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.

House Hunting Adventures v. 3

Lesson Learned v. 3: Don’t Force Feelings

G and I are loving being homeowners. We are continually working to make our new house a home and have completed a number of projects thus far. These include demolishing the wall between the dining room and living room, repainting six rooms, reflooring five rooms, trimming rooms, and hanging blinds. We both have the week of Christmas off in order to gut our bathroom and remodel. It has been quite the adventure already!

It seems crazy that we’ve only lived in our house for a little over two months. Not even four months ago we were casually house-hunting. I’ve shared with you our first six house visits here and here, but I have one final story in that journey to tell. It took visiting three more houses for us to find our little lovely corner of Southwest Michigan. Here are those final three tales…

Family friends lived around the corner of House #7 and brought it to G’s and my attention. This old farmhouse was exactly what we had been searching for: it lay on a beautiful country lot, it had a large garage and interior rooms, and it was within our price range. It had its quirks such as a door which opened to a brick chimney and awkward closet placements. However, we both shrugged our shoulders at those knowing we had witnessed worse issues. Following a tour of the first and second floors, we were pretty set to make an offer. Then our agent, Dawn, directed us to the basement.

Ah, yes, another basement story…

The basement was another dreary and wet Michigan basement. There was your typical cobwebs, dirt clumps, and steel support jacks.

That’s right.

Steel. Support. Jacks.

It seemed the house’s owners were attempting to prevent any sort of floor collapse from the early-season flooding by propping the entire house up with two jacks. These jacks were about a foot in diameter and rested at two opposing corners of the two-story home. In addition to the jacks, many of the floor rafters were strapped with steel bands where large cracks had appeared. Thankfully the day we visited was a calm, pleasant day outside because I worried what might happen if the wind blew.

Hundreds of questions flooded my mind. How long would this house remain standing? Were the jacks sufficient? What sort of additional support would be necessary in the future? Had an inspector seen this?

As we drove away, G and I discussed a lot of our questions and decided we would sleep on the house and rejoin the next day to talk more. We loved everything about the house. We wanted to say yes. We wanted to place an offer. But ultimately our gut told us that House #7 was not our forever-home.  So we passed and went on to House #8.

House #8 rested in a cute neighborhood close to the state highway. It was probably the most modern and cleanest house we visited, and G and I both liked it. A lot. There was a decent-sized kitchen, a large living room, a two-car garage, and each of the three bedrooms were decently sized.

Though we couldn’t disagree the house had a lot of potential to be our First Home, we had one concern. There was no property. Directly to each side of the house was a neighbor not even 10 feet away. The backyard was fenced, but was only about 30 square feet in size. This wouldn’t be a big issue if the house weren’t also one of the more expensive homes we viewed. Yes, that price included many modern features and the lack of much work needing to be done — House #8 was definitely turn-key ready. Yet we knew within a few years and a child or two we’d have to move.

Moving wasn’t a deal-breaker, but we had gone into our house-hunting adventure with an agreement we’d search for a home with “Forever Home” potential. House #8 held no future promise once our family grew.

Since we said no to House #8 strictly on the principle of size, I’m not sure why we ventured into House #9. This little place was a mere 780 square feet.

I guess we simply wanted to leave our apartment where our upstairs neighbor’s bathroom water was flowing down our kitchen wall. Ugh.

House #9 made for a quick visit because there was not much house to see. A kitchen, a bathroom, a living room — all small. Not to mention the two bedrooms which couldn’t accommodate our party of three (G, Dawn, and me.) let alone a bed sized larger than a double. It was a nice house, but did not fit our needs.

As we pulled the door shut of House #9, I turned to Dawn. The mid-July sun was setting when I said, “I think we’re going to wait and start hunting again in the Spring.”

G agreed, “We are getting disheartened, and with the extra time we can save more on a down payment and look into a higher house-purchase bracket.”

Dawn nodded knowingly, understanding our dilemma. We went into this adventure with no pressure and we easily could wait until Spring to find a house. There was the potential housing prices might increase, but G and I had already spoken on the topic and were willing to wait. We started walking to our cars. Then Dawn turned to us.

“No pressure, but there is one more house we could look at tonight. I showed a couple earlier who decided to pass on it. Its currently vacant so we could stop by since its on the way home for us both. It is a solid house.”

G and I looked at one another and shrugged. “Might as well.”

And with that, we drove into our future because that random little house ended up being our First Home.

Onto the next project, 

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:

SUPPLIES

  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!

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Happy hanging, friends,