Breaking your house

Nobody tells you how bad it feels when you start to break your brand new house.

The first scratch on the floor, the first scuff on the wall, the first marker down the hallway, the first red wine on the carpet.

Nobody tells you that it starts to happen the minute you move back in.

When our house was old and weird and full wacky walls with weird textures, I didn't care what happened to them - I knew they were coming down and changing. So I let life happen and I didn't scold or overreact or shout when a crayon "accidentally" drew on the cabinet door or a Matchbox car "crashed" into the baseboard. With 2 little boys and a husband, it was a blissful state to be in.

But that changed as soon as the walls were white and new and perfect.

Now I care, but I don't want to care. I don't want to cringe when hands smudged with Nutella prance along the hallway on their way to get washed. I don't want to tense when the remote control vehicle comes to a full stop because it hit the baseboard. I don't want to nag for the 100th time to let go of the cable railings. But I care because I know how much effort the choice, the purchase and the installation of each one of those things was. And I remember the price-tag. And I love the way it looks and I just want to enjoy the newness and the transformation for as long as I can.

But we are meant to live in houses, not observe them or watch them from a distance. And no one teaches me that more than the 3 men in my life who live in the house fully - with joy and laughter and smudged Nutella fingers.


Barns doors

Yes, barn doors are everywhere. You can't open a home design magazine without seeing them and you certainly can't browse Pinterest without seeing them either. In fact, I spent many an hour searching and pinning and deciding on what kind of barn door would work in our house. You can see all my "research" here.

With all the white and simple details we had chosen for the rest of the house, I wanted something a bit more rustic and imperfect so I had initially talked to our contractor about building a door for us. But we needed a huge door (   to be exact) and then we needed two of them, because during the re-design of Phase 2, we suddenly ended up with an entry closet that needed some kind of door.

So we needed 2     doors that could be barn doors. Plus we needed the hardware. So, I started to search for DIY Barn Doors. And after all kinds of blog posts about true DIY doors, I landed at a website for a company called Artisan Hardware. I immediately loved their door designs and the hardware packages seemed within our budget. When I discussed with our contractor that I could get the door and the hardware for about $900 per door, he smiled and said, "Just order it."

I had my door design and I had the hardware that I wanted but I had no idea if I should order it painted or stained. The problem was that I was ordering this door before we had our new floors picked out and it makes no sense to have a door stained or even painted if you don't know what color wood the floors would be. I could sense that I was going at this all backwards and I should have found the patience to wait until we had a floor design but we needed to keep on with all the decisions and this was one that felt very exciting. And, the had a long wait time....so I had to order these doors!

So, I ordered them untreated and figured I could stain them myself. How hard could it be?

I ordered the Horizontal Panel Interior Door and Classic Top Mount Barn Door Hardware.

The hardware arrived first - in the raw silvery finish which I chose to coordinate with the stainless steel and gray finishes throughout the rest of the house. I was so excited. I eagerly waited for the pictures from production of our completed door. A few weeks went by (as expected) and when I finally got a picture of the door, I realized a big mistake: this design of door has a metal case around the back that wraps around the outer edge of the door. This metal casing keeps the door together. This metal casing in black. But I had ordered raw silver hardware. It wasn't going to match.

I spent a day thinking about it and realized that at this point in the game, I couldn't settle for just ok, as I would be seeing this mismatched metal hundreds of times a day. I called customer service and we came up with a solution that worked for both of us as the image on the website does not clearly show the metal edging on the door. I felt good about ordering the right color and figured I could use the raw finish hardware on another project. All that was left was to wait for the doors.

I don't remember the exact day they arrived, but it went something like this:
At 3:45pm, an out of breath UPS driver knocked on our temporary front door. "I have a delivery for you but my truck is too big to come to your house. So it's double parked in front on city hall down the street. You'll need to come unload it there." Oh, ok, "I'll be right there." Then he laughed and said, "Oh you can't do it alone. It's huge and it's heavy and you need tools and crow bar." What the hell! I grabbed one of the guys who already on his way home at 4pm, we grabbed some gloves, some tools and the keys to our Sprinter van. I drove the van down the street, parked in the yellow across from city hall and laughed out loud when I saw the huge UPS freight truck parked in the red. The driver opened the back and inside one big

And presenting.....

Barn Door #1

Barn Door #2


Day 27: Baseboards are in!

Everything has it's place. This comes before that and that can only after this. I have learned a great deal about the order of things, what can be maneuvered around and what you let take it's course.

I pushed a little to get the baseboards done today. Glad I pushed.

Tomorrow they will get painted.


Day 26: Primed railings

For the last few days there have been guys hanging from ladders and railings trying to prep and prime an extremely complicated exterior trim. Another is sanding with an electric sander with one hand and holding onto the railing with the other. All the while, balancing across layers of deck boards that are just loosing based on the decks support beams.  But they are determined and careful and being as detailed as they possibly can.

And afterwards, I see stuff like this from our new front door.

This is all really exciting.



Day 22: Making decisions

I used to be really good at making decisions. I tended to not waiver. I trusted my instincts and I didn't need the opinions of others to find my way. But my decision making well has been taxed. It is empty and sluggish and teetering toward ambivalence and this is quite possibly the worst time for ambivalence because the decisions we make in the next 5-10 days are the decisions people see. That we will see, every day.

But it's the logical time. It's been almost 3 years of decision making regarding this house and the mental exhaustion of the process and the toll it takes is real. It's really really real. And it's right under the surface of the sparkling new white paint and farmhouse floors.

