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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Curb Appeal

This is our house.
That picture was taken from last summer. (When things were a little greener). It's nothing too special..But a couple of years ago, it looked like this:
Aside from the change of season, hopefully you can see a few improvements since then. If not, allow me to point them out to you. Since we started, back in 2010, here's the changes we've made to the appearance of the front:

1. We chopped down those 2 huge, overgrown bushes in front and planted two small dwarf bushes in their place. For one, they were an eyesore. They also made the house look smaller, like they were hiding behind those things!
2. We gave the shutters a nice new shiny coat of paint. They were seriously faded and dull-looking before, and with some new paint, they suddenly popped!
3. We did some landscaping. Since it was lacking any legit landscaping (dead flowers and large rocks don't count), we planted some flowers and put down some mulch out there.
4. We removed the stump you see closer to the foreground and planted new grass in its place.
5. We replaced the house numbers with some snazzier ones.
6. We replaced the porch light from a dated motion-sensor light to a new, modern one.

Even before that "before" picture above though - it was even worse. Before I even moved in, we made some improvements to the porch, including ripping out the ugly black carpet that was there, and painting the bare concrete underneath. It never had a railing, either. Just some lattice thrown up there. Ya know, the usual. So Trent actually built a new railing out of some thin boards laying around, and we painted it bright white. It turned out pretty darn good, if I do say so myself! Here are some pictures from back in 2010 when Trent was tearing the old carpet out and building the porch rail:

This was the black carpet that was on the porch:

Trent replaced a couple of the posts with brand new ones. Here it is in-progress:

And here's the porch railing being built:

Below is the bench that was already there, and we painted white:
Assembled - Before paint

Huge improvement, right? And the stump in front of the house? It was actually what we dubbed the "chair stump." As in, it had been carved into a chair. Let's just say..not my style. ha.

Here's Trent watching that baby burn:

Yep, we're real classy around here, burning chair stumps and all. It took a couple of years until it was finally soft enough and buried deep enough to plant grass seed over, so we finally did that last summer.

A couple of smaller improvements we made were replacing the porch light and house numbers with nicer looking ones.

Here's the Before and After of our house number makeover:

And here's the porch light Before....

While Trent was installing the new one....

And the new light:

And even though we've made some improvements over the last couple of years, there's still some work to be done. Still on our "curb appeal" to-do list is:

1. A new roof
2. A smaller, more modern chimney
3. Somehow get the power lines redirected so they don't come right down onto the porch.
4. A more appealing front door (once the foundation is fixed..right now we have trouble even opening it all the way!)

So that's our list for the front exterior of the house as it stands now. I guess you could say this is one of our least problematic areas right now. We have much worse-off spaces around this house! But that's for another time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meeting the Bloggers from Young House Love

I know this is a little late, but I've been wanting to write a post about this for a while. On November 10, 2012, I accomplished one of my life goals:

I met John and Sherry from the blog Young House Love!!

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you know that this blog is pretty much the best home related, diy blog EVER! Not only have I religiously followed it for probably over three years now (since I lived at college), but I make it a part of my day to read it every day. They've seriously inspired me as we've been working on making our house "ours." I just love those two!

Anyway, they released a book last fall, which I preordered of course, and they have been on their book tour since then. Here's that lovely book:
I KNEW we had to make a weekend trip to Chicago to meet we did! :) Chicago is about 3 hours away from us, so it's not too bad of a drive, and it was a fun little weekend trip.

The book signing was at West Elm in Chicago (Love that store), and we got there plenty early, so we got to wait inside, unlike many of the unlucky people who had to wait in the rain outside. (Seriously, the line wrapped around the whole store I think, and was there for several hours.)

It actually didn't feel like we were waiting in line too long. We got to sit comfortably in the store, and they fed us cookies ;).
The cookies were ok, (Side note: I think that dot in the middle of the house is supposed to be a heart - fail.) but I ate the heart cookie and it turned my mouth red! Teeth and all. So I was freaking out for a little while and going to the bathroom secretly trying to get the red food coloring to fade! I mean, I couldn't meet my idols with a red mouth. Luckily, it faded in time. Sigh of relief.

The best surprise was when we found out that John and Sherry were going to do a short little presentation before the signings - at the table right in front of us! It was literally like 5 feet away from us. I was so nervous, thinking about what I was going to do and say when they were around and trying to psych myself into acting normal. It was seriously like meeting my favorite celebrity.

It was so cool when John and Sherry finally came out! The whole time I was pretty much standing in awe watching them. They took turns briefly explaining a few of the book projects. 

Then they said they couldn't wait to meet us all and headed over to the book signing table!

I had brought my book that I preordered from Amazon, and I bought another book at the signing for my sister as a Christmas present. So I got those both signed. And, because Sherry is an avid ceramic animal lover (and I have become one too), I brought this little guy too just to make Sherry excited:
It's my ceramic dog that I got from Target. I just love him. He's so regal. :)

When it was our turn to meet John and Sherry, I tried my best not to act nervous, but I don't think I succeeded. I forgot to introduce myself, and John asked if my name was Haley or Whitney, because one of the books said my sister's name and one said mine. Fail. I just kind of set everything up on the table and was like "Hiiiii....I brought my dogggg." haha. Luckily, Sherry was super nice and was like, "Oh I love signing those!!" I think that's what she was saying in the picture. :)

She even explained that the brand Threshold, who made the dog, is now what the Target Home Brand is called, which I didn't know. Just a little tidbit!

