When we last talked about the basement garden unit, we were in a mad dash to complete (what felt like) a mile long punch list. We had less than 2 weeks to get through it, but only a handful of days before our out-of-town guests starting arriving before the holiday week. Still feeling frustrated that we were so behind on the other things we wished we were doing – paint the living room, add storage to the kitchen, tile our entryway, etc. – we said that our only hope was to complete the basement before the first guest arrives.

Oh, we were silly.

We didn’t finish before our friends made it from Portland to Chicago, but the good news is that without us even asking, they packed “work” clothes along with them. From the first night they were here (before we even put air in the extra mattress!), they were in the basement alongside us, patching drywall, installing switch plates and scrubbing the tile. But first, remember where we started? Here are the various before photos I snapped – everything from move-in day to progress:

The basement didn’t appear that bad. But as we mentioned here, the more we worked in that unit, the more things we uncovered – missing baseboards, yellowed doors and trim, cracks in the foundation, and the list goes on and on. But! Let’s no longer dwell on the past; rather, let’s officially close this basement chapter.* Because finally, after weeks and weeks of spending every evening devoted to that lowest level (and with the tremendous amount of help from our cross-country buds), we were able to move on to the most gratifying of all the projects – paint!

(*On a side note, there is still an access panel that needs to be added next to the laundry room [and a refrigerator for the kitchen and new outdoor lights!]. While it wasn’t funny at the time, that piece of wall was opened up on Thanksgiving morning to fix a plumbing issue, which was continually causing our first floor shower to flood!)

Now, the basement is looking cleaner, brighter and more put together. It looks like a pretty nice place to live, and it’s much more spacious that our first Chicago apartment and our teeny, tiny condo!

As a member of the Ace Hardware blog team, we were so fortunate to be able to try out their newest line of Clark + Kensington paint. We asked our renter what colors she was drawn to, and she – just like us – prefers the cooler shades of grays. While the main living space “after” doesn’t look too much different than the “before,” it’s actually a cleaner gray (the former color had a pretty hefty yellow undertone to it): Clark + Kensington’s Silver Dollar. It’s probably one of the most neutral grays we’ve seen – not too cold, not too warm, no hints of pink or purple; overall, it’s a subtle, soft hint of gray (the Holy Grail, we think?). The bathroom and kitchen got a soft blue-green, Clark + Kensington’s Misty Moor, and both colors were painted using Flat Enamel (our favorite finish for a still wipe-able, matte look).

We actually love Misty Moor so much, we’re wondering where we can use it our own home (the bathroom? A guest room?), and overall, we’re pretty satisfied with the paint quality. It was nice and thick, however, some areas did require a second coat for the most cover.

Of course the best part of working with Ace Hardware is sharing the goods with you, too, so together with Ace, we’ll be giving away a $100 Ace Hardware gift card to one lucky reader! What do you need? Paint? Liners, trays and brushes? A new power tool? (Ooh, yea.) Using the Rafflecopter widget below, enter as many ways as you’d like. Giveaway runs through Monday, December 9th at 5pm CST, and the winner will be announced within this post. Good luck and happy entering!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


We’ve partnered with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel. Ace has provided us with the tools and materials necessary to complete this project (hey, thanks, Ace!), and all opinions are our own.


  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - December 5, 2013 - 7:07 AM

    Wow! It’s looking great!

    We, too, found all kinds of “fun” things when we started working on our house… like how whomever laid the tile didn’t put backer board down, so right after we moved in all of the tile started cracking the kitchen and bathrooms… and after knocking out one section of a wall, we just boarded it up and decided not to even go there! I’m glad your PDX friends were there to help you out – those are some truly great house guests!ReplyCancel

  • Alison F. - December 5, 2013 - 7:31 AM

    Thanks for the giveaway! Way to close out 2013 on a productive note!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - December 5, 2013 - 8:55 AM

    I really love the new gray color! And the change from boob light to drum shade, love that too. Thanks for hosting the giveaway! We need so many painting supplies, our house projects are coming along, but there’s still a long way to go. I know you can relate. :) I’m inspired by your progress on the basement!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 5, 2013 - 9:02 AM

    Emily, that sounds similar to an issue we had in the basement, too! And no kidding, best house guests ever. We couldn’t have tied up all the loose ends without them!

