The End of an Era

After living in and perfecting our first house for eight years, we found a new fixer upper that stole our hearts.  Our first house will always be our first house love, but we’re officially back to owning one house.  It’s a little sad,  but we’re so happy in the mountain house.  Even more so, we’re happy the buyers are happy in our old home.  Let’s take a walk down memory lane with a reverse before and after picture tour.

Living room before, recently opened to the kitchen:

After our move out:

Dining room before:

An empty after:

Kitchen, just after finishing a complete gut and remodel:

And after the after:

Guest bedroom before:

Now ready to house a cute little girl:

Main bathroom before:

After, emptied out:

Boys’ bedroom before:

And now, ready for the new owner’s stuff:

Master bedroom before:

And after, complete with the custom-made bed built (our buyer bought it from us):

Master bedroom before:


When Ben bought this house, the basement was completely unfinished.  Here it is after finishing it while I was pregnant with Everett:

And two years later:

My office, stocked and ready for work:

Now sad and empty, but ready to work for someone else:

The basement bathroom before:

We never did finish the steam shower under the stairs, but that can be a project for the new owner:

Laundry room and Ben’s reloading office before:

And after we moved everything out, including the washer and dryer:

The small basement bedroom as we had it just before moving:

And after moving:

The large basement bedroom pulled double duty, acting as both a bedroom and a storage room before:

When emptied, it feels even bigger:

Seeing the house empty is especially strange to me because I’ve never seen it this way.  Ben bought the house a couple years before we met, so he had already moved in.  If we’re in this house again, we’ll be visitors.  We’ve become friendly with our buyer, and we’d love to see how the house evolves over time.

Have you been a house after selling it?  Was it odd, or cool?  Did the new owner make any changes?

P.S.  To see true before and afters, check our Our First House page.

Official Office Plan

We asked what you wanted to know about our house before we moved.  You know, so we weren’t going back and forth between old and new.

Catie wanted to know how we planned my office and how we built the bookshelves.  So here’s the story.  (Of a lovely lady.  She was bringing up three very lovely girls.  Who else loved the Brady house, especially the staircase?)  Really now, here’s the story. Before I met and married Ben, I was a real estate agent in Minnesota selling condos for a builder.  After moving to Montana, the builder had a few slightly damaged (free to us) doors, so my parents brought them out for us.  We received 9 doors, including a set of French doors.  We loved the doors, and the only place we could use the French doors was my office.  All other doorways were too small.

Like most rooms, my office has four walls.  One wall had French doors, across from that is a small-ish window.  I needed a desk space and wanted a wall of bookshelves.  The only logical place for the bookshelf was to the right upon entering.  It seemed natural to have my desk under the window.  So the general layout was simple.

When it came time to build the desk, we looked all over for something to run the length of the desk wall with no luck.  That’s when Ben proposed the idea of a raised work surface and a lower desk.  That’s just crazy enough to work!  Not only would a taller work surface prevent back pain from bending over, but I’d also get more cabinet space.  Win, win.

We found a remnant of white marble for the desk and a long slab of Brazilian cherry for the counters and got started.  Of course one can never have too much storage, so Ben built shelves above the desk.

Building the bookshelf actually wasn’t much different from our kitchen cabinets.

To start, Ben made three boxes from 2 by 4 boards on end, just like the cabinet toe kicks.

These three boxes sandwiched vertical pieces of MDF.  You can kind of see it in this picture, the 2 by 4s are just covered by 3/4 inch MDF.

After getting everything placed right on the floor, Ben did the same thing along the ceiling.  Now we didn’t have to worry about the verticals shifting.  Then we started placing shelves.  If you want adjustable shelves, you can either buy metal strips or shelf support pegs.  We decided against adjustable shelving, so Ben cut 1 1/2 inch wide strips from a 3/4 inch thick sheet of MDF.  I determined the spacing and he put one support on each side of the shelf.

To cover the exposed edges, Ben cut strips of 3/4 inch MDF and nailed it to the fronts for a seamless look and capped the top with crown moulding to match the rest of the room.

Fill, sand, prime, and paint until you feel your hand is going to fall off.

Then pack stuff in and have fun arranging and rearranging.

If you can’t or don’t want to build shelves completely from scratch, why not spruce up store-bought shelves with a little trim?  Kate, Jen, Julia, and Jenny all have with excellent results.

I love that a little trim and paint can make a totally custom look from a box store shelf system.  If you’re renting, you can make a stand alone system and take it with you when you go.

