Cabinets & Countertops!

Hope everyone has had a great start to the year! I'm excited to show you guys the new cabinets and countertops. I'll tell you that it wasn't until these bad boys were installed that it felt like things were finally coming together. Here we go!

In this first picture, you'll see the cabinets are going into the kitchen. I helped assemble the upper and lower cabinets and then my carpenter installed and trimmed them out. One of my favorite parts of the kitchen is the cabinet over the fridge with the custom built housing for the new counter-depth fridge. 

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Here's a shot of the island being built and the framework for the it is shown above. I designed the island to house additional storage, a large under mount sink and dishwasher. Don't forget about the extra seating!

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Here you'll see the island is finally coming together. I love the clean lines and the space it gives for additional seating. And did you notice the appliances are in??

I had the island painted black to match the cabinets and the natural light is awesome. Since the countertops weren't in yet, I used a sheet of plywood in the meantime to use for workspace. Here's a better shot of the fridge in its new home. The fridge fit the cabinet like a glove which was awesome. 

And here are the new countertops! I went with a classic white quartz slab which pairs nicely with the black cabinets. The industrial pull-down nozzle faucet works well in this space. 

Another shot of the countertops from the side. I can finally appreciate how much better this kitchen flows now that the island is in its place. 

And here we are.... the kitchen cabinets and countertops are in! 

-M.

New Year, New Windows

Wow, 2015 is here! And what better way to usher in the year than with a new update on the windows I had installed. When navigating the challenges of an older home, you can pretty much assume that the windows are going to be drafty, cracked and energy inefficient. Windows are an investment that many homeowners don't delve into, but I felt it was a much needed upgrade for this old home.

The benefits of new windows in this house would be (1) big savings on the energy bill... and with blazing summers here in Texas, that's a big deal and (2) bringing in more natural light, ding ding ding! When working with older homes and lower ceilings, natural light is a sure remedy to help create more open environments.

After researching many different window companies, I landed on Pella Windows. They were timely, had great financing options and were super detailed with the different tiered pricing plans. I highly recommend! Below you'll see a layout of what I brought the sales re and the different locations of the windows I would be replacing. 

THe Plan

Windows G (Master Bedroom) and Windows E (Living Room) required more structural support to allow for larger windows to be installed. New headers were placed above to support the weight of the windows. 

Windows G (Master Bedroom) and Windows E (Living Room) required more structural support to allow for larger windows to be installed. New headers were placed above to support the weight of the windows. 

Master Bedroom

Here's the before/after of the windows in the master bedroom. I wanted something special for the master bedroom, so I decided on this large window that spans a whopping ten feet, which is pretty much the size of that wall. It has a 4'x5' picture window sectioned between two 3'x5' single hung windows. It really brightens up the space with a view of the backyard.

BEFORE

AFTER

LIving Room

One thing I noticed was that there was no easy way to access the backyard. The options were to either go around the house or through the garage which really wasn't practical. So I decided to bust open the back wall of the living room to make room for a set of 4-panel double sliding glass doors. Huge impact and practical access! The natural light really opens up the space and with easy access to the backyard, it boosts the entertaining factor of this home. 

BEFORE

AFTER

In light of this post, I thought I would leave you with this quote:

In my view, no space without natural light is worthy of human occupation.     - John Saladino

-M.

Lighting All Around

With Christmas just around the corner and homes lit with sparkling lights all around, I thought it would be fitting to share my process on creating the lighting scheme for the new house. I love lighting and the way it can transform a space. Lighting plays a huge role in every project of mine and my philosophy is "Do it right!" 

THE RECESSED CANS

When I purchased the house, each room had one fixture at best and there were a few scattered wall sconces. So to say the least... I had my work cut out for me. With 8-ft ceilings, I knew that it would be important to maximize the lighting to help make the space feel larger. I scoured the internet researching all different kinds of recessed cans and finally landed on one that was simple and clean. I really wanted to stay away from the larger cans, so I kept my search queries to 3–4 inch recessed housing kits. Super clean, adjustable head to redirect lighting, and a simple white trim that would mount flush to my ceiling is what I found! 

