Aug 15: Itching for Some House Projects

I had one of those rare, amazing runs the other day when I felt like I could just keep on going forever. That never happens but when it does I try to relish it for a bit. This time the endless energy came from daydreaming about house projects while on my run. We haven't done anything major to our home aside from landscaping this summer, and I guess recovering those dining room chairs. But we still have a long list of 'someday projects' that remain untouched. Probably burnt ourselves out a bit with the projects when we bought the house in February 2012 because we were maniacs up until Cecelia was born in May 2012. Maniacs who plowed through a ridiculous number of house projects and they were all worth it, but now we've hit a lull while juggling two kids and jobs and life, etc. Go figure.

So anyway. I'm getting the itch to do some updates on the house again. I'll list out what's on my mind.

1. The fireplace.

I really, REALLY dislike the gold fireplace doors we have right now. We think this is relatively new, as if the previous owners might have put it in right before they listed the house. We only think that  because there was some blue plastic left on a few corners, and MAN I wish they would have just left whatever was there before! Or maybe it would have been even worse, but these are just not our style. At all.

(Do you like the toys literally exploding out all over the place here? How about that playroom that is supposed to house all of the kids stuff? WHERE IS ALL OF YOUR STORAGE NOW, PLAYROOM?)

So we want to buy a wrought-iron-looking set of doors, something that is black and much more modern. We don't need a full 'insert' because it's a working fireplace but we do need some doors for safety.

Also, we aren't loving the blondish brick for our fireplace. But I don't really want to paint the brick because I'm not a huge fan of the monochromatic, flat effect of painted bricks. Enter Pinterest with the amazing idea of staining brick with concrete stain! YES! That way we could keep the slight variations of color within the bricks, leave the grout alone, but we could change the hue of the fireplace to be a little darker/contrasting with our floors. I'd really love it to be a charcoal gray but we will have to toy with the stain options. But a darker gray brick plus a black door for the fireplace? Much more our style. Especially when paired with the white woodwork and our lighter wood floors.

This project shouldn't be too time consuming, or too expensive---just the time it takes to stain the bricks, buy the doors, and install them. Hoping to have this done by the winter and am excited to see how it turns out. The fireplace is such a focal point in our main room, it could really spruce the place up a bit!

2. The back stairway.

One of the things we could have never predicted before we moved into this house is how frequently our guests enter through our side/back door. In fact, it's rare that anyone comes in through our front door at this point, which is sad because it's a much prettier way to enter the home;) Our back door goes in through the driveway so our family uses it 99.99% of the time, too, I suppose. So aside from having our primary entrance to the house look nicer for our guests, I want this entrance to be a breath of fresh air for us on the everyday. Instead of, 'Ugh, the back hall is so old and ugly and someone else's style.' I guess it's not that awful but to me it's getting to be my most despised area of the house. It's also one of the only areas in our home that we haven't touched since moving in, so that's saying something about how much I want to re-vamp it.

(I have no idea who would 'gently toss' the laundry basket down the stairs like that. Sheer laziness on my part, I admit. But this is the view when you enter into our side door. Blech.)

(Note this closed door for the next paragraph. This is looking up into the kitchen when you enter our house.)

(Looking down from the kitchen)

Old homes have character and slightly odd things scattered throughout, right? One very interesting thing about our house is that the previous owners turned a storage closet into our half bath on the main level. Meaning, there wasn't a bathroom at all on the main floor, so that GOD they did that before us. When they converted the closet they actually had to take up two closets and there has always been this mysterious door on our back stairs.

When we bought the house, there was a railing installed over this doorway so we had no idea what was inside. Ooooh, could it be a broom closet? A hidden passage way? Nope. It's a door that literally leads nowhere, as we found when we pulled off the extra railing. Literally, it opens up into the back of the bathroom wall now.

