Well, the foyer counts as a room, doesn’t it?

This story starts with a few almost-meltdowns at the hardware store, crunching too many numbers by the 1/16 of inches, and realizing that, in the end, our gut was right from the beginning (isn’t that always the case?). Our goal was to achieve two things:

ONE) Patch in the missing baseboard trim with 1x2s and 1x10s, so that decorative trim could be placed on top when we were good and ready, and…

TWO) …paint the foyer! By accomplishing these tasks, the next steps would be to lay down tile, which would allow us to finish up the baseboard trim, which would then allow us to paint the stairs!

I tend to go into projects thinking, this’ll be easy! So easy! Scott, on the other hand, brings me back down from my magical cloud (which usually includes 4-5 things to do in one day, because it’s going to be so easy), and brings up all the (very practical) things that we need to keep in mind. (The uneven drywall, the crumbling plaster, the inconsistencies in the lath…) In this case, patching in the missing baseboards should’ve been easy – again, in my mind – because our contractor, Mike, said so. (Or did I imagine that?) But! As we all know by now, when your house was born in the 1800s, this is never, ever the case.

When I pulled up the baseboards in the foyer, it was because they were in awful shape. They were scuffed, chipped and cracked beyond any repair, and we knew we’d need to replace the trim in the entire home anyway, so we figured we’d go room-by-room, as time and money allowed. We wanted something taller than usual, more substantial, as an ode to old, beautiful Chicago homes. I tore it out; we’d deal with it later.

The “later” was this past weekend, and per our contractor’s suggestion, we could purchase 1x2s and 1x10s to patch in the missing trim (or drywall, depending on which way you look at it), and we could use a nail gun to adhere the new decorative trim on top of that. This made sense, until we spent our Friday night at the hardware store, measuring and re-measuring, finding nothing that could possibly fill those gaps with the proper depth and height, and leaving the store frustrated (to put it lightly) and empty handed.

Prior to us figuring out the patch-with-pine route (which failed miserably), Scott has suggested drywalling the gaps. I nixed the idea immediately, as the thought of drywall, sanding and dust brought back horrid memories that were just too soon. But in the end, you know what we did?

We totally drywalled those gaps. Okay, Scott drywalled the gaps. And he did it like a champion! He cut down drywall sheets to size, taped the seams, and he used joint compound like a champion. By matching up the drywall with the drywall above it, we were still left with a 1/4″ lip on the stair stringers, which would provide a place for our future trim to sit.

The mudding took about 3 days: 1 day for each layer to dry (there were 2 layers in total), and by the third day, we could do our final sanding – which, by the way, we did by hooking up our electric sander to the shop vacuum; worked like a charm! – and finally, we could get to the most-exciting-part-thus-far of our foyer’s transformation – paint!

Before we threw all caution to the wind and picked up our rollers and brushes, we first had to prep our walls with some essentials: ScotchBlue™™ Painter’s Tape (for getting a clean edge on our transom window), 3M Patch Plus Primer for filling scuffs and knicks and 3M Advanced Abrasivesto get that smooth, even finish. (On a side note, Scott and I both loved the consistency of the Patch plus primer, declaring that it was the easiest spackle we’ve used – consider it the newest staple in our paint bin.)

We had mentioned wanting to use Behr’s Subtle Touch a few months ago, but ultimately, we actually switched to a different color: Behr’s Sterling, mixed at 75%. After picking up a test pot on a whim, we liked that it was very neutral (if not the teeniest bit cool), but it was a touch too dark. We wanted something that felt fresh and clean, allowing the (eventually) navy doors to be the spotlight. At the paint counter, I asked if I could get the color mixed at any percent, and he said, you name it! 75% turned out just as we’d had in mind, and white trim will still provide a nice contrast.

Although the fresh drywall set us back a few more days than we had intended, it was so very worth it:

With every (not so) little tweak we make, we find ourselves feeling giddy as we watch the view around us change. From the living room, the foyer is starting to feel more real; it’s no longer drafty from the cold, the stairs no longer feel scratchy under socks, and glossy white paint on the transom window sealed up the last of the raw elements (well, um, if you don’t look at the almost 130-year-old subfloor!).

