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The Main Bathroom Remodel – Part 2

main bath remodel

Who Doesn’t Love Avocado?

If you recall, a couple of weeks ago I shared the story of our avocado green bathroom remodel and the demolition process. Let’s get back to where we were!

As a delightful reminder, the before photos:

The new plan

Since our options for real change were limited to the footprint and layout of the bathroom, I had to come up with a vision for a modern galley bathroom. I knew that I also had to think of some solutions for storage, since we were removing the closet by the entryway. We also kept a short column of drawers by the toilet and we liked the storage it provided, but that had to go. Pricing out a mini counter turned out to be much more than anticipated, so we went with an over-the-toilet hanging cabinet that more than gets the job done.

main bath remodel
New storage by the toilet

After the new insulation and dry wall were installed, I had to make a quick decision on paint colors. I swear by my technique with paint chips: hand them up in different parts of the room and visit the spot throughout the day and with different lights on to make sure that the colors are right. I definitely nailed the neutral color I wanted, but I really, really struggled with the green. In the end, I still am not 100% happy, but it will do. And who knows, maybe someday I will fine the color I had in my head.

Hooray for Jack and Jill

Priority number one was getting a counter top that have us two sinks. As I mentioned before, it was getting to be a challenge to share the space with two other people. I also hated the top/over mount sink from before and, fortunately, Central Heating also sold the single piece countertops by Bertch in the exact same style as the downstairs. While I was looking to tie the two bathrooms together, I didn’t want an exact replica, so we went with the same finish (matte) but a different pattern (Vanilla Bean).

We like to shop and support local businesses and our carpenter gave us the name of a new place that we didn’t know of when we remodeled the downstairs bathroom. In fact, it was a new place to him, too and he was impressed when he went there once day to pick up a fixture for another client of his.

We decided to go for a visit to check out their showroom and (hopefully) get a little inspiration. After meeting with the consultant and walking around, I knew that we’d be working with Central Plumbing and Heating out in Glenville, NY. The name does not do it justice – it’s not only a place to buy boilers and fixtures – it was a full design company! In an effort to keep some continuity between the two bathrooms, this business also carried some of the same brands as the other company and we were sold.

main bath remodel
The New Countertop and Vanity

Linen storage

I gambled on a linen cabinet with drawers and I won big. It turned out to be even better than expected. It even provided more storage than the sizeable closet that we used to have. Plus, with the drawers underneath, I now had my own drawer storage, which I previously did not have in the old vanity. I was using plastic drawers from the early days of our marriage back in the stone age. The mini drawer on top was absolutely perfect as a make-up drawer, too!

The tub

The shower/tub was something we did end up buying from a big box store (Home Depot). It was a bit surprising how much more expensive these tubs are at local companies, even when they are nearly the exact same product. Normally we don’t have a problem paying a little more for something unique, but in the case of a plain white tub that was going to be hidden behind a curtain, we just couldn’t justify the expense. And since we bought our downstairs shower from Home Depot, too, we were able to find a matching shower/tub combo for the upstairs – a Delta Classic 400 style.

main bath remodel
The New Tub going in!

The floor

We had some tiles leftover from the the downstairs job and, again, in an effort to tie the two rooms together we decided to buy some more. These also came from a great place that is a smaller chain – Pro Source. We’ve purchased pretty much every new floor from this place.

The final result

I was literally blown away by the final result. I was going for a modern and clean bathroom and I got a beautiful hotel spa as well! We saved up for this room for an incredibly long time and we made an effort to do as much as we could on our own to save money there, too. But we also recognize that an updated main bath is a huge investment that can only increase the value of our home. While this house is intended to be our forever home, you never know what life will throw at you – so you might as well enjoy every part of your home, too!

<<The Main Bathroom Remodel: Part I

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The Main Bath Remodel – Part 1

Main Bath Remodel

Who Doesn’t Love Avocado?

I do, but this was a bit much. Welcome to my Avocado Bathroom. Sister to the Harvest Gold bathroom. This main bath remodel wasn’t our physically largest project, but was the most anticipated and *cringe* most expensive one to date. There is a reason why they say bathrooms and kitchens sell houses – and our main bathroom felt like a spa when we were done!

