The world's worst blogger floor plan image

The world’s worst blogger floor plan image

Hey, look–I threw together a hastily sketched, out of scale basement floor plan on my Bamboo app. I am so very talented, it’s true. Ah, well. In other news, we’re still dragging through drywall hell. A sudden heat wave brought a ton of humidity and has dragged this part of the process out several days due to extra drying time now needed between mud coats. It’s a total mess down there and, while it’s clear that progress is happening, it’s a far cry from the early weeks when it seemed like major stuff happened every day. This part of the process is messy and not terribly exciting. However, once this endless part gets finished, then it’s on to far more exciting things like laying flooring, installing fixtures and tile, and…being DONE. Can’t wait.

In the meantime, I thought I’d take a little time today to talk about the laundry/mudroom/utility area. This is the part I’ve colored blue and yellow and brown on the excellent floor plan up there. Here’s a wonky iPhone wide angle shot of the space if you’re standing with your back against the exterior wall and facing the hallway:

Look, Ma--sheet rock!

Look, Ma–sheet rock!

Up top you see one view of the utility side of the basement after the first day of sheet rock hanging. To your far left you can see the big storage closet (that also houses the electrical panel/breaker box). That will be enclosed behind sliding door eventually and also contain a ton of shelving for basement storage. Beside that you can see the furnace/water heater/ejector pump room. The spot will be accessible from this room, as well as from the hallway (which you can see a little bit here) behind sets of bifold doors. The space around the water heater and furnace will be the only part of the basement that remains unfinished.

To the right of the water heater area, dead center, you can see the hallway that joins the three main spaces of the basement. From this viewpoint, we’re looking straight into the bathroom (the green board walls), to the left in that hall is the doorway for utility access, and if you continue a pace or two into the hallway to the right, you find yourself in the rec room by the bar area.

Phew, floor plans are confusing to explain. Anyway, back in this room, to the immediate right of center, the doorway we’re looking into is the under-stairs coat/storage closet. Then to the far right you can see the wall with the laundry hook-ups and the exterior door that leads out (and up) to our yard.

Here’s the view if you’re standing opposite from where this picture was taken (in the doorway from the hall to the utility/laundry/mudroom area:

What a glamorous shot!

What a glamorous shot!

From this reverse view, you can see the laundry hook-ups on your far left, the exterior door beside that, the wall where the workbench and treadmill set-up will be, and then all the wall to the right is the storage closet. In the very right corner, you can just see the utility/furnace/water heater closet.

So, this is not a whole lotta space. But, man, have I got a whole lotta plans for it.


Before 03

This is a before shot of this same space that sort of gives you an idea of what the old laundry set-up was. Basically, on the far wall we had a giant, leaky, disgusting concrete laundry sink and the washing machine. The dryer was on the other wall with the exterior door between them. It wasn’t the world’s worst laundry set-up by a long shot, and it was a huge improvement from what we had before we bought this house (laundromats and communal, coin-operated machines that often involved trips outside, down stairs and carrying a big janitor’s ring of keys for different doors–fun!). However, having our contractors replace the concrete sink with a modern, smaller one allowed for earth-changing innovation of, get this, having our washer and dryer side by freaking side! Holy smokes, I can’t even express how stupidly excited I am to no longer have to walk back and forth multiple times a load carrying my wet clothes and bedding from the washer to the dryer. It’s the little things, man.

Here’s what my fab laundry wall looks like (give or take some drywall mud that’s been added since this photo):


And here are my very exciting (and very excitingly rendered) plans for the laundry wall:

laundry room

Not to scale, but this is generally what I’m picturing. From right to left: dryer, washer, new sink, some as-yet undetermined shelving or storage (think we’re gonna have ~2′ of space there). Leaving aside the storage on the left, I’d like to put a small cabinet for closed storage over the dryer. I’m keeping my eye on Craig’s List for just the right one. I also want to put some sort of a shelf over the sink. This would be a good spot for stuff we need easy access to (detergent, bleach). I also want to use a wire shelf of some sort (white or chrome) so that I can hang S-hooks off of it so I can easily hang paint brushes and other messy items to drip dry over the sink. This one from the Container Store seems pretty ideal:

laundry shelf

In terms of less utilitarian stuff, I have plans to make a pretty skirt for the sink, like this one from pinterest:

sink skirt

I’ve also got my eye on a really pretty new ironing board cover:

ironing board

This will look just lovely, I think, with the wall color we’re leaning toward using in here:

Teal Ocean by Benjamin Moore

Teal Ocean by Benjamin Moore

I’m in looooooove with this color. I’ve been wanting to use deep teal in a room somewhere in our house for ages, but I didn’t even think of the laundry/mudroom until Chop oohed and ahhed over this photo at the Benjamin Moore store:

teal ocean

God, how pretty is that? The second Chop showed me the picture I leaped on the opportunity to use this color. It’s very bold (especially for him–Chop is generally not a fan of bold colors), but I think it should be really cheerful and fun for this low-stakes, non-public room. It’s also a room full of white doors and white appliances and what will likely be white cabinetry with relatively little actual wall space, so it’s kind of the perfect place to go a little more risky. In addition to it being our laundry room, though, this space also functions as our mudroom in the winter–I can’t imagine a more friendly color to come home to.