These recessed cans came with both the housing kit and the trim. (bulbs not included) You can find them here on Amazon.

These recessed cans came with both the housing kit and the trim. (bulbs not included) You can find them here on Amazon.

THE BULBS

Now, these cans are typically meant for halogen bulbs. I love the look and feel of halogen bulbs, but energy efficiency wise, not so gouda. Also, something to keep in mind... smaller recessed cans require more of them to light an area. All that points to more money spent on replacement bulbs and higher energy bills. Thus began the research on the perfect LED bulb replacement. I'm super thankful that technology has brought us LED bulbs and in recent years, comparable bulbs to the incandescent and halogen family. 

Here's a fun bulb buying guide from CNET for some light reading.

For residential projects, I'm a strong advocate for the warm whites. I typically avoid the cool whites and the daylights. There's something about not looking like a blue smurf that keeps me operating in the 0-3000 Kelvin range. You can learn more about color temperature here

My bulb criteria for this project were (1) LED, (2) Warm White, (3) Bright, (4) Dimmable. And here they are! 

I love the look of these bulbs and I'm all for the energy efficiency! Also available for purchase on Amazon. 

I love the look of these bulbs and I'm all for the energy efficiency! Also available for purchase on Amazon

THE LIGHTING PLAN

After choosing my recessed cans and bulbs, I moved onto the lighting layout. The goal was impact and proper lighting throughout each of the spaces. When dealing with floor joists and old home construction, you should plan on making adjustments on the exact location of the cans and how many you'll need. I ran into a few issues with joists but all in all, I was able to get it close to the plans I've included below. 

I ended up putting the exterior sconces (Section O) on hold due to some wiring issues. I also decided to cut back on the recessed lights in the garage/laundry areas (Section M/L)

I ended up putting the exterior sconces (Section O) on hold due to some wiring issues. I also decided to cut back on the recessed lights in the garage/laundry areas (Section M/L)

Adding the recessed cans and closet lights upstairs were a huge upgrade!

Adding the recessed cans and closet lights upstairs were a huge upgrade!

THe pendants

I enjoyed picking out the pendants that would eventually go over the kitchen island. I knew that I wanted the space to feel industrial yet inviting and in order to achieve that, it would be important to pair classic with modern elements. These pendants are the perfect combination of both. Introducing the Clemson Classic Single Pendant in Polished Nickel from Restoration Hardware!

Such a great piece of lighting. I love the classic white translucent glass that pairs well with the nickel finish. You can find it here at RH. 

Such a great piece of lighting. I love the classic white translucent glass that pairs well with the nickel finish. You can find it here at RH

Here's a drawing of the pendants in the kitchen at eye-level. I decided on two of the Clemson pendants to properly light the countertop space of the kitchen island. 

The Lighting UPDATE

And now for the progress photos from the lighting installation! You can also see that the asbestos and popcorn ceiling are gone and the drywall repairs well underway. Check it out!

Here's a view of the kitchen. The wires hanging and the blue work box from the ceiling are where the two pendants will be hung.

Here's a view of the kitchen. The wires hanging and the blue work box from the ceiling are where the two pendants will be hung.

A side shot of the kitchen/hallway. Those LED cans really brighten up the space!

A side shot of the kitchen/hallway. Those LED cans really brighten up the space!

A view of the open dining/kitchen space from the living room. 

A view of the open dining/kitchen space from the living room. 

And let's flip it around. A view from the kitchen of the dining/living room. 

And let's flip it around. A view from the kitchen of the dining/living room. 

Thanks for reading! Hope you are enjoying this Christmas season and are looking forward to good food and good times. More to come on the blog, but if you don't hear from me before the end of the year... Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Slumlove Shoot

In honor of the Christmas season, I wanted to share with you a recent collaboration I had with a few incredibly talented folks! A few weeks ago, I had the chance to help style a Christmas shoot for Slumlove Sweater Company. What I love most about Slumlove and their business model is that they strive to support and build a stronger infrastructure for education and a sustainable economy in one of the world's largest slums, Kibera. You can read more about them here

So... we initially had planned this epic photoshoot to take place at a local tree farm, but alas, it rained. Boo! So we rushed to figure out a good backup plan and with some amazing friends with awesome workspaces, we got to set up the photoshoot at an old meat packing plant converted into industrial/commercial space. All in all, glad everything worked out. 

