Category Archives: Home Improvement

This Year’s Green Thumb Successes + A Terrible Tragedy

It was a breezy fall day in St. Louis today. But as much as I love fall, I’m reverting back to spring and summer to recap the lovelies that have graced the Riley garden since April.

For once, we had a pretty mild summer in St. Louis. I could actually go longer than 24 hours without watering my plants on most days. The year before, we experienced a drought in the region that kept us cooped us inside and our plants in permanent droop mode. This year was different. My plants thrived.

pink hyacinth

This was the first bloom for these pink hyacinths, bought online at Dutch Gardens. They were huge!

blue hyacinth

Blue hyacinth beauties. Also purchased from Dutch Gardens.

red orange tulip

Gorgeous tulip insides

dutch gardens replete daffodil

These Replete Daffodils were perfect cut flowers.

backyard1

Every year we have this stretch of the backyard mulched. This was the day the landscape company did the work. The rhododendrons were looking mighty fine.

yellow bearded iris

A yellow Bearded Iris

pink peony

A fluffy pink Peony

purple clematis

Purple clematis bloom

red clematis

Bigger than my palm red Clematis

pink lace cap hydrangea

Lace cap hydrangeas. Love how the little flowers have white edges.

red asiatic lily

A striking red lily in our front yard flower bed

deep purple vinca

Paired these deep purple Vincas with pale pink Vincas in a multi-tiered flower pot.

pink ground cover

Can’t remember what these are called, but when multiple blooms are in effect, they look like a carpet of pink neon.

white mophead hydrangea

Large and in charge white hydrangeas

purple delphinium

The first bloom of my new Delphinium. Love that reverse ombre.

geranium lobelia

One of my favorite pairings. Red Geranium with Lobelia. Very patriotic, too.

hens and chicks

One of the hens and chicks that my mom gave me. They’re growing like wildfire over at her house.

pink mophead hydrangea

More hydrangeas to fuel my obsession. The leaves are looking so healthy, thick and shiny on these.

rileygarden1

With all the construction going on at the front of the house, we had to move all the patio plants to the back deck. Our backyard may or not have looked like a jungle.

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Even though it was hard to maneuver around our deck, the vibrant flower colors instantly put me in a good mood.

My biggest green thumb success, though, was my blue Endless Summer hydrangeas. After five years of living in our house, they were blooming like crazy and growing so large, you could see them peeking at you from the sidewalk. And, of course, since blue hydrangeas are my all-time favorite flowers, I was ecstatic about how well they were doing…

endless summer blue hydrangea

Photo taken just as construction on our chimney was beginning.

That is, until the house construction started. The area of stucco behind the hydrangeas needed replacement, so I let our contractor twist my arm and agree to digging the hydrangeas up and putting them in large pots to be stored in the backyard shade. Only a couple weeks into their new pots, we had a few days of rain, and a short time later, I noticed the hydrangeas starting to droop. Lo and behold, our contractor failed to drill drainage holes at the bottom of the pots. So for almost an entire week, the flowers had been sitting in still water. Mikey and I tipped the pots on their sides, so that all the water could drain out, but the damage was done. Both plants were dying, and despite our best attempts to dry them out, eventually all the leaves and stems turned dark.

We told our contractor about his major screw-up, and his response was that he couldn’t be held responsible for the plants. It wasn’t written into our contract or bid or anything. He did say that he’d talk to a landscaping friend of his to see what he could work out, but he never followed up with us. With so many other issues we had to deal with regarding the house construction, Mikey and I were both stressed to the max. It wasn’t worth fighting, and at this point, if anyone is going to lay a finger on my new hydrangeas, it is going to be me — not the guy who killed them in the first place.

Anyone with a passion for gardening knows how much of a loss something like this is. Yes, flowers are a material thing. But they’re also living things that can’t be replaced with a simple trip to the nursery. It takes time for plants to adjust to their new soil and surroundings and mature. Five years is a long time to wait for a new pair of hydrangeas to get back to the size and health that these ones were.

If I’m looking on the bright side, at least there have been many of other stunning flowers to delight me this year. Our flowers and shrubs have helped us make our mark on this house of ours, and I’ve always been a big fan of that saying: I’d rather have flowers on my table than diamonds on my finger. (Although don’t get me wrong — diamonds are cool, too.)

