I Got 99 Problems But the Deck Ain’t One

Like most homes in the south our little abode has a deck in the backyard. There’s nothing really special about it…just a standard rectangle deck.  Other than the red color, there was nothing offensive about it. It’s redeeming feature was it’s size (that’s what she said). The deck spans almost the entire length of the house. So, in that regard…nice.  However, after spending some actual time living and using the deck we discovered a “usability” problem. This giant deck only had one tiny, crooked staircase to get into the yard.

Let me back up a second and explain why that’s such a big deal. The backyard is a main attraction…an oasis if you will. It’s a fenced in beauty that neighbors have actually admitted to coveting (Yeah, it’s weird). My point being, this deck was actually preventing you from really enjoying and accessing the the yard.

I mentioned it in passing to my dad. Or as he should probably be called “The Deck Master.” This man just really loves building decks…really nice decks. As I was saying, I mentioned my annoyance that there was only one way to get off the deck (unless you were willing to hurl yourself over the rail) and before I could finish he said “I’ll come over this weekend and take a look at it.” Oh, sweet. This was a bit surprising because he was so adamantly against helping us build a TV built-in. “You stick to what you know,” he said.

That weekend he came over and took a look and he didn’t seem too impressed. I could see his eyes judging its inferiority. Then, like fate he was walking down the staircase and the last step collapsed! And if you knew my dad, he’s not a big guy…muy tiny in a masculine way of course.

The Deck Master: “How the hell did this thing pass inspection?”

The Deck Master: “Look at it, it’s crooked!”

Me: “Uh, I dunno. It’s always been like that?”

The Deck Master: “We’ll have to start over.”

Me: “Ooook.” I’m gunna go inside…it’s hot.”

Honestly, I’m not sure how this conversation concluded…but I’m sure it was me going inside. Here’s a picture of the culprit. The death staircase!

CrookedStairs

Over the next couple weeks we discussed ideas for the deck. Our ideas ranged from simple. Aka, adding another set of stairs and rebuilding the crappy crooked staircase. To what evolved to the epic deck we have today. Whilst we were brainstorming my dad said:

The Deck Master: “You know what’s a shame? That stupid railing prevents you from actually seeing the yard.”

Me: “Huh, you’re right. I hadn’t thought about that.”

The Deck Master: “Why don’t we build it so it doesn’t have railings?

Me: “Duh!”

I mean look, he’s totally right. The railing totally separates the yard from the deck rather than them naturally leading into each other.

blockedView

So, he sketched out an idea…a crazy smart idea. Keeping the base/foundation and size of the deck. But instead of adding railings and 2 staircases, we were going to add a staircase around the entire deck. Brilliant! Keeping safety in mind, we added some built-in seats to prevent people from falling off the corners/ends.  Once we all agreed, we started building. By ‘we’ I mean The Deck Master and T. (Not me)

diagram

First things first…the boys got to destroy something. Their smiles were un-matched as they took a sledgehammer to the railings. In order to keep the deck usable while it was being built we decided to build it in 2 stages. First we’d tackle the left, then the right. Everything went pretty smoothly. I guess that’s what you get when you work with a Deck Master. The only tiny snafu occurred when they got to the corner (where the staircases had to connect). While they are building this section I came outside to check it out and here’s how it went down (some drama may or may not have been added):

Me: Uh, guys the corner isn’t straight.

Boys: Yes it is.

Me: Um, no. It’s not.  (This went on until the next day).

Dad: The next day. I think it is actually crooked. I was aligning it to the original deck.

Me: You mean the one that we are replacing b/c it’s crooked?

Dad: The stink-eye and a smile were given.

Boys: Man, we’re going to have to redo this WHOLE section. Tear it all out and start over.

Me: Um…

Boys: All that work and time was for nothing…DAMN.

Me: Um, guys…

Boys: We’ll have to go get so much more wood…

Me: Guys…

Boys: We’ll have to cut all these pieces and pull up all these boards.

