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    Hey there! I'm Amanda and I'll be your co-pilot today. Along with my handy husband, Ben, we're remodeling our second house. We're avid DIY-ers, tackling large and small projects while raising two rambunctious boys. Thanks for following along on this wild journey!
    Photo by Jana Graham Photography

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    Door boxes + crayons + being on the newly covered deck = hours of entertainment for 2 little boys. One is drawing favorite foods while the other recreates the neighborhood. I love their style. Detail of a dresser I'm updating for a friend. She's a looker now, and the hardware is smiling. I think everyone's happy with the changes. What's the vote on this guy? Hot or not?

Thrifted Thursday

Thrift shopping is like the famous Forrest Gump quote, “like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”  More items than not are simply someone’s unwanted junk, but among the trash are some real gems.  As a frequent shopper and bargain addict, I’ve been helping a friend find some good deals for her new house.  Here are the things that caught my attention, but we passed up.  A large brass lamp for six bucks, which I pointed out would be impossible for her toddler to break, but she’s just not a brass lover.

Brass-Lamp

She wasn’t in love with the plaid, and instead of hoarding yet another chair, I thought of the look I’d get from Ben if I brought it home with me.

Plaid-Chair

Now, this fabric is really busy, but I loved the lines on this 100 dollar sofa.  Not sure what it’d cost to reupholster, but it was super comfy.

Patterned-Couch

Honestly, I didn’t consider this gigantic coffee table, but the sheer size was interesting.  Couch for scale, of course.

Oversized-Coffee-Table

More and more lately, I’m drawn to ugly lamps, like this squatty brown one.  With the right shade, in the right space, I think he’d be darling.

Brown-Lamp

While browsing the books, I spotted a set of Life Nature Library, complete with the most adorable designs on the back covers.  That alone was almost enough to make me walk out with these, but I passed.

Life-Nature-Library-Book-Back-Designs

However, I have found several items for myself recently, including an oversized ugly lamp.  For only $4, it was totally worth it to buy a clean white shade to pair with it.

Thrifted-Large-Lamp

Of course the ugly lamp obsession couldn’t stop there, I had to get this handsome man for six bucks-pun alert!

Thrifted-Buck-Lamp

Clearly this one can benefit from a new shade, but I’ll have to track down the perfect one.

Thrifted-Buck-Lamp-Detail

To house my ever-growing plant collection, I picked up a few planters, too.  This blue crackle beauty set me back six dollars, and looks perfect paired with a blackeye Susan on our back step.

Crackle-Planter-on-Back-Step

The big leaf Philodendron in our living room needed a bigger pot to continue to grow, so this brass lion head is keeping it safe.

Brass-Lion-Planter

With my friend’s approval, I’ve snagged her a few pieces of furniture, including this marble-topped coffee table.  The X base is real wood, but the edge detailing is wood looking plastic, so I gave it a fresh black finish before sending it off to live with her.

Marble-Topped-Coffee-Table

Just last week, she approved this Drexel dresser, but the wood veneer has seen better days.  Because I’m the best friend ever (ha!) and love a project, I’m going to spruce it up with paint, too.

Drexel-Dresser

You know, shopping for someone else is equally satisfying, but very nice to my wallet.  It’s a win-win because she gets furniture, I get to shop and tackle a project.  Not too shabby.  Any amazing finds you’ve snagged recently?

Two Doors Down

As usual, summer is our time to tackle outdoor projects.  During the week, I add and keep up plants, build walkways, and pull weeds.  Weekends are Ben’s time to knock out the heavy lifting projects, like installing new windows, siding, and rebuilding the front deck while I help in any possible way.  So far, we’ve constructed a cover for the south-facing front deck, to make it usable and enjoyable in blazing heat and sunshine.  Before we can go any further with that, we have to replace the sliding doors.  The old sets are original to the house and barely function.  Sliding each door takes far more effort than it should, the screens are gone, and the panes are fogged up.

Pool-House-Center-Door-Before

When renovating, every step feels like a huge victory, so having easy to open, see through doors is a thrilling luxury.

Pool-House-Center-Door-Replaced

Two down, one to go.

Pool-House-Door-Replacing

Followed up by the rest of the pool house windows, that are waiting in the only looking/getting worse pool house.

