A Deck Makeover & Cozy Outdoor Lounge Area

Four years ago, when we bought this house, it came with a large front deck and a paver patio.  Without adjectives, both spaces sound lovely.  I’m sure the paver patio was beautiful, but the lack of maintenance, weeds, and tree roots took a toll.

New-House-Back-Yard-East-April-13-2012

Replacing windows and siding was a priority, but before that could happen, we had to excavate a foot of dirt back here, build a low deck, and only then could we hang siding.  In home remodeling, each project seems to hinge on another aspect being ready.  Though we didn’t want to tackle landscaping first, it did give us a baseline to seamlessly transition siding.

May-Garden-Back-Deck-Potted-Plants

None of that is new, and has been featured several times before.  But, there’s another deck that hasn’t been shared since move in, until today.  Before getting into the afters, here’s a look at the condition the front deck was in when we took ownership:

Original-Front-Deck-from-Road

New-House-Deck-April-13-2012

West-Side-of-Deck

In a word, woof.  The railing that was so far from code/safety requirements, benches along the edge were uncomfortable and took up useful space, rotting/spongy joists, and splintered deck boards didn’t exactly make this space enjoyable.  It certainly had potential, but thanks to other more important projects, we just got around to rebuilding it last summer.  Due to the technical aspects, this isn’t a deck building tutorial.  Rather, it’s the kind of television makeover before and after without the work, sweat, and wait-surprise!!

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Overall

Clearly, a lot has changed.  Everything, in fact.

Front-Deck-from-Road

We completely demoed the structure, rebuilding to meet or exceed code standards to ensure longevity.

Update: A reader emailed me, wanting to similarly cover an outdoor space, asking if/how much light the solid roof blocks?  Since others might have the same concerns, here’s my answer and our rationale why covering the deck was worth it.  This entire deck fronts the pool house, not our normal living space.  Since it is a pool house, it has 8 skylights, normal windows, and four sliding glass doors that flood the space with light, so the deck roof hasn’t changed the lighting too much.  Yes, it’s a touch darker, but totally worth the added usable outdoor living area and not becoming the human version of a roasting marshmallow.  That said, I don’t think this is the perfect solution for all outdoor spaces.  Before adding a cover, consider the size and orientation of the windows/doors and the room(s) it will potentially darken.

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Overall-Toward-Grills

Redwood deck boards are smooth and splinter free, the railing is not only safe, but offers more privacy, not only to the deck, but the (currently nonfunctional) pool inside.  At 36 inches tall, the railing still doesn’t block the city/mountain views.  Instead, it hides just the street and houses across, even when seated because our house is on a steep hillside.  Thanks to the southern, full sun exposure, we decided to add a full roof, keeping the area as cool as possible.  When we swapped the dining door placement, we created a four-foot wide walkway off the front.

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Toward-Pool-House

Over the long weekend, thanks to awesome sales, we picked up two World Market sofas (only $204 each!!) to create a comfortable lounge/seating area.  Until this point, this 900 square foot deck housed two grills, the bench in the background and that’s about it.

Front-Deck-Sofa-Overall

Last year, while we were rebuilding the deck, I started my search for outdoor furniture and came across a pair of linear wood frame chairs:Wood-Frame-Outdoor-Chairs

That screenshot has been on my phone for nearly a year, and for the life of me, I cannot remember the source.  But, I do know that I was instantly smitten, and wanted the same look.  Imagine my surprise when I was wandering around World Market and stumbled upon the Praiano set.  At $400 per sofa, it wasn’t a bad price, but I wasn’t ready to pull the trigger.  Fortunately for me, my patience pair off and I struck when the price dropped to $239.99 plus a 15% off coupon.

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Furniture-Detail

After patiently waiting a few months, I became impatient and bought, assembled, and lounged within 24 hours of getting the coupon in my inbox.

Front-Deck-Sofa-Side-DEtail

Those sleek lines have my heart.

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Sofa-and-Coffee-Table

And closely resemble the railing.  Haha, I guess I have flock to a distinct style.

Front-Deck-Sofa-Corner-Detail-Toward-Grill

The cushions are firm, but not uncomfortable.  However, the arms need some cush, so I pulled some indoor pillows from the linen closet to soften the hard wood frame.

Front-Deck-Sofa-Corner-Detail

For additional greenery, I added two potted Arborvitae trees in the corner of the center bump out.  The green seems so much more vibrant against the dark gray siding.

