Category Archives: Furniture


Not too much house work has gone on in the last week, but we have some plans for this weekend. Hopefully the weather stays warm, since we heavily thatched our yard last week, then fertilized and seeded the lawn (right before a nice rainy day!). So much thatch came up out of the yard – you can see unthatched on the left, and thatched on the right:


We found some interesting creatures this week as well – one was a really large jumping spider who hopped right through our back door and was walking around the kitchen. Nik got him in a cup to relocate outside, and he was watching us quite intently during this process:


I also worked from home yesterday, and noticed this little creature running along our neighbor’s house when I glanced out the window. I watched him for a bit, then went outside to see if I could catch him since he definitely looked like an escaped pet and not a natural outdoor mouse. The catching was unsuccessful although I was able to get within a couple feet of him before he scurried further, but I left him some triscuits and bedding material to keep him warm – and some of the triscuits definitely got munched. I wonder if we’ll see him around again.


Last weekend we also planted a lot of our vegetable garden seeds (tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers) and some flowers (zinnias, canterbury bells, vincas, and marigolds). They’re incubating in our sunny guest room window at the moment, but maybe we can move them outside for a few hours over the weekend to get some natural sun.


We also finally harvested our beet crop, to start getting the garden ready for new plants, and they were disappointing to say the least…although we didn’t pay them much attention since planting seeds; I’m not sure we really ever watered them once during the fall/winter. Maybe next year will be better…but we still sauteed up the little nubs and ate them!

For other yard news, I mentioned we’re working on building a flower bed in our backyard using the left over jungle gym wood. We have the plans laid out, and last weekend we bought all the metal linkers and deck screws that we’ll use to give the wood edges some support. So I’d like to get this all situated this weekend so we can add some dirt and eventually get some flowers relocated to this bed. Here’s some pictures of the progress, and the plans:img_3274



Next on the list is we obtained some side tables for our guest bedroom that are perfect for the space – and the pair was $30 on craigslist! But they have numerous coats of thick paint on them, so I’m curious to see what wood we’ll find when we strip it off. We’ll probably repaint the body of the side tables, and depending on how the tops look, either paint or stain those. I forgot to snap a picture of them…but once we start working on them, I’ll show some. We also have a large console-type piece of furniture that we are redoing for a friend, so perhaps some stripping of that piece will happen this weekend as well.

I also want to start thinking about the crown molding on our downstairs ceilings – I added up dimensions this week, and figured we need about 130 feet of molding to do the living room, foyer/stair column, dining room, and powder room. A contractor’s pack of molding is $78/96′, so this project will be much less expensive than I had thought…for some reason I had priced this DIY project at $1800 when we first bought the home, and I have no idea where that number came from…even if we eventually do the rooms upstairs, it won’t be nearly that much. Crown molding isn’t easy though (painting, cutting properly, installing up over your head with the nail gun, filling holes, caulking, and touch up paint), so it will feel like $1800 of labor! Maybe we’ll start small with the powder room this weekend, to see what we’re getting ourselves into.

It’s so much fun writing about all the things we’re surely going to accomplish in one weekend – we’ll see by Monday how much we really get done!

2016 Year In Review

2016 has come to a close, so I wanted to look back at the progress we made. This was a busy year, with both of us still adjusting to our new careers and planning our October wedding. But I think we made enormous progress on the house, and reflecting on all that we accomplished will hopefully be motivation to keep up the hard work this year.

In early 2016, we finally wrapped up the trim and painting on the stair column – at this point, we still need to add some base and top trim, but we’re planning to install the crown molding downstairs sometime this spring, so that will be the final step of this job. Apparently I haven’t taken a picture of the column after it was painted, so this is the best one I’ve got:


The next big project of 2016 was our downstairs powder room. What began with a new toilet seat resulted in a gutted room and complete renovation. We painted, tiled and grouted the floor and backsplash, installed a new vanity with a new faucet, new mirror, new towel/toilet paper holder fixtures, and a new threshold.

We installed all the chair molding trim in the dining room, completed refinishing the china cabinet, and got our dining room furniture all set up to finish this room.


We built 2 raised bed gardens which did pretty well last year. I just bought seeds for 2017, which I’ll start inside next month. I’ll be planting cucumbers (pickling size and regular), bush string beans, snow peas, eggplant, jalapeno pepper, bush zucchini, roma and grape-sized tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mescalin, leeks, garlic, and various herbs. If anyone wants extra seedlings, let me know!

