The options for seamless (and even wireless!) home audio have never been more plentiful or more beautifully designed. We’ve been adding to our audio system since we first moved into our Chicago home and love the fact that we’ve been able to build upon our existing setup each step of the way. Some of the technology that we’ve added recently didn’t even exist when we got started, and our home audio system is even partially integrated into our home automation system. (And you ???????know we love that.) The future is here and it sounds fantastic!
So, what’s new since our last whole home audio system update? Most notably, Apple’s updated Airplay 2 system now allows us to stream from one device to multiple rooms at the same time. Yesssss! The volume levels in each room can be adjusted independently to fine-tune the sound, which we especially love when we’re gathered around the kitchen island (quieter) but want to fill the first floor with sound, into the living room (louder). The user experience when streaming via Spotify is very intuitive and the sound is fantastic, since Airplay 2 operates over wifi as opposed to Bluetooth. (Oh, and speaking of Spotify, have you started following along yet? )
We’ve also dipped a toe into the Sonos universe recently. Now that the Sonos One features Airplay 2 and Alexa functionality built in, it was the natural choice for our master bedroom. We paired the black Sonos One with this sleek wall mount and a cable cover kit (painted to match our walls) for an almost invisible look, but it comes in white, too! Can you see it up there, tucked next to the window? We’re absoluetly blown away by the punch that this little smart speaker packs. We also love that we can use Alexa voice commands through the Sonos One to operate blinds, lights and thermostats throughout the house. If this model, with these features, was available when we started building our system, we have would have likely built our system from the ground up with Sonos. It’s that good.
We’ve also made a few changes in the back yard that keep our Definitive Technology AW6500 speakers hidden slightly from view. A row of Emerald Green arborvitae now fill the planter box along the staircase down to the garden unit. You might even notice that we had the main backyard stairs painted and stained since our last audio update! The white support posts help the speakers blend in further and new visitors to our patio often have a hard time telling where the music is coming from.
While we’re thrilled with all of the audio choices we’ve made here in Chicago, if we were starting from scratch today, we’d probably build a system completely based around Sonos. The sound is seriously impressive and newer models like the Beam are much more affordable than the older options that were largely cost-prohibitive for us. Regardless of brand and model, whole home audio is now a simple reality that no longer requires hidden wires inside the walls of a home. With a relatively small investment, surround sound and whole-home audio are now within the reach of anyone with a smart phone. Now, about the sound system at Tree House…
The first floor bathroom is finally underway! We’ve been in our Chicago home nearly 6 years and the last ‘untouched’ room in the house is in the midst of being renovated. Our contractors are hard at work, and they’ve made made a ton of progress already, so we need to catch you up!
We worked with a local designer (who also helped with our second floor bathroom) for architectural drawings, space planning, and code-compliance help. We knew right away that we’d need to reconfigure the space, and we feel much safer drafting up plans with someone who is an expert in this area. It also ensures that the vision that we had in our heads matched up with what was realistic, comfortable and safe.
We knew the existing floorplan, above, would never allow for more shower space than the old phone-booth-sized corner unit, so the layout had to change. Because we’ve been noodling on this renovation for, ???????oh, 6 years(!), it was an easy decision at this point to steal a few feet of space from our little indoor workshop. Several options were discussed, but we ended up sticking with our gut and narrowing it down to the two below. The first layout represents the current (now former) floorplan, and option 1 and 2 are simple variations on a theme. You can see that the only real difference between 1 and 2 is the placement of the vanity and toilet:
Current Layout | Option 1 | Option 2
In order to keep the future glass shower wall from being blocked by the vanity, option 2 was selected (after also nixing a handful of other ideas and theories), and we were off and running! The new layout allows for a full size walk-in shower and swaps the locations of the toilet and vanity from what we had previously, and we’ll be adding a number of elements that will greatly improve the form and function of the room.
One of the changes we’re most excited about? The addition of a frosted transom window along the back shower wall! The workshop has an exterior window that is much larger than that of the bathroom, so the design will allow light to pass from one room to the other without sacrificing privacy. At the base of the transom, we’ll integrate a solid stone ledge that will provide the perfect perch for a couple of small potted plants.
That same stone from the transom ledge will also continue throughout the shower and above the toilet in the form of a narrow ledge for art (and likely more plants). We’ll also be adding a board & batten treatment to the bottom half of the room as well as multiple different lighting options that will improve on the previous scenario – which was nothing more than the dim light integrated into the bathroom vent fan, ha!
Above, you can see the elevation of the ‘wet’ wall, which also backs up to the sink wall in the kitchen. Hopefully this gives a great visual of how this will turn out in the end. A happy surprise that was brought to our attention on demo day was that with a couple of small HVAC duct changes, we were able to completely remove the existing soffit that spanned the length of the room! This will not only raise the ceiling height above the sink and toilet by almost 18″, but it will also allow the transom window to span the entire width of the room. This discovery also provides enough height above the recessed medicine cabinet mirror for an additional light fixture, which makes us so, so happy. It was a very pleasant surprise!
The window wall elevation (below, left) will see one small change in that the shower niche will no longer be located on the back wall of the shower. Since the wall is exterior, there was no safe way to integrate it into the space without comprimising the insulation and integrity of the wall, or without creating an additional bumpout that would cut further into the shower space. We ultimately decided that the niche will now be located directly under the shower controls on the ‘wet’ wall.
