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As a reward for a job well done within Scott’s company, we were flown to Playa del Carmen, Mexico for an extra long weekend. (We know; we’re still pinching ourselves.) I consumed so many pineapples (boozy and otherwise), that I’m surprised I didn’t grow a prickly top before returning home! We rested, we played, we walked the beach and laid poolside… But before I get ahead of myself, allow me to take one moment and tell you how incredibly proud I am of my guy. As a result of his hard work (busting his little hump for the last year!), he deserved every second of this vacation – and I was happily along for the ride.

While rain kept us mostly huddled up in cabanas for the first two days, we took that time to decompress and unwind. Not wanting the initial gloomy weather to hold us back, we made the most of it – exploring the beach and seeking out an abandoned building guarded by pooches. While the Gulf itself was beautiful, we were more intrigued by the guards protecting sea turtle nests beyond a fence of barbed wire and the bright green foliage lining the sand. At the same time, wild dogs broke our hearts as they approached us and sniffed our hands asking, food, please?

By day three, the sun emerged in full force. We were overwhelmed by the smell of sunscreen and barbecue, and the resort’s pool turned into something more of an adult-spring-break. Since our mission was more of a wind-down, we ended the day at the beach instead – where I screamed every time something brushed my legs. (Shark! Jelly fish!) We survived (of course), with nothing more than some sunburned noses.

But as for the reason we were flown to Mexico in the first place – Scott’s recognition. The weekend was capped with an award ceremony for the outstanding partners in the company, and I watched as my bestie shook the hands of VIPs and received his award for a years worth of perseverance and dedication to his company. Surprising even myself, my eyes watered throughout the night; I couldn’t have been more smitten.

We returned home with less tension in our backs (I’d like to thank the massage for that; thank you, massage), and a renewed energy to start making decisions around this house. Let’s go, let’s go!

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - August 20, 2013 - 8:32 AM

    First of all – Congrats, Scott!!

    Oh man, I LOOOOVE Playa. We stayed at Secrets Capri a few years ago and it was the best! We were also in love with the succulent type greenery that lined the beach. What resort were you at?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 20, 2013 - 8:42 AM

    Heather, we stayed at Paradisus – just a few resorts down from Secrets. The trip was much too short!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - August 20, 2013 - 9:48 AM

    Looks like a wonderful relaxing time, glad you were able to get away!ReplyCancel

  • Julia @cuckoo4design - August 20, 2013 - 9:55 AM

    You guys are so lucky! And gorgeous photos.
    That dog photo makes me want to take him home.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly @ Turning It Home - August 20, 2013 - 9:58 AM

    Beautiful pictures!

    They must take their baby turtles seriously in Mexico, here in Florida we just put up yellow caution tap and a sign. If I don’t watch my toddler closely enough, she’ll haul her little toosh right towards to nest. The girl has a thing for breaking the law… breaking the law… (dun dun).ReplyCancel

  • Jill - August 20, 2013 - 11:00 AM

    Awwww, love a good teary-eyed moment. Awesome job, Scott! Glad you were rewarded with a fun little getaway. As always, beautiful pics, Kim. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jessica@CapeofDreams - August 20, 2013 - 1:59 PM

    It is so important to get away from time to time. I am glad that you were able to enjoy the vacation and come back feeling relaxed. And way to go Scott!!!ReplyCancel


Once we had the entryway floors pulled up, we were ready to move onto Phase 2 of Weekend Project – demolish that second floor landing!

When we showed you the floor plans for the house, we weren’t sure if it would be in our budget to take down the wall that partitioned the second floor from the first; then again, what is our budget again? While we have a loose idea of what we can and can’t afford, we felt it was worth asking our contractor about. Since they would already be repairing drywall throughout the entry, putting up new ceilings and patching the walls where we had pulled down room partitions, how much more could patching the landing cost?

Full disclosure: $350. That’s how much.

