First Project of 2022: Leveling Up the Guest Room!

Almost exactly two years ago, we finished up the first renovation in our home: the guest room. Hosting friends and family is very important to us so we wanted to prioritize having a nice space for them to stay. We certainly did not anticipate that we were about to enter a global pandemic, but even though the room hasn’t gotten quite as much use over the past two years as we expected, we are still glad we decided to focus time and energy on renovating the space.

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I don’t really subscribe to the thought that a room is ever truly “finished” – our home is ever evolving and I even when a renovation is complete, I still enjoy making tweaks and leveling up a space over the years. I shared in the fall that I was wanting to do a little update to the plain white walls in the guest room by creating the look of wallpaper with a stencil; you can read all about the inspiration here and the progress here. In this post I debated between keeping it an accent wall or continuing around the whole room and for my first project of 2022 I’ve officially decided to continue it around the whole room.

I won’t lie, because I’m using so many different colors in the pattern, this is going to be a time consuming process. It’ll certainly take much longer than the laundry room stencil, which was one color and could be rolled on with a foam roller. With my work-from-home job plus my two small children keeping me pretty busy right now, I’m going to just be carving out time here and there to work on this when I can. I’m not going to put a timeline on it either – we don’t have any scheduled guests coming yet in 2022 so there’s no pressure at this point. I’m excited to see the space slowly transform!

There are a few other things I want to tweak and update in this space. For one, the boob light has got to go! This is something I didn’t change out in our original renovation and it’s definitely time for something new (one of my 2021 goals was to replace all the boob lights in the house and this is the last one remaining!) I’m also going to update the bedding (I regret choosing a comforter set with lots of decorative pillows – too impractical for guests!) and possibly add a bench at the foot of the bed. One of my 2022 goals is to update the flooring in this house, which includes the carpet here, although that likely won’t happen until later in the year.

I’ll be sharing some of the real-time progress on this project on Instagram, so be sure to follow along there if you want updates in the moment!

A Round-Up of all our 2021 Projects

As another year draws to a close, I wanted to stop and take a look back on all the projects, both big and small, that we took on this year. Sometimes I look around my house and it seems like there are still so many things I’d like to address – it’s so nice to stop and reflect on how far we have already come! 2022 was an especially big year for changing the look of our main floor and it’s wild to remember how it looked at this time last year. I’m really proud of the transformations! There were also a few projects that we took on for other people, and it was satisfying to see them fall more in love with their own homes after some simple updates.

Here’s what we tackled in chronological order:

Dining Room

The first project of the year was giving a facelift to our dining room. New furniture wasn’t in the budget (nor did it make sense in this life stage when we are just as likely to have play doh, markers, and glue sticks all over the table as we are to have plates and food) but some paint, new curtains, updated trim, and a new light fixture made a huge difference!

DIY Date Night: Play Kitchen Shelf

Justin and I used some scrap wood to create a little shelf to hang above our DIY play kitchen – it made for such a fun date night at home!

Gallery Walls

I created three different gallery walls throughout the house this year. Each one is unique and each makes me so happy when I walk by!

Cookie Decorating Space

Creating a functional and cute space for my friend who has a cookie business was such a fun challenge! Justin and I worked hard to make sure this space checked all her boxes and we all love how it turned out.

DIY Dog Bowl

This was a small project Justin built, but I love it so so much. I was just telling him the other day how great it’s holding up and how glad I am that it’s an attractive solution to having our dog bowls in the main area of our house.

Geometric Accent Wall

Justin and I tackled this geometric accent wall for someone else and it was a pretty straightforward and simple weekend DIY!

Justin’s Office Makeover

A fun Ikea hack to combine three tall Vittsjo shelves into one large storage unit was just what Justin’s ahh . . . lackluster . . . office needed to make it feel organized and professional.

Phase One Kitchen Renovation

I have so many dreams for this kitchen to improve the function for our family, but a full gut renovation is years and years away for us. In the meantime, it was WELL worth investing some time, effort, and about $1000 total to update this space to make it feel more like us.

Primary Bedroom

I tackled this renovation for the Spring One Room Challenge and even though it took longer than the eight week challenge to complete, it was worth taking my time to make intentional choices in creating this little haven for Justin and me.

Ikea Hemnes Hack

And speaking of my bedroom renovation, one of my favorite projects was transforming this plain Hemnes dresser from Ikea into a dupe of an $1800 dresser I fell in love with.

DIY Dress Up Clothes Rack

I created this simple clothing rack to store Vi’s dress up collection and it made for not only a fun project but a great 2nd birthday gift!

Jenni’s House: Built-ins + Kitchen Update!

One weekend and several gallons of paint and we transformed my sister’s kitchen cabinets and living room built-ins!

Guest Room Stencil (ish)

I started creating the look of wallpaper in our guest room with a stencil and took a pause from this project to decide if I wanted to leave it as an accent wall or continue all around the room. I’ve decided I want to continue around the room so stay tuned for that project in 2022!

Laundry Room

My final project of the year was our laundry room update, complete with stenciled wallpaper, DIY shelving, painted trim, and some functional storage updates.

I’ll be taking a break from the blog for the rest of 2022 to enjoy the holidays with my family but I’ll be back in the new year ready to take on new projects!

