Fun and exciting news!

We’re excited to share that we’ve taken on a new little gig that will help us connect with more people and, hopefully, connect some of our ideas and inspiration with others.  We’ve joined team ibby as contributing guest blog writers!  What is Ibby, you say?

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Well, it’s pretty awesome- is the answer.  A new company, yes, but once you see what they are about you’ll say, ‘of course this makes sense and is awesome!’  At least that’s what we said when we got connected.  Just the DIY and designers in us?  Perhaps.  But a very cool concept to think about having the ability to think about and design your own space without the pressure and intimidation of cold calling a random contractor to begin talking about ideas you have for a new bathroom, mudroom (and soon, other projects).

Confused?  Let me break it down.  Yours truly will be writing support blog posts for Ibby’s blog where we’ll get to talk about all sorts of topics ranging from DIY to products we enjoy and everything in between.  Hopefully our posts will help excite people to take on their own projects.  We’re compensated for our post but in no way will our views or opinions be compromised.  And don’t worry, we’ll link you over to those posts right here when they’re up so that you won’t miss a thing!

We were really excited when Ibby reached out to us and are hoping we can ‘do them proud’. Look forward to even more fun this year!

Wait, what’s that?  Oh, our first post is ready for primetime!  Check us out HERE.  (and 1,000 bonus points to those of  you guessed what we chose to write about first!)

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February 3, 2014 · 2:13 pm

Room(s) by Room(s) – Upstairs!

So, we missed our self imposed deadline by two days (we wanted to get an update of the entire house out before our one year anniversary in our new digs), BUT two days isn’t bad, right?  The downstairs rooms had the most dramatic changes and in some way, were a lot easier to make progress on.  Something about, oh I don’t know, having a toddler in bed at 7:30 makes it a little more difficult to break out drills, hammers, and nails and start getting things done in the master bedroom or the guest room which are just feet way from the precious, little sleeping ears.  That’s not to say that we haven’t completely changed the look and feel of the bedrooms, but they are not what you would call, complete, by any means.  Slowly but steadily around here- no judging please! If you missed it, we’ve previously shared the dining room, living room and sunroom, herehere and here.

First up, let’s take a look at how G’s room has changed over the last year.

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Large, yes… ugly? More YES!

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Before we go any further, yes, we still need to paint all the trim in that room.  It has a coat of primer on it and has been patched in some places where the old heat vents were removed, but overall, you can still see some of the original deep pink coming through. It drives us crazy and is high on the list of things to tackle when the weathers a little nicer and we can air out the room while we paint it.  The room is coming together and G LOVES it.  It is LARGE and all of her small furniture (from her first nursery) seem a little dwarfed and we are trying to plan out some significant built-ins, but it’s come a long way.  The paint color, curtains, and light fixture all came with us from our old house, so being in the room is a sweet reminder of Port St. for us.  Here’s what we tackled:

– LOTS of plaster repair and paint

-New windows (Marvin)

-Carpet (Berber)

-Bookshelf (Ikea)

-Curtains/furniture/artwork/light fixture – all from her first room!

Let’s tackle the Master Bedroom next.  This room is almost three times the size of our former master, definitely one of those, ‘WOW’ moments when we walked in and thought this might be our house.  Ok, ok, it’s not huge, but coming from a 12 foot wide row home, this is spacious!  Here’s what we saw:

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Biege and orangey – definitely not what we’d choose!

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Someone upgraded to an ‘adult’ bed!  ha!  Our full size, Ikea platform bed served us well and was VERY comfortable, but with this new space, it was time for an upgrade.  Still lots to do in here, too, like, um… closet doors.  Yeah, we’re still not actually sure what we want to do for them so rather than put the bi-fold doors back up, we’ve just been living without them.  Does help make us keep the closets organized, I’ll say that!  The fact that this house has two closets in the master AND that they are decent sizes is actually pretty great.  We still have plans for a second floor addition to create a master bath and closet (through that window in the last photo) but for now, we’re making it work.

