Bathroom Remodels: Before & After

Well it's been a while! The master bathroom took 18 months, because it isn't a normal bathroom. (understatement!) And then I had to remodel another downstairs bathroom (that I just finished, October 2018) - and we are tearing into the kitchen now. Below are photos of the bathroom renos, because a friend keeps asking for updated pictures and I was really lazy because Instagram is a lot easier than keeping up a blog.
Completed master:

We discovered even more space behind that wall - it was roughed in for a SAUNA!



There was black tile and stone EVERYWHERE.
and pumpkin orange walls.

It's a tad more French, oui? And a little more "lake resort"? And less "Darth Vader-Hugh Hefner"?

We opened up the area that was supposed to be a sauna, and made it into a secondary laundry room.

(from instagram)

Here is the next bathroom, completed:

In this one, I cut the size in half because I wanted more room in the kitchen for a huge pantry.

here's the BEFORE:

Okay you can see above, that we ripped out a useless closet and I built the new storage cabinet on top of that air return.
here's the before:

Ugly tile, ugly paint, 20 year old moldy bathtub. Hideous. But of course the worst thing was that it was 3 times bigger than necessary and was eating into the kitchen space.

I am in the middle of re-grading the whole backyard this month and building new garden beds and retaining walls, so I will try to post my before and after pics of that next. And then this winter we are tearing out the kitchen for realz. I'm sure there will be more disasters to document. This blue bathroom was the first time we made it through a renovation without hitting some absolutely insane problem - whew.

Maybe we are finally beating this house into submission! (think positive!!)

Where I Lose My Mind over ALL the Flowers

Well here it is, Fall again!! And this time, I started hacking away at the landscaping situation. After my soul-destroying attempt at roses this summer, I told myself to just lower my expectations.
6 of the original 18 roses bushes are currently still alive and pushing out flowers. YAY
This is a pep talk I have given myself routinely over the last decades. It goes like this:

"Katy you really need to get a grip. Stop getting so obsessive. You're dreaming about something that will never happen."
(at least this happened. Didn't last as long as I envisioned, but it happened.)

"Katy there are no decent men in this world and you need to accept reality."  (Surprise! this wasn't true either!)

Katy, normal people do not go from "growing tomatoes in a pot" to "buying half the seed catalogue from 10 different companies and 3 textbooks on growing cut flowers."  (THIS may true.)

this is part of my records, everything has either already been planted or I have the seeds.

or.. "Katy you need to stop taking every idea and blowing it up to impossible fantasy proportions and then forgetting to do the laundry while you research for 10 hours per day."  (Sigh.)

The issue is that I *do* need to work on the landscaping, but I am *unable* to just slap in some boxwoods and call it a day. I decided if I have to do a lot of back-breaking yard work, I should at least get a flower garden out of it. right?

But, like, how many flowers?

My fantasies really snowballed quickly ( as they often do). It doesn't help that my precious mom is facing another round of cancer treatment and I was thinking how nice it would be to have cut flowers for her all year.

You see how someone could reasonably lose their mind in this situation.

I already replaced all the diseased rose bushes with hydrangeas. Then I had to pick out foundation plants to go behind the boxwood hedges. Because the north side of the house is mostly shade I went with camellias. A LOT of them.
azaela and camellia bushes, boxwoods will go in next spring. Because budget.
In the midst of all of my wild garden plans, the jackhammering and concrete pouring continues.

Here we are now - moving to the lower patio next. Still need to paint stucco and have railings repaired.
We're making progress but it's slow going. I post more on instagram these days.
We got an estimate for replacing all the rotten doors and broken windows too. It was so bad that I told Prince Charming we need to quit -QUIT!!- and sell the house "as is".

Until his optimism finally gets beaten down to more cynical levels (like mine), we are stuck with this mess. So I'm going to plant a million flowers -- everything in the whole plant catalog -- and see what comes up.
Happy fall planting time everyone!!! (I mean Thanksgiving!)

No More Bar Stools: A Kitchen Manifesto

Thankfully I can rant here about design trends that I am sick of, because all the designers do not read my blog. :)
I don't know if you've noticed, but the kitchen island with a row of fancy bar stools is the absolute *rule* these days in Design Land.
Every. Single. Kitchen. Renovation.
If you spend 5 seconds on Pinterest or design mags or instagram, you've seen 5000 pictures like these:
from DecorPad
from the Home Designer Company
(Someday in decades to come, this period will be remembered as the age  of "Barstools and Massive Range Hoods". Kinda like how the 50's is known for cars as big as ships).

