Category Archives: Decor

Bathroom Reveal

This title may be a little misleading, suggesting we’re TOTALLY done with the bathroom. There’s still a few tiny things to do…finishing the caulking around the toilet (once we’re sure its still got a good seal), caulking around the vanity, and adding the wood threshold piece to the floor. And we’re still deciding on a mirror (I have one option to show you). But for all other cosmetic purposes, it’s all done so I can show pictures!

To remind you, here’s what we started with:

New house Aug 2015 069     New house Aug 2015 072IMG_0507

And here’s the final product:




Here’s some close up on the vanity backsplash – tile trim edge pieces are insanely expensive (would’ve cost more than $40!) so I found some decorative wood trim to use instead:


I also spent $20 on a new toilet paper and towel holder:

Figuring out where to put these was trickier than I imagined. Nik performed some highly technical positional testing, and we referred to internet sites that recommended TP holder placement:


So there you have it!

We’re very happy with how it turned out – admittedly better than expected. I’ll give you a rough breakdown for the cost of this project, from start to finish. We had leftovers for a lot of things that will definitely get used on more projects, so I’ll count only what we used. We also had to buy a tile saw ($80), mortar spreaders ($10) and mixer ($6) and grout floats ($6), but these tools will last a while.

Demo and rebuild ~ 5 weekends of time

50 lb Mortar (used about 1/2 bag) $25/2  = $12.50

10 lb grout (used about 1/4 bag) $30/4 = $7.50

Cement backer board for floor (3’x5′) $10

Screws for cement board (2 packs) $10

Vanity and sink (on sale) $180

Faucet $70

Faucet water lines $ 15

Toilet paper holder/towel rack $20

Extra drain pipe length $6

Toilet seat $25

Toilet foam/wax ring $12

Plumbers Putty/caulk/adhesive $10

Wood Trim piece $5

Floor tile $42

Wall tile $60

Wall paint (clearance mismatch gallon) $9

Threshold wood (half a piece) $15/2 = $7.50

Extra quarter round trim $4

Total: Around $507

People care about bathrooms a lot, especially ones guests will use. For a little over $500, and all the DIY expertise we gained with tiling that we can now use in our kitchen and eventually upstairs bathrooms, I think this was a great investment. Now, on to the kitchen!

You Gotta Spend Some…

This week we’ve made a lot of progress with our trim. I’m happy to say everything is filled and sanded (except one side of the column that needs a bit more filler). Now it’s just doing the painting and it’ll be done! The china cabinet is also finished, with the last coat of water-based poly I put on the stained parts last night. It just needs to be put together after we give it a good 24 hours of drying time.

That doesn’t sound like too much progress for a whole weekend, but with a few huge purchases we made this week that I’ll tell you about, I’m feeling like our house is SO much closer to being put together!

Last Saturday we dragged ourselves out to Raleigh again and went to 4 furniture stores (well, more like 3 stores I guess. One of them we walked in, looked at a few sofa price tags and immediately realized we were poor, so I won’t count those 10 seconds as a full store!). We really wanted a sofa-chaise sectional since we felt like that would give us a little extra seating space in our awkwardly-shaped living room. The tiny wall we want to put the sofa on is exactly 84.5″, and we found that most couches or sofa-chaise sectionals we liked were around 90″. And many of the smaller ones that would have fit just looked like cheap dorm room furniture to me. But we finally found one that had a little style, had a sofa-chaise, fit our wall, and was in our budget at Ashley Furniture. Here’s the stock photo of it:

We liked the little buttons on the cushions, the fact that it was raised off the ground on some feet, and the curved arms, and the color was nice too – a darkish gray. With delivery and taxes and everything it came to around $900, which was under my goal of $1000.

