Questions to Ask Your Builder Before Your House Build Begins

I’d love to build my own home some day, but I imagine that finding a builder that I could trust and be comfortable with would be one of the toughest aspects.

I would definitely interview at least three builders – and no doubt pepper them with dozens of questions.  And today’s guest post, below, has a few of the questions I would be asking.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, please click here.

Questions to Ask Your Builder Before Your House Build Begins

You’ve been dreaming, and planning, planning and dreaming, and your house building plans are coming along nicely at last. You’ve got everything that you think you need from your plans, and the next stage is to find someone to take those plans off the paper and make something out of them.

Building a house is a daunting task. The idea of someone taking the dream you have and making it a reality is scary – mainly because you have to trust the builder that you pick!  It would help if you asked specific questions of your builder to make sure that you have selected the right one.

Before any building starts, you need to know how long building permits last, and you need to know that your builder is the right one for you.

With that in mind, here are a few questions you should be asking any builder you potentially want to hire. 

Question 1: How Long Have You Been Building?

It would help if you interviewed your builder as you would anyone else. You’re making an important decision, and this means that you need a builder with the right reputation. You need to know how many houses they’ve built and the price range, whether they’ve had any complaints. You want someone with a good reputation that knows what they’re doing.

Question 2: What Type Of Home Do You Build?

You need to choose a builder who is experienced in building the same type of home that you have planned. You want to make sure that you are getting what you pay for, and you need to ask so that you have the best possible fit.

Question 3: What Makes You Different?

You need to ask your builder what it is that sets them apart. There are a LOT of builders out there in the industry, and you need to make sure that you have the right one. Ask about their achievements and what their track record for success is.

Question 4: What About Permits?

Are you responsible for the permits and how long do building permits last? Depending on the build, you need to think about your zoning boards and the other organizations that have various requirements. It would help if you also asked whether your builder can be responsible for those permits or if you have to be. It’s essential to get this right!

Question 5: Do You Have References?

It’s important to read any online references and reviews about your builder, but you should also ask your builder to provide you with references.  They’ll be obliged to give you names of those who they have built for before.  Always triple check references; you won’t regret ensuring that your builder is the right one for your home build.

Asking the right questions will go a long way towards ensuring that your house build goes off without a hitch.

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


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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Design Your Home With The Future In Mind

Every so often I come across something that talks about the benefits of aging in place, and it always worries me a bit because our house has so many stairs and a very high-maintenance garden.  It suits our needs fine now, but will it in the future?  I’m not so sure.

One of the benefits of designing a brand new house is that a person can consider the evolving needs of their family – and even what their own needs might be as they age.  So I thought this guest post, with pointers on how to design a new home for the future, was very interesting.

The following is a contributed post.  For more information on my contributed posts, please see this page.

Design Your Home With The Future In Mind

When you are designing something as important as the home you will live in, you obviously want to make sure that it is going to suit your needs, and the needs of your changing and growing family, for many years to come. You’ll want to focus not only on your present needs, but on what your needs might be in the future. Designing your home with the future in mind sounds simple, but it can actually be a considerable challenge.

If you are planning to design a new home and live in it for many years to come, here are a few things you may want to keep in mind.


Flexibility Above All Else

To create a home that will be likely to stand the test of time, you will generally need to promote flexibility above all else. What does this mean? Basically, it is a way of ensuring that each room in your home can be changed around relatively easily and quickly if you should need it to be. Of course you will start off with a plan for how the room will be used, but the more that you can integrate future possibilities into the design, the more you are preparing the whole house for the future.

One example would be if you design a ground-floor room to be a study – but keeping in mind that, in the future, it might need to be a bedroom for someone who can’t climb stairs anymore.

Consider Worst-Case Scenarios

None of us can predict what our future needs might be. A perfect home would be one that is likely to accommodate all of the possible futures that might crop up for you and your family.

As well as planning for the things you expect and hope for, it is wise to plan for any worst-case scenarios just in case they crop up. Especially if you are planning to age in place, or possibly care for an elderly parent in your home, ensuring accessibility to the home is a major consideration. This could mean including wheelchair ramps and any other features you would need in those circumstances.

Think Long-Term When Choosing A House Style

When choosing the style of the home, consider that not all current design trends will stand up to the test of time.  But by choosing a classic and timeless design, you can ensure that your home will never go out of style. And with a design that is classic yet simple, it’s easy to change up your interior décor as you wish and infuse current décor trends to keep your home looking contemporary.

You Can Only Do So Much

As you strive to design a home to suit your needs now and in the future, be aware that you are almost certainly going to fail in some way – because the truth is that no one really knows what the future will bring.  And you can only do so much to prepare for it.  So, all you can do is give it your very best shot and remember the most important thing of all: Design a home that will make you happy.

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


Browse my shop to find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


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Our Kitchen Remodel Series
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ORC Week 6: Dressing Room Remodel – The Final Reveal

We’re here at last:  The big “ta-da” moment in our One Room Challenge® adventure! For five weeks, my husband Chris and I have been remodeling my small and quirky dressing room, and I’ve been posting weekly updates.  And it’s all come down to this:  The final reveal!

Thanks to Linda of Calling It Home for hosting this event, and to Better Homes and Gardens, media sponsor of this challenge.

In case you missed them, here are links to my previous posts:

Project Recap

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used in this post.  For more information on my affiliate links, please see my affiliate disclosure page.

The Space

My little dressing room, located on the second floor, measures roughly 70 square feet.  And those square feet are very oddly shaped.

In addition to the odd shape, this room also has a sloping ceiling that follows the roofline along the east side.  It has two doors:  An entry door and a door leading to an unfinished attic space.

Design Goals

Our house was built in 1927 so, although we don’t want the house to look like a shrine to the 1920s, we always want new work – cabinetry, hardware, doors, and moldings – to blend seamlessly with the existing design features of the house.