    Laura, yup, every single lighting fixture was switched out. We just couldn’t take all those boob lights…ReplyCancel

  • andee - December 5, 2013 - 9:08 AM

    Where did you get the flush mount drum-shade light in the living space? I’ve been looking for something similar in our bedroom and can’t find it. It looks great!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 5, 2013 - 9:29 AM
  • misie - December 5, 2013 - 10:21 AM

    Looks great guys! You have one lucky tenant!ReplyCancel

  • blair {at} the fox and she - December 5, 2013 - 11:09 AM

    It looks great you guys!! I always get so inspired when I see what you’ve done :)ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - December 5, 2013 - 11:57 AM

    Looks so great! It’s incredible how bright that space is as a basement/garden level unit! I continue to be amazed at the amount of progress you all have made on your home. I know you’re sick of the endless necessary projects, but you’re doing a wonderful and inspiring job. Thanks for letting all of us random internet strangers follow the transformations.ReplyCancel

  • Alexis - December 5, 2013 - 1:01 PM

    Looks incredible!ReplyCancel

  • Kristi - December 6, 2013 - 7:48 AM

    Look great. Like the lookReplyCancel


Every year, Scott and I spend Thanksgiving in Chicago with our friends that aren’t usually able to make it home for the holidays – for one reason or another. Our little in-town family of orphans knocks it out of the park; we are potluck champions, and we consistently rock it, regardless of our long list of dietary restrictions (vegan, veggie, gluten-free and meat lovers, unite!). This year, however, our usual host was 9 months pregnant (and our newest Chicago family member was born early this week!), so naturally – like anyone who just bought a house under construction – we said, we’ll host!

This immediately posed a number of problems (omg, how do I make a turkey?), but the biggest dilemma was where will everyone sit? We had a crew of 11 on Thanksgiving day (with even more for the infamous follow-up Leftover Party), and rather than settle on any old table for the big day, we decided (again, naturally) we’ll make one!

We love a good challenge, so after scouring tutorials on Ana White’s blog, we settled on the Modern Farmhouse Table. Never having built a substantial table before (or any table for that matter), we liked that the clean lines would not only be a good fit for the long haul, but it seemed simple enough to build quickly (and it was!). This would be our table for years to come, and regardless of what chairs we tuck under it or what chandelier we hang overhead, this one could effortlessly set the stage:

We worked with Ace Hardware to get all the materials we needed, and we knocked it out in one weekend. Our local Ace doesn’t typically carry large amounts of lumber, so we discussed with the owner, Al (he’s the best), what we’d need, and he ordered everything into the store for us. All our supplies were ready in 2 business days; we picked it up, and we were good to start building!

This tutorial from Ana White, modified (see cut list, below)
9 – 2″x6″x8′ boards (for the legs and tabletop)
3 – 2″x4″x8′ boards (for the aprons)
6 – 2″x2″x6′ boards (for the supports)
2 1/2″ wood screws
Mini Kreg Jig
Table saw – we used the Craftsman Evolv 10″ (for creating square edges)
Compound miter saw (for making cuts)
Screwdriver / Drill
Tape measure / Ruler
Electric mouse sander
Sandpaper: 80, 120 and 220 grits for your electric sander
Safety glasses

4 – 2″x6″ cut to 30″ (LEGS)
7 – 2″x6″ cut to 69″ (TABLETOP PLANKS)
2 – 2″x4″ cut to 69″ (SIDE APRONS)
2 – 2″x4″ cut to 28″ (END APRONS)
12 – 2″x2″ cut to 35″ (UNDER TABLETOP SUPPORTS)

For those interested in this same tutorial, we encourage you to check out the step-by-step right here. Ana’s instructions were spot on, but we did alter her plans to make a larger table; ours comes in at 38″d x 6’w x 30″h, reflected in the cut list, above. Here are some of the tips we learned along the way, which we think made the process much smoother – especially as first timers.

