The long-awaited swing set!

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We have been talking to the kids about the possibility of a treehouse / fort / swing set for what feels like forever. Before we ever found a house, Papa Doc had promised Jonah that he would build him a treehouse in our future yard. Of course we didn’t know whether or not we’d end up with a yard that had a suitable tree for an actual tree house (we didn’t) but Kristin and I always had a good-sized yard for play on our wish list, so I was sure we’d have room for something fun. I’ve been dreaming about having a space for outdoor living for ages, so I’ve been pretty motivated to make it special. (Gardening is another thing altogether;  we’ve pretty much ignored the actual plants so far, but one of these days we’ll learn how to take that on too). My dad built us an incredible play house on stilts when my sister and I were kids, so I knew what he was capable of.

I probably looked at hundreds of different treehouse kits online, trying to figure out which features I wanted ours to have, how large it should be, how sturdy one brand was compared to another. It was honestly really tough to tell one from the next with only photos and a few specs listed. A friend of mine from work had purchased one that he was happy with and recommended a blog post with a feature and buying guide. While I’m sure they aren’t the ultimate authority on swing sets, it was actually really helpful to consider their advice. I knew that I wanted swings, a slide, a large deck or fort (not just enough room to get on a slide, but plenty of room to hang out and play), and preferably a rope ladder or climbing wall, it narrowed my search. It didn’t take me long to figure out that if we wanted something high-quality it was going to cost close to $2000 (and you can easily spend far more than that if you get carried away). We don’t have that kind of a budget since we have three kids in full-time preschool, so we needed an alternative.

Fortunately, we happened to drop by a friend’s house on a neighborhood walk one weekend and the kids ran into the backyard when we stopped in the driveway to chat with the dad. When we went back there to retrieve them we saw their swing set, and it was great! I asked about it and found out that they’d purchased the plans and the hardware, bought the wood separately (from a provided lumber list) and DIY’d it. They even had their plans around the house so they offered to share them with us. After giving it some thought, I decided that I wanted to go with a slightly different version of the same set (the Trailblazer) because it had a 6’x6′ deck and all of the other features I was looking for. I ran the idea past my dad (who would be doing all of the work, so he had to be on board). He gave it a thumbs-up, so we went for it.

I didn’t have much of a sense of how long this would take; I’d read that even the kits can take roughly 20-25 hours for two adults to assemble. My dad brought over sawhorses, a table saw, a drill (although he ended up borrowing an impact driver from a friend, and said it made a huge difference), and probably a few other tools I’m forgetting, and set up shop in our garage. He had a trailer full of lumber delivered by a handyman friend who he trusted to pick out good wood (we used pressure treated pine), and went to work last week Tuesday.

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I’m not at all surprised by his handiness, but I’m honestly amazed by how quickly he put this together given all of the other estimates I’d read for a variety of sets. It took him less than a week of some partial and some full days, he estimates around 20 hours or so. On the first day, he asked me if Jonah might like to help him for a bit (he’d been talking about helping Papa Doc on this project for a long time) so I went to pick him up from preschool an hour early. He immediately ran down to the basement to get his toolbox.

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My dad let him ratchet in a bolt or two, but he lost interest pretty quickly and decided to just watch. The next day, when the kids came home from school the platform was up. Every day they’d run back there first thing to see what new progress had been made, and immediately climb on whatever was there. I should mention that it was probably key to progress that he worked on it almost exclusively while they were away at school. The interference and insistence on toddlers “helping” would have slowed things considerably.

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The swing beam and swings went up next, which was very exciting, along with the tarp for the roof. The angle on the a-frame for the swing beam is really wide, which bothers my dad a little bit visually, but it makes it ridiculously sturdy. Had he cut the beams shorter they could have sat at a narrower angle, but honestly I love how sturdy it is. You can set a glass of wine on the cross beam while the kids are swinging and it doesn’t even wobble (yes, I’ve tested this). My dad pointed out that this thing is WAY overbuilt. Literally anyone could climb all over this thing and it wouldn’t move.

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Next came the slide, which wasn’t included with the hardware kit so we were able to choose it. I wanted one with a weight limit that could handle adults as well because I wanted it to be good and sturdy, and we found this one at our local Home Depot. You need a 10′ slide for a 5′ platform, and fortunately it fit in my parents’ Four Runner. My dad showed up with the slide on a weekend morning, so all of the kids were there to watch him install it.

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I have to say that it does get really hot in the sun, so we may be hosing it down a bit this summer. Fortunately we have a shady yard and the set is almost entirely in the shade for most of the day.

The last item on the list was the cargo net, and that went in yesterday (not quite a week from when he started). When the kids came home from school they all fought to climb on it first.

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Oh, and there’s also a hammock! You can see it behind the fort in the photo above. That was only a partial impulse buy at Target this past weekend. We’d talked about trying to attach a hammock to the set somehow but hadn’t quite figured it out. I looked at kid-sized hammocks on Etsy but they were surprisingly pricey for a tiny hammock, but then I happened upon these $19 nylon hammocks in the seasonal section and grabbed one, figuring we’d see if we could make it work. My dad put a hook into one of the posts and attached the other end to the fence and that was it (along with a couple of carabiners and some cute yellow chain for length). It just happened to be the perfect distance from the fence.

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The kids are so in love with all of this. Every morning when they wake up they ask go outside before anything else, and at the end of the evening it’s tough to pull them away to get them into bed.

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On this week leading up to Father’s Day I couldn’t be more thankful for my dad, our loving, handy Papa Doc who put so much sweat and love into making the yard special for the kids. The final step is to get sand into the sandbox under the fort. It’s arriving on Friday; thirty six 50-pound bags to be exact. I still have some grass to dig out, and we considered making it twice as deep, but once we realized how much sand we would need I decided to leave it as-is and see if it suffices.

Here’s how the total budget shook out:

  • Plans and hardware (including swings, cargo net, and tarp): $399
  • Lumber: $280 (which is WAY cheaper than the plans estimate, but maybe that’s a Michigan thing?)
  • Slide: $189
  • Sandbox sand (1 cubic yard): $75 including delivery
  • Labor: FREE (thanks, Papa!)
  • Total cost: $943

It really ended up being SO much less expensive than a comparable kit might have been.

Also this past weekend I put up string lights on the patio, running from the garage to the apple tree and back, and I love the way it makes the whole patio feel: festive, like we’re setting up for a party (except that I’m an introvert so I sat out there by myself till 11:00 the other night and loved it). And we have fireflies! I’ve been dying to see if we would get them. We sat out there with Vivienne when she wouldn’t go to sleep a few nights ago and spotted them with her.

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A week or so ago I heard the poem The Gate by Marie Howe, and the last five lines have really stayed with me.

This is what you have been waiting for, he used to say to me.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This—holding up my cheese and mustard sandwich.
And I’d say, What?
And he’d say, This, sort of looking around.

I have a lot of “This” moments lately, and the majority of them seem to be happening outdoors.

We eventually put sand in the sandbox, and that post is here.

Living in the great room

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A few evenings ago, when I was driving home and saw five or six deer cross the road and turn down our street, I went inside and quickly scooped up the kids to show them the spectacle. Two of them were still standing in the neighbor’s driveway and the others were further back behind the house. I love the deer in Kalamazoo, maybe just because it’s something I never saw in New York and I see them all the time here. While we were standing out in the street we noticed some family friends who live a few houses down standing in their driveway also watching. We chatted briefly and she told us that on Sundays when their daughter and her family come over for dinner they often talk about stopping by to say hello, but it always looks as if no one is home. That’s partly because I never turn the porch light on. (Is that unneighborly? I have no idea, it just seems like a waste of energy if we aren’t expecting anyone, but maybe I’m totally unaccustomed to neighborhood customs). But it’s also partly because we kind of live in the back of the house.

