1 year renovation anniversary (video)

We thought it would be fun to do a walk through of the living space 1 year post-renovation so you could compare. So here you go! About a year ago the space looked like this Jan 15, 2018:

(Full breakdown of the plans, befores and video commentary here)

As of Jan 13, 2019, it’s looking a lot more fresh

A few notes:

  • Did any eagle eyes notice that the exterior color of our house changed dramatically? Yeah, on top of everything else we tackled this year, we also painted the entire outside of the house. More photos and details soon!
  • Laundry room sneak peek!
  • Hallway sneak peek!
  • Dining room chandelier sneak peek!
  • This may be more information than you need about the inside of the cabinets. I couldn’t photograph them properly for the original post and may have overcompensated with this video.
  • Lots of living room sneak peeks! Basically you can see the whole space, but I’ll still take some proper after shots soon.
  • Points to me for not sounding like I was going to pass out during this video. Ha!

The kitchen reveal and a really big breakdown of all the details

Aaron thinks I may have taken too many pictures of the new kitchen. But when you go from this

to this

I feel like it deserves as many photos and words as I can stuff into one post.

Before we dive in, let’s do a quick recap. This house needed an updated kitchen like woah. Sitting at the literal heart of the house, the original space felt congested and closed off. It lacked counter space and the laundry nook was taking up too much real estate. Here’s the original floorplan with cabinets noted in gray.

We ripped everything out, carved out a laundry room, reshaped the walls and added a pantry space then laid new floors. You can read about our plans here (including a before video) and check out the demo progress here. In the end, we stayed pretty true to the intended floorplan.

Ok, let’s get to the good stuff. I absolutely love the new view from the front door. Here’s the before shot.

Heart eyes x 1000. It looks like a totally different house… and it is.

The door straight ahead leads to the new laundry room. The pantry that was hanging out at an awkward angle in the hallway is gone. We carved out as much of the wall as we could, giving us a view all the way to the back of the house.

Are you envious of the counter tops yet? It’s hard to pinpoint a favorite element of the new kitchen, but the ample counters that spill into waterfalls on each end of the U  are certainly high on the list.


The countertops were a saga, as I suppose all major design elements can be. After our first visit to Stone West, we fell hard for a Grigio Carnico marble. The slabs were very moody with white veins cutting through a black and dark gray background.  We found a fabricator who was helpful enough to point out that marble is porous and etches easily. A little googling confirmed that for a hardworking kitchen, like ours, that etching would likely be an issue. I was terrified that I’d mar the counters the first time I cut a lemon.

After that we seriously considered soapstone. We have long loved the look and feel of this stone. Eventually we ran into two problems.

  1. It would be nearly impossible to guarantee an absolute black background and pure white veins. Most soapstone has a bit of a tint, like a touch of green in the veins. In a kitchen that is not ENTIRELY black, it wouldn’t matter or even be noticeable. You’ve probably gathered that we went all in on the black kitchen. So risking a focal point being blackish seemed very risky.
  2. Soapstone is pricey. We probably would have had to cut the waterfall detail. Even then, it was pushing our budget past the breaking point.


Our third choice was Absolute Black Granite in a leathered finish. Stone West imports the darkest slabs that are naturally occurring. (Cheap Absolute Black Granite is sometimes dyed to make it darker.) They also had very wide slabs, which we needed for our extra deep counters. Plus they showed us how to oil the counters to get an even darker shade.

Granite is a fabulous choice for countertops as evidenced by the fact that SOOO many people on House Hunters turn up their nose at any other material. The Absolute Black was definitely black enough. But overall I just felt like it was ok. No matter how many kitchens I looked at online with the same material, I couldn’t get excited. It felt like a very proper, adult decision to go with the budget appropriate option.

