The Project House *before* or How we ended up with a project house

May 5th, 2013

I remember showing this picture to Mr. Project before we went and looked at the house. His immediate response was “NO”. No point in even looking at it. Then I told him the price and the square footage, and he was willing to go look at it, but wasn’t overly optimistic…


I don’t think I’ve ever posted my full set of “before” photos for our project house. When we bought this house, we were on a very strict budget but wanted something big enough for our growing family. I was 9 months pregnant, and didn’t want to stay in our tiny apartment, so house hunting we went! Anything in our budget that was “move-in” ready was around 1400 sq feet. Since we work out of our home, that just wasn’t enough space for us. So we had 2 options: buy something small and grow out of it pretty quickly, or buy something larger and put some major work into the renovations. We had never really renovated a house before, but I figured there was a first time for everything. Mr. Project is such a hard worker, I had no doubt in my mind that he could jump in and just do it.


When we found this house, it was in pretty bad shape. No one major negative, but just years and years of neglect. The carpet was 35 years old and the house hadn’t been painted in years and years. Unless you’ve been in a similar home, you can’t imagine how badly 30+ year old carpet smells. We brought friends over to see it before we signed on the dotted line and they ALL thought we were crazy. certifiably nuts.


But I could see the beautiful swan in the whole thing. The floor plan was pretty awesome, the spaces flowed well, and there were 2.5 bathrooms. And the best part – the part that really sold me was this home office space:


It also had a beautiful backyard and was on a big piece of land that was somewhat secluded from the neighbors. That’s something we didn’t see in any of the other (newer) homes we looked at.


When we decided that we were going to go for it and buy it, I knew that we were going to have to renovate every single surface. Nothing that we could *see* would be visible in short order.


I was excited to remove all those dark pine doors, and 3/4″ baseboards. The orange peel walls needed to be re-plastered and smoothed, and the flooring of course all had to go.


New lighting, new kitchen, all new bathrooms and laundry. We had to gut out the whole thing and start from the drywall up.


We did have a few surprises here and there. The entire under-lament (what sits on top of the subfloor, but under the flooring) turned out to be particle board, Mr. Project had to tear out every inch of every crumbling sheet and replace it with a much higher-quality plywood sheeting.

_before10Some of the plumbing was in disrepair and we ended up having a plumber come and replace the majority of the old copper pipes and fittings in the house.


The lighting was also outdated and sparse, so we had an electrician spend a few weeks rewiring and adding some more modern lighting.

_before4But the bones were good, and with enough work we made the house look brand new again.


Every surface updated in some way or another. Think about every surface in your home, and how much work it would be to replace them.

I remember leaning against the wall in the living room that first day and imagining that very process and being terrified of it, but also excited to be the creator of something so massive and wholly ours.


And in the end, I think we did a pretty amazing job. Mr. Project really made it happen, I was mostly a cheerleader – he’ll say visionary, but I couldn’t have imagined anything quite so beautiful unless I knew he could pull it off. _before15

He was there night and day for the 2 months leading into move-in. And then finishing up small projects and a few big ones like the kitchen and laundry in the days and months after we moved in.

I think we’ll be forever changed by this house. It changed our goals and expectations. It made us realize that any goal is achievable with enough effort and a clear vision. It also made us never want to stop creating and making things more beautiful than how we found them. Which is a big reason why we wanted to move on to another project house. We love the adventure of designing a home. (see the after photos)


Vintage market find – or – my new vanity

May 3rd, 2013

I LOVE turning vintage/antique furniture pieces into bathroom vanities. It’s such a cost-effective way to get a really unique piece in your home. And if you’re a great budget shopper it can be cheaper than your average pedestal sink but with so much more style.

You may remember me altering a console table into a vanity in my first project house:


In our new house, I am planning on doing something similar, so I’ve been on the look-out for the perfect piece to remix. I heard about a local vintage market, and hoped in Mr. Project’s truck to see if I could find something magical. After going through nearly the entire market, I happened upon this gorgeous little lady:


I’m pretty sure thats an antique vanity (pre-bathroom/plumbing). The height is perfect – including these cute little roller feet, the depth is just big enough for a sink, and the width is going to fit my bathroom just fine. I had to have her and went a little over my budget. But she’s just so pretty and I knew she would be a great conversation piece in our guest/powder bathroom.

I rolled her on outta there, and brought her home (her feet are not on in this pic, but they are sooo cute).


I love how leggy she is, and that little under-frame is so unique. They just don’t make furniture like they used to.

Now I need to find a drop-in or vessel sink, and some sort of wall mounted faucet. I’m also planning on painting her black. What color would you paint her? I think black would be super elegant but I’m totally into black cabinetry right now.


Project House Mantel* Reveal

February 14th, 2013

Okay okay, I know I’ve been a major blog slacker. We did so many many projects in 2012 and I just didn’t have the time or gumption to get them posted. I’m feeling bloggy this week so I am going to hopefully do a bunch of quick updates so you can see what we did and a little about how we did it.

If this is the first time you’ve stumbled upon my blog, Mr. Project, my husband builds all our cabinets/furniture/built-ins. I dream it up, and he makes it happen,and somewhere during the process we work through all the design issues together and come up with a final product thats even better than my vision.

Okay back to the Mantle… this house was old, old and ugly when we got our hands on it. This is what the family room looked like before (brace yourselves):

We took out the old stove, and painted the brick charcoal gray, and thats how it was for a solid year. You can read a little bit more about that on my Mantle Plans post.

Mr. Project and I went through a lot of design ideas with this one. Should we build the fireplace surround out of the wall more? What about book-cases up to the ceiling? Doors or drawers or just shelves? etc etc. After a lot of discussions, we came up with this vision:

Once we had dimensions down, Mr. Project started the build (in our garage shop):

In the mean time we hired a contractor to come and chip out the mantle brick and the footer brick (took about an hour or so):

We decided to leave the existing brick (it was in great shape) to add depth instead of chipping it out and then having to build out the depth with steel studs and cement board.

Our tile guy came and installed cement board everywhere the tile would be and sealed off all the old brick with some sort of mortar stuff. Note the blue tape where we finalized the measurements/placement on the mantle beam. There’s nothing like actually seeing a representation of what you’re making to help with crucial decisions.

Mr. Project installed the cabinets and shelves:

Then he built the mantle, legs, and details.

Here you can see the elevation:

And then we had it painted:

Once it was painted we had to wait a few weeks for the tile to come in. We ordered a small 3/8″ stacked mosaic tile made of a natural stone… I am totally pulling a blank on the material – maybe lavastone??? I’ll come back and update when I remember.

We liked this because it wasn’t your run of the mill brick, rock, or large tile. On the floor we had  larger tiles of the same material flush-mounted.

A closeup of the mantle details:

Here it is all finished:

And finally with books & decorations I gathered mostly from around the house:

Never underestimate the potential of an old drab fireplace! Or as Mr. Project always says “There is always a fix”

I think we spent about $1400 on this re-do that includes, wood, tile, paint & labor.

*The ever-knowlegable Mr. Project just informed me that in this instance mantle is spelled mantel. So now we all know :p