fifty shades of grayish blue

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Throughout our home, it’s clear that we love gray in all it’s forms: neutral greige, barely there gray, moody charcoal, glossy graphite. I like to play with pops of color in home accents and the occasional bold paint choice, but the one color that makes an appearance in almost every room is some shade of gray. Inspired by the blue washer and dryer we bought when we moved into the house, we immediately zeroed in on the type of palate we wanted for the new mudroom. So, we were off to select our perfect shade of grayish blue.

Here are the factors that we considered when making our selection:

  1. Our washer and dryer are a shade of blue that’s between sapphire and navy. We didn’t want the hue on the wall to be too close to that of the appliances.
  2. We were obsessed with the gray tile for the floor that we selected and again, we didn’t want select a paint color that was too similar.
  3. The one source of natural light is via eastern exposure. After some research and experience with the paint choices in the rest of our house, we’ve learned that rooms with eastern exposure tend to read a little cool. We wanted to pick a shade that had a touch of warmth to it, so that the space didn’t feel cold or stark. I love this piece on how light affects color.
  4. It’s a space that gets an extreme amount of action every day, so we wanted to pick a color that would feel welcoming.

Side note: When we moved into our house 5 years ago, we painted every single room, but for the kitchen, including all of the trim. I am a firm believer in painting swatches on multiple walls, so you can see the way light hits the color options differently and how it pairs next to trim, flooring and other fixtures.

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I probably should have started this blog when we were in the thick of our mudroom project and garage addition, but alas, it was just a vague idea at the time. So of course, this is the best photo I have of all of the swatches.

Mineral Alloy

Mineral Alloy, by Benjamin Moore

I am IN LOVE with this color and totally want to use it somewhere else in our house – perhaps on cabinetry or a piece of furniture? It’s the perfect calming yet welcoming tone, which is ideal for the space that is our primary family entry and full of chaos. It feels grounded and not too cool, sophisticated and upbeat but not in your face. Mineral Alloy for the win!

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On a somewhat related note, per request, I want to touch on how the herringbone tile connects to the hardwood in the kitchen. The mudroom used to be the spot for my hubby’s car in our former garage.

To keep our costs as low as possible, we didn’t mess with the ceiling that was already in place from the garage. That did tie our hands a bit, thus the mudroom is one small step down from the kitchen. It took about a day to get used to it and our one-year-old got the hang of it in no time. In response to a reader comment: I think the junction between the two flooring materials would have been totally fine even if there wasn’t the step there. There’s other tile in our house that meets flush with the hardwood and it works because the tile defines a separate space.

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Entry from the mudroom into the rest of the house, after the door was removed.

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Small step connecting the two flooring materials.

Next up for this space, open shelving next to the upper cabinets. Stay tuned!

xoxo

storage upgrade: new pantry reveal

When you buy a house, you can be so blinded by charm and character that you overlook little things that ultimately can turn into very big things. For us, that would be the pantry. Our kitchen is large and there is tons of cabinet space, so coming from a two bedroom condo in the city, we were wowed by the amount of storage we’d be gaining with a move to the burbs. But the pantry. Dear Lord. I did the best I could to make it functional but anyone who knows me has likely heard me bitch about this skinny ass, inefficient, sad excuse for a pantry.

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This pic gives me anxiety. Organizing a broom-closet-turned-pantry is next to impossible.

We have yet to delve into a major kitchen overhaul, but when we decided to build an addition for a mudroom, we took advantage of that project and included new storage solutions, including a pantry. Someday we’ll get around to giving our kitchen a facelift, but now we can just skip right over that tiny joke of a pantry and head around the corner to the new space!

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What used to be part of our garage. The space started to take shape with two separate pantries and an alcove for an auxiliary fridge. {i.e. the beer fridge}

The original idea was to have one larger walk in pantry, with double doors and wrap around shelving. We ultimately decided to break it up into two separate spaces so we could have one area to house bulk Costco items, the vacuum, broom, etc. while the other space would be the food pantry.

I began plotting the organization strategy long before construction was complete, but the current version is the result of many iterations, after seeing what worked the best as we lived with it. I looooove organizing pretty much anything, so this organization project was a dream for me! I’ve titled my organization board on Pinterest, “OCD” because, if the shoe fits.

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Organizing: it has to get ugly before it gets pretty.

For me, when I get any space organized, I start by pulling everything out and spreading it all over the floor, so I can get a clear vision of what I’m working with. The right containers are essential in any organized space. Containers buy you more real estate on your shelves so that you can ultimately fit everything nicely, but moreover, they help keep like items together.

