Adventure in HVAC

I actually miss our radiators…

Matt’s been complaining that the fireplace room is cold. It’s still sort of our “formal storage room” at the moment so I’m not in there that much, but yeah it’s colder than the rest of the house. This is partly because of the sliding glass doors, partly because of the fireplace, partly because that part of the house sits on a slab….

…. and partly because our HVAC system is apparently seriously jacked up.

We already knew it was a little weird. They must have added the rooms above the garage after the original construction and that addition has a separate furnace that lives in our garage. The fireplace room appears to be some sort of remodel as well because apparently the duct work to some of the registers is randomly disconnected (and basically inaccessible) and there’s no air return in that room.

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Via giphy

We had an HVAC guy come out to look at additional heating options for that room–whether it be baseboard heat or routing the second furnace to this room somehow. While investigating the current setup he also discovered that a safety feature on our main furnace has been bypassed. Ultimately he suggested a mini-split system so we had another person come out to do a quote for that.

Our current plan is to see how things go. The temperature in that room isn’t bad enough that it’s a serious problem, it’s just noticeably colder than the other rooms….but it’s also the room we use the least. I am planing on moving my home office space into the corner there which could change how I feel about things. At least I don’t work from home full time so we may even try a space heater if a heat boost is necessary before looking into a mini split.

Moral of this story: don’t just randomly disconnect your duct work because it’s in the way of your remodel.

Baby Girl Nursery Plans

Because who doesn’t wait until their child is already year old before planning the nursery?

Elsie slept in our room when she was an infant…then we decided to wait until she was sleeping reliably through the night before having the kids share a room…then we were moving…then we had some construction work to do on her bedroom here. Basically that all just sort of spiraled out of control, but now she has her own bedroom at last! Matt and I are psyched, Wesley doesn’t really care, and Elsie is just unhappy whenever she’s not co-sleeping.

Did I go full on girly with nursery design? YOU BET I DID! I happen to like pink, especially a nice blush pink, so I embraced it. Matt’s big on themes for baby rooms, so we’ll go ahead and call this “Enchanted Garden.” It’s got florals, that’s garden-y.

I started with a print from Society 6. It’s got a girly vibe and pinks, but it has some bolder colors too so it’s not too precious if you know what I mean.

We’ve been using the same crib Wesley used and I already had the vintage dresser (that I snagged off the side of road a couple years ago). The dresser has been waiting for the right spot and it looks like this is it. It still needs a coat of paint and I’m still debating if I want to go with a lighter aqua, or a darker teal. Because this is a pretty large room we still have a guest bed in here as well so I need to sort out the linen situation to make it look a little more intentional.

We currently have the room painted and Elsie is moved in, but the final touches still need to go in. In need to get some black-out shades, finish picking art, and finalize some storage, but we’re on the home stretch!

First Things First: Let’s Build a New Room

A big part of deciding to move was the need for better home office space. Our new house has a finished basement, but Matt is apparently needy and wanted a window and actual natural light if he’s going to be working from home all day. Can you imagine?

In the House Tour I shared before I showed some awkward spaces upstairs that we planned on reworking and that was the first big project we decided to tackle. It’s a little hard to visualize from photos (especially since the hall closet was difficult to photograph, so here’s how the spaces were laid out when we moved in:

Not to scale

We discussed a few different options that included changing around the closet in the bedroom and adding a closet to the new room. These ideas led to complications involving vents and ceiling lights that we didn’t really want to deal with. Ultimately we followed Occam’s Razor theory and went with simplest solution:

Not to scale

To contain the mess a little bit, we started by building the new wall in the existing bedroom. We had to remove a strip of carpet and a strip of ceiling in order to add 2×4’s along the top and bottom. Because this is a pretty small project in the world of drywalling, we didn’t bother renting a drywall lift. Matt still decided to tackle a bunch of this while I was working in the office so he temporarily attached a brace to support the top piece of drywall while he screwed it into place.

Once the drywall was up, we demoed the wall between the closet and alcove.

After that was just patching, patching, and more patching. Walls needed new drywall, the ceiling needed new drywall + popcorn texture, the carpet needed to be filled in*… this was possibly the longest part of the whole process.

Most of the house is painted Sherwin Williams: Repose Gray and they had some left in the basement so we used that for now. Matt’s more or less in charge of this room and the bigger goal was having a functional space vs. and impeccably styled space. Heck, right now he still pretty much only has his desk in there (which fits perfectly in the alcove).

It may not be the most stunning visual makeover, but spatially it has been an awesome improvement to the house!

* My goal is to replace all the carpet sometime this year so we just patched in some leftover carpet from the basement. If a full carpet replacement wasn’t in our plans for the near future we would have come up with a better flooring solution.

New House Tour

Hooo-boy it’s been a while! I suffered some major 2020 Burnout that I’m sure a lot of people can relate to. It’s probably time to share some pics of our new house and give an idea of our plans (because of course there are plans).

We closed on our old house a little before Christmas, which was a little bittersweet. I hope the new owner loves it as much as we did. The way closings are working now is that the sellers and buyers have separate appointments for signing so you don’t get to meet. I left a note for the new owner though that hopefully doesn’t make me sound like a lunatic, but I also left the address to this blog which is pretty much guaranteed to make me look like a lunatic so….

We have been enjoying our new house though. I’ll miss the character of our 100+ year old home, but come summer I know I’ll appreciate the central air and I am already enjoying the quiet neighborhood. Also having a master bathroom so I don’t have to dump all the kids’ toys out of the tub if I want to take a shower.*

Like almost every other house we toured in the general area, it’s a split-level. Split-levels aren’t really my jam, but we (obviously) liked this one more than many of the other we toured. The hardest thing about it is having a very mobile baby who does NOT appreciate being left behind and has no concept of self-preservation.

One nice thing is that there are actually rooms on the first level rather that just a landing. It’d still be nice to have slightly larger “landing pad” area, but I’ll deal.

Past the entry is a 3/4 bath and then a living room. We’re planning on using this as our “formal” (ie adult) living room since it has such a nice view of the pond and a wet bar. I wish there was better wall space for a TV here since the vinyl floor + line of site to the kitchen would be great for a kid space, but currently that’s all on the “2nd” level. It is a great space for a Christmas tree though!

The ship-lap around the fireplace is fairly inoffensive, but still not really my style1 so that will come down at some point. The countertop and cabinets in the bar are pretty dated. I’d like to completely replace the countertop, but hopefully we can just swap out the cabinet doors and/or add some paint to keep it a fairly budget makeover. I may possibly replace the upper cabinets with open shelving, and of course add some funky tile or wallpaper for a little drama. The mantel could also use a modern upgrade and I’m debating if I should white-wash the brick or not.

Half a flight up from the entry/living room is the kitchen, dining room, and family room.

We’ve already brought in a free-standing island and replaced the faucet. Next on our list is getting a quote to run a gas line to see if it’s feasible to switch to gas stove, and refinishing the floor. I want to paint everything too, probably in the same two-tone color scheme I used before.

The dining room is small-ish but perfectly adequate. I want to replace the carpet in here ASAP. Our current plan is to continue the wood from the kitchen and refinish everything to match. The chandelier is also the only light fixture I’m truly itching to replace since it’s just not my thing at all.**

The room that connects to the entry is currently being used as our TV/Playroom. It’s been working out well so far, we just needed to add a baby gate to save Elsie from herself.

Upstairs are the master suite, 2 bedrooms, a full bath, and walk-in closet off the hallway.

I’m pretty happy with the master suite. It’s a good size without being unnecessarily large. Elsie’s rooming with us while we do some work on the last bedroom and there’s plenty of space for her crib. The attached bath has a whirlpool tub/shower combo which Matt and I both prefer to a separate tub/shower. It also has actual counter space which is something I haven’t had since I moved to MN (almost 13 years ago!).

We’re almost done painting in here and should finish up once we move Elsie out. Other than that I just need to reconfigure the closet. It’s a nice size, the layout of the current system just isn’t quite right for our needs. Hopefully I can even reuse a lot of the current pieces.

Immediately next to the master bedroom is Wesley’s room. We asked him if we wanted the other bedroom when it was done but he doesn’t really like change. This room’s a little smaller, but has a bigger closet than the other bedroom, they’re fairly comparable though.

For better or worse he’s old enough to start offering opinions about his room. I asked him what color he wanted and he said “rainbow” so rainbow it is! I can work with that! Thankfully for now the existing colors work decently well in here, but it will be repainted shortly.

The third bedroom is at the end of the hallway.

You may be wondering what kind of work we’d be doing to render this room currently uninhabitable. Well, that random alcove? Yeah, it’s going away and the wall the closet is on will just continue straight. Not a huge remodel, but dusty enough that we’ll be keeping the room unoccupied until the drywall is done.

Don’t worry, we’re not creating a dead space just for the sake of a square room. Behind the closet in that bedroom is a walk-in closet off of the hallway. Our plan is to build a new wall in the bedroom and demo the wall between the hall closet and alcove which will leave us with us a with a small office space that has a window. Office space was a big part of us deciding to move so we tackled this right away and it’s almost done!

One of the nice things about a split-level house is that the basements are almost always finished. This basement has two finished rooms, plus an unfinished laundry/utility space. The first room down the stairs is currently serving as Matt’s office but once we build a new office space it will turn into playroom/craft room.

There’s another almost identical room to the left that we’ll just be using as a storage room. Hopefully because it’s a “nice” room we won’t let tons of extra crap take over like it did in our old basement.

One of the big selling points of this house was the yard. Since we are terrible suburbanites*** we actually love that the yard isn’t that big. The pond in back is also delightfully peaceful and the only excessive honking we’ve had to deal with is geese. We’ve even managed to sneak in a bonfire/marshmallow roast during a warm spell before winter.

So that’s the quick overview. I’ve already been working on some mood boards so I’ll be sharing more in depth plans shortly.

*The kids’ bathtub was missing a stopper so I did actually have to deal with this for a little while longer.

**Thankfully the majority of the light fixtures are fine, but in a perfect world will get replaced eventually.

***Although we did just break down and replace one of our sub-compacts with an SUV, mostly in the hopes of being able to take trips with the kids again, but DANG do I love having all wheel drive for MN winters

Big Changes in 2020

Because a new baby, COVID, potty training toddler, and local riots just weren’t enough it looks like we’re adding a move to mix.

We hadn’t originally intended on moving for several more years at least.  I LOVE this house and being in the city but the events so far this year have changed things. First up is, of course, COVID.  Not only has it changed the space requirements for our house (we really need office space for two) it’s also cut off a lot of what we love about the neighborhood.  Some of our favorite local shops have closed or are about to go under. Some of favorite restaurants have reduced their hours and options making them no longer feasible for us. Do you want to force a 3yo into a mask to go out to eat? Hell, *I* don’t want to put on mask to go out to eat.*

Then we had riots.  In our neighborhood.  I got a call from our daycare telling us we needed to pick up the kids because the main part of the St Paul riots were happening was literally across the street.** Our daycare stayed closed for a couple days and we heard a pretty constant stream of sirens and helicopters all weekend. On top of general stress that caused, the businesses that were still chugging along through COVID got hit with another round of destruction.