Front-Deck-Potted-Tree

I’m still trying to track down chairs to round out the grouping, since these are standing in from our old, seen-better-days patio set.

Front-Deck-Lounge-Area-Toward-House

Then there’s this sad, mostly empty corner.  Again, these pieces are standing in until we have time to build a dining table.

Front-Deck-Future-Dining-Area

Ben and I have differing visions/layouts for the deck.  Mostly because he’d love to build an 18 foot long Last Supper style table to take place of the current lounge area.

Napa Style Residence

While I think that’d be really cool, I think we’re better off putting this corner to use as an extension of the adjacent indoor dining space.  Adding an overhead fixture to this area would also be pretty easy with the attic overhang and access.  Time will tell, but I’m thrilled to have a cozy place to escape the house to enjoy a book.

Oh, and the deck desperately needs a good wash to get rid of the dust and pollen.  In the above photo, the darker area between the furniture is the real color.

Eventually, we want to ‘build in’ the gas and charcoal grills to hide the stands for a polished look.

Furniture Thrifting Guidelines

It’s no secret I love hunting thrift stores for hidden gems.  Those dusty, dirty, seen-better-days pieces that make the perfect ugly duckling to beautiful goose transformations.  Far more often than not, I leave empty-handed or maybe with a small trinket, bowl, or more likely, a book or two.  Stumbling on those big furniture pieces is exciting, of course, but not too frequent.  But before I make a large (in terms of size) purchase, certain rules/criteria must be met:

  1.  Will this piece satisfy a need in our home?
  2. Do I have a place in mind for it?  Can it also work in other rooms?
  3. Do I like the shape, size, lines, style of this piece?  If not, can I change that?
  4. Is it sturdy and in good condition?  If not, how difficult it is to fix?
  5. Is it worth the price?  How much will I have to put into this piece to make it what I want?

I’ll get into each point as I go, and of course, for something I’m absolutely gaga over, I can make exceptions, usually in the need department.

First and foremost, do I need this?  I do realize I have a very small furniture hoarding problem, but mostly because we still have two large areas to furnish: the basement and pool house.  So, when I see something that might work, especially at a reasonable (or great) price, I get it.  Worst case scenario, I put it on Craigslist or donate it and eat the loss.

Two years ago, I scored a pair of chairs, which by the way, pairs seem incredibly elusive in my thrifting adventures, for ten dollars.  The petite size was surprisingly comfortable, yet lightweight enough to move easily.  After a thorough sanding, a couple of coats of polyurethane, and new fabric, they rounded out our family room seating arrangement.

West-Elm-Rug-In-Family-Room-by-Fireplace

Flash back to a fateful day this past November and you would have found me standing in a thrift store, staring at another pair of chairs, internal debate running through my head.  To buy or not to buy-that is the question.  I loved the lines and shape, the frames were in good, solid condition despite needing a refresh, and only $5 each.  People spend more than that on a specialty coffee, at least I’d have something to show for it, right?

Five-Dollar-Chair-Before

In my mind, I knew they’d look great by the fireplace, in the exact spot I already had chairs.  Did I need this new set?  Nope, technically I didn’t.  Even so, I bought them with plans to use the previous set in the basement.  If they don’t work down there, for the two years of use we got out of them, I haven’t lost anything.  After my standard refinish + new fabric combo, the pair cost me roughly twenty dollars each.  More than anything, the size and style of these chairs works better in our family room.

MCM-Chairs-Updated-in-Family-Room

Do I have a place for this?  Can it work in more than one room?  If you habitually change your mind, move things around, or just like a change of scenery, this is a big question.  Of course, the larger the item, the more difficult it will be to move around to different rooms.  This little dresser, a hand me down that previously belonged to my grandfather, has lived in several rooms and in both houses.  It can function as a dresser (duh) but could also work in a small nook, in an entry, or mini desk surface in a pinch.

Guest-Room-Makeover-Green-Walls-White-Dresser-Chair

Do I like the size/shape/style/lines of the piece?  Occasionally, friends will ask me to keep a look out for a specific piece they need, say, a dresser.  I’ll send pictures of anything that might work, and if I get the go ahead, I’ll buy it.  When I found this beaut, it also came with a mountable mirror.

White-Painted-Dresser-Top

Lucky for me, my friend didn’t need it, and I desperately wanted it for my main bathroom.  The size was perfect, the simple brass details were lovely, and I had wanted to add more wood tones.  A quick strip and oil coat added the warmth this bathroom needed.

Campaign-Mirror-Hung-in-Bathroom

Is it in good shape?  If not, can the damage be fixed?  I think Ben (and perhaps several others) thought I was nuts when I dragged this small orange sofa (settee?) home with me.  Right away though, those gorgeous legs had me interested.

Thrifted-Vintage-Orange-Sofa-Front

Then I turned it around and saw the exposed wood frame detail on the back and that was it.  I had. to. have. it. Despite the loose joints, because wood joints, unlike the human variety, are typically very easy to fix with a little wood glue.

Thrifted-Vintage-Orange-Sofa-Back

Since scratchy, smelly, 70’s fabric isn’t my bag, I followed my standard fix up recipe of refinished wood and new fabric for a look I love.

Horizontal-Railing-with-Linen-Sofa

Fixing the frame was as simple as applying wood glue in the dowel holes, clamping, and letting it dry before sanding and staining.  Pieces with serious damage, like a missing leg, shouldn’t be passed over if all legs could be replaced.

Thrifted-Vintage-Sofa-Back-Corner-After

Is it worth the price?  I feel like I’m notoriously cheap with my thrifting, but it really irks me when stores ask near full retail price for something that was donated.  I think the most I’ve paid for something from a thrift store (this does not include Craigslist) is this Drexel dresser, snagged for $67, originally priced at $90.  At the time, I was searching for a wooden dresser to fit between the beds, below the window.  Measuring about three feet wide and in very used condition, the $90 price tag seemed steep.  After a 30% discount, the price was more in line with the quality, considering I still had a full refinish before it looked nice.

Boys-Bedroom-with-Large-Rug-from-Door-Wide

Then, when the stars align, there’s the lucky you’ve been very patient, once-in-a-lifetime deal, such as the case of our Craigslist leather sofa.  Simple lines, beautiful leather, and listed at $220?

Parallel-Couch-Window-Seat-Arrangement-Toward-Dining

Throw every damn rule out the window, quickly contact the seller, and arrange to pick it up pronto.  Then thank your lucky stars you saw the beauty first and lovingly pet it while you watch tv.

Building a Sleek Railing

A few weekends back, we took the plunge and replaced our stair railings.

Stair-Railing

It was our first venture, with a few small things to figure out, but overall went smoothly.  To get started, we of course had to remove the old set, loosening the bolts from the underside first.

Basement-Demo-Stair-Railing-Post-Base

With the flat side out, we determined our new post placement.  Since the old railing was too close to the front door trim, we shifted the posts over an inch.

Railing-Building-Old-Out

Ben cut the 4 by 4 inch post to size (38 inches above the floor with 11 inches below), set it in the hole, and cut another post in half length wise and to height for the wall side.  Neither were fastened in place so we could first attach the horizontal planks.  We purchased 2 by 6 boards, but ran the sides through the table saw to cut them down to 5 inches wide and take away the dimensional lumber look.  To save some time sanding, we also ran each plank through the planer for an ultra smooth finish.  Once all the boards were cut and prepped, we cut 4 inch spacers to make sure spacing between was even.

Railing-Building-Spacing

While I held the boards in place on the full post end, Ben worked on the half post side.  He screwed through the backside of the post, into each board three times to secure it in place without visible holes.  Then we shimmied it into place on the wall and fastened it to the wall.

Railing-Building-Wall-Edge

The full post end was only slightly different since we used longer screws.  Ben pre-drilled through the post, creating a recess for the screw head, then drove the screws into place while I kept the each board in place.

Railing-Building-End-Screws-Detail

Railing-Building-End-Detail

Working on the flat side was easy enough and went quickly, but the angled side was a bit tricky.  Again, removing the old was step number one.

Railing-Building-Angled-Side-Out

Another 38 inch tall 4 by 4 post was set into the hole at the top of the stairs.

Railing-Building-Top-Post-Installed

To keep the spacing between the boards even with the flat areas, the post at the bottom had to be taller since the angled cuts make the planks taller.  This post had to be notched out to cut around the stair wall before screwing it in at the base.

Railing-Building-Base-post

Then time for the straight meets angled cut to follow the stair angle.  Once the angles fit perfectly, Ben applied glue on the angle and drove screws in from the top and bottom to keep everything rigid and in place until the glue dried.

Railing-Building-Stair-Angle

Like the other side, Ben put two screws into each plank.

Railing-Building-End-Post

In that corner, where the stairs meet the small section terminated to the wall, we had to stagger the screws so they didn’t cross.  Since the wall section is shorter, one screw in the center held firmly.