???????The elevation that faces the door (middle) will remain the same with the exception of the elimination of the recessed medicine cabinet flanking the door. Initially, we thought we might need some additional storage, but the mirrored medicine cabinet and vanity should handle our needs nicely.
The elevation showing the back wall of the workshop (far right) will see the vent in the upper right hand corner shift to a floor vent directly below where it sits currently. Again, this will allow the transom to span the entire width of the room!
We drew a LOT of inspiration from Dabito at Old Brand New! Dabito tends to work with a much bolder color palette than we do (we’re scaredy cats tbh), but we love the continuation of the flooring into the shower and the ledge that unifies the main space and shower space. Our layout will end up nearly identical to Dabito’s (including sconce placement above the toilet), with one slight change – the center stack of our home runs direclty behind the vanity mirror, so in order to recess the vanity, we’ll run the ledge ‘bump-out’ vertically above the sink as well. This will allow for a recessed medicine cabinet and draw the eye toward the newly raised ceiling. As the renovation progresses in the bathroom, we think this will make more sense.
Throughout the design process, we referenced Dabito’s bathroom more times than we can count. It was so helpful to see a similarly sized space with a near-identical layout. When we were in doubt, we turned to Dabito!
Week 1 Progress
The current view of the bathroom is juuust a touch different than where we started. (You know, just a wee bit.) The wall that seperates the space from the workshop is gone, and all of the plumbing that it housed has now been relocated:
The flooring surfaces in our home are often not quite level (read: very, very unlevel), and the bathroom was no exception. Over the years, multiple layers of flooring and subfloor had been stacked on top of each other, resulting in a few inches of lost ceiling height! The construction team will sister in some extra joists to correct the uneven floor and bring things back to nice and level – at least, as close as possible. #oldhousecharm
Whle we had the wall opened up, we made the decision to replace the old window that never stayed open quite properly. We usually try to ‘future-proof’ our home and replace and upgrade things like windows, electrical and plumbing while the walls are open in order to avoid costly repairs down the road. This type of work is much easier and cleaner than doing it after all of your finishes are in place.
The First Obstacle
Another example of ‘future-proofing’ that we weren’t planning on was the discovery that our main plumbing stack was corroded and in need of replacement. While the wall was open, the project took an extra day and a half and ended up increasing our renovation bottom line by 5-10%. ???????Oof.Had the job become necessary down the road, it would have involved destroying existing finish work and would likely have cost double or even triple what it did when the access was free and clear of obstacles. With this upgrade, we can now state that all of the plumbing in our entire home has been upgraded. Yay?!
While the down and dirty guts of the room are fun to share, the mood board is what will likely give a better idea of what the finished product will look like. (Hint: there’s pink. And flowers.) Stay tuned for more progress updates and a few spoilers of things to come!
We couldn’t be more excited to share with you the wallpapered sleeping loft at Tree House! The journey to get here has felt long, hasn’t it? We were ???????so sure we were going to use a paper – any paper! – from the Kate Goldberg collection, but after bringing our samples to the space, we couldn’t commit. They were beautiful (and we’d still like to use her patterns somewhere, someday), but didn’t nail our vision.
The problem? We didn’t know what our vision was.
We wanted it to feel fresh and fun – this is a kids’ loft, after all – but also calming, imaginative and with a dash of whimsy. Easy, right? (Ha!) It wasn’t until I stumbled across the light blue colorway in Sandberg Raphael that everything started to click. Fun? Click. Dreamy and whimsical? Click. Still traditional-leaning but not stuffy and also carefree and colorful but still kind of neutral? Click, click, click!
As novice installers, we DIY-ed this accent wall using the ‘Paste the Wall’ method, which was surprisingly easy! We completed the project from start to finish on a single day during the course of Lucy’s two naps (so maybe in 3 hours?). We’ve tried different methods in the past, and paste the wall has been, by far, the most intuitive. We documented the entire process, and we’re sharing the step-by-step (plus a video!) on Homes.com today!
To say that we’re in love with how the loft has shaped up would be an understatement. The wallpaper makes this 12′ wide room feel much larger, the ceilings taller and the dimension and depth is incredible. It draws your eye out the window to the trees below, a natural extension of this Tree House loft.
The tutorial, more photos and a how-to video(!) is right here on Homes.com! We promise you, you can do it yourself. Go forth, and wallpaper!
In This Post:
The Weekender + Sneak Peeks
Over the years, you’ve probably noticed a shift in our style where neutral tones have taken over our living spaces. (You know, like that time we nixed our navy sofa for a cream sectional.) But nevertheless, color has always found a way to creep back in. It’s inescapable – albeit, in smaller quantities. Case in point: Just yesterday, my one task at the hardware store was to buy a can of flat black spray paint. But as I grabbed that can and walked away, a lavender lid caught my eye. And then I saw a can labeled ‘ballet slipper’, and 30 minutes later, Scott came to find me holding a can of pink, purple and blue. Oh, and black; I still had the black. (For what it’s worth, we left with only the black can. I got scared.)
But! I digress. Lately, my color obsession has been deep shades of red. Red! Plum, wine, burgundy, oxblood and sometimes poppy! Who is this Kim? Are we – like, the collective we – over the white obsession yet? We recently tossed this color grid blanket onto our sectional, and we thought, yes. Yes, we are burgundy people. (And then, of course, there’s our rental living room makeover we shared this week, below!)
What color have you been loving lately that surprises you?
