Kitchen Before and After

Our old kitchen was the worst. It made me super sad when we walked in and saw it. It was old, ugly, and worst of all, inefficiently laid out. The tile, ugh, the tile was hideous! It had only one side of cabinets that could be used along the left side (with the ugliest appliances and handles/pulls), and then on the right side, well, it made no sense.

the old kitchen from the listing photos

the view of the left side

the old kitchen (right side view) from the listing photos

the view on the right side

the back right side of the kitchen

the back right corner

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another view of the left side

You can see on the right side the accordion doors which led to…wire shelving and a stackable washer/dryer! It was awful. No room for storage, yet this monstrosity of a closet took up nearly half of the right side of the kitchen.

And the back corner…omg, the back corner made no sense. The only thing we thought it was used for was a breakfast nook. However, if you sat on one side, if you stood, you’d knock yourself out on the cabinets above. If you sat on the other side, you were basically in the oven. And that light fixture was just a beaut.

I could not wait to tear this motha out.

The first thing I wanted gone was the stupid closet. The original idea was to get rid of the entire right side to make room for nearly wall-to-fridge cabinets. But when we tore out the back wall of the closet, looky what we found.

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This random wall in the kitchen had all our electrical wiring, so we couldn’t get rid of it. Yay!

Yeah, read that caption again. ALL THE ELECTRICAL WIRING. WHO DOES THIS??!?!?! This was the very first thing we demo-ed in the house, and boom, immediate huge problem. And you can see in the very back, the amazing wallpaper we uncovered when we took down the upper cabinets. Soooooo pretty…

This kitchen was just awful. But we obviously couldn’t replace everything in it because we’re not millionares. So the first decision was to keep the existing cabinets on the left side. They are in decent shape, and with some new paint and hardware, they would look amazing. We also had to keep the closet for the most part. We had to pay our contractors to put that wall back up, but we did get to demo the wall between the washer/dryer and fridge.

The open space above the closet also had to stay. This townhouse design is so odd. But we did get to get rid of most of the upper part to give us more room for larger cabinetry.

Word of advice: if you’re going to demo, make sure you have all the right tools.

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This is after we ripped everything out, including the backsplash that literally dissolved the sheetrock behind it (which in this picture, was repaired). There were gaping holes everywhere, and when we tried to remove the countertop, we found we couldn’t remove it from around the outlets without a saw (and when I tried, I got myself a little shock that reminded me why getting electrocuted is frowned upon).

Another word of advice: if you’re going to paint cabinetry yourself, do it while you live in the house. Or just hire someone.

Using Rustoleum DIY paint kits for the upper and lower cabinets, I thought this would be an easy enough project. Take the doors down, clean them, remove the gloss coating, paint, and finish. Easy, right?

It wasn’t.

IT TOOK FOREVER AND MY SANITY.

You have to wait at least 3 hours between coats. The upper cabinets required 6 coats (and even then they looked like shit). We didn’t live in the house at the time, so I had to go during lunch breaks and after work to apply coats. The lower cabinets only needed the recommended 2 coats so that worked out great. But those uppers killed me.

I tried to be green and got an environmentally-friendly paint stripper to remove the gloss off the old cabinets. It didn’t work. Just use the super corrosive stuff and it’ll be fine (but your lungs won’t be).

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I finally had to ask my designer for another paint brand because I just couldn’t use the kit paint for yet a 7th coat on the uppers. She recommended Valspar and dammit, it was the winner from the start. Only one coat and it was beautifully hiding all the stuff the 6 coats of the other paint couldn’t do. And don’t forget, you have to do not only the front of the doors, but the backs. And in between the doors. And around the cabinets. And the toe kicks. Which required more time.

All in all, painting these cabinets took almost 2 weeks. Never. Again.

Obviously, we had the contractors do a new backsplash, countertops, and flooring. After living in my old apartment for 3 years, I had come to hate granite countertops. It stained like whoa, and once it got a wet spot, forget it, it’s never coming out. I have no time or patience for high maintenance stuff, so when we found quartz, I was done. Yes, it’s more expensive, but not having to reseal it every year, the durability, and how pretty it is…MORE than worth it.

