Make sure to check out part I (bath) and part III (laundry) of this renovation party!
At first, we thought we wouldn’t bother with getting our bedroom up to snuff – yet. We figured we’d get the bath and laundry rooms just so since they share a wall, but when it really came down to it, it actually makes All the Sense to throw the bedroom makeover onto the renovation pile! Might as well!
Because, you see, the bedroom also shares a wall with both the bath and laundry rooms, and like we did in the kitchen, we want to add a pocket door to the laundry room. If we’re going to add a pocket door, we might as well consider closing up that back door, too, and if we’re going to close up the back door, shouldn’t we get a quote on removing that non-functioning chimney? I mean, if you give a mouse a cookie, for goodness’ sake, am I right?
Our bedroom is literally that – a room with a bed in it – but it’s really ridiculous how little time we’ve put into making it a place we want to be. Let me rephrase that; we’ve put no time into making it a place we want to be! We actively avoid this room, staying up as late as we like in every other room in the house (well, okay, besides that bathroom!). It’s a mish-mash of dressers and tall boys, clothing rails and dust bunnies.
For our sanity (and a really, really good night’s sleep), we needed to get moving on this room. We’re very moody about this whole trio of rooms, but I will say that as grumbly as we’ve (I’ve?) been known to get about the state of things, we can see the light! There’s potential here! Just never mind the carabiner that’s holding up the light fixture. We’ll get to you, Carabiner Light.
Because this room used to be the kitchen in a second floor apartment, the only thing we’ve done is rip out the cabinets and cap off the gas and plumbing. So with our contractor being here to work out plumbing and electrical needs in the other two rooms, it really did make sense for his team to get our bedroom to a starting point at the very least! Let’s jump right into the punch list:
WE NEED A CLOSET. Those racks are on their last legs, and our dressers are stuffed full of forgotten wrinkled tees. We don’t have an over abundance of clothes, but we do need some organization in our life.
Originally, we thought we would build a closet where the racks are, and that was our plan all along – until we finally took out a tape measure and realized it isn’t possible! There is barely 2′ of space to the left of the door, and a standard closet needs at least that much depth. Even if we squeezed in an IKEA PAX system, there’d be no room for trim around the door, and it would make the entrance into the room feel too narrow.
Instead, we’ll be putting a closet along the wall where our dresser currently lives. If we play our cards right, we’ll build a wardrobe that will eliminate the need for dressers at all! The only thing the contractor needs to do is extend the drywall for the depth of a closet (giving the illusion of a built-in), and we’ll take care of the rest – likely with the PAX system.
THE CHIMNEY HAS TO GO. It’s non-functioning, it’s a space hog, and it isn’t anywhere as pretty as the one in the studio. At one point, we opened the drywall near the ceiling to see what it looked like underneath (you can sort of see the quick spackle repair job in the photos below), and it was a horrible jumble of messy mortar and crumbling, flaky bricks. This is one of the larger jobs in the bedroom, as it will need to be removed through the attic and involve roof repair, too. While they’re at it, the randomly placed window – 2′ from the side of our neighbor’s house! – will be removed and drywalled over, because…
… WE’RE ADDING A WALL OF WINDOWS! Does the view below look familiar? When our house was separated into a first and second floor apartment, they closely mimicked each other. At the time, this door was used as a back entrance, but it’s no longer necessary. Similar to our kitchen, we’ll be replacing this window and door with, we think, three larger windows to let in as much natural light as possible. We still need to go window shopping (literally, ha!) and quick. With a view that will look onto our back yard, this will be much nicer than sneaking a peek into our neighbor’s living room – and them into our bedroom.
WE NEED TO REPAIR THE FLOORS AND DRYWALL. Look! Old plumbing! Sticky vinyl! Missing floor boards! Back when we took down the severely crooked wall in the studio, we used flooring from here to replace flooring out there. This must sound ridiculous, but at the time, we were so sure we were putting a closet along this wall, and the flooring wouldn’t be missed. Well, now it’s time to address that mess-up. (And you know what they say about hindsight.)
ELECTRIC, ELECTRIC, ELECTRIC. Where do we begin? All the outlets are well above counter height – you know, because of that whole kitchen thing – and the main light switch is by the back door. The outlets will all move down, the switch will be relocated and our overhead fixture will be re-centered in the room. As it stands, it’s not centered to… anything. Weird, but in this house, also very not weird.
Only after all these things have been done can we move forward with painting, closet building and, my favorite, baseboards! (Ha.) We’re still deciding if we want to go dark and cozy or bright and cheery in here, so time will tell.
And just beyond that doorway? The laundry room! Coming soon.
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.
« Older posts