Room-by-Room: Bathrooms

Last year two crazy kids bought a house. They tore it open from the inside out. It did the same to them. Both the house and the people are more beautiful than they were before. This is the tour-de-blog through the before and the after, but perhaps most important: the during. 

Welcome, friend: Bathrooms.

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For the first 9 years of our marriage, I never had more than one toilet to clean. It had its perks. But when we signed that Grant Deed, my toilet-bowl-cleaning-duty tripled.

Each bathroom needed some significant love. Tubs, toilets and floors all had various levels of rot, fungus, or rust to be dealt with. I’ll take you through each from the simplest to the greatest of transformations.

Bathroom 1 – we actually thought we’d get away with just some new fixtures and paint in this bathroom, but soon discovered that the tub was rusted through, and when that came out, so too all the tile had to come with it. Who knew?

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I can’t say I was all that sad, though, because oh-my-gosh I’m in love with this subway tile that took its place. This bathroom is part of the back guest house so I actually rarely see it personally, but I love-love it nonetheless.

IMG_1456Some invisibles also had to be replaced, as it turns out the lower plumbing wasn’t even connected to the home’s piping. Seriously. So for who knows how long the water drained from that tub just went straight to the ground beneath the house. Thank God for a raised foundation. So, the invisibles were re-plumbed, and the visibles won my heart over when we put in a new vanity and some new paint.

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Bathroom 2 – oh this room. There’s no color correction happening here – that was the real paint color. Still makes my eyes hurt even in the pictures.

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But the transformation that was about to take place – well, I’ll let the pictures do the telling.

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Except this – oh I must explain this. I knew I wanted to create a vanity from furniture and get the porcelain bowl to sit atop. I had a dresser in mind for it, but it was all-wrong. Wrong size, wrong style, wrong color. Just wrong. I was just about to set out to hunt local thrift stores when I remembered that I had picked up this random table at a yard sale just a few months prior with no particular reason. It was $15 and I liked it. Maybe, just maybe this would work, I thought. And really, could it be more perfect? I finished it with wipeable Minwax to waterproof it, and I really love my $15 bathroom vanity.

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Voila:

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Bathroom 3­ is part of the Master Suite, so I’ll save that for its post later.

These rooms were such fun. Hundreds of decisions between tiles and grouts and fixtures and $15 vanity tables, but I couldn’t be happier with the way each of them turned out, or with my bathtub samplers: IMG_1804IMG_1812

Room-by-Room: Living & Dining

Last year two crazy kids bought a house. They tore it open from the inside out. It did the same to them. Both the house and the people are more beautiful than they were before. This is the tour-de-blog through the before, the after, and the during.

Welcome, friend: Living and Dining.

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The very first order of business was knocking out a wall to let in some light. Little did I know that a wall was about to be knocked out in my heart too. It would also bring light – eventually.

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Our home was built in 1953, and the first thing you noticed when you walked in was the wall right in front of you. Closing you in – a very long, narrow living room and dining room greeted you, with doors cornered to the right and the left.

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The door off the dining room led to a galley kitchen. The door off the living room led to the hallway connecting the three bedrooms, and was also your path to the backyard and natural light – through one of the bedrooms. It was an awkward design. And in case you were confused about where the living room ended and the dining room began, our predecessors left us a nice line right down the middle of the wall, demarking from the baby blue living room to the canary yellow dining room. So many wrong things in that sentence.

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IMG_0801The kitchen was a goner. We knew we would have to gut it. But late one night, as I was just drifting off to bed, brilliance woke me up. Since we had to gut the kitchen anyways, why not move it? “All we had to do” was knock out a wall.

And so the wall came down. And the light came in. And doors 1 & 2 were needed no more, so we closed them both off and, gasp, got three new rooms for the price of one wall. The living room lost all signs of awkward, and became rather, well, cozy.

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It’s first Christmas was the first for us to ever host Jason’s family, complete with a cheery fire in the original brick fireplace.

IMG_4007Note that we haven’t even cleaned the soot from the brick. Is that gross? We prefer it be considered preservation.

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The dining room was filled with a few fun projects. Step one: Be rid of the baby blue/canary paint line. Step two: Adopt antique furniture from the Thrift Store and renew for life in the 21st century.

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The whole place transformed and gained new possibility the minute we knocked out that wall.

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About two days after we knocked that wall down, and long before we knew just what a difference it would make, another wall started to crumble. My husband’s job got real precarious real suddenly, and I was unprepared for it. It was like a sledge hammer went straight to my core. All I could see was what got knocked down. Like his salary and our health benefits and the safety of working at a place that is also your Church-home. I didn’t know that light had to come into some dark places in my heart. I didn’t know how attached I’d become to things like health insurance and what-not. I didn’t know that I’d been fighting against his character for months, defending his employer instead of my own husband when days had gone awry and I just didn’t want to accept what he was telling me, so I found a way to just, well, not. I didn’t know that I had so many fears sitting just under the surface. Until that wall came down. One hammer blow at a time.