The right side of the kitchen is the biggest transformation. After patching up the hole we made, we decided to use the space next to the fridge for actual, useable cabinetry.

 

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redoing the wall we tore down and new flooring

Home Depot actually still had the same stock cabinets that matched our cabinets from 1994 so we were able to fill out that previously oddly used back right corner with more storage and a space for a wine fridge we received as a wedding gift.

More storage, more countertop, pantry space, and a completely hidden new, stackable washer and dryer? The right side of the kitchen, which used to be horrible, was now a dream.

 

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new cabinets in the back corner

We did have to get the new cabinets custom made (and I of course had to paint them again in order to save money) but the result below is just too gorgeous.

We unfortunately couldn’t move any of the electrical stuff into the garage (like the washer and dryer, water heater, and AC unit) because of flood zone requirements, so that does take up space I’d like to see freed up on the main living floor. But all in all, for our first home and first renovations, we are in love with our space.

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custom cabinets installed with new fridge

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All of the appliances we got from a Sears scratch and dent outlet for a killer price. I have always wanted a gas range, and have only been able to use one in my first townhouse with my roomie Lyndsay in grad school. We were ready to price out how much it was going to be to convert the old electric stove to gas when lo and behold, behind the old oven, A GAS HOOKUP!

Culinary dreams do come true y’all.

The only real design decision we made here for the kitchen was the two-toned cabinets in white and gray and the countertop. Everything else stemmed from that. Our designer picked out the backsplash tiles and cabinet pulls. There are literally millions of choices out there, and by this point, my brain couldn’t handle any more decisions. She picked, we liked, end of story.

So here it is, the final kitchen reveal. A space that can fit people to mingle, space for EVERYTHING, and yet, clean, modern, and up to date.

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walls painted, towels hung, liveable kitchen

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insert behind the sink

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this backsplash and countertop!

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back right corner

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custom cabinets

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pantry custom cabinet! SO MUCH SPACE

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Totally hidden washer and dryer

Just for recollection sake, before and afters.

So that’s the kitchen, a space that has seen us sweat, bleed, receive a light shock therapy, cry, and love. It’s a space that’s so us and it makes me happy to cook there every time I walk in. That’s exactly what kitchens should be like, right?

Next up, the rest of the house, and no more renovations to come.

♥, VB

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Master Bathroom Before & After

This room is still one of my favorites in the house, probably because other than the kitchen, it’s the most different from its original. In case you missed it the first time, this is what it looked like in the original listing photos.

master bathroom from listing photos

this vanity….yuck

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glass blocks really are a modern touch, don’t you think?

view of master bathroom and closet from listing photos

the view of the closet and bathroom in the master

So really, the same issues present in the guest bathroom were here too. The countertop was massive, yes, but underneath, no real way to store anything without buying a million Container Store boxes and organizing thingys (which isn’t the worst thing in the world to do, but I wanted to avoid that as much as possible). I also didn’t want our countertop to be FULL of stuff because we had no other place to put things. Too cluttered.

The floors again. Ugh, I hate these tiles so much. The big builder mirror and the soffit fluorescent light again. I mean, HONESTLY, WHO PUTS FLUORESCENT LIGHTS IN A BATHROOM?!?!?

But the previous owners, I guess in an effort to update something in the house (the only thing updated in the house since 1994), did change the shower, so this is what we saw when we actually toured the house.

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slate tiles in the shower pre-purchase (cabinet doors and countertop removed post-purchase)

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We removed everything you see here. EVERYTHING. LOOK AT THAT EFFING LIGHT.

And just like before, we started demoing things before I took real “before” photos. Oops.

The tiles in the shower look nice, yes, however upon entering this shower, it was immediately clear that in order to wash one’s hair, it was one arm or the other. Both arms could not be up at the same time or else you’d be outside of the shower. So yea, not functional at all.

Thankfully these tiles were the EASIEST to take off because they had just been put in. We felt a little bad since they had just renovated it, but it probably would’ve been wiser to leave it alone to begin with.

Also you see on the right side of the shower, that little wall that extends halfway on the side of the countertop? I hated this wall. It was dumb, made no sense, and was one of the first things to be torn down. We discovered about a foot of empty space behind that wall, so the major change we made here was to make it a double shower.

How’s that for romance?

Obviously, everything else went too.

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master bath gutted

Already, staring at the empty, completely gutted master bathroom is calming my nerves from the before pictures.

See all the metal studs? This has been very annoying. Apparently, when the house was constructed, only the external walls received wood studs; internal walls are metal. This has driven me insane as I hit them time and time again trying to install things or even just hang a picture. And this is why we hired a professional to mount our TVs.

Again, we bought the double vanity and countertop/sinks from Ikea and constructed it ourselves. We had plans to have two high storage cabinets on either side plus a huge mirror cabinet in the middle. However, we didn’t really measure correctly, and after I assembled this massive cabinet, turns out, it didn’t fit. Never to fear, we returned it to Ikea and bought a $15 mirror instead.

(Yes, you can return fully-assembled items to Ikea. And it was totally worth it since we couldn’t put it anywhere else realistically and damn, it wasn’t a cheap piece.)

After the whole re-plumbing issue was resolved, onward we went with the renovation. These were the pieces we selected for the overall look, including the kitchen and both bathrooms.

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So pretty and classic, right? We chose to do the exact same subway tiles in both bathrooms, but in the master, floor to ceiling! Same dark grout, because it’s just a good look. Also, the same wood-grain tile tied the entire look together.

More photos during the reconstruction and beautifying phase:

shower floor, yes please!

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Yes, this bathroom was also a dual paint job. The original teal really set Timmy off in a bad way, and while I didn’t mind it, I’m glad now we changed it to a much more neutral color. So much more calm and relaxing in here now.

Timmy and I must have gone back and forth a hundred times about shower door vs. shower curtain. A shower door here was really expensive and because we extended the shower, had to be custom-made since our measurements weren’t stock sizes. A shower curtain was obviously inexpensive but unfortunately REALLY unrealistic. Looking at these pictures, I don’t even know why we had that discussion in the first place. There’s no way we could’ve gotten away with just a curtain.

When we finally did order the shower doors, we had already moved in and had to wait a while for them to be installed. They delivered them after the renovations were done, and then the installers suffered an injury. So for 2 weeks, we had these MASSIVE shower doors taking up major space in our master bedroom that were so heavy, they just had to stay where they had been delivered.

That was fun.

Also, I hope you notice the covered floors in the last picture. This was something we didn’t do with the wood floors in the main spaces at the very beginning to protect them and it has really been a frustrating point for me every time I come home.

Back story: We donated all of our old appliances (except for the old fridge, which we moved to the garage) to Habitat for Humanity. Timmy was there for this exchange, and unfortunately, it was terrible! Not only did they break the wood plank at the top of the stairs in half, they also managed to scratch the SHIT out of 3 main spots in our living room. And I mean, nearly GAUGED out the floor. This was before we even got really started on the renovations!

It drives me crazy to see those spots. I’m not done trying to fix them, but I think at some point, the floors will just have to be sanded and restained to get rid of them. Lesson learned.

I really can’t explain how much I love this bathroom now. It has PLENTY of storage space (and I mean plenty!), and best of all, nearly everything is hidden from view. It makes everything cleaner and so much more relaxing since clutter is not visible. We chose the same waterfall faucet as the guest, and again, went with chrome for the sinks and brushed nickel for the showers.

And without further delay, here’s what our master bathroom looks like!

just before the shower doors and right-hand side shower fixture were installed

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shower doors installed!

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greatest storage and custom light fixture ever!

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another unique touch from our designer Meg! And the framed picture (totally her doing) really encapsulates the feeling of being done with renovations (and weddings)

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love this custom shelf!

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these shower doors are just beautiful

Our bathroom now rules. It’s 100% our style and can totally appeal to another buyer whenever we decide to sell. Extending this to a double shower was a stroke of genius (if I don’t say so myself), and it’s just an excellent space in general.

Again BIG PROPS to our designer Meg at ME Style Designs for helping us through this renovation in particular. All the plumbing issues, the color changes, the timeline, the ordering and re-ordering of parts and tiles and installations, there’s NO WAY I could’ve handled this. I had no idea about 1/2 the things involved with this type of renovation, and without her assistance, ideas, and patience, this would’ve been a complete disaster.

