...because home doesn't happen overnight.
06.03.15 / Studio Whiteout

A quick backstory: Lowe’s invited me to their headquarters a few months ago. I’ve never really been a fan of blogger conventions / events. I guess that’s the introvert in me. But I was suffering from a major case of cabin fever and Steve was encouraging me to go so I accepted the invite. I got a behind-the-scenes peek at the company’s thought process and was asked to give honest feedback on everything from products to advertising to store layouts. I was nothing but honest. Maybe even a little brutal? Let’s just say I didn’t hold back. But they took it all in stride, asking more questions. They really want to be better – even different – at what they do.

On the last day of my visit, I was paired with another blogger and we were given creative freedom to create a room of our choice using Lowe’s products. We designed a bathroom and it was so much fun! I really appreciated the fact that we were not pressured to create a certain look. Honestly, that bathroom was a space I would want in my own house. Before I left to return home, they told me to contact them if I was ever in need of help with a project. That offer came to mind when I started making plans for the studio so I reached out. I can’t thank Lowe’s enough for the drywall and paint. And they didn’t ask me to say that either. In fact, they didn’t ask me to say anything.

Remember what the studio looked like a month ago? It’s well on its way to becoming a blank canvas.

studio whiteout 1

studio whiteout 2

Steve and I briefly discussed hanging new drywall and painting the room ourselves but, when we looked at our busy calendar, considered the scope of the project (the ceiling is 18′ high!) and couldn’t come up with a good solution for childcare, I decided to hire out. As DIYers, that was a hard pill to swallow. But since I’m renting the space, time is money. It helped that Lowe’s stepped in to cover the cost of materials. For that, I am so grateful.

One of the best things about this space is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. We aren’t going to be living here, just making messes and being creative. Instead of ripping out the original drywall, the drywall guys simply hung ½” drywall panels over the existing walls. This kept demo, waste and cost to a minimum. They ran into an issue with the studs…or lack thereof. The “studs” are aluminum and not spaced properly so there was some guesswork involved. The room is located in an old warehouse so it isn’t surprising that there are dubious things going on behind the walls. The walls aren’t going to fall down or anything like that, but it does make hanging things a little tedious. It took a team of three guys one week to hang, tape, mud and sand the walls. (It probably would have taken Steve and me all summer.) It isn’t the most impeccable finish work I’ve seen but it will do.

studio whiteout 5

studio whiteout 6

A painter sprayed the walls and ceiling. We went with Kilz latex primer, followed by two coats of HGTV Home by Sherwin-Williams primer + paint in one. The paint color is pure white (SW 7005). Using two different primers might have been overkill but there was quite a bit of staining on the ceiling and brick (window) wall that had to be blocked. Per code, the sprinkler system remains red. The exposed conduit, various pipes and old fuse boxes are now all white and not nearly as noticeable. White paint is magical!

studio whiteout 3

From afar, the metal window frames look black but, in reality, they’re mostly corroded. I will probably end up painting them (black or white?) but I don’t mind them as-is for now. Cleaning the dirty panes is a higher priority, I think. The green paint is on the outside of the windows. All of the windows at the warehouse are green on the exterior.

studio whiteout 4

I’m going to paint the radiator white…after I clean it. I don’t think it has ever been cleaned. Ever. It looks like it’s covered in soot but I’m assuming it’s just charred dust and dirt. As much as I love the look of painted white floors in a studio space, they aren’t practical here. The space is accessed via a loading dock so grime is constantly being tracked in. The concrete is in poor condition so I think painting the floors a dirty gray is the way to go. The concrete gives way to wood right in front of the radiator. (Not sure what that’s all about?) Some of the boards need replaced.

I took these photos several days ago and the space is already looking so much better. I’ve spent all of my spare chunks of time at the studio cleaning this week. It’s been difficult finding the time with end-of-school activities taking top priority, but I did manage to log 5 hours of quality time with my shop-vac the other day. Between the original gritty condition of the space and the new layers of drywall dust, it was pretty gross. Today Everett and Mabrey “helped” me scrub down the radiator. We had to change our clothes when we got home.