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Pantry Organization = Happiness

For organizing this space, I utilized items that I already had and made a couple of trips to Target. We don’t live near a Container Store anymore, which is probably for the better, because I would have spent a small fortune with all of the OCD candy that is happening in that place. From The Container Store, we already had these canisters, this shelf organizer, and a stacking basket similar to this. I grabbed all of the random, unutilized baskets around the house and put them to work. From there, it was off to Tar-Jay!

On the left side of top shelf, you’ll see this jar peeking out from around the corner. This is the perfect spot for fruit snacks, suckers and other kiddo sweets.

I discovered that these wooden chalkboard milk crates in both large and small are perfect for a pantry. They conceal less-than-cute packaging, multiply available surface area and make labelling super easy.

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I’ve been back a few times for more and more of these canisters in multiple sizes. They are great for pasta, nuts, raisins, you name it. They’re also great for breaking down all of those huge items from Costco. {I’m looking at you, 20 pound bag of rice.}

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One cannot have too much storage, IMO.

Our love for Costco runs deep. I realize just how suburban this fact is, but we definitely do the bulk of our shopping there now and it saves us a lot of money overall. Did you know that Costco brought in more revenue last year in organic items than Whole Foods? We call this the “Costco Closet” and rightly so: bulk paper products, bulk canned goods, extra items to fill pantry canisters, the totally ridiculous barrel of pretzels the hubs just came home with, etc. This is also where our steamer mop, broom and vacuum live, along with the recycling bin and reusable grocery bags.

These wire milk crates, in different sizes, are great for keeping some of those items contained.

I love this little storage tip for canned goods, so listen up! Take a desktop file basket, like this, and pop the cans in on their sides. Labels are still visible yet it’s much more concise than keeping them in the original bulk boxes.

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And there you have it! I’d love to swap out the light fixture in the pantry to something a little prettier, perhaps with a pull string instead of the switch that’s on the opposite side of the door opening. {Logistically, that’s the only place the switch could have gone, but it’s not exactly convenient.} I have a few other tweaks on my list, like adding some additional shelving, paint and wallpaper, but even without those touches, this space makes me super happy!

xoxo

cabinetry & countertops: on the cheap & beautiful

After months of building an addition and transitioning one of our garage spaces into a mudroom, the finishes were coming together and the end was in sight. I talked about our plan for the floors last week and this week it’s all about the cabinetry and countertops.

We decided to go cheap simple on those elements, because it is a mudroom, after all. Hopefully, we are going to do a major kitchen remodel soonish, so I’d rather spend the money there than in mudroom cabinetry and countertops. I also knew we could accessorize boring cabinets with hardware, so I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it.

The finished product wasn’t quite what I had initially pictured; I mean, perfect world would have been refurbished, painted cabinetry that felt like a 1900’s farm house. But, sticking within reason, these prefab cabinets were a super simple solution that provided decent storage for all of the what-nots that live in a mudroom. Maybe we might change this at some point, but for now, it gets the job done.

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Basic cabinetry waiting to be dressed up with hardware.

We decided to only do the one upper cabinet because we want a rod extending from the cabinet to the wall for hanging freshly washed items. I thought the easiest solution would be a tension rod – I got a pretty and substantial one from Target, that’s technically a shower curtain rod. After having that damn thing fall down, I don’t know how many times, we’ve decided to table it and come up with something else.

Countertops were a bit trickier because there are just endless options and we didn’t have a clear vision of what that should be. First we had to narrow down the material. Here’s a great countertop breakdown on function and price of various materials. In our research, we learned that laminate countertops have gotten quite sophisticated and they’re still the most obvious cost effective option. I read a handful of reviews that described today’s laminate countertops as not your mother’s formica.

So formica it is… but now, do we want to go with solid white, white with flecks of gray, or maybe gray with flecks of white or what about something with a wood grain or a faux marble finish??? It’s enough to make you lose your marbles or give you a drinking problem. I was terrified of it looking like the laminate countertops of childhood. You know… like this.

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This vision is almost enough to scare you off of the idea of laminate. Via.

When our contractor stopped by to see if we’d made a selection, we still didn’t know what we were going to do. And then it hit me: we needed faux butcher block in a dark stain, to bring a little warmth into the space to offset the gray floors and white cabinetry. Though we hadn’t considered that type of option in our wine-fueled sample viewing the night before, there was a sample that looked promising. A google image search confirmed that we were headed in the right direction with Old Mill Oak.

With a little emotional support from our contractor/family friend, who assured me that we would not end up with edges that resemble the scary laminate of yesteryear, We felt comfortable pulling the trigger. {Holds breath and hopes for the best.}

Voila!

