The stairwell is (finally) painted

Is there some sort of bad DIY-er award for the longest time something has been prepped for paint but ignored? If so, we should submit our stairwell. I think we would win. Remember when we painted the living room way back in March? Well, the stairwell was part of that major project too. Here’s the best before shot I have. (I didn’t know the stairwell was on our to do list. So it was not properly photographed before.)


Just like living room, it had a lot of areas that needed patched and an awesome (sarcasm) paint job that combined fire engine red (irony?) bits of tan and primed walls. 002stairwell 003stairwell

Oh and it was sporting an awesome (sarcasm) commercial-grade exit light system.004stairwell 005stairwell 006stairwell

Aaron turned to Hyde Wet & Set Wall Repair Patch to make the necessary patches on our plaster-with-metal-lathe walls.


Once the walls were white the treads started to look quite unfortunate. We had already decided to to paint them glossy black to offer some contrast to the walls. We thought it would add a huge amount of polish to the space, kind of like putting on eye liner (my reference, not Aaron’s.)



Because this is an industrial staircase, and one that gets lots of use, we opted to not spend any time trying to make the treads perfect. There are paint drips and rough spots and that’s fine. We just wiped everything down and accepted the imperfections.


Then, Aaron carefully taped all four sides of each tread and along the wall. The warm weather rolled in shortly thereafter and the carport turned garage took over our spring… and our summer… and our lives…

Sometime in July, I decided to be helpful and start working on the stairs. Wielding a paint brush is not in my skill set as I’m the paint roller in the family. So I  carefully, painstakingly outlined each step and filled in each riser. I spent four hours on the lower treads and another four on the upper – just for the first coat. By my estimation, I was going to spend a total of 40 hours OF MY LIFE painting the stairwell.

Then House Hunters: Where Are They Now decided to pay us a visit and the stairwell painting shifted back to Aaron who knocked out ALL of the remaining coats in under 4 hours total. He’s a whiz!

That included some necessary touch ups due to the oil paint seeping under the tape.

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And so, finally, here are way too many pictures of our FINISHED stairwell!

At the top of the staircase:015stairwell 016stairwell

P.S. Don’t those plants make such a difference? I forgot how cold and sterile that corner felt.

Looking down (before anything, after wall paint/before tread paint and donezo):

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On the second landing looking up:019stairwell 020stairwell

That bright blue blob? That’s our awesome, shiny treads reflecting my blue dress. This is also as close to a “selfie” as I get…

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Note the light fixture, which we re-purposed from Aaron’s office at our last studio. It lived in the living room for a while and is now providing a lot of light in the stairwell (after we changed the bulbs.) We have plan for a more permanent fixture in this space, but this works perfectly for now.

On the second landing, looking down:023stairwell 024stairwell 025stairwell 026stairwell

So fresh! So clean!

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On the first landing, looking up:029stairwell 030stairwell 031stairwell 032stairwell

I LOVE the contrast of the black against the white. The whole space feels so modern.

From the bottom, looking up the side:


From the downstairs living room:034stairwell 035stairwell

The stairwell also got the first piece of art that didn’t come from our camera. This etching stole our heart at the St Louis Art Fair. It’s perfect in this space – simple and complex, black and white, sweet and creepy. Plus I love that it signals that you are entering into a finished space (and leaving the perpetual chaos in the downstairs living room.)


We’re both SO glad to cross this project off our list! What home improvement projects have been hanging over your head?

I could stare at you all day…

Is choosing art hard for anyone else? It took a full bottle of wine for us to settle on favorites, take some measurements, design a template and make some final choices. Here’s what we landed on.
Staircase landing
We started in this area because I’ve been dreaming of a HUGE print in this space. I fell head over heels in love with this black and white image:
But our printer limitations (as if 44” is really a limitation) forced us into a strong vertical.The picture looked horrible cropped into a vertical, so we dropped in two other black and white images as contenders.
living room art4
After deciding on trees for some of the other spaces, we settled on the moody sea stacks.
Long wall between the plant shelf and the TV
Thanks to the forgotten about redscale images, this wall came together pretty quickly. Aaron dropped a series of four onto our template and the arrangement just felt right.
living room art
We did tinker with the placement and image selection before we landed on this grouping. We love the pop of color and how the horizontal-ness leads you into the space as you approach from the stairwell.
Behind the couch
We were both really drawn to this image. The fog! The trees!
But we differed on whether the image should be in black and white or color. I love, love how the color version goes from almost a monochromatic black and white to a deep green. It looks exactly how the space felt. Aaron worried that the green image plus the blue couch plus the redscale images would be a bit clashy. He added a (not really close, because wine) swatch of blue (the couch) to help me see the light.
living room art2
As with most things related to color he was right. But I wasn’t quite ready to give up yet. We paused our discussion to see what would work well in the hallway.
These two beachy images started as the top contenders for the hallway.
The top image is one of Aaron’s favorites from the trip. We had all but decided that it would live in the hallway when we realized that because of the space, you wouldn’t be get the full impact of the print. You would be way too close to take it all in.
So we tried his favorite image as a black and white print over the couch…
fallen log
and moved the color (yay!) version of the trees to the hallway…
And all was well in the world.
A few favorite images got left in the dust. We rescued this one from obscurity and printed it for our bedroom. (It looks awesome.)
Eventually hope to find a spot for this moody beauty, which Aaron likens to dinosaur bones.
We also plan to integrate art from other people into the rest of the house, but for House Hunters we would have to take that down anyways (copyright issues). So we’re still contemplating and buying pieces we both enjoy. How do you discover artists? We found some great work at the St Louis Art Fair that Aaron pinned for future reference.