In the photos from the shoot, one of my favorite elements of the table setting was the small laser-cut wood animals and trees. I thought they added a nice woodsy vibe to the overall experience. If you want your own set of woodland creatures, I found them at Crate and Barrel. The last I checked, they were on clearance, so get them while you can!

Alright, onto the good stuff...

The fresh cedar garland wrapped in twinkle lights worked well as a natural table runner.

The fresh cedar garland wrapped in twinkle lights worked well as a natural table runner.

Marshmallows, natural peppermint sticks and all things delicious.

Marshmallows, natural peppermint sticks and all things delicious.

The super tasty vegan cupcakes were made by Cathy Cake and the stunning, leather-strapped chopping board was handmade by Foreverland Goods. 

The super tasty vegan cupcakes were made by Cathy Cake and the stunning, leather-strapped chopping board was handmade by Foreverland Goods

Look at that marshmallow about to jump into a warm cup of hot cocoa...

Look at that marshmallow about to jump into a warm cup of hot cocoa...

Cheers to friends, hot cocoa, and fun times!

Cheers to friends, hot cocoa, and fun times!

Overall it was a great experience and I'm excited for the Christmas season to be upon us. Thanks for reading and I hope you're all looking forward to some fun Christmas festivities!

-M. 

Just Bust a Slab

MY THOUGHT PROCESS

Normally when I see a room or space that I'm designing, the ideas start to flow. As each idea comes up, I'm starting to explore options on layout and design elements. From there, I take all the ideas and work them through realistic timeframes and budgets which usually leaves me with two or three good options to present to the client. 

Things went down a little differently this time. As I turned the corner and walked into the kitchen/living/dining space, all I could see was the potential that laid there beneath the layers of wall paper, paneling, and ancient fixtures. As I quickly examined the kitchen, one glorious idea popped into my head. Man oh man it was a good one! I knew that if this house worked out, I would be chasing that idea to the end. I started to get amped and had there been a hidden camera in the room, you would have loved seeing me pace around mumbling to myself like a crazy person. 

THE FLOORPLANS

Once the house became a reality, I started the process of dreaming up the kitchen layout. I've included a floor plan of the existing kitchen and one of the new kitchen layout for your reading delight.

On a previous post, you would have seen the original kitchen with it's U-shaped layout. The oddly sized refrigerator jutted out into the space and a tightly fitted oven lent itself to an extremely awkward flow. The cabinets lining the sink and dishwasher had a series of matching uppers that dramatically closed off the space. But then I saw it. That gleaming, golden nugget. The breakfast nook. It took me by surprise, but then it might have taken anyone by surprise. It was a little surreal seeing that large open space quietly sitting next to that awkward kitchen.

As you can see here, the breakfast nook has a similar footprint to the existing kitchen. 

As you can see here, the breakfast nook has a similar footprint to the existing kitchen. 

Now on to what dreams are made of...

Here's the new kitchen floorplan!! It was important to me to continue the open concept that already existed in the dining and living area. In the new floorplan, I removed upper and lower cabinets to make room for a walkway. Taking full advantage of the breakfast nook space, I designed an oversized island that would house a large stainless steel sink and dishwasher. The biggest challenge to this new layout would be running all new plumbing and electrical for the island and water to the fridge. The beauty of this layout is that now the entire kitchen/living/dining space flows seamlessly. 

The kitchen island spans 7' wide and 4' deep. 

The kitchen island spans 7' wide and 4' deep. 

THE challenge

Running new plumbing and electrical on an older home is great when it's built on a pier and beam foundation. When you're dealing with an older home on a slab foundation, that means busting up the concrete. WOMP WOMP. It's definitely not the prettiest process and can be risky depending on what lies beneath. One wrong slip and you could accidentally jack hammer through the a pipe. Check it out!