I feel that the house’s original design features are easy on the eyes.  They’re simple and clean – yet charming.  And they’ve stood the test of time.  So I would rather use those design features than a trend that will look dated in a few years anyway.

Clutter Busting

You’ll see that the little dressing room was a claustrophobic and cluttered mess.  I wanted the redesign to include ample storage yet feel spacious.


The room is small and has a sloped ceiling, so I decided to use one paint color on every surface, including that sloped ceiling, all the moldings, and all the cabinetry that we added.

The goal was for the room to be brighter, more elegant, more cohesive – and for that sloped ceiling to feel less oppressive.  I opted for good old “Simply White” by Benjamin Moore.


Since what we were remodeling was basically a closet, we challenged ourselves to keep the budget tight.  So, a challenge within a challenge!  We had lots of fun with this.  We sourced cabinetry pieces through Craigslist, salvage shops, and our own basement storage.  We always look to repurpose items instead of buying new when we can anyway – not only to save money but also because it’s an earth-friendly alternative.

The total expenditure (outlined in detail last week) was under $900 U.S.

Let’s start the tour!

Dressing Room Tour

Won’t you come in.

The North Wall

North wall after

Before the remodel, the north wall looked like this.

North wall before

I’d brought in a portable garment rack because there was not enough rod space in the room to hang my clothes.  A patched-together assortment of old dressers, shoe boxes, and racks made for a cluttered look that scratched away at my psyche every time I entered the room.  And there was a lot of vertical wall space going to waste here.

Now I have the enclosed wardrobe space.

Plus, for longer items, the new garment rod we installed over a shoe bench.

The new garment rod, which adds a much-needed rustic touch to the room, is made of authentic industrial pipe.

We did away with the worn carpet in the room, but failed in our attempt to daylight the original fir floor, which is buried under mid century linoleum.

Instead, we covered the whole mess with a plywood underlayment, and then I painted, stenciled, and protected the plywood with a finish.

I love all the space that I have in the large wardrobe, which we purchased from a private seller on Craigslist and then refurbished.  It’s a perfect width for the alcove space.  Above the wardrobe, baskets will hold things I rarely use – like ski gear and travel accessories.

In the northeast corner, we added a vintage leaded glass cabinet, which we rehabbed and then put on these turned legs so that it would be tall enough to clear the baseboard and fit snugly in the corner.

Years ago, we bought two of these cabinets at a garage sale for $5 apiece.  This cabinet’s mirror-image twin currently lives in our kitchen.

My vintage dolls and other little items were collecting dust in this room, and one of my goals for the remodel was to find a place where they could be displayed but protected from dust.  I also wanted a better system for organizing my jewelry.

The vintage cabinet meets both needs.  We added hooks to make necklaces easy to sort and find.

And all my little vintage items that used to drive me crazy have a home now.

I love how the north wall turned out.  It’s fun, it has character, yet it’s calm and uncluttered – a far cry from the chaos I had going on before.

Northeast wall before

Looking at these before photos again, it’s surprising to me how much larger this wall space looks now.

North wall after




We did keep the light fixture that was already in the room.  It was a recent upgrade – a vintage milk glass light.

The East Wall

The ceiling slopes all along the east wall.  There is a short door that leads to an attic space.  It’s a cheap, hollow-core door that is not original to the house.  It had a 1970s-era knob, flimsy hinges, and was framed in with tragically cheap molding.  Its only redeeming quality was the beveled dressing mirror.  Otherwise, it was very sad.

East wall before

Since the door is a custom size, Chris decided to rehab it instead of having a new one made.

He added 1920s moldings that he’d saved from another project, and he added vintage hardware that we already had on hand – including a petite vintage glass door knob that would fit well on this petite door.

He made this cheap hollow-core door look original to our house – all without spending a cent.

On the east wall, we turn to face the south wall.

The South Wall

The south wall is a strange part of the room that is not even four feet wide.  It’s a long, narrow alcove that felt even narrower because of where I had placed the tall dresser.

Southeast wall before

It was no fun trying to get anything out of these drawers.  And, as you can see, this is where the carpeting stopped and an area rug took over.  Pretty classy!

Here is the area now.

Southeast wall after

Since the overhead light is near the north wall, this part of the room was dark at night, so our one splurge for the room was to buy a 1920s-era sconce light, which had been professionally restored, from a salvage shop.

Restored 1920s sconce light

Up until yesterday, we were still working on this part of the room.  I decided at the last minute that a chair was needed here, but it would have to be very petite.

I had this little bentwood chair kicking around in our basement.  But of course it needed work, and I was still putting the final touches on my “ebonized” finish for it yesterday morning.  And the faux fur seat cover arrived just in time.

At the same salvage shop where we found the sconce light, we found two narrow kitchen cabinets that, rehabbed and put together with an old dresser from our basement, would work nicely for the space around the window.



Where these kitchen cabinets once held canned goods, they now will hold sweaters – or maybe handbags.

And the old dresser, with its inset drawers, looks identical to the original built-in cabinetry in our home.  For a detailed account of how we installed these built-ins, please see this post.


We added glass cabinet knobs to all the pieces to match the cabinet hardware throughout the house.

And I lined all the shelves and drawers in this south wall installation with a retro-floral shelf paper that I just love.

It was easy to reposition – unlike some other shelf papers that I would end up wadding and throwing away in frustration.

So you might be wondering if I forgot to add wall art.  But actually I love this uncluttered look so much that I have no desire to hang anything on these soothing white walls.  I might change my mind at some point, but right now I can almost feel my blood pressure drop when I walk into this room.

For a detailed account of how I organized this dressing room, please see this post.

Just Lucky

Seems some home improvement projects are difficult from the get-go.  But with other projects, things just fall into place.  With this project, I was lucky.