When I shared the below photo in a Story, I received so many questions about my shoes! I recently picked up a pair of Allbirds Tree Runners in chalk, and I’ve barely taken them off since. They are, hands down, the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn – even straight from the box! I returned a pair of the Wool Runners in marinara, because they were just a bit too snug (which was a bummer because I loved the color so, so much). PS: Lucy is wearing Softstars! My Allbirds and her Softstars are also on our big list of ethical clothing brands.
We started our first floor bathroom renovation – the very last untouched room in this house! We’re looking forward to sharing our mood board with you, but we’ve already hit our first snag. Our contractor noticed a small leak and too-small pipes, and they ended up having to replace the last remaining bits of old, pre-PVC pipe. I clearly have no idea what I’m talking about, but what I do know is that for the first time in 130+ years, this lovely lady of a home finally has all modern plumbing! So despite the unexpected check we had to write, that’s something to celebrate, right? Also, we have no floors. (It escalated quite quickly!)
Scott purchased his first home in Cincinnati right out of college, and his mortgage was maybe $500 a month? It was an adorable house, too! So when I read this article, I thought yes to all – with an asterisk on #3. *All things in moderation.
Thank you for sharing in the excitement of our new home! ICYMI, we shared on Stories a sneak peek into a two flat we closed on this past Tuesday. It has been a whirlwind leading up to this point, and sometimes we still can’t believe we made it. Phew! Even still, the real work begins right this very second! We saved some slides in our highlights, but we’ll be giving you a proper tour soon! (Below, a photo in one of my favorite rooms in the house, in my favorite black jeans.)
Have a happy weekend, everyone! Our only plans – aside from mopping up drywall dust during a Lucy nap – are to dine al fresco (rain, rain, stay away!), have cocktails with the neighbors and hang out with my mom and dad (they’re coming in from Pittsburgh!). What are you up to?
A Rental Living Room Gets a Makeover!
This post is in partnership with Article. Enter to win a $1,000 Article shopping spree at the end of this post!
Love where you live now. Essentially, that’s the backbone of this blog. Whether you own, rent, travel, live alone or with a partner or a pet or your family – love it. It’s why we write the DIYs and why we share the process. We consider this a community where we’re all just – I don’t know – hanging out? Talking with one another? We like to think of this blog as a back and forth; we share, you share, and together, we all inspire one another. In our very specific case, we talk about home. Whether it’s us or you, let’s make this home (whatever that looks like!), a place that lays the groundwork for your hobbies, the potluck you’re hosting on Friday night, your nights in and your rushed mornings out the door.
So often we hear you say, I’m taking notes for my future home! Honestly? We hear it a lot, and we get it – we’ve been guilty of it, too! But it also hurts our hearts to know that you’re waiting – you’re holding out on your own joy for something that you think will be the magic scenario in which you can do this or that. The scenario in which you buy the sofa. Wall mount the television. Splurge on the nice bedding. Build the pantry of your dreams. Paint the cabinets!
Do you remember our friends Daniel and Meghan? They helped us completely demo Tree House, and they spent an entire weekend helping us plant trees and haul gravel and fill a doggie pit. (In other words, the very definition of true, selfless friends.) Right now, they rent an adorable apartment full of vintage charm, and although it’s already overflowing with the sweetest details, they have told us too many times that they find themselves holding back on beloved purchases because – here it is – they’re waiting on their future home.
No more, we say! As the smallest of thank yous for all that they’ve done for us, we wanted to pay it forward and surprise them with a head-to-toe living room makeover with help from Article (a brand we adore so much, we own two of their sofas)! I still don’t think they believed us until the last item was in place. Guys, we love you, and you deserve the very, very best. Like, right now. Psst: We’re also sharing the love with a $1,000 Article giveaway at the end of this post!
Living Room Before
It’s really cute already, right? Daniel and Meghan have great style, but they admitted that they rarely spend time in their living room, if at all. The sofa had seen better days, and it wasn’t very conducive to lounging (let alone for two people to sprawl or cuddle). Their only chair had been claimed by their dog, Roo, and naturally, it became his and his alone! The rug was too small, the walls sterile, and although they were ob???????sessed with the same Hira ottoman we have at Tree House, they wanted to wait until – yup – they found their future home. Sooo, we added that ottoman to our Article shopping cart, along with a sofa and rug and a boatload of accessories!
Living Room Now
Another sign of a true friend? When we suggested we paint the walls pink, they said, which shade? (This is Benjamin Moore Odessa Pink, by the way. It’s a good one!)
It’s hard to know where to begin. The leather sectional? The garnet pillows? The oversized pouf or the cushy green rug (or, or!)? Okay, but seriously, the sofa. We landed on the Timber corner sectional in Chocolat. It was absolutely made for this space! It’s constructed of the softest analine leather, tucks nicely into the corner, and has the prettiest legs I ever did see. The down filled cushions are incredibly cushy, and the back offers support while also being sinkable. Basically, it’s a dreamboat.
The Hira ottoman started it all! Meghan picked up a tray for displaying a few favorite items, and the 30″ round is large without taking over the small(ish) room. It’s so pretty on top of the Adria rug, and the 8′ x 10′ is large enough to tuck under the sofa and fill the entire space.
For task lighting or low evening light, we mounted the Leap sconce into the corner. It has a long swiveling arm, but I’m especially in love with the copper detail. Cute, cute.
Daniel and Meghan receive great light, and apparently their thumbs are greener than ours! They already had a beautiful collection of plants, and we wanted to show them off with staggering heights. On a whim, we brought in the Oscuro bar cart in walnut, and I’m so happy we did. The plants can happily drink in the afternoon sun, but it will also be a nice landing zone to drop their keys as they come and go (the front door is just out of view, to the right, of the below photo).