Pool-House-Windows-to-Install

But, after windows, we can work on siding, then the interior.  And you know what that means?  The giant warehouse room filled with building supplies and tools can start looking better, perhaps even become usable.  What an original idea, no?

Walk This Way

Over the last two years I’ve dreamed, researched, plotted, and planned, and at long last, I’m slowly tackling our landscape plan.  Having an incredibly steep lot, both front and back, has been challenging to say the least.  Before starting anything, we discussed oodles of options: wood, metal, concrete, or stacked stone retaining walls, all of which are difficult to secure enough to prevent leaning or toppling over time.  Yes, plenty of houses have these in our ‘hood, but they’re all leaning or have caved in heavy rains.  We kept coming back to one option, setting boulders against the natural slope to prevent erosion, but it also serves as a retaining wall, without being rigid and noticeable if it shifts a little.  But, that led to another decision to fill even the flat areas with rock, not knowing where or how to separate the slope from the flat areas.

Basically what I’m saying is, we have literal TONS, and tons, and tons of rock and while it’s super low maintenance, I’ve been looking for ways to break up large areas.  Of course, plants are a must and I’ve added 170 (no exaggeration) between this year and last, though I have deviated/changed up my landscape plan.  Sadly, I’m not finished, instead focusing my attention to the most noticeable areas, then I’ll take time to tackle the smaller, untouched areas later on.

Landscape-Plan-Current

Our bocce court is a water and hassle free way to section off a large rectangle.

Another large part of the rock is broken up by the reclaimed beam back deck, stairs, and front steps, but between the bocce court and stairs was a long strip of super boring rock.  After nestling in a few pavers in the back, I knew adding a longer, winding path would add interest.

Flagstone-Pavers-to-Firepit-Detail

Reusing leftover pavers from the old back patio, I created a stepping stone walkway to connect the two areas.

Paver-Walkway-Toward-Wood-Stairs

Just off the step edge, narrower stones go between the Russian sage and day lilies.

Paver-Walkway-Between-Russian-Sage-and-Lily

On the other side of the Russian sage, I plan to add a short ground cover plant below the basement windows, so I curved around, leaving room for growing plants.

Paver-Walkway-Start-of-Curve

Paver-Walkway-from-Steps-to-Bocce-Court

On the other side, I’ve already added my favorite succulent, a stonecrop Angelina.

Paver-Walkway-Stonecrop-Detail

I know it grows well here with little water or effort because the one in the back near the waterfall has gone crazy over the last year.

Succulent-by-Waterfall-in-Back-Yard

Waterfall-Stonecrop-Angelina

Creeping junipers are always welcome, covering large areas with year round color, but need little maintenance.  To contrast against the deep emerald-green, I added two golden barberry plants.  Ben says the just look like dying plants, but I love the chartreuse color.

Paver-Walkway-Around-Plants

Looking from the bocce court toward the entry, things are taking shape, but still not finished.

Paver-Walkway-Toward-House

I find adding plants extremely enjoyable, bordering on addicting, but waiting for each to mature is a different story.  Much like children, even fast growing plants are hard to notice growth when seen on a daily basis.  You don’t see a startling difference, but looking back on pictures proves just how much they’ve changed in a short time span.

Big-Ass-Bench-on-Front-Landing

Look at the puny Russian sage not even a year ago, now they’re almost five feet tall!  Can you tell plants and landscaping have been at the front of my mind these warmer months?  Never before did I enjoy gardening, but I’m totally digging it now.  Oh the puns, the hilarity.  Now I feel like going through old photos of my kids and plants to fully appreciate the changes and growth that have taken place right in front of my face.  I didn’t realize how nostalgic a simple walkway could make me feel.

My Good Friend

I’m not sure about your house, but we have hard water, which leaves hard water spots that are especially noticeable on our stainless steel.  If the water gets wiped up right away, we don’t have problems, but of course, we actually live in our house so that doesn’t always happen.  Unfortunately, it leaves our sink area looking like this:

Stainless-Steel-Sink-Before-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

I know, it’s not completely awful, but my OCD side disagrees and I needed something that would work.  After discovering how awesome these cleaning wipes worked on our appliances, I thought I’d rest easy.  Cue the sad sound effects, because the wipes did work, but only until we wiped the sink with a wet rag and the spots showed up again.  I headed back to the store to see what else I could find, and that’s when I met my good friend, Bon Ami.

