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.
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.
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!
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.
A few notes
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.
When I say that we’re knee deep in this renovation, what I really mean is Aaron is exhausted from laying floors and I don’t recognize these before pictures anymore. The space has already undergone such a huge change and I can’t wait to share it with you! Let’s dive into all the goodies: before photos, an overview of our plans, floorplans and a video.
I’ve owed you a decent floorplan for a while, so here’s a look at the half of the house under renovation. Gray boxes are cabinets/built ins.
Items of note
The awkward pantry at the end of the hall
The laundry in the kitchen
The near lack of wall space in the living room thanks to an abundance of built ins and doors
Let’s dive into what the house looks like IRL. Here’s the view from the entry.
Straight ahead is a door to the kitchen and the ill placed pantry that turns the hallway into an awkward L. You won’t be surprised to hear that the pantry has to go.
Turning to the right, the kitchen sits behind the wall where the bar is. We are definitely planning to open this wall up.
Turning more to the right, gives you a full view of the front living room.
This is actually a pretty large space. To give you a sense, the desk is 10′. We absolutely love the corner window bank with the wide sills. We’re planning to turn this space into our dining room. We’ll add lighting (recessed and a slim custom chandelier) and paint (white for the walls, emerald green for the window nook).
Walking into the space and turning right again, you’re facing the front of the house.
This room is actually big enough to hold more than just a dining table. The corner next to the entry will become a casual seating area with a bar (the cart for now, a custom install later).
Now we’ve turned right again (basically we’re anti NASCAR-ing it up in here), facing the entry, coat closet and the back of the pantry.
You can start to see that we’re working with miles of carpet and some not-our-style (though what would be?) linoleum (in the entry and kitchen). All of this is getting pulled in favor of wood flooring throughout the entire house.
Turning right (yet again) you can see how this room flows into the existing dining area and back to the living room.
We haven’t arrived at the kitchen yet, but you may have noticed from the floorplan that it is rather compact and, as I mentioned, it has the laundry area. Changes need to be made!
In order to expand, we needed the space currently dedicated as “dining.” One other key element when considering where to put things: we didn’t want to trench in order to add plumbing. That meant the washing machine and kitchen sink would need to stay relatively close to their current home.
Establishing that we wanted to absorb this space into the kitchen, yielded another challenge: how to effectively rework the space so it felt open, but not like it was cut in half by a large walkway (which is the current vibe.) I’m telling you all of this from this angle because it’s easiest to envision the pantry that we’re going to make. We’re taking some of the space from to post to the right as pantry and then adding floor to ceiling cabinets in front of it. This will give us a huge amount of storage and shrink the walkway to a more reasonable size in the kitchen.
All of that space behind the table will be PANTRY!!
Dining room aka FUTURE PANTRY
Flipping around, you get a view into the kitchen and a peek at the laundry area. Let’s take a quick look at the compact kitchen, then step back here to talk about our plans.
Yep – that’s a laundry area taking up valuable real estate…
Ok, so now you know what we had. It’s all going.
Literally every single thing in this space, including the soffits. We’ll build a wall between the kitchen and laundry area (remember those appliances have to stay close to where they are – no trenching) to give the washer and dryer a dedicated room. Then we’ll open as much as we can to the left and right to expose the kitchen to the adjoining rooms. We’ll be left with a U-shaped kitchen of lower cabinets, with a range range centered on the far wall and miles of new countertops!
Turing right from the view above, you get a look at part of the living room.
The footprint for this room is rather large, but as the floorplan demonstrates, this space has a lot of awkward built ins, exterior doors (3) and wood paneling.
To get some much needed wall space, we’re moving the existing slider and replacing it with an existing window. We’re also planning to remove all of the paneling and drywall in this space. We just couldn’t get past how nice the walls would look as one continuous surface. The paneling isn’t our style and, unfortunately, the previous owner textured the drywall above it, making it impossible to match. Going back to the studs will allow for an easier rework of the electrical in this room and give us a chance to re-insulate with more modern materials.
Stepping into the space and turning left offers this view
We absolutely loved the vaulted ceilings and we don’t mind the chevron wood slats… though we will surprise no one by saying the ceiling could use a good coat of white paint. The ceiling fan is the only light in this space and in the evening I want to die a little. We compensate by leaving all of the kitchen lights on all the time. All that to say we need to figure out how to get more overhead light and that may (spoiler alert – WILL) affect the final design of the ceiling.
This also gives you a good view of the bar that backs to the kitchen (aka the reason our couch… really any couch… won’t fit in this space.) All of the built ins are getting pulled. In the future, this wall will hold the slider and the entrance to our backyard. Reorienting was important, because eventually this will open to our outdoor dining area.
The view from the opposite side of the space:
This gives you a good look at the awesome MCM fireplace… and the rest of the built ins. The fireplace stays basically as is. We’ll remove the mantel and refinish the hearth to cover up the leaf imprints, which you can see better in the photo below. Once the room is cleared, the couch will face this direction. We’ll add shelves to the left of the fireplace and a screen/projector combo for maximum TV viewing that can be hidden away when not in use.
And to round it all out, here’s the view from the family room, through the dining room to the front room:
Let’s steer back to the floorplan, with a view of where we were:
And where we’re going:
Does your chest feel lighter looking at the open space in the family room once all the built ins are out… or is that just me?
With this layout, I feel like photos and floor plans are only so helpful. So I’ve made a truly awkward iPhone video tour of the space. (You’re welcome?)
A few notes:
I made this video on Jan 15 (my birthday!) and it’s funny to hear how the plans have evolved since then. I mention that we “think the front room will become the dining area.” Obviously, based on the notes above we’ve settled that.
We are not taking out the half wall in the entry. Aaron’s assessment of the post is that it is built “strangely.” We decided that losing that half wall was not worth the effort it would take to make sure the house is still structurally sound… which seems rather important.
Not sure why I sound super nervous…
We actually decided to leave the deep freeze in the garage for now and just put shelves in the pantry. More on that later when we get into the details of all the individual spaces.
Seriously, I sound like I am panting
So that’s (mostly) where we started. Obviously we’re adjusting and refining as we go. We’ll start to dive into the details and finishing choices (like the AHmazing floors Aaron is installing this week) in the upcoming posts.
Over a month ago, I shared the makings of the California workshop. Time really flies when you’re knee deep in a renovating half of your house. But before we dive into the details of that makeover, I wanted to share the finished workshop along with some before pictures because those are always my favorite.
I condensed A LOT of our house hunt into one post, but one thing I didn’t mention was all of the time I spent visiting open houses and touring with our realtor solo. It helped us to get a feel for the features we could expect in a home in this region. By the end of the search, I could basically look at the garage first and backyard second and tell you if we would be interested. One of the items we added to the “nice to have” list after seeing it in a lot of garages was a loft space for extra wood storage, which we were lucky enough to get in this space.
One thing that makes this space so ideal for Aaron’s shop is the garage door (and the nice weather), which basically allows an instant extension for cutting long items.
I love seeing how Aaron made this space work by putting smart storage throughout, including building a revamped miter saw table (the original was too big to move out of the firehouse) that houses the compressor and hanging drill storage.
So the workshop is done! … and currently filled to the brim with Ikea cabinets and assorted other kitchen pieces. I promise it won’t be another 30 days before I bring you up to speed on all the work going on.