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.


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
Bathroom after with Cararra marble and new shower caddy

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.


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.


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


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.

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.


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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.

Disclosure: Affiliate links were used in this post.

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.

Burkedecor.com is all new

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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A Site I Love – And a DIY Chandelier Upgrade

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

One of my favorite places to visit for DIY inspiration is Remodelaholic.  It’s always interesting to see what Cass and Justin are working on in their project houses.  I love that they are all about the “re” – repurposing, reusing, reclaiming.  I especially enjoy their retro remodels.  And their contributors and guest bloggers bring so much variety and creativity to the table.

So of course I was thrilled when Remodelaholic invited me to be a guest blogger and talk about our master bathroom remodel.  If you get a chance, hop over to Remodelaholic and check out my post.

Writing a new post for Remodelaholic about my master bathroom meant looking at it with fresh eyes.  When I step into my master bathroom, I tend to see the big picture: The natural light, the airiness,

Master Bath remodel

and the sweet little black cat who is drawn to the room’s heated floor.

Master bath remodel
Priscilla ignoring her human while soaking up the heat

But in writing the post, I focused on the details again.  And one tiny detail still bothered me.

Plain Chain

I love our beautiful Spanish chandelier.  But I was recently in an antique store where all of their chandeliers had silk sleeves covering their chains.  They made the chandeliers look so elegant and substantial.

So then the chain on our chandelier started to bug me.  Some chandelier chains are ornate, but this one is nothing special.

chandelier before
Yes, I really climbed a ladder with my nice camera to get this photo.

A Budget Fix

A chandelier chain sleeve can cost upwards of $25.  But yesterday I made my own for 80 cents.  Here is how I did it.


  • A piece of fabric that is 7 inches wide and twice the length of the chain to be covered
  • Matching thread
  • Thin twine or yarn
  • Scissors/sewing machine/tape measure/pins and a needle

The How-To

My method is an adaptation of a method I found here.  The chain has an electrical cord running through it, which I made sure was in good condition before covering it with fabric.

  • I chose a silver fabric with an elegant, silky texture.  My chain was 17 inches long, so I needed fabric with at least a 34-inch width, which was easy to find.  I had the fabric store cut me just a quarter yard of the fabric.  It was on sale – which is why I only paid 80 cents.  All other materials I had on hand.
  • I cut the fabric to size – 7 inches wide and 34 inches long.
  • I machine hemmed each short end of the fabric.
  • Then I cut two 40-inch pieces of twine.  I wanted the pieces of twine to be longer than the length of the fabric.
  • Then I made a half-inch fold on each long side of the fabric, placed the twine inside the fold, and pinned it, creating a pocket for the twine.  The photo below better explains it.

DIy chandelier chain sleeve - materials

  • Then I sewed the pockets closed with a sewing machine, making sure not to sew over the twine.

DIy chandelier chain sleeve -

I made sure that a little bit of twine was extending past the ends of the fabric at all times.  It’s no fun at all if the twine gets lost inside the pocket of the fabric.

  • Then I held the ends of the twine and scrunched the fabric together until it was 17 inches – the length of the chain.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

  • Then the fun really started. I climbed up on a ladder with this scrunched piece of fabric and, using the twine, tied one end to the top of the chain and the other end to the bottom.  Then as best I could, I scrunched the fabric around the chain.  It took a little tweaking to get it just right, but it really wasn’t difficult.
  • I cut away the excess twine.
  • Then I repositioned the ladder so I could put in some hand stitches to bring the seams together.  I made stitches in about five places along the length of the sleeve to close it up.
DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve
I stitched in about five places to hold the two seams together in the back of this chandelier sleeve.
  • I made sure the stitched seams faced the back of the room so they aren’t easily seen.  But even so, it does’t really look that bad – certainly better than the chain.


Here is how it looks from the front.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Just the little finishing touch the room needed.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Hmm, now the light bulbs are starting to bug me.  But that is for another day.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Now remember, this post is for entertainment purposes only.  I try some stupid stunts sometimes, so any attempts at overhead stitching while teetering on a ladder are at your own peril.