Now that they’re in, I wouldn’t have trade the granite for anything else. I wish I could have you over to feel these counters. The leathered finish is absolutely amazing. It gives it almost a warm, soft feel.  (If you have friends with leathered granite countertops, tell them I said you need to feel them up so you know why I’m so obsessed with ours.) The countertops definitely warm up the space and the lack of pattern makes them feel cohesive with the rest of the space. The waterfall is everything we wanted it to be. In short, I love them.

Ok. Back to the tour! This next pair isn’t a perfect match, but I think it gives a good perspective of how much space we took for the pantry, and how airy everything still feels.

Converting the former dining room into storage space helped to physically bring that side of the room closer. We kept a generous walkway that doesn’t feel too large.

Writing this blog post took longer than normal because I got kind of obsessed with the before/after shots as I was putting things together. I think this is my absolute favorite before/after.

The BlueStar range

This house had an electric cooktop, but a gas line originally run for a dryer allowed us to switch to gas during the reno. I really enjoyed the Bertazzoni that we installed at the firehouse, but it doesn’t hold a candle to this BlueStar. We opted for the 36″ RNB Range. I’ve been using it for almost 9 months and if you like to cook I highly recommend this range. It gets really hot, which makes searing things a dream. The broiler is amazing (and dangerous if left unattended). Cleaning is relatively easy thanks to a pull out drawer that catches any food bits that fall into the burners, but I will take any advice/tips on cleaning removable cast iron burners.


While we’re over here, let’s talk about the dishwasher. You can see it in the right hand corner of the cabinets. We went back and forth debating the placement of the sink and the dishwasher. Ultimately it made the most sense to center the sink and put the dishwasher to the left of that. We bought an Ikea dishwasher, excited that the front panels would look exactly like the drawers next to it.  By the time we installed it I was SO ready to stop washing dishes in our guest bathroom tub.

But… it didn’t fit. Our fancy, heavy duty BlueStar range does not sit flush with the cabinets and those couple of inches of overhang meant the dishwasher couldn’t open all the way. This was a major, major flaw. Wine drinking, internet sleuthing and the purchase of a Fisher & Paykel DishDrawer ensued.

This was definitely a hit to our design morale and our budget (coming in about twice as much as the Ikea option… chalk it up as another reason that I’m glad we didn’t bust the budget and buy the soapstone). But it worked out well in the end, blending nicely with the cabinets even if it is not completely hidden. Having separate drawers is very convenient for days where we don’t have enough dishes for a full load. It is super quiet and does a really nice job cleaning once I figured out the optimal loading strategy.

Ikea cabinets

The cabinets are Ikea. To maximize our savings, we bought several thousand dollars in Ikea gift cards on Black Friday 2017. Those came with a $10 gift card for every $100 we spent, instantly giving us a 10% discount. Then we waited for the Ikea kitchen sale, which usually runs sometime in late January or February.  The 15% off was well worth the wait. Aaron visited early the first day of the sale, armed with the designs he made online and a ton of gift cards. Due to the sheer size of the order, we figured the $100 delivery fee was money well spent.

In addition to the kitchen, we purchased cabinets for the pantry, dining room, laundry room and some new doors for the cabinet at the end of the hall.

The kitchen got black Kungsbacka fronts. These doors are flat and feel very modern. For the U, we opted for drawers on the sides to give a cohesive look. These drawers are super versatile and even hide a third, small drawer in the very top – perfect for utensils. If you haven’t been to Ikea to play with their cabinets and organization options, you are missing out. The corner cabinets included clever rotating shelves that let you take full advantage of the space while providing easy access to everything.


So far everything is holding up great, including the fronts which have seen their fair share of Dane slobber. (TMI?)

Ikea didn’t have any pulls that we loved. We turned the internet and eventually found simple, affordable ones on Etsy. One size worked for drawers and doors.

Elkay Quartz Sink

I know I keep saying I love everything in this space, but I do. The Elkay Quartz Single Bowl Undermount Sink in black is no exception. We stumbled on Franke granite sinks while browsing a fancy appliance store in Calabassas. A little internet research led us to the equally beautiful and slightly better priced Elkay line. The sink is huge (33″ wide)and 9 1/2″ deep) making it ideal for washing everything from wine glasses to oversized cutting boards. The drain is offset and the whole sink slopes slightly toward it. Why aren’t all sinks made this way? It makes cleaning up a breeze.

