Revisiting the Guest Room: Before & After

Our upstairs has been seriously neglected since we moved in this past summer, so Pete and I decided to give the guest room some much-needed attention this past month. We’ve tackled a ton of house revamping, but we have barely touched the second floor, so we set a goal for ourselves to remove the wallpaper and paint the walls by the time my parents visited (last weekend).

Here’s a peek of what we were dealing with before, and below is a glimpse of what the bedroom looks now, with Artesian Well by Martha Stewart and a shit ton of paisley. We aren’t really paisley people (in this photo, Pete is obviously the ginger and I’m Cameron from Modern Family), but perhaps our future guests will be. I spray painted the previous owner’s headboard bright yellow and we’ll be adding other bright yellow accents to tie the room together. Right now it’s way too matchy-matchy, but I’m hoping we can tone it down if we bring in some more neutrals and nix the ginormous lamp for something more metallic (I wish we could find the darn receipt from Home Goods so we could return it!).

Betty White approves of the changes we made, but we still have a lot of work to do to make it homey (like artwork on the walls and thrifty decor).

Here’s a photo of the room when we moved in, complete with the previous owner’s canopy, curtains, VCR, and stained mattress.

We have to figure out what to do with the antiquated air conditioning unit, which has a nice family of very opinionated birds living in it. We’re thinking we’ll have to turn it into a small window…not sure what other choice we’ll have. The furniture we inherited from the previous owner is a frightening shade of yellowed white, so we have a lot of spray painting in our future once the weather warms up. The closet could also use some white paint since the sad, hollow wood doors seriously bum us out.

For those of you who have a good eye for detail, you’ll notice we haven’t touched the wood paneling in the hallway since it was half-primed when we moved in. I guess that’s next on our list. I’m not sure what to do about the ceiling tiles (how difficult is it to replace ceiling tiles?), but I did appreciate the break from having to paint the ceiling with several coats of white.

Betty White was being very contemplative when I shot this in the bedroom mirror like a total sneak. She thinks we overdid it with the matching and the paisley, but she has faith that we can make it look better with a little love.

Tackling our last wallpapered room was tiresome, but it’s satisfying to know we can pack away the wallpaper steamer—unless we get incredibly ambitious and remove the wallpaper in our closets (yes, our closets).

Is anyone else guilty of making a room too match-y?

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Happy Birthday, Pete: Our 2011 Year in Review!

Happy birthday, poops. Hope your 25th is just as good, if not better than your 24th. I still feel like a cougar, irregardless.

I know how much you love those “year in review” posts, so I thought it might be nice to highlight some of my favorite “before and after” projects we tackled together around the house in 2011. Can’t wait to see what we’ll be saying this time next year about our DIY accomplishments. Also can’t wait to be your Mrs. (Just sayin’.)

Let’s start with the outside, where two huge trees and endless hedges were blocking the view of our house, making us drive past it nearly every time (not that I don’t still do that). I think it looks a lot prettier now that you can actually see our front yard, where we hope to have raised beds once Spring rolls around.

Then there’s this situation, which I still have to resolve by laying my bricks straighter since I was rushing (Pete did a good job with his).

Tada! The brick paths looking a lot less sad

Our sunroom was looking a little unfortunate when we first moved in, since we used it mostly to store lawn equipment and trash bags. I think it’s looking a lot cozier these days:

The Rocking chair revamp might be one of my favorite furniture makeovers from this past year…I love seeing it so bright and cheerful on our sunroom porch.

Here’s a look at our living room when had our first walk-through of the house. I instantly wanted to paint the fireplace white, and although most of my family thought I was crazy for it, I think it turned out pretty nice:

I still can’t believe how much painting we tackled the month before moving in, I wish I still had that kind of energy now.

The dining room used to be a bit of a downer, but with a little love from the wallpaper steamer and a fresh coat of paint, it’s looking better already:

Mmm, yellow.

Remember how smoke-stained our kitchen looked when we had our first walk-through? It looks so much better now without that bunny wallpaper, the new checkered floors we installed, and the white painted cabinets, all of which we did on our own within the first few months of moving in.

This one is lacking a “before” photo, but here’s a glimpse at the chalkboard door in our kitchen, which we try to always update with a weekly menu to avoid endless “what do YOU want for dinner?” ramblings.

This is what our office/critter room looked like when we first moved in. Eek. It’s still a work in progress, and I keep forgetting to take a photo since we’ve added a desk and organized things, but here’s a look at the lack of wallpaper and avocado paint job:

That’s Willie Nelson, our pet bunny. You can’t tell from this photo, but there’s also two other bunnies (Applesauce and Cadbury) and a chinchilla (Maude) nearby.