Lucky because the floor stencil measured out so perfectly for the room dimensions.

Lucky because we found, or already had on hand, cabinetry pieces that fit so well into the strange little spaces that we were working with.

But most of all lucky because Chris so good-naturedly embarked on this challenge with me.

Without his mad DIY skills and his honest, informed opinions, this project would never have gotten off the ground.

More To Come

After the holiday season, I’ll be sharing more about the revamp of the little bentwood chair, details about the door rehab, and how we made two kitchen cabinets and an old dresser look like built-ins.

Visit The Other Challenge Participants

This six-week challenge has been intense for both of us.  But it’s also been very rewarding.  Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement along the way.  It made a world of difference!

I can’t wait to check out the other final reveals happening through the One Room Challenge.  Participant reveals can be found here.


Icarus Tile Floor Stencil
Wardrobe:  Private seller via Craigslist
Vintage Sconce Light:  Second Use
Salvaged Kitchen Cabinets:   Second Use
Shoe Rack:  Target
Glass Cabinet Knobs:  House of Antique Hardware
Yifely Retro Floral Self-Adhesive Shelf Paper
Pipe Decor Dual Flange Style Garment Rack
Legs for Leaded Glass Cabinet:  BingLTD “Pauline” Sofa Legs
Junovo Premium Faux Fur Sheepskin Seat Cushion Chair Cover

The baskets above the wardrobe were a Marshall’s find, but similar covered baskets can be found here.

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


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel




ORC Week 5: Dressing Room Remodel – Putting the Pieces Together

Welcome to Week 5 of the One Room Challenge®.  It’s been a busy week, and we’ve made some progress on the remodel of my little dressing room.  And we needed to – next week is the big reveal!

I can sum up my week in five words:  Clean, sand, prime, paint, repeat. Not that I’m complaining.  But I am dreaming of the day, hopefully soon, when I can actually use this cute little dressing room – and feel a little more girly than I do right now.

Weary painter
This paint brush is starting to look all too familiar!

But I have the easy part.  It’s up to Chris to make all the pieces that I’ve been painting fit into the room and more or less look built in – maybe even like they could be original to our circa 1927 house.

Except for one piece, the shoe rack I shared last week, all of the cabinetry in this room will be second-hand items that we have rehabbed and repurposed.

In case you missed them, here are my Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, and Week 4 posts.


Projects Everywhere

Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.

I had paint projects scattered throughout the house.

A cabinet door in the living room.

Cabinet legs in the dining room.

The cabinet itself, and the body of a vintage dresser, in the upstairs landing.

And the dresser drawers in the driveway.

These pieces were cleaned with this pre-paint cleaner followed by a soap and water wash.

A Visit To The Salvage Shop

We visited a local architectural salvage shop hoping to find a vintage sconce light for the room – which we did.  But we also found these little kitchen cabinets.  Believe it or not, they are just what the room needs – and we found them in the nick of time.

What we liked about them, besides their great condition and affordable price, was the single-panel doors.  We knew that, once we painted them and replaced the door hardware, they would resemble the original single-panel cabinetry that appears throughout our house.

A Rustic Touch

Since the room will be mostly white, I thought it needed a little rustic counterbalance.

So we bought this wall-mounted garment rack kit.  Made of authentic industrial pipe, it’s exactly the look I wanted.  We could have made our own out of plumbing parts, but it was actually less expensive to buy this kit.


Every piece had a protective coating of grease to keep it from rusting.  So they all needed to be cleaned and then sealed with a spray-on finish.  Since I was running out of work space, I did that project on the back patio.

The Vintage Cabinet

Several years ago, we bought two adorable vintage cabinets for $5 apiece at a garage sale.  If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember that we used one of them in our kitchen.

Vintage cabinet used in the kitchen

We needed to put that cabinet on legs to clear the heat register in the wall behind it.

We are using the second cabinet in the dressing room.  And that one also needed to go on legs – this time to clear the baseboard so it would fit snugly against the wall.  Since we like them and they are a good value, we used the same legs that we’d installed on the first cabinet.

The only difference is that I painted these legs with the “Simply White” cabinet paint instead of using a finish on them.

Chris inset the legs just enough so that they would clear the baseboard.  The cabinet was going in a corner, so it had to clear the baseboard on two walls.

Just like with the first cabinet, Chris anchored this one to the wall.  After all, we live in earthquake country.

I had several little paint sample containers left from when I was deciding on the floor color.  So I used one of them – Iron Frost by Valspar – to paint the interior of the cabinet and give it a little interest.

Because this cabinet has a leaded glass door, it can display “pretty” things.  So Chris installed brass hooks along the top of the interior where I can hang necklaces and scarves.

The South Wall Comes Together

I haven’t shared much about the south wall of the room.  That’s because, until now, there wasn’t much going on.  It’s a very narrow portion of the room (not even four feet wide) and easy to over-fill.  So our goal is to make it a useful yet uncluttered space.

This is where the vintage dresser and those salvage shop kitchen cabinets come into play.  Put together, they work around a sloped ceiling and a window.

It doesn’t look like much yet, but I’m hoping it will soon!


Cabinet Hardware

All the cabinetry in the room will have the same hardware – glass knobs that match what is already on the cabinetry throughout the house.

Vintage glass knobs are fairly common, and I assumed they’d be easy to find locally.  But none of the salvage shops we visited had enough of them.  So we had to buy reproductions.

A few days ago, 19 of these little cuties arrived from the House of Antique Hardware.

There we found the best price on the glass knobs we needed – and by searching I found an online coupon I could use. The knobs look great, but the screws they came with are all too long, so we will need to size every one of them down.

That’s on the list, but the list is getting a little shorter.

And speaking of lists . . .

The Numbers

Even with a super-small budget, things add up.  Here is what the actual project cost is looking like, in round numbers.  (The vintage dresser is not included because we’ve had that piece forever.)