First, we ripped down all of our 2″x6″x8′ and 2″x4″x8′ boards by 1/4″ on each side, length-wise, on a table saw. We picked up the Craftsman Evolv 10″ portable saw, and we loved it. (This guy has a lot of projects coming its way!) By doing so, we took a total of 1/2″ off of each board, but we gave them nice, square edges. It wasn’t necessary to do this on the 2″x2″ boards, as those were used as under tabletop supports, and they’d never be seen.

From there, we used our compound miter saw to cut everything down to the proper lengths. I figured out all the math beforehand to take Ana’s 5’+ table to a solid 6′, so we were able to move right along without breaking out the calculator. Rather than measure each and every piece, we cut one piece for every component to size, then used that same piece as our guide for each cut after that.

Once we finished up the cut list and the dusty work was (mostly) over, we brought everything inside to assemble (it was freezing in the garage!). It felt a lot like putting together a piece of Ikea furniture – you know, with all the parts scattered about, matching up piece A to piece B, and so forth (in other words, not so bad, but patience is important!).

After the legs and aprons were in place, we found it was easiest to turn the whole table upside-down and install the under tabletop supports this way. We used a scrap piece of 2″x2″ under the supports to keep things level, and rather than screw in each piece from the outside, we used our mini Kreg Jig to hide these screws. To keep things flowing smoothly, Scott pre-drilled all the Kreg holes (one on either end) first, then I lined up all the supports, rested a screw in each hole, and he zipped down the line, securing each one to the aprons.

The trickiest part of the entire assembly was putting our tabletop planks into place. To start, we did a dry fit, then took everything back out and started on the edges. Using clamps to make sure everything was as tight as possible, Scott drilled from below, using 2 wood screws on each small section of support, up and down the length of the entire tabletop plank. The tutorial recommends that you lay all the planks in place, turn the table over and pre-drill these holes. In our case, it was much, much easier to skip the pre-drilling and work from below as a starting point. We got a super snug fit this way!

We continued to secure the planks one by one, working on one side, then the other. As we got closer to the middle, we turned the table on its side, then I stood on the planks as Scott screwed everything in place. (Because our clamps weren’t large enough to keep the planks tight, this helped tremendously.) By the time we got to the final middle plank, we did have to shave it down by a 1/16″ on the table saw, but afterwards, we were able to use a hammer and a scrap piece of wood to get it in place. We rejoiced; Jack hollered in response – 4 hours after we started, we had a table!

The following day, we brought the table outside for sanding. While Scott got started on the construction clean-up, I sanded. And I sanded. And I sanded some more.

I sanded our table for close to 4 hours, but it was necessary to take down some of the un-level edges and to remove the rough knots, splinters and manufacturer stamps. Starting with the 80 grit sandpaper on our electric mouse sander, I went over the entire table one and a half times (really making sure to even things out all over), then worked my way down to 120 grit and finally, 220 grit.

Although sanding is one of my least favorite to-dos, it was absolutely worth it. The finish is so smooth; The knots no longer have the rough, scratchy edges, and you can run your hand over the entire table without fearing splinters.

The only visible screws we have are on each of the four corners – 6 screws that are keeping this table sturdy and tough. We altered Step 5 of the tutorial by placing screws at 3/4″, 2 1/4″, 3 3/4″, and 5 1/2″ from the end, angling the screws as necessary so that they never touch or overlap. Ultimately, we’ll use wood filler to cover those up.

To squeeze in every last one of our friends for Thanksgiving dinner, we did have to bring in our former patio table, we mix-and-matched chairs, and the eleventh person (Scott!) had to use a pasta dish. We all sat comfortably, but even on its own, the table still looks great with only 4-6 chairs around it (which is what it’ll usually have). In a pinch, it was good to know that for once in our Chicago lives, we can actually seat a fair amount of people!

It’s pretty obvious that we still need to stain the table, but we haven’t quite settled on the right color. We’ll be using our Elkhorn chairs, so we’ve been waffling on the proper wood tone – although we’re leaning heavily towards the same finish as my studio desk. (We’re not looking for a perfect match; quite the opposite!) In total, the cost of lumber and supplies (minus the power tools) came to $150 – although any finishing supplies would add another $20+ (give or take). If you were to follow Ana’s plans exactly (for a slightly smaller table), the cost would easily be under $100, as many of the cuts use every inch of board.