Moen Faucet

Aaron pinned a LOT of very lovely, very modern faucets. When he showed me his favorites, I had one question “do they have pull down sprayers.” Have you ever used a kitchen sink without one? I have. Apparently he hasn’t. It was my one request and I stand by the need. Thankfully, the Moen STo Black One-Handle High Arc Pulldown Kitchen Faucet fit his need for form and my need for function.

Moving on, the view from the living room side is SO MUCH BETTER (due in part to changes in the living room itself).


We knew we wanted matte black oversized subway tile across the whole back wall of the kitchen. We probably went to nearly a dozen tile shops before finding Buena Tile + Stone. Their selection and prices are second to none. They get bonus points for a stunning, modern showroom staffed with genuinely nice and helpful people. The tile was actually the first thing we bought for the kitchen and nearly the last thing that was installed.

Forgoing upper cabinets in order to keep the space feeling open meant we needed to pack a lot of storage into the former dining room.

This wall was also the perfect spot for the wall oven and fridge.

Samsung fridge

I lied up above. The first thing we actually bought for this kitchen renovation was the fridge. The house didn’t have one when we bought it, and we were able to sell our old one to the new firehouse owners. So we actually purchased Samsung’s 4-Door French Door Fridge in black stainless before we left the firehouse and plugged it in once we arrived here. We love the black stainless steel finish and the sleek look thanks to the lack of bulky handles. It has a lot of great features, including deep drawers on the doors, easily adjustable shelves and a middle drawer that can be customized to a temperature based on what you want to store there (we use it as a deli drawer.)

Samsung wall oven

The Samsung 30″ Wall Oven with Flex Duo is a cook’s dream.  I’m so happy to have an electric oven back in my life. Every cake, cookie and cheesecake has come out of the Samsung oven flawlessly. It can be divided with a center panel to allow for cooking at two different temperatures. It bakes, roasts, convection bakes, broils, steam bakes and I’m sure I’m forgetting about 5 other functions. Plus it’s very easy on the eyes.

The rest of the wall is covered with super deep storage… and the entrance to the pantry.

We’ll take a peek in there next time. In the meantime, I’ll just be continually scrolling through this post and spamming my Instsgram account with photos of the kicthen.

The slab finally became a table and the dining room is almost done

When we started the process of condensing our lives to move across the country, we did a lot of paring down. We hosted an epic garage sale that helped whittle down Aaron’s massive camera collection. We sold furniture to friends and the new firehouse owners. We donated an entire carload of items. Even after that, we moved lots of things with a “We’ll see if this works in the new house” mentality. One of those things, was the enormous slab that was intended for the firehouse dining room.

This beauty was sourced specifically for the large-roomed, tall ceiling-ed firehouse. Clocking in at around 110″ long and nearly 4′ in one section, we honestly had no idea if it would fit anywhere in (or outside of) our new house. After settling in, we realized the amount of space we’d have in our future outdoor dining room would accommodate a table of this scale. Although leaving such a nice piece of wood outside in the elements (we do get occasional rain), didn’t seem like the best idea, we slated the slab for that space due to lack of options.

Once the renovation was underway and we had a better idea of the space we’d assigned in the front room for the dining area, we took some more measurements. Taking about a foot off the end of the slab would make it a sizable, but not overwhelmingly so, table for inside. Done and done.

We ordered some heaving duty legs from Etsy, bought some heavy duty saw horses, and asked a neighbor for help moving  the slab to our patio.

Time in the sun was not kind to this piece.

But, thanks to sanding (so much sanding), natural Danish oil and several coats of furniture wax, Aaron was able to revive the wood into this showstopper:

It is SOOOO pretty!

I’m particularly obsessed with the swirl.