Here’s our bedroom when we first moved in…we even inherited these curtains from the previous owner. We haven’t taken a recent photo of our bedroom with our new curtains and artwork, but here’s a look at the freshly-painted walls:

Yay, mustard and grey accents galore!

The upstairs bathroom before & after is a pretty simple one as of right now, but it still makes me happy not to see those butterflies when I shower.

These are just some of my favorite before & after photos from the past six months of living in our first house together. I can’t wait to spruce up the yard to make it nice for our wedding and to see how we change the upstairs, since we’ve barely touched it. Anyway, I hope you have an amazing 25th birthday and consider myself the luckiest for being able to share it with you.

Upstairs Bathroom Makeover: Before & After

As you may recall, one of the goals I recently set for myself was to finally get around to painting the upstairs bathroom now that the wallpaper has been down for a few months. The pink butterfly wallpaper was painfully thick (not to mention hideous) and the hardest to remove so far. I spent many sweat-induced summer afternoons with a wallpaper steamer, cursing at the butterflies for being so impossible. Thankfully, there are no signs of butterflies in our upstairs bathroom anymore.

Here’s a look at a before and after of the progress made so far in the bathroom as of today. Eventually we’d like to install black and white honeycomb tiling, but for now we are starting off with budget-friendly baby steps. I’m excited to be able to finally hang our bathroom hardware so our toilet paper will have a home (I realize this is very geeky). This is the bathroom we use every day because the shower is much preferred, so it’ll be nice to see something other than primed walls.

This is a before and after of the bathroom when we first moved in and a shot of it from today. We’ll need to get a new toilet seat and a curtain to snazz it up a bit, but for now, I’m just happy to have fresh paint on the walls.

I definitely love the chinchilla gray by Martha Stewart—I’ve been struggling to find a gray I’m 100% happy with (since the other grays we’ve used so far have turned out more blue and mauve), so I’m really happy with the “true”-ness of it. Just as a side note, these photos were taken at sunset, so the gray is much brighter and lighter during the day.

Has anyone else been tackling home renovations projects now that the weather outside is getting frightful (aka cold enough to make me mumble obscenities like a crazy person whenever I have to walk the dogs)? Also, has anyone installed honeycomb tiling before? Should we leave it to the professionals, or is it something we can DIY on our own?

Making our House a Home

Remember Admiral Ackbar!? He’s back to show you what we’ve been up to with our most recent home renovations. I tackled the last of the wallpaper removal on the bottom floor (apart from the wallpaper in the closets…don’t get me started), which means no more smoke-stained, ivy wallpaper to greet us outside of the bedroom, bathroom and critter room. Hopefully next time you see this space, the wood doors will be painted white, which I think will really help make the tiny hallway look more open.

I chose the blue-grey color we painted our living room to bring into the small hallway to try to carry the color throughout the house. Painting the teensy space between the two doors was not a good time—I prefer to paint an entire bedroom of walls over trim any day. We’re not sure what to do about the light between the two doors…seems very random and pointless, but for now it will stay I suppose.

Another project I can now check off my to-do list is painting a chalkboard door in our kitchen. This project was incredibly easy and brings a lot of personality to the kitchen. I primed the door with some of the previous homeowner’s leftover blue paint in the basement and then gave it three coats of chalkboard paint with a roller. Once it dries, you have to rub chalk on its side on the surface of the door to sort of seal it.

I figured we could use the door to jot down our weekly menu or grocery lists (or to just write nerdy notes to each other). This way we can avoid the inevitable “What do you want to have for dinner? I don’t know, what do you want for dinner?” ten minute, back-and-forth conversation.

I painted the back of the door so we have more room for doodling and staying organized, but I managed to rip part of the paint off by pressing too hard with the chalk (thus the “uh oh”). So for anyone else who wants to try this at home, I suggest being pretty delicate when writing on the chalkboard surface instead of attacking it with the sharpest end of the chalk. Lesson learned!

Hopefully next time I write a home renovation post, it will be about removing the wallpaper in the upstairs portion of our home (I need to get motivated, stat)!

Before & After: Revamping the Kitchen Floor

This weekend was spent making over our kitchen floor, which as you can see, started off pretty grim when we moved in a little over a month ago. The old floor tile felt dirty on our feet and no matter how many times we mopped it, it still remained a lovely shade of stained, yellow-ish blue. Not cute. We decided to shop around for affordable peel and stick, vinyl tiles in black and white. We were surprised when we found out both Home Depot and Lowe’s did not sell simple black and white, vinyl stick-on tiles. I called several tile distributors in the area and got a lot of “Ha, are you serious? I haven’t seen a checkerboard floor since the 80’s” responses. Uhh, obviously these people don’t browse Pinterest on a regular basis.