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Filed under Home Improvement, St. Louis

Currently Happening at Our House

If I had to pick one word to describe the way the last four weeks have been going for us, I would choose “stressful”. This summer started out like any ordinary summer. After getting the front and back yards all dolled up with a variety of new annuals and some permanent perennials, we started a short list of exterior house projects. Things like staining the deck, replacing some fence panels, repainting the front window frame and oh, hiring a contractor to perform some minor stucco repair on three areas of the house.

Well, what was supposed to be minor stucco repair turned out to be major structural repair on two parts of the house. The first was the chimney, which had to be completely torn down and built back up. The second was the east side of the house, where our patio and garage sit. That east side wall (along with the patio and garage) needed to be demolished, and we’re now in the process of building that back up.

The problem? Over time, water has seeped behind the stucco exterior in these two areas, causing the block that makes up the house to rot. Just a simple scrape of our fingers against the block would cause it to crumble. Sigh.

That’s the downside to having a 90-year-old home. Once you start to peel things back, you might not like what you find beneath the surface. It could be that this was the original block that the house was built with. Maybe the materials they used back then weren’t up to par. Maybe previous owners have known about this but didn’t have the money to fix it and fix it properly. Maybe they decided to patch it back up.

Luckily, I married a man who I fondly refer to as a human calculator, and I have never been so happy about it. Thanks to his super star financial planning, we can afford to repair this the right way. I don’t know if I could live with myself, seeing structural damage right before my eyes and not do the right thing by repairing it.

Because of all this, Summer 2013 has been a roller coaster of emotions. A lot of stops and starts. A lot of calculating and recalculating. And yet, a lot of opportunities to put things in perspective. We’ve had time to think about what we do have — each other, and that includes our burst of sunshine Yellow Lab that reminds us that everything is an adventure.

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“Player, please.” How could this face not make you LOL?

I’ve been in a better place the past couple weeks. Now that the demolition and excavation (really, are we digging up dinosaur bones here?) are done, we’re seeing progress. Things are moving forward. And if the weather cooperates, we could potentially have our house back in full working order in the next three weeks. Although I’m not promising myself anything. The lesson to be learned is that plans change. Life alters. And it’s tumultuous shenanigans like these that remind me of my favorite quote — one that I truly do live by, as it applies to nearly every unfortunate situation I can think of.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most responsive to change.  — Charles Darwin

I guess you could say the winds of change are upon us, but we’re trying our best to enjoy the breeze.

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All of this scaffolding causes people to stop and stare. Mikey and I caught an old couple in their Camry literally stop their car in the middle of the street to examine what was going on. Mikey and I played their conversation out loud in our best old foagie voices. Mikey: “What do you think those crazy kids are doing over there, Gertrude?” Me: “I don’t know, Frank. It sure looks dangerous.”

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This attractive dumpster graced our driveway for a good period of time. Naturally, I was brainstorming creative ways to use it to our benefit. I thought The Bear would have a blast if we filled it up with water and turned it into a dock diving pool. He could’ve run out the door, off the patio and straight into the water.

I got a call at work from Mikey one day. "When you get home, you may not be able to get to the front door." Yep, not without a ladder or a jet pack.

I got a call at work from Mikey one day. “When you get home, you may not be able to get to the front door.” Yep, not without a ladder or a jet pack.

A close-up of the front door. The upside is that we don't get any door-to-door salesmen!

A closer look at the front door (upper right hand corner). The upside is that we don’t get any door-to-door salesmen!

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Filed under Home Improvement, Marriage

Pinterest Hits, Volume 2: Fireplace Mantle Makeover

One of my goals in life is to not become the kind of wife who feels the need to redecorate/refurnish/remodel her living room every two years. Pinterest is not helping me succeed in this regard.

What Pinterest is helping me do, however, is come up with cheap, simple ways to design on a dime by working with what I’ve got. Nothing fancy here, folks. I’m no Pottery Barn aficionado, and the only thing I’m good at interior designing is my closet, and that’s because it’s decorated with clothes.

So my pinspiration, if you will, came from a number of different images I pinned.