Next time, prepare yourself for the reveal of the kitchen, maybe our favorite space in the entire house!

♥, VB

Guest Bathroom Reno

So let’s start at the front of the house shall we? I said I’d share our before and afters, so let’s get the guest bathroom out of the way first. Not because it’s not interesting, but because our renovations in the other rooms are much more captivating.

Before, our guest bathroom looked like this:

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We removed everything except the toilet, which got a gooooood scrubbing.

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Ok so I obviously started demolishing this room before we got any real true before pictures. My bad. I have little patience and since I’m not getting paid to blog, I don’t remember these things until it’s too late.

But as you can tell it was ugly. We had already removed it before this picture was taken, but there was a sink/countertop that extended over the toilet uselessly because there was barely any space to put anything on the counter over the toilet. You can see in the first picture there was this drop-down soffit fluorescent light fixture that was heinous. It seriously took up like 2.5 feet of the ceiling height (there was also one in the master, unfortunately). Then there were those 4×4 in. square tiles in the shower with a really shallow tub. The laminated particle board for the sink cabinet, and no real place for storage. The handicap railing in the shower. The one long builder mirror and hideous square floor tiles that looked like the color beige threw up everywhere (including our kitchen, master bathroom, and stairs).

In short, this bathroom was nasty.

I had a Pinterest board going with our designer, Meg Brannigan of ME Style Designs. We decided on items that had a lot of function but had classic yet updated looks, enough so that when it comes time for us to sell our house, the retirees/snowbirds who love this area will love the design enough to consider this house turn-key. Always gotta think ahead.

First we tore it down to the studs, which is much harder than it sounds.

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Parts of the wall where we were trying to take just the tile down off the shower crumbled underneath, so even though we weren’t trying to take it down to the studs, we really didn’t have another option. Also, the tile jackhammer (even the small one) is so incredibly heavy; make sure you have a protein shake on hand or something to keep your energy level up!

I left the tile removal in general up to Timmy. It was just too difficult for me to operate either the small or big jack because of their weight and the angle that I had to stand which killed my back. A big shout-out to Timmy on these jobs!

I was able to take down that mirror with one pry since it was only being held up by those black adhesive splotches you see on the wall. I almost killed myself trying to hold onto it so that it wouldn’t break while Timmy raced in to help me with it. I was absolutely not expecting that, so when it slid down in one piece rapidly, all I was thinking was “PLEASE DON’T SHATTER PLEASE DON’T SHATTER PLEASE DON’T SHATTER.”

Once everything was exposed, we realized we had a major issue with our plumbing. Our type of plumbing was considered illegal (but not at the time it was put in the house). We could choose to leave it and then have a major issue once the walls were closed up somewhere down the line and ruin all our renovations or just replace all the plumbing up front. It was an expense we hadn’t budgeted for, but considering how much more we were risking going forward with the old (and the fact that the plumbing hadn’t been used in years at this place), we bit the bullet and replaced everything.

Which set us even further back when the rough plumbing was inspected and approved but the final wasn’t. So odd how inspectors work.

We also had a major paint issue crop up that was the basis of many many arguments Timmy and I had during this process. At the beginning of the design stage, Meg and I met to discuss colors and such. She had the biggest color swatch collection I have ever seen and told me to go through it and select colors I liked. I think I chose like 46 colors.

I tend to go for big sections of neutrals and pops of colors everywhere. However, I was so overwhelmed with everything else going on that I told her to go ahead and select the colors for the bathrooms. She decided on a bright yellow for the guest and a bright teal for the master. Neither of these options bothered me massively, but since paint can be difficult to envision unless it’s all up, I went ahead and painted both rooms so Timmy could get the whole look.

Timmy was not happy. And Timmy thought I had decided paint colors without him, which made him angrier.

Needless to say, this was not the only stupid, worthless argument we got into during this past year. But it was definitely a sticking point. So back we went to the drawing board and Meg selected a much more neutral, gray/beige color.

We repainted, and are very happy with the color now. So let us never discuss the process of selecting the color again!