Railing-Building-Sides

After everything was securely fastened on the upper sections, Ben drove 6 inch long screws through the posts and into the wall studs below for maximum rigidity.

For a seamless finish, I filled each screw hole, knot hole, and hairline crack with putty and sanded smooth.

Horizontal-Railing-Installed-at-Top

Caulking along the seams and walls was the last step before painting.

Horizontal-Railing-Straight-Section

When painting over raw wood like pine, sap bleed through can be an issue.  For greatest durability and stain blocking, I applied one coat of the same stain I used on our bedroom wall: Sherwin Williams Exterior Oil-Based Wood Primer.  It’s stinky, so I built a fire and opened the windows to air the room out.

Railing-Building-Primer

Knowing white will show any dirt, grubby hand marks, and well, everything else, I needed a paint that could withstand a good scrub.  After a chat with my favorite paint guy at our local Ace Hardware, he suggested Benjamin Moore’s Ben Exterior paint in the low lustre finish to avoid a glossy finish.  Three coats later and it’s a wrap.

Horizontal-Railing-and-Living-Room

With this checked off the to do list, we can start hanging sheet rock in the basement.

A Sleek Stair Railing

Back on closing day, nearly four years ago now, our living room had a lovely variety of honey toned oak.  Floors, doors, trim, and the railing.  The light fixtures, red accent wall, and arch over the railing were high points, too.

New-House-Dining-into-Living-Room April 13 2012

We’ve since added new trim, painted the doors and walls, replaced the lighting.  Basically changed everything except the floors (which will remain the same) and until recently, the railing.

Living-Room-Space-for-Window-Seat-3

With the basement completely gutted and free of drywall, we finally had access to the underside of the railings.

Basement-Demo-Stair-Railing-Post-Base

Over the weekend we removed the old oak railings and built a new, sleeker design.  Two years or so ago I started planning what would eventually replace the oak and thought a horizontal layout would look best.  A few months ago I spotted this railing by Milk and Honey Home and knew it would work for our home, too.

Horizontal-Railing-by-Milk-and-Honey-Home

To build our railing we used four by four posts and two by six boards for the rails.  It took a day to build and install, and even before primer and paint, it looked light years better.

Horizontal-Railing-Installed-from-Living-Room

One coat of primer and three coats of white paint later and here we are today:

Horizontal-Railing-with-Linen-Sofa

Be prepared for photo overload.

Horizontal-Railing-Toward-Closet-1

The simple design doesn’t attract unnecessary attention and is sturdier than the old design.

Horizontal-Railing-Straight-Side

Getting the straight section by the living room done was pretty straight forward, but the angled section was trickier.

Horizontal-Railing-from-Top-Toward-Door

I’ve got a post in the works covering the building process, so I’ll save the specifics for then.

Horizontal-Railing-Looking-Down

It’s much more modern and more in keeping with the straight lines of the house.

Horizontal-Railing-Top-Detail

Horizontal-Railing-Small-Straight-Section

I may regret my decision to paint it white after the millionth round of washing dirty hand prints off, but I love the way it blends with the tongue and groove wall.

Horizontal-Railing-Angled-Section

The post tops are simply a 45 degree angle and rise 2.5 inches above the top rails.

Horizontal-Railing-Angle-at-Entry

To give the boards a defined termination into the wall, we cut a post in half for a seamless look.

Horizontal-Railing-Half-Post-End

Every new change is so exciting to see when walking past, and this one has been a long time coming.

Horizontal-Railing-from-Family-Room

The way it brightens up the entry and living room is my favorite.

Horizontal-Railing-and-Living-Room

Once we’ve replaced the tile, our entry checklist will be complete.

Horizontal-Railing-from-Front-Door

And with the railing complete, we can continue work in the basement and should be ready for sheet rock soon.  Then the fun can begin!  I’m already gathering paint samples, measuring for furniture, and we’ve purchased a couch for the theater room.

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.

Master-Bathroom-Vanity-for-BHG

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.

Basement-Bathroom-Vanity-Placement-and-Plumbing

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:

Bathroom-Vanity-Plans-All-Drawer-Upper

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.

Bathroom-Vanity-Plans-Drawer-and-Cabinet

So here’s the Goldilocks of the vanity configurations:

Bathroom-Vanity-Plan-Double-Drawers

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.

Bathroom-Vanity-Plan-Double-Drawers-Vertical

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.

Basement-Floorplan

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:

New-House-Basement-Bathroom-April-13-2012

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

Old-Carpet-in-Bathroom

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