{photo gallery frames}

PhotoGallery1

Photo courtesy of The Pursuit Aesthetic

PhotoGallery2

Photo courtesy of lit*chick

{map art}

Map2

Photo courtesy of Viva Amore

Map1

Photo courtesy of The Thread Affect

{framed patterned paper}

FramedPattern

Photo courtesy of LaurenConrad.com

FramedPattern2

Photo courtesy of Studio 6 Fresno’s Etsy shop

All three areas of pinspiration helped me make over our living room fireplace mantle. It now looks like this.

{with thanksgiving decor}

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{with christmas decor}

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The “Singing Butler” artwork in the background has been with us for a while now, but the smaller black and white frames were recently purchased at Michael’s at a great price. They always have good sales and deep discount coupons, so check your local paper before you go.

I bought the patterned paper at ArtMart, a local art store in St. Louis. But you could easily find some good patterned paper at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or any scrapbooking store.

The framed shamrock on a map is one that is near and dear to our hearts. On our trip to Ireland this past October, the owner of Lawcus Farmhouse B&B gave us this wooden keepsake. It is made from the roof of the original farmhouse that was built on the B&B grounds during the 16th century.

IMG_2179

While souvenir shopping in Ireland, I kept an eye out for some sort of artwork to hang in our home but wasn’t all too pleased with the price of some of the items I saw. This wooden shamrock turned out to be the perfect memento to put on display. The map in the background was taken from the actual map we used to navigate the Irish countryside during our vacation. If you look closely, the village of Stoneyford is situated just northwest of the shamrock. That’s where we met Mark Lawcus and gladly accepted his parting gift, which is actually intended to be a keychain (hence the tiny hole on the right), but I think it’s more fitting on our mantle than buried in a purse or pocket.

Lastly, the back and white photo is from our wedding day. It was taken just as the ceremony ended and we were exiting the church behind the bagpiper.

So now our mantle has a more updated look with a couple pieces we’ll treasure forever. That is, until the next couple years go by and I’m ready for a re-do.

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Going Vertical

I’ve been eyeing vertical gardens for over a year now. In fact, you may remember this post from a while back. I had fallen in love with vertical gardens because a) they were a unique way to grow some greens, and b) they were a smart way to keep The Bear from crashing into my flowers when he spots a squirrel.

What kept me from eyeing a vertical garden vs. buying a vertical garden is the price. The box that you plant the flowers in can be really pricey. At one point, the cheapest I could find was $60. Outrageous. Luckily, I found some for a cheaper $40 at Garden Heights nursery earlier this spring. And because that was the lowest price I’d seen them, I snagged two.

A few weeks ago, I planted them with sedums and succulents and hung them on our backyard fence.

This one turned out especially well, but I can’t say the same for the other vertical garden box that I bought. What I realized is that when doing a vertical garden, it’s best to stick with a pattern of flowers. With the other vertical garden box, I stuck in a bunch of different sedums and succulents without giving any thought to patterns or texture. Now it just looks like a hodge podge of plants that aren’t blooming at the same time and hanging at different angles across the cells.

See what I mean?

But that’s what’s great about gardens. They go away every year (unless you’re an all-perennial planter), so that the following year, you can try something new. And I’m already drawing up plans in my head for what to do next year. Stick with sedums or succulents or add color with petunias and marigolds?

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Blog Bouquet

We took The Bear on a walk this afternoon (a super hot one, by the way) and decided to mosey on down to the street that runs behind our house. We can’t really get a close look at the houses on that street because there’s about eight feet of brush in between our back fence and the street. We were curious about how intense the growth was, and Teddy just wanted to get a good sniff at all the cars and dogs he barks at on a daily basis.

When we reached the point where we could actually see the back of House of Riley, I was pretty impressed. Not gonna lie, our house is kinda cute. And I think I can owe it all to the lovely flowers that are gracing our front and back yard as of late. Amazing what color can do to make the place pop. Here’s a look.

Front Yard

My favorite flowers in the world, hydrangeas. Much more purple than they have been in years past. Gotta remember to up the acidifer next year. Also ticked about the hail storm we had earlier this year that ripped up the leaves on these and many of my other plants.

Hydrangea close-up. Don’t you just want to smush your face into these perfect puff balls. Okay, no? Maybe it’s just me.

New Guinea Impatiens with Creeping Jenny. Hmm… sounds like rock concert, doesn’t it? The story behind the Creeping Jenny is that I planted it last year, and it endured our mild St. Louis winter. Fooled you, annual!

These lillies just opened up yesterday. Gotta enjoy them while they last, but thankfully, a few more are on their way to blooming.

The lighting is super harsh in this picture but had to share it anyway. Of the three dahlias I purchased (the others are pink and orange), these purple ones are doing the best. Big blooms and healthy, dark green leaves. They’re pretty perrty.

These little pink flowers are quickly becoming a favorite of mine. They’re called calibrachoas, and they come in a variety of colors — purple, orange, yellow, red, etc. They’re great for hanging or window baskets like this one we have on front window sill.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what the name of this flower is. All I know is it’s another puff ball flower, which apparently, I’m into.

Back Yard

Love bringing in the tropical look with this Canna Lilly. Although you do have to bring it indoors in the winter. Hauling it in is always a fun process for the hubs. Right, hun?

Another flower that needs to hibernate indoors for the winter, the Mandeville.

On the other hand, this Bear does not need to hibernate indoors in the winter. Impatiens pictured left.

I have a whole other set of hydrangeas in the back yard, but these are currently the prettiest ones in bloom. Love the pink centers and white tips.

In one of my recent posts, I dropped a line about a cold weather gardenia. Here is one of its first blooms.

Took this Clematis three years before I actually saw some decent blooms on it. Now it’s overflowing on the trellis by the deck.

Of course, no back yard is complete without The Bear. Here he is chasing down a Frisbee.

Hope you enjoyed this big splash of color that’s currently creating a cheery ambience around the house. It certainly does make me want to hang out around our house more.

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Filed under Dogs, Hobbies, Home Improvement

Spoil Your Green Thumb

When the weather outside gets less frightful and little green shoots start to creep up from the soil in St. Louis, where do green thumbs go? I only speak for my own green thumbs when I say Lowe’s, Garden Heights Nursery and Bowood Farms.

Lowe’s happens to be our go-to for all our home improvement needs. They have all the basics there as far as flowers go, but it’s always our staple for things like mulch, gardening soil and fertilizer.

Whenever I feel the mood to step it up from the basics though, it’s down the street to Garden Heights Nursery. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it. That place makes me happy. Really, really, really happy. And whenever I am happy at a place of business — Crate & Barrel, Urban Outfitters, Whole Foods Bakery, etc. — my wallet is put in immediate danger.

African Daisies

Stock flowers. Always thought the name “stock” was a little lackluster for these beautiful blooms.

Ranunculus. Their only fault is that their season ends by summer.

But seriously, I like Garden Heights because the selection is great and the staff is very knowledgeable. We’ve purchased nearly all of our shrubs and perennials from Garden Heights because of the quality and variety they offer. And on top of that, they keep me up-to-date with a presence on Facebook and Twitter and an e-mail newsletter. Good to know this nursery is with it!

The third gardening destination in St. Louis is Bowood Farms, which my mom and I recently discovered over our lunch breaks a couple weeks ago. We decided to try lunch at Cafe Osage, a bright, airy restaurant tucked away in a more distant corner of the Central West End. We both ordered the quiche and salad, which was delicious (especially the house-made crust). After polishing off our plates, we decided to explore Bowood Farms, which is the nursery attached to the Cafe Osage.

To put it simply, I fell in love with the place. They have a great collection of gifts from soaps to candles to bud vases. And because I thought they were so great, I bought one of their Lollia candles — the Summer of 1982 scent, which is burning on our fireplace mantle as I type, and is oh-so dreamy. Bowood is also an excellent destination for terrarium supplies. I will definitely be back when I finally make mine. And as for the plant selection and quality, it’s the best I’ve seen in St. Louis. There were varieties I’d never seen before, such as a hydrangeas with lime green colored leaves — as green as sweet potato vines. I was also impressed with their array of succulents and indoor plants — the most I’ve seen at a St. Louis nursery.

Succulents in every texture and pattern

Round the curve of tropical indoor plants, and you’ll find the white shelves with all the terrarium supplies.

Bowood is so laid-back, there’s even a cool cat that walks freely around the garden center.

So many gifts with the most unique fragrances. Tobacco Blossom actually sounds kind of interesting.

Bud vases and bowls in all shapes and sizes

Ahhh, yellow hibiscus.