One Year Later: Still in love with our home office!

Every now and then, I like to take a look back on past home renovations and projects – kind of like the DIY version of a childhood celebrity “where are they now?” article. I usually love a project right when it’s finished, but the true test is how I feel with the benefit of more hindsight. Are things holding up well? Do I wish I had done something different in the project? Are there ways we could’ve improved on it? It’s fun to check back in and see how things have gone since the project wrapped up. Way back in February, I shared what I love, what I regret, and what I still hope to do in our guest suite (read that post here). Then in July, I shared how our basement kitchen renovation has held up so far (read that post here). Today, I wanted to look back on a project I finished in November 2020: our home office!

Justin and I renovated our home office for the Fall 2020 One Room Challenge and “challenge” was definitely the right word for it. This was the most complicated and extensive renovation we’ve ever attempted to do on our own. It really stretched both of our abilities and was difficult and exciting at the same time. You can read all about it in my ORC posts (Week One, Week Two, Week Three, Week Four, Week Five, Week Six: The Final Reveal).

The super cliff notes version of the renovation is, we went from this:

to this! And we did it ALL ourselves!

Don’t tell the other rooms in my house, but this one is without a doubt my favorite one. To say I’m proud of Justin and I for tackling this renovation is an understatement. There were so many complex things we needed to talk through and figure out, especially because the room had a bay window and lots of angles to work around. We did it though and it feels so rewarding even to this day.

A quick note before jumping in to my thoughts on the room today – I recently decorated for Christmas and decided to just keep those decorations up rather than take them down for the follow-up pictures. So there’s a little festive touch to this update!

What I Still LOVE!

Honestly, I still love and am so so happy with the majority of this room. I’m so glad we decided to go with Ikea Sektion cabinets for the base of the built-ins. They provide so much storage space and were relatively easy to install. I love that they came with soft close hinges too; it’s such a nice feature to not have slamming doors. I’m also SO glad with our decision to use Semihandmade door and drawer fronts on the cabinets. They are high quality and elevate the look of the cabinets so much!

I’m also glad I splurged on aged brass knobs and drawer pulls from Rejuvenation. It feels like the finishing touch, the jewelry of the built-in, and it also gives a higher-end feel to the overall unit. Between the Semihandmade fronts and Rejuvenation hardware, the cabinets definitely feel like they were custom and not ready-to-assemble.

I love that I decided to do planking on all the walls and ceiling. It gives the space so much character, like it’s been around for 100 years instead of just 20. I have zero regrets on deciding to go with a monochromatic look and paint the entire room, ceiling and built-in included, Treron by Farrow and Ball (and I’m still so obsessed with that color).

I also still love my vintage yellow chair, bought secondhand from a thrift store, tucked in the bay window area, just waiting for me to curl up with a good book! I love the modern desk mixed in, the double layer of rugs, the bookshelves full of books and mementos, the crown molding and wide baseboards, and the black painted windows framed by tall linen curtains. Honestly, every time I walk into this room, my heart still does a little swoon.

What I Would Change (if I had a time machine)

As much as I adore this room, there are a few things I wish we had done differently. We struggled to find a board that was the right size for the top of the cabinets, and we ended up piecing together some edge-glued pine boards from Lowe’s. It was thinner than I wanted, but much cheaper than butcherblock so we decided to go for it. After we finished, we realized Menard’s had edge-glued boards that were wider and thicker – these would’ve given a more substantial look to the top of the cabinets/base of the bookshelves. I wish we had known it sooner; I definitely would’ve preferred to use the Menard’s boards! I also made a mistake and wiped down the boards we used with a damp cloth before painting, which gives the wood a rough feel now. I should’ve sanded it down (or used a dry tack cloth instead!) so it stayed nice and smooth.

We also should have included more small pieces of scrap wood to the underside of each shelf prior to attaching the thin plywood base underneath. In a few spots, the plywood has bowed a bit and is visible now; I wish we had placed more spots to attach the plywood with the nail gun to prevent future dipping!

I also wish we had included a small piece of trim on the very ends of the cabinets. There is a small gap between the wall and the cabinet and we should’ve closed it. It would’ve been easiest to do before we added the top and bookshelves, but I still think we can do it if we take off the door front. That might be a quick 2022 project!

Lastly, I wish I had taken more time with filling nail holes. There were hundreds and hundreds of nail holes in all the planking and it became tedious; I just wanted to get through it and start painting! The price to going too quickly or lowering the level of diligence is many of the nail holes have a little dip you can still see. Even though it was so so tedious, I wish I had taken a little more time to make sure the nail holes became truly invisible.

Even though there are a few things I wish we did differently, overall I am still so THRILLED with this room! When we update the main level flooring we will be updating this flooring as well, but other than that, this room still feels so good and I truly believe I will love it for years and years to come.

Phase One Renovations & How They Help me Love my Home NOW

With the exception of our living room, main floor half bathroom and a basement utility room, I have now updated, in one way or another, every space in our house.

The thing is, the house is still far from being done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my house and the updates that we’ve made. Each project, each gallon of paint, each change big or small, has made this house feel more and more like a home that truly reflects us. That being said, nearly all of the updates I’ve done so far in this house are “phase one” renovations. In other words, they were just the first step towards updating a space. When we first moved into the house, every room was painted brown. There were a ton of orangey-brown wood finishes and boob lights. The bones were great and I loved the layout and the possibilities for our family, but it didn’t yet feel like us. It actually felt like I was living in someone else’s home for a while and that was an uncomfortable feeling.