Have you ever built a bookshelf?  Or modified a store system for a completely custom look?  Do you prefer fixed or adjustable shelves?  Have any other questions?  Either about my office or anything else in our current house?  We want to tie up any loose ends before moving, so if you’ve wondered about a project, now is the best time to get it off your chest.

Pinterest Challenge: Bird Cage

YHL and Bower Power offered up another season of Pinterest Challenge.

And we knew just what we wanted to share.  The bird-cage pendant I made over a month ago but didn’t hang until yesterday.

I already had all the necessary supplies on hand, too.  For this project, we used a white ceiling canopy, a cord kit from Ikea (thanks Lizzy for sending it to me!), wire cutters, a pretty light bulb (a large clear vanity bulb was the best I could find locally), and the bird shade.  Why didn’t this happen sooner?

It was as simple as cutting and connecting wires.  Because we’ve been so busy working on the kitchen, we didn’t install this until last night.

Hence the dark photos.  We’ll add more soon.  I like the quirkiness the fixture adds to the space, too.

The low watt round bulb is more than enough overall light, but it is still delicate.  For some darn reason though I can’t get the stinkin’ thing to hang straight.  Ugh.  I’ll have to fiddle around with it more.

And, the view from the under side isn’t as ugly as I thought it would be.  Still on the look out for a brighter bird or two.

Edit:  The light looks better in daylight.

But it still hangs wonky.  I hadn’t realized this before, but the colors of the birds picks up nicely on items on the bookshelves.

And the wires from the birds aren’t totally obvious.

Thanks to Pinterest I have a fun new office light.  Did you join the Pinterest party?  What did you make?  What’s on your list to do?

Going Out on a Limb

You wanna know something?  Pinterest is starting to take over my life, in a good way.  I’ve been inspired to make several items so far, and I’ve just added another to the list.  I’ve already professed my love for birds, so this  is a fitting addition.  One fine day, Pinterest showed me this bird-cage pendant.

Clouds parted, angels sang.  It was a glorious moment.  The price tag, very glorious.  All $615 U.S. dollars of it.  Of course, like any sane DIY-er, I racked my brain for a place to put a similar pendant.  A proverbial light bulb lit for my light in waiting.  Why not my office?  Sure, I already have a light in there.  But, it’s kind of boring.  Just a descended boob fixture.

I can’t justify taking down the old light and simply donating it.  The thing cost 50 bucks, people.  So, I had to think of a place for that light, too.  Hey, hey.  Why not the small basement bedroom?

Yes, that’s perfect.  Rather than a perky boob, why not a saggy one?  With my placement strategy ready, I set out to make a bird-cage pendant.  First step, find an old lamp shade to snag the washer top fitting for the base of my shade.  Luckily, I found a large, ugly lamp shade at the thrift store, priced at $5.99.  Not too bad, but this shade had a large tear in the fabric, so the check out lady discounted the shade to only $2.99.  Score!

Next, off to Hobby Lobby to buy me some fake birds.  I came home with 4 sheets, 10 birds total, for $7.96.  After HL, I stopped at two hardware stores, hoping to find a similar wire for the cage.  I did, but the small stores charged about thirteen bucks for a small roll.  I decided to hold out until our next Home Depot trip.  Well, Ben went to Home Depot first, so he bought a two foot wide but five foot long roll of 1/2 inch hardware cloth for $8.34.  Finally, with all my supplies ready, I started working on my pendant.  I tore the ugly fabric off the lamp shade to expose the wire cage.  That’s when Houston called to say we had a problem.  The washer top fitting wasn’t flat, it was recessed.

Now, this wouldn’t be a problem if I were covering the shade with fabric, but the recessed adapter would be more of a focal point.  And I worried about the heat of a bulb being too close to the birds.  Why didn’t I realize this before?  Gah.

So, I nicely begged Ben to cut the fitting apart and reattach the pieces for a flat top.  Because Ben is brilliant, he came up with a better solution.  First, he cut off four of the eight rods (leaving every other) supporting the top and bottom rings.  Then, he used a channel lock to bend the rods at a 45 degree angle, bringing each end to the center.

He tried welding the rods together to make a square fitting, but it wasn’t strong enough.  Instead, he welded a washer to the four rods.

Perfection.  And, whether he planned this or not the ugly side was face up, so it wouldn’t be visible from below.

My hero, Ben, was able to make a flush top out of a recessed top. leaving me with this.

