Our First Place

Believe me, we don’t like to think about this. You’re family, so you know the details… this place had a world of problems and gave us plenty of heartache which I won’t go into here. BUT we also spent our first 4 years together here. And happily together, I might add! As we’re approaching our 5 year anniversary (crazy!), I’ve been thinking about pulling this post together so that we might remember where we started and maybe even to provide some tips on living small and making a successful start together. 10 years ago I moved here to be with my love:

Condo

Ah, here we are – this condo building where Jacob had winningly purchased a basement one bedroom. I can’t even use the term “lower level” for this gem. It was a basement. And it was teeny tiny ringing in at 487 square feet. There are RV’s bigger than this and I actually think that this may qualify as a “tiny” home??¬† I guess that put us ahead of the game on that trend. ūüôā Of course I modeled the whole place, as I do with everything and just 9 months after we met, made a plan to get rid of nearly everything Jacob owned, sell all of my furniture too, and prep this place to accommodate two.

Before I really get into it let me explain why I got rid of everything we each had. Big commitment, right? We could have easily tried to live here together and not make any changes to the things Jake owned at the time like dressers, etc. Why bother with all the expense! Well, the happy ending of that story would have been a condo filled with clutter, not enough storage and messes everywhere which would have agitated both of us, making us fight and causing us to be unhappy. Who knows if our relationship would have lasted through those stressful emotions. So for the sake of you and your significant others happiness make a fresh start together! You’ll thank me.

Dimensions

The main entry was the door at the bottom of the image with a hallway leading to the one bedroom and then basically into the condo. Not a lot of room for either furniture or options. Thankfully we have an IKEA an hours drive away and I was already pretty familiar with CraigsList so was able to create something livable. I don’t have photos from every angle and there were a few iterations in some areas, but basically this is what we did to fit in here together. Oh! I forget, we also had a storage unit filled with the off-season items (remember that Jake??), but on the daily here’s where we lived.

Bedroom

The alcove next to the closet was thankfully big enough for a queen bed and allowed us to use the sill from the one window well as a nightstand for a lamp etc. Knowing the closets were tiny and we’d need every square inch for storage, I bought the tallest bed risers (something like this)¬† I could find and hiked that beauty up so high I literally had to crawl my way up into it. To hide all of that I had to find an extra tall bed skirt and kept the room light with all white bedding. Along the left wall we placed a bench that also had internal storage. Opposite this wall we purchased two identical tall¬†dressers from Ikea so we each had drawer storage.

Jacob did have a coffee and end table set that we kept, as well as his ginormous rear projection TV and his sofa, which I loathed for the record.

LivingRm02

LivingRm01

These pictures are probably from the 2nd or 3rd time we tried to sell the place and we finally did get a new couch we bought off my sister in year 4, but we lived with this monster most of the time. We placed two additional storage ottomans for throw blankets and dvds, etc along the wall and they could also be extra seating. The secret to a successful relationship is storage, clearly.

Kitchen01

The kitchen actually had nice cabinets and granite counter tops and we added some under-cabinet lighting to brighten up dark corners. When it needed it, we replaced the refrigerator with a cost-effective black version (was white previously) and that mixed well with the other stainless appliance. Thank goodness this place had a dishwasher!

Kitchen02

After a few attempts at a table and getting tired of eating off our laps on the couch, I found this small pub table and chair set off craigslist and added an inexpensive plug-in sconce and shade from Ikea over the table. If those cold tile floors could talk… Ugh. Moving on..

Office

The last corner of the condo – that far back corner gave us a chance at some additional storage. We went through shelving units, cabinets, hooks for coats, etc and eventually created a little nook for a desk set up. Behind that the golf clubs were also stored, of course. Jake didn’t have as many pairs of golf shoes then. ūüėČ

Well, that’s the grand tour! I know, hard to believe you’ve seen all of it already, huh? LOTS of tears through the years over the troubles this place gave us but also a lot of fun memories too. Chinese food Fridays, Wii game nights, and bringing Birdie home with us! I found this video from 2008 when we had just gotten her.

 

There’s always room to practice chipping!

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Stair Balusters and Stain

Thanks for sticking with me for stair reconstruction week! Can you believe what a difference adding the balusters makes??

