Our Spring View

Spring is easily my favorite time of year.  It’s glorious to get out of the house after a long winter; seeing everything come to life again is a fresh start.  I’ve been spending as much time as possible outside, transplanting a few plants, pulling weeds, and filling my empty pots.


Back when we started landscaping our steeply sloped lot, we spread a lot of limestone rock.  Since then, I’ve slowly added plants throughout, and with several years to grow, things are finally filling in.  The Russian sage tends to spread, so I pull what I don’t want and leave the rest.  Free plants are a win in my book.


Along the road frontage, I’ve tucked a mix of succulents into gaps between the big boulders.  Lamb’s ear and lavender are drought tolerant, but form big, mounding piles that cover a lot of ground for one plant.


The row of Stella de Oro daylilies are filling in along the driveway, softening the edge.  Three Royal Purple Smoke Trees have tripled in size since planting, but are slow to fill out.


For a nice welcome at the top of the driveway, a clematis sits in a pot between the two garage doors.


Depending on how it does in the planter, I’ll build a bigger trellis, but this small one works for now.


Lining the front walkway, the row of Karl Foerster grasses will soon be at eye level, creating a living fence of sorts.  The swish sound in the wind combined with the nearby lavender scent is the perfect summer calm.


This spring, while checking out plants at Lowe’s, I saw two concrete pots for $28 each and quickly loaded them in the cart.  A lilac plant adds height, with succulents and a purple sweet potato vine to fill in.  Come fall, I’ll transplant the lilac near the top of the back hill.


Off to the side of the stone path, I set a Shepard’s hook into the rock with a hanging basket of succulents for a somewhat sculptural interest.


My first plant additions are thriving, though I now wish I had added more variety,  for more height and color.


The view from the back stairs is my favorite.  What looked like this in 2013, right after adding all of the limestone:


Now looks like this:


A viburnum proudly stands nearest the stairs, with a succulent below.  I think the deer carried a few little pieces of another over, which is a happy little accident that I let grow.


Spring blooming viburnum is a great pair to the hydrangea near the deck.  Unfortunately, it had a terrible aphid problem last year that I could only fix by cutting off the new growth.


Viburnum tend to get leggy, so it worked to keep it compact, but also decreased the amount of blooms.


Off the right end of the stairs is a cut flower garden with a mix of peonies, coreopsis, daylilies, hyssop, and a honeysuckle training on an orb.


Catmint have grown so, so well that they dot throughout our property.  Soon, they’ll be covered in unruly purple blooms and the bees will love it.


Another great grower is lavender, with the bonus of the amazing smell.  Angelina stonecrop has spread into the crannies of large rocks, carrying chartreuse color all around.


We haven’t put the table back on the deck, but the lounge chairs are out.  Our kids especially love these.


Flanking the chair are (chipping) pots loaded up with purple butterfly bushes and lime green sweet potato vines.  Though they look pathetically small right now, I hope they’ll fill in as the seasons progress.


Stainless Steel Counter Tops

Between the teacher lounge makeover and building a pergola for a client, we haven’t spent much time in the pool house.  That doesn’t mean we’re not excited to make progress, but we did check one more piece off the list.


We built basic cabinet boxes a few weeks ago, which allowed us to place our stainless steel counter top order.  Ben measured everything and I transferred the measurements to a digital format to hand off to the fabricator.  For easy cleaning, we had them build a sink and 4 inch tall back splash into the counters.

Sink Measurements

Counter Measurements

With the details nailed down, they told us three weeks before they’d be ready.  A week and two days later, they called saying the counters are finished and ready for pick up.  What a pleasant surprise.  Ben picked them up and paid the $1200 and installed the two pieces.


Though we initially considered a small, bar sized sink, we decided to go for a full size.  Easier for washing, or we can fill it with ice as a cooler when we have people over.


Obviously, the faucet and drain aren’t fully hooked up, but it’s enough for us to install the remaining batten strips.


A horizontal strip will butt up to the steel back splash top, with the vertical battens terminating into that piece for a seamless look.


We’ve been so happy with the stainless counters in our master bath and the laundry room that these were an easy decision.


The one inch thick back splash top is a nice, custom detail that adds a finishing touch.


The contrast of the shiny stainless and the warm walnut is perfect in my book, which can only get better once the walls are painted white.