We poured a lot of money into the first big transformation (the guest bathroom + bedroom) and while we love how it turned out, we realized just how expensive a full gut renovation of a space was. We knew we had big plans for this house, but we were going to have to go slow with the major renovations and save up + budget for them over many years.

In the meantime, I didn’t want to live for years in a house that didn’t feel like me, so I rolled up my sleeves and started with some smaller phase one renovations. One of the first spaces I did this for was Justin and my bathroom. Our bathroom had dark brown walls and carpet when we moved in. Not me at all! We ripped out the carpet and put down an inexpensive peel and stick tile. I painted the walls and vanities, updated the hardware, swapped out the faucets, and gave everything a fresh layer of caulk. The room is honestly still far from where I’d like it to be, but it was worth doing these minor updates to bring it to a place that felt fresh and reflects us more right now.

Phase 1 Bath 2

Same thing with our kitchen. Someday, I plan to fully gut and renovate the whole space. But since that is likely at least 10 years down the road, a phase one renovation (painted walls and cabinets, updated backsplash, new light fixtures, matching seating) was the perfect solution. I now enjoy being in my kitchen! There are things I want to change and we will still remodel someday, but I’m so much happier in the meantime.

I could go on. The kids’ bathroom is a phase one until we have the money to update the vanity, flooring, etc.

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The laundry room is a phase one until it can be expanded into the adjacent bathroom space (which we plan to gut) to create a large laundry + mudroom.

I spent $0 (yes, zero!) updating that bathroom off the laundry room to look nice until the day comes to remodel.

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Phase One doesn’t just mean it’s temporary until a huge gut remodel happens. It’s more like a starting place that can be leveled up over time. The kids’ bedrooms are phase ones until they’re a little older and have bigger beds and more say in how they want their room to look. The dining room is a phase one until we can add a wall to separate it from the kitchen a bit more (and update furniture and maybe add wallpaper!) Even our bedroom is technically a phase one. When we eventually update our en suite bathroom and closet, it’ll involve some layout changes that will extend into the bedroom. This won’t be a “completely start this room over” change, but it will alter the shape of the bedroom and I’ll be rearranging the furniture, actually hardwiring the sconces, etc.

With the exception of the guest bathroom and basement kitchen, we also want to change every square inch of flooring in this house. Carpet, vinyl, laminate – it all needs updated! That’s a project we’re going to have to tackle slowly but we’re hoping to start in 2022. As the flooring goes in, there are some smaller changes that we’ll make at the same time (removing a hall closet, adding a wall in the dining room, etc). Our house is truly going to be a labor of love over many, many years.

I understand that some people might argue that phase one renovations are a waste. Why spend the time, effort, and money on something if you’re just going to change it again? Or why not put more money into one big renovation instead of spread it out and spend smaller amounts on multiple renovations. I spent about $1000 on the kitchen update, $600 on the primary bathroom update, and $400 on the laundry room update. So taking just those three rooms, I’ve spent about $2000 on updates over the course of two years. And while that is a good chunk of money, it would not have been anywhere close to enough to completely gut and renovate any one of those rooms. It made a lot more sense to me to have three updated rooms that reflect our taste better while we save up more money for complete remodels in the future.

It’s also worth mentioning that a lot can happen in the coming years! Yes, we plan to renovate more, but we can’t know for sure that we’ll be able to when we want to, or even at all. It might be five, ten, or fifteen years until we can tackle the large renovations we dream of. Smaller, more manageable transformations have helped me fall more in love with our current home. It feels more like us and honestly, putting a little time, money, and effort in now has made me way happier with the spaces as they are. Phase One updates make the bigger renovations feel less urgent. For example, if the two year plan for remodeling the laundry room becomes a five year (or longer, or never!) plan, I would be content with the room as is now.

I walk around my house now, and while it may not be “finished” (is any home ever?), I feel content seeing my family reflected in every space. It’s not perfect, but I love it. It doesn’t feel like I’m in a stranger’s house anymore, it feels like our home.

Bottom line for me: don’t wait for a huge, expensive renovation to fall more in love with your home. Part of the reason I do so many DIY projects is because it allows me to stretch a small budget to maximize a transformation. Maybe it’s just updating a throw pillow case or adding some artwork. Maybe it’s painting a room or installing a geometric accent wall or learning how to swap out a light fixture (or spray painting the one you already have). I literally spent ZERO dollars updating a bathroom with leftover paint and supplies from other projects, so I know it doesn’t have to cost a lot to change a space. Small changes can make a big difference and I believe it’s worth it to love where you live!

ORC Week Eight: Laundry Room Reveal!

We made it to the end of the laundry room renovation and I am so thrilled with how this room came together!

It might be little more than a laundry hallway, but the view sure has changed from eight weeks ago. I can’t believe how dark and dingy it felt looking back!

I’ve said it multiple times throughout this process, but many of my decisions were based on keeping this project very budget-friendly since this renovation is somewhat temporary. Justin and I still plan to eventually gut the adjacent bathroom and expand the laundry room, which will also create a true mudroom space. Since that remodel is still a couple years down the road, I wanted to find inexpensive ways to update the existing space in the meantime, making it more functional and beautiful.

I loved the look of wallpaper but found that a gallon of paint and a couple $12 stencils gave me the look of wallpaper for much less. You can read the full tutorial here.

I took down the cabinet + rod combination that previously hung above the washer and dryer and replaced with some simple shelves. I cut down, stained, and sealed two 1 x 8’s and Justin installed them on top of simple black brackets. A mix of baskets + decanted jars and bottles keep all my laundry supplies looking chic while staying within easy reach.

I felt pure joy in taking down the two ugly boob lights and replacing them. The hallway light got replaced with a simple low profile mount and the light above the laundry was a simple DIY dupe. An inexpensive white shade got a couple coats of spray paint and elevated the look for less! You can read more about that process, and the process of making and installing shelves, in this post.

The mudroom nook also got a few simple upgrades. An accordion rack gives me extra hooks for all the jackets and coats my kids have and a shoe bench with built-in storage provides plenty of space for shoes, gloves, and hats.

Since that bathroom is rarely used, I am borrowing the hooks in there for some extra bag storage (you can see a tiny glimpse in the mirror!) It also helped that I cleared out the adjacent closet to create space for the dog food and purged all the shoes we weren’t using! And speaking of the closet, all the doors and trim got painted SW Blonde in a satin finish and I upgraded all the hinges and levers to matte black. Justin also swapped out all the receptacles and switches for white ones and I replaced all the switch and outlet covers with painted wooden ones. Little details make a big difference!

I know there are likely some people who would make the argument “Why go to all this trouble if you’re just going to redo the laundry room in two years? Why not just live with it the way it was?” And on the one hand, I get it. But on the other hand, two years is a long time to live in a space that doesn’t work well for us and I don’t even like to look at. We use the mudroom portion daily and the laundry portion at least once a week, often more. Over the course of two years, 100+ uses as a laundry room plus 700+ uses as a mudroom . . . that’s well worth the time, effort, and approximately $400 I spent on this entire reno. I could’ve spent less and chosen fewer things to update (the most expensive part was actually new door levers!) and it still would have felt fresh. It’s also worth saying: a lot can happen in a year or two and who knows if we’ll be able to proceed with our plans in the future. The good news is, a full remodel doesn’t feel urgent now. If the two year plan for the laundry room becomes a five year (or longer, or never!) plan, I’m now okay just living with the room I have.

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I’m thankful to the One Room Challenge for the motivation to push through and get this room finished! If you’re interested in checking out all the other guest participants, you can do so here.

Sources

Wall Color, Trim, & Door Color: Sherwin Williams Blonde (eggshell on walls, satin on trim and doors)

Stencil Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster

Stencil

Shelf Brackets

Accordion Rack

Bench

Rug

Low Profile Flush Mount

Semi-Flush Mount (shade is spray painted Krylon Fusion Matte Pale Sage)

Art: Flower Print, Abstract Print, Do Less Print

Clear Jar

Gray Ceramic Box

A look back on our DIY journey

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen my stories yesterday and how I took a little trip down memory lane. It all started when I packed up my fall decorations and decided to finally clean out the very bottom of the bin.

I found some paper decorations I made for a Halloween party Justin and I hosted back in 2013. I had created cute little black and orange pennants with construction paper, ribbon, tape, and a marker. I also created little construction paper food labels and spray painted a mason jar orange and filled it with dried plants from our yard. They were simple and most importantly: very very inexpensive. I saved them and used them for three straight years!

It might seem silly, but this discovery really got me reflecting back on our marriage and specifically our DIY journey. When we first got married, Justin was in school and did not have an income and I was supporting us both on a very humble teaching salary and picking up extra childcare jobs to pay for our needs. We were renting a house, trying to pay off a ton of student loans, and didn’t have extra money for home decor. All that being said, I was still passionate about creating a nice, cozy, comfortable home for us however I could and for us at the time, that meant inexpensive DIY.

Today I wanted to reflect back on some of our DIY journey and the projects that Justin and I have done along the way. Sometimes people ask me how we know how to do things and the answer is: we learn as we go! We started out knowing very very little and have learned so much through trial and error. We started with very small projects and went bigger and bigger as we gained confidence. It’s been a journey, one that started out of necessity and now is more of a passion.

Just a quick note: these pictures are not good. Haha! I took them with crappy cell phone cameras, bad lighting, strange angles, and no staging. I wasn’t trying to make them look blog-worthy, I was just documenting our life! So…apologies in advance. šŸ˜‰

Pallet Flower Boxes (2014)

Justin would drive around and find old, abandoned pallets, bring them home, dismantle them, and use the scrap wood for projects. In fact, this Flower Pallet Box from seven years ago might have been the very first DIY tutorial on the blog!

DIY Pallet Flower Boxes :: simplifythechaos.com

I wish I would have blogged about more of our projects back then, but I’m glad I at least have this one to look back on! At the time I had no idea that I’d eventually be sharing so many other home projects on this blog.

Kitchen Island (2015)

In our rental house, we had a big open space in the middle of our kitchen that just begged for extra workspace. Justin collected a bunch of pallet wood, splurged on one nice edge-glued piece for the top, and created this awesome working island for me. This was one of my favorite pieces he made – I loved it so much!

