Friday, July 29, 2011


I picked up a few plants at the grocery store that were "reduced for quick sale." I was expecting half dead annuals, but surprisingly I found quite a few perennials, and they looked like they were still pretty healthy. I have a thing about annuals; I rarely buy them because I can't justify paying money for a plant that is just going to die by the end of the year. I prefer perennials because they come back year after year and are usually a little more hardy than annuals.

I bought three salvia plants for 99 cents each and a gaura for just 50 cents. I'd been planning to buy a few salvia plants anyways, since they are pretty low maintenance and don't require a lot of water. Technically, salvia is an annual in colder climates, but in Texas it can be a perennial. I actually bought salvia splendens, which isn't quite as hardy as the salvia greggi that we had at our old house. I took a chance on the gaura since I didn't know anything about it. It turns out that gaura is native to Texas, grows well in hot climates, and is tolerant of drought.

When they get a bit bigger they will hopefully look something like this. We'll see...


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Custom Shelving and an Ode to Mr. Williams

We just finished putting shelves in the office to create more storage for my craft supplies. Between our two desks, there's not a lot of floor space in the room, so we need to utilize the vertical space as best as possible. Zach designed and built the shelves himself, to fit my many craft bins.

Here's the space before. The bookshelves and file cabinet are from here. When we ordered them years ago we chose the antique cream finish, expecting something off white, but they're really more of a buttery yellow color. And yes, that's a light saber on top of the bookshelf. Can you tell this is Zach's side of the office?

Zach created a template for the shelf brackets, cut them out with a jig saw, then gave them an ogee edge with a router. He also routed the edges of the shelves with a round over bit.

Most of the bins hold fabric, the color of which is shown in a nifty little label window. I just cut out a small swatch of fabric from each bin and used that instead of a paper label.

In our old office we had room for a second file cabinet, which we painted to match the bookshelves and existing file cabinet. We used Behr semi-gloss and had it color matched at the store. Color-wise, it was a decent match, but we soon found out that the paint stayed tacky after drying, and anything we set on top of the file cabinet would stick and leave marks. So when we decided to paint the shelves to match the rest of the office furniture, we opted to try out a different brand of paint. After reading reviews online, we went with Sherwin Williams ProClassic interior latex in semi-gloss. We debated whether or not to use oil-based paint, but in the end decided against it because of the odor and the tendency for it to change color over time. I've always heard that Sherwin Williams made good paint, but one paint stroke proved it. ProClassic is the best paint I've ever used. Which is obviously no secret to Sherwin Williams, who prices a quart of the stuff at $20, similar to what you might pay for a gallon of another brand. But it's worth it. Coverage was excellent, it brushed on smooth and dried flat, not to mention the color matching was dead-on, better than Behr. In addition, the semi-gloss finish is less glossy than other brands, which I like. But the best part is that it dries hard, so objects don't stick to it.  And maybe it was just my imagination but it even seemed like the paint rinsed out of the brushes and rollers more easily. (I wasn't given any compensation to gush about ProClassic, it's just really good stuff!)

The shelves may be painted and up, but we've still got a bit of work to do in this room, including organizing, buying desk chairs, and painting the walls. We're thinking about painting them a warm gray but haven't quite made up our minds.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What's cooking in the kitchen

We knew right away that we wanted to brighten up our kitchen cabinets and replace the worn laminate counter tops. We looked at all the options (or at least we thought we did) and settled on replacing the laminate with more laminate..huh? We convinced ourselves that at less than half the cost of granite, laminate was the best option for us. They have some really great patterns and edge finishes now, which make for a much more attractive counter than your grandma's yellow formica...even if you do remember it fondly. We narrowed down our choices to "Perlato Granite" with an ogee edge, rather than the standard square edge.

Perlato Granite
Ogee edge
Square edge
Although we were satisfied with the choice, we weren't exactly excited about it. Then I came across these beautiful kitchen makeovers by this and that and Stillwater Story.

this and that

Stillwater Story

Dark stained butcher block, beautiful isn't it? And when Zach and I realized that butcher block counters would be cheaper than laminate, we were sold. We like that it's a natural material and more diy friendly than laminate, which has to be custom ordered. We've also got plans to give our cabinet fronts a face lift.

Here's the plan:

LAGAN countertop, DOMSJO sink, white subway tile, pull-down faucet, shaker style cabinets 

Along with the butcher block counters, we'll be putting in a white apron front sink and subway tile back splash. The first step is staining and sealing the counters, which between drying and curing time will take at least two weeks. We want to make sure the butcher block's ready to install before we remove the existing counter tops and sink, since we're not fans of doing our dishes in the bathroom.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MarCraft photo contest

A few weeks ago we entered the MarCraft photo contest via their facebook fan page. MarCraft is one of the leading makers of cultured marble and granite vanity tops. We installed one of their vanity tops in our guest bathroom and genuinely like their products; they're a good blend of affordability and quality.

The contest results were posted today on facebook:

Does that bathroom look familiar?

That's right, we won the photo contest, along with the grand prize, a refund for the retail price of our vanity top! And what, you ask, are we going to do with the prize money? Buy another MarCraft vanity top, of course. We've got plans to redo the vanity in our master bathroom, so this prize couldn't be more perfect!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Final Floor

The floors are done!

There's going to be much box shuffling and furniture moving over the next several days...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cabinets and Shelves

The kitchen was the first room we unpacked when we moved in to our new house. Let's just say we like to eat, and our stomachs and wallet were getting tired of eating out. I think it was the breakfast sandwiches from Sonic on moving day that put us over the edge.