Our furniture work this year was pretty pitiful, and I hope we have more time to do furniture projects in 2017. The two big pieces we did this year were building a front porch bench, and redoing  a small set of shelves for our master bathroom:

Our biggest renovation of the year was the kitchen. In this room we replaced the flooring with our engineered hardwood, sanded, primed, and painted all of our cabinets and installed one more new cabinet on the far wall, added new cabinet hardware, got granite countertops and a new sink and faucet installed, tiled/grouted/applied sealant to the backsplash, got all new appliances and mounted the microwave over the stove, created open shelving on 2 walls, and painted the walls.

In this room the final projects for this spring are installing cabinet crown molding at the tops of the cabinets, finding and installing new light fixtures, and building our island, which will have matching granite.

We also bought a new HVAC system (gas package with AC and furnace) and just updated our laundry room with a new washer and dryer last month, but these don’t make for fun pictures, just not-so-fun expenses. But they are upgrades nonetheless.

So what’s on the list for 2017? First we want to finish up the final tasks downstairs: cabinet crown molding in the kitchen, ceiling crown molding in the entryway, living room, dining room, and possibly powder room, building a functional kitchen island, getting a stupid banister installed on our stairs (still hasn’t been done!), and adding new light fixtures for the kitchen and dining room. I also want to get my gardens going in March, and finish creating a bordered backyard flower garden out of the extra jungle gym wood. We also are ordering new blinds for almost all the windows on the house that will be the thicker wood-look blinds, so we’ll have to install those when they come in. We also need to have the house washed and gutters cleaned (which we’ll hire out for lack of good ladders) as well as have the lawn aerated before we seed it.

The big project of 2017 will take place in the summer months when Nik doesn’t have a 2 hour commute twice a week for his teaching responsibility at UNC Pembroke: our master bath renovation. For this, we’re planning to tile the floor, refinish and raise up our vanity and add undermount sinks with a nicer (possibly granite) countertop, paint the walls, rip out the old shower, replace the shower pan and tile the walls, add a new glass shower door, and add new faucet hardware for the sinks, shower, and tub. After vaguely tallying up what we’ve spent on this house so far, we’re around the $15K mark, so we’re going to attempt to keep the budget pretty tight for the bathroom – ideally in the $2000 range. Cheers to 2017!

My Hope Chest

While I was out of town with my girlfriends a few weeks ago, Nik got to work on a surprise wedding present for me. He built me a beautiful hope chest, totally from scratch, and totally his design – he didn’t even look for plans to base it off of! He got red oak lumber from Lowes, and the feet were salvaged from a thrift store find a while back. All the lumber joinery was done with biscuit joints (Nik’s grandfather gave us this biscuit joint-maker device which I was certain would never be used, Nik has proven me wrong again) and the Kreg jig pocket hole drill I got Nik last year. The impending tropical storm got me home from the beach a day early and derailed his plans to line it with cedar boards…but this will come soon, when we have some time after the wedding.

Here it is – I meant to take some better pictures, but there’s a lot of other things distracting me this week!




What is a hope chest for? Traditionally, an unmarried woman would have one to add special clothing items and linens to as she grew up, in anticipation of married life. I believe my grandfather (or great grandfather?) built one for his wife when they got married to collect items from their life together. Nik and I refinished this particular hope chest a couple years ago, and it resides in my parents’ bedroom: IMG_0447

So what will I use my new hope chest for? Well, it’s beautiful, so I imagine it will always be a special piece of furniture in our home, wherever we are.  I don’t know what we’ll put in it yet, but as I look forward to beginning my married life with Nik, there is so much that I hope the future will bring – and perhaps these hopes will help us fill the chest over time. I hope we are always happy and healthy. I hope we always have a home that we love with things in it that we love. I hope that we always enjoy the things we do, for work and for play. I hope that we have chances to travel to unique places all over the world. I hope that we can someday experience the joy of raising our own children. I hope that we can always remember to respect each other and our differences. And most importantly, I hope there is always love. I hope that our love for each other does not fade over time, but instead grows and changes with us as we get older. But hope is just hope – and I know it is impossible for all these things to happen perfectly as we go through our lives. I believe this is what a partner is for – to help each other get beyond the challenges life presents that may not have been hoped for.