Bathroom Counter Storage Jars (2014)

I needed a storage solution for the bathroom counter and got creative with canning jars and some discounted drawer pulls. I actually think I must have been planning to do a blog post about these, because I had taken pictures of each one of the steps. I’ll spare you that and just show you the first and last picture of this little DIY.

Side Table + Wooden Tray (2015)

When we were first married we did not have the money for any new furniture so every single piece of furniture in our first home was either a hand-me-down (and usually it had been through multiple people before us) or made by us. Every single thing! We didn’t have any side tables for our living room, so Justin made one out of wood he salvaged from old pallets. He also made a cute wooden tray for us to corral things on our little ottoman. I wish I had a better picture, but at least you can get the idea here.

Wine Racks (circa 2015)

One of Justin’s favorite things to make back in our rental house were wine racks out of pallets. He made several of these (and even sold a few!) We still have ours, although we haven’t determined a good spot for it in our current house. A friend just sent me this picture though – they still have theirs up after 5+ years!

Dining Chairs (2016)

A couple cans of some spray paint and discounted fabric from a going-out-of-business sale allowed me to finally update these hand-me-down chairs!

Necklace Holder (2016)

I really wanted this necklace holder I saw on Anthropologie, but it was $40. Justin made me a gorgeous dupe that honestly looked the same for a tiny fraction of the price!

First House Kitchen Renovation (2016-2018)

fter three years of renting, we were able to buy our first home. We were so excited! We finally had the ability to make some changes to the actual home we lived in, and we had some (still small) means to make some updates.

This kitchen renovation process was slow and steady. We waited for sales and replaced appliances one at a time. We painted the walls. After about a year, Justin borrowed a friend’s tile saw and learned how to install a backsplash. We had the cabinets painted. We took our time, budgeted carefully, and were happy with the end result (although I still wish we had been able to replace the fluorescent light – now we know how easy that would have been!)

Shower Upgrade (2016)

The first house had a sliding shower door that we didn’t like. After watching a YouTube video, Justin felt confident with how to remove it and just went for it. We caulked the holes, added a shower curtain, and loved the space so much more! In this bathroom we also painted the vanity and updated hardware. It was my first venture into choosing a dark color for cabinets and I think this vanity is what started my love affair with moody colors!

Painted Buffet (2016)

This used to be in my grandparents’ home growing up and when they moved, asked if I could have it. The piece looks cool, but wasn’t in very good shape so I had the confidence to try going bold with a color. It made for such a fun TV stand + toy storage!

Playroom toy storage 1

Nursery Furniture (2017)

LJ’s first nursery included a thrifted midcentury dresser. We bought it for $30 and I painted everything but the legs and spray painted the handles. Justin made the triangle shelf hanging on the wall!

Updating with flooring + paint (2016-2017)

We painted every surface in this home – walls, trim, baseboards, doors, most cabinets, even the stair railing! We also updated a lot of the flooring and removed all the wallpaper. It was done slowly over time and I started to gain more confidence making decisions and honing in on what I liked. This was a process and a true labor of love and it really made me become passionate about starting to document our renovations.

There’s so much more that I could share, but I think that gives you a good idea of our DIY journey. Looking back, I’m so glad we decided to have the courage to try new things! We honestly did not always know what we were doing and we’ve had so much trial and error along the way. There were just things in our homes that we wanted to add/change/remove/etc and we came up with plans to tackle whatever those things were. Every single project taught us something and our skills and confidence have built up over the years.

Nowadays, Justin can easily swap out all different kinds of light fixtures and build a full dining table. We know how to plank an entire room, install crown molding, and update window trim. We made an entire wall-to-wall builtin bookcase! We’ve wallpapered when we had the budget and I’ve stenciled when we haven’t. We’ve installed butcherblock and I learned how to paint laminate and tile. Our DIYs have certainly scaled up, but I’m also still in awe of how much a simple can of spray paint or a few pieces of scrap wood can do. DIY has been a part of our home-making journey from the beginning and honestly, I don’t see that changing any time. There is still much more to come!

ORC Week Six: Laundry Room Shelving, Lighting, and More!

This week was a big week for progress in the laundry room! Shelving was built, lighting was installed, doors were finished – the room is really coming together and I am loving it.

And because it’s always fun to look back on how far we’ve come, here’s where that same view was six weeks ago:

Originally, I envisioned creating floating shelves from wall to wall, but as it came time to work on the shelves, I decided to pivot a bit.

Floating shelves are pretty time-consuming to make from scratch and I haven’t had as much time as I had hoped to work on this room lately. Plus, the more I thought about it, I realized that since this is just a phase one renovation (we still plan to fully gut and renovate this room and the adjacent bathroom to create a bigger laundry + mudroom in a few years), shelves with brackets would be easier, quicker, and less expensive. It just made more sense to keep this project simple!

Justin had a few extra 1 x 8 oak boards leftover from a previous project and they were the perfect width to create two shelves. Using our miter saw, I cut two boards down to fit wall to wall and then gave them a light sand with our orbital sander + 120 grit sandpaper.

I wiped them down with a tack cloth and stained them with a stain we already had. Once the stain dried, I used a foam brush to apply a layer of this polyurethane and boom – shelves were ready for install!

I purchased these black brackets and Justin installed them after work using his new laser level (this thing was SO handy and I know we’ll be using it many times in the future!) The whole project took maybe 3-4 hours of active work time start to finish. Simple, easy, and inexpensive – win, win, win. I am so thankful to have functional storage that looks great!

A few other things that happened this week: I finished painting all the doors and trim and Justin installed new matte black door hardware. It’s always surprising to me how small details like door hinges and levers can pack such a big punch!

We also finally updated the two boob lights. I wanted a recessed light for the ceiling above the hallway portion but the type of junction box that had been installed prevented my first two choices from working. I settled on this low profile light and we’re happy with it – it is inconspicuous enough that it sort of just fades into the ceiling and doesn’t take visual attention away from other elements of the room.

I mentioned last week that the initial light I wanted for above the washer and dryer was out of stock or backordered on several different sites, so I once again decided to pivot a bit. I really liked this light from Rejuvenation but I struggled to pick a color. It’s just so hard to know if the color you see on screen will translate to real life like you expect! At $229 . . . I wanted to be very sure I liked the light. Then yesterday evening, I was walking through Lowe’s and happened to see this light out of the corner of my eye. I was immediately inspired to do a little DIY upgrade and create the look I wanted for less.

I purchased the light and a can of this spray paint. I use painter’s tape to block off the lightbulb hole of the dome and set it down flat on a large piece of cardboard. I sprayed several light coats of the spray paint until I had even coverage and let it dry. Justin installed the mount and I screwed on the dome.

The Rejuvenation light was $229 and this one was $59. Add in tax and the cost of spray paint, and this light ended up costing me around $70. A big savings and I think it’s a pretty good dupe! This also served as a reminder that a little creativity and bravery can go a long way. Justin couldn’t believe I would spray paint a brand new light, but I knew the look I was going for and just went for it. I’m so glad I did – I’m thrilled with the light and the way it fits the space!

We’ve got two weeks left in the challenge and I’m just about finished with my to-do list. I still have some tweaking to do – for now I just shopped my house and pulled some art, a rug, and a few little decor pieces to get a feel for what works in the space. I also still need to create some hanging storage for coats above the shoe bench to finish off the little mudroom corner. The end is in sight!

Be sure to check out all the other ORC participants here!

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Tutorial: Creating the Look of Wallpaper with a Stencil!

The laundry room “wallpaper” is finished and I’m in love!

For this small but mighty room, I wanted the look of wallpaper but without the price tag. I was especially inspired by these wallpapers:

Source: Spoonflower

I found this stencil at Hobby Lobby and knew it would give just the look I was looking for! I decided to do the entire room instead of just an accent wall and I love the impact that it made. Today I’m sharing the process I used to create this look (for less than the cost of one roll of wallpaper!)

Materials

-stencil (I bought three of this one)

foam paint roller

-paint tray

painter’s tape

repositionable spray adhesive

small foam brush

-small level

-scissors

-paint

-drop cloth to cover furniture from adhesive overspray

latex paint remover + soft cloth

An important note: I have tried using painter’s tape to keep the stencil in place and for me, the inside of the stencil still shifted too much and created messy lines. I now use repositionable spray adhesive, but the caveat is there is a lot of overspray! If you use the spray adhesive, you will want drop cloths on everything before you start, particularly furniture. Luckily my flooring was vinyl and the spray residue could be easily cleaned up, but if your floor is really nice wood or carpet, you will want to cover your floors as well.

Starting in the top left corner of a wall, I sprayed approximately 3-4 small bursts of the spray adhesive directly on the wall and pressed down my stencil in place (since it was the basis the entire pattern, I did use a small level to make sure the first stencil was perfectly level). To line up all subsequent stencils, the edges of the stencil had little leaves that were meant to match with the next pattern.

In other words, when I lined up the next stencil, a few of the cut outs would line up with leaves that were already painted. All I had to do was make sure those were aligned and I knew my stencil was in place.

I poured a small amount of paint (I used Sherwin Williams Alabaster in Eggshell finish) into a paint tray and rolled a six inch foam paint roller in it. I then rolled it over the ridges in the paint tray several times to make sure it was evenly coated without excess paint.

I rolled the roller lightly over the stencil several times until the wall color disappeared and the insides of all the cut outs were white. It’s better to have less paint and roll over the stencil several times than to have excess paint and roll once – it helps keep lines nice and crisp!

Once the stencil was completely painted, I peeled it off the wall from top to bottom and started the process again for the next stencil. I did not wait for the paint to dry before laying the next one – the paint didn’t smudge because I just pressed straight down and didn’t slide the stencil around.

I worked my way across the wall in columns, working from top to bottom and moving from left to right across the wall.

I had three identical stencils and my process was to use the same stencil 10 or so times in a row, then clean it and while that one was drying, use a fresh one for the next 10 or so stencils. The key is: you must clean your stencils as the paint builds up! I learned this the hard way, but without cleaning them, paint slowly builds up more and more, making the cut outs slightly smaller each time until it gets to a point where paint can’t even get through anymore. I cleaned mine after 10-12 uses but you’ll have to judge based on how much paint buildup you’re noticing on your stencil.