Next, we went to this crazy home store in Durham called At Home – it’s a combination of Michael’s craft store, Ikea, and the biggest warehouse of home decor things you’ve ever seen. It’s probably bigger than Home Depot, just to give some perspective. A lot of the stuff in there isn’t the best quality, but we were able to find a nice wool rug for the dining room for $150, and some ideas for arm chairs for more seating in the living room. Here’s the rug we picked out:

rug 1

And finally, if you thought that was all the money we spent this week, I hate to disappoint you (well, you’re probably not disappointed, but my bank account might be). We also bought a kitchen suite! We’re not quite ready to redo our kitchen yet, but why wait to start enjoying new appliances? We figured out we can easily move them ourselves when it comes time to do the floor under the fridge and stove, and I don’t think we’re installing wood floor under the dishwasher, so it can stay where it is once it’s installed. We got a Kenmore suite from Sears since a lot of the Kenmore stuff was on super sale right now, then we got a 5% discount for buying 3 things over $400, AND we had a 10% coupon for Sears from when we moved that was only good till the end of January. You won’t believe how cheap we got these things…we saved over 50% off the original price for some of the items!

Here’s our fridge:

Kenmore 51123 25 cu. ft. Side-by-Side Refrigerator - Stainless Steel

We splurged an extra $50 for the one that had LED lights inside and clear door shelves. Originally $1410, and we paid $812.

Here’s the oven:

Kenmore 94193 5.4 cu. ft. Electric Range w/ Convection Oven - Stainless Steel

And it’s a convection oven (since the convection one was on super sale, and was the same price as the non-convection one)! My baking will be getting even better soon! We had a PSNC guy come out a few months ago and give us a quote for giving our stove a gas line, and it was about $900 extra…which is why we decided to stay with electric. So the original price on this was $999 and we paid $469.

And finally, our dishwasher:

Kenmore 13543 24" Built-In Dishwasher w/ PowerWave™ Spray Arm - Stainless Steel

We were deciding between this one and one that didn’t have a handle that stuck out a couple inches and instead had the control panel visible on the front. The other one wasn’t as sleek looking and was a slightly lower-quality model, so we decided to get this one. And it is all stainless steel inside so it looks fancy in there too! This one was $879 originally and we paid $494. But honestly, I probably would’ve paid the full $879 to get rid of the one we have that actually sounds like the Titanic sinking into the ocean when it runs. We should record it next time we run it, just for memories. We didn’t pay for installation of the dishwasher…the nice sales guy seemed to have enough faith that we could figure it out ourselves, but he said if we have issues they can send a guy to finish the job.

So, you really can’t blame us for biting the bullet and getting this purchase out of the way with the crazy low prices we got! It’s all getting delivered next Friday AND they’ll haul away our old appliances for an extra $10. Done and done.

I feel like it’s all coming together now. There probably aren’t too many more substantial purchases we’ll have to make in the immediate future to get our house looking nice, so I’m glad to have this behind us!

Fun With Trim

This past weekend we made a good dent in our to-do list. First, we gave our china cabinet 3 coats of paint (I’ll save pics of this until it’s done), and I built the composter my parents gave us:


But more importantly, we got a good ways into the installation of trim wood to finish our stair column and our dining room chair rail. First, I’ll write about the column. After we ripped out the stair wall, we had to put in a column since it was load bearing (here’s a picture from way back):

September 2015 016

We then needed to make it look presentable. We started this project by building the “box” that would encase the column, made out of primed/painted pine board. We glued the boards at 90 degrees, then reinforced with the nail gun:


Then we adhered the two halves around the column, assuming they’d fit like a glove. They did not. We used nails to reinforce the glue, and just accepted that there would be gaps we’d have to fill. Nik had to do some fancy miter angles to fit the board against the slanted stair wall:


It’s stupid that we pre-painted these boards because they’re a mess now and obviously need a repainting with all the filling and caulking we’ll have to do. So we learned our lesson about pre-painting trim. Then Nik built a base cap with wider pine board and some cove trim to finish it off:


And he did the same at the top too, first the cove trim then the cap pieces:



And there you have it, sorta finished! The top edge against the ceiling obviously looks raw, but we’ll be installing crown molding eventually that will cover that edge.

Next, I primed that raw drywall around the stairs so it’s ready for paint, and Nik still needs to cut that one last piece that will cover the angled wall:


Then our final big accomplishment for this weekend was getting ALL our chair rail trim installed in the dining room! Installed doesn’t mean done –  we still need to fill, caulk, sand, and paint it, but having it up on the wall feels good. When we painted our dining room, we just left a rough line dividing the white bottom half and the blue top half, and finally having that edge covered up makes me happy!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we used a DIY way of making our chair rail (using 3 cheap pieces) instead of the standard chair rail in the store (made of 2 pieces that cost a ton).

