House Update – Materials and Samples

June 26th, 2013

We’re getting so close… to starting. We just got word today that the engineering is done. We should go to permitting by the end of the week! Here’s the final technical drawing:


Building a house really seems like a classic case of “hurry up and wait.” We finally got the design settled on, and then it had to go through engineering. During this process, we’ve been busy trying to finalize the design details in the house as evidenced by my last few design posts –

Urban Kids Bathroom Style Guide

Mudroom, Laundry, and “Moms Office” Style Guide

The Project House Reading Nook Style Guide

Project House Powder Room Inspiration & Style Guide

Project House Kitchen Inspiration & Style Guide

The process of deciding on finishes, materials, and fixtures is pretty tedious. Especially when you’re doing it on a budget. I’ve been looking at light fixtures online every evening for the past 4 months. I still find new fixtures, and great deals. I really believe the more you search, the more you’ll find. When designing your own home, you need to put just as much work into it as a professional designer. A big chunk of that time is just educating yourself to what is available. My favorite sites to shop for budget light fixtures are:

Lamp’s Plus Open Box

Joss & Main



I usually get my hardware from Restoration Hardware, but their selection is minimal and I was looking for something unique . I found some awesome antiqued recessed pulls from I ordered all of them for my kitchen – hoping that they would be what I anticipated. They came in the mail today and I LOVE them! Here’s a quick snapshot of what they look like:


These will go on the black cabinets in the kitchen, and I think they are going to look stunning. The whole look will be completely different from my last kitchen and the whole white kitchen trend.

I also ordered samples of all the flooring/tile materials that I’ve been eyeing. The budget from my builder was under 3$/sq ft  for my field tile areas, and it’s hard to find something in that price range that LOOKS expensive and is exactly what I want. I searched around the internet for quality tile that was up to my design standards, but at builder grade prices and found BuildDirect. One thing I really appreciated was that they give you 5 free samples – no shipping, no credit card required. This is an awesome perk if you’re trying to decipher what the little picture on the internet would look like in your home – you know – before you buy 500 square feet of it. Here are all my samples lined up:

For most of the floor tile in the house, I wanted a 12×24 blackish ceramic tile. BuildDirect had tons that fit the bill AND were in my budget to boot.

For your reference if you’re looking for something similar, here’s a closer shot of all my black tile samples:

1. Datile Yacht Club – Bridge Deck – 6″x24″ 

2.  Salerno Porcelain Tile – Hampton Wood Series Walnut – 6″x24″

theprojectgirl-flooring23.Takla – Manhattan Series -Film Noir – 12″x24″

4. Takla – Manhattan Series – Costa Chic – 12″x24″


5.Kaska – Rimini Series – Silk Black – 12″x24″

6.Takla – Exclusive Collection – Shady – 12″x24″ + 6″x24″ 

7.Kaska – Rimini Series – Silk Marrone – 12″x24″


I’ve decided to go with #3, but I just noticed that #2 is on clearance, so I might do the mud room and possibly the pantry to save on some $$. One thing I like about #2 & #3 is that the tile is full-body tile. So basically it’s a solid tile. You can cut and leave cuts exposed instead of having to have a trim tile. I don’t think this will make a difference to me unless we decide to use a tile like this for a shower surround etc.

Okay, one other decision I’m trying to make right now. Front doors! We are slated for a 60″ opening. Right now the plan is a single door with two side lights. But I’ve been digging the look of double doors (2 – 30″ doors). In true farmhouse style, I prefer the 3/4 light doors like this (Thermatru doors):


They would look awesome in a funky color, but I’m too chicken and would probably go a dark wood stain, or a black. Mr. Project loves the look but isn’t convinced of the practicality – particularly when it comes to privacy. But they are just so beautiful… I don’t know if I can resist.

Here are some of these doors in the wild.

A double set with no dividers:
A good way to get the sidelights to not look like your average sidelight:
This is about right:
Gorgeous with all the white planking:
So what do you think about the 3/4 light doors? Not enough privacy for a front door? Would you use obscured glass, or put some sort of drape? Or just go for it?

How to build kitchen cabinets: Getting Started

June 22nd, 2013


Hi! Mr Project here with a few tidbits from our kitchen cabinet build experience. When the Project Girl and I set out to redo our house in California, I really had no idea what I was doing. Jen had the vision for what this house would be, and I promised to execute. I knew how to use a few tools by then – circular saw, drill, router, hammer to name a few – but I really felt out of my depth. In fact, the first hole we put into a wall the night we signed for the house was as much an adrenaline rush as I had ever felt. Remember when your mom would tell you not to write on the walls, and when you did, you felt SO naughty? Yeah, that was me, but this time with a hammer. It felt surreal.

Here is the kitchen during the first part of demo:


Check out the before pictures of the project house here, and the after pics here in the Project Girl’s project house reveal!

We had quite the task ahead . . . to say the least . . . Definitely look at those before pictures if you haven’t yet. Every surface of the house needed to be re-done.