Me: GUYS! Why can’t we just cut this little piece and just pivot the frame?

Boys: Huh.

Me: I’ll be inside if you need me.

mic drop

After this, the build continued on flawlessly…here are some in progress shots. Because there’s something so fascinating about wood framing. (Maybe that’s just me?)

inBuildDeck

I would have loved to say that nothing was harmed during this project. However, we did have casualties of construction. We lost three beautiful hostas, sad face. We tried to move them to another location…however we unknowingly handed them to the voles on a silver platter. Lets have a moment of silence for the plants that were lost.

Hostas

Ok, that’s enough. 🙂 Without further ado, here’s the new deck. Isn’t she pretty?! It’s so functional, incorporated, and modern. It really does link the house to the backyard. We couldn’t be more happy with the outcome! I mean look at it …

BeforeAfterDeck

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DIY Custom Frames

You wouldn’t be able to tell based on my excessive “DIY” pinboard. However, this project wasn’t actually meant to be a DIY project. I fully intended this to be a simple purchase, enjoy, and move on sort of thing…but sometimes you just gotta roll with it.

Now that we’ve completed most of the “big projects” I’ve started to focus my attention on adding some flair. I’m starting to think about photos, art, collectables, and decor to define “our look”. The first thing I wanted to add was a small collection of prints. My grandparent’s purchased them at the 1947 World’s Fair and I’ve been dying to display them. They are bright watercolors depicting foreign cities across the world. Out of the 9 photos, I chose four vertical photos that I wanted to frame.

A friend of mine mentioned that she was going to IKEA so I asked her to pick up some frames for me. I measured the photos and decided upon the 19×24 inch frames. I wanted a thick mat and these frames would allow 5-6 inches around the photos. I was so proud of myself. I’d decided on the artwork, I’d picked out the frames. All I had to do was pop the prints into the frames then I’d be done! We’ll, I was wrong. However, the good news is that you get to benefit from my ignorance. Let’s begin shall we?

Once home, I promptly opened the frames to lay my photos in and finish this project. However, I ran into a problem. Three mattes were white and one was off-white, WHAT THE? Not even 2 and 2! ARG. This threw a wrench in my OSD world. On to plan B.

  • PLAN B: Go to Michaels to buy mattes using my coupons.

*Skip to me rocking back-and-forth in the fetal position in Michaels* 



Of course they don’t carry metric sizes. Darn you IKEA! I love you, but this is America. Where we have measurements that make sense. I digress.

  • PLAN C: Buy mattes that are close to the correct size. Then cut them to fit.

Yes, mattes. I ended up having to buy 2 mattes for each frame because of the frame sizes. I got really large frames because I’m a fan of expansive matting. So, instead of buying 1 very expensive “custom” matte, I bought 2 so the small photos would fit in the big frames! Here’s what I did to customize my store bought mattes.

  1. Flipped the frame over and popped the backing out of the frames. **Careful not to break the thin glass. Not that I did that…ever.
  2. Using the backing of the frame, I traced it on the back of the larger matte. This showed me where I needed to cut the matte.
  3. With a nice pencil line as my guide I cut the matte by laying a large metal ruler next to the line and following it with an XACTO knife. **Note: This method won’t give you an angled look. However, I’m not a huge fan of angled mattes anyways because they seem a little outdated. Plus, they are wicked hard to cut.
  4. I cut the inner matte in the same manner because my OCD wouldn’t let me have a matte that was thicker on the sides. Right?! … anyone?
  5. Once I had both my mattes cut, I taped all three pieces together on the backside. This way I could check to make sure everything was centered and otherwise gorgeous.
  6. Once I was satisfied with the placement I popped all three pieces into the frame.
  7. Bam done!  Unless you have multiple frames…**Repeated this 4 times…fun.

The end result was well worth the effort. (As a side note…my walls are not actually indigo as these poor photos depict. They are more of a navy and I’m baffled by where this blue is coming from.)