Wall, Trim, Cabinet, and Floor Paint and Floor Stencil $150
Craigslist Wardrobe $100
Vintage Sconce Light $95
Salvage Shop Kitchen Cabinets $55
Target Shoe Rack $30
Glass Cabinet Knobs $55
Retro Floral Shelf Paper $45
Wardrobe Casters $15
Legs for Leaded Glass Cabinet $40
Industrial Pipe Clothing Rack $30
Garage Sale Leaded Glass Cabinet $5
Plywood Underlayment $50
Estimated Misc. Supplies and Decor Items $200


My hat is off to the other participants of this challenge.  Just remodeling my little dressing room in the time allotted, and photographing and writing about it every week, has indeed been a challenge.  If you have time, check out what some of the other participants are up to.

Thanks to Linda of Calling It Home for hosting this event, and to Better Homes and Gardens, sponsor of this challenge.

Come back next week for the big reveal!



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


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel




ORC Week 2: Dressing Room Remodel – Flooring, Walls, And Door

Do you have your best ideas when you first wake up?  I’d been grappling with my plans for the furniture layout in this quirky little dressing room.  Something wasn’t quite right.

And then this morning I woke up with the solution.

Maybe all the inspiration I’m seeing in the One Room Challenge®  is rubbing off.  It’s week two of the challenge, and it’s been fun checking out the room transformations happening here.

And it’s excellent motivation as Chris and I continue working on the remodel of my dressing room.  If you missed my Week I post, pop over to see the before photos and our plan of attack.

But essentially, here is the layout of the space we’re working with, all 70-ish square feet of it.

What the sketch doesn’t show is that the ceiling on the east wall slopes down with the roofline to meet the wall.  So, the east wall isn’t even six feet high.

Week Two Progress

We have been very busy, and I’m happy with our progress so far.  Here is what we’ve been up to.

A Decision On The Floor

Almost every finished room in our circa 1927 house has the original fir flooring exposed and refinished.  Except for this little room.  It was carpeted, and that’s because, under the carpet, there was mid-century linoleum covering the original fir floor.

We found evidence that someone, at some point, had tried to remove the linoleum but had given up.

Chris tried several methods of removing it himself, including heat.  But this flooring was holding on tight, and the tiny bit of progress he made was painfully slow and unpleasant.  It would take countless hours to remove it, and many more to salvage the fir floor beneath it – if that floor was even salvageable.

After all, there was a good-sized mystery patch in the middle.

And some weirdness in a corner.

But the larger issue was that, by disturbing this older flooring and adhesive, we were running the risk of releasing and breathing asbestos.  For this to be done right, we needed to hire someone who was licensed to perform asbestos abatement.

So at this point I was more than happy to move on to our Plan B.

Chris would just cover the whole mess with quarter-inch plywood.  And then I would paint it.  That’s right – a painted plywood floor!

But before Chris installed this beautiful new plywood, I painted the walls, moldings, and entry door.  Since we were going to cover that old flooring anyway, I wouldn’t even need a drop cloth.

Wall and Trim Paint

The room is very small.  It has a ceiling that follows the sloping roofline of our second floor.  The sloped ceiling had been painted a different color (ceiling white) than the walls (a light blue), and I always felt like that weighed the room down somehow.

So, my thought was that painting the entire room – ceilings, walls, moldings and doors – all in one neutral color would lighten the room and make it appear larger.

Since the room only has one small pocket window, I wanted a very light paint.  So, I went with good old Benjamin Moore “Simply White.”  Despite the name, the color is actually a soft and neutral off-white that is said to play nicely with other colors  – even other whites.

Perfect, I thought, for a that classic and uncluttered look I wanted.

I used a matte finish for the walls and ceiling.  I used their satin cabinet paint (which will come in handy later too – you’ll see!) for the moldings and doors.  Although both paints are Simply White, just the variation in the paint finishes provides enough contrast to bring a little definition to the moldings.

The Plywood Floor Begins!

Once I finished painting, Chris installed the plywood floor.

and patched the seams and screw holes.

I was surprised how quickly he did all this, and as usual he did a beautiful job.

I vacuumed the floor thoroughly and applied two coats of Zinsser Bulls Eye primer.  To apply the primer,  I used a short-nap roller cover made for smooth finishes. And I used my trusty Shur-Line edger  (which I often use in place of a paint brush) for the perimeter.  I vacuumed both the roller cover and the edger pad before using them to make darn sure I’d have a lint-free application.

So now the floor is a beautiful blank canvas, and I’m a bit nervous.  I’d been experimenting with various paint applications, including a takeoff on rag-rolling that I’d hoped would look like a treated cement floor – but wound up looking more like a dirty floor.  Someday I might play around more with that technique.

But for this little room, Chris and I kept coming back to the idea of a stencil.  With the all-white everything, it would be a nice contrast to have the floor carry a pattern.

I found an 8-inch stencil I liked, and I’ve been practicing and experimenting with colors.

The Door Rebuild

While I was deliberating over the floor, Chris was rebuilding the sad little door on the east wall that leads to an attic space.

This short hollow-core door (only 64 inches tall) is not original to our circa 1927 house.  And neither was the cheap 2-inch molding around it.

So Chris rebuilt the door to make it look like one of our original single-panel doors from the 1920s.

This turned out to be a very cool project, but it was more planning and more work than it looks like.  So I’m going to write a post in the future dedicated solely to this door rehab.

But for now I’ll explain it in broad strokes.

He started by installing molding around the door that had actually been removed from another room in our house!  (Chris tends to hang on to things, and sometimes this comes in very handy.)


Now the molding around the door would match the other moldings in the house.

Then he installed molding around the perimeter of the door itself to give it the appearance of a  single-panel door.

Once all that was done, I primed the door and moldings and painted them with the Simply White cabinet paint.

