This post is in collaboration with Lowe’s

Our tenants moved out of the garden apartment around late April, and immediately, we dove in, gathering quotes and meeting with contractors. We needed to come up with a (somewhat loose) schedule in order to plan for what we hoped to be a 2-3 month renovation, and we quickly locked in our favorite general contractor and new-to-us tile installers. While the first month of the renovation would be handled by professionals, our plan was/is to swoop in and finish up by building out the kitchen, laundry room and bathroom – and maybe we would treat ourselves by hiring out the fresh paint job (here’s hoping!).

Not even one day after we filmed the garden tour, tile installation began! It was exciting and scary, and we overthought every detail leading up to it (who, us?). We considered everything from luxury vinyl planks, wood look tile and polished concrete, and we discussed the possibility of heated flooring, too. To help with our decision, we spoke directly to the source – our former tenants! We asked them if they ever felt that the original tile was too cold, and they let us know that, hand to heart, it never bothered them; it was nice and cool in the summer, and they were always in stocking feet through the winter anyway. We took their response to heart, which allowed us to (somewhat hesitantly) nix the heating element. Between the cost of the heated sheets alone and the electrician to install thermostats in multiple places, this would save us thousands.

As a result, we considered luxury vinyl planks (LVP), if only because the flooring stays closer to room temperature, and it would make for a less expensive install than tile. We gave LVP a hard look. Vinyl has come such a long way, and there are a lot of options out there that had us fooled into thinking they were actual hardwood! (House of Hipsters was a big inspiration here!) If this was our own personal space, I think we might’ve landed on LVP. It has a reputation of holding up well to everyday traffic and pets, but in the end, we cringed at the thought of future tenants pushing their 200-lb couch across the floor, leaving behind permanent dull scratches (or worse). Asking anyone who signs a lease to use felt feet on their dining room chairs didn’t seem very sane either! When it comes to rental units, we have to assume the worst and hope for the best.

Polished concrete was eliminated almost immediately. Not only did we have the most difficult time hunting down residential contractors to take on the job (let alone provide us with a quote), but we also craved something with more warmth – and so, wood look tile won out in the end! Sample tile collecting ensued.

We searched high and low for the perfect shade; not too yellow, not too red, and nothing too dark or too light. We were looking for the Goldilocks of flooring, something affordable but not cheap, made from durable porcelain (not ceramic). After our flooring contractor’s initial walk through, he added one more stipulation: No tile longer than 30″. This was recommended based upon the amount of leveling that our floors needed, and the shorter the length, the less change of future cracks.

At first, our search was restricted to specialty flooring shops – Lumber Liquidators, Floor & Decor and local tile outlets – and then we had our aha! moment! Do you remember the flooring we had installed for Akiyo’s family during last year’s Lowe’s Spring Makeover? It fit all our criteria – 6″ x 24″ in a soft wood tone and an inoffensive traditional style, and it was less than $2/sq. ft.! I texted with Akiyo and asked her if she was still loving her tile, and she couldn’t sing its praises enough. Done. We chose the same brand and style, but in a slightly different colorway. The winner? Style Selections Serso Wheat wood look tile from Lowe’s:

Lowe’s has been such a strong support system for our wild renovation ideas over the years, and they were just as excited to work with us on this project. We ordered 950 sq. ft. of tile for our 850 sq. ft. space, and we chose this Summer Wheat sanded grout for the most natural look. We felt confident in our decision based on Akiyo’s family room makeover, and when everything arrived (we used Lowe’s home delivery service), we were practically bursting. We called up our tile installer (these guys), and they were at our home a few weeks later to kick off the demolition of the existing, mis-matched 12″ x 12″ ivory tile:

In total, the tile installation took seven days, with the shortest work being the demolition! By the end of day one, everything was torn up and hauled away, with only a few stubborn areas left in the kitchen:

The next two days were spent leveling and leveling and leveling. Until our former tenants moved out, we had almost forgotten how bad the floors were. During our final walk through, I remember walking out of the bedroom and into the living room, and I felt like I had walked up an incline! The whole apartment sort of sunk in the middle (not surprising, since our floors are similar), but the tile team worked miracles. Along the wall where the bedrooms meet the living room (parts of the kitchen, too) received the most amount of leveling compound, but by the time they were done, we couldn’t believe how even the floors were.

