Checking in on the Hallway

I had visions of being completely done with the hallway by now!  Unfortunately life and a pissy thyroid ate up a lot the time I had planned for this so I’ve very much not done yet. I thought I’d share my progress anyway though.

If you need a refresher on what I started with, check out this post.

The Staircase

One of the first projects I had planned was replacing all the busted newel caps on our staircase.  I had a good start on it but petered out.  So right now I have replaced…. one.  Yes. One.  But that one looks good!


The chunky post at the base of the stairs in all original, but the second post has a brand-spankin-new newel cap.  Is a it a perfect match?  No.  But is pretty darn good?  I think so!


Even in old houses I think it makes sense to weigh every investment.  Is it 100% historically accurate?  No.  Is the cost of a 100% historically accurate reproduction worth it for this particular house?  Sorry, but no.  It’s a pretty basic, standard old house for St Paul (heck, there’s even a near-perfect doppelganger house a couple blocks away!).  It’s sort of like trying to make an average 1950’s ranch a high-end MCM masterpiece. We’re also not restoring this house, we’re renovating it.  We’re just renovating it while still trying to be mindful of it’s origins.


Anyways… one newel cap down, 5 more to go!

The Doors

Oh the doors!  I had such high hopes that they would have been done weeks ago!  Unfortunately barely being able to get off the couch for nearly a month set me back a bit.  We’re 1/2 way there though!


I posted about my love of black doors a while back, but Matt was adamantly against it.  He also didn’t want to paint them white (so picky!) so we compromised with a darkdark stain.  It’s a shit-ton of work, but I think it looks pretty fab.  Please ignore the orange-y railing, I’m working on it.  Slowly.


I also ordered glass knobs to replace the black ceramic ones.  Yeah, the ceramic ones were probably original, but they just disappeared into the dark stain (the brass back-plates are more noticeable in real life, but I’m still thinking of cleaning them up a bit).  Half the upstairs door knobs were already glass anyway and I wanted continuity.  I ordered these beauties from House of Antique Hardware.  It might be my new favorite place on the internet.  I could make a shopping list a mile long from this place if I had the budget for it, but alas. I still may get the dust corners at some point because they’re super cute and cat fur clogging up the stairs is a legit problem in this household.

The Cat Tree

Why is pet furniture so often really ugly?  I mean, where are the homes where the standard fleshy-beige cat upholstery fits in?  My best guess is that it’s designed to hide most fur colors.  These are the sorts of things I tell myself to make sense of this crazy world.*

Regardless of the reason, the fleshy-beige had to go! The scratching posts sections had also gotten pretty beat up over the few years we’ve  had it.  It’s seen a lot of love from the cats and needed  a makeover.


I dissembled the whole thing, wrapped the flat pieces with a faux sherpa fabric, and wrapped the polls top-to-bottom with jute.  I did a bit of reconfiguration of the pieces too to make it visually lighter and provides the cats with a taller section they so they stretch out and scratch. They usually only hang out on the top section anyway, so it really didn’t need the extra bulk. I still am not sure what to do about the top basket yet (helloooo weird blank space and lonely screw), but I’m working on it.

Still Working on:
  • Newel caps
  • Staining the railing
  • Refinishing the doors
  • Planning a gallery wall
  • Lighting
  • Building a new cabinet for the entryway


So that’s the current State of House address.  I’m planning on doing a check-in with the kitchen too to let you know how my temporary fixes are holding up. I just need to clean it first…


*At least I’m not alone in my “Why does pet furniture have to be ugly” thoughts.  There is a shop in St Paul called–I shit you not–Custom Cat Purrinture.   Yes, Purr-niture.  Believe it or not Matt and I haven’t checked it out yet.







Dreaming of Black Doors

This past weekend we vacationed it up lakeside in honor of the 4th.  Tons of fun, but no housework got tackled.  Totally worth it though.


We are almost ready to tackle the painting the upstairs hallway and this area is packed with doors. The trim is for sure going to be white, but I’ve seen a number of examples where people paired white trim with black doors and I have to say I’m totally diggin’ it.