Then it was finally time to upgrade from the cheap, 1970’s-era brass-tone knob that had been on the door – the knob that has bugged me since we moved in.

We’ve collected a pretty good stash of old house parts over the years and, rummaging through it, we found this beauty.

We chose it because of its petite size (in scale with the door) and because all of our original doors have glass knobs.

We also replaced the flimsy hinges on the door with these vintage hinges – which, besides being very well-made, are identical to the hinges on our original doors.

I want to be careful not to give away too much before the big Week 6 reveal but, since I didn’t put a mood board together, I want to show you this door as an example of what we have planned for the entire room:  1920s elegance, feminine but classic, glass knobs, soft white.

Pre-rebuild, the door had a beveled dressing mirror attached to it, and we just reused it.  There is a small chip on the lower right had corner, but I can live with that.  Character.

Coming Next Week

The stencil begins!  I know this will be a ton of work – and probably pretty frustrating.  I’m really hoping to have decent results. 

But if I don’t, it’s just paint.  I can always paint over it and try something else.

I hope it doesn’t come to that.

Special thanks to Linda of Calling It Home for hosting this event, and to Better Homes and Gardens, sponsor of this challenge.


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


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
My Shop
Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
Our Little Sunglo Greenhouse
Floral Design
Garden Design
The June Bug Diaries
Our Laundry Room Remodel




Exploring an Urban Jungle

I love greenhouses and conservatories because they have the power to transport us into a another world:  A world with its own unique climate – one designed to give the plants living there everything that they need to thrive.  

But what happens when someone takes this concept even farther?  When a giant corporation with progressive ideas collaborates with some of the most innovative architects and botanists out there?  

The Amazon Spheres

One beautiful summer day, I stumbled upon The Spheres by accident.  I was rushing to an appointment.


I’d seen photos of The Spheres, but I didn’t realize I’d be passing them on my route.  I’d sort of written them off as another one of those poorly conceived pipe dreams that blight our urban landscape.  

But in real life, they looked amazing – fragile, elegant, and unique.  It was love at first sight.

I caught glimpses of the plant life inside.


Then from the security desk, which was as far as I was allowed to go, I saw part of the massive vertical garden.  I wanted in! 

But for me to get inside, I would have to get tickets in advance and come back on a designated Saturday.  And I already knew who I would invite:  Someone who enjoys gardens and futuristic stuff – my mom, Erika.

Reconnecting with Nature

The Spheres were designed as a place for employees at Amazon’s Seattle Headquarters to go to reconnect with nature and do a little creative thinking.  Quite the job perk!

But on this Saturday, The Spheres were open to those members of the public who had booked a timed ticket in advance.  Mom and I were among them. 

Once past the security desk, we were greeted by the 60-foot living wall.



We’d already learned that The Spheres are home to 40,000 plants, most native to high-elevation cloud forests.  And after seeing that living wall, I believed it!

The Spheres’ structure seemed much bigger from the inside.  Aside from the living wall, we really hadn’t known what to expect.  There was a jungle here!

With a massive indoor water feature,


Huge tree ferns,


And Rubi, the largest tree in The Spheres.  A docent told us she was transported from California via flatbed truck.

Various species of flora are tucked into her trunk.

Lights wind through her upper branches.

Nature and Structure

Modern architecture usually strikes me as cold and impersonal.  Not so with The Spheres.  The curved glass structure (2,636 panes of glass!) lends a quiet, airy backdrop to the natural elements inside – while reminding us that we truly are in an urban jungle set in the heart of a major city.





A huge “nest,” one of many creative seating areas for employees, seems to hang in mid-air, reachable only by a springy wooden bridge that mimics a canopy walk.


The Right Atmosphere

As with any good conservatory, the comfort of the plants comes first at The Spheres. 

The temperature is carefully controlled.  With all the natural light filtering through all of those panes of glass, I was surprised to see additional lighting.  There were also strategically placed fans and misters.  Often, we were walking through mist.  

Misters working on the living wall.


With any garden tour, I look for inspiration that I can use at home.  There was plenty here, even if it was on a grand scale.

Mom had recently started a vertical garden in her sunroom.  She is using mostly ferns so, as she often is, she is right on trend with the giant living wall –  although visiting here has probably given her a few new fern varieties to look for.


As for me, my plant crush continues to be my live Spanish moss.  For the time being, they are still happy on my front porch.  But when I bring them indoors for the winter, I might be looking to set up some scaled-back version of this idea.

Flora growing from a stump, live Spanish moss in the background.


I  could go on and on about what we saw at The Spheres, but instead I will leave you with this little slide show (which is just a tiny fraction of what we saw on our visit) in hopes that you might find some inspiration of your own.  

[ngg src=”galleries” display=”basic_slideshow”] 

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

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DIY Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens are trending, and it’s no wonder since they are a great way to maximize a small garden space or dress up a bland wall or fence.  Vertical plant hangers of all sizes are easy to find.



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Dan’s Garage Rebuild

Today I have two exciting announcements.  The first is that I’m introducing my new Summer Guest Writer series.  This summer, from time to time, I’ll be handing over the keyboard to some talented voices who will be giving us fresh home and garden inspiration.

Secondly, my dear brother Dan (aka “The Mad Scientist”) is our first guest writer!  I cannot think of a better way to kick off my new series.  Besides always having a DIY project or two going on at his own house (including his amazing dining room remodel), Dan did the window trim in Mom’s sunroom, built my beautiful vintage-inspired greenhouse lights and, more recently, built the perfect corner cabinet for our laundry room remodel.

But right now he is sharing the DIY rebuild of his vintage garage – which he did on a budget with reclaimed materials.  Don’t miss the before and after at the end!

So without further delay, here’s Dan:

My Garage Rebuild

My sister thinks of me as somewhat of a mad scientist, but I’m also a homeowner and occasionally I find myself mired in the tedium that all homeowners face from time to time.