Now that the counters are in, we can face the cabinets, including a support piece across the sink front, and build doors.


We’re getting so close to functional and can’t wait to have our first pool party!

A Teacher Lounge Makeover

Over the last few months, I’ve been working on a side project: a teacher lounge update.  Some days involved planning and shopping, while others involved sewing and painting.  The final install happened over the weekend, when a friend and I loaded in everything we’d been stockpiling.  First, let’s look at the before:


Everything was a mish mash of garage sale finds or left over school furniture.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with garage sale stuff, but it all served just one purpose and took up extra floor space.  Over on the opposite side, there’s a built-in cabinet and sink, a refrigerator, and a door to a supply room.  Please note the lovely wallpaper border with cans and lemons.


Freeing up more floor space while giving more storage was the main goal, with bonus points for style.  Oh, and we had a $1000 budget to make it all happen.  To save money, we kept the full-sized refrigerator, drink fridge, and chest freezer.  The tables and chairs were okay, so we kept those too.  The sofa, bakers rack, and random desks/tables left to make room for a full wall of cabinets.  To maximize the budget, we bought two unfinished base cabinets from Home Depot for $157 each.


For a dose of color, we painted these Sea Serpent from Sherwin Williams.


Ben built us a 12 foot long laminate counter top and I stained twelve-foot long 2 by 12 pine boards, to create open shelves.


Before, the built-in cabinet had bypass sliding doors that no longer slid smoothly.  After removing the doors and tracks, I painted the cabinet to match the new ones.


For a little flair, I chose to sand and stain the shelves.


Finally, last Thursday, we got to work in the room, giving the walls a fresh coat of light gray paint, Campfire Ash from Behr.


Already, the room looked bigger.  After painting, we quickly moved the furniture into place, snugging the table ends against the wall.  Straightening the refrigerator left enough room for the chest freezer.


The old sofa had seen better days, so I spruced up a mid-century modern beauty I had planned to use in the pool house, but no longer needed.


Allowing the paint to dry on Friday let us get in on Saturday to start installing the cabinets and shelves.  It only took a few hours with Ben and allowed us to use the vertical space that previously was ignored.  The small drink fridge tucked neatly between the base cabinets.



That evening, we organized all the drinks, snacks, utensils, plates, and the other goodies.



A cabinet full of dishes is equally beautiful and functional.  We’re looking forward to seeing other quotes pop up on that letter board.


Baskets of snacks anchor the center of the two shelves, with extra dishes on either side.  Two matching microwaves allow multiple users to make lunch.  A few teachers asked for an ice maker, so we happily bought a counter top machine.


In our quest to make the lounge feel more comfortable and homey, I created two botanical engineer prints to hang from the tack strip.  A big impact for less than ten bucks is great for our slim budget.  Faux succulents add a much needed look of life, without the hassle of someone having to actually take care of it.


A parent donated the wood art above the sofa and it’s a perfect addition.


Our biggest difficulty was the lack of outlets, so we had to get creative with our arrangement.  Placing the Keurig, coffee pot, and jar of K cups on the table end created another work zone to prevent cramped working spaces.  Though the teachers knew we were updating the room, we kept them out while working on it to make it a surprise.  Monday morning, they were surprised to see the new space and all gave rave reviews.  It certainly functions and looks better, but that starting point made nearly anything an improvement.  Teachers work so hard, we are really happy to give them a space that shows our appreciation.

Tips for Cutting Marble and Placement of a Wall Faucet

Between several projects this weekend, Ben made time to cut the marble remnant we picked up in January.  At roughly three feet wide by 50 inches tall, the size was perfect for our half bathroom counter and a slab back splash.  It wasn’t in perfect condition, with blue tape and a red circle noting scratches or tiny surface chips.


Even so, we knew we could make it work.  Before we could even get to the install point, I did a lot of measuring and number crunching to determine the faucet placement.  This is the first wall mount faucet we’ve installed, and it’s an entirely different process.  With a traditional deck mount faucet, you only need to know how many holes (1 to 3) and whether it’s mounted to the counter or the sink.

Our Humble Abode Blog Master Bathroom Vanity

A wall mount faucet is more like a shower control, hidden in the wall, so the height of every element determines the faucet height.  To place our faucet, we had to determine: the gap between the floor and shelf+the space between the shelf and walnut band+the height of the wooden walnut+the counter thickness+the sink height+the space between the top of the sink and bottom of the faucet spout.


