Rather Square - Modern life and design in our historical American Foursquare home

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Our budget bathroom update: Shedding a teardrop faucet

By on September 10, 2014

Just before Baby T was born a few weeks ago, we were able to complete the last item for our budget bathroom update project  – replacing the old teardrop sink faucet.

Our Budget Bathroom Update: Shedding a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Here are some “before” photos of our main bathroom, showing the faucet in all its teardrop glory. It felt very outdated – not only did we not like the plastic-crystal aesthetic, but it was difficult to move the handle when turning on and off and adjusting the temperature.

Teardrop Faucet in Bathroom | Rather Square

Teardrop Faucet in Bathroom | Rather Square

We’re keeping the existing hexagon sink and gray laminate countertops for now, both of which are in pretty good condition. But since the faucet was old and corroded, and we didn’t like how the spout hung so low over the sink basin, it wasn’t a tough decision to decide to replace it. And it would be a relatively cost-effective way to update the sink area.

Teardrop Faucet in Bathroom | Rather Square

The one feature of this old faucet that we did like was its simple single-handle operation. With our rambunctious toddler recently potty-trained and wanting to wash her hands by herself, having a single handle instead of two separate handles made more sense for us. So we shopped around for a new faucet with a single handle, a brushed-metal finish, and a higher arc.

Bathroom Budget Update: Faucet | Rather Square

We ended up going with the Pfister Parisa faucet in a brushed nickel finish. The finish works well with the look of our new light fixture and cabinet handles, and the design has simple graceful lines and a nice mid-range arc. We figured it was a good size for our sink area (a little larger than the old faucet, but not so large to be overwhelming), and would also provide great functionality and ease of use.

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Since I had installed our kitchen faucet several months ago, I felt comfortable switching out this one myself as well. I started by removing the old faucet and scraping off all the old adhesive putty around the base.

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Before installing the new faucet, I investigated the plumbing connections under the sink and compared them to the installation diagrams, to see if any major adjustments had to be made. Luckily, things seemed to be pretty standard between the current plumbing and the new faucet, and I’d only have to make a few minor tweaks.

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Once I had the connections figured out, I began installing the new faucet. First, I applied this plumber’s putty to the base.

Replacing a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

Then I set the rest of the faucet hardware into place and connected the hoses and pipes under the counter.

Installing a Bathroom Faucet | Rather Square

Finally, I trimmed the excess putty and installed the new drain stopper. And with that, our new faucet was ready to use!

Installing a Bathroom Faucet | Rather Square

Installing a Bathroom Faucet | Rather Square

So far, we’re pretty happy with the way it helps modernize the bathroom counter and ties in visually with the new lighting and cabinet hardware. And since it’s a fixture we use on a multiple-times-a-day basis, its smooth functionality has been such a nice change from the previous old and clunky mechanism. The handle is easy to move around and much more ergonomic than the teardrop one.

Our Budget Bathroom Update: Shedding a Teardrop Faucet | Rather Square

So that wraps up all the major items on our budget bathroom update to-do list! Here’s where we stand now:

*No, we haven’t touched up the vanity yet, but we’re actually thinking about doing a more extensive cabinet door upgrade down the road, so we’re holding off on painting the existing doors for the moment until we make a decision either way.

We’ll have the final reveal of this overall project (including before-and-after photos of the whole room) in an upcoming post. Thanks for following along!

September 10, 2014

category: Design + Projects  • Tags: , , ,
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And baby makes four!

By on September 4, 2014

We’re so pleased to announce that our fourth family member has arrived. Baby T was born last week, and… he’s a boy!

Baby T | Rather Square

Once we learned we were pregnant, we decided not to find out our baby’s gender ahead of time (we did the same thing with our toddler), so it was a nice surprise to learn in the delivery room that we had a new son! Baby T is (so far) a very peaceful and happy infant. He’s already sleeping in his new room, and even though our house looks like it’s been hit by a tornado of baby clothes, bottles, and other assorted gear, we’re so happy to have him here.

Toddler E is excited to be a big sister and loves to “help” us take care of him. And she’s amazed at how small he is compared to her almost-3-years-old self.

Baby T | Rather Square

Now that we’ve got two kids in the Rather Square house, we’re going to start referring to them here on the blog by their first initials. But we’re going to continue our current policy to not share their photos or full names, to protect their privacy. Plus, since Rather Square is primarily a home design and improvement blog, we like to stick to exploring those types of projects rather than writing about parenting or kid-specific topics. So, like before, our kids will only make an occasional appearance when we’re working on house projects that involve them directly (like their bedrooms or E’s playroom, or when they are helping us with yardwork).

As we mentioned last time, we’ll be posting a little less frequently in the next few months as we balance blog and family time. But we’ve got a lot of new projects to share and we’re already working on writing up those posts, so look for something in the next week or so.

Thanks to you all for reading along as we go on this journey, and for your kind words and support!

September 4, 2014

category: Inspiration + Fun  • Tags: ,
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A short pause for a good cause

By on August 18, 2014

Our new baby boy-or-girl is due to arrive any day now! We’ve been posting once a week this summer, but expect to be more sporadic in the next few months as we adjust to being a family of four. Don’t worry, it’s temporary – once we figure out a new routine, we’ll go back to posting on a regular schedule.

A Short Pause for a Good Cause | Rather Square

We have so much more to share with you! Especially the toddler’s and baby’s room redos, which have been our primary focus this summer. We’re finishing those up right now and will have the final reveals to show you in the next few months.

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

Moodboard for Nursery | Rather Square

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, where we’ll probably have more frequent quick updates in the meantime.

Thank you for all your good wishes and support. We’re excited to keep sharing our projects and adventures with you!

August 18, 2014

category: Inspiration + Fun  • Tags: ,
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A late summer landscaping round-up

By on August 14, 2014

It seems like we’ve been doing a lot of outdoor work this summer. Some projects were planned, others came up unexpectedly, and one or two were even emergencies. Since we knew we’d be having a new baby at the end of this season, we kept our landscaping ambitions low (in order to prioritize baby-related house updates). But somehow, we found ourselves outside every weekend working on something or other on our little plot of land. Here’s a round-up of what’s been going on.


Our biggest project this summer was cutting down the eight giant yew shrubs in our front yard.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

John did this work himself with a variety of tools (including a chainsaw) and cleared away all the debris and old mulch, leaving us with eight short stumps and a front yard full of dirt.

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

Yew Renovation Pruning | Rather Square

We knew we wouldn’t have time this summer to do any major new landscaping in the former yew space, but John has managed a few small updates. First, he divided some hostas from our backyard (we have a lot back there) and replanted them in front of the stumps. Then he added new wood mulch to the area around the stumps and hostas, creating more of a defined border around the house. Finally, he planted grass seed in the remaining yard space to fill in up to the sidewalk.

Late Summer Landscaping | Rather Square

The grass has mostly grown in well (except for one stubborn patch that we’re still trying to cultivate) and the hostas are hanging in there. Those take a few years to fill out, so we’re optimistic. You can also see a few straggly rosebushes (with no roses) near the sidewalk – we’ve left those in the ground for now, but they’ve never really flourished, and we’ll probably dig them out eventually. Finally, John transplanted some ornamental grass (that he brought from our backyard) around the horse head hitching post – some of it has thrived, some hasn’t. We’ll see what survives this next winter.

Late Summer Landscaping | Rather Square

Now that the yews aren’t crowding everything else out, we’ve got a blank slate to be really creative here. There’s a lot more work to be done, but this is a good start and will hold us over until we have more time to devote to this area in the future.


We can’t forget our Annabelle hydrangeas! We’ve got about four of these bushes, and they were kind of big and floppy last summer. They draped over our paved walkway and were starting to block the path, as you can see below.

Late Summer Hydrangeas | Rather Square

After learning more about them last year, pruning them aggressively last fall, and watching them start to come back to life this spring, they’ve really bloomed nicely this summer.

Late Summer Hydrangeas | Rather Square

It was just the result I was hoping for – smaller bushes that don’t block our walkway access, but still lots of big fluffy blooms. So I must have done something right when pruning them last fall (unlike our failed smoke tree experiment). I’m so glad they grew back and thrived this year – they’re some of our favorite flowers in the garden!

Window boxes

Back in June, we bought some leafy vines and coleus plants for our window boxes (instead of planting herbs like we did last year). We hoped they would grow and drape over the sides and look really pretty.

Window Box Garden | Rather Square

We haven’t had time for much upkeep, and we’ve only been watering the window boxes sporadically because of our busy schedules. The coleus plants have held up pretty well, but the vines kind of shriveled and dried up.

Window Box Garden with Vines and Coleus | Rather Square

This is one gardening project that has fallen to the bottom of our priority list as we get ready for baby, but if we’d put a little more effort in maintaining and caring for these window boxes, they’d probably look much better right now. Maybe next summer we’ll have more time to tend to these.


We’ve got a stone paver walkway that extends the full length of our lot on one side – it leads from the front curb to our back alley. We get a lot of weeds in between the stones and one of our long-term goals is to fill in the walkway spaces with polymeric sand for a more finished appearance. But John noticed some patches of moss growing in one shady spot near the side of the house (you can see it in the 2014 Annabelle hydrangea photo above), and decided to try and cultivate this look for now. It’s really pretty!

Cultivating Moss | Rather Square

We probably can’t grow moss along the entire walkway, because it needs shady and damp conditions to thrive, and most of the walkway gets full sun. But for this one little area, it’s been a fun experiment to encourage a mossy green interlude.

Cultivating Moss | Rather Square

Oak tree

Our large oak tree provides a lot of shade (and pretty yellow leaves in the fall) and helps keep the front of our house cool in the summer. Unfortunately, it has also been providing squirrels with a easy access route to our roof, and earlier this summer we discovered that some of these squirrels had gotten into the empty space above our sunroom. John climbed up a ladder to take a look, and realized that there wasn’t much flashing along the roof line (despite the fact that this roof was just put on a few years ago). So in order to keep animals out and to protect the exposed wood, he installed new aluminum flashing around the entire house.

Installing Roof Flashing | Rather Square

This was one of these projects we hadn’t planned for, but it was a necessary fix. Since John was able to do it himself, we saved a lot of money than if we’d hired someone to come out and do the work.

In addition, he cut back several overhanging branches on the oak tree to discourage future tree-dwellers from migrating to our house. After trimming most of them from the ground with an extendable tree trimmer, he climbed the tree with a smaller tool to get some out-of-the-way stragglers.

Trimming Oak Tree Branches | Rather Square

We’re really hoping that these DIY preventative measures will help keep the roof free of unwanted visitors from now on.


Speaking of unwanted visitors… another unplanned project we encountered this summer (and didn’t save money on) was dealing with this hornets’ nest. We noticed it out of the blue one day a few weeks ago, and it was positioned right over our front sidewalk in the lower branches of the oak tree. It was a big safety issue for anybody walking by our house.

Bald Faced Hornets Nest | Rather Square

The nest had to be removed ASAP, but we decided to leave this job to the pros. So we called in a pest control company. Once the guy came out and got a good look at the nest, he told us that we had dangerous bald-faced hornets living there. They can get really angry and aggressive when defending their space (a single hornet can sting someone multiple times), especially when someone destroys their home. So he wore full-body protection, sprayed the nest, and then cut it down while we watched safely from inside the house. It cost us $250 for the removal, but it was definitely not something we would have been able to (or want to) take on ourselves.

Bald Faced Hornets Nest | Rather Square

So unless any further outdoor emergencies come up (fingers crossed!), this is probably all the landscaping we’ll be doing for the rest of the summer. The new baby is scheduled to arrive soon, and we’re focusing on getting ready for that by finishing the nursery and the toddler’s bedroom.

How does your August garden/yard/lawn/trees grow?

August 14, 2014

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Ceiling fans, curtains and shades… oh my!

By on August 7, 2014

We’ve got less than a month before the new baby arrives, so every weekend has been a mad dash of DIY projects, furniture assembly, and naps (mostly for me!). But we’re slowly and steadily making progress on the toddler’s and baby’s bedrooms. Today we wanted to share our first tasks in these two rooms – putting up new window treatments and installing ceiling fans.

Let’s start with the toddler’s bedroom – here’s the moodboard I made to illustrate the design direction we wanted to follow.

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

A. Round Fillsta orange lamp from Ikea
B. Billy bookcase with DIY fabric backboard (similar to our previous fabric panel project)
C. Wall paint color is Urban Nature by Benjamin Moore
D. Owl prints that we bought when she was born
E. A new extendable toddler/twin bed
F. Her favorite multi-color circle rug
G. Orange blanket for her new bed

We’re working within the room’s current color palette of greens and oranges, with mostly dark wood furniture. But first, the old window treatments and light fixture (left by the previous owner) had to go.

Updating Curtains and Light Fixtures in a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

The single window in this room came with teal mini-blinds, and soon after we moved in, we hung a green curtain that we had lying around over those as a stopgap measure. We lived with this strange combination for over a year, knowing it was temporary and that obviously the entire window needed a new look.

Painting Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

Since we’re committed to staying within a strict budget for these two bedroom redos, cost was a big factor when choosing new window treatments. We looked at options such as faux-wood blinds, but ultimately we found inexpensive blackout shades at Ikea that could be trimmed to fit specific window widths. In our experience, blackout window coverings have proved to be essential in helping the toddler sleep at naptime and at night. And at around $15 each, these fit our budget too.

John carefully measured the window frame and cut the shade to fit before installing it.