They already had this great bookcase, but we layered it with the Tana stool. I’ve loved this stool for years, and I was so happy to see it in person; it’s everything I hoped it to be! Heavy, strong and handsome. It will be a nice spot to rest their drinks, or it can easily become additional seating.
The room came together better than any of us could have imagined. The peachy blush walls and the chocolate sofa, the mossy rug and the velvety plum pillows – ugh. We’re thrilled. They’re thrilled! It all feels layered and cozy and warm and so very, very Daniel and Meghan (and Roo, too!).
How Did Our Rental Decisions Hold Up More Than One Year Later?
Roughly a year and a half ago, we completed a full renovation of the garden unit apartment in the basement of our home. Do you remember where we started? Back then, the unit was a little darker and a little colder than what we would have preferred – and that’s putting it politely! It also left a lot to be desired in the usability and tenant privacy departments, so when our former former tenants decided they were moving on, we took that as a sign to take on that 2017 complete overhaul, allowing the unit to shine the way we knew it could!
Since that renovation, we had tenants lease the apartment for almost a year and a half. They just purchased their first home in a nearby neighborhood, and we couldn’t be happier for them! We’ve received a lot of questions about how all of our (hopefully!) rental-friendly renovation decisions held up after 16 months of tenant use, so we’re here to break things down and give ourselves a score on each decision. Now that our design decisions have been put to the test, we’re asking ourselves the question: Would we make the same decisions again?
We’ve assigned each choice a score of 1 – 5: 1 = Why on earth did we ever think this was a good idea?! 2 = We probably should have gone in a different direction. 3 = Just Ok. 4 = Great decision, but requires a bit of upkeep. 5 = Wow, that was money well spent! We nailed it!
The kitchen still looks great! During the kitchen selection process, we learned that IKEA appliances are manufactured by Whirlpool and are backed by a 5 year warranty, so everything still functions perfectly and shows only the most minimal wear and tear. The cabinets and finish panels all held up equally well. With the exception of a couple of teeny, tiny nicks in one side panel (a small pot of color matched paint will fix that right up!), there is no visible wear to the finishes or mechanicals of the cabinets. After this first go-round, we’d happily take on another IKEA kitchen, rental or otherwise.
On DIY Butcher Block Countertops for the Kitchen and Laundry Room…
We opted to pair the IKEA cabinets with self-fabricated butcher block countertops. Our thought was two-fold: Butcher block is afforable and beautiful, but it’s also a surface that, we think, looks better with age and use. And if it ever gets ???????really bad, we can always sand them down and start frsh! The fabrication process was pretty straightforward, if not a little stressful, since one incorrect cut could lead to a ruined slab, but we took our time and were very pleased with how they turned out. The countertops were finished with Waterlox to keep them sealed from liquid penetration without relying on a poly or lacquer coating.
Score | 4
The countertops held up exactly as we expected them to! There is one watermark and another area where it looks like a very hot pan was set down, but aside from that, they look nearly perfect. Prior to the final decision to use butcher block, we calculated savings of at least 75% over manufactured stone by going the DIY route. While stone would have required almost no maintenance, we felt that the butcher block would lend a warmth richness to the kitchen, and they do! Butcher block is like marble, in a sense – the first handful of scuffs and marks can feel painful, but as the surface receives use over the years, it all evens out. We may refinish them in a few year, but for now, we’re still happy with this decision.
The removal of the old flooring and leveling/installation of the new flooring was a huge project. The team we hired was in the space for over a week and ended up using something like 20 bags of floor leveling compound to fill in the low spots. The porcelain wood-look tile is a mid-tone brown, not too yellow, not too red – just right. It keeps the space feeling cozy, and we still absolutely love it! After the first rental cycle, the flooring shows absolutely no wear. None. It’s actually kind of crazy how good it all still looks! We would absolutely use wood look tile again in the future.
The Mudroom Took A Lot of Space From the Kitchen. Was It Worth It?
It was 1,000% worth it! The kitchen layout was a huge struggle for us at first, but our friend Daniel came through in a huge way with a this adorable doodle on a piece of scrap paper and saved the day! We knew that the mudroom would cut in to the kitchen’s square footage pretty significantly, but it was necessary to offer our tenants privacy in the form of access to the utility closet without entering their space.
Score | 6. (Yes, 6 out of 5!)
The mudroom has been an absolute game-changer in the way we’re able to keep separation between spaces with our tenants while residing in a common building. Prior to the completion of the mudroom (which also involved relocating the access door to the utility closet) we’d have to enter the garden unit to do something as simple as flip a breaker to replace a light fixture. Now, we can access the guts of the house – water heaters, electrical utilities, and most of the water shut-offs for the whole house – without bothering our tenants. As an added bonus, the back door to the outside is no longer ???????directly in their kitchen, which keeps their home warmer in the winter. In addition to the kitchen and flooring, the mudroom addition is near the top of the list of impactful changes to the space!
How Did the Tiny Laundry Room Hold Up?
Along with the addition of the mudroom and reconfiguring of the door to the utility closet, the layout changes we made at the back half of the unit also carved out space for a cute little laundry room! The unit had a washer and dryer previously, but they were outdated and mismatched side-by-side units that took up a huge amount of space. We shifted to a stacked unit that opened up floor space and allowed for a handy floating cabinet topped with remnant butcher block to match the kitchen countertops.