I ended up finding a wholesale tile distributor in New Jersey called Mazer Wholesale, where they sell packs of 20 white or black tiles for $7/piece with a 5-year warranty. Yes, please! We were able to give our floors a new look for under $100 in just one weekend, so I think it was definitely worth it. The tiles arrived just two days after my order was placed, so I couldn’t have been more happy with the shopping experience. Plus, the owner even posted a black & white checkerboard tutorial video on YouTube explaining how to install the tiles easily. I have a feeling we’ll be ordering more tiles from them to give our bathrooms a quick floor fix as well.

Anyway, back to the old floors! This is what our kitchen looked like when we had our initial walk through of the home.

Here’s how the floors look now, with our bright blue walls and IKEA storage area. I really like peeking out to our other rooms and seeing the transition of colors. I definitely think the downstairs feels a lot more like “us” now. I am excited to do the same to our upstairs, which for the most part, hasn’t been touched since we moved in (eep!).

The first thing we did was decide how we wanted to install the tiles on our floor. We were trying to figure out if we wanted to lay them diagonally or straight. We ended up choosing the diagonal route (left), which took a lot longer than it would have if we were working with straight lines, but I think it makes the room look wider. We began laying the tiles from the front, righthand corner and placed all of the whole tiles.

Once we finished sticking all of the whole pieces to the floor, we had to start cutting out patterns to place the pieces which were touching the walls. It was incredibly difficult to cut pieces around vents, quarter round and door frames, but with some patience were were able to knock it out by Sunday afternoon. We both definitely had our fair share of dramatically flopping on the floor out of pure exhaustion and having sticky finger syndrome for 48 hours, but it wasn’t anything Goo Gone couldn’t help fix.

Our vents were the most frightening shade of brown I had ever seen (sorry for the lack of a “before” photo), so I sprayed them with black RustOleum. It’s surprising how much of a difference the black vents make in the room—everything looks a lot more clean and polished now.

Here’s a view from our dining room, where you can see one example of the flashing (is that what it’s called?) in the doorway, which Pete replaced throughout the kitchen and mudroom.

I really like the retro vibe of the kitchen and although it still needs some TLC (painting the door white, touching up the white in the mudroom, hanging airy curtains), I think it suits our personalities perfectly. Speaking of personalities, I am so happy that I am spending my life with this boyfriend of mine. We went through crazy mood swings together during these two days, which consisted of excited-exhausted-delirious-hot-and-bothered-starving-hopeful-proud-and-smelly. There’s nothing I enjoy more than singing songs together and inserting the words “Betty White” or “schloops.” We are both absolutely nutty and I couldn’t be more ecstatic to share our quirkiness together.

That being said, I felt awful that Pete has to tolerate my obsessive, perfectionist tendencies. I’m a crazy person and insisted that we have the tiles line up perfectly where the kitchen meets the mudroom. Luckily for the ginger, I assigned myself to a large majority of the painfully difficult tiles, which resulted in a lot of grunting, throwing parchment paper pattern balls and occasional swearing on my part. The worst was trying to place tiles underneath the incredibly heavy oven, which cannot be moved out of the way due to its awkward placement. Runner up for the worst was trying to get tiles behind the fridge without cracking the tiles we had already placed in front of it.

Here’s a view of our mudroom, which now has brand spanking new cove moulding at the bottom. This is one of the many rooms on our neverending to-do list which needs major lovin’. The creepy door leading to nowhere looks like someone from a horror movie clawed at the trim for days. I definitely need to sand the window and door frames and give everything a nice coat of white paint, not to mention toss the previous owner’s little tree car freshener. Baby steps.

All in all, I think this is one of those budget-friendly projects which can really makeover the entire look of a room in just a day or two. Plus, we’ve come pretty darn close to resembling the inspiration photo I “pinned” on Pinterest (one of my new favorite websites!) a while back:

Has anyone else ever tackled a quick, affordable, DIY floor makeover? If so, how did it go (comment with photos if you have them!)?

House Update: Before & Progress Shots

This weekend brought a lot of major progress to our house makeover, including major landscaping, cabinet painting and more wallpaper removal. Pete’s family came over to tackle the last room of wallpaper on the main floor, while his brother and friend helped take down all of the hedges and trees that were blocking our house. Betty White did her part by constantly stepping in wet paint and sleeping in the fireplace instead of her bed. Lesson learned: stop attempting to bathe the pooch pre-move-in.

I was surprised by how long my project of painting the kitchen cabinets took. I’d say I worked on painting the inside and outsides of the cabinets and the interior shelves over the course of about four days. We also updated the hardware, apart from the one cabinet door that still needs a knob drilled in. The previous owner had punched a pretty big hole in the door and tried covering it up with a massive knob, so I had to use wood filler to fix it up before putting in the new knob. These cabinets are a semi-temporary fix since we plan on renovating the kitchen within the next year, but we wanted to brighten up the already small room with a fresh take on the cabinetry.