Via Manhattan Nest


Hallway Before and After Mockup
Via Making it Lovely

What I love about both these examples is that they’re used in homes that are similar in age and style to mine.  I think the brass hardware looks especially amazing on them.

I think the trick is to not use a straight-off-the-shelf pure black; you need something with a little bit of depth to it.  I also think a very dark stain (like an espresso, ebony, or java) could look pretty awesome too since you’d still see a little wood grain.  Plus, since this will probably end up being more trendy that classic, doors are pretty simple to repaint if you feel the need to bring them back to white.

I don’t think Matt’s going to go for it*, but what do you think?  Black doors: yay or nay?


*In fact he just told me he doesn’t like it.  Party-pooper.




Revamping the Vestibule

Our house has this goofy air-lock style entryway. The porch seems to be an addition so the double entry would have provided some extra insulation back in the day.  Lacking a better term, I’ll be referring to this mini space as “the vestibule.”

I don’t actually have any good before pictures because I honestly didn’t give the space much thought before we started working on it.  You can see a bit of it from this picture of the entryway.


The storage consisted of a single, junky closet rod.  While we do need a place to store coats, we could do a little better in the style department.

We ripped out the rod and the 2 boards that were poorly attached to the wall.  There was some wall damage underneath the boards, but that was fixed with a few layers of joint compound and some sanding.  Then we installed new boards (1x6s) so the closet rod would have better place to anchor than plaster.  We used 3 boards set in a U shape, rather than just 2 on the sides because we wanted a shelf above the rod for extra storage.


Looking good, huh?  The boards are the same color as the trim (BM Simply White) and the wall color in the same as the rest of the entryway (BM Paper White).  The screws still need to be camouflaged, and the rod is getting a coat of paint this very minute so it looks less like a pipe.*


The only other notable feature in the vestibule was the light switch for the porch light.  It was sort of gross looking and the cover plate had been painted over like a billion times.  Easy fix though, right?


This is what I found when I removed the cover plate.  What. The. Fuck.  Apparently they wedged the switch into a mass of spray-foam insulation. There weren’t even any screws holding this thing in place. Why?  I have no freakin clue.

After cutting the power, I pried out the switch and the surrounding insulation.  Thankfully it wasn’t that difficult, I just scraped it out with a flat-head screwdriver.  I probably should have used a non-conductive tool but I wasn’t terribly concerned with the power off (plus I’d already be using a screwdriver while replacing the switch anyway).  Then it was just matter of attaching a new, non-grody switch.


Not to shabby, huh?  A little touch-up paint is needed, but it’s still a huge improvement.  I also added some insulation that was actually designed for light switches/outlets.  Crazy idea huh?  You can find foam plates that are cut to fit around the switch and inside a cover plate. Easy-peasy and not a bad idea for exterior walls…. especially in older homes.


*Which is what it is–piping in the same diameter was cheaper than the wooden closet rods… go figure.  We had this left over from when we added a closet rod to my closet, so you get more length too.



Don’t Neglect Your Neutrals

When we bought our house every room was “builder beige” (expect for the Brown Bathroom of Despair which was straight-up brown). You know, that warm, slightly off-white that’s like the go-to color when you want to remove all personality from a space?

Ok… that’s a bit harsh, but that’s often what realtors try to do when they’re selling homes–remove the existing personality so the future owners can better imagine themselves in the space.  I get it… I think it’s unnecessary (although I’m a good visualizer so I may be biased), but I get it.

What I don’t get is living with a neutral color that isn’t working for you just because it’s “neutral.”

There are a million different flavors of “neutral.”  You’ve got white, beige, gray, cream, and then assorted shades of each.  Is it a warm or cool grey?  Is it a yellow or pinky cream?  The changes are subtle, but they can make a big difference.

Which is why the “builder beige” had to go in our house.

If you look at the rooms we’ve redone so far you can see there’s a decided cool (blue-green-purple) theme happening.  A yellowy cream isn’t going to cut it.  My personal favorite neutral is Benjamin Moore’s Paper White.  It’s a slightly cool, pale gray–bright enough for low-light spaces (like hallways) but has enough contrast to make white trim stand out nicely.  I knew we would be using a bunch of it in our house so I stocked up last year when Home Depot had their 4th of July paint sale ($15/gallon for Behr!!!!! and they can easily tint to BM colors).





