Category Archives: Remodeling

Our Mudroom Before and After

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that we’ve been slowly refurbishing the smallest and most neglected room in our house – the mudroom.

Mudroom before

Little Room – Big Embarrassment

The mudroom had become an eyesore over the years. Which was unfortunate since it is the best way – the only way really –  to get out to the back patio where we sometimes have dinner parties.

So when we had people over, I was always tempted to stage some kind of distraction as they walked through the mudroom so they wouldn’t notice how dingy it was.  (“Oh, look out there! Is that an eagle?”)

Burkedecor.com is all new

The biggest challenge with the mudroom is that there are three doors and a large window in this 5′ X 7′ room.  So that really limits wall space.  In this room, we simply can’t do the cool storage lockers or vertical cabinets that look so great in other mudrooms.

Mudroom windows

But in 1927, when the house was built, no one was thinking about wall space in the mudroom because it wasn’t a mudroom then – it was a covered back porch.

The Makeover

Our mudroom makeover has taken months.  Since it’s next door to our laundry room, and they share the same concrete floor, we’ve been remodeling both rooms simultaneously.

Here is what’s been happening in the mudroom:

Floors

This all started back in January when we hired Kenji to refinish the scruffy concrete floors in both rooms.

He took the floors from this

old concrete floor

to this.

remodeled concrete floor

Repaint

The mudroom was in rough condition.  This corner was the worst part.

Southwest wall before new floor and new paint.

I painted the walls with Benjamin Moore Pale Oak.  For the trim, I used a white paint we’d had custom mixed to match our kitchen cabinets.  Since the mudroom  can be seen from the kitchen, this helps unify the spaces.

Southwest wall after paint

The ceiling, still beadboard from when the mudroom was the back porch, didn’t need repainting.  We kept the vintage parrot light here that matches the one we have in our kitchen.

Beadboard ceiling

Shelves

Now don’t laugh, but here is what was hanging on the wall near the back door before.

 

The large mirror/shelf was from Pottery Barn, and it was really something in its day.  But with wall space being such a premium in this room, a large mirror is the last thing we should have had taking up that space.

Plus the shelf above the mirror was so high that it wasn’t practical to store anything useful, so it became a catch-all for silly things.

We wanted to put shelving there instead, but we couldn’t find any ready-made shelves of the right dimension.

So Chris made these beautiful shelves.

Custom mudroom shelving

He bought a piece of fir, cut it to size, and used a router to soften the edges.  Then of course he sanded, stained, and finished the wood.

mudroom shelving

It was a fun little project, but I think the part he enjoyed the most was finding the antique shelf brackets on eBay.

antique brackets

We were very lucky, he says, that someone was selling four of them.

The wire baskets hold hats and gloves.  The shelves sit above a small shoe cabinet.  It all barely fits in the shallow space between the wall and the door.

 

Chris can display some of his vintage camping lanterns here.

1955 Coleman Lantern

The little shoe cabinet helped us solve a problem:

The Shoe Solution

Chris likes to keep most of his shoes in the mudroom near the door – which really makes sense.  But here is how our shoe situation was before.  Not good!

And, since I didn’t want to make things worse, I kept my shoes in the laundry room.

Notice too all the shopping bags stuffed into one cubby, and the basket for hats and gloves above that.  It was a little tower of clutter. And it left us nowhere to sit while putting on shoes.

So as our earliest mudroom project, we converted a little shelf unit that had been sitting by the back door into more shoe storage by adjusting its shelves.  Here is the post for that fun little project.

mudroom shoe storage

This freed up some space in and around the shoe bench.  I repainted the shoe bench and made a cushion.  Now we have somewhere to sit while putting on shoes.

Mudroom shoe bench

I got rid of the coat rack hanging above the bench since it looked terrible and we never used those jackets.  We use the shopping bags more, so I made a space for them instead.

So the area that looked like this

Mudroom before

now looks like this

Mudroom after

Something Missing

I do miss having a mirror in the room for that quick last look  before heading out, so I’ll find a space to hang a small mirror.  And then we’ll be done.

Clean and Simple

This little room is more functional now.  And it will stay this organized forever!

Just kidding.  Even I am not that delusional.

 

mudroom remodel

Behind the Door

Let’s open the laundry room door and take a quick look at the progress in there.

Since my last laundry room remodel update, we ordered a quartz countertop for the north wall where the appliances and sink will go.

And now we wait until mid-July for the installation.  In the meantime, we’ve been shopping for accessories including this stainless retractable clothesline, which I can’t wait to install.

But there is something new and exciting.  My brother, Dan, is building us a beautiful custom corner cabinet.

Custom corner cabinet

We wanted to get the most out of this tricky corner without taking up too much floor space.  This corner cabinet is our best option.  And there is no one better to build it than Dan, who has created some gorgeous built-ins for his own house.

It fits nicely under the window.  The drawer still needs to be installed, and it will have the same quartz countertop as the appliance wall.  But it’s already looking perfect for the space.

Materials for the cabinet cost almost nothing.  Dan used old plywood he’d salvaged from his kitchen remodel.  And I had two extra cabinet doors (for our new cabinets) left over from our own kitchen remodel. Luckily they were the right size for the corner cabinet.

So now the corner cabinet matches the sink base.  And both laundry room cabinets match our kitchen cabinets.

And my brother rocks.

Posts on this website are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.

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A Laundry Room Remodel Progress Report

It’s been a while since I mentioned our laundry room remodel, which began in early February.  That was when my husband, Chris, and my brother, Dan, demolished walls and installed new plumbing, electrical, and heat.  They were on a roll!

Then came the winter colds, conflicting schedules, and vacations. I found a nice little laundromat near home.  It was in a fun walking neighborhood with good coffee and shops nearby.  So not having laundry facilities at home was fairly painless.

Still I’m happy to report that I don’t have to go there anymore.

The laundry room isn’t finished yet, but we’ve made enough progress to put the machines back.  Here is what’s been going on:

Vintage Texture for the Walls

We wanted to treat the walls with some sort of vintage-inspired texture.  I was considering floor-to-ceiling painted shiplap.  But, between the shiplap and the open shelves we planned to install, that might be too many horizontal lines.

Chris suggested beadboard.  Always a classic, but beadbord is most commonly used for wainscoting and rarely seen as a floor-to-ceiling wall cover.

Then I remembered some photos I’d seen on an Instagram account and blog called Vibeke Design.  Vibeke’s photos are so gorgeous they instantly lower my blood pressure. But now the backdrop for those photos had me thinking – that charming paneled wall.

Photo courtesy of Vibeke Design

It still looked like beadboard, but the wider-spaced planks somehow made it look more appropriate as a floor-to-ceiling wall cover.  We both loved the look, and we wanted to find it in easy-to-install 4X8 panels.

The big box stores didn’t carry them.  But we were able to special order panels from a locally owned lumber yard.  They arrived quickly, and they weren’t expensive.

For me, the panels were easy to install – because I didn’t install them. Chris did.  And if you read my previous post about this remodel, you already know that the laundry room walls are not sheetrock.  They are not even lath and plaster.  They are mortar and mesh.

Which basically means they are made of cement.

So Chris had to pre-drill every nail hole and keep track of where the drilled holes were located so he could secure the panels with screws.

This was his first attempt at something like this, and he did an amazing job.

Our house is old, so the walls are not straight or level.  But somehow Chris managed to hang the panels so that all the vertical lines look straight.

The panels were thin enough to hang flush with the original subway tile baseboard, which we wanted to keep.

New panels with original subway tile baseboard

Crown Molding

We found new crown molding that matches the original crown molding in the mudroom.

With crown molding installed, before paint.

 

Chris caulked the seams between the crown molding and the ceiling – and also between the wall panels.  Now I have to look hard to even find the seams.

The seams in each corner of the room will be covered later with a narrow cove molding.

Prep and Paint

Now the room was ready for me to paint.

The paneling looked gorgeous, and I was very nervous about messing it up with a mediocre paint job.  So I took my time with the prep work.

I did a lot of sanding, spackling, priming, cleaning, dusting and vacuuming.

Chris took the windows apart so they were easier for me to sand. He stripped decades of paint off of the window hardware.

He even cleaned the old cloth cords that attach to the lead window weights.  He worked on the 90-year-old windows until they opened like new.

I used the same trim paint we’d used in our kitchen remodel.

We’d had custom trim paint mixed to match the warm white of our new kitchen cabinets.  When I recently repainted our mudroom, I used the same trim paint there.  The laundry room can be seen and accessed from the mudroom, so the two rooms tie together nicely now.

I love that soft shade of white so much that I had more of the same paint mixed in a matte finish for the walls.

The panels were already primed white, so painting white over white eventually had me questioning my eyesight and my sanity.  I used a roller and then carefully backbrushed each groove and panel.  Of course multiple coats were needed. Or were they?  I couldn’t really tell.

I never actually finished the job, Chris just told me it was time to put the paint brush down and step away.

A Sink Base

The sink base we ordered for the laundry sink is the same brand, style, and color as the base for our kitchen sink.

We put the sink base, still in its wrapping, temporarily in place so we could get a sense of how deep the countertop will be and how we should space the open shelves.

We used blue tape to help us visualize spacing ideas for the shelves. The plywood helped us get a sense of what the countertop depth would be.

For months, we’d had the floors covered to protect them.  But now we were finally able to uncover them.  It was nice to see those beautiful refinished concrete floors that Kenji had worked so hard on.

Open Shelves

I had ordered discounted shelves from Home Decorators long before we’d even finished planning our laundry room remodel.

It was so exciting to finally see them on the wall.

Chris thought ahead on this one:  Knowing that we would be hanging these shelves, he’d earlier noted where the wall studs were located, and he placed additional bracing inside the wall so that we’d have something solid to screw these shelves into.

And then he mapped it all for future reference.

All so I could have my pretty shelves.  I’d ordered these shelves because, well, they were a screaming deal.  But more importantly they are shallow enough not to obstruct the window.

With the appliances placed against this wall, I’ll need a stepladder to reach almost anything stored here.  So these shelves will store things I won’t need  often – like shoe polish or jewelry cleaners. And these things can be in attractive containers or baskets.

I’ll stash the things I use often in the sink cabinet – and in a nifty new corner cabinet that my brother Dan will be building for us.  It will fit under this window on the opposite side of the laundry room.

I’m excited about this since Dan has made some beautiful built-ins for his own house.  Check out his dining room remodel, including a built-in china hutch.

Appliances

So the sink base has been hustled back out to the garage for the time being and, just a few days ago, Chris reinstalled our washer and dryer.

I wanted to hug them.

What’s Next

The washer and dryer will stay in their present locations.  The sink and sink base will go between them.  We considered other options such as stacking the washer and dryer or placing them side-by-side and putting the sink by the window.

But, right or wrong, we are hung up on the symmetry we’ll get by placing the sink in the middle.