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Old Mill Oak laminate countertops with gold cabinetry hardware, pre-install.

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Our completed laundry space in the new mudroom.

I’m super happy with the way it turned out. We will probably end up putting some open shelving in that space where the tension rod wouldn’t stay put. Then we can potentially secure a legit rod from the shelving. Maybe a basic white shelf with pretty gold supports?

Next up… my favorite part of this space, the PANTRY!!!

xoxo

 

the case for herringbone tile

Time for the fun part of our mudroom addition project! With the bones of the room in place, the pretty things started to come together. First up: FLOORING!

Knowing that this room is going to be all about function, I wanted to make some kind of a statement with the floor. The walls are largely reserved for functional pieces, so the floor is the largest swath of blank space to do anything fun.

We tossed around the idea of doing a brick floor, to play off of the exposed brick in our kitchen, but after some research, it appeared that brick floors are actually not as durable as one might expect. They are also hard to clean because they are so porous, which is not the best bet for a space so heavily trafficked. Hardwood was a viable option, but our whole house is hardwood, so I wanted a bit of variation from the rest of the house.

Tile really ticked all of the boxes for us.

I love the look of wood floors in a herringbone pattern, like something you’d find in an NYC pre-war apartment, so I became obsessed with the idea of herringbone tile for our laundry/mudroom.

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Pre-war style floors. Via.

Our contractor tried to talk me out of it and the hubs was initially hesitant that it wouldn’t be worth the extra $600 in labor, but I remained undeterred! This plan was definitely not something revolutionary, so I’m not sure why it was such a hard sell. I envisioned good-sized tiles, rather than a shorter or thinner tile that might be more typical for this pattern. I was also picturing something with a woodgrain texture, kind of reminiscent of my initial inspiration, but in a gray tone, with charcoal grout. I love this combination for being forgiving with all of the action that room gets.

I am able to picture a complete finished product, just by looking the individual elements, but sometimes I forget that not everyone works this way. {I guess this is part of the reason I am a wedding planner!} It took a little convincing, but the hubs was quickly on board. When you’re investing so much money in a home addition and transforming part of your garage into a new room in your home, at that point, $600 feels like a drop in the bucket! {Another parallel to planning a wedding…}

We didn’t want to make this process too complicated, so we just loaded up the boys and ran to Lowe’s to see what they had in stock. We figured we’d look into other options if we didn’t see anything we liked that was within our budget, but luckily, we found several options. This one was the clear winner for us!

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The winning tile.

It’s amazing that we actually agreed so quickly on this. We have a little window of overlap in what we each like with design, but when we’re making choices like this, there is usually some kind of heated debate involved. Being married to a lawyer, I have picked up some of his argument debate techniques to prove my case. But, he was the one who spotted this tile and it was exactly what I was looking for. Good find, honey!

Even after we had the tile delivered and I placed a few pieces herringbone style to demonstrate my idea, our contractor/family friend wasn’t fully convinced. Pretty sure he thought I was crazy. But once the tile was down, BOOM. Vindication.

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Loooooove the way the herringbone turned out!

 

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Herringbone prettiness.

Next up… cabinetry, paint and countertops! xoxo

building an addition: the unglamorous

As I think back on the process of building an addition onto our home, there was a lot of waiting before we got to any of the pretty stuff. It was fun watching all of the different pieces come together, but sometimes I really wanted to have a fast forward button and watch it all in quick snapshots.

I would’ve been much more anxious with every week that ticked by if it had rendered more than just our garage and driveway unusable. I’m sure living construction adjacent is much different than living in a construction site. This experience might have been a helpful warm up for future home renovation projects that would be a giant imposition – hello kitchen and second floor dream plans!

Part of wanting it to move faster surely came from excitement to just have it done. However, the original estimate was 6-8 weeks and, being newbies to construction, we took that at face value. People told us that we should plan for it to take longer than estimated, but what did we know? Maybe a couple of extra weeks? Try DOUBLE. There are so many moving pieces and things that are out of the contractor’s control. For any future projects, I’m going to go into it expecting double the estimated time.

One might think we are actually still under construction, because our contractor’s sign is still in our yard. Really, we’re just waiting for 2 exterior light fixtures that we had to keep sending back for broken glass. So technically, I guess we’re still in process…

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The plan.

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My fab sketch illustrating that I wanted a door instead of a window. I should be an artist.

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The framing of the two new garage spaces. 

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Starting to look like something! 

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The garage space closest to the house was commandeered to become the mudroom.

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Lots of garage spaces, old and new.

