I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.
Notice that I said “rethinking countertops?” and not “rethinking countertops!” That question marks means I am in the thinking stage. Not in the doing or acting stage or I-have-definitely-made-up-my-mind stage.
Here’s the deal.
When we bought the house, one of the first things we thought HAD TO GO was the kitchen countertops. First off, they are hideously ugly. They aren’t even ugly in the sense that the style is dated because the tile isn’t even original ’50s tile. It was installed before we moved in by whatever out-of-touch realtor told the homeowners that people like beige and want to live in a neutral beige universe. The entire house was redone in beige. The carpets, the walls, the floors, the countertops. It was a beige nightmare. Secondly, they are poorly installed beige tiles, with uneven corners and unfinished sections. It’s bad. Real bad.
I think if you told someone to imagine a bland kitchen, they could not have come up with something this drab. Fortunately, we have picked things up a little since this photo was taken: refinished the cabinets, painted the walls and created some open shelving. Still left untouched, however, are the countertops.
The original scheme was to put in some pearly white quarts countertops (to match our Big Chill fridge) and pair it with some teal or turquoise subway tile for the backsplash. That scheme, I felt, would give the kitchen a look that’s classic (the cabinets), yet modern (the countertops) and fun (the backsplash) while still being cohesive.
The problem with this little operation, like with most things, is the price. To get ‘er done we’re gonna drop probably around $3,000, and that doesn’t even include the actual necessary must-have upgrades like a dishwasher and garbage disposal (we need a new electric box for that, which is a whole other blog post). So I’m starting to think that I need to either be really, really, really patient (which I am really bad at being) and wait a few years until I can do my upscale remodel, or I can start thinking of more affordable alternatives. (Before you tell me to be patient, I will once again refer you to photo one and ask how long you could exist comfortably in that kitchen.*)
*Note to self: you are so lucky to have the kitchen and house you have and you should probably stop complaining about it on the internet. You’ve been to India. You know what “existing comfortably” truly means, so buck up.
One alternative is to replace the existing tile with tile that’s a bit more colorful and perhaps more professionally installed. Where, say, the tilers (Heath and me) opt to actually attempt to finish placing tiles around those “hard-to-get-to” spaces like electrical outlets.
And I feel like we can’t talk about ’50s kitchen remodels without considering Formica. Come on. That’s classic ’50s business.
From what I see, it looks like (while perhaps not as crisp and upscale as my original vision) Formica or tile counters can be a really good option for homeowners on a budget. And since I’m not willing to forgo our annual anniversary vacations (to places like San Francisco, Mexico City, and this year Seattle and Portland), a budget kitchen reno may very well be in the cards. So, rethinking countertops? Or rethinking countertops!
Great news! I made good on my promise (to myself) to stencil an accent wall in my living room. (Bless Heath for going along willingly with my wacky, wacky ideas for designing the house.) I started the project Dec. 15 and finished about a week later, just before the fam came down for Christmas. What timing!
Thus far I’m really loving our dizzying scalloped wall. I’ve always been a fan of bright and bold patterns on my blankets and pillows, so an entire wall of a retro and repetitious pattern is right up my alley. Since it has been up, I find myself zoning out on the couch, getting lost in the sequence of scallops.
The stencil pattern was ordered from Cutting Edge Stencils and set me back about $40. I already had the paint and rollers, so the cost of the stencil and my time was all I ended up investing on the project. So, I’d say it’s worth it to give stenciling a shot if it’s a look you’re keen on, though, admittedly it’s not for everyone. Should you give it a go, I’d recommend the following:
- Keep a level handy. I eyeballed everything, which works OK with the guide of a stencil, but as I was finishing the project, I noticed a slight upward movement of the pattern as I went along. It’s not something that’s really visible when you’re just glancing at it, but during my long stare-down sessions with the wall, I can notice the slight slope of the pattern. It’s minimal, but were I to do it over, I’d definitely recruit the aid of a ruler.
- Start at the very edge of the wall and work your way over. When I got going, i didn’t exactly start at the very edge of the wall, leaving instead a small gap between where my pattern started and where the wall started. It ultimately affected the all-over, saturating effect of the pattern I was going for, and I had to go in with my individual stencil to fill in the gaps. Start the stencil so that parts of the pattern flow off the edge of the wall so you don’t have to go back and fill in the holes when it’s done.
- Keep a blow dryer handy. When stenciling, you don’t load up the roller with paint, so the wall itself drys fairly quickly. However, when you’re layering the plastic stencil with paint, it takes a little longer to dry. So moving the stencil pattern over the wall can result in wet splotches of paint where you don’t want it. I got in the habit of using a blow dryer on the stencil so I could move through the project more quickly.
- Use a small brush for touch ups. Careful as I may be, it seemed inevitable that there would be drips and smudges as I went along. A tiny paint brush was crucial to cleaning up the oops-ies.
The whole thing took a few days to complete, but I wasn’t the most committed of painters. I stopped to bake, attend holiday parties and watch Christmas clay-mation movies…leaving only a couple hours a day devoted to stenciling. Should you choose to get your stencil on, I’d say it’s a project that could easily be knocked out in a day if you were truly diligent.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll offer a peek at the good, bad and ugly of the project.
Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.
For many moons now, I’ve been flirting with the idea of wallpapering a surface of the house. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out which wall, much less nail down the sort of pattern I wanted to lose my wallpaper virginity to. Then I got scared off by all the reasons wallpaper naysayers give for not tackling the project. Primarily, it’s not easy to put up and it’s not easy to take down. And taking into consideration my tendency to obsessively rearrange furniture and redesign my living spaces, something as permanent as wallpaper probably wouldn’t be a good fit for little old me. Stenciling though, stenciling is genius. I can get behind stenciling.
For whatever reason, stenciling seems more manageable. I mean, it’s essentially painting, and your girl has painted her fair share of walls before. It also seems to be a cheaper alternative to ordering designer wallpaper. And, if I screw it up, which is likely, it’s much easier to fix or paint over than wallpaper. So stenciling it is!
The lime green wall below is the one I’ve singled out to be my stenciling guinea pig. In the picture, it’s home to a collection of friends’ photos, but I’ve since moved those to the hallway and the bare wall has been screaming for some quirky new treatment, STAT.
At first I was toying with the idea of using painter’s tape to create some kind of geometric wall art. Maybe something a-like-a-this….
Or even better, this…
Inevitably, all that searching for inspirational images led me to stenciling, and then all bets were off. Stenciling it would be. I found Cutting Edge Stencils and Royal Design Studio to have the best collection of stencils in the look I’m after. But settling on a pattern might be easier said than done with so many cool options to choose from.
I love the modern edginess of the chevron, but also the movement and flow of the peacock pattern. Our design style is a little modern and a little eclectic, so I think after much searching, I’ve decided on the same pattern I would have been likely to choose as a three-year-old…the mermaid.
I think it does a good job of combining what it is I like about the other two patterns. The mathematical repetition fits in nicely with our modern style, but the cloud-like arches soften it, for an effect that just feels good in all the right places.
The Internets have me believing that stenciling an accent wall is a DIY project that can be completed relatively quickly, and for someone with as little patience as me, “quick” is a word to be cherished as much as “cheap” or “easy” or “fun”. Of course, when I’ve actually started the stenciling process and am growing increasingly frustrated by the painstaking attention to detail it requires, I might be singing another tune. As it stands now though, stenciling and I have a date. If you’re looking for me this weekend, you’ll know where to find me.
A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.
I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.
We put in a path that leads to the front door.
We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.
So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.
We put in raised beds for veggies…
…and a rain garden to help with drainage.
We built a fence to help with privacy.
And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.
Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.
We put up invisible book shelves in the office.
And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.
In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.
We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.
On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.
I’ve heard the first step in overcoming an addiction is to admit you have a problem. I have issues with impulse buying throw pillows. (Before you judge me too hard, I will let it be known these are often Ross, TJ Max and Marshall’s pillows we are talking about. I’m not shelling out my entire pay check for the Anthropologie variety. Though, perhaps if I was, that would help me kick the habit.)
This is not a joke. I’m hanging at Target or World Market or Ikea, I see a cute throw pillow, I have to have it. It doesn’t matter if I have only $12 in the bank or if the potential pillow even remotely matches anything in the house. I sees it. I wants it. I buys it. Can you really blame me? Look at how cool bouquets of throw pillows look.
Maybe if I was actually using the throw pillows on surfaces throughout the house this wouldn’t be an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a very healthy amount positioned on the bed, on a bench, on a chair and on the couch, but I also have my secret shame closet of throw pillows I keep around just in case I want to do a seasonal switch-up. We’re talking a pretty big closet, too. It drives Heath bonkers. Of course, he’s the sweetest husband alive, so he never begrudges me my pillow purchase, but I know it’s one of my weird habits that has him a little puzzled…like how I feel about him devouring spoonfuls of peanut butter right before bed. It’s my weird thing that I can’t really shake or explain.
Internet, I have a pillow problem. I am working to change it. As I struggle through this addiction and work toward recovery, please be so kind as to hide any throw pillows that may be in proximity and refrain from speaking about them too much in my presence.
Thank goodness Heath promised for better or for worse.
I’m quickly learning that while I love to look at pretty things and can recognize something pretty when I see it, I am not so great at coming up with something pretty myself. Case in point, beautifying my dresser.
Until recently, my dresser sat in front of a window, practically negating any need for some sort of artful display of eclectic whatchamacallits on its surface. But in preparing for Bro’s arrival, we did some room switching and I was left with a simple dresser against a bare wall. I knew I
wanted needed to do something to give it some gusto, but figuring out WHAT should go there was more difficult than I anticipated. Giant artwork was out of the question (I don’t own any) as was a television (we only have one and it’s in the living room). What I did have on hand though, was lots of mismatched junk. So I figured I could probably find some way to make several random pieces look good together. I mean, if Pinterest can do it…
I started fooling around with some of my favorite little pieces, but that’s when I figured out that, while some of the items in my inspiration images look like they were casually placed there, it actually takes a lot of thought to make several elements with varying characteristics work together cohesively. For example, when I tried to pair a framed map with a a jewelry stand, it looked more like a bag lady’s campsite than quirky but beautiful dressing table. I played around for a good 45 minutes before I finally threw in the towel and googled “How to dress a dresser.”
I felt like a chump.
Fortunately I am not the only person who has had this weird “problem,” and I found a great step-by-step guide to creating an area that is fashionable and functional.
And with that little maneuver, I came just a little bit closer to having a grownup house. Move over, Martha.