An “In The Meantime” Kitchen Makeover


If home is where the heart is, then the kitchen is the definitely the room where the heart resides. It seems to be true, in our family anyway, that whenever our house is full of family or friends we all congregate in the kitchen. Instinctively we know that the food we’re going to share together is more than just sustenance for our bodies, it’s a spiritual bond.

Our kitchen space is one of the more unfortunate spaces in our fixer upper, but alas, it will most likely be one of the last projects we tackle in our home, ’cause it’s going to be a big one. We plan to completely gut the kitchen area and turn it into a library/study/drink good coffee and talk about the deepest issues of the world room, possibly complete with two comfortable arm chairs and a handcrafted chess set.  Our kitchen space will then be reconstructed in what is currently the side entryway of the house, which is a much bigger space, and will be even more accommodating for a kitchen once we take out a few walls (right hubby? It’s just a few walls…)


Those visions of kitchen grandeur are a few years down the road, but I wanted to create a more lovely food bonding space in the interim time. The state of the kitchen when we moved in was pretty sad, definitely no good chi, no feng shui, no room for spiritual food bonding.

The cabinets were sponge painted with green and mauve to sort of match the purple mauve of the laminate countertop. The backsplash was wall papered with cream and floral paper that had grown very dingy and dirty, which matched the fruity floral wall paper border around the room.20151229_113552


The first step was to get all the wallpaper off. This took some good quality wallpaper stripping gel, a wall scraper, and good biceps. Our kids were very helpful, and that’s not even sarcasm. They found a particular thrill in having permission to scrape and peel paper off of the walls. Especially our son who is 6, he probably worked as hard as I did.



Under the papered back splash area the walls were in terrible condition. Cracked, discolored, and bulging in some spots. I had just planned to paint the backsplash, but there was no way that a few coats of paint were going to sufficiently mask the disrepair of the wall.20151229_122427

My first thought was to get a bunch of plates at the thrift store, break them and then create a mosaic! I still love this idea, but knowing that it would all be ripped out in a few years I just didn’t have the heart. ( so for now I’ll log that idea away for future use.) Plan # 2 was to use wainscoting. Normally I would be averse to paneling, but again, this is as a temporary fix, so we went with a $20 sheet of synthetic white wainscot paneling. My husband cut pieces to fit under the cabinets, and with a caulking gun of liquid nails adhesive, bam! New backsplash.

Next came cabinet painting. I didn’t want to buy paint, so I used a light blue that I already had. This was a mistake. Once I got it onto the cabinets I just didn’t like it. It was too pastel? Too something? I don’t know. We had also painted the dining room and living room a shade of blue, so maybe it was just too much blue? Either way, I repainted them with a medium toned gray. ( see a pattern here? I guess I’m a paint-it-twice kind of gal)IMG_1824

I wanted to update the hardware on the cabinets without replacing it, so I used some Elmer’s all purpose spray adhesive and some hemp cord ( both items I already had) and wrapped the middle of each cabinet pull handle. I must pat myself on the back here, I really like them and it cost me nothing!

Those few things took care of the biggest eye sores in the room. It always amazes me what a of paint will do!  After tackling those projects I needed to add a bit of storage to the space. and I are good friends. It can be a frustrating website to use, and I suggest always buying and selling through it with caution. I never ever pick up something I’ve purchased without my husband with me, or else in a public place during the day, cause you know…. your life matters. I may be paranoid, but I prefer to be on the safe side and not risk a potential seller being a psychopath.

So that is my craigslist disclaimer, use at your own risk. In any case I did buy two pieces for my kitchen from locals getting rid of their “stuff”. The first piece was a bakers rack with a solid wood counter space, a few shelves, and a wine rack. This I use to house some storage containers, mortar and pestle, and some baskets with potatoes and onions.

The second is a little kitchen cart made of pine. It’s a bit smaller than I would have liked, but it does fit the space well, and even though the cutting board top is small, it’s functional and has been a nice little spot to slice and dice.IMG_1821

In the end my quick kitchen update cost us less than $100, and I must say… I’m feeling the kitchen feng shui.


Okay, so I don’t really know what feng shui is, but what I do know is that this past Easter we had my Mom, my two brothers, and myself all crammed into our little farmhouse kitchen picking at some delicious pork ribs that my brother had spent all day tending to in our smoker outside, while my mom tossed a salad, and I finished up some mashed potatoes with browned butter. We were all in there like sardines, packed, bumping into one another filling up our bellies, hearts and souls.

And that, my friends, is what a kitchen is all about


Once Upon a Master Bedroom

“I like this one.” I said holding my cell phone out for my husband to look at while driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour. We’d been discussing tiled walk in showers for the past 20 minutes while driving home from his grandparents home on Christmas night.  He glanced over for half a second to keep from driving off the road.

“ What do you think of glass block? I’m assuming we want multiple shower heads?” He went back to driving and I continued to scroll through google images.

We’d only been in our house for two weeks. Two weeks of whirlwind unpacking, christmas shopping, cookie baking, painting, wallpaper scraping, christmas tree decorating ( absolutely we still had a christmas tree) and even more unpacking. On this day, driving home from a family gathering with all of our kids chattering in the back seat buzzed on christmas sugar I think we both felt a sense of calm. A sigh of relief now that Christmas day was over. It had been a wonderful festive day, but now that it was all done we could both turn our minds to our house plans.

We got home and tucked our sticky children into their beds then sat in our quiet house eating warmed leftover pizza, and continued to mull over our master bedroom and bathroom renovation.

20151225_204836  bedroom remodel before

“ Let’s do it babe.” My husband said with a little bit of a crazy look in his eye.

“ Right now?”

“ Yeah, why not? Let’s go rip the carpet up.” Done.
Drunk on the freedom of home ownership and the realization that we could do whatever we wanted (financial barriers not included) we ripped up the disgusting carpet in our tiny bedroom, and threw it out of the window in the middle of the night. The next thing I knew we each had a crowbar and were gleefully knocking out a wall. ( Our children magically slept through all of this, so it was meant to be)

bedroom remodel in progress


Anyone who has rented for an extended period of time can understand the exhilaration of not just talking about what you want to do to your living space. In the moment that we grabbed the edge of the carpet and began ripping it up we had entered a whole new world.  A world where we could be visionaries and see those visions become reality.

Our bedroom renovation ended up taking about a month and included:
-removing old carpet
-sanding  the painted hard pine floor we found underneath said carpet
-knocking out a wall between the 2 small rooms to make 1 larger room
-new sheetrock, mud, and texture over the existing lath and plaster walls and ceiling
– new wiring and outlets
-wall and trim painting
-floor staining
-painting side tables
-installing a ceiling light fixture
-drinking lots of coffee

My main role in all of this being pregnant and all was to paint and decorate.  Which was harder than I expected. I wanted to love it, and I have a difficult time spending money and making purchasing decisions.  I returned 3 sets of curtains ( 6 panels each time), a comforter, and painted the walls twice before I was satisfied.

I asked my husband a dozen times about how I should decorate, what I should buy, do you like this, that, or some other thing. He finally said, “ Are you going to be naked in there at some point? Then I don’t care what the room looks like.” Sigh * … husband’s today.  

The pictures you will not get to see here are of us sleeping in the living room with our mattress on the floor for a month.  Our clothes in baskets all over the place with our closet full of tools. Me second guessing my husband’s abilities a few times, while he looked at me sideways with his mouth turned down a little. ( I didn’t know he could rewire old electrical, okay?)  Us putting our kids to bed and then staying up until midnight-1am working away in that little room with bags under our eyes, boxes strewn around waiting to be unpacked, paint cans and brushes piling up, and all of the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and frozen pizza we ate during this time.

In the end we managed to create a relaxing, romantic, and peaceful oasis to retreat to while we work on the rest of our home. So even if it was a little chaotic… okay a lot of chaotic, it was worth it. We made a space that helps me see that we really can make this old house beautiful even if we don’t really know what we’re doing.

Now… on to that walk-in shower.

A Closer Look At What We Did….

Our first step was dealing with the floor. Underneath the carpet we found just an old wide plank pine sub-floor with a few coats of paint on it.  Initially we tried using some purchased chemicals to scrape the paint off… we quickly decided renting a belt sander was the way to go.  We ( meaning my husband) spent several evenings after work sanding and sanding, and then sanding some more. The floor was still in pretty rough shape, and we didn’t want to sand too far down since we were intending to just use the sub-floor as the main flooring.

The reason we decided to stick with just the sub-floor is A: More cost effective. We’re very committed to remodeling our home with cash. No credit of any kind, cards or other. So using the existing floor made sense from a dollars perspective. B: We want to try and preserve some of the original things in the home. Even if the floor is beat up, it has over a hundred years of memories etched into it. We ourselves are not perfectly symmetrical and perfectly perfect, why should the floor be? Especially since it’s perfectly usable the way it is, also just like us. And C: Reclaimed wood happens to be “trending” right now. Not that I care a whole ton about that, but in the end we can always at least feel like we’re just hip and not tight wads.

20151227_162547  bedroom remodel in progress

Before the final sanding and staining of the floor my husband used a thin drywall and went right over the original lath and plaster walls and ceiling that were badly cracking. We decided not to remove the old lath and plaster not only to avoid the extra work and mess, but because we do appreciate the artistry that went into it, it’s very solid still and is a pretty excellent insulator.

Then mudding, then sanding, then priming, then spray texture ( just enough to hide any flaws in the mud job, since we’re not pro’s we needed something to cover any sins) …. And finally a coat of paint… which turned into 3 coats of paint…. Two in a different color.

bedroom remodel in progress  bedroom remodel in progress

The first color I chose ended up looking way more green on the wall than I imagined it would. It looked like my dad’s brownish green military shop t-shirts. Not so great here. I really wanted our room to be relaxing as well as light and airy. But I have a difficult time committing to light neutrals. I want COLOR on the wall! But just not this color. I decided to bite the bullet and paint over it with a gray neutral in the
“ cool neutrals” family that I found at our local Ace Hardware called “ Before The Rain” (only available from Ace). And then I painted like crazy while my husband was at work so that he couldn’t talk me out of changing it. I’m pretty sure he’s happy I did. I know I am. It’s lovely, and I love it.

Next came painting the ceiling and trim. I chose an off white from Behr (Home Depot) called “ Hazelnut Cream” mostly because it just sounded tasty. I mean who doesn’t want to look at something called hazelnut cream?  I want to lay in my bed staring at the ceiling and suddenly want to eat nutella off a spoon with a good cup of heavy cream laden coffee and not understand why? Because the ceiling color is speaking to my subconscious. That’s why.

We both wanted a light fixture that had a vintage old feel to it. I’d never looked at light fixtures before and was irritated at how costly they are. What? Why? All we wanted was an old timey looking oil lamp type fixture, and not very big but they were expensive. Or at least more than we wanted to pay. My husband ended up finding a fixture off the clearance rack at home depot that worked perfectly. He’s still pretty happy with his find, especially since it’s gotten compliments every time we’ve shown off our room. The old edison bulbs in it give off a worthless amount of light, but the fixture is there to be seen… not to help us see, right? Looks before function. The edison bulbs stay.

We stained the floor, polyurethaned, and after a good day or two of drying, moved our furniture in. Now was my time to take over, decorating time!


My style is very eclectic, I am drawn to lots of different looks, styles and colors. Therefore I have a very difficult time making decisions and bringing things into any sort of cohesive “ look” . Combine this with the fact that spending money gives me heart palpitations…. And you can see why it was a bit of a process, one that is still not quite finished.

I knew right away that I wanted a white comforter. Having 5 kids and 1 on the way it’s probably a dumb move. But I don’t care! Yes it will get stained… yes I will most likely end up getting a duvet for it when that happens, but I wanted to have that spa feeling in my bedroom dangit! We found a lovely white comforter at Marshall’s with some grey trim that worked perfectly, and ended up being the inspiration for getting grey curtains.

Curtains were the toughest part for me. Why are they so costly? It’s not like they’re all intricately hand sewn out of a million different pieces of fabric that was hand loomed by ancient Mayans! Anyhow… I tried buying several different sets of panels that were majorly discounted only to be disappointed in them once I got them hung. They were all just too heavy. I really wanted to accentuate the light in the room and not cover it up. I love natural light in a space, especially in the morning. There is nothing like waking up to the beauty of the day streaming into your room.  I finally scored some privacy sheers from Kohls for $15 a panel ( normally $30) that were everything I was looking for. ( I also snagged a few mushy lovey dovey pieces of artwork and picture frames while I was there. ) 


The only other thing that I bought was a throw blanket for the side chair to cover up my awful reupholstery job that I did on it last year. ( It’s tragic. I’ll leave the DIY to Amy) a sprig of LED pussy willows to go in a vase I had, because for some reason I just really wanted some! They’re so fun.  And my husband found 2 red throw pillows at Target on clearance while he was strolling through there on his lunch break. A two pack of pillows for only $8! What a mighty good man.

What tied it all together was a piece of floral artwork hung above the bed. I’ve had the piece for a while, a Marshalls find several years ago that I got for $12. I love that place. It brought the perfect amount of color into the room to break up the neutrals without being overwhelming.

master bedroom after

The final touch that I’ve decided is just going to be part of my regular budget is fresh flowers for the night stand. They’re beautiful and make me feel happy when I see them. So it’s worth a few bucks . 🙂

master bedroom after

Oh! The nightstands! Nevermind I lied, nightstands before flowers. Probably 5 years ago we were given a big long dresser and a pair of matching nightstands. They needed a little love then, now fast forward a few years and they were getting pretty scuffed up. So I sanded the tops carefully so as not to sand through the wood veneer that covered the piece, and then I took some of the left over paint from the trim and watered it down a bit, and brushed it on hap hazardly to give it that “ distressed” look. Once they dried I gently sanded just the areas that would naturally see some wear over the years. A coat of clear satin polyurethane and they were good to go. It was seriously very simple. I’m not a super crafty person, or at least not into anything that will take up too much time, and so it’s real if I say something like this was easy, so easy that anyone could it! 


masterbedroom_after-5  master bedroom after

Once my decorating fund magically re-cooperates I’d like to get a plushy rug in the room, and some rustic shelving for a few books and knick-knacks. But until that time….. I will enjoy retreating to our lovely little space.

master bedroom after

Decorating tip: Get what you love to look at. If you get it into your space and you don’t like it, take it back with no shame, and keep trying until you are satisfied with your creation.

master bedroom after

(Hard work, styling, and writing by Holly.  Photos by Amy.)


Day One of Owning a Fixer Upper


The day we closed on our new house (our first I might add) was a very long day full of realization.  My husband took the day off from work and we spent the morning running all over the place juggling our kids, signing paperwork, picking up the keys, etcetera. At about mid-afternoon we pulled into our new driveway feeling totally drained.

I opened my door and our suburban was filled with the delicious smell of fresh skunk. The yard smelled so strong like skunk spray it was a little difficult to breathe. “ Well,” I thought,” Let’s just hope this isn’t a bad omen?”

Home 9

The next moment I found myself standing in the living room of the house. It was dark and suffocating. The old window treatments had all been left and were piled high with the funk of a thousand years. The air smelled stagnant and musty. With the rooms now empty every crack in the plaster, the ugliness of the carpet, the unevenness of the floor, and dated peeling wallpaper all towered over my head glaring at me. I’m pretty sure I heard them laugh menacingly…Yes..  I distinctly recall the sponge painted kitchen cabinets mocking me from the tiny little kitchen. Everything together chanted, “ Doom on you! Doom on you!”  This was a very dramatic moment. I sat down on the floor and felt a few tears spring to my eyes.  What were we thinking? Why did we buy this ugly old house? I can’t live here!

Home 10   Home 22

Home 14   Home 19

I tried to think back to the day we looked at it…

It was a beautiful warm day in autumn. The towering hardwoods in the yard were brilliant with their fall colors.  Our kids were running around the yard happy as can be kicking the leaves in the air and chasing a few farm kittens that were brave enough to get close to them. On that day it didn’t seem to matter that the house needed a ton of renovating, we just saw ourselves with the space to have a few animals. My fantasies of becoming an expert gardener felt closer. I could see the empty field full of newly planted apple trees, maybe a few pears and cherries too. I could smell our home grown pork roasting over a big fire at the end of harvest season. This 6 acres of land felt like freedom. Freedom to work as a family, to grow, and learn together. To harness the spirit of an American pioneer.

Home 24

Now we know that’s not us completely. We are still admittedly part of the millennial generation so we had to make sure our mini farm still had access to high speed internet, and that our cell phones had good service.  But we still have a vision of our family creating a home where we have the space to connect with self sufficiency in a soul satisfying way.

After brooding for several minutes in silence I got up off the floor and went through every room of the house ripping down the curtains and throwing them into a pile on the living room floor. I opened the windows and let in the winter air. After the dust settled we drove into the closest little town where we found some good coffee and proceeded to dream together of how great our home was going to be.

midwest barn at sunset

*Photo Note: Photos are real estate listing photos.  We did not take them!!  (With the exception of the sunset photo at the end – Amy took that one.)