in defense of open shelving + styling tips

 

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I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments about our new open shelving in the kitchen. Many people have called us brave to replace a whole wall of cabinetry with a collective 17 feet of reclaimed wood. “What about all of the dusting?!?” “But you can’t just close the cabinet door and forget about it!”

We knew open shelving would work for us because I really really love hyper organized spaces – hyper organized in a livable and functional kind of way. There was very little that we were hiding behind cabinet doors, so the loss of the cabinetry hasn’t been an issue. It’s been about 6 weeks since we finished our 10 day impromptu kitchen makeover and the dust really hasn’t been an issue and I have some ideas as to why.

TIPS FOR MAKING OPEN SHELVING WORK

Issue: Keeping it Clean

  • Location, location, location: Our shelving is on an opposite wall from the stove so we don’t need to worry about grease splattering up from cooking. If we did, then we’d seriously need to reconsider our cooking technique.
  •  Filling up the space with items you use regularly and not having it be purely decorative is key. This avoids large swaths of open space that would act as big dust collecting areas. With daily use items like dishes and glasses, there just isn’t much space for the dust to settle.
  • Our glasses are turned face down, so no need to worry about rinsing before use.
  • We don’t worry about our plates getting dusty, because we’re continually using them and thus cleaning them, so it’s a non issue. The larger serving pieces that don’t get regular action, do need a quick wash or rinse before they’re used, but that’s something I would do regardless of where they’re stored so it’s not extra work.
  • We chose reclaimed wood, which I think was exactly the right choice from a dusting perspective. I treated the wood with a light sanding and two coats of polyurethane so it is easy to wipe down when needed, without snagging on splinters. On the flip side, it’s not a high gloss white shelf that would be a magnet for dust.

 

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Some day the rest of this cabinetry will go, but some white paint and the open shelving has entirely changed the space! More details here.

 

Issue: Styling/Clutter Control

  • Before the cabinets came down and shelves went up, I took stock of all the items that I would rather hide behind a cabinet door. I was able to find a home for all of these bits and bobs in the cabinetry that we still have.
    • Plastic cups from baseball games and what-have-you.
    • Less than attractive kitchen items like a chopping device and super boring mixing bowls.
    • The collection of mismatched beer glasses from different breweries. Because if you’re drinking a Two Hearted, it needs to be in a Two Hearted glass, of course.
    • Kiddo plates and cups.
      • {ORGANIZING TIP! I moved these to drawers that the boys can easily access to help them with independence. Although little G, being a typical 18 month old, just loves to empty the drawers and randomly throw stuff back in, so they are typically a hot mess, despite my best efforts to keep them organized. Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?}
  • I was really excited to style these shelves, in large part because it created an opportunity to showcase the our dinnerware that I’m obsessed with along with some other special pieces like my Grandma Jayne’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, vintage cook books from my mom and Grandma Bunny and a French poster the hubs and I got on our trip to Paris.
    • {SIDE NOTE: Dinnerware obsession. I spotted the Vietri Incanto dinnerware at the Home Show event at the Merchandise Mart probably 11 years ago – i.e. well before the hubs and I were engaged. I grabbed a flyer and tucked away, then hunted down a boutique that had an online registry for the dinnerware when we got married several years later. They have some new items that I think I need to get my hands on!!}
  • When it came to styling the shelves, I started with those pieces that I knew I wanted to feature and spaced them out in a way that I thought was pretty but also functional. {i.e. no plates on the top shelf; where is it easiest to grab a glass? etc.}
  • From there, I added serving pieces and just placed them in a way that felt balanced and visually appealing. After that, there were some big areas that were still open, so I went into our storage closet and grabbed the box of stemless wine glasses and mason jars that I only used for entertaining. Now these forgotten pieces are all out and getting daily use.
  • It’s worth mentioning that I kept the color palate consistent across the shelves and spaced out the white, pops of color and glass so that it feels balanced.
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Everyday items, serving pieces and a sentimental reminder of the little book sellers along The River Seine.

 

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These are a few of my favorite things! Complete with cookbooks and a framed recipe from my grandmas.

 

I know I’m not crazy for wanting to add this design feature, because I’m certainly not the only one. Open shelving has been all over Pinterest, social media, blogs, magazines, etc. and for good reason. It really opens up the space and adds endless amounts of character because in styling your shelves, you can change it up while keeping your favorite items showcased. Don’t be deterred if you want to jump on board the open shelving train. It’s a fun ride!

xoxo

 

impromptu DIY kitchen reno

I’ve obviously put blogging on the back burner the last few weeks, because life. And also wedding season (#weddingplannerproblems). Oh, and also because we lost our minds and started a completely impromptu DIY kitchen renovation a few weeks ago. Nothing like a little demolition and drywall dust to throw a wrench in the wheel of functionality!! If you follow me on social media, you may have noticed my updates on our little project and I wrote this post in the thick of it, so you might want to skip back to that post if you want to see how we got here. {Follow me on Instagram!}

I have never been in love with our kitchen. When we bought our house, it was something I knew we’d update eventually, but it hasn’t been a high priority because the bones of the kitchen are decent. My hubs pointed out that the gateway project was when I decided to paint a chalkboard wall to help me be organized with projects and menu planning for the week. He’s right – the chalkboard wall really did open Pandora’s Box.

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Sunday, 5.1: A simple enough project that lead to something much more intense!

A few weeks after the chalkboard wall happened, I decided to paint the walls in the kitchen white, to help brighten up the space and we even tossed around the idea of painting the cabinetry for a hot minute. One thing lead to another and we were quickly taking down cabinetry and planning open shelving with reclaimed wood. Then we fell down the renovation rabbit hole and took out the soffit. Mind you, the hubs and I are entry level handy. We definitely do not have the knowhow that some of our friends have when it comes to DIY renovations. We’re adventurous, willing to learn and put in the elbow grease, so with a lot of help, advice and encouragement from our more seasoned DIY friends, we made it through the experience relatively unscathed. I have to say, there is something uniquely satisfying about looking at the finished product and knowing that we did it.

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Monday, 5.16: Before – The wall-o-cabinetry and soffit. Cabinetry in country paneled glaze and walls painted with everyone’s favorite shade of dirty olive. Kitchen perfection.

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Thursday, 5.19: “This project escalated quickly” – me

If you’re thinking about removing a soffit, do your research. We knew what we were getting into because we had read a lot about it, but don’t go into this lightly. {Suggested reads on soffit removal: here & here.} What you’re looking at in this picture is close to a best case scenario in what you’ll find after bringing down a soffit.

Now what?

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Friday, 5.20: Re-wiring, with the help of a professional/friend.

One of our friends happens to also be an electrical contractor project manager and his dad is an electrician, so he was definitely the guy to call. There were several lines of romex that were just dangling in the soffit – not up to code. Whoever installed the recessed lighting in the kitchen was probably the same person who rigged the plumbing in the basement full bath to drain into the sump pump pit. Awesome. So our friend, Brian, and the hubs brought the romex situation up to code by drilling holes through the middle of the beams, disconnecting the romex wiring, threading it all through the beams and then reconnecting them again. Do not attempt this without someone who knows what they’re doing, like Brian. You don’t want to screw up electrical work. If you don’t have a Brian in your life, call a pro.

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Friday, 5.20: Putting electrical Humpty Dumpty back together again.

This party went until 1:30am, but they were committed, while I was asleep on the couch because I didn’t want to go to bed in case I could be useful. I’m sure I was a lot of help! So the next morning, this is what I woke up to!

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywall up and waiting for mud.

After the hubs did the first pass at the drywall, I took over. Apparently drywall is a job for someone who has a strong visual attention to detail. It would not be an understatement to describe drywalling as an art. I now have a new respect for the guys who did the drywall in our mudroom in no time, without sanding. {I’ll do a separate post on the tools one would need to venture into this kind of a project in a few weeks and break it down step by step. FYI – for an amateur, drywall definitely needs several passes of mudding and sanding and does not go up in a flash like I had hoped it would.}

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Saturday, 5.21: Drywalling 101, not for the faint of heart.

