One year ago today…

The renovations started on our house! Some pictures of Demo Day from last year, which is always the most exciting part of the process. :-)

The dumpster arrives!

The dumpster arrives! We had this dumpster in our driveway for 3 months last fall. It was completely full by the time they were done!

Upper cabinets down

Starting to take down the cabinets.

Multiple layers of wallpaper and ceiling tiles

Showing the multiple layers of wallpaper and ceiling tiles our kitchen had.

Walls coming down!

Caroline shows off the kitchen at midday – the walls are down and the cabinets are gone, but the studs are still there. They called in an electrician at this point to take care of all the wires.

Everything gone but the stove

The wall of the kitchen with the stove, after the cabinets and backsplash are gone. It looks so ugly once everything is gone!

Where the sink used to be

The floor where the sink was. When I saw this, I was really worried about water damage on the floor underneath, bit thankfully once they removed that layer the subfloor underneath was fine. Phew!

Where the fridge used to be!

Where the fridge used to be! It was crazy to me to be able to see all the way to the bay window from the kitchen window. I remember how much brighter the downstairs felt once the walls were down.

Walls coming down...

They thought one of the walls was load bearing and would need a beam and a column, so they put up temporary walls on either side before they took down the studs. We had these temp walls here for a few weeks before a structural engineer inspected and said the wall was not actually load bearing, and we were fine. That was very happy news!

Getting ready to fix the foundation

After demolition, the first task was to fix the foundation. They had to remove the stoop outside the back door to get access to our crawlspace.

The kitchen is opened up!

The walls in the kitchen are completely down! (You can see the temporary walls on the right) Hooray for an exciting day!

I am hoping to chronicle the whole renovation process, but not sure how fast those posts will come. :-) Just as a heads up! You can jump ahead to the official before and after pictures here.


Our kitchen’s major transformation

I was going to wait until the end of my posts to share pictures of my favorite part of the renovation, but I finally took after pictures today and am so excited to post them that I decided not to wait. :-) I have a bunch of in-progress pictures that I’ll share at a later date – I’m still sorting through them and trying to decide how much to post.

First, I will share pictures of our main level when we bought our house 6.5 years ago.

DSC_1136 DSC_1153 DSC_1157 DSC_1159

As you can see, it needed a bit of work. We did a bunch of painting when we first moved in, and then basically didn’t touch it for the next 6 years. I found it a very frustrating kitchen to work in – there was very little prep space, the cabinets were inefficient, and the portable dishwasher – while better than nothing! – was very annoying after a while. I did love the butcher block look of the laminate counter, but it was starting to come up in places and was not looking so great anymore.

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So basically, we gutted the whole kitchen. And the result is fabulous! I’m just going to inundate you with pictures now.

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

Kitchen Renovation: After!

As I said, the kitchen was gutted and basically everything is new. But, here is a list:
– removed 2 walls to open up the kitchen to the rest of the house
– replaced laminate peel & stick tile with porcelain tile on the floor
– window replaced with double-pane window
– sliding glass door replaced with French doors
– single light in the center of the kitchen replaced with 4 canned lights, 2 pendants over the island, and under cabinet lighting
– electrical updated (in the kitchen only) and proper GFI outlets installed
– HVAC vent moved to a toe-kick under the window
– appliances rearranged: fridge went where the stove was, stove moved to where the dishwasher was, and sink moved to the island and built-in dishwasher moved next to sink
– all new cabinets: white upper and espresso lower
– island installed in the area where the walls and fridge had been
– granite counters installed
– kitchen, dining room, living room, and foyer painted
– white glass subway tile installed as a backsplash
– new stainless steel appliances: refrigerator, gas stove, microwave, and dishwasher
– new sink and faucet
– hardwood floors refinished (sanded and sealed)

Whew! And that’s not even an exhaustive list of all the work that was done, period. I would like to go into more detail about the process and what I’ve learned about everything (ha!), but for now I will say I am so, so happy with how it turned out. I have really been enjoying cooking dinner every night, which is good because after eating out for 3.5 months straight I am ready for homecooked meals again! ;-)


unveiling… a new look for the living area!

I will do an official before and after later when I clean up and finish the decor, but I wanted to share initial pictures to show off our new paint color.

When we bought our house, we painted every wall and ceiling. The living/dining room was the last room to be done, and at the same time Atlanta had the “500 year flood” where it poured heavily for 8 days straight. We couldn’t get the paint to dry (if only we’d had a dehumidifier then!), and we ended up moving in without being able to finish painting. We predictably never put on the final coat. For four years the splotchy and unfinished paint job has annoyed me. Finally this weekend with the help of my parents we rectified that!

It took me a while to decide on a color. I am very happy with the blue we chose. On the exterior walls, we did a lighter shade that was Behr Flint Smoke. On the interior walls, we did an accent color of Behr Nature Retreat. (You can see the whole paint family here.)

Here are before pictures:
Living Room

Living Room

Dining room

New hooks in the foyer

And the after pictures! It’s definitely a lot darker, but I was wanting to go darker than the yellow with more of a contrast between the walls and the white trim. We have more to do – there is some of the trim left to be painted, and I still have a ways to go until all our “stuff” is cleaned up, and I hope to hang pictures.

Living room

Living room

We switched the green bookcase in the foyer with this secretary that was in the dining room.



Our dining room is a mess right now, so please pardon all the clutter. I am working on cleaning and purging, but we’re still far from being done. The green bookcase is only here temporarily… I haven’t decided yet what I want to do with the space. Also, you’ll see the white shoe rack… I realize I never blogged about that. Will have to do that. ;-)

Dining room

Dining room

One of the really awesome things we did was paint all the baseboards. I will have to find a “before” picture to show how awful they looked, and the fresh coat of paint really did a lot to finish things off. Also, another thing my dad did was to replace all the old off-white outlets with white ones, as well as the old light switches with new white switches. It looks sooo much better!

Painted baseboards

We still have a ways to go before I feel “done”, but having a new coat of paint really does make a difference.


trying to pick a new wall color

When we moved to this house, I chose a light yellow paint for the entire house (except the kitchen and bedrooms). We had to paint – the house reeked of curry – but I wasn’t at a point where I could think about the best color for each individual room. I wanted something mostly neutral that I could live with for a while, and planned to repaint later down the road when I had more of an idea of where I was headed with the room design. I’m pleased with the color we chose, but now I’m ready for a change.

I want to focus on the living room first, since that’s where we spend most of our time. We have done some work to it, but we have yet to add any pictures or other decor. My plan is to start with the wall color and work from there. Here is where our living room stands right now:
Living Room

Basically, we have browns going on here. I’m a little tired of the really light walls so I am hoping to go a bit darker, but still neutral. I went to the store and got samples of three browns, trying to match the rug. Here they are:


It was really difficult to get an accurate picture of the colors, especially trying to compare them to the space and the other items in the room. I also painted larger strips on the wall across from the couch.


I’ve been staring at them the past week and have decided I don’t like any of them, so I’m back at square one. I actually am not good at picking out paint colors (surprising since I have a degree in graphic design). Painting that wall has helped in that it’s made me realize I have to take into account some other colors, like our wood floors and our dining room table and secretary. Also, I don’t want to be too tied to the rug because while I like it okay, it has gotten damaged in a few areas and I’m not sure if it’s a long term item in our room.

The curtains in the picture above are not staying. I put them up because I had them already, but have since learned that my cats like to climb/sharpen their claws on them. So the curtains will stay until I figure out a solution that will work for everyone.

I am wondering if blue paint would be nice? I know you’re not supposed to do blue for dining rooms, but I could see it working in the living room.

I think I’ll run to Home Depot and see if I can find a new color. I’m hoping to paint this week!


Dehumidifier: why didn’t we get one earlier?!


When we moved into our house 4 years ago, the inspector told us that because of the way it was constructed and vented, we should always expect to have high humidity levels in our hours. No worries, we thought. That was something that doesn’t bother us as much. However, this summer it was  getting almost unbearable. It rained sooo much this summer – we’re on track for having one of the wettest years on record. Needless to say, we were feeling the effects of that in the humidity level in our house.

So, I started researching dehumidifiers. I tried to get one off Craigslist but was unsuccessful. There just weren’t many listed, and the ones I did contact never got back to me. I price-shopped online and went to several discount appliance stores only to find they weren’t in stock, and finally just ended up getting it at Home Depot. I went with a 50-pint size, which seemed to be the best size for our room. (I found this article really helpful for figuring out what size was best.) We got it in the evening and set it up in the den. When we woke up the next morning (about 11 hours later), the unit had automatically shut off because the tray was full of water. It ran all day and shut off about 12 hours later. Wow! We have run it continuously for about a month now, and have noticed a huge difference in our house. The average humidity level according to a thermometer/humidity gauge we have in our dining room, used to be around 60-70%, and perhaps higher if it was raining. Now, our levels are closer to 40%! We still empty it every 18 hours or so, but it hasn’t been too bad.


The den especially feels more comfortable. That room has so much potential but looking back I’ve realized that the humidity in the room was really affecting how much time I wanted to spend there.

We one we purchased was a GE 50 Pint Capacity dehumidifier. They got good reviews from my online research, and it was the capacity we needed. (And I’m glad we didn’t go any smaller in capacity!) So far, we haven’t had any complaints. It does a great job, beeps and automatically shuts off when the tray is full, and is easy to empty. The only downside is it’s a little noisy. I can hear it humming even from upstairs. I’ve mostly gotten used to it, but sometimes when we’re in the den playing, I turn it off just to reduce some of the noise. We also think it does increase the temperature of the room slightly – we’ve noticed that we’ve been turning on a fan more frequently than we did before, but it doesn’t make the room hot or anything.

This has been a real help and I wish we’d gotten one long ago!


Changes in the living room

I haven’t taken updated pictures of our house in a while, so I hope to do that in the near future! In the meantime, I wanted to talk about some changes to our living room. Last time I talked about it here was when we got our new rug, and the living room looked like this:

New rug

It’s a little hard to see since the picture is focusing on the rug, but we had a couch on the left perpendicular to the window, and a loveseat on the right parallel to the window. It closed in the living room into a nice little room, but I also felt it made the whole main level feel a bit tight, especially when the couches would get pushed back.

My parents were visiting at the time, and we brainstormed lots of room setups to make it more open. We were tied to keeping the tv along that wall because of the outlets. We finally decided to move our loveseat down to the den/family room, bring up the glider, and move the couch in front of the window. Here are the finished results:

Living Room

Living Room

I didn’t think to put the couch in front of the window until I saw my neighbor’s living room setup (they have the same floorplan as us). There is an HVAC vent there, but it’s actually been okay with keeping the couch pulled out from the wall a little. It also allowed us to use the bay window for decor where little hands could not reach. (Then we got two cats, and they kept knocking over the picture frames so we had to clear it again!)

We also put our TV on top of the coffee table, which has worked out pretty well. I am glad to have the glider back in a spot where I’m able to use it more, but I do need to recover it. We had the small child rocking chair there for a while, until the cats started to use it as a scratching post, so we rehomed it to our storage area until we figure out how to solve that problem. We keep a basket of toys in the corner which has made cleaning up really fast.

You probably also notice the window treatments… We hung a rod above the bay window, and some room darkening curtains that I had bought for the baby’s room but didn’t end up using (and waited too long to return them). They are much too dark, but I wanted to see how I liked the layout before shelling out money for curtains. I do like it, though I think this would be a good place for a rod where you can open/close the drapes with rope (not sure what it’s called). I don’t plan to replace them just yet – my cats, again, seem to think they are a great thing to climb so I don’t want to worry about them ruining ones I care about.

Overall, I like the changes and I think it accomplishes what I set out to achieve. The room’s not perfect by any means, but it’s getting a little closer!


spray paint and a project from my YHL book

Originally published on May 14, 2013 at twentysixcats.com

Today I did something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time… It involved spray paint and a project from my Young House Love (YHL) book! I gave our old brass chandelier an update.

It seems that I don’t have a “before” picture, boo. Well here is the closest I have:
Ugly chandelier

One of the glass globes broke a while ago, so we took them all off.

First I collected my spray paint. I used stuff that I already had from a previous project. I ended up buying another can of the metallic spray.
Spray paint

It was pretty dirty, so I cleaned it with a damp rag.

I covered the light bulb sockets with painter’s tape so they wouldn’t get paint in them, and then I started with the primer. I don’t think this is always necessary, but since I already had the primer I decided to go for it.
Coat of primer...

After the first coat of the metallic spray. It’s somewhat of a charcoal gray – I really love this color.
First coat

Closeup, while waiting for it to dry.
Waiting to dry

I just love the metallic finish.
Waiting to dry

Once dry, I took off the painter’s tape and put the bulbs back in!