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The Inspired Room Tour – Our Master Bath Remodel

Everyone takes a different approach to remodeling and decorating.  Some people jump right in.  But Chris and I waited a couple of years before making any big changes to our 1927 cottage-style house.  We kind of loved it the way it was, quirks and all, and we wanted to get to really know the house first.

When we did start, the first project we undertook was unlike anything either of us had tried before:  We turned our small half-bath into a large master bathroom by adding a roof dormer.  Which basically means we gained much of the needed space from that underrated commodity:  Thin air.

So when I was recently given the opportunity to participate in The Inspired Room Tour, choosing a room that inspired me was easy.  Because standing at the window of our master bathroom, I always marvel that, before the remodel, I would have actually been standing outside on the roof!

The Inspired Room Tour

I am very excited to be participating in The Inspired Room Tour, which is taking place in conjunction with the release of Melissa Michaels’s wonderful new book, The Inspired Room: Simple Ideas to Love the Home You Have

The Inspired Room

Melissa is a New York Times best-selling author and also has a blog, The Inspired Room, where the tour will be featured.  For some real eye candy, check out this link to all the other beautiful rooms on the tour.  The link  will be updated as more room tours are submitted.

As for my own room tour, we start with . . .

The Hole Where the Rain Comes In

By cutting a big hole in our roof  . . .

hole in roof

And adding a dormer, we went from this cramped half bath . . .

Master half bath before remodel
Half bath before remodel
Master half bath during demolition.
Half bath during demolition




To this full master bathroom.

What We Learned Along the Way

I learned that Chris is more creative than I knew.  It was his idea to go with a cathedral ceiling, which adds such a spacious feel to the room and is probably the best feature.  Once again, thin air wins!

Bathroom with cathedral ceiling

And I learned that I have a knack for finding the best uses for odd-shaped nooks and crannies, like this makeup desk under the south roof slope.

makeup desk

And this built-in linen closet under the north roof slope.

linen closet

We both learned a lot from touring remodeled homes and sifting through books and magazines.  We found that Carrara marble and nickel plating had the timeless look we wanted.

And we learned that what we loved was not necessarily more expensive than other options.

nickel pated faucet

Which leads me to . . .

Working Within Our Budget

My dream bathroom would have had porcelain subway tile wainscoting.  But in reality, that was not even close to being within our budget.  So we chose bead board.

Toilet alcove

We found a vintage claw foot tub at a salvage shop for a great price.


But some things could not be compromised, such as Chris’s wish to have a separate walk-in shower.

shower and vanity

The Personal Touches

The cute washstand, which houses my vintage linen collection, comes from Chris’s mother, Betty.  She meticulously refinished this piece years ago.

wash stand

And the stained glass windows above it are windows I found in a salvage shop over 20 years ago and had framed.

The pitcher and washbowl belonged to Chris’s grandmother.

antique pitcher and washbowl

The Aesthetic

With a 1927 house, it was a no-brainer to make the master bathroom look as original to the house as possible. Windows, moldings, and built-in cabinets all had to match the original features of the house.

Our hope is that the remodel will never look dated.  Instead, it will always be an integral, seamless part of our old house.  This remodel is now ten years old, and I like to think it’s worked so far.

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A DIY Barn Light for a Vintage Garage

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If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that my brother, Dan, made some gorgeous rustic hanging lights for my new greenhouse.

Rustic DIY Hanging Lights

My greenhouse, with its curved walls, really had the potential to be so much more than a utilitarian workspace – more interesting and more charming.  It just needed the right accessories, lighting being high on the list.  And these lights really delivered.

Now Dan is at it again.  Only this time, he’s bringing old-world charm to another workspace with loads of potential:  His 1908 garage.  And he’s doing it with a vintage-inspired barn light that he made himself.