Bon-Ami-Cleaner-for-Stainless-Steel

It’s about two dollars and basically powdered rocks, so it gently polishes the surface.  A damp sponge with a little sprinkle, followed up by a wet cloth to remove the residue, then a drying session does the trick for small areas like faucets.

Bon-Ami-Residue-on-Faucet

 

Always go with the grain of stainless to avoid scratching, but it’s amazing and thrilling how shiny the stainless looks after.

Stainless-Steel-Sink-After-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

What I really needed this for is our stainless steel shower pan.  As much as we love it, the water does spot like crazy.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-Before-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

See what I mean?

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-Before-Detail-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

Finally, I’ve figured out a way to fight back, without using harsh, smelly chemicals.  To get a good clean, I generously sprinkle the base with the powder, then scrub, scrub, and scrub some more before rinsing and drying.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-After-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

This was after a light scrubbing, which removes the droplets, but a more intense scrub gets the drain lines sparkly, too.

Stainless-Steel-Shower-Pan-After-Detail-Bon-Ami-Cleaning

Not only does it work well on stainless, porcelain and enamel can get spiffed up.  Our old cast iron tub had a rust streak from the faucet, which came off with a good scrub.  Just thought this might be useful if you’re an OCD crazy and are prepping for guests this holiday weekend.

More Cushion

Just a few months ago, I ordered an 8 by 10 foot Jute Herringbone rug from West Elm to soften our family room.  I absolutely adore the neutral tones, subtle pattern, and how soft it is underfoot.  No scratchy material or nubby texture that hurts to walk on here, just a pretty rug to round out the seating area.

West-Elm-Rug-in-Family-Room-Overall

What I don’t love is that it lacks a backing, allowing it to stretch and bunch easily, especially around the coffee table and the sofa.  With such a heavy table on casters, it’s still easy to move, but the rug usually moves with it.  And the couch gets jumped on and pushed around by two little boys I know, which stretched one of the corners.  Ben wanted it to go, but I wasn’t about to let that happen.

West-Elm-Rug-in-Family-Room-Detail

I’ve seen plenty of cheap rug pads at box stores, but they’re thin and always smell awful, so I didn’t want to waste money on those.  Knowing rug pads aren’t the most glamorous or exciting detail, I put off my search.  Ironically, just after straightening out the rug, again, I received the perfect offer from RugPadUSA.

I could pick which of their rug pads suited my floors, rug, slip factor, cush level, and size to use in our home.  After looking at the many options, I landed on the 3/8 inch thick Premium-Lock Felt + Rubber rug pad, cut just a few inches smaller than my rug dimensions.  It arrived within a week and I wasted no time clearing the room, thoroughly vacuuming the floors, and unrolling it.  The pad had just the slightest odor, presumably from the rubber backing, but it quickly dissipated.

West-Elm-Rug-with-Rug-Pad-Corner-Folded

The under side is covered in a natural rubber backing, preventing slipping and sliding against smooth surfaces, while the top is cushy felt with a slightly sticky texture.  That sticky texture keeps the rug securely in place, but offers a nice cush underfoot.

West-Elm-Rug-and-Rug-Pad-Face

After getting the rug pad and rug back in place, I called Ben over to give it a test walk.  I joke that he’s a rug snob because he loves thick, dense, wool rugs.  He thinks the boys’ rug is so comfy that I should get another one for the living room, despite it being too small and well, too blue for any other rooms in our house.  For the first time since ordering the rug, he approved of the pad + rug combo.  With the official seal of approval, we brought the table, sofa, and chairs back in place.

West-Elm-Rug-with-Pad-Under-Couch

Over the last few weeks, I haven’t had to adjust the rug at all, nor have I noticed any stretching.  Count that a serious win in my book, but even better, the nearly 1/2 inch thick pad makes it plush, keeping Ben happy.  Who knew rug pads could save rugs, but also marriages?!  Ha, that’s incredibly dramatic, but, it did keep me from having to find and buy yet another rug for this space.  In summary, if you’re considering the West Elm jute rug, I’d highly recommend getting even a thin rug pad, just to keep it from bunching and stretching.

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