Another issue I had was with the original tub. I love baths. I know, some people think they’re super wasteful but they are me-time. They help my back pain and duh, they’re great for pure relaxation. The problem is everywhere I’ve lived, I can only get EITHER my boobs OR my knees underwater. It’s been a life mission to get what I call a “knees-and-boobs” tub; this way, all of myself is underwater at the same time. Ladies, I know you feel me.

The rest of the design choices came easily. I love a clean white subway tile with dark grout. Timmy wanted a wood-grain tile for the floor. And boom we got it all.

Here’s the guest midway:

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love this subway tile

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classic lines for days!

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knees-and-boobs tub!

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laying down the floor

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our final floor tile

The floor tile is the same now in the 2 bathrooms and kitchen. Eventually we will redo our stairs to match this tile, but since it wasn’t a priority, we’ll do it sometime in the future.

Tiling the shower and floors were originally on our DIY list. It looks hella easy on HGTV, right? But after looking at the finished product and the fact that our contractors only took 3 days to complete the showers and floors, we’ve since thanked our lucky stars we didn’t try to take this on. One, it would’ve taken us 10x as long to do it correctly, and look at the lines here! We would’ve sucked at it, let’s just be honest with ourselves.

We selected all our vanities from Ikea because the prices just couldn’t be beat. We selected based on cost, style, and ability to appeal to other buyers. Timmy and I built all of the vanity pieces and our contractors installed them. We chose this one for the guest.

We did run into a little issue with the sink drain from the Ikea countertop/sink in that it was chrome but our other fixtures were going to be brushed nickel. Since the guest bathroom is much smaller than the master, it was going to be obvious the differences in finishes since you could see them all quickly. So we switched to all chrome in the guest, yet in our master, the sink fixture finishes are chrome, and the shower fixtures are brushed nickel.

Again, another design element that no one thinks of! I would’ve never thought about that in a million years, so thanks to our contractors for noticing this!

Our designer created some of the other pieces and found similar ones to complete the industrial/vintage/contemporary look, like our light fixture, towel bar, and toilet paper holder. All in all, the look is very us but I think could appeal to anyone else as well.

So without further ado, here’s the finished look!

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the view from the stairs

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a peek inside

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towel colors just pop!

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Timmy and I have said, since our first place together, that the secret to keeping our relationship afloat is having 2 bathrooms. Looking back, maybe sharing 1 bathroom in my apartment all last year is really what made our lives so difficult all that time.

We love our bathrooms, in particular the mirror and light fixture in this one. It’s so unique and bright, but still feels so homey at the same time. It’s functional (knees and boobs!) yet feels like a hotel bathroom with some of the touches, like the waterfall  faucet and showerhead.

A little PSA, if you can, hire a designer. We couldn’t have survived renovating this house without Meg. She led the way, did more couples counseling than she probably bargained for, and made all the difference.

Up next, the master bathroom!

♥, VB

Demos and Renos

Things are good. Things are much much much better. Life is now at an excellent place, both personally and professionally, after months on end of merely existing and praying that this space would arrive again in our lives. We can finally breathe in, expand our lungs, and breathe out again.

So what better time to tell you about our new house??

Yeah, at some point I’ll get around to recapping the wedding weekend, but those are much longer stories for another day. I figured that everyone loves a before and after, so let me fill you in on our renovating and where our house is now. Sprinkled throughout are tips that we learned throughout this super stressful, incredibly anxiety-ridden process that can hopefully help and spare you the pain and fights.

But if we’re being honest, no matter what I share with you, you’re gonna eventually duke it out at some point over tile choices or something as equally dumb. It’s a fact of life, like taxes and death.

Tip #1: If you’re planning on renovating a house, get a prescription for you and your partner for an anti-anxiety medication or medical marijuana.

Holy crap you guys. No matter how prepared I try to be for situations, like renovating a house (for which my only reference is HGTV and the DIY network), this is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever dealt with (and in the same year as our wedding, so it’s a miracle I didn’t end up institutionalized).

I’ve never been more stressed out in a year’s time than this past year.

With the wedding planning, purchasing, renovating, design, Timmy’s travel schedule, my work, and moving, I lost it many, many, many times. The house hunting was incredibly frustrating since Timmy wanted a turn key home, but I knew that at our budget, we wouldn’t be able to find a turn key home unless it was over $400k. We HAD to find a house that could use some renovations in order to be able to afford it in the first place. Eventually, after about 4 months of house hunting, we found one that had all the things we were both looking for that actually felt like our home the second we stepped in it.

But it was butt-ugly inside. Early 90s, butt-ugly. With features suitable for a wheelchair-bound person (of which we are not…one day, probably sooner than later, yes, but not now).

We agreed early on that renovations were a must. However, like with all financial crap that goes along with buying a house, the things you don’t know will end up haunting you later. We didn’t get the mortgage structured the way we needed to in order to complete renovations without having to take out another loan. And if you attempt to take out a loan so soon after purchasing a home, you don’t have enough equity in the house yet, so the amount you can get approved for isn’t going to be the amount you need to complete the renovations.

Taking out another credit card or personal loan were not options with their interest rates. And we are the dumbassess who began demolishing everything before we had the funds in place. We had absolutely no other option than to renovate because we had torn the kitchen and two bathrooms completely apart. So we had to borrow from Timmy’s brokerage accounts in order to pay for the renovations, which caused him an unbelievable amount of stress because he’s the most strict about paying into his retirement accounts.

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Financial discussions had been had by us many times, but it seemed like during this process, things we said were forgotten easily, so who was paying for what and where was this money coming from and when did this thing need to be paid for were issues that had us fighting nearly every day. Not to mention that every decision that goes into renovating and designing a kitchen and 2 bathrooms isn’t just ONE decision, it’s a million little details.

Like I’ve stated before on this blog, Timmy and I do not make decisions the same way. Timmy needs time to analyze and compare; I don’t. Timmy’s travel schedule for work meant that he couldn’t get to some decisions in a timely manner, and no matter that I involved him from beginning to end, our decision-making styles and abilities to remember all the big and little things just didn’t sync up.

When I say we had fights, I mean we had FIGHTS. The biggest, baddest, worst fights of our relationship.

Looking back, I wish I had been medicated for a large portion of the renovations. It would’ve helped me keep my cool and remain patient in situations where all reason had left the building.

Tip #2: Be really, really, really, BRUTALLY honest about the things you can DIY and the things you should hire professionals to do.

I watch HGTV and DIY quite a bit. I, like most people, after watching those shows think to myself, “That doesn’t look so hard! I can totally do that!”

Those channels are big, fat, fucking liars.

Anything you watch on those shows takes you 2-5 times longer to accomplish in real life. Demolishing a wall doesn’t take you 20 minutes, it takes you an hour. Removing tile from the floor with the exact same tool they use on that show doesn’t take you 2 hours, it takes you 7 hours. Plus all the time you have to stop, catch your breath, rehydrate, return the tool to the Home Depot rental store so you don’t pay overages, then going back to rent it again the next day.

I seriously thought things like removing cabinet doors, demo-ing walls and floors, removing countertops, etc. would go as easy as it does on those shows. But if you don’t have a saw to remove the countertop/backsplash from around outlets without electrocuting yourself, you have to pay someone else to do it. You can open up a wall that is seemingly empty and find that all of the electrical wiring from your entire home to your breaker box is in that one random wall. You can remove a double sink countertop from the master bathroom but without a new spinal injection, you don’t have the strength to carry it downstairs to have hauled away so you just leave it in the middle of the living room.

We had to replace our water heater, clean out our vents, and have our AC unit serviced because it began to leak water, which set off our water leak detector from the old water heater. If you’ve ever heard this detector going off, it is deafening. Since I didn’t even know we had the detector, I thought it was the smoke detector. Since my efforts to silence the alarm weren’t working, I called the fire department who ended up informing me of this detector and making me feel like the dumbest person who ever existed on earth.

I assumed we could do the tiling. But you have to measure correctly, know how to mix tile and grout, be able to cut tile down that doesn’t fit, make sure all the tiles are lined up, all with working a full-time job, teaching class, and traveling out of town. We simply couldn’t accomplish a lot of the things we had originally decided to DIY because it would’ve set our timeline back 4 months.