Those lime green hydrangea leaves. Heavenly.

A perfect bed of impatiens that I wanted to fall into back-first. Snow angel-style. But something tells me I would’ve gotten in trouble for that.

The major downside to Bowood is how pricey everything is. But the fact that this place offers such high-quality plants right smack in the middle of the city is definitely something to admire — even if you only stop in for a look around or a bite to eat.

With three go-to garden shops in my little black book of happy places/bank account drainers, you can imagine I’ve been going to town on beautifying our yard. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about it and  posting pics in the coming days, but in the meantime, two of the things I’m most excited about this year are a cold-weather gardenia I bought for the backyard and the duo of clematises that are finally starting to mature and grow wild in the backyard. More to come!

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Filed under Hobbies, Home Improvement, St. Louis

How about another kitchen remodel?

No, not for us. We are still very much in love with our new kitchen and have no plans to remodel it ever again. It’s perfect the way it is. But that doesn’t mean I don’t miss the hours spent on Pinterest, scouring ideas for countertops and back splashes.

I find myself trying to live vicariously through other people’s home remodeling projects. Like a good friend of mine, Erin, over at ECW Photography. She recently gave her kitchen a makeover, using a mosaic tile back splash she’d been eyeing for two years and installing concrete countertops from a new company called Formed Stone Design. Concrete wasn’t even an option we considered during our kitchen remodel. We were so mesmerized by the idea of granite, that we didn’t even think to go to concrete.

But according to Formed Stone Design’s website, concrete is a greener alternative to other natural stone options. Most natural stone is obtained from quarries and has to be precisely cut to fit your counter measurements, which means a lot of energy is spent processing that material. And after cutting and formatting for your custom job, there’s a lot of stone and other materials that eventually go to waste. On the other hand, with Formed Stone Design’s concrete options, their mixtures are carefully calculated to significantly reduce the amount of waste that typically comes out of a countertop project. Which should make Mother Nature proud.

Anyway, I got to see Erin’s finished kitchen about a week ago, and it looks fab. Check out before and after pics below, and be sure to visit her blog to hear the story in her own words.

BEFORE

 

AFTER

All photos courtesy of ECW Photography

Amazing what a difference a few updates can make!

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My Brilliant Idea to Hit Up IKEA

Last month I finally got to experience the mecca of home furnishings, the creme de le creme of affordable home decor and the guiding light to all those lost and wandering in the world of interior design — IKEA. I’d never been to one before, but knowing that we were heading to the Chicago suburbs for a friend’s wedding last month, I thought there would be no better time to make an appearance.

Only problem was that we were a little pressed for time. There was a two and a half hour gap in between the wedding ceremony and reception. We ended up leaving the church after the ceremony ended at about 4:00 and high-tailed it to the IKEA in Bolingbrook, Illinois with no time to stop by the hotel and change into comfortable clothes. So I ended up touring IKEA in BCBGs.

Not really the best choice of footwear when walking through a 300,000 square foot showroom -- the equivalent of five football fields.

Despite my choice of attire, I did walk through the entire store and was really impressed to see the ungodly amounts of furniture and bedding and kitchen cabinets and light fixtures and hardware and rugs and vases and on and on and on… The space is so packed with things to look at that it’s close to impossible to figure out what floor you’re on. You just keep walking and walking — until you suddenly realize you left the first floor eons ago.

We weren’t really shopping for anything in particular. I was keeping an eye out for a comfy office chair but still didn’t find anything worth spending $50+ on. It would’ve been a great source of inspiration for us when we were working on the kitchen remodel this summer. The hallways are lined with floor-to-ceiling room displays that showcase how even the tiniest of spaces can be maximized to their fullest potential.

But of course, we couldn’t have traveled all that way and walked five football fields of space in wedding attire only to leave empty handed. So 1) we filled our tummies up with food at the IKEA cafe (would you expect anything else from us 24/7 eating machines?) and 2) I picked out a silver lantern accent piece for $7.99 to adorn either our fireplace mantle or the shelves in our spare bedroom (haven’t quite decided yet).

Lanterns of this size are sold at places like Pottery Barn and Crate and Barrel for around $40 or $50. I think my $7.99 was quite a steal. (Candle not included.)