– Just like the nursery – lots of plaster repair, paint, and new windows

-Refinished/stained original wood floors

-All new furniture: (we had a 6 foot by 12 foot walk in closet in our old house – so we needed clothes storage!) dressers (Ikea), bed (Joss and Main), duvet (West Elm), pillows (Marshalls), nightstands (Marshalls), lamps (IKEA)

– New ceiling fan (Home Depot)

Fun factoid for you, the grey rug (which we kinda just threw in there temporarily) was actually the rug we used in the living room of our row house and yes, it basically covered the entire floor there!  “Movin’ on up, (movin’ on up), to the east side..err…North side!…”

The last bedroom, the guest room, got arguably the most dramatic update.  Overall, our home is a collection of cooler, contemporary neutral colors.  When we started thinking about the guest room, we thought, if not here, then where could we really experiment the most with color?  Let’s see what you think:

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Thoughts on the green?  We’re really digging’ it.  The room, overall, is still a miss match of furniture but offers a great place for guests to stay (and we’ve had lots, which is great!).  Aside from the plaster repair, paint, carpet, and new ceiling fan, this room was put together with things we already had!

So that rounds out the tour of the bedrooms.  Since we’re upstairs, we’ll give you a quick peak at the full bath too.  Lots of room for improvement in there and we already have new tile picked out and plans for a huge overhaul, but the bathroom is completely functional right now and it’s just not the highest priority.  Some paint and new fixtures (some of which still need to be installed, so bear with us) and we got from here:

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Literally a ‘bath-room’ with no sink and a toilet that might have technically worked, but looked like the crime scene of a very gruesome movie.

To here:

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You can’t see it in the photos, but there’s a new toilet on the other side of the shower wall.  We (Anthony) also spent a solid 3 hours scrubbing the floor and grout with a toothbrush and bleach and then a Magic Eraser to clean it up.  New window, paint, sink/vanity/mirror (all IKEA) and lightfixture (Home Depot) and we were in business!

That’s where we’re at!  Not too shabby for 12 months of owning this place with 4.5 months of major renovation/construction and moving in mid-May, right?  We’ve definitely learned that trying to renovate and DIY projects is MUCH more difficult and takes longer with a toddler running around.  We also try to remind ourselves that we’re planning to be here a while and Rome wasn’t built in a day; some things will take some time to get just right… and by then, we’ll be ready to repaint something anyway, knowing us! 😉

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January 27, 2014 · 11:31 am

Month 21…and 22…and 23…

…oh my!

Today happens to be a certain someone’s 2nd birthday and we have about enough developments, milestones, phrases, favorites, opinions and preferences to share as there are sprinkles on a birthday cupcake…but since we’re a teeny tiny tad bit behind with this post, we’ll just hit the highlights…I’ll save my getting all sappy until her 24 month photoshoot (coming soon!). 😉 You’ve been forewarned.

Over the last 3 months Gabriella has become quite an independent, well-mannered, fun-loving little girl. Her laughter is infectious, her smirk is contagious and her conversational skills are more advanced than some adults I’ve met. She questions everything she sees and studies everyone to the point where I’m pretty sure she is a better judge of character than the rest of us. Her appetite for fruits and vegetables still makes this mama so proud. 🙂

Here are some of our recent conversations:

  • “Mommy, I need a napkin. I made a mess.”
  • “Gabby, do you want a bite of Mommy’s dinner?
  • “I not finished chewwwwing.”
  • “Do you want another cookie?”
  • “No, it’s not a cookie Mommy, it’s a gaaaaaham cracker.”
  • “Morning Rieeeeeese! She tired. She no getting up.”
  • “Ok, Gabby, Mommy needs to open the oven. It’s going to be really hot…”
  • “I stand over here and cover my eyes.”
  • “Love you. Night, night. See you ‘morrow.”
  • “You look like a little marshmallow, Gabby!” (while getting her snowsuit and puffy jacket on…)
  • “I not a marshmallow…I Gabriella.”

And with that, here’s our G-Strausy, who seems way too grown-up all of a sudden.

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January 19, 2014 · 3:42 pm

Happy Everything!

Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays (which stretched from Thanksgiving right through New Years in our house!).  Here’s wishing you the very best in 2014!  Daycare was closed between Christmas and New Years, so we’ve been home with these little monsters all week:

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Needless to say, between our PJ dance parties, cookie-making, and generally just running circles through the house, we haven’t focused much on work or the blog.  Another installment of ‘room-by-room’ reviews and some other fun new developments will be coming soon!

