A Client Remodel: Before

Back in August, Ben and I started working on a main level remodel for a sweet, stylish couple.  Despite the house being built within the last 20 years, the before felt very dated, despite having painted every wall to update it.  The entry boasts a beautiful door, which opens toward the living room.


From the front door, there’s a beautiful view through a big back window, with a rock fireplace to one side and the dining/kitchen to the left.


Even with the two arched openings, the kitchen felt very closed off, which was tricky when they hosted large groups.



Big east and south-facing windows flood the rooms with natural light, but the yellow trim didn’t do any favors for the space.


Before, cabinets lined all walls, creating a tight walkway all around.  With only 29 inches between the island and side cabinets, there was just barely enough room to open the dishwasher.  The entrance from the garage also cramped the space.


A large sliding door off the dining room opens to the back yard.


Looking from the kitchen toward the living room, the arched walls blocked flow and the view of the fireplace.


While nice to have a fireplace, the too small mantle throws off the proportions.  Having two small children, our clients wanted more storage space for electronics and toys.


Crown molding with rope lighting tucked behind floated a few inches below the ceiling.  About half of the lights still worked, but those that did gave off a sickly orange glow.


Down the hall are three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room in need of updates.  The arched knotty alder doors and hand scraped light floors felt too rustic and traditional, all at once.


Bedrooms only needed trim, carpet, and paint touch ups, but the bathroom could benefit from new floors, cabinet, counters, sink, and faucet.


With a small laundry room, the dark appliances and cracking floors didn’t help the room.


Major pieces have started coming together in the last couple of weeks, so stay tuned for progress updates.


An Affordable Sofa

There’s a brand spanking new sofa in our living room, which is a break from my usual thrift/Craigslist purchases.


Back in May, we moved my most amazing Craigslist score, a camel leather sofa for only $220, from the south-facing living room into the north facing family room.  The sun was unevenly fading the leather.  And while I love the plushness of that sofa, Ben finds it too soft.


The gray sofa from the family room went into the living room, but that one never felt quite right for that space.


So, back in May, Ben suggested we get a new sofa, which is so out of the ordinary of him that I seized the moment.  We tried to take advantage of the Memorial Day sales, but I couldn’t find anything locally that I liked the style or price of.


Fast forward a month and I stumbled on the perfect sofa, in a sporting goods store, no less.  Each sofa is made in North Carolina, with a hardwood frame, heavy gauge seat wires, and tie wires on the back and seat to last for years.  Even better, it was $999.99 with so many great fabric options.


Before ordering, I took home several fabric samples I liked to see how the color and patterns would look in our home and lighting.  Samples usually look different in a flourescent lit store than a home.

There was a wide tone on tone herringbone that was beautiful, but after a few minutes felt like an optical illusion.  If the sample made my eyes feel funny, surely an entire sofa wouldn’t be better.


For the fabric, I wanted something with a slightly nubby texture.  A weave with some variation, but not overwhelming.  A neutral, go with anything color with a touch of warmth to coordinate with the linen sofa across the room.  Most importantly, I didn’t want a fabric with a sheen/metallic-ish thread.  Finally, I found the perfect one and dragged Ben to the store to sit on it.


He liked that the sofa is firm and supportive.  I loved the track arm and clean, unfussy lines.  With Ben’s seal of approval, I ordered the Craftmaster F9 sofa in Lilou, a soft gray with a track arm, semi-attached box back cushions, and a welt detail.   I ditch the pillows that come with sets, because it feels very one note to have the pillows match the sofa.


It took eight weeks from order to arrival in the local store for pick up, but it was well worth the wait.

The Finished Pool House!

If you’ve been following along for a while, I’m sure you’re sick of seeing pool house progress.  And guess what, I am too!  Luckily, over the weekend, we have officially completed the pool house.  Six plus years ago, when we first looked at the house, the room looked like this:

New-House-Pool-Room April 13 2012

Everyone else that looked at the house saw this big space as a money pit, but we saw the potential in it.  That’s not to say the road to completion has been easy, but it is certainly worth the time spent getting it all finished and functional.  I know this is what everyone has been waiting for, so now I’ll keep words to a minimum and loads of pictures.


Isn’t it crazy that this is the same space?!  New windows, ceiling, walls, floors, paint, kitchen, bath.  Top to bottom, the entire nearly 1600 square foot space has been updated.  Looking back toward the house, the view is equally different.


We widened the door to the house, as well as the bathroom door, and lowered the kitchen platform.


Speaking of the kitchen area, this is what i t looked like originally:


And the kitchen now:


The bench seats double as storage, handy for tucking away pool floaties and toys.


In the back corner, there was a built-in hot tub:


Now there’s a free-standing, easy to fix or replace tub:



With few accessories for the space, the towels and hooks serve as functional art.


There’s a big tv Ben saved from the neighbor’s trash and repaired for $50.  It’ll be great to play water aerobics videos.


Ignore the dangling wires, as those are for the surround sound speakers Ben still has to install.  I guess the space isn’t 100% finished.  My citrus trees are loving it so far, so I hope I can keep them happy and alive.



