The Basement (I.E. The Bane of My Existance)

If any of you guys out there are in the old homes club, you know that along with the curved archways and solid wood doors, comes some, well obstacles shall we say. The basement in this house was almost a deal breaker for us when we walked through the property for the first time. Jay and I have become quite the home buying team (this is house #3 in 4 years), so we’ve more or less developed a system where I look at layout and general aesthetic potential, and he looks at the bones. If I don’t get Jay’s blessing, than as sad as it is, we walk.

Y’all I must said pretty please in the most convincing way possible, since this man gave me a big fat thumbs down when we saw the basement. I heard the tell tale call from the basement telling me he had something he wanted me to check out (joy). So I trounced down to the basement, and the hubster had some bad news. The front basement wall was in rough shape.

Fixing Bowing Basement Wall

See all that cracking and bowing – ummmm, yeah. Not qualities that you’d be dying to have on your little abode. It’s hard to see in the photo above, but about 4 rows down from the top, there is a break in the wall that basically juts off a few degrees away from the rest of everything else.

You can see some other problematic cracking, below. Another wrinkly detail was the water line we had running right along the exterior wall… grumble, grumble.

Cracking Bowing Basement Wall

In all honesty, since we had looked at over a dozen homes at this point, we definitely were starting to notice a trend that a lot of the older homes in NC have legit basement problems. Almost every home we looked at had some janky stuff going on and we’d passed up house after house with the logic that it was probably a bigger issue than we wanted to deal with. But you guys, my heart had already been taken by this little cape cod, so I asked Jay if we could at least price out our options to fix it. He kind of gave me the stink eye, and then agreed to it 😀

Brick Front Walkway

On the high end we were looking at about $8,000 to fix this issue. That would have included an entire excavation of the front yard (noooo!!!!) and quite frankly, that just didn’t sound like a barrel of monkey’s worth of fun to me. It was so pretty and green and landscaped. I just didn’t have it in me.

On the lower end, (much lower, actually), we got a quote from a company called RamJack. The basic idea behind their fix is to anchor bolts (essentially) from your wall, into your yard outside using some type of pulley system. Odd, I know. But they came recommended from one of the contractors we spoke with and they were only asking $3,500 to make it all happen. AND they didn’t want to tear up my yard. When I started to piece together that using RamJack would allow me to proceed immediately with a kitchen renovation, I was all systems go. When Jay started to piece together the fact that this made is wife feel like high fiving every stranger in site, he was on board. What a guy.

So we hemmed and we hawed, and in the end, we decided to go with RamJack. Mainly because their quote came in at a mere $3,500. Although generally unpleasant to spend any amount of money on joyfully fun things like basements, to keep our house structurally sound we both decided to bite the bullet on this one.

Ramjack Cost

I think it gave us all piece of mind that the solution proposed by RamJack was also the one that our structural engineer proposed as the best fix for the space as well. The first step in the process, before we even decided on what the fix would be, was to have a structural engineer come out and assess the property to provide a recommendation on what should be done to solve the issue at hand.

You can see in his drawing below that he advises the installation of a helical pier system, extending out into our front yard (which was the fix Ramjack proposed, as well).

Engineer Report Bowing Wall

Needless to say, my armpits got kinda sweaty when I came home on my lunch break and saw this in the basement. Holes in yo basement wall?! Something seems really wrong about that … (Ahem, sorry for the crap-o-la picture, it’s from my tele)

Ramjack Fixing Basement

The entire process actually took a bit longer than we thought it would initially. When they quoted the work, Ramjack indicated that they’d be there through the morning, and most likely head out around 2pm. They called Jay that afternoon though and indicated that our soil was a lot more dense than then initially thought it would be, so they had to bring in some welding equipment in order to give the anchors a better “grip”. Turns out that’s a good thing though, since that means the whole system is a bit more optimized, since the dense soil gives their system something to hold on to (vs. loose, sandy soil). Go figure.

2 days later, after they packed up their bags, and cleaned up their mess – our basement looked like this.

Cost for Ramjack

I know, it kinda looks like it broke it’s back and got a brace. Like the kind they screw into your bones (ggrrroooossss). My back feels broken just typing those words. Not going to lie, it makes me cry a little bit every time I walk down into the basement and see these big, bad, metal knuckles just gripping into our wall.

How Ramjack Works

The good news though is that they’ll keep our house from falling down. It was actually never in danger of falling down persay, but I think it makes both Jay and I feel a little bit better that we’ve taken steps to fix what we perceived as the worst thing about the house pre-movin. Between these new brackets, the plumbing and our HVAC running along this wall, things are looking mighty busy down here right now. Jank if I ever saw it. Le sigh.

Fixing Basement Wall with Ramjack

Things that make me feel kinda sad include the fact that our laundry right now is down in this deep, dark basement. I don’t think I can put together any pinterest worthy loveliness in this cave. We do have a big closet on the second story that I’m thinking about converting … but that is for another day, my friends.

All potentially expensive things are being postponed indefinitely though. Not going to lie, I’m feeling pretty poor after pricing out the cost of this kitchen reno (ugghh) more on that, Monday…

Has anyone else out there used Ramjack before? I’d love to hear feedback, if so!

