We started this work week with aching backs, sore shoulders and stiff knees, but you know what? The payoff was worth all that pain (so this is what your thirties feels like!), because you guys, we have a tiled entryway! We have a floor that’s actually level – a floor that feels smooth underfoot; no more splinters for these two (er, five):
After our dry fit the prior weekend, we took one night last week to label all of our tiles with a letter and corresponding number. For example, by the door, we marked them as D1, D2 and D3, and for the larger areas, we separated them into a few zones: A, B and C (which just happened to coincide with the Closet). Before we piled them back up, I snapped several photos with my phone that we could reference when it came time to really lay them down, which worked out perfectly.
It took us the whole weekend to complete the project, starting by mixing up our mortar and placing the tiles down on Saturday. Never having tiled before, we quickly watched an instructional video that The Tile Shop passed along (we also worked directly with Jeff at the Schaumburg location, and not only did he happily put up with my list of questions, but he reassured us, you can do this!), and we made mental notes on what to do: holding the trowel at a 45-degree angle, working on small sections at a time (or as much as you can accomplish in about 20-30 minutes so the mortar doesn’t dry out).
(On a side note, was the mortaring as fun as I hoped it would be? Eh. I was in the zone while Scott passed me our labeled tiles, so while I wouldn’t say I had the time of my life, it was a great feeling to know that I did it! I can tile now!)
We allowed everything to set overnight, and we grouted the tiles and wrapped up by late Sunday afternoon. As far as mixing the water with the thinset mortar and the admixture to the grout (the milky, watery component to get our grout to the right consistency), we just followed the instructions on the back of each bag, respectively. The biggest thing we learned was to always add the mortar/grout to the water/admixture – never the other way around.
Grouting – although extremely messy! – was especially satisfying; the look of our tiles changed immediately! We fell into a groove where I used the float to fill in our tile, then Scott followed closely behind with a rotating crew of fresh water and sponges. We used a charcoal colored grout, so while it felt a little terrifying to see such a mess at first, it was pretty fun to watch the transformation unfold with every swipe of the sponge. Wipe, rinse and wipe; wipe, rinse and wipe (again and again and again).
While the grout was still wet, it looked jet black (which we actually didn’t mind), but it dried to a gorgeous, truly medium shade of gray. An hour after everything was grouted and wiped clean, we did go back over the tile with a handful of damp microfiber cloths, starting in the corner and buffing our way out of the entryway. This completely got rid of any hazy residue that was leftover, and we spent the remainder of the night staring at the finished foyer. We couldn’t. Stop. Staring. We did it! And we love it!
It’s crazy to see how far this little space has come (a toast for every victory!), but there’s still much more to do (in addition to sealing the tiles some night this week) – baseboards, lighting, painting the stair treads, painting the front door and installing hardwood on the second floor landing… to name a few. We’re looking forward to all of those things, but to avoid burn out, we’ve been tossing around ideas for other rooms, too! (The nook? The studio? The storage room?)
Oh, new house, there’s so much ahead for you.
This post is in partnership with The Tile Shop. We used Hampton Niles 12×12 tile with Charcoal sanded pro-grout; Opinions, body aches and creepy stare-downs are all ours.
Somehow (maybe because we thought it would be the easiest?), the entryway is the one room – we can call it that, right? – in the house that has been receiving the most attention. It wasn’t planned that way (we’re actually itching to get the second floor studio into shape!), but after addressing the stair dilemma, we thought, well, let’s paint the walls! This, of course, transitioned to the coat closet, and now? The foyer tile!
We’ve never tiled before, but we were weirdly excited about it. The preciseness of it all, the careful cuts and, quite honestly, swirling around mortar looks fun to me (weirdo), so we were eager and looking forward to diving in! All that said, each step has taken us a bit longer than we expected (isn’t that always the case?), so let’s back up. Here’s how our entryway looked a couple weeks ago:
After tearing down the dividing apartment walls and pulling up the existing wood floors, we were left with funny patches of newer subfloor (that was likely installed when the house was divided into its former two units) and the really old subfloor, both of which met up with the main room hardwoods at different levels.
The first thing we had to do was level everything out by bringing up the old subfloor to meet with the new-ish one, since there was no reason to tear that out. We picked up two 8′ sheets of 15/32″ plywood (the same thickness as the newer subfloor), then carefully patched it in as best we could, using 2″ wood screws about 1′ apart to secure each piece in place. For the larger sheets, I continued the 1′ screw pattern throughout the center of the boards as well. Once this was done, it was on to the tiling process!
We are absolutely thrilled to be working with The Tile Shop on this project (pinch us; they’re amazing!), and we were advised by the staff to first lay down Pro-Level on top of our subfloor to really even everything out. Although somewhat messy (since it’s been below zero outside, and all of our mixing was done indoors!), this was oddly fun! Having just seen Young House Love use the same leveler, I pulled up their post as a guide. Truly, it couldn’t have been more simple; water + Pro-Level = well, a level floor!
