Backyard Transformation: DIY Paver Patio

Our house continues to become a home, one project at a time. Since buying the Apple House in October 2018, we have demolished walls, refloored the entire upstairs, gutted the bathroom, changed windows, and painted every wall and ceiling. With warmer weather and COVID keeping us home, Spring 2020 was the perfect excuse to complete another project as well: designing and constructing our own backyard paver patio.

Continue reading “Backyard Transformation: DIY Paver Patio”

Watching Grass Grow

I am amazed that it is already mid-June. Michigan has been a dealt a very wet and cool summer thus far, but G and I continue to design our house into a home. One very big project that will be stretching across the summer and into the fall is regaining control of our unbelievably jungle-like yard. There was a weekend in April where my husband said, “I’m going to go mow the grass.” and next I knew there was a waving tree outside our bedroom window — he was wrestling one of the many spindles down in the backyard. Since that weekend, many a hosta has been removed from our yard, grass has been seeded, and trunks ground down.

The following are images of parts of the yard in their “Before” state followed by images of their “Current” state. Within the next few months, I’ll share how progress is going and debut the completed lawn look.

The first area of hard work outside was the Northside of our home. When we initially looked at our home prior to putting an offer down, we knew this side of the house would require extensive work. You’ll notice a hole or two in the “Before” shot, but the photo does not do the yard justice. In fact, where the dirt is shown was like walking through landmines — you never knew when your foot was going to fall through the ground and into the cavern beneath. When G and his dad dug a large trench here, they found numerous twisting root systems from hundreds of plants that came and went over the years. The result was a thin layer of dirt over the roots and a trampoline-feeling ground which was perilous to walk. Fearing for anyone’s safety and for the drainage on this side of the house, G tackled this area before even considering any other part of the yard.

As I said, he and his dad initially had to dig a trench the length of the house and width of that dirty area below. It was not an easy job! Then he painted the base of the house, and lay drainage piping into the backyard from the front downspout. This piping was to decrease any erosion in the future and hopefully dissuade any future caverns being created like there was previously. Next G refilled the trench with stone and dirt, and laid grass-seed and hay on top. This was all done mid-April, and we now have a thick patch of grass taking root.

The backyard will be a continuous work-in-progress over the next year or two. However, G and I have been working tirelessly to remove and/or move plants around to make the yard more usable. We have removed all the trees except our magnolia, and most of the random hostas and grasses growing in the middle of the yard. It is beginning to look more like a yard than a jungle!

Mostly, the backyard needed a lot of cleanup on top of removal of random pieces. The green single-pane windows that were not beneficial to our energy bill have been removed and rehung with double-pane Pellas. Unfortunately this little project came a bit quicker than anticipated after I caught my hand through the middle window during a clumsy accident. (No trip to the ER was necessary, but I do have a cool scar now – whoops!) The back screen door was thrown away and the back door was replaced with a steel door for security purposes also. G has patched up a few of the cracks in the foundation that are due to settling over the years, and we plan to paint the base soon.

We also have a pile of 300 foot-by-foot blocks to build a 12 foot x 24 foot patio outside the backdoor, and a fire ring with bricks to design a hang-out area. We already use our backyard weekly, but we’re looking forward to creating this outdoor space to enjoy the sunsets that can be seen over the field behind our home.

The latest area of work has been the South side of our home. Originally, there was a small landing that boasted several overgrown bushes behind a small fence and a busted rocking bench. We have removed the landing completely with only the rocky underlay still there. G dug out a trench (in-progress shot below), painted the house-base, and placed drainage from our front downspout to go down to the backyard. He also removed all the bushes and overgrowth pictured below and we have since planted grass along the entire decline.

I’m excited to see where our yard continue to grow. G and I have a lot of plans, but patience is key to having them come to fruition.

I have been loving seeing what plants pop up around the yard and deciding whether to keep them and/or move them. As someone who was not gifted with a green thumb, I am always looking for suggestions and advice on how to better our yard, specifically with plant recommendations, so please share!

Happy planting, my friends,


Our Bathroom Remodel

In October I shared with you that the first big project G and I were undertaking with our home would be remodeling our bathroom. (You can see our plans for this remodel here.) As our one and only bathroom in the house, this remodel had to be done quickly, yet accurately. Luckily I know two of the most hardworking, dedicated, and talented men available to do the job: my husband and my dad.

These two worked their butts off. G and my dad started the project on Friday, December 21st and completed everything except the closet shelves and decor details by Wednesday, January 2nd. The only piece of the original bathroom which remained was the toilet. The guys gutted the walls, rewired the electric, created a fan vent through the roof, replumbed, and brought in a new tub/shower and vanity. Plus, they hung dry wall, painted, and laid tiling on the floor. It was a rough way to spend the holiday break, but the final result was well-worth it — G and I could not be more happy with our new bathroom.

Since moving into our new home at the end of September 2018, G and I dealt with our bathroom in the state below:

The flooring did not match. The wallpaper was peeling from the walls. Our mirror was hanging from the wall light with a bread-bag tie due to exposed (hot) wires behind it. And our shower was a walk-in that took up space where we were already lacking. We bought the house knowing the bathroom would be our first remodel.

The remodel began with gutting the walls to the studs. We removed the walk-in shower/tub and replaced it with a light-weight Vikrell bathtub and a shower wall. We had considered tiling the shower area but decided that, with our time crunch issue, the one-piece surround would be as nice. We’re happy with this decision as the surround we chose has six shelves, plenty to hold the majority of our shower necessities.

Then came some of the more technical steps of the remodel: rewiring the electricity, replumbing with PVC piping, venting the fan through the roof, and setting the subfloor. I won’t pretend to know more about these steps than their general idea. All I know is the bathroom increased in outlets so I could use a hair dryer and straightener at the same time, and that our fan is now functional. Thank goodness for handy men!

Being such a small bathroom, I chose a very light color for our walls: Valspar’s White Sage. I matched our shower curtain — which is a treescape of dark grey fading to soft green — to the wall color in-store and am happy for the slight touch of color the walls now offer. Set against our white-and-gray tiling, the bathroom looks bright and calming.

The vanity has a similar veining as our tiles as well. We were able to find a vanity short enough to allow smooth passage into the bathroom, but also full of storage space underneath. Our mirror and wilderness painting were both gifted to us, and fit perfectly into the aesthetic of the space. All our finishings (the faucets, hooks, and rods) are the brushed nickle Lilyfield style found at Lowes. And our wall light, which has the appearance of dew-drops over candlelight, are the Alexa model made by Progress Lighting.

Following the main haul of the remodel, G and I had been patiently using the bathroom to see what changes needed to be made before finishing its completion. We realized right away that our daily necessities, such as toothbrushes and hair tools, needed to be easily accessible. I found these great racks on Amazon which now house these things for us right next to the sink — and I would highly recommend them to anyone! We also decided to utilize an additional shower caddy because even six shelves weren’t sufficient for all our shower needs.

And, after nearly three months, G and I finished our bathroom closet as well! My vision of open shelves came to pass with the help of my very talented husband:

Now I am no longer storing all our cleaning, medical, and bath supplies in the office. I never realized just how often I used ibuprofen and body lotion until when it wasn’t within direct proximity of the shower/sink! Our shelves, which G sawed, fastened, and stained, are 27 inches deep and over 36 inches wide. Plenty of space to store even the most unused oddity for our personal care needs.

I could not be happier with how our bathroom turned out or prouder of what G and my dad accomplished. Plus, watching this cute guy working to create a piece of our home was a great way to spend my holiday break…

Next on our list is the exterior of the house. Not only do we plan to remove most of the foliage from the back and front yards, we also have to redo drainage along the sides of our basement (we have a walkout), build a deck on the front and a patio in the backyard, and redo landscaping. It is going to take a lot of elbow grease and dirty clothes, but we’re excited to get our little home sparkling from the outside as well as the in!

Have you done any DIY projects on your house? Please share your stories and/or pictures in the comment below!

Happy projects ahead, friends,




*Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any businesses mentioned in this post. I did not receive any free merchandise and/or advertisement perks for mentioning their products.

DIY Faux Floating Shelves

As you know, G and I recently moved into our first home and are currently in the process of getting the house together. We are slowly going room to room. We have already demolished a wall between the dining room and living room to provide the house with an open concept floor plan, switched the old electrical fuse panel to a modern breaker box, and had the main cast iron water line replaced to PVC piping. This is all on top of painting our main rooms and doing some major cleaning as well.

The living room is our main focus now. Before we even moved in, I had stripped the room of wallpaper, painted the walls a simple gray, and pulled all the old trim work from the windows and baseboards. G and my dad finished flooring the living room last weekend, and so now comes the decorating and finishing touches — my favorite part! So to the delight of my inner interior decorater, I decided to hang some “floating” shelves in the living room. These shelves are do-it-yourself, and appear to be floating but are actually faux floating. They are the perfect inexpensive addition to our social space!

I looked at alternative options for quite a bit of time before decided to DIY. I considered ladder shelves, bookcases, and actual floating shelves for this space. All were incredibly more expensive than I was hoping to spend — over $200 for any quality products. Instead, I set my mind to creating my own shelves for the decorative space. Here is how I made my Faux Floating Shelves:


  1. 2 x 10 pieces of wood pre-cut to 3 feet in length — I bought 4 pieces but only used 3 after seeing them on the wall hung. (Helpful tip: hardware stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot will cut longer pieces for you at no charge.)
  2. 4″ corner (sometimes called L) brackets — I used 2 braces per shelf.
  3. #12 x 2 1/4 inch wood screws (flat Phillips head) — I used 2 screws per brace.
  4. #12 x 3/4 inch wood screws (flat Phillips head) — I used 2 screws per brace.
  5. Wood stain, stir stick, paint brush/foam brush, work rags — I used Minwax PolyShade in Espresso Satin as my wood stain.
  6. Sanding tool and sand paper — I used both 120 and 220 coarse sand paper.

To hang the shelves you may want:

  • Level
  • Stud-finder
  • Pencil (to mark where screws will be places in the walls)
  • Phillips screw driver
  • Power drill (with bits to drill into wall and studs, screw braces in place, and pilot holes in wood)
  • Second person for longer shelves

Prepping Your Wood Shelves

Step 1: Sand the wood
Sanding your shelves is important as it not only smooths the surface of the wood, but also reduces streaking of the wood stain. I bought pre-cut wood pieces that have a bullnose to them, but they still needed quite a bit of sanding. Be sure to sand the flat surfaces as well as all the corners and edges. Wipe the dust away with a cloth while also feeling if the cloth snags anywhere. When sanded correctly and completely, your wood pieces should be smooth to the touch with no slivers sticking to your hands and/or a clean cloth.

Step 2: Stain the wood
I had never stained wood prior to this project, so I was excited to practice something new. Your wood stain should come with directions on the can, so I urge you to begin here. Be sure to stir your stain from the bottom up! Stroke the stain with the grain of the wood evenly and cover the top surface and all edges.

I waited about 10-12 minutes per piece and then took old rags and wiped the stain away. The color I chose, espresso, was dark after one coat and I felt that was sufficient to match my living room furniture. If you would like a darker color after your first coat of stain, simply repeat this step until you get the color for which you are looking.

Step 3: Allow resting dry time
I stained my wood pieces in the basement, though I have heard of some people staining outside due to the strong smell. We’re having an overly rainy autumn here in Michigan, so this option was out for me. I set up two saw horses and placed two boards on them at a time to stain. Once I had the top surfaces and edges stained and wiped, I allowed two hours of dry time before flipping them and staining the bottom. I probably should have been more patient with this step because two of the boards did have small indents on the first sides from the saw horses because they were still a bit wet. However, I allowed the second side to dry almost 24 hours before handling them again which seemed to be a good enough amount of time.

Another option you may choose to do is seal your wood pieces. I bought wood stain which supposedly has seal in it, but I also so not plan to handle my shelves too much once they are hung other than changing seasonal decorations. Sealing is completely up to you, and if you choose to add this step, I would love to hear your results — does it change the color at all? Do you see a difference between sealed wood and unsealed wood with past projects? As a first-timer, I’m curious.


Hanging Your Faux Floating Shelves

Step 1: Determine placement of first shelf
I recruited a cute helper for hanging my faux floating shelves. G and I measured how far from the floor we needed the first shelf to be hung. As I wanted to have enough space for a basket or two of blanket beneath the shelving unit, we settled for two feet from the ground. Using a stud finder, G located the 16 inch difference we would need to place our shelf’s two brackets. Luckily for us, we were setting our shelves directly to the corner of the room, and the brackets were almost dead-center to the shelves. I bought pine laminate boards which were already heavy enough on their own, so it was imperative we anchor the wall screws into a stud to handle as much weight as possible.

Step 2: Hang first shelf
Once we anchored one bracket into the wall, we leveled and placed the second bracket as well. After the brackets were secured into the wall, we placed the board on top of them. I chose to level again just to confirm our prior measurements. Except for the board being a bit bowed in the front-left corner, the shelf remained level. G had me put weight onto the board as he screwed the 3/4″ wood screws into the bottom brackets to hold the shelf. It is important to note we primed these holes first in order for the wood not to split. I then took a dry cloth to the top surface and wiped all drywall dust away and — voila! We had our first faux floating shelf.

Step 3: Coordinate your other shelves
Having our first shelf complete meant we had a solid foundation to hang our other shelves. After arranging the second shelf around, I settled on a distance of 18″ between the shelves. G marked this distance and we set out to hang our second and third shelves in the same fashion as our first. When I had a look at three shelves, however, I decided not to hang my fourth. There was a perfect space above the shelves where I could envision placing either a clock or a seasonal wreath, so G and I put our tools aside and stepped back to enjoy our handiwork.

Which leads me to our final step…

Step 4: Decorate!
Always my favorite, decorating the shelves has been fun with our seasonal treats. I absolutely love Fall, textures, and neutrals with little pops of color, so having the shelves ready in time for October was perfect!

As you can see, I’m continuing to play with how I want the shelves decorated. Our living room has also gained more and more furniture over the past few weeks, including a beautiful area rug and (eek! my favorite!) a beautiful espresso-colored faux fireplace TV console.

Interested in a few of my decor pieces you see?

  • Frames around pictures: all bought at Michaels
  • Framed quote: handmade by my amazing friend Toto ❤
  • Mini felt board: wedding gift from Panda bought here
  • “S” Pumpkin, galvanized “S”, and hanging “S”: all gifted from Kohls
  • Fall floral: top shelf are stems bought at Michaels I put together into an old vase I had sitting around and some brown coffee filters, middle shelf was bought at Michaels, and bottom shelf is a leaf garland placed into one of our wedding centerpiece vases
  • White lantern: bought for our wedding centerpieces (I bought mine for a steal off eBay, but they are available on Amazon as well.)
  • Blanket basket: also from Michaels — I kinda of love that store.
    And last but not least…
  • My Mickey Mouse Hatbox Ghost Nutcracker — a special surprise from G last Christmas. I am honestly not sure where he found him because this nutcracker has been out of stock online for quite some time and is only available in-store at the Disney parks. However, I collect nutcrackers for Christmas and this Haunted Mansion version has been on my wishlist for some time. He is perfect for the entire Fall and Winter seasons.

We’re planning to get baseboard trimming done this coming weekend, and then our living will be complete.

I absolutely love these shelves and could not be happier with our little social space. If you have any questions while attempting this project, please leave a comment below!

Find this post helpful? Pin it!


Happy hanging, friends, 

Bathroom Remodel: Inspiration

As the excitement of buying a home is nowhere near wearing off, G and I are constantly crossing out, reorganizing, and creating new ideas on projects we want to do to our new house. The house is a great little place already, and it has perfect bones, but it is in need of some modernizing. Plus both of us are handy, creative, and excited to make this little place our own.

One of our first BIG projects will be remodeling our bathroom. This is our only bathroom in the house (though we have plans to add an additional full bathroom downstairs in the faraway future.) The bathroom currently features a walk-in bathtub, small entry to the hallway’s linen closet, and an oddly proportioned laundry chute. Honestly, the shoot is only 3 inches wide and wouldn’t allow more than a pair of socks down it.

Being our only bathroom, when we finally bite the bullet and begin our remodel, we want to have all our plans laid out and materials purchased to make the project as quick as possible. This means we’ve been having a lot of fun walking through Lowes and scrolling through Pinterest for design ideas. We have many ideas of what we like, but I still have a few questions and prospects rolling around my head. So I’m bringing my ideas to you, friends, and asking for advice and suggestions before G and I begin stripping our only bathroom and remodeling.

First, our current layout. Our bathroom is long and narrow.  Currently, the left-hand corner directly inside the door is partitioned off and hiding the HVAC system. This is also where our unhelpful laundry chute hides. To the right of the door is a half-door which opens to a linen closet accessible through the hallway as well. The walk-in tub takes up a lot of space on the right wall as well, and a small vanity and toilet sit on the left wall along with a medicine cabinet and wall shelving unit. The walls are wallpapered with a floral design, and the flooring is laminate tiling.

The pictures above are proportionate to our bathroom’s measurements and show a very simple layout of what we are seeking. I would like to eliminate the laundry chute altogether and have the wall directly to the left of the door painted and blank. Being the bathroom is long and narrow, the space is limited and I want to make the room feel as large as possible. This means we are aiming for as much openness and lightness as we can create. The walls will be painted a light bluish-gray and the flooring will be the same as throughout the entire house: light pine with streaks of gray.

As we move into the bathroom, to the left will remain our vanity and toilet. We were leaning more towards a dark walnut vanity, but after perusing Lowes’ options and tackling Pin after Pin of bathroom-scapes, we decided to find a white vanity instead. We want to keep in mind that we’re aiming to make the bathroom feel larger than it is, and the dark cabinet would make for a shock with a white toilet and white bathtub at the base of the room. We felt white was more subtle to the overall ambiance. G likes vanities which have symmetry and bases to the ground for easier cleaning purposes. I, however, am liking styles more like the one in the bottom right-hand corner above.  I can see a very cute basket with towels resting on that lower shelf — ideal for my inner-host to squeal with joy.

We want to have a  large mirror above the vanity. Though we’re torn if this should be a darker tone or brushed nickel like our hardware. As our theme in the bathroom is outdoorsy, I am looking for a frame that is rustic-esque.  Above the mirror would rest a light, and I am really digging the fixture above because it looks a bit like candlelight. With our hardware brushed nickel, the bathroom’s ultimate color scheme will be cool and relaxing.

To the left of the vanity and mirror will be a recessed medicine cabinet. I am trying to decide if I prefer the picture hiding the cabinet or the open cabinet. Hmm… what do you think?

Moving past the vanity we find the toilet. This is pretty straight forward, right? Above the toilet, though, would be something similar to this:

I have never been a huge fan of shelves above the toilet and would rather have the wall decorated with a cute outdoors-themed sign and greenery. I’m loving the simple flower pails in this image and could easily replicate this to add some texture to the bathroom.

Moving on to the right side of the bathroom, we will find a soaking bathtub and shower. We plan to encase the shower in white subway tiles and have a recessed shelving unit similar to the larger one pictured below.

Directly to the right of the entrance door, we are going to close off the linen closet to the bathroom and only make it accessible through the hall.

Last but not least, we registered for our shower curtain and received it as a wedding gift. It is so beautiful, and I cannot wait for it to be the final touch to the bathroom. The grayish-blue trees match our wall color perfectly, and the white background will only help with making the bathroom appear larger.

I’ll update on our bathroom remodel when we take the first swing of the sledgehammer to the walls. Until then, please feel free to share any advice or suggestions which you feel might extenuate our future bathroom!

Thanks so much, friends,