Since we found metal studs in some of our walls, the option of mounting our TVs all of the sudden became a daunting task and one that I was not willing to tackle since I don’t know the first things about mounting anything with metal studs. So we hired someone to mount 3 of our flat screens TVs (and he did a better job than I ever could considering he hid all the wiring and they are beautiful!).

So what were we able to do? Well there was stuff we could realistically accomplish that we didn’t have to hire anyone to do. We were able to paint the bathrooms (which required a dual paint job because Timmy hated the paint colors our designer picked out originally), the living room, and the 2 bedrooms. We put together all the Ikea vanities and cabinets. We put together bed frames, installed new handles on our cabinets and drawers, and painted our old kitchen cabinets. We sanded and restained/sealed our deck.

Because Timmy’s work schedule kept him traveling most of the time, a lot of the updates had to be done by me after work or on the weekends. I was able to replace our dining room chandelier, hallway sconce light, closet light fixture, outdoor motion detector light, and 4 ceiling fan light kits. I installed new garage door sensors, garage remote key pad, and changed the code for Timmy’s garage door opener and remote. I repainted our garage doors, our front door, spray painted our house numbers, hung our old cabinets from the kitchen in the garage, organized our garage, hung our bikes, and replaced our automatic outdoor lights. I’ve replaced showerheads and door handles, put together our deck furniture and new dining chairs… it just never ends.

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Old disgusting hallway sconce

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New and improved hallway sconce

Our next major projects are to have our 2 decks re-screened because our current screens have big, gaping holes in them and to repair a few roof tiles that are cracked.

We are hiring people for those jobs.

It’s one thing after another. You get some work done, only to find out that the rest of it can’t be completed by you so you have to stop and figure out how much it’ll be to have a professional do it. And that’s how it adds up, little by little, driving both you and your budget out-of-control.

Tip #3: Don’t live in a reno zone if you can help it.

Living in a renovation zone after the year we had was NOT an option. I have no doubts that Timmy and I would’ve separated before the year was done if we’d gone that route.

Timmy and I had worked out that if we were able to purchase a house by August or September, we could have 3 months of solid renovations going and completed by the time we had to move out of our apartment in January.

We almost made that timeline.

For the most part, renovations didn’t begin until the end of October. Our contractors and designer rushed to get the majority of the bathrooms and kitchen completed before we left to go home to Atlanta for Christmas. We cut our trip home short because there was just too much to do in St. Pete, so we didn’t get to see anyone except family that trip. Once we returned to St. Pete, we immediately began packing for a January 3 move.

Unfortunately,  Timmy didn’t schedule his pod (the one with all his stuff from his Lake Mary apartment that he moved out of back in January 2016) to be delivered to the house until nearly 2 weeks later. And both my move and the pod unpacking were done without his presence since he decided to go to the Sugar Bowl and then had a work trip planned.

The Sugar Bowl trip, while I wish he had been a tad more thoughtful, actually worked in my favor since he was out of the house and I could just focus on putting stuff away on my own. I was the one who had encouraged him to go so he could 1) hang out with friends and have a good time and 2) stay out of my way on a very stressful day.

We decided late in the game to order glass shower doors for our master bathroom, so those were delivered, but then the company had to reschedule due to an injury. So for two weeks, we had HUGE glass doors taking up large amounts of space in our master bedroom that couldn’t be moved anywhere else since they weighed too much. Not to mention, that we slept on a mattress and boxspring alone in the guest room for close to two weeks before that.

For a few weeks we lived with unpacked boxes all over the place, until finally I was able to unpack everything and move the unneeded items to our garage storage. And then we could relax and actually enjoy the space we had worked so hard to create.

Tip #4: If you don’t care about something, don’t care about it.

During a renovation, it is imperative that you pick your battles. Simply put, if you couldn’t care less about what goes on the walls, or the grout color, or the exact handles for cabinetry, stay not caring about it. If you have an opinion on everything, that person should be the main decision maker and only bring the other person in for big stuff.

If you and your partner try to make a joint decision on EVERYTHING, you will both lose. Your patience, your time, and your sanity.

Tip #5: Once it’s done, move forward.

“But you didn’t ask me what I thought about this!!!” “I hated that color!!” “You are so selfish!!”