This glorious almost original bathroom featured floor, wall, and ceiling tiles. They were identical to the 4″ tiles downstairs…but in more abundance. We were also aware of the fact that the ceiling was being pulled away from the joists in the attic. We made this fun discovery while up int he attic one day. The weight of those tiles over the course of 40+ years was literally going to collapse into the bathroom. This job was not only a “want to do” it was a “must do” job.

The Plan for our Main Bath Remodel

We lived with this galley-style bathroom for about 5 years before we finally could make changes. It’s our largest bathroom and the most used, as it’s on the main living floor. Changing the footprint wasn’t really an option, since our bedroom was on one side and the kitchen on the other. The challenge was how to make this long and narrow space into a more efficient and roomy space. There were some things on the list to go right from the get go:

The single sink situation

Woof, this was a challenge to live with, especially after our daughter became big enough to stand at and use the sink. My husband didn’t think a Jack and Jill sink was particularly necessary (but he has since re-canted his statement!). I appreciated the long counter space to the right of the sink, but the rest of the counter didn’t make much sense. There were no drawers under the right side (possibly because of the baseboard heater likely would have overlapped) and the mirror was clearly not original to the bathroom, because it didn’t take up the whole space. You could also see where the original mirror was installed.

Old Counter
The Old Countertop

The linen closet

While the closet storage was useful, the location of said closet was terrible. It made the entryway into the bathroom much narrower. The door to the closet and the door to the bathroom constantly would tangle. If someone was in the closet it was inevitable that someone entering the bathroom would bang that door into the closet door. We’ve literally bounced off of each other trying to pass by each other. The storage options in this bathroom were just impractical.

The Linen Closet
The Linen Closet

The tub

I did like the size of this shower-tub. The walls were a bit curved to give the illusion of space. But that’s all that was going for this shower-tub. There was barely any shelving or storage to hold soaps, shampoos, etc. I couldn’t even hang an under shower caddy because of how the tub came out from the wall. A caddy just wouldn’t stay hanging. Plus it was avocado and very much so an original to the house. Amazingly, the toilet had been updated right before we moved in, so that was not avocado.

Green Tub
The Green Tub

The floor

In addition to feeling “squishy” in parts, the itty bitty mosaic tiles were starting to pop up off the floor. We had to glue quite a few down over the first 5 years int he house. Honestly, we were terrified of what we would find under the tile.

It was oh so satisfying to bring up when it was cooperating


As per usual, we took care of the demolition ourselves. While this particular home reno job needed the skilled hands of a professional, we aimed to save money where we could. That meant doing demolition and painting on our own. The wall tiles were a bear to bring down. I had to channel all of my stress into swinging my hammer to break into the wall. The mosaic tiles came up incredibly easy in some places and were also a challenge in other areas. The sub-floor was (miraculously) not in terrible shape. We never did figure out why the floor was squishy, but it probably had something to do with the tile.

The ceiling tile. Oh that ceiling tile. We made sure to put on hard hats for this part. As soon as my husband took down the single over-head light fixture, the ceiling visibly sagged. He swung the hammer twice and the whole thing came down like a cartoon. The tub also came into the house during the build phase, so the only way to get it out was with our trusty reciprocating saw in pieces. The whole demolition took about 3 days to take down and clean up.

Just a few more taps and it was down

The Main Bathroom Remodel: Part II>>

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It’s the Harvest Gold for Me

We were very lucky to find a house with 2 full baths in our price range back in 2015. That being said, we knew that both bathrooms would need to be gutted. Like every mid-century modern home, ours came with colorful bathrooms. At least the toilets weren’t colored. That saved some money! Let’s get started with this bathroom remodel.

Let’s Get Started

We decided to start with the downstairs bathroom for a couple of reasons. First, it’s smaller, so it would be a faster and less expensive job (which, yes, that was accurate – at least the price tag). Secondly, we knew that when we were ready to do the main bathroom, we’d be forced to use the one downstairs for as long as the upstairs job took. So we might as well make it as comfortable an inconvenience as possible!

Just like with all of our home improvement projects, we did the demo ourselves. We may have budgeted for 1 big house project per year, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try to save were we can. A good carpenter or contractor can be expensive, and if we can avoid having them do the jobs we are fully capable of doing, we take advantage of that.