There is more to come, including lots of little details like a drying rack over the sink, new window coverings, a new light fixture, all kinds of hooks, and more shelves on other walls.  But here are some of the bigger items:

A Sink

A stainless steel deep sink will go in the sink cabinet.

A Countertop

We’ll install a countertop over the washer/dryer and around the sink.  This should pull everything  together and provide lots of space to fold clothes.

A Corner Cabinet

Dan’s corner cabinet will give us storage without obstructing the flow of the room or taking up too much floor space.

A Built-in Ironing Board

This will probably go on the wall next to the dryer.

Before and Afters Coming

I still haven’t shown you what the laundry room looked like before all of this started.  Just for fun, have a look at the little mess that used to be where the new corner cabinet is going.

Once the remodel is finished (or close, anyway) I’ll post more before photos.  So stay tuned!

Posts on this blog are for entertainment only and are not tutorials.


My Laundry Wish List

Disclosure: Affiliate Links are used below.

Classic stainless fixtures make any laundry room feel clean and timeless.   I’m dreaming of these, although not all of them will work for our project.

Left to right:

Stainless Retractable Clothesline  | Ikea Wall Mount Clothes Drying Rack | Stainless Aero-W Folding Clothes Rack  | Trinity Stainless Steel Utility Sink


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Chalk it up to Mystery

In this post, I’m hoping to solve a mystery – and I’m sharing a fun little DIY decor project.

And the two are related.

Mysteries and Secrets

Our 1927 cottage has many mysteries and secrets.

For example, if you’ve been reading along for a while, you know that we’re in the middle of a laundry room remodel.  Well recently, while working on the heating system, my husband Chris found a secret chamber under the laundry room.  We’d always assumed the laundry room was set on a concrete slab.  Turns out it has its own little basement.

And this isn’t even the first secret chamber we’ve found.

But today I want to talk about the laundry room’s mystery cupboard.

The Mystery Cupboard

This is how our laundry room looked before we started the remodel.

Note the innocent-looking recessed cupboard above the washing machine.

Although lately, during the remodel, it’s been looking more like this.

Anyway, here is the inside of the cupboard. Pretty rustic.

Can’t see the top?  That’s because there isn’t one.  This cupboard goes all the way up to the unfinished attic.

So is it a laundry chute?  Probably not.  After all, who would want to climb far into the unfinished attic to deposit laundry only to have some of it land on that little shelf at the halfway point.

It also stretches to the left behind the wall for several feet, so it’s larger than it looks.

Its inconvenient location above the washing machine meant that I needed a stepladder to access it.  And since it’s recessed into the wall, I practically had to climb into the cabinet to get anything back out.  So I avoided using it.

My theory is that this is just oddly shaped extra space that the builder wanted to keep accessible in case anyone needed it.

But what do you think?  Do you know what it might be?  Help me solve this mystery!

Going Bye-Bye

Whatever this cupboard is or was, our plans for the laundry room do not include it.  No, it will be covered over in the remodel.  And if we should ever need to access the weird empty space behind the wall, we can still do so from the attic.

But I was sad.  That cupboard door was kind of cute.  It was also a piece of the house’s history – however weird that history might be.  I wanted to repurpose it.  But what should its new role be?

1920s cupboard door soon to become a chalkboard

A DIY Chalkboard

My friend Sandi is a very creative person, and she had a great idea: Turn it into a chalkboard.  At the time, Sandi didn’t even know that I’d been looking for a chalkboard for our kitchen. Perfect!

Cleaning the Hardware

It was a simple project.  We removed all the hardware pieces from the cupboard door and soaked them in acetone to remove the paint.

1920s cupboard door hardware

After that, the hardware pieces were clean but they still had a patina.  I was happy that they didn’t look brand new.

A Chalk Ledge

Chris cut and attached a piece of brick molding to the bottom of the door to serve as a chalk ledge.

Painting the Door

I sanded and cleaned the cupboard door.  I painted the frame, the edges, and the new chalk ledge with the same white trim paint we used for the kitchen.

After the paint dried, I used masking tape to ensure a nice clean profile for the chalkboard paint, which would go in the center panel.

DIY Chalkboard preparing to paint

I’d never worked with chalkboard paint before.  I used FolkArt Multisurface Chalkboard Paint by Plaid¹.  I followed the instructions on the bottle and on the Plaid website.  This included conditioning the chalkboard with chalk – something I will need to re-do from time to time.

To evenly apply the paint – which has a slightly gel-like consistency – I used a paint edger².  Then I back-brushed the paint with a paint brush.  (I have found that paint edgers come in handy for all kinds of paint applications beyond just edging.)

Reattaching the Hardware

Chris reattached the hardware, and the chalkboard was ready.

DIY Chalkboard

Now the hardware is just for character.

DIY Chalkboard

Chalkboard Central

This chalkboard was long overdue.  Since we shop for groceries at several stores and a farmers market, keeping lists of what we needed from each place was cluttery and difficult – especially since these lists often went missing.  Keeping lists on our phones didn’t work either.

But now, as soon as we realize we need something, it’s a few steps to “chalkboard central” to write it down.

DIY Chalkboard

I’ve been trying both chalk and chalk markers to see which I like better, but I’m not completely happy with either.  So I’m thinking of ordering some white chalk pencils I found on Etsy.³

DIY Chalkboard

I have found that wiping the chalkboard with a damp paper towel works better than using a chalk eraser.  We’ll see how all this holds up over time.

I’m happy now.  Not only is the little cupboard door still with us, but it’s serving an even better purpose than it did originally.

Before and After

You know how I love my before and after recaps.

Before (photographed upside-down).

After.

All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.