Once the renovations are done and you’re in your house, let it go. You get resentful, angry, and disrespectful when stress is at an all-time high. Whatever you did, whatever you said, you have to be able to move forward if you’re to enjoy the new spaces you’ve created. You can’t relax when you’re constantly reliving everything that pissed you off during the reno. Leave it in the past, and come to a new place in your relationship.

Hey, you just survived a renovation! It’s time to celebrate!

Next time, those before and afters I promised you…

♥, VB

Motivation

No, I haven’t felt particularly motivated to update this blog in a long time. Part of it was I had too much to say and the energy required to write it all down was too much. The other part was that life has been more difficult than I’d like to admit this past year and while everyone around us has been like, “Oh great, life milestones, amazing, be happy, you’re going places,” for us it’s felt stifling, stressful, and oh so not amazing a great majority of the time.

I know it sounds like I’m complaining or ungrateful, but the reality of my emotions is far from that. But stress is stress, and in one year, we planned a wedding, got married, bought a house, renovated the house, moved, and tried to find our normal again. Which is so hard when for nearly 2 years straight, you haven’t had a real normal. Timmy moved from Lake Mary to my tiny apartment last January, we were on top of each other all the time, he traveled a lot, and between the wedding planning stress, the house hunting stress, the house buying stress, the renovation stress, the money stress, and then the moving into said house stress, I had literally used up all my coping methods.

I was a ticking time-bomb that went off in January.

The reality of our life is now more normal, more settled, more calm for sure. But that reserve of emotional mess that I had been carrying around and stockpiling just became too much and I broke in a very real way. I was ready to run away and leave this all behind. Which is not at all a very adult way to handle everything, but I was struggling big time. And my partner was struggling in his own way too, and we just weren’t clicking.

I absolutely sank around election time. Trump and the racial hate and misogyny and general hopelessness became the weight that sank me even further, as though the stress of everything else in our lives wasn’t enough. I cried for nearly two weeks straight. I have been off of Facebook since November, about a few days after the election because I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I miss it a little, but after the withdrawals wore off, I’m good without it.

I took on an additional class, Human Sexuality, to teach this semester, so my life is really busy and full, but emotionally, it’s been challenging to catch the happy ride back up the downward slope. My back pain has been worse than ever, and after a failed radiofrequency ablation (where they burn the nerves in a particular area), I’ve been depressed about my back and wondering if life can ever feel normal when all I think about is my pain.

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Maybe it’s the January/February/March blues that get us all. Maybe it’s a combination of our stress, Trump for me, and the winter meh that got us. But we’ve been in a dark place, and we keep wavering in and out of it. Lately, more out of it than in it, which is definitely progress.

It certainly helps that all the boxes and wedding gifts have been unpacked. Our house is beautiful and we still have a few more projects to go, like painting a few spots, rescreening our porches, redoing the floors in our garage, but those weren’t necessities to getting settled. We’ll be getting started on those soon enough.

We love our neighborhood and the quiet nature that surrounds us. We are starting to fish on our fishing pier with the addition of new fishing equipment, courtesy of Timmy. My parents came to visit a few weekends ago (which was so needed) and they brought my bike. So the other night Timmy and I biked close to St. Pete Beach (and stumbled through a ridiculous argument, again), then to a local restaurant for drinks and games.

It was awesome and it felt like us.

The sun is out more, and it’s warmer, so me likey. I can’t wait to start spending afternoons after work paddleboarding around the waterways, and really soaking up the mood-improving Vitamin D. And we’ll get there soon.

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But Timmy misses Jake and his dad and James, and I’m missing my friends and family a lot. Timmy and I working on our connection harder than we have before, but we need our support system around us to help ground us. So friends and family, come visit us! We have space, and it’s close to everything. It’s honestly like being on vacation all the time, living in our new house.

It’s just now starting to sync for us. Just now. If we haven’t been reaching out to you as much, be patient because the ground is just now starting to solidify underneath us again. That’s just life, I guess, and I know we’ll get back. It’s always ups and downs, and we just have to have faith and put the work in.

Winter sucks. Trump sucks. Hate sucks. But we will rock again.

♥, VB