We did things out of order a bit… Because the soffit and therefore, drywall, was kind of a last minute decision. With the craziness of summer schedules upon us, we took a pause on the drywall, so we could take advantage of the kind offer from another set of friends to install the open shelving brackets with us. We didn’t want to venture into that one alone, because we wanted to make sure we were doing this perfectly so the shelving would hold all of the weight we planned to put on it, and then some. Who better than to assist with this project than my friend Stasi, from the previous post, who works for the Army Core of Engineers and her husband, Adam, a physics teacher. Check and check. Bonus, my mom, who is a recently retired physics teacher as well, was on hand to not only watch the kiddos but to lend her expertise… and talk me down off the ledge when I was getting nervous about amount of weight that would go on the shelves.

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Saturday, 5.21: Initial install of brackets for shelving.

There was a lot of math involved, weighing our dinnerware to come up with an estimate for the amount of weight that would be sitting on each shelf, plus estimates of the shelves themselves. We had weight limits for each of the brackets, so we were able to figure out the minimum number of brackets needed, and then we added more just to be safe. We marked out the options for bracket placement with tape, making sure that every option had the brackets going into the studs. Once we landed on a layout, we opted to use screws meant for installing cabinetry, rather than the screws that came with the brackets, just to make sure that they were extra secure. One note: The shelves are pieces of reclaimed wood from an old brownstone in Lincoln Park, so they’re not completely level in all places. We used a level but ultimately eye-balled it.

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Saturday, 5.21: Shelving dry fit installation + unfinished drywall.

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Still Saturday, 5.21: Get by with a little help from our friends…

With the brackets in place on the walls, we took the shelving down again, to be screwed into the brackets a few days later. Back to the Everest of the project: drywall.

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Sunday, 5.22: Mud, wait for it to dry, sand it down, repeat.

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Monday, 5.23: Mudding and sanding. Ensemble on fleek.

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Monday, 5.23: Drywall dust is no joke.

I’m a pretty clean/organized person, so you can only imagine how I felt about the effing dust from all of the drywall sanding. As if drywall mudding and sanding isn’t tedious enough, you get the added bonus of dust that never ends.

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Monday, 5.23: Finally time to touch up the brackets and paint the wall.

I’ll get into this more on Friday’s post this week, where I’ll talk about this week’s Friday Fave, gold spray paint. But, note the brackets have paint smudges around them on the walls. Installing the brackets to the wall and then drywalling around them caused the brackets to get scuffed up a bit. I could have sprayed a little paint into a lid and touched them up with a small brush, but instead, Adam gave me the idea to just spray the brackets right there on the wall. I just had to angle it upward to make sure I didn’t inadvertently spray the counter. Easy Peasy.

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Tuesday, 5.24: Shelves secured to brackets and organization started.

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Open shelving fully stocked with our most used dinnerware and a few sentimental keepsakes.

And DONE! Shelf styling complete and fully functional. We’ve had it up and running for about 3 weeks and it has been so wonderful! A few observations on the switch to open shelving from wall-o-cabinets:

  • It has really opened up the room and added character and charm, which I love.
  • We adore our dinnerware so having it out on display makes me happy.
  • The shelving is actually far more functional than the cabinetry in that space and we have more things out than we did before, rather than keeping some items in a closet for parties only.
  • When friends are over, they don’t have to ask where they can find a glass because it’s just right there.
  • I feel like this has helped the space to feel less dated from the paneled cabinetry and there’s even an old farmhouse vibe that feels fresh.

New switches/outlets and covers are on the list along with some details on the other side of the kitchen. Until we venture into a major kitchen overhaul, this has made all the difference and we couldn’t be happier or more proud of the finished product.

Upcoming posts on this project… the brackets, reclaimed wood shelving, styling the shelves and future kitchen style tweaks.

xoxo

the snowball effect: one week kitchen makeover

Have you ever started a project that seems relatively simple and then it takes on a life of its own and turns into something completely different, entirely? That has definitely been me this week. On more than one occasion every day since Monday, I have said, out loud, “What the hell did I get us into?” And my new favorite, “What kind of fresh hell is happening in our kitchen?”