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Our Laundry Room Remodel Begins

Recently we had the concrete floor in our laundry room resurfaced.

We enjoyed the new look for a few days.

laundry room remodel: concrete floor resurface

But now the room looks like this.

laundry room remodel

That’s right – our laundry room remodel is finally under way!

And fortunately for us, my brother Dan has offered his talents for this project.  For years he’s been making improvements to his own home  – including this gorgeous dining room remodel.

So this should be a fun project.  Let me show you what’s happened so far.

The Demo

Every time we do demo work, we learn something new about this house.   (Case in point: Ghosts of Kitchens Past).

This time we learned that the laundry room is built like a battleship.

When my husband Chris tried to remove the lower half of the north wall to access the old plumbing pipes, he was in for a little surprise: What he thought was a plaster wall turned out to be mortar and mesh.

I’d never even heard of mortar and mesh.  We learned that, back in the 1920s, inch-thick mortar with a strong wire mesh backing was typically used for walls that were going to support tile.

Since the only tile in the laundry room is a subway tile baseboard, we are still wondering why the mortar and mesh was used.

Removing that wall took some extra time, patience, and swings of the sledge hammer.

But Chris is persistent.

laundry room remodel
The old mortar and mesh

He exposed the wall and was able to remove the old rusted pipes.

laundry room remodel

The 90-year-old drain pipe was also rusted.  It needed to be removed.

The basement staircase is behind this wall.  This is where Chris made another discovery:  The drain pipe had been fully encased in concrete.

He used a hand-held jackhammer to unbury it.

laundry room remodel

The Plumbing and Wiring

Last weekend, Dan installed the new pipes and drains.

laundry room remodel

Previously, the washer drained into the utility sink.  With the new configuration, the washer and the utility sink will drain separately.

This new plumbing is a sight for sore eyes.

new plumbing

Dan also installed three electrical outlets on a wall that originally had only one.

As you can see from the above photograph, the old subway tile baseboard survived the demo process.  We hope to keep it intact and work around it.

Heat

The laundry room was unheated.  We had a space heater we used in cold weather.

So while Dan worked on the plumbing and wiring, Chris worked on adding a heat vent to the laundry room.

This meant pulling the fridge out of its alcove and cutting a hole in the alcove wall and in the floor of the wall between the laundry room and kitchen to bring a heat vent up from the basement.

Another demo discovery: An old feed line for a washing machine.

Bringing a vent up through this space will be tricky business, and Chris is still not 100% sure it will work.  It will be so nice if it does.

All the essentials are being put into place before the fun aesthetic work can begin.

But we are also working on refreshing the adjoining mudroom .  So while the guys have been battling mortar walls and plumbing connections, I’ve been playing with pretty colors.

The Mudroom Repaint

When we moved in, the mudroom walls were a pale yellow. For a long time, I thought it was a nice color for this cheerful, light-filled space.

mudroom

 

mudroom

But the mudroom was starting to look tired.  It was time for a change.

Choosing the Color

Since the mudroom was once an unenclosed back porch, its walls are the same rough stucco as the exterior of the house.  I think this is a fun feature.

White is such a popular color right now, but I just couldn’t picture it for those textured walls.

So in this post on Remodelaholic.com, I found a Benjamin Moore color I liked called Pale Oak.  It was said to have a warm gray undertone.  I hoped the Pale Oak would play nicely with my new trim paint – a warm white.

The Power of Prep Work

Whenever I begin a new paint project, I’m immediately reminded of two things:

(1)  I still hate paint projects; and

(2) The prep work is the most important thing.  The mudroom walls and window casings had many gaps, cracks, and imperfections.

The molding around the back door was raw wood, which has always bugged me.  Next to it was a large seam in the wall and a hideous piece of baseboard trim.

So I scrubbed, sanded, spackled, caulked, and primed.

After that, painting was a piece of cake.

The Result

The Pale Oak is an airy, barely-there color.  I think it works nicely with the new charcoal floor.

mudroom repaint

 

mudroom repaint

mudroom repaint

I didn’t paint the beadboard ceiling because it looks fine to me.  The cracks give it a vintage look that works with the 1930s parrot light.

vintage parrot light

But the parrot light will be stowed safely away for the time being, and the floor will be covered with Ram Board to protect it during the laundry room remodel.

Note:  If you think you’ve seen this parrot light in another post of mine, you’re not imagining things.  We have an identical parrot light hanging over our kitchen sink.  That one came out of my childhood home.  We found this one at an antique store in eastern Oregon.  So of course we bought it!

What the Heck is That?

Have you been wondering what this plastic-covered hole in the laundry room wall is?

It’s pure weirdness – and a bit of a mystery to us.  I’ll talk about it in my next post, and I’ll share the cute little craft project that came out of the weirdness.

Note:  All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and are not tutorials or endorsements.


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A Scruffy Concrete Floor Gets a Facelift

Quirky Laundry

One thing I love about old houses is that they always have their quirks.  Our 1927 cottage is no exception.

In my previous post, I shared the little project that kicked off my mudroom revamp.  But what I didn’t mention is that the mudroom was originally just a covered back porch – and it connects to the laundry room.

Why is that weird?  Because before the back porch was enclosed (which probably happened in the 1930s or 40s), the laundry room was completely isolated from the other interior rooms. In order to do laundry, one had to go out the back door and then through a door to the right that opened into the unheated laundry room.  The laundry room door even had its own deadbolt.

All this to say that the mudroom and laundry room were treated as outdoor spaces and given a concrete floor.  I never paid much attention to this floor – except that I found it impossible to keep clean.

Original concrete floor

So when we recently decided to move ahead with refreshing the mudroom and remodeling the laundry room, we had to do something about that floor.

Beloved Scruffy Floor

We could have put laminate or tile flooring over the concrete and maybe even installed an in-floor heating system.  But that would have meant covering an original feature of the house.

Strangely, I really liked that scruffy old concrete floor.  It was stamped into large squares like a sidewalk.  It looked so solid and substantial.

original stamped concrete floor

Concrete Options

For some time, I had been noticing the beautiful, industrial-looking stained concrete floors in some of the restaurants in town.

We have some charming details planned for our upcoming laundry room remodel, and I felt that a rustic, industrial floor would balance out the charm and keep things interesting.

But how to find that look – and how to get it right?  Chris and I believe in doing projects ourselves if we know how,  especially if we enjoy the task.  But we also believe there is no shame in recognizing those times when we should just bring in a professional.

So Chris found Kenji at Semco Flooring Seattle.

And I have to admit that watching him work was more fun than trying to do it myself.

First Chris and I had to agree on the type of stain we wanted.  We looked at the samples that Kenji brought but, wanting a bigger picture, we also visited several of his finished projects.  We eventually came to the conclusion that we wanted a mottled charcoal stain with a matte finish.

As Kenji said, we wanted “character.”

Cleaning the Floor

One thing I like about this company is that they do their best to be environmentally conscious.  Kenji cleaned the floor thoroughly but didn’t use acid.

And later in the project, when the stain was drying, we smelled fumes but they weren’t horrible and seemed to dissipate quickly.

The Skim Coat

After cleaning,  Kenji applied a resurfacing skim coat to the entire floor.  This gave the floor some texture so that the dye would settle in the low spots for that mottled look we wanted.

skin coat - concrete floor refinish

I was a little alarmed that the seams in the concrete were completely immersed.  But I didn’t need to worry.

A White Base Coat

Then he  painted the floor white.  He did this to give himself a blank canvas on which to work.  Then he carved out the seams so they were visible again.

base coat - concrete floor refinish

The Stain

Kenji applied a coat of stain, and after it dried he came back and asked us what we thought.  It wasn’t quite dark enough, so he applied a second coat.

Stain application -concrete floor refinish

The Finish

Then he applied the matte finish.  It had to dry for a few days before we could walk on it.

But we love the results.

The color and texture give the floor the character that Benji was talking about.

concrete floor refinish

The floor is now too sexy for the rooms.  But we are working on that.

concrete floor refinish

 

concrete floor refinish

Maintenance

Of course there will be some maintenance.  Kenji gave us a special cleaner to use and, depending on how much wear and tear we subject the floor to, we will need to touch up the finish every so often.

As with any nice floor, I plan to put small rugs in the high-traffic areas.

Will this floor really work with what we have planned?  You will know as soon as I do.  So stay tuned.

Before and After Recap

We went from this . . .

before concrete floor refinish

to this.

after concrete floor refinish

*All posts on this blog are for entertainment only and not intended as tutorials or endorsements.



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A Plumbing Leak Becomes an Opportunity

As most of my readers already know, plumbing leaks can lead to all kinds of catastrophes – and wonderful opportunities.  A few years ago, we fixed a small plumbing leak in our main floor bathroom and made a few upgrades in the process.

I’ve shared a lot about our master bathroom addition, but this post is about our little main floor bathroom, which is original to our 1927 house.  At one time, it was the only bathroom in the house.

1920s bathroom

The original porcelain tile wainscoting is in pretty good shape for its age.  It has a fun black and white accent strip and, although it has a few fractures here and there, I would never dream of replacing it.

1920s bathroom - original tile
1920s bathroom original porcelain tile

The floor has the hexagonal tile that was popular in the 1920s.

1920s bathroom - floor file

The Leak

We knew about the leak when we bought the house.  It was a slow leak, but somehow water was getting behind the faucet wall when the shower was running.  From there it leaked into the basement.  No big urgency in fixing this, but we knew we had to address it eventually.

The Ugliness

This was a cute little bathroom – except for the ugliness going on in the tub surround.

For starters, it was obvious that someone had tried to fix the leak before. They’d removed some of the porcelain tile work around the tub faucet to access the pipes behind the wall.  And then they patched over that hole using 4 X 4-inch modern ceramic tiles.

There were also some dingy laminate panels on the wall above the tile wainscoting.  The laminate didn’t look original, and my guess is that at some point (probably during the house’s 1950’s remodel) the tub fixture was fitted with a shower head, and the laminate was added to waterproof the wall.

The Opportunity

When Chris was ready to tackle the plumbing leak, he had to remove that modern ceramic tile patch and a panel of that ugly laminate to see what was going on behind the wall.

So I came home to this.

1920s bathroom - plumbing repair

Oh darn, I said, they don’t make laminate like that anymore, so we will just have to replace it all with something else.

But what?  We wanted something that looked original to the house.  And something subtle so the subway tile was still the main attraction.

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There is an old Carrera marble transition strip between the hallway and the bathroom, so we decided on Carrara marble.  It is the same type of marble we used upstairs in our master bathroom addition.

The large marble tiles were easy to find and reasonably priced at a big  box store.

1920s bathroom after adding Carrrra marble

Now that’s more like it.  I love how the marble adds substance to the room.

What about those missing subway tiles from the previous repair attempt?  White is a tough color to match, so new white subway tiles, even porcelain ones, would not be an exact match for those old, original tiles.

Chris noticed that the manufacturer’s name was on the back of one of the original tiles, so he Googled it.  And amazingly, he found some 1920s tiles for sale that were made by the same manufacturer.