Mud Room


Next to the laundry wall is our little mudroom space. For the past two winters, Chop and I have been using a bench we bought off Craigslist (that I’ve been meaning to paint for two years) and a rolling garment rack/shoe rack from Ikea. It’s been surprisingly functional, but this renovation makes it even more functional and a heck of a lot cuter. In the picture above, you can see our old work bench pressed up against a wall. That wall is going to be our “mudroom.” We’ll have the bench (painted, eventually) against that wall and be able to hang our coats and stash our shoes in the brand-new coat closet:


Look how far back it goes:


Man, so much nice, new storage. Anyway, here’s a picture I sketched a while ago for the mudroom set-up:


While I might still hang some hooks over the bench for wet/snowy things, I also happen to have this fabulous vintage Esther Williams poster that I’ve been dying to find just the right spot for:

dangerous when wet

I think this could look freaking awesome over the bench against our bright teal wall as the first thing you see when you enter from outside. Ugh, love, love, love.

Tools and Treadmill

Moving on, we also have this wall in the space:

This looks familiar...

This looks familiar…

The space to the left of the exterior door will obviously be taken up by the laundry, though that leaves us with a prime spot for some small but cute wall art, not to mention a really cute color on the door to pop against the teal walls. To the immediate right of the door is where the dryer used to live. Now, however, it’s going to be home to our new workbench. We’d originally intended to just hang some peg board and use the ancient homemade tool bench that came with the house, but it got damaged when we tried to move it out of the basement pre-reno. So, now we’re looking at something pretty basic since neither of us is super-handy and this will essentially be a place to drill things and store tools. We’ll probably go with something along the lines of this:

work bench

It’s nothing glamorous, but it should get the job done without being too hideous. Who knows–I may go after it with a bit of paint as well.

Lastly, the last bit of room on that wall is where we plan to mount a TV. Then we will keep the treadmill out (standing parallel to the storage closet), facing the TV. We’d initially planned to be like most people and just keep the treadmill folded and then unfold it when we wanted to use it in the rec room, but then we realized we had this space we weren’t doing anything with so we figured, ‘why not?’ I think we’re a lot more likely to use it more, anyway, if it’s always out, especially if it’s in my cute teal room with fabulous art. It does feel a little extravagant to have a mounted TV just for watching on the treadmill, but we have an extra flat screen we inherited from Chop’s grandma we don’t use for anything else so, again, why not? World’s cutest utilitarian treadmill space? I think we just might be on track for that honor.

So, there’s the utility/laundry/mudroom space plans. More exciting (and wordy) updates to come!


As we head into the back end of our renovation, I thought I’d take a little bit of time to document the decision-making process of the different areas of the basement. Today: The Bathroom.

Up top you see a shot of the bathroom after the first day of drywall was completed. While it was pretty damn cool to see all the walls in the basement suddenly become solid, I admit this sight threw me off a little. I guess that, while I knew logically that this was going to be a pretty tight bathroom space, seeing the walls (and the ceiling! Especially the ceiling!) all closed in like this really drove home just how tight a space this is. I may have felt a little discouraged and disappointed for a bit.

But then I snapped out of it and remembered that, yes, it’s small, and yes, the ceilings are low, but it’s a second freaking bathroom! I’m soon to be a fancy person with more than one bathroom in my house. That’s pretty damn awesome. Also? It’s not pink and maroon (like certain other bathrooms in this house I could mention), and I’m not being forced to work around that. Holy freedom, Batman.

That said, there are some major space and budget constraints I still have to deal with. With no natural light, very low ceilings, minimal floor space, and a very budget-y budget, this is a far cry from my dream space. And yet, I think it still has major potential for charm. Here’s the run-down:

The Basics:

Main Priorities:

  • Having a functioning second bathroom. Priority Number One.
  • Having a fan. We have no ventilation in our current bathroom other than a window which is the pits–I’m so sick of scrubbing away endless mildew because the room is always damp.
  • Having a place where I can sit to wash my hair and shave my legs.
  • Having a sink with a lot of counter space. Doing my hair and make-up at sinks with little to no counter space frustrates me to no end. Definitely wanted to improve that from the current situation.
  • Having good light (in a windowless bathroom this was super-important).
  • Maximizing storage wherever possible. This is always a priority, man.

The Shower

shower doors

Please enjoy this stock photo of our shower doors

The shower is where the bulk of our bathroom fixture budget has ended up going. Initially, I’d planned to just do a standard tub/shower combo like what we’ve got upstairs. Relatively cheap, easy to dress up with a shower curtain, and, hey, a full bath is always better than a 3/4 bath, right? But the more I thought about it, the more I kept thinking about how much I would love a space that made it easy for me to shower and shave my legs with the option of sitting when I need to. My arthritis and some balance issues have made this an increasingly important aspect for me. I feel like a total old lady admitting that, but it is what it is. Anyway, this is what led me away from any sort of bathtub option. That’s what I’m dealing with currently and it’s just not great for that. I have an ugly little medical-grade stool I use, but it’s really not ideal.

So, after eliminating walk-in tubs (too $$$, too ugly, too old person for my ego), I settled on a shower that would allow me room for a nice bench. I looked for ages at shower bases with built-in and molded bench options but ultimately decided that I wanted maximum versatility. So, plain shower pan with room for a fully moveable teak bench it is. As far as dimensions go, I decided that a 30×60 shower pan would be the most future proof should we (or future owners) decide to swap out the shower for a full bath.

I may be an old lady, but now I'm a high stylin' old lady.

I may be an old lady, but now I’m a high stylin’ old lady.