With that number in mind, we knew it would be worth it to move forward for a few reasons:

  • The quoted cost would be for us to proceed with demo – taking down all the drywall to the studs. This would save us the man hours they would otherwise charge. And since we love a good sledgehammer, we were all yeah!
  • With the entryway + stairs being something we can’t wait to complete, it didn’t make sense to carefully restore the stairs, paint the walls and update all the trim if we knew that another big mess was around the corner.
  • This, in turn, would save us money on paint (since there would no longer be walls to cover), time (since we could make as big of a mess as we’d like; after all, we don’t have to worry about protecting anything at this point), and overall cost vs. if we had decided to wait. (If we would have waited, the charge in man hours would’ve been more costly since they weren’t already doing other drywall work in our home.)

Knowing that this was the best decision for us now, we charged full steam ahead! (Scott even dressed up for the occasion.) Getting through the wall that separated the now-studio space from the stairwell was fairly easy – lathe, plaster and all (we’ve learned to just embrace it!). In about an hour, we did this:

Eliminating that tiny closet, however, was a bit more of a challenge. The closet itself was completely boxed in by strong support panels (the darker wood boards on the right of the photo below), so it required a lot of sledging, a lot of pulling and prying, and a lot of muscle. On a side note, that closet is no longer necessary, since you might remember that we’ll have a whole room for studio storage! This room is located directly off of the landing; see it in the floor plan, above.

But once it was removed, we could see what a difference (!) it made. Since the half-floor of the closet won’t be needed, we’ll gain so much head space in the stairwell – something that Scott had been hoping for. (Me on the other hand? My 5′ frame barely noticed.)

Now when you walk up the stairs from the entryway, you see this! On our first test run of coming up the stairs (with every change in our house, we like to walk out of the room, then pop back in and go, hell yes!), we were thrilled with the amount of light that poured in, not to mention, our sweet little archway that’ll welcome you.

And if you’re looking towards the landing from the studio, you see even more light from that north-facing window; how awesome is that? The second floor already gets so much light (like, a ridiculous amount), but this new opening allows for light from 3 sides. 3 sides! 

The wall of lathe you see will be patched and repaired with drywall, and once we decide on the perfect height, a very shallow half wall (perhaps just slightly taller than knee-height so that you’ll still see the whole window we’ve uncovered) will go up where the studs are. Right now, we’re imagining that we’ll cap it off with a gorgeous piece of wood from our local lumber yard, and maybe – down the road! – we’ll have a long bench there with some hidden storage.

While we were working on the landing, we took advantage of all the dirt and rubble (because omg, there was so, so much dust flying around) to pull up all the trim lining the stairs. The trim had seen far too many layers of paint, gouges and history to be worth restoring, so by pulling it up now, we’ll able to lay down something that’s clean. New.

But there was just one more thing we wanted to tackle – the entryway ceiling. This had to come down for 3 reasons: ONE) The entryway light was very off-centered with the new layout (keep in mind it was centered before we pulled down any walls), TWO) the ceiling was already chopped up from the partitions that had come down, and THREE) it was all part of the transition from the underside of the second floor closet. Our contractor told us it would be better to rip the whole thing out, and by doing so, he’d give us a clean slate, and we’d get a newly centered light out of it, too.

And that, my friends, was our weekend. And you better bet we’ve been spending our nights on the couch with wine (me), brews (him) and Netflix (both). Which, by the way, what’re you watching lately? We don’t have cable, so we’re devouring Orange Is the New Black and finishing up Breaking Bad. Tell us, what’s next for our queue?

BIG PS… We’re taking an extra long weekend to decompress from all of… this! Our only rule? No phones and no laptops (but definitely a camera!). We’ll come back next week with refreshed brains – and less aches in these backs. While we’re out, The Pet Shop will still happily be receiving orders, and all instructional emails will be sent out on Monday, August 19th. A great weekend to you, and we hope you’ll take a time out for yourselves, too!

  • Katie - August 14, 2013 - 6:58 AM

    Still no bare feet in the house, huh? :)

    It looks great! You two are making some seriously amazing progress, and I love the way you’re documenting it all. One question, though: where’s the couch hiding?