The only catch was that they were 3 X 3-inch square pieces, not the 3 X 6-inch rectangular pieces we needed.  But this was as close as were were going to get, so we used them anyway.

square tiles
Original subway tiles on the left, and the found vintage square tiles on the right.

We felt a variation in the tile width would be less noticable than a variation in the color.

We also took the opportunity to update the tub and shower faucets and the curtain rod.

New rain showerhead

We upgraded the shower caddy.

Bathroom before with laminate and old shower caddy
Before
Bathroom after with Cararra marble and new shower caddy
After

The old bathtub still looked pretty good but just needed to be resurfaced.

And other than a new coat of wall paint, the rest of the bathroom remains the same.

1920s Bathroom wm

 

1920s bathroom

Oh, yes – getting back to the leak.  Turns out the old galvanized pipes were failing, and Chris was able to replace them.

Sometimes a plumbing leak can be a blessing in disguise.

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More Bathroom Inspiration

So enough about this little bathroom. How would you like to see some real dream bathrooms?  And sort through them by size and style to find just the inspiration that you’re looking for?

Shutterfly’s 100 Easy Bathroom Ideas is a wonderful tool for finding fresh bathroom ideas.  Photos of our Master Bathroom Addition are included in the mix of gorgeous bathrooms and innovative ideas in this guide.


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Fun with Brick and Mortar

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know all about our little Sunglo greenhouse, and, like my husband Chris, you’ve suffered through all my whining about how the foundation, made of  pressure-treated lumber, bothered me because it looked unfinished.

Greenhouse foundation before

Now some greenhouses don’t even need a foundation like this.  But ours had to be elevated a bit so it would be tall enough to fit over two garage windows.  And the result is extra ceiling height in the greenhouse, which is nice.

The Problem

The ugly wood wouldn’t have mattered so much if the greenhouse were standing on its own out in the garden somewhere.  But it is attached to the south end of our circa 1927 garage.

The Solution

We decided to try wrapping the foundation with Brickweb “Castle Gate” Clay Thin Brick.

It sounded wonderful:  Thin genuine clay bricks adhered to 28″ X 10″ backing sheets for easy installation.  No spacers needed, no messing with individual brick pieces (or at least very few).  Essentially, it would be like installing sheets of tile.

thin brick sheets

sheet of thin brick

I’ve done several interior tile projects, and, many years ago, I did a simple brick and mortar garden edging project using bricks from a friend’s old chimney stack.  So I was hopeful that I could pull this off.

Preparing the Foundation

The Brickweb sheets could not be applied to the raw wood, so first Chris prepared the foundation.

Now I must mention that this post is not a tutorial.  It’s only intended to share our novice experiences installing Brickweb.  If you decide to try it yourself, check out a few of the comprehensive videos and online instructions created by professionals.

Anyway, back to Chris preparing the foundation.  He used a circular saw and a utility knife to cut HardieBacker cement board.

cutting HardieBoard

He used an impact driver – and screws designed specifically for use with the HardieBacker cement board.

An impact driver and HardiBoard screws

The screws were easy to countersink, which is important since we needed a smooth, straight subsurface for the bricks.

Attaching HardieBoard to pressure-treated lumber

Now that the foundation was prepared, I had to get a move on.

HardieBoard on Pressure treated lumber

Cutting the Brickweb

While most videos I found briefly mentioned that Brickweb could be cut with a tile cutter, I could not find a video that actually showed the process of cutting it.  But I assumed it would be just like cutting tile.

I rented a standard-sized tile cutter (aka “wet saw”) at the small tool rental department of my local big box hardware store.  But after two water pumps immediately failed on me, we (because by then Chris had been pulled into my misery) returned the tile cutter and went where I should have gone in the first place: To an actual tool rental center.

But this setback was a blessing in disguise.  I would need to cut the Brickweb sheets lengthwise (and at a slight angle), and the sheets were 28 inches long.  So by then I had come to realize that I would be better off with a tile saw that had a large cutting platform.

I wound up with a tile saw that the rental center called a “rail saw.”  A bit intimidating at first, it turned out to be exactly what I needed.

rail saw

 

rail saw

Brickweb makes wonderful corner sheets.  They mimic the full thickness of real brick and make corners look very realistic.  But in my experience they are a bit tricky to cut lengthwise.  Since they are molded at a 45-degree angle, it doesn’t work to cut them on a tile saw.

I cut my corner piece as far as I could on the tile saw, which wasn’t far, and then Chris cut it the rest of the way with his Dremel.  This took some time but worked well.

cutting thin brick corner piece with a Dremmel

Adhering the Bricks

The Brickweb sheets were cut and ready to be adhered to the foundation.  I watched several videos and read some online instructions on how to adhere them.  Most said to use a thin-set adhesive.

But I learned to check the label on the thin-set adhesives because some say “not for use with resin-backed tile.”  And I’m pretty sure that includes Brickweb.

The adhesive is a powder and needs to be mixed with water using a mixing paddle attached to a drill.  It’s kind of like making cake batter with a giant mixer.

mixing thin set adhesive

Just like with tile, I used a trowel to apply the adhesive to the foundation.  Then, starting with that corner piece and working out, I attached the Brickweb sheets.  I worked a small area at a time so the adhesive wouldn’t dry before I could attach the sheets.

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I wanted to make sure the actual bricks, and not just the web they sat on, were going to stick to the foundation.  So in addition to slathering adhesive on the foundation, I buttered the back of every sheet with the adhesive.  Better safe than sorry.

adhering brickweb to the wall

After I adhered each sheet, I wiped away any excess adhesive between the bricks so I could mortar the bricks later. I had to use little shims to keep some of the sheets straight and level, especially the ones that I’d cut with the tile cutter.

The Mortar

Before applying the mortar, I let the adhesive dry completely.  Then I applied a sealer to the bricks.  This would make them easier to clean later.

Then it was just a matter of mixing some type “S” mortar mix and using a grout bag to pipe the mortar between the brick joints.

mortar bag

I had never used a grout bag before.  There is a preferred “twist and squeeze” method that isn’t easy if you have small hands.

Once the mortar was in place and allowed to set a bit, I knocked off the excess and smoothed it using a mortar tool.

mortar tool

mortar drying

After it set even more, I wiped the mortar with a brush to clean off any tiny loose bits, and I cleaned the excess mortar haze off of the brick fronts.

The Finishing Touch

We wanted an attractive wooden rain cap to top off this little brick wall.  We couldn’t find anything with the exact dimensions that we needed, so we found something close at a locally-owned lumber yard, and they milled it down for us at no additional charge.

Before Chris installed the rain cap, he painted it to match the trim on our house and garage.

raincap

And now we have a greenhouse with a quaint little brick foundation. It looks solid and finished – like it’s here to stay.

Before . . .

greenhouse foundation before

After!

Greenhouse foundation after

front of greenhouse closeup of brick

Sunglo greenhouse with thin brick foundation

Greenhouse with garage
Lean-to greenhouse attached to our garage.

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Making an Entrance

It’s been a while since I’ve taken you to Mom’s house, and there is always so much to see there.  My mom, Erika, bought her mid century rambler about a decade ago, and she has been improving it ever since.  Notice that I didn’t say slowly improving it.  No, Mom likes to hit the ground running.

A Bland Impression

When Mom moved in, the house lacked curb appeal.  There was dark brown siding above a white brick facade.  The front entry was tidy but nondescript .  The overly-pruned evergreen shrubs made the garden look dated.

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

A boring cement walkway angled in from the garage.

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

And something else wasn’t quite right – the windows to the right of the front door.  “I hated those high little bedroom windows,” says Mom. “They made the rooms dark.”

Phase 1:  Lightening Up

So shortly after Mom moved in, she had the small bedroom windows replaced with larger ones that matched the living room windows.

Of course installing larger windows meant cutting into walls – and into the brick siding.  Mom was surprised to discover that the bricks were actually white all the way through.

She replaced the front door and had the dark brown siding painted a light, elegant color.

Adding curb appeal - new windows

She replaced the large shrubs near the entry with a brick cobblestone patio.

Adding curb appeal - new patio

She had the cement walkway removed and replaced with brick cobblestone.  And she added a new walkway from the street to the front door.

Adding curb appeal - new walkways

So now the house looked much more inviting from the street.  But there was still more to do.

Phase 2 – A Welcoming Entry

The front entry was really just a stoop and a front door with little protection from the elements.  A front porch, however small, would really bring character to the house’s exterior.

So when the house needed a new roof, Mom saw an opportunity for an upgrade.

She had her carpenter extend the roofline over the front door to create a portico.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Her carpenter built a seamless addition, including a cedar plank ceiling stained to match the 50-year-old cedar boards under the eaves.

It’s amazing how much impact this small addition has on the home’s exterior.  It breaks up the long, straight roofline and gives the house a focal point.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Now the look is warm and inviting.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Before and After Recap

The house went from this . . .

Adding curb appeal - rambler before upgrade

To this.

Adding curb appeal - new portico

Mom has done so many tasteful upgrades to her house.  I especially want to show you her amazing backyard transformation (once we locate the “before” photos).

As you might have guessed, she has many talents.  Mom has published two books – one of them based on her very interesting childhood.  So if you get a chance visit her Amazon author’s page or her website.

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Want some fresh ideas for your outdoor space?  Browse my new 2016 Summer Style Boards page for inspiration.

2016 Summer Style Boards


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A Bench for Priscilla

An aging pet, an art deco bench, Shutterfly, bedroom design tips, and Pinterest color boards.  How do they all fit together?   Well . . . very loosely in this rambling post.

I have a lot to share with you this time, so let’s start connecting the dots.

An Aging Pet

A few months ago, I shared my little Downton Abbey-inspired master bedroom refresh.  Aside from needing some better bedside lamps, I thought that the project was finished.

But then 15-year-old Priscilla started having trouble jumping up onto the bed.  She tried, only to fall back to the floor.  This girl never used to miss her mark, but now she needed a little help.

Black cat
My loyal buddy.

So I searched for something she could use as a halfway point between the floor and the top of the bed.

An Art Deco Bench

I came across a small art deco bench at a consignment shop.  It was half price in the markdown room, piled so high with other merchandise that I almost missed it.

The upholstery was interesting.

Art Deco Bench as found
Bench as found

But the wood was in excellent condition.

With its rounded edges, the bench could have originally been paired with a waterfall bedroom vanity.  So it was appropriate for a bedroom.  And its small scale was perfect for the limited space I had to work with.

I put it at the foot of the bed, and Priscilla immediately saw the advantage and starting using it to climb up to her favorite napping spot.

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I didn’t want her to be without it for long, so I decided to just do a quick reupholster and call it good.

I couldn’t wait to see what was under the purple fabric.  Was the original upholstery still there?  Something beautiful and interesting?

No such luck.

Old upholstery

And it looks better in the photo than it did in real life.

So I removed both fabric layers but kept the padding since it was in surprisingly good condition.

With Priscilla lounging on the front porch, I raced to the fabric store. A floral fabric would look sweet on the bench, so that is what I was after.

And this is what I came home with.

fabric closeup

It is “Avondale Vintage” by Covington Fabric and Design. It reminded me of an antique tapestry.  The pattern depicts old-world hunting and fishing scenes.  I’m a pushover for this sort of thing. And, I reasoned, this was in keeping the bedroom’s Downton Abbey-esque vibe.

I only needed an 18-inch cut, but I asked for 2/3 yard so I could center the scene that I liked the most – which turned out to be the hunting scene.

I spruced up the wood with Howard Restor-A-Finish in Golden Oak.

And then I put the bench back.

fabric detail - art deco bench

Art Deco Bench

Including the sprint to the fabric store, the project took one afternoon.

art deco bench

And Priscilla never missed her bench.

Cat with art deco bench

You may have guessed from the photos that our master bedroom is not huge.  I would still like to find ways to make better use of the space.  And my idea file just got a boost from Shutterfly.

Bedroom Design Tips from Shutterfly

Recently, the folks at Shutterfly reached out to me asking to use some of the images from my master bathroom remodel in a blog post that they are creating.

And they gave me this gorgeous bedroom design guide to share with my readers.   Full of  simple and practical advice, the guide focuses on working with a small space.  But I think most of the tips can be applied to bedrooms of any size – or even rooms other than bedrooms.

Clicking on the summary image below will take you to the full version of this guide

25 Easy Ways to Make a Bedroom Look Bigger
Image courtesy of Shutterfly

Pinterest Color Boards

The folks at Shutterfly also invited me to populate a few of the home decor color boards that they have on Pinterest as part of their post 200 Inspiring Color Schemes for the Home.

White is hot right now.  My Pinterest and Instagram feeds are awash with white rooms.  And recently barely-there pastels have started to cautiously creep onto the scene.

Done right, these trendy wall and trim colors are gorgeous, and they definitely have their place in interior decor (see hints 20 and 21 above).  I’ll probably be using white in our upcoming laundry room remodel.

But I must admit that I’m often drawn to the drama and romance of rich colors.  So I loved it that the colors that Shutterfly gave me to work with were unapologetically rich.

One argument for whites is that richer, deeper wall colors are not neutral enough to support changes in art and decor, but I don’t agree. Many rich colors can serve as neutrals. They just have to be chosen carefully.

So if you get a chance, check out these Pinterest boards for some design inspiration ranging from the trendy to the classic.  Some of the images I used were my own, but many were borrowed from other sources.

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A Master Bedroom Refresh

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using these links.


My Beloved Rag-Rolled Walls

Years ago, I painted our bedroom walls a buttery yellow, and over that I applied an amberish-colored rag-rolled finish.

The walls are the original textured plaster from the 1920s. The rag-rolled finish gave them an aged patina – almost like the inside of an ancient adobe house.  I was thrilled.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

I thought I would never want to change it.

Still, it bothered me a little that the walls didn’t really look right with the ceiling or moldings.  So we repainted the ceiling.  And the walls still didn’t look quite right.  The room didn’t look terrible, it was just that nothing was working well together.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

But I was busy with other things, and I still loved those walls.

A New Color Crush

Along came Downton Abbey.  Eventually I fell in love with the serene blue walls in Cora Crawley’s bedroom.  Sometimes they looked blue, and other times more green – almost blue but not quite.

And that is what I wanted – that “almost blue.”  Which meant the rag rolling had to go.

The right “almost blue” was not easy to find. After much searching and deliberation, I decided on Benjamin Moore’s “Galt Blue” (CW-560).

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.
Priscilla lounges on her bed.

I love the soft color.  Like in Cora’s bedroom, the color does seem to morph from a seaglass green to a blue depending on the light.

Photographing this color accurately was tricky, but I finally found a camera setting that got it almost right.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

Below the walls look almost green in contrast with the blue in our master bath (Valspar’s Amercian Traditions “Sky Blue”).

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

New Bedding

The quilt, which I’d also had for years, didn’t work with the new wall color so I found something more neutral.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

New Window Coverings

I brought in these lace curtains from another room.

Master Bedroom Refresh: new window treatments.

The white aluminum mini blinds were dust collectors.  I wanted something with more contrast, so I replaced them with matchstick bamboo roll-up blinds.

Master Bedroom Refresh: new window treatments.

These surprisingly inexpensive blinds add a bit of natural texture but still give the windows a light and airy look.

The blinds are very sheer.  They don’t completely block out the light or the view.  But since it would take a hover craft for anyone to actually see into these windows, I am not too worried about that.

A Few Little Tweaks

The cheval mirror looked out of place near the window and blocked the little print hanging behind it.

Master Bedroom Refresh: Before refresh with rag rolled walls

A cute antique floor lamp sat in a forgotten corner of the bedroom, so I moved it to where the mirror had been and grouped it with a small table and a chair to create a little sitting area.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new sitting area.

The mirror makes more sense next to my husband’s tallboy dresser.  I have a separate little dressing room, so I rarely use that mirror anyway.

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color.

Striking a Balance

I feel there is a balance between masculine and feminine decor in this room.  Sure, I fantasized about making the room very girly, maybe painting the dressers and the headboard – not that my husband would stand by for that.

But in the end, the masculine-feminine balance is what grounds a room and keeps it interesting.

One Thing Left to Do

I would like to replace the bedside lamps with something more substantial,

Master Bedroom Refresh: After refresh with new wall color and window treatments.

similar to the ones below.



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