3 Untold DIY Projects from 2015

2015 was a quiet year on the blog, but it wasn’t due to there being a lack of projects for us to get our hands on. I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t write about them at the time (though some ended up on instagram so, partial credit?) but as they say… better late than never. Behold three never before seen Doodle House DIYs from 2015:

Chicken Proof Gardens

We love giving the chippies yard time outside of the coop because a happy chicken means better eggs and more of ’em. But as most gardeners know, they can wreck havoc on a garden if left unattended.

chickensdustbath

Chickens love a good dust bath—but why does it have to be in our veggie garden?

In our old place, we built small fence around our gardens to keep the critters out, but that effort was short lived since the chickens eventually mastered the art of fence jumping.

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Crude chicken wire we set up to protect our garden

Ultimately we decided that each individual garden would need its own sturdy enclosure that protected the perimeter and the top from not only the chickens, but other garden vermin as well. This design was dreamed up by Heath, and was modeled after a few similar projects we hunted down on pinterest.

DIY Garden Box

Chicken Garden Box

Each box required nine 2″x 2″ x 8″ furring strip boards we picked up at Home Depot for about $2 each — bringing the total project cost to about $75. Not too bad for the peace of mind it also bought us knowing we could now have happy chicks AND a happy garden.

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(Partly) New Coffee Table

Heath and I have never bought a coffee table. We’ve always been able to get our hands on one for free — though this method is friendly on the wallet, it sometimes leaves us with the less-than-ideal version for our space. The first was an old hand-me-down cedar chest I acquired in college that was great for storage, but a little small for the room. And truth be told, she was a little rough around the edges from so much wear and tear over the years, and maybe a few too many drinking games.

Our first coffee table was an old cedar chest that was a little too small for the room.

Then we inherited a long and low tile top coffee table built by my grandfather. I loved the style, but it was really a little too long and didn’t give us many options for furniture layout. As I am constantly redesigning and reorganizing, this was a problem. Just call me Goldilocks.

modern ecelectic living room

So we opted to re-purpose the iron legs from the handmade coffee table and assembled a new, slightly shorter top out of cedar. Total cost of the redux? About $36. LOVE how it turned out. Can’t figure out why we didn’t try this sooner.coffeetableafterEclecticCoffeTable

Getting in touch with my artistic side

This year, spring in Austin was very rainy and very wet. Which meant the time I had planned to spend outdoors gardening, needed to be rethought. But rather than let a little water get me down, I let a little water color and acrylic paint lift me up and help keep my creative juices flowing. I’ve not taken any classes (painfully obvious) but I’ve been experimenting a lot — sometimes creating things from images I’ve seen, sometimes imagining things from nothing. I’m still very much a novice but it’s been really exciting to revisit an activity I loved as a child but until this year had not really been brave enough to explore as an adult.

A mix of some of my water colors, photography, graphic design and a few works by local artists.

A mix of some of my water colors, photography, graphic design and a few works by local artists.

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blendedAmerica

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Inspired by the view from the Wiener Riesenrad -- a ferris wheel in Vienna

Inspired by the view from the Wiener Riesenrad — a ferris wheel in Vienna

 

At least Wyatt seems into it?

At least Wyatt seems into it?

This hardly captures all of the untold adventures and lessons that 2015 had in store, but it’s a start, and a good reminder that a heart-felt DIY project, no matter how small, can still result in an abundance of joy.


Shelf Life

It’s funny how there are some plans you stew and stew over before putting them into action, while others seem to be executed nearly immediately. The latter was the case for my most recent DIY–installing a set of shelves in the corner of our office. A routine Saturday browsing of the internets led me to stumble across a photo of an ingenious design for wall mounted display shelves that I felt compelled to emulate post haste.

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Normally, I think it’s best to leave corners open and free of clutter, but there is so much I love about this design from A Home West. I think it’s a super way to display the artifacts that help define us while still maximizing storage capacity. And since storage has always been an issue for Heath and myself–I’m a bit of an impulse buyer, Heath’s got a smidge of hoarder in him–this solution seemed ideal for both storing Heath’s collection of history books and my random assortment of knick knacks. I don’t exaggerate when I say fewer than 10 minutes passed from the moment I stumbled across this clever home remedy and when I departed to Home Depot for supplies. A couple of hours later, the office was rejuvenated.

officeshelvesbeforeandafter 

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It turned out to be an incredibly simple, fast, and affordable way to freshen up a neglected space. We already had the wood from an old project Heath and I worked on at our last house, which, coincidentally, was also one we embarked on to create storage in our old office. So the only real cost was the hardware:

  • 20 1/2-inch wood screws (four for each shelf)
  • 10 L-shaped brackets
  • 20 washers
  • 20 metal anchor screws
  • 20 3-inch wall screws
  • Black spray paint

That was it! I think I spent something like $34 total and a Saturday afternoon to see the transformation through to fruition. I still need to stain the edges of the shelves, and I’ll admit, I kind of miss my map wall, but my lust for this new unit is keeping me pretty satisfied.

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May flowers

Not to be self congratulatory or anything, but Heath and I are basically American heroes for making good on our promise to the garden to give it some much needed TLC.  Austin’s been gifted with a pretty spectacular spring season, which made it nearly impossible for us not to get our hands dirty these past couple months beautifying the grounds of House Doodle. Veggies have been planted, bottle trees erected, new fences built—a productive spring season indeed.

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The bathroom reveal

Our unplanned bathroom renovation has come to a close and I’m thrilled with how it turned out–not only from a design perspective but by how quickly the whole thing came together (despite my month lag in posting). We had always figured we’d get around to doing a reno ourselves at some point, but truth be told I’m grateful for our little pipe bursting fiasco because the pros got it done faster, cheaper and better than we ever could have. It’s just like the bible says: there’s a time for everything– a time for DIY and a time for LOPDIFY–Letting Other People Do It For You.

Previously, on the doodle house…

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The contractors got in and out in just over a week (though the week living in our house without a working toilet was not one of my favorites) and did a masterful job. The final product is not too far off from the first-and-only mood board I created a few months back when I first started day dreaming about a restroom redux, though their are some key differences between the vision and the reality.

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What stayed from the original plan?

Hexagonal tiles: I clung tight to my original plan to use hexagonal tiles on the floor. I’ve always thought it was a classic and clean look but still had plenty of character and dimension.  I also like how they fit in with the era of the house and appeal to my tendency to gravitate toward anything with an entrancing repetitive pattern (see stencil wall). No, I never deviated from wanting those in any bathroom renovation we would undergo. There’s no denying, that look is pretty dope.

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white hexagonal tiles

Blue and white color scheme: I love all shades of blue (especially anything in the teal/turquoise family, as is evident by the nagging urge I experience to paint everything from tables, to dressers, to walls in one shade or the other) and I wanted to bring it into the bathroom as well, though initially, my vision was for it to come through mostly via accessories–a variation, I’ll note, I had no qualms with. The wall color we chose? Ash blue by Valspar.

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Round mirror: Most everything else in the bathroom is angular, so I wanted to  invite some playful curvature to provide contrast to an otherwise predictable space. We got ours for $40 at Target.

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Wooden accents: In our kitchen, we try to blend modern design elements (counters, light fixtures, cabinet hardware) with things that are a little more true the home’s original design (knotty pine cabinets). I wanted to do the same in the bathroom–update the space, but without losing some of the warmth and richness that can come when you modernize. I figured incorporating some soft wood accents would help accomplish that. Our towel cabinet (Home Depot) gives a nod to our knotty pine kitchen but still has some of that sleekness that ties it into the rest of the bathroom and house. Though, to be honest, I’m still weighting whether or not it’s dimensions are right for our very small space. Though, I dare not try to make my own after our last DIY kerfuffle.

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Water/animal-themed art: I knew whatever art ended up in the bathroom I wanted to be water themed because, get it? Initially I thought about something with dogs, and then briefly considered this goofy otter pic from Etsy, but when we spotted this Grace Potter and the Nocturnals poster by LandLand at a renegade craft fair, it seemed like a winner. It had all the shades of blue I was after, featured water creatures (crawfish) and, you get cool points cuz it’s a band poster–a band we’ve seen before. High fives all around.

bathroom art

What changed?

Wall tile: it was old, and the grout desperately needed to be redone, but  I was fond of the bathroom’s original celadon green tiles. Like blue, I’ve always also always been drawn to green, and since I’m a gal on a budget and not tremendously opposed to letting my retro hang out, I assumed if we updated the bathroom, the green tile would probably hold steady. Of course, once the experts came in and said the whole thing would have to be demolished, I started singing another tune. Because the space is so small, I opted not to replace the tile with something similar, but to go bright and understated. White subway tiles fit the mold and go oh-so-well with the white hexagonal flooring.

