Flags as Art

For a long time, I’ve admired the look of a big flag hung in a room to serve as art.  Doesn’t matter how simple or detailed the flag, I’m a sucker for the look.  Emily Henderson has two that show how great this large-scale art can be.  A vintage Red Cross flag above a sofa fills that large expanse without feeling overbearing.

In her current house, she has a simple blue and white stripe flag above a credenza.  Both designs are simple, two color styles that make a bold statement, without needing a frame.

Or, when framed, the flag becomes a piece big enough to anchor a bed, serving as a headboard.

Division Street

So I know flags as art isn’t a new thing, but I’ve recently added one to our home, with a twist.


The lovely ladies behind Flagology recently asked me if I’d want to try a custom house flag, either outside or indoors.  A million options ran through my mind, designs, colors, even where I could hang it.


With such a neutral laundry room, I thought it’d be fun to add large scale, colorful art in the mix.  At 28 inches wide by 40 inches tall, the size fills the end wall perfectly.  While I loved everything about it, I realized the light weight piece would work even better in the basement hall.


Why does the weight matter so much on this wall?  Well, this wall is mostly a pocket door and essentially only drywall to hang anything on.


So I found a section of wooden dowel, ran it through the top pocket, and added twine to hang the flag from.


A thumb tack easily holds the flag in place, and doesn’t need heavy-duty hangers.


Thanks to the thick, outdoor quality fabric, I don’t have to worry about mess hands, shoulder bumps (not to be confused with shoulder pads), or anything else damaging the flag.  That’s not something I can say about traditional frames with glass or even canvas paintings.


Creating a custom flag was as simple as uploading a .jpeg file, clicking the mouse a few times, and done.  Knowing I wanted this to look a bit more like art than a traditional flag, I created a design based on a paint by number scene.  The Flagtastic fabric kept the greens of the mountains and trees vibrant to really liven up this dark little hallway.


Now to get some more art on these walls!  I’ve had a special print waiting in the wings for that wall at the end of the hall.  Getting to the accessory stage is so much fun because that’s where the personality and life come into play.

If you like this idea, you’ll love that Flagology is giving one custom house flag or doormat to a lucky reader!  Just for our readers, Flagology is offering 20% off all custom flags and doormats (does not include Create4Me or accessories)-just enter the code OHA20 to redeem your deal.

This post was sponsored by Flagology, but all ideas, opinions, and photos are my own.  

Laundry Room Progress

In what feels like a never-ending saga, let’s dive into the progress we’ve made in the basement.  Specifically, the laundry room.  For it’s purpose, it’s a decent sized room at nine feet wide and eight and a half feet deep.  We started out with our washer and dryer side by side, below a row of orange oak upper cabinets.  Since we immediately ripped out the pet stained carpet, we tossed a rug below to have a less dirty floor to walk on.


Just to the left of the appliances was a big, plastic wash tub and open floor space.


Opposite the washer and dryer was a full wall of dark oak upper and lower cabinets, complete with stunning orange countertops.


Based on the cabinet configuration and the large mirror, we think this room was a designated sewing space for a previous owner.  While the room boasted a lot of cabinetry, it wasn’t laid out in the most functional way for our uses.


When we gutted the entire basement, we decided to tweak the door placement to throw more depth to the appliance side.  This minor change centered the door on the open floor space, making each side a better depth for what would go on the walls.


After five months of working toward an updated basement, we are nearing our finish line.  Let’s take a look behind the pocket door.


We still have the sink, washer, and dryer on the left side of the door, but opted to stack the units to accommodate an upright freezer.


For the most finished look, we built a floor to ceiling panel to block the side of the stack.  A 40 inch wide by 24 inch deep cabinet, which will have a sink once we get our countertops, fills in from the side panel to wall.