It all happened so fast, it's hard to remember it all (It was like a blur. haha). But we did get this picture with them, which looks like we are super tiny and they're normal size due to the person kneeling on the ground while taking the picture. Darn! (And we look like total dorks) All in all though, it was one of my favorite experiences yet! They really were super nice. But we already knew that from their blog :)

While we were in Chi-town, we had a chance to do a little shopping on Michigan Ave....

Eat at Harry Caray's.....

And see some of the sights - including going up in the John Hancock building, which neither of us had done before. Very cool!

It was a great weekend!! :)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kitchen Remodel - A Temporary Fix

Almost two years ago - Summer of 2011 to be exact - We tackled something that I have been wanting to do soo much since I moved in! The Kitchen. But unfortunately, we couldn't do a complete remodel (gutting, new cabinets, new everything) like we want to, because of one huge problem with our house - The foundation. 

The foundation of our house, especially on the kitchen side, is very bad. As in cracked, and leaning-house bad. The house is well over a century old - We found a document that had the date of 1854. In short, the kitchen is in such bad shape structurally, that we can't really do anything major in it yet until we fix the foundation. (BTW - This summer we plan on fixing it finally!)

So the remodel we did in 2011 is a temporary make-it-livable solution until we can completely gut it and redo everything! Warning: what you are about to see is pretty ugly.

Here's where we started. This was what the kitchen looked like when I moved in (please excuse the small phone pictures):
To me it was a cave-like nightmare of poop brown. Yep, I think that describes it. The super old cabinets were a dingy brown color, and the walls were textured and peach-colored. The ceiling even matched the peachiness of the walls, and even the curtains were a dingy brown color.

To start on our little makeover, we painted the walls a springy green, Valspar's "Summer Mist," and began painting the peach trim a semi-gloss white. Here's a picture with some of the paint on the walls and a little of the trim done. I know...the door is peach too. 

After a while, things were starting to take shape. The kitchen was beginning to feel less like a peach and brown cave, and more like a bright and sunny space:

The trim was looking 5,000 times better thanks to the time Trent spent caulking the seams and painting.

Along with the walls and trim, we also had the cabinets to tackle. Trent removed all the cabinet doors from the hinges, took them outside and sanded.

Once they were sanded, I primed them. Then eventually painted. We chose Olympic "Prairie Winds," which is kind of an antiquey white.

Here's our little helper getting in on the action:
And here's a little sample the cabinets we were working with BEFORE:

This is actually one of the open shelving sections that flank the stove. They're a little "handmade." But they work, so we left them for now. After all, it's only temporary, right?

Here's that same cabinet area after paint (and after removing those weird decorative corner things):

At that point we were starting to move things back in! Yay!

Oh, and I did leave a lot of little projects out that went into this, like the chairs:

These started out brown and ugly, but I went to town with the primer and white semi-gloss, and they definitely sunnied up a bit!

And we even installed Trent's favorite addition to the kitchen..Yep, a TV:

Another little project was putting in new cabinet hardware - including hinges and some of the drawer pulls (the shiny silver ones by the fridge, which you'll see in the pictures below).

Pretty soon, after what seemed like forever, we had stage one of the kitchen remodel complete (Let's call it "Operation: Make it Liveable"). Here's what it looked like at the end of our makeover (in September 2011):

Much better! It's so much more light and sunny, it's actually tolerable to spend time in here. You can see that we also put up a beadboard backsplash which we painted white semigloss like the trim. We just figured that would be something easy we could do to fix it up before the actual renovation.

We added Roman shades to all the windows and some accessories I've just picked up since I've been living here (like rugs, dish towels, little fake potted plants, etc.). And you can even see a little more of my plate collection hanging up there. Don't mind the mix and match of cups and dishes on the shelves - We don't have a lot of cabinet storage, and we aren't married so we don't have all of the matching dish sets quite yet! It's more of my college-dorm-day dishes. haha.

You can see that the ugly brown vinyl floor tiles are still there - another thing we're waiting on until we can get the foundation fixed.

Here is the table all dressed up in our Target tablecloth and sunflowers from the garden:

So that's step one of the kitchen makeover. At least it's livable for now, until we can fix the foundation and completely renovate it. And to give you a little timeline on how long all this took, I'd say it was pretty much all summer of 2011 (A few months). Here's a little Before and After to show just how far it's come to this point:
Since these pictures were taken right after the makeover about a year and a half ago, our kitchen really hasn't changed too much other than changing out accessories (ahem, maybe adding some owl friends), and replacing the ceiling fan for something a little more modern and flush to the ceiling.

After all is said and done, I like it a lot better now, because it feels a lot more "us," and hopefully soon, after the foundation is done, we can rip it all out and start over again! haha. But with a blank slate! Can I just say: Hello, stainless steel appliances, shiny tiles, and brand new cabinets. Can't wait!

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