Wednesday, December 11, 2013

tiling the bathtub, and legitimacy vs. craziness thereof

My stars you people, somehow I'm that eccentric blogger who has gone almost six months without posting. Terribly inexcusable!! This might have to do with the v. daunting task that I've been putting off of blogging about our bathtub remodel. That is coming NOW. In THIS POST.

We have had quite the season change in the last six months, with selling our lovely first house and moving to Geneva to work on our PhD research for two years at CERN, the largest particle accelerator in the world.

HouseCapades doesn't seem like the right moniker for our current season of Swiss apartment and semi-nomadic life, so I've started a new blog for the next couple years, over at I hope you'll make the transition with me and pop over to see what we're up to!

How. Ever. I cannot finish posting about our Oklahoma house without telling you about the bathtub renovation that we daringly attempted our last spring in the house.

This is a hint. If your husband gives you the crazy-eye when you suggest ripping out the fugly fiberglass bathtub surround, *this time* it might be for a good reason. Unless your husband likes showering at the gym and going to sleep to the sound of the wet saw and endless How I Met Your Mother episodes, he might not appreciate the full loveliness of this project.

On the other hand, the author may or may not have completely forgotten to go to bed one night in the excitement of tiling/grouting, looking in confusion at the oddly-colored window curtain upon reappearing from the bathroom before realizing it was morning sunshine, and then been excited because that meant Lowes had just opened at 6am and she could get MORE GROUT to complete a certain stage of the program. FABULOUS.

Anyway. Have I established that said project will in all likelihood be harder than ripping out and replacing the kitchen, harder than tiling the sunroom floor, and more time consuming than my hand-sewn duvet cover that has brought in so much lovely Pinterest traffic?

Am pretty sure we made it harder on ourselves than strictly necessary for several reasons:
- Self was too cheap to buy one of those mixing attachments that fits onto a drill and mixes your grout for you. Used old plastic serving spoon. Three words: BUY MIXING ATTACHMENT.
- We chose 12" square tiles, with 3/16" grout lines, which looks *awesome* and is easier to clean (hello fewer grout lines!) but was a PAIN to install, because if one tile is crooked or one cut is off, it affects the future tile-laying much more than smaller tiles. And also bigger tiles are thicker, so harder to work with in smaller spaces. Am pretty sure those people with the small white subway tiles have something right going on.
- Beginning of project included unforeseen but fortuitous plumbing and HVAC vent repairs
- Wife's crazy desire to add custom details (am getting to that)

Anyway. When I last blogged about it, we had gotten this far:
- initial pipe repair
- demo old tub
- clean and repair vent
- install drain
- demo drywall
- install tub
- do new plumbing
- build up wall corner around plumbing
- install plastic moisture barrier over studs
- install cement backerboard over moisture barrier
- tile
- grout
- enjoy!

With all the plumbing complications we had, you would think the rest was easy then I had to decide to go and put in these lovely customized shelves (inset into the stud space...why let it go to waste, after all??)

I definitely took more photos of the process but they have been
Irretrievably Lost in the Vast Catacombs of my project photos.
Basically framed it out with small boards from the project aisle at Lowes, and
lots and lots of screws and How I Met Your Mother episodes

After the shelves, the rest of the steps, while tedious, were pretty straight-forward. I found this v. awesome bathtub-tiling guide that I followed for most of it.

And when I say tedious, I emphasize that this is not the 'seven day quick install' that Julia over at MerryPad managed to bust out. This was countless evenings of husband making dinner while self toiled away, and then after dinner break, husband exercising his excellent detail-eyes to make wet saw cuts for self till getting bored and going to bed, while self continues to various wee morning hours fueled by some strange desire to have a shower again despite how good we eventually became at using baths out of necessity...(also found that awesome snack for middle of night tiling is sandwich of shredded cheese+red onion+mayonnaise, all chopped and stirred together...)

These photos after tiling and grouting but before caulking show how I made it hard for self with all the extra corners and shelves (but - interesting to figure out, and so functional!)

In those photos you can also see the problem that developed with my shelves. Due to the thick 12" tiles we were using...I had these ugly seams that no way caulk was going to hide:

That was definitely a throw-in-the-towel-and-go-to-bed evening. But the next day, husband had the best suggestion.