Dec 2015 023

We started by measuring up from the baseboards 30.5″ and nailing in the bottom of the 3 pieces:


Then we cut 1/2″ spacers and put the upper board over those:


We left the very end spacers in so once the chair rail was put over this, you wouldn’t be able to tell there’s a space. We had big plans to measure everything perfectly and get the chair rail just right, but you know what ended up being the best way to get the chair rail centered on the back boards and looking good in waaay less time? Eyeballing it!


Here’s a close up of what the ends looks like. After much discussion, we decided not to miter the corners of the back boards when we came to a wall end, and to do a 32.5 degree angle on the outer chair rail board.  And you can see where the spacers fill in that gap. Once things are caulked/filled/sanded/painted, hopefully you won’t be able to tell that we used multiple pieces of wood!



Here’s some shots of the dining room with the chair rail. I think it looks great…great enough that we might hold off on doing the picture frame wainscoting below the chair rail for a day far off in the future where we don’t have more pressing projects to tackle!



Next weekend we really have to stop putting off doing the finishing touches for all our trim (floor baseboards, stair column, and now the chair rail). Filling, caulking, sanding, and painting all this trim will be tedious but that’s the to-do list for next weekend!

To leave you with some fun pictures, here’s  a few gifts I crafted for Christmas this year that I never wrote about. We made Nik’s family home made apple butter that we canned (recipe here), and I added some decorative ribbon to be festive (idea courtesy of The Kitchen show).

butter 1

And I also painted a little bamboo serving tray for Nik (another idea stolen from one of my favorite blogs, Domestic Imperfection) – we just finished binge watching all seasons of Parks and Rec, so for those of you that are fans of this show, you’ll understand. For those of you who don’t get it, you should watch the show.


That’s it for this week. After this weekend, I’ll show you our to-be-finished china cabinet and whatever else we get done.

Lots to Do

The holidays are over, and nothing got done on the house since Nik and I were traveling for the two holiday weekends. I’m itching to get started on our projects again, so to tide me over till the weekend I made a to-do list for the year…or at least the first 9 months of the year. We’re getting married in October, and we’d love to invite our out-of-town family and friends over to see the house after our rehearsal dinner, so the goal is to have our downstairs mostly done for that gathering. Here’s a breakdown of what I ambitiously envision will happen month by month:


  1. Finish stairway column and trim (fill, sand, caulk, paint)
  2. Finish floor quarter-round trim (sand, caulk, paint)
  3. Install floor transition pieces
  4. Install and finish dining room chair rail (fill, sand, caulk, paint)
  5. Finish painting china cabinet
  6. Purchase kitchen appliances?


  1. Install stair banister
  2. Rip out downstairs bathroom vanity, install tile floor, paint walls
  3. Build our vegetable garden!


  1. Install downstairs bathroom vanity (need to raise the plumbing since the new sink is higher) and mirror
  2. Purchase unfinished kitchen cabinets for far wall of kitchen
  3. Purchase cabinet trim for top of cabinets
  4. Sand /paint base cabinets
  5. Plant garden


  1. Remove and sand/paint upper cabinets and new trim
  2. Paint kitchen
  3. Rehang upper cabinets a couple inches higher
  4. Rip out kitchen floors; lay new flooring
  5. Install quarter round trim, paint, fill, sand, caulk, paint


  1. Hire electrician to install microwave over stove/move outlet
  2. Paint/install crown molding downstairs (maybe just a couple rooms to start?)
  3. Refinish old fireplace mantle (we still need to find a cool one!)


  1. Catch up/continue with crown molding
  2. Build a kitchen island

July, August, and Beyond

  1. Master bath renovation: new tile floor, new vanity/mirror, rip out tub and relocate toilet?, add a linen closet where tub used to be, rip out shower and make a little larger/tile shower and install new glass door
  2. Build kitchen nook under the far wall of new cabinets, including a built-in storage bench and table.