As if it were a future prediction, this was an adventure in bringing a tiled wall down. This room, however, had a drop ceiling, so we didn’t have to contend with tiles on the ceiling (like upstairs!). This bizarre drop ceiling (not normal tiles, but definitely rigged up by the owner) also made the ceiling very low. The bathroom was also dark and the very dark hallway just outside of the bathroom had an “office” drop ceiling.

Paint choices
Goodbye drop ceiling. Hello new framing!

Design Decisions

This was our first remodel that would set the color scheme for the whole downstairs. While we did the big utility room ourselves, we painted it white and like to consider it our “basement”; thus making it a bit separate in my mind, to the rest of the downstairs. Let’s go gray!

I don’t mind painting, but I hate painting around things, so once the drywall was up, I did my painting. Behr came in clutch again with seagull gray and pencil sketch. I did have a spell of bad luck when I had to buy more seagull and the paint mixing person actually messed up the order – all of a sudden I had painted with a different shade of gray. I thought the painting would never end.

We also opted for a standing shower instead of the shower/tub combo. This allowed us to create some shelving or storage in this room.

Since it was a tight squeeze, we also opted for a pocket door. It’s about as small as you can get, but it made such a huge difference in that room. It was probably my favorite feature.


That’s the last thing you want when it comes to remodeling a home. But we’ve had one with every single project. After a very successful and basically stress-free bathroom remodel, we discovered some pretty serious mold when we took down the drywall in the utility closet. The drywall came down when work on the shower connections took place.We knew there had been some kind of flooding from a burst pipe a long time ago, and we’ve seen some evidence when we took down the drywall in the laundry room and a little bit of the bathroom. But this was something else.

We ended up taking down drywall all down the hall and then into the den. The den was NOT our planned next project. But we discovered mold four feet up the wall. We properly treated the wall sections and had them taken down.

The back corner of the bathroom. From ugly yellow shower tub to elegant shelves.
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Strip that down for me

Stairs Update

I hate the stairs in my house. Like nearly every bit of wood trim in the house, they were stained a very dark, very dated brown. It’s hard enough to bring natural light into our home, living at the bottom of a hill in the woods. When we first moved in, I attacked nearly every bit of dark brown trim with off white paint (Swiss coffee). As we’ve remodeled, all of the new trim starts out as this color. Doors are painted (campfire ash) before they are even hung. But now I am ready for a DIY stair remodel.

The way before

I wasted no time painting the side trim of the stairs, but everything looked dark and dingy. While the sellers were aiming to do some quick and cheap improvements, most of them were superficial and just looked awful. I figured a little paint certainly wouldn’t make it look worse.

For some strange reason, the upper half of the stairs had been poly’ed. I have no idea if that was new or old, but in addition to being ridiculously unsafe (duh) it made the lower stairs look particularly like garbage.

The semi improvement

Painting the risers and the handrail spindles certainly improved matters. Whenever anyone is looking for a nice, dramatic improvement, painting the risers and spindles always looks great. This served us well for 6 years.

My current mess

The cheap carpet that was put down right before we moved in. In the past 6 years it has quickly become matted, stained, and no longer truly cleanable. I am counting down the days to a new floor. Before we did that, I decided it was time to attack the treads on the stairs. If I couldn’t rip them out and replace them, I was going to do my best to make them look completely different.

The lower stairs were fairly easily stripped. I bought this varnish remover from Home Depot. This stuff is no joke, so be sure to wear gloves, glasses, and ventilate your space. It probably helped that there was no finish on top of the stain. The second set of stairs proved to be much more difficult and it is an on-going saga. I was able to successfully remove the poly, but not much of the stain. That will be the next “step” (haha) in the project. So stay tuned!

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A Kitchen Spruce Up

The Backstory

The kitchen hasn’t been touched yet – but it was time for a kitchen spruce up. When we moved into our home in 2015, it was from a very tiny apartment and so the kitchen felt enormous to me. The new kitchen had about 5 times the counter space (I may have about 6 usable feet right now, so don’t be too impressed). We bought an island from Bed Bath & Beyond and we had a bookshelf that had been used as a pantry from two apartments ago.