The big expense, of course, is not the shower pan (the well-reviewed one we went with priced out at a pretty reasonable $225), but the glass shower doors. I’ve never been a fan of shower curtains with a shower pan (it reminds me of a locker room), so I knew glass doors were what I wanted. I’m also, however, really not a fan of sliding glass doors. I know they’ve improved a lot since the horrible 80s ones I grew up with, but they still give me the heebie jeebies. The fewer places I have to worry about cleaning mildew out from the better. So what we were left with was a hinged shower door. And, holy cow, are they pricey. But, yeah, we decided it was important to put the money here. Fingers crossed it turns out as nice as I’m imagining.

The Vanity

The finest vanity in all of big box store land.

The finest vanity in all of big box store land.

The budget I set for myself with the vanity was to keep it under $300. I just could not fathom spending any more than that, especially when so many of the over-$300 vanities out there seem to be just as cheaply made. It seems like you pretty much have to jump into the thousands to get anything that’s truly decent quality, and that was just not realistic for this project. So, $300 seemed like a reasonable cap for hopefully not-ugly big box vanity that provided a lot of storage and some counter space. My other criteria were that it be white, have a non-offensive top (there is so, so much awful granite and fake granite out there on these things), and not be from Ikea. The vanity/sink we put in our other bathroom is the Hemnes one from Ikea and, while I’m still very happy with the functionality of the cabinet/drawers and the looks, I’m very, very unhappy with the sink itself. Never again, Ikea, never again!

So, under $300, white, good storage space, good counter space, not offensively ugly, not from Ikea–seems pretty do-able, right? Ugh. No. Of course not. I found this one pretty quickly (there are only so many under $300 vanities out there), but was not 100% in love with it because it’s just a little…not exciting? It’s very plain, and I’m not in love with the door/drawer fronts. But I searched and searched and searched and searched and after literally months of looking, came back to this guy. He’s not my dream vanity, but he does check off all of my boxes. And he does have some nice features–I like that the offset sink allows for all that counter space and the storage set-up is pretty nice as far as budget vanities go. Check it out:

vanity 03 vanity 02

I can work with that. My plan is to upgrade the knobs to something a little more unique, put a cute little tray on the counter, and allow the vanity to just kinda disappear into the space. No shame in being functional and non-offensive.

The Tile

subway tile

Speaking of being functional and non-offensive, how ’bout some basic white subway tile in standard size and layout for the shower? No Scandi black grout or herringbone/vertical patterns for me. I love the classic look of standard white on white subway tiles, love the price (it’s hard to get cheaper than $0.16 a tile), and think it will go a long way toward making the space feel bright. We did the same thing for our kitchen backsplash (we’re real cutting edge designers), and I absolutely love it. Having those two spaces in our house relate to each other that way is a nice bonus.

I was originally planning on extending the subway tile out of the shower into the room as a wainscoting of sorts, but seeing just how low the ceilings are in most of the room, I’m leaning away from that–I don’t want to do anything that might put emphasis on how short the walls are. Instead, I think we’ll just stick withe the white subway tiles in the shower, extending them onto the ceiling in that space.

Of course, going all plain white in the shower, I felt a lot of pressure to add an accent tile of some sort. Chop really likes the look and our contractor has brought it up a couple times. We even went on a big fact-finding mission to a bunch of tile places the other day to see what accent options were out there. I may have momentarily fallen in love with marble hex mosaics. But I went home and did some research (marble requires yearly resealing? hell, no!), and looked at a million pics of little brightly colored mosaic stripes of hexes and pennies in all white showers and…I just wasn’t feeling it. No accent stripes for me. Lest you think I am the most boring person who ever boringed, however, there are two spots where I think I’m going to use a little gray penny tile mosaic to liven it up: as the backing for our shampoo niche in the shower and as a backing for our little recessed shelves by the vanity.

Picture this:

niche with glass shelf

Backed with this:

gray pennies

Pretty, no? Maybe it’s still a little boring for most folks, but having lived three years with the on-trend pink and maroon tiles of 1947, I’m probably a little overly skittish about permanently committing my decor decisions to one color scheme. A fairly neutral pale gray feels safe while still lending a little bit of interest. Also, have I mentioned how stupidly excited I am about having a shampoo niche and dinky little recessed shelves by the vanity? No one should be that excited about this stuff, but, man, does it make me feel fancy.

Lighting and Other Bits


As far as the faucets, lights, and finishing things, I decided on chrome. For one thing, all the original stuff in our main bath is chrome so it feels like this is in keeping with the era/style of the house itself a little bit. For another thing, unlike brass or oil-rubbed bronze (both of which I like in the right settings) and brushed nickel (which I’m honestly kinda done with), chrome feels a little more age-less. Lastly, it’s shiny. Really, really shiny. Lots of bright and shiny in this bathroom, reflecting as much light as possible.

Up there you see the shower faucet I picked out. It’s pretty, simple, under $40, and comes with a lifetime warranty. Good reviews too. And here’s the faucet I picked for the sink, also a chrome Pfister:


I love the gooseneck spout (reminds me of the gooseneck faucet we put in the kitchen) and I think the porcelain handles add a cute little bit of vintage flair. To go with this guy, I found these hooks for the towels (I’m a big proponent of hooks over towel bars):


I also picked out a nice chrome-y toilet paper holder and hand towel ring, but I’ll save the world images of that (they’re even less exciting than the towel hook). The main chrome item I’m excited about are these sconces:

light 01

I’ve had my eye on these for ages to eventually replace the fixture in our main bath. I love the chrome, love the shape, and love the glass/details. I think it could definitely pass for 1940s original–or at least not stick out and scream 2015. The plan is to have one of these on either side of the mirror over the vanity (I’m still not certain what shape/style I’m going for the mirror or whether we’re doing a medicine cabinet or not–thrilling update to come). But, yeah, with these two guys, the two can lights in the ceiling, and the two lights that will be in the shower, my hope is that our little 6×8 box is going to be plenty bright. And shiny!



The last major aspect of the bathroom I’m still debating is the flooring. For the entire time we’ve been planning the bathroom, I’d imagined we’d continue the same faux-cherry resilient vinyl plank flooring that we’re using in the rest of the space. That was the main reason I wanted a white vanity (I also just like white), but we also thought it would help everything feel continuous to use the same flooring in all areas of the basement. The contractor keeps talking about laying a different flooring in the bathroom, though (tile specifically), and I admit, my heart has started to drift a little. When we were at the tile stores the other day, I kept being drawn to pretty white marble floor tiles, but, again, I just do not want to have to deal with the maintenance of marble. Also, it feels a bit silly to put marble floors in our basement (I’m not Beyonce, for Pete’s sake). The tile floor idea has been dancing around my head a bit, though, and I’ve started to find myself considering a nice vintage-y, white on white octagon floor:


At $2.98 a square foot, that’s not much more than the vinyl flooring and it would actually make the basement bathroom a little similar again to our main bath which also has a vintage mosaic tile floor. I also love that you can tone it up or down depending on the grout color (I’m leaning toward soft gray or bright white). My vintage-loving heart is truly being swayed. Then again, that’s a lot of white for one bathroom. It could very easily go Blandsville. I’m not sure how I feel about that. Hmmm.

So, that’s where I am so far on the bathroom plans. I promise, it will be more exciting once the paint color/art/accessories/textiles come into the equation. Also, there is custom built-in garbage can and recessed shelving to still talk about! For now, though, I think this is shaping up to be a nice, functional, fairly neutral little bathroom with a hint of vintage charm. I’m pretty darn all right with that.

Holy cow, we’re already at the end of Week 2 of the renovation. The basement is hardly recognizable. As our official before, here’s a couple shots of the basement all cleaned out the day before the crew arrived (we’ve had no working light fixtures on one side of the basement for the past two years, hence the Christmas lights):

Before 01 Before 02 Before 03 Before 04 Before 05 Before 06 Before 07

By the end of day one, the crew had completed demo, cleared everything out, painted all the walls with waterproofing paint (we can never have too many water proofing protections–never!) and hauled in the lumber for framing. The basement was emptier and more open than it had been since 1947:

First Day 01 First Day 02 First Day 03 First Day 04First Day 05

Over the next two days, the space planning was finalized (adjustments had to be made based on what was uncovered during demo–though we knew to expect this), and all the framing went up. All of a sudden, the new rooms started to feel very real:

Framing 01 Framing 02Framing 03Framing 05 Framing 06

Since then, it’s been a long process of plumbing, electrical, and hvac work with still more framing. The concrete floor had to be torn up in several places to reroute some drains, lay in the plumbing for the new bathroom, and to create a deep pit for the ejector pump. That part looked the most insane. It was also really, really loud. But now it’s all been covered with new concrete and we’ve pretty much forgotten there were ever giant trenches and holes in our floor. Also, we got insulation (!) and, excitement of excitement, our fireplace was installed and hooked up. I’m so in love:


The angled walkway we’re so enamored with. This is also the back of our under-stairs coat closet.

View from the shower

The view if you’re standing inside the shower.


One of the cool things about building from a blank slate is that you can add in lots of little convenience factors. For instance, Chop had them build in several PVC runs so he can run the wires for television/internet/speakers/future projector on the inside of the walls without having to tear open any drywall down the road. Very cool.

Future Shower and Toilet

Here you see the plumbing and framing for our future shower and toilet.

Before Drywall 09

View of the utility room from where the washer and dryer are going to be. Check out those two awesome closets!

Before Drywall 08

View of the utility area from the hallway/walkway. To the left is the laundry/mudroom area and to the right is the storage closet.

Before Drywall 07

View of the utility room if you’re standing in the storage closet looking toward the laundry.

Before Drywall 06

View of the rec room/fireplace if you’re standing beside the stairs.

Before Drywall 05

View of the rec room space (and bathroom) if you’re standing where the TV will eventually go.

Before Drywall 04

Rec room view if you’re sitting where our sofa will eventually go, looking toward the TV (on the left) and fireplace (on the right).

Before Drywall 03

Rec room view from the fireplace hearth.

Before Drywall 02

Glimpse of our widened stairs (not totally complete in this shot) and the framing for our new pocket door at the bottom of the stairs which will replace the old door at the top (it impedes traffic horribly during parties–can’t see that door go fast enough!)

Before Drywall 01

Wide shot of the whole space. Utility/laundry is all the way to your left (other side of the stairs), hallway/bathroom are slightly to the left, then TV and fireplace areas all the way to the right.

I can't get enough of our fireplace and hearth. We ran the fireplace for about an hour last night and it was sooo cozy and wonderful.

I can’t get enough of our fireplace and hearth. We ran the fireplace for about an hour last night and it was sooo cozy and wonderful.