What to put on the walls?

It’s been unintentionally quiet around here because we dove head first into a dozen projects that have a hard deadline. Turns out HGTV can’t get enough of us and we’re scheduled to shoot a “House Hunters: Where are They Now?” episode next week tomorrow(!!!!) We’re so excited to share the updates to our space! (We hadn’t even moved in when they wrapped the original episode.) I don’t have any details on when it will air, but I’ll pass them along when I do.
We think we cobbled together a pretty manageable list of smaller projects to tackle before the cameras start rolling. High on the list: get some art up on the living room walls. We’ve been pondering art ever since we pulled this room together earlier this year. We’ve been browsing, pinning and even buying (we snagged a piece at the St Louis Art Fair earlier this month), but  we decided nothing was getting a home until we got our film scans back from our Pacific Northwest trip.
Those arrived last Monday and we sat down with a bottle of wine to make some tough choices about what we wanted to stare at on a daily basis. We started by pulling our favorites from the trip, a few fine art images we snapped while at weddings and a collection of redscale shots from a spring trip to Chicago, which we forgot about until we got the scans back. Discovering forgotten images is almost as good as finding money in your pocket (almost.)
There were 4 areas we hoped to fill
  • Second landing on the staircase
  • Long wall between the plant shelf and the TV
  • Behind the couch
  • Hallway
So here are the contenders:

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Any guesses on what we chose and what went where? I’ll be back tomorrow with a breakdown of our choices.

Olympic National Park and Seattle

(We’re trying to get back into reno mode, but after two weeks of vacation it’s tough. I’m trying to prolong the trip by drooling over all the pictures and memories: Willamette Valley and Portland/Mt. Rainier)


Olympic National Park
A friend at work went on (and on and on) about the glories of Vancouver Island. Try as I might, I couldn’t fit it into our schedule when we knew we wanted to go as far south as the Willamette Valley. A little investigation led me to believe that we could get the same stunning sights stateside (wow… tongue twister much?) on the Olympic peninsula.

The plan: Hike beaches and the rainforest, take lots of pictures.

The lodging: It was hard to know where to launch our ONP adventure from, but Forks won out when we found this awesome, modern VRBO. Plus it put us the closest to the beach (!!) and in easy distance of the rainforest. 2 Things: 1. No, I’m not a Twilight fan. 2. I had no idea the novel was set there when we booked this. I figured I had to get that out of the way because we’ve been asked A LOT. The Twilight craze seems to have calmed down in this one stoplight town save for some random stores like “Indian to Twilight” and “Twilight Firewood.”



Rialto Beach: On our transition day from Mt. Rainier to the Olympic peninsula we grabbed lunch in Port Angeles and decided to check out Rialto Beach before check in at the VRBO. I didn’t realize at the time, but this foggy, rocky beach would totally steal my heart. From the parking lot, you weave through a pile of white washed logs, tossed ashore like Lincoln logs onto the rocky beach. It was foggy when we went and that seemed perfect. We walked two miles north to Hole in the Wall and arrived at low tide, allowing us to climb out and explore the tide pools. This place was pure serenity.

Shi Shi Beach: One hike stood out among the rest when I was planning this trip: Shi Shi Beach. Revered in the guidebook and online as THE BEST BEACH IN WASHINGTON, it instantly jumped to the top of my list. But it wasn’t going to be easy. Getting to the holy land involved a 2-mile trek through a rain forest that created boggy trails and descending something that’s a cross between a hill and cliff (if takes the assistance of a rope to get back up if that helps you understand the incline) before you hit the beach. Then it’s another 2 miles down the sand to some gorgeous sea stacks. So said the book. So said everything.