The bookshelf was helpful; it housed some pantry items, but also cookbooks and other non-food items. When our daughter was born, we had to stop using the bottom shelf for storage for obvious reasons.

I thought it was finally tie to up the ante and make some floating shelves for the kitchen for storage.

DIY Kitchen Shelves

I ordered brackets on Amazon that look like pipes – I thought it would be an interesting aesthetic to bring into the kitchen. Plus all of the fixtures in the kitchen are a dark, bronze-y color. I purchased these.

I then went down to my favorite lumber yard, Hankle’s, out in East Nassau, NY. Last time I was there I saw these maple boards and I knew I wanted them for something. 2 x 12’s were ideal for my needs and they were kind enough to cut them down to size for me.

After bringing them home I sanded the heck out of them; I purposely chose rough cut because, well, I didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg while lumber prices were soaring. If you decide to save yourself the effort, definitely go for a more finished board.

Making sure everything is square and fitting properly.

Because of the width of board that I chose and the brackets I picked out, I did have to run it on the table saw to make sure it fit properly in the bracket.

After sanding, I conditioned the wood and then went with my favorite Danish Oil as a stain. I took extra care on these and let them dry out for a few days before applying my clear wax. I’ve become a huge fan of the clear wax finish this past summer. As time goes on, it hardens and protects.

Install time

When it was time to install everything, I had to double and triple check every measurement. I did NOT want my shelves to be crooked or out of level. I drew all over the walls. This was an instance where my 4 foot level really came in handy. I also made sure to drill right into the studs. This was going to hold quite a but of weight and I wasn’t going to mess around. As a result, it is a touch off center, but as time has gone on, it’s not even noticeable now.

I started out by finding my studs and marking the center of the first two. Then I repeated the process down the stud at each desired shelf location.

Moment of truth

I confirmed each pair of markings was level by using the 4 foot level and drawing right on the wall. Then, I grabbed the flange piece of the bracket and lined up the holes onto the stud and marked those. Some of the holes did go beyond the stud, so I drilled those out and installed anchors; but I made sure that as many holes as possible were lined up on the stud. I checked for level one more time!

Then the fun part – I screwed on the “pipes” and plopped the board on top, making sure everything fit properly. I checked for level again. Once all of my boards were loosely on the brackets, I took my 4 foot level and made sure they all lined up together. They may not be centered on my small stretch of wall as a whole, but I was absolutely going to make sure they were off-center together!

The final product!

After securing the boards to the pipes with the included under-mount hardware, I took a step back and admired my hard work. Good luck and have fun!

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DIY Room Renovation

Utility Room Makeover Edition

How it Began

We bought our 1977 raised ranch back in 2015. At the time of purchase, some of the rooms had been spruced up, but others not so much. Being a raised ranch, there is no dedicated basement space (the whole lower level is considered a “basement”). Thus began our DIY room renovation experience!

Now, when we moved in, we were just barely 30 and had spent the previous 5 years moving on an almost annual basis. We owned the bare minimum of stuff. But we also made the assumption that this would be our forever home and if our parents were any indication, we’d begin amassing “stuff” sooner rather than later. Thus, the need for a dedicated utility space. The junk drawer of the house, if you will.

This was our very first reno job. B had worked in home construction for a small contracting company in the summers from late high school through college, so he had some basic knowledge of putting together a room. My experience involved watching episodes of Ask this Old House and other home improvement tv shows.

The Before

This room had the least updating to it. Just a little bit of new carpet. That’s it.

I get the cheap white carpet and the disgusting brown trim – the owners were looking to sell the house quickly with a minimum of $$$ spent on a little facelift.

The photo above may look like a nice little room with some wood paneling, but you would be wrong. That “paneling” was glorified cardboard on the wall. And it was glued, stapled, and nailed to the drywall. Effectively destroying the drywall behind it.

The During

I really had no idea what I was getting into here.

Safety first! With hardly the right tools, we took to demolishing the room in mid-January 2016. I foolishly thought this might only take a few weeks. It was just us back in those days, so I also didn’t feel like I had to get it done quickly either.

The aftermath of the wood paneling take down
A complete gut
Replacing hoses and such

We took this bad boy right down to the studs. Good thing, too, as we found evidence of mold (which would continue to haunt us for the next few years as we renovated more and more of the downstairs).

