About a month ago we bought a house here in Boulder, Colorado. There are a lot of things I really like about the house, including the space (4 bedrooms!) and the backyard and that it’s in Boulder. But I didn’t love all of previous owners’ design choices, so I quickly set to work towards making the place ours. We still have a long way to go, including knocking down a wall, removing popcorn ceilings (and related asbestos and/or lead!), and doing a total remodel on the master bathroom. We also haven’t begun to decorate the master bedroom. There are also some improvements we want to make so that the home is more efficient and better insulated. And we want to paint the outside. And we want to add solar panels. And… Anyway, first things first…
We had an electrician out to make some changes to the existing wiring — we were told during inspection that the way the wiring was done presented a fire hazard, so that was definitely a high priority for us. We also ordered a new gas fireplace insert to replace the existing gas logs. We understand that the gas insert will be more efficient and will generate heat for the house, not just a pretty fire. We can’t wait to crank that baby up this winter and get cozy! Another thing we wanted to tackle before the cold weather sets in was our hot tub. Luckily, it was in working order, so we just needed to figure out basic maintenance and to get the balance of chemicals correct. Nothing a little trip to the spa store couldn’t fix, and last weekend we spent several minutes relaxing in our highly-brominated tub.
Then, of course, there were key aesthetic changes, and that is the focus of this post. We set to work on the exterior. Or rather, set some professionals to work. We had a tree company out to remove a dead tree and two other trees that were blocking the front of the house. They also trimmed a large tree out front with a crown cleaning. Next, my dad came out and spent his entire visit weeding and cutting back overgrown plants. We are excited to tackle vegetable gardening and flower-tending in the spring, but for the winter, we just wanted everything cleaned up. The grass was also getting long, so I picked up a non-powered reel mower from Home Depot. Everyone poo-pooed this decision and told me I should get a normal lawnmower like a normal person. If I’d had more energy and patience, I would have mowed “HATERS” into the backyard. It works fine, especially once the grass is a reasonable length. A moderate workout, not unlike pushing a sled in Crossfit.
As much as I wanted the yard cleaned up, my number one aesthetic priority was inside the house. Built-ins. They were pink. Or rose. Maroon. Whatever you want to call it. They weren’t good. Here’s a glimpse that doesn’t fully capture the situation:
Before we had furniture, before we had lights, before my husband was even in this time zone, I pained these built-ins. After much Pinterest-ing, I decided to go with Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace for my default paint color for the house interior. I picked it up at local paint store Guiry’s, along with a paint brush and some other essentials. I had grand plans to paint the built-ins and then the laundry room (more on that below) and then the whole rest of the walls beautiful, pure Chantilly Lace white. But after struggling for DAYS with those built-ins and at least five coats of white to cover the pink paint underneath, I had to adjust expectations. I decided to keep the walls of the family room the same neutral off-white, and although we plan to put in new hardwood floors, I temporarily covered the yucky pink carpet with a rug I bought at consignment store Clutter here in Boulder. I also bought approximately one million houseplants from Sturtz and Copeland (gracias for the take-home instructions on plant care!) to fill in some spaces and add green to the room. Here is what the built-ins look like now, with my dog scratching at the fireplace because he thinks it’s a door:
Also, the room had no lighting in it when I moved in, and we didn’t bring lighting fixtures from our condo in DC. After struggling to paint in the dark, I took one of many emergency trips to Target and picked up this affordable ($40!) but surprisingly high quality floor lamp.
After Chantilly Lace-ing the built-ins and their endless corners and tricky surfaces, and painting the door to the basement that was the same shade of pink, I moved to the fantastically lime green laundry room. This laundry room really is awesome, but the lime green HAD to go. I thought that for sure this would be easier than the built-ins, and I even found a very, very helpful edging tool during a trip to Home Depot that saved me approximately 1 million hours of painting with a brush. But this was STILL a struggle. Painting at altitude: not easy! Our house was built in 1975, so all of the walls have this bonkers mud texture situation (and asbestos, more on that in another post), so it is super tough to get the paint to go into all the little holes and crevices. Plus, the base color was wild. Maybe if I was going from one shade of white to another it would have been easier. And even the ceiling was green!!!! I broke a wooden painting pole trying to take out my frustrations on the ceiling and had to go, yet again, to Home Depot to get a metal pole. Anyway, I stayed up until all hours of the night, fueled by Sherpa Chai mixed with soymilk, painting the lime green laundry room.
Despite taping and using a drop cloth, I got paint everywhere — all over the sink and the washing machine and my hair and my clothes and my skin. Where didn’t I get paint? Above the cabinets, because they were impossible to reach. Along the side of the dryer, because I couldn’t move it myself. It wasn’t the perfect paint job, but it got done. I wanted to cry a few times, but I didn’t. (My mom later went back and got the spots I had missed and removed the paint from the surrounding surfaces, because that’s what moms do.) Here it is before and after:
To round out the first-floor changes, I also needed — NEEDED — to swap out a few light fixtures. I replaced (i.e., an electrician replaced) the dated chandelier in the dining room with an awesome faux antler chandelier I picked up from The Shabby Antler on Etsy. I also swapped out the frumpy kitchen island pendants with simple 5″ matte black lights from Target, and we did one of those hip industrial globe lights for a sconce on the wall. (I cannot tell you how much time I spent looking up light fixtures on the internet. I became a lighting monster. I’m glad that chapter of my life has closed, and it is nuts to me that I ended up finding the pendants at Target.com and the sconce on Amazon.com).
Then we moved to the upstairs. Two of the guestrooms were pretty much ready to go, with totally fine wall colors and acceptable off-white carpet. We did switch out some ugly drapes for plain white ones. We furnished these rooms with surprisingly nice mattresses from Amazon and white Brooklinen duvet covers. We are ready for guests! (A Pendleton Hudsons Bay blanket is en route for one of the rooms; the decor of the other is TBD for now.) The third, and largest, guestroom had issues. Two issues. First, one of the walls was covered with big, wooden built-ins, and those big, wooden built-ins were covered in stickers. (Note to self: never let your future children do this.) We could have spent hours with Goo Gone removing the stickers but instead we decided to remove the built-ins. Those things were STURDY, but after lots of unscrewing and a little sledgehammering, we got them off the wall. Of course the wall behind the build-ins is damaged (pre-existing damage, not from sledgehammering, my husband assures me). We also discovered popcorn ceiling above where the build-ins were, and there is no flooring below where the built-ins were. But most importantly the built-INS are OUT!
The other three walls in the room also posed a challenge: as you can see above, they were deep, bright blue. The color of the room made us feel dizzy and sick, and for a few weeks we just closed the door and tried to forget this room existed. But this weekend we finally went back to Guiry’s, picked up a few more gallons of Chantilly Lace, and got rid of that blue once and for all. Again, these walls were textured, so they required many, many coats of paint. On the plus side, all of the trim in this room was already white, so we didn’t spend time taping off the edges. Here is a before and after of this room, keeping in mind that we haven’t furnished or decorated it yet:
Finally, our last project of this round was the guest bathroom. It was in pretty good shape, but it was painted a bright sky blue color that was not my favorite. When my husband had only seen photos of the bathroom, he insisted that we could keep this color. But when he saw it in person, he agreed: it had to go. Meanwhile, I really, really wanted to paint something, anything dark green. I was thinking I would use this color on the downstairs powder room. Fortunately or unfortunately, the downstairs powder room is a perfectly acceptable shade of grey, and there was no way I was going to sign myself up for more painting than was needed. So we opted to paint the guest bathroom green. