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[ 4 ]

A 2014 report card: Did we accomplish our goals?

By on January 22, 2015


Now that we’ve gone through our entire house (inside and out) to assess our progress so far, let’s take a quick look back at the project goals we set for ourselves last year. It’s report card time… did we accomplish everything we planned to do in 2014?


Goal: Save money in 2014 for a kitchen renovation in 2015
Grade: D

Our overall plan at the beginning of 2014 was to take on only cost-efficient projects so that we could save up for a big kitchen renovation the following year. But within the first couple months after setting this goal, we ended up spending much of our savings account instead of adding to it – the exact opposite of what we planned.

First, we had to upgrade our refrigerator. Even though we got a good deal by going with a previous-year model, it was still an expense we hadn’t planned on. We shifted the existing countertops to make room for the new fridge and John hooked up the water line himself.

Installing our New Refrigerator | Rather Square

And then shortly after that, we faced another – and much larger – unexpected expense. Our 25-year-old furnace broke down one very cold night, and we ended up draining the rest of our savings to replace it. Luckily, we had the cash to pay for this very necessary system to keep our home safely livable (read more about the benefits of having an emergency fund for your home).

Old Furnace, New Furnace | Rather Square

But using most of our remaining savings for this emergency situation meant that we no longer had it to put toward a kitchen renovation. So we’re starting at the bottom again and slowly saving our dollars again. Looks like the kitchen renovation will have to wait at least another year…


Goal: Redesign and set up our home office
Grade: C

Another big goal we had for 2014 was to turn our office space into a functional and well-designed room to work at home. Well, this goal got derailed as well, when life shifted other projects to the forefront.

We did get a good start in the office by organizing some furniture, sorting and purging old paperwork, finding some baskets and bins for storage, and creating a moodboard of our vision for this space.

Designing our Home Office | Rather Square

Home Office Paper Shredding | Rather Square

We really wanted to have this room done by the end of 2014, but that didn’t happen. The home office design project was put on hold while we moved our focus to preparing for a new life event: the arrival of Baby T!

Our New Life Addition | Rather Square

We’re still not sure when the office will be finished – it may end up being broken down into multiple smaller updates instead of the all-in-one renovation we had originally planned.


Goal: Transform the spare bedroom into a nursery
Grade: A-

Halfway through 2014, we revisited our original project plans for the year. It was clear that we needed to re-align our priorities to accommodate the new baby, so we fast-tracked the transformation of our spare bedroom into a nursery. And with a lot of determination and hard work, we made it happen!

Moodboard for Nursery | Rather Square

How to Paint Fabric Drawers | Rather Square

We did so much to this room and we still need to show you the reveal, but the only thing missing is artwork (hence the almost-perfect grade of A-). We also discovered that the curtains we chose for this room don’t block light very well (which is imperative for nap time), so we need to change those out. But for the most part, we accomplished our goals for this room project!


Goal: Update the toddler’s bedroom into a big-girl space
Grade: A-

We had to transition some of the toddler’s existing furniture into the new nursery, so we wanted to go ahead and give her bedroom a refreshed big-girl look. She needed a new bed and dresser, curtains, a ceiling fan, and more – and we were able to accomplish all this before the end of the summer.

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

Toddler Girl Bedroom | Rather Square

This room needs artwork as well (another A-), but otherwise it’s complete! Toddler E loves her new bed (we got a toddler bed frame from Ikea that converts into a twin bed). We also customized a basic wooden dresser for her with some paint and stain, a DIY project we’ll be posting about soon. And John even painted the inside of her closet. Overall, we’re giving ourselves a pat on the back for this project!


Goal: Refresh the bathroom on a budget
Grade: A-

We set out to make some budget upgrades to our main bathroom last summer, wanting to use our DIY skills to improve the functionality and aesthetics of this space while saving up for a major renovation down the road. Our hope was to have this project completed by the end of the year. And we’re calling it a success – we’ve finished almost everything on our to-do list!

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Installing a Bathroom Faucet | Rather Square

We painted, upgraded the lighting and faucet, and did some quick updates to the cabinet hardware, window treatments and more. The one thing we didn’t end up tackling was the chipped-paint cabinets – we’re still deciding if we should touch them up or replace them altogether. But for the most part, we accomplished this goal!


So our 2014 report card looks like this: D, C, A-, A-, A-. More successes than failures, right? Even though we didn’t do very well on our save-up-for-a new-kitchen goal, or our create-a-kickass-home-office goal, I’m not too disappointed. Both of these goals fell to the wayside in favor of more urgent needs – keeping our home warm and designing fun kid bedrooms.

Right now we’re finalizing our 2015 goals (will the kitchen and/or office make it back on the list?), and we’ll share those soon! What about you – what’s on your home-improvement list this year?

January 22, 2015

[ 6 ]

State of the House: Downstairs, outside and more

By on January 15, 2015


We’re almost done reviewing all the progress (and um, lack of progress) we’ve made on our home so far, before jumping into our project ideas for 2015. In our last two posts we looked at the first floor and second floor, so now let’s head into the basement and then outside to see what’s left on our home improvement to-do list.


Basement

Basement Woodworking Studio | Rather Square

Basement Woodworking Studio | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

When we bought our house, the basement was divided into a semi-finished room (used by the former owners as a music rehearsal space) and an unfinished utility area. We haven’t done much to the utility area except upgrade the laundry machines, but John spent some time last year remodeling the other room to be his woodworking studio (pictured above). We definitely owe you a couple of posts on that project! The rest of the basement will be a long-term, small-sections-at-a-time renovation.


Exterior

Repairing Stucco | Rather Square

Built-In Window Boxes | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Here we’ve got some small projects we can tackle easily (like upgrading the rusty battered mailbox) and huge ones that we’ll have to save up for (like repainting the entire exterior). The front and back entrances of the house are both somewhat dilapidated and will need attention soon – we’ll probably repaint and reinforce them as a short-term fix and then totally rebuild them down the road.


Garage

Garage, Before | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

The garage was built around the same time as our house, so it’s almost a century old. While the structure itself is solid and the roof was replaced by the previous owner, our home inspection noted that the original foundation has become very unstable over time. There are huge heaving cracks in the concrete floor caused by water damage that are getting worse every year. So, inspired by an episode of Rehab Addict, we got an estimate last year to lift up the garage structure, remove the old foundation, and repour a new one. It’s much more cost-effective than building a whole new garage, especially since the current walls and roof are still in good condition. Now that we have a quote, we’re hoping we can get these garage issues addressed before the foundation deteriorates much further.


Landscaping

Front Yard Landscaping | Rather Square

Annabelle Hydrangea | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Our home’s previous owner spent a lot of thought and energy on the landscaping around the property. But while the ornamental garden, bushes and trees are beautiful, we don’t have enough time or resources to maintain them on the extensive level they require. So we’ve started redesigning the landscaping to better fit our interests and needs. The most dramatic transformation so far has been when John cut down our yews last summer, and we want to continue reimagining this front yard space with more inviting curb appeal.


Energy systems

Installing a Thermostat | Rather Square

Old Furnace, New Furnace | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Even though our old house has a brand-new furnace, air conditioner, whole-house humidifier, and smart thermostat, it’s still woefully under-insulated, so we lose a lot of heat and energy through the outside walls and attic. We’ve gotten some preliminary estimates to add modern insulation that seem reasonable, but we need to save some bucks for that substantial project.


Whew, it feels like we’ve got enough work on our to-do list to last the next million years! Now we just need to decide what should be given top priority to complete by the end of this year.

What project(s) do you think we should work on first? What’s on your home improvement to-do list this year? Let us know in the comments!

Missed our recap of the first and second floors? Check those out here:
State of the House: First floor
State of the House: Second floor

January 15, 2015

[ 8 ]

State of the House: Second floor

By on January 12, 2015


Before we jump into our 2015 plans for the house, we’re reviewing what we’ve done so far in terms of home improvement, renovation, and DIY projects. Things definitely slowed down a little last year after Baby T came along – life with a newborn and a toddler is fun but exhausting! – but now it’s time to check up on our progress and think ahead to what we want/need to accomplish.