Mikey — being a dude and all — was quite puzzled at the idea of me buying a lantern. I thought about explaining to him that lanterns aren’t just used as signals in lighthouses anymore. But then, knowing that Mikey — being a dude and all — wouldn’t really give a monkey’s butt about the purpose of lanterns in modern-day home decor, I digressed.

It was a good first IKEA experience overall — although my sore feet wouldn’t agree. I made it up to them by pulling into Table 15 at the wedding reception and remaining parked there for literally the entire evening. Yep, that whole “lame is my middle name” vibe was really going for me. But at least my shoes were hot.

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Filed under Fashion, Home Improvement, Shopping

Kitchen is finished. Drumroll please…

I am officially ready to announce that after three and a half months of DIY kitchen remodeling, we have a fully-functioning, brand spanking new, modernized and updated kitchen! I apologize if you feel I’ve left you hanging for the past three weeks. I haven’t had much big news in the kitchen department. And it’s because of all the minor touch-ups we had to do with the paint and grout. Then, there were the little things like figuring out how to hang the phone onto a glass-tiled wall and trimming the bottoms off the faux wood blinds, so they’re even with the length of the windows. In my eyes, the kitchen wasn’t finished until every last detail was ironed out.

But enough of that. What you’re really wanting to see is the photos of the finished product. So without further ado, I give you… the before and after kitchen photos.

Before

Move-in day. September 2008. Left side of the kitchen.

Move-in day. September 2008. Right side of the kitchen.

After

Welcome to the new kitchen. Everything is new, except the fridge.

Left side of the kitchen, where the backsplash shines.

A close-up of our new range and hood.

I heart my new faucet. And check out the faux wood plantation style blinds.

Industrial style pendant light from Lowe's.

A stylish flush mount light fixture from Lowe's to replace our nasty overhead light.

Turn the corner past the oven range, and you'll find my Jamaican Dream accent door.

My plate collage that Mikey was so doubtful about. He agrees it turned out nicely.

R is for Riley

A silhouette of who else but The Bear.

Instructions for what to do when you leave the kitchen and enter the dining room.

Doing this with Steve’s help has been a huge learning experience for us. He has certainly taught us more than we could’ve ever learned on our own, and we’re truly grateful for his expertise. And Mikey’s mom has been a great sound board to bounce design ideas off of. So this couldn’t have been done without them.

But suffice it to say, we are so frickin’ happy to cross this kitchen remodel off the to-do list. Now we can get on to tidying up the other areas of the house that have been neglected for the past three and a half months. (I was surprised at how big of a pain housekeeping is when you’ve got dust coming from the kitchen at all hours of the day and night. Not to mention coupling that with our ungodly amounts of Bear hair.) There were some points of reflection along the way though. Seven of them are outlined below.

Biggest Expense: Kitchen Cabinets

New kitchen cabinets are pricey. But you probably already knew that. At roughly $2,500, they were undoubtedly our biggest expense. So if you’re considering a kitchen remodel, but still like the doors of your current ones, you may want to consider refacing them instead of spending a boatload on brand new ones. We considered doing that, but frankly, I hated the doors on our old ones.

Most Difficult to Install: Backsplash

If you didn’t read about the snag we hit with the backsplash, check it out here. Then, read the following: a glass subway tile backsplash is a biotch to install. If we were to remodel another kitchen in the future, I don’t know if we would do it ourselves. It’s a very tedious process that involves using a wet saw. And trying to make sure the tile is properly aligned is a bit of a challenge. It just makes me wonder whether it would be worthwhile to pay someone to do it. Then again, knowing that we’ve done a glass tile backsplash ourselves makes me want to ditch the idea of ever paying someone to do something we’ve already done before. So I’m torn. But for anyone out there looking to do a backsplash yourself, just know it’s not a cake walk, but it’s also not impossible.

Easiest to Install: The Electric Oven

Best Buy delivered it. And we plugged it in!

Biggest Regret: Buying Oil-Based Paint Primer

If you didn’t read about our painting project from hell, you MUST read it here. Not our proudest moment.

Most Memorable Moment: Getting High on Oil-Based Paint Primer

If you read about the painting project from hell above, then this will all make sense. If you STILL haven’t ready about the painting project from hell, you STILL MUST read it here.