Now, I understand the idea behind it. It came with the whole "open concept" trend. You're supposed to blow out your walls and throw stools around an island, so that your kitchen is now the center of the home and you can have 5 children doing their homework at the counter while simultaneously smashing crackers all over the floor and wiping their hands on the fabric seats.


Okay well then you're supposed to stand at the island like you're captaining a ship, hibachi style, cooking up a storm while your guests gather around the counter and drink their wine and watch. Or you're supposed to serve drinks at the bar like a never-ending episode of Cheers?

The fantasy about this kitchen layout does not match the reality of feeding a family of 6 on a daily basis. I know because this is the kitchen I'm currently working in:
Look I staged it for you! LOL! I just need some fresh flowers right?

GUESS THE DATE! Circa? 2005? Dark espresso cabinets, swirly granite, black granite tile, wrought iron bar stools. :)

For the Love.

When someone is cooking and 4 kids drag all their crap into the kitchen and sit at the bar? Let's see:

Food all over the bar falls into my stovetop.
Food all over the floor.
Food all over the seats.
Clutter freaking everywhere.
Guess how many times we've stubbed our (my) toes on the barstools? Or cracked our (my) ribs on the granite?

This is not a Bar and Grill restaurant, it's not a schoolroom, and I need to have seperate zones for certain activities. A kitchen used to be a work area, and I  promise that trend is going to cycle around again. Because the pendulum always swings. Our ancestors had seperate cooking and eating and lounging areas for a reason, even if their homes were tiny. There were good reasons for that and I've discovered every last one of them- I'm like the  Indiana Jones of kitchen design.
1922 Sears Kit home ! Note the separate pantry, eating area, and cooking areas. :)

I'm renovating my kitchen and I'm going old school: a large work TABLE with no "fancy seating",  a barrier between the cooking area and the kids' feeding trough, and some very clear work zones that do not invite traffic. I'm also closing it up and putting doors back on seperate rooms so I don't have to listen to the echo of kitchen clatter, running water, The microwave running, the TV shouting, four kids talking, four YouTube videos playing on various  devices, ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

1912 Sears kit home- LOOK! no cabinets or island! How did they survive back then?
Note: this reno has to be done on a small budget, DIY style, and I won't be buying any new cabinetry. I'm just going to take the cabinets down and re-work them.  I need to replace some of the 20 year old appliances, but I'm going to try hard not to put a lot of money into this because it's not worth it. I'm not going for a "pinterest kitchen".
ALTHOUGH I REALLY LIKE THIS ONE! Maybe if I was on Downton Abbey.
This trend of ripping out all the doors and walls so the whole house feels like one room? I hate it because for most styles of architecture, it's just not right. It's going to take 5 years just to build all the missing walls in this house. I am highly noise sensitive (I've never been to a concert for a reason), and this echo chamber made me almost suicidal when we first moved in. Thankfully I own lots of earplugs.
This is the only stool I want in my kitchen. For kids who want to help wash dishes.!!
This rant is also brought to you by that other insane kitchen trend: ! expensive antique carpets in the kitchen. ! Oh! And if i see these bizarre light fixtures one more time:

found here, Caitlin Creer Interiors

What the crack? In a world of 10 million gorgeous chandeliers, this is a popular choice? I've seen some variation of this lighting in 1000 identical kitchens on Pinterest now!
 Sometimes I think I need to start my own design company. But instead I will renovate one house at a time, so I can have all the final say. ;) 

My First Rose Garden: A Cautionary Tale

This house is the first opportunity in my life to have a flower garden. I have never lived anywhere before now that included decent soil, space, and the time and money to grow something other than grass weeds.
And of course, I never do anything in small steps. It's go big or ... why bother?

So this summer I went and bought 18 rose bushes and planted them with PC's help:

 He even put in an irrigation system for me. This was serious. A big deal. I was so excited.

And they were happily growing for 2 months and I was happily watering them and cutting some for vases... and then...

Have you ever heard of "Rose Rosette Disease" ?

Me neither.

It's basically the AIDS virus for roses, and there is no cure. And suddenly all 11 of the pink knockouts were displaying the symptoms.

I couldn't believe it. And they infected the yellow roses (that were my favorites of course.)

I ripped out most of the roses and took them back to the big box store where I bought them. When I walked into the nursery I decided to look at the knockouts they were currently selling. I took this picture in the store:
They were actively selling roses with this disease and probably infecting every other rose that was crammed onto this platform!!

So my first rose garden got AIDS and died. But... there are a couple of the yellow ones left and I'm watching them carefully..
I took this photo so I have something to remember them by, in case they are done for. (PC says I am not very optimistic. SNORT. He is just now discovering the depths of my fatalism.)