So one day I saw what looked like a little dry rot at the left corner of my garage door frame. Upon closer inspection, I realized the whole front facade was rotting and had to be replaced.

I was looking at two months of nights and weekends working on this. I could have just hired someone but, knowing I was handy enough to do this myself, my frugality won out.

Also I thought it would be fun to give the garage a facelift rather than just replace the rotted lumber.

Garage before rehab.
What I had to start with.

I began searching the web for images of late Victorian and early Craftsman style houses and garages looking for designs or specific design elements I liked.

Once I had several ideas in my head, I started sketching them up. After several re-designs, here’s the plan I came up with:

The Plan
The Plan.


Once I had a plan I liked, it was time to develop a shopping list and see what building materials I might already have left over from previous projects.

The plan changed a bit when I realized the old garage door was a custom size. Rather than spending extra on a custom door, I decided to adjust the size of the opening. Losing only 6 inches on each side saved me about $350. I can live with that.



With all my building materials and a new garage door ready for installation, it was time to start the demolition. Some people love demolition, but I find it irritating and hazardous. But the dry rot hadn’t evolved into toxic mold yet, so…yay!

After relieving the tension on the old garage door counterbalance spring (those suckers could take your hand off if you’re not careful) and relocating a light switch, it was time to put on a dust mask and go at it with a sledge and crow bar.

Sometimes you find interesting things while doing demo. I discovered that the original door spanned the full width of the garage. The previous owner probably had to replace the door, and in doing so made the opening more narrow. It was this previous remodel that was rotting away.

The original lumber that the garage was built with was still in pretty good shape after 110 years. Only the old door trim was beginning to rot. It was pretty easy to replace.

Originally it was probably a double sliding door or a pair of bifolds, maybe something like one of these:

Old garages
What the old door may have looked like.


I also found copper framing nails in some places. I never knew such a thing existed.

Wood with a copper nail
A copper nail!


After doing a little research, I found out that, decades ago, copper nails were recommended for use in pressure treated lumber, although none of the lumber I had to tear out was pressure treated (which was why I had to tear it out).

Old garage door
Broken, rotting garage door


I kept the garbage pile neatly stacked so as not to annoy the neighbors.


Assembling the new door sections, tracks and tension springs turned out to be a two-day project. The assembly instructions said I should expect it to take 5 hours.

The amount of hardware that comes with a new garage door is incredible.


Garage door hardware
Box 1 of 3!



With Fall rapidly approaching, I decided to turn my attention to getting the siding and windows installed.

I needed two different kinds of siding, two windows, a little bit of tongue & groove beadboard, and some trim. I decided to go with PVC for the beadboard and trim. That stuff never rots. But I wanted the windows and siding to look like they were original to the garage.

Time to start poking around the salvage shops.  I wanted traditional lap siding for the sections on either side of the door, and cedar shingles for the gable section. I found both for less than half the price of the big box stores.

The shingles were unused, unpainted leftovers from a job someone over-estimated. The lap siding had nail holes and peeling paint but, for the price, I was willing to do a little sanding and scraping.

I bought about 25% more than I needed but, due to splitting and other flaws I didn’t see when I bought it, it was just barely enough.

reclaimed lumber
Needs work, but you can’t beat the price.


reclaimed lumber
Here you can see where there was ivy growing.


I also bought two windows at the salvage shop. They needed to be trimmed down a bit to fit between the existing studs, but they were in fine shape and required far less work than the siding.

Even the old paint color worked for me.

Reclaimed windows
Just a good cleaning and trimming down to size was all these windows needed.


It’s starting to take shape!


DIY garage rebuild
It really comes together with the trim in place.


DIY garage rebuild
I used a straight edge to keep everything level.


Now I had to do the beadboard at the gable above the windows. I made a template out of scrap wood to make sure the fitment was spot on. Then I glued the sections of beadboard together.

Once the glue set, I marked it with the template and cut it down to size. It fit perfectly!

Gable template


Gable template


DIY garage rebuild


The weather took a turn, so I had to put off the spackling and touch-up painting, and instead work on installing the garage door opener.

I was blown away by the features available on openers these days. I didn’t need WiFi connectivity or Bluetooth, or alerts sent to my iTelphone, but they still make good old fashioned “push a button and it opens and closes” garage door openers.

They just make them better now.

I got one with a DC motor so it can open slowly at first and then speed up instead of just jerking the door open.  That’s easier on the mechanical components of the opener and the door. It’s tiny but powerful.


garage door openers - old vs. new
Garage door openers: Old vs. new.


garage door opener hardware
Great. More hardware.


My original design called for a lantern on either side of the door, but those lanterns would have been right at eye level and kind of blinding instead of shining the light down onto the driveway where I needed it.

So I decided instead to look for something like this:


The price for one of these new would  break the budget so, once again, my frugality is getting the best of me.  I’ve decided to make my own.  In a previous post, I made a rustic pendant barn light out of a $14 heat lamp, so maybe you’ll see this build in a future blog post.

But right now, summer is starting to roll around again and I have other projects needing my attention. A homeowner’s work is never done.

In Summary

I wasn’t really looking for a late-summer remodel project, but all in all it went pretty well and there weren’t too many unpleasant surprises. Plus I learned a few things along the way, which is always fun.

Let’s take another look at what I started with.  This was the garage before:

Garage before rehab


And here it is now:


My design also called for a trellis over the door, but I’ve gotten so many compliments on this from neighbors and passers-by already that I’m going to leave it as-is. Maybe at a later time, if I feel the design is getting stale, I’ll add a trellis and a wisteria to grow on it.  But for now I think this is fine.


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


Here you’ll find seasonal goodies, my current decor obsessions, and more!