Above, we opted to skip an upper cabinet, and built two floating wood shelves instead.  At eight inches deep, we won’t have to worry about crashing heads, but we still have enough room for laundry essentials.  Of course the shelves can also hold a few pretty things to add a bit of personality to even a laundry room.


Over on the other side of the room is a wall-o-cabinets.  Sleek white cabinets keep this dark, windowless room from feeling dingy and depressing.  At the back of the room is a 5 foot tall by 2 foot wide vacuum/ironing board cabinet.


This leaves us with a 6 1/2 foot long counter space, which will be great for folding, but also getting laundry baskets off the floor.


A pair of upper cabinets gives us ample space to store, well, I’m not sure yet, but whatever we need.


Clearly the bottom drawers aren’t finished, but the shallow tops aren’t actually drawers.  Surprise, it’s a pull out drying rack.


To be honest, we don’t have much that can’t go in the dryer, but we didn’t have an option before.  Yes, we could have added a pull down wall mount version, but I love that these are discreet when not in use.  More than anything, we built the cabinets, so we easily added the option.


Even when fully extended, there’s a little more than two feet of space to get around.


Like the kitchen and master bath, all drawers and doors are soft close.  It’s a small feature that is just so nice to have; no more accidentally slamming anything shut.


Before we can call this room finished, we still have a few things to finish up.  Two more drawers to build, a cabinet will go above the freezer, a panel to cover the top of the dryer, countertops/sink/faucet to install.  Baseboard and crown can go in soon and then it’s fill, caulk, prime, and paint.


Even with those lingering tasks, how about a side by side to show just how far we’ve come in five months.


Guys, we have floors that don’t feel gross underfoot.  We’ll have counter space by the sink to actually set stuff like soap.  No more mirror to creep everyone out.

Designing a Bathroom Vanity

When trying to figure out exactly which direction I wanted to go in the basement bathroom, I looked at the other two bathrooms upstairs to decide.  Our main bathroom features a completely open vanity with a shelving stack to the side.  I know this style isn’t for everyone, but in a space that’s often used by guests, I love that almost everything is in view.  It makes it much easier and less awkward to find the cotton balls, soap, extra towels, and toilet paper.  Having an open design means stowing smaller items in bins, baskets, and boxes, which works for us.

Our Humble Abode Blog Main Bathroom Vanity

On the other hand, our master bathroom sports a dark and handsome six drawer walnut vanity with legs leaving a four-inch open space at the bottom.  It too functions very well for us, stowing everything out of sight.  Thanks to the vessel sink, which has all the plumbing centered between the stacks, all drawers are full-sized and completely functional.  Leaving the base open visually lightens the dark wood and makes it look like the custom piece it is.


So, knowing the benefits of the polar opposite designs has led me to my ideal vanity design for the basement.  First, I love the floor to counter square legs of our open vanity and the open shelf.  But the drawers and vessel sink of our master vanity are the best wat to get small item storage.  We have 5 feet six inches of space to build the vanity in, which is a very good, workable size.


Due to the placement of the supply lines and drain, we aren’t able to have all drawers for the upper section, like this option:


But, having drawers on the top with all cabinet space below isn’t exactly ideal either.  Bins would have to be used to corral everything and keep it organized, but the width of the doors is an even bigger issue.  Each door would be almost three feet wide, and opening a door swing that big could become an issue.


So here’s the Goldilocks of the vanity configurations:


A vessel sink with cabinet directly below, a pair of narrower drawers on either side, and an open shelf with space below.  The cabinet accommodates the plumbing, drawers for tidy storage, and bottom shelf keeps it from feeling too visually heavy.


Just like the main bathroom, the plan is to find or build a wooden box to hold toilet paper and/or towels, hence the brown box.  For flooring, we’re using the same slate tiles we’ve used on the fireplace, master bathroom, and kitchen because, well, we really like it.  Tile will start at the base of the stairs and will continue through the two hall sections, into the laundry room, and bath for a continuous look.