Score | 4.5
The laundry room holds up! These stacked washer/dryer units don’t feature the most modern connected technology, but since they’re fully mechanical with no digital circuitry, they’re known to last for a very long time, which we were mindful of when purchasing. This unit has been no exception and still looks, but more importantly, functions great. The added headboard along the bottom half of the walls still looks great as well and offers a wipable surface that resists scuffs and scrapes. We’re deducting a half of a point here, because if it were in the initial budget, we would have loved to push the wall into the utility room by a foot or so to gain more laundry space. Although the room is small, it functions beautifully, and our tenants appreciated having a dedicated laundry space – with a door.
The hinges and knobs show no signs of wear and still look near-perfect. Much like the hardware in our Chicago kitchen, we love that the black doorknobs and hinges show great contrast with the freshly painted white doors and lend a pop of detail to a space that is otherwise fairly monochromatic. We love the impact that this simple upgrade can bring to any space!
Okay, How About the IKEA Vanity In the Bathroom?
We chose this vanity top/cabinet combination because it checked all of the necessary boxes for long term rental unit duty. The porcelain top features an integrated backsplash that wraps partially around the sides and keeps water from splashing all over the bathroom. The cabinet is finished in a durable grey stain and has front legs that elevate it from the floor, a simple detail that goes far in a small room.
Score | 5
Like the IKEA kitchen, the vanity has held up incredibly well! There are no visual signs of wear and the drawers still open and close smoothly. The drawers also feature clever dividers that have held up well. In the last year, we’ve received multiple questions about this vanity, and we can safely say, no regrets!
The Existing Tub Was Reglazed, Right?
Yup! Elsewhere in the bathroom, we opted to reglaze the perfectly functional, but somewhat stained existing Kohler bathtub. The years had not been super kind to the finish of the tub and there were a couple of chips and scratches, as well as a bit of surface rust near the drain. We brought in the pros and had the whole thing reglazed and it came out looking like new!
Score | 5
The tub looks as great as the day we pulled back the masking paper from the reglazing work! Had the timing and budget allowed for it, we may have replaced the entire tub, but given the good structural condition of the existing tub, we chose to reglaze. If we had gone the replacement route, we would have not only had to purchase a new tub, but also replace the tile in the tub surround and handle some significant plumbing changes. The glaze is holding up great and the tub is still (almost) blindingly white! This portion of the bathroom would definitely score high on the ROI scale.
Did All of the Hooks Hang In There?
Unfortunately, no, they did not hang in there! (Above, an image after our repairs.) The garden unit has a great little entry space inside the front door that features enough room for a small chair or bench and enough wall space to hang coats and backpacks without having an actual coat closet. We decided to maximize the space with a series of hunky cast iron hooks (these are similar), but made a sliiiight failure in judgement …
Score | 2
… in the form of installing the hooks into drywall using anchors supplied in the packaging. We love the hooks, but not our install process. By the time our first tenants had moved out, 3 of the 4 hooks had pulled completely out of the wall under the weight of heavy Chicago winter coats. We remedied the situation in a similar fashion to our DIY laundry sorter and mounted a spare pine board directly into the studs and mounted the hooks to the board. Simple, easy and so. much. more. sturdy. We should have just done this the first time around, but lesson learned.
Thoughts on the Recessed Lighting?
The garden unit sits half below grade, but it still has quite a few large windows and gets pretty great natural light. Even still, one can never have enough lighting options, so we had our contractor add nearly 20 recessed LED lights throughout the space. The placement of the lights allows them to fill up the corners of the space, and they’re all on dimmer switches (and often times paired with an additional center light or sconce) so the perfect lighting scenario can always be achieved.
Score | 5
The biggest compliment we can receive when people enter the garden unit for the fist time is: This doesn’t feel like a garden at all!, and the added lighting helped us achieve that sentiment. While we were at it with the can lights, we also replaced all of the existing central fixtures with slim flush-mount units and swapped all of the bulbs out for 2700k warm white LEDs. The bulbs will last the better part of a lifetime and the warm glow suits the space perfectly! We’re huge fans of recessed lighting and kind of can’t stop adding it everywhere.
Final Average Score| 4.6
With only a couple of exceptions (those pesky hooks! the water rings!), we’re incredibly pleased – surprised, even? – with how all of the changes and finishes held up to almost a year and a half of use by our first post-renovation tenants. Every decision we initially made was overthought, as we do, but besides building the coat rack, only normal touch up and cleaning was required in order to get the unit ready for its new occupants!
If you have a rental – whether you’re living in one, own one or thinking of investing – we’d love to hear your thoughts on materials and finishes to either utilize or avoid completely! We might just have another unit (or two) in the works. (Wink, wink.)
In This Post:
Our 30 Spring Essentials + How We Get Ready for the Season
It’s spring, it’s spring! (Kind of.) Chicago has felt a string of 70-degree days, although lest we get too excited, there was also a mini blizzard this past weekend. Even still, it’s so close. Thisclose. Can you feel it? Every year, Scott and I joke that Chicagoans have winter amnesia, us included. We’re so ridiculously happy to feel the warm sun in April (or May or June, honestly), that we forget winter ever happened! Chicago spring, summer and fall are so magical, and perhaps it’s that Midwestern mentality that we’ve earned it, but you guys. We’ve earned it!
