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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?

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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…

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… 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.

  • Christin - November 5, 2015 - 7:56 AM

    Wow! I feel tired just reading what all work you guys are planning on doing in these rooms. I love your idea of creating a wall of windows. I am a sun lover and would do the same if given the chance. (my husband on the other hand could live in a cave and be fine)
    Can’t wait to see the progress you guys make!ReplyCancel

  • Trish - November 5, 2015 - 8:07 AM

    Can’t wait to see how all of this comes out! Great idea on the PAX – will you do like Jenny Komenda and add antiqued mirrors to the doors? I do so love the rug you have in there, as well as the mirror. LOVE that mirror. It’s no Kingdom mirror (you’ve read that blog post, right?) but it’s cool. The dresser is so nice – even though you won’t be using it in your bedroom, I hope you find a nice spot for it.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 8:48 AM

      No mirrors on the doors, but we’re still really early in that stage! I’m not sure what you mean by the Kingdom mirror? And all the furniture in this room is up in the air! It’s just a big mish mash of everything we’ve ever had or found, haha.ReplyCancel

      • AnnMarie - November 5, 2015 - 10:03 AM

        Kim, she’s talking about this post: I can’t believe you haven’t read it! It went viral of sorts a few years back. Victoria is hilarious, and she and her husband totally understand your living-in-an-old-house-while-renovating-it pain.ReplyCancel

        • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 10:50 AM

          HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN THIS?! Simply amazing.ReplyCancel

  • Jacki - November 5, 2015 - 8:13 AM

    Thanks for showing what you have been living with. It’s so easy to check out DIY/Decorating blogs and feel down about the state of your own home (the drywall that has needed to be patched for 6 years and the floor that needs repaired). Seeing your real life and real home helps me see the light at the end of the tunnel – which is probably when I’m prepping the house to put it on the market.ReplyCancel

  • Kevin - November 5, 2015 - 8:24 AM

    LOL at “window shopping!”ReplyCancel

  • Katie - November 5, 2015 - 8:30 AM

    I’m so excited for these changes! Bedroom/bathrooms are some of my favorites to see in blog-land, because they’re so much more personal than common living spaces. Isn’t there a deck outside that door? Will you be getting rid of it? If so, how did you come to that decision?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 8:47 AM

      Hi Katie – yup, there’s a deck out there, but it’s really more of a fire escape from when this house used to be two apartments. It’s a BEAST of an old wooden structure that feels like it’s going to collapse at any moment, ugh! We have plans to get rid of it this coming summer, we hope!ReplyCancel

  • Laura (LK Art) - November 5, 2015 - 8:54 AM

    Great ideas! I had a small PAX wardrobe back in the day when I lived in Ravenswood and had a bedroom with no closet. It was great and kept everything super organized. Will you move flooring from the new closet area to where it’s missing now?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 10:40 AM

      We actually have enough extra flooring from when we had to re-do the landing, so all we’ll need to do is patch everything in – no more shuffling around what we already have!ReplyCancel

  • Lori - November 5, 2015 - 9:46 AM

    Oh wow, that’s gonna be a ton of work. But I can easily visualize how awesome it’s gonna be when it’s done. I was half-expecting you to do a sliding door combo like you did in the kitchen on that back wall, but I guess you don’t really need the access from outside. I think I just like the idea of double balconies!

    BTW, what kind of hardwood flooring do you have? I need to replace my floors and am having a hard time deciding between engineered hardwood or traditional hardwood that would need to be glued down (slab foundation). I really like the look of your floors, and judging from these pictures, it doesn’t seem to be glued.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 10:41 AM

      We thought about a balcony, but it just seemed very unlike us. How often would we really use it? A bunch of windows seemed like a better fit. :)

      We just have tongue and groove hardwood flooring. It was installed by the previous owner, and everyone assumes it’s original, which it’s most definitely not! But we like it fine, and it fits the style of this home nicely.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ onesuchlife - November 5, 2015 - 9:53 AM

    Oh, the snowball effect. Can’t wait to see how this all turns out!ReplyCancel

  • Laura - November 5, 2015 - 10:53 AM

    I love the idea of having the laundry room connected to the bedroom! So efficient! Mine is in the basement and I definitely get my steps in going from our second floor bedroom to the basement to do laundry. I think the only thing that I could foresee as an issue is that I something throw a load in the dryer before I go to bed, are you guys able to sleep through the noise or have you just become very organized and thoughtful about when you do your laundry? Anyway, can’t wait to see how it turns out!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 10:54 AM

      We actually need noise to sleep, haha! Leaving Chicago and going home to visit family, it’s almost impossible to sleep in the STILLNESS of the night! :)ReplyCancel

  • Lauryn - November 5, 2015 - 11:11 AM

    Maybe I missed this in the previous post? Im curious why you decided to do an entrance into the laundry room from your bedroom and didnt include an entrance into the bathroom. Does that make sense? Like instead of making it a master?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 11:17 AM

      This is the only bathroom on this floor, but there’s still another bedroom. If we ever decide to have a (human!) child, we didn’t want the only bathroom access through our bedroom. The laundry room USED to be an old bedroom, and we’ve loved having it there!ReplyCancel

      • Amy - November 5, 2015 - 10:51 PM

        But what if you had TWO doors to the bathroom: One that opens into the bedroom and another that opens into the common area. Could that be the best of both worlds?ReplyCancel

        • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 11:21 PM

          It really would! But the wall space isn’t there. It’s something we considered!ReplyCancel

  • Alberta - November 5, 2015 - 12:38 PM

    I can see at least one person is really enjoying the room. Or the bed in it, at least ;)

    By the way, that chandelier is totally awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole M. - November 5, 2015 - 5:36 PM

    So exciting! So, I am curious if you ever threw around the idea of putting the laundry room downstairs where your “workshop” is off the kitchen … and then using the existing laundry room as a walk-in closet or master bath. It obviously would cost a lot of money, but could definitely add value to the house.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 6:51 PM

      We did… But because we have an income unit in our basement, we needed and wanted a room that could act as our ‘basement’, and the workshop was born!ReplyCancel

  • Brynne@TheGatheredHome - November 6, 2015 - 7:48 AM

    Wow! You guys have a lot of work ahead of you, but I know it’s going to be an incredible journey to follow! I’m so excited! :DReplyCancel

  • Carrie - November 6, 2015 - 8:01 AM

    I am excited to read about the chimney removal… I have a similar issue where it runs through our already tiny upstairs bathroom then through the kitchen. Oh what I could do with that space if it was gone… but I am afraid of the demo processReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 6, 2015 - 8:49 AM

      The chimney demo is not something we’re taking care of ourselves – due to time and, honestly, safety! That’s a hefty job for us to start messing with the roof without a pro around! I’ll be taking as many photos as I can of the process though!ReplyCancel

  • Jane - November 8, 2015 - 4:20 AM

    I am so looking forward to seeing your progression on this Let’s hope its smoother going than the kitchen! have a question about window dressing! I have noticed that on a lot of US based blogs I read that the windows rarely have either curtains (drapes?) or blinds. In the UK (where I’m from) its usual to have at least curtains, and quite often blinds or net curtains.
    As someone who has blackout curtains and blinds and stills wears an eye mask as I like being in the dark this seems very odd to me! Are there blinds built into the top of the window structure so when they are up you can’t see them? Or does the light stream In anyway and that’s just how it is? Random question I know!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 8, 2015 - 3:13 PM

      Hi Jane – we don’t have any window coverings in the bedroom at all, which I know is ridiculous! This room is SO BRIGHT too, and we plan on adding more windows, so we will definitely be putting in window treatments with blackout blinds as well. We’re still deciding on that. We just haven’t put so much as a penny into this room since we knew we would be changing so much, and that included blinds or shades in the interim. We can’t wait to get going on everything!ReplyCancel



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.)

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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!

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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!

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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)!

  • Valerie - November 3, 2015 - 6:51 AM

    When you bought your home how did you decide what needed work immediately and what could wait?

    We just purchased a 1920s colonial and almost everything inside the home is original to 1920 (yikes). I too sometimes feel like we should just gut the whole home top to bottom and install everything fresh and new. Then I remember that I am not independently wealthy and need to be selective given we need to do important things like insulate and rewire the entire home. But that’s so hard when there are things that need to be changed/updated in

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 9:03 AM

      That’s a good question, and it will definitely be different for everybody, but for us, we had a couple MAJOR issues to address first (a sagging ceiling), and we wanted to get the layout of the home mostly in order. The last thing on our mind was any design decisions – we just wanted a starting point. I actually dive into it in this post:

      As you can see, this bathroom has been put on the back burner the entire two years we’ve lived in this house, and a few posts back, you can even see how long it took us to polish the living room! Eventually, you’ll turn a blind eye to those really ugly things, and it will be SO exciting once you’re able to finally dive in – even if it takes longer to get there than you might think. It’ll be worth it!ReplyCancel

      • Valerie - November 4, 2015 - 6:25 AM

        Thank you, Kim! And good luck with your project. I am very excited to watch it evolve as we begin our master bath and laundry space reno in the next few weeks.ReplyCancel

  • Ellen from Ask Away - November 3, 2015 - 7:07 AM

    omg i love how you have all these blue prints and room diagrams. So awesome!
    XO Ellen from Ask Away

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 9:04 AM

      That’s Jen’s handiwork! :)ReplyCancel

  • Anni - November 3, 2015 - 7:28 AM

    I’m so excited to follow along and see how this one turns out! The plans sound great. We did the same thing with our reno – started with the kitchen and living areas – so we have two not-so-nice bathrooms on the waiting list. We did a mini-refresh in one to hold us over, but still… I totally get your level of frustration and now excitement to finally address the issues!ReplyCancel

  • Anna - November 3, 2015 - 8:30 AM

    Hi Kim and Scott,

    I really love your blog and I’m excited for this new set of projects! I was wondering if you could speak to your decision not to create a master bathroom out of the existing laundry room, by moving the laundry somewhere else? It seems like a big selling point to have a master bath these days. I’m wondering if maybe the space was too small, or you didn’t have anywhere else to put the laundry? It would be really interesting to hear about the thought process if you have a moment down the track. Thanks!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 9:07 AM

      Yup, happy to answer – we actually considered having the bathroom door open into the bedroom, but in the end, we had to nix it completely. There’s one other bedroom on the second floor, and if we ever have a kid, that’s where his/her room will be (friends and family – don’t get any ideas!). We wanted the bathroom to be open to whoever needs to use it, rather than have children or guests have to go through our room.

      As for the laundry room, Scott wasn’t totally on board with that right off of the bedroom (we initially considered it off of the kitchen where the workshop is now), but I wouldn’t give in on that one! We’ve had the machines off the bedroom since plumbing was installed – more on that when we get to the laundry room post – and it has been a game changer! Having it off of the master makes so much sense, since it’s all our clothes anyway!ReplyCancel

      • Anna - November 3, 2015 - 9:51 AM

        I never thought of having a laundry off the main but I can definitely imagine how convenient that would be! Game changer for sure :)

        A follow-up if you’ll indulge me! What about turning the laundry into a (second and master) bathroom? Did you discuss that? I’m guessing since there are two bedrooms upstairs, it seemed a bit indulgent/OTT to have one bathroom per bedroom, so maybe that’s the answer, and then added to that, the fact that you’d have to find somewhere else to put the laundry (and it would inevitably be somewhere less convenient).

        I’m looking forward to the laundry room plans too. I’m not very creative, but imagine those of you who are might have some interesting ideas for how to up the convenience factor even more with an off-bedroom laundry room. Happy planning!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 9:59 AM

          We didn’t discuss a second bathroom off of the master (or turning the laundry into one), only because we love the laundry room being there SO much.

          Also, our house is currently a 3 bedroom, 2 bath. There is another bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, so a 3 bedroom with 3 bath felt like too much for us – not to mention, a lot more expensive to create and more time consuming to clean! ;)ReplyCancel

          • Melissa - November 10, 2015 - 8:04 AM

            Yet another follow-on question!! Did you consider flip-flopping the laundry and bathroom but then making the laundry a pass through to the bathroom for the second bedroom while still making a master bathroom?ReplyCancel

            • Kim - November 10, 2015 - 12:28 PM

              That’s a great idea! I could definitely see that being a great solution – but it’s definitely out of the budget for us. :)ReplyCancel

  • Susan @ Jubilee Furniture - November 3, 2015 - 8:37 AM

    Everything looks amazing (as always)! I love your taste! Okay – here’s my crazy question that once I know the answer to I’ll be, “OF COURSE, how could I not see it immediately!” but what’s at the foot of the king size bed in the finished layout? A chicken with a hand? A normal hand and a small hand joined together with wings? One of the dogs? One of the cats? I give up!ReplyCancel

    • Michelle - November 3, 2015 - 9:06 AM

      I thought the same thing at first! It’s a person walking, as seen from overhead.ReplyCancel

      • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 9:07 AM

        Thanks, Michelle! Susan, what she said. :)ReplyCancel

      • Susan @ Jubilee Furniture - November 3, 2015 - 10:21 AM

        Haha! NOW I see it! Man-oh-man I had no idea at first though!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ onesuchlife - November 3, 2015 - 9:42 AM

    Excited to see how this turns out! Need to update two more of our bathrooms still…ReplyCancel

  • Sarah Z - November 3, 2015 - 10:39 AM

    Hi Kim and Scott. I love your home so much. I love to seeing your progress, and your process, and your hard work coming to such beautiful finished states.So, keep up the great work!

    I’m especially excited about this new project because my husband and I are looking to gut/remodel our master bathroom. We’ve had about 5 different contractors come in to give us quotes and we were absolutely FLOORED by how expensive labor is. Most of the demo we can do ourselves, but that literally only saves us about $1K off a minimum $22K job! Can you believe we got a quote for $45K on an 8’x8′ bathroom?? I don’t understand what we’re doing wrong! Could it just be where we live that labor costs are so high (we live in the Twin Cities)? I’m not sure if this is normally what you do, but it would be great to hear you talk a little bit about contractor/construction costs and how you save money on big ticket remodels like a bathroom and kitchen. I feel just terribly defeated by all of this :(ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 11:03 AM

      Thanks for the kind words, Sarah!

      That is a serious bummer to hear about your costs! Does that $45K number include all new everything, in addition to labor and materials? Even still, that number seems insanely high. Are you comfortable with tackling your own tiling work?

      I honestly can’t speak highly enough about how much Jen helped us. She works with contractors day in and out, and she sent us her top two guys to bid on the job, and she also walked through with the contractor who installed our kitchen door (who we loved). Our contractor ended up pulling out, only because he wasn’t comfortable with us wanting to do all the finish work (which is totally fair). The remaining two quotes came back with a $5K difference between them, but luckily, the guy we had a better gut feeling about came in lower. We decided to go with him, and he’s not charging a premium for material costs. In fact, he charges us exactly what he pays.

      It may be worth looking into hiring a designer just for the initial space planning and contractor walk throughs, as they may be able to provide a little more insight and find you the perfect fit – rather than you guys meeting with GC after GC and not feeling satisfied. I get it. We’ve been there before, and we’ve had some pretty bad experiences ourselves.

      Chin up! We know this can be so, so frustrating, but I encourage you to consider outside help even if it’s just someone who can wrangle the contractors that work best for you.ReplyCancel

      • Sarah Z - November 3, 2015 - 11:23 AM

        Yeah, regarding the contractors and quotes: so much of it is figuring out how to talk about what we want. I can see what I want in my head, but I’m not sure how to get there. I need someone to say, “actually, your old cast iron tub is totally fine, and you can save $400 by refinishing it instead of buying new” but it seems like most contractors don’t want to go through that extra step and it’d be easier for them to just replace it. Having Jen or someone who understands what we want and can translate that into “Contractor Talk” would be so helpful.

        Does Jen know anyone who does similar work in the Twin Cities? ;)ReplyCancel

        • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 12:38 PM

          Oh, you could not be more right. A contractor isn’t going to tell you what you can DIY or get refinished, because it’ll take money away from him! Definitely search Yelp and make a few calls. Before we found Jen, that’s what we did.ReplyCancel

  • Claire - November 3, 2015 - 1:15 PM

    I love your blog, but first time commenting! I just wanted to say I noticed that you’ll have a bit of dead space at the foot of your tub, due to what looks to be a column? When we remodeled our bathroom, we had a small dead space as well at the foot of the tub. We used this space to build in shelves, which now hold shampoo, etc.

    They are almost a foot deep, so I’ve rolled up towels on the higher ones for guests (but they get dusty up there, so mostly that’s just putting on a good show). Our shower walls are marble subway tile, so the shelves were cut from 18×18″ marble floor tiles. I’m happy to send a picture if that helps, but we love the extra bit of storage!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 1:23 PM

      Good catch! Yup, we’re planning on putting a pull out storage unit there. We’re not exactly sure how yet (it’s small, like 9″ wide), so we were thinking of DIY-ing it. We would LOVE to see a photo of yours though! Do you have a pic hosted online? Otherwise, please email us:

      Thanks, Claire!ReplyCancel

  • Dani at Danielle and Co. - November 3, 2015 - 2:33 PM

    It is great to see someone else with similar caulk/grout/everything-falling-apart issues! I love it when people share real-life looks at what they’re working with, and not just the after photos. We are about to work on our full bath, and have everything from old screws in the trim in weird places, to grey vinyl stick on tiles to deal with. I can’t wait to follow along as you transfer the space!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Dee - November 3, 2015 - 3:04 PM

    I love looking at other people’s floor plans they give you so many ideas, but they are also so personal. As an engineer I don’t like how there isn’t a correct answer.

    I know it wasn’t really your point, but your layout made me imagine a walk in closet with washer and dryer inside, and in my head it is kind of amazing. Then I thought about how weird it would have been to do laundry in my parents bedroom closet when I was in high school… very weirdReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 3:11 PM

      Haha, you’re right! I guess it might be weird to do laundry in your parents’ bedroom. I guess we’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it?!ReplyCancel

    • Melanie - November 3, 2015 - 4:53 PM

      It is so hard to live in a space that you just hate! I can’t wait to see this all come to life for you.ReplyCancel

  • Kate S. - November 3, 2015 - 4:05 PM

    This looks awesome and I can’t wait to see it unfold! But, I have to tell you that, at first (and second, and third . . .) glance the little walking man outlined in your overheard floorplan looked like nothing so much as a seal rolling around on the floor. I was about to comment asking if you had a pet sealion (or planned to adopt one to keep in this room maybe?) when I finally realized it was a man. In case you can’t see it–its head was to the lower right, tail upper left, man’s head and protruding knee would have been flippers. Maybe I’m overdue for a nap, lol.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 3, 2015 - 4:28 PM

      Holy smokes! Your description is dead on!! Hilarious.ReplyCancel

  • Brynn - November 4, 2015 - 10:49 AM

    I’m sure you’ve deliberated this a lot on your own already, but can you speak to the decision to do 2 sinks (or, 2 faucets/mirrors/etc) instead of one? I feel like with a 48″ vanity, the extra counter space would be way more valuable than having the ability to separately control water at the same time? Then you can put one oversized mirror up that’s as wide as the 2 individual ones, so you could both be standing there getting ready at the same time. Granted, you guys seem to have mastered the art of de-cluttering surfaces (wish I could say the same!), so the counter space may not be as critical for you personally. Totally just curious.

    BTW, I was so pumped to see plans for a new big project when I checked in. Love following along as you guys do your thing. And, I love reading about Chicago. I lived for many years at Wabansia & Wood. Such a great neighborhood! You could say that I’m living vicariously through you :)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 4, 2015 - 11:23 AM

      Hi Brynn! The double sinks are a must-have for us. Scott and I crowding over our tiny sink has been a pain point in the evenings, and it felt like something that would be a luxurious upgrade – since we’re going through the whole renovation and all!

      The double mirrors and double sconces aren’t set in stone just yet though. I’ve been eyeing a few wide mirrors, and we’ve been checking out some shelving or wall mounted soap dishes/etc that will all free up counter space (that you’re right – we’ll be losing with double sinks). A roomy vanity is also a must.

      And thank you for the kind words about Chicago! Best. City. Ever. Wabansia & Wood is an awesome area!ReplyCancel

      • SLG - November 4, 2015 - 9:04 PM

        Longtime lurker, first-time commenter here. First, I’m so excited to watch this unfold. We have a bathroom remodel on the horizon (our current one is SO yucky — I know what you mean about losing motivation to clean it!) and I’m looking forward to seeing what you do.

        A comment on the mirror: we have an extra-wide mirror in our small bathroom and I love it. It makes the small space seem much bigger, and you don’t have to stand in just the right place to see your hair, makeup, etc. Daniel Kanter over at Manhattan Nest did a celebrity bathroom remodel last year or so, including a wide mirror, and that gave me some good ideas for making it look good. Might be worth checking out!ReplyCancel

        • Kim - November 4, 2015 - 9:30 PM

          I love Daniel, and I remember that bathroom very well! (Hi, Daniel!)

          You’re right, we’re sort of leaning towards a larger wide mirror, and we have a few in mind. Thank you so much for the input. We need to hear these things to keep us on track! Second opinions are always very much appreciated.ReplyCancel

  • Caroline - November 4, 2015 - 10:30 PM

    In lighting design class, I learned that the most flattering and useful vanity light placement is on both sides of the vanity mirror, at head height. It’s best for applying makeup, and general grooming, and does not accentuate things like under eye puffiness. I unfortunately have lighting above our vanity mirrors, and it is not something I will ever select when designing a bathroom! I would consider lighting on a very large mirror, although drilling through mirror is costly. Then again, because I am so near-sighted, I will always want to have a surface-mounted medicine cabinet so the mirror will be closer to my face – I am even considering a shallower bathroom counter so I don’t have to lean towards the mirror, although I should just get an articulated makeup mirror.
    Having a wall-mounted soap dish and other accessories will help with your limited counter space, but I would opt for small basins since I never need a large basin, but I do need counter space!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 2:31 PM

      Hi Caroline – interesting, and I can definitely see that being true! It’s funny because as I was reading your comment, I was thinking back to every apartment or place I’ve lived in, and due to small spaces, lighting was always above the vanity. The mirror and sconce placement isn’t set in stone, so thank you for the input! I think once we nail down the vanity and sink configuration (and soon!), we’ll have a better idea of what will make the most sense given our smaller bathroom.

      Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Sandy A - November 5, 2015 - 10:24 AM

    I’m obsessed with storage, so this might sound insane, but since you are already moving/replacing windows, have you considered moving the window in the laundry room to create more storage on the wall opposite the washer and dryer? I know that the window is centered with the door and it might not be worth the hassle or cost, but I truly wish I had more storage room in my laundry room which only has a washer dryer and sink(with storage underneath)ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 2:26 PM

      It was something we considered, but nixed due to a high cost for little return. We have almost 10′ ceilings, so our goal is to have the cabinets in the laundry go all the way to the ceiling!ReplyCancel

  • Pamela - November 5, 2015 - 12:48 PM

    Love your blog…been following for a while!
    Seems like a good place to throw in my two cents. It appears you have already signed with a contractor, etc. BUT, ( and I say this with a smile on my face), have you considered an alternative plan?
    I think you are dead on with the laundry room access/bathroom access configuration as you have planned. However, have you considered keeping the majority of your water lines all on the same wall? It would appear it could save you considerable cash to have it in one place so to speak. I have no idea if this is possible, but here goes.
    First of all, you may have to take a bit of space from the laundry area…like maybe 6-9 inches, and move the pocket door closer to the outside wall. Similar to your downstairs configuration. This would allow more wall space on the other side of the closed in wall for furniture in your bedroom/more space between short closet wall and doorway to laundry. Next, I would flip the laundry sink and appliances to the opposite wall (180°). Window would be near sink in laundry. Appliances would go next to sink, waterline shares with that of bathroom.
    On to the bathroom. Since you are moving plumbing anyway, have you considered rotating your bathtub around the corner? The plumbing would share the same wall as the laundry sink on the opposite wall. The toilet could be in the corner with the tank sharing the same wall as the washer/dryer on the opposite wall. Since you require waster water drain pipe for tub/toilet/washer it might save you some $$ for plumbing to have them near each other. And lastly give yourself a longer run for your sink area. You could have two freestanding sinks/pedestals with a high tower of cabinets in between to store items, plus a make-up mirror with a plug inside the cabinet for down the road when your eyesight isn’t as great. :)
    I had to get this off my chest since I’m always one to save $$ as much as possible, but still have a comfortable/classic/modern layout. Take it or leave it, your plan will work no matter what you do! You both have incredible vision for youngsters. (Yes, I’m in the older set, say above 50). ;) Good luck, and can’t wait to see the progress!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - November 5, 2015 - 2:28 PM

      Pamela, thank you so, so much! I’m trying to imagine everything you’re saying – the good news is that the plumbing swapping isn’t terribly costly, and we did go over several options to make the most sense of where things are now vs. where they’ll end up. I sincerely appreciate your feedback, and I’ll noodle on it a bit more.ReplyCancel


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.

laboratory-before2 laboratory-before1

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. 

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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.  

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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.

the-lab-kids1 the-lab-kids3 the-lab-kids2

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.

  • Brynne@TheGatheredHome - October 28, 2015 - 8:35 AM

    Oh my goodness! This place looks like the most fun place EVER! Mad props to you and Scott and Amy and Ed for collaborating on such an amazing space! I wish I was local so I could join you guys for a class!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 28, 2015 - 1:24 PM

      It’s worth a visit! :)ReplyCancel

  • Debra - October 28, 2015 - 9:07 AM

    Their space looks so fun and inviting!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ onesuchlife - October 28, 2015 - 9:40 AM

    I love this so much! Such a unique idea.ReplyCancel

  • Raha - October 28, 2015 - 11:00 AM

    Wow!! This is so great!! As an engineer and a new mom to a little girl, this makes me so happy!! Chicago is on my bucket list of cities to visit and this space just shot it up to the top.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 28, 2015 - 1:23 PM

      They were really set on bringing a love of STEAM to young girls, and they’ve knocked it out of the park! When you visit, call ahead to see if there may be a class you can attend while in town!ReplyCancel

  • Ursula Ellis - October 28, 2015 - 1:12 PM

    The Laboratory is truly awesome, and I can really see your influence in the design and set-up. I only wish that we had had something like this in the DC metro area when my son was growing up. Also, kudos to the artist you did the plant designs on the chalk paint. They would look fabulous in a kitchen!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 28, 2015 - 1:24 PM

      They hired an art student to do that! Isn’t it awesome?!ReplyCancel

  • The Laboratory Chicago - October 28, 2015 - 9:49 PM

    Wow! Thanks so much for such a great write-up! And of course, for helping us take our space from our empty white box to what it is now. So excited to have you as instructors soon!ReplyCancel

  • Jason - October 30, 2015 - 7:54 AM

    This is such an awesome idea and the place looks amazing! If only I lived in Chicago. I’m sure my son would love it.ReplyCancel

  • Dani - November 1, 2015 - 2:54 PM

    This is so amazing! I’ve lived in a few different college towns over the past decade, and all of them have had a children’s science museum that is cute and full of activities. However, none of them have this locally-owned, authentic feel to them! My children would adore this place – I wish we lived closer!ReplyCancel

  • Lincoln - November 22, 2015 - 3:27 PM

    … They aren’t using goggles the right way..!ReplyCancel