Thursday, August 21, 2014

The best things I’ve ever done

Hello my friends! Our recent family room renovation has had me thinking lately…about the things that I’ve done in our house that have made the biggest difference. Some are little that only cost a few bucks. Some are bigger, but all are projects that I look at every time I walk by them and say “I’m so glad I did that.”

There are a lot of them, but these are my favorites. :)

This one is just “looks pretty” item but it was so easy and cheap! Last year I added some $10 hardware to the garage door to make it look more like a custom carriage door and less like the basic one that it is. I LOVE how it looks every time we pull up to our house:

diy carriage door hardware

It’s such a little thing but it makes me so happy. They’ve held up well too – no rusting at all. I’ve heard these kits went up in cost a bit but I believe they’re still under $30 – not too bad.

One that wasn’t so cheap but was still cheaper than paying someone were the DIY bookcases in our dining room. They are the first thing you see when you walk in our house and they make a BIG impact:

DIY built ins with kitchen cabinets

Our plan all along was to make this less of a dining room and more of a lounging space – but I’m playing with the idea of a larger table again. We’ll see. I’m SO proud of these built ins – not only because they’re pretty but because they are a perfect functional solution for us. The added serving ware storage is an extra bonus.

Another cheap and easy project that I am SO glad I did – adding some privacy to our bathroom window:

covering window for privacy privacy window

It took months before I stopped ducking when I walked by it at night, but now we’re used to it and I LOVE that it offers privacy but still lets the light in. And it was just a few bucks! I thought I not being able to see outside might bug me, but it doesn’t at all.

Of course a BIG one, the project that got me thinking about all of these – the removal of the wall between our family room and office. Oh that was a happy day!:

removing a wall

It’s come a long way since this photo but this shows where the walls were. From the very first day all I could think of was that it should have always been like this – and I knew it was the right decision. This project is the most expensive of all I’m mentioning here, but it’s nothing compared to the estimates we got to add on to the house. (And it was a whole lot less mess too.) You can follow along with the progress on this room here.

Years ago I wanted to brighten up our kitchen and I started by covering the black outdated tiles on our backsplash with white beadboard. It made a HUGE difference in this room:

beadboard backsplash

Yes, someday I will paint the cabinets, but in the meantime I can’t believe the difference it made in this space. All for less than $50 if I remember correctly. And yes, it’s held up incredibly well, I have no complaints! As long as it’s painted in a glossy white paint that you can wipe up easily there shouldn’t be any water or mess issues.

Another big project was our master closet storage that I created out of kitchen cabinets:

closet system with kitchen cabinets

Our closet was truly the thorn in my side for years and years – an utter disaster area and I was so fed up with it. I wanted more storage but wanted it to be closed storage – not just shelves that I knew we would clutter up like before. The cabinets have worked BRILLIANTLY. Ugh, why didn’t I do it earlier?? I still have plans to add shelves in the corners for even more storage. Again, the cost of the cabinets was way, way less than a custom closet system.

And finally, I know I mention it a lot but ripping the carpet off our stairs was one of the BEST things I’ve done, both for looks and functionally:

taking carpet off stairs

It is SO much easier to clean wood stairs than carpet! Just last week we had a drink spill down the steps and it was so easy just to wipe it up. All I do is vacuum them once every week (or two!) because we have three cats and a dog and you do see the fluff balls after awhile. Many have worried about how slippery the wood stairs are and I can tell you without a doubt that our carpeted stairs were more slippery than these. We each slid down the carpeted stairs a few times – it hasn’t happened once with the wood (knock on wood!!). This is just the case for our home, but I still think in general it’s easier to slip on that curved edge of carpet.

Because we had real wood under our carpet this project cost me less than $50 – I just needed some wood for the landing, stain and supplies. It was one of the cheapest projects but also one that was a lot of work. Pulling up the carpet and tack strips was no joke – but so worth it in the end!

There you go – my short list of the things that have made the biggest difference in our home, both in appearance and function. Function is HUGE for me – if it’s not going to work well for our family I’m not going to do it no matter how pretty it is.

Are there things you’ve done to your home that you think made a big difference? Things you want to do that you know you would love?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Island dreaming

Hello all! I’m excited about our family room renovation for many reasons, but one of the biggies is that I feel like I can finally move ahead with the kitchen as well. I’ve been planning it for literally YEARS but wasn’t sure about a few things until we were able to move things around. It’s still a long way off – I won’t start till next year. But I am wanting to move ahead with the island expansion sooner than later.

Could be because it now looks like this:

Instead of this: wood counter on island

It was torn up to put the hardwoods underneath and I can live with it like that for awhile, but soon it will drive me crazy. Not there yet. Soon.

So like all big projects, I have to sit on it for awhile and daydream about what I want. I find when I do that I end up with something that functions and looks good – both are important to me when I DIY.

My plan is to expand the island two directions – length-wise and width-wise. When I say width I mainly mean extending the sides out to kind of “frame” the stools, like this:

kitchen island with sides built out


So it won’t be much wider – maybe a few inches. But I love this added detail on islands.

I loved this idea too:

extra storage kitchen island


The added storage is never a bad thing, am I right? I think that is brilliant. It’s easy to access the cabinets too, which is important.

I’ve always planned on a small bookshelf at the end of the island for cook books and other things we grab often (stop laughing…I cook sometimes):

bookcase in island

But I may not have room for those cookbooks because now I’m dreaming of having a food station for the animals in the island, like this:

dog food station

I shared a bunch of food storage ideas here and I could totally DIY this one.

But the BIG thing I want to do in the kitchen island is take the microwave off the wall and put it in there somewhere:

black island marble counter


I know this isn’t for everyone but I think it’s BRILLIANT. Of course we would need a smaller microwave that vents differently, but I love the idea. I could put a vent hood over the oven where the microwave is now.

Some are built in seamlessly:

built in microwave kitchen island


microwave storage in island


But I think I could create something that would work just as well – I don’t need it to be completely built in. Sitting there is just fine. :)

I loved this whole kitchen but this one is a good example:

microwave built in island


And this is a similar island set up:

microwave in kitchen island


Love the pretty detail on that one!

So that’s my plan – add storage, shelving, a food station and a microwave. It will be ten feet long by the time I’m done with it. ;) We were able to move the island out a bit so after it’s extended there will be plenty of room between the stove and the island. We’ll still be able to walk around it when the door is open so it won’t feel cramped.

I’m excited about this project – just not sure when I’ll tackle it since I have so much to do in the family room. But I have a plan in mind and that’s half my battle!

Do you have a big kitchen island with a ton of storage? Is your microwave down low? I’d love to hear your experience with it!