When we bought this house we were especially impressed by the way the great room extended the kitchen and added a whole new living space to what would otherwise be a pretty small 1950s ranch. The couple we bought it from added that room almost as soon as they bought it, a big 14 x 24 room that connects to the kitchen, with six skylights, six windows looking out into the backyard, and sliding glass doors on two sides. What’s interesting is that when we first set foot in the house, I actually thought that the great room felt much smaller than I’d expected it to feel, given the photos we’d seen and the dimensions. I now think that was because of the colors and the odd furniture placement.

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We hated the floors, and the salmon pink was not our style, but we knew that this room really made the house. Everyone who comes in, starting with all of the folks who did work before we moved in, comments on how unexpected it is (the front elevation is nothing to write home about) and how it’s by far the best room in the house. We were so excited to put wood floors in here and to paint and decorate it the way we wanted it. It feels huge now, and in the evenings we’re pretty much always here and/or in the kitchen, so the house always looks dark from the street.

We went a couple of months without a sofa in here because we ordered something from a custom shop (Joybird, which we’ve been really happy with). We love it now that it’s here and the room feels so much more complete. The kids love it too, clearly; we do a lot of reading here.

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Originally I really wanted a sectional because I wanted to be able to spread out, but after way too much deliberation we decided that it might not fit the room properly and wouldn’t give us any flexibility to rearrange. We ultimately went with a sofa and ottoman, and I’m really glad that we did.

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Before we moved in, Kristin couldn’t stand that green countertop / bar that extends out from the kitchen. It matches the one under the far bank of cabinets that you can see in the photo above. Both were added during the addition (the rest of the countertops in the kitchen are cream colored). She was dying to rip out all of the countertops and replace them so that they matched, but that wasn’t in the budget. Once we got this room painted and put together my mom pointed out that with all of the blues and greens, the green counter isn’t quite as ugly as it once seemed. It sort of blends in, which is a happy accident.

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The teak furniture came from my parents’ house (we love having a space big enough to leave the leaf in all the time), the rug came from West Elm, and the bar stools came from Wayfair (we love that they’re wipeable, because kids).

We cannot wait for summer when we know that we’ll be doing a lot of indoor/outdoor living from this room. We have some inherited patio furniture that needs welding and probably a coat of paint (my parents had it as far back as I can remember), and we have a swing set promise to fulfill. Until it’s warm enough for all of that we’ll just enjoy the days growing a tiny bit longer each evening, and the way this room brings the winter sunlight indoors.

Vivienne’s Room in Pictures

I’ve had high hopes of taking and sharing a whole lot more “after” photos of the house, but every time I set out to do it (in a photos-of-the-room sort of way, not photos of kids who happen to be in a room) I realize that something still feels incomplete and decide that I ought to wait. But you know what? We will always be making changes and there will always be time for more pictures, so I’m just going to start sharing rooms as they are even if they could be improved upon.

We really didn’t buy much of anything for Vivi’s room with the exception of paint, bedding, and art. We inherited a bed from the previous owners and decided that we would paint the headboard to make it more fun (which was a nice early project when we weren’t doing much work on the house ourselves – it felt like we were actually making something beautiful with our own hands). Her dresser went with Jonah’s crib (which has since been given to a Syrian refugee family in town). Someday I’m sure we’ll have fun picking out furniture for a new version of her room (given her personality I suspect she’ll care about this sooner than most) but for now we’re actually really happy with it.

This was her room before we made any changes at all. It had laminate floors that didn’t match any other rooms in the house (they were using it as an office) and sort of a moss-green wall color (which honestly wasn’t objectionable, but in such a small room we wanted to go a bit lighter).

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And here’s where we ended up:

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The pictures on her walls are Elly MacKay, whose work is lovely on the surface but even more interesting when you read about it. She basically creates scenes out of layers of paper in a tiny theatre and photographs them.

