For the last two years, we’ve focused almost every bit of our attention on the first floor. It’s where we spend most of our time, and with the kitchen finally checked off, we’re calling the main level done-for-now! That said, the second floor – with the exception of studio updates and the smaller work room – has taken a big time back seat.
At the same time, I don’t think it’s fair to downplay how much energy we’ve put into laying the groundwork upstairs! During round one of our home’s renovation, we did shuffle quite a few things around on the second level – taking down a (crooked) wall, eliminating an unnecessary closet and opening the second floor landing, and while we were at it, we nixed the second kitchen in favor of a master suite. I told you that we were feeling refreshed and invigorated after our cross-country journey, and I wasn’t kidding. Next on the agenda? The whole bedroom-slash-bathroom-slash-laundry-room chunk of our house, tucked away in the back half of the second floor, here:
We have been looking forward to this day so hard. Not to take any joy away from the work we’ve put into the downstairs (so far), but the most personal part of our home has been sorely neglected, and we are really, really excited to get going on these rooms that should be considered more of a retreat. I took photos of the bed, bath and laundry rooms over the weekend, and I’ll share each one in their own post. These three rooms could easily be classified as our home’s ’embarrassment’ in their own right, and so I’ll say this: Can we still be friends after we give you the tour?
I mean, let me explain.
Before the first phase of demolition (two years ago!), these three rooms were okay, I guess. To be honest, I feel like we both sort of blocked out how bad things really were, as we had a lot of issues to address – damaged carpet and an insect issue (I cringe!) among other things – but we definitely made things even worse by ripping out problem areas and not always following up with temporary solutions that could hold us over. We knew these three rooms would need a complete overhaul eventually, so it felt silly to throw money, no matter how small, at the problem if we couldn’t just do it right the first time. We liken these rooms to the broken window theory – once the neglect started, it quickly escalated, and so we have missing floorboards, cracked tile and molded caulk and, well, it’s like all hell has broken loose!
You poor rooms, you. Needless to say, we’ve been planning for this day for a long, long time, and now, we’re really doing it!
Today, let’s narrow down our focus and talk about the bathroom. No matter how hard we scour those walls, tiles and sink, they never (ever!) look clean. Like, ever. This entire room received a fresh scrub down before I snapped a single photo, but it’s the most unsatisfying cleaning routine you can imagine. I actually get angry cleaning this room; it makes me mean. What a waste of time!, I say. We should have just torn down this whole house!, I’ll shout. (At this point, Scott, ever helpful, will swoop in with a glass of wine.)
To this point, the bathroom received a new solid wood door, and we took out the old medicine cabinet and sliding glass shower door. After adopting our Chocolate-y Chunk, we picked up a handheld shower head for the doggie bath time routine, but that’s where the improvements stopped!
The tiles have been missing their grout since move-in day, and the only thing holding them down is a sad strip of duct tape. Baseboards were caulked but never smoothed, and we can’t even talk about the shower without me getting anxious; it’s just a big, hot mess, and again, I’m happy to say that we’re finally doing something about it!
Feeling overwhelmed by the renovation possibilities, we put a call out for help on our Instagram a few months ago. To choose finishes would have been one thing, but we were also looking to push back a wall and rearrange the layout, and we wanted to make sure we were doing things properly and to code. As a result, we found Jen*, a designer by trade who has been our saving grace on every level. We’ve been working with her for the last couple of months on these key items:
• Space planning
• What’s possible versus what isn’t
• Contractor wrangling and negotiating
Jen came over for a full tour, and we gave her our whole rundown of wishes, needs and would-like-to haves. We told her what was important to us (double sinks!) and what wasn’t (a separate tub and shower). Because Scott and I have been tossing around ideas for almost two years now, we gave her an earful, and she was kind, patient and incredibly informative. In the end, she presented us with four different plans, and together, we frankenstein-ed all the essential elements and layouts into one just-right space plan. Below is our starting point, with notes on demolition:
By the end, our hope is to have three rooms that look more like this:
For the bathroom, this will mean pushing back the shared laundry wall several feet, making way for a double sink and allowing more room around the toilet; as it stands right now, the toilet is practically hugging the wall, which is awkward at best.
We’ll also be swapping the placement of the toilet and sink, and the plumbing in the shower will move to the inside wall. Below is a mock up of what could be nice – a trough style sink with wall mounted faucets, double mirrors and a pair of sconces, although a lot of these decisions are still being pinned down and nothing is set in stone – yet. There are many other factors in play, too, such as a ceiling vent (for the first time if you can believe it!), central overhead light, shower lighting, proper outlets at the proper heights, and we’re currently wading through piles of tile and wallpaper samples. It’s all so, so exciting!
Jen helped us meet with three contractors and presented us with quotes, a service that felt invaluable and worth the entire cost of her fee, in our opinion! For the bathroom, the contractor will run all the plumbing roughs, handle all electrical and prep the bathroom for tile and paint. We’ve since hired the team that fit us best and signed a contract. As we’ve been doing and to save some money, Scott and I will be tackling most of the demolition ourselves in the coming weeks.
Next up, the bedroom!
*If anyone in the Chicagoland area needs a Jen in their life, let us know (or comment below), and we’ll get you connected! It’s surprisingly affordable, and a time (and headache!) saver.
PS! To see the bed + bath + laundry renovation party unfold, make sure to check out part II (the bedroom) and part III (the laundry room)!
Late last year, our friends Amy and Ed told us that they finally were doing it – they found the perfect space, they signed on the dotted line, and they were really doing it!
It is now called The Laboratory, a Chicago learning center using STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) to encourage children to wholeheartedly use their imaginations and explore their world in new, creative ways. The space feels like a happy, bright playground for kids and adults alike – which is perfect, because that was the plan all along!
Amy and Ed have been good friends of ours for years (we initially found them through Chicago Sociabulls, Jack’s doggie walking group, and you might remember when we overhauled their entry), and they had been talking about creating this space for just as long. When they signed the lease on the (gorgeous!) West Town building, they called us up and asked if we could lend a hand with design input. We were so, so thrilled for their dream-come-true, that we couldn’t wait to dive into ideas and see The Laboratory unfold.
While we pointed them in the right direction – sourcing furniture, where to buy what and which tutorials to follow – we were blown away by their execution, and we happily pass the credit entirely to them! We joked that Ed had turned into the mad scientist of the woodshop; he built each and every table, and together, they scored deals off of Craigslist and worked local store sales like seasoned pros. Note by note, they took our advice, put their twist on it, and created a place that makes us wish we were young enough to take their Zombie Science Camp. (Or attend the Frozen birthday bashes or classes on Training a Dragon!)
As inspirations to us, we asked them to share the story behind The Laboratory, because we have been itching to share it with all of you. Amy says:
We’re always talking about big ideas, but The Laboratory was that idea that we couldn’t shake. I’m not a big risk-taker, but we kept wondering if we would regret not at least trying to make it happen. After a long search, we found a beautiful, light-filled, empty box to rent, and we were investing our life savings while figuring our way through the red tape of small-business ownership in Chicago. We loved the space, but I was overwhelmed thinking how we could turn this blank space into something that was functional and fun that could work for both children and adults – especially on our budget.
We feel so lucky that we know Scott and Kim, because they are so full of advice and budget-friendly ideas. (Even though I read everything on their blog, I’m always amazed to go to their home and see everything in person and how all of the small details work together). [Editor’s note: I respectfully considered taking this out, but the feeling is mutual – so there!]
While I was filled with anxiety about how we would put together a fun, professional-looking space (again, on our budget!), Scott and Kim were filled with ideas – and big notebooks full of resources! They were beyond excited for us and they suggested ways to take the space we had to make it functional for classes while still looking good.
From our ‘Safety Corner’ with mini-lab coats and goggles, to the functional open storage, I began to see how we could, indeed, transform that open space into something that would work. For example, the rolling tables can be configured in different ways, the reception area is welcoming but still separate, and the chalk and dry erase walls double as art installation.
We never thought everyday people like us could really pull this off, but we’ve watched as people literally gasp when they come into The Laboratory. They are so excited to explore our space, learn, and draw on the walls. We’ve even had families go home to chalk paint their walls and DIY their own tables and benches. We’ve been so happily overwhelmed by the fun we see taking place and the support we’ve received.
Their passion is undeniable, and after an incredible summer success (these reviews couldn’t speak more true to Amy and Ed’s character), we are so in awe of what’s to come. If you’re local to Chicago, we urge you to check out The Laboratory – even as a grown-up! Evening and weekend adult workshops are not only available for Demystifying the DSLR and making Gourmet Dog Treats, but if you have a trade to share, instructor positions are always open (apply here!).
We’ll be taking the instructor role ourselves starting next year, and we’re eager for your input: Is there a fun DIY you’d like to try? Or are you interested in photography? Art? Blogging? We’re all ears!
Photos of in-session classes by Amy, all other photos by me.
With the kitchen and nook checked off our list, we were asked earlier this week if that completes our first floor, and if so, what’s next? Well, we’re thisclose, with the exception being a teeny bathroom that’ll have to wait. In the meantime, we’ve been kicking out a handful of things that we’ve been meaning to do for a while – pruning our house plants, potting new, deep cleaning area rugs (so wonderfully satisfying!) and making piles to donate or sell as we purge, purge, purge. (Apparently our spring cleaning memo came late this year? Just kidding, purging is, like, my favorite thing ever.)
Most recently, we finally set aside time this past Sunday to update our media center, and you guys, what a difference that made to the whole first floor! You might remember a long, long time ago, we bought this credenza, made a few alterations to fit our things and then made a few more while upgrading our speaker system. Out of curiosity, I looked back on that first post, and I made mention that we were thinking of painting it – 2 years ago:
This piece was a steal at about $60 from Jubilee Furniture (city locals, you must go!), but here’s the thing: It’s not real wood. The entire top and drawer/sliding door fronts are all a laminate veneer, with only the legs boasting a thin wood veneer. We’ve never loved the orangey tone, but it’s served us well for the last couple of years, and we’ve always loved the slim, simple shape. It’s built with a strong, hefty weight to it, and it’s the perfect size for our space.
Jumping back to last month, I attended an Amy Howard workshop in Memphis alongside fellow Ace Hardware bloggers, which was, without a doubt, one of the most eye-opening workshops I’ve ever been a part of, as we got to play firsthand with her artisan quality paints, patinas and waxes. DIY game changers, for sure! Amy Howard is a long time furniture designer (and an all around warm, inspiring woman) that created her signature chalk-based product, One Step Paint, and has, in turn, flipped my world upside down! Her new product line has since debuted at Ace Hardwares across the country, and as cliché as this must sound, the possibilities are endless – from ultra matte finishes to high gloss, from painting glass to veneers to fabric, she’s got it covered.
But! The One Step Paint, my goodness. At the beginning of the workshop, she asked each of us to share what we were most excited to learn, and I admitted that I needed to see this One Step Paint up close; could it really be one step?, I asked. We’ve painted a lot of pieces that have held up incredibly well over the years (not without trial and error, of course), and just when we thought we got our three-part-system down to a science, Amy threw a wrench in our plans – in the best possible way.
And so the media center received yet another makeover, this time with One Step Paint + wax!
SUPPLIES + TOOLS USED
Amy Howard at Home One Step Paint
Amy Howard at Home Clear Wax
Diluted Simple Green
Wood filler + putty knife
Fine grit sandpaper
2″ angled paint brush
4″ mini roller + tray
Amy Howard at Home 2″ round brush
Clean lint-free rags
WHAT WE DID. The day before painting, I filled dents and missing veneer with wood filler and sanded those parts smooth with fine grit paper. Once that was done, we took out all the drawers, taped off the drawer glides and used diluted Simple Green to wash everything down. Once dry, I followed up with clean water to get rid of any remaining residue. Because One Step Paint is a no VOC formula, we laid down drop cloths to prevent drips on our rugs and set the credenza up in our living room. (Note: Simple Green is a degreaser that typically comes in a concentrated form. Always dilute following label instructions before using.)
We wanted a color that would lighten the room, and although the One Step Paint has pre-mixed colors available, it can still be tinted to any color you like! We considered pure white, but after staring at swatches for two days straight, we landed on a gray-like off-white, Valspar’s Shrouded Lace. We liked that the color gives off a monochromatic vibe with our walls (although it is a teensy shade darker), giving it a slightly modern edge.
I used a 2″ angled brush to get in the corners and a 4″ mini foam roller to cover the larger flat surfaces. With One Step Paint, there is no need for priming OR sanding (although I’ve since converted, this is where my hesitation showed through during the workshop!), but because the credenza is dark, I did go over everything with two coats, plus a third on the top and sides. The paint dries incredibly quick, so much so, that once I was done with round one, I could go back and continue with the second layer!
And that’s it – if you’d like! If you enjoy the pure matte look, you can call it a day, but we pushed on with clear wax to give it a satin sheen. I’d never used wax before the workshop, and I learned that the trick is to use it with a gentle touch. We picked up Amy’s 2″ round brush from Ace, which was helpful for our large piece. To use, I lightly swirled my brush in the wax, and I off-loaded the excess on a sheet of cardboard. From there, I made quick criss-crossed motions with my wrist as I covered the credenza, continuing to swirl, off-load and criss-cross until finished. Tip: Never, ever go from the wax to the furniture. Always off-load the wax to prevent unnecessary build up. A little goes a long way! When done, clean your wax brush by soaking in mineral spirits and following up with a warm, soapy water rinse.
After an hour, I used a soft (lint-free!) microfiber rag to buff the surface, and the credenza was done. I feel as though there should be more to say, but it really is that easy! The One Step paint feels fool-proof; the consistency is slightly thicker than your usual latex-based formula, and the matte finish helps to conceal flaws. The wax coating gives it a silky feel, and it hardened up nicely.
We also added hardware with these edge pulls (and a dose of gold spray paint for good measure!), and if it looks lower to you, it’s because we cut the legs down for a sleeker look before adding these casters, too. (The cute planter was picked up at Humboldt House!)
Inside the drawers, we stash games and extra cables (for connecting our laptop to the television, for example), and our receiver and cable box sit in the middle:
One of the best parts of keeping an online journal? We love to look back and see where these rooms started! In calling the living room done (not counting impending tweaks, you know?), I couldn’t help but dig up these old photos before we reconfigured a few things. Below, you’ll see how this room looked before we moved in versus today, as well as get a sense of how the living area connects to the entry and nook:
Here’s an angle taken from the dining room, but this obviously shows that chaotic, somewhat-stressful, somewhat-hopeful state during construction! Just looking at this photo, I can feel the dust hanging in the air:
Living room, you’ve come a very, very, very long way!
If you’d like to lean more about Amy Howard products, she’s hosting a free live workshop with Ace Hardware today, Thursday, October 22nd, at 12pm CST. You can register right here and see how Amy rescues furniture using her signature One Step Paint! In addition, you can enter Amy Howard at Home Sweepstakes to win $500 to Ace + a Memphis trip for two and attend the workshop in person – a real treat, truly.
And, and! Together with the Ace crew, we’re giving away a $100 Ace Hardware gift card to one lucky reader! The giveaway runs through Wednesday, October 28th at 5pm CST; simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. The winner will be announced within this post by Wednesday evening. Good luck and happy entering!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
We’re excited to be collaborating with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel! Ace has provided us with compensation and the materials necessary to complete this project (hey, thanks, Ace!), and all opinions are our own. See all the blogger projects on the Ace Pinterest page.
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