But eventually – just as sure as drywall mud and new paint and texture and crown moulding were put in place to make that hole in the wall look like it had always been precisely that way – eventually my heart started rebuilding. And light was able to shine in the places that had been dark and awkward. I’m not saying there aren’t some lingering shadows in my heart, but I am saying that when that wall came tumbling down, when we had to ask family to wait on payment they’d already earned for their work, when we had to remember how to pray for daily bread because the shopping list now included plumbing and drywall and floorboards, when we heard God say that the next job He was calling to was a support-raising position, and when we actually said “yes”, slowly the light began to filter in as I slowly, painfully, even regretfully, opened my heart more fully to a God who provides even when – or maybe better said, AS – walls come tumbling down.

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That Time We Bought a House

This house and I have gone through a pretty major transformation this year.

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I love this house. Those are not words I ever expected myself to say. Walls are walls. Furniture is furniture. Kitchens are kitchens.

Except now I know how very much love can get poured into walls, furniture and kitchens.

To be honest, it scares me a little, because walls and furniture and kitchens are temporary things. Not just temporary to this life – though I’ve given God permission to just copy my new kitchen for my heavenly mansion – but also temporary IN this life. Not even two weeks after we closed escrow, my husband’s job took a hard left turn and he lost it a short two months later, a harsh reminder not to get too comfortable because things can change so unpredictably.

But now it’s a place I love. Opening our doors is one way that I open my heart. Come in and get tea. Sit down and tell me your heart. Stay for a night or two. Or six months. Mi Casa es Su Casa. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m also plenty selfish, and with a plethora of new things I’m thinking all the normal-crazy thoughts like Make sure your Tea doesn’t leave a watermark and don’t sit too firmly on the couch cushion, they’re new. How one would actually “not sit firmly” is a mystery to me, but I’ve still thought it. Let’s just give me a gold star for not surrounding it in plastic, shall we? And oh by the way, while you stay here can you make sure you don’t scratch or stain or break anything? K thanks.

Welcome. Mi Casa es Su Casa but really it’s Mi Casa so be careful, mmm-k?

Dangerous thoughts.

It’s actually hard for me to believe that this house is now a home. One year ago we signed papers and took responsibility for the mortgage. The next twelve months were a blur but between pictures and credit card statements I can interpret that it went something like this:

Month one was demolition month. Tearing out walls, cabinets, bathtubs, toilets, and general gross-ness. New windows and doors were cut into place, heating and air were added, and a few walls went up to replace those that had come down.

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Month two was design month. I know, I know, design usually happens before demolition. But here’s the thing – we were discovering new possibilities around every turn. Tear out this closet and discover a whole new possibility of how the kitchen can be designed. Yes, a closet became a kitchen. More on that later.

Months three through nine are like black and white fuzz on an old 9-inch tv box with a crooked antenna sticking out. I know I was a crazy person, that much is sure. I know I ate out of more plastic boxes and fast food bags than I can count. I know that I earned every pound I’m now working off and every gray hair I am now dyeing.Our construction crew was my amazing brother and his team, but they live out of town, so anytime they were working on our house it meant at least six air mattresses spread out and up to 15 people and two dogs squeezed into our little place. With one bathroom and no kitchen. To call it camping would be generous. Never before have I hopscotched around power tools and compressors to get to the one working bathroom in the morning.

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But in the midst of that were tea parties for my four-year-old niece with her Grandpa.

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And watching my one-year-old niece take her first steps.

And deep laughs and sighs and shrugs as we all learned to live together. In the midst of great change. I thought I was designing and remodeling a house. Turns out it was changing me.

All in all, we gutted, redesigned, and rebuilt two kitchens and three bathrooms. I never had a nice kitchen – I had no idea where to even start, but I can’t tell you how much I love the final result. We installed HVAC, upgraded the electrical panel, repainted, restucco-ed, repainted the entire interior, refinished the hardwood floors, installed crown moulding, replaced the outdoor sprinkler system, designed and created a beautiful master suite with custom built-in closets, and installed three new doors and eight new windows.

A bit too much for one wee blog post. So, I’ll be giving a room-by-room “tour” of our remodel, a couple of highlights on some of my favorite things, and some of the ways I was gutted and re-built, too. I’ll post a new room each week. And spoiler alert, it’s gonna get real messy – but then it will get better – a bit like life.