As I sit in the studio every day, my view has gotten better and better, too:

It’s come a long way since these days (thank goodnes!):

There are still some pretty obvious loose ends to tie up – light fixtures, our bare primed front door, the coat closet and subfloor on the landing. Our second floor window needs trimmed, and there are areas of wood rot around the vinyl frame; all these items have been tacked onto our to-do list, but it never ceases to amaze us how much a simple coat of paint can transform a space.

One yellow-y beige “room” down, a whole living room to go!

This post was brought to you in partnership with 3MDIY.com, and all opinions belong to these two. Keep up-to-date on projects, products and sampling by visiting 3MDIY.com, and find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest.

  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project - December 18, 2013 - 8:45 AM

    It looks so clean and fresh now! Love it!!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - December 18, 2013 - 9:05 AM

    Beautiful! Great solution to fixing the baseboard areas. And I’m really liking the foyer paint color. Subtle with just enough contrast, and still bright. I’m interested to see how the baseboards turn out, when you do that part. We have old painted baseboards that need re-painting, something I’m not looking forward to. It’s actually kind of nice that you get to put brand-new ones on!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 18, 2013 - 9:09 AM

      Thanks, guys!

      Laura, I wish we could have salvaged the ones we had – but they were SO bad. We’re excited to start from scratch now. There are so many options, but we’ll probably keep it simple, clean and classic.ReplyCancel

  • Kiira - December 18, 2013 - 9:53 AM

    Looks amazing, guys! What a difference from the before. Can’t wait to see what direction you take with the tile!ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia] - December 18, 2013 - 10:14 AM

    Lovely and fresh and clean!! Ooooh, this must be the best feeling. And those arches are so perfect. I can’t imagine it any other way!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - December 18, 2013 - 10:14 AM

    Looking great :-) I know it took a lot of hard work to get it paint ready but I’m always shocked at how much difference a coat of paint makes. Just seeing some new color on the wall is good for the soul I think :-)
    But seriously – that ladder on the stairs- yikes! We have a ranch home so I never even considered how one would paint a house with stairs. That is crazy business!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 18, 2013 - 10:19 AM

    Julia, I still owe you for talking me off the arches-ledge :)

    Rachel, Scott has a HUGE ladder than can transform in a variety of ways, so YES, it was scary, but we couldn’t have done it without that ladder! There are some even scarier ways we used it to reach the very top near the ceiling… all of which were safe (mom)!ReplyCancel

  • misie - December 18, 2013 - 10:44 AM

    I thought the same thing about the ladder on the stairs!!! good gawd! My husband is a carpenter and if he’s working at home – I can rarely watch – but he still has all his fingers and has not broken his back. shew!
    Everything is looking so lovely – and that front door – i love it!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - December 18, 2013 - 11:26 AM

    Everything is coming together so nicely! This part is always exciting because even though it takes a while, you see a BIG improvement at the end of each project! Keep up the awesome work!

    Oh and I didn’t know Scott was a Pens fan! Go Pens!!

    ~Amy
    http://www.lifeonhillst.comReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 18, 2013 - 12:36 PM

    Amy, YES! My family is from Pittsburgh, so Scott had no choice when we married me. We are huge, huge, HUGE Pens fans :)ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa - December 18, 2013 - 12:43 PM

    Hey Kim – with all the painting I’ve done over the years I should know about asking for a percentage of the color but I have never heard of it. I usually just add white at home. Thanks for the tip on that.

    Also, although it’s none of my business, I love the door in it’s raw state. I’s pretty just that way.
    VanessaReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 18, 2013 - 12:59 PM

    Hi Vanessa, yeah, it’s super handy to ask at the store, that way you have the exact formula for touch-ups later!

    Regarding the door, the front door is simply primed from the factory (so that’s definitely getting paint), but the closet door actually looks pretty rough. There’s also lead paint on the back side of it, so the plan is to encapsulate the whole thing with paint!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom - December 18, 2013 - 3:13 PM

    It looks great, everything is really coming together!ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - December 18, 2013 - 7:51 PM

    Looks good! High five!ReplyCancel

  • Han-Mei - December 23, 2013 - 10:37 PM

    Way to push thru!!
    They also make 1/2″ drywall which we have used to match up with plaster walls… And chipboard drywall shims will be your best friend when it comes to not straight old homes :)

    It’s looking great, keep it up!
    Merry Christmas!
    HMReplyCancel

  • Sophie Lambert - December 31, 2014 - 10:31 AM

    Can you please clarify how the paint was mixed. Was 25% of the color mixed in? Or 75% of the color? ThanksReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 31, 2014 - 10:50 AM

      It was 75% of the color. I just asked them to mix it at 75%, which would be 75% of the color tint!ReplyCancel

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The identities above have been concealed as part of the highly secure Pet Shop protection program  – but fret not! For now, they lay safely under trees, tied up with bows, and come Christmas Day, they will rest easy in the homes of their persons. The last handful of pets crossed my painting table this week, and those, too, will soon be in the arms of their moms and pops. (And that makes us feel just as warm and fuzzy as your little buddies themselves!)