Aaaaaat laaaaast, I could really get started.  I gathered my supplies: one wire ring fitting, one roll of 1/2 inch hardware cloth, 18 gauge wire, styrofoam birds, 6 pound test fishing line, wire cutters, a measuring tape, and sticks.

Before I could do the pretty part, I cut down my hardware cloth.  The descended boob hangs down roughly 14 inches from the ceiling, which is the lowest we can have given the shorter basement ceilings.  I want the shade a few inches from the ceiling, so I cut the wire to eleven inches, one tiny wire at a time.

With my 11 inch by 5 foot piece of wire netting cut, I used a channel lock to fold one square over, all along one edge.

Once I folded the edge, I placed my wire top inside, clamping the folded netting over.

I had to cut a few squares to go around the washer top support rods, but that was easy.

After clamping the entire ring with wire net, I overlapped the ends slightly and cut.  I used a metal clamp (actually a surgical clamp-it worked wonderfully, getting into the tight areas) to hold the ends tightly together before wiring everything shut.

A little bit of wire wrapped around the ends held everything in place tightly.

Things are shaping up, literally.  The hardware mesh was sturdy enough that I didn’t have to add a ring at the bottom.  It held its shape nicely.

I’m likin’ it.  Now, how about a shot of color?  Bring on the birds.  The birds I bought have a small wire stuck in the middle, so I wrapped the wire around a stick. Seemed to hold, so I wired another bird on the stick.  And another, and another.  And some fishing line to each end.  I tied the bird-laden stick to the wire support.  It looked too sparse, so I tied another stick and two birds on.  Sorry, the birds are blurry.  Vincent kept petting them, so the sticks moved.  A lot.

That was still a little plain for my liking, so I found another stick in the yard and looped a wired bird around it, tied it to the cage and stared.  It still wasn’t quite right.  How about another bird stick?  More fiddling and rearranging (to keep the bird from tipping, looking dead) and I finally had all ten birds secured.

In certain light, the fishing line is visible, but only if you’re looking for it.  See it here?

I like the natural metal finish on the cage.  I know the original is copper, but I didn’t have copper spray paint and I felt lazy.

Here she is, done and ready for wiring.  If I see more special looking birds, I’d like to buy a few, just for varied colors.

So far, I have a shade but I need to find a wiring kit or cheap pendant to use to hang this whole thing from.  Off to Habitat for Humanity ReStore, I think.  Who knows when I’ll actually get around to wiring and hanging this guy.  Who’s ready for a price break down?

Lampshade: $2.99

4 packs of fake birds: $7.96

Roll of hardware cloth: $8.34

Sticks: Free from mother nature

Fishing line, wire, wire cutters, and tape measure:  Already owned

Total spent so far:  $19.29 and I still have the top fitting of the lamp shade and enough wire netting to make a second pendant, if I so choose.  Perhaps I’ll find a pendant or wiring kit for less than $5.71 to keep my total under 25 bucks.  Think I can do it?  Yeah, me neither.  Fingers crossed ReStore has something.

So, how does this DIY rate against a 600 plus dollar fixture?  Are you constantly drawn to making lights like I am?  Ben jokes that I only make pillows and light fixtures.  Sadly, that seems to be true.  We really need to start on the kitchen so I can focus my energy on something else.  Do you make the same items over and over again?  Please tell me your house is crowded with some sort of DIY project?

Magazines by Month

I have subscribed to Martha Stewart Living for three and a half years with no sign of stopping.  When we finished my office bookshelf, I started storing the glossies vertically, arranged January through December of each year.  Adding newer issues to the group was a pain, because I had a bookend holding the group tightly together.  If I dragged that bookend, my shelf got scuffed and scratched.  When I wanted to flip through old issues, I had to search through to find the month and pull each out (and put it back).  You see the bottom left side?  All magazines.

Tightly grouped with no breathing room.

I don’t know about you, but when I look back at magazines, I’m usually searching for inspiration for a particular month, season or holiday.  Then, I figured out a way to solve my problem.  And yes, it’s extremely technical, life changing and I’m the first person to have thought of this, said dripping with sarcasm.

Why not store magazines in a magazine file?  Huh, crazy thought.  But wait, there’s more.  Order now to double your offer!  I decided to devote one magazine file to each month, for a total of twelve.  Not only does this system save me time searching for, removing and putting away each magazine, but I have room to grow.

I plan for wiggle room when possible, either in shelving or my pant size.  Hah.

How do you store/sort your magazines?  Maybe you had a brilliant storage solution for another area of your home?  How many subscriptions do you have?  What’s your favorite read?