Apologies for the weird coloring of photo...
I think the camera was compensating for all the blue painters' tape
Have you guessed it?

Oh yeah. That was totally what I should have planned on from the beginning. And I had just enough leftover small tiles to get away without buying another pack!

And with that we had a functional, spacious bathtub/shower, and the main thing, hot running water again! We installed one of those curtain rods that curves outward (totally worth it), and a shower head that adds extra height for the tall people (From Amazon). Those two additions by themselves added great flair - would be a great upgrade just by themselves!

We didn't install the shower rod at the ceiling like so many DIY designers are fond of doing (*coughYHLcough*) because in our case we would have had to use one longer than the standard size due to that shelf past our showerhead. I actually like the lower rod better, both for functionality (for steam to get out of the shower) and aesthetics (curved rod + leaving the curtain open to show off the tile).

I do love the tile going up to the ceiling, though. It makes the whole space feel bigger and more open.

Phew. Yes. Love result, but don't want to do that project again for a v. long time! But was v. happy when professional contractor friend came over to see completed bathtub and drawled, "well now, that's great work. you could hang your shingle out." Will be hiding said shingle in a deep dark project closet.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

whirling dervishes

I am, appropriately, writing this little post about my ceiling fan makeover while husband is sleeping.

It's not that husband sleeps a lot. He probably actually sleeps less than the average person.

But it is still usually more than I do, which makes for an interesting relationship wherein he gives me a youarethecrazyperson look at least once a week when I'm busting out a new project around midnight, and I give him my best pleasewontyouplaywithmeyourenotreallytired look as often as I think I can get away with it. ^_^

Which is how this project started, one random night a couple days before flying to Virginia and selling our house, just after recarpeting the loft and building the fence and just before refinishing the sunroom countertops.

It could have been the weak link in house selling, I swear!
Also, I'd already bought a new light kit like a year ago...
Husband was preparing to go to sleep when I brought the ladder in to convince him to take the fan down for me (a height issue, you see).

When he gave me the crazy look and refused on grounds of Imsleepyanditspastmidnight, I instead took the fan blades down one by one, carefully photographing to document everything along the way. You know, I wasn't quite standing directly above him. Might have dropped one fan blade though. Toootally accidental.

See I'm almost half done taking down the blades already!!
I tried sanding and staining these fan blades like I did for the awesome living room fan restoration. But these fan blades were made out of particle board and did not hold up to that as well (no nice wood grain finish this time).

Isn't it gorgeous.
I think this fan was left up when previous owners put popcorn texture on the ceiling. :-x

So after looking at the store but still feeling dissatisfied with new blade options, I decided to just ORB the old blades as well as all the metal parts (after taking everything apart, of course).

And who's surprised because Rustoleum's ORB is just that great, it turned out well.

The only problem was when I realized my new lighting kit did not fit on the old light adapter to the fan, unlike the living room fan that was a screw-off-old, screw-on-new procedure.

This kept me awake. Or would have if I liked sleeping.
I needed that center piece to attach the new light.
But needed to not have those three separate bulb holders in the way.
Fortunately husband has awesome machinery skills, we brought the part in to school and he basically (v. carefully!) drilled a hole through the middle of each of those bulb cups big enough to cut through the metal clip holding the cup in place.

Pretend he's wearing safety glasses. We put some on partway through.
Also, drill presses are magical.
After all the parts were dry from spraypainting, voila complete!

Except. It somehow hung sliiightly lopsided, which resulted in a bit of a wobble. I guess we got lucky with the living room fan, which I'm thankful for since that was the one 16 feet off the ground!

So this leads to the day we left for the Virginia wedding, on which morning husband got up to go to the restroom about 5:30am and when he came back I "apparently" sat excitedly up in bed and said "IS IT MORNING!?!" He said "no" and rolled over to go back to sleep, and I gleefully hopped out of bed, clearly convinced I had enough excuse to get up. You see, as well cleaning and as getting fresh flowers for our vases right before leaving (for any house showings while we were gone), I went to Lowes when they opened at 6 for those great stick-on weights for fan balancing, brought the ladder in and worked out the fan wobble. This is apparently how husband woke up again. It's surprisingly difficult to get those weights stuck on well enough that they don't fly off and narrowly miss husband's sleeping head when they bounce off the wall at 6:30 in the morning. Oops.