Customizing Blackout Shades for a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

Customizing Blackout Shades for a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

With the blackout shades installed, I looked around for curtains that would work with the colors in the toddler’s moodboard, and found these dark-orange ones at Bed Bath and Beyond. The fabric feels high-quality and substantial, the color provides a good contrast to the light-green walls and fits with the room’s decor, and the subtle texture has some tactile dimension without overpowering the other patterns in the room. In other words, we really like these curtains! To hang them, we used simple black Ikea curtain rods and finials.

Updating Curtains in a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

Updating Curtains in a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

As for the existing pink glass light fixture in this room, John hated it from the moment we moved in. But it didn’t really bother me at first – it had a vintage-y vibe that seemed to fit the house (although I don’t think it was actually vintage). It did look a little weird with these giant CFL light bulbs poking out from the top. And while I tried to figure out a way to make it work in this room, I eventually decided that it just wasn’t the right design fit.

Old Light Fixture in a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

In fact, I started realizing that this bedroom (and the baby’s room) would really benefit from a ceiling fan. Since our 92-year-old house doesn’t have the best insulation and the bedrooms are all on the second floor, proper air circulation is important for temperature regulation and air flow, no matter what season we’re in. So instead of a fun design-forward drum shade or a chandelier, I turned my search efforts toward a more functional light/fan combo that would still be aesthetically pleasing but not super expensive.

We knew we wanted a white fan to blend in with the ceiling so that it wouldn’t be the main visual focus of the room. Something on the small side with clean lines and not a lot of fussy details, with a single light fixture instead of multiple ones. We’d be getting two fans (one for each bedroom), so cost was a factor – we looked for fans that were under $100. It was hard to find a lot of options out there – most ceiling fans in our price range are just plain ugly. But we did find a few that we thought might work.

White Ceiling Fans | Rather Square

A. Watson 34-inch 5-blade fan by Hunter ($89)
B. Wengue 30-inch 3-blade fan by Westinghouse ($80)
C. Turbo Swirl 30-inch 6-blade fan by Westinghouse ($96)

We ended up going with the Westinghouse Wengue fan for $80. The 30-inch size and three blades seemed like a good fit for these small bedrooms, and the light fixture design was simple and modern. And the low cost was a major bonus! After the fans were ordered and delivered, John was able to install them both in an afternoon, and so far they look and work great. The toddler’s bedroom has stayed nice and cool since we put it in.

White Ceiling Fan in a Kid's Bedroom | Rather Square

Moving over to the baby’s room, here’s the moodboard I put together for our “is-it-a-boy-or-a-girl” second child. The room is painted in a muted blue-gray, and we’re incorporating a bold orange and yellow color palette with contrasting dark and neutral furniture.

Moodboard for Baby's Bedroom | Rather Square

A. Crib from the toddler’s room (we’ll be transitioning her to a “big kid bed”)
B. Wall paint color is Nimbus Gray by Benjamin Moore
C. Billy bookcase with DIY fabric backboard
D. Our gray La-Z-Boy rocker recliner
E. Yellow chevron crib sheets
F. A fun and bright orange area rug

In here, the new ceiling fan replaced this old light fixture. It had a similar look as the toddler’s, but with ivory glass instead of pink glass.

Old Light Fixture in a Nursery | Rather Square

White Ceiling Fan in a Nursery | Rather Square

As for window treatments in this room, the previous owner left some dingy off-white mini blinds on the two windows. We put some old brown curtains onto the existing rods as a temporary fix when we moved in, but it was definitely an unattractive look.

Updating Curtains in a Nursery | Rather Square

So we finally took down the blinds, and installed the same blackout shades from Ikea that we used in the toddler’s room. For curtains, I looked for something light and neutral to balance the room’s brighter colors and also to contrast a little with the walls. I got these dove-gray curtains at TJ Maxx, and we put them up on the windows along with the same black Ikea curtain rods and finials we used in the toddler’s room.

Updating Curtains in a Nursery | Rather Square

They’re a lighter hue than the wall color and have a linen-like texture. With two windows in this room, I didn’t want anything too bright or loud, and these give the room a bit of softness and gentleness. The dove gray color complements the black furniture and gray rocker, and won’t distract from the orange and yellow accents.

Updating Curtains in a Nursery | Rather Square

So we’ve got a good start on both of these bedrooms – but there’s a lot more to do. I’ll report back on some further updates we’re currently working on, but we’ll probably wait to share the final room reveals until after the baby is born, since we’ll be getting things ready up until the last minute!

What do you think of the window treatments and ceiling fans/lights we’ve chosen?

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August 7, 2014