Door Handles

For the most part, decisions for the basement have been made based on the main level.  Mainly what will flow, so we’ve carried elements throughout for continuity.  Painted six panel doors, same trim, slate flooring, and white tongue and groove are all joining the party.  One choice however, has prompted a change on the main level:


It’s subtle, but maybe this will make it more obvious?


If you still can’t tell, we changed out all the door handles and hinges.


After looking at several options, we landed on the Latitude series from Schlage in satin nickel.  I chose based on looks while Ben’s choice was based on durability, reputation, and a lifetime guarantee.

Gone are the shiny brass paddle style levers that adorned each main level door when we bought this house.   I know the brass trend is still going strong, but I prefer it in unlacquered form.

Main Bathroom Painted Door Handle

The basement had all standard cheapo knobs straight out of the 70’s.


Now that we’re at the point in the basement to, you know, install/need doors and handles, we bit the bullet and bought enough for both levels.


Clean, tailored lines are beautiful, but also really easy to wipe down.  With two messy boys, wipeability is always a consideration.


More often than not, it’s the tiny details that make me happiest.  Even something as miniscule and trite as door handles.  It’s always a great reminder not to ignore smaller elements, as they still have an impact on every finished space.

Four Year House Tour: Part 3

For the last part of the four-year tour, let’s look outside, at our first impression.  Initially, the neighborhood, lot, and views piqued our curiosity.  Enough to look it up online, which only fueled our discussions.  If for no other reason, we had to see the inside just to get it off our minds.  Clearly that didn’t stop the swirling ideas, instead, we would regret not moving forward.  The house had been lived in, but neglected.  Many parts hadn’t been updated since the house was built.  Some work had been done, but not completed.  Landscaping all over grown.  The picture of beauty, right?  Maybe not, but at least potential.


Before replacing the siding, we decided to take the opportunity to make the house more energy-efficient at the same time.  We wrapped the house with insulation, then started with the pretty changes.  A mixture of dark gray painted lap siding, warmed up by rusting CorTen vertical siding.  Horizontal railings modernize and compliment the boxy structure of the house.


In the back, a large fountain sat centered on a weed filled paver patio.  It looks like there was landscaping done before, but had all grown over.


To create a more usable outdoor space, we pulled out the patio and fountain to create a large deck with a more natural looking water feature-a waterfall.  Though unconventional, the deck is made from reclaimed structural beams.  A DIY natural gas fire pit is a great gathering space for parties and s’mores roasting.


Near the house, there was a small landing area created from rock with several steps leading down to the patio area.  It wasn’t ideal and broke up the area without adding function.

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

We chose to remove the steps, lower the door, and make everything one level.  Over time, I’ve slowly added plants, turning the drab landscape as lush a possible.  There are areas I’d love to fill in for maximum coverage.


Before, the large space felt very compartmentalized and single use.


Now it’s our private oasis, perfect for relaxing, eating al fresco, and watching the kids play.


A steep hillside quickly goes up from the house level, but the lack of landscaping looked dull and lifeless.


It’s been a long process, but the work has certainly been worth the effort.


That sums up our four year house tour and progress.  Hope you’ve enjoyed the before and after comparison and updates.  Thanks for the encouraging comments and suggestions!

Four Year Home Tour: Part Two

Continuing the tour, let’s walk down the hall and peek into the bathrooms and bedrooms.

Four years ago, when we closed, the only tub in the house was the clawfoot in the main bath.  Having two little kids and guests, a tub only wasn’t the most ideal layout, nor were the finishes selected.

New-House-Main-Bathroom April 13 2012

Our first project was to remodel the bathroom, adding a tub/shower combo, and create more privacy by the toilet.


Across the room, a large, intricate vanity with small drawers and little storage took up a lot of floor space.  Note the plug-in sconces, in a bathroom.

Main Bathroom Vanity Before

Utilizing vertical space, we built the floor to ceiling narrow shelving for storage.  Keeping the vanity open, and painted a unique color, visually lightens the room, while still offering storage for toilet paper, towels, and bath toys.


The smallest bedroom in the house, the guest room, featured wall to wall, floor to ceiling oak bookshelves, a boob light, and another broken window.

Guest Room Before

With a tight layout, we wanted to create a useful room, with plenty of walking space and even a dresser.  To do so, we cut out a notch in the shelves to recess the bed, making a cozy nook.  Sconces flank either side, with the shelves serving as a nightstand.  A larger window creates an egress access and brightens the north facing room.


Across from the bed is a petite dresser and small closet.


Perhaps the most neutral space before, the boys’ bedroom, had two windows and oodles of sun shining in.  It also had unevenly patched walls and popcorn ceilings.

Boys Room Before

When working on spaces for kids, I like to ask for their opinions.  Before getting started on the fun stuff, I fixed the walls, scraped the ceiling smooth, and we replaced the fogged up old windows.  Then came the fun part, and the boys helped choose the wall color, art, and stripe curtains.


There’s a small space between the entrance and closet doors, but the starting point was a blank slate.

Boys Room Before

To use the small space, a handed down bookshelf fills the space nicely, without eating up precious real estate.  Of course the Star Wars gear makes an appearance.


While the boys’ room was neutral, the master bedroom had peeling/painted over wallpaper, electric blue walls, two large windows, an ugly ceiling fan, and popcorn ceilings.


As with the entry, we added a wood planked wall for texture and interest and later painted it white.  On other walls, I painstakingly peeled off the old wallpaper and scraped off popcorn ceilings.  A custom bed, sewed leather top curtain panels, and floating nightstand add character and warmth.  We also replaced the window and added a door leading out to a small, private balcony.


Along the left wall is our walk in closet.


Oh the power of paint!  Blue walls be gone, in with bright white and nearly black walls.  A large leaning mirror is a functional way to put the small area to work.  Storing extra blankets looks good on a DIY ladder rack.


Across the room is the entry door (to the right) as well as the master bathroom (on the left).  With a generous open area, it’s a bit challenging to put to good use.  A master sitting area seems to be the go to.


Instead, a recently found Craigslist dresser brings the warm wood tones over to this side of the room.  Added storage is always a plus, but I love having a surface to hold decorative items, too.  I hear masking tape is the new, modern alternative to picture frames, didn’t you?  Haha, no, a frame will happen…eventually.


Four years ago, if you went through the door you would have seen a hot dog covered with ketchup and mustard-esque room.  Red walls, yellow tile and sinks, and brown floors.  In a word, woof.

Maroon Master Bathroom Before

After a full gut remodel, we have a modern meets rustic retreat.  Ben built a custom walnut vanity, topped with a stainless steel counter and vessel sink.  More tongue and groove is a durable lower wall and a high contrast against the dark upper.


Double sinks on a long vanity were nice, but not something we really need.

Maroon Master Bathrom Vanity Before

Instead, we shortened the vanity to five feet with a single sink, allowing room for the clawfoot tub we pulled out of the main bath.


Though much of the basement is still in the process, here’s a peek at the previous arrangement.  Door number one (to the left) led into the under stair storage, and the small French doors went into a big, open space.


With a bit of reconfiguration, we turned part of the under stair storage into a small mud nook.  Straight ahead is a bedroom, with a theater space on the other side.


Stay tuned for the exterior changes, as this post has also gotten lengthy.

Four Year Home Tour: Part One

In some ways, it’s hard to believe, but today marks four years since getting the keys to this house.  Often, I have to think hard to remember just how (bad some) things were when we moved in.  Others are fresh in my memory since we’ve only recently made changes.  Either way, it’s always fun and satisfying to take a walk down memory lane, if for no other reason than to appreciate how far we’ve come.