For us, at times we made decisions easily and quickly regarding this remodel. Like just today, about an hour ago - my husband learned that a new version of Nest thermostat exits. We haven't installed ours. We could still get latest version and sell the 3 we already purchased that we can't return. I asked "What's new in the new version?" He said he didn't know. So he put the kids to bed and then got on his phone and did some research. Turns out new version is narrower, wider and has a clock feature. I said these features don't seem worth it to me to for the trouble. He agreed. No new Nest. Decision made. Turn around time: 1 hour.

Other decisions have been painful and long and arduous. Money and emotions and needs all rolled into a ball. But in the moment and in the process, it takes hold of you. The harder decisions for me have been ones in which I didn't want to compromise. In which I believed my opinion to be the right one. Sometimes it was, sometimes it wasn't but we had to talk through all of them, all the time and sometimes the only solution was to say ok, whether I meant it or not.

It is those moments that have taken the most toll. They are part of marriage and life and house remodeling. But then, there are other moments, like today, when I let myself trust myself again and just go for it. So I bought the lamp for the living room.

Can you guess which one?


Day 21: Plastic divide comes down

We can really truly say that we are at the beginning of the end. The real end.




Day 13: Exterior update

A few more battens!

Siding done!

Wrapping the posts is started!


Day 12: Nook cushions done!

One of the first things we did when we bought our house was to give the kitchen a facelift. That included the breakfast nook. With some paint, new upholstery and a new pendant light, it looked like new.

And then construction happened. And when we uncovered it the cushions were moldy and dirty and beyond repair. So I could have just reupholstered them.

Or we could just have the whole thing rebuilt. Which is what we did. Because at the end of the day, we eat 8 out of 10 meals here and the benches were just not very comfortable. And food and dust collected underneath. We made some "simple" changes and ended up rebuilding the whole damn thing. And this is how it looked for weeks.

And the reason it looked like this is because I got a proposal for $2500 to create the new cushions and that basically stopped me in my tracks. I would have to go the DIY route.

It took several trips to the Foam Factory in Berkeley but after some testing and cutting and testing somewhere, we picked 2" foam plus batting. I took them the plywood templates and then created these pink fluffy cushions you see here.

With a bit of in-trepidation, I put the puzzle pieces together and breathed a sigh of relief that it all seemed to fit. Total cost: $625.00. Savings of: $1875. So far, pretty good savings. (I should include the toll costs, gas and time for getting Berkeley but I am trying to prove that I saved some money with the DIY version, so I will leave that out for now.)

And then on Saturday night, after all were asleep, I started with the upholstering. And about an hour into it, I started to curse this DIY project and saving money and the nook and the whole damn project. It's a slippery slope when that happens.

I finished the 3 base pillows and one back pillow and went to bed unhappy with the results.

And for all of Sunday, it just sat there, unfinished. And I was unhappy and dissatisfied and utterly frustrated. My husband chimed in with the advice that saved the day: " Here's the thing. Just finish it. It looks pretty good. Let's live with it for a month and then if you still really really hate it then we can figure out if we need to fix it or have it done professionally."

Ok, I could live with that.

So on Monday, after boys were dropped off at school, I turned off my phone and got back to work. And a few hours later, well, here it is....

Just need a new table top now and the nook will be ready to go!


Day 3: Desk nook progress

Another semi-IKEA hack: my desk nook.

I have my husband to thank for this one as he did all the measuring, sourcing and even accompanied me on the buying trip. Oh and he and I tackled the assembly on the IKEA cabinets which brought us to our knees this time.


1. Unstained Butcher block is from LumberLiquidators.

2. Side cabinets are SEKTION Base Cabinet with 4 Drawers (15x15x30 with Veddinge door) from IKEA Kitchen. We assembled the cabinets and Matt installed them to look like custom built ins. The trick to this is to continue the base board behind the cabinets and then use a small scribe (piece of wood) to fill in the gaps between wall and side of cabinet. It needs to be caulked and painted but it is these details that make a successful hack look a bit more refined and complete.

3. I stained the butcher block with Saman Wood Stain in Urban Gray and viola...

I still need a chair and drawer pulls and perhaps something on the wall, but it's coming along!


Day two: Sheetrock


Day one: Insulation goes in

I am officially counting the days until we are done and since I can't get it together to do much more than post a picture, that is exactly what I am going to do for how many days it takes to get this project finished, starting today.


Close In Inspection passed!

We can officially say that we are in the homestretch and I don't think I need to knock on wood.

There is a big plastic sheet separating the interior of our home at the moment. On one side is Phase 1 - complete minus a few barn doors, towel hooks and breakfast nook cushions which are all on my to do list to complete. On the other side is Phase 2 - which is walls stripped to the studs, new electrical work, unfinished floors and consists of the entry, living room and front bedroom. It's not much really but it has caused heartache, backache and frustration. The road to Phase 2 was more difficult than the road to the whole rest of the house combined. But, now that we stand on the eve of an inspection that will allow us to close in the walls, I look around and I see the house exactly as it should have been. So for all the hard lessons learned and money that felt wasted in the last 10-12 weeks, I can stand at the front door and say this is right.

Insulation, sheet rock, baseboards, floors, paint: READY, SET, GO!



Jenni walked around the corner this afternoon and said "Oh, stairs!" Gotta love it that a 3 year old notices this stuff!

First they installed the pre-primed risers...

Then the test of the first tread...

And then ta da...

Now we just need to stain them so they match the rest of the floor! So stay tuned!