Soon, I got into the swing of things (pun intended) and the intimidation and anxiety left with each swing of the hammer and each hole I made.

Fast forward to one of the big, no, BIG parts of the renovation: THE KITCHEN. I hadn’t ever built a kitchen cabinet, but I figured that this wasn’t rocket science or brain surgery. I’d built somewhat complex and challenging pieces of furniture in the past, but still, the thought of building a kitchen cabinet was really daunting and stressful. In retrospect, this was probably due to the fact that I really had no idea HOW they were made or pieced together. I was crippled by fear of not knowing how, and somehow made them out to be this really big deal in my mind.

So, I did what any man that is lost, or looking for directions would NEVER do – I tried to find an instruction manual. Turns out that there are some really great books available for purchase that pretty much teach you everything you need to know about building kitchen cabinets, including how to find the right materials, basic construction and makeup, finishing, install, and even building countertops. These are the books I used to learn pretty much everything I know:


“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” ,“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” , “Building Kitchen Cabinets”

 Not only was I able to find out how to make them, but how to make them amazing. Just by reading these books. I did have to expand my tools a bit, but the investment was well worth it and from that effort, we were able to build and create an awesome custom kitchen.

Jen, of course, did the kitchen design, and I just made, installed, and finished the cabinets.

So here are seven things I learned during the process of renovation and building our kitchen –

1. Ask questions –

Not only are there usually great people around who are willing to help, but with the internet, you can pretty much find an answer to any question you have. Power tools aren’t that scary if you just read or watch how to use them, or have a friend show you the basics. It’s all about knowing. Ana White, for example, has some really great tips on getting started with building small wood projects.

2. Get the right tools –

Having the right tools for the job is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Think of all the money you could save by doing your own cabinetry! Most of the cost in pricing out custom cabinetry comes from the labor costs associated with the job. I decided to put the money I would save into purchasing the right tools. You can do a lot with a circular saw, cordless drill, and a router, but having a table saw, for example, will save you SO much time. We built our kitchen cabinets for less than 2500 bucks. Killer deal if you ask me!

Here’s a pic of my garage “shop”.

spencer-nugent-garage-shop3. Work Smart –

Cabinetry is pretty standard. Look for patterns as you work and cut your pieces in lots. Cabinets are a lot like puzzles. There are standard pieces and sizes that come together to make the full box.


4. Have a plan –

The Project Girl out together all our kitchen design drawings before I got to work. This was so helpful! We measured everything and planned out where and how we wanted things to be. That way, we could minimize surprises along the way. Part of the biggest challenge in making something is not having a plan on how to execute.

You can check out more plans from The Project Girl here.

kitchen-sketch1 kitchen-sketch2


5. Be ready to change that plan

… And be ready to change that plan too. As we were installing cabinets in our new kitchen, we realized that the floor in our kitchen wasn’t very level. We had to change a few things in our plan to make it work, but it worked out nicely.


Sometimes, plans change. You can’t see it too well here but there’s definitely a slight shift in level of the floor from one side to the other. We made it work!

6. Patience is everything –

Finishing/Painting is my least favorite part of the process. It sucks. But if you’re patient, have some good tunes, and a good attitude, it’s really not THAT bad. Patience is one of your greatest tools in your arsenal. If you’re patient and let things flow, everything can and will come together. At least, that’s how it was for me.

7. There’s always a fix –

Last, but not least, this is my new motto – “THERE’S ALWAYS A FIX”. One of the great things about this whole process is really, there isn’t THAT much that you can screw up, and if you do, it’s really easy to fix, with some time and effort. Knowing that there always is a fix helps me relax and take things on with a good and positive outlook.

So those are some of the things I learned along the way. There’s much more, of course, and if you’re feeling up for the challenge, here are a few of my favorite books that helped me along the way as I was learning how to build cabinets.

“Build Your Own Kitchen Cabinets” – Solid guide, but not my favorite, though useful.

“Trim Carpentry and Built-Ins” – Good for knowing about how to integrate cabinetry into your home and finish things off.

“Building Kitchen Cabinets” – My personal favorite.


Family Photos – completely worth it

June 20th, 2013

I posted a few weeks ago about having family pictures taken (and our outfits). We got back some sneaks today and they are so incredibly beautiful!


Our photographer Michelle of Clover & Mustard could not have done a better job. She uses actual film for her photography and it just brings a quality of depth that I miss from digital photography. We’re so happy that she could take our photos and preserve these precious and fast-paced days.


Getting ready and being willing to take family photos can be a lot of work, and cost a chunk of change. But putting in the effort is worth it. Having these photos forever will be worth it.  Whether you’re 7 months post-baby, and haven’t worked out in 3 years, or you are in the best shape of your life, it is worth it to document your family. So don’t wait thinking you’ll take pictures next year or when you hit your goal weight. Just do it now and you’ll thank yourself a million times for it.

I’m also making the vow to actually order prints and hang up picture in our house as part of my “get the pictures off my computer” initiative. I think these will look amazing in our new house.

To see more pics from our shoot – check out Clover & Mustard.