It’s also at this time of year that every small act seems to offer up a world of difference – but isn’t there a life lesson in there, too? From cracking open the windows for the first time all year, to stuffing your favorite vase full of fresh blooms, well, it’s one mood booster after the next, don’t you think? Below, we’re sharing the steps we take we at the start of this season to get our home – and our selves! – ready for spring. Ready for the new season (both literally and figuratively) ahead.
We wash the windows, inside and out. | If there’s one thing that makes a room, it’s lighting. This goes for natural light, too! Washing the windows, while a bit of a time suck, makes all. the. difference, but good music will help the time fly! We promise you, this one is worth it.
We remake the bed with lighter linens and fold away that extra coverlet. | Folding away that extra heavy blanket is one of those things that always makes us ask each other, Are we ready? Is it time? It’s time.
We wash the baseboards. | This one falls under Least Likely to Enjoy, but it’s a small detail that will have your whole house singing. (I can’t stress this one enough.) We usually follow this up with a damp Magic Eraser to clean up any wall scuffs, too.
We empty out the fridge (mostly) and wipe down all the shelves. | The refrigerator, the dishwasher, the oven and the stove top – they all need attention after a long winter of homemade comfort meals. Although we try to clean up spills as they happen, we’ll go the extra mile and remove items from shelves and soak the oven grilles.
We add fresh (or faux) greenery. | We can’t not scoop up a few bunches of silver dollar eucalyptus (our favorite!) whenever we see it, but when all else fails, we go faux. At the end of a cleaning session, it always feels like such a treat to place a vase of greens on the dining table.
We change the furnace filter. |Winter, spring, summer and fall – you better believe we’re swapping out the old filter for new! We make sure to have a few backups in our furnace closet so we can make the change instantly. (Because nothing kills momentum more than having to first run to the hardware store.)
Our Indoor Essentials
We cut back our garden and fill in with new. |At the first signs of those little green shoots, we’ll spend an hour on the back patio cutting back the dead growth to make room for new. If we notice that something hasn’t made it over the winter, we’ll treat ourselves to a lively perennial from a local nursery.
We uncover, spray and wipe down the patio furniture. |This might be one of our favorite tasks! Every winter, we cover our patio furniture and fireplace, and every spring, we’re giddy at the thought of peeling it all back. We’ll also blow off any debris, spray everything down and wipe off any winter gunk.
We scrub down the grill (and pick up chicken sausages and veggies). | We’ll celebrate our outdoor successes with the first spring dinner from the grill! It’s even sweeter when shared with friends.
Our Outdoor Essentials
We re-evaluate our wardrobes and donate anything we didn’t wear this winter. | I’m proud to say that my Konmari-ed closet is still looking clean and tidy, but in a past life, I would spend 30 minutes at the end of winter to donate the clothes I didn’t wear. If I didn’t wear it for an entire season, chances are, I won’t be excited to wear it next year!
We ditch the flannel pjs and fleece lined leggings for crisp cotton. | It’s always a happy day to say goodbye to thick sleeping socks and fleecy joggers. Although cuddly and cozy during the holiday season, they begin to feel like a weight come April – who’s with me?
We burn a lightly scented candle. | We tuck away the fir, nutty and sage scented candles, and we unleash the scents of spring: citrus, fresh cut grass and sun soaked lavender. It’s magical what a new scent can do for the soul.
We change up our beauty routine. | As the seasons change, so does our skin. I’ll swap to a lighter – but still tough! – face lotion (loving this one right now!), and I’ll remind Scott to do the same – ha! I’ll also skip the deep conditioner every now and again in favor of a cold water rinse, or if I’m feeling up for it, an ACV rinse for a boost of shine! And for mid-day pick me ups, I’ve been loving this facial mistso much. ???????PS: This champagne candle is a dead ringer for the cult favorite scent of Anthropologie.
Our Self Care Essentials
How do you prepare for the changing of the seasons?
The New Modern Railing for Our Sleeping Loft
The new custom fabricated sleeping loft railing is in! And it has a gate that latches! And it’s paired with new handrails on the retractable ladder! And it’s all safe and sturdy and beautiful! If it’s not immediately apparent, we’re thrilled with the work of the company that we contracted. (In or around southwest Michigan? We worked with Ken out of St. Joseph, MI.)
We’ve been working toward a vibe that is both modern and relaxed for our little Tree House fixer-upper, and we’ve (very) slowly but surely been dialing in the details to bring that vision to life. After a year and a half in the space, we finally decided that the wobbly old log railing had to go. We tried to love it, but it always felt a little… forced? Rustic? Plus, it wasn’t the sturdiest structure on the planet – not even close! – and it always felt just a little too low to be safe. After researching fabricators in the area, we found Ken and felt at ease with him immediately. We had a lot of ideas for how we wanted it to look, borrowing a big chunk of design inspiration from our friends Chris and Julia, as well as Simply Simple’s modern farmhouse railing. He seemed genuinely excited to take on this project, which is always a good sign!
May I jog your memory?
And now we’ve got this sleek, sturdy masterpiece!
The new railing is almost 4″ taller than the structure it replaced, and it’s sturdier and safer with an integrated gate that can be latched to remain either open or closed. To keep the gate open, a small notched tab flips over the top of a threaded bolt that is inserted into the vertical framework of the railing:
The integrated ‘bullet’ hinges are simple, understated works of art. Much like the rest of the metalwork, they’re powdercoated in a matte black finish and also feature a small brass washer between the top and bottom hinge portion. The design is simple and clean and the gate just plain feels nice to open and close.
