Kitchen Refresh

Our very first projects on this house included painting the bedrooms and overhauling the kitchen as simply as we could. We needed a functional kitchen, which it wasn’t, on a small budget and tight timeline. I wouldn’t say we remodeled the kitchen, more like refreshed what was already there. I don’t like to make big design decisions before actually living in a space, so we kept things very simple and will update as we live here. Or maybe we will redo the whole thing at some point, but for now, we like it enough with the little refresh we did. I didn’t take any pictures of the kitchen in it’s authentic original state, so here are a few in process.

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The tiles were falling off and the counter was intentionally slanted toward the sink – so strange!

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Installing a new (level) counter. 

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The breakfast area. The paneling was originally darker. It had already been sanded in this photo, but not the portion just above the window so you can see how dark it started out.

This kitchen had a lot going for it. It is a good size and there are some great windows and natural light in this room. The picture window looks out onto the backyard which is a nice view since the previous owner’s wife was an avid gardener.

We didn’t have a large budget and we also had limited time, so we had to make decisions on what was most important to us and the functionality of this space for our family’s daily life. Our main goals for this phase were to center the stove under the hood, bring the refrigerator into the kitchen (you can see in the above photo, it was in the breakfast area), replace the counters, and paint the cabinets.

Before I show the results, you have to be told, these are not recent photos. They were taken before we had unloaded our moving truck hence the empty and undecorated room in the pictures you are about to see. Someday I will get some more better photos to show you, but for now, here is our kitchen refresh.

The cabinets are built in and original to the house, and while that’s a fun aspect to this home’s history, they were a looming limitation for us for a few weeks. They are not today’s “standard” size cabinets, which means a standard countertop won’t fit, a standard sink won’t fit, a standard dishwasher won’t fit….. Determining how to handle them was the longest phase of this project. We contemplated keeping them, replacing them, keeping them, keeping some of them, replacing them and ended on keeping them. We needed a functioning kitchen and didn’t have the time to replace them. We figured out how to work around their limiting aspects with some creativity and a little bit of divine intervention. We managed to raise and extend the countertops out a full inch by having amazing contractors (pictured in the “before” photos, who are my husband and father-in-law). The height was important to my tall husband and the extended depth was important for installing a sink. We will get to the sink soon.

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Cabinet drawers and doors are still waiting to be painted.

I found a 20″ x 20″ grey tile for the counters from Home Depot. It has subtle movement and pattern which is what I enjoyed most about the granite I chose for our previous home.

 

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The sink was the most impossible part of this project. Even after extending the counters an inch, they still weren’t quite deep enough for a standard sink, but ordering a custom sink would cost hundreds and went against our goals for simple and inexpensive. So, my plan was to pray and scour the unwanted. I took the kids to a Habitat For Humanity ReStore store and had to borrow a tape measure because of all things, I forgot mine. I went back to the sinks and there it was amongst the rusty old unwanted: a brand new, in the box, the right size, and $65 sink I had been praying for!

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I promise we’ve since removed the caulk from the counters!

The original placement of the refrigerator was awkward and we knew right away it was something we wanted to change. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the way this side of the kitchen looked originally but you can see part of it in the “before” breakfast area picture which is the third picture in this post. It was a wall of upper cabinets and lowers with a counter beneath them. We tore out the lower cabinets and cut the uppers in half to remove the left half and make space for the fridge. My husband put a piece of plywood and some cove trim to close off the remaining upper cabinet and another piece of plywood above the refrigerator to create a ceiling the same level as the existing drop ceiling. We haven’t put anything permanent in place of that cream cabinet because we may open up that wall all the way up to the refrigerator in the future.

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While we’re on the photo of the cabinet, let me show you the unpainted inside.

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The wallpaper has lost it’s surprise effect at this point. Just assume any type of improvement I do on this house involves wallpaper somewhere in the room. I didn’t remove it in this case. I just painted right over all those flowers and it worked out fine.

Once the refrigerator was moved from the left side of the breakfast area to the right side of the kitchen we had a great big space to set our folding-leaf table and chairs. The island is something we already had that happened to be a perfect fit in this space and we love the extra workspace it gives us.

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We have a lot we would like to do in this room still – like take down the drop ceilings and update the flooring – but for now it is “good enough” and we’re happy with the improvements we’ve made. Adding layers of decorating will go a long way as well, but with all the wallpaper around here at the moment, I can’t commit to when that might happen. One of the things I am very happy about is our decision to keep the cabinets. We may change them in the future but I feel good knowing we preserved them because whoever built them put so much time and effort into them 88 years ago and they are still beautiful and useful.

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Sunroom Inspiration

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Cortney Bishop Design via House of Turquoise

I just love that daybed swing, don’t you? As I’m dreaming of our finished sunroom, I’m thinking about how I want it to feel. The ambience of a room is my favorite feature of a room. Aside from being an inviting and comfortable place to spend time, I’ve written down a few feelings I want to create in this space.

  1. Happiness – I want this space to instantly be a mood lifter. Bright and beautiful.
  2. Laid-back – I envision a comfy place to curl up with a book or take a nap.
  3. Worn – I don’t want it to look too shiny and new. I think a bit of a worn look evokes a more welcoming feeling. You don’t feel like you have to be perfectly neat when a space has a well-loved and used vibe and this is a space I really want our family and guests to gravitate toward.

Since we don’t have central A/C, we want to be mindful of our furniture selections. We are finding the MDF and “less expensive” pieces we own aren’t doing well with the extra humidity in the air. We are leaning toward a mix of wood and rattan or wicker pieces for this room. We live in a river front community and many of the homes in the area are beachy cottages so we feel like rattan and/or wicker will fit right in and hold up well.

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Cottonwood Interiors

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Claire Brody Designs

It may take us longer to complete the room with better, and therefore pricier, pieces but furniture is something we can keep for a long time and it’s worth investing in as opposed to replacing every few years. Having patience is the more difficult part, for me anyway. So, for now I will keep on dreaming of that day bed swing.

Sunroom Update

Once we moved into this house, we found we spent most of our time in 2 places, the screened back porch and the sunroom. Both were bright and breezy, or had the potential to be in our minds.

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Sunroom

Initially, I was planning on redoing the living room first, and started on it, but after discovering how much time we spent in our sunroom, I switched gears. Also, I have a 4 month old who is nearly crawling and needs a safe place to spend time in during the day. Preferably a space where old crumbling wallpaper doesn’t spontaneously detach from the wall and leave tiny pieces to eat off the floor – ugh. With a smaller space to tackle than the living room and the fact that it can be closed off from the rest of the house, the sunroom started calling me away from my work on the living room.

Have you ever stripped wallpaper? I never had and I researched the “best ways” and the “easiest ways”. I tried steam first. Although it is heralded as a great technique by many people, that didn’t work at all in my case. Maybe it’s the fact that this paper is so old, but it just wouldn’t budge with the steam. So my husband bought me some Dif and a 7-in-1 paint tool and that was the magic combination for this particular wallpaper. Am I talking as though I have a relationship with the wallpaper because I sort of feel like I am and I sort of feel like I do. Anyway, about 6 weeks later, I had clean white beautiful plaster walls. I had never seen bare plaster before. It really does have a certain beauty to it. I can see why some people want their walls to look like they are plaster even if they’re not.

If you follow along on Instagram, you saw the below picture of my bare walls. That was an exciting day!

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Last week, I put a coat of oil-base primer on the whole room and painted test colors on the walls! I’m so excited to be at the painting phase. It’s such a sweet reward after so much work.

Next up, I’ll share some of my sunroom inspiration.

Old House Tour

Hi! Ready for picture overload? I’ll just quickly introduce our new old house and then let you scroll …and scroll and scroll hehe. We bought a 1928 Four Square with some Craftsman features that hasn’t been touched since before 1978. We know this because the former owner told us his wife loved the house the way it was the first time she walked through it and wouldn’t let him do anything to it. We don’t know how long it had been since it was updated before this sweet old man bought it but we do know we can sum up the decor in here as “wallpaper” and “old”. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom and a large basement and attic. There is also a barn. A beautiful red barn with real sliding barn doors. I think that was what I fell most in love with. Ok, on to the pictures! Note: these were all taken before we moved in when the only work we had done was paint the trim white and paint the bedrooms.

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Living Room

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Sunroom

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Dining Room

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Screen Room

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Bathroom

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Kids’ Bedroom

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Master Bedroom

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Guest Bedroom

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Attic

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Kitchen

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Pool aka The Black Hole but most often referred to as The Hole and the back of the barn

Lots to do, huh? We’ve been working hard for 2 months now and have a few updates finished. I’ll post again later this week with an update to our favorite room.

How We Came To Live In Jersey

Now that we’ve been here 9 months, bought a house, moved in, and “settled” a bit, let me back up and explain how it all happened. First of all, we weren’t intending to make this move. We were headed to Chicago for my husband’s job. In January of 2015 we listed our house intending to move to Chicagoland, but 7 months later our house still hadn’t sold – we hadn’t even had an offer – and we had just found out we were pregnant with our third baby. A few days after the positive pregnancy test, I got up the courage to tell my husband I didn’t want to go to Chicago. In fact, what I wanted would require him to quit his job. I felt that our growing family needed the support of extended family. That narrowed our options quite a bit from our first big move out to Illinois, in which we somewhat randomly chose from the contiguous 48. We could either move to Florida or New Jersey. Neither of us was too keen on “going back home”. We both had a been-there-done-that,-let’s-do-something-new feeling, so we agreed to each think about it. We re-listed our house in Sept with a new realtor and it sold THE VERY FIRST DAY. Now, we really had to make a decision. We had 6 weeks to pack our 2300 sq ft house, secure new housing, and most importantly decide, literally, which direction we would go. New Jersey won because we both strongly felt Chicago was the worst of the 3 choices for our family and I couldn’t bear losing the seasons when I had finally gotten to experience them and after only 3 years, I hadn’t had enough. I may never get enough of the excitement of changing seasons and changing activities around the seasons. I don’t feel like my husband was at all upset to lose out on 90 degrees 365 days a year either, so off we were!

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The largest moving truck we could find.

 

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Saying goodbye to Forest Park, St. Louis. They were so little 9 months ago!

In spite of the difficulties moving and resettling can bring, we are so pleased with our decision.  It has been the best thing for us right now.