Shower curtain: I originally planned for white to try to keep the already small space from feeling too busy. But in the context of our white walls and floors, a white shower curtain made the space a bit boring, and that’s not in compliance with doodle house code. I briefly considered spending way too much on some of the perfectly marketed curtains on Anthropologie, but wound up spending only $10 at Marshall’s for a print that I think turned out to be perfect for the color, size and tone of the space.

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What makes me happy?

All of it!

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It’s here: a (nearly) complete kitchen!

Today I write the blog entry I’ve (embarrassingly) been fantasizing about for awhile, the post on our newly renovated midcentury kitchen.  We have been planning and slowly chipping away at our kitchen renovation practically from the first moment we moved in.

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She was relatively functional, sure, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much time in. And like others, as I grow older and try to become a culinary savant, having a comfortable cooking area has become more and more important to me. To make the space work for us, I spent months flipping through tons of magazines, pinterest boards and blog posts to figure out what would fit our space and our budget. We took it on bit-by-bit, first painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. Then Heath spent his Christmas vacation sanding down and restaining the original knotty pine cabinets and adding new hardware, and we worked together the following spring break to remove the wood wall paneling and add more shelving and storage. About a month ago we tackled the most costly upgrade, replacing the countertops and redoing the plumbing. And to wrap it all up, last week we put in the tile backsplash, resulting in the nearly finished product we have today, 18 months after moving in.

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The original tile work was not a professionally executed job. There were broken pieces around the electrical outlets and jaggedly cut tiles around the sink. So when it came time replace it, we went back and forth on whether we should do it ourselves or have it professionally installed to avoid a debacle like what we began with. In the end, we decided to take it on ourselves, a decision I’m happy with, not only for the financial implications but for the sense of accomplishment and ownership we felt when it was all said and done.

We started as all young 21st century DIYers do, watching a YouTube video on the process.  We found this one to be the most helpful.

Contrary to our initial beliefs, installing the backsplash was relatively straight forward.

  • If you have uneven drywall like we did, use an all purpose joint compound on the wall to smooth out uneven areas before beginning.
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  • Butter the walls with adhesive.
    wallbutter
  • Lay the tile and wait 24 hours.
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  • Grout
  • Caulk

The tiling was a lot like putting together a puzzle, frustrating at times, but marvelously gratifying when you find the right piece to complete the sequence.  The corners and edges were predictably the most challenging areas to finish off, but we had a tile cutter that proved most helpful to create tiny pieces to finish off our pattern.

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And installing the tile was a true team effort. We started in the middle and worked our way out to either side. Then I did the grouting and Heath did the caulking. It was couple’s team building through and through.

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The tile backsplash was the cherry on top of the renovation sundae, leaving only the dishwasher and garbage disposal installation to be desired. It’s fantastic to be able to stand in our doorway today and take in the finished product that was more than a year in the making. While it’s not completely perfect, I can’t help but beam with pride at the first major renovation we conquered on our own, from the design to the execution (with a little help and support from loving family and friends). It was a long process to be certain and sometimes tested our patience, but it was also an experience we will carry with us as we continue to develop our skills and take on new challenges in the future.


Rethinking countertops?

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.

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The kitchen- pre doodle house

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.

Knotty pine cabinets + neutral counters + blue backsplash

Knotty pine cabinets + neutral counters + blue backsplash

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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.

So, not a great picture. But you can see how the color scheme would work well in our kitchen.

So, not a great picture. But you can see how the color scheme would work well in our kitchen.

hexagonal tiles

Hexagonal white tiles. Still pearly and white and with a little more character than the shiny bright we would get with quarts.

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More hexagonal white

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Mini square tiles in greens and blues…pretty well matching our existing color scheme.

More white tiles. Like.

More white tiles. Like.

Large tiles

Large tiles instead of small. Interesting. Very interesting.

And I feel like we can’t talk about ’50s kitchen remodels without considering Formica. Come on. That’s classic ’50s business.

From Retro Renovation, a really cool example of formica used well with natural wood cabinets and white appliances.

From Retro Renovation, a really cool example of formica used well with natural wood cabinets and white appliances.

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Formica cabinets in turquoise, also from Retro Renovation.

Formica in a cool retro but subtle pattern.

Formica in a cool retro but subtle pattern, from the Formica design studio.

Cabinets with a similar finish to ours, paired with a really cool turquoise formica and tile backsplash.

Cabinets with a similar finish to ours, paired with a really cool turquoise Formica and tile backsplash.

Green Formica with a metal edge. It might look good with our Big Chill too.