Hanging up! (Sorry for the not great picture – it was getting dark, and if I waited until tomorrow to take a picture I’d probably never get around to it!)
In place!

Here it is with the lights on.
With lights on

I really like it! Definitely an improvement. Now I need to get some pictures of the entire dining room with the “new” light fixture…


having fun with the kitchen!

Yesterday, I was ready to wash my hands of this house and walk away and not look back. But today, I went to Home Depot and let myself dream and now I’m excited again.

We’ve decided that we’re going to take care of the foundation, then focus on the bathroom and kitchen. Honestly, with the amount of “extra” money we get, it will probably be years before we’re able to get to the foundation unless we make some serious lifestyle changes (which I’m not mentally willing to do right now, whether I should be or not). Sigh. But I will let myself dream of what this house could be if we could work on some of the little issues! Part of the problem is until we fix the foundation, we really shouldn’t touch anything else on the main level because that repair will surely shift things. (Example, some things on my “wish list”: replace all the baseboards, put up crown molding, get a new patio door with screen.)

Anyway, back to the kitchen. If you need a refresher about what our kitchen looks like, click on this post. (Oh and we also added a pantry.)

Some of the things I want to do:
– Replace all the cabinets. They don’t work with the current space, and we have trouble fitting our dishes in, in ways we never had trouble with any of the 4 apartments in which we lived.
– Replace the countertop. It does a really good job at hiding the imperfections, but it does need replaced.
– Put in a built-in dishwasher. I’m grateful to have a dishwasher, but I’m totally over the whole having to hook up hoses and losing the use of my sink every time I run a load. I also want a seamless counter over the dishwasher to the sink.
– Get a pantry. I do like the one we have, but I would also love a built-in one that would fit with the kitchen as a whole.
– Maximize cabinet and counter space. We only have one spot in our kitchen for meal prep – right next to the stove. I actually do a lot of prep on the dining room table. Overall, I really want to make sure our kitchen is most efficiently using all the space allotted!
– Replace the floor. That’s kinda an afterthought in my mind, but it makes the most sense to do it all at the same time. No idea what I want for the floor.

Some of the considerations:
– That darn HVAC vent just really messes up with our kitchen arrangement!! We’ll probably have to get a professional in here and get his opinion and a quote about moving it. In the doorway is probably the only spot. I do NOT want to lose all that valuable space where it is now!
– We have no plans to replace our fridge or stove, because the former we bought when we moved here and the latter still works great. We do want to think long-term about appliances when we buy the dishwasher, so we’ll probably decide on a color and we’ll need to make sure our fridge and stove are standard measurements.
– NO IDEA what to do about venting the stove. There is a really ugly fan thing on our ceiling that is original to the house and hasn’t been cleaned in that long, either – it’s really gross. I am not sure what’s recommended, or what works with our particular setup, or what.
– We’re totally willing to start from scratch and reconsider placement of appliances, but right now the pipes are already there for the sink and the gas line is there for the stove. Moving those would involve a professional and add to our total cost. Something to consider.
– Everyone wants us to tear down walls and open up the kitchen. It sounds great, but until I win the lottery I doubt it’s going to happen.
– Our neighborhood is lower middle class, and we’re going to keep that in mind as we redo the kitchen. We don’t want it to be “cheap” persay but we don’t want to get super nice things and not be able to recoup the money.

Today I took a look at Home Depot and the stock cabinetry they have. I am really drawn to the white cabinets, but am not settled on that. I took home the sheet of paper with the cabinet measurements, and proceeded to spend my afternoon measuring the entire kitchen. It was fun. :-) I very frustratingly realized that their pantry was about an inch too wide for me to fit everything I wanted to along the wall with the sink. So, I decided to check out Ikea.

I used Ikea’s kitchen planner and had a lot of fun. I am wary about my kitchen looking too “Ikea” so I am not sure we’ll do this, but it’s fun to daydream right now. They have a great pantry – not only is it more narrow, but it pulls out which I like. I’ve noticed it in the store before and I was impressed by the design. I think it would work great in our space.

Here are some screen captures from the Ikea kitchen planner. Here is the look when you first walk in. To the left there is the pantry, and then the dishwasher then the sink. In the corner would be a lazy Susan corner cabinet. On the wall is another cabinet with a space for a microwave. I wasn’t originally planning to put the microwave in the kitchen (it’s currently in the dining room), but the thought of it is nice! We will have to take the plug situation into consideration if we put the microwave there.