Favorite Kitchen Feature: Multiple Answers Below

For Mikey, it’s the granite. For me, it’s the faucet. And for The Bear, it’s the stainless steel appliances. Because he gets to put his wet nose marks all over them.

Best Piece of Advice for Future DIY Kitchen Remodelers: Your Local Home Improvement Store May Surprise You

It’s great to get inspiration from places online like blogs or Pinterest. Or even going to high-end showrooms around town to get ideas. That’s the fun part. But at the end of the day, I got so many of the things we needed at the local home improvement store known as Lowe’s. For example, you may remember how I was torn over so many lighting choices. There are so many great ones. After weeks of searching, where did I find the lighting we wanted? Lowe’s. And at an unbeatable price, too.

With so many details that went into this kitchen remodel, I’m sure there will be a couple more posts after this one on the topic. Maybe one that explains the DIY steps behind my kitchen decor craft projects. And one about our “kitchen is finally finished” celebration dinner. The menu is being dreamed up as we I speak type! Anyway, hope you enjoyed the photos!

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Kitchen Update: The End is in Sight

Judging by the title of this post, you could guess one of two things: 1) that the kitchen remodel is almost finished, or 2) that the kitchen remodel has been the  bane of our existence and that we’re ready to jump off the home improvement cliff in about 2.6 seconds. Well, I’m happy to report that it is the former.

Its been a few weeks since I last blogged about the kitchen remodel. But if you recall, the last major step in the process was laying the back splash. Well, we just finished laying the tile today and have grouting and caulking on the to-do list for tomorrow. It’s looking great! But getting to great took some work. And some worry.

See, the floor of our kitchen isn’t level. Which means the lower cabinets on the left side of the kitchen are slightly off in height. Which means that when you start laying tile above those lower cabinets, the tiles begin to slope from one end of the wall to the other. The sloping was pretty subtle at first, but the higher we went on the wall, the more evident the sloping became.

See how the wall space above the top row of tile gets thicker as you move from right to left? Or maybe you don't even notice it. In which case -- great!

I’m not sure what we could’ve done differently to get a perfect outcome. In hindsight, there were a few things we could have done, but none that would’ve really solved the problem altogether.

  1. We could’ve started laying the tiles on a straight edge, starting from the bottom, up. But then, you’d see a gap between the counter top and the first row of tiles. And the bottom row (and subsequently, the rows that follow) wouldn’t have had the support of the counter top to stay in place and dry properly.
  2. We could’ve started from the top and worked our way down, so that the sloping would only be evident towards the bottom row. Then again, the tiles need the support of the ones below them, in order to stay in place and dry properly. If we had started at the top, we would’ve run into an issue of tiles sliding down the wall.
  3. We could have gradually put more space in between the rows of tiles as we worked our way up the wall — to eventually even out once we reached the top. But that wouldn’t have worked either. Because we were only working with 1/8-inch spacers. I think switching up the spacer sizing would’ve thrown a bigger wrench into things and caused a noticeable difference in the spacing of the tiles.

So what did we do? With Steve’s help today, we kept going, laying the tiles all the way up from the top of the counters up to the hood. We decided to add one more row of full-size tiles underneath the hood, so that any wall space between the tile and the hood is now covered up by tile.

Now the tiles look clean and aligned. The sloping is hardly even noticeable. In fact, the only reason why Mikey says I noticed it to begin with is because I’m short and don’t have any problem seeing directly under the hood. Ha. Ha. Ha.

That said, if you ever come to my house, don’t you dare say anything about my slightly sloping back splash! I will tell you that it gives the kitchen character and then proceed by handing you a series of alcoholic beverages in an attempt to blurry your vision, so that you won’t be able to see anything straight in my kitchen, let alone yours.

I haven’t asked Mikey what he thinks about the level of difficulty this back splash has been in comparison to some of the other pieces of the kitchen. But I think the back splash has been the hardest. That may be because the back splash has been so important to me. I really consider it to be the show piece or main accessory of the kitchen. So of course, it had to be the most difficult thing to install. (No wonder the salesperson at ProSource looked at us funny when we told her we were doing it ourselves.)

Since we are THIS close to finishing up the project, I don’t want to reveal too much more about the areas of the kitchen we’ve finished up. So that’s all the photos for now. More to share when the kitchen is absolutely, positively finito!

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