Changes to the Plans Since the Renovation Started:

  • They widened and opened up the stairwell. This is a very subtle change (literally just a few inches and moving the lower wall framing to the outside of the stairwell instead of the inside), but we love how much more spacious it makes the stairwell feel–much less basement-y. Since we’re removing the door at the top of the stairs, this is really important. I keep saying I want the house to flow like a split-level so the basement simply feels like a lower level instead of, well, a basement. I think we’re getting closer to this.
  • We got a little angled walkway between the rec room/bathroom/utility areas instead of the short, boxy hallway we’d initially planned. There were a number of factors that led to this change in plan, but we’re so happy they did. We’re stupidly in love with the walkway space. It also, coincidentally, mimics the angled walkway we have upstairs between the dining room and kitchen, which was a pleasant surprise. It looks very intentional in that sense and apiece with the rest of the house.
  • The bathroom ended up having to be somewhat smaller than I’d envisioned  due to the placement of the support beams and after some previously hidden pipes were uncovered during demo. This was a real bummer to me because it meant I lost my linen closet and every inch of extra floor space (I had secret fantasies of space for a little stool or bench). I got over the loss, though (it’s still a perfectly nice little bathroom and still quite an upgrade from the one we have). Plus, I got the most adorable little recessed shelves and what I think is going to be a super neat custom built-in tip-out garbage can cabinet. I’m very excited to see how both of these items turn out.
  • We added in a large storage closet in the utility area (in addition to the under-the-stairs coat closet). Again, stupidly excited about this–such an upgrade from the rickety old homemade shelves we’d had for storage down there before.
  • After seeing the framing put up for the utility area storage closet and coat closet, we realized that this only left us with a very short run of wall that would remain unfinished. So we hemmed and hawed a little and ultimately decided to bite the bullet and pay a little more to have the whole thing properly finished. Now the only unfinished area in the basement is going to be the space around the furnace/hot water heater and the ejector pit, all of which will be concealed behind two sets of doors. We’re pretty pleased with this decision as we think it’s really going to go a long way toward making this truly feel like just an extension of the rest of our house. Especially since we enter the house through the utility room a good portion of the year, I think this is a decision we’ll end up really appreciating.

I do feel like we’re bleeding money at this point (it’s really not that bad and we did plan for overage, but I can’t help it–I’m cheap), but I can honestly say that, so far, we’re just in love with the space. Every night for the past few weeks, we’ve crept downstairs and just spent forever admiring everything and talking excitedly about our plans for the space. I cannot wait to actually get to use it all!

Up next: a week of drywall. I have a feeling that’s going to be really exciting initially when the walls/ceilings go up then kinda anticlimactic as we get several days of mudding/sanding/mudding/sanding/priming. So it goes. After that, though, it’s on to finishing!


Once upon a time, we threw a Halloween party in our basement because it was just that scary.

The Backstory:

So, many moons ago we tore down the old early 1970s paneling, insulation, and drop ceiling in our basement in order to have cracks in our foundation repaired and get the space waterproofed. Then we had what we thought was a fairly do-able goal of laying down some floating vinyl flooring, slapping some paint on the walls, putting up some track lighting and creating a useable unfinished basement hang-out space. I blogged about these plans way back in fall of 2013. Memories!

But then, after successfully having the cracks fixed and the brick repaired, we attempted to put our plans into motion and, after one seriously frustrating Thanksgiving weekend that depressed me so much I didn’t even document it, we realized that we were in way past our skill level. I won’t go into the boring details, but we came to the conclusion that, whatever we decided to do with this space, it was going to have to be hired out to professionals.

We got some quotes to have handyman folks do what we were originally planning. The quotes were fairly reasonable, but it was still a chunk of money and, since our long-term goal has always been to have the basement properly finished at some point anyway, we came to the decision that it would be best to wait and save up and just do what we really wanted in one big go. Two years later, we’ve finally squirreled away enough cash, have hired a contractor, and are officially having our full basement renovation started this week.

Here now begins my documentation of our biggest house project yet.

Project Overview

As a reminder, this is what the basement originally looked like shortly after we bought our house:

basement 4 basement 3 IMG_1150 IMG_1144

Things We’ve Already Done Down Here Since Moving In:

  • Replaced the last 1940s window with new glass block
  • Replaced the original exterior walk-out door (new one is pictured)
  • Replaced the electrical panel and brought all wiring up to code
  • Replaced the 40 year old furnace with high efficiency model
  • Removed moldy insulation and faux-wood paneling from 1972
  • Removed drop ceiling and florescent lighting
  • Repaired brick damaged from decades of seepage
  • Patched cracks in foundation
  • Added waterproofing membrane along exterior of foundation

What this has left us with is an empty and ugly but waterproof and up-to-code box of a basement:

basement after 03

This is great as we’re no longer stressed out every time it rains, but it’s also just this giant space that, aside from storage and laundry, we do nothing with. The goal of this renovation project is make that space a lot more useable and enjoyable for us.

With this renovation, we’ll be dividing our little empty box into three main spaces: the rec room, the bathroom, and the utility area.

The Rec Room

The rec room is where we’re putting the most attention (and $) in this project. In addition to having a good space for parties (our initial main goal), we’re really hoping to make this space work as a true family room for us. We spend the bulk of our time in our living room/dining room right now. That’s where we do all our tv/movie watching, entertaining, playing with the dog, and where we both do most of our work as well. However, despite the fact that this room is gorgeous during the day (I never get tired of the sunlight streaming in through our bay window), it’s also kind of a frustrating space. It’s small, for one thing, but it’s also a miserably cold place to spend so much time during the winter. What ends up happening is that we run electric space heaters in there constantly just to try and make it more tolerable (also: blankets!), or one or the both of us ends up holing up in the much warmer bedroom. As our only all-purpose year-round gathering space, the living room/dining room kinda sucks.