Since this bathroom is a windowless dark hole without artificial lighting, I’m limiting the dark elements to keep it as bright as possible.  To contrast against the dark floors, I’m picturing a white vanity, possibly with some sort of dark wood pull or handle.  After a trip to our local stone yard, we found a pretty slab of dark gray/black with white veins, so that’ll be the countertop with a white vessel sink.  I’ll figure out a wall color once we’ve finished the drywall and have the lighting in.  We know the major components, but a few things are still in the air, until I track down the smaller pieces.  What I do know is this, I don’t want the bathroom to look like it once did:


PSA time, friends never let friends install yellow plumbing fixtures, honey oak cabinets, orange laminate countertops, and carpet in bathrooms.


Seriously, why did carpet in a bathroom ever seem like an okay idea?  Let alone this orange and gold kaleidoscope pattern.

Basement Rebuilding & Plans

With basement demo completely out of our way, we’ve spent the remainder of holiday break cleaning and rebuilding.  None of the exterior walls had insulation, so we’ve added a layer of 2 inch rigid foam, then built new 2 by 4 walls to run wiring through.  Before sheet rock, we’ll add fiberglass batting.

Along with new exterior walls, we’ve made a few changes to the floor plan.  To give an idea of where everything was, as well as our plans, here’s a set of handy-dandy floor plans.  Let’s start with the before:


And here are the changes we’ve started and are planning to tackle.


Some things are staying the same/very similar, while we’re making some other major changes, so how about a rundown of plans?  Okay, here we go:

  1.  The door to the garage (which is to the right of these plans) is at the base of the stairs, which can make things crowded at times.  More often than not, we enter and exit through the garage, so getting organization and order in this space is crucial.  Having a door to the under stair storage open into the hallway wasn’t the best use of space and further clogged a main artery.  Instead of accessing the under stair area from the hall, we’re creating what I’m calling a ‘mud nook.’  It’ll have a bench with shoe storage below and hooks above for a great drop zone that will keep the mess of life tucked aside.  Here’s the current view with my back to the garage door; mud nook on the left (where the bins of junk are) and the soon to be bedroom door straight ahead.


Again, a shot of the future storage space, with a glimpse of the stairs to the left.  The opening of the nook is just under six and a half feet wide by 18 inches deep, so it’s a generous size for backpacks, winter gear, and shoe storage.  I measured over and over, considering taking it back a little deeper, but because this is tucked partly under the stairs, the deeper the bench, the shorter the ceilings get.  This seemed to be the sweet spot, and we just may have room for a shelf at the top, but we’ll see how everything feels when we get sheet rock up.

Basement-Mud-Nook-Progress2.  We’re dividing the large front room into two different spaces.  The smaller will become a bedroom, possibly for one of the boys when they’re old enough to want separate rooms.  Until then, we’ll use it as another guest space.  After debating the pros and cons of door placement, we agreed to keep the door at the end of the shorter hall, but pivot it to make a 90 degree corner.  Rotating it around to enter from the other hall stretch would have given a little more privacy, but wasn’t worth the effort to make it work in the load bearing wall.


3.  Along the stair wall, we’ve added a deep closet with access to the under stair storage through the back.  Under the stairs, the plan is to finish it off with walls, carpet, and lights to create a cozy little play area that we can use for storage when the boys are too big/old to care about it.


4.  In smaller changes, we’re shifting the laundry door over about 18 inches and eliminating the door swing by putting in a pocket door.


Before, the door was 24 inches from the left, where the deeper washer/dryer sit, while the shallower cabinet side had 54 inches between the wall and door.  With the machines toward the back of the room, the units never stuck out per se, but it always felt off centered.  Basically, we’re swapping the proportions by moving the door and centering the door on the space open space between the appliances and cabinetry for better flow.  Here’s the start of the process, with the wider door framed and ready for pocket door install:


It’s a heck of a lot easier to move the door than the plumbing and electrical.  Stacking the washer and dryer will make space for our bulk storage in the upright freezer, which will sit where our dryer once did.  I know, it’s an unconventional placement, but there really isn’t a better place for it, upstairs or down.  And if we ever decide to do away with the freezer, we can unstack the washer and dryer with room to spare.  We’ll still have a wall of cabinets on the other side, but the cabinets will be counter height for a folding station as well as an open ‘desk’ spot for Ben to work on his reloading.