Finally, it was time to tile! We asked for the smallest grout lines possible, and they were able to go just slightly under 1/8″. I initially thought this meant we could have gotten away with unsanded grout, but they let me know that they preferred sanded grout for durability on the floor.

By the end of week one, the tiling and majority of the grouting was complete. The final two days were spent finishing the grout, cleaning up supplies and wiping off the grout haze. The bathroom is only partially finished, because our general contractor still needs to swap some plumbing, and afterwards, the tile team will come back and quickly finish up that last room!

We can’t get over how much the flooring warms up the space. That was our goal all along, but it really is the foundation for everything that comes after! Hover over photo below for direct links to product:

Let’s zoom in on the perimeter of the room. The baseboards stayed mostly in tact, although the extensive leveling made some of the boards look too low. We’ve already ripped those out to replace with new, but for everything else, we’ll need to install quarter round to cover up the small gaps. To be honest, we were impressed with how close they were able to get to the edge of the room, and in some cases, right up under the existing baseboards! Here’s a good snippet of how it looks right now:

This has already made a world of difference, but the best part is that things are only getting started down there! So much of what you’re seeing in these photos is changing – and soon! Think: Recessed LED lighting, all new doors, fresh paint on every last surface, and oh yeah, a brand new kitchen, laundry room and bathroom.

We can’t wait to share the progress with you as it unfolds!

We used Style Selections Serso Wheat wood look tile and Summer Wheat sanded grout. A huge thank you to Lowe’s for partnering with us on this project, and the same to you for supporting the brands that support us! 

  • TIFFANY DIIORIO - May 26, 2017 - 7:04 AM

    you say “garden” so I am assuming basement ie slab. and I think the apt is in Chi?
    Are you concerned with physical warmth in the winter? did you consider under floor heating? thermosoft, nuheat, etc…
    I would love to hear your thoughts on this as I am starting a project similar to yours.

    love the tile by the way!

    thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 10:00 AM

      You’re right – we’re in Chicago on a slab. We did consider heating! We dove into all that in the first few paragraphs, but after speaking with the former tenants that lived with tile for the last 3.5 years, they weren’t fazed by the tile in the winter whatsoever. Instead, they said they actually appreciated how cool the floors stayed in the summer!ReplyCancel

  • Chantel - May 26, 2017 - 7:21 AM

    Looks beautiful!! question- will tile floors in the basement make the floors super cold in the winter??ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 10:02 AM

      It will definitely be cool, but we spoke with our former tenants, and it didn’t bother them one bit (they were always wearing slippers or had on socks in the winter anyway). Rather, they appreciated how cool it kept the apartment in the summer. We dive into that quite a bit more in those first few paragraphs! :)ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - May 26, 2017 - 8:53 AM

    Wow! That is some good-looking tile!! I can’t wait to see what comes next :)ReplyCancel

  • Ann - May 26, 2017 - 9:42 AM

    I cannot believe we didn’t make it down there last weekend!!!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 10:03 AM

      How did we forget?! I think someone was too excited to watch The Big Chill. ;)ReplyCancel

  • Sammy - May 26, 2017 - 10:53 AM

    so so excited to see the progress on this! that floor is amazing!!

    in the next renovation (ha!), I said I wanted the wood look tile flooring. I hope there’s a pocket door somewhere down there :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 10:57 AM

      So funny, how’d you know?! There will be one pocket door – details to come!ReplyCancel

  • Kyla @HouseOfHipsters - May 26, 2017 - 11:42 AM

    This looks absolutely amazing! I’m singing Outkast, So Fresh and So Clean =) You chose the perfect color. And thanks for the shoutout!!!ReplyCancel

  • Monica - May 26, 2017 - 5:10 PM

    Hi this looks so lovely! I was wondering if you had any issues with sound traveling or if you did anything to minimize the upstairs noises. We have a daylight basement that we rent out and it’s just perfect except the sound issue…ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 6:23 PM

      Maybe we’re so used to apartment living in the city, but some noise is 100% to be expected. I can hear the dogs running around upstairs when we’re in the living room, and I’m sure the same could be said for living in our garden apartment. We do try to be as mindful as possible, though.ReplyCancel

  • Bobbie - May 26, 2017 - 7:32 PM

    The floors look great. Have you considered sanded caulk for the edges? I despise quarter round and either pull the baseboards and reinstall or use sanded caulk. So much cleaner IMO. Anyway still a great transformation, quarter round or no.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 26, 2017 - 8:44 PM

      We’d love to do that, but every so often, there’s a good 1/4″ gap. While we don’t prefer the look of quarter round, in this old house, it has hidden so many sins! Ultimately, it will create a nice finished edge for some of those larger gaps. Thank you for the suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • Kaylan - May 26, 2017 - 9:59 PM

    Me thinks your tenants lie ;) we’ve live in a basement/garden suite with tile floors and it is downright cold in the winter. However, it’s nothing a nice area rug and good slippers can’t solve. I do appreciate the cool floor in the summer and I love that I don’t have to worry about damaging the flooring. I would make the same choice you did. It looks lovely!ReplyCancel

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Three summers ago, we stained our bare wood deck, painted the railings and built a new (safer) staircase. It made all the difference in the world, although we always sort of wished that the opaque stain color we chose, Gray Birch, was a little less blue. It was the softest, prettiest gray, and while we loved…
  • Chel - May 24, 2017 - 3:18 PM

    The porch looks great! Quick question about the IKEA pillows, do you find them comfortable to lean against? I had considered then for my living room and was concerned they would be to scratchy.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 24, 2017 - 3:28 PM

      They’re super cute, but definitely scratchy. Since we use them as a back rest (rather than a pillow you’d lean on), it’s fine!ReplyCancel

  • Paige - May 24, 2017 - 8:52 PM

    Our deck is totally going to need to be repainted by next summer! I’m not looking forward to the project, but know it will be so pretty when it’s done!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflamily.comReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 25, 2017 - 7:40 AM

      It’s a huge project, but changes EVERYTHING! Good luck when your time comes!ReplyCancel

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This post is in collaboration with Schlage. Progress in the garden apartment has been moving full steam ahead, and it kicked off with the demolition of the old flooring and installation of new. We had high hopes that our contractor could pick up where our tile guys left off, but unfortunately, his current job is taking…
  • @worldsworstflipper - May 19, 2017 - 6:53 AM

    Love the Bowery knobs! I replaced 22 80’s brass levers in my house with bronze Bowery knobs when we moved in and it might be my favorite update! Huge impact for relatively minor work! Lovely choice!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 19, 2017 - 10:47 AM

      WOW, 22 levers?! You’re a champion. Nice work!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - May 19, 2017 - 10:29 AM

    I just replaced all of my doorknobs with the bowery knobs (in polished nickel!) as well! But I ran into a snag when replacing the last one – the backset on the door is not standard (it’s about 4″). Any ideas on how to make the new knobs work with the existing door?ReplyCancel

  • Paige Flamm - May 19, 2017 - 10:57 AM

    This looks so bright and fresh! I love the look!

    Paige
    http:///thehappyfammily.comReplyCancel

  • Emily E Hoar - May 19, 2017 - 2:05 PM

    I love those knobs! I’ve been considering replacing the knobs in my house. Half of them are really neat 1950 originals, but I can’t find a similar replacement and am not looking to pay an arm and a leg. The other half are ALL different. The bathroom has a linen closet door, hall door, and bedroom door all clumped together, with three different knobs in different finishes. It drives me crazy! Might be time to just replace them all to match, even the cool 1950 ones.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 19, 2017 - 2:10 PM

      If the 1950s knobs are cohesive, I’d leave those be, and only replace the others! Having two types of knobs throughout still works, I think. Start with those bath, linen, hall and bedroom doors – the impact on that area alone will be well worth it!ReplyCancel

  • Alli - May 19, 2017 - 6:12 PM

    It makes me absolutely CRAZY when the knobs but not the hinges are updated on a door. I was feverishly reading your post hoping you’d get to the all-important hinges. Nice work :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 19, 2017 - 8:54 PM

      You can’t forget those hinges! ;)ReplyCancel

  • Aileen - May 22, 2017 - 9:04 AM

    Would you mind sharing where you found your doors? We have 1960s hollow fake wood doors and I’d like to replace them all, but I’m having a hard time finding bedroom and bath doors. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 22, 2017 - 9:29 AM

      We got ours at Home Depot, but also saw them at Lowe’s or Menard’s! They should be pretty easy to find in any big hardware store, but if not, take a photo and show someone in that service department. They should be able to special order anything.ReplyCancel

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It’s been close to a year since we completed our master bedroom renovation, and a little more than a year that we’ve been sleeping soundly on our Leesa mattress. Not surprisingly, we’ve received lots of emails since then from those of you that have been curious about our Leesa – do you still love it?, you ask. The…
  • Tricia - May 16, 2017 - 7:45 AM

    I have the Leesa, too, and LOVE it. Do you guys use a mattress pad that you like? I bought one that I hated because I felt like it trapped in more heat. The Leesa is comfortable without it but with a dog and a kid that end up in my bed, I feel like I need the stain protection.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 16, 2017 - 8:43 AM

      Ooh, I meant to mention that! We use this mattress protector (the Leesa is too pretty to risk anything), and it works great! It’s large with deep pockets, but it’s thin enough that it tucks nicely under our fitted sheet without ANY additional bulk.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle - May 16, 2017 - 9:23 AM

    I can’t believe this was a year ago! Which means I waited a year to ask my question, whoops. We have a similar problem with our ceiling being uneven, and so I loved your idea to bring the white down and have a perfect line. However- I have original crown molding in our room. A) Do you have crown in the room? B) if not, do you think that technique would work if I painted the ceiling, crown, and wall the same white? My husband says no but I think it could work! Otherwise dark paint would look weird as our ceilings are quite sloped in some areas. I think it would really stand out. Thanks! This is still one of my favorite rooms of yours!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 16, 2017 - 9:35 AM

      We don’t have crown, but I agree with you, I think it would still work to paint the upper portion of the wall, the crown and the ceiling the same bright white. It will look a THOUSAND times better than dark paint that slopes up and down along a crooked ceiling/crown line. We couldn’t be happier with our decision to only go 3/4 up the wall with dark paint!ReplyCancel

      • Danielle - May 17, 2017 - 8:19 AM

        It’s such a great solution and a wonderful way to make a statement without a typical statement wall or something. I think I’ll work on convincing my hubby! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Erica - May 16, 2017 - 10:06 AM

    Thank you for the update. I’m struggling with my current memory foam mattress and looking for an alternative. I’m looking for something that doesn’t sag. I feel like my current bed gets an impression that doesn’t recover so my back isn’t being supported as I sleep on my side. I want a bed with fast recovery.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 16, 2017 - 10:47 AM

      No sagging over here! It looks like the day we unwrapped it on our bed frame.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - May 16, 2017 - 11:58 AM

    We’ve had ours for a little over two years and are still totally in love with it! I used to be a hotel mattress lover, but now I seriously am excited to get back to my own bed even after really nice hotels :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 16, 2017 - 12:11 PM

      We are SO on the same page, haha!ReplyCancel

  • susan - May 18, 2017 - 2:13 PM

    You said you slept hot on your previous mattress. Is the Leesa cooler?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 18, 2017 - 2:40 PM

      YES! I sleep hot in general, but the Leesa has a cooling layer that helps out SO much.ReplyCancel

  • Marge Ryan - May 19, 2017 - 9:18 PM

    Had my Leesa for a few years now. Still no rolling to center. Firm but soft on all my body parts. I never feel any pressure points. Most important to note that it keeps a perfect temperature. I’m never hot from it. Such a positive purchase from day one.ReplyCancel

  • Rebecca - May 20, 2017 - 10:36 AM

    How did you get rid of your old mattress? Did Leesa help you with that? I’m interested in purchasing a Lessa mattress, but I’m a single female who lives on the 3rd floor of a walk-up. There is no way I could manage getting rid a mattress on my own. And, those stairs — oh, my! Traditional stores will take your mattress when they deliver your new one. This is one thing that is holding me back from ordering a Leesa.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 21, 2017 - 11:35 AM

      Hi Rebecca, we were able to donate ours, and I’m pretty sure that’s not a service Leesa provides (I’m also sure that’s what keeps costs low!). I know that in our area, there are donation stores that will pick up items for you, or it doesn’t hurt to call Leesa’s customer service and ask what they suggest!ReplyCancel

      • Rebecca - May 22, 2017 - 7:04 PM

        Thanks! It never even occurred to me to donate a used mattress. I will check out that option — although, I’m not sure how usable a nearly 20-year-old mattress.ReplyCancel

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This post is in collaboration with Article. On a good day, 60-degree weather in the city can feel a good ten degrees warmer when the sun’s hitting you. It’s during times like these that we like to eat lunch on our east-facing back patio, where the cool air is mixed with hot sun. For the better…
  • cait - May 11, 2017 - 5:46 PM

    Side tables are a great idea for out on the porch! You always seem to have to manoeuvre yourself around bigger ones rather than the other way around. Beautiful photographs xReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 12, 2017 - 10:15 AM

      Right?! We were always moving our large one closer to the swing, or closer to the chairs, so we thought, let’s get two small ones. A table for everyone!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Winchester - May 11, 2017 - 8:55 PM

    This is so cozy! What a great space for winding down in the evening. I know Article for their sofas and chairs, like you said, so it’s fun to see other stuff they offer. The tables are beautiful!ReplyCancel

    • Sarah @ Article - May 12, 2017 - 4:04 PM

      Thanks, Rachel! Kim did an amazing job styling out our Nimbus tables and we’re excited to get the word out there about our other collections! We now have articles for outdoors, bedroom, and for accessorizing. Let us know if you have a new favourite ;)ReplyCancel

  • Jenna - May 12, 2017 - 9:58 AM

    I am in love with CC! She looks like a great cuddle buddy! Love the switch to two smaller tables as well.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 12, 2017 - 10:15 AM

      She is the BEST cuddle bud.ReplyCancel

  • Ashley @ The Gold Hive - May 12, 2017 - 10:23 AM

    Oh CC, you’re such a heartbreaker!

    This porch is the bee’s knees and that dappling of magic hour light on the swing is so dreamy!ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - May 12, 2017 - 12:06 PM

    This is bursting with inspiration for our own front porch, which only collects little tiny bikes and packages. I want to sit out there! We’re doing it.ReplyCancel

  • Victoria - May 12, 2017 - 12:27 PM

    Any chance you can share about the new swing cushions? We built one just the same and the hubby keeps asking for more comfort :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - May 12, 2017 - 12:36 PM

      We purchased 18″ deep Sunbrella cushions from Home Decorators collection, but it looks like they just merged site with Home Depot, so I’m having a tough time finding them! These are similar (although not as in wide of a range of colors). Our white pillows are from Crate & Barrel (also Sunbrella), and the pink ones are IKEA!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - May 12, 2017 - 3:11 PM

    This makes me miss having a porch so badly! Love what you guys did with the space… and those pups are too sweet. xoReplyCancel

  • […] Kim & Scott Vargo, Yellow Brick Home […]ReplyCancel

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