Here’s what really happened: We had to drive 90 minutes, which I spent blissfully dreaming of the beauty of Shi Shi Beach. The last bit of that drive is through an Indian reservation, which creeped me out with its desolate look and “Get off drug” signs at every post. We were diverted around the downtown area due to a parade and couldn’t get our “required” pass. Thankfully, a local at the trailhead said we didn’t need it for a day hike and our car was still there when we returned. Admittedly, not the best start. We tackled the rainforest hike with a spring in our step. Being the somewhat dry season, we were able to easily navigate the huge bogs in the trail and going down the cliff/hill wasn’t too bad. We sprung out from the treeline to find a beach… a sand beach – no perfectly smooth stones from Rialto, no line of white driftwood protecting the shore… just a beach. So we started south… and walked… and walked… and walked down this sandy, unimpressive, cloudy (but in a sad way) beach for two more miles.

In case you’re not keeping track, by the time we reached the sea stacks we were 4 miles – ONLY HALF WAY – in. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. We had some lunch and took some pictures. Aaron is still optimistic that we’ll love the images, but he agrees that the 8 mile slog was not worth it. It was the biggest (really the only) disappointment of the whole trip. Is it pretty? Sure. Is the MOST GORGEOUS BEACH ever and worth an 8 mile hike? No.




We approached the last day of hiking with very weary legs. We knew the Shi Shi slog would be our last long hike. So we scaled back our rainforest tromp to some easy 1 mi loops near the visitor center. It was pretty, but we’ve seen the redwoods in California and they totally win in the “big tree” category.

Ruby beach: We decided to end this leg of the trip with lunch and a covert bottle of wine on Ruby beach. I doubt there is a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than drinking red wine on the beach. We had some sandwiches, picked up too many rocks/souvenirs (can we blame the midday wine buzz?) and watched the tide roll out and the fog roll in. It was one of those moments you just want to soak in and save away to remember on a day that’s gone to hell.





Our direct flights (seriously, I never want to have a connecting flight ever again) brought us in and out of Seattle so it seemed like a natural way to end our trip.

The plan: Bring on the seafood! Bring on the sights! Bring on clothes that aren’t meant for hiking!

The lodging: We scored a sweet VRBO with the view below and direct access to Pike Place Market. It included free parking and owners that sent the most helpful guide to the condo and the area. They even let us check in early!


The food: We took full advantage of the Market and our proximity to Belltown in order to enjoy some delicious food. On our first day we popped into Beecher’s for cheese and Piroshky Piroshky just because the smell was enchanting (we walked out with breakfast rolls.) We also grabbed lunch at Three Girls Bakery. (Get the reuben.) For our last night, we grabbed fresh seafood to grill and enjoyed a lovely dinner at the condo.



List: We also enjoyed a few restaurants outside the Market. Aaron found List and we took full advantage of their happy hour menu – ordering 5 plates of food and a bottle of wine for just $50. (Dear St. Louis – Please take a note from Seattle, because your happy hours blow.) Everything was outstanding. The spicy meatballs were actually really spicy! The grilled romaine salad was perfect and the lemon arugula salad is going into permanent rotation at our house.

Bathtub Gin: We met a college friend for drinks at Bathtub Gin (his suggestion) and loved the ambiance!


The sights:
Chihuly Garden and Glass: We’ve been lovers of Chihuly since his exhibit at the Missouri Botanical Gardens so we strolled around his gorgeous museum for a few hours.

The Original Starbucks: We couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market and buy mugs that you can ONLY GET at the original Starbucks. Clearly, we are huge nerds.


Boeing tour: Aaron is a fan of all things air and space travel so our original plan was to visit the Museum of Flight in Seattle. But when we discovered that Boeing offered tours at their plant north of Seattle, I gave him the choice and he opted for the Boeing tour. I have zero pictures of this place because they literally make you lock your purse and cell phones in a locker before taking the tour. I’m not huge into science, but this was pretty cool! You get to go in the biggest building in the world (by volume) and see lots of planes being assembled. It was totally worth the admission price and short drive from downtown.

After that we headed back to the Lou, picked up a very excited Dane from my parents house and spent the weekend recouping and starting to think about work/renovations. (Note to self: Always come home on a Thursday and take the Friday off.)

So that was our summer vacation. Did you head anywhere exciting or new this summer? I will admit that while hiking in Rainier we were already discussing our next trip. (Is that like cheating on your current vacation?) Our 10 year anniversary is next year and we’re totally up in the air on where to celebrate. Thoughts? Suggestions?


Portland and Mt Rainier

(No projects this week. Just a jealousy inducing recap of our Pacific Northwest trip. Check out our picks for Willamette Valley.)

After doing a bit of research for our trip, we scaled back our Portland time. I knew we could eat in this city for two weeks straight, but I was worried we would get bored and all “what do I do with my hands” if we stayed longer than that. So we popped into this quirky town for just two days.

The plan: Eat as much amazing food as possible and enjoy some luxury accommodations before heading into the wilderness.