Her walls are Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler, and we put the same carpeting in all of the bedrooms, so that wasn’t chosen specifically for her. Her quilt is from Land of Nod, and I love it. And we painted her headboard (which was wood before with some dark green accents…I can’t find the before picture right now) Benjamin Moore Pinot Grigio Grape.

The baby cradle at the end of her bed was a gift from my parents before I was even pregnant with Jonah. We’d been struggling to get pregnant and my dad bought it from this wonderful antique store that had a sad ending here in Kzoo. Despite there being no baby yet, he declared “to become, act as if” and that was that; we had a cradle well before we had a baby. Ultimately Jonah never spent a night in it since we ended up co-sleeping, but it’s become a wonderful place for dolls.

I feel like her room could use a few more personal touches, but we’re pleased with how it’s come together so far.

Home Sweet Home

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We are finally, after so much waiting and hoping that it would all feel worth it, living in our new home. We moved in a week ago Monday, one day before America made one of the worst decisions in recent history and we were suffocated by rage and despair as we watched the election returns in our very own living room. It’s been a pretty heavy time for Kristin and I even though we’re so happy to be in this home, so we’ve been juggling a complicated bunch of incongruent emotions.

Surprisingly, I was actually feeling sort of anxious and sad as we prepared to leave my parents’ house. It had been SO hard moving in with them and trying to figure out how we all fit in that space, but by the end I was actually pretty content. I’d loved having my mom around to do crafts with me, the kids were happy in the space, I loved the view of the night sky from their yard and the view of downtown Kalamazoo from their balcony. My mom even said that she was going to miss us, which was a lovely surprise. The kids loved having Gigi and Papa Doc right there, and I knew that they would miss them each morning. Something about leaving felt like the end of an era that may have been somewhat unwelcome at the start, but which was an important and meaningful part of our journey back home.

Part of my fear had to do with the new sleeping arrangements. For a year now, Jonah has slept with me, or I’ve slept with him I suppose. I can’t even explain how that began exactly, because he’d been sleeping independently before that. Regardless of how we got there, that’s where things were, and Kristin was sleeping with the twins. We’d been preparing Jonah for a major change once we moved into the house, but we weren’t at all sure that it would go well. He knew that he and Jude would share a room and that Vivi would have her own room. The first night it was a challenge, but surprisingly it wasn’t a total horror show. Now that we’re a week and a half into the transition I’m pleased to say that things feel fairly good. Jude has actually struggled the most, and as of last night he’s sleeping in Vivi’s bed with her instead of in his own bed in Jonah’s room. That seems to calm him a bit more, and results in more sleep for all of us. Jonah and Vivi have been champs with the whole thing, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.

The kids really love our house – they especially love the basement because it’s 100% their space, as evidenced by the fact that it looks like this most of the time.

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I’m actually surprised by how quickly we’ve all begun to feel at home here. It really feels like our home; there’s been virtually no period of getting used to the space (well, I suppose you could say that we had roughly three and a half months of getting used to it, but it’s all a matter of perspective). That said, it does feel like we may be unpacking boxes for the next thousand years or so. Kristin keeps reminding me that it’s only been a week and a half, and that we haven’t even had a true weekend yet because we spent last weekend on the east side of the state for K’s parents’ 40th anniversary. Sometimes though, it feels like I can spend a couple of hours sorting through crap and feel as if I’ve made no rewarding progress whatsoever. There was something lovely about having access to so little of our junk for three months. Now that we have it all back, we kind of wish it were gone again (see basement photo above).

Very little in the house is “after photo ready” so to speak, but my desire to post some photos is keeping me from giving up on the unpacking. So I don’t have a whole lot to show you right now. The half bath, however, is pretty much done and we’re really pleased with it. If you remember, it looked like this when we started:

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My dad pulled out the sink and toilet and replaced the hardware, we had new mosaic tile put down, I painted the walls with paint that we’d originally selected for the kitchen but never used, I painted the oak mirror with a white enamel, and we chose not to put the medicine cabinet back up. We chose new sconces and my dad put them up, and he put the toilet and sink back in for us. We took down the blinds and I applied a privacy film to the glass so that we could still have some natural light from the great room while providing a bit more privacy. Eventually we’d like to hang some sort of art in here, but for now there’s nothing on the walls. It’s so much more us and such a pleasant surprise project that we hadn’t intended on tackling.