So, with that in mind, we decided to go for broke (within budgetary reason) and make the rec room more than just a party space but also a genuine family room where we can be cozy and hang out together comfortably all year round.

Our plans for our new rec room include:

  • Insulated walls (the only ones in our house!)
  • Fully finished walls and ceiling with drywall, recessed lighting, and trim
  • New faux-wood vinyl resilient floating floors
  • An awesome tv/movie watching space (we’re moving our beloved sectional sofa down there and will be upgrading to a substantially bigger tv and wiring in properly for our sound system)
  • A gas fireplace (!!!)
  • A space for a table and chairs to eat at/work at/sit around and shoot the shit at
  • A wet bar for serving drinks/food and to basically act as the hub of all our parties
  • Space to move around (This room will essentially be the same size as our current dining room, living room, master bedroom, and front hall combined! Party time!)

The Bathroom

One of my main long term goals for finishing the basement was to give us a second bathroom in this house. Since there’s only two of us, having just one bathroom in the house hasn’t really been that big a deal. It is a small bathroom, though, and when we do throw parties, it’s been a bit of an annoyance to only have the one. So a half-bath in the basement was high on my list of plans. In talking to the various contractors, though, it turns out that the price difference to have them do a half bath versus having them do a 3/4 or full bath was really not much in the grand scheme of things. Since I think adding the second bath is the main part of this project we’re likely to see any return on, I jumped for the idea of a 3/4 or full bath.

Aside from the convenience factor, I’m really just thrilled to actually get to plan a bathroom from scratch. While I’m fond of our small, pink and maroon 1947 bathroom, I’m really hoping to use this opportunity to design a bath that makes up for some of the frustrating limitations of the existing bathroom (like the lack of storage, lack of counter space for putting on make-up, etc.)

I’m going to go into more detail about this in a later post, but for now our plans for the new bathroom include:

  • Fully finished (insulated) walls and ceiling with recessed lighting and trim
  • New faux wood vinyl resilient floating floors
  • An exhaust fan! (first bathroom in our house to have one!!!!)
  • Vanity, toilet, shower (nothing crazy fancy but some nice middle-of-the-road options)
  • Room for good counter space
  • Spacious walk-in shower
  • A recessed light in the shower (this is so stupidly important to me–no more shaving my legs in dim lighting)
  • A decent linen closet

The Utility Area

The last space in the project is what we’re calling “the utility area” but is really going to perform a number of functions. First of all, as our super-creative name for it implies, this space will contain all of our utility items like the furnace, the water heater, the electrical box, etc. Not glamorous, but certainly necessary. This space also contains our laundry area and utility sink. It also contains our work bench and tool area. It also contains our treadmill and treadmill-viewing TV. It’s also the space where we store a ton of stuff, from paint cans to all our extra paper towels and toilet paper. Last but not least, this space has also been serving for the last two winters as our mud room. Since our main door opens directly into our tiny kitchen, this leaves us no space for boots our coats or wet things in the winter. As a solution, we’ve been coming into the house through the basement walk-in where we’ve set up coat and shoe racks and a little bench to sit on. This has actually been working out surprisingly well, so we definitely want to keep this function of the space and, hopefully, make it work even better. Clearly, though, this space is going to be the true workhorse area of our house.

Despite so many important functions, though, we’ve decided (for a number of reasons) not to fully finish this space. We are, however, going to be doing some reconfiguring and sprucing up to make the space a lot nicer and even more functional for our needs. The main things that are going to happen to this space include:

  • New flooring
  • New lighting
  • Cleaned up and freshly painted walls (down the road we may put up beadboard paneling to make it feel more finished)
  • Reconfiguring the laundry set-up so that the washer and dryer are now side by side (the current set-up on opposite walls is not the end of the world, but it’s annoying and a terrible use of space)
  • Demolishing the gross (and gigantic) leaky/moldy/stained/crumbly old concrete utility sink and replacing it with an unexciting but clean and functional (and more proportionally-sized) laundry sink
  • Building in a proper coat closet for our “mud room” area
  • Replacing the sagging and water-damaged wood storage shelves with a combination of enclosed closet storage and steel open shelving

So there we go: an overview of what we’re hoping to accomplish with this project. Over the next six weeks, I hope to document the process as well as to talk through some of our decision-making and design process. Let’s hope it goes better than the last time we set out to improve the basement!

2014 Year in Review


So, I’ve been away from blogging for quite some time, but Spring is upon us and I’m feeling like dusting this old thing off and catching up with the dumb happenings with my house and my sewing and whatnot. I also felt bad when I realized I that I never did a ‘Year in Review’ for 2014–a tradition I’d otherwise kept up with for ten years! I decided to go ahead and do it anyway. Better late than never.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?

Completed a book manuscript. Wrote almost 200,000 words of fiction. Learned how to grout tile. Went to the emergency room (twice!)

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions for last year: get a new full-time teaching position, complete my manuscript, complete the Singing in the Rain quilt, complete my professional webpage, and make some serious headway on my fiction.

I’m actually pretty pleased with myself, looking at that list. Aside from my Singing in the Rain quilt (which will apparently never be finished) and my professional webpage (which I lost interest in once I was fully employed again), I did all of this. I’m now working full-time, not in one position but in two and I couldn’t be happier with both positions–they’re completely different from each other but both allow me to do stuff that I love. I actually gave up another job I was working on top of these–that was certainly a first. I went from being unemployed to being over-employed to now being ‘just right’ employed, and I couldn’t be happier. I also completed my manuscript (!!!) and did indeed make serious headway on writing fiction. I wrote more fiction this year than I have in the past ten years, no joke. Woo for 2014!