Additionally, can you spot the dog in the photo above?! I didn’t event know she photo-bombed me until I uploaded the photo. She’s such a ninja. Below is a closer photo of the paintings which are still a bit blurry. I’m working with an iPhone camera people … cut me some slack! Aren’t they amazing?

Anywho, I decided to group the images in a block of four. Why? One being that I only had one wall that was only so big. And adding them in that arrangement made the room look taller. Bonus! So, the room that Taylor and I decided we’d decorate last is now the closest to being done.

I like big built-ins and I cannot lie

Along time ago in a far away land I was a young girl fresh out of college. I had a shiny new job and something I wasn’t used too…a regular pay check. I skipped down to hhgreg and bought myself a 47inch LED TV and sound system. Yeah. Take it all in. It was something that I wanted for myself that was probably not super useful but freeking awesome! Either way, this TV is now loved by T, so it obviously came with us to our new house.

In our townhouse we had the TV sitting on a buffet table my parents gave us. However, we wanted the buffet table to go back into the dining room along with it’s matching china cabinet. Plus, we didn’t really want the TV to sit on a piece of furniture in the new house because we love the way they look mounted.  The issue was that our house was built in 1984 and therefore not flat screen friendly. Actually there were only 2 options for possible TV placement: mounted above the mantle or on the small wall across from the fireplace.

We decided that the wall was a much better solution for a couple of reasons:

  • We didn’t want the TV to be the first thing you saw when you came in the front door
  • The mantle in our house is tall so we would’ve had to look way up
  • A big black TV on the mantle didn’t attractive and we preferred the mantle to be decorated
  • The TV was too big for the space over the mantle and looked very overwhelming

Once we decided upon a location T and his friend mounted the TV and drilled some holes in the wall to hide the wires. The look was somewhat underwhelming…

This may be the saddest “before” photo I’ve ever seen. Look at it! If this photo had a sound effect it would most definitely be “Womp Womp.”  And before you ask. Yes, that is a giant unicorn candle holder. Don’t judge, when I’m done with it it’s gunna be amazing! Anyway, as you can see we were using a small bookshelf my dad built for me in college. We crammed it with our DVD’s, equipment, remotes and sound system. It’s just plain sad. We knew we had to do something about it but what?! We considered a few options:

  • Buy a TV console unit
    • I don’t know what it is about TV consoles but they look cheap to me. Why? Even the pottery barn ones weren’t anything special but they cost 1000’s. What the what?!
  • Make/DIY a console unit out of a buffet or dresser
    • I had more luck in this department. However, the results were still not what I was going for. Another issue was that these pieces struggled to hold all that I wanted them too. Why? Because they weren’t built for this purpose. A lot would hold DVD’s but the sound system and equipment was a struggle.
  • Create a built-in
    • When I first proposed this option I thought that we’d never be able to afford it. So, I didn’t even take myself seriously at first. However, I came across this image on pinterest and there was no going back. It’s perfect. Clean, modern, simple, and had all the right stuff in the right places.

My hunt for a contractor was on. I asked my dad because he likes building things. I think our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, you wanna help us build a TV built-in?

Dad: No, not really.

Me: Ok, good talk.

So, I guess he was out. I asked some people at work and got some names. I called and got quotes from a few people and I was shocked that this CUSTOM unit was going to cost less than a PB TV console. Yes, custom. He asked us to sketch out what we wanted and he’d build it. What?! Have I died and gone to heaven?! I was sold immediately.

Glen, our contractor, came out to our house to measure and gather design ideas. I gave him the photo above and he customized it to fit into our space. While he was there he mentioned that there was a vent on that wall that was going to prevent us from having a wall sized unit. I wasn’t having that. SO, I suggested that we move the intake vent to the other side of the stairs. He called his buddy right there and he showed up about 15 minutes later and said that it was doable. We signed the contract that night.