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We didn’t paint the trim or the ceiling, so those are still cream, but that can wait. The bulbs in the sconces are a bit much (LEDs are no joke), so we may need to downgrade the wattage a bit so that no one is blinded when they flip on the lights. We’re so thankful for my dad’s handywork, in fact he’s put in a crazy number of hours here since we moved in. I know that we can’t call him every time we need something done, however, so I’ve been trying to follow along and learn.

We had a couple of good friends over last Friday night, which was sorely needed companionship at the end of a rough week, but also an important milestone in our journey. We have a space where we can host now! And our kitchen and great room feel so well suited to it. I’m hoping to become much better at hosting friends than I’ve ever been before. I look forward to taking more photos as things get unpacked and every corner isn’t full of boxes and paper and chaos, so I promise to do that. For now here’s a photo of the great room sans furniture, but with our lovely new floor finally complete.

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Flooring – Nearly There

Things are getting very close, and I’m more than ready for the construction zone to transform back into a home. The carpet went in yesterday and the wood floors are finished in both the living room and kitchen. The great room floor is in progress and we hope that it will wrap up by the middle of next week.

We planned to move in most of our stuff from the garage (where it’s all been living since early August) into the house this weekend even though things are still under construction. That’s proving to be more challenging than we’d anticipated, however, because the two rooms that would be most convenient to house boxes while we sort through them are essentially off-limits due to tools and what not being strewn about. I was also surprised to find myself feeling completely overwhelmed by having all of our stuff back. Despite the challenges of living out of suitcases in someone else’s home for three months, there was something freeing about having so little stuff to worry about. Suddenly we’re opening boxes and trying to decide where to put things and it all just feels like way too much. I’m terrified of throwing things together in a haphazard way and never achieving a higher level of organization than we were capable of in a two bedroom apartment. I’m trying to just breathe through the anxiety and trust that it will all work out, just as it has so far.

Here are a few photos from today. Even though the kitchen floor is also finished, I didn’t take a photo because there were tools and all kinds of renovation nonsense all over every surface of the room. I love this wood flooring so much and I can’t wait to see it in the great room.

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We have the same greige(ish) carpeting in all three bedrooms, and a different style of carpet (a bit better for high traffic) in the basement, but in a very similar shade.

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I think that the cafe shutters in the boys’ room are probably coming down. We debated, but they just make it so dark and they don’t add a lot. Plus I think the beds will be too high for them to function.

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I’m really loving the color in our room, especially with the carpet. I can’t believe that I was so unsure about this one.

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I’m obsessed with the new half bath floor. Obviously this isn’t anywhere close to finished, but the floor gets me excited to complete the project.

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The basement looks so different without the pink shag (the carpet is greige, but the weird lights and pine walls give it an odd cast). Jonah was playing down here after unpacking some toys today and it made me so happy that the kids have a playroom.

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More to come when the rest is complete!

Home Projects Underway

We’re one week into the renovations and we could not be more excited about this house. I truly feel like everything is falling into place in ways I couldn’t even have imagined. Going into this I kept telling people that the house needed so much cosmetic work; that we would have to live with bad countertops and outdated bathrooms for who knows how long. But even my feelings on all of that (and some of the circumstances) have changed.

Paint is SO transformative. Once the salmon pink started disappearing it started to feel like an entirely different house. Even the main bathroom, when painted white (eliminating roughly five different wall colors in one room) looks pretty nice! The retro tile hardly bothers me anymore. I even ordered a new pink toilet seat today so that we can work with the bathroom rather than against it. The red oak flooring looks amazing (the living room is almost finished, the kitchen and great room happen next week hopefully), and the carpet goes into the bedrooms and the basement next Friday.