So what is the lesson? Don't buy flowers from the big box stores? Don't buy large quantities at once? Do more research on diseases first? Don't plant roses?

I'm not sure. I am not interested in doing this again though so I've crossed roses off my list and I'm exploring hydrangeas, azaleas, and I ordered (ONE) peony just to see if it survives here:


From Drug House to French Chateau

It's taken a few years, but we finally figured out the history of this crazy house. At least, we've put a lot of the puzzle pieces together.  If you've read any of my blog posts here you may remember the gigantic satellite dish in the attic:
And I've mentioned the fact that there are a gazillion cameras all over the walls, in every room in the house, in the ceiling, and all over the exterior. Many of the interior walls were missing, as seen in this picture of the master bedroom (as we were closing it up last year).

this is a ServPro picture from the insurance company, after a plumbing disaster but before we owned the house. You can see the master bedroom was set up to monitor all the cameras and overlook the great room.

The guy who built this house also had a separate "control room" with a computer system and all the camera feeds went to that room. This was all built 20 years ago in the late 90's.

The neighbors all believed he was a lunatic, because he was constantly threatening the neighbors with lawsuits and was extremely aggressive. His teenage sons were known to the local police and there was clearly a lot of drug activity. We found glass drug pipes stashed all over the house in weird places.

I have heard stories from local contractors and building inspectors who dealt with this guy when the house was being built! Many things were not done to code, as we have discovered to our detriment. We are currently jackhammering up all the concrete to fix everything! But the lunatic moved into the house anyway without a permit, and made threats. So the building department just gave him the permit! This was back in the day when building codes were much more lax.

Apparently the lunatic purposely left all the window trim and detailing off the house in order to make it "modern". Which means it just looks like crap. Last winter I found the original plans in the attic:

When I realized that this house was supposed to be FRENCH, suddenly the architecture made sense and I had a plan to go by. This is why I have changed direction and I'm adding all the French elements back onto the house now.

Anyway back to the drugs. So I had some friends visiting this summer and one of them said "This was a counting house" in jest. Then my other neighbor told me this story 2 weeks ago:

Back in the early 2000's, the teenage boys who lived here would throw parties and there were large amounts of drugs involved. One of the former partygoers (who is now grown and an HVAC technician in the local area) was describing it in awe to my neighbor (as he was working on the HVAC)! He said there was a "RUBBERMAID TUB FULL OF WEED" and that the kids were shocked and asked how did you get so much? and apparently one of the boys said "My dad just really likes to smoke it".


FINALLY this house makes sense! Why did the owner spend such ghastly amounts of money building this fortress out of steel and concrete, wire it with 4 million cameras, and yet have horrendous taste??
And why did he seem like he had money, but then when he died he appeared penniless, the house was going into foreclosure and his wife said she was on Medicaid?

Why all the strange people seen squatting in this house at various times?

And the dope pipes stashed all over..

I guess this really WAS a drug house. But now it's going to be the French-chateau-in-the-tropics that it was always supposed to be. (If I live long enough to finish it.) HA.

It's a Vote: 1 Butler's Pantry, 5 Different Ways

So we visited Antique Appliances in the Georgia mountains last week, because I have been really stewing over the kitchen in this house. My appliances are 20 years old and are starting to break down, but this house requires something larger (and more expensive) than a $400 Samsung oven. As much as I wish that would suffice. :/

You gotta use your imagination here. This white 8 burner queen is a 1931 Royal gas stove. We put it on hold to be restored, but the wait list is almost 2 years! Which I figure is long enough for us to tear the kitchen apart.
While I was researching appliance options, I was also trying to decide on a design for the new butler's pantry (that doesn't exist yet). I previously wrote about the layout and floorplan changes that will make that happen, so here are the drawings I made for the main elevation. Our family already voted, but the more the merrier!
If I were building a farmhouse, this is what the pantry would look like, for sure. But I was wrestling with this house because it's VERY French in style. So next I tried the black and white floors in the kitchen instead of the wood.

And nobody loved this because the wallpaper was too much. So I tried lemons:

Which was better. But then I saw this mint colored mini fridge and decided maybe CHINOISERIE was the way to go!?

SHUT UP! THIS was my favorite! And then I revisisted the lemons. Because it seems like my family is not on the chinoiserie bandwagon that the whole internet is on right now. Hurrumph.

And then everyone saw this and said....that's fun!

I don't know. It'll be a while until I actually build this, so I was thinking I should choose the wallpaper before it gets discontinued but decision-making has always been my weak point. What would you choose?

My next post will be about more of the illegal drug history of this house because I think we figured out what was going on in this mess - CRAZY!  Happy BACK TO SCHOOL to all you parents out there -- I'm so happy this week!! xx