Here you can see where the existing sink used to be at the bottom and then moving up to the top is where the new sink will be. 

Here you can see where the existing sink used to be at the bottom and then moving up to the top is where the new sink will be. 

On the left is the old sink hookup, the right side is the new sink location, and the top is a new water line to the refrigerator.

On the left is the old sink hookup, the right side is the new sink location, and the top is a new water line to the refrigerator.

RAISE THE ROOF

If you recall from my last post, I mentioned rerouting the HVAC (heating, ventilating, air conditioning). The goal with moving the ductwork was to raise the ceiling height in the hallway to help open up the space. I had framing removed from either side of the opening to make the walkway wider and then brought the ducts up into the joists to give it the full 8' ceiling height. 

One section of the ductwork couldn't be recessed into the floor joists, but I was able to add in three additional inches to the ceiling height there. Every little bit helps!

One section of the ductwork couldn't be recessed into the floor joists, but I was able to add in three additional inches to the ceiling height there. Every little bit helps!

Looking at this picture, you can get a better idea of where the ceiling height used to be. It definitely makes the space feel less claustrophobic. 

Looking at this picture, you can get a better idea of where the ceiling height used to be. It definitely makes the space feel less claustrophobic. 

Thanks for reading and as always share any thoughts or questions you have below. Have a fantastic Thanksgiving holiday!

-M.

Out with the Old

And we're off!

Just 2 days after closing, I had the house leveled.

Haha, just kidding. But second to razing the entire house, I had quite a bit of demolition done inside the house. Just days after closing, I scheduled the demo and here's the laundry list of things that I had removed:

  1. Old built-in shelving in the living room
  2. All wood paneling and wainscoting
  3. 2 Layers of wallpaper 
  4. Entire kitchen (including those delightful orange countertops)
  5. Wood framing near the HVAC
  6. Interior doors
  7. Light fixtures
  8. Vinyl flooring and carpet in all rooms
  9. Popcorn ceiling (which had asbestos, of course!)

*If you have questions on asbestos, I'm happy to share with you my experience. Just let me know in the comments below. Also, if you're in Austin area and need a good abatement company, I've got you covered!

ON TO THE PHOTOS

As you can see here, the wood paneling in the living room and the wainscoting in the dining have been removed and the vinyl flooring is in the process of being pulled up.

As you can see here, the wood paneling in the living room and the wainscoting in the dining have been removed and the vinyl flooring is in the process of being pulled up.

This is the breakfast nook off to the side of the kitchen. It was here that a friend discovered that the walls were not just covered in one layer of wallpaper, but two!

This is the breakfast nook off to the side of the kitchen. It was here that a friend discovered that the walls were not just covered in one layer of wallpaper, but two!

To the left of the breakfast nook is where the old kitchen used to be. I had the upper and lower cabinets removed. The gap in the drywall that you see is where the old cabinet bulkhead used to run. This is also after the popcorn ceiling was removed. You can see the damage that was left behind when they scraped the popcorn texture. 

To the left of the breakfast nook is where the old kitchen used to be. I had the upper and lower cabinets removed. The gap in the drywall that you see is where the old cabinet bulkhead used to run. This is also after the popcorn ceiling was removed. You can see the damage that was left behind when they scraped the popcorn texture. 

Next to the kitchen, you can see the drop ceiling that houses the existing HVAC. I eventually had the HVAC reworked to help bring the ceiling height there up a bit and to open up the hallway leading from the front door. 

Next to the kitchen, you can see the drop ceiling that houses the existing HVAC. I eventually had the HVAC reworked to help bring the ceiling height there up a bit and to open up the hallway leading from the front door. 

Here's a view of the old kitchen and breakfast nook. This was after all the major demo was done.

Here's a view of the old kitchen and breakfast nook. This was after all the major demo was done.

Here's a view from the kitchen looking towards the dining room and living room. Definitely some major progress, but still a long ways to go. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but after removing the old wainscoting and dark wood paneling, the space started to feel a bit brighter. 

Here's a view from the kitchen looking towards the dining room and living room. Definitely some major progress, but still a long ways to go. You might not be able to tell from this picture, but after removing the old wainscoting and dark wood paneling, the space started to feel a bit brighter. 

Knocking things down, well that's the easy part! Although it isn't pretty, it definitely helps to have a clean slate to start with when designing and laying out the space. 

More to come, but if you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to share them below!

Orange is Not the New Black

Hey there fellow readers! I'm excited to start sharing with you the journey I've taken these last few months. For those of you that know me, I've been searching high and low for the perfect house here in Austin, Texas. It's been three years of patience or more like impatience at times. I'm sure all you homeowners out there have had the joy of riding the roller coaster that is home buying. So... after many offers/counteroffers, I finally closed on my first home this past August. Yay.

While many homeowners are looking for the ideal turnkey home or even new build, my set of criteria looked a little different. Now of course I started out with this long wish list, but as reality set in, it quickly whittled down to the essentials. So, what I have here are the two criteria that stuck around:

  1. A fixer-upper that needed some major work 
  2. Good bones in regards to the floor plan 

And now onto the tour of the new casa...

I couldn't wait to show you the pièce de résistance, so here it is. The kitchen in all its orange formica glory. Mind you, this home was built in the 60's... 

I couldn't wait to show you the pièce de résistance, so here it is. The kitchen in all its orange formica glory. Mind you, this home was built in the 60's... 

Here's a shot of the living and dining room. Check out the spikes on that light fixture! And if you were wondering, the cake is not real...

Here's a shot of the living and dining room. Check out the spikes on that light fixture! And if you were wondering, the cake is not real...

It was pretty surreal walking into the house for the first time. It brought to mind scenes from Blast from the Past, any fans?? 

It was pretty surreal walking into the house for the first time. It brought to mind scenes from Blast from the Past, any fans?? 

After closing, I took a few pictures of the home after it was vacant. Here's the living/dining room. You can get a better feel for the wood paneling and the wallpaper. I quickly discovered that there was not just one but two layers of wallpaper. 

After closing, I took a few pictures of the home after it was vacant. Here's the living/dining room. You can get a better feel for the wood paneling and the wallpaper. I quickly discovered that there was not just one but two layers of wallpaper. 

Check out the wood paneling and this dated office nook in the living room. WOOF!

Check out the wood paneling and this dated office nook in the living room. WOOF!

And here's the kitchen again! Of course I had to start and end with the glorious kitchen.

And here's the kitchen again! Of course I had to start and end with the glorious kitchen.

Overall the house was very clean and with the original homeowners selling the home, it meant they took good care of the home. And although the house came with some stellar wallpaper, I was definitely ready for some big changes to happen. 

More updates to come, huzzah!

-M.

Stacks on Stacks

Everyone says more is better, right? Well... not always. When it comes to fireplace mantles, it's sometimes easy to get carried away with the trim. For example, this mantle boasts layers of trim and moulding that goes on for days. 

PHEW. That's a doozy. Recently I've been inspired to share a few tips on fireplace mantles as well as a before/after of a project I worked on a few months ago. So here we go!

Consider the Scale 
Be aware of the size of your room and try to keep the dimensions of your fireplace proportionate. For example, if your room has high ceilings, a small fireplace can easily be swallowed by the amount of empty space above. Consider boosting the confidence of your fireplace with wood casing that soars as far as your ceiling. 

Less is More
Your fireplace can still be a showstopper even if the mantle is simple in design. Notice how this mantle outlines this mosaic surround like a picture frame. If you've found the perfect stone/glass tile surround, using a mantle sans the trim is a great way to go.

Don't be Afraid of Black
People are often hesitant to go bold or even black with their color choices. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of the neutrals. But you only live life once, so why not take a leap and see how black suits you?? Take a few coats of black paint to your standard white fireplace and watch it instantly transform in a dramatic way. 

Before + After
Here's a fireplace project that I worked on a few months ago. As you can see in the before picture, the mantle and the fireplace surround were sadly separated at birth. But have no fear, the two were joyfully reunited! I designed the fireplace to have the mantle set about one foot lower to allow room for a TV above and paired it with a tranquil glass mosaic. 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more!

- M.