House + Home: Christmas

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Believe it or not, I've been looking forward to decking this house for Christmas since the first time I walked through. Last year we didn't move in until the day before Christmas, so the extent of our decorating was a tree and some blankets on the floor.

This year, we had just finished up the last of our renovations and decorating in November, so it was especially fun to deck the house out in some festive decor. It's as magical as I had hoped. 

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House + Home: Newbie Plant Lady

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For the first four years of my adult life, post college, the extent of my house plants were a few sad looking succulents. I had other things on my mind and plants just weren't a priority. 

However, once we moved into, renovated, and decorated our new home, I realized how much I love having green around me. So when fall came and I was making my to do lists, "get more plants" was written down amongst other things such as "organize the basement" and "hang art."

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I had put my 3 dying succulents outside for the summer. When I found them at the end of the summer, one had bit the dust and the other two were thriving. I brought those two in and they seem to have a new lease on life. I keep those on my kitchen window sill because I know they need lots of sun, they are dessert plants after all. (what's a dessert plant? lol-ing over here about misspelling "desert" as "dessert," so I'm just going to leave it and hope it gives you a good chuckle too.)

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Anyway, since that's about how systematic my plant regime was and I had added close to ten plants to my home, I realized I was going to need to clean up my act. So far this is what I've started doing and it's been working:

  • Set a day once a week to take care of your plant babies. Set an alarm on your phone. Make sure it's a time that you're usually home and free to do 15 minutes of plant care.
  • When you alarm goes off, water everything the way it needs. Even if a plant doesn't need water that often, at least you know you watered it "2 Tuesday ago" rather than "sometime during the fall."
  • Something that really helped me understand how to treat each plant was learning what their native climate would have been like. A succulent belongs in the desert, a fiddle leaf fig in the jungle, and so on. Obviously my house is neither of those things, but I can try and treat them as closely to that as possible.
  • Know when to buy fake. I have little wall shelves I wanted succulents in, but I knew there just wasn't enough light for them to survive. Faux plants are so lifelike these days, I bet no one can tell. 
  • Make sure someone waters your plants when you leave on vacation. I forgot this one while in Austria and came back to a few sad plant buddies.
  • Finally, remember that a potted plant you bought for $13 has already lasted longer than a cut flower bouquet that costs the same amount of money. Don't feel too guilty if it takes you a while to learn how to keep them alive. It's ok!
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I would give you a list of my plants, but I honestly don't know what most of them are. That's what happens when you buy plants based on how cute they are and don't pay attention to what they're called. 

Happy Growing!

House + Home: Sandhill Session

To celebrate finally finishing (!) up our year of renovating, furnishing, and decorating the new house we decided a little photo shoot was in order. 

I had some friends recommend Rachael a couple months ago. Finally with the need for Christmas card pictures looming, I sent her a quick message and she got back within hours. Her style and mine mesh beautifully, so it was an easy decision to work with her.

I'm extremely tempted to be insufferable and post all 50 plus pictures, but I'm going to try really hard to keep it to my favorites. I just can't get over how much I love love love them.

My vision was for a cozy, cuddly, coffee-filled shoot that reflected how much we love our new home and the land around it.

The day was drizzly and a little chilly, in other words, perfectly November and the right day for cuddles.

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We would have been remiss if we left the Christmas tree farm out of the pictures. It lies directly across the street from us and we view it as an extension of our front yard. We've made friends with the farmer and adore going for walks through the trees.

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We left the drizzle behind and cozied up inside with some coffee and kittens.

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House + Home: the kitchen

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Here it is! Our new kitchen in all it's bright and beautiful glory. So excited to finally share it with you.

Of all the things we did to this little house, the kitchen is the one that gives me the most daily joy. 

It may sound silly, but since we finished things up on this remodel, I find myself enjoying chores like doing the dishes and if you know me, that a huge deal. Dishes have always been the bane of my existence. Now I just want my cute little kitchen to be clean and the work to get it tidy is 100% worth it. We spent almost 2 months cooking with only a toaster oven and electric kettle, so you better believe I was over the moon once I got to start cooking in a real kitchen again.

In case you'd forgotten this is what the kitchen used to look like:

The glorious light streaming in makes the room look so much cuter than it was. But those drawers were only boxes with handles that if you pulled too hard, would dump their contents on your toes. The sink was a grand total of 6 inches deep. I could not reach the handles on the top cabinets without standing on my tip toes. The fridge opened up to block the main walkway into the living room. It wasn't the worst, but it was a handmade kitchen from the 1950s and not functional or pleasant.