If you’re still on the hunt for that just right gift for the pet people in your lives, today is the last day for holiday shipping!* (We’re still in the scrambling-for-last-minute-gifts camp ourselves, so judgements are reserved. We totally get it.) Pick up a gift certificate (or two!) for custom painted pet portraits, or treat yourself to a 2014 pre-order and be at the top of our list in the new year.  We’ve said it before – and we’ll say it again! – giving the gift of custom art not only shows off your thoughtful side (hey, look at you, rock star!), but you’re also allowing the recipient to take part in the creation process while supporting our non-profit animal rescue partners. (We love a good triple-win; don’t you?)

To ensure a timely Christmas Day delivery, order today!

*For all orders placed within the United States. Orders placed after Tuesday, December 17th will still be happily received + shipped, however, those items cannot be guaranteed for delivery by Tuesday, December 24th.

 

  • Carrie @DreamGreenDIY - December 17, 2013 - 8:21 AM

    This is far too cute for words =) Love it!! Happy holidays to you and your furry little ones!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - December 17, 2013 - 8:32 AM

    Hey! I know two of those sweet stripey faced dogs. They are hanging up right above the leashes and other dog things near my front door. Best. Birthday Present. EVER.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 17, 2013 - 9:21 AM

    Kate, I’m so happy you enjoyed the top secret gift! You have a good guy making all those sneaky plans…ReplyCancel

  • Kate - December 17, 2013 - 12:33 PM

    He is a good guy and very sneaky…and apparently, takes a hint :) I almost did the same thing for his birthday in November. Went with pictures of me and the dogs instead. We’re a little dog obsessed…ok a lot.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - December 17, 2013 - 12:34 PM

    He is a good guy and very sneaky…and apparently, takes a hint :) I almost did the same thing for his birthday in November. Went with pictures of me and the dogs instead. We’re a little dog obsessed…okay a lot.ReplyCancel

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Amidst the chaos of completing construction, finishing up the basement, hosting a Thanksgiving crew, diving into an infuriating stair makeover (lead paint, arugh!) and staring down our unpainted and spackled walls, missing baseboards and scuffy, bright white front door, we put up our tree.

It’s no different than years past; it’s not a new tree, and nothing fresh or inventive was done. We didn’t purchase any additional tree decor, no, just the same ornaments from our childhood and the ones we’ve collected together over the last five years of marriage. (Although in true Christamaversary tradition, we did pick up one ornament while we were in Mexico!)

Back in October – before timelines were shifted and no one could predict how long our construction job would be delayed (and delayed and delayed) – we had tossed around the idea of getting something larger for our front window; we’ve never been able to have our tree seen from the street before. We could replace our skinny tree – and put it in the studio, perhaps? – for something larger, fluffier. But as time passed by and the year’s end became thisclose, we decided to keep what we had – for now, for sanity’s sake. At one point, I admitted to Scott that perhaps, this year only, we should nix the tree altogether (we haven’t found time to go to the grocery in over a month; how could we possibly squeeze in tree trimming?). This was greeted with shock from Scott (but you love Christmas! he said), and he insisted – for traditions sake.

No bells, no whistles, but for an entire Sunday evening we put everything aside. Within these four living room walls (half primed, half painted), we spent more time than usual putting up that tree, stringing the lights, reminiscing over the story of every ornament and lighting candles while we sipped on bourbon and red wine.

I’m so glad we did.

PS: December 25th is less than 2 weeks away (how did that happen?)! If you’re still looking for the perfect, super custom and thoughtful gift for the pet lovers in your life, it’s not too late to pick up a gift certificate from The Pet Shop. (Or spoil yourself and get on the 2014 pre-order list!)