Very odd, no? But kind of cool, I suppose. I've had lots of ideas about what I want to do with this mysterious door. Turn it into a giant spice rack since there is literally about 2 inches from the back of the door to the wall when the door is closed? Tear the whole thing out and add dry wall (weird since we have plaster walls, though)? And then! I came up with my newest/best idea: remove the actual door, keeping the door frame. Paint it, along with all of the other orangey-varnishy woodwork white. Then on the inside of the door frame make it one big chalkboard with pegs drilled in for added key and leash storage, too. I could write on the chalkboard to say things like 'Hello' or 'Welcome' or 'Happy Birthday' or 'Turn back around and get four bottles of wine, Nate.' Things that are festive like that. And we could have more pegs for storage there, too. I really hope the chalkboard wall thing isn't a TOTAL fad but if it is, and if I get sick of that in a year we could always cover it with regular paint and just make it peg storage or something.

Once I decided on that as the fate for our door, now I'm really into this project. The ceiling is a dingy flat white and I will need to repair a few cracks there before painting it. I almost want to do something kind of 'fun' with the ceiling since it's a little different and sloped and kind of rounded. Maybe a darker shade than the walls? Because all of the walls will also need to be patched and painted and I think I might stick with my favorite Dolphin Fin gray by Behr. But maybe I would do darker walls and lighter ceiling. The woodwork all needs to be sanded, then caulked, then painted. I do not miss this part from when I did the entire first floor and all of the stairs but I'm a sucker for bright white woodwork. This stairway needs some light, man! After the ceiling, walls, and woodwork are done I think we will spring for our hardwood flooring guys to come back and rip out the disgusting linoleum to refinish the wood stairs underneath. It's just so darn expensive...$25 for each stair step, not including the rise, PLUS the cost to pull up all of the linoleum and possible asbestos glue. Worth it, though, and we should have just asked them to do these stairs when they did the whole house but we were hemorrhaging money back then and didn't think those stairs really mattered much. They do, and will look 100x better with wood and painted white rises, just like our main stairs.

This one is a lot of freaking work, even if we do hire out for the stairs. Eesh. Now I'm remembering why I haven't touched this hallway.

3. The BIG Dreams of expansion (aka probably never going to happen but we still love to talk about it all)

Speaking of the basement, Nate and I have been talking a lot about finishing off a part of ours. Mostly so that we have a 'guest room' and my out-of-town family doesn't have to stay on a blow up mattress in our sunroom (or at my in-laws' duplex). Also, it would be nice to add another play/living space down there. We are dreaming about finishing about 2/3 of our basement, leaving the rest for laundry and storage. Nate pictures a projector screen television. I just want a bedroom with some sweet built ins like this. Apparently Nate and his dad think they can do most of this on their own but in reality, I have a feeling that this will be on the 5 year plan but maybe the guys will surprise me on this one!

Another HUGE dream of ours is to make a master bedroom and bathroom in our attic. We would have to dormer out the back of the roof but it can definitely be done. When we win the lottery. ;) But having a fourth bedroom and a master bath? OMG.

If we actually pulled the trigger on this giant project, we would probably finish off our 'airing porch' on the second level because that is where we'd have to dormer out the attic. So that would allow for extra space that could remain an enclosed porch, or we could add to our existing bathroom or to Cecelia's room. Or Nate's idea? Make that long and narrow space into a bedroom-level laundry room. Meh. We have laundry shoots on each level now so it's not that awful to have laundry in the basement. And what is Nate talking about? I'm the laundry master in this house anyway!

Also, while we are on the subject of winning the lottery, if we are blowing out the back of our roof we might as well replace the whole freaking thing. Because we will need a new roof in 5-10 years anyway and it's a 'tear off' update since there are three layers of shingles on there now. Praying for a hail storm on that one;)

When we do the roof, we might as well do something with our siding. Either strip ALL of the old paint off and repaint it (preferably with a new color, like grayish blue) or replace it with vinyl/cement board. Unsure which would be more cost effective in the long run here. And if we are doing the siding, we've talked about new windows.

If we do all of that, I'd choose a dark gray roof, steely blue siding with a similar color for our 'cedar shakes' on the upper level, and white windows. Totally different than what we have now.


Sorry, I blacked out for a second. There is no freaking way we are doing the basement, an addition in the attic, the airing porch, the roof, and siding, AND windows. Honestly, we might not do a single one of those projects EVER. But it's fun to dream and document those dreams;) Nobody hold your breath to see these changes before our kids go off to college, alright?