So yes. My fan repertoire grows and I have learned the following advices.
  1. Light kits are just about the cheapest and best way to give your fan instant class (this one was about $25 on Overstock). This project was about $25 for the kit and $7 for the spray paint. And $2 for the extra balancing weights.
  2. Rustoleum Oil Rubbed Bronze spray paint makes almost everything better.
  3. Bedroom projects are some of the best because when you wake up you can gloat over enjoy how great they look.
  4. Husbands don't like flying objects near their heads while sleeping. Nowyouknow.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

the fence that jack, I mean we, built

Thursdays are late night shopping nights here -- woo do the crazy dance!! Stores are open till nine twenty-one hundred (stilldontseepointoftwentyfourhourtime)! David was playing squash so I had a great time with myself examining strange-looking foods and making an earnest search of the pen aisle. Nerd shopping is an art.

Credit: XKCD
We also were offered our first apartment after four rejections -- double happy day! But ironically it's the most expensive apartment for which we applied. We could afford it with a slice of our house savings, but are still deciding if it's worth it or we should keep looking (actually we haven't even seen the place yet, we're going tomorrow...yes we've gotten so desperate that we apply for places that look decent without even visiting!).

Speaking of slice of the house savings, let's make that an unlikely transition into one of my favorite projects that we did just before selling our house last month - the fence we built along the back of our property!!

For those of you who remember my first tornado wood project, it was made when this happened to our back fence after the 2011 tornado:

This is just one panel but I promise the rest of it matched in
fabulous fencing devastation!
We always meant to rebuild the fence, but after the flood last year we had a drought, along with a fierce heat wave that made even my desert-dwelling self quite reticent to work outside. And then we had our last qualifier and got through defending our masters theses and yup, no fence. But this spring we knew we had to get it done before selling. And it turned out to be way easier than I was expecting!! I attribute at least 25% of this to my dad for the fence we built at my parents' back in the day, and 50% to the confidence-boosting stories and advice that Charah (lovely Seattlite friends ChadandSarah, whom I shall henceforth refer to as though you know them) gave us. And 25% to getting to borrow our friend Moses' digging tools :)

Since most of this fence-building thing is moving pieces of wood around, ourselves found it useful to define our terms like good scientists, so we weren't saying "move this wood piece thingy...onto that one...I was thinking if we did that one first..." So I found this coolio diagram:

Now you know.
Except that 'rails' are also called 'stringers'. Which is what we ended up calling them.

I warn you that my photographic documentation skills were not out in full force. But seriously. Not hard. Building the fence was a great break from the more detail-oriented projects we'd been doing inside!

Step Zero [optional]: Make a complicated Excel spreadsheet estimating cost of every possible method of fence building and picket option. Ya know, how I do. I figured out that by using individual pickets and screws (because Charah told us how much easier screws are than nails, and sturdier), we could build the fence for just slightly more than using the cheapest pre-made panels.

Step One: Tear out old fence. Husband bought us a chain saw last year for tree trimming, so we used that to help with the stubborn bits, but most of the fence basically pulled apart where it wasn't down already. We cut off any posts that were still in their concrete footings at the ground and left the concrete footings, because we figured they wouldn't really show when the new fence was up. We made a huge pile in the yard, David made a craigslist ad, and BAM! GONE! Thanks, lazy Friday evening. We enjoyed you too.

The craziness. Aaaand those clouds would probably be a storm rolling in.

Step Two: String a line along where to build the fence to help you mark the holes.

The professionals tell you to put your posts every eight feet so that you can use eight foot stringers without having to measure and cut them. HA. They clearly didn't have ginormous trees and tree roots in the way PRECISELY where we wanted to build said fence. This could be part of why the last fence fell down so willingly - some of the posts were not set in concrete or set in only very shallowly! So we had to strategize, and even used a couple sections of ten-foot stringers. Hey, ya can't see the stringers from our side when the fence was up, and we figured the slight lack in symmetry probably wouldn't bother most people on the other side. ;)

Step Three: Make many, many (six?) Lowes trips to fit all the materials in our awesome little Honda Accord. Fortunately Lowes is about a hundred feet one mile away. And we stopped for frappachinos on the third trip or so.

We took this picture for you, Charah, per your fence-building car-hauling exploits!!
We were limited to how many boards we could fit in one load without any hanging out windows or trunk, because as we've discussed, my husband (who grew up in Africa, remember) refuses to be seen with me looking that ghetto. I do have to admit we did have to also space out how many cement bags we took in one load..low ridahs.

Our materials, unscientifically measured, consisted of:
- Cement bags (we dug 1.5-2 foot holes for the posts, and two bags would do about three posts)
- Posts, stringers, pickets (strategically measured stringer lengths, most 8' but some 10' as mentioned)
- Rust resistant deck screws (2 lengths, one for pickets and one for stringers-to-posts)!!

It is hard to stress just how great using screws was. Am I jumping ahead?! It's fun to pound a straight nail, right? But imagine doing about 1,000,000,000 in the summer heat and some after dark when we have time to work on said fence. Umyahnotexciting. We had two drills, our new one and old ones, so we took Charah's advice. Loved it!!

Step Four: Dig holes. Not much to say about that. Except dang those tree roots. And requisite jokes about Post Hole Digging. Our friend Moses had an electric tool that helped some, but we ended up doing quite a few mostly by hand because of the tree roots. It went a lot faster than I'd anticipated!

Step Five: Posts and Stringers. We mixed the cement in our wheelbarrow and took turns holding the post in place while the other person packed it in around the post. The cement even came with instructions, so it was pretty fast and easy!

Oh yes except not easy working with random lengths between trees. I totally improvised and used two trees *as* posts, which I was reticent to do, but they were well-grown trees and otherwise we would have lost a good six inches of patio!

Awesomesauce. I have pretty mad fence building skills, just saying.
Also this root that I'm cutting mostly into was cut off a few more feet from the tree,
so I figured it wouldn't do serious damage.
Note that we built the stringers with the black stamps *toward* where the pickets would be placed,
so they wouldn't show in the final product.

We'd read that we should prop the posts into place while the cement dried for 24 hours before adding the stringers, and David suggested just installing the stringers to use those for the supports. Best. Idea. Ever.

We used a level to be sure each stringer was lined up properly. V. satisfying.

It was an especially great idea to 'prop' with stringers for the sturdiness factor, because Of Course we had a huge hail-and-wind storm that night after we put up the posts. I woke up v. grumpy, certain that our new posts and wet cement would have all been knocked over.

But! They survived! Take that Oklahoma weather!

Step Six: Add Stringers. The most time consuming part (still not bad with our screw power!), but great fun to watch the fence grow. Picture David and I wandering around with pockets full of screws and ears full of NPR podcasts, finishing up. He did more than I did on this part since it was mostly week nights and I had tutoring students.

And -- complete!! Enjoy new patio, optimally with grilling, beers, and general chillaxment.

The triangle shade from Amazon was great! Soo much better than an umbrella -- it felt much more open and went really well with the lights :) I found hooks at Lowes to use to mount the shade and lights - the hooks had clips to avoid the rope/wire from slipping out. V. optimal for surviving future storms!

We managed to enjoy that patio quite a few times in the last few weeks! Yay!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

FSBO: How we sold our house!

When I was telling my mum on the phone that we were going to try to sell by owner and she said 'ah yes Fizzbo'ing!' I kind of thought it was some dorky word that moms say (hi mom!!). Haha. But it turns out that it's a thing, people. Selling by owner is all over the show, and what's more, it's totally do-able. You know, if you work close enough that you can run home for a showing, aren't afraid to chat with every stranger that calls you, and enjoy inundating your neighborhood with signs and fliers.

Just joking...kind of...I mean, I think FSBO'ing makes sense depending on how valuable your time is and how much you don't mind doing it. But for us me it was really enjoyable! I mean, how often do you get to show off your house and listen to everyone rave about how much they like it? Usually I seriously don't like talking on the phone, but I got quite used to it, chatting with everyone who wanted to buy our house :)

We definitely don't know 'everything' about selling a house, and I am so thankful and grateful that we sold our house for 2K below our asking price after 13 days on the market! Here are just the strategies that worked for us.

I texted David this photo from Lowes when I was picking out this sign.
It was more expensive but those red FSBO signs are so ugly!
I bought a metal frame to go with this one. SO worth it.
1. Research, yo. The first thing I did was stay up late at night reading forums, blogs, articles, everything...for tips from other people. I picked out the tips that I liked (keep fresh flowers in all the main rooms! yay! a few smelly candles to light quickly when people are coming, and turn on all the lights for showings to display house in its best 'light' ;) ) and dumped the ones I didn't (take down all personal photographs to help people 'see' themselves there...umnothankyou)

The other part of researching was choosing an asking price. This was hard. We compared our house with other houses on the market in our area, talked to a couple of realtors, and compared notes with a few people we'd known who had recently bought houses in our area. We ended up pricing our house 7K higher than our realtor friend suggested. I was worried (what if it doesn't sell? We have to take advantage of those first few weeks on the market!) but demand has been high in our neighborhood lately - freshly paved streets, Sprouts market going in a couple blocks over - a couple people we met told us they had tried to buy in our area but couldn't because the houses sold too quickly! And there were not a lot of homes on the market in Norman this spring apparently (picture me casting a sour face at any comparable looking home that I drove past that had a For Sale sign out, haha, and cheering when it sold and was off the market ;) ) so I think that helped. Husband made a spreadsheet estimating the money we'd spent on house projects, and that plus our original purchase price set our "bottom line" price. We ended up selling for about 12K more than that, so hurray for extra savings!

2. Use Lovely Excuse to Glam Up House. I might be weird but this was fun. We aren't cluttery, but I still went through and de-cluttered each room, putting knick nacks in a box, clearing off any shelves I thought looked better empty or almost-empty, even hiding all but our classiest shampoo and conditioner (husband rolls eyes at self). I loved the excuse of having fresh flowers around! We kept fresh flowers in the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom - I bought a couple larger bouquets and then re-arranged them to spread them out. Even simple bud vases in the bathroom and library with a couple daises made a fun touch.

How our bedroom looked for showings - I used selling as an excuse to finish a few last projects,
like renovating that ceiling fan, caulking around all the crown molding, and replacing the curtain rod with
spray-painted conduit from Lowes ($2 for an uber long rod that doesn't sag!! best ever!!).
I bought this bowl for the dresser (Threshold line from Target, how you seduce me!!)
because I liked how it tied the green of the wall into a cooler blue.
Filling the bowl with water and adding the flowers was such a happy and simple touch!

3. Market, advertise, and show off house! We posted on Craigslist (renewing the ad every few days), Zillow, in the local paper, and with flyers at the curb in a box with the For Sale sign. Surprisingly to me, most of our traffic (including our buyers) came through Craigslist! I also posted FSBO signs with arrows and our address at a few different major intersections near our house (our friends joked that they could find our house a mile away by following signs...haha..!)

I actually tried to post on through an agency (it's a web site many realtors use to find houses to show their clients), but had some difficulties with the agency and was already getting so much traffic through Craigslist that I canceled the MLS subscription before it went live. Saved us $200 for the listing and we definitely still got enough traffic!

Those flyers at curb in box...I read that one should be sure not to let that box get empty. I swear we went through about 200 flyers in two is that possible?! Curious neighbors? Other people thinking about FSBO'ing?

We also had two open houses on Sundays, from 2-5pm (advertised on Craigslist and with Open House signs with arrows and balloons at intersections and in front of our house!). I kind of felt one gets less-serious lookers at open houses, but hey, all publicity is good publicity, right?! And it was fun to meet some of our neighbors that we hadn't met yet!! I made cookies and had the dining room table as a semi-permanent display of fliers, details, and an energy-usage sheet from the power company.

Fresh flowers!! Surprisingly not that many people took the cookies...
but totally worth it for the kids and husbands being dragged around to open houses ;)
Also did you see the updated globes on the chandelier?
Another pre-sell touch, I bought these white translucent ones from Lowes for $6 each.
The previous ones that came with the chandelier were much more yellow-y and cast a brownish glow :\
I read that you shouldn't follow people from room to room but let them wander through so they feel comfortable. It was hard but I learned to do this! I found keeping my laptop at the dining room table, I could have music playing on Pandora and do work on the laptop while being able to keep an eye on everything and be convenient for answering any questions or strike up conversation with anyone who was standing around awkwardly. :)

The second open house was on Mother's Day, but we held it anyway since it was the only other Sunday we'd be in town before moving. And I actually liked it. We had fewer people but they were more serious about looking - I guess only the really motivated ones are out looking on a holiday!

We also had quite a few private showings, people and realtors calling to come by and see the house. We got pretty fast at throwing open all curtains, turning on all lights, hiding any clutter, fluffing pillows, lighting candles, and laying out fliers on table. I loved keeping the kitchen OCD clean while we were on the market - no dishes in sink! Nothing left on counters ever! - to keep preparing for a showing easier. We even used it as an excuse to eat out a couple times to keep the house spotless for showings, hehe.

Anyone who reads YoungHouseLove will probably notice I modeled our flier after theirs! I really liked seeing other FSBO listings to figure out how to make mine, so here ya go (sans pertinent details). Click on the image to see it larger:

I re-measured all the square feet of the house to be sure the listing was accurate!
Once again Ribbet was my friend to quickly optimize the photos for the ad!

4. Know what to do with an offer...and haggle! Since we didn't have a realtor to handle this, as FSBO'ers we wanted to be prepared for this stage. We realized we'd need someone, either a lawyer or a realtor, to handle the closing paperwork (especially since we wanted to close from abroad). Oklahoma doesn't really have professional 'closers' who will do the paperwork for $500-$700 (some places do - Washington does I think?). So we figured we'd end up paying one realtor fee for the buyer or the closing realtor (2.5-3%, usually paid by the seller). We talked ahead of time with our realtor friend, and he agreed to act as agent if our buyer didn't have a realtor, so we could direct interested buyers to him if they needed help writing up an offer.

And when we did get offers (one fell through, one contingency and one we haggled and then accepted), don't just take the first offer without negotiating (unless they offer your list price I suppose!). If they are interested enough to make an offer, they are interested enough to negotiate. We almost wish we'd haggled a little more, but we know we got a good deal, we wanted to pack and leave the country - oh yes and then we wandered over to the east coast for a wedding, so we were a little distracted :)

Step four: Meander off to another part of the country and forget about house stress for a few days.
Yay wedding in vineyard!
Look how tall my heels are. Such awesomesauce. ^_^
Yep so we actually faxed the counteroffer paperwork from a Kinkos in Virginia. Thanks Tim and Laura for driving us by there before the rehearsal ;)

Just like it was difficult to choose an asking price, it was difficult to know if we'd made the right choice by accepting an offer so quickly for $2K below our asking price. We probably could have held out and gotten a higher price. But the house also has to appraise for the price of the buyer's loan if they get one. And we didn't really want to stay in Norman for another month just to sell our house...we were eager to get to CERN and leave Norman before the summer became boiling hot :)

Our buyers included an inspection stipulation in their offer, which was fun because the inspection gratifyingly came up with almost nothing to fix. But it was also annoying, because then the inspection included some really small-but-hard-to-fix things (small holes in screen windows - our windows were so old that we couldn't just pop them out and put in new screens like you can with new windows - and a couple windows that wouldn't stay open without being propped up). We ended up paying $400 of the $500 stipulation to fix the window balances, and I'm confident that the windows are so old that it was not worth it. I almost wished I'd kept one or two bigger repairs for the inspection to notice instead!! Weird. But then, the inspector didn't notice the leaking spray nozzle at the kitchen sink (which I replaced anyway, because *I* noticed it). So I guess what I'm saying is...I'm not the biggest truster of inspections anymore!

5. Enjoy the fact that the paperwork to sell a house is a lot easier than buying! We just signed a few forms, told them our loan # to pay off, and gave them our account # to wire the rest of the money. So easy. Did you know that profit from the sale of a house is tax-free (unless it's above some threshold like $200k) even if you don't turn around and buy another house!? It used to be tax-free if you put that money into another house within a year, but GWBush changed that law, apparently. It's the American dream, folks.

I'm already looking forward to buying our next house someday...but for now I'll just enjoy crossing off two of my 2013 goals: sell house and move to Europe with Husband!

Friday, June 21, 2013

au revoir, home ownership!