Inspector Gadget

House inspections – aren’t they just a barrel of monkeys. Now, being that Jay and I have been through this whole inspection rigamaroll 3 times now, you’d think we’d be seasoned experts and know all the ins and outs of what’s coming to us. You’d be wrong though 😀 One thing I think we both realized during this round of house hunting, was that southern houses are a bit different. Not a ton, but enough for us to throw out a few of the things we thought we had down pact.

The wrinkles this time around – oh …. where do I start.

How about with the basement (aka the bane of my existence). So, before we even put in an offer on the house, the hubster noticed something awry down in the pit of the house. Jay and I have a pretty good system down where I inspect the house for things like layout, neighborhood and general loveliness potential and he scopes it out for all things structural. Thus – he is usually the bearer of bad news 😀

Basement Settling

Do y’all see that? That’s a big old crack. With a serious wall lean. So as I’m all perky and excited and thinking THIS IS IT, I go down to check on the husband, only to find him scratching his head and telling me he’s got some bad news. Oye. Luckily, we knew the problem was fixable, but we also knew it wasn’t going to come cheap. I must have batted my eyelashes enough though, since we landed up putting in an offer on the place anyway. 😀

Believe you me, it wasn’t without doing a fair amount of homework (including getting some preliminary quotes) before we even put in an offer, since we wanted the price to reflect the work that would need to be done to get this house to a place where it would be structurally sound. (Always good…)

Cost to Repoint Fireplace

It’s kind of hard to see in the picture above, but the next issue we ran into with this house was the fireplace. See the bricks up on the top row there – well they are loose as a goose and ready to fall off with the next wind storm and bonk you square on the head. Essentially, the furnace was venting off to one side of the fireplace, which over time caused that particular side to degrade and wear down so the grout is gonzo.

Inspecting Fireplace

Another fun surprise was that the fireplace does not have any type of cap on it right now, so it’s just free flowing air from the sky above us, down into our cozy little living room. Great for Santa, not great for my utility bills. All things considered, the quote we got to repoint the fireplace (grout and fix the top), add a flue and add a cap on top, came in at just under $2,200. I can tell you right now, there are many other things I’d rather spend $2k on. Can I get an amen?

Moving on to other repairs I’d prefer not to spend my moo-la on, let’s talk about windows, shall we? Given that the house has been settling slowly over time (it was built in 1939) and the fact that things were made more severe by the leaning basement wall happenings, the windows in the house – well, they pretty much don’t open. Not a single one. Ok, like one. One opens.

Windows that Stick

In all seriousness, although this is definitely another expense we’ll have to incur down the line, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us. More than anything, I think we figure that we can do this gradually, as our budget allows. Plus, just think how nice brand spanking new windows will feel after having these relics for a bit! 😀

And the windows are definitely not the only thing that sticks. Anywhere that tape went up during the inspection, indicated a door that either wouldn’t open, or stuck enough to warrant a flag. You’ll notice a lot of blue tape in these photos 😉 At least renoing a kitchen falls into the fun category for me … so there’s that.

Cabinets that Stick

When we we’re going through and doing the routine inspection check points, we also noticed that the water pressure got really low when you ran more than one fixture at a time. Like flushing a toilet meant that your shower went from full blast to a wee little trickle. Although I could chalk this one up to old house charm, I really don’t want it to feel like we’re camping when I go to suds up at night.

Another culprit of the water issues could be found in our basement. See the areas of the pipe that are white and green? The copper in those spots is actually starting to thin out, which causes other plumbing issues to boot.

Pin Holes in Copper Pipes

It’s not a huge deal (per the inspector…) but it’s definitely something that we’ll want to fix down the line.

Another down the line change, is our furnace. It’s currently oil burning and OLD, which means it will be getting the heave ho eventually as well. A downside to having the oil furnace is that our water heater is electric as a result (no gas line), which is a much more expensive way to heat up the water. Essentially, what all this equates to is that we will have to install a gas line to run up to the house. The good news – the city does that for FREE!! The bad – we’ve gotta pay for the line once it enter the house – so there’s that 😀

Inspecting HVAC System

Just check out this relic! Old school, man.

Old Oil Burning Furnace

Lucky for us, the outside had much more manageable fixes. The inspector flagged things like this ivy, which he thought was too close to the house and could cause problems down the line by growing up the side and under the vinyl itself. We just need to keep an eye on it. Total cost = Free. 😀

Ivy Growing Next to House

Small things like this bump in our back deck was noted as well. Apparently it’s a trip hazard. Don’t tell Jay, but I want to rip the whole thing out anyway. I’ve got grand plans for a deck like this with an outdoor eating area like this. Swoon.

Bump on Deck

The front stoop also had a few cracks in it, that may or may not have led to some discoloring in the wood below the basement steps (water). We’ll have to keep a close eye on that situation as well, since we obviously don’t want any water damage! Whatever the fix lands up being, I really hope we can keep the front porch as is, since I really like it.

Cracked Front Porch

There was one money saving component on the house that’s definitely the hubby’s favorite feature. See that contraption on the ceiling? It’s a house fan that essentially sucks all the cold evening air in and puts all the hot stuffy air out. Pretty sweet for the southern summers headed our way soon!

House Attic Fan

For all the things that we’ll “need” to fix, we’re looking at right around $10k. Luckily not all of it needs to be done immediately but still – that’s not the best case scenario for buying a house. The good news, is that some of these issues kept other potential buyers away, so our willingness to deal with them allowed us to purchase in a neighborhood we would not have been able to afford otherwise.

As we tackle each issue, I’ll definitely be providing a holistic cost breakdown of how much each project sets us back. For my sanity, hopefully it’s on the low end!

Laundry Looker

Oh, ya know that corner of your house that just kinda sits there and collects dust. And crap. And dirty underwear. That would be our laundry room. A cold, messy room full of long forgotten articles of clothing and 90% empty bottles of bleach. Yes, not anything to toot your horn about and thus, never highlighted on this little blog o’ mine.

Now I have a dream of having a legit-sauce laundry/mud room with warm wood floors and matching pretty little high efficiency front loading washer and dryer. How about them apples?

Laundry Room

Ohhh, how my heart longs for that day. I mean I might actually DO the laundry if I had a room like that. With a glass of Merlot in hand, me thinks, that room is just too classy to not be sipping on some wine. Alas … today is not that day.

Today looks more like this.

Laundry Room Messy

Like a dumping ground. A little of this, a little of that. Not the most functional room. Plus, it was cold and dreary. And had borders of flowers and random paint sampling’s up on the wall.

Oh, and stenciled watering cans. It had that, too.

Flower Border

See when we painted the basement bathroom a few months back, I thought I could sample the color up on the laundry room wall, since the rooms were right next to each other and I had extra paint on my roller – might as well, right? Thing is, with the poor lighting in this room it looked kinda purple. So I nixed the idea, but we’ve had some psychedelic walls happening in this joint ever since.

So, with the house going on the market, we started to brainstorm and think of ways that we could make the space a bit more spicy. And our budget … Nothing, nada, free, zero. More than anything we really just wanted to make sure the room wasn’t offensive, so we figured the best strategy was to work with what we got. First stop – board and batten, baaabbbyy.

If y’all haven’t figured out that I have a hard core penchant for board and batten accent walls, than ya just don’t know me my friends. Out came the table saw and some white paint. It was trimming time!

Board and Batten DIY

We had some leftover wood, so we figured, what the hey. Might as well pop that bad boy up and call it good. While we had the white paint out we also decided to tackled our lima bean green door. It’s at these moments when I ask myself why we didn’t paint this door earlier. Srrrioussly.

Updating Laundry Room

And ya know, after we had some neutral paint up in there and cleared all that clutter, things were looking better! But, well, still missing something, right? Clean, but not mean. We’re going for fierce over here.

Cleaning up the Laundry Room

So, we honed in on some final details. And given our freebie budget, we thought it would be a good idea to attempt to raid our household supplies versus reinvent that wheel. So, remember the plush flooring we added underfoot in our attic? Well given all the nooks and crannies we had in the space, we had lots and lots of scrap left over. And after thinking about it for a hot second, we thought, ya know, why not slap that stuff down in the laundry room? It’s free, and it certainly looks better than the cement we had rocking the joint before.

Carpet Remnant

And with some cutting and trimming, we had ourselves a nice cushy floor underfoot. Purrfect.

After moving all our shelving and storage out, the room was feeling mighty empty. Cushy, but empty. So in the spirit of getting things done we decided it was time to cheat. How you may ask? By staging this joint, aka by buying something, keeping those tags right on it, and returning it right after this little house of ours sold. I figure it can either look good sitting at the store waiting for someone to buy it, or it can look good sitting in the corner of my laundry room. I chose the later.

So we hopped on down to Homegoods and found this little beauty. Small enough to fit in our little nook, but large enough to fill out the space a bit more and simulate the look for storage in the laundry area for all the buyers we’d have trouncing through the house. Awwww snap. That’s down right perfect.

Homegoods for staging

But alas, once we got it in, we had another problem. Gazing up we noticed our water shut-off lines were rather unsightly. Just a big old hole on the side of the wall. Uggglllyyy.

Covering up water lines

So keeping with our I don’t wanna spend a dime theme, we started searching around the house to see how we could recycle something chillaxin in another location and re-purpose it in the laundry room. And lookie what I found. A big old poster of purty little butterflies. Previously smattered above our computer, now smattered above our water lines.

Large Butterfly Poster

Ahhh yessss. Me likey. That is one nice looking butterfly montage hanging out there. Added bonus, it adequately covers up those water supply lines, too. In our further searching, I started to get in my head that it might be kinda cute to pop our laundry basket up on the wall, for some more free art. Well nearly free. .99 art 😀

Best Thrift Stores

Dang. I’ve been using this laundry basket since my college days, so I consider a 7 year run for .99 cents pretty stinking good. And although it’s certainly no Monet, it looks better than the bare wall we we’re rocking prior.

Hanging Basket on Wall

Plus, any time we need to fold our freshly laundered clothing, we’ve got that basket just chillin’ like a villain up on the wall. The best of both worlds.

And although this room is still very, very rough, it’s staged enough that I think it meets our goal of being non-offensive. Oh, and all painted garden implements are now washed away from our wall. Sa-weeet!! And, our only cost. Ummm … nada, nothing. Leftover paint, leftover art, borrowed furniture. Now that my friends, is how to stage that house and get it sold. YES.

Budget Laundry Room



Bringing Back the Bath

Our basement bath has been long neglected. Other fish to fry, my friends. After we slapped some paint down in there and put in a few new tiles, we figured, good enough for now and moved on over to the next thing. #Storyofmylife

But every time I took a shower down there and glanced on up above the toilet, I had a shiver run down my spine cause it was uuugggllllyyyyy. Don’t believe me, here you go.

Art in Bathroom

I don’t know why, but when I was at HomeGoods one day I stumbled across this gold razzle mcdazzle frame and thought (thought) it would look super swag in our downstairs bath. Ummmrrr yeah. But once I got it down there, I was like, yeah WRONG. You win some, you lose some.

See, when I started putting together design boards for one of my lovely clients, I got to thinking that I really, really liked some of the art I had picked out for her living room. So much so, that I decided to bite the bullet and buy those amazing little prints for my own abode! 😀 Dangerous career path I’ve got, ey?

Remember this mood board?

Lemon Grove Interiors

Well those purty little constellation prints, they made their way right on into my heart, and subsequently, right into my bathroom 😀 Cause once something enters my heart … I just can’t shut that door as hard as I try 😉

So I contacted the shop owner and ordered a few 8×10 prints stat! And let me tell you – I’m so, so glad I did. EEEMMMERRRGAUUUDD. Gorgeousness.

DIY Constellation Art

Check out this close ups, so fa-reaking beautiful.

Constellation Print

I was all ready to hang them to replace my bad decision making (aka Mr. GOLD) but first, I had some problem solving to do in the frame department. See I had intended to use some IKEA frames I’d purchased earlier this year. These guys, to be exact.

IKEA Stromby Frame

But when I trounced down to the basement to retrieve these bad boys, I was pretty darn bummed to see that they didn’t fit. At all.

Whomp diggity whomp.

Etsy Constellation Art

Now I could just pop a matted border in there to solve my dilemma, but the mattes that I had laying around the house didn’t fit, and I also wasn’t crazy sauce about the color of the frame. So, I did what any sane person would do. I went go HomeGoods and found these beauties.

Reclaimed Wood Frames

And just look how much better the bathroom looks now. I’m smitten.

Artwork Above Toilet

Added bonus – when I ordered my new fa-vo-rite prints, guess what I got in the package as a little “thank you”? This guy! The cutest little 5×7 you ever did see.

Inexpensive Constellation Art

I don’t have a spot for it quite yet, but I did have a pretty nice frame that I decided to pop it into in the interim. MEEOOOOWWW. Now that’s some fine looking star charting if you ask me.

Recycled Wood Frame

Psst!! If you’re looking to order these lovely lookers, you can get them here!

The Best of 2013

Pretty much a year ago today I started this groovy little blog. A whole lotta home improvements later, I thought it would be fun to do a best of collection for 2013. Hold your pants, America, cause there were some pretty epic transformations going down in this place.

Best DIY Projects of 2013

You betcha. We’ve been busy little beavers. Here is a recap of the year’s most popular posts.

Kitchen Renovation

It was one hairy beast, but our kitchen is finally in a non-renovation stage (unless you count me trying to cook something) 😉 We said goodbye to our light oak cabinets (and a wall) and hello to some brighter and whiter stunners! I think we’re both pretty smitten.

DIY Herringbone Backsplash

Bathroom Renovation

Our bathroom went from 80’s to oh la la when we added some sweet little details like our herringbone tile shower. We loved the pattern so much that we even popped the same style in for our kitchen backsplash.

Herringbone Subway Tile

Built-in Bookcase

Even though it’s got me on the hook for a new (larger) TV for the hubster, our built-in bookcase was a pretty big hit around here, too. Best part was, we paid a fraction of the price of a pre-fab (non-builtin) option, with the entire project coming in at just over $400.

DIY Built In Bookcase

Floor Refinishing

It was one of the more painful projects we’ve under taken to date, but the floor refinishing really made a big difference in our house. Overall, I’m really glad we tackled this one and stretched our DIYing wings to try something new.

How to Refinish Floors

Refinishing Furniture 

Sometimes a $20 thrift store find is pure magic. Since we started refinishing the old furniture we find, we’ve been able to turn some pretty beat up pieces of furniture into some pretty chic new (to us!) furniture. All for pennies on the dollar.

How to Refinish Wood Tables

Crown molding 

Fit for a King, our crown molding made a h-u-g-e difference in our kitchen. We went for the bulky thick stuff and I’ve got a mega soft spot for it. Lurrrvvee.

Installing Crown Molding

Basement Bathroom 

True to form, knowing me, if we were doing one bath you’d better bet I was going to do the other. (My poor husband) We laid down some 12″x12″ marble tiles and got things looking a bit more classy. Better than the kermit the frog walls we had rocking the place before 🙂

Northern Cliffs Bathroom

Attic Renovation

Granted, this one is DEFINITELY still in progress (drywall being installed as we speak!) but this attic is on it’s way to being what I think will be my favorite space in the house. From insulation to bathrooms, we’ve been busting this one out for the last few months, and we are ready to be donzo.

Framing Bathroom in Attic

Weed Killing 

Leave it to the powers of pinterest, but this weed killing post was the MOST POPULAR post of the year. Who knew that some dish soap and vinegar would be such a hit! 😀

Happy New Year, blog friends! Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by to read the blog, it’s always nice to have you!

Bargain Hunt

Every once and a while, I wish I was so loaded with cash that it was bulging from my seams like a uncontrollable growth. Ok, wrong visual. Sometimes I wish I was so loaded with cash that I was like a river overflowing with sparkly, crisp, fresh water – better. No, still bad. Sorry. The point is sometimes that sweet scent of money calls me – ya hear me my fine blogging sistas?

That being said in all honesty I’m really a sucker for the hunt. It’s nice that you could pay $1,200 for a solid wood dresser from fancy pants Arhaus or Pottery Barn, but I just snatched one from the GoodWill for $25. Take THAT. You can keep the extra change cause I got this. Sometimes, in this fine journey of life, you find a nice combination of the two above said things, which keeps us fine middle class folk from robbing banks to buy the gorgeous home interior goodies stocking the shelves of said fancy pants stores. The majority of America likes to call them Outlet Malls. I call them scrupdittalyuptious.

Case and point. The Pottery Barn outlet at Birch Run. Ohhhh honey ….

Where else can you find this sweet little number for 70% off retail.

pottery barn apothecary storage

Now, if I’m being totally straight with you, most of the prices at the Pottery Barn outlet are still out of my comfort zone. They’re the type of prices that if I found just the right piece, I’d jump for it. Correction, I’d jump up and down for it while running toward it and spreading my entire body across it to prevent any other human from snagging my spoils. Otherwise, I consider this store more like my eye candy inspiration outlet. With 3-D, lifesize things I can sit on and touch vs. glossy pages.

For instance, with this sofa, I was pretty much busting out above said moves.

English Roll Arm Sofa

Ommmeerrrgaauuudd. Insult to injury, there were two of them and Lordy knows their just ain’t anything better than two flanking sofas. Yummo. Further insult to injury, they were $1,500. On sale. Each. Uggggh. That’s is like – a LOT of money, Pottery Barn!

Once I licked my wounds and moved on from the sofas I found this little winner for $150. Not quite as good as my tar-jay finds for $70, but still, pretty darn tootin’ good for a PB chair and all.

Tufted Dining Room Arm Chair

Wouldn’t that just look lovely as the end cap on a dining room table, or perhaps as an office chair. Yes, yes it would.

I also loved this little man comforter below. Hard to tell on first glance, but that is the king of the dark side himself staring back at you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Darth Vadar mixed into a chic little human bedroom ensemble, so color me impressed on that one.

Darth Vader Quilt

Speaking of little humans, my all time favorite type of mini-me room is one with two twin beds all nice and cozy together (like this). I don’t know about y’all but when I was a little punkie, hanging out in the same room as my sisters was the cat’s meow. At one point, I’m pretty sure all three of us shared the same room. Although I always prefer a nice antique headboard over a new one, it is really hard to find two matching antique pieces of furniture. I think these two buggers would look great together – pretty classy looking, no?

Solid Wood Twin Headboard

Of all the lurverly house goodies I spotted at the Pottery Barn outlet, the rugs always make me swoon the most. The Pottery Barn natural fiber rugs are one thing that I’ve actually sprung for in the past during their sales and man alive, I just love em’. So to see an entire wall lined with the best and brightest in the rug category makes my heart pitter patter a bit.

Pottery Barn Outlet Rug

Anyone else have any secret locals for good deals? I’m hoping they bring a Pottery Barn outlet a little closer to home, since this guys is an hour and a half drive (i.e. bringing a dream couch home = much more difficult). 😀

Up Close and Personal

Although our built-in bookcase has been “done” for the past few weeks, there have been a few finishing details that were keeping us from officially checking this one off the list. Areas like this …

Installing Trim on Bookcase

And this …

Linen Backing For Bookcase

It was a looker from twenty feet, not so much from two. The good news was that all this trim was pretty easy to get up and done. For the most part, it was just a matter of grabbing the nail gun and gajunking a few right into place. Alas, as with any home renovation project, there were a few snaggles along the way as well.

First, let’s start with the easy stuff 🙂

Popping some trim along the front seam was super easy and super cheap. The stuff set us back around $15 for all the front facing trim. It was unfinished solid wood when we bought it, so we had to come through with some paintable caulk before we primed and painted it. We also put a bit of caulk on any nail holes we could see, to clean things up a bit there as well.

Adding Trim to Built In

We used half inch wood trim for all the bookcase facing and for any area where there was a seam we wanted to cover up (like the first picture). If you’re doing a similar project in your abode, I would just try a few different widths of trim and see what looks best, since I don’t think there is a silver bullet on the sizing here.