Over the next couple of weeks Glen worked at his home-based shop to cut, assemble, and paint sections of our unit. Once complete he contacted us to set up a time to install the built-ins.

The install was fairly smooth except for a few minor bumps. The most time consuming part of the first day was getting all the wiring figured out. All three of us drew diagrams to tame the wires. We finally agreed a few hours later. It was actually quite complicated because we didn’t want to drill a hole in each stud for thewires. So we had to work around that. We actually lost air conditioning for a day because the wires behind the unit were so short he couldn’t move it. So, we had to have a guy come out and extend the length of the wires. Sheesh. After those small setbacks he quickly attached the main pieces to the wall with only shelves, trim and touchups left to complete.

Look at that little stinker! She photobombs me all the time! Anywho, Glen came back the next day to finish off the project. He add the trim at the top of the  unit, touched up the paint, added the floorboard trim, added the shelves and wine rack, and prettied it up. And it looks AMAZING! The built-ins make the room look taller and way more sophisticated. And the best part is that it’s actually functional. We get a lot of use out of the drawers, shelves and wine rack. We couldn’t be happier with it. Glen also liked it so much he’s putting it in his portfolio. What?! If the contractor loves it you feel even better about your project! Take a look at the finished piece below.

I just threw some of our current bobbules onto the shelves to decorate. There are a lot of pices from grandparents, travels and various other memorobelia. Like this “Genie lamp from my grandmother, some books from T’s grandfather’s library along with some of our own flair.

I’m sure the items will change and flow with time. I’m hoping to spraypaint a few pieces to start having some sort of color theme in the room. Whats the color theme? Well you’ll just have to come back and find out soon! 😉

Not-So-Mini Bathroom Makeovers

If you could see our house you’d think we just moved in, and we did…9 months ago. The house is in varying degrees of disarray depending on what projects we’re working on, how busy we are, or if I’m traveling, etc. You can’t tell at the moment but Taylor and me are actually very tidy, neat, and organized people. Do you know what happens when people are forced to live in an unorganized home? Taylor and I were suffering from clutterphobia (yeah I made it up) and the side-effects are not pretty. So, we knew getting one space organized would stop our clutter nightmares. We figured out that the 3 most used rooms in our home are: the kitchen, living room and our individual bathrooms. (Sorry folks but it’s the truth.) We knew that the kitchen and living room were uphill battles but the bathrooms were relatively simple and affordable to update.

We’ll start with my bathroom since I’m telling the story. J First let me tell you that I’ve decided upon a “theme” for my bathroom.  This is always the hardest part for me because I have to commit to one style and not put everything I like into one room.  BUT I’ll give myself a pat on the back because I’m in love with the possibilities. Before I reveal the theme I’ll let you know how I got to the decision. I had some criteria that helped guide me:

  • Feminine (Not French country and fat cherub feminine)
  • Light and bright
  • Relaxing
  • Organized
  • Welcoming
  • Flow with the bedroom’s décor (since my bath is attached to the master bedroom)

I went to my old friend Pinterest for some inspiration. However, can I just say? Who has bathrooms that big!? Geeze. Anyway I found these photos and I knew what I wanted to do.

I know what you’re thinking, “a sea themed bathroom how original” but gimme a chance to explain my vision. Wow, how artsy-fartsy was that statement? Ok envision this:

  • Purple, grey, white and turquoise color palette
  • Small framed prints of coral
  • White sea pebbles
  • Floating white shelves
  • A few nice shells that I’ve found
  • Framed whale’s tooth (This is really cool. I found one on the beach recently)
  • A purple geode for texture
  • Small print of the image above
  • Accents of clear glass

That doesn’t sound too bad right? Actually it sounds quite beautiful doesn’t it? Trust me. Its gunna be quite the tiny retreat when I’m done. We’ve taken a few strides already and it’s on its way to being fabulous. So far we’ve:

  • Replaced the standard mirror with a framed one
    • We followed the same process as Taylor’s mirror update with a slight color difference. The mirror came from an old dresser that we had and it happened to be the perfect size.  We spray painted it white, strung some new wire on the back, and hung it up in place of the old standard mirror.
  • Removed the closet door and added a curtain
    • I decided to remove the closet door because when both doors were open the knobs would get locked together…causing me to go a little crazy. Plus, a curtain is much prettier than a boring door. So, I simply removed the door and it’s hardware. Bought a spring loaded curtain rod from Target. Then fed the curtain on and fastened the rod into place.
  • Adding drawer organization
    • I’ve got about 6 drawers and one cabinet under my sink. The lower drawers and cabinet were taken care of. But the top 2 drawers, that I use the most, were total chaos.  On one side I keep my daily necessities and the other houses my make-up. So, T and I went to the container store and found some nice acrylic drawer organizers.
  • Began hording cute accessories
    • I guess “we” haven’t been hoarding accessories, it’s just me. Either way with my “modern, undersea elegance” theme picked out I discovered that I actually have a lot of accessories that I can already use. I guess all those years of shell collecting finally paid off!  Check out the cute stuff I’ve found already!

    All these updates have been inexpensive and quick to accomplish. Now, my little bathroom is stress-free, more organized and well on its way to becoming a mini-retreat. This brings us to T’s bathroom makeover. The last time we saw his bathroom we had just finished updating his mirror but we recently completed a bunch more updates.  So far, we’ve:

    • Painted the sink cabinet black
      • Painting the sink cabinet made an immediate impact in this room. He wanted the bathroom to look modern and crisp and I wanted to make sure the bathroom contrasted with my bathroom while still complementing it.  So, we decided to go with a high-gloss black for the cabinet. It really pulled the room together. The grays, whites and blacks play so nicely together.  It’s also an easy color palette to add pops of color too because it’s neutral. Currently, he has green as an accent which is masculine and flows well.
    •  Replaced hardware
    • Following the gray theme we knew we wanted silver toned knobs. We found some really nice rectangle knobs at Lowes that had a brushed nickel finish. They really pop against the black cabinet.
    • Organized under the sink 
      • T mentioned that he could never find anything which made getting ready frusterating. So we were able to find some tubs, bins and acrylic trays that fit in the drawers and under the sink cabinets. A little organization makes a day-to-day use so much more enjoyable.
    • Added a glass shelf over the toilet
      • We found a small glass shelf that we loved AND it matched the hardware, Bonus! It looks great and adds a display area. T’s able to display some accessories that help give this room personality.
    • Replaced Light fixture in the bathroom
      • This is the one addition we are most proud of. We’re mostly proud that we didn’t electrocute ourselves. But we’re also proud that we did it on our own. It was really simple to replace.
      • Cut the power to the room (Thank goodness it was in the directions. Or we probably wouldn’t have thought about it.)
      • Unscrewed the old fixture and we found some HOT wallpaper hiding underneath.
      • Unhooked the wires from the old fixture
      • Attached the new fixture to the wires. The wires were color coded so it was really simple to figure out which wires went where
      • Mounted the new fixture over the existing mount
      • Little putty, sanding, paint and BAM. Done. (See how excited he is!?)

    All of our hard work has paid off! We’ve only got a few little tweaks until we can stamp this room as DONE. We’d like to move the shower curtain up, add a light above the shower, paint the trim around the sink and add some accessories. The small updates have made such a huge difference in this room. It’s nice to know that a little truly does go a long way.

Mini Bathroom Makeover

Before we moved out of our townhome I half-jokingly mentioned that I’d love to have “his and hers” bathrooms. Well friends that dream has become a reality…and it’s AWESOME! He doesn’t have to deal with “all my potions” and I don’t have to deal with his sink whiskers.  It’s quite possibly the smartest thing we’ve done for our marriage 😉

We live in a home that was built in the 80’s so the “master bath” isn’t huge. It’s basically the same size as the other bath upstairs. The only major difference is the master bath has a small towel closet in it. Anywho, I took the master bath and the Mr. took the hall bath. Let me mention that the hall bath is literally right next to the master bath, so don’t feel too bad.