Sorry I've been slow posting lately - our internet access in the evenings is currently limited! But that should change after the 28th I think, so hopefully blogging shall be picked back up...although the eventual direction is still in nebulous clouds of indecision! :)

I can announce it now that we've passed the appraisal and inspection - all that's left is the closing next week (!!) - we have sold our sweet little first house on Daws! After I was a bit slow to get it on the market, I thought we might not be able to sell it by owner ("FSBO") before we left. But it was on the market all of 13 days with 3 offers in that time before we agreed to a sale price just $2k below our list price! (And I still have a waiting list of several people who want to buy it if this sale falls through :) )

Will do another post with details of how we did the whole FSBO process. But for now should we just have some eye-candy of all the Befores/Afters of how it has transformed over the last three years? I surprised myself and loved having open houses and showing the house this spring - fun to share with people! Especially as we realize how housing will be different in Geneva (high prices!) it's fun to look back on our first house. :)

The front yard: Move-in day!

My stars I forgot what crazy bushes we had in our yard. This doesn't even encompass the rest of the bushery and spotty grass. In this google maps photo you can see more of the craziness (imagine that front bush about twice the size with exuberant summer growth when we got there):

And now:

Wish I could have caught a photo when the crepe myrtle bloom this summer! And ha, I'll never forget when husband gave me a bewildered look as I lugged the cordless saw out onto the porch at 10pm one evening to cut off the bench that used to be on the porch where the front steps are now ("what are you doing?" "I just really want to hack off this one part of the house..")

Can't resist another shot of how well the grass is doing :)

The living room on move-in day:

And these three years later:

Crazy how much difference the white trim and beige walls made, isn't it?! And you can't even see the ugly popcorn ceilings we scraped off and all the crown molding that we painted white as well. The high ceilings made it a huge job, but SOO worth it to have that feeling of openness when you walk in.

Dining room, then:

Yes. Green walls, blue light fixtures and popcorn ceiling :) And now (well, "now" before we started packing everything up!):

Again we didn't do much in this room besides scraping the popcorn ceiling, painting all the trim and walls, changing out the light fixture, and adding a new coat of finish to the wood floors. Phew it was so much work painting all that trim and the window trim..! It took two coats of primer and two or three coats of paint on all the wood (I think because the wood trim was mostly unfinished or the finish had worn off over the years, so it soaked up the paint).

Sidenote - we sold the table and chairs on Craigslist for more than we'd paid for them! They are solid wood, and we'd found them for a great deal at a factory-like discount place in OKC. For the huge hassle we had actually getting them, though, they were definitely worth what we sold them for :)

Annnd the kitchen - such a favorite remodel project! I wish I'd taken more Before photos. You can also see it in the Before dining room photo above. 

And now:

This was probably our biggest remodel project. We stripped everything out down to the walls (plus tearing out that old linoleum!), started with repainting (and scraping the popcorn ceiling - I love the lighter-green ceiling now with the crown trim), then followed with Ikea cabinets, corian countertops from Lowes (LOVE), tile backsplash, oil-rubbed-bronze knobs from Overstock, and new microwave and dishwasher. 

I really love our design decisions for that room (probably biased because had a great time using graph paper to plan everything, including the stove-sink-fridge triangle - did you notice we moved the stove? Fortunately the gas pipe was long enough and flexible so we didn't even have to touch that). Filling the room with light colors brightened it so much since it doesn't have any windows to the outside, and refinishing the wood floors helped the space feel more open since it connects seamlessly now to the dining room.

Next - the library?

Pretty blank palette, and again we mostly scraped the ceiling, painted and added a coat of polish to the floor!


Ahh. Painting those walls twice to get the perfect shade of blue = totally worth it!

Oops, no shot of David's side of the room. But a gratuitous shot of lovely shade makeover! Am definitely going to do something similar for our new apartment.

And our bedroom:

After scraping the ceiling, painting trim and walls, adding finish to the floor, refinishing the fan, and strategic decorating:

We still love that duvet cover that I made :)

And I'm particularly fond of the curtains and dresser decorating I re-did recently. The green wall seemed overpowering in that room sometimes, so I brought in the gray to balance it, and used this green/blue bowl of flowers to soften the green.

And the bathroom - with the tub re-do that I still need to blog about! Before...seriously, whose idea were those industrial tiles?

And after several stages of renovations!

I still need to blog about the tub renovation - hard but turned out soo well, with lots of elbow grease and late night snacks patience! ;)

See the little ledge just above the tub in the above photo? We had some extra space to play with, so we shifted the tub left and added this step-out from the tub to the wall to make the shower more spacious. It really made a difference!