The baseplates of the railing cover the gaps in the floorboards where the old log railings were mounted. If you’d never seen the ‘before’ photos, you’d never realize this design wasn’t original! We’ve got a bit of wood trim work to finish up between the flooring and the lower face of the railing (as well as a few small areas of floorboards to restain), but it should be a pretty straightforward process.
The winch-operated loft ladder also got an upgrade in the form of a pair of sturdy custom handrails that allow for a continuous handhold all the way up to the loft. Finally! Medium-toned wood and matte black metal have become a running theme in the home’s design, and this image shows how well the new railing and handrails play off of the existing bed frame, door hardware, and counter stools.
At some point during the design process, Ken added the vertical grab handles to the inside of each gate section, and we were blown away by the simple functionality of the design. After using them countless times over the course of a long weekend, we couldn’t believe that we ever lived without them. They inspire confidence when making the transition from the top step of the ladder to the flooring surface of the loft, and they also help to narrow the gap between railing sections.
Below, you can see the tab that latches the gate closed is ???????just visible from the outside. This allows a person entering the loft space to operate the latch easily without having to reach over the railing from the small platform at the top of the ladder. It’s all these small details that make the design so intuitive, which, isn’t that the whole goal of a great design? Psst: There’s a wallpaper sneak peek in these photos, but more on that project shortly!
Ken knocked this project out of the park, helping us to achieve all of our goals for the new railing and handrails. It’s sturdier, safer, and fits much better with the overall aesthetic we’ve been working towards. During our last visit, we read books and played with Lucy in the loft without the need to block off the stairs with a big basket or plywood panel. It was a big relief to be able to enjoy low-key family time without constant worry.
We’ll be calling the loft ‘done’ shortly, so be sure to keep an eye peeled for the big wallpaper reveal!
In This Post:
A Whole New Look, Who Dis?
Happy New Blog Week to us! Man, this has been a long time coming, and we thank all of you so much for bearing with us over the last handful of months while we worked on changes behind the scenes (and simultaneously caused countless glitches that made our blog less-than-friendly). We’ve migrated to a new server, improved speed drastically, cleaned up old (read: useless!) baggage and drafted up a wish list of what we wanted to see in a blog. This blog. Any blog, really. We shot for the moon (always), and we asked you what you wanted, too. Then we added your wishes to our list, and we brought that big, heavy list to a talented designer to bring as much of it as possible to life. Let’s show you around!
Welcome to the New Homepage
Things should look a lot different around here! One thing we’ve noticed more and more is that blog landing pages have shifted away from a linear chronological layout, and although we resisted that at first (#oldschool), it’s a look we’ve ultimately grown to love. Now, we’re embracing a homepage that encourages you to explore and stay awhile. The new homepage allows you to see your favorite projects, our favorite projects, the latest vlogs and what we’re currently loving. That said, it’s still super easy for you to find our latest posts, chronologically, under the header ‘On the Blog.’ Tip: Tapping on the ‘+’ under every category will bring up more content!
There’s an Easier To Read Mobile View
The mobile view has been a pain point for far too long. We heard you, we agreed with you. Finally, we’re featuring a larger font and the ability to click around easily without needing to magnify your screen. (Welcome to 2019, Vargos. Ha!)
Actually, There’s an Easier to Read Everything View
Whether you’re on mobile or desktop, we’ve changed up our copy font to be reader friendly in every way. We’ve nixed the smaller sans serif font of yore for a more universally friendly serif font, bolded the hyperlinks (no more distracting yellow!) and enlarged the text. And because Scott and I both write posts, we’ve made sure that the author name is prominently displayed at the top of every blog post. Plus, this new design is responsive to whichever device you favor – whether it’s your smart phone, tablet or laptop!
Hey There, Improved Menu
We’ve cleaned up the menu bar to feature the pages that you want to see most – from our house tours to where we purchased our navy rug. Both menu bars lay out our most searched pages, and if you’re feeling social, you can find us online elsewhere through the gray bar at the very top. Tip: Our Etsy Print Shop can now be accessed through the social icons.
Find What You Need from Top to Bottom
From the double menus at the top to the improved footer at the bottom, we’ve laid it all out to include the most relevant information. The expanded footer menu is your one stop spot for all things YBH; you can read back to 2009 in our archives (my, how things have changed!), shop our house or follow a room renovation from the very beginning!
Choose Your Own (Room Makeover) Adventure!
Speaking of, we are so excited about this one! The brand new Room Makeovers page – located in both the menu and footer – allows you to hop from room-to-room and follow a renovation from the very beginning. This was a request we heard over and over again, and we tweaked it over the last couple of months to make it just right. (God bless our designer who had to carry out my endless requests to fine tune this page!) You start by choosing our Chicago Home, Tree House or Garden Apartment, and from there, you can select any room you wish, choose-your-own-adventure-style. Each room features a small slideshow of images in its current state, followed by the blog posts of the makeover process! We had a lot of fun scrolling back to the very beginning of some of our most memorable renovations. Lucy’s nursery might still be our favorite, but the entryway may have been the most time consuming.
Easy to Navigate Shopping
In addition to the Shop Our House pages, we’ve added another new feature: Our Go-To Sources! Here, you can find the places we turn to time and time again, organized by item type. These are the places we know will have a selection we love without the overwhelm, and without sacrificing quality.
Kim + Scott, Simplified
Our former About Page was holding on to too much information. It was time to start anew. New blog, new Kim + Scott, right? We scrapped that old page, started fresh, and for fun, we sprinkled in some tidbits that make us, well, us.
