Monthly Archives: December 2013

Room by Room: Dining Room + Kitchen

I think it’s safe to say that the kitchen (if you would even call it a kitchen- it was literally stripped bare with nothing but plumbing stubs and electric lines hanging from the ceiling) and the dining room were both the worst and most promising rooms in the house.  We love to cook, have large families, and after living in a 12 foot wide rowhouse, we have been dreaming of a huge island with lots of work surface that opened up onto a beautiful, large, chunky wood dining room table.  Since we had been ‘casually’ looking at real estate in some of our favorite neighborhoods, we had been finding that the kitchen spaces in most of these homes really wasn’t large.  Even those that were open to the dining rooms were not huge and it seemed that one space always suffered, either the kitchen was made larger (and in many cases, awkward due to strange renovation decisions) and therefore the dining room was shrunk, or the dining room was large and they would try and open it up to a small galley kitchen.

We started to resign ourselves to the idea that in order to get into one of the neighborhoods we were considering, we’d likely have to compromise in this ‘kitchen-dining room dream’, especially in our price-range.  And then we walked in to this house and saw this:


Dining Room – Hungry?

Now, you’re thinking, Holy WTF, get me out of there, this is not a kitchen, WTH is with these reds walls and hobbit hole doorway? (or something to that effect)  We stood there, smiles on our face, excitedly saying – HOLY SH#T – this is it!  No joke.  If she had any reservations about our ability to see past a foreclosure/damaged/vacant building’s first impression, I’m pretty sure our excitement about this kitchen and dining room space cleared that up for our Realtor!  (shout out to you Magan Drane – Baltimore’s premiere realtor!)  She was also probably a little worried that we were crazy (truly crazy) because after walking into a formal foyer, seeing a fireplace in the living room, and then seeing the size of the kitchen and dining room, I’m not sure she had ever seen two people more excited about a pile of broken bricks and plaster.

It always gets worse before it gets better, right? This was one of the most exciting days for us!

First things first, Naomi and I immediately turned to each other and said, ‘this wall- gone – and here, the biggest island you’ve ever seen!’  And that was exactly what we did…and it is glorious!  There was nothing in the spaces so they were quite literally blank canvases to work with.  We loved all the natural light in the dining room and, well, that’s about it.  What we found most challenging was the door to the backyard.  It was very awkwardly placed too close to the corner to be able to fit standard cabinets along the adjacent wall and also added an additional circulation path through the kitchen that would be used all the time coming in and out.  We had a similar condition in our rowhouse where the door to the backyard was in the corner of the kitchen and it was convenient to go in and out from, but always seemed to bring dirt into the kitchen, the tight space made it awkward to go in and out with the dog, and just generally interrupted the flow of people cooking having to go through.

We really wanted to open the house up to the yard more and that’s when it hit us – we could close the existing door in the kitchen, thereby giving us COMPLETE functional space with additional cabinets and counters and open up one of the existing pairs of windows in the dining room and put in some beautiful french door out to the yard!  Two birds, one stone and all sorts of opportunities!

Ok, ok, too many words!  Here’s what you’re really here to see, the photos!



Yes – that is a 3.5 foot by 8 foot island and we love every inch of it!









The kitchen is still not finished and honestly, I could probably write 100 posts talking about the kitchen and the design ideas/decisions that went into it (and maybe I will!) but I figured if we waited for it to be done-done, we’d never share it.  Our new kitchen includes every feature that we wanted in our ideal, ‘forever home’ kitchen AND we did it on a budget!  Here’s the quick run down:

Dining room:

New windows/french door (even though we really did LOVE the high, square set of windows) (Marvin)

Removed the separating wall

Refinished wood floors

Removed all the traditional moldings, repaired all the plaster work

New table (Pottery Barn) and chairs (Overstock and Joss&Main)

Area rug (RugsUSA)


Cabinets (Wolf – solid wood, satin white) and hardware (oil rubbed bronze finish)

Counters (Caesarstone Quartz – London Grey)

Recessed lights (LOTS of them :-)) and 3 new pendants (West Elm) with Edison Bulbs

New windows (Marvin)

Appliances/ disposal/ wine fridge

Open shelves and Range hood (Ikea)

Refinished original floors! (These were a beautiful surprise – we didn’t think they would clean up this nicely)

Partial backsplash – Carbonized bamboo flooring (surplus from our flooring project in our old rowhouse – Yeah free!)

Re-used the bar height chairs from our old dining set at the island

You can see here that we did lose a little bit of space for the new HVAC duct lines that we put in. We had the contractor set them as close to the far wall as possible so they were out of the way. We also had them run the main trunk line as close to the ceiling next to the archway into the living room as possible. This way you can’t see it when you come in the house (from the foyer or living room). We really wanted the house to still feel like it has some of the charm of the 1930’s when it was built, but wanted the modern conveniences – Central air and an open kitchen – so we hid them as best we could.


And, yes, our house is always this clean and yes, these were taken as we began decorating for the holidays so please enjoy the festive touches 🙂

The backsplash is not yet complete but these are the tiles we purchased for the remaining portion of the backsplash by the range:

It might be hard to tell in the photo, but the tiles are blue-grey (the crackled finish is more grey, the solid finish is more blue).  We’re planning on alternating each of the tiles vertically to give some dimension to the wall rather than using just one of the tiles on the entire wall.  Haven’t decided on a grout color yet- debating between white and grey. We also still have to paint the base of the island.  Originally we were going to paint it white to blend in with the rest of the cabinetry, but after settling in, we’re leaning more towards something a little more bold like the dark grey wall with the french doors.

I guess you’ll just have to stay tuned to see what we decide!  More to come.


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December 22, 2013 · 2:44 am

Room by room: Living Room

As we approach the end of the year and, as such, our first anniversary owning our little urban home, it’s only fitting that we do a little room by room update as we head towards January 25th (our closing day- our official anniversary!).  Remember, we only moved in in May so we’ve spent the last few months really trying to make thing feel more like home and getting the last of the boxes unpacked as we prepared for the holidays.  It was our first year hosting a major holiday, Thanksgiving, with BOTH families in attendance.  It was a blast and we loved having everyone down in our neck of the woods, but more on that later!  Setting the deadline of Turkey Day, operation ‘make this place feel like home’ really kicked off.  Starting with the Living Room, here’s where we were at up until just before Thanksgiving:





Here’s the run down of what we did:

Recessed Light

Ceiling Fan (oh, and actually had a ceiling installed)

Retained the original archways and patched/repaired all the plaster and trim-work

New windows

Refinished floors

New Curtains and rug – All the other furniture is from our little rowhouse (couch, arm chairs, TV console, etc.)

Still to do:

SOMETHING about that fireplace, beginning with making it function!

Finish painting all the trimwork!

You’ll notice that we did lose one of the corners to make way for the expanded coat-closet-turned-half-bath. But as you can see in the photo below, the windows are still, ‘almost’ centered in the wall with the bump out (on the left) and it still leave plenty of room for a future, larger sofa and endtable, so there was no great loss and we gained a great 1/2 bath on the first floor – win win!


One thing that was missing was a place to put some of our, um, 10,000,000 books.  In our old house, we spent entirely too much time planning the use of every inch of space which led to the creation of lots of built-ins.  This house? Nada. in the entire place.  And with boxes and boxes of books, we had to start planning for some book storage.  We have some larger ideas for a built-in entertainment/shelving system in the living room, but we are still evaluating exactly the size and location of that.  One thing we did notice as we settled in was with placement of the windows, fireplace, and door to the playroom/sunroom, there was a dead corner in the room.  (You can see the junk pile beginning on the right side of the sofa in the photo above!)  A dead corner plus a need for some book storage led to some very simple bookshelves.  They are not 100% done (there is clearly a need for some additional trim and molding) but they are doing the trick at the moment.


Just some of the stacks of book boxes!

They marched right down and almost put themselves on the shelves!

(Don’t mind the mess beyond in the playroom – that’s the joy of having a dedicated space for toys, the living room gets to remain generally toy (mess) free!)

Building the shelves the same height at the fireplace also helped us try to make some sense of and balance the existing doorway.  We thought if we made them too tall, it would look funny and top heavy…and too short would look strange so close to the fireplace size.  In the end, we think they are a good addition to the room.  Until we build some others, these are jam-packed with books and albums in an attempt to empty as many boxes as possible, so please, don’t judge on the ‘stylizing’.  And yes, that is an enormous clock and yes, Naomi is in love with it.  I could do without it but N really wanted an oversize clock for the house – Ikea to the rescue!  Once she laid eyes on it, she had to have it and at less than half the price as come other clocks she’d been looking at, I said OK.


December 18, 2013 · 3:47 pm