Pro tip: when taking apart the baseboard heater, or anything that you may have to put back together, take photos of the process. You’ll thank me (and yourself!) later.

These heaters are tricky to take apart and those fins are very touchy

Our raised ranch has an exposed foundation half wall all throughout the downstairs. I think keeping it exposed was a stylistic preference of the 1970s and 1980s because I see it in other homes like this. At the time of this project, we decided to keep the wall exposed, as it does indeed make a good shelf. In our den, however, we covered over it.

Drylock for the win!

With every renovation downstairs, though, we’ve make sure to pay special attention to this feature. Each time we took the time to paint over the cinder blocks with Drylock. This helps prevent moisture and seals everything up. Vapor barrier and insulation was also added.

In fact, we insulated the heck out of this room. Both on the outside walls upping the R-value and also on internal walls. Eventually we started using the green, sound-deadening insulation in future renovations. Highly recommend!

The regular pink stuff. Works fine for sound-proofing, but the green stuff is better!

When it came to choosing paint, I knew I wanted a bright utility room. It was so dark in there; back of the house, one window looking out under the deck, on a piece of property without much light to begin with. I went with Behr “Bit of Sugar” and “Hidden Sea Glass”

I also recommend always taking a picture of the can top for reference

Pro Tip: When choosing paint colors, grab a lot of the paint chips and take them home. Hang them up in the room in different places and check the paint color over a period of a few days. Lighting will change in your room throughout the day and it’s a great way to see how the light in your space interacts with the paint chip. This method has never steered me wrong! It takes some extra time, but you won’t regret it.

The After

Eventually, time caught up with us and I was expecting; All the stuff that had been in the utility room originally had been moved into the downstairs spare bedroom. The upstairs room was the office/spare bedroom and everhting in there needed to go downstairs. I was due in December and by October I called in for reinforcements.

Vapor barrier and insulation. We were able to save a lot of the framing on this side of the wall, but we had to build all new framing on the other side.

My parents came and helped moved the furniture downstairs and helped to paint the utility room.

We turned the far wall into a workbench space

One of te very final steps was painting the floor. We didn’t see any point in replacing the carpet, especially if the room was going to be our basement room. We picked up some garage floor paint and it turned out great! Pretty stinky, though, so make sure to open up all the windows and wear safety gear.

It’s also easy to clean, too!

We finished with a month to spare. Whew! I’d say it was a successful first attempt at a DIY room renovation.


Check out my other home improvement projects here!

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Building the Fire Pit, the Fire Pit Adventure Part 5

We are finally at the pièce de résistance, time to build the DIY fire pit. While the patio might require more skill and patience than the average homeowner may posses (although everyone is capable!) the fire pit itself is easily achievable by anyone.

The Stones

I chose these stones from Home Depot. I am a fan of the tumbled look and because of the shape, they easily form a circle. These were also an affordable option; if you are looking to just make a pit, these stones are a good option to make a professional-looking fire pit for under $100.

If you recall, early on in the project I dug down about a shovel’s depth into the ground. I added gravel to help with drainage. If you find that you have a more dense soil, such as clay, I recommend a few inches of gravel to help with drainage.

Fill the pit with gravel for drainage

In addition to your choice of stone for the pit, you’ll need to grab some construction adhesive. I bought this Loctite brand, but after I ran out I found some more in the house, but actually in the right color this time. Make sure you pay attention to the color listed on the bottle; I didn’t and I bought white – and the stones are gray.

The Build

Start out by laying out your first row; take the time to level the stones out as best you can. If you are using even bricks, this will help keep everything level as you work up. Tumbled bricks will make it a little more of a challenge to be perfectly level, but it works well enough.

Level out the bottom row

After laying out your first row, dry fit your next row. Lay each brick on the joint between two bricks of the row below. This helps to keep the wall of bricks strong. Dry fitting the bricks is a good way to be sure that you have enough bricks (hint: I didn’t do this on my last row and I was short 4 bricks).

This is the color I should have gotten the first time around.

Use a healthy amount of the construction adhesive and let the bricks sit for a bit before poking at the bricks. Once everything has set, you will find that the bricks are pretty immovable.