Today, he has graciously agreed to be my guest writer and share how he did it.  Here is his story:

The Problem

A boring plastic light socket and curly CFL bulb mounted to a plastic electrical box in an otherwise vintage 1908 garage. Sure it’s just a garage, but there’s no reason it has to look bad.

old light

The Solution

I saw a vintage-looking barn light in a lighting catalog, but I wasn’t too fond of the nearly $300 price tag.

So, figuring I could do better, I picked up an aluminum work light at a local hardware store for $12. It had a high-quality thick electrical cord and porcelain socket.

aluminum light03

I also picked up some high-temperature spray paint in white and black, and an outlet and faceplate in brown.

spray paintswitch plate cover and plug


After taking the light apart, I gave the inside of the aluminum shade a coat of the white spray paint, and it turned out looking like antique white enamel. Just the look I was hoping for.

shade after painting
Aluminum shade after applying off-white paint.

Once that dried I gave the outside of the shade and the socket a coat of the black paint. The black paint would be a base coat for the Modern Masters Metal Effects iron paint I planned to use.

Fun Fact: Paint fumes can cause brain damage and death.

I like my brain cells and plan to keep them.  When undertaking a project like this, I am always careful to read, understand and follow all safety precautions.

So back to the project:  When the black base coat dried, I painted the outside of the shade and socket with the Metal Effect iron paint. It goes on pretty thick, so just one coat was enough.

light after iron paint

After that dried, I sprayed on the rust activator. The iron paint has real iron in it and the rust activator causes the iron to rust, so I watched the overspray when applying the activator and made sure not to get it on anything else that could rust, like any tools I had laying nearby.

light with rust activator

After a few days, the final result turned out looking more authentic than the patina on the fixture I saw in the catalog.

DIY Barn Light
After the iron paint and rust activator were applied, this aluminum utility light looked like a salvage yard find.

After painting the blue plastic electrical box with a textured black paint I had left over from another project, I swapped out the CFL and socket with the brown outlet and cover plate.

finished outlet
Plastic electrical box after getting a spray paint makeover.

Now my garage looks less utilitarian and more vintage. So the hunt begins for some antique tools to hang on the walls to complete the look!

The finished product!
The finished product!

A pretty imaginative project, and  I thank Dan for sharing it with us.  This ruggedly handsome light looks like it’s been around for years, and it really adds to the magic of his old-world garage.

Let’s have another look at the before and after.

Aluminum light

Finished DIY Barn Light
Barn light illuminated.

Now remember, this post is for entertainment only.  I call my brother “The Mad Scientist” for a reason, and any attempts to copy his work are at your own peril.


Handmade barn lights come in so many fun variations.  The possibilities are endless.  Check out these and many others on Etsy.


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Dan’s other projects:

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

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Bringing the Arched Doorways Back

I just love houses that were built in the 1920s.  Architects from that era seemed to be in a kind of fantasy state and really had some fun when they designed  them.

Even the more ordinary homes, like our 1927 cottage, shun straight lines wherever possible in favor of curves, coves, and arches.

Something Was Off

When my husband Chris and I bought our house, it had a coved ceiling in the living room.  Most 1920s houses with coved ceilings also have some arched doorways.  But the doorways between the living room, dining room, and kitchen were squared off and plain.

Squared off doorways before remodel
Squared-off entry to kitchen before our remodel

Eventually we learned that the doorways in question were originally arched but had been squared off as part of a 1950s kitchen remodel.

Bringing Back the Arched Doorways

We remodeled the kitchen and, while we were at it, we decided to do a few things to bring back the original charm of the house, including restoring the arches.

Arched doorways
Arched entry to kitchen after our remodel


Arched doorways
The two arched doorways after our remodel: One between the living room and the dining room, and one between the dining room and the kitchen.

We knew bringing back the arched doorways would be tricky since if the pitch of the arch was wrong, it still wouldn’t look original.  In fact, if done wrong, it could wind up looking pretty silly.

