Let’s revisit the front door. After a few of you suggested that a single pane window transom paired with our address numbers would look stunning, it took us all of 5 seconds to think, you know what? You’re right. Yes! Done.

We were pointed in the direction of fellow DIY blog Old Town Home (we’re hooked, we’re hooked!), so I contacted them and asked them about their experience; who did your gold numbers? Are you happy? By the way, we love you! Alex responded almost immediately, dug through his archives to share with us their experience, and it was all the confirmation we needed to know we were heading in the right direction.

At this point, we wish we could say, and then the door was installed, painted and numbers applied. The end. But this is a 120-year-old+ house! There is no such talk around here.

The contractors have been in full swing, and every time I go downstairs to refill my coffee mug (and generally just to stand, agape, at the goings on), I’m greeted with so many changes. To quench my urge to just sit down there and watch, I’ve quietly been sitting at my (too small) desk with headphones on. But one day (we’ll call it Tuesday; yes, it was definitely Tuesday), I noticed Jack perched at the top of the steps, watching this:

The door! They were working on the front door! I quietly reminded myself to sit back down, Kim!, but it was lunchtime, so down the stairs I went… and my goodness.

The front door installation turned into a larger project than we had intended, due to a few factors:

  • The visible vinyl siding was buckling in a few areas, which was largely due to the poor insulation (or lack thereof). It seems as though the most recent door installation – prior to us – was done cheaply, ineffectively, and poorly.
  • While making room for the transom window, soggy insulation and rotting wood was discovered, so, that was fun.
  • The original wood siding was found underneath a layer of mid-century asphalt siding, and on top of that was the vinyl we have now. Rather than remove the old asphalt siding, vinyl was placed over it – which, as we’re sure you can guess, was the cheapest option.
  • Planks of wood were literally floating in place (above, to the right of the door opening). The contractors guessed that the front door may have originally been centered with sidelights on either side. (We’re thinking this had to have been gorgeous; right?) However, the replacement and repair of that former set up raises dollar signs, so it was simply boarded up.

Sadly, we’re unable to afford sidelights and the complete re-centering of the door (this would easily climb into the multiple thousands), however, since we’ve had to take down all those layers, we will be moving our new door to the right, which will allow the porch lights to be equal in distance from the (soon-to-be) new trim. Below, you can see our old/current door, and how it was installed with the porch lights during the Great Sidelight Cover-Up:

While we’re at it, proper insulation will be added before the vinyl is reattached (and the layers underneath will hit the curb), and we’re going to install a much taller transom window – 16″h instead of 12″ – which will not only look better, but will allow more light to pass through and make more sense overall. We’ve since decided on this Briona handleset in matte black, but we purchased it from Hardware Direct 2 U for a fraction of the price (we wondered how it could be so inexpensive, but it arrived fast and safe!).

As if all these changes won’t be impactful enough, we picked up our gallon of Hague Blue paint from Sherwin Williams (they keep the color combination for Farrow & Ball in their system) in addition to an adhesion promoter, and we’ll be purchasing our address numbers from The House Number Lab on Old Town Home’s recommendation (we’re leaning towards The Grant or The Americana in matte gold).

To say we’re excited about the changes would be an understatement – even despite the mounting costs of repairing the siding, water damage and porch-light-centering. In the end, it’s really important for us to get our curb appeal going, not just for us, but our new neighbors, too! We’re already daydreaming our springtime exterior jazz-up; flowers and grass and painted porches, you’re next! (Well, in 6 or 7 months.)

  • Annalena - October 10, 2013 - 6:05 AM

    That picture of Jack watching from the top of the stairs is too cute! I’m really enjoying reading about your crazy-big renovation. Can’t wait to see the final results!ReplyCancel

  • Shannon @ Fabulously Vintage - October 10, 2013 - 6:49 AM

    Oooh love BOTH the Grant and Americana!! :) Excited to see what you pick!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 10, 2013 - 8:17 AM

    Annalena, thank you! He is basically the cutest; we agree.

    Shannon, we can’t decide!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - October 10, 2013 - 9:15 AM

    Even though things are in such disarray right now, I can totally see the potential and how it’s all going to come together. As usual, I’m impressed with your fortitude and vision! What a great learning process to go through. Can’t wait to see the new door finished!ReplyCancel

  • Sara - October 10, 2013 - 11:36 AM

    They’re not period, fancy gold, but I went through a similar obsessive debate for the numbers on my 2-flat. I ended up getting white ones on etsy for like $10. So, if you’re looking for less costly option… I both do and don’t miss what you’re going through. You’ll get there though. All my friends thought I was crazy buying my building, but now I have an awesome, fully-rented home that they’re all jealous of. :)ReplyCancel

  • Alex - Old Town Home - October 10, 2013 - 11:51 AM

    Thanks for the shout out, and so glad our experience was helpful for you (exactly why we blog, amiright?).

    It’s going to look great, that’s for sure.

    We are very happy with The Grant (style B with the whiskers), and I just noticed that our transom photo is on their example page for The Grant, I had no idea!

    If only we’d moved north after college (like the rest of our Cincinnati and Miami U friends) instead of east, we’d probably be in Chicago too, and I’d be headed over to your house with my tools to help you restore those side lights and re-center your front door. I’d trade you for a pet portrait or two. We could knock it out in two days, which in DIY speak is probably more like 3 months, and you’d have to live without a front door during that time. Is that cool with you? :-) But alas, we’re in DC, so I’ll watch your project from a distance and appreciate it all as it comes together.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 10, 2013 - 12:19 PM

      Sara, we didn’t think of Etsy as a place to look! Great tip.

      Alex, I didn’t realize you guys were from Cincinnati too! We went to UC. And sadly there would be nothing to restore – the door and sidelights were taken out completely, to make way for the door we’re replacing. Although restoring a vintage one (from one of the MANY salvage shops in Chicago) would be fun – with HELP!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - October 10, 2013 - 1:15 PM

    Oh my gosh the transom-window-numbers idea is TOO AMAZING. It’s going to look incredible!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 10, 2013 - 2:17 PM

    Love the window number idea! Just curious, will the outside steps look off center with the new centered door? Would they be hard to widen in the future?ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 10, 2013 - 4:08 PM

    Kim, great question! We’ll be centering the door in between the porch lights (not the entire bump out), so you’re right – it will be slightly off center of the stairs, but nothing too noticeable. Although, you’re also right that the steps are something we could certainly widen in the future… Thank you for the thought/suggestion!ReplyCancel

  • aussiebeachgirl - October 10, 2013 - 7:43 PM

    Hi Kim. I’m liking The Grant and Helvetica B – for similarity in closeness of the letters, but I can see where you may go with The Americana. A lot of older properties here in Aus tend to have their door numbers in The Americana typeface. Returning the door to its original station may seem like a financial mountain to climb right now, but as far as investment and future peace of mind goes (you’ll always be looking at that door and wondering), I’d get it done. Consider the costs of your contractors doing the work, and weigh it up against Alex’s very generous offer, and I think you’ll find it cheaper to fund his trip to Chicago for the re-do, in return for his pet’s portrait! A win-win situation. :D Cheers, HxReplyCancel

    • Kim - October 11, 2013 - 8:06 AM

      Aussie, all good points! Also like Helvetica B (well, in general we really love Helvetica all the time), so that’s another good option. Now if only we could get Alex up to Chicago this weekend…ReplyCancel

  • Allison - January 3, 2014 - 3:35 PM

    Judging from the width of the front door hole (originally) and the width of the bump-out, dont you think that your door would have originally been a double-door? I think it would have probably looked something like this. Our old house is also in the midwest (Saint Paul) and while we do not have a double door (just a wide wide door), a lot of homes in our area have them. Just thought I would point it out! SO JEALOUS of the transom, by the way, wish we had one! It is going to look beautiful with the painted numbers all finished!

  • Kim - January 3, 2014 - 3:48 PM

    Allison, that’s possible too! I really wish we could have afforded to do a double door or add the sidelights, but once we decided on the transom, we just kept picturing all the beautiful Chicago homes in our neighborhood with transoms, too :)ReplyCancel


If yesterday’s post title wasn’t any indication that, lately, we’ve had an affinity for the word things, well, then this random round-up should.

It seems – no, wait, definitely – that we’ve been so wrapped up in this house that we can’t form proper sentences. We’ll fully admit: this crazy ride has been up (really up!) and down (really down), and there seems to be little in-between. The entire weekend, Scott and I conversed in this manner: Hey, can you hand me that thing with the thing? To which the other would reply, Um, what? Oh! That thing. And hey, can you help me with this thing over here when you’re done with your thing? Bring that – um! – thing with you, too!

We’ve been working our little tails off in the basement garden unit, which has (gah!) turned into quite the beast of a project. We’re tying things up with the city as far as our home’s zoning goes, and in the meantime, we’ve been scraping, painting, fixing, de-mini-blind-ing and scrubbing.

While we’ve put in time every night last week and every day this weekend down in that unit, there’s still a lot more to do; again, more than we realized. With every flub and shortcut the former owner took, we’ve been mindful to do things the right way – a way that’s not always the easiest (and definitely the most bleeeep!-inducing).

But on the most-exciting-ever-omg! end of the spectrum, we have contractors! They’re back! They’re downstairs right this minute, pounding and sawing and opening up archways and widening doors.

It’s been challenging to wait patiently (to be honest, we failed miserably at that part), but now that they’re here, we’ve since added a few other items to the list: front door installation (mentioned here), further drywall repair (we just keep uncovering messes, what can we say?) and – if all goes well – we’ll be moving forward with the laundry room addition off of our master bedroom. So many changes have been made in just the couple of days that they’ve been here; we can’t wait to start documenting and show you. (Nothing beats a good side-by-side, right?)

I’ve been using all my power to stay seated on the second floor, but every part of me wants to be down there singing, dancing and praising their presence. Ceilings, here we come! Entryway, you’re up! Little nook room, you’re going to be so cute, and we’re going to take naps in you all the days!

But! Speaking of staying seated, can we take a moment to talk about the lack of a studio in this house? My current desk, while quite adorable in the former studio, is ridiculously small and impractical here. I’m no longer enjoying the added counter-height (just a personal preference), and I’ve been itching to get an old farmhouse table ever since I spotted this beauty at our local salvage shop (that was sadly way out of budget).

After admitting to Scott that, hey, we should really just build one from scratch, he became more determined than ever to find me the gem I’d been searching for. We’d find it for a steal, it would likely need a refinish job, but it would be no problem! This was all said, of course, before we went to Jubilee (for the second time in a month – a 45 minute drive from the city), before spending countless hours on Craigslist and before purchasing a $50 table from a thrift store that I immediately regretted. (It’s totally stashed in our garage right now.)

When my friend Jess asked me how the renovations were coming along, I told her all about my farmhouse table dilemma (Ugh, why is it so hard to find a vintage farmhouse table that’s 3’x6′ wide, with beautiful turned legs? I mean, really!), to which she replied, I’m on it!

The very next day, she shot me a link to this:

It was in our neighborhood (no suburb trekking!), it was under our imaginary $200 budget (although, we all know how budgets go), and it was 3′ deep, expanding to 6′ wide! And, and! Is this not the exact replica of the one that got away? In person, the finish is not nearly as yellow, and besides needing to install new aprons to permanently accommodate the extension leaf, it’ll need a good sanding and stain job. (We’re leaning towards this finish.)

Hey, I’m that someone with motivation! Right here. This girl. (Not to mention, we picked it up for $150!)

And that, our friends, are the things going on under this roof. There’s so much to share, but every project is so large (or does it just feel that way?), that breaking it all down into comprehensible stories seems… incomprehensible. The point? Things are going places, decisions are being made and humps are being busted.

Things are happening.

PS: You guys are on it! There are just 3 more custom portraits available for a timely Christmakuh delivery (after which, 2014 pre-orders will be readily available).

  • K - October 8, 2013 - 7:20 AM

    Nice craigslist find! I’m excited/jealous to see it refreshed. I’ve never read Jess’s blog….but if she’s that kind of craigslist guru/fairy….that’s definitely something I’m interesting in reading. Heading there now!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel - October 8, 2013 - 8:29 AM

    I love that table! So gorgeous and it will look great in your studio :-) I’m excited your contractors are back and can’t wait to see all the pics!ReplyCancel

  • Laura at Rather Square - October 8, 2013 - 9:46 AM

    Right price + in your neighborhood = Craigslist win! And happy to hear that the contractors are back, it must be so gratifying to see the progress they are making. :)ReplyCancel

  • Jodi - October 8, 2013 - 10:14 AM
  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - October 8, 2013 - 11:01 AM

    YAY! I’m so glad things are moving and that you found the perfect (well, will be perfect after you give it some love) desk for your studio!

    Also, how did I miss the laundry room addition. That’s awesome!

    Speaking of plans, what did you use to create your floor layout? I did a quick job in InDesign, but I’m thinking a program that’s designed for floor plans might be more helpful, especially when we start seriously talking about the kitchen reno.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 8, 2013 - 11:15 AM

    K, after cruising around Craigslist for weeks on end, she did some serious magic to find that!

    Heather, our friend Nancy made those plans for us – I tried doing them on my own then said, forget this! She’s been so helpful as we tried to imagine what walls would like in different places… Find her here: http://havenbydesign.com/ReplyCancel

  • Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie - October 8, 2013 - 1:43 PM

    Sweet find, guys! Can’t wait to see what you do with it!ReplyCancel

  • Jess Lively - October 11, 2013 - 7:22 PM

    Yes, I realize that you are parking right now before heading to our house for dinner. But either way, I just caught up on your blog (I haven’t been keeping up with my reader since getting back earlier this week from Boston) and saw this.

    Hooray! I’ve had very good luck on CL, what can I say? Golden touch or good luck?

    Dunno, but I’ll take it.ReplyCancel


ONE. It’s October (surprise!), and maybe it’s our late nights of cleaning and gutting our garden unit – or maybe it’s our growing frustration at the lack of tied-up-ends in our home (yes, definitely this!) – but time is flying. November is around the corner, and for the last few weeks, we’ve watched our Pet Shop orders grow and grow (!). With that said, there are only a couple short months before the last batch of your pets’ portraits are dropped in the mail – all in the name of making it under your sparkly, shining trees.

We’ve been making our lists (and checking them twice), and we’re in the final countdown: We are only accepting 10 more custom portrait orders this year – starting now, right here in The Pet Shop. Once we’ve filled the last slots, the custom portraiture listings will be rendered inactive and closed for the year (and re-opened in early January). As if we don’t say this enough already, your support has us feeling all sorts of fuzzy; you are nothing short of amazing.

But wait!

TWO. If you’re reading this and the custom listings have since been deactivated, we have two alternate options to check off your Christmakuh/birthday/wedding lists. Printed on recycled art paper and sealed with a petal envelope, our gift certificates are not only cute and quirky (flex those gift-giving muscles, you thoughtful friend, you!), but they’ll allow the recipient to be a part of the creation process:

THREE. Or cut the line for the new year, and get on the 2014 pre-order list!* Maybe you’ve wish-listed a custom pet portrait for yourself, but we’ve since sold out for the year. Your mom/boyfriend/husband/wife/best friend ‘fessed up and admitted that they ignored your repeated requests for a painting of Fido, but they just know you’ll love the new sweater that matches your eyes. (Bah, humbug!)

*Pre-order link will become active once we’ve reached our 10 portrait limit for the year.

By purchasing a 2014 re-order now (*above), we will contact you the first week of January with the next steps. (We’ll even snail mail you a sweet and friendly receipt to tack on that refrigerator!) Pre-order portraits will be among the first to ship in the new year, cutting your turnaround time in half. In the meantime, allow yourself to get caught up in the holiday rush.

PS… This week started our newest quarterly partnership with Project Rescue Chicago. Learn all about them and their pet saving mission right here.

Above: Johnny O, Edison and Tesla were all painted on a 4×4 wood panel.

  • Rachel - October 7, 2013 - 12:58 PM

    Just got the email that my portrait is in the mail… which is AWESOME because it’s a surprise birthday gift for my boyfriend and he’s traveling for work this week, so no chance of him checking the mail and having the surprise ruined! I’m so excited to see it!!! :)ReplyCancel

  • Kim - October 7, 2013 - 1:00 PM

    Rachel, awesome! I’m so excited with the choices we made – I hope you love it.ReplyCancel