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January 8, 2014 · 3:28 pm

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:

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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!

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

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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)

Kitchen:

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.

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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:

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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!

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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.  Not.one.shelf 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.

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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.

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December 18, 2013 · 3:47 pm

Windows, windows in the walls…

…it’s just time you had to go!

“The windows aren’t that bad, I mean they’re original, but they have nice charm…” said naive us when we first moved in.  “We’ll get a few more years out of them before taking some time to phase their replacement.” Said us as we planned out the house renovations.  “Call the window guys and let’s just get an estimate so we can do some financial planning.”  Said us as we spent the summer fighting to open the 4 operable windows in the house every time there was nice weather.  “F-it, let’s just do them now… ALL OF THEM and be DONE with it they are so NASTY!”  We said to each other when the quote came in less than we were expecting.  And they can do it in 4 weeks?  Sign the contract!

Yes, we shuffled around some other projects and decided to get the windows done and we’re thrilled we did!  We had 3 windows replaced and french doors put in where a pair of windows were in the dining room, but the rest of the house- ALL ORIGINAL.  We were lucky if 1 window in each room opened and the rest of them were just jammed/painted shut.  The storm windows and screens didn’t do much to dress up the sloppy paint-job they had received in the past and the years of filth on both the inside and outside began to eat away at their ‘charm’ pretty quickly.

We were scheduled for the first week in October and the crew showed up on time and ready to go.  The house was built in 1929 and yes, there was lead paint so to begin, the crew sealed the windows from the inside and then removed the windows from the exterior.  We covered the items on the inside for some extra safety.

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Then the install began:

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You may notice that while the guys installed the new windows, I decided to do some landscaping and removed EVERYTHING that was left on the left side of the house. I think the neighbors were happy to see the last of the overgrowth removed!

All of the original wood was in great shape on the front windows- even had some great, simple bullnosing detail. We thought about leaving it exposed and painting it to match the others, but in the end, wanted to keep it uniform and simple and they wound up covering it back up.

Let that light shine in!

Now some before and afters:

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Don’t mind the white trim around the door and windows on the first floor, our first contractor used white flashing so we have to paint those to match the others.

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And a close up of the front:

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Do you see the difference?  I know, it’s difficult to see in the photos because the ‘befores’ don’t seem that bad far away, but in person, the change is crazy.  We went with Marvin Window’s ‘Integrity’ line with ‘Pebble Grey’ fiberglass finish on the exterior and painted white wood on the interior.  The fiberglass coat bound to the outside will make them super durable and the wood inside, even painted, has a great warmth.  We also changed the style of the windows.  The original windows were 6-over-6 divided light.  We opted for 6-over-1 with the replacement.  We wanted something a little different (seems like everyone does 6-over-6, especially with vinyl replacements) so although they may be a little more ‘craftsman bungalow’ than our little tudor revival, we liked the updated contemporary look they gave us.  We also made sure to spend a little more and have the upper glass be actual divided lights and not just one sheet of glass with mullions (dividers) applied to the inside and outside.  It’s not really noticeable in the photos, but when you’re up close to the windows in the house, the actual division between the glass makes a big difference.

We have long term plans to redo the sunroom/playroom with larger floor to ceiling windows, so we didn’t invest in replacing those (they are also the most ‘new’ windows probably but in around the 80’s).  We also kept the 2 windows in the stairwell because they are in OK shape and the square one at the base, although not operable at the moment, just looks nice!  The original diamond leaded glass next to the front door stayed because we are going to scrape and paint it to match the new, there was no way we were going to remove that one for a faux replacement.  And lastly, we also kept one of the side windows (in the master bedroom) because we ultimately want to put a second floor addition on the sunroom and that window would become the door into the addition from our bedroom, so, just avert your eyes for in the meantime.  It’s in pretty sad shape but we’re going to paint it out to match the new so it blends in until the addition happens.

Anyway, we love them and they were finished just in time for us to enjoy the fall weather.  They’ve also been great with the cold nights that have rolled in (no more drafts!) and the sound reduction is surprisingly noticeable too!

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November 19, 2013 · 2:11 am