Four years feels fast, considering we’ve tackled every room (or are in the process of reworking, as is the case of the basement).  Four years also feels slow, chugging away, waiting for the right time to start projects, or finishing another before moving to the next.  Home is a constant creation, finding each perfect piece and putting it into place.  Overall, we’re both so happy with the progress and love living here, enjoying the views, and are excited to continue our progress.

Okay, enough of the sapiness, on with the then and now tour, starting in the entry.  In the past, I’ve done these tours in one long post, but this one is especially picture heavy so I’m splitting it into two parts; today you’ll see the living areas.

Before felt dark, dated, and dingy.  Those peach walls always looked dirty, the dark wood door and side lights overwhelmed, and an overly intricate Tiffany style light felt stuffy and too traditional.  And the railings, oh the sheer amount of orange toned oak.

New-House-Entry April 13 2012

Swapping the standard height door for a double wide, 8 foot tall one (taken from the dining room) and shorter, transom style window above dramatically brighten and update this small space.


To add interest to the large wall (and cover up the heavy knock down texture), we added tongue and groove planks, painted white, to lighten up and add the good kind of texture.  The stained beige marble floors days are numbered, to be replaced with Montauk black slate.


Replacing the traditional spindle railing for a sleek horizontal design made a huge difference.  A modern, multi arm light juxtaposes with the more rustic elements, like the horns.


Once at the top of the stairs, the living and dining rooms are to the left.  Before, the traditional windows with grids and the eight foot tall door were dark and broke up the beautiful views out front.


New windows, light trim and paint, and bold doses of green add vibrancy to the south-facing rooms.  Ignore the sofa backing the window, it’s here until the basement theater room is ready for it.


Those ornate fixtures, both hanging and the pair of sconces were poorly placed, neither centered on anything.  With the open flow of rooms, the arch separating the entry and living room didn’t make sense.

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

Knowing we planned to use this room daily, for tv watching, relaxing, and toy playing, we built a large entertainment center with drawers for ample storage.  Nearly all the boys’ toys are stored in those nine drawers, so it certainly has served its purpose.


Dual mismatched sofas, one leather, the other a slim wood and linen design, face one another, offering plenty of seating.  This arrangement still allows a full view of the mountain and city scene out the windows.


Positioning the leather sofa parallel to the dining room offers a bit of separation of the open floor plan without a formal divide.


Ugh, every time I see this light I remember how many times I smashed my head on that dang thing.  Why the previous owner placed an eight foot tall door in a room with eight foot ceilings, I’ll never know.  Not only does it look awkward, it didn’t allow for a proper header and wasn’t stable.  The bay window sagged over time, making it non functional.


After pulling the door out and installing it in the entry, we swapped the arrangement of window and door, extending the deck over to make a more usable arrangement both inside and out.  A large mission style dining set, centered on the window and door, fills the space.


To further open the floor plan, we knocked out the majority of the wall between the dining and kitchen.  The twelve-foot wide door makes entertaining and daily living even more enjoyable.


Opening the wall also floods the north facing kitchen with natural light.  Dark oak cabinets, 80’s country blue wall paper, and an over sized flourescent light didn’t help this kitchen.  However, it was a large, open size.


Swapping the dated, broken cabinets for sleek white DIY ones really changes the look and function.  A full wall of white Carrara marble brings in natural tones and subtle texture variation.  Dark slate floors are used throughout the house, for continuity and, well, we love the material.


Two more bay windows that couldn’t open properly, yet another gaudy light, and heavy knock down texture on the ceilings were primary offenders.


For the most part, the new layout is very similar to the original.  All drawer lowers keep everything organized and completely accessible.  As much as I adore white kitchens, I like the balance of warm wood tones, so we created a custom walnut island.  As with the slate floors, we’ve used white tongue and groove boards in designs around the house.  The ceiling here was textured, cracked, and had several holes from lighting.  Rather than painstakingly skim coating the ceiling and hoping it didn’t crack again, we put up our favorite material to hide the flaws.