8 of the 10 vintage chairs we’ve been hoarding longer than the slab now have a permanent home!

We have actually made a ton of progress in this front room… even going so far as to break out some decor items! Here are a few before and after comparisons

The next set isn’t a perfect match up because I’m refusing to show the kitchen in this post. (I’m the worst.) But you do get a sneak peek at the wall of cabinets and hidden pantry.

Let’s start with the basics. This space got

  • White walls
  • Smoothed ceiling and white (duh) paint
  • Overhead lighting thanks to a bunch of LED can lights
  • Contemporary crown molding (which I forgot to photograph)
  • New floors

We’re injecting doses of jewel tones in this home and we opted for an emerald green to accent the corner windows. Then we filled this super sunny spot with bunch of succulents. Basically I am in plant heaven over here.

Against the pantry wall, we added a small banquet area for extra storage and serving space.

We paired glossy white Ikea cabinets with a section of their Barkaboda walnut countertop and some undercabinet lighting for ambiance. This has been the perfect spot to store our wireless router, adult beverage glasses and some backup bar gear.

The shelf was kismet in the form of a Design Within Reach Outlet store just down the highway in Oxnard. The outlet pricing puts the beautiful designer pieces much more within reach (har har!). One our first visit, we easily talked ourselves into this ladder shelf for 300 bones. We knew we’d need something for this space and it fills it perfectly! The walnut ties into the countertop, and I was finally able to pull out some of our favorite decor pieces.

The other side of this space is still a work in progress, but you can see where we’re headed. We’re planning a casual seating area (for pre- or post-dinner drinks and games). The Ikea shelves (longtime bedside tables that we FINALLY retired) are now serving as a “for now” bar area until Aaron builds a custom piece for the space. We also have a cool plan for a unique coffee table for this area.

  This space is SOOO close to being done. It needs a chandelier (in progress, just waiting for the correct hanging hardware to come in) and some art. I love everything about it, but the table is definitely the superstar, as it should be.

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.

Things are looking up

That’s a really silly title. Can you get rusty at blogging? Because I might be. Suddenly a month has gone by! We’ve been working on SO many different things, but haven’t had anything to show for it yet. It’s not our normal MO, but when some necessary parts for the basement workshop had to be reordered, we decided to dive into the the first floor reno, which I detailed our plans for oh so long ago.

Although 2015, felt like a bit of a lost year in terms of visible progress on the firehouse, we kicked off this renovation with some key features routing electric for the basement sub panel, adding windows, and finding and installing our fireplace.

We’re back at it and into some of the really boring/incredibly tedious/worth it in the end, projects that will get the room ready for paint. First up: patching the dining room ceiling. Hence the title of the post. Although, really, Aaron is the one who has been looking up. Get it? Ha! … Sorry.


This is definitely one of those projects that we waffled on. Was it worth it? Would it make a difference? Could we just paint over the rough spots to make them blend in? That is what we opted to do in the studio.

But the dining room felt different to us. While we love the industrial look, we worried in this space it would just feel unfinished. Also we have so many things going into the space that we want you to notice. It would be a shame if the ceiling detracted from that.

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The ceiling in the living room was previously repaired (and painted black) which also made us lead towards making the change. (That ceiling and the duct will be painted white when the time comes.)


So we decided it was worth the time to fix the ceiling… even though that means in the end you WON’T notice the work. The project itself was more labor and time intensive than expected, because isn’t everything in a renovation? Aaron started by scraping off the loose bits of plaster and patching the numerous holes. Then he carefully layered on 150 pounds of mud.

The result was so worth it! (Says the person who did none of the work.)

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It’s nice to have a clean slate in here. We’re working on a few DIY light fixtures that will give some much needed light to this space.


As I mentioned, we’re ping ponging between projects a bit. Lately, we’ve been sourcing wood slabs for the dining room table, and Aaron is in the basement this week installing the dust collection system. Updates should get more frequent as we start crossing things off the list for both spaces!