For the impact it made, I would have spent twice what we did! It really made our unfinished edges look so much more put together. Installing this trim was really just a matter of nailing it in (with a nail gun, if you have it – if not, start saving your pennies – these things make a world of difference for finishing touches!) and painting it. Sha-zam.

Here is how things looked after a coat of paint. Better, no?

How to Add Trim to Bookcase

Now on to the slightly trickier areas … like the few inches we had between the wall and the bookcase. Oye. Since we didn’t have anything to mount the trim to, our first step was to put in a spacer, if you will, that allowed us to actually nail into something.

How to Build a Built-in

The second part is where the plot thickens a bit. Lord knows how, but the space between the top section (by the ceiling) and bottom section of the built-in (by the floor), was totally not the same. More than an inch of difference. Aye carruba!!

So, we had to kind of improvise and cut the piece more or less by hand to the specific dimensions so it would fit. One thing I’ve learned, over time mind you, is that caulk can pretty much salvage any type of project like this where you know you won’t be able to get everything in there perfectly. At this point, we could only shrug our shoulders a bit and keep on a moving. (Note – it seems there is a point in every home renovation project where my husband let’s me know that a table saw would make the job much easier – this was one of those moments. If you have a table saw, it would work awesome for helping create a straight rip down the wood piece).

How to Rip Wood

Another area that was sorely lacking in the looking spiffy department was the top of the bookcase. Things were looking a wee bare up there if ya ask me.

Bookcase with Linen Backing

So, I’ve gotta be straight with you. Ever since we put up the crown in our kitchen I’ve been chomping at the bit to get some more of this stuff in my little home. Bedrooms, bathrooms, bookcases … you name it, I’m ready to grab my sword and knight some royals with a new crown around here. Alas, after we got the crown up on the first section of the bookcase – we were having a bit of a whomp whomp moment.

You see what I see? I see some hole-ly liscous gaps happening there. All of the open space was due to the fact that 1) our floor is in NO WAY even (leading to tops of bookcases that are in NO WAY even) 2) What can I say, if you’re looking at a spectrum from pro woodworker to novice feeble craftsmen, we’re on the latter part of that scale. Not highly trained = whoops moments every once in a blue moon.

How to Caulk Trim

A mantra for all fellow DIY’ers is this. Repeat after me. Caulk can cure. A la, this. Ah – YES – much better.

How to Caulk Cabinet Trim

So all and all, this built-in is pretty much ready for prime time. I’m pretty smitten.

Now when I look at the photo below of our basement, I pretty much want to chest bump this built-in while simultaneously giving it fifty seven high fives in a row. Yeah. I like it. A lot.

When Jay looks at the photo below of our basement, he sees a TV that is in dire need of an upgrade. I swear, I’ve genuinely never seen this man care so much about the proportions and aesthetics of our furniture. Truth be told, the hubby may have just earned his new big screen TV. 😀

DIY Built In Bookcase

And just for fun and games … here is a shot of the same area before. The best part is that this built-in only set us back $400 (price breakdown, here), vs. $1,200 for this guy at IKEA. Bam.

Basement TV Area

Psst! Looking for more inspiring DIY ideas? Follow along with the blog!


Good as New

So y’all already know I like to be thrifty and stretch out my dolla billz as much as possible, so when I spotted two solid wood tables on craigslist for $40 – I had to jump. Here is a shot of table #1, not looking so hot … but for twenty bucks, I knew I could turn this from beast to beauty.

Refinishing Antique Furniture

And we had table #2, also not looking super spiffy with some green leprechaun paint smattered along the side and a classy burn mark on the top. It was advertised as a poker table, I’m seeing why.

How to refinish furniture

Since we knew that the top of table #1 was solid wood, we decided to whip out the ammonia to get all the sticky veneer and stain off the top. The top was pretty worn already, so after lightly scrubbing with a nail brush, our table was ready for stain.

We already had the dark walnut stain in the house from our floors and our last table refinishing, so we figured, waste not, want not and just got to it. (Psst – want to see a play by play on how to refinish old furniture? Check out this post).

How to Refinish Wood Tables

So confession. Call me captain capitalist, but I had grand plans of flipping these tables and selling them for a hefty profit on craigslist. Our first table sold in like 20 minutes flat on craigslist for $225, so I was thinking I might be able to snag a similar price for this little guy to help fund the slew of other projects I have up my sleeve for this abode.

I still intend to do that with the smaller table, but when I went to list the first one, an unanticipated thing happened. I feel in love, like cupid came with the set of arrows and all. I fell hard.

We put it down in our basement, just to pose it with some of our dining room chairs and that’s when the trouble started. 😀 I looked at the hubster and said – Jay – I think we’re keeping this one. The top is pretty worn (scraped, etc), but I think these details actually look pretty awesome with the dark stain. Plus, we don’t have to worry about beating it up now.

Dark Wood Antique Table

It just felt so perfect in this space. It had been a completely open and underutilized space before that just had us scratching our heads. Do we put more living room furniture over there, do we add another desk area, do we leave it empty? Our questions were answered the minute we popped this table downstairs for it’s photo op. Here is how the space looked before. Tres blah.