The lodging: We scored a room at The Nines using Amex points (yay!) and would highly recommend it. The staff is amazing, and the location put us in easy walking distance of food carts, great restaurants and awesome shopping.


The food: We packed as much food into our Portland time as possible. Honestly, we didn’t have a bad meal. Here were some of the stand outs.

Tasty and Sons: We actually stopped on our drive from Seattle to McMinnville just to add another famous Portland brunch spot to our trip. Tasty and Sons is widely acclaimed and rightfully so. Breakfast Tapas may be my new obsession. We ordered WAY too much food. My favorite was the breakfast board, which had little bites of everything you could want at breakfast: tart cheese, berries, bread, bacon, a 6-minute egg, duck pate and jerky (the jerky seemed odd, but it totally worked.)

Drinks at Urban Farmer: This might be the coolest hotel bar (it was in the lobby of The Nines) I’ve ever seen. We took full advantage of the happy hour specials before heading out to dinner.


Lardo: The sandwiches here are top notch, but what stood out the most was the awesome kale salad.

Picnic House: Picnic House made our roster when we decided that walking to dinner was much better than pulling the car out. Yelp reviews guided us to this hip, delicious spot. We opted to share a few small plates and fell in love with with butter lettuce salad, which was like their take on a cobb, but with bacon bits the size of croutons. The charcuterie plate was the biggest we’ve ever seen and we could have made a meal out of just that and the salad.


Sweedeedee: Sweedeedee is THE brunch spot in Portland and I can see why. The food was amazing. The dishes sound deceptively simple, but they pack in the flavor.

Food carts: It seemed hard to go wrong at the food carts (we hit up the pod at 9th and Alder a few times.) I did some due diligence and decided months before the trip that I had to get the chicken and rice from Nong’s Khao Man Gai. This dish gets raves throughout the interwebs and I’m happy to count myself among the legion of fans. The dish is perfect. Fluffy rice, succulent chicken, flavorful broth. I would eat this again and again.


What else: We did a little shopping in Portland. I basically want to live at Powell’s Books. We snagged a hefty photo book of one of Aaron’s favorite photographers as a souvenir. We also stumbled across a cute hat store and Aaron scored three new ones for his collection. Hat stores (especially of the male variety) are basically non-existent in the Midwest so this was a happy discovery. Thanks to Instagram, I realized our friends Derren and Lisa happened to be in Portland at the same time so we spent a few hours catching up with them. It was a nice surprise addition to our trip!

Mt. Rainier
Our original plan for the trip was to hang in Portland and do some hiking in the Columbia River Gorge. But we both got really distracted with the idea of Mt Rainier after several friends extolled its virtues. We carved out 2 1/2 days to explore the park, and it did not disappoint.

The plan: Hike gorgeous trails and take lots of pictures (NOTE: Once we get the film back, I’ll post those pictures as well. They’re probably much better than these.)


Carter Falls: Our first trek in Mt Rainier was up to Carter Falls. I chose this from the guidebook because it was short and “easy.” I also learned an important lesson about choosing hikes: look at the elevation gain. After crossing through the Nisqually River (below) it was basically up, up, up to a few ok waterfalls. The best part of the hike was definitely the river bed and the peeks of Rainier. If we went back, we’d spend more time  exploring the river bed and eschew the hike to the falls.



Paradise Glacier: On our first full day in the park, we decided to undertake the hike to Paradise Glacier. The guidebook was spot on about the beauty of this hike. Starting from the visitors center we walked through a foggy valley and marveled at ALL THE WILDFLOWERS before ascending into moon-like terrain. Everything was gray and foggy and amazing. It was hard to capture in pictures. Hopefully our shots on film will do it justice.




Not the glacier – just a cool shot of melted snow.


I would disagree with the book on the difficulty and time on this trail. The elevation gain was pretty severe at points (“gentle switchbacks” is a generous description) and we moved slowly on account of the picture taking. By the time we made it back to the car for lunch we were both exhausted and very happy. This was one of the best hikes we’ve ever done. We decided to call it a day and crossed our fingers for non-foggy weather on our last day.

Nisqually Vista: The guidebook totally paid off when it steered us to an easy, 5-star view of Rainier on the Nisqually Vista trail. It’s one we probably wouldn’t have found on our own, but on a clear day it has to be one of the best views in the park. Case in point:





Following the glacier trek, our legs were a bit weary so after the short Nisqually Vista trail, we wanted something easy and relatively flat. We opted for the Lakes Loop. Starting at Reflection lakes we, once again, climbed up, up, up. The fields of wildflowers were pretty, but the entire hike didn’t hold a candle to anything we already viewed. We snapped very few pictures, except for this panorama at a lookout point at Faraway Rock.


Overall Mt. Rainier park is gorgeous. The Sunrise (Northeast) side of the park is already on our “next time” list.

Next up: Olympic National Park and Seattle!