Not bad for one weekend and a new dining room table. (Now if only those walls could paint themselves!)

Update! See the finished table right here!


We’ve partnered with Ace Hardware as a part of their Ace Blogger Panel. Ace has provided us with the tools and materials necessary to complete this project (hey, thanks, Ace!), and all opinions are our own. Jack’s supervision was an added bonus.

  • Sarge in Charge - December 3, 2013 - 9:22 AM

    You two never fail to impress.

    And another vote for Gillman Ace Hardware here! They are wonderful. I was once there when Al’s DAD was there and he was so charming. I love supporting such a nice family business.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - December 3, 2013 - 9:23 AM

      Al’s DAD? I bet the cuteness was on overload. We love Gillman’s Ace!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - December 3, 2013 - 10:51 AM

    Amazing job! I like the clean lines, and the fact that it was pretty affordable to make. I’m interested to see it once it’s stained – it’s going to look so modern and elegant.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 3, 2013 - 11:16 AM

    Laura, agreed! I think the stain is going to make it look like a totally different table.ReplyCancel

  • Amanda @ Our Humble Abode - December 3, 2013 - 12:22 PM

    Congrats on your first big host!! Looks and sounds like a success! And, that table is lovely. West Elm has a very similar table I’ve wanted (pretty sure Dana at House Tweaking has it, too.) Love your DIY cersion, and I’m sure it’s much cheaper than the store version. Do you have plans to stain this?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 3, 2013 - 1:12 PM

    Amanda, thanks! Yes, I saw the West Elm table: http://www.westelm.com/products/boerum-dining-table-g703/

    It IS the same table! We’ll definitely be staining it, just trying to decide on the finish…ReplyCancel

  • Clare - December 3, 2013 - 2:24 PM

    I also LOVE Gillman’s Ace. Good to know they can special order lumber for us — anything to save us a trip to the Home Depot on Elston.

    This is great inspiration. My father-in-law was just telling us that since they remodeled their tiny kitchen in their tiny raised ranch (near Midway), their kitchen table no longer fits comfortably. And they paid $900 for it! I’m thinking that my husband and I could make them a new custom table for about $100, if only they would let us. You make it look easy.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 3, 2013 - 2:29 PM

    Clare, it WAS easy! We’d never built a table from scratch, and I kept telling Scott (before we even started), this is going to take us WAY longer than a weekend. But we started right before lunch and finished no later than 4 the same day! It’s the sanding that took the most amount of effort.

    So happy to see so many Gillman lovers come out of the woodwork. Al will order pretty much anything!ReplyCancel

  • Amy - December 3, 2013 - 3:17 PM

    Oh my gosh – you guys can do anything, seriously! I’m bookmarking this page though for sure. I have a feeling we might need to know how to do this pretty soon and your step-by-step tutorial was great – thanks!!


  • Nicole - December 4, 2013 - 10:13 AM

    Hi Kim! First time commenter here… I know this was a partnership with Ace, but is there anyway you could give a guesstimate of what the project would cost regularly just for the wood? I ask because my fiancé and I built a table a couple years ago (a picnic bench kinda thing) and as we were walking out of Home Depot we saw basically the exact same table for about $5 less than we paid for the materials! Ha! Anyway, I lovelovelove the table and wanna wrangle my dude to have a go at building another. This one is gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Kiira - December 4, 2013 - 10:24 AM

    this is so impressive. I’m totally inspired now to build a long, narrow console table. Can’t wait to see your place come together now that the construction is done!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - December 4, 2013 - 10:41 AM

    Hi Nicole, if you build the table our way – which is a foot longer – your lumber should cost you between $125-150 or so. The reason is that you won’t need the entire board for the longer lengths (the tabletop planks), so you won’t be able to get 2 planks from one board. However, if you make it the way that Ana’s tutorial provides, you’ll use almost every inch of board, lowering your cost (it should be closer to $80 or so!). I think that the biggest difference in making the table look more beautiful for indoor use would be trimming down each side 1/4″, which takes off the rounded edge that most lumber has. And thank you – happy building!