We did the leveler last Friday night, with the hopes of waking up – bright eyed and bushy tailed! – to a smooth concrete-esque entryway floor. We’d start our tile dry cuts on Saturday, and by Sunday, we’d mortar and grout – done! Except this was the weekend that the weather began dipping low, and our drafty foyer had other plans. The leveler was drying in some spots, but overall, it looked like this (and was still soft to the touch):
So, new plan! Saturday was spent taking care of furnace issues, sealing up cracks and – because what other choice did we have? – downtime. But to help further along our tiling project, we set up a space heater in the foyer, moving it a foot here and a foot there, pointing it at different angles over the course of the day. By Sunday – bingo!
We were finally able to start our dry layout – hip, hip! When choosing our tile, we knew we wanted something classic and neutral, something you would expect to see an old Chicago home. (I actually feared that I might gravitate towards trendy tile – whatever that may be – so I gave Scott firm instructions to keep me in line!) While we had bounced a few ideas back and forth, as soon as we saw this basketweave tile, we knew we had our winner:
We spent all of Sunday measuring, cutting and placing our tiles (no mortar, just a dry fit), and my goodness – our knees really felt it! Prior to our first cut, we actually watched a few video tutorials on where to actually lay our first piece, but because our entry has so many corners (mostly due to the stairs) and our almost-130-year-old walls are very uneven, we decided to wing it. (Yes, really!)
We started in our doorway, then we worked our way down until we finished inside the closet. Surprisingly – crooked walls and all! – our tiles look nice and straight!
The above is still just our dry fit, and earlier this week we took some time to label each piece, lay them to the side and stack them up; you guys, we’re ready to make it official! Our hearts; be still!
Our hope is to finish up over the weekend, especially since the weather will be, oh, almost 100-degrees warmer than it has been (speeding up our dry times). We’ll be using a charcoal grout since this is a high traffic area, and can you even imagine once we have thick, tall baseboard trim all around? We’ll also be capping off the stair profile with a strip of hunky wood (stained super dark, we think), painting the front door, the closet door and layering in… a rug? Some artwork? A small table and a bench?
I just love getting ahead of myself.
This post is in partnership with The Tile Shop. Opinions, aching knees and fluttering hearts are all ours.
During our mini holiday break (and by break, I mean that we had no obligations to leave the house unless we absolutely wanted to – which was pretty much limited by this beastly weather – stay warm out there!), Scott and I found ourselves with our fingers in many pots (or is it pies? I’m terrible at those idioms and tend to botch them completely). We suddenly had all this time; time to build out the coat closet, choose tile, fuss with furniture and curse the furnace installation (while trying to repair cold air gaps in the window casings and doors).
Our list of can’t-wait-to-dos suddenly feels a mile long (that’s a good thing – hooray!) – now that we can, essentially, do anything we’d like within these walls! There are no more contractors, no more dust and nothing but a big, blank slate. I find myself writing reminders; shop for window treatments!, put together that Ikea shelf!, start thinking about studio shelving! and so on – as if I could possibly forget. I have miscellaneous notes in pads, our phones and our in-boxes, and every day, the list grows and grows. (Needless to say, this is going to be a fun, exciting and transformative year for this house!)
And one of the most exciting to-dos? The most impactful? Paint!
Although we’re living through it, I still get a kick out of sifting through older photos and seeing where we started. Prior to the first box making its way through the front door – or the first sledgehammer through the wall, for that matter! – we were here. A saggy ceiling, a boxed in chimney and closed off rooms:
And, well, what followed wasn’t all that long ago:
But now? A large room that makes more sense for us and our family; a room with a unifying color! You might remember that we were leaning towards Pensive Sky by Behr, and we stuck with it. Despite my many hesitations along the way (Is it too blue? Is it too light? Should we go a smidge darker? Or, maybe, lighter?), we really do love it. It’s soft, barely blue, barely green and barely gray. It’s just right.
I’ve likely mentioned this before, but our furniture is, for the most part, temporary. The coffee table will stay, but we’ve been on the couch hunt for several weeks now. (This one will ultimately be used in the upstairs studio.) The yellow and green velvet chairs may make their way into a bedroom, the studio or the nook, but we are so, so undecided. We’re imagining a larger, bolder couch (Deep navy? Charcoal gray? Emerald green?), a soft rug and a more neutral chair (or two).
To balance a vibrant (I use that term loosely!) couch, we’d like to see something with pattern and color under the dining table and pair it with a sleek chandelier. Of course these pale (but one-colored, thank goodness) walls need art and photographs, and while we have a stock pile of framed goodness in storage, we have a handful of new ideas, too.
Painting the main room was a huge first step in the right direction, but we’ll also need to paint the yellowed doors to the bathroom and first floor guest room. And maybe you’ve noticed a few things missing?
During demolition, a lot of the baseboards were pulled up as we formed two rooms into one, doorways widened and a chimney removed. We’re looking forward to installing something with more oomph, more beef. This old house is worthy of classic charm, and taller trim plus crown molding is on the front of our minds! We’d like to replace the majority of the baseboards room by room, as to not overwhelm ourselves (and our pocketbooks!).
To be honest, we never thought we’d be so excited about trim, and yet, here we are.
PS… The Pet Shop custom portraiture listings have been reactivated! We’re honored to be partnering with B-More Dogs this quarter, where 10% of our sale proceeds will be donated.