When Scott and I closed on our condo waaay back in 2007, we were given a teeny, tiny credit to purchase lighting for the home. It had been recently rehabbed, and as the owner’s first occupants, they threw us a bone, so to speak, by allowing us to pick out our very own lighting with a very small budget. At the time, we picked out a few Ikea fixtures here, a flush mount there, and in the living room? A ceiling fan.
Looking back, we wouldn’t purchase many (if any?) of the fixtures we chose 7 years ago, and while we loved what our ceiling fan provided us – cool air! movement! – it wasn’t the most attractive; what ceiling fans are?
And now, here we are again, needing a ceiling fan for this living room. We don’t currently have air conditioning, and we were planning on sticking it out for a summer to see how hot it gets, and so far, we’ve been alright! It’s been a cooler summer than usual, we’ve got a killer cross breeze when we open the front and back windows, but we’ll see. In any case, we still wanted two ceiling fans for now, the other being in the studio.
The problem? Oh, there are many! Here was our wish list for both rooms:
• A white finish with clean lines
• At least 3 fan speeds, with a winter/summer switch
• 52″ wide
• A dimmable light
• A wall switch or remote (no hanging chains!)
• Within reason, price-wise
It didn’t seem that our demands were that nutty, but we quickly realized while searching online stores, Pinterest, and in-person that it was really hard to have it all. If it had a dimmable light and 3 fan speeds, it didn’t come in white. If it covered the first five bases, the price tag was out of reach. If it was white, had 3 fan speeds and was 52″, it didn’t have the option to add a light! Of course aesthetics played a large role, and it turns out there were other checklist items we were mentally adding to the list – a slim down rod, a maximum of 4 blades, sleek, but not too industrial. You know.
Scott, the smarty that he is, suggested we back away from the computer and turn to you, so we asked, where can we find a not-ugly ceiling fan?! You guys had a lot to say! (Thank you!) We hunkered down over your responses, scoured the web a bit more and wound up finding some finalists, some of which had us questioning all of our must-haves all over again (and we found ourselves running in circles more than once [punny!]):
- Casa Vieja Courier // 52″ // $250: First, it doesn’t come in white. I know, then what’s the point? The shape and style had our hearts, and we seriously considered the brushed nickel finish. Even though we’re not a brushed nickel family. But look at those lines!
- Casa Vieja Exclaim // 52″ // $250: Again, no white! Why? The schoolhouse-esque shade is too cute. The cutest, we think.
- Restoration Hardware Riverside Hills // 56″ // $319: It’s slightly larger than our ideal size, but it is quite beautiful! When we first saw it, we felt that it looked right for this style and period of home, but we weren’t ready to give up on the search for white – not just yet.
- Casa Vieja Turbina // 60″ // $260: We loved this one! Yes, it was large, but could we make it work? We were thrilled to see it in a white finish, but! The white finish was the only finish that didn’t have a light kit included! We had the option to add a light kit, however, (and for whatever reason!) that frosted shade and style was not available for white.
- Minka Aire Aluma // 52″ // $280: We really, really liked this one. We think. Do the screw holes look too visible?, we asked. But it fits the bill in every other way!, we said.
In the end? We went with #5, the Aluma! Two of them! It hit all the nails on the head – every. Single. One. (And quite honestly, it was the only one that really fulfilled all of our requirements while, most importantly, not having an enormous price tag. It’s just a ceiling fan, after all!) Our entire goal was to have a fan that blended in with the ceiling and didn’t compete with anything we decide to do with the room. It’s not meant to be a statement piece, but we certainly didn’t want an eyesore.
Of course there was some slight drama (who, us?) during installation, as this one had a wall switch to control both the light and fan independently of each other. We ended up having to run an extra electrical wire through the ceiling to be able to use it properly, for which we hired Harry again (love that guy).
The Aluma is so quiet. So cooling! So invisible! It has a flat white finish that really allows it to blend right into the ceiling, which is very, very nice. We truly love it, and while I wish this was the end of our story, sadly, there’s more to tell.
When it came time to run the necessary electrical for the studio, Harry found armored cable in our ceiling, making it not possible to do so quickly and efficiently. (Downstairs was a different story, as that was all brand new, not armored, and super fast to install!) He recommended that we find a different fan that has a remote, which will allow us to keep all the cabling as-is, and it will be easy enough for us to install the light ourselves (which was our original intent anyway!).
Back to the drawing board.
I did learn something that day, never having through twice about a wall switch vs. a wall remote. When in doubt (and especially with old cabling!), a wall remote is the safer choice, as there’s no hard wiring at the switch plate involved. However, I refused to let this turn into The Great White Fan Search v. 2, so I quickly jumped online and found one that had a remote and hit, again, all the nails on the head: the Minka Aire Concept I. I purchased it before I could think twice, called in the Aluma for a return, and dropped it off at FedEx so I couldn’t change my mind.
If I’m being completely honest, upon purchasing, I do remember thinking, well, I wish the blades weren’t slightly curved. And I wish there were 4 of them. And I wish it wasn’t so glossy. But then I got over it. (Note to self: Just get over it, Kim!) Not to mention, it can get downright chilly in here with this fan on! It’s a great fan! And it only took me 5 minutes to find it! (I suppose the hours of research for the Aluma didn’t hurt, right?)
We don’t want to think about fans again for a long, long time… or at least until we get to the bedroom. We love a ceiling fan in the bedroom, but perhaps that should call for something with more spunk. The opposite of invisible. A little bit of a show-stopper. Ha, that should be another interesting search! (We will see, we will see.)
Lastly, we can’t end this post without thanking you for all of your input. Really, you guys were amazingly helpful! And for those of you that mentioned in the thread that you were on a similar hunt, we hope this helped – even the teeniest, tiniest bit. Man, we feel you.
After tackling the more tedious tasks of painting the front porch railings and staining the floor, planting our garden and wishing our grass to grow (it’s starting to look so good!), we were finally to the point of pulling everything together. With new lights installed and an over-sized swing to swing in (with only minor heartache along the way), our front porch is – for the most part – complete!
For the last couple of months, we’ve been pulling the trigger on some of the larger purchases – the coffee table, an outdoor rug and our flea market chairs – and over the weekend, we pulled everything out of hiding. We fussed with placement, we bent out the rug kinks and we toasted many, many beverages in our outdoor living room:
We picked up a handful of succulents from a local nursery, Adams & Son Gardens, and I potted a small terrarium (fully equipped with our favorite – dinosaurs!) for the table. By the front door, we picked up a large planter from Ikea and filled it with colorful purple Coleus, Setcreasea (aka Wandering Jew) and asparagus plants from Sprout. Last year we missed out on adding plant life to our outdoors (I suppose we were a bit busy tearing down ceilings, you know), and man, have we missed it! All furniture aside, plants make the whole porch feel a thousand times more beautiful, more welcoming.
I picked up this rug during Lulu & Georgia’s Memorial Day sale, and the black Greek key pattern snowballed the rest of the furniture decisions – a black aluminum coffee table (it’s so light! And durable!), our black painted swing, and now that we’re seeing the space as a whole, we are definitely keeping those Elkhorn chair in their original wrought iron state. With our lightly stained porch floor and white railings, the black accents lend a feel of subtle sophistication.
I think we’re still on the hunt for an extra deep swing cushion, but the non-standard size (2′d x 5′w) isn’t easy to find in stores or online, and a handful of emails to various Etsy sellers have left us empty handed – either they’re simply not responding or they’re not taking on custom orders. In the meantime, we’ve stuffed it full with outdoor pillows, giving the low back some oomph! (Are any of you sewing enthusiasts accepting cushion orders? We’d love to work with you!)
We are so, so in love with our front porch, and I guarantee that if you’re ever looking for us, there we’ll be. Every meal has since been consumed al fresco, we’ve been indulging in naps on the swing, and we’ve turned into those people that constantly water our grass and comment on the growth – like, in our actual dinnertime conversations. (What?!)
And as for what’s left?
Paint/Stain the porch floor
Finish the staircase hand rail
Top the downstairs cinder blocks with caps
Install a path from the pavement to the side of our home, alongside the garden (NOPE)
• Paint the front door
• Paint the staircase – that is, once the pressure treated wood has dried (boo)
I actually had high hopes to paint the front door this past weekend, but the morning of, we got sidetracked by a trip to the far away Chicago ‘burbs for a new studio desk (which I love, but it needs work). And since painting our porch stairs can’t likely happen this season, it seems that the front door is the only thing left! (Yeah!)
In other news, a new fence was also installed (and I’m going to grab photos later this week or early next), which – while not directly related to front-porch-fixins – technically leads us to one more to-do (this year anyway) for the home’s exterior:
• Make a “pee pit” for Jack + CC
We are weirdly excited about that one.
Source round-up: Lulu & Georgia Hanolo rug, flea market chairs, Strathwood Rhodes coffee table (bought from Amazon), DIY porch swing, pink + orange pillows from Little House Pillow Co., black + white polka dot pillows from Society6, striped pillow was self-made, TROSSÖ Ikea planter, Home Depot watering can, flea market lantern, thrifted terrarium dish.
We’re one step closer to front porch completion (this season anyway)! Our porch is stained!
Staining our deck ended up turning into a thing, as most projects (big or small) tend to do with us. (Truly, we drive ourselves crazy sometimes.) Initially, we planned to use a product such as Behr’s Deckover or Rustoleum Restore, both of which provide a gritty non-slip texture to the porch and go on very, very thick. As we delved into that realm, a lot of negative reviews turned up pretty quickly, and even the sales associates at the various hardware stores weren’t convinced of their durability.
So back to the drawing board we went, and after sifting through way too many reviews on the merits of paint vs. stain – then ultimately turning to you for help (you guys rock) – we nixed the idea of porch paint and went with an opaque stain. The best of both worlds! Since our deck had never been stained or painted, we were lucky enough to make the ultimate decision without the burden of stripping the previous owner’s choice. After a looot of research, we landed on Deckscapes opaque exterior stain by Sherwin Williams in Gray Birch.
The biggest thing we read up on while scouring the web for this vs. that was the importance of prep work. Of course this is the case for most any DIY project (and sometimes it’s the longest part of any project!), and staining our deck was no different. Although we pressure washed it early this season, Scott picked up a jar of Deck Brite at Ace to go that extra mile. It claims to be just the thing for pre-staining your porch floors, as it will remove any mill glaze, mildew or algae that happens over time, and while our deck was pretty clean an in the first place (again, from the initial pressure washing), we were impressed with this stuff! (And nope, this isn’t product placement in any way.)
To use, we scooped a small amount in a big bucket of water, mixed for a few minutes until the blue solution turned clear, then used a pressure washer at a lower speed to rinse it off. (Bonus: We liked that it was non-toxic and super safe for our newly planted garden!) Coming in at $25, it’s a little more expensive than other deck cleaners, but it was well worth it. Not to mention, we have so much left over, so… back deck? Here’s looking at you! (One day!)
We allowed our porch to dry out overnight, and late the next day, we got to staining! I cut in around all the porch support beams and worked my way down to the aprons, and Scott took the reigns on rolling. He used a 1/2″ nap roller for semi-rough surfaces, allowing him to get into all the nooks of our tongue and groove flooring. It went on opaque like paint, but more watery in texture – although not too watery. We didn’t notice any huge issues with drips, but we were careful as we went along.
It only took about 45 minutes to get one entire coat done, after which we toasted a beer, marveled at omg, what a difference! it made, and then we continued with a second coat. All in all, we used one and a half gallons for about 150 square feet of porch floor. Everything felt super dry the next day, but we’re waiting until this weekend to start loading things back onto the porch for the season – and we cannot wait!
Here’s where we started after our Deck Brite scrub down:
And now? Gray Birch! Stained!
While we love the color, our complaint is that we were hoping for a warmer gray, but it looks more blue than the swatch in the store and not quite as dark (so if you’re going that route, perhaps go a step darker than you think you’d like?). Regardless, we are loving the look! I even tried to scrape up a corner with my fingernail – just to see! – and there was no chipping. As for the long term durability, well, we’ll have to live another Chicago winter to know for sure!
Our front porch has come a long, long way since the start of the season – including all that grass! There are still some very small patchy areas that we’ll need to reseed to get that perfect, blanketed look, but it came up quickly and bright.
We do have some rough boards at the top of our stairs which we’ll likely need to replace – and to be honest, Scott was eager to replace them before we stained. Unfortunately, we’ve had a string of stormy weeks and we wanted to jump on the project for our first 2 sunny days in a row, leaving us little time to start pulling up boards, laying down new and then staining. No matter; just because we’ve stained now doesn’t mean we can’t go back and replace those boards when time permits! (And honestly, I may have been a smidge impatient, claiming that the heavily grooved boards didn’t bother me at all! While that’s true, we will need to replace them – someday.)
You’ll notice that we’ve yet to paint our new front stairs. I did the water test on them last week (if the water beads up, they’re not ready to be coated), and they’re still a month (or two? Or three?) out from being ready for paint and stain. Once they are, the stair treads will get the same Deckscapes stain, and the risers and railing will get the Valspar treatment.
For now, we have a few more plants we’d like to add to by the front door (if it’ll fit), an outdoor rug to lay and a cozy nook to set up. Weekend, get here!
PS… It’s the last day of our $100 Ace Gift card giveaway! Have you entered?
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