Dry fitting the next row

The Liner

I decided to line the inside of my fire pit with a galvanized fire pit ring. For some reason these are ridiculously expensive at most home improvement stores. I did a quick Google search and I found this one at Ocean State Job Lot for about a third of the price.

My DIY fire pit is a bit of an odd size and not a perfect circle, either. A second lesson I learned in this part of the process: perhaps use the liner as a template for your circle. To be honest, I didn’t think I was going to use a liner, so it was a last minute decision. To make the liner fit, I assembled the four pieces together, but I overlapped the final joint.

Happy campfire season!

I decided to fancy it up a bit with 6 bags of black river rocks and boom, hot dogs for dinner tonight!

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Set in Stone – the Fire Pit Adventure, Part 4

Creating a diy paver patio is the newest learning experience for me as a Weekend Warrior. I’ve seen it enough times on Ask This Old House and YouTube, but this was the final exam. And let me share with you what I did right and what I did wrong.

Close up view of the paver joints in a diy paver patio.
The concrete sand base came up too high in some sections. Lesson number one.Close

Lesson One

Choosing the stones and laying them out was the easy part. But there is one thing I wish I paid a little more attention to during this stage – keep the joints free and clear and at least half an inch to an inch deep. This would be important to the success of my paver set. More on that in a minute.

After making sure everything is nice and level, I brought out my polymeric sand. This is key in a diy paver patio. I was pretty intimidated by this product at first. It’s basically designed to act like a grout, joining the pavers together and binding them in place. Short of masonry mud, this is going to keep everything together – so no pressure.

I went with the gray to blend in, but it comes in other colors.

Lesson Two

I initially started out with just two 40-pound boxes, but four were ultimately necessary. And in all honesty, here is the second lesson: don’t skimp on the polymeric sand. Having some depth in the joints is key to a good, solid set.

The instructions are simple enough, clean the work space, dump the sand, push broom it into place, tidy it up, and water it like your lawn. The water is what jump starts the binding agent. It takes about a day or two to set. It’s important to follow the instructions specific to the brand you buy.

Using a push broom to get the paver set into the joints between the stones.
Pushing the sand into the joints.
Applying water to set the polymeric sand
Growing a patio this spring.

Lesson Three

And here is lesson number three; the instructions on my brand specified using a leaf blower to clear out dust and debris in the work space. I wish I had been a little more aggressive with the leaf blower to help clear out those joints.

Up close of the broken sand joint. The lessons of a diy patio.
In the places where the sand was too thin, it flaked right up.

I ultimately had to go through some spots, dig out the paver set that was too thin and re-do some sections. I made sure to have at least an inch of depth between those joints and I filled them generously. To be as efficient as possible, I recommend using a funnel to get the sand right into the joints, where needed.

If you have the ability to rent or buy a compactor to vibrate the sand into the crevices, definitely use that. Otherwise, plan to tap on every paver to make sure that the sand gets into every area around the stone.

It was really exciting to water the stones and check the progress the next day. Even with a few mistakes, it’s coming together really well! I’m thrilled that I am done with the diy paver patio portion. Come back next week for the final part of my adventure with the fire pit. See you soon!

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Closing Day, 2015

Welcome to AllieCat Quilts & Crafts, a passion project that has turned into a business.

My name is Karoline and I live in Albany, NY with my husband, daughter, and our two cats, Odin and Freya. I’ve always been passionate about building and creating things, whether they are tangible or not.

I spend my days working my day job for the state where I expend my creative energy into the creation and development of our office-wide database (among other things, but that is my favorite). At home I let loose and create anything and everything for the home. It might be building an organizer to deal with a mess or some fun decor to liven up our living space.

People have asked me, “how did you learn how to do that?” Honestly, a lot of trial and error and being OK with an end product that might be a little messy or a little bit crooked.

When we were looking to buy our forever home, I desperately wanted something old or at least colonial-looking. We ended up in a 1977 raised ranch on an amazing piece of property. Not too much had been updated in the house, especially our bathrooms. In an attempt to bring a little bit of my farmhouse chic style without completely missing the mark with a raised ranch home, I’ve been able to find a way to strike a balance that I think does the trick.

So join me as I experiment in my own home, build things, and share what I’ve learned over the years to help you bring a little farmhouse chic into your life.