During the process of wallpaper removal in the kitchen, I asked Pete for his help in moving the fridge so I could take down the paper behind it. When we pushed the fridge aside, I figured we had just discovered a giant dust bunny. That was, until I realized it was a mummified mouse, which caused me to shriek and run into the dining room while flailing like a crazy person. I’m sure the neighbors enjoy spying on our adventures as new homeowners while I dance around in front of our bay windows shouting, “OH MY DEAR GOD, THAT IS GROSS!”

Upon further inspection, we found yet another dead mouse that Pete had to shop vacuum out of the drip tray under the fridge because the tray was not able to be removed and cleaned. Needless to say, this was a major yuck factor, so we listed it on Craigslist and took advantage of Memorial Day savings. We are definitely going to hell for selling the mouse fridge to unsuspecting locals, but I can’t help but smile at our shiny new stainless steel friend (karma is definitely going to kick me in the ass for this one). With the money we got for the old fridge along with discounts and rebates, we only ended up spending about $130 on our mummified-mice-free appliance. Thank god for Lowe’s. Once there was a day when Target was my only temptation, but now Lowe’s has come along and stolen my heart and tempted me with its non-stop deals.

The dead mice weren’t our only encounter with unwanted critters this past week. Pete and I have been spending our weeknights working on the house, and driving back to our apartment to unwind and relax for about an hour before going to bed. On Friday night we were psyched for uninterrupted entertainment provided by Hulu, when a winged creature snuck its way into the apartment and had other plans for us. Luckily Pete found the small hole the bat was flying in from, so hopefully we won’t have any other unwanted mammals creeping up on us before we move out in the next few weeks.

Anyway, here are some more progress updates!

Here’s our living room with a basic coat of primer on everything. We are having our hardwood floors refinished this week, so we will begin prepping and painting the rooms this upcoming weekend.

The wallpaper is all gone in every room on the bottom floor, except for some spots in the kitchen. Once I had my dead mouse encounter I got distracted and decided to paint the cabinets so we could begin bringing our kitchen stuff over.

We will most definitely miss the Thomas Kinkade themed room, which will be our office/pet area once we move in.

I love that Betty White makes an appearance in pretty much every before/after shot because she’s following me around everywhere. She’s like the Waldo of our home photos in this one where she’s peeking out from behind the shop vacuum. Note the lack of plumbing now that we’ve had the washer/dryer pipes removed. That was finished under our escrow account, which has since had some major drama attached to it. Once we are finally finished with our house buying related drama, I will share our experiences with the FHA loan process, including reviews of our real estate agent, mortgage officer, contractors and inspector.

The room which we will be using as our bedroom was the absolute worst when it came to removing the wallpaper. The kitchen and the bedroom will need some major spackling love before we can start priming and painting everything. But for now, it feels nice to have all of the wallpaper down and to have made some major progress everywhere.

Here’s a view of our house when we first purchased it. The hedges and trees made it so difficult to see the actual house, that I drove by it pretty frequently in the first week of visits.

Here’s another angle of the “before” shots. Pete and I have a lot of plans for the front of the house, but our primary concern was to get rid of the hedges and two big trees so you could actually see our home.

Pete began by clipping the lower limbs from the tree to prep it for chainsawing the next day. Betty White stared through the door and made her sad “Dad, why are you hurting the tree like that?” puppy dog face, which was all sorts of cute.

Tada! This is the exterior now that the hedges and trees are removed. I can’t take any credit for helping, apart from putting bandages on Pete’s blisters and nuzzling his poison ivy arms every night. We can’t thank Pete’s brother and friend Gary enough for helping Pete clear the lawn up with their man strength!

Eventually we’ll make beds in the two spots where the tree stumps are, but for now we’re just going to use some grass seed to bring the lawn back to life.

When I went on a hoagie run for 15 minutes, the boys had magically removed the big tree that was blocking our back door by the mudroom. It definitely makes a huge difference in the amount of light that comes into the house now. I didn’t realize they would be removing the tree so quickly or I would have taken a better before photo!

For now the tree trimmings are on the side of our house, so we’ll be working on bundling up the limbs and bagging them. Hopefully Lowe’s sells those brown bags in bulk!

In addition to making major progress on the house this weekend, we also had a lot of fun visiting our friends in Bethlehem and eating delicious BBQ foods. Pete treated me to a day out at the zoo yesterday for my 27th birthday and we finished the night up with an intimate hibachi dinner for two at Ooka. Nothing makes me happier than elephant shrews and fried ice cream…that boy sure does know me. How did you guys spend your Memorial Day weekend?