    Enjoy your weekend off!


    • Kim - August 14, 2013 - 8:14 AM

      Katie, no bare feet! Not until we start seeing some drywall around here… The couch stays under a drop cloth in the living room, and our television is resting on a teeny, tiny end table. It’s certainly not ideal, but those soft cushions are SO welcome after a long day!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah K. - August 14, 2013 - 8:26 AM

    You can really start to see it all coming together now! I can’t believe hoe much work you guys have gotten done!! Enjoy your well-deserved weekend! We love us some Wilfred, good ol’ Law & Order, and Star Trek :)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 14, 2013 - 8:32 AM

    Hannah, Scott enjoys Wilfred from time to time – me, on the other hand? I can’t seem to get into it! Maybe I’ll give it another try…ReplyCancel

  • Jodi - August 14, 2013 - 8:33 AM

    looking good!! and seriously. so. much. light. i’m a little jealous over here.ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - August 14, 2013 - 9:13 AM

    Such amazing progress, I am really impressed. Especially with your energy levels! You definitely deserve a long weekend. Enjoy the rest and hope you (and your muscles) get recharged.ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - August 14, 2013 - 9:22 AM

    After you have finished Breaking Bad and OITNB, do yourself a favor and binge watch “Small Town Security” on Netflix. It is an AMC reality show (only 8 episodes – 20 minutes each). It is so strange…. I can’t even explain it. But I promise you, you will thank me. It is so, so awesome!

    Enjoy your long weekend!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 14, 2013 - 9:49 AM

      Emily, noted! Thank you for the recommendation!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom - August 14, 2013 - 10:20 AM

    I’m falling more and more in love with this house every post… it’s a lot of work but I can really see the potential… this will be one amazing house when you are done with it!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 14, 2013 - 10:25 AM

    Emily, we feel the same way (and thank you!). While we knew we loved it when we started, every swing of the hammer makes it that much more gratifying.ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly @ Turning It Home - August 14, 2013 - 11:08 AM

    What a difference! After long days of rearing children, we like to melt into the couch while watching Continuum or Awake on Netflix. Never in my life did I think I would enjoy science fiction, but those are some good mind bending shows!ReplyCancel

  • rebeccaNYC - August 15, 2013 - 10:31 AM

    oh my goodness, what a difference! A break is really well deserved!

    We just finished up the AMC series “Hell on Wheels” on Netflix (no commercials to ff through) and we loved every moment. The character development is wonderful, the photography and costuming are superb, and the history of the railroad fascinating. The new season started Saturday, but we hate watching with the commercials. We are going to start “Breaking Bad” next. Love binge watching.ReplyCancel

  • kelly - August 15, 2013 - 2:56 PM

    From Netflix if you haven’t seen it yet, West Wing, Cheers, then Frazier, The Cosby Show, Myth Busters,ReplyCancel

  • Pie - August 15, 2013 - 9:50 PM

    I love how your transformation is coming along. Can’t wait to see the finished place!

    Shameless (the US version) is one of my current faves. William H. Macy is the best! And Emmy Rossum is so so good in this. Pretty sure it’s up on Netflix!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - August 16, 2013 - 11:04 AM

    Yay! Enjoy your time off!

    Breaking Bad is a such a good show. I keep hearing good things about Orange is the new Black.

    Recently we’ve been catching up on How I Met Your Mother (we were super late to that party) and we started New Girl. Both are awesome!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 19, 2013 - 10:14 AM

      Thank you for the show tips, you guys! We’ll have to dig in to these. We have 2 episodes left of Breaking Bad (boo), then it’s back to the drawing board. We’ll be coming here for your suggestions!ReplyCancel

  • Tina S. - August 21, 2013 - 12:21 PM

    House of Cards. Queue it. Watch it. Love it.

    Orange is the New Black is what I’m trying to work through now. It’s a great show!

