Jade grows outside here. We bought all of the jade.

We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t start another project in the midst of a huge renovation.

There were a few motivations for this mini redo. 1. The planting beds in the front of our house had gotten a tinsy bit out of control. 2. While visiting Santa Barbara with friends, we discovered that jade grows in the ground here. Like this is a natural habitat for jade, which is one of our all time favorite succulents.

Let’s take a look at what we were working with…

The left side is dominated by a bougainvillea and a… let’s be honest plants are not our forte. Regardless those plants were growing really well, but they don’t fit in our vision of low water/low maintenance landscaping. The right side is just good old fashioned weeds. Those also grow really well here.

It’s a little hard to see, but there is a bit of concrete on each side of the landing. To add some height, we decided we would use the concrete pots that held our herb garden at the firehouse to hold some additional plants. We planned to paint them gray, which will flow better with the exterior paint change we have planned.

We decided to scour the internet for some full grown plants, which can be quite expensive in the Midwest, and snapped up two good sized jade plants from Craigslist for $30 each. (You can see one in the photo above next to the garage.) We figured adding some larger plants would make the installation feel more full. Then we hit up a local nursery and realized that plants grow so well here that you can buy huge plants SUPER cheap!

Here’s the finished installation:    

On the left we opted for a pair of gollum jade plants in the ground and “things we liked from the succulent section of the nursery” in the pots. (As per above, we are not great at plants.) On the right, one of the Craigslist jade plants joined a fire stick plant that got a bit too big for the planter in the backyard in painted pots. A pair of jade plants, two black rose succulents and five other succulent things that we picked up from Home Depot went in the ground. The front section of the planter got sections of pink iceplant that should fill the space completely once it has a chance to grow. Hardscapes are simple – white chip marble in the back, black mulch in the front and blue gray Mexican river rock on the top of the pots.

Ready for some before and after shots? Let’s go!

We are super happy with how this turned out and the plants are thriving! The look is much cleaner, which you know we love.

This space isn’t done. Besides changing the beige color across the entire home, we plan to bring some ipe wood to the entry and Aaron has plans for a new door. Those projects are further down the list, but it’s always possible we’ll get a wild hair and knock something out sooner rather than later.

New floors

Continuous flooring throughout the firehouse was never a real possibility, mostly because it was 5,000+ square feet and we are not made of money.  Taking on a much more modestly sized California ranch made a flooring upgrade realistic, and it didn’t take much online browsing to feel pretty certain that new floors would be a must in any home we bought.  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Aaron “Master Sourcing Expert” Hawes jumped into the task with glee. Here were our parameters:

  • Click-together flooring  that we could float over a slab foundation
  • Solid wood (rather than engineered) so it could be refinished some day if needed
  • Hard wood – because Great Dane claws
  • Not hand-scraped or faux distressed – No offense if you have this style. We just don’t love it.
  • Mid-tone brown
  • Under $5 per square foot

Bamboo instantly jumped to the top of the list thanks to the hardness and price. The biggest struggle, and one of the most important considerations, was finding the right color. We love the warm mid tone brown that is common in much of the mid century furniture we gravitate towards. Real life: We ordered enough bamboo floor samples (usually free or really cheap) to floor a child’s play house.

Ultimately the winner was Warm Brown from Trinity Bamboo. (Top sample below.)

It’s a stunning tone that warms up our white-walled rooms. We also loved the matte finish and wide planks. It fit nicely in the budget at under $4 per square foot.

After chatting with the company, we opted to buy tongue and groove planks rather than click-together and glue them down. This provides a nice base for everything, like the cabinets in the kitchen. The glue works in place of the vapor barrier that would normally go under a floating floor installation.

Ordering was easy and delivery was prompt! That may be where the “easy” part of this story ends. Gluing down wood floors is HARD work. After pre-cutting the planks for a section, Aaron had to work quickly to trowel the glue and set and tape all the boards before the glue setup. Adding to the time sensitivity was the relatively short pot life (time before the glue dries too much) of the large buckets. The glue isn’t cheap so basically any time he opened a pail it was a race to use it all. The good news for you is that buckets have been discontinued. The glue is now distributed in much more manageable (and resealable) tubes.