While he was pulling up the tile in the kitchen and great room, our flooring guy asked if we wanted him to take it up in the half bath as well, since we have a dumpster anyway. We waffled because we didn’t intend to do anything with the half bath yet, but pulling up the tile in the adjoining room led us to believe that there might have been a leak at some point and we wanted to investigate. Not only that, but we didn’t love that tile to begin with and there was a chance that there was something more interesting underneath. When my dad looked at it he told us that he could put tile down for us in a day or two, and that the tile and grout wouldn’t be terribly expensive, so we decided to ditch the old tiles. There wasn’t anything but subfloor underneath, but we did find the toilet leak (which we had repaired) and now somehow we’ve  found ourselves in a whole half-bath renovation that we had no intention of beginning.

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We decided that we wanted to go with a mosaic tile of some sort, so my dad brought these home and we chose the honeycomb on the bottom right. Initially we thought that we would just redo the floors and leave the rest until a later date, but Kristin decided that she was willing to pull down the wallpaper. My dad pulled out the toilet and pedestal sink and took down the mirror and medicine cabinet, and also got all of the wallpaper removal supplies earlier today and asked our painter how to get started taking it down. Before he could talk him through it, however, a handyman showed up and needed my dad to show him some projects around the property so he told the painter that it would have to wait until tomorrow. When my dad returned 20-30 minutes later the wallpaper was gone! The painter told him that it was our housewarming gift. We can hardly believe it. We still need to scrub the paste off of the walls, but the tough part is over.

Here’s a photo of the bathroom before everything was torn out, just for reference.

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Next week my dad is going to put up beadboard, we’ll change out the faucet and toilet seat, and put the toilet and sink back in. At some point soon Kristin or I will paint with some paint we didn’t end up using in the kitchen. We may even change out the sconces over the sink. Then today we discussed the possibility of removing the old window over the toilet. That wall used to be an exterior wall before the great room addition went on, and they left the window for some reason. I love having natural light there, but the window with the sash does make the whole project look a little bit unfinished and weird. You can see right into the bathroom from the great room, so there are cheap blinds on the window which don’t add anything at all (well, besides privacy). Today my dad suggested that we could remove the window, drywall part of the bottom, and add a transom at the top to bring in light but take the window above eye level. We love that idea so we’re going to explore it this weekend. Expect some “after” pictures in a few weeks.

On to the things that are even further along. The bedrooms look amazing with new paint. The green in the boys’ room is pretty bright (Benjamin Moore Cedar Green) but I think that it’s going to look fun and playful with their Hanna Andersson bedding. Kristin chose the blue for our bedroom (Benjamin Moore Mozart Blue) after we went back and forth for a long time. I worried that it was just too dark, but finally conceded because she’s never chosen her bedroom paint color before and I have. Honestly, I think it’s going to be beautiful. And Vivi’s room is such a pale peach (Benjamin Moore Peach Cooler) that you barely notice the color, but I think that it’s great in a tiny bedroom.

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The great room is completely transformed by paint. We went with a super popular neutral for all of our connected common spaces (Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter) and we love it. When it was recommended to us I initially worried because I’m not a big fan of greige. I prefer a true grey over a beige any day, but to my surprise it looks pretty grey in our space, and I really like it. I’m realizing now that I don’t have a good picture of it besides the wall next to the blue, so I’ll share more another time, but just know that three of the four walls in this room are grey. The big wall that separates the great room from the kitchen is a very dramatic dark blue (Benjamin Moore Hidden Sapphire) and we both love it.

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Oh, and initially we’d planned to paint the kitchen this sort of medium teal called Azure Water. I’d been unsure about it all along, even when I bought it, but Kristin felt great about it so I went with it hoping that I’d be pleasantly surprised. When we were over earlier in the week, I was talking my mom through some of the colors and she told me that she thought that, from the great room, seeing three different paint colors (grey, dark blue, and the kitchen teal) would really chop up the space in a negative way. We made a snap decision to stick with Revere Pewter in the kitchen and we’re both so glad that we did.