While tearing apart the laundry room, we found something interesting.  At some point, there was a small fire in here.  Everything has been fixed, including two replaced joists.


That cleared up our questions about why one joist bay in the future bedroom was darker, it’s smoke discoloration.


5.  With the freezer relocated to the laundry room, we’ll have space to install heavy-duty shelves in the unfinished utility/mechanical room for tools/paint cans/messy storage items.


6.  We’ve already opened up the end of the hall to create a door to enter the theater room.  Due to the lowered ceilings, we’re still trying to figure out if we can put a pocket door in here as well. It might shorten the opening too much, but we’re hoping to make it work.  Oh, and the box on the left is my test for sconce placement thanks to a lack of overhead lighting options where the duct runs.


7.  Once we’ve finished, the theater room can technically be considered a fifth bedroom because we’re adding an oversized closet at the back.  Directly left of the window (this was the end of the house before the pool house addition) is the start of our closet wall.  The window leads into an unfinished crawl space, so we do need to keep access to that, but it’ll be hidden inside the closet.


8.  Another fun demo discovery!  The shower drain isn’t actually a to code shower drain, just a floor drain.  Luckily, we planned to widen the shower, which required moving the drain, so replacing it isn’t an added task.


The remaining fixtures will stay where they were.


So that’s the basic overview of what we’ve done and where we’re headed with this basement.  As usual, the renovation saga will continue and I’ll share more details as we make progress, including the exciting parts that come after sheet rock has been finished.

It’s Demolition Day!

We have two big projects remaining on the to do list: gut and remodel the basement and pool house.  With all of our big construction materials currently stored in the warehou-I mean-pool house, we’ve decided to start work on the basement, saving the pool house for last.

Here are pictures from closing day:


Along the front, there’s a long room that makes an L shape around the corner:


Looking back toward the entry from that same point, there’s a set of four-foot wide French doors.  The painted door on the left side went into a 2 foot by three-foot closet that was added after the basement was finished.


The bathroom boasts a lovely mustard yellow suite of fixtures, and previously had carpeted floors.  Literally right after getting the keys, we drove here and ripped out the pet stained carpet and have lived with Flor tiles to cover since then.  It’s been gross.


Unfortunately, this is the only picture I have of the hall, but the door on the right goes into the laundry room, with the bathroom the next door down.  The same carpet extended from the bathroom through the hall and laundry room, hence the glue on concrete floors.  Did I mention gross?


Oh, please note the mirror at the end of the hall, too.  Rather than finishing the walls to the small closet they added, the previous owner ‘patched’ the wall with a large mirror.  Basically, the perfect way to scare the crap out of people who don’t know there’s a mirror there.

Over the weekend, we decided to get going on the project, starting with demo!  Demo day is always exciting, because it’s the first step of a renovation.  Ben took the first whack, pulling the double layer of sheet rock off the concrete foundation wall.


I know basements are typically colder, and that’s expected when this is all that finishes the walls.  No insulation = cold!


At least the upper section of the outer wall had fiberglass batting.


After tearing apart the concrete wall coverings, we moved on to the small closet at the end of the hall.


With low ceilings (thanks to duct work above) and no windows (or the option of adding any down the road), this hall was always suuuper dark.  That lone sconce didn’t help much, but punching a hole at the end lets in so much natural light and will also be the entrance to the future theater space.