Usually, the reel and cover live at the deep end of the pool, and this giant swan just hangs out.


I know this project has taken a long time, but thank you for following along, offering your encouragement, and sticking it out to see the results.  We’re already putting it to regular use, which is fun considering it’s quickly growing colder in Montana.  Bring on the winter pool parties!

How To: Install a Pool Liner

Over the weekend, something exciting happened.  If you follow us on Instagram, you may have seen that Ben and I installed our pool liner.  Several weeks ago, I shared work we’d done to get ready for the pool liner, which included hanging the standard bead track.


In order to prevent the screws rubbing against the future liner, Ben applied a few layers of Gorilla Tape to soften the screw heads.


With the track ready, we measured the pool.  Different sites have slightly different measurements, so we measured according to the company we planned to order from and filled out the paper.


After sending that form in, they sent us a drawing detailing the dimensions we gave to them, asking us to confirm the sizes were correct.


After looking over dozens of liner pattern and color options, I chose Crystal Quartz, a white, gray, and blue terrazzo pattern.  In the Swim was quick and sent our liner out within a week of placing the order.  A big, 140 pound box arrived with a list of instructions printed on the outside of the box.  The box was to be placed at the deep end, centered on the width with the arrows facing the shallow end.


The pool liner has a thicker ‘bead’ along the top, with an angle cut back.


The angle of the bead grips the track, with the weight of the liner pulling it down, keeping it tucked in place.


Although the directions said it works best to have four people, Ben and I unfurled the package, bringing the marked corners toward the shallow end.  Each corner had a blue Sharpie arrow on the back to indicate the corner, which we placed near the center of the radius corner.


It wasn’t perfect, one side just a little off-center, giving a bit more material to one side.  With the liner still in the track, we pulled a little toward the deep end, slowly scooting it along the track.  After that, the corners all lined up nicely, and Ben brought up our two shop vacs.



One hose went into the skimmer, the other tucked behind the corner of the liner.  Both sealed with Gorilla Tape to keep the suction as tight as possible.


Without the vacuums on, the liner hangs loosely off the track.


Within a few minutes of turning the two vacuums on, the liner stretched and sucked into the walls and floor.  But not tightly into the seams where the different planes meet.


Up until this point, everything went better than anticipated, taking about an hour total.  We both hopped online in search of answers.  I saw several forums that said liners stretch about 300 percent.  Not wanting to risk harming the $1300 liner, we got a more powerful carpet cleaning vacuum, with three different suction levels.  Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.

At that point, Ben and I both worried that the liner was too small.  Nothing in the instructions said the liner would be slightly small, but I thought the weight of water would stretch everything in place.  After a discussion, Ben agreed we should give it a try and brought in the hoses.


As the pool fills, the vacuums have to stay on to keep the liner sucked tightly into place.


Sure enough, as the water level rose, the previously rounded corners became more defined.


Whew, it was all okay and now a waiting game.  Over on Instagram, a few people messaged me to ask why we didn’t get a water truck delivery.  Mostly because we’d never installed a liner before and didn’t know how it would go/when we would be ready.  Also, deliveries aren’t available on Sundays.  Either way, we knew it would eventually fill up, and the hardest part was behind us.  Stay tuned for the full reveal!

Fall Plantings

Several years ago, a native pine tree grew in a planter that divides the top, flat part of our driveway from the steep slope coming up from the road.  The planter was cobbled together, made with various rocks the previous owner had left over.


When the pine tree died from boring beetles and we cut it down, it made the tight turn at the top of our driveway feel so much more open.  However, the steep grande change required something to divide the two levels, so Ben and I agreed on a 6 foot diameter culvert turned planter.


Though 6 feet isn’t small, it was about half the size of the previous rock planter, giving more space to make the turn.  In June, Ben got the planter in place, but I waited to buy plants because I didn’t want to plant in the heat of summer.


With cooler fall temperatures, the new plants can start to establish roots before winter hits and hopefully bounce right back with warm spring temps.  As per my plan, I bought an Ivory Silk Lilac, placing it in the center of the planter.  It maxes out around 20 feet tall, which will stay compact in this tight space.


Around the tree, I added four Black Eyed Susans. In part because the do well in our conditions, but also because I couldn’t find lavender locally this time of year.


Between the culvert planter and the wooden beam walkway, we added large stones to divide planter space from driveway.


In that section, I dotted Angelina Stonecrop plants, which should fill in to form a low lying green rug.


Currently, the tree looks a bit puny, like something Charlie Brown would rescue.  Once established, I hope it fills out and dazzles us with white flower clusters.


In the steep grade change, I nestled a few Hens and Chicks succulents in to help soften all of the rocks.


Patience is always the name of the game when dealing with plants.  It looks sparse now, but in a few short years, it should look lush and full.


Navigating the driveway is easier now, thanks to the extra 6 or so feet cut off from the old planter size.  Next spring, I will add sweet potato vines (an annual in our zone) to the tall front edge to drape over the front.


And now the waiting on plants to grow game begins, which feels like an eternity.  Taking pictures along the way helps, because it shows the slow progress that is otherwise hard to notice on a daily basis.