This would be the view from the other door. On the bottom left, there’s the corner cabinet, then a four-drawer cabinet, the stove, and a narrow cabinet on the right. Don’t mind the big green wall on the right – it’s actually another doorway; I just didn’t put it in. Along the top you have a one-door cabinet, a glass-door cabinet, and on the right another upper cabinet. Above the stove… that’s where I am not sure. We’ll have to ask the question.

And this is the other side of the kitchen. Fridge to the left, with cabinets above. (Which I added because I thought it looked better, but to be honest we never used the cabinets over the fridge in any of our apartments. So… I dunno.) Then this part is new: a lower and upper cabinet, adding another surface in our kitchen! Of course, this is assuming we move the #%$* HVAC vent. There is currently an outlet right there, so I think that would be a lovely place for my KitchenAid stand mixer, or any other small appliance. Don’t you think?

Ikea doesn’t have the greatest selection of countertops, so I just picked black. We’ll probably pick that once we for sure decide on the color of the cabinets. According to their planner, all of this would cost about $3200 (including a new dishwasher, and a new sink and faucet – two things we aren’t planning to replace but I put into the planner for visual purposes). So, that’s not too bad. We’ll have to revisit our budget in the future – once we’re at a point where we’re actually saving for this project!


Project Tuesdays and living room rug

I am going to try something new – we’ll see how long I am able to keep this up. I am going to try and update this blog every Tuesday with a house project that we did over the weekend. The purpose is twofold… one, it should keep this blog from getting too stagnant. Two, it should keep me doing things in the house. There are a lot of free or very inexpensive projects (as far as decorating, etc.) that I can do that will really help this house look better. I just tend to be very lazy!

This wasn’t something we did this weekend, but recently we did make a positive improvement to our living room: we got a new rug!

Here is a picture of our old rug:
Living room

When we moved into the house, we realized we needed something in the living room. Rugs are expensive, and to be honest I was not ready for that investment when I really had no clue about the decor of the room. So, we went to Home Depot where they were having a sale on 5×7 ft. rugs and picked out this blue one. I ended up really liking the color, but it was a little too small for the space. Also, I wanted something that was softer since we spend a lot of time on the floor. I decided to get something fairly neutral, matching our chocolate brown couches. We went to our nearby Rooms To Go Outlet and came home with this rug:

We got an 8×10 ft. which has helped somewhat keep our couches from sliding around everywhere. I looove the feel of this rug under my feet! We still need to figure out the perfect arrangement of our living room, but this is pretty functional for now.

New rug

New rug

I’ll have to use this rug to inspire me when I actually get around to decorating the house!


Changes to the den

I haven’t been writing here much. Mostly, it’s because we really haven’t done anything to the house! I keep saying I’m going to have a small project every week that I write about, as sort of a way to force myself to actually do it. It works in theory, but I have been so busy lately that just keeping the house clean has become a challenge.

We did do one thing this weekend. One of the reasons for my busyness is that I have taken on some freelance work. I have really been enjoying it, but I do find myself spending long hours on the computer, working on a design or trying to get emails out. I was sitting on the couch to do all this, but I realized that it was killing my back. I needed some sort of table to work, preferably in a room where I can keep an eye on my daughter playing. I didn’t want anything fancy because I didn’t want the temptation for clutter, but I wanted something big enough for my laptop and a notebook to jot down notes.

We looked at Office Depot where I got my computer desk 6 years ago, but apparently they don’t sell inexpensive, simple computer desks anymore. So we went to the next logical thing – Ikea! Of course they had the exact thing I was looking for, and only $20. We headed down there to check it out. Unfortunately, my timing was all wrong as it’s back-to-school time here in Georgia, and they were completely out of the $20 desk. I decided to pop into the As-Is section to check it out before giving up. I did find a desk – or rather, a table? I am not sure what it was originally supposed to be, but it was perfect. The best part? It was already put together!

It didn’t take long to find a spot for it, and I am really happy. I can easily see the entire room, and I am next to a 3-prong plug with a grounded outlet (which isn’t always a given in our house). I may switch out this new desk for the table I’m using for my sewing machine in the guest room, since this desk is prettier, but for now it’s working out pretty well.