We really do think this can be our 'forever home' if we did some major updates to give us more room as needed, though. We are content with the size of our home right now and we are in love with the location, so might as well put money into the house we already love and plan to own for good. We'd do that before we sold this baby and moved to another house, so we will see what the future holds for major renovations in this home.

Until then, I suppose I should get my painting gear out from the cobwebs. Back hallway is calling my name.


  1. For me, I think it is the change in the weather that is bringing back my re-decorating bug. It has been so cool here in Michigan it almost feels like fall....and fall/winter is always the time we concentrate on projects "inside" the house. I'm debating between our bedroom and my bathroom as my next project, but we will see what my husband agrees to.

    Can't wait to see the changes that you make in the back hallway...I am a sucker for before & after pics.

  2. Oh my gosh, how funny!!! I never knew that back door lead to no where! That's kind of a fun secret to have! Absolutely love the chalk board idea. I don't think it's over done yet. And even if it is, meh...who cares....that space is calling it's name!

    I had fun reading about all your expansion ideas. You house is definitely a forever house so I could see you guys working on those.

  3. Wow. You have lots of work ahead of you. I have the same issue with my brass fireplace cover, but I'm actually thinking about just spray painting it with a high heat black spray paint as the style doesn't bother me much. That might be a cheaper alternative for you too if you could live with the style.

    We just went through a basement remodel this summer and will be done with it in one week once we get our carpet installed. Like you, there was no door down to our basement...just an open doorway which was right off our kitchen. So, all our houseguests could see the ugly commercial grade blue carpet going down the stairs which is where the 70's tile started. It was a lot of work for my husband who gutted everything and put up the drywall, time, painted, but well worth it! Good luck!

  4. I love this!!! Love reading what people hope to do with their old houses. So many fun ideas here. DO THE BASEMENT!!! Nate and Molly's new house has an attic master bedroom/bathroom that is pretty sweet. My other friends also have that in their house. Theirs look to be taller (?) than yours from the outside, but I guess with a dormer you'd be good. Tons of people in my area put up dormers.

    My OTHER friend has a rambler and really wants to add a second story to it with a master bedroom and bath and front porch, a la this: IS THAT NOT AMAZING? PS Look at all the other projects on that website too. She's actually had them out to start giving bids (which are nearly the cost of an additional house, but you know, whatever) because she too wants to stay in her house forever. So fun to dream.

  5. Wow this post totally stressed me out! I am so not the type of person to do remodeling or fixing up a house. I LOVE reading your ideas though and loved reading some of your archives about the work you put into the house before. You guys did an awesome job with the kitchen! I think the basement would be so cool! Can't wait to see what you decide and watch the progress.

  6. I am salivating over all this project talk. Even though we bought a brand new home I happen to LOVE older homes and all the character that comes with it. They just seem to have so much great potential. I think you should save up and do the master bedroom plan. Ooh la la!

  7. So fun! I love all the character that comes with older homes. Great ideas for the fake door area....maybe you could do a cork board and chalk board with the pegs and make a family command center of sorts?! Im always coming up with new house projects that are too big for my britches...needless to say, my hubby is NOT a fan of Pinterest :)

  8. Do the metalic paint in addition to the chalkboard paint so it will be magnetic... Can't wait to see the process unfold.

    And you could start on the basement, one step at a time.

  9. Fun to think about. My husband and I bought a bank owned property for VERY cheap (which it should have been, it was unlivable!) and redid every surface, or our contractors did at our direction. It was fun and stressed. Based on this experience, and the fact that our previous house was a fixer upper too and we still own that property as a rental, I highly recommend concrete board instead of vinyl siding if you ever get the chance to replace yours. We used Hardy Board in like steel gray or something like that. Yes, it is more expensive but not tooo bad and it lasts forever and it is more unique looking; everyone has vinyl, ya know?
    Happy dreaming!

  10. LOVE

    The end of this post made me LOL. I have a ridiculous list of projects on my phone, 80% of which will never happen. What fun is it to not daydream?

  11. I'm behind the times here, but Nate and your Father-in-Law could totally finish the basement themselves....being aware that the city of Tosa is super anal about inspections and are warned. :)

    I could probably do very similiar projects at my house (despite complete different styles) and stay forever too. God speed to us. :)


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