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DIY Bathroom Reno

At some point earlier this year I decided I wanted to learn how to build furniture.  I’m not completely sure what sparked it, though it was likely a combination of factors.  Searching for bathroom vanities was a big one. Our home has three bathroom vanity cabinets in bad shape that need to be replaced, and the thought of dropping $$$$TONS$$$$ wasn’t appealing, especially since nothing I found was quite what I was looking for in terms of style or function. Last year when we redid our kitchen I spent many evenings assembling Ikea kitchen cabinets.  There might have been some mystery to it before then, but after that I realized all a cabinet really is, is a box with doors.  Easy.  I can make that myself . . . right?  Discovering Ana White’s website (tons of free furniture plans and tutorials) was another factor that fanned the flames of my furniture-building fire. Although I didn’t end up using any of her plans to build the cabinet, it was super useful to browse through other projects to get an idea of the basics.

So I decided I’d start figuring out this whole furniture-building thing by making a new vanity cabinet for our main level half bath.  No big deal if it didn’t turn out awesome because it’s just the powder room.  And no need to make something complicated since all it stores is tons of toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Seemed like a good place to start. The week before my birthday Jim asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate.  I told him I wanted to build the bathroom vanity cabinet and LUCKY FOR ME, my birthday fell on a Saturday this year, so that’s exactly what I got to do. Here are a few shots.

Before on the left: yellow walls, blue laminate countertop, giant mirror, there is just SO MUCH not working here.

After on the right: aaah, that’s better. :)


My cabinet sketch and random notes from pricing out various stores’ lumber and plywood:


I ultimately went with the most affordable option–pine lumber and basic 3/4″ plywood.  I was worried I would completely screw this up, and didn’t want to mess up with more expensive oak, birch or poplar.  The whole cabinet (the box, doors, hinges, pulls, and a sample-sized jar of grey paint), cost me about $70 to make.
bathroomRenoCabinet2Though I came up with my own plan for the cabinet, I used Ana White’s plan for making the cabinet doors.  Super easy. And so beautiful. I love shaker style cabinets.

Bathroom light before:bathroomRenoLightFix-1Bathroom light after.  I reused the old fixture, but trimmed off those random pieces hanging in between each light with metal cutters.  I asked Jim if we should go “modern & classy” and spray paint it brushed nickel, or “modern & fun” and spray paint it yellow. Fun won:bathroomRenoLightFix-2

The new mirror is actually 1/3 of the old one. I bought a $3 glass-cutting tool and spent one frustrating hour during Lucy and Jack’s afternoon nap cutting a piece to the size I wanted.  Luckily the old mirror was ginormous so it was okay that I messed up TWICE.  By my third and final shot, I got this piece.  I framed it with some 1×4’s that I cut and then painted with what was left in my tiny sample-sized jar of paint.  Boom.  Practically free.bathroomRenoAfterPicking out a new faucet was TOUGH. While I was staring at 200+ options I told myself I couldn’t spend more than $100, so this is the one I decided on.  $88.bathroomRenoAfter2Penny tile!  I’ve been wanting to do penny tile somewhere in our house, and the powder room seemed like a good place for it.  Putting it in wasn’t terrible.  But grouting it…..UGH!  Took. Forevvvvver.  I was thinking it’d take about an hour, so Jim and I started around 10pm one night.  Not a good choice.  One hour?  More like four. Haha.  I’m only laughing now because I’ve caught up on all the sleep I lost that night.

There it is! We still need to put up the baseboard trim and hang a few pieces of art, but it’s almost done. What should I build next?!

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Kitchen Renovation | What we’ve been up to for the last 5 months…


At the end of August 2014 Jim and I bought a house.  Off and on for several years, we had been searching for something with a little more space for our growing family. For whatever reason, I always seemed to be drawn to the ones that needed a little bit of “help,” and the one we ended up buying was no different.  I’m not gonna knock it too hard though, because it just-so-happened to be the home of the family of one of my senior portrait clients from five or six years ago.  When we first looked at the house, we turned the corner into the living room and boom…! “Hey!  I took that photo!”

When we looked at the home, I immediately had a plan for it.  Here’s how it looked the day we first saw it, and my corresponding thoughts:


Here’s the old kitchen behind the partial walls that separated it from the living room and dining room:

Here’s the old dining room, which is now the location of the new kitchen:kitchenbefore-1003
While we waited for our house to sell we spent our efforts upstairs painting the walls and laying hardwood flooring.  We barely finished those projects before it was time to move in at the end of October.  And now that our house had sold and we weren’t stressed about paying two mortgages, it was time to tackle the main level.

Moving a kitchen was no small task, and there are quite a few projects I unfortunately didn’t capture with the iPhone.  But here’s a small peek at some of what was involved in our DIY kitchen reno:

kitchenbefore-1005One of the first tasks was to get a smaller window in the space where our kitchen sink was going to be.  Though it felt like a serious sin to replace a big window with a smaller one (losing a little bit of natural light), it was what we needed to do to be able to put cabinets and a sink/faucet in front of it.  Here are Jim and his Dad framing the window for the new one.  Jim’s dad also spent a week or two helping us move all of the electric (THANK YOU!), which was one of the most time-consuming parts of the project.  No photos of that though….


Next we busted out the 1990 fireplace.  James and Colin especially enjoyed helping out with the sledgehammers…kitchenbefore-1007kitchenbefore-1006I think this is what our house looked like around Thanksgiving.  Yay….kitchenbefore-1008kitchenbefore-1009Then it was time to take down the wall that hid the old kitchen.  There was one night I just didn’t want to wait for Jim to come home from work to get started, so I plugged in the reciprocating hacksaw and got half of it down solo.  I think I earned 100 cool-points from my boys that night. :)

kitchenbefore-1010At this point of total destruction/chaos, tired of inhaling drywall dust, irritated with walking on sub-floor, accustomed to tripping over power tools strewn over our “house,” sick of pizza/fast food dinners, and living with a barely functional kitchen, I’m pretty sure we were standing here saying to each other, “WHAT! WERE! WE! THINKING?!?!” :)

kitchenbefore-1011Drywalling over the area underneath the new window so we could get the cabinets in:kitchenbefore-1012Cabinets are assembled, in place and ready to be measured for countertops.  I used to think putting together Ikea furniture was tough/confusing/annoying, but after assembling most of these Ikea kitchen cabinets, I feel like an Ikea furniture-assembling professional.kitchenbefore-1013Make way for the recessed can lights:kitchenbefore-1014I cooked our Christmas feast in the kitchen at this stage…oh, that was joyous! kitchenbefore-1015Drywalling over the gaping hole that was left after removing the fireplace.  If you come over, promise me you won’t look too carefully at our not-so-professional drywall skillzzz. :)kitchenbefore-1016In January we got our countertops, which meant we could finally get rid of the old kitchen.  Habitat for Humanity was the recipient of all of the cabinets and most of the old appliances.kitchenbefore-1017Then we put in the hardwood flooring.  I don’t think I ever got any photos of us laying the floor in the kitchen, so here’s one from when we did the upstairs.  For the most part, I would lay out the pieces in a perfect mix of knotty –  no knots – a few knots – no knots…..and measure and then cut the end piece of each row, while Jim back-breakingly nailed each one in.  Every once in awhile we’d switch roles…but….let’s be honest…..Jim was much better/faster at using the nail gun than I was.kitchenbefore-1004After the floors were sanded we applied Rubio Monocoat, a product that I discovered while browsing Houzz that seems to be big in Europe and less-known in the U.S.  I spent days (weeks?) researching different options for finish, and this is what I picked.  It has a completely matte finish and zero VOC. Special bonus, it was really quite easy to apply with the buffer we rented.  And it holds up extremely well with lots of kid traffic.kitchenbefore-1018I made some open shelving out of the scrap slab of butcher-block oak that we had used for another project.  And there were other un-documented steps along the way that seemed to take awhile to get done since none of them were pressing….like getting the range hood mounted, installing the toe-kick at the bottom of the cabinets, rerouting the return heat vent that had been in the wall that we removed, etc., etc., etc. Finally, it was time to install the kitchen backsplash.  Most of the design choices were easy for me, but picking a tile for the backsplash was tough.  I had samples lined up against the wall for over a week before finally making a decision. kitchenbefore-1019Cutting glass tile was way more “fun” than I was expecting, but it only took two nights of Jim and I working to have it in and grouted.  Oh, and by the way, I’m 7.5 months pregnant. :) I definitely made Jim lay the tile that was in the far corner…my belly just wouldn’t let me reach that far.kitchenbefore-1020And that was the final piece to finishing our kitchen! Here are some final kitchen shots, with some before and afters mixed in so you don’t have to scroll all the way back to the top to remember how far this space has come:



With Jim’s help, I painted those barstools to add a little excitement to our grey and white kitchen.  Sadly, the first yellow I had picked was a little too sunny/pastel, and it was just “off” enough to bother me to the degree that I knew I had to re-paint. Luckily I got the color right the second time around.

I also made that white window valence out of leftover 2×4’s and plywood we had in our garage.  Same story with that.  I initially covered it with a geometric navy and white fabric that I had picked out before we put in the backsplash.  After the backsplash was in, I felt like it just competed too much, so I started over and covered it in a white fabric.


View from the stairs, BEFORE:

kitchenbefore-1002View from the stairs, AFTER (in case you’re trying to figure this out, the refrigerator is roughly in the spot of the old fireplace)kitchenbefore_after3The true beauty in this kitchen is that I was able to make it perfectly functional for ME.  Every cabinet I planned to make sense for the way I use a kitchen and the way our family eats.

Like putting the dishes in a drawer right next to the dishwasher since my boys are the ones who are usually in charge of loading/unloading.

And packing the pantry full of pull-out drawers to hold all of our canned goods.


Most houses seem to have double bowl kitchen sinks, but I only ever use one bowl.  I found this giant, deep, single bowl sink in my search, and I love it.kitchenbefore_after4Oh, what a beautiful thing, to have a perfectly organized tupperware drawer. :)kitchenbefore_after5View looking into the old dining room/new kitchen, BEFORE:

kitchenbefore-1003View looking into the old dining room/new kitchen, AFTER:kitchenbefore_after8kitchenbefore_after9


There it is! Lots more to do around here, but I’m happy to finally close the chapter on our kitchen renovation!  THANK YOU to those who helped us–my mom for playing with our children for hours while Jim and I worked almost every.single.weekend, my dad for helping me paint, rip out old countertops, put on the cabinet doors while Lucy napped, Jim’s dad for helping Jim with electric/window/range hood, both Steve and Colin for sharing their collections of powertools, our realtor Craig Cowley, and all of the strangers that post home-improvement how-to tutorials and videos online.  Thank you thank you thank you. :)

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