I think these thoughts, these ‘hopes’, are what I’ll be stashing in my new hope chest for now, and they may end up being more important than the physical items that will accrue in there over time.  Together, refinishing furniture and our home was something Nik and I discovered a love for together, and working on and completing projects together has also helped make our relationship stronger and more complete. I hope this hobby is something we enjoy (and I can blog about!) for years to come, and I think Nik picked the perfect wedding gift to sum up our past renovation adventures and bring hope for the future.

There’s only 3 more days until our big day, and I couldn’t be more excited to marry my best friend!

Reclaimed Wood Bench

We finally finished the front porch bench we’ve been working on – I’ll call it our reclaimed wood bench. Things made out of “reclaimed wood” are all the rage now, and usually come with some story about the hundred year old barn the wood came from and how this rationalizes the $3000 price tag. Well, our bench is indeed made from reclaimed wood but it came from the jungle gym that used to dominate our back yard, and it cost $0. Well, I suppose $15 since we did have to buy special exterior spar urethane to seal it since it will stay outside on our front porch. But we only used a tiny amount from that can, so I’m ok saying $0.

Here’s how the bench started:


And here’s our final product:

bench 1

To build this bench, Nik started off by cutting the top slats. Then we troubleshooted different ways to build the braces between the slats, and he finally decided to use a solid piece of wood with cuts in it to make “teeth”. The circular saw was set to a particular height and he used it to make these cuts.



Next, the pieces were put together to make sure they fit in the teeth:


And a base was built to hold up the seat. Nik made a practice trapezoid first to make sure all the angles worked, since we didn’t want 90 degree legs to keep it feeling mid-century.


Next came staining and sealing with the spar urethane. We decided to do a shade darker on the legs (dark walnut) and special walnut on the seat to add some contrast.


Then we started a partial assembly to make the legs easier to seal. We used mostly wood screws to attach everything:


And finally, the finished product:


bench 1

We decided this was a good wedding present for each other, to give us a place to sit together on our porch for years to come.

The kitchen cabinets are coming along as well, and to clear out our living room a little we hung the upper cabinets that were done being painted (they still need sealer but I wanted to do this once they were hung in case any paint touch ups were needed first). The hanging height was a bit of an ordeal – apparently they were hung at a pretty normal 18″ previously, but we always felt like they were a little low, plus we wanted to have adequate room over our stove for the microwave. We tried 19.5″ and that felt way too high, so we tried 19″ and that still felt a little high but doable, so that’s where they sit now. The doors are still in the process of being painted, and then we’ll buy some top molding to make them look a little nicer, which will also have to be painted.



We’re taking an overnight trip this weekend to a bed and breakfast in Seagrove (the pottery capital of NC) to get away for a bit and tour some pottery studios. So other than that, our only task this weekend is to remove the old counters/plumbing and buy a faucet since the new counters are coming on Tuesday and the sink on Wednesday. Hopefully by my next post the kitchen transformation will be looking a little more complete!



Halfway Through the Year: Where We Stand

This past weekend, we seemed to work on everything but the kitchen cabinets which was a nice break, but now for the holiday weekend coming up we really have to get down to business with the rest of that painting. We made a lot of progress with the front porch bench I wrote about a while back, and I finished sealing our back deck, and I successfully made a home made ice cream cake for our birthday party:


But since I don’t have much to show for this weekend, I wanted to revisit an old post. Back in January I boldly made a list of things to do and a proposed timeline for them. We’ve made great progress in some areas…and there are other projects we’ve definitely put off! I’ll give an update on where we are with each project, with pictures, to help us get back on track. This will be a long post of updates…but pictures are more fun than just a list!


  1. Finish stairway column and trim (fill, sand, caulk, paint). Most of this is done…except the painting!

IMG_07092. Finish floor quarter-round trim (sand, caulk, paint). Done


3. Install floor transition pieces. Haven’t done this yet

4. Install and finish dining room chair rail (fill, sand, caulk, paint). Done

5. Finish painting china cabinet. Done


6. Purchase kitchen appliances? Done


  1. Install stair banister. Avoiding the stairway seems to be a theme…this has not happened either!
  2. Rip out downstairs bathroom vanity, install tile floor, paint walls. Done!


3. Build our vegetable garden! Done, times 2!


  1. Install downstairs bathroom vanity and mirror. Done!


2. Purchase unfinished kitchen cabinets for far wall of kitchen. Just did this 2 days ago! Better late than never…we’ve also decided to put in some open shelving, which we’ll have to figure out and buy.