After alot of imagination, a blizzard drive to Ikea, some really hard work and a whole lot of love, we now have this: 

Now, I know the room basically stayed the same. We didn't change the layout, size or general function. We didn't remove walls or install new windows. We even left some of the old cabinets up and didn't redo everything. But it still feels like a completely different room. 

Isn't she a beaut!? I can't get over that before/after myself. Here are a few more angles:

For our budget, this is a whole lot of bang for our buck. Our goal was, in the words of Dave, to "spend as little money as possible." 

I spent days brainstorming, sketching, researching and dreaming of what we could do to make this into a cheery space. Since I love to cook and can easily spend hours in the kitchen, it was extremely important to me.

When we added everything up at the end of the project the total for this came in under $2500. That includes a brand new dishwasher, all new lower cabinets (9 drawers!), sink, and faucet. I wasn't actually going to say how much we spent, but I just added it all up and was so proud of us for keeping things reasonable, I had to share. Considering the 2017 average kitchen renovation budget is 20k, I couldn't be happier with not only our results, but our costs as well.

*Note: I know talking about money can be tricky and that to some what we spent is a measly sum and to some it's crazy expensive. However we did buy the house knowing it needed updating and budgeted a certain amount. We consider it an investment that we get to enjoy along the way. :)

We had some pretty lofty goals for the kitchen and by the time we finally finished we had:

  • Removed linoleum and had the floor refinished
  • Demoed bottom cabinets
  • Built and installed new cabinet lowers
  • Put in new countertops, sink, and faucet
  • Added a dishwasher
  • Switched the stove and fridge placement
  • Removed the weird backsplash "arcs" 
  • Tiled the backsplash 
  • Painted the upper cabinets to match the lowers
  • Updated the cabinet hardware
  • Gave the whole room a fresh coat of paint
  • Exchanged the overhead light fixture
  • Installed a new/brighter light fixture above the sink and added a switch
  • Built shelves for the north wall

Phew, listing it all out makes me feel tired. Dave and I did all the work ourselves with some help from his brother with the cabinets and a professional electrician when necessary.

As far as the style, I love country and farmhouse style and knew that it was important to keep the room bright. There is only one window and my goal was to help the light as much as possible. That window needed no changes itself because it's been perfect all along. The view is lovely and the light that streams in is the best.

The first big issue to figure out was the dishwasher. There wasn't one and it was a condition on us buying the house that we would add one. Because our kitchen is so small we had to figure out how to fit a sink, stove, dishwasher, and as much cabinet space as possible in that small stretch of wall.

A small dishwasher was fine with me, so I found the one with the best ratings and ordered it right up. Then I realized that I didn't really ever use the double sink in the old house and actually liked the look of the one basin farmhouse sink better anyway. We kept the full size stove and still had room for 2 large stacks of drawers. I couldn't be more happy with the fact that I can stand next to the dishwasher and unload most of it into the drawers next to it without taking a step. 

The countertops were an easy decision. I wanted butcher block for our old house and we'd decided against it, but this time I knew it was worth insisting on. At first I felt like they were too yellow, but now I haven't even thought that in a long time. I also find I actually love them more with wear marks and imperfections added. It gives them a lovely character. The only thing we have to be careful about is making sure we oil the areas around the sink often enough to keep them water resistant.

The sink is probably my favorite part of the entire kitchen. I've dreamt of a farmhouse apron style sink for a long time. They can be pretty pricey, but good ol' Ikea has affordable options. Believe it or not, we ended up getting ours for half price by finding it in their As Is section.

I was worried I might end up missing a standard double sink, but this basin is huge. I honestly feel like I have more room because the one sink is so spacious. It can have a good amount of dirty dishes in it and is still usable. It also cleans up super well. I give it a good scrub with this every couple days and it shines right up.

The backsplash is my handiwork. Dave was a bit intimidated by such a large surface, but I loved the project. More than anything else, as we added those tiles, we could feel the classiness of the kitchen increasing. So much satisfaction from an afternoon of work. I'm itching to tile other things now (bathroom maybe?).

We also moved our magnetic knife board from the old house and put it back up under the cabinets. It's so handy to have them out of the way, but within reach. 