It’s a little late in the year to be making resolutions for 2015, I suppose, but I’ll keep up tradition and give it a shot. Things I would like to accomplish this year: complete revisions on the manuscript (we’re in that phase now), complete this current fiction project I’m working on plus complete the first draft of the next one as well, complete the remodel on the basement, actually buckle down and do the master bedroom, hang some damn pictures in the house and, heck, why not, finish the Singing in the Rain quilt.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Several friends had babies this year.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

We were very, very lucky in 2014 and had no deaths.

5. What places did you visit?

This was not a year for traveling (2015 will be very different). Just how it shakes out, I guess. I don’t believe we traveled anywhere farther than Rockford to visit the in-laws.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?

Good health. My arthritis got really bad in 2014 and then seemed to aggravate some other health issues as well. I ended up pretty sick for the back half of the year. I’m on some new meds now which seem to be helping a lot, though they make me incredibly tired all the time. More energy would be nice for 2015 too.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I completed a major fiction project on my birthday. That was pretty phenomenal considering how few fiction projects I’ve actually ever completed in my life.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Completing the book manuscript. Also, writing all that fiction. 2014 was the year I became a writer again.

9. What was your biggest failure?

I interviewed for an amazing job and ended up losing out to an internal candidate. It turned out to be for the best in the long run, but at the time I found out I wasn’t getting the job, I was devastated. Like I said, though, things worked out. I’m now so glad I didn’t get the job!

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Quite a bit, actually! Not a good year, health-wise.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

We paid to have phase two of our kitchen done and it was, by far, some of the best money we’ve ever spent. I’m so, so, so happy every time I use our kitchen now. The guy who did the work for us was great, too. In terms of stuff we bought, I also gotta say I’m really pleased with our new sectional sofa from Ikea. It works so much better for our living room set up than the old sofa/loveseat combo we had cobbled together. Ooh! I also really love our new storm doors. It’s the little things, man.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

It’s always Chop. I seriously won the lottery with that guy.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

The news was full of folks who made me appalled and depressed. It always is.

14. Where did most of your money go?

House stuff. The kitchen actually wasn’t that bad (less than $2,000 for the new cabinets and the labor and finishing work), but it all adds up. We replaced both the front and back storm doors and did not go cheap which I think was the right decision. We also shelled out some bucks to reglaze the bathtub and freshen up the tub-surround grout. Money well spent but still money spent.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Getting the kitchen finished. After almost three years living with it half-done, it was incredibly satisfying to finally see all the parts in place.

16. What song will always remind you of 2013?

“Unbelievers” by Vampire Weekend.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:

i. happier or sadder?


ii. thinner or fatter?


iii. richer or poorer?


18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Work on the house. We did a big chunk of stuff this summer, then just let it languish through the whole school year since we were both so busy/pretty tired. Looking forward to getting back to work on our poor wee house this summer.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Screwing around online. This was my answer last year, and it will probably always be my answer. Alas.

20. How did you spend Christmas and NYE?

Christmas morning at the in-laws, Christmas evening at my aunt’s house, then my family came over for gift-exchange afterward. Same as last year. Looking forward to hopefully shaking up that tradition come Christmas 2015 when we (fingers crossed) have the basement renovation finished and will be hosting for both sides of the family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?

I fell in love with my jobs. Seriously, I feel for the first time that I’m in the exact right work situation for me. I love it.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

I watched Shameless, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, The Americans, and finally caught up with the rest of the planet on Breaking Bad.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. How nice is that?

24. What was the best book you read?

I was blown away by “From Hell” by Alan Moore.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

I got really into that one album by Vampire Weekend and listened to it pretty obsessively all spring.

26. What was your greatest culinary discovery?

Became obsessed with this little Thai place that serves an amazing strip steak called an angry tiger. I find myself craving it periodically.

27. What did you want and get?

A full-time job. It ended up being two half-time jobs, but I couldn’t be happier. I love doing both so much. I also wanted a completed kitchen and finally got it. I feel very, very lucky this year.

28. What did you want and not get?

I would’ve liked to have completed more work on the house. I also was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t grow my flower garden again in 2014 due to a combination of worsening arthritis and a beagle who likes to dig. That genuinely bummed me out.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

Loved-loved-loved Whiplash.

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 34. It was a low-key year. Chop got me a bathtub reglazing, which was the best gift ever, and we had my family over for dinner. Low-key birthdays are nice.

31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Better health. I spent the whole second half of this year feeling terrible much of the time.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013?

Teaching clothes and pajamas. Almost zero in-between. Put on my teaching clothes in the morning, switch into pajamas the minute I got home. I should probably try to shake things up a little more in 2015.

33. What kept you sane?

Writing and teaching. I felt awful physically, but writing and teaching and doing work I love and sharing it with other people was immensely satisfying this year. It did a lot to distract me from feeling bad and help me focus on how lucky I am in a lot of other areas of my life.

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Can’t really think of anyone for this.

35. What political issue stirred you the most?

Honestly, I spent the majority of this year in a writing bubble. It was a year of sticking my head in the ground like an ostrich when it came to political issues.

36. Who did you miss?

My sister and some of my close friends. I fell out of touch with a lot of people this year. Whenever I get busy, I let this happen, and I hate it.