So what do you think? It’s probably too ambitious, but there are projects we can hold off on if we get too backed up, like the crown molding. We had originally planned to replace the kitchen cabinets but we’re going to see how it goes painting the existing ones. We decided we’d like to spend more money redoing the master bathroom, plus our kitchen cabinets are actually in great condition (they’re just ugly). We’re hoping some top trim, new hardware, a new coat of paint, and new counter tops and floors will do the trick.

Happy New Year to everyone, and may you all be as productive (hopefully!) as us in 2016!

Dining Room Progress

We’ve recently switched gears and started focusing on our dining room. Since we still seem to be a ways away from ever deciding on a couch and how we want to lay out the living room, the dining room seemed like a place we could actually work on and have an end in sight.

What we’ve done in here so far is the floors and floor trim (still needs sanding and re-painting over the nail marks), painting the walls, and some curtains, first sheers then curtains on top:



A couple weeks ago we picked out mid-century dining chairs and a table to match the similar themed china cabinet we started working on last year, that has graduated to being inside since it just needs a few coats of paint to finish it:


Ordering chairs was a disaster: we tried ordering other ones we liked a little better, then they weren’t going to ship until March…yes, next year. So we changed the plan and got some from Amazon and the set of 4 came in last week:


The table came from Wayfair and arrived yesterday. It was so exciting – we almost had a complete room of furniture! Then we opened up the table box and realized nothing matches! The cabinet is a slightly darker walnut, the table is lighter walnut (but still matches decently with the cabinet), and the chairs are much darker. We thought of all the options – staining the cabinet darker, returning the table and getting the darker color (but return shipping was a third the price of the table!), and I think we’ve finally settled on stripping/sanding the chairs and re-staining them in a lighter color to hopefully match the walnut.

The whole reason for buying a new set when we are perfectly capable of refinishing things was that we were tired of not having furniture and we just wanted something ready-to-go so we can start living in our house instead of it being a perpetual construction zone. So this seems a little backwards that we now want to refinish the chairs, but I like all the pieces enough that I’m willing to go through the extra effort to make them match better.  So last night I dragged out the chemical stripper and tested a teeny spot on the underside of the chair. A lot of newer furniture is made out of some sort of fake type wood that doesn’t take up stain, so doing this test was critical:


The stain stripped beautifully and the wood sanded easily to raw wood!


Yay! So we tested out a variety of stains, from left to right: cherry, dark walnut, red chestnut, and polyshades (poly and stain in one) in American walnut. I don’t think any are a perfect match right now, we’ll have to do some mixing and matching when we tackle this project, but at least I know the wood takes up stain nicely which is a huge relief!


And finally, here’s the table, assembled by Nik:



It is definitely light considering it’s called “walnut stain” but we’ll live with it! Unfortunately there is a tiny chip in the glass (it never ends!) so we’ll have to get that replaced. I like how light and airy it looks, and it will allow people to actually see through to our cool china cabinet even if its on the opposite wall. We also have to pick out a rug that matches better, this one is just in there temporarily to protect the floor.

As for the actual room, we picked out some chair rail to start our wainscoting process. We’re doing very simple picture frame molding beneath the chair rail, similar to this:

This means we don’t have to disturb the baseboard that is already there which will save us some work. For our chair rail I picked out this trim, which I liked better than the curved trim above since it seemed a little more modern looking:

Dec 2015 022

It looked a little insubstantial though (only about 2.5″ wide), so we looked at the chair rail backer boards and they were $23/8 feet!! We needed ~30 feet for the whole room, so that would’ve been about $100 for chair rail backer…no way! So we improvised and found some thin trim pieces that had a slightly rounded edge and were only $5 something per 8 feet. They were thin though, so we needed twice many pieces so we could do one on each side of the chair rail like this:

Dec 2015 023

The cost for these makeshift trim pieces was much cheaper than the real backer, so I think it’s a perfect solution. Also, the lady at Lowe’s only rang up 8 feet of our 32 feet of chair rail that we bought (we didn’t notice until later, and I didn’t feel too bad based on how much we’ve bought at this store in the past few months…) so we got about $30 off this project anyway! Once we get the chair rail up, we’ll have to pick out the trim for the picture frame boxes, and get around the crown molding, but the room will look almost complete with the chair rail up so I’m just excited to get that done first!