Well since the previous owners obviously shared the master bath that one had a few upgrades while the hall bath was overlooked, sad face! Well it was time to give poor T some upgrades, and we did!

We took a mirror that I bought from Goodwill and spray painted it black. We wanted to replace the boring standard mirror that came with the house. It was actually a really simple process:

Look, that little stinker photo-bombed by picture! 🙂

  1. Wiped down the mirror with a light soapy water
  2. Sanded it a bit to smooth out any imperfections
  3. Masked off the mirror with tape and newspaper
  4. Applied 2 coats of matte black spray paint (Rustoleum)
  5. Let the paint dry. Then removed the tape and paper

And here’s another angle! It feels good to be able to redo an old piece and put it to good use.

You may have noticed those strange holes right under the mirror. Those are the previous mirror’s hardware. So, we’ll have to putty and paint them to totally complete this project. However, we’re going to wait until we paint a mirror for my bathroom. We’re sure we’ll have the same issue in there and we only want to putty/paint once (luckily both bathrooms are the same color). We still have a lot of things in mind for this little bathroom, but we’re making progress!

Light my Fire…place

Finally, a home project that we can share. We’ve actually been doing a few home updates but they are all in various stages of progress.  But, today I am so happy to tell you that we’ve finished painting our fireplace. As soon as we toured the house I knew that a simple coat of paint would really freshen up the room. Since the fireplace is in the center of a long wall your eye is naturally drawn towards it.  This could be a good thing if the fireplace was a custom piece; however, our standard brick-red fireplace is rather plain. Don’t get me wrong I love our fireplace…I just want it to become less of a statement in the room. So, I thought a coat of white paint would make the fireplace feel fresh, modern, and let other pieces shine.

Before I started I read “How to paint a brick fireplace” on the Younghouselove blog. These two are notorious for painting their fireplaces so I knew I was in good hands. The whole process is pretty straight forward but you know the Mr. and I had some fun along the way.

  • Step 1: Clean your fireplace with light soap and water. Yes, clean. I thought cleaning a fireplace was ridiculous too… but it was FILTHY!
  • Step 2: Gather/buy supplies: painters tape, plastic sheeting, 2 hand brushes, roller, paint tray, oil primer, paint-thinner and semi-gloss paint. (NOTE: if your fireplace doesn’t have soot on it you can skip the oil primer and use regular primer.)
  • Step 3: Tape around the fire place and mantle. The good news for us is that everything on our mantle is white so we really couldn’t mess up too badly.
  • Step 4: Apply 1-2 coats of oil based primer onto the fireplace and allow to dry. (NOTE: painting in the winter with the windows open is quite a thrill.)
  • Step 5: Apply 1-2 coats of semi-gloss paint.

Seems simple enough right?! In all honesty it really was easy. We only had 2 hang-ups. First, we forgot to buy paint-thinner for the first coat of oil paint, Doh! Yeah, that ruins your brushes for sure. Oh you think water’s gunna help? Silly noob, that just makes it worse. So, we bought brushes (again) and paint-thinner for the second coat. Lastly, it took us forever to paint the fireplace and our living room looked like a Dexter episode for a few weeks. Why? Well we had to move furniture out of the old townhouse (because it sold ,YAY!) during one weekend and the rest of the time we we were just too darn lazy.

But would you look at the end result! Isn’t it nice!? The end result is worth the plastic sheeting and painted hands. Speaking of that:

  • TIP: Use nail polish remover to get oil paint off your skin. It’s way better for your skin than paint remover.

We couldn’t be happier with our newly painted fireplace. I think it actually makes the room look bigger. And maybe it’s just me but don’t the floors look darker? Bonus! We can’t wait to see how the rest of this room comes together!