Green Formica with a metal edge. It might look good with our Big Chill too.

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!


Mountin’-eers

As a belated Christmas gift, last weekend Heath mounted the TV for me.  For us, this is one of those pesky projects that (in the grand scheme of things) is pretty easy and affordable to accomplish but, for one reason or another, never made its way to the top of our to-do list.  Though I don’t know why, as the end result has made a HUGE difference to our GDH. Just to jog your memory, here’s what our TV setup used to look like.

Boring TV

And here is what it looks like today.

midcenturydesignwithflatscreenIt’s like people actually live here now! The project took about an hour and half  to complete from start to finish. That time span includes Heath putting the TV up, me deciding it was too high, and him redoing the whole project again. Plus the time it took to hide the cables and arrange the fixins’ on the dresser. So basically, I’m embarrassed we didn’t get to this DIY fix earlier.

We opted to run the cords in the wall rather than get one of those hide-a-cord mechanisms. A decision I am very happy with and was accomplished just as easily by drilling a whole in the wall where the TV is and near the outlet at the bottom of the wall. We ran the cords in an out of those holes and to their respective contraptions.

We opted to run the cords through the wall rather than get one of those hide-a-cord contraptions—a decision I am very happy with and was accomplished by drilling one hole in the wall where the TV is and one near the outlet at the bottom of the wall. We ran the cords in an out of those holes through the wall and to their respective devices on the dresser.

To say the living room has gone through many iterations would be an understatement.  We’ve (I’ve) changed furniture and wall colors in here so many times I can’t event begin to give you the actual number of layout switch ups (maybe 5).  Fortunately for Heath, now that the TV is on the wall, we are pretty well set with our current layout, and that’s just great with me. It’s quite possible I’m close to reaching my goal of having a living room that fits the modern eclectic description I was aiming for. Of course, once I achieve that, I’ll probably decide to switch things up again to fit a more Downton Abbey-ish lifestyle. I wonder how a flat screen fits into that arrangement…

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Stencil me in

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!

The before…

greenandturquoiserooms And the after…brightretrowallcolors

starburstmirrorartThus 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

The paint poured, brush not yet loaded. Still time to turn back…

The first round of the stencil pattern on the wall. No turning back now.

The first round of the stencil pattern on the wall. No turning back now. (You can also see here the spacing faux pas I am referring to in tip #2.)

One of the “whoops” moments. This is why a touch-up brush is so crucial.

Progress…

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Eventually I’ll need to redo the top. This is why a level is handy. Once I was at the top, I was eager to finish, and you can see the results of my sloppiness on the top row. Woe is me.

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Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.


Attention to Detail: 3 home improvement projects to tackle before the holidays

ATTENTION: Oye. I am a little embarrassed about the lack of blog posts I’ve churned out over the past couple of weeks. I wish I had a more legit excuse for being MIA, but the truth is I’ve just been a bit exhausted by my 9 to 5 and haven’t been able to muster up the strength to do much home improvement during my downtime…much less the strength to blog about it. Fortunately though, I feel like I have enough ammunition to fire off a blog post about my most recent discoveries in nesting. So please forgive my foolish absence.

After a year of inhabiting our current place, I thought I had pretty much tackled all of the little touch-up projects that would make the house feel like home: painting the walls, switching out light fixtures, installing shelves. You know, the small-ish projects that make a big impact. Foolishly, I thought the only things left to address to make my home “magazine worthy” were the big remodeling projects like putting in new counter tops in the kitchen, building a fence in the backyard, and laying down wood floors in the living room. With a trip to India just around the corner, I resigned myself to the fact that it would be a good long while before any of those projects would be checked off our to-do list.  Nothing to do but sit and wait, right? Wrong. A recent trip to mum’s house for Thanksgiving reminded me of the impact homing in on the small stuff can make on your GDH (gross domestic happiness). So I’m pretty jazzed about some of the micro-projects I’m going to take on this week that will help me get my head, house and heart in a good place.

Project One: lining the kitchen cabinets with vinyl tile
When Heath refinished the cabinets last Christmas, he did a swell job of giving the musty exterior some much-needed sheen. The interiors, however, were left untouched.  The bottom cabinets especially feel like a 50-year old dingy crawl space, which, let’s face it, they essentially are. Good old mom had the genius idea of lining the bottom of the cabinets with white vinyl tile. It’s easy to clean, easy to install and gives some brightness to an other wise dark and dirty nook of the kitchen. Wouldn’t have thought to do it, but I’m glad mom did.  I’m planning to use the peel-and-stick tiles for mine, but I found some cool projects on the interwebs that have other suggestions for bringing character to forgotten spaces. Check out this tutorial from Apartment Therapy, or this one from Pink Shirts and Car Wrecks. And for a whole post dedicated exclusively to making dreamy drawers, check out this one from I Heart Organizing.