It’s a ton of work but the end result is absolutely stunning! The boards have enough variation to give a nice natural feel and the color is exactly what we wanted.

So far he has finished all of the floors in the public spaces of the house, including new baseboard and trim throughout the kitchen, dining room and hallway. Our bedroom is up next and I cannot wait to tear the carpet out and extend these floors into that room!

Lighting up the living room and seeing the rooms finally take shape

Today over lunch we admitted to each other that right before the renovation started, we each had a private moment of “Should we really tear this house apart?” Obviously it didn’t stop us, and we agreed that it was still the right choice. Looking at these before photos is only further reassurance that some things needed to change in our space to make us happy and comfortable.

If you’ve been reading the blog for any length of time, you know we like light. The living room we inherited was a light-filled paradise during the day… but at night the sole source of light was a lonely, off center ceiling fan.

We actually loved the chevron slat ceiling, but the set up left us with very few options to get power to (much needed) new lights.

We brainstormed quite a bit – considering things like replicating the light fixtures we made in the living room and captain’s bedroom in the firehouse, but ultimately we decided recessed lighting would be the best solution. To install this, it required dropping the ceiling slightly in order to add cross pieces for the fixtures and drywall to attach to.

The finished result is crisp, clean goodness… which I couldn’t show you without revealing all of the drywall. A few notes on that: The original plan for the renovation had Aaron doing everything but the exterior stucco repair. We found a great local guy to help with that and he also offered to subcontract the drywall. Thanks to an unexpectedly nice tax return, we opted to hire that work out. The crew did all of the drywall work on the walls and ceiling (including hanging it) AND smoothed our ceilings in the kitchen, dining room and hallway in about a week. This saved us a ton of time in the overall plan and was worth EVERY FREAKING PENNY.

So I figured we’d take a tour through all of the spaces via a set of before and afters. Ready?!?

This view changed dramatically after removing the built ins, adding the new French doors and smoothing the ceiling.

Boom Sauce.

Flipping around – This view is crazy thanks to our furniture sitting sideways in the space. The built ins, paneling and fireplace mantle were nixed.

Looking toward the kitchen from the living room, here’s a pretty good before shot of the bar, which we said “bye bye” to. That’s a major change, but so is opening the wall behind the fridge and microwave/oven.

Mama likey!

Here’s a reminder of what the kitchen used to look like.

We left the laundry area where it was and built a wall, shortening the kitchen from this direction. This will be a U shaped kitchen with the range at the back of the space, sink to the right (in a similar spot as it started) and 500 miles of countertops (approximately).

Here’s a look at that wall we cut in half to open this space to the front of the house.

These night photos don’t do justice to the amount of light that streams through the space from the front door and front windows.

Shrinking the kitchen from one side was only possible because we stole this dining area for a pantry.

We will take a peek inside later when there’s something to see.

I think I saved the best for last. This door is directly ahead when you enter the house. It used to be an entrance to the kitchen…

Now it houses the much needed, much loved laundry room!

Looking at these before photos and then living in our new space, any doubts about tearing this space up are completely and utterly erased.

The madness of midway (and a video)

The best thing I can say about the demolition phase of this renovation is that it is over. It really is madness to take most of your house down the studs, essentially live in your master suite, wash dishes in your guest bathroom tub, cook on a camp stove, and (for a few weeks) do laundry on your patio. Madness.

In the spirit of documenting and sharing, I thought it was still worth sharing a few shots of the house midway through the renovation.

Walking into the house, the intrusive pantry is gone, as is most of the drywall around the kitchen. You can start to see the front-to-back view we’ll have when this wall gets cut in half.

Here’s a better shot of the kitchen, and it’s pretty empty at this point. We did a little extra demo by pulling down the entire ceiling, rather than removing the soffit and patching where it had been. The lights still work though, which means this space has 100% more light than the future dining room has ever had. So there’s that.

Staring straight into the kitchen (and future laundry room) the space feels simultaneously huge (thanks to everything being gone) and small (we’re putting a whole kitchen here?!?). Don’t forget that the space behind where I’m standing will be a huge wall of cabinets and a hidden pantry.

