Category Archives: home renovation

The fireplace surround



If I’m going to catch up on my projects, I’m going to have to go back to where I left off, before the holidays. So here we go! I shared previously about my project to lighten and brighten my family room. The centerpiece of this room refresh was a new fireplace surround built by my brother Cameron, of Howard Homescapes. I wanted to keep my limestone fireplace but I wanted it prettied up a bit, and for the mantle to be more than a simple slab stuck up on top. I started a Pinterest board to visualize what I wanted in a new mantle. My brother and I sat down and he did sketches of the new design.


He did the carpentry work over a few days and then I put on the paint. I’m so pleased with the result. The fireplace now looks like furniture that goes with the rest of our room, but I didn’t lose the traditional stone that came with the 1960ish addition on the back of my 1940 house.

fireplace-beforeHere are a couple “before” photos for comparison. The room was cozy and beloved before, but it’s so much brighter and cleaner-looking now. I’m really pleased with my fireplace!

Rainbow shades on a chandelier


My husband (a good guy, let me state for the record) finally got to the point on his honey-do list that he put up our new dining room light fixture and I got to see my new painted shades in action.

I couldn’t get just the right representative photo of them so I snapped them from all angles.

The matte black of the fixture matches my painted hutch.

When I read in magazines about the “soothing” effect of neutral colors I always get confused. Neutral colors make me itch! I love color, and I love my new rainbow shades too.

Here is the view from the kitchen, a big change from where we started. It is fun to watch our house become more and more ours as we continue to live in it and make little tweaks to make us happy.

Painting again


Watch out! My mom and I are wielding paintbrushes again. The guest room here has been acting as a great big closet and dumping ground since move-in and now I’m finally getting it into shape. Rob took down the wallpaper; I dragged boxes to their proper locations and put stuff away that was collecting in piles. Mom came to help and we puttied holes, sanded, and got the whole room primed.  Hooray!  Next up: buttery yellow walls. Watching the transformation from the old, unpainted walls to the fresh clean look of primer is amazing. Now I’m excited for the paint!

I feel like my son has been getting the short end of this blog lately. He’s always the little person in the way, and to be honest, that is often is role in blog-making projects. But in the rest of life he’s dear, and today’s remaining photos today are in celebration of his cute little ways.


…sometimes sleeps with his bottom up in the air.

…likes to play in mud but not the taste of it.

…uses nonverbal communication to make demands, looking ridiculously like a Baroque cherub painting. And

…cleans up pretty well.

New life for old towels


I debated whether or not I should do this project.  Having to keep track of specific hand towels for a specific bathroom seemed like a bit of a hassle.  But after living here for a few months and establishing a routine I realized that the downstairs bathroom towels already get thrown in with the kitchen laundry and returned to the same bathroom so there was no reason not to spruce them up a bit if I wished. I took three basic hand towels and bleached them to freshen them up and remove stains. Sorry, I know bleach is not the most environmentally friendly thing but neither is buying all new towels, and using a bit of bleach now and then seems way better than resorting to something like those horrifying new Kleenex hand towels, the existence of which makes me wonder how it is that some people have a) money to burn, b) no concern for the amount of resources they are using and waste they are producing, and c) never apparently heard of their washing machine, which is generally an excellent tool for keeping hand towels clean.  Anyway….sorry for the rant.

Back to my bleached towels.  I ironed scraps of coordinating fabric from my bathroom curtain project (same bathroom) to make long, turned-under strips, then sewed them over the decorative strip on the towel.  The ironing and sewing took only minutes but the towels now seem to make my bathroom look really pulled-together. The towels themselves don’t match each other but since I only use one at a time it doesn’t matter. I’ll definitely do this for my other bathroom too once I get around to painting it.

Yesterday’s other project was not nearly as satisfying.  I started painting the living room ceiling and it’s falling apart!  Eek!  The textured finish on the ceiling is crumbling down on my head as I try to roll on paint. I would just scrape down the whole textured layer, but it seems to be stuck on quite tight in other parts of the room, and my bad elbow doesn’t really like doing lots of work like that over my head. My current plan is use glue and wallboard compound to try to rebuild some of the textured ceiling in this part of the room, but I know I can’t get the swirly pattern to match the rest of the room, and again about the bum elbow. Oy. The wallpaper was at least a known problem–this one was an unpleasant surprise.

The dining room


Except for my continued procrastination on painting the baseboard, the dining room is pretty much done.  Here’s the before (after we moved in, before stripping wallpaper)…

and after.  I posted an in-progress picture back in January when we were picking paint.  We didn’t end up using that exact shade, but went with one that didn’t have as much turquoise.  It’s Glidden’s Pool Party, and it’s a little brighter in the daylight.  It’s so happy!  The old thrift store tablecloths made easy and bright drapes, and I really love the way the fun prints on the chair seats turned out.  Rob and his Dad hung a light fixture here that we removed from another room; it was way too dark in there before.  The biggest pain in this project was puttying over a crack in the ceiling and some cracks that had formed between the upper molding and the ceiling, but of course those tasks also made a very big difference in the look of the outcome.  I’m gearing up to tackle the living room next but I think I may have to switch gears first and clean the basement, which is turning out to be a bit wetter than we’d though.  (Since we, um, didn’t think it was supposed to be wet at all.  Oy.)

In which we get expensive new windows and immmediately cover them with Valentine window clings


We’ve been busy around here.  Too busy to blog.  But I’m so eager to share my progress!  Here’s another before.

And after.  It’s not done, but we’ve come a long way.  The wallpaper has been stripped (thank you Nana!), the walls primed and painted, and a really painful amount of joint compound was applied by my bare fingers to a crack that ran all the way around the dining room between the crown molding and the ceiling.  Ouch.  But I’m loving the colors and the way things are coming together.  I need one more vintage Louisville postcard for the frame to the right of the pass-through (Churchill Downs, I think–I found one online), and I want to make a family calendar for the other side.  We ripped off the old, ugly rubber baseboard in the kitchen but have not yet purchased new, wooden baseboard.  Pictures still need to be hung in the dining room and some of the trim is not yet painted.  But wow!  I’m feeling so pleased with how “mine” the house is starting to look.  I’m also vowing to take a break from major painting for a few weeks, though.  We need a break to focus on other things and avoid total house rehab burnout.

We did squeeze in some Valentine-making time.  I let Dorothy use the hot glue gun for a while, then changed my mind after she was such a wimp about touching some glue before it set up.  Maybe it was a bad call to let her use it in the first place, but I really do think she’s a wimp.  🙂  Either way, we glued faux flower petals, scraps of lace, and hearts we punched out of pretty paper onto purchased blank cards.  Kind of like halfway homemade.  Dorothy enjoyed making them, which was good since we needed enough for her whole class.  I also had adorable coupons printed from Pear Tree Greetings and I thought they turned out very sweet (the photo is on one side, the coupon is on the other).  I think the print quality is better for the money than from some photo sharing sites I’ve tried.  I sent the coupons to our family and they’ve been well received.

We’ve also been busy getting more colds and ear infections–argh!  It seems like the kids and I have been endlessly sick this winter.  I’m blaming too much upheaval in our home and not enough downtime, but maybe it’s just that both my kids cannot keep their hands off germy objects or out of their mouths.

Bird curtains for the bathroom


Dorothy and I both spent some time today sewing.  Worth spent some time today being a nuisance.  I think we’ve officially ended the sweet baby stage and entered the terrible toddler era.  He’s not walking yet, but his combination of seal-hop crawling and cruising gets him around quite well, and his toddler-esque curiosity is proving to be a menace to his health and the safety of everything in his path.  Here is a cute picture of Dorothy trying to sew (before you get too impressed with my preschooler’s skills, let me casually observe that there doesn’t seem to be any thread in the machine) while her brother hovers annoyingly around her, using a thread cone as a megaphone and trying to figure out the best way to get his fingers poked with a needle.

And the very first befores and afters of the new house!  Here is my downstairs bathroom before a paint job and new curtains…

and here is after.  I wouldn’t call the room “done,” because I’m still going to sew a coordinating bathtub mat, commission some frame-able bird art from my resident young artist, and find some sort of tray to coral toiletries on the back of the toilet, but the painting is done and the curtains are hung.  I used this fabric for the body of the curtains, and this for the scalloped edge, which I made using the very fancy (ahem) technique of tracing around a jar bottom.  The paint was left over from Dorothy’s old bedroom in our old house, and is Pastel Sage by Glidden.  I love how much fresher a room can feel after a new coat of paint!  Now when I get discouraged about the in-progress state of the rest of the house, at least I have one room I can visit to view progress.

Chair pads again

I recovered the seats of our dining room chairs last spring, and it was basically an exercise in uselessness.  The medium-weight upholstery fabric I’d used bunched over the decrepit old foam (I’d not bothered to replace it), and something about the nap of that particular fabric just seemed to attract cat hair even worse than what had been on there before.  The new dining room is headed for a different set of colors, too, so the orange hue wasn’t going to work.  This time I went out and bought brand new foam and I’m using a laminated cotton fabric, which is similar to oilcloth but lighter weight and more stretchy.  I don’t think cat hair will stay on it at all, and most spills should wipe up easily (here’s hoping), but I am a little concerned about the durability, given children with forks and cats with claws.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, I really love the Amy Butler fabric and I can’t wait to see it with the blue we’re going to paint the walls in this room.  (Note on that:  you can see the wallpaper in here. There is a certain vintage appeal to this paper, I guess, but I’m way too fickle about prints to have them pasted on the wall.  I need a clean, solid backdrop on the walls so I can choose other prints at will!  Besides, you can’t have flocked wallpaper and cats who rub up against walls.  Ick.)

Yesterday was a special day here.  We celebrated Rob’s birthday in the dining room, in full view of the kitchen through the new pass-through!  I still need to paint it (along with all the other surfaces in the rooms it joins–oy), but I already love it.  It’s amazing how much it changed our house!  Now I can see the sunlight from windows in every room of the first floor while I have breakfast at my kitchen table.  Dorothy made a paper chain for our birthday celebration and I hung it in the opening.  I can tell I’m going to need a couple nails, or maybe a tension rod, to hold this sort of temporary (yet eternal, ha ha) decoration.