Kitchen Remodel 2: Choosing Paint

Choosing paint colors is very hard for me. I have spent months trying to choose paint colors for this house and I’m just overwhelmed with too many choices and fear of making the wrong choice, so choosing a color for the kitchen was nearly impossible. I finally went through all of the kitchen images I had pinned on Pinterest and noticed a trend — my favorite rooms had neutral walls. That was a surprise to me because after years in rentals where I wasn’t supposed to paint, whenever I could paint, I put color on the walls. However, I decided to go with what my subconscious already seemed to know and looked for a neutral color.

I finally decided to try Valspar’s Oatlands Subtle Taupe. It goes with the current gray trend, but has warm tones to it that I really liked. I also picked up a quart of Smoked Oyster which was the adjacent color on the card in case I decided to go darker.

The result! I love it. It brightened up the room so much. The existing bluish green color was pretty, but it seemed to soak up the light in the room. The neutral gray seemed to make the room glow. What a difference!


The original color was pretty, but made the room feel dark.


The new light gray color is soothing and brightens up the room despite this rather poor picture.

So far, I’m really happy with the new wall color. It’s very soothing while still feeling bright and warm.

How do you feel about wall color? Do you tend to go with a neutral color and add brighter colors in other ways, or do you infuse colors with bright wall paint?

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Taking a break

March and April flew by with most of our time spent on the kitchen remodel, Saturday swimming lessons, and a winter that just won’t end. However, it’s important to slow down and just enjoy spending time together. On a rare warm evening at the end of March, we met up with a botanist friend for a stroll in Greenwood Park to admire the first spring flowers, hear the frogs sing, and just relax.

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The pictures say it all. A nice evening, learning names of flowers and enjoying a leisurely stroll through a beautiful park with my family. The kitchen can wait another day.

An evening like this means even more when a week later, we get an unexpected May snowstorm. Hopefully spring will really come to stay so more of our evenings can be like this in the future.

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Kitchen Remodel: Getting Started

I’m way behind on blogging because all of our spare time has been spent working on our kitchen.  The kitchen has been an issue with our house from the beginning. It’s small and has a very awkward layout due to an over-sized 1/2 bathroom taking up a quarter of the space. It wasn’t any worse than kitchens in other houses we looked at though, so the new paint and updated counters and flooring added by the previous owners made it seem appealing. However, we quickly realized it just wasn’t very functional for a family — especially a family that likes to cook together. We were constantly stepping on one another.

We’ve discussed lots of options from an extreme design that moved the bathroom and gutted the whole space to simply rearranging some cabinets.  For months I played around with layouts using the computer and even graph paper with paper cutouts of our appliances. After talking with a couple of contractors, we found we were looking at a $30-50,000 price tag even with less extreme options. So, we decided to leave all the walls intact and tackle the work on our own.

The trigger to our DIY approach was back in early March when we decided to see what was behind the plywood panel above the sink. Nervous about what disaster we would find behind it, my husband pried it off and we found — cabinets! An additional 2 feet of cabinets with nothing wrong other than dust and peeling paint.  They are high, but we can always use a little  more storage even if it requires a step stool to access it.


These upper cabinets were hidden behind a a sheet of plywood. They aren’t terribly accessible, but I won’t complain about having extra storage.

Feeling a little braver, we removed the floor-to-ceiling mystery box by the chimney. We knew there would be ductwork running up to the bathroom vent, but it truly was a mess. Cracked plaster and shoddy construction around it to box it in. After pulling out the plaster and tiles on that wall, and clearing the rubble we converted the old ductwork into flexible tubing that fits between the wall studs. We’ll gain an additional foot of counter and cabinet space, and will expose another side of the chimney.


Once we move this ductwork behind the wall, we’ll gain some extra space.

Meanwhile, I focused on cleaning and painting.  After lots of scrubbing and three coats of white paint, I’m starting to get a glimpse of what our kitchen could become. For now we’re going to leave the doors off to try open cabinets, but we can always add doors later if we change our minds.


Before (left cabinets) and after (right cabinets). I’m in love with the white cabinets already.

So that’s how we started our kitchen remodel. We certainly didn’t expect to jump right into demolition, but I’m really glad we finally quit talking about remodeling the kitchen and just got started.  We’ll work through it one project at a time and will hopefully have a more functional and attractive kitchen in the not too distant future.

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Framing the mantle mirror

The mirror above our fireplace is enormous. The previous owners had made a frame for it by hooking together some 2x4s, and the poor craftsmanship was driving my husband crazy.  Meanwhile I was bothered by how thin it looked around the huge mirror.


The original frame was just built out of 2x4s and was dwarfed by the huge mirror.

Replacing the frame wasn’t a high priority project, so I just kept it in the back of my mind until we came up with an idea. Then as we were shopping for another project, I saw a mirror that had a frame made of scraps of reclaimed wood in varying colors. It was about half the size of our mirror, but I liked the look. My husband thought I was crazy, but he helped me pick out some lumber anyway. We decided to build a base out of 1×8 boards and attach some cheap laths for the strips of wood.

While my husband put together the base, I started playing around with paint and stain that were already sitting in the basement.


Luckily we had space in the basement to leave this low-priority project while it was in process because it took a couple of months to get it all completed.

Next, I arranged all the painted/stained laths in a somewhat random pattern and my husband trimmed them to the right lengths.  Then we secured each lath to the base with a nail gun.  Finally, we trimmed the edges with a single lath as a finishing touch.


It’s not a dramatic difference, but the room feels cozier and the frame is much more proportional to the size of the mirror.

I love it! The room feels cozier and I love the mix of colors.  My husband even admitted that my crazy idea worked.  I used four colors – green (which is already used in the room), gray (as a neutral), walnut stain (leftover from my growth chart project), and a lighter stain (I think it was left from the previous owners’ re-staining the floors and staircase, so it ties in with other room elements).


The next project in this room might be to paint the brick on the fireplace. I think the mantle looks a little top-heavy right now because the frame is dark and the fireplace is white. I don’t know what color to use though. Any suggestions?

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Southern Iowa Sites

Now that our families are only 5+ hours away in central Missouri, we’ve made several trips south since moving to Iowa.  It’s still a long drive, but we get to go through some really beautiful country.

In the area around south of Des Moines, there are lots of corn fields and well-maintained family farms.  Some of the farms and old houses have become familiar and we notice little changes as we pass.


This gorgeous house near Pella is one of my favorites.

One of our favorite parts of the Iowa portion of the drive is to go through the Amish settlement near Bloomfield.  As we get near, the boys go on buggy watch and get excited every time we see a buggy driving on the shoulder.  We also see signs of Amish life in the houses and businesses along the road as we see buggies parked in driveways, dark horses grazing in the pastures, and identical laundry neatly hung along porches to dry.


We all watch for buggies as we drive through Southern Iowa.

I love the beauty of Southern Iowa and am just as excited as the kids when a buggy appears.  Finding these familiar sites along our route makes the trip feel comfortable and our curiosity about the Amish helps add to our excitement as we head “home” to Missouri.


I notice this structure every time we drive through, but I have no idea what it’s for.

Do you have a regular road trip?  What are your favorite sites along the way?

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Biking in Des Moines

Des Moines has many biking trails throughout the metro area that are paved, relatively flat, and family-friendly, so for my birthday last year, my husband bought me a new bike and a trailer for the kids.  Nothing too fancy, but comfortable and reliable equipment to use on family rides.

I love riding a bike, but I’m a complete chicken when it comes to riding with traffic (I grew up along a highway that didn’t have shoulders, so we were never allowed to ride on the road).  Finally, after a few short trips around the neighborhood, we spent a lovely afternoon last fall trying out one of the trails.

We started at Greenwood Park, rode through Waterworks Park, had a picnic at Gray’s Lake, then pedaled a little further on to the Iowa Cubs stadium before heading home.  The boys did great riding in the trailer and we can’t wait to explore more bike trails this spring.

I could talk about our great bike adventure, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.


Stopping for a picnic at Gray’s Lake


Riding towards downtown Des Moines along the river


The bike and pedestrian bridge across the river.


The boys did great in the trailer, but we made sure to stop frequently so they could stretch their legs.


Heading home

There’s nothing quite like getting around on the bike trails.  We saw parts of the city we didn’t know existed.  How comfortable are you riding a bike?  Where do you like to ride?

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Nightstand Refresh

Inspired by the YoungHouseLove Macklemore Challenge, I decided to join in on the challenge and visit a local thrift store to find my entry in the challenge.  The challenge had three parts – take a picture of yourself holding $20 in front of the thrift store, spend up to $20 on something awesome in the store, take a picture of yourself with something from the song that you found in the store.  As is normal in my world, I managed to complete only one part of the challenge due to a preschooler meltdown in the store, but I managed to buy something, so I felt like I was still in the game.

My purchase was a rough little nightstand for a grand total of $7.49.  It didn’t look great, but it had no structural problems and the drawer actually worked.


When I got it home, I wiped it down with a homemade vinegar and baking soda solution and let it dry.


Then Henry and I took advantage of George’s nap to sand it and give it a coat with some gray paint leftover from another project.  The next day I came back and taped some stripes (using Frog Tape) and gave the top and drawer front some stripes.


It turned out really cute and found a home in George’s new big boy room (coming soon), so I was very happy with my result in the Macklemore Challenge.

Have you had any success making over a thrift store purchase? What inspires you?

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