While it’s possible some of these businesses will rebound, it’s more likely that it will take a significant amount of time.  Minneapolis is also making some questionable decisions and St Paul is usually not far behind so we decided to get out while the gettin’s good.  The current low interest rates and crazy market make it actually a pretty good time…although the market has made finding a new home rather difficult. There is an insane amount of competition right now, but we did eventually find a house that checks almost all our boxes. We even scored some water-front property.***

Via Google Maps

So that’s it… we’re going suburban. I truly hope St Paul doesn’t go the way we think it’s heading, but we’re not willing to gamble on it. So far we’ve made it through the inspection and appraisal so barring any crazy catastrophes we’ll be closing mid October.  I’m really sad to be leaving this house.  And I’m sad I never got to finish it.  The prospect of a new project is exciting though. This house would probably be considered “move in ready” by most people, but since Matt and I are not “most people” we have several plans already.

 

*And before people get all up in arms, this doesn’t mean I’m actively protesting masks in public.  I don’t enjoy wearing them therefore I try and avoid situations where I am required to but suck it up if I must.

**Thankfully the “street” is an expressway, but it was still way too close for comfort.

**The water may be a drainage pond, but it’s a decently picturesque drainage pond.

Quarantine Building Hacks

Do you know how hard it is to juggle two kids, a full time job, and house projects? We’re still getting things done around here, just… slowly.

One of the projects we were DIYing for the kitchen was a built-in bench for the mudroom.  Minnesota went into lockdown just as I was starting it, but thankfully we had already purchased most of the supplies.

The bench plan is pretty simple. We already had existing shoe racks that we decided to reuse, especially since they fit the space almost perfectly. To encase the shoe racks I just had to add a top, support legs, and some finishing details..

The top was built out of 2 1×8’s joined with pocket holes, giving us a depth of about 15″.  I used 2x4s for the support legs and connected them to the top with pocket holes as well. Why pocket holes? They allow for the strength of screws without any fasteners being seen.  I officially love my Kreg jig!

Our shoe racks fit perfectly between the legs and once some trim is added it will look like a perfect built in while still utilizing some existing pieces.

The top, however, is deeper than the shoe racks since people’s butts are usually bigger than their feet.  I don’t want the shoe racks to get pushed back so I needed a spacer between them and the wall.  Enter the 2×4….which I don’t have and which probably isn’t considered an essential item at this point in time.

I did have a small scrap of 2×4 though, just not enough for my ideal solution but needs must when the devil drives… so I sliced it into thin bits and glued it to the back the shoe racks.

Elegant? No, but it should do the job at least and allow me to get on with this project.

With the structure in place and everything lined up it still needed some finishing work.  We cut and painted some scrap MDF to hide the 2×4 legs on the inside then ripped down a 1×4 to hide the supports on the outside.  These pieces just got brad nailed into place.

While I was working on the bench I was waiting for my wallpaper to arrive.  Oh yeah, that’s right, MORE wallpaper. People still think I’m completely nuts, but that’s ok!* Matt even helped me hang it on his birthday while the kids were sleeping since it goes much more easily with two people.

I think it look fabulous! We don’t have much wall space for art in the kitchen so it also adds a much needed pop of interest. Once I’m free to go to the hardware store again I still have a few more details to add. I want to paint the inside of the back door a brighter blue and add a little more trim to bench to camouflage the fact that the walls are not at all square.  This room was even more modern addition and it’s STILL not remotely square.  Or level.

 

**Because, let’s be honest, I AM completely nuts

Mood Board Monday: Big Boy Shared Room

With Wesley graduating out of his toddler bed and Elsie about to need the crib I’ve been brainstorming shared room ideas. We’re still attached to our study/guest room so the plan is to have the kiddos share as long as possible.

The trickiest thing for me has been the ceiling color.  I don’t want to change it because 1) I really like it and 2) painting ceilings is one giant PITA. This has been problematic because that minty color is apparently a “girl” color. Insert all the eye rolls here.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem except that Welsey is really into more stereo-typically “boy” things (mainly cars, cars, and more cars). Since he starting to show a distinct preference for certain things I want to respect that, but I also want to create a room that looks put together.

After a LOT of searching I stumbled across these really cute (cotton!*) polka dot sheets at Target that work with the ceiling color and give me lots of other colors to work with. I’m going to pair them with a solid navy duvet which will hopefully continue to grow with him. I also plan to let him pick out his own sheet set too to get him exited about changing to a new bed. I may have to give up a little control, but hey, compromise.

Eventually we’ll need to swap out our heirloom chifforobe for a dresser since a dresser has more practical storage for our needs. I’m hoping I’ll be able to re-purpose the chifforobe for a dress up closet later on though. I’m planning on getting a smallish dresser for now since it will be easier to use for an individual room later on and I plan to continue the polka dot theme with some colorful knobs. I may also switch out his current curtains for white with rainbow pom pom trim.

To play to his love of cars, I found this cute bus pillow from IKEA and a cute print from Society 6. Hopefully the bus pillow will stop him from bringing all his toy cars and trucks into bed with him.  I can dream, right? The small car touches should also make him really happy without making the room too boyish…although Elsie’s too little to have opinions on decor just yet.

Now I just have to wait for quarantine to end so I can do some more shopping.  His mattress is currently on the floor (which isn’t a bad idea for a toddler anyway) and Elsie’s crib is in our room since she isn’t sleeping through the night yet and I’d rather not have both kids awake and crabby in the middle of night. I wanted the IKEA Kura reversible bed, but I wasn’t able to order it so I got one of their simple pine frames instead.  Based on my estimated delivery date though I may not get it until the stores are back open anyway.

 

*Am I the only person who really dislikes microfiber?

Sunday Fun Day: Pandemic Edition

Some of ya’ll have never watched a zombie apocalypse movie and it shows. Seriously, what’s the deal with the toilet paper??? Even my baby wipes were back-ordered!

Seriously though, these are stressful times and I don’t know about you but the informational posts I’m getting bombarded with on social media are just too much.  The information is changing constantly and most of these posts don’t have a verifiable source anyway. I just can’t with them anymore.

The one thing I am enjoying on social media? The humour. This whole situation is so incredibly surreal that’s it’s nice to be able to laugh. I know I’m not alone in this either, so here are some of my favorites for you to enjoy:

And Some videos:

Or if you’re not from Wisconsin and brandy’s not your thing:

You may not be able to go out to a bar, so here’s some tunes to pair with your drink.

And just remember: Time has no meaning anymore so it’s OK to day drink.

Kitchen Remodel: Week 8

And then the world imploded….

All hell started breaking loose in Minnesota with COVID-19 last week but thankfully our contractors kept on trucking! None of them seemed terribly phased, but then we also try to stay out of their way and were already pretty much social distancing for the past two months (because new baby + winter).

One of the electricians came back on Monday to finally finish up the kitchen electrical. We have outlets! We have a light fixture!

The light fixture was interesting since it apparently had multiple wiring options but didn’t come with instructions. One of the down-rods also didn’t seem threaded correctly and we discovered a little too late that the fixture was designed for the electrical box to be oriented a very specific way.  Thankfully the electrician was able to come up with solutions for both these issues and still get the fixture up!

Unfortunately he also discovered that a hole had never been cut in the back of the sink base cabinet for the outlet for the dishwasher and when he tried to cut a hole it didn’t go so well.

He was also short one breaker for the electrical box and Menards was out* so only half our kitchen had power by the end of the day.

On Tuesday the plumber came back to hook up our dishwasher and stove. Do you have any idea how happy I am to have a dishwasher again?! The stove, however, was still part of the half of the kitchen that didn’t have power so we had our eleventy-billionth instant pot meal.

Wednesday seem to be the big day around here.  The electrician came back and got ALL the outlets working! They moved our fridge out of our dining room! They patched the hole under the sink! And do you know what that means?

WE’RE DONE!

At least with the big stuff anyway… Matt and I still have a bunch of small(ish) stuff left to do:

  • Finish painting walls and trim
  • Order and hang wallpaper
  • Build bench for the mudroom
  • Install baseboards in the mudroom
  • Organize all the things
  • Add final details and accessories

And then I’ll have even more pictures to add!

 

*Is there no end to the hoarding???