These built-in shelves are my least favorite part! They took a lot of effort and attention to detail at every stage...but so worth it for the customized feel, and I love how the smaller tile matches the sink backsplash.

We installed one of those fancy curved-out shower curtain rods as well to increase the spacious feel...and the tall shower head arm means David tall people don't need to lean down to wash their hair ;)

And let's see...the sunroom! When we moved in it had been most recently used as a hair salon. I learned recently that the woman who had it built onto the house was an artist and used it as her studio! I think she'd like what we've done with it. :)


And now...

It's a hard space to photograph because only the laundry room connects to it. Oh I did the countertop redo just before our open houses started! I bought some planks from Lowes (and had them cut them to size for me), cut a hole for the sink, sanded/stained/sealed and added the little bar sink (is from Amazon as I recall).

And the back patio!! When we moved in:

And its latest look after we added sand between the stones to prevent weeds, and had to rebuild the fence after tornado damage.

So many people have asked me if we'll miss our sweet little house. I suppose the answer is yes and no - yes of course because it became so comfortable and familiar! But I think we are ready for a break from home ownership for awhile.

I thought I'd make a short list of our favorite design decision vs. what we found hard or might do differently next time:

Best Design Decisions Ever
- Choosing a house with some character (like the tall ceilings in the living room)
- Incorporating neutral, smooth modern design (like the neutral walls and white trim) with vintage touches that make it feel customized to our selves (like our board of keys, chandelier makeover, distressed wood projects, and African accents and figurines)
- Re-painting when we end up not liking a wall color - totally worth it! (after living with it a few days sometimes to be sure - like how I ended up liking the blue sunroom with green cabinets :) )
- Bringing color to the tiny kitchen ceiling with a lighter green than the walls to help open up the space!
- Restoring hardwood floor to the kitchen...what can I say, I'm smitten with hardwood floors! Thanks Husband for that idea ;)
- Choosing a house close to our jobs (campus) and walkable to surrounding shops/restaurants/etc
- Learning to embrace color in decorating...slooowly...
- Hanging curtains "higher and wider" than the windows - am going to continue that for openness! And actually also using curtains rather than blinds. I'm just not a fan of the American mini-blind, but Husband likes privacy from the Tokaloshes ;)
- Evaluating our renovation choices based on resale value - I think we did a great job renovating without 'over-renovating' - that is, without putting more $ into the house than we could get back out of it when we sold it (For example, we were sure we wanted to renovate the kitchen and bathroom, but didn't end up putting in new windows which we probably couldn't have gotten the value back out of. If I was going to live there forever that would be my next project!). It probably made it easier that we knew we weren't going to live there forever, so we could plan ahead for re-selling.

Not So Repeatable Decisions
- Choosing an older house meant we had significant repair our case we didn't have much choice, although we could have shaved off a few decades. Most of the houses in our price range were "newer in suburbs" or "older near university" or "newer near university but no character" - but still a newer house would be nice next time for fewer maintenance issues.
- Umm, let's make living in tornado alley be a not-repeatable choice - we are still totally happy with our choice to attend OU but don't really want to make a habit of living in TornadoLand. Although if we did it again, we would TOTALLY build a storm shelter that doubled as a wine cellar with big comfy chairs and fully stocked fridge. 'Nuff said.
- Buying rugs too quickly. Our style definitely developed as we saw what we liked and didn't like (well, maybe mine did more than David's - I think he's less picky) - next time I think I'll deliberate longer or get to know the house more before choosing rugs. Or maybe I just know way more about rug options now (RugsUSA, Urban Outfitter, West Elm etc) than I did then (Lowes, Kohls, Bed Bath and Beyond).
- Painting so many of our walls beige (huge living room, dining room, half of library and bedroom) and then adding beige furnishings (couches, rugs, futon, pillows). I got quite tired of all the tans! I think it took me awhile to start with the 'pops of color', so as I get better at that I can probably do better neutrals. But I think I'm also learning that you can do different shades of the same color, or related shades, to keep the cohesive flow of the house but still add variety.

All in all, what a great experience we had with our Daws house! Whew and what a long post. I better sign off before I make it any longer!!