Before our hallway was decidedly yellowy… it actually looked kind of dirty compared to rich blue-gray in the neighboring dining room.  The after picture may be pretty subtle, but there’s a much more natural flow between the two rooms now.

If there are spaces in your house that are “builder beige” and you’re totally fine with it, go you!  Just don’t talk yourself out of painting over one neutral wall color with another neutral wall color because you don’t think it will change anything.

Think about what your primary decorating color choices are.  Red/Orange/Yellow are your Warm colors and Green/Blue/Purple (and usually Pink) are your Cool colors.  If you’re using mostly cool colors chances are a yellowy (warm) beige may look a little out of place.  If you’ve got a primarily warm palette happening than my choice of Paper White (cool) may not be for you.  I also personally think earthier colors look better with creamy (warmer) neutrals, even if green is technically cool…. it all depends on the big picture.

Warm White:

Via Houzz

Cool White:

Via Houzz


The Behr swatch section in Home Depot has very nicely labeled their whites by red toned white, yellow toned white, blue toned white, etc.  If you’re somewhere that doesn’t have it spelled out (or you’re veering away from white), snapping a quick picture can make the undertones of a color really pop, especially if you get multiple swatches in the same shot, then you can directly compare them.  And, of course, tape up the swatches you’re thinking of in the room so you can seem them in their correct lighting environment (and take another picture as the lighting changes).   Picking up a couple sample pots once you have it narrowed down can be a huge help too.

Destroying Historical Fabric One Room at a Time

A while back Matt was reading an article on restoring old homes and it mentioned that you shouldn’t insulate because it would “destroy the historical fabric.”  It’s one of the reasons the Historical Preservation Society is often referred to as the Hysterical Preservation Society and has been a running joke with me and Matt ever sense.

Don’t get me wrong, the HPS is important, and recognizing historically significant homes is important. Here’s the thing though, not every old home is historically significant.  Our house is an American Foursquare… sort of the cookie-cutter house the early 1900s.  Is it pretty awesome compared to more recent architectural styles?  Hells yes!  It this specific house historically significant? Our neighborhood is filled with the same style houses, are they all historically significant?  No and no.

When I shared my dining room reveal on Apartment Therapy a while back, a handful of people decided to ream me out for painting the trim.  They claim I had “destroyed” the house and the final design was a “travesty” and merely “trendy” (*gasp*).  What do I have to say to that?  BAH!

Your home is a reflection of YOU.  Unless you own a house that’s on the historical register you can do whatever you damn well please (and people often do*).  I have been trying to keep the bones of the house pretty traditional, but have some fun with the fixtures and furnishings which suits my more eclectic nature.  I also don’t feel like white trim is trendy and I’ve seen it in tons of similarly aged homes including million dollar properties and historically recognized homes (ok, only certain rooms in this one–but important, public rooms).  It also lets me brighten our home and cost-effectively replace damaged trim pieces.

Which is why we’re continuing to paint the trim.

Yup.  The critics haven’t dissuaded me and we’re continuing the paint into our entry way/stairwell/hallway.

We also picked an awesome weekend to start painting.  Saturday was in the upper 90’s and Sunday was (only!) in the 80s. Keep in mind we do not have central air.  Yeah, it was boiling.


We got the first section primed on Saturday by working in the morning and then late at night when the temps were a little cooler.  We were still dripping buckets of sweat.  Lovely.


Notice our lack of a door?  It’s currently hanging out  (haha!) between our living room and TV room.  It’s not the locking door so I insisted we take it off so I could better paint the trim.  Matt rolled his eyes and said I was crazy, but humored me anyway because that’s what makes our marriage work.


Big difference right?  This is just the primer, but it’s already made a huge difference on the stairs–that smaller landing was nearly invisible on the way down (leading to many missteps and trips), now you see the changes outlined against the white and it is SO much easier to see!

We continued to power through on Sunday so everything has its first coat of paint now too.  It’s been super cloudy and rainy all week so I don’t have any good pictures of that, but it won’t be impressive until the final coat of paint anyway.


* Sure people make crappy decisions all the time but the worse case scenario is that future homeowners will roll their eyes, mutter WTF? and change it all.  Big whoop. The less rehab inclined may just not buy the house in the first place, so it’s good to at least keep resale value in the back of your mind, just don’t let it paralyze your own dreams.


Stairs + Hallway: Concept

The weather’s been pretty nice so we’ve been focusing a little more on the yard, but our entry/stairs/hallway is still very much on the to-do list.  It’s not getting a huge makeover* but it’s going to get a paint-pick-me-up and styling to make it blend with my look for the rest of the house.


For the walls I’m going to stick with my go-to neutral of Benjamin Moore Paper white.  It’s a nice, fresh, ever-so-slightly-cool gray that should help brighten things up.  The trim is going to be Benjamin More Simply White (like all my other trim).  This should also really help brighten things up since our stairs are a tad dark at the moment.

I’m a little torn on what to do with the stairs… the caps on the newel posts need to be replaced (half of them are missing trim), and we need 2 spindles replaces (one’s missing and one’s broken) but I don’t want to paint the whole railing.  I like the idea of a two-tone railing because I feel like it will keep a lot of the wood but blend into the white trim everywhere else, I’m just a little afraid it’s more of a trendy look.

The plan for now is to paint everything else and leave the railing for the very last.  Paint on the other surfaces can make a huge different in how a single element stands out.  The railing will for sure being getting some refinishing work either way because not only will I have to try and color-match any new pieces, it’s kind of worn in spots and could use a little pick me up.

Because the stairwell has a nice big, open wall, it’s will be getting some art work for sure.  We have a handful of pieces that I’m not sure will work in other rooms, but the stairwell should be a nice blank canvas for them.


*At least by my standards

Before: Hall and Stairs

Oh hallways, another oft neglected part of the home.  Right up there with ceilings really.  While I’m a fan of neutral hallways I do think neutral still deserves thought and consideration to flow well with the rest of the house and our current hallway is just a little too builder-beige for me at the moment.


We have these AMAZING stairs that I really want to pop, but for now they just recede into shadow.


We also have quite a bit of open wall space, probably more here than any other “public” room.  The landing makes a great home for our cat tree (and the kitties love being able to lord over our back yard) but it’s not the most attractive feature (and I’ll be honest that I don’t actually have a good solution for this yet). Also, when this house was built why in god’s name didn’t they center that window???


The railings were lovely at one point but appear to have taken a LOT of abuse over the years.  Most of the newel posts are missing the trim around the cap, we have one spindle that’s completely missing and another that’s held together to electrical tape.  I think we may have to get the spindles custom made, but I think I can tackle the newel caps myself.


Friday Favs: Book Nooks

Ok… so it’s really more Saturday Favs today but we had family in town last night so I was little distracted. It won’t happen again.*


It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a bibliophile… in fact I may even be a bit of a book hoarder. You’d think e-books would have made it easier, but I while I use my Kindle app occasionally (mostly when I travel) I still love books.  The feel, the smell, the joy of being in a book store… it’s all wonderful!  This is followed by a pressing need to store my hoard of books.

Via Little Green Notebook

Floor to ceiling bookshelves and a library ladder?  Be still my heart!


Via Domino

It’s pretty well accepted that technology in the bedroom can be disruptive to your sleep, but surrounding yourself with books?  That seems pretty dreamy to me.


Via Habitually Chic

If a slightly moodier library feel is more your vibe (and you’re not blessed with super tall ceilings) you can frame out your wall ‘o books in a deep color.


Via Desire to Inspire

Or you could opt for a brighter color for a funkier vibe.  I’m kind of in love with that daybed too.


Image Credit: Unknown**

I’ve always been a sucker for attic spaces, but I think this wall of books is especially spectacular.


Via Real Simple

Got a goofy little alcove?  You could turn it into your own personal mini-library.


*Actually, I’m pretty sure it will.

**I found this image on Pinterest, but it only seems to link back to Tumblr pages and other round up style posts so I have no idea what the original source is.  If you do, please let me know and I’ll update accordingly.



Dining Room Sources

Wheeee the Dining Room is done!!!!  Thanks to everyone for their wonderful comments!  It gives me lots of warm fuzzies.

Now that I showed off the pretty, here’s the down-low on everything we used and a rough budget.



Walls: Behr Poppy Seed (eggshell) $30

Trim: Benjamin Moore Simply White (Advance, satin) Existing


1×6 Select Pine (8ft) $10 x6

Shoe Molding (8ft) $3 x6

Base Cap (8ft) $8 x6

Chair Rail (8ft) $13.50 x6

Cove Molding (8ft) $7 x6



Table: Existing

Bench: Pier 1 Mason Bench Existing

Eames Chairs: Amazon Existing

Buffets: IKEA BRUSALI $79 x2


Ceiling Tiles: Amazon $284

Rug: Rugs USA $200*

Light: Amazon $120

Floating Shelves:  Home Depot $13 x4

Curtains: IKEA VIVAN Existing



Fruit/Foliage Prints: IKEA $10

Weird Fruit: Ursula Vernon Existing

Queen Victoria: Gift

(white) Frames: IKEA RIBBA $10 x2

Total: $1,095…

…plus assorted miscellaneous things like stain and hardware and things that we didn’t fully track (like small accessories, if you’re wondering where we got something, just ask).  In realty it’s the final damage was probably closer to $1200, which I think is pretty damn good considering we replaced all the baseboards and ceiling, and also got a giant rug.



*Pssst you can also find it at Overstock and Wayfair… I just found the best deal through Rugs USA

Dining Room Reveal

I wasn’t prolonging the suspense on purpose, I swear!  I was all on track to have this finished up last Sunday, but I work up feeling crappy (sore throat, muscle aches, no energy At All) so I managed to get 2 things (out of 7) hung in the dining room and then just sort of passed out.  Ugh. By Tuesday I hauled myself off to the doctor and got a positive Strep Throat test (wheee) and wasn’t back to 100% until the end of the week…it was rough.

But FINALLY I have the full reveal for you!

First let’s step back and look at what the dining room looked like when we bought the house.

a020-7There are worse rooms out there for sure, but this one was seriously lacking in style.  The light fixture was kind of dated, the ceiling was pretty awful (and saggy in spots–thankfully this was only from the tiles pulling free of their staples, and not actually structural), and the bookcases served no useful purpose whatsoever in here.

DR_before2In fact, the bookcases just sort of turned into catch-alls once we moved in.


So we ripped out the bookcases, repaired the wall behind one and the floors under both, replaced the baseboards, painted everything, ripped out the old ceiling, added a tin ceiling, extended the crown molding, and added a new light fixtures.

Oof, that made me tired just typing all of it… but the end result is so completely worth it!

DR_after1I LOVE how dramatic this turned out!  We don’t have separate formal and casual dining spaces so this is it.  I didn’t want to take it too formal since we’re not terribly formal people, but I still wanted the room to make a statement and I think I succeeded.

DR_after3Pssst… don’t tell anyone, but those table runners totally aren’t hemmed yet.  I only recently scored some blue-gray linen at Hancock Fabrics for like 70% off so they’re only cut down to size at the moment.


The ceiling and rug make me kind of stupid-happy.  Matt was deeply suspicious of my desire for a hot pink rug, but after he saw it in person he admitted it really pulled the room together.


We also found a spot for my Weird Fruit prints by Ursula Vernon.


And my Queen Victoria made of garbage postcard that a friend sent me.

DR_after8This sideboard is pretty much our dishwashing station since we have very limited counter space in the kitchen.  It’s ok, but I hope to upgrade it at some point.  I hope to upgrade the IKEA buffets on the other side of the room too, but sometimes you just have to accept some temporary solutions while you’re on the hunt for perfection. Plus, nothing ever is really done when you’re a creative–there will always be something you decide to tweak at some point.  It’s done enough though (actually looking a like a finished room!) and we can finally have people over again!