The finishing touch on the whole kitchen was our shelf/cart combination on the north wall. It had been empty of anything and left the room feeling extremely lopsided. Once we put up the shelves and placed the card there, all of a sudden the room felt balanced and weirdly complete. It was the perfect touch. We keep our toaster oven and a couple crates on the cart. The shelves store my most commonly used pantry items and an ever changing display of flowers, cook books, vases, bowl, and knick knacks. They fulfill my desire for open shelving without compromising cabinet space.

I love my little kitchen so much. It was a big project for us, but the rewards match the effort. I am finishing this post filled with gratitude for how our new house is turning into a home. 

Sources:

Sink, countertop, cabinets, dishwasher, faucet, cart, shelf brackets, tiles, light fixture, sink light, hardware, fairy lights, soap dispenser, storage jars

 

House + Home: the bathroom

This room has mostly been done for a couple month now, but we've been working on so hard on everything else that time got away from me before I finally took pictures. 

This was the first room we tackled after moving in. My first choice would have been the kitchen, but Dave has a thing about needing clean and nice bathrooms. To be fair this room was probably the grossest in the whole house, so it didn't take much to convince me. It ended up being a really good idea to do the bathroom first because it was a smaller project and gave us a place to shower and feel human after nights of working on other parts of the house.

Ok, so this is the best before and after shot I have. I had forgotten how bad it was until I pulled up the before picture. My jaw just about dropped to the floor when I saw it. How quickly we forget how nice the things we have are.

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The first thing with our bathroom is that it's pretty tiny, so we didn't have a ton of options. Changing the layout was 100% out of the question and gutting the room wasn't necessary. 

So that left us with a list of wants/to dos:

  • New flooring
  • Paint
  • Remove medicine cabinet so it doesn't stick out into the room
  • New Vanity
  • New Light
  • New Door
  • Pretty Mirror

We got started pretty quickly after moving in. In fact, my parents came in the day after Christmas and helped tear out the old medicine cabinet and vanity. My mom scrubbed the tub and put together the Ikea puzzle that was the vanity cabinet. It was a nice surge of energy to have at the beginning of a project.

We debated for a while what to do for the flooring. I really wanted ceramic tile, but figuring out how to level the floor and how much higher the floor would be afterward deterred us. In the end we just went to Home Depot, picked out some peel and stick vinyl tile (I can't find them on their website) and stuck them to the existing subfloor. I did insist we leave space for grout between each tile to give it just a bit more of a "real" tile feel. 

Someday it might be nice to do a real tile floor, but this one it holding up great and the price point and installation were perfect for our situation.

Is it strange to want to write a love sonnet to my vanity and sink? Because I totally want to. We eliminated the medicine cabinet because it just ate up headspace and made the room feel smaller. (Personally I don't even see the point of medicine cabinets!) 

Anyway I love our vanity. It has two deep drawers below the sink and they hold all our toiletries and bathroom supplies except for towels. When it's time to tidy up the counter I just dump everything in the drawers and voila! all done. It's the best. I never want to go back to any other kind of bathroom cabinet.

I also adore that cute 3 panel door that Dave and his dad installed. In such a small room the door takes up a lot of the visual space and the door upgrade made a huge difference. Plus now we have a lock! I think our guests appreciate that. ;) 

My other favorite part of the bathroom is the peg rail. We needed a good amount of space for towels and such. I discovered peg rails in the depths of Pinterest and I want on in every room of our house now. They're dreamy — simple, functional, effortlessly cute — everything I love.

I scoured the internet for a round mirror in our price range. After agonizing for so long we found this one at our local Target. Just a classic instance of overthinking when the simple solution is best.

The same happened with the light over the sink. Our budget wasn't huge and everything I liked was insanely $$$$. We found this at Home Depot and I liked the type of light it gave. It's a nice glow for using the mirror and lights up the whole room well. I was initially worried about the mismatched metal finishes, but it doesn't even bother me and maybe a real interior designer would shake their head at me, but I don't care! I'm just happy to have a fresh, clean space for brushing my teeth.

I think from start to finish this room didn't take longer than 2 weeks. We had some good help and it was such a sweet relief to have it done. On to the next one!

Sources: Mirror | Vanity | Faucet | Shower Curtain | Peg Rail | Soap Dispenser | TP Holder

 

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