Christmas Tree Skirt

Even though we’re not spending Christmas Day together this year, we felt it was about time to graduate to a real tree to celebrate the season. Previously I had a small fake tree, and a very tiny tree  skirt to go with it. We got our tree upright and lighted, and now we needed  new tree skirt to complete the look. IMG_2200[1]The tree skirts left at Target were expensive and ugly so we made a trip to the fabric store and picked out a few red-and-gold tone fabrics, and some 1/2″ batting to fill it with. I decided I wanted to make a hexagon shape with alternating triangles of each fabric.

Then came the challenge…how many PhD scientists does it take to figure out basic geometry? Apparently it takes 2, and it also takes about 30 minutes to remember what geometry formula to apply. I knew the diameter of the hexagon, so I knew the length of each side of each equilateral triangle, but I needed to figure out the height to measure and cut the fabric. I remember sitting in 10th grade honors geometry, struggling to imagine when I’d ever need the Pythagorean Theorem ever again…turns out, it came in handy for my tree skirt! A squared plus B squared = C squared, and with that I had my dimensions. IMG_0027I pinned all the adjoining triangle edges together (except for one) and pinned down the peak of each triangle to leave room for the trunk.


Then I sewed all the edges. I then cut out a solid piece as a backing, with a slit up to the middle, and a cut out area for the tree base as well. I pinned this to the sewed triangles inside out, and sewed all the way around, basically making a large letter C. I then turned it right side out, and cut some batting to shape and stuffed it in.

I still need to do the stitch up the final open side, but it looks nice enough for now to put under the tree! The fabric, batting, and thread cost about $20, which is cheaper than the ugly skirts at the store!

We also did a little decorating on our front porch, so I’ll leave you with this. Can’t believe Christmas is next week!


Pallet Closet Hangers

Last week I said I’d show you our closet project when it was done, and we (Nik, really) finally finished it up this weekend. The catastrophe that sparked this project was when one side of the shelving in our master bedroom closet fell off the walls:


As disastrous as it was, it made us realize that our closet is so much more functional with extra space on one side. Plus, my problem of piling half worn clothes on the floor outside of the closet has gotten worse and worse (like when you wear something that you can get away with wearing again before washing…exercise clothes, lounge-around-the-house clothes, etc…don’t judge me). So I needed a place to easily hang things (I know, it’s not hard to just put them on a hanger, but this is apparently beyond me).

We had some scrap pallet wood from when our flooring shipment came in. I checked the code printed on the pallet to make sure the wood wasn’t harmful. Some pallet wood contains bad chemicals like fungicides, so you can always look at the code printed on the wood and figure out what is in yours. You can see ours says HT (for heat treated, harmless), CN (from China, and the numbers refer to the particular warehouse in China), and DB (de-barked, also harmless). So, we were good to go!


I pried a few pieces off and sanded them down a bit, then Nik came in and cut pieces with the miter saw so we could create three 4′ long rows.


Then we tried out pretty much every stain color we had to see what we liked best. We ended up choosing classic gray. So we stained the pieces, and then I gave them 3 good coats of water-based poly, with a sanding between the 2nd and 3rd coats. I wanted them smooth so as not to snag my clothes.


Next, we had to figure out how to mount them to a wall, and attaching a couple pieces of backboard wood directly to the studs seemed to be the best option. And Nik got to use his fancy new stud finder that I just got him.


Next, we debated for approximately 2 hours about where we wanted to put screws into the stained pallet boards, since there were already some natural holes there, so did we want to use those, or did we like the natural holes showing and we should just make new screw holes…yes, these are the types of questions that some PhD scientists think about at night. We decided on new holes for the screws. This was the planned layout, with hooks:


And here’s the final product, installed in the closet:



We still need to fill the holes in the drywall from when the previous shelving ripped out…but all in all, I think it’s sleek and very functional. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be seeing much of it since I already have clothes heaped on all of the hangers =)

The cost of this project was about $20 or $25 for the 4 hangers, everything else (Screws, stain, poly, sandpaper, brushes) we already had on hand. We could’ve bought pre-made wall mount hangers at the store for about the same price and weeks less work (we didn’t actually work on it for weeks…but from start to finish we did procrastinate on finishing up this project for about a month). But I think making our own was more fun!