  • Laura @ Rather Square - December 12, 2013 - 9:42 AM

    I know what you mean about feeling like there’s just no time for tree-trimming! Even though we’ve been in our house a few months longer than you (I think?), we haven’t done much in the way of holiday decorating. I’ll have to post a photo of our tree on our blog before Xmas arrives: It’s a little cardboard tree that John made out of a diaper box a couple of years ago, and he wraps it in tinsel and blue lights. It’s (relatively) cat and toddler safe. One day we’ll do something a little more grand!

    How are your pets around the tree – do they ever knock it over or swat at the ornaments?ReplyCancel

  • ashley @ sunnysideshlee.com - December 12, 2013 - 9:49 AM

    i think scott is totes right too! now you’ll remember that first christmas in your new house together and i can guarantee you’ll be happy that you put that tree up together! plus doesn’t it just make your house feel more and more like a home? something about those twinkling lights make everything all cozy!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 12, 2013 - 9:52 AM

    Laura, the girls – especially Maddie – like to stare at the tree or take naps under it, but they’ve never tried to knock anything over, thank goodness. Jack couldn’t care less!

    Ashlee, don’t you hate it when Scott is right? Ha! You’re right though… it’s our first Christmas together in this home, so it was really important that we just do it!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - December 12, 2013 - 9:53 AM

    So glad you were able to put up your tree – it looks beautiful :-) I know what you mean though – every year before we put it up I think that perhaps this year we should just skip it. And last year we did just that (we live in NJ and Hurricane Sandy hit in October and it wrecked my mom’s home pretty bad – she still is actually not back in it one year later) – we didn’t put up a tree because I just didn’t feel like it was a time to celebrate but it was terribly sad and depressing on Christmas day and I think that showed I should always, always put up a tree as I will never regret it once it’s finished.
    I love that Jack was there looking on – he looks like he is a good supervisor :-)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 12, 2013 - 9:58 AM

    Rachel, I’m so sorry to hear that, but like you said, sometimes those traditions are really worth the effort in the end. We hope you were able to get it up this year, and you’ll spend Christmas morning enjoying the twinkling lights!

    Yes, Jack. Always the supervisor. He’s so bossy.ReplyCancel

  • ann - December 12, 2013 - 10:07 AM

    I was hoping you would put up your tree. It’s a must do!ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Adventures of a Dog Mom - December 12, 2013 - 11:26 AM

    With our move this past fall and everything else on our overflowing plates of things to do we almost didn’t put our tree up either. But, this is the first time we’ve had a mantle to hang our stockings on and I figured we just had to get everything out and up. And, now I’m glad we did!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica - December 12, 2013 - 12:20 PM

    I’m glad you did it! There’s something so homey about a tree in the window.

    If you’re looking for a new fake tree, a few years ago I went out the day AFTER Christmas and bought a pre-lit tree for 50% off. I saved something ridiculous like $80. If you don’t mind braving the crowds and/or going out early, that’s definitely the day to buy one!ReplyCancel

  • misie - December 12, 2013 - 2:34 PM

    you two are adorbs! We had designs of getting a tree this year but we are being bums so our friend snuck over one afternoon and put a wreath on our door and lights on the tree outside our window. In the midst of life changes, it’s the little things the help you get in the holiday spirit…and other times it has to be forced on you :-)ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - December 12, 2013 - 6:20 PM

    The trees that stay the same with the collected ornaments are the best, I think. We have one too in our family room and it’s our kids’ favorite and so fun and sentimental.ReplyCancel

  • Kelly G. - December 13, 2013 - 7:48 AM

    Isn’t it nice not to bother with the fuss of it all, and just do something simple? It looks wonderful, too!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle - December 13, 2013 - 9:12 AM

    We bought a very similar ornament during our honeymoon in Mexico. It’s one of my favorites!ReplyCancel

  • Julia at Home on 129 Acres - December 15, 2013 - 1:41 PM

    I confess that for the second year since moving to our house we’re tree-less. Honestly, it just seems like more work at this point. I’d rather spend an afternoon patching the walls and getting them ready for painting than cutting down a tree and decorating it. Maybe I’m Scrooge, but this holiday I’m looking forward to relaxing and home improving. “Christmasing” actually plays a small part for me.ReplyCancel

  • Jaime Lopez - December 18, 2013 - 12:07 PM

    I got so excited to see your ornament from Mexico… mainly because I picked up a nearly identical one 2 weeks ago while I was in Riviera Maya! I put up my tree last week and proudly displayed the gem on the front of my tree too.

    – JaimeReplyCancel

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