This view of the living room doesn’t even look that crazy. The drywall is almost out, but we haven’t even removed the slider yet (but we have decided not to keep it, per my earlier post). The carpet (and the hodgepodge of tile below) is on its way out.

This view is a bit crazier, showing the drywall we pulled from the upper part of the wall. That will eventually get recovered, but it did give us easy access to the corner of the attic where previous owners and contractors decided to leave rolls of insulation other non-essential building materials. Clean out commenced pre-drywall replacement. #RenovationIsGlamorous

The problem with these types of photos is the chaos. It’s really hard to take in what we’re planning. So once the walls were in place and the form was taking shape, I did a video tour to give you a better feel for the space.

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A few notes

  • Yay walls!
  • I mention the washer and dryer will stack. I failed to mention that we decided to buy a new washer. Our dryer is new enough that the washer pair was available. So we’re not stacking our existing set…. which wouldn’t work….
  • The pantry still feels a little crazy here… buy trust that it all makes sense later.
  • I mentioned the need to address the ceiling to add lights. That’s a great set up for our next post, which will be that PLUS (thanks to the magic of the internet) ALL OF THE DRYWALL!!!

 

SIde note: If you’re still out there reading this – thank you. I know this whole transition from a super cool firehouse to a California ranch has been odd, and then I basically disappeared for months. Renovations were slow thanks to Aaron spending all of last fall in the Midwest. Once things got rolling my job became utterly insane. If I wasn’t working in the evening, I was completely exhausted and it’s hard for me to be verbose and witty whilst tired. The work pace may not let up, but we’ve got SO many things to show you and I’m energized by the progress we’ve made! All that to say (again), thanks for sticking around and checking in to our little corner of the internet.

In which we meant to swap a door and a window and instead bought a new door and new window

You know you’re an adult when you frugally tell yourself “We don’t need to buy food while we are out. We have food at home.” We had the same moment while planning this renovation: “We have a door, and we need a door. We have a window, and we need a window. No need to buy anything.” Obviously based on the title, you know that’s not how this worked out… so let’s dive into the details of the living room.

One of the most important changes on the renovation docket was adjusting the flow so a couch would actually fit in the space. There was a lot to take in in the “before” photos of our living room – built-ins galore, a sideways couch, and doors/windows aplenty. I thought it might be helpful to take a step outside and get a clearer view of all of the openings in our living room walls.

Left to right – Here is the sliding door (which we planned to move around the corner), a door on an angle (why??) and a window that stays.

Moving to the corner, you see the same angle door and window, along with the window we planned to move and yet another door.

Here’s a straight shot of the side of the room. We planned to move this window to the slider opening and reframe this wall, removing the door on the right entirely. Got it?

Great. That’s not exactly what happened…

Problem 1: Windows installed on a stucco wall come with extra trim fin that sits over the rough opening and is essential for installation. You can see that trim around the small window on the photo above.  We didn’t realize that the window we wanted to move had its trim cut away when it was installed in a wood wall. It wasn’t a show stopper because Home Depot still carried the same brand, allowing us to get a slightly wider, but matching window.

Problem 2: After working on the furniture placement for the living room, we realized that we needed the sliding glass door to open from the left. Unfortunately, the one we owned opened at the right (with a fixed pane on the left), putting the walkway right next to the desk, rather than in the open walkway we had planned. Thankfully, we realized the issue at the very end of a Lowes sale. We decided to grab an awesome French door set with sidelights that open.

And that’s what renovation contingency budgets are for….

Here is where we landed post stucco repair:

We also decided to pull the angle door, not needing the light or the access. All of this will look much better with a new coat of paint.

This is one of the “oops” issues we hit during the reno that left me completely happy with the result. The budget took a small hit, but it was SOOO worth it. We’re both really happy with the French doors. They feel so much more modern than the slider (which we were able to sell on Craigslist), and most nights we’re popping open the sidelights to let in extra breeze.

The photos of the inside won’t make a ton of sense until we get some drywall up, but in the next post (which won’t be months from now) we’ll take a look inside (including a video) at the madness that is a demolished space.