I used latex paint remover spray and sprayed it all over the coated stencil. I just sprayed it directly on my floor since it was vinyl, but you might want to do this on another surface or put down a protective layer over your flooring.

After letting the spray soak in a bit, I very carefully dabbed up the paint with a cloth. Because it was latex paint, I could also gently use my fingernails to clean out the paint built up in the cut outs. I tried to be as gentle as possible – aggressive rubbing will bend or even potentially break the more fragile cut outs. It was a little tedious to get clean, but a necessary step to prolong the life of the stencils and keep the pattern size consistent throughout the room.

Once the stencil was clean, I just let it dry completely and then could use it again!

When it came to corners and edges, I followed the same process as much as I could. For an outward corner, the process was fairly straightforward. I just lined up the stencil on the wall, left the overhang alone, and carefully rolled over the wall portion.

I’ll admit, the corners didn’t always get lined up absolutely perfectly but overall I’m really happy with how they turned out! The pattern is busy enough that mistakes just blend right in.

For working around inside corners, trim, ceilings, and baseboards, I used the roller to get as close to the trim work and edges as possible, but there was always a small gap left behind.

Once I had worked my wall entirely around the room and all the full stencils were complete, I started cutting up the stencils to finish the edges. I attached it to the wall with the spray adhesive like before, but instead of the roller I used a small round foam brush to dab paint lightly all the way to the edge.

I had to be strategic about cutting the stencil up, making sure the places that needed the biggest section of stencil went first, then I went in order from biggest amount of stencil needed to smallest. I did not worry about taping the trim, because once the walls were finished I was going to paint over the trim anyways.

I did use painters tape in the inner corners – I placed tape in the very corner on the wall perpendicular to the one I would be painting so that I could get paint all the way to the very corner without painting the other wall. I unfortunately forgot to take pictures of that step but just imagine in the picture above, if the trim was actually another wall making a corner. By taping it off, I would have had a nice crisp corner instead of the smudged paint that you see on the trim.

I did have to use a tiny paint brush to do a bit of freehand work to connect the pattern in some corners, particularly the final corner pictured below where there wasn’t enough wall left for a full stencil to make the pattern complete. Luckily it’s such a busy pattern that I don’t think you can tell at all!

Overall I am SO happy with how this wallpaper turned out. The lighting in the space isn’t great for photographing, but here’s a few pictures in both natural and artificial light to give you an idea of how it looks now:

There is still SO much to do in the room, but just having the walls completely done makes it feel so much better! Still to come: painting all the doors, swapping out knobs, replacing the light fixtures, and building shelves above the washer and dryer. Slowly but surely this room is coming together!

I’m working on this room as part of the Fall 2021 One Room Challenge. To see all the other participants, click here.

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Fall ORC Week 3: Maybe it’s Wallpaper, Maybe it’s a Stencil!

We’re another week in to the One Room Challenge and this week has seen a lot of changes in the laundry room.

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For one, I chose a better shade of yellow paint for the walls (read about the Big Bird yellow mishap here). I still couldn’t get samples, but I used the small door to our little nook under the stairs as a starting point. I knew I liked that muted yellow (Sherwin Williams Mannered Gold), but it was too dark for the laundry room. I got out my Sherwin Williams swatch book, found Mannered Gold, and looked to the top of the swatch page for a similar, yet lighter shade. I was drawn to Blonde and decided to go for it in an eggshell finish. Thankfully, this time it worked out and it’s the perfect soft, muted yellow!

This room is small, so it felt like a good opportunity to add some fun details. I loved the idea of wallpaper, but didn’t want the expense since we’re likely going to completely gut and remodel this room and the adjacent bathroom in a couple years. A stencil was the perfect solution!

The laundry room is sandwiched between the office, which has planking on the walls and ceiling, and a full bathroom which has a two tone block print. Both rooms feel very linear and graphic, so I wanted to soften up the laundry room with a floral stencil. I found this one at Hobby Lobby and it was perfect!

I decided to do the entire stencil in one color, Sherwin Williams Alabaster, because the adjacent bathroom and the majority of our main floor are all painted that color. It brings a nice cohesive feel to the main floor! I’m rolling it on with a foam roller and it’s going so quickly! I’ve only devoted about 3.5 hours to stenciling and I’m over halfway done with the room. Maybe that seems like a long time to you, but it’s nothing compared to the time it took me to stencil one wall of the guest room so I’m a happy camper!

I did mess up though. After the first day of painting, I didn’t wipe off all the paint from the stencils. It caked on and dried, and essentially ruined the stencils. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to clean off the dried paint, but it ended up being pointless because all the work to get off the paint caused tiny pieces to get bent and the stencil was no longer producing the same crisp pattern. I was so disappointed and frustrated with myself! I ended up having to go get more stencils, and you can bet I’ll be cleaning them off frequently!

Once I’m totally done with the room I’ll share a tutorial of the process but for now, I’m just so so happy with the progress. The stencil detail adds so much interest to the room and really does look like wallpaper – I’m thrilled with it!

So much left to d0 – finish the stencil, paint the baseboards, trim, and doors, replace those boob lights, and install shelving. I’ll worry about all that another day though; today I’m just happy to celebrate progress!

Sources

Wall Color: Sherwin Williams Blonde in eggshell

Stencil Color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster in eggshell

Stencil

Happy Hacks for a Mid-Renovation Boost

Right now I’m in the midst of the laundry renovation and my house is, well, not at its finest. Ha! The laundry room itself is pure chaos, but it seems like the rest of the house is following suit. Whenever I’m mid renovation, it takes my time and energy and that gets reflected in other places – beds are unmade, laundry is overflowing, dishes pile up, and cleaning routines go out the window. And I have two small children living here too so add toys, books, and the random things they pull out of cabinets to the mix. I feel my mood start to dip – when the house feels chaotic, I start to become restless, irritable, and impatient. I need a reset!

A few months ago I read (and loved) the book Life’s Too Short by Abby Jiminez. There was a specific part of the book that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I read it – the main character Vanessa talks about the simple things in life that can make you unexpectedly happy, like the happiness boost you get from a new sponge. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that yeah, a new sponge does make me happy! Like, it’s just a $2 sponge so what’s the big deal…but also, it brings a feeling of a fresh new start and somehow makes me feel like I’ve got my life together. It’s weird but true!

I have found that there are several other things that, like the sponge, are simple, inexpensive ways to give me a major happiness boost. When my house feels chaotic, they’re life savers for turning things around and helping bring a sense of calm and control back to the home. My house may not be back to normal, but these things help me at least feel a little more put together. Today I thought I’d share some of my favorite little hacks that give me big happiness boosts. They’re all $10 or less (a few are free!) and they’re all incredibly easy. I’ll be relying on several of these to make it through this renovation!

Light a Seasonal Candle

There is something about lighting a candle that brings a touch of cozy luxury to a moment. It’s such a simple way to boost my mood! I particularly love to burn a seasonal scent – fresh scents in the spring and summer and savory scents in the fall and winter. I’m not exactly sure why, but a burning candle has a way of elevating a space and making it feel put together; even if the rest of my house is messy, if one room is clean with a candle burning, it feels good. Bonus points if I can light a candle and read a book at the same time!

Organize a Messy Drawer with Acrylic Containers

For just a couple dollars a piece, these clear acrylic containers brought instant organization to the inside of the antique library table I’m using as a vanity. It feels chic and makes my Type-A heart very happy. Opening the drawer and seeing everything in its place is so satisfying!

Make the Beds

I don’t always take the time to make my own bed, let alone my kids beds, but whenever I feel like my house is spiraling out of control, this is such an easy way to help things turn around. LJ’s floor might have books strewn about, but if the bed is made, it feels pretty calm. Making the bed feels like I’m starting the day off with a win and gives me a sense of control over my environment which is especially important when I’m mid-renovation somewhere else in the house!

Decant Hand Soap

While I do love a beautifully designed liquid hand soap label, sometimes soap smells great but comes in a container that leaves something to be desired. For about $10, I bought a simple clear glass dispenser that instantly elevated the look by the sink. I love that this dispenser also helps me reduce plastic usage – I can now buy liquid hand soap in a bulk refill bag and just pour it in! It’s a little thing that brings me an unusual amount of happiness every time I see it.

Print Out a Family Photo

I don’t know about you, but I have thousands of photos on my phone. They’re easy to take, but for some reason the extra step of printing them off so often doesn’t happen. I always feel so accomplished when I print out new photos though! They’re quick to upload to a printing service (I like Walgreens for pickup and Mpix for shipping) and cost like, 38 cents. Filling frames with both professional and candid family photos throughout my home is such a simple way to make this house feel more like us. And every single time I walk by these pictures, it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I love my people so much!

Purge Something

It seems like whenever I’m mid-renovation somewhere and things feel messy and cluttered, I get the itch to offset the chaos by getting hyper-organized somewhere else. It’s not always something huge like a whole closet purge or room cleanout; sometimes it’s as simple as picking one drawer or cabinet to comb through and eliminate the excess. This free activity comes with a big payoff and I don’t mean financially, although it’s true that sometimes I’m able to sell something I’ve purged. The payoff is the sense of calm that I feel by looking in the drawer or cabinet that I purged and seeing empty space again (or if not empty, at least it’s organized and less cluttered). It’s a calm in the middle of the storm!

Designate Time to Ignore the House and Play!

Don’t get me wrong, I play with my kids throughout the day everyday. And this isn’t an unexpected happiness hack, because I love my kids and spending time with them definitely makes me happy. But I often find myself distracted while playing – maybe I’m trying to clean up some toys while they play with others or maybe I’m physically building a block tower but mentally making to-do lists for getting my house back in order. It helps me to give myself a time limit to just ignore all house things and work and fully give my attention to my kids. Sometimes it’s as small as 10 or 15 minutes but I always feel so much better afterwards. It’s like a brain break for me and a good reminder to just enjoy this fleeting time with my babies and not worry about all the other things.

None of these things are groundbreaking ideas, but I’ve found that that’s the key. If it’s too big, expensive, or time-consuming, it feels like too much effort for my already stretched-thin self and it won’t happen. Small, simple, intentional things aren’t intimidating to implement and keep me going through the craziness of a renovation (or anytime that my house feels a little chaotic). I will be using these little hacks a lot over the next few weeks!

What simple little hacks give you an unexpected boost of happiness?