    Kiira, neither can we, ha! This would also make a gorgeous console table.ReplyCancel

  • Emma - December 5, 2013 - 1:11 AM

    This is why we buy houses. What a lovely table!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - June 14, 2014 - 12:14 PM

    Hey guys! I discovered your blog recently and have been so inspired. Love your style & home renovations! My dad and I are going to attempt the farmhouse table you made. Just wondering what specific type of wood you used? Thanks much guys and thanks for sharing all of your adventures!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - June 14, 2014 - 11:25 PM

      So happy you found us! We just used regular pine 2x4s, but make sure when you’re picking them out that they’re as straight as possible. That will make your life a lot easier! Also, we trimmed down the sides on our table saw so each board had a nice clean edge (since 2x4s are typically rounded).

      Best of luck!ReplyCancel

      • Courtney - June 30, 2014 - 8:30 AM

        Hi again – I just wanted to follow up really quick and thank you so much for your response and great posts on the table. I finished ours and absolutely love it! All of your info and advice was extremely helpful… now I’m trying to figure out what to make next! :). We are about to start officially using it and all of a sudden got a little paranoid about upkeep. What do you use to clean yours? Again, thank you so much!!!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - June 30, 2014 - 11:02 AM

    Awesome, that’s what I was hoping! Thank you!!!ReplyCancel

  • […] thing that was most definitely not on the list? A dining room table. Remember, we made one last year? Despite that small detail, we recently found ourselves coming home with one – one […]ReplyCancel

  • Kimberly vincent - February 2, 2015 - 9:28 AM

    OK yesterday I started this table project. I had all pieces cut to your specifications and they don’t line up square the leg section falls short so I measured each leg and they all equal out to your specs but falll short… it cost me over 105 bucks for supplies and have to wing it…ReplyCancel

    • Kim - February 2, 2015 - 9:37 AM

      Hmm, I’m sorry to hear this! What do you mean by the leg section? We provided our exact cut list (based off of Anna White’s tutorial), and I always make sure to take notes during any DIY process so I don’t misquote. I’d be happy to help with a little more information.ReplyCancel


We hope everyone had a happy, restful (tipsy? that’s okay!) Thanksgiving – and Hanukkah! – and allowed yourselves to brush off the every day worries, at least for a little while. Now that the turkey has officially been consumedI can openly enjoy holiday music without Scott’s constant chiding, but it’s too early! (I realize the how soon is too soon? is public debate every year, but it just makes me so smiley.)

Which means… Christmas isn’t too far around the corner! For the first time in 3 years, we opted out of applying for the Chicago Holiday Renegade Fair (we just have far too much house-going-ons), and while we’ll still go to pick up gifts for others, it’ll be a little sad not partaking in the festive energy. On the other hand, not applying meant that we were able to take on more Pet Shop orders than in years past, and we had our earliest sell out to date! A thousand times, thank you.

Although we’re sold out of the paintings themselves right now, we do have other options for custom, personalized (and very, very sweet)  gifts for the pet lovers in your lives – and yes, even for your fine self! May we suggest our custom painting gift certificates? Or for those of you that like to knock out the to-list early (you’re our kind of people), we’re currently accepting 2014 pre-orders. To see which option is right for you, we encourage you to hop on over to The Pet Shop.

But as much as we love nothing more than to virtually meet your pets, we’d be amiss not to remind you of The Print Shop, too. You’ve all been so helpful with your top picks, and we like to think of those giclées as our own little group effort. (You + us.)

Art – pets or prints – will surely show off your thoughtful gift-giving skills this holiday season; much better than another scratchy sweater, don’t you think? Over the years, your kindness and encouragement has never stopped amazing us, and your support of our small business (among other things!) has meant the world. Happy holiday shopping to you!

First photo above: Boris and Talib are painted together on a 6×6 wood panel; all others are on a 4×4 wood panel. See all of our fine art giclee prints in The Print Shop, and our pet-gifting solutions in The Pet Shop!

  • Hannah K. - December 2, 2013 - 7:53 AM

    We love our Pet Portraits!! And a print is on my list to add to my gallery wall!!ReplyCancel