Finding the Right Pitch

Chris made arrangements to look at several 1920s houses that still had their arched doorways.

He needed two good examples:  An arch for a wider (almost six-foot) expanse, for our living room-dining room transition, and a narrower arch (three and a half feet) for our dining room-kitchen doorway.

When he found examples of arches that would work, he traced them onto large sheets of masking paper to serve as templates.

Adding the Curves

Our carpenter, Bruce, who was working on our kitchen remodel, built wooden arch frames to fit the existing doorways using the templates that Chris had traced.

Framing in the arches
Framing in the arches

The kitchen was already torn down to the studs for the remodel, so this was the perfect time to frame in the arches.

Lots of Plaster

Our drywaller then worked his magic blending the arches seamlessly into the new kitchen drywall, as well as into the existing plaster in the dining room.

Drywall almost done
Kitchen remodel drywall


Sheetrock and plaster
Living room-dining room arch plastered and ready for paint


Since we added the arches, we needed to paint not only the new kitchen remodel, but also the living room and dining room.  For our kitchen, we used Valspar Butter and for the dining room, Valspar Honey Pot.

kitchen remodel 025
Chris painting the dining room.

White walls are so popular now, especially in rooms that get little natural light.  But with all the light our living room gets, it can take a strong color.  It took me a while to sell Chris on this murky, tarnished gold but now he loves it too.


kitchen remodel 024b
Chris working on the living room paint

It is an Olympic color called Earthy Ocher.

It looks elegant with art work and gold frames.

Paint closeup

The ocher color pops against the soft white trim color.

Wall and trim paint.

It’s surprisingly neutral and works with many other colors.

Ocher wall paint and cream curtains.

New Old Lights

Now we needed the finishing touches: 1920s light fixtures in the dining room and living room.

Vintage lighting can be pretty spendy, but we trolled eBay until we found some little gems that fit our budget.

We got this light for the dining room.

dining room light
Vintage chandelier


Dining room light detail
Chandelier base

And this one for the living room.

living room light
Vintage living room light

There was no overhead light fixture in the living room before we installed this one.  Chris climbed into the attic space above the living room and measured to exactly where the middle of the living room would be to install the electrical box for the light.

When he got to that location, he found the remnants of an old electrical box.  So originally there had been an overhead light in the living room, presumably another casualty of the 1950s remodel.

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How to Survive A Kitchen Remodel

You might be wondering how we avoided starving during a major kitchen remodel that wound up growing and spilling into other parts of the house.

Options for Surviving a Kitchen Remodel

Everyone deals with a major remodel differently.  You can:

  1. Dine out every evening;
  2. Eat fast food and takeout for every meal;
  3. Move in with a relative or friend and hope they still love you afterwards; or
  4. Set up a makeshift kitchen.

Setting Up A Makeshift Kitchen

We opted for number 4.  Chris set up this little kitchen in our living room.  Not much counter space, and the dishes were being washed in the laundry room, but we coped.

Our makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

Note the stylish trouble light he clipped to the curtain rod over the range for task lighting.  He got the little second-hand range on Craigslist, and it was actually from a trailer.*  It kind of felt like we were camping in our living room, and I suspect Chris actually enjoyed this.

But he was pretty amazing.  The remodel was done around the holidays, so his workload was light and, most days, he was able to spend all day working with our carpenter, Bruce.  But Chris also made lunch for himself and Bruce in the little kitchen, and often he had dinner and a glass of wine ready for me when I got home from work.

Wine definitely helps when your olive oil and your wall paint wind up living side by side and you’ve completely given up on housekeeping.

Makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

As the remodel encroached further and further into the rest of the house, we had to move the makeshift kitchen first to the office and later to the upstairs landing.  Each time, the kitchen got a little smaller.  Eventually we had to put the fridge on the front porch.

But by this time, I just happy to still have my morning coffee, even if I had to go outside for the milk.  Because by then, the end was in sight, and it was well worth it.

*Always consult a professional before installing or using a trailer range in your house.

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