It was a lot of marking on walls, mock hand washing, and heaps of second guessing.  Once closed up, that’s it.  No changes from there on out, so no pressure.

With the vanity frame built, we got started on the marble.  Using a masonry blade in a circular saw, Ben cut the marble pieces to size as well as a rough square for the sink drain.  The sink hides it, so it didn’t have to look good.


The back splash was a bit trickier, as we had two holes to cut and very little wiggle room.  And no material for a re-do if it was wrong.  Ideally we would have used a diamond tip hole saw, but didn’t have one in the two sizes we needed.  We made do with a standard hole saw, which worked fine, but took a little longer.  After a test fit, it wasn’t quite perfect, so Ben made slightly wider holes.


Second time was the charm and he installed the spout and handle to finish it off.


With the counter top cut, we had just over 16 inches of marble left.  We decided to use the rest to create an over-sized, statement making back splash.


Between the sleek faucet and the extra tall slab, this should be a breeze to keep clean.


That’s all great, but how did we hide the scratches?  I’m glad you asked!  I love the look of honed marble, so we sanded the entire surface, first with 60 grit, followed up with 120 grit paper.  It takes off the sheen and makes any imperfections nonexistent or noticeable only if pointed out.


I can’t help wandering in and sneaking a peek.  It’s just as beautiful and luxurious as I’d hoped it would be.

A Glass Bathroom Door & Walnut Vanity

We started off our pool house remodel with a half bath between the house entrance and the bar space.  It had a narrow swinging door that forced snugging against the vanity just to close it.  The bathroom itself was dark, in part because of dark wood clad walls, but also from a lack of natural light.


Our remodel plans included adding wider doors to the bathroom as well as the house.


A six-foot wide sliding glass door now connects the house and this space.  When I proposed using the previous swinging glass door for the bathroom, Ben gave me a funny look.  I continued with my rationalization that I’d like a way to get natural light into the small space, and the glass door, with the addition of frosted film, was perfect.  This gave us a wider opening, and with a pocket door, a more user-friendly function.


Adding a pocket door in a 2 by 6 framed wall is easier, and sturdier, than in a 2 by 4 wall.  Placing 2 by 4 boards flat on either side of the pocket area, with the track installed, makes a rigid wall.


Ben installed trim around the door frame to finish it off, with little brackets at the bottom to keep the door in line.


I ordered a round locking pocket door handle to fill the hole from the previous knob.


Obviously, a clear glass door doesn’t give privacy for a bathroom.  We called a local glass company and asked for pricing on frosting a tempered glass door.  I don’t remember the price, but it was really reasonable.  However, they said there’s a 50/50 chance the process of frosting the tempered glass would shatter it.  We decided to play it safe and chose a frosted window film instead, applying it to the bathroom side of the door.


It obscures really well, unless someone is standing within inches from the door, but still lets light flood in.  With the door in place, we turned our attention to building the vanity.  My plan included a floating slatted shelf with a wooden band across the top.


When building something, Ben always plans for MWS: most weight scenario.  To support the front of the shelf enough for a kid, or grown man, to stand on, Ben ran a steel pipe across the front of the shelf, drilling through the baseboard and wall for it to rest on the wood.  A cut piece of baseboard serves as a rest/support along the back.


Constructing the shelf was a pretty simple process.  A 2 1/2 inch thick face, a 1 inch wide strip (to cover the top of the pipe), 2 inch wide slats, and a 3/4 inch thick strips for the back.  We started at the center and used a 1 1/2 inch spacer to keep the width even.


A dry fit run to make sure it fits before adding the final two strips along the sides.


Another cut piece of baseboard follows the top of the shelf, creating a nook for the shelf to rest in.  It also keeps the shelf removable for painting.  To support the vanity top, a wooden frame lines the walls, with a four-inch board along the front.


With the walnut sanded, attached, and oiled, it’s a thing of beauty.


Keeping this space clear of unnecessary junk is important, and cabinets tend to become a catch-all for lotions and potions.  A single shelf allows room for a basket of toilet paper and a first aid bin.  Clearly, it didn’t take me long to test things out.


Seeing the vanity peeking out has me excited to get the marble top in place and install the rest of the batten strips.


I’m still caulking away my spare time, but adding these finished elements is really making the end of this gigantic process seem within reach now.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.