37. Who was the best new person you met?

I made a handful of really awesome writing friends this year. I also met some truly amazing students. So many lovely people in 2014.

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.

Doing work you love, whether it’s what you’re ‘supposed’ to be wanting to do or aiming to do, or not, is rewarding in a way that checking off all the proper boxes in life can never be.

A Couple Links of Late

interiorThings are at a momentary standstill on the kitchen front (waiting to have the electrical done then we can have the new cabinets put in), so I thought I’d share a couple links to stuff I’ve been enjoying lately.

To start, this Pinterest page of paintings of house interiors from all eras is so, so cool. I love looking at historical interiors and disappearing into a fantasy of what it must have been like to occupy those spaces during those times. And so many gorgeous paintings! There’s even a nice representation of more contemporary work with a similar feel. So much awesome. I’ve kept the tab open for days while working on my current writing project and have enjoyed taking breaks to slip momentarily into these different worlds.


Next, this retro-style kitchen remodel featured at Retro Renovation is so very sweet. Maybe I’m biased because of my little 1940s house, but I adore the fact that when it came time to remodel her dark 1970s kitchen, this homeowner decided to recreate a kitchen with 1940s flair. You just don’t see the 40s represented that much. Looking at this cheery, sunny little kitchen, that’s such a shame. Bring back happy 1940s style! This has also made me seriously consider going Formica/laminate if we ever have to replace our countertops down the line. So cute, colorful, and practical. Also, I totally want to put in one of those greenhouse windows over our sink when we finally save up to replace the windows.


Lastly, wanna buy a legit mansion for less than $300,000? My nerdy hobby of scrolling through real estate listings of places I’m never likely to live (in this case, Harvard, IL) landed recently on this ridiculously awesome 1920s mansion that even comes complete with its own carriage house. The main staircase and the dining room are particular favorites. It’s in surprisingly good shape too, though I think the updated kitchen sticks out as being not at all akin to the rest of the gorgeous 1920s style (hate when people do that sort of thing). Anyway, Chop and I briefly came up with an amusing fantasy life wherein we retire to this mansion and become hermits, surrounded by 40 beagles (the proper amount for a true estate). The idea keeps making me laugh.

Kitchen Extras


Along with all the great big plans to finish the kitchen in Phase II, I’ve also got some smaller changes in mind that I’m hoping to finally implement as well. The first of those is the lighting situation.

The current main light in the kitchen came with the house. It’s fairly inoffensive and in another situation I probably would like it fine, but it doesn’t work at all in this space. For one thing, it’s a chandelier. The set up for the original kitchen had this space designated for a small table and chairs, so a chandelier made sense. Now that we have an island, though, it’s sort of dumb. It’s also crooked and we’ve never managed to make it un-crooked. This, combined with the fact that the light fixture is a far more modern style than the rest of the lights in the house leads me to believe this was a quick fix bought on clearance when the previous owners were putting the house on the market. It’s also hung too low (when tall folks come over they’re constantly bumping their heads on it) which we could easily fix if we wanted to keep it here, but what we really need is a proper island light.IMG_1614

I’ve been looking for a while and I think I’ve finally settled on a good island light fixture to replace the chandelier, this guy from Home Depot.island light

I love the style and think it will work really well with our cottage-y kitchen. It’s also priced pretty well, as far as these things go (lighting is so expensive!). And there’s a matching light that could go over the sink:sink light

Our current over-the-sink light is the 1940s version of a recessed light. It’s fine and I don’t mind if it stays (though I still need to remove the paint that got on it during Phase I), but I’m tempted to make it all match. This fancy new guy is also just a damn cute light. I think it would look adorable over the sink.


In addition to swapping out light fixtures, we’re also hoping to replace our screen door. It was pretty old and crappy to begin with, but following the addition of Busby to our household, it now looks like this:


Uggh. So embarrassing. Rather than buy another storm door that’s just going to end up looking like that one again, we’re thinking we’re going to work with Busby instead of against him. That means this dorkiness:stormdoorIt could be worse. And damn if that won’t be the answer to all our storm door/letting the dog in/out problems. I’m actually really looking forward to it. So is Busby, I hope.

The last bit of updating I wanted to do with the kitchen involves the window covering situation. If you recall from the top of this post, the big window in the kitchen had a set of plain white curtains hung high and wide like so:

IMG_1613This was only ever intended to be a temporary solution (the curtains were leftover from an old apartment). When the new cabinets come on that wall where the bookcase currently is, the curtain rod is going to be in the way (If I’ve measured correctly, the new cabinets should end just before the trim of the actual window). So, I took a cue from my little dishtowel cafe curtains over the sink. Remember these guys?

I decided to do a similar turquoise gingham cafe curtain set-up (the window looks out onto our porch and we’re seldom walking around naked in our kitchen, so privacy’s not a huge concern here). I felt like 1/4″ check would look too busy with such a big window, so I decided to try and find a bigger check. I ended up scoring a nice turquoise 1″ check in a machine washable poly-cotton blend on Ebay. The material was a little slippery and hard to work with, but I managed to cut and sew two nice, full cafe curtains for the space. I think they’re actually far more appropriate curtains for a cottage kitchen window:


They also stay nicely within the frame of the window, so no more worries about the new cabinets hitting the curtain hardware. Now we just need to remove the last bit of old hardware from the curtain rod and patch and paint the holes.

So, there’s some of the little stuff that’s hopefully on the way in Phase II. Not terribly exciting, but very satisfying.



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