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Now that the salmon pink is gone, I hardly even mind the outdated, mismatched countertops. It all just looks much better. Now we may use Azure Water (since we already bought it) in the half bath above the white beadboard. I think that it will make a lot more sense in there.

And then there’s the living room. That room is also Revere Pewter, and we decided to paint the limestone fireplace (because it just didn’t have much pop) Amherst Grey from Benjamin Moore’s classics line. We really like it. I’d like to paint or change out those fireplace doors at some point, but that’s for the future.

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The floors in this room are almost finished, and we love them so much. They’re prefinished red oak in a natural/satin finish from Infinity Wood Floors.

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That used to be carpet! I love this SO MUCH MORE.

We cannot wait to move in, but to be honest I’m kind of loving the experience of watching it evolve day by day. We couldn’t be happier with our crew, and my dad has put in so many hours of free labor on top of what everyone else has done. Oh, he also took apart one of the kitchen cabinets to prepare for our dishwasher, which is crucial.

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Did I mention that they found parkay flooring under the tile in the kitchen? That led to a big debate about the elevation of rooms (they aren’t all the same) but we sorted it out. The afternoon that Brett (our flooring guy) called to ask if I could come over to the house to look at a few things, and walked me through a few oddities that I needed to make big decisions on, there was a distinct moment in which I almost started to laugh because I was sure that this was an episode of House Hunters Renovation. Don’t they all have that “uh, we didn’t expect this so now what do you want us to do?” moment? Fortunately this one didn’t cost us thousands and wasn’t too agonizing, it just slowed the work down for a bit.

We had to decide whether to pull out the parkay that the tile had been laid on top of, or just to go over it again. The matter was complicated by the fact that the toe kick in the kitchen is weirdly low, and would be even lower if we put flooring down on top. No matter what we chose there would be an elevation change from one room to another, it was just a matter of where we wanted it to be. Initially Kristin and I thought that they ought to take it all down to the subfloor, but then they did a core sample in the former eat-in-kitchen. They found old linoleum under the plywood, which my dad suspects could be asbestos based. If we pulled it out and that proved to be true we’d be in an abatement situation, which obviously no one wants. We ultimately decided to leave the floor undisturbed and just go over top again. There’s probably a good reason that they did that fifteen years ago.

The paint should wrap up on Monday and we hope that the flooring will be finished by next Friday (fingers crossed). We have our sights set on the weekend of the 29th to move in, but we’re keeping an open mind just in case things take longer than expected.

Looking for the “before” pictures? They’re here.

Finally Almost Home

We closed on the house this week! The brown house is finally ours (well the bank’s, but you know what I mean). When Monday morning came I could hardly believe that the day had arrived, and then somehow the waiting that took place between Monday at 10:00 a.m. and Wednesday evening (when we actually took possession) felt like the longest three days ever. It might have been the most agonizing wait of this entire process.

We decided that we should have a pizza picnic at the house on Wednesday night, so we took the kids over in the pouring rain and celebrated while sitting on the floor of the great room. The waiting wasn’t 100% over because the movers ended up leaving a few of her items behind and her cleaning lady was still there, but we didn’t care – we were home.

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Kristin kept saying again and again “I love this house,” and we’ve talked a lot about how it’s not huge, but it’s just right for us. I think that it’s going to be full of truly useable space, which was really important to me in our house search.

On Thursday our paint was delivered, and this morning I went over after dropping the kids at school so that I could take some “before” pictures. Our flooring arrived this afternoon and the flooring guys are already tearing up the old flooring, which is incredibly exciting. Our painter starts on Monday morning, and we’re desperately hoping to be in before Halloween, but we’ll see how all of these projects unfold.

So here are a whole bunch of “before” pictures (click to expand the gallery). I don’t have a wide angle lens I’m afraid, so apologies for the chopped off corners of rooms. Stay tuned for changes!