We already looked at the first-floor rooms here, so now let’s head upstairs to the second floor.


Stairs/Upstairs Hallway

New carpet over stairs | Rather Square

Stairs Landing Banister Progress | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

There’s a nice mix of projects on the to-do list for this space – small things we can do quickly and economically, and others that will take more time and money to complete. When we tore out the old red carpet, we were happy to see hardwood flooring and nice stair treads (see top photo), but at the time we opted for new carpeting on the stairs for a more kid-friendly surface. Down the road when the kids are older, we’ll definitely take that off and refinish the wood instead.


Toddler E’s Bedroom

Toddler Girl Bedroom | Rather Square

Moodboard for Toddler's Bedroom | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

The toddler’s bedroom is nearly finished, and we plan to post a room reveal once we’ve hung some art in there. One thing we struggle with (in this room and all over the house) is how to hang things on the plaster walls. It’s a little trickier than drywall, and we don’t want to damage anything or have artwork falling down because it’s not secured properly. We’ve been brainstorming ideas – install picture rails? or maybe build some shallow ledges to prop frames up on like these? – but please let us know if you can share any insights or experiences!


Toddler E’s Playroom

Curtains for the Playroom | Rather Square

Curtains in the Playroom | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

One of our biggest regrets is not having the playroom carpet replaced when we did the rest of the old carpeted areas of the house. Since it was different (and newer) than the red carpet that was worn and ugly, I thought we could just keep it as-is. But soon after we moved in, we noticed a distinct cat-urine odor in the room (from the previous owner’s pets) that we haven’t been able to get rid of by deodorizing or deep-cleaning the existing carpet. So now replacing it is back on our to-do list.


Nursery

How to Paint Fabric Drawers | Rather Square

Moodboard for Nursery | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Like the toddler’s bedroom, the nursery decor is almost done except for some artwork and trim/door painting. I’d also like to put different curtains in here – the ones we got originally are too sheer and don’t block light well enough for naptime, even with blackout shades over the windows. Otherwise, we’re really pleased with how this room has evolved, and we’ll share the room reveal soon!


Main bathroom

Our Budget Bathroom Update | Let There be Light (Part 2) | Rather Square

Budget Bathroom Update | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Since this is our home’s main bathroom (we’ve got one with a shower stall in the basement that we don’t use very much), it’s got to have optimum function to support four people on a daily basis. The budget bathroom updates we made last summer helped improve this room a lot, but down the road we’d like to do a complete renovation and modernize the design of this space as much as possible. And we also plan to add a half-bathroom on our first floor sometime in the future, so we (and our guests) don’t need to climb stairs when hanging out on the main level.


Master bedroom

Painting the Master Bedroom | Rather Square

Painting the Master Bedroom | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

I commented recently on Making it Lovely’s blog that John and I have been prioritizing the design of the kids’ bedrooms over our own. Beyond painting and replacing the carpet, we haven’t done much in the master bedroom since we moved in. But as you can see, there’s a very long to-do list! Everything from hanging art and replacing the red window blinds to refinishing the hardwood floors under the carpet and renovating the closet. This room is also the draftiest one in the house (due to some air duct issues and a general house-wide lack of insulation), and our electric blanket is only a temporary solution.


We’ve still got a lot to do up here on the second floor. Some rooms are much further along (like the nursery and the toddler’s bedroom) than others (sorry, master bedroom!).  But it’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?

We have a few more areas of the house to take a look at in our next post… stay tuned!

Check out our recaps of the first floor, basement, garage, and exterior as well:
State of the House: First floor
State of the House: Downstairs, outside and more

January 12, 2015

[ 6 ]

State of the House: First floor

By on January 7, 2015


Happy 2015! With a new year beginning, we thought we’d put together a kind of “State of the House” report. We’ve already done a lot of home improvement, renovation, DIY, and overall re-designing of our home’s look and function, but there’s still so much more that we want to do. So I thought taking stock of our progress so far would help inspire and motivate us to keep going.

This is (hopefully) our forever home, so we’re not in a huge rush to get everything finished and perfect. We’re working on our project plans for 2015 currently and we’ll share those (and how well we did with our ideas for 2014) in the next few weeks. Taking a slow-but-steady approach to fixing up our house helps as we also try to balance daily life, family and other priorities. Now that Baby T is four months old (!) and things are settling down a little, we’re ready to look forward.

So let’s take a look at each room/area to review what’s we’ve accomplished and what’s still on our to-do list. Here’s where we are with the first floor of the house.


Living Room

Built-In Bookcase: Intentional Style | Rather Square

Living Room (Sunroom Play Area) Progress | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

This is the room where we spend most of our time, so it needs to stay organized and functional – not just pretty! – to fit our growing family. And with six windows, it gets a lot of nice natural light… but the current dingy old mini-blinds kind of spoil the view. Hopefully, we can replace those with something bright and happy soon.


Entryway

Entryway Progress | Rather Square

Entryway Progress | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

Another room that needs a lot of functionality and a big dose of style. Right now it’s an unorganized catchall for shoes, bags, and mail/packages, but we’d like to create a custom mudroom area here (next to the front door) to efficiently store seasonal outerwear and accessories.


Office

Paper Shredding | Rather Square

Designing our Home Office | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

We had such grand plans for this room in 2014, but they were largely put on hold for more pressing priorities that came up. We’ll have to see how (and if!) the remaining office re-design projects fit into our schedule and budget this year.


Kitchen

Kitchen Progress | Rather Square

Kitchen Dishwasher

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

There is A LOT on the kitchen to-do list! We’ve replaced a few appliances and fixtures, but haven’t really made any aesthetic design changes yet. Everything is so brown in this room – it needs to be opened up with some contrast and a brighter color palette. Last year we talked about possible future plans for a big kitchen renovation, so we need to decide if that’s still in the cards/budget for 2015.


Dining Nook

Padding under new carpet | Rather Square

Overgrown Smoke Tree | Rather Square

Completed!

Still to do…

General thoughts:

We envision this little room getting more and more use in the coming years, as the kids get older and we start having regular family meals here. It’s a small space, so we’d like to maximize its efficiency by re-imagining the eating area and creating a back-door mudroom (a mini version of the one we’re planning for the entryway). And the striped faux-texture wallpaper has got to go!


So that’s the renovation recap of our first floor as of the end of 2014. It’s come a long way from red walls and bad carpet, but there’s still plenty of projects left to keep us busy. And next we’ll take a look at the second floor. .. stay tuned!

Check out our recaps of the second floor, basement, garage, and exterior as well:
State of the house: Second floor
State of the House: Downstairs, outside and more

January 7, 2015

[ 4 ]

Our last-minute DIY Christmas tree

By on December 23, 2014


We were just going to make do with our little cardboard Christmas tree again this year, but then this happened…

Our Last-Minute DIY Christmas Tree | Rather Square

Even though we’ve been really busy with holiday activities and family gatherings this month, John still found time to build us a full-size Christmas tree! He designed and made this over the course of a few evenings after the kids were in bed, using scrap wood from our basement. Not bad for a last-minute DIY project, right?

Our Last-Minute DIY Christmas Tree | Rather Square

Our Last-Minute DIY Christmas Tree | Rather Square

We wrapped it in white lights and silver garland, and hung our growing collection of new and old family ornaments. And, of course, we left room on the bottom for Santa to leave us some gifts.

Our Last-Minute DIY Christmas Tree | Rather Square

You’ve probably noticed that things have been a little slower on the blog in the past few months – we welcomed Baby T in August, and since then we’ve put our usual home improvement schedule on hold while we adjust to being a family of four. It’s actually given us a chance to take stock of how our home is functioning for us so far, and what projects and updates we need to prioritize for 2015. We’re also evaluating our resources (namely, money and time) and how to allot those in the most efficient and meaningful ways.

But more on that after the new year! We’ll be back in January with a “State of the House” post – a roundup of what we’ve accomplished and what’s next on our list. Lots more to do and share. Happy holidays!

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December 23, 2014