Want to see more? Browse my photo gallery or check out these categories:

Our Kitchen Remodel Series
Our Master Bath Remodel Series
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Dan’s Workshop
Decorating and Holidays
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Lobsters, Lanterns, and Paul Revere

My husband Chris and I are pretty sensible people.  We tend to plan and think things through – usually.  But if you’ve ever read my About page, you know that our decision to buy our 1927 cottage was impulsive and driven by passion rather than reason.

And so was our recent trip back east.

It all happened because of Chris’s latest obsession:  Collecting and restoring vintage Coleman lanterns.

Turns out there’s a club for that – the International Coleman Collectors Club (or “ICCC”).  And just a few weeks ago, Chris found out that they were about to have their annual convention.  In Massachusetts.  A five hour flight for us.

Chris asked me if I’d go with him.

I booked our flights before he could change his mind.

But of course, I told him, we couldn’t go all that way just for the convention.  That would be silly.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity to check a couple more things off my bucket list.

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor

I feel so fortunate to live on the West Coast where we enjoy beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.

The last rays of sun at Grayland Beach State Park in Washington State.

But I’m always curious about that “other” big ocean way across the country where the sun rises.  Maine in particular seemed so intriguing and romantic to me:  Rugged coastlines, old lighthouses, grizzled fishermen, colorful buoys – and Acadia National Park.

So as soon as our plane landed in Boston, we headed up the coast to the village of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine

I didn’t really have time to research Bar Harbor before our trip.  I’d always pictured it as rustic and weathered:  Crusty fishermen wearing heavy wool sweaters and pulling lobster traps off their boats.

But it was more gentrified than that:  Lots of great shops and restaurants, and many intriguing lodging options.

Eventually I did find my colorful buoys.

Bar Harbor, Maine

The best part is that Bar Harbor is at the entrance to Acadia National Park.

As national parks go, Acadia is small.  But there’s a lot to see.  On our first day in the park, we enjoyed the rugged coastline.

We caught a glimpse of the remote Egg Island Lighthouse before a heavy blanket of fog moved in.

Egg Island Lighthouse, Maine

And watched water rush through Thunder Hole.

Thunder Hole, Acadia National Park, Maine

We took a murky hike to the summit of Gorham Mountain – all 525 feet.  We learned that these mountains were once much taller, but over the ages erosion has worn them down to their granite bases.

I liked that we got to experience the Maine fog, even if it meant missing the views.

The next day the sun came out, and we made up for lost time.

We hiked at Cadillac Mountain.

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

We explored the carriage roads and magnificent stone bridges at Logan Pond.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr had these roads and bridges built when he owned the land.

Carriage Road, Acadia National Park, Maine

Carriage Road Bridge, Acadia National Park, Maine

And we visited the Bass Harbor lighthouse.

Bass Harbor Lighthouse, Maine

This part of Maine smells so good.  Everywhere we went, we were either smelling the fresh ocean air or the fragrant balsam fir.

The L.L.Bean headquarters are a few hours south of Bar Harbor in Freeport, Maine.  There are several  L.L.Bean stores located there and, when we walked into the first one, there it was again:  That smell of balsam fir.  So I bought it to take home.

I’m looking forward to making sachets with the large bag of balsam fir needles.

We also found a drying rack for our laundry room at an antique store.  It’s still working its way across the country to its new home on the West Coast.

But it’s time to move on to the world of vintage lanterns.

All Things Coleman

We headed to rural, inland Massachusetts – to the tiny town of Winchendon.  Here, collectors of all things Coleman, but especially vintage lanterns, were having their annual convention at the senior center.

Now coming from the Pacific Northwest, where our architecture is relatively new, I imagined the senior center to be a dated one-story  building with dingy linoleum floors.

Here is what I found.

Old Murdock Senior Center

The Old Murdock Senior Center was built in the 1880s and was originally a public high school.

Old Murdock Senior Center

In the auditorium, Coleman collectors from around the world shared their treasures, their stories, and their knowledge.

Vintage Coleman

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

From the unusual to the rustic, it was all here.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

One of the first Coleman lanterns: An Arc lantern, circa 1915.

We were newcomers to the club, and everyone was so welcoming. On the second evening, we joined them in a “light up” outside the senior center.  It was their way of honoring members who had passed – and it was beautiful.

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

Vintage Coleman Lanterns

But it was almost time to fly home, and we were only about an hour and a half from Boston.


We’d visited Boston before, and I just have to say that I love Boston. I love the architecture, the people, and most of all the history.  This is where it all began for the United States.

On our previous visit, we only saw the first part of Boston’s Freedom Trail.  So this time we started at Bunker Hill Monument and worked our way back to Paul Revere Square.

We toured the USS Constitution.  “Old Ironsides,” as they call her, is actually made of live oak.

UCC Constitution

Launched in 1797, she was the second battleship ever to be built for the U.S. Navy.  And she fought pirates.

USS Constitution

No trip to Boston is complete without a visit to a colonial-era graveyard.  We visited Copp’s Hill Burying Ground.  Some of the deceased buried here were born in the 1500s!

Colonial Graveyard, Boston

I loved the timing of our Boston visit:  Right before the 4th of July. There is no better reminder of what Independence Day is really about than touring the Old North Church, where the “one if by land, two if by sea” signal was sent from.

Old North Churck

And admiring a bronze statue of Paul Revere.

Paul Revere and St. Stephens Church

So, to my American readers, Happy Independence Day!

And liberty forever.


A cannon port on the USS Constitution

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Disclosure:  Affiliate links are used below.


  • Chris loves collecting vintage Coleman lanterns because he enjoys searching for them, and often the ones he finds are very affordable.  They don’ take up much space to store or display.  Etsy always seems to have a fun selection of all things Coleman.   Remember though that there is a lot to learn about safely lighting these lanterns.  Please use caution and do your research.
  • The drying rack I found at the antique store is probably not an antique.  But I love it because it’s expandable, and it has a shelf and pegs for more storage.  It look almost exactly like this one on
  • The fragrance of balsam fir comes in many forms.  Now I wish I’d bought the adorable cabin incense burner.  I still might.