STAIRS

STAIRS

The caps were also installed, which we also prestained, and you can see a hint of staining completed on a stair as well, so let’s talk color selection. ¬†As I mentioned in the last post, my mom and I took scrap pieces of red oak which is the stair and railing material and sampled quite a few stains. Blogging is just not on my brain so much anymore, so I have zero pictures of all of these options we tried! You’ll just have to take my word for it! I believe we tried all of these highlighted choices from Minwax Wood Stains:

minwaxstains

What it really boils down to is this: I know Jacob and I lean towards a darker wood floor, but I also know that dark wood floors show dust off very easily. We have every intention of refinishing the upstairs landing and our downstairs wood flooring to match this color eventually. So we wanted dark, but not so dark that it makes our space feel small or that it shows off every bit of dust and dog hair. That ruled out Jacobean, Espresso, and Dark Walnut almost without even trying them. ¬†Gunstock was too red. ¬†Early American, Provincial and Special Walnut were nice, but sort flat..not looking very special or interesting. ¬†So, Honey was the winner! It’s darker, but has a sort of glow that adds a lot of warmth.

STAIRS

STAIRS

Finishing stairs is a process and one that I am still working on. First I filled all the holes I could see (I missed some but I’ll show you what I used for those) with stainable wood filler and then sanded…and then sanded again. The treads were already very smooth, but I think it’s still necessary. So I did a pass with 100 grit and then right up to 220 grit and wiped everything down with damp rag to clean up the sawdust. Obviously stain needs dry time, so working from the top, I stained every other step using a foam brush, then wiped the stain off with a rag.

STAIRS

STAIRS

We’ve had a lot of humidity here too, so things take longer to dry. For a day or so we carried Birdie up and down the stairs and set up a gate when we weren’t around so she wouldn’t be walking on them. After a¬†few days I went back and stained the opposite set of steps marking the dry ones with a bit of painters tape so we’d know where to step. Also, here’s a sneak peek of some priming that went on as well. #somuchpaintingtodo

STAIRS

STAIRS

The upper corner was a bit tricky to navigate stepping so I left the last wedge for after all of this was dry, but finally got it stained at the end of last week. Dad also made a triumphant return with even more trim and detailing to add, so there’s more to come!

What do you think so far??

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Newel Posts and Stringers…it’s a Family Affair

I had a few inspiration photos that my Dad and I worked from to hone in on the vision for the stairway.

Photo 1     Photo 2     Photo 3

Each of these are beautiful aren’t they? We definitely wanted stained treads, railings, and caps and planned on painting the rest white. Down the line, we’re also planning on adding wall paneling like Photo 1. I really like boxy newel posts and layers of decorative molding as well (who doesn’t??). So, working from this, my father built out our newel posts to be big and boxy just like I wanted!

STAIRS

STAIRS

While he was getting busy on that, my mom and I had tested stain options so I could stain the railings before we installed them (more on our choice later) and Jake got busy removing the door frame to the entry/mudroom. This was the location of the front door originally and there was a heavy metal door there for a couple of years before we finally removed it. Now that we’re also working on the adjacent room as well framing this out like a normal cased¬†opening was part of the projects.

STAIRS

My mom also started scraping about 30 years of paint from the existing stair stringers.  I liked the little bit of detail on our original ones, but a lot of it was obscured with so many layers and layers of paint.  We broke the Dremel out and made good use of the scraper attachment. With the post down below boxed out and measurements done and wood precut, my dad got to work on the 2 1/2 newel posts at the upper landing. Jake and Mom started scraping and sanding the other stair stringer and followed each other up the stairs. #teamwork!

STAIRS

STAIRS

I helped my dad install the upper railings and trim out those posts. He had a genius way of installing them without screw holes in the railings itself. Tips and tricks from him are endless which is why some projects just call for the professionals. I also got to use his contractor grade tools which was pretty fun for me!

STAIRS

We ended the day with lots of trim pieces and spackle on all the nail holes and seams.

STAIRS

STAIRS

STAIRS

Removing that door frame from the mudroom made such a difference to us.  It just felt wider and makes the room feel more intentional rather than an added afterthought.

STAIRS

Can you see where everything is headed? Well if you can’t I can’t wait to show you more! Having my parents come help us is so inspirational to me. They’ve worked so much on their own house over the years and having their knowledge and experience to learn from is so so helpful when embarking on all these new things. Thank you thank you thank you for all the help!!

My goodness it looks amazing and this is really shaping up to be one smart looking house! It’s definitely not a “flip” house as is ever so popular on HGTV these days. This house needed intentional updates that take time and care, but we fell in love with the bones of it, the layout and certainly see all it’s potential. I’ll be back to tell you more about our stain choices and balusters!

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