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LinedDeskDrawer

Project Two: fridge focus
Since we’ve taken to harboring Bro in the house, it means sharing areas of real estate that I once had complete control over. Sadly, one of the areas over which I relinquished rule was the fridge. Once upon a time I kept it relatively organized, with specific spaces designated for particular foods. A cheese drawer, a produce container, etc. But when we started sharing the space with Bro’s foreign food stuffs, I kind of let keeping tabs on the fridge fall by the wayside. This is foolishness. I’ve got to rethink the way I manage the fridge. Rather than just throwing our groceries in there willy-nilly, I’ve got to reestablish a system of order. It has become a new priority for two reasons. First, we’ve got a pretty bad case of fridge blindness, which is the term I’m making up to describe what happens when you only eat the foods you see in the very front. The leftovers in the back get pushed further and further backward until they’ve spoiled. (Embarrassing fact: we recently discovered a gallon of milk in the depths of the fridge with a September expiration date. So you can see this is a serious problem). Putting everything (our food and Bro’s) in order will help us save money by not wasting food. Secondly, I think having a spruced up fridge will encourage better eating habits. I’m thinking of it like a department store.  I always get lured in by the fancy displays of intricately folded blouses and color-coded dresses and inevitably spend money on something I didn’t need because it just looked so damn fine in the store. Maybe I can mimic that effect in my fridge. I’ll want to eat more lettuce, fruits and produce if I display the healthy foods properly in the fridge.  It’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had. Just ask Real Simple, which has an entire article on the subject.

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Project Three: a clean coffee tableI think maybe a dirty coffee table is the unmade bed of the living room.  Think about it, whenever you want to give the appearance of a clean house, the first thing you do is make the bed, right? Every morning when I get up to let the dogs out through the back window (like all classy people do), I inevitably wind up doing the face palm dance over how grotesque I left the coffee table from the night before.  There are always at least two of the following splayed across our already decrepit cedar chest coffee table: finger nail clippers, half empty glasses of OJ, remote controls, coasters, pencils and bobby pins/hair ties (obviously, those belong to Heath). Of all the things in my house not worthy of a magazine photo shoot, I think our coffee table situation might take the cake. I’m starting my new year’s resolution early and committing to finding a way to organize the items that are meant to live on the coffee table (coffee table books for instance, plus the coasters and remotes), and I’m committing to ridding it of the dishes, hair ties, and other nastiness that doesn’t belong there before I retreat to the bedroom at night. It’s a small change in behavior that will increase my GDH tenfold. I hate leaving for work with the house a wreck, and this measure is bound to help address that.

A wire basket of sorts for storing remote controls I'm thinking will make a dramatic difference.

A wire basket of sorts for storing remote controls I’m thinking will make a dramatic difference.

Using trays with vivid surfaces to aggregate knick knacks is a winning idea in my book.

Using trays with vivid surfaces to aggregate knick knacks is a winning idea in my book.

I've got a whole bunch of books on design on my Christmas wish list that will hopefully make their way onto our made-over living room centerpiece.

I’ve got a whole bunch of books on design on my Christmas wish list that will hopefully make their way onto our made-over living room centerpiece.

There you have it!  My commitment to improving the home on a $0 budget before the we leave for India.  Hold me to it, readers!


One year later

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.

For starters, we (with A LOT of help from my mom) we were able to install some much needed landscaping in the front yard.

The uninspired and lackluster front yard before we got our hands (and feet and faces) dirty with gardening.

And here it is today.

We put in a path that leads to the front door.

And planted lots of native color.

Echinacea is forever smiling.

We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.

And in the backyard we did even more.  When we first arrived, the only life in the backyard was a 30-year-old pecan tree.

The bare backyard.

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.

The bland walls before we got our hands on them.

And after many iterations of furniture placement, we  finally found the perfect layout for our massive living room.

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.

Dinged up faded cabinets and rusty black metal hardware makes for a creepy kitchen.

A little shine goes a long way. At some point we’ll get to updating the backsplash and countertops.

We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.

For me, knotty pine is beautiful in small doses. The original kitchen had more than what I prefer.

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.