The shell of the room is coming along! I took precise measurements and drew up a floor plan today so I can start space planning. The landlord claims the room is 1,000 square feet but it’s closer to 870. I’m more comfortable with that number. I’m excited to put my spin on the space and try some new things that aren’t necessarily practical, or even possible, in my own home.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

little things 1

With the major renovations completed, we’ve been able to turn our attention to smaller projects here and there. Most of these pesky projects are leftovers from bigger projects. We never truly finished some projects because we let minor details fall by the wayside in favor of: pretending we did them, feeding the kids, going outside, sleeping, working on our fitness, drinking wine, watching “New Girl,” smothering all the edible things in Trader Joe’s cookie butter, reading, showering, singing karaoke to “All About That Bass,” petting the cat, talking with our faces, (insert any action or inaction here). Whatever. It happens. And when we finally do get around to tackling these measly projects, they don’t seem blog-worthy.

But lump all those lil’ effers together and, BAM!, blog post. At least, that’s how I see this playing out. I don’t know. I might be wrong. Let’s give it a go anyway, shall we?

new fans 1

new fans 2

We replaced the ceiling fans. We loved the look of the first fans (seen here) but they hummed and whirred so loudly. In the fans’ defense, they were listed as commercial fans and we overlooked the possibility that they might not be ideal for a residential setting. The other problem we had with them was the fact that, due to unique installation requirements, the canopies didn’t mount flush against the ridge beam so there was a visible gap.

Last month Steve said, “All I want for Christmas is new ceiling fans.” Santa came through with these plus coordinating downrods. (Apparently, Steve made the nice list.) Installation was uneventful which is always a good thing when it comes to DIY. But the best thing? They are quiet. Like, silent. The canopies are flush with the ridge beam. No gap! And we really like the aesthetic. The fans are matte white and super sleek. Functionally, they’re better too. They’re slightly larger than the previous fans and a better fit for the room. They also have reverse switches at the motor so we can change the rotation based on our needs. (Clockwise in winter; counter-clockwise in summer.) The only thing that would make them more awesome is if they were self-cleaning. Someone please invent a ceiling fan that cleans itself.

trim 1

trim 2

trim 3

We installed and painted trim around the fireplace surround. After painting the brick surround and building & painting the TV wall, we lived with gaps at the mantel-wall and brick-floor seams for several months. We added trim last spring (that can’t be right?!) and I just got around to painting it a few weeks ago with the same paint I used on the surround. It’s Benjamin Moore white dove, semi-gloss finish, mixed in Clark + Kensington’s primer + paint in one. It’s really, really good.

painted man door 1

Notice anything else?

painted man door 4

I have been cropping out the man door to the garage for years. It’s solid wood but was orange-y and drafty. I kept an old towel pushed up against the bottom to prevent cold air from blowing in but you can imagine how (in)effective my efforts were.

We reworked the door frame and added a new threshold, weatherstripping, hardware and trim. I painted the door and trim when I had the paint out for the fireplace trim. Now the mudroom / dining room isn’t nearly as cold as it used to be but I still wish we would have added radiant floor heating.

painted man door 3

I added a double hook to the back of the door for my purse and reusable shopping bags. The three wall hooks in the mudroom have been overtaken by the kids’ coats, hats and backpacks. And a certain toddler likes to play “Quick! Take and hide all the things in mom’s purse!” So this seemingly trivial hook is, in all actuality, a game-changer. There’s a set of key hooks to the left of the door which recently caught the attention of said toddler, ifyaknowwhatimean.

You might also notice that we rotated the sisal rug in the living room. See the corner in the image above? That corner used to live over by the media cabinet and the corner that was here (now by the media cabinet) sported a perpetual roll that drove Steve mad. (You can catch a glimpse of it in the seventh image of this post.) He tried everything. It was comical. If you can’t beat ’em, rotate ’em.

kitchen plinth

Finally, FINALLY!, we added a piece of filler plinth to the corner in the kitchen. (You can see the gap here.) This was one of those minor details that we overlooked when we installed the cabinets. We bought the plinth shortly after “finishing” the kitchen but didn’t put it up until, oh, THREE YEARS LATER. We still need to caulk at the wall seam. According to my highly technical estimates, that should happen in 2018. Don’t worry. It will be a blog post.

Have you been putting off little finishing projects too? What’s your excuse? It can’t be any worse than ours.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking

painted bathroom 1

Staying true to the “slow and steady wins the race” motto, we’ve been plugging away at the hallway bathroom when time allows. All the grout has been sealed. Baseboards have been installed, painted and caulked. The walls are painted, too. I’ve been doing this for a while now but the effect of finishing touches (like baseboards and paint) never ceases to amaze me. All of a sudden a project feels like a room!

painted bathroom 2

We had to order additional base molding to match the baseboards in the rest of the house. We had a small section leftover from the whole house renovation but were ~20′ short. The baseboards in the rest of the house are painted Benjamin Moore white dove but when I held a swatch up to the subway tile in the bathroom, it was too creamy. I ended up painting the baseboards in Benjamin Moore super white. It’s a great match but I’d be lying if I said having a different white in the bathroom doesn’t make me the slightest bit twitchy. The tile is a very cool white with bluish undertones and the room itself is north-facing so the light in here isn’t as warm as in other areas of the house. But it’s all good. I think repeating black and wood accents in the bathroom will help to tie it in with the rest of the house.

painted bathroom 3

Steve and I had assumed I would paint the walls Benjamin Moore tapestry beige to match the hallway and main living space. But when I painted a swatch on the bathroom wall, it looked so wrong (i.e. dirty) in the context of the bathroom. That’s when I made the executive decision to stop worrying about “matching” the bathroom to the rest of the house. Instead, I focused on selecting a paint color that suits the room and its cool light.

I considered painting the whole room out in BM super white but, (I think I’ve mentioned this before) as much as I like looking at white rooms online, they don’t feel right in real life…at least not in this house. The super white looked, well, super white. So stark, so cold. I kept looking and searched hundreds of paint colors and finally landed on Ace Paint lost spur. (The color number is D35-2. Ace Hardware should have an Ace Paint color deck at the paint counter. If it’s not on display, ask for it. My local store doesn’t have it on display.) I had it mixed in Clark + Kensington primer + paint in one. This is my go-to brand ever since I painted the mudroom walls black. I’ve used it in the boys’ room and on the brick fireplace and TV surround. The coverage is great. (Not sponsored, just sharing.)

painted bathroom 4

painted bathroom 5

I love the color. It’s a subtle green-gray with some blue in it. It’s one of those colors that looks different every thirty minutes. Sometimes it’s white, sometimes gray, sometimes green, sometimes blue. Sometimes it’s warm, sometimes cool. I love chameleon colors like this – colors you can’t put your finger on. I like that it’s light but not an obvious match to the tile. Also, this room is so difficult to photograph. I wish you could see it in person. You really have to be in the room to get the full effect.

painted bathroom 6

Steve and I installed the wall sconce last night. It’s the same light we have in the master bathroom. I’m itching to get the vanity in so I can start The Great Mirror Search. But, first, the tub.

unpainted tub

Here it is hanging out in the garage in all its one-legged, heavy cast iron glory. We recently cleaned out the garage (yep, this is the cleaned up version) to gain access to the tub. We hadn’t looked at it in years and were pleasantly surprised to discover the inside is in excellent condition. (The previous owners had it reglazed.) There was a lot of drama surrounding the acquisition of the tub. So much so, that I think we forgot about the condition. To be safe, I tested the interior and exterior for lead. The results were negative. I know it looks kinda shabby but I think it just needs a good cleaning and a few coats of primer and paint on the exterior.

black jack paint swatch

We’ve already agreed on a paint color for the exterior. It’s Benjamin Moore black jack. I’ll probably go with an oil-based paint in a satin finish for durability and ease of maintenance.

reclaimed beam

For weeks we’ve been scouring the internet for wood to attempt a DIY cradle base for the tub. We were looking for specific dimensions. The ideal beam turned up at a local reclaimed materials supplier this week. It set us back $40 and Steve hauled it home in his truck on Wednesday. After some deliberation, it looks like we’ll need to take it to a saw mill to have it cut. We don’t think the rough cut of a chainsaw is the look we’re going for. We don’t want perfection (it is a reclaimed beam after all) but we don’t want rustic either. We’re hoping to have it cut to size this weekend. Steve and I both predict that once the tub is in, things will roll pretty quickly. Let’s hope so!

painted bathroom 8

So that’s where things stand with the bathroom. We ran out of caulk and still need to caulk around the window and where the tile meets the drywall but that’s small potatoes. I swear. Gathering supplies is almost always the rate limiting step for us in any project.

painted bathroom 7

In other news, Cheetah is my shadow and quite the camera lover. Such a photobomber! Is cat modeling a thing? If so, I’m signing her up for the next animal talent search.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking