Category Archives: The Renovation Journal

A Giant 10th Birthday Post

When I promised extra posting this week, I did not anticipate the wind storm that took out our internet access.  Sorry about that!

Sweater first? “Reversible Revelation” in Wool of the Andes Superwash, color: “Brass Heather”.  As the name implies, it is, in fact, reversible.  There is no right side.  Each has it’s own distinctive look:

This seemed like an excellent idea for a kid who often can’t be bothered with paying attention to what way his clothes go on.  At least for my benefit anyway, since he doesn’t really care if it’s inside out or not.  Hey, he’ll happily walk around wearing just one shoe, while I look on cringing.

The waitress at the college town, hipster, juice bar made a fuss about his “fashionable” ensemble; mama-made pants and sweater, topped with his spiffy hand-me-down brown cord blazer.  Dapper.

Food: This year we decorated gingerbread houses, instead of his usual gingerbread men. Autoimmune Friendly Gingerbread with Creamy Maple Frosting, made fancy with dried fruit and what we call “Yam Creamies”, which I’ll talk more about some other time.  We’re still on the intro diet and not supposed to be consuming sweets, but I made an exception for his birthday (and ended up with several people up half the night with belly aches as a consequence.  such is life.)

And now, the big, top secret project!  It pretty much all worked out as planned. In under three hours, while he was at said juice bar, followed by the music shop with my dad, this space…

became this…

The only part that didn’t quite work out was the light fixture.  I accidentally ordered a plug-in fixture when I meant to get one to wire in.  There are no outlets in that hallway.  But otherwise, somewhat miraculously, everything came together exactly as I had planned.

Both a space to work and create as well as a place to read and relax, plus extra storage besides, was asking a lot out of this petite 38″ x 66″ space.  The window seat has a hinged lid, with lots of storage space underneath, to help lighten the load in Iain’s attic bedroom (hence the boxes in the “before” photo).  I tried to work with what we had as much as possible.  The valence-hung on a rod my neighbor was getting rid of- and the divider curtain were both made from fabric I had on hand.  One of the pillow covers was fashioned from an old work shirt of Steve’s.  My sister painted those sweet pandas several years ago.  I’ve just been waiting for the right place to hang them in this house.  I love how the painting perfectly picks up the colors from all the pillows.  I’m ashamed to say it was an afterthought that just happened to work out brilliantly.

We managed to frame the window seat and build the stool with scraps of lumber from the basement.  We adjusted Ana White’s X-Bench plans to fit the space and finished it with some leftover General Finishes Milk Paint in “Persian Blue”.  It tucks all the way under the $20 cleaned up Craig’s List desk to save space.  A couple of old items refreshed by mingling with a few new accessories and just like that, he has his very own cozy nook crafted out of an area that was previously unused space.  Pretty nifty, that!



I want to be finishing up Galen’s birthday sweater.  His birthday is in three weeks.  I only have the sleeves left to go, which should be easy, except I’m always afraid to take it out and start working.  He keeps popping down at night, for all manner of reasons.  I really think that there is some sort of conspiracy amongst my children to stop me from getting a decent night’s sleep ever.

Beyond Lyme Disease reads rather like a school report, but there is a lot of information in it.  I’m sick of trying to be informed.  Trying to find answers.  Trying to get better.  Bleh.  So much of life wasted on something I would prefer to ignore.  But can’t.  sigh.

Bark is fabulous.  The younger kids and I have been working with it on Woods Day.  The older boys can already identify all the trees in our area, dormant or not.

I’m trying to get back into the habit of daily walks.  We need it.  I need it.

Iain, Elijah and I are working on a large project for Galen’s 10th birthday.  I have no pictures of that.  We work on the one night of the week when he’s at dance.  We run around like crazy people every moment that he’s away.  Just a few minutes before he walks in the door, we rush about packing up saws, sweeping and dusting off sawdust and generally trying to hide every sign of our efforts.  We try not to pant as all causal like we greet him, behaving just as though we spent the evening lounging about, leisurely cooking dinner.

We’re trying to convert a section of our upstairs hallway into a little mini-room, a cosy-creative nook just for him.  It’s supposed to be a surprise.  We’re kind of trying to do a custom pre-fab, sort of thing.  We’re making all of the pieces in chunks so that they can be rapidly installed on the morning of his birthday while he’s on a little outing.  There are so many ways that this can go wrong, but he’s going to be absolutely thrilled if all goes right.


about a dresser

My Grandmother was a mother of 7, grandmother to 24.  As such I imagine she knew quite a bit about fixing things up and the curative power of paint.

When my mother was pregnant with me, Gram found this dresser on the side of the road, waiting for the trash pick up.  She brought it home and fixed it up, adding a new coat of paint, complete with faux wood grain.  Since that time it’s been a constant in my life.  It’s one of the few pieces we managed to save when we lost just about everything to our mold infested old house.  Once, about a decade ago, I was tempted to paint it.  I slapped on a splotch of primer to see how if it would take and that’s how it remained.  Somewhere along the way I got nostalgic, and once my grandma passed away, I just left it as it was, a symbol of an act of love.  Over the years it’s been moved many times.  During one of those moves we discovered the newspaper stuck to the bottoms of the feet, with little snippets of news from the year of my birth.  Recently we noticed the date stamped on the back, confirming it’s manufacture in 1954.

I/we are working on a long term project, trying to turn the little room off our dinning area into a studio space.  The goal is to purchase only paint for the walls and a light fixture, for everything else we are going to work with what we have.

I’ve been using this dresser for fabric storage for quite a while now.  I seriously considered leaving it as it was.  The main factor that swayed me is that at this point it’s chipping quite a bit and considering it’s age, who knows what’s underneath and with another little one in the house, putting everything into her mouth, it seemed time.

Not bad for something that was considered trash 34 years ago!We used all products that we had on hand.  Once the creamy white (Olde Century Colors in ‘Candlelight’) was on, it looked so fresh and clean that I doubted my plans, hemming and hawing….fuss, fuss, fuss.  I can make myself sick of the simplest of decisions.  But I really wanted the beautiful curvy bits to stand out.  I eventually worked up the nerve to experiment with adding some General Finishes Glaze Effects in Van Dyke Brown on the body.  I compromised by leaving the drawer fronts plain, which gives them a little more pop.  It may be a little strange, but I rather like it.  What do you think?


a space for her


This is the little changing area that we set up when I was pregnant with Seraphina.  I’m considering moving it and wanted to have some pictures of it as is, for her baby book.  Steve made the changing table when I was pregnant with Mairi Rose.  We left it unfinished and as she got older it was used as a bookshelf and general storage in various places around the house.  We decided to spruce it up a bit for our new baby with a coat of paint leftover from our bathroom project and some fabric drawers.  I vividly remembered how crazy making it was to try to keep everything from dissolving into utter chaos when just stacked on the shelves.

We splurged on the diaper pail as well.  Some people treat themselves to things like luxury cars.  Us?  We go in for the fancy diaper pails.  This one was pricey- you know, for a diaper pail!  But I have to say that I’ve been cloth diapering babies for the better part of 15 years now and this is by far the best system I’ve ever used.

The mobile in process…there were supposed to be more bunnies and flowers and leaves and things twined in with the grapevine wreath and maybe some birds or bees or butterflies?  But the truth is I haven’t added anything to it in a very long time.  I think the only way it’s ever going to get finished is if I just start calling it finished.