Ripping out sheet rock is messy, but fun because it’s easy to break through and gives plenty of opportunities for ‘Heeeere’s Johnny!’ moments.  Cleaning up, not as fun.  We hauled big pieces directly to the truck and loaded up garbage cans with smaller pieces as we went.  You know what they say, “Keep your friends close and your garbage cans closer” or something like that.


However, a wall full of dead mice puts a slight damper on the fun.  The wall seen above and below is load bearing, but I’ve dubbed it the mouse wall because there were no fewer than 20 in that space alone.  As Ron White would say, “Things that make you go bleeahhh.”  Here’s to hoping the little varmint won’t be able to get in once we’re done.


It was right around this point that we started making up lyrics for demolition songs.  To the tune of For the First Time in Forever from Frozen, here’s our winner:

That wall is now open, so’s that door!  We don’t have sheet rock in here anymore.  So now we have a thousand nails to puuuuull.


(Brief intermission: speaking of pulling nails, here’s a quick tip.  Use a long-handled pry bar to remove sheet rock nails from the ceiling without shuffling a ladder around.  Okay, continue singing.)

For years I’ve hated these ugly halls. Who wants a basement with cold, dark walls?  Finally we’re heating up this plaaaace.

We’ve found actual real dead mouse bones.  Which isn’t totally strange.  At least that’s an easy thing to chaaange.

‘Cause for the first time in forever,  We’ll have bedrooms, we’ll have floors.  For the first time in forever, We won’t freeze our feet anymooore.

Don’t know if I’m exhausted or hungry, But I’m somewhere in that zone.  ‘Cause for the first time in forever, This basement will feel like home.

I can’t wait to get everything done! (gasp!)  What happens…when we get it all done?

Today imagine a finished hall, Complete with slate floors and finished walls.  The perfect spruce up for this tiny space.

Ooh! A functional mud nook over there, With a wall of hooks for all our gear.  A way to organize this side entry plaaaace.

But we’ll clean and scrape all evening.  Until it’s all packed in the car.  After more of the same we’ve done so faaarrr.

For the first time in forever, There’ll be movies, there’ll be sun.  For the first time in forever, We’ll use the basement for some fuuun.

And I know it’s totally crazy, To dream of hanging pants.  But for the first time in forever, At least we’ll have the chance.

I’m sure that Weird Al-esque ditty will be a chart topper in no time.  In the picture below, my back is to the garage entrance, the door on the left goes into the unfinished under stair storage.


Did you catch the mud nook reference in my song?  Well, we’re going to do a little reconfiguring, stealing 18 inches or so of space from the stair storage to create a recessed area complete with a bench, shoe storage and hooks.


I’m absolutely giddy over this addition because as it is, the stairs come down right next to the garage door.  When we come in, shoes (and backpacks, jackets, snow pants, and other junk) get piled up, creating an obstacle course just to get in and out or down to do a load of laundry.

I’ll draw up a legit plan, until then, to get a better idea of the layout, feast your eyes on my scrap trim mock-up.


Along the long stair section, we’ll create a bedroom closet with access to the under stair section through it.


This is another little thing that I’m stupidly excited about, because we’re going to finish the walls, add carpet, and a few lights.  Do you see where I’m headed with this?  While our boys are still young, I think they’ll love that area as a hidden play space.  Once they’re older, we can use it for storage again.

Now that the ceiling and walls are open, we also have access to the upstairs railing posts that are bolted in place to joists.


Before we put sheet rock back in, we’ll be able to replace the orange oak spindles and railing.


Even though the basement is looking even worse, we’re both excited to start putting everything back together.


Of course, no remodel is complete without small challenges to deal with, like ducts running over the hall, making overhead lights impossible to add.


Soon, we’ll demo the bathroom and laundry, too.  Until then, I’m measuring, drawing up plans, and searching for finishes.  At least we know how we’ll spend our holiday vacation, much the same way we did last year while we gutted the kitchen.  Consider us the captains of the cool kids.  Enjoy your holidays and have a safe and happy New Year!