We’ve Cleaned Out Every Nook, Every Cranny
Can We Be Pen Pals?
To our email subscribers, we need to apologize. (Wait, did you even know we had an email list?) For far too long, our emails have been messy, unattractive and difficult to view. We’re vowing to change that – starting now! If you’d like to receive (pretty) weekly recaps, a personal letter from us to you (yes, really) and bonus content, tips and all-around fun stuff, you can sign up right here in a hot second. We promise to never spam your inbox (we hate that, too), and you’ll always be able to hit ‘reply’ and have a direct conversation with us, if you’d like! Let’s be pen pals.
How Can We Be Better?
Although we took note of your requests and wishes (and implemented what we could, where we could), we know we can always be better. Please let us know if you see anything that doesn’t feel right or that could be further improved upon! It’s so important to us that this blog remains a place of positivity, and we welcome a community where every voice is heard. We want you to feel comfortable, stay awhile and find joy in these words, because so much of what we do is inspired by this very community.
Of course, we couldn’t end this post without our most sincere thank you to Matt at La Lune Creative for bringing our vision to life. For those interested, we use the ProPhoto blog theme (and have been for almost 10 years!), and we love the flexibility it provides while allowing our content to shine. Thank you to all of you for sharing in our renovation journey!
How to Make Your Own Rope Swing
Is there anything more indicative of summertime relaxation than gliding along lazily on a swing? We don’t think so! When we were given the opportunity to help our friends Josh and Liz with their their rooftop deck makeover, we couldn’t shake the idea of adding a pair of custom swings to their newly-assembled pergola. We knew that their kiddos would love this fun custom touch, although we knew that the swings would also provide conversational adult lounging for dinner parties and hangouts. (Because surely, us big kids won’t be able to resist!)
Supplies + Tools Used
3/8″ poly rope (approx. 16′ per swing) 2″ x 6″ cedar board (approx. 24″ per swing) Miter saw Drill and 1/2″ bit Sandpaper Speed square or tape measure Pencil Lag screw eye (2 per swing) Quick lock (2 per swing) WaterSeal spray Utility knife or heavy shears Painter’s tape Lighter
What We Did:
After a quick Google, we confirmed that 24″ was a great width for swings that would accommodate use by both kids and adults. We used our miter saw to cut our 2″ x 6″ x 8′ cedar board down to two 24″ lengths, then we used a sanding block to smooth out any uneven sections and ease the sharp edges and corners. Tip: Cedar is strong and lightweight with beautiful grain and color, but pressure treated lumber could also be used for outdoor applications.
Once we were happy with the easement of the seats, it was time to drill the holes for the rope! We measured in 1″ from the corners using a speed square (a tape measure or small ruler would also work), and then we carefully marked and drilled our holes using a 1/2″ bit to accommodate our 3/8″ poly rope. Tip: The bit size will vary based on the thickness of rope selected. A general rule of thumb would be to use a bit one step down from the thickness of your rope.
To protect the finished seating surface from rain, snow and run, we sprayed two thin coats of Thompson’s WaterSeal clear sealer on all sides. This will keep the cedar looking great for the long haul and help to keep moisture from penetrating the surface of the wood!
While the WaterSeal was drying, we took that time to install the hardware into the pergola! We drilled pilot holes for the lag screw eyes and hand-tightened them as far as we could, then used a screwdriver for additional leverage to finish the job. We mounted into a load bearing pergola beam in this case, but we’ve used a ceiling stud in the past as a mounting location for our front porch swing a few years ago. Tip: Make sure that your point can safely support the weight of an adult. Mounting into a ceiling support beam or stud is your best bet!
With the lag screw eyes mounted into the pergola beam, we connected quick lock links for easy removal if necessary. This combo will also allow for a smooth pivoting motion that will cut down on wear and tear on the rope itself.
Using a fresh knife (a pair of sharp shears would also work!), we then cut 4 lengths of rope – 2 for each swing – and looped them through the quick lock links. We made sure to cut them extra long, leaving additional length to accommodate the knots that will support the cedar seating surface.
By wrapping the cut ends of rope in painter’s tape, we found that it would allow the rope to pass easily through the corner holes. This was so important to keep the rope from fraying further!
The height of the swing seat from the ground can vary slightly, but we found that 18″ from the floor was the magic number to allow for comfortable seating (it’s also standard seat height), but it’s still a sweet spot for actual swinging motion for Josh and Liz’s two young sons. Keep in mind that poly rope will stretch about 1″ the first time an adult sits on the swing, so plan accordingly! Once we were happy with the height and had confirmed that everything was level, we tied sturdy knots in each end and melted the ends of the rope with a lighter to keep fraying to a minimum.
To keep the rope from sliding when the swing is in use, we used white zip ties at the base of the quick locks. This will prevent the swing from tipping back and forth from a slippery rope, and once we cut the ends of the zip ties, they’re barely visible – if at all!
The Project Breakdown:
The boys were absolutely giddy with the finished product (their reaction was priceless!), and Josh and Liz were also eager to hop on the swings and give them a try. All told, the project took 1-2 hours from start to finish, with a total cost of $50 for two swings! The best part is, with a few additional bits of hardware, we had more than enough leftover rope and wood to accommodate another pair. File this one under a must try. (Now, if only we can find a home for swings on our back patio.)
If you create this project at home, we’d love to see! Tag your social posts with #YBHDIY and @yellowbrickhome so we can take a peek and share the love.