Dead Space in Basement

And this is how it looks now, with the table! See what I’m sayin’?! Hubba Hubba!!

Combing Dining Room Living Room

The best part about putting this extra dining table down here (other than the fact that it only set us back TWENTY BUCKS) was that this allows us to entertain so much easier downstairs. Now that the living room built-in is done this space is becoming our entertainment mecca. We just gravitate down here, so this gives us more seating to host more people.

There was one conundrum … ya know those dining chairs, that I just grabbed to “stage” the table to “sell” it. Well golly gee – they looked so good downstairs, I just didn’t have the heart to move them. So our Dining Room now looks like this.

Breakfast Nook in Kitchen

Sad and empty. So … what did I do. Carted my booty over to Tar-J to get me another (2) chairs. Holy smokes, excessive, or WHAT. I know, I know. But they were on sale for $75 AND I got an extra 15% off, bringing to total for (2) to $130. For upholstered dining seating, that’s like hella good. Evidence of my shopping escapade. I’m officially under house arrest until my next paycheck. 😀

Charcoal Threshold Chairs

So next time you’re looking for a place to chow down, come on over to our place. We’ve got TWO dining rooms 🙂 Man, I feel so AMERICAN saying that. Perhaps time to start hosting some family dinners. If only I could cook …

Link Party



Lovely Linen

So it’s a Tuesday night after work and I started thinking. You know what would be easier than painting the back of our cabinets!? Wrapping them in fabric and being done-zo. My initial list of pros:

  • It’s more straight forward. I mean, you just wrap the stuff around the wood backing, right?
  • It’s faster. See above, regarding just wrapping…
  • It’s cheaper? (No, it’s not…)
  • It will look better … waits to be seen

After I carted my bootie over to JoAnn’s I started my highly scientific hunt for just the right piece of fabric. To my delight, the slab I wanted was 40% off! Cue the jazz hands.

There were lots of options available for a linen-esq fabric, my biggest complaint was that most of them were pretty transparent. Since our game plan was to pull the fabric taught over a piece of wood, I wanted something that was pretty substantial looking. Like this guy.

Linen Fabric Bookcase Backing

So confession. I’m not one of those crafty ladies that sit around and make lovely pillows and quilts and wreaths for their home. I aspire to be, but alas, I am not. I think it’s the whole patience thing, I just don’t got it. So when I want to the fabric store, to buy fabric, I was a fish out of water searching for my salty blue sea. I think I paced around the cutting counter five times before I committed to entering the land of no return where they chop off the big roll of fabric you have in your hands into small parcels that may or may not fit the exact dimensions you needed, since maybe you measured something wrong or thought about something wrong, or, ya know. Anything, ANYTHING could happen! That’s the record that kept playing in my head anyway.

When I went to check out and the grand slam total was $33.12, this also surprised me. Mainly because I don’t know how this whole razzle mcdazzle fabric thing works. So out went the window that whole thing where the fabric is more economical than paint. Oh well. 😉 What I did know, was that I wanted to turn this:

DIY Built In

Into something we wee bit chicer with my new bolt of fabric. So I let the hubby know over dinner that we’d be linen-a-fying our bookcases and he was game so we got a crack a lackin. Ya know, assuming it would take maybe 30 mins, 45 TOPS.

The first rule of business. Pry the cat off his new chew toy.

Malcolm The Cat

Second order of business, drape that fabric right on over and get going. We determined that an inch of overlap (fabric hanging over) would be enough to have something that we could easily attach to the wooden backing.

At first, our strategy was to staple from behind, in order to leave the front face completely staple free. Alas, the staple was a bit thicker than the wood, which created a bump up in the fabric. Not good. We realized that since our bookcase trim would cover the first 1/2 inch or so of the front, that we could staple right to the front face of the board. Problemo solved. We were super careful as we went along to make sure we didn’t go over the amount “allowed” where you would be able to see shiny staples coming through when you were watching the telly.

  Linen Backing on Bookcase

We’ve refinished chair covers before, and the play by play for the linen backing was really not all that different. You want to be very aware of any puckering in the fabric, since those types of problems just seem to amplify as you work your way down the line. We also found it very helpful to have two people to work on this project, since Jay was able to staple while I tried my darndest to keep the fabric super tight so things looked all spiffy when we were done.

You can see a bit of a wave in the fabric in the shot below – most of that was taken care of when we came back through and stapled the other side. Anytime we noticed a bit of puckering, or inconsistency, we’d try to come back through to make sure things looked good before proceeding with the next staple.

How to put fabric backing on bookcase

Each section took us about 45 minutes from start to finish, which included the stapling as well as affixing the backing to the built-in shelves we had already pre-built. The staples part was going a-ok, until we hit a small little bump in the road when we went to attach the backing to the bookcase.

Why yes, that is a 3″ gap. 😀

Installing Backing on Boockase

By this point, the project was taking longer than anticipated already, so we’ll just say that Mr. Gap-frac-tastic was not a welcoming visitor to this party. I was not a hospitable host.