    And you can’t go wrong with The Catherine Tate Show, Parks & Rec, 30 Rock, Parenthood, The IT Crowd.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 21, 2013 - 1:57 PM

    Tina – yes! Parenthood! I forgot that’s been in my queue for a long time. Will do!ReplyCancel

  • Stairs! Done! | Bichona - October 20, 2014 - 8:03 PM

    […] a labor of love would be the Understatement of the Year. Starting at the upstairs landing, we knocked down the partition wall for the second floor apartment (eliminating an unnecessary coat closet and raising the stairwell […]ReplyCancel


First – a big congrats to Diana C as the winner of the Home Depot gift card giveaway! And a big thank you to all who participated and shared links. You’ve inspired the pants off us.

As with all the to-dos we’ve tackled in the house so far, we’ve taken each room from so-so to downright ugly. In other words, each of the rooms we’ve thrown a sledgehammer through has gone from bad to worse – but that’s okay. We’re technically not living within four walls, because, well, we keep tearing them down. It’s all for the greater good, and the unraveling has seen its ups (omg, this is going to look so cool!) and downs (what, oh WHAT have we done?), but perhaps one of the ugliest sights in this whole house is the entry.

Because, in addition to ripping out the maroon carpet and taking apart every single wall that chopped it up, we pulled up the entryway floors this weekend. But before all that, here’s how it looked just a handful of weeks ago (still not pretty, but everything in tact):

You’ll remember that because this building a two flat, the door to the right led to the first floor unit, and by continuing up the stairs, you’d come to another door for the second floor unit. But as we convert the building to a single family home, we’ve torn out wall after wall – which in turn left gaps in the hardwood floors. With this in mind, we ultimately decided that we’d lay tile in the entryway, and we’d take the wood from the entry and use that to patch and piece together the gaps in the floor (created from taking out the room partitions).

And so began our first foray into removing wood floors!

Our wood flooring is tongue and groove, and it was laid down recently as a way to so-called update the home for its listing. (We say the term update loosely.) Below, you can see that the tongue (the rounded part) sticking into the groove (the U-shaped part that holds the tongue) is facing to the right. So in order to lift out the floor with minimal damage, we knew it’d be best to start to start along the wall that the tongue points to – aka, the wall to the right of this photo:

Tip: Typically, there are visible nails heads in the flooring on one end of the room. In the chance that you don’t have big gaping holes like us, this is your best place to start!

The gaps in the floor made it an easy start for us, although the first few pieces came out slightly damaged. Our contractor told us that this was completely normal and to be expected, so we weren’t too worried. Using a hammer, we tapped a pry bar under the first board until it was just lifted, then we continued to do so along the length of the board until it could come loose.

Scott continued to do this until the entire floor was lifted in the entryway (in total, this took about 2-3 hours), making sure to salvage every piece that we could – which, thankfully was all but a few of the starter boards.

As the salvaged boards started to pile up, I was on snipping duty. See all the staples that were used to hold everything in place?

Originally, we had tried this method to lift out the staples (but to no avail), so a quick (slightly panicked) phone call to our contractor confirmed that we could simply snip off the staples and protruding nails. His only warning? Make sure to stack the boards back to back to prevent any metal remnants from scraping the boards. As an extra precaution, I used a hammer to tap down any staples that I couldn’t get quite close enough to the base of the board.

Once we had pried, snipped and stacked all of the boards (and to be perfectly honest with you, we still have a baby stack to snip that we’ve tucked away in an unused room – for now!), we were left with sheets of black paper (similar to tar paper, but not nearly as thick) used to prevent moisture. In the top left corner of this photo, you can also see the hole where an old radiator used to be:

But once we pulled up all the paper, we were left with even more surprises – easily putting us in the running for the world’s ugliest entryway. Below, we found original hardwood floors (they were a wreck, and sadly, they don’t look to be continuous throughout the house), subfloor and decades-old linoleum. Oh, welcome to our home! Franken-entry says hello!