And really that’s about it.  Simple and sweet, just the way I like things.  A basket of diapers and a little wooden bowl with odds and ends; a toy for entertainment, some healing balm, baby nail clippers, that kind of thing, rounds everything out.  Lately she’s been excitedly talking to the little picture of herself, so cute!


about a nightstand

I have a friend who during her pregnancies sets a deadline for when her husband has to be done any and all home improvement projects.  She wants to be sure that he’s not working on anything at all in those last couple months/weeks, no stress, just as much relaxing together as they can fit in.  I’m kind of the opposite…more the rub my hands together with an maniacal gleam in my eye while saying, “so, what else do you think we can get done????  huh, huh, huh???” type.  Which is kind of hilarious since the me part of we is pretty pathetic in the renovation department at the moment.  Under the best of circumstances I can be pretty hardcore.  I’ve installed dishwashers, fixed washing machines, laid flooring, hung joists, hung drywall, poured concrete, scaled the roof to fix second story screens.  I’m game for just about anything.  At the moment, however, I can’t do any lifting, can’t be around paint or finishes and consider the physical act of climbing out of bed a somewhat daunting challenge.  Last week I had to ask Elijah to tie my boots for me.  So, yup, I’m a big help.  Picking out curtains, hanging pictures and maybe a bit of light sewing is pretty much my speed at this point.  Oh, and directing everyone else in what to do.  That’s totally in my wheelhouse.  Which doesn’t at all stop me from wanting to get things done.  Call it nesting if you like, but the truth is I’m pretty much always this way.

For my birthday this year I asked Steve to help me get our bedroom closer to “done”.  As a part of this project he built me a little nightstand.  After intense internal debate on my part and a fair bit of indifference on his, we went with the Ana White Rolling C End Table adjusted to fit our space. I like that it can be pulled over the edge of the bed to be used for writing or eating or anything else of that sort that comes up.

For a finish I just picked a stain that we had around because I didn’t really want to invest much money in it.  It ended up being very close in color to the floor and our bed frame and the co-sleeper, but not quite the same as any of them.  And you would think that would tie it together with the rest of the room, but somehow it just made it look out of place.  I can’t really explain it, but it just looked strange and somehow wrong.

Also, I didn’t like how the wood filler showed through the stain…

Can you see what I mean?

But it was still much better to have a table then to not and I do like it very much.  Then, oh then…the lovely folks at General Finishes offered to send me some samples to play around with…and suddenly there was a whole new world of possibilities.


a previously stated, I’m not really supposed to be around such things at the moment.  But man was I itching to try those out!  It got to the point where I finally bribed persuaded my eldest children to help me in exchange for compensation.  Win-win.

These past few weeks have been so dark and dreary that capturing accurate colors has been difficult, but this is pretty close.  This is the same table after 3 coats of Milk Paint in Somerset Gold.  The milk paint has a really beautiful finish, I can see myself using it for a lot of projects in the future.

After the milk paint we sanded the edges a bit and scuffed it up a little to give it a bit of character (and yes, I actually helped with this part).  Perhaps it’s a bit strange to distress a piece of furniture that has such a modern shape?  I just really felt drawn to soft, muted tones in this space.

Next came a layer of Glaze Effects in Van Dyke Brown.  And this is where I would really have liked to been able to work on it myself.  I tried as best as I could to describe the look I was aiming for and they tried as best as they could to do what I asked, but I still think it would have gone better if I had been the one to actually apply it.  After the glaze, the whole thing was topped with 3 coats of High Performance Top Coat.  I think it’s going to hold up very well.

You’ll have to wait for final room pictures to see it in place, but I think I like it.  It provides a gentle pop of color but without being jarring.


Elijah’s Equestrian Art Room


When we first moved in this room was the subject of much speculation.  In a house were every other room was painted the brightest, most vibrant colors, this room was beige to the extreme.  Beige carpets, beige walls, beige trim.  Perhaps they hadn’t decided on the right vivid color yet?  I suspect that there was one person in the family who craved a calm neutral space.  Steve’s theory is that it was the punishment room…”that’s it no more color for you young man!”


The details:

He chose the paint color: Yolo Colorhouse Leaf .07.

The flooring is a local wide plank white pine.

I made the valences and the curtain for the closet door for his birthday.  The valences are burlap leftover from the table coverings from our vow renewal.  The horse fabric came from this Etsy shop.

The little bookshelf was built by Steve several years ago.  The desk was another birthday present.  Steve built it by modifying the Narrow Farmhouse Table plans by Ana White to fit the space. (yup, we’re still pretty crazy about Ana here)  Elijah and I talked a lot about how best to finish it.  He wanted both wood grain and color and he wanted it to be unique.  Inspiration finally came in the form of these wooden bowls.  I used General Finishes Water Base Dye Stain in both green and blue, layering one over the other and rubbing it away in parts to give it the uneven appearance, featuring many different shades.

Owl stencil here.  We decided that the shape of the owl was most like a Great Horned Owl.  That’s what I based the colors and shading off of.  After the initial stenciling, I came back in and added some free hand details and connected all of the pieces.

The lamp over the bed.  The desk lamp came from Goodwill.

The hammock chair was a gift from my sister.

The rug by the bed was Galen’s Christmas present to Elijah last year, made of wool roving, woven on a peg loom.  We dyed the wool for the middle with oak leaves.

And all of the artwork, of course, is his own.  He highly recommends the following books: Draw and Paint Realistic Horses and Drawing Horses: A Complete Drawing Kit for Beginners.


Renovation Journal: Our Bedroom

When we first looked at this house, one of the few things that we found off putting were the bedrooms.  I thought about it a bit after we left and realized that in recent years we’ve become rather spoiled with unique, sometimes historical (see here and here for glimpses of the bedroom we shared in a home built in the 1790′s, complete with the original hand carved “nails” holding up the wood beams), sometimes large and stunning, always somewhat unusual bedrooms.  I had to give myself a bit of a talking to because really the bedrooms we had just toured were exactly like most people’s bedrooms; a simple square carpeted room with a closet.  Once that really sunk in, I relaxed about it and began thinking of ways to add charming details that would make our spaces feel less mundane and more uniquely us.  It took a little convincing, but I was able to persuade Steve into seeing that with the two of us working at it, we could find a way to make almost any space special and home-like.  And so we moved forward and I think (hope) that he’s glad we did.  I know I am.


It’s not just a trick of the light, two walls were painted a kind of fuchsia color and two bubble gum.

It is not done yet.  Both the doors still need to be painted.  The closets need baseboards and well, doors.  There is a wall mounted heater that we’d like to get rid of.  But, the carpeted floors are now wide-plank pine, we added some character with a board and batten treatment (tutorials on this can be found all over the web), the cracked plastic switch plate and outlet covers have been traded out for solid wood ones and everything has received many coats of paint….

Paint info: The trim and lower section of the walls are Yolo’s Imagine .04, which is the same classic linen white that we used for trim throughout the second floor.  The upper part of the walls and ceiling are a bit of a mystery.  They started out Yolo’s Sprout .03, which is a beautiful color, but I felt that it was really too dark for the space.  So after painting the entire thing that color and subsequently deciding I couldn’t live with it, I mixed small amounts of Sprout .03 into much larger amounts of Yolo’s Imagine .05, which is an off-white with blue/grey undertones, until I got the color I was looking for.

These photos pre-date our bed moving in and were taken on a day when mother nature was not cooperating, lighting wise.  Due to the cloud cover, the room doesn’t appear nearly as light and airy as it usually does.  I want it to stay fairly simple, but it doesn’t feel quite done as is.  I’ve been studying spaces that I love, trying to determine exactly what it is that appeals to me.  At this point I’m thinking that some curtains of some sort would help.  Perhaps I’ll hang a picture or two.  Our bedding could probably use some upgrading/tweaking.  All of which will have to wait for some room in our budget.  Until then, I am very pleased with how the space is coming along and absolutely tickled pink to be sleeping in our bedroom for the very first time this week!


Renovation Journal: painted

As we were preparing to host our Vow Renewal at our home, there were a lot of little home improvement projects going on.  Not the thorough, detailed, complete make-over type, but the “agh, quick just cover up the worst of it!” type.

This wall below had been driving me crazy since we moved in.  All of those scuff marks and scratches?  They do not come off, not matter how much you scrub.  On the other hand, the paint itself does start to come off, if you scrub hard enough.

This is the first thing you see, once you’ve walked through the mud room, as you are entering our house.  It’s the view at the end of the hall.  When we moved in, there was this weird bracket/brace thing sticking out of the wall that we would often stand around regarding, wondering what on earth it could be supporting.  Turns out it was just a random thing, sticking out of a hole in the wall, for no apparent reason.  Which left us with an oh-so-appealing hole right at eye level.

This wall was not on the original to improve list.  But one day I woke up and decided I couldn’t live with it anymore.  The boys and I came up with a plan, if we timed it just right, we could have this little wall totally made-over before Steve got home from work and surprise him.

  One coat of primer and two coats of Yolo Imagine .04 later…

And I managed to hang a picture of the two of us, right where that hole had been, about 15 minutes before he walked in the door.  And…he didn’t notice.  Any of it.  And this my friends if why Steve does not get to pick paint colors…because what difference would it make to him?  After much laughter, all the kids drug him back and he finally realized why we were all laughing.  This isn’t how I intend to keep this wall long-term, but it’s much, much better for now!

Remember that litttle his and hers series I posted a while back?  There was also supposed to be a “theirs”, I just never got around to it.  The two big boys were looking for a way to earn some extra money, so I hired them to paint the hallway.

It started out this bright tangerine color.

When we were in the process of moving to this house and thinking, thinking, thinking on paint colors, dear Kyrie was also moving to a new home and in the process of picking out paint.  She was on this kick wanting to try something somewhat daring.  She was thinking of painting most of their space a sort of an antique gold color.  The color of beeswax was her inspiration.  At first I didn’t like the idea at all.  But here is the thing…Kyrie’s taste is impeccable.  She creates the warmest, most beautiful and homey spaces, without fail.  Because of that, I keep thinking about it and eventually I think I started obsessing about it.  And finally decided it was just what I was looking for to paint the hall.

I never actually picked out the exact color I was looking for.  When the paint we ordered for Galen’s room came, it wasn’t at all what we expected (another quirk of our monitor), but it was awfully close to my planned hall color.  So the Yolo Grain .03 moved to that hall and we ordered a fresh can of Grain .01 for his room.

The hall color has many different moods.  It’s generally kind of a honey brown.  At night under artificial lighting it looks like coffee ice cream (as seen in the photo above).  During the day, when the sun is shining bright it takes on a golden wheat hue.  I’ll have more photos in more areas and more types of light, as we finish the hallway more completely.  The trim in this space is also Imagine .04, an old-fashioned linen white.

We also replaced the dull recessed lighting with a fixture with a bit more character and (I think anyway) a bit of vintage charm.

On to the porch…

remember the porch?

Due to time constraints, we gave up on the idea of re-screening the whole thing and decided to concentrate on just cleaning it up, painting, replacing light fixtures, etc.  It’s a good thing that we opted to devote a considerable amount of time to this, as our garden ceremony was moved to the porch, at the very last minute, due to unexpected rain.

The ceiling is BEHR Premium Plus Ultra in “Vintage Linen”, further proof that paint color names totally work on me.  All the trim is the same brand in “Ultra White”
(Iain is Irish dancing us back down the aisle here, in case that wasn’t clear)

And the homeschooling room/reception space as shown below.  The walls were seriously mangled and the parts that weren’t striped bare were painted a bold yellow-green.  Since the ceiling and trim wasn’t in bad shape, I just painted the walls, a mellower color; “Soft Celery” by Mythic Paint.

In person it’s not quite as soft as it is in there pictures and it leans just a tiny bit more to mint then I’d like, but overall, I think it’s rather lovely.

All of the before/during pictures above are by me.

Most of the “after” pictures pictures are by Dawn Joseph.