Luckily, my husband is much calmer, and apparently more innovative than me, since he just hacked off a piece of extra wood and we got back to it. Soooo … it turns out the fabric backing was essential, since we would have had the Grand Canyon running along the back of our cabinet bases if we painted. Since we (luckily) had some extra fabric on our board, we just nailed the smaller wood attachment onto the bookcase backing and wrapped the fabric up and around it. Easy peasy.


Once we amended our little boo boo, we just moved on to the nail gun in order to make sure everything was attached really well. We took this opportunity to nail in the shelving from behind, too, just to make things a bit more sturdy.

Here is how it was looking after we had the first back up on there. Me likey.

Linen Backing on Bookcase

And after we mounted everything back up on the cabinet bases, we had this.

Linen Bookcase Backing

Looking much better with a little texture in the back. Here’s a before and after shot to show the difference. I’m totally loving how the linen breaks up the sea of white and provides a nice pop against the crisp paint. In case you missed it, here is the finished bookcase, all accessorized. In LOVE.

DIY Linen Bookcase

Linen Backing on Bookcase



Ain’t She a Beaut?

How many coats of white paint does a built-in need? Four, four coats. My arms are weary, amigo. After we got this little beauty built, there were still some minor details to fulfill before we could check this one off the to-do list. Namely, it needed a back and it needed paint. Sounds easy. In principle. It needs crown up top, too, and a ceiling patch, but some things just have to wait for another day. Ya know what I’m sayin’? 😉

Pre-stylin’ our bookcase is looking oh so much better after those 4-coats of paint though. Don’t ya think.

DIY Builtin Bookcase

Yes. Ignore the hole in the ceiling, the lack of any finishing details (trim, etc) and the awful lighting (it’s a basement). I think I’ll eventually add some hardware to spruce it up and provide a break from the sea of white doors (perhaps something like this?) We shall see. 😉

Here it is pre-paint and paneling for some comparison action.


For the paneling behind the tv, we opted to go the easy peasy cheap route. And buy a hunka hunka vinyl siding. He he. Unconventional? Perhaps. But mission accomplished? Definitely.

We just bought an 8×4 panel, and cut that little guy down to size. The entire panel only set us back $15, so I was pretty stinkin happy with that. It’s not exactly what I was looking for (a bit more textured), but the hubby voted for it due to the ease of install, and since I knew he’d be doing most of the dirty work, I let his vote trump mine. 🙂 And it helped the cause that it was super inexpensive. Here is how it looks after the install but pre-paint.

Paneling Behind Builtin

One of the more annoying parts of painting this little buddy was getting in between all the cracks on the paneling. Since it was so textured, it took a few passes to get into all the bumpy crevices. You can see the faux grain texture a bit better in this close up shot. Faux grain, it just sounds so classy, doesn’t it? 😀

How to Paint Paneling

I’ll spare you the boring details on the painting process (trust me, it was long and not all that fulfilling). The one pointer I would give to those painting large areas like this bookcase would be to trim it out with a brush, and come through for the larger sections with a roller. Since you can often see the brush strokes when you paint the larger portions, we’ve always found we get the best results when using a roller when we’re able.

For as boring and tedious as painting this big old built-in was, it was all so worth it when I was able to bust out the long stored tupperware container of books and reunite them with the shelves they should be adorning. 😀 Here is a close up of the not-yet-totally-finished right side.

How to Accessorize Bookcase

And here is a shot of the left!

Linen Backing on Bookcase

All the little trinkets I’d been hoarding from trips to Home Goods finally found a home, too. Like my little owl bookends.

Animal Book Ends

And my stallion that guards the other stash of books nestled on the right side of the shelf.

Animal Book End

Remember little porky? He found a home too, hanging out with that fierce looking fat cat. Looks ready for a motorcycle ride.

Bookcase Styling

Here is how the whole space is looking after an evening of moving things around on the shelves. Still pretty sparse, and I’m sure I’ll continue to move things around and get rid of things that don’t mesh right. Long term, I’d love to get lots of baskets for under the TV to store all our extra goodies.

Although this project was not the quickest one to bust out, we had some pretty significant savings from doing this bad boy ourselves. Our total for everything came out to just over $400. Considering this look alike at IKEA retails for over $1,200, I’m pretty happy paying a quarter of the cost of a custom job. Here is the cost breakdown:

  • Cabinet Bases $280 (you could DEFINITELY get these cheaper at a ReStore or Thrift store that carries cabinets – we didn’t have any luck finding four matching ones so we decided to spring for it)
  • Wood for Shelving: $45
  • Crown for top: $15
  • Paneling: $15
  • Paint: $20
  • Linen Backing: $33

Bookcase with Linen Backing

Once we pop up some crown and trim out the sides, I think this bookcase is going to be a nice little addition to our basement cave. Functional and not too hard on the eyes.

Did ya notice the backs? We decided to go with a linen fabric treatment – I’ll post all the details on that DIY next week!

Linen Back on Bookcase

Tuning in for the Giveaway deets? Since we only had a few people respond – everyone’s a gettin’ a mood board!! Woooottt. Look for the virtual room renovations next Wednesday!

Thrifty Thursday