Pushing through decision paralysis

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The countdown to our closing date is finally beginning to feel real and as a result we are finally making some design decisions and committing to them. We have been all over the place when it comes to interior design, and while that might sound like we’ve been arguing about it, we’ve honestly been traveling all over the design map together; we just couldn’t get past the fear of making the wrong decision (well OK, I couldn’t) and every time one of us raised a potential concern it sent the other one into a fit of doubts. Kristin has been to a wholesale flooring place so many times that when I dropped by last week I got the sense that they know her almost as well as their contractors.

For flooring we started at laminate, and then decided that we wanted real wood, which started at hickory and then maple and then a variety of grey stained maples and oaks, followed by teak, and finally we landed at the most basic of basic: natural red oak. We’ve been to the paint store twice with different flooring samples, asking the awesome design specialist there to choose a paint palette based on our flooring, and now we’ll have to return again with this new floor but we don’t care: we’re excited about it. We both wanted something with more of a matte finish, and while neither of us has ever been a huge oak fan, we loved the almost invisible finish and lack of shine on this particular flooring. Plus it turned out to be the cheapest thing we’d considered, which was a huge bonus. Our flooring guy told us that given the age, location, and design of our house, he would have guessed that either red or white oak would have been original to the house, so we’re feeling good about a choice that works with the house instead of trying to force it to take on a different look. The wood will be going in the formal living room, the kitchen, and the great room, in addition to the hallway to the bedrooms.

We’ve decided to put down fairly inexpensive carpeting in the bedrooms because they won’t be high traffic areas, and because it feels warmer. I honestly never thought that I’d put in carpeting by choice; I’ve never liked it, but somehow it felt like the right move in this house. Plus it’s way cheaper than putting in wood floors and then buying area rugs.

We also finally decided on bedding for everyone. Sally at Douglas and Son told me that she wouldn’t even talk to me about bedroom paint colors until I brought her the bedding. The only problem was that we couldn’t make up our minds about bedding, and Kristin disagreed with the whole idea of choosing bedding in order to choose paint (my dad is with her on that, but I still think they’re both wrong) but she let me do things in that order anyway. We’d been in a bit of a stalemate over Vivi’s room, but the dust finally settled when we realized that the design she liked wasn’t available in a twin duvet cover, so we came to a bit of an eclectic compromise: I got the quilt I wanted and she got the dog patterned pillowcases as an accent piece, even though they don’t exactly go together. Vivi’s bedding is coming from Land of Nod, the boys are getting bedding from Hanna Andersson, and ours came from West Elm. I’m sure that we could have gone way cheaper if we’d wanted to, but it felt important to me to try to pull these rooms together from the start in the way that I want. We’re inheriting a bed for Vivi from the seller, so that saves us some money, and both the wood and carpeting ended up cheaper than we’d anticipated, so I think it will all shake out. We’re excited for things to arrive so that we can take a giant pile of blankets to Sally and ask her what colors we should paint the walls.

And while some of the main area paint colors might change, we think that we’re pretty much there at this point. We’re using a greige in both the great room and living room, but painting a dark blue accent color on one wall of the great room and painting the drab limestone fireplace in the living room a dark grey (probably also a greige if I’m being honest, but we both hate that word). We’re probably using one of the medium blues in the kitchen, and leaving the cream colored cabinets alone (for now). So lots of cool paint colors but warm floors, so we hope that it will balance out.

I ordered the flooring today, we have paint and flooring and repair guys lined up for mid October. We close on the 10th, so it’s finally beginning to feel like a reality. I’d originally hoped that we could have everything pretty moved-in-looking by Thanksgiving, but now we’ve decided that we’ll probably hold off on buying any furniture for the great room, so I’m expecting it to look kind of haphazard and unfinished for awhile. As wise friends have reminded me, our friends will be coming over to see us not our perfect house, so I just need to accept that something will always be incomplete.