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Little Treasures in the Park

I love it when I stumble upon beautiful architecture in unlikely places.

In my last post, I talked about our vintage Airstream, which we took on a camping trip to Deception Pass State Park.  We camped in the park so that my husband, Chris, could be close to his volunteer work helping with a fish count in Bowman Bay.

Chris at fish count

And while he worked, I explored the bay.  As expected, I found tide pools, sweeping water vistas, seals, and birds.

But I wasn’t expecting stunning architecture with a link to the past. Right there among the clam shells and the picnic benches, a little window into the Great Depression opened for me.  And although I don’t usually post about U.S. history, I hope you’ll indulge me this time.

Hard Times, Strong People

My discovery began with this sign.

CCC Interpretive Center Sign

The Civilian Conservation Corps Interpretive Center is a nice mini-museum that, in a nutshell, tells a story of human resilience and of how beautiful things can come from desperate times.

It’s located in a former bathhouse built during the Great Depression.

CCC Interpretive Center

Its construction was part of a public work relief program under Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).

Young men who joined the CCC worked on improving and developing government lands all across the country.  They stocked lakes and planted trees.  They learned valuable skills while constructing roads, canals, and bridges.

Beautiful Reminders

They also constructed recreational buildings like this one.  They built them with style, and they built them to last.  I love the heavy stone exterior of this building and the extra little detail of having the stones curve in before they meet the wooden crossbeam.

CCC Picnic Shelter

There were a few other gems sitting quietly among the trees.

My favorite was this recently restored – and pretty spectacular- picnic shelter.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The amount and the quality of the wood used in this place is staggering.  I can’t image a public picnic shelter like this being built today.

CCC Picnic Shelter

Family reunion in here?  Sign me up.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

For a young man trying to weather the Great Depression, a CCC camp must have been a very desirable possibility indeed.  Workers were given wages, food, lodging, and medical care.

CCC Picnic Shelter interior

Most of the men working in the CCC were young – under 29 years of age.  Apparently they were quick studies because their craftsmanship was amazing.  At another nearby picnic shelter, stonework is the star of the show.

CCC Picnic Shelter

CCC Picnic Shelter

The CCC program only lasted about a decade, but it gave us so many little national treasures.  I see structures like these sprinkled in parks all over my home state of Washington, and I always find them intriguing.  Some are just restrooms, but they are the cutest and sturdiest restrooms you’ll ever see.

The best thing about these treasures is that they are accessible to all of us.   So next time you’re in a park, take a second look and see what little gem you find.

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Treasure Under the Sea: The Marine Building

Watching for Architecture

Sometimes in our busy lives, it’s easy to walk the streets caught up in our thoughts, or maybe our cell phones, and miss the architectural treasures standing silently in our midst.

So whenever I’m in a city – be it my hometown or any other city – I try to look up.  I am always on the lookout for the Victorian, the Edwardian, or the art deco.

While in Vancouver B.C. for a conference recently, this old art deco skyscraper stopped me in my tracks.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

What a classic.  My standard procedure when I see a building like this is to check out the lobby.

And when the entrance looks like this, chances are pretty good that the inside is even better.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - entrance

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - entrance closeup

Turns out I had stumbled upon the Marine Building, once the tallest building in the British Empire.  It was completed in 1930 and restored in the 1980s.  And, as its name suggests, it boasts a marine décor theme.

Directly overhead at the building entrance is this whimsical terracotta scene.  If you look carefully, you can see all kinds of sea life.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - terracotta detail

The brass doors are surrounded by sea creatures.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - front door detail

And several panels, like this one, pay homage to the sea exploration that shaped the region.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - ship panel detail

A Watery Wonderland

In the lobby, the marriage of art deco style and nautical whimsy continues.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator lobby

Wall lighting comes from the prows of small terracotta ships, complete with nautical figureheads and waves.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - light fixture

The brass elevator doors sport what appear to be underwater gardens.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator door

Between the elevators, whales playfully chase ships.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator detail

While an elaborately framed panel tells office workers where their elevators are, as it has for 85 years.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator buttons

The floor features the signs of the zodiac.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - zodiac floor

And the phone booths are protected by a little ship at sea.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - phone booths

The ceiling is beautifully detailed.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - lobby ceiling

And the elevators are set off by sturdy alcoves.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - elevator alcove

King Neptune is probably around here somewhere, but it would take hours to notice every detail in this lobby.  So let’s go back outside, because there is more to see there too.

A Man-Made Sea Cliff

Not by accident, the exterior of the Marine Building looks a bit like a shell-encrusted sea cliff.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

Panels across the front of the building focus on modes of transportation.  To me, this zeppelin panel epitomizes the art deco ideal.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - zeppelin detail

Marine life frolics above the windows.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - exterior detail

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - seahorse

Past and present meet as the Marine Building is reflected in a modern glass skyscraper.

relectionArt deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding

The distorted reflection is only fitting for a building that was completed around the time of the stock market crash and the great depression.  A skittish public avoided renting space in the grand and expensive-looking building, and it was soon sold to the Irish Guinness family at a loss.

Not that the turtle cares.

Art deco skyscraper - The Marine Buiding - night bell

I was in Vancouver to attend Blogpodium, a Canadian conference for lifestyle bloggers.  As a visiting American blogger, I can say that I found Blogpodium relevant, helpful, and fun.  It was interesting to hear about the creative and unique things that other bloggers are doing in their own little corners of the blogosphere.  And my brain is still processing everything that I learned.

I even won a nice door prize, which I plan to write about soon.


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