A wall of floor to ceiling cabinets made a main walkway even smaller, and made a not so fun Ring Around the Rosie game to get pantry staples out.

Family Room Before

After opening up the wall, we still had about seven feet of space off to the side.  For added function, we built a bar/hutch in this space.


Vases, extra dishes, and overstock liquor are stored below, leaving the upper for pretty dishes and a fully stocked bar.


At the back of the house is our family room, previously seen with a dirt covered moss rock fireplace, an unused nook, and broken windows.  For reference, the arched doorway to the right leads straight down the stairs.


Covering the fireplace, adding a wood burning insert, and shelves in the nook, are all changes we love.  We also replaced the old, broken windows with energy-efficient functioning ones.  It’s nice to be able to open windows in here to get some air movement.


Another open layout, the family room backs up to the kitchen and breakfast nook.  Yet another arched divider that didn’t fit the style of the house.

Landing on the most useful, functional furniture arrangement in this room surrounded by walkways wasn’t easy.  After trial and error, testing, and rearranging, this layout has proven to work.  Sofa backing the room, large stump coffee table centered, with two modern chairs flanking the fireplace still leaves walk space.



Bedrooms and bathrooms will come tomorrow, so stay tuned to see those changes.  To see the progression of these spaces over the years, check out the first year, second, and last year.

It hasn’t been an overnight transformation, but I’d say each room is at least 90% finished.  Most of the changes I want to make are simply waiting to find the right furniture or accessory to finish it off.  A larger rug for the living room.  Perhaps a different set of chairs around the breakfast table.  A bench at the foot of our bed, but nothing major.  Nope, the main level is feeling like home.  The basement now, that’s a different story.  Don’t even get me started on the pool house situation-haha.

The Case for Teak Oil

When finishing a wooden product, I know a coat or two of polyurethane is a standard sealant option.  And for good reason-it’s water-resistant, wipeable, and usually durable.  It’s the top coat I’ve used on several pieces I’ve refinished and they look just as good years later.


But polyurethane isn’t the only option, nor is it my favorite.  Over the years, in an experiment of sorts, I put several alternative products to the test: mineral oil, cutting board oil, Danish oil, butcher block oil, paste finishing wax, and Teak oil.


Why, you ask?  Well, because unlike a traditional poly, all the products mentioned above can be reapplied at any time.  But why would I want to recoat when I could just use poly and be done?  I’d love to explain.  Of all the options I’ve tried, Teak oil is my favorite, with Danish oil a close second.  The rest, well, they certainly have a use in the right application, like refreshing a cutting board.  For furniture purposes, mineral oil products just aren’t durable or long wearing enough.  Teak oil, however, penetrates and creates a long-lasting water-resistant surface.  It’s great for sealing furniture, as I did with my wood frame linen sofa.


Teak oil has also been my go to for sealing the walnut cabinetry we’ve made, both in the master bathroom and kitchen island.



So what’s so special about this?  First off, it enhances the grain of wood, bringing out the depth and character.  Look what a quick swipe will do:


From blah and ashen to bold and rich.


Application is also crazy easy and brush stroke free.  Simply pour a little on a scrap of an old t-shirt, rub on, and wipe off with a clean, lint free cloth.  That’s it.


Even better, oil can be reapplied over an old coat without sanding, which is not the case with polyurethane, making it ideal for wooden pieces in high traffic/use areas.  Have a scratch, gouge, or dent?  Don’t fret, just dab a little oil on and you’re set.  Ooh, rhyme time!  This finish won’t crack, peel, or flake off.


The only down side is that over time, water spots can appear.  Upon close inspection, the most often used kitchen drawers, mainly the utensil and trash, show signs of use.  It has been at least a year since the last application, so when I find the time, I’ll give each drawer a light sand and touch up coat for a quick refresh. Now, that’s something you can’t do with polyurethane finishes.