3. Purchase cabinet trim for top of cabinets. Haven’t done this, but we discussed what to buy last time we were at the store.

4. Sand /paint base cabinets. They’re sanded and primed and have 1-2 coats of paint…so 75% there!


5.  Plant garden. Done!


  1. Remove and sand/paint upper cabinets and new trim. All of these are removed, sanded, and primed. Painting this weekend, hopefully.


2. Paint kitchen. Technically done…although it may need to be done again if we change our mind on the color.


3. Rehang upper cabinets a couple inches higher. This will probably be put off till the counters are in.

4. Rip out kitchen floors; lay new flooring. Ugh, not done.

5. Install quarter round trim, paint, fill, sand, caulk, paint. This will happen after the floor is in, so not done.


  1. Hire electrician to install microwave over stove/move outlet. We determined we can do this ourself, but it’s not done yet.
  2. Paint/install crown molding downstairs (maybe just a couple rooms to start?). This is one of those projects that will probably get put off till after fall.
  3. Refinish an old fireplace mantle (we still need to find a cool one!). Well, we put up the cheap mantle that came with the house. It’s not unique or exciting, but it is functional for now so we’ll also put this project off.


  1. Catch up/continue with crown molding. Hah.
  2. Build a kitchen island. This still needs to happen…especially since we had a piece of granite cut for it.

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. This sounds like a next-year project.
  2. Build kitchen nook under the far wall of new cabinets, including a built-in storage bench and table. We may start working on this before the wedding, we’ll see how much progress we make on the kitchen by August to see if we want to tackle this before October.

I’d say we’re about 70% caught up to where we should be which isn’t too abysmal. Obviously we’re a bit behind on some aspects of the kitchen, but if we get a lot of the painting done this weekend we won’t be too far off schedule. It sounds like the bathroom project is obviously getting pushed off, and probably first-floor crown molding. We do need to get the stairway banister done so that is the priority once the bulk of the kitchen is finished up. And then the island/bench in the kitchen will probably come next.

I think the garden (and building 2 of them instead of 1) was what really threw us off this spring, but I don’t regret that one bit! And there’s a number of additional projects we’ve done that aren’t even on our list…like painting the upstairs hallway, sealing the deck, finishing our little bathroom shelves, painting our mailbox and making a small mailbox garden, and installing a new ceiling fan. I’ve decided that “to do” lists are always more of a guideline than a schedule.

Bathroom Shelf And Kitchen Walls

Over the past couple months we’ve slowly been working on a project that Nik bought while he was home over Christmas. We wanted something to put in our bland bathroom under the window to store bathroom items and towels. Our window is low in there, and finding something low and slim was challenging.

Here’s what Nik bought, and I can’t remember what he paid for it, but it was somewhere around $20 or $30.

It appeared to be made of wood, from looking at the bottom, so Nik stripped the paint and some very pretty wood was underneath:

We sanded this thing using our Mouse mini-sander, and then stained the outside with special walnut, and painted the inside with a dark gray-blue paint I had picked up off the clearance/mismatch rack at Lowes for $5. The feet were painted white – they stand out a lot on the linoleum now, but I think once we get our whiter tile in here I’ll like them more. If not, they’ll eventually get the gray paint too.



It makes our awful white bathroom look so much warmer, so I’m really happy with how it turned out.

This past weekend we spent painting the kitchen walls and priming cabinets…I’ll give you a sneak peek at the wall color. This paint almost killed me. We cut in with it first, to get all the edges around the ceilings and doors, and I hated it – it looked so dark, and almost purple-blue. Ugh. I was sure we’d end up having to buy new paint, and redoing the whole room. This was actually the paint we originally bought for our cabinet color, and on the practice cabinet door we had painted it looked totally different – a very pretty warm gray. But I insisted we give it a shot and do the whole wall anyway:IMG_2744

And once the whole wall was painted as opposed to just the edges, I loved it! It doesn’t look purple anymore, just crisp and fresh light gray. So weird how that can happen, but I’m relieved.