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Super exciting: Mudroom insulation and ductwork.

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Slowly but surely… mudroom taking shape!

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Entry into the kitchen and lots of future storage.

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My door and little window! Much better than the sketch.

The original plan was to keep an existing door to access the mudroom from the side of the front porch, but it just didn’t seem functional. The whole point of this project is function, after all. I was also worried about the idea of having a “side entrance” on front of the house. Now that it’s done, I am SO happy about the decision! When we repainted the whole house after the construction was complete, we chose to paint this door the same color as the siding, so it sets it apart from the main entrance. {Complete before/after photos to come!} I’m still a little sad that we didn’t do a dutch door, but turns out those aren’t the smartest choice when you consider winters in Illinois.

I remember coming home from work on a Friday in September and seeing this door and being so excited. It was like the kick off to the fun part and it was the point when the finished product seemed within reach.

suburban problems: project mudroom

Our house is a 1965 work in progress. Parts of it are updated for modern life and other spaces need some love.

We jumped into a major renovation project over the summer, but since I wasn’t blogging then, I’m going to rewind and go through our process now. We are not DIY-ers. We love to take on some small things, but we don’t have the time or the knowhow to jump into anything major on our own. We knew we needed to bring in the professional expertise of a trusted contractor. However, we did not use a designer or architect, so that’s where things get kind of interesting!

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Entry from the garage into the kitchen. Dining room to your left, refrigerator to your right. Nowhere to unload shoes or bags.

The Problem: Coming from a two bedroom condo in the city, the hubs and I were thrilled to have an attached garage and didn’t think about much when it came to the logistics of said garage. The entrance into the house from the garage is really the primary entrance and the space was just not functional, no matter how we tried. You would enter the house from the garage and land in the most awkward space, without a single square foot to kick off your shoes or drop a bag. When we first moved in, it wasn’t a big deal, but add Chicago winters, a toddler and a baby into that mix, and you end up with a constant track of snowy, salty, dirty footprints and what-have-you all over the counters in the kitchen, before you even make it to the entry on other side of the house, where you can unload. We quickly figured out, we needed a mudroom.

The Decision Process: We talked about it a lot. Could we reimagine our current kitchen/dining room layout to accommodate all of our stuff? Could we carve out space in the existing garage for a bench and hooks? Do we need to add to our home’s footprint? Or do we just move, now that we know better? We talked about these options all the time; to each other, to our neighbors, to our family and friends {sorry guys – one of us *ahem* may have been borderline obsessive}. Eventually we landed on the concept of building an addition.

Initial Planning: The first plan was something we imagined would be the most cost effective, out of the three potential ways we could expand upon the existing garage. HA! Is there such a thing as “cost effective” when it comes to building an addition onto your home?? The original plan was about double the cost of what we had initially ball-parked. Granted, to come up with that number, we used the super precise method of completely pulling a number out of our asses. After all, we were just taking the 10 feet at the back of the garage and converting it to a mudroom/laundry room and then adding 10 feet of space to the front of the garage. That plan would have altered the whole roofline, without adding any additional livable space on the second floor.

Change of Plans: We thought about scrapping the project all together after seeing the estimate, but we decided to re-work the plans so we could get a little more for our money. The investment made more sense if we weren’t putting so much money into roofwork that was purely aesthetic. We learned that a large part of the cost is getting the workers to your house in the first place, so if we were going to be putting that kind of money into our home then we needed to get more bang for our buck.

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A snapshot of our revised plans, going into the project.

 

Pulling the Trigger: By extending the garage out to the side, rather than forward, we were able to fit a third garage space in addition to the mudroom/laundry, and a better “side” entrance. So now we’re talking about the mudroom/laundry of our dreams + an extra garage, instead of a different roofline. The snow blower needs it’s own space, after all. Hello, first world suburban problems! We started the process with our contractor again, with our revised vision, a process that took a few months, after you factor in the time to for him to price out each specific subcontractor and to secure permits. I acted as the designer and he told me what would logistically work and what wouldn’t. The project evolved a bit as we went, but now we’re done, after 16 weeks of a 6-8 week project.

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Boots & more finally have a home. Having a mudroom is a game changer!

It’s already one of the hardest working spaces in our home – getting almost as much action as the kitchen. It’s a mudroom, a laundry room, the pantry that I’ve always dreamed of and extra storage for days. I don’t think we realized how much of a difference it would make in our daily lives and in our ability to stay organized and sane. It’s been a game changer, even without a major built-in that we plan to add down the road. Now I get to relive the process of getting to the finish line. #stcmudroom