But before we could fill our new kitchen cabinets, we had a little prep work to do. We started by removing the shelf paper. In some areas there were three layers of paper. The bottom layer looked like it must have been put in in the 60s, when the house was built. After much peeling and scraping all the paper was removed and the cabinets were ready for new liner. We prefer the non-adhesive shelf liner because it's easy to remove if you want to clean it or switch it out. We use the solid-colored stuff because it's inexpensive and gets the job done, but there sure are some cute patterned papers available...

Fabric-topped for dresser drawers and closets (from Container Store)

Scented (also from Container Store)

And if your looking for prints, has a wide selection:

Flower Burst
Eco Leaves
Windblown Whispers
So pretty.

Aside from being a little dated, the cabinetry in our kitchen is solid wood and in very good condition. (We have plans to redo the kitchen soon, with new counter tops and a new look for the cabinet fronts...we'll share those plans with you soon.) While we didn't splurge on shelf paper, we did put up the cash for something a little more practical- cabinet organizers.

Do you see that little bit of green poking out from the frying pans in the photo above? Those are "pot protectors" that I sewed to keep the pots from getting scratched when they're stacked.
I can't stand having to pull everything out of the cabinet to get to the one thing I need in the back, and that's why I love these. Such an easy solution to such a common problem.

Let me switch gears for just a second and say that our MO for this house remodel is a bit different than the last. Since we're only planning to stay in this house for 4 to 6 years, while Zach is in school, we're choosing materials and finishes that will give us the most bang for our buck, especially when it comes to the resale value of the house.  Of course we want to enjoy the house while we're in it, but at the same time, all our decisions have been driven by the question, "What's the cheapest, most practical option for us?" If we're going to put it in the house, it must be affordable and relatively durable.

So when pricing cabinet organizers, we we're excited to find this IKEA option starting at $16.

RATIONELL wire basket

Measurements in hand, we went to IKEA to purchase them. It's wasn't until we saw them on display that Zach pointed out one fatal flaw, they were side mount.We have a galley style kitchen and all the cabinets open up to one another, with no cabinet sides in between. Even though the IKEA organizers didn't work for us, we think they're still a good option for those with cabinets that can accommodate them.

The next stop we made was Container Store, to check out their Elfa easy glider.

It mounted to the bottom of the cabinet, so that was one problem solved, and starting at $25, the price was still reasonable. Unfortunately we needed 12" and 15" widths, and all that was available were 9" and 13" widths. We could have made them work but would have lost several inches of storage space in each cabinet. We were about ready to call it a day when we came across these chrome roll out drawers.

They were perfect in every way, bottom-mount, and just the right widths, but they came with a bit of sticker shock. We compromised and ended up going home with 4 drawers, instead of the 7 we had originally planned to buy. We were also able to use Zach's educator discount to get 15% off. And although we bent the "affordable" part of our "affordable and durable" rule a bit, we figure that we can always take these with us when we move.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


In case you're wondering how we mopped the concrete subfloor, because admit it, that's the kind of stuff that keeps you up at night,  it wasn't with a regular sponge mop. That would get torn up pretty quickly.

Instead, I used a string mop, along with one of these...

Look, it even matches the walls! It's like being inside a banana peel.

And yes, I am a neat freak, but no, I do not own a commercial grade mop bucket. It's actually on loan from my mom, who purchased it years ago when she redid all of her flooring.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Removing Carpet

    Before we could put down our new flooring, we had to remove the carpet. This requires a bit of hard work, but is simple to do. Here are a few quick tips on the process:
    • A dust mask, gloves, and knee pads are a must! You will also need a large pry bar, putty knife, and carpet knife.
    • You will need to pull the carpet free from the tack strip. It's easiest to start at a threshold or corner of the room.
    • You may be tempted to pull out all the carpet at once, but don't. Carpet is heavy! Using a carpet knife, cut the carpet into 4 to 5 foot sections before rolling. This also helps come trash day, because some collecters won't pick up large rolls of carpet.  (Bulk trash day couldn't come soon enough for us. Old carpet on your front porch for weeks on end isn't exactly classy.)
    • Once you've got the carpet out of the room you will need to remove the carpet pad. If you're lucky, the installers were light on the glue, and it will come up pretty easily. Use a metal putty knife to scrape up any remaining bits of glue or padding.
    • The most tedious part is removing the tack strip. Make sure you wear safety glasses for this step, unless you want to end up looking like this. Using a pry bar, pry up the tack strip. Sometimes it will come up clean, taking the nails with it. Other times the wood will break free from the nails and you will need to remove the nail from the subfloor using your pry bar. If the nail head breaks off and the rest of the nail remains in the subfloor, you may need to hammer it down until it is flush with the floor. (There may be some sparks when the hammer hits the nail, so make sure you keep those safety glasses on!)
    • Clean up all the debris. I swept up the big stuff with a broom then went back and vaccuumed with a shop-vac. I also mopped the area with bleach water to pick up any remaining dust and to disinfect the floor.
    We removed the carpet in the formal living/dining and in all three bedrooms, which comes out to a little over 900 square feet. For our new flooring, we went with an inexpensive wood laminate in a dark finish.

    We expect to reach nirvana once all the flooring is in. Two rooms down, two more to go...

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    Corridor expansion

    The doorway is finished! Isn't it pretty? We ended up widening it by 17 inches as well as raising it a few inches. Now we have full access to the freezer and pantry. (Before, both the freezer and pantry doors bumped into the doorway and couldn't be fully opened.)



    You can catch a sneak peak of our new flooring in the photo above...