We also officially picked our cabinet paint, and despite obtaining approximately 500 paint chips, we (well, it was me to be more accurate) still couldn’t decide. We were between two colors, and there were things we liked about one and things we liked about the other. So we bought sample sizes and mixed them, and the result seemed perfect! So I marched into Lowe’s to get a gallon, and explained to the nice paint-mixer gentleman that his hundreds of colors were not enough selection for me, and I needed a custom gallon that was half one color and half of another. He laughed (I’m pretty sure he thought I was crazy) and told me no one had EVER asked him to do this. But, I know they can mix up quart sizes of colored paint, so I asked if he could tell the machine to add 2 quarts-worth of each color into the gallon can to result in the right color for a gallon. The guy was excited to see if this would actually work, and in the end the color match was nearly identical to our homemade 50/50 mix paint.

So what color scheme did we decide on? Well, Nik was insistent on getting some green in the kitchen, so we basically flipped our original  color plans (gray cabinets, green walls) and the plan is now to do darker green cabinets with the light gray on the walls. We’ve named our custom green paint “Indecision Green.”

Once we get some actual cabinets painted and looking nice, I’ll show pictures of the color, but don’t hold your breath because this is the current disheveled state of our living room/cabinet progress…and this is only about a third of all the cabinets. I decided to go through the hassle of painting as much as I can inside where the humidity is lower to prevent tacky cabinets. So all these will get 2 coats of primer, and probably 2-3 coats of paint.


And I’ll leave you with this inspiration picture from Fixer Upper, in case you think we’re totally crazy, and have no faith that a green kitchen with wood floors can end up beautiful! fixerupper green kitchen

Back to the Grind

If you hadn’t noticed, the past couple weeks we’ve taken a break from house work so I haven’t had anything to write about. Nik was in Nashville for a week getting training in imaging mass spectrometry, then I spent a weekend in DC visiting friends, and then I spent a week in New Orleans at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting which was a great trip. There were over 19,000 people at the AACR meeting and I learned a bunch of stuff, and Joe Biden spoke about the state of cancer research funding at the closing ceremony which was interesting and inspiring. We also did some touristy things with the lab crew I went with, including an air boat tour in which I got to hold a baby alligator:


And we rode the St. Charles trolley and toured the beautiful garden district:

And we also checked out some of the iconic New Orleans cemeteries, which are all built above ground since the city is under sea level, so if you bury the caskets they come floating on up out of the soil over time.


On my last day there, I had a later flight getting home so I spent some time at the Audobon Insectarium and got to see some cool bugs and butterflies. I think I was the only adult there without a child, but I enjoyed myself!

So, we were both back in town this weekend. I had a race that our friend came down from DC to run with me, but on Sunday we had some free time to get back to things. It didn’t seem like enough time to get started on our kitchen cabinets, so Nik got to work on a project he’s been wanting to do for a while, which is a front porch bench. I had seen a pic of a mid-century themed slatted bench, and I wanted one, but not for $300+:

So Nik pulled out some of the old playset wood that has been sitting under our back deck and started making some measurements and cuts.


At the end of the day we ended up with this:

We’re still figuring out how to do the legs and how to attach it all together, but I like how it looks so far! While Nik was messing with this, I went to work stripping/sanding some other old furniture pieces that have been sitting in the garage for a while that will go in our bathroom and dining room. I’ll give an update on those once they’re further along.

I also bought a rug for the living room a few weeks ago…it’s a very nice rug, and was a good price at Home Goods. We’re debating if we like the light color, and it’s a little bigger than we wanted, but I still like it and the effort to return it to the store may be swaying our opinion to keep it. The back of this room doesn’t get a lot of sun, so we thought a nice bright rug would keep the space looking light and airy. Plus, I think the wood floors are a nice contrast.


I had to try it out for plushness as well, and even though it’s wool and I’m kind of sensitive to that, it passed:


So, we have a few more days to decide about that…any thoughts?

And finally, we have a new nature update from our yard. We’ve noticed we have a red shouldered hawk (or two?) that seems to be living in our back woods somewhere. He’s made an appearance a bunch of times, and we always know when he’s coming because the squirrels go insane calling out to each other to warn of the danger. He’s maybe a foot or a foot and a half tall, and we got some good pictures of him with my camera. I like his little feet.


And I like this one, where he’s looking right at the camera with a foot in the air!IMG_0781

Our new bird feeder is also getting lots of attention from cardinals and chickadees, and of course the ninja squirrels who manage to get onto the feeder despite my attempts at making it squirrel proof.


This coming weekend will hopefully be productive, and if the weather’s nice maybe we’ll finally get the cabinets underway.