of the room is clearly not as exciting…

Ahh, this view is better…


Wall color: SW Pure White

Trim color: SW Loggia

Cabinets: Ikea Axstad uppers, Torhamn lowers (painted BM Peale Green)

Ikea Karlby countertops

Pergo Floors

Whirlpool Sunset Bronze Fridge

Whirlpool Sunset Bronze Stove

Ikea Spolad dishwasher

Backsplash tile

Shelfology Verne shelf system

Cabinet pulls (in 4″, 5″ and 6″)

Cabinet knobs

33″ Sink


Pendant light

Window shade

Ceiling fan

Range hood vent

Grasscloth wallpaper (for range hood)

5×7 Rug

Bar stools

Lidded jar on counter

A huge thank you to Lowe’s for partnering with me on this project, along with Bedrosians,  Shelfology and Loloi! These have been a few of my favorite brands/products to work with over the years and they’ve really helped make this kitchen something special.

A couple side by side transformation shots, just for fun…

Ahh, so satisfying! Cheers to a clean slate in 2020—more big changes at the Riverside Retreat, coming up next!