While the floor looks absolutely filthy, we disinfected multiple times, ran a mop (again, multiple times) and scrubbed the stairs – again. Of course this is only temporary, but we still refuse to take our shoes off in this house. One day (soon?), however, this entryway will see clean tile, polished stairs and a coat closet. We can’t stop chatting about the perfect chandelier, but we’ve yet to start selecting paint color (light and bright, we think?).

This is the epitome of the old saying, you have to make a mess to clean a mess! Lately, that just rolls off the tongue around here. (And we annoy ourselves just thinking about it. Sheesh.)

But! Once the floors were removed and stored away (only to be used later to repair other areas of hardwood), we were able to start round 2 of demolition – the second floor landing! Which also tied in to removing all the trim on the stairs and pulling down the ceiling in the entry. (You’d think we were pulling down ceilings as a hobby by now, right?) Those details – tomorrow!

  • Rachel - August 13, 2013 - 7:13 AM

    Wow! I love reading about your progress. It is a great start to my day :-) You are doing awesome!! Can’t wait to see more…ReplyCancel

  • Ryan - August 13, 2013 - 7:27 AM

    Just recently found your blog and love watching your renovation! We bought a two flat in Chicago 4 years ago and also converted it to a single family. There were definitely times when it seemed overwhelming but it’s so worth it!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - August 13, 2013 - 7:40 AM

      Thanks, ladies!

      Ryan, I actually stumbled upon your blog a few months ago. I think it was right before we purchased this crazy house, and I got sucked into your archives since I saw you were also in Chicago and converting a single family home. Hooray for being in the same boat!ReplyCancel

  • Hannah K. - August 13, 2013 - 8:08 AM

    So exciting! I know this is all going to look great! We’ve been painting and doing other (MINOR!) fixes around here, and even so our mantra has been “it gets worse before it gets better” — otherwise, we’d eventually give up!

    Thanks for sharing your journey!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - August 13, 2013 - 9:17 AM

    Awesome progress you guys! And “Franken-entry” cracked me up. I love the idea of a tiled entry and the fact that you’ll have extra planks to fill in the rest of the house. Good thing that ‘update’ was recent :)ReplyCancel

  • Gloria - August 13, 2013 - 9:42 AM

    Wow! Your old linoleum looks a lot like my “new” linoleum! Which was also “updated” for the listing. Rock on though that your making so much progress. I’m excited for the coming together stage!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - August 13, 2013 - 10:30 AM

    So glad you were able to salvage some of the wood floor to reuse elsewhere. Did the staples show on the top of the boards at all, or were they somehow fitted into the middle of the wood? We have some old staple remnants on our entryway hardwood floors (cut and polished down, so you only see little dots of metal here and there) but we think that was actually used for the carpet that once covered it.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 13, 2013 - 12:34 PM

    Gloria – we are too!

    Laura, the staples were put in the tongue part of the floor boards, so you don’t see them from the top. The only nail/staple heads we could see were on the starter board, right up against the trim!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly @ Turning It Home - August 13, 2013 - 1:22 PM

    Wow, that old hardwood floor! It’s too bad it is not consecutive throughout the house, but how fun to know it’s there!

    It is really coming along, though. I’m excited to see what the entry looks like with the ceiling and wall taken down.

    P.S. These hospital booties may come in handy: ;)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - August 13, 2013 - 1:27 PM

    Kimberly, HILARIOUS. You know, I’d seriously consider getting them – but then I must remember to stop being so Type A!ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly @ Turning It Home - August 13, 2013 - 3:22 PM

    Nothing wrong with being Type A, Kim!ReplyCancel

  • ryan - August 14, 2013 - 10:17 AM

    Ha! I hope we can serve as a reminder that there is a light at the end of the tunnel :)ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - August 19, 2013 - 3:57 PM

    Keep it goin’ dont stop!ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres - September 13, 2013 - 9:26 PM

    One of the most magical moments for me in our renovation was the first day I walked around barefoot. You know you’re on the homestretch when you don’t have to tell guests to keep their shoes on when they come in the front door.ReplyCancel