Archive for the ‘nesting’ Category

It’s been a year since we ripped the doors off our rickety kitchen cabinets and took a sledgehammer to our pink tile floors – our renovation dragged on a little longer than planned, but has been done for several months now and should be shared here on the blog while it’s still relatively shiny and new!  Our appliances are already dotted with baby handprints and I fear it’s only a matter of time before Isaac gouges our cabinets with his favorite toy car…

First, the before:  When we bought our house, we put kitchen remodel on the 5-year plan.  It was functional (mostly), but pretty dark and a little dinged up and not in line with the clean, crisp vibe I’ve been breathing into each room, one by one.  I mean, the black granite tile counters do bring a certain early 90’s charm to the space, but that’s not entirely what we’re going for here.

I always found this corner awkward and under-used – we didn’t need a breakfast nook with our dining room table just a few feet away, so it often became a holding pen for rain boots and Amazon packages.

The fridge/pantry situation was no good – a previous owner / handyman Joe had cut a hole out of the wall so that the fridge could be pushed back out of the way, but this meant that one wall of the pantry was taken up with the exposed back of the refrigerator.  And I didn’t love the fully-exposed side of the fridge.

I know “open concept” wasn’t en vogue when our house was built in the ’50’s, but the kitchen felt so hemmed in.  I immediately had visions of us freeing up this corner for better kitchen/living connectivity.

So finally, after belaboring every little detail and drawing up 14 different layouts and soliciting high-medium-low bids (“low” is relative in this market!), we settled on a plan and signed up a contractor and let the demo games begin.  Shane and I offered to take on the demo scope ourselves, mostly to save on the labor cost, but also because demolition is very gratifying work.  The Rusts were over for a backyard meal that Friday night and the boys couldn’t resist the lure of the drill – they got started right after dinner while I scrambled to shuttle our dishes down to the basement.  Sayonara, cabinets, with your squeaky drawers and mysterious odor and peeling finish!  No love lost there.

I was out of the house for much of the day on Saturday while Shane and Juliette busted a major move.

No horrific surprises, as is always a fear when you’re taking apart a 70 year-old home, but we uncovered a couple of treasures, like the beige tile counters directly under the black granite and the three layers of linoleum under the tile flooring.

This is remodeling:  it always has to get so much worse before it gets better.

But…I’m starting to see that open corner?

The wall we removed was load-bearing and required a new beam in the ceiling, but once that was hoisted into place and the old studs were removed, I started to move from terrified to excited.  Already so much better.

Electrical was roughed in and then things were quiet for a couple of weeks while we waited for drywall.  But once drywall was hung, Juliette and I stepped in to slap it all with a fresh coat of white paint.

I was quite pregnant by this point and leveraged my growing belly to get the contractor to pick up the pace.  This project had a due date!

Juliette left her mark on the wall behind the fridge.  ISAAC!  We were so excited to meet you.

Painted and ready for flooring, which I’d decided at the last minute to change to Red Oak planks to match our existing living room floors.  Shane had to drive to Home Depot in Spokane to pick up what seemed to be the only 2 1/4″ Red Oak in the state, but he did it.

Ten hours in the car well-spent, Shane.

Cabinet day!  Thrilling.

Down to the details.

But Sweet Jesus, what a mess.  Our kitchen and living room were stuffed into our basement and bedrooms and then the insulators showed up and needed access to the attic through the guest room closet and all of that crap ended up on our bed for a day and I felt like I was living in a hoarder’s house.  We hung in there, but there were points when the stress of the mess felt crushing.

There were a couple of hiccups near the end, like when I asked the tile guy to pull down half a day’s work because the white tile I ordered looked dingy and gray next to our beautiful new countertops, and when the floor refinisher told us we needed to be out of the house for two separate weekends while the fumes cleared, and then when I went and had a baby before things were all wrapped up, but eventually, it was done.

And I love it.

The awkward nook is super-functional now with tons of storage and a bench/shoe drawer and the open shelving of my dreams.

And that open corner is so handy for keeping an eye on the little rascal.

It’s not always this clean (it’s never this clean), but it’s bright and there’s a place for everything and our new dishwasher doesn’t sound like a garbage truck.  I’m so grateful.

The next installment of gettin’ her done!  This project actually started back in January and was largely wrapped up by March, but I’ve spent the last few months tinkering with art and hanging plants and finally feel like I can call these bathrooms finished.  Ready for some before photos?

This was our hall bath, in all its pink and gray glory.  Not pictured is the lovely pink tub, just out of frame.

And the bedroom bath, which was just a teensy little half-bath next to my closet (we’ll save the bedroom revamp for another day, but you can bet I’ve said buh-bye to the beige walls and the nipple light).

While the tile work and the vanities emanated a certain 1950’s charm, the sinks backed up constantly and I couldn’t open the cabinet drawers without shutting the bathroom door.  We were ready for a revamp.

This was our first major reno project and so we were careful not to bite off more DIY than we could handle.  We decided to take on demo and final painting ourselves and let the contractor handle everything in-between.

Shane and one of our all-too-kind neighbors spent a weekend taking the bathrooms down to the studs and filling the dumpster parked in our driveway.

Juliette put on her “work clothes” to help pry nails.

Ready for some magic to happen!

It took the guys about four weeks to turn this…

Into this!

I kept everything very neutral – gray, black, white, wood – and then softened the final look with lots of plants and botanical-themed art.

The walnut vanities are the handiwork of a local cabinet shop and after two years of wrestling with our old rickety drawers, I get so much joy in watching our new ones slide smooth as butter.

The hall bath got an even bigger functionality upgrade, with a new sliding door (no more cabinet conflicts!) and…

A shower!  I had to say good-bye to my closet, but we have a second small closet in our bedroom that has ended up working fine for my things (ok, and Shane gets dressed in the guest room now.  small sacrifices!).

A soap niche that fits all our bottles and a tiny plant!  Such luxury.

We’re all super-happy with how it all turned out – Juliette is back to taking long, drawn-out baths, Shane loves that he has a shelf for his bluetooth speaker so that he can listen to podcasts while showering, and I find a little zen watering my houseplants while I brush my teeth.  Score, score, score.

I meant to do a full photo tour of our house when we moved in here two and a half years ago, but I started slapping on fresh coats of white paint the same day we got our keys and then I felt like I missed the boat on capturing the true “before” state of things.  I decided I’d wait until we were done with our refresh and then just do final pictures – finish one room a month, nine(ish) rooms in the house, take a short break for the holidays and we’d be kicking back in our well-styled crib by Spring 2019!  Oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  Two years later it felt like we still hadn’t really finished anything.  When we started spending all day, every day at home in March I resolved to give our house some love and get some shit DONE.

Pandemic Project 1:  Finish the dining room.  Let me take you back to the pre-purchase staged version (from our listing photos).  That chandelier was…fancy, but hardly the mid-century vibe we were going for.

We made good progress on this room when we first moved in with new lighting and new windows and new furniture, but the main white wall was a blank canvas begging for artwork or wallpaper or some kind of focal point.  After not finding anything on the inter-webs that sang to me, I decided to channel my inner DIY-ist with a Sharpie paint pen and a lotta foliage photos for inspiration.  Here she is…  Finito!

I naively thought I could just free-hand this thing right on the wall, but oh, Kel.  Silly Kel.  My first take was not so good, so I slapped another coat of white paint on the wall and spent a couple of weekends mapping out a full-size mockup of the pattern I wanted on trace paper, getting my leaves and overlaps just so.

I then traced the final linework on the back-side of the paper with thick pencil, taped the pattern to the wall, and transferred the pencil marks with a good rub.  Then the satisfying work of tracing those lines with a rich, black Sharpie.

So fun, you guys!  Seriously, I love a long, tedious task like this.

It was hard to know when exactly I should be done, but finally the wall felt sufficiently un-blank and I was able to call it a day.

In hindsight I wonder if I should have opted to draw magnolia branches and rhododendron leaves to carry in the patterns from our backyard, but nope.  NOPE.  The Monstera leaves are perfect.  This room is complete and I’ve got a big blank picture frame hanging over our mantle that’s calling my name.  Onward.

I checked out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up from the library a couple of weeks ago, curious to find out for myself what all the buzz was about.  I’d heard stories about people completely overhauling their homes after heeding the author’s call to declutter, and though I like to think I run a relatively tight ship around here, I’m always open to ideas about how to live more simply.  The main premise of the book is this:  if you don’t love it, if it doesn’t bring you joy, LET IT GO.  Pretty revolutionary in this day and age of excess, isn’t it?  But I’m nothing if not revolutionary (says the woman who breaks out in hives at the mere thought of change!), so I’ve decided to see what kinds of un-loved things are lurking in the recesses of our closets and cabinets.  One of the primary guidelines for purging is to evaluate your belongings by category rather than location – rather than going through your home room by room, gather all your books or clothes or mementos in one place and go through the pile at one time, so that you get a truer sense of how much you own.  I’ve broken down our stuff into the following categories and hope to tackle one or two bunches a week, with the ultimate goal of handling every single item in our house by the time summer rolls around.

  • books
  • eating/drinking/cooking wares
  • linens and towels
  • toiletries
  • toys
  • art supplies
  • papers
  • decor items
  • mementos/keepsakes
  • clothes
  • random crap

According to the book, you’re actually supposed to start with clothes, but given the number of things in my closet that I know I’m doomed to part with, I’m not ready to go there.  Books it is, then!  Shane and I aren’t major book collectors, so this should be easy, right?  Right?!

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I grabbed every last book in our house and piled them all on the kitchen island today.  I was a little taken aback to see these all stacked up together – I thought I did a solid bookshelf purge a couple of years ago?  I was even more taken aback when I started sifting through the stacks and realized how many novels I’ve been hanging on to that I have no intention of reading again.  In about 45 minutes, I’d weeded out a good third of our collection – what remains are my favorite art and architecture books, about 30 memoirs and novels I love, and a small pile for Jules.  I actually did a second culling as I was putting these away and came up with another 20 titles I was ready to ditch.

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Coming soon to Goodwill on Dearborn!

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Seven paper bags of books now sit in our downstairs hall, ready to leave our house and never return again.  Our bookshelves are looking wonderfully sparse.  “Life-changing magic” might be a stretch, but this felt good.

Things have been relatively uneventful at Chez Schnell since we returned from our week in Oregon – we fell back into our regular routine pretty smoothly and picked up right where we left off at work and daycare.  I wouldn’t necessarily say we came home rested, as Juliette missed the vacation memo about sleeping in and whiling away the afternoons with a good book, but I did come back with a burst of productive energy.  I’ve been hitting my task list hard this past couple of weeks, declaring August “get ‘er done month!”

Most significantly, after nine years of procrastination, we have a wedding album!  I spent a weekend combing through all 1700 of our wedding photos, pulling out and editing my favorites.  The album came in the mail a couple of days ago, and I’m thrilled with it.  We don’t have top-notch pictures of our special day, but this book definitely captures the most important moments and people.  CHECK.

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After three years of lamenting the state of our water-marked dining room table, we borrowed a disc sander from a friend and I went to town on my first furniture refinishing project.  I put the final coat of polyurethane on it tonight and, with the exception of one gut-wrenching spot where I sanded through the veneer, it looks pretty good.   Much improved, at least. The dining room makeover that I started back in April is nearly complete!

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I also cleaned out our closets and took four bags of clothes to Goodwill, got Juliette’s baby book up-to-date, purged my iPhone photo library, and picked enough blackberries to make a damn good pie (super-important stuff).  Phew!  I haven’t been this productive since that final burst of nesting momentum I felt when I was eight months pregnant (no, I’m not pregnant!  had you wondering, though, huh?).

Admittedly, I think I’m addicted to that rush of check-marking adrenaline – I’ve recently been falling asleep and waking up with nothing but to-do’s on the brain.  Thankfully, Juliette is quick to remind me that all work and no play just ain’t gonna fly, so we’ve had a couple of good romps at the playground and took a very satisfying dip in Lake Washington this evening.  Thanks, Jules, for keeping my neuroses in check.  Now go clean your room.

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After several months of purging and organizing and painting and shopping, this bedroom is ready for a baby!  I’ve had a lot of fun preparing the nursery – there were moments when I questioned what I had gotten into with that wall mural, and how I was going to find the stamina for one last day in the print studio, and whether or not we should have gone ahead and bought that fancy Oeuf crib, but in the end, it all came together into a room that’s perfect for baby.  And me.

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Shane and I had a fairly intense design debate about this wall – I wanted to line it with several rows of shelves to put books on display; Shane thought it made more sense to buy a low shelf (that a toddler could actually reach) and keep the wall free from the holes for all those wall brackets.  Shane won.  And kudos, hon – this turned out to be cleaner and much more functional.

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I wanted to incorporate a few personal touches to the nursery, while keeping it simple and modern.  I’m hoping we’ll look at this photo wall with the baby and talk about grandmas and grandpas and cousins and friends.  Then we’ll look at the AT&T Park print and talk about Buster Posy and Matt Cain.  😉

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The glider was hands-down the best purchase for this room – after test-driving a dozen different chairs, this one from West Elm won out for comfort and style (most stores make it an either/or decision).  I imagine we’ll be logging a lot of hours in this seat…

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The deets:

Paint: “Storm” by Valspar

Hudson Crib by babyletto

Parsons Low Bookshelf by West Elm

Wooden Storage Crates by Lucky Clover Trading Co.

Graham Glider by West Elm

Tripod End Table by Urban Outfitters

Malm Dresser by Ikea

SF Giants Print by Bird Ave

I capitalized on a final bout of nesting adrenaline and spent Sunday in the print studio, wrapping up a couple things for the baby’s room.  I had initially flagged a few cute prints of birds and trains and fruit as inspiration for the nursery art wall, but ultimately decided I wanted something a little more personal.  So I gathered some photos of our most memorable trips and put together a series of prints based on our favorite places:

One incredibly bumpy car ride landed us at Polihale Beach in Kauai – Shane swam in the ocean while I laid in the warm sand.  I remember thinking that this was the closest we’d ever come to paradise.

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We caught one absolutely perfect sunset in Bruges three years ago.  It was pouring when our train pulled into town that morning, but by mid-day the clouds had parted and the sun had come out.  We stood on a little bridge that evening and watched the sky change colors with the town’s charming skyline in the foreground.  Oh, and the mussels and beer we had for dinner that night…Belgium was good to us.

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And Banff…I’ll never forget the sunny afternoon we spent paddling around Lake Moraine’s crystal blue waters in a little canoe, surrounded by snow-capped mountains.  That trip was also the scene of my first and only bear sighting!

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Here’s to hoping that little Schnell shares our affinity for travel and adventure – there’s a big, beautiful world out there!

Happy Fourth, indeed.  I love me a mid-week holiday, and we made this one count.  Shane met up with the guys early this morning for a bike ride and run, and I enjoyed a leisurely morning at home, doing a little baking and catching up on the latest Princess Kate news via the Today Show (have you ever seen a smaller 9-month baby bump?!).  Shane came home around 10 and we and drove over to Jason and Nancy’s for a brunch bonanza – mimosas (gosh, I miss champagne…), breakfast sandwiches, and several hours of doting on Jack and La Verne’s sweet baby Nico.  Shane can be pretty intimidated by the fragility of newborns, but once he was finally coaxed into taking the baby in his arms, his fears waned as his heart-strings were tugged.  That’s one crazy-adorable little boy.

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Shane has been complaining lately about his limited wardrobe, and I had a Banana Republic coupon I couldn’t bear to waste, so we headed to the outlets in the afternoon to get my man some new duds.  He scored big – one pair of jeans, two button-downs, and four t-shirts for $120!  I seriously lamented the fact that they don’t have a maternity section.  Although technically, I suppose I could be wearing Shane’s clothes these days – I’m quickly closing the weight gap between us!

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After an impromptu test drive of a Prius V at the Toyota dealership (we were in the new car market for all of 45 minutes, but that quickly passed) I spent the evening working on our nursery mural.  Per my typical overly-ambitious tendencies, I grossly underestimated the amount of time this project would take, but it’s nearly done and it looks good.  Our kid better like gray and white.

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Shane made tacos for dinner and I sighed a contented sigh as I put my feet up, propped my plate on my (festively clothed!) belly, and gave thanks for good friends, for good food, for a blessed day off.  Happy Independence Day, folks.

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We have slowly but surely been making room for baby in our house – we had an entire room of stuff to toss or donate or squirrel away in other closets.  And Operation Organize is nearly complete, which means our extra upstairs bedroom is empty and ready for Operation Nursery.  I’ve had lots of fun dreaming about what this room could be, imagining myself rocking a baby to sleep in a comfy glider or pulling a book off a shelf to read our toddler a bedtime story.  We’re keeping it modern and simple, relatively quiet with a few pops of color through art and books.  Tomorrow we finish painting and do one final round of glider-shopping.  Then it’s time to hang shelves and buy a crib and make art for the walls.  This very well might be my favorite home improvement project yet…

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the 411:

Paint: “Storm” by Valspar

Graham Glider by West Elm

Tripod End Table by Urban Outfitters

Ada Table Lamp by CB2

Hudson Crib by babyletto

Malm Dresser by Ikea

Animal Prints by Avalisa

Books, books, books!

Paris Screen Print by Famille Summerbelle

I still remember the day we closed on our house.  After 7 years of being renters, moving every year to a different apartment, we were settling down into a place of our very own.  Ohhhh, I was excited – I had picked up a gallon of paint on our way to get the keys and was rolling that blue-gray on the walls before we’d moved even a single box into the place.  Add a smattering of framed photos to the wall, some orange-red damask curtains fashioned out of remnants from the Joann Fabrics clearance bin, and I was really starting to feel like all those years of watching Trading Spaces had finally paid off.

Those rash, antsy-new-home-owner decorating decisions have served us well over the last six years – I was really content in our cozy little living room…until we visited Mitch and Kathryn a few weeks ago and I went a little gaga over their new deep gray bedroom walls.  That blue I had loved quickly lost its charm.  And then I started looking at our photos more closely – good Lord, when was the last time I had updated anything on that wall?  And black picture frames?  Ugh.  I was so over those black picture frames – they needed to be white.  And bigger.  With large mats.  Set against a warm gray wall.  Stat!  I was suddenly jonesin’ for change in a bad, bad way.  A couple of trips to Lowes for paint and supplies, one 9 pm mad dash to IKEA for picture frames, an online print order to Costco for the photos, and I busted this facelift out in just a few days – it’s done!  And we love it.  For now. (Gray is the new blue, but it’s only a matter of time before green is the new gray.)

The deets:

Wall Color:  Valspar ‘Cathedral Gray’

Frames:  IKEA ‘Ribba’

Photos:  mine, printed at Costco