When we first moved into our house, the only thing that we didn’t touch with paint was the kitchen because we just weren’t sure what to do with it. We I really have never liked our cabinets. The word hate would probably be appropriate. It’s some kind of paneling from the 60’s that was painted and glazed with an antiqued vibe. The paint and glaze wouldn’t have been my choice regardless, but on this paneled cabinetry it just isn’t working for me. A particular pebble in my shoe has been this wall of cabinetry. We definitely don’t need quite this much storage, considering everything on the other half of the kitchen and it’s all of that terrible paneling right at eye level.

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60’s era paneled cabinetry, reimagined with glaze. Also, note the charming shade of olive and it’s patchy paint job near the ceiling. Perfect world, I’d be tearing most of this wall down to create a bigger opening into the dining room.

I’ve been daydreaming of a massive kitchen overhaul since we moved into our house five years ago, but that’s definitely not in the cards. After completing our mudroom project this past fall, the contrast between the kitchen and the mudroom, as well as the rest of the house, for that matter, is even more pronounced. Thus, I wanted to come up with a DIY fix that would be a good placeholder until we can do a full kitchen reno.

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The daydream: future kitchen inspiration. Via.

Ideas we tossed around:

  • Painting the cabinetry. While this seemed like a viable option for a hot minute, ultimately painting doesn’t change the paneling of the cabinets and would be a considerable amount of effort considering the amount of cabinetry we have. NEXT.
  • Refacing the cabinets. Apparently our 60’s situation comes with weird sizes so this would be a quite costly, custom job.
  •  Painting the walls regardless of the cabinetry decision. Because, that shade of olive.

We decided last weekend that we were going to paint the walls white and then take it from there. So we bought a couple of gallons of Simply White, by Benjamin Moore, because I felt that shade of white would be a good middle ground with the warm tone of the cabinetry and the more crisp look that I’d prefer. We didn’t want a stark white, because I didn’t want to pick a shade too bright that would make the cabinets stick out even more. The goal is to make them fade away.

Monday morning, I apparently had too much coffee because I must have thought to myself, “Hey! I don’t have childcare today, my four year old is under the weather and there’s a mountain of laundry to tackle, so obviously I should start painting the kitchen!”

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Our kitchen in all it’s olive green glory.

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After: light and bright!

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When your kiddo wants to help you paint, but you don’t want to pause to get him appropriate painting attire. And then he asked why I wasn’t taking my shirt off to paint. #motheroftheyear

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This is the moment when my coffee buzz wore off and I realized what I had gotten myself into. That and the baby woke up from his nap so that made things interesting!

So, you would have thought that I would have learned my lesson and quit while I was ahead. Painting that entire kitchen in 1 day, without childcare was quite the feat in and of itself. And I even responded to emails and did a little work on breaks from painting! I must have been cocky after all of that accomplishment in one day. But it dawned on me. We didn’t need to repaint the cabinets, because we didn’t really need them. We need open shelving.

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I somehow convinced my sweet sweet husband that we needed to remove the uppers on this wall and replace with two large pieces of reclaimed wood for open shelving. I then went shopping for said reclaimed wood with one of my besties, who further solidified this plan in my head!

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Stasi talking to Todd at Reclaimed Wood Chicago about a few particulars with the two pieces we selected.

So we were on our way to our scheduled DIY open shelving install date of this Saturday, yes 5 days after I painted the kitchen. I have my list of things to do before Stasi and her husband come over to help us with the install: patch the wall after the cabinets have all been removed; prime and paint; sand the wood and seal with polyurethane. Manageable with a few late nights this week after the kiddos go to bed.

And then I got this text…

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So now we’re entering into serious kitchen overhaul territory. I’ve read about soffit removal and I know about the insane undertaking that it is, but he’s right. Removing the soffit would make a huge difference. So we checked it out to see if there was any duct work lurking behind the soffit and to our chagrin and excitement, no obvious or major detractors. With some encouragement from friends and neighbors and A LOT of help and pep talking, it looks like this soffit is coming down.

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I knew it was a lot to take on in a short amount of time, but our summer weekends are already completely full between now and late July and I love a project. There’s something kind of cathartic about this kind of project for me, so I’m not as crazy as people think I am. I actually enjoy it! But seriously, this all started because I wanted to paint the kitchen and now here we are. Please send wine.

xoxo

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