Basement Renovation

About a year ago I was posting a lot about fixing up our basement laundry room. Our original plan was to finish the laundry room and then, being basement renovation experts, fix up the remaining 800 sq ft of basement. But, as with all DIY renovation projects, the laundry has taken more time and effort than originally planned/dreamed and we never became true basement renovation experts (shocking, I know). This got us thinking “Can we finish the entire basement ourselves?”  So we sat down and made a list of all the things we would change about the basement:

1. The modern high efficiency furnace is still using the original duct work for the gravity furnace that was probably here in the 1930s. That means huge air ducts (most likely wrapped in asbestos insulation), and huge cold air returns. The entire system takes up about 200 sq ft of space all together. We want to to utilize the space by consolidating the furnace and duct work into a better oriented and much smaller footprint.

2. The basement bathroom is only accessible from the family room. We want easier access to the bathroom from the basement entrance/bedroom and a bigger bathroom preferably with a sink that works and a toilet that flushes.

3. Everything else is pretty standard. An egress window for light and safety, insulated walls and new windows, carpet etc.

Our list of wants pretty much answered the question. And it was a loud NO. To get the basement we really want we need to completely redo the furnace/ducts and the bathroom. Both jobs for pros and not us.

Long story short…We found a contractor but he can’t start until February so until then I get to plan a million things out and play with SketchUp till my eyes bleed.

I drew a plan to show the changes we hope to make.

basement floorplans

The current floor plan is on the left and the new on the right. All the new additions are in blue.

The layout will not change drastically. Mainly just the bedroom/furnace room/bathroom. . We will remove the current wall and closet that separate the bedroom from the furnace room. This will create a wide hallway that leads to the bathroom. The furnace and hot water heater will move creating more space for the new bathroom.

The new bathroom will be around 8 ft. x 8 ft. – much larger than the current 3.5 ft. x 7.5 ft. We plan on having a large vanity, 36″x48″ shower and separate area for the toilet. There will also be an entrance to the bathroom from the family room. This will be great for how we plan to use the basement, but also provides some flexibility in the basement layout. If we have kids or sell the house to a family, a wall up could be put up in the family room creating another bedroom. The bathroom could then function as a Jack and Jill between the two bedrooms.

So those are the plans as they stand. If all works out we will start in February with a timeline of around 2 months. I’m hoping to post regularly so everyone can live the ups and downs of tearing up the basement and building a much better one. And until then lots of posts about plans/finishes for the new spaces!

Art Above the Bed

Add this to the list of things that took way too long to be accomplished…

I have wanted to frame a large print of this beautiful cloud picture for almost a year. As of last week, that task is finally done.

picture above bed

The space above the bed was painfully blank: taupe walls and taupe headboard. I wanted something to contrast with the sea of taupe. I’m lucky to have an amazing pro photographer as a friend and when I saw this beautiful clouds at night shot, I knew it would be perfect for above the bed.

My favorite thing about this photo is you don’t realize it is taken at night until you look deeper and can see the stars dotted along the deep blue sky.

I bought a 20″ x 28″ Ikea Ribba frame and attached the frame to the wall with Command Velcro strips. They are a great tool for old plaster walls or people who like to change art around.

picture above bed

Once the picture was up it read a little small. I find things tend to read much smaller when they are actually up on the wall. This happens a lot to me, but I have yet to learn my lesson. If I did it again, I would get a 20×30 print to take up the entire frame.

A bigger print may be in the future, but for now I love looking up and seeing this beautiful photo above the bed.

Photo: “Friends” by Ryan Dearth. Check out his website for more gorgeous photos.
Frame: Ikea Ribba in white

July Garden

It’s pretty wild the difference a month makes. Almost everything starts to take off when the temps reach the 90s.

july garden

I am going to go through the garden bed by bed, like I did in my June garden post.

Bed 1: Still a little sad…A rogue tomato is growing strong. The sweet peas that I planned to grow up my dead stick structure never did very well. They are dying, along with the bachelor buttons. Bachelor buttons don’t love the heat and started to look very scraggly in late June. I took most of the bigger plants out. New seedlings are already appearing so there will probably be pretty blue flowers again this fall.

Bed 2: This is where the party is at.

raised veg bed

Both tomato plants are huge! Looks like we will have plenty of tomatoes this year. The Indigo Rose variety has lots of plump round fruit. The blue color is already present and now we’re just waiting for the green to change to ripe red. The other plant is even bigger and had lots of little grape tomatoes. We have only had two ripe enough to eat and they were delicious.

indigo rose tomato

The jalapeno plant is also growing well, and we have the start of little peppers.

The zucchini is insane. I swear it grows a foot a day and has already produced a single delicious squash that I devoured immediately after taking this picture.


Bed 3: The herbs. Just like the tomatoes, the basil loves the heat. Pesto anyone? The thyme is growing strong. The rosemary and lavender have not grown much but the lavender started blooming this week.

herb bed

Bed 4: The sweet peas look better here than their friends in Bed 1, but still nothing to write home about (or on a blog about). The rogue snapdragons are blooming and very pretty as well as some marigolds that came up from seed.


Bed 5: Oh kale yeah! Lots and lots of kale. The zucchini plant is not growing fast here, I figure not enough sun. The parsley looks great. The cilantro sprouted leaves and immediately went to seed.

kale raised bed

Bed 6: In early July the delphinium bloomed and it was BEAUTIFUL. By now all the blooms are spent, but the plant itself is still big and green.


And lastly, it must be July because the cosmos are blooming. I planted seeds in the spring and all the cosmos bright orange faces are popping up around the garden.

cosmo ashandorange.wordpress.comHappy summer and happy gardening!

The Kitchen: Reveal and Review

We “finished” the kitchen almost two years ago and I have yet to post a full reveal. Tsk tsk… bad blogger. But it was a hidden blessing because now I can do a reveal with lots of pictures and reviews at the same time. Two blog posts in one! You can thank me later.

First up: The Cabinets

We have quite the mix of cabinets in our tiny kitchen. First, we have the original built-in-place cabinets that we painted white. We are still happy with the decision to save the original cabinets. We love the look and the second paint job with Benjamin Moore Advance paint is holding up great.

Read more about the original cabinets here and here.

original cabinet

Then we have the new cabinets. They are shaker-style full overlay cabinets from Ultracraft. The uppers and nook cabinets are painted maple in arctic white and the lowers are cherry in chestnut stain. We still love these cabinets and they have held up nicely. The cabinets have great features like soft close hinges and drawer dampers and my favorite: full extension drawers. You can see the entire contents of the drawer – this way nothing gets lost far in the back. My second favorite feature is the pull out spice rack next to the stove.

Read more about the new cabinets here.

cherry lower cabinets

We went with 45″ tall uppers that go all the way to the ceiling. I would recommend anyone use the tallest upper cabinets they can. Not only does it look better, but it provides some much needed extra storage in a small kitchen.

shaker kitchen cabinets

shaker kitchen

The Countertops

Our counters are Silestone Quartz in Ivory Coast. Love love love the counters. They still look as nice as the day they were installed. They clean up easily and require no maintenance.

silestone ivory coast countertops

In the nook we have Ikea oak butcher block counters. They still get a thumbs up even though they are a little more upkeep. They need an oiling with mineral oil every couple of months. They don’t get hard use like the silestone (they have never seen a hot pan or a sticky spill). So I can’t comment on how well they would work for true kitchen counters, but for our nook they are great.

Read more about the countertops here.

Backsplash tile

lantern tile backsplash

We took a risk and went with something unique for our backsplash with the blue lantern tile. We still like it. It adds a nice punch of color and personality to the kitchen. It cleans up great as well. I just wipe it down with a damp cloth every night. The grout has held up great and never stained.

Read more about the backsplash here.

The Nook

The nook was just an empty little space off the kitchen when we moved in. We added cabinets, a pull-out kitchen cart, and open shelving.

kitchen nook

kitchen  nook

We are really happy we kept the nook. I love the open shelving for all the dishes I use daily.

The pull-out cart that we designed to slide under the cabinets is a great feature. It provides extra mobile counter space and the opening can be used as a workspace when the cart is pulled out.

kitchen nook stool and cart

bekvam kitchen cart

Kitchen nook workspace

Read more about the nook here and here.


The stove and refrigerator were here when we moved in. We bought a new dishwasher and have been very happy with it. The only downside is a cycle can take up to 3 hours but we usually run it at night after dinner so it’s not a big deal. Besides that, it’s relatively quiet and looks great.


We also added a range hood that we did not get properly vented until last year. So for a year it was just a decorative metal thing above the stove. Having a good range hood makes all the difference in a tiny kitchen. Not only does it remove cooking odors, but it takes away a lot of the heat – making the cooking experience far more pleasurable.

Kitchen hood

Sink and faucet

We love the Kohler enameled cast iron sink. It needs a good scrub down with baking soda about once a week to keep it looking white and shiny.

kohler sink

The faucet…this is the only bad review I have. We love the look of the faucet but that’s where it ends. The pressure is hard to regulate. The flow of water goes from a trickle to a geyser by moving the handle a millimeter. And temperature is the same thing: ice cold to boiling hot with a small touch. We are used to the faucet and in general don’t get burned or covered with water. But all guests splash and/or burn themselves. Not the greatest faucet, but she sure it purty.

kraus faucet

All in all, we are still very happy with the kitchen and the products we chose to fill it with. Hope the reviews are helpful. If you have any questions ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.

Complete source list:
Wall paint: Glidden Antique Beige, satin finish
Trim and cabinet paint: Benjamin Moore Advance paint in Super White, satin finish
Cabinets: UltraCraft Cabinetry, Destiny Line, Shaker Style, in Arctic White Maple and Chestnut Cherry
Countertops: Silestone Quartz in Ivory Coast and Ikea Numerar in Oak (discontinued, Numerar in Beech or Akerby in oak are good substitutes)
Backsplash Tile: SomerTile Morocco Blue Porcelain Mosaic Tile
Sink: Kohler Mayfield 25″ x 22″ in white
Faucet: Kraus single lever pull-out sprayer in satin nickel
Range Hood: NuTone 30 in. Pro Style Range Hood in Stainless Steel NSP130SS
Dishwasher: Kenmore 24″ Built In Dishwasher in Stainless Steel Model#12093
Cabinet Hardware:
Pulls: Top Knobs, Cup Pull in Pewter Antique Finish m1211
Knobs: Home Depot Liberty 1-1/4 in. Top Ring Round Cabinet Hardware Knob in Antique Iron.
Shelf Brackets: Ikea Ekby Valter 11″ in birch, painted white
Kitchen Cart: Ikea Bekvam painted with Behr Spring Stream
Stool: Target Carlisle Metal Counter Stool in Grey

June Garden

Our garden is back in bloom after an incredibly cold winter and some severe spring weather (10″ of snow and some golfball hail).

For anyone who is new to this party: We fenced off and then built this raised bed garden last year. It did really well last summer and hopefully we will have great results again this year.

full garden

I kept the layout of the beds pretty much the same this year. It helped that some of the plants are perennials and came back in the same spot for me.

Here’s a little sketch of the garden beds:

garden sketch

*Just in case anyone wants to know: Beds 2,4, and 5 are three feet square. Beds 1 and 3 and two feet by three feet. Bed 6 is two feet square.

Bed 1: Doesn’t really have much going on at the moment. I was kind of waiting to see what would come up, and the answer is not much. I planted some sweet peas (purple circles) that I am training to go up some dead sticks. Right now it looks a little crazy, and it might still look crazy when the sweet peas grow. We will just have to wait and see.

Bed 2: Two cherry tomato varieties: Indigo Rose and Husky Cherry Red (red circles). A jalapeno pepper (neon green). Two zucchini plants (large green circles). And the pink circle is my lovely little pink flower that comes back every year. I have no idea what it is. I also planted a few marigolds. They are pretty and most bad bugs don’t like them. Hopefully they will protect the other plants.

Bed 3: The herb bed. Currently growing lavender (purple circle) and german thyme (dark green circles) that both survived the winter. And I just planted a rosemary and a few basil plants.

garden beds

Bed 4: Much like his friend Bed 1, does not have much going on. Some rogue snap dragons (coral circles), a perennial delphinium (blue circle), and again some sweet peas (purple circles) growing up dead sticks.

Bed 5: I planted rows of kale seeds in April and they are doing great. They were badly battered after the May hail but have recovered nicely. I also planted some parsley and cilantro seeds at the corners. And right now there is nothing in the middle, but I am planning on adding a zucchini (the big green circle). We really like zucchini around here.

garden kale

Bed 6: I planted a delphinium last year and it came back HUGE. The plant took up the entire 2 foot bed. Then the hail came and ripped through most of its leaves. But the plant survived and looks like it will bloom pretty soon here. There are also some volunteer snap dragons and bachelor buttons.

The big irregular blue areas in the sketch are all bachelor buttons that came up all around the garden, from last years bachelor button seeds. They took quite a beating from a late season snow storm and again the hail. But they have recovered nicely with a little human assistance. I tied them to tomato cages to give a little support.

*A word of warning to any super type A gardeners: Both snap dragons and bachelor buttons are amazing self seeders. If you do not want tons of these flowers EVERYWHERE, either do not plant them or snip off the spent flowers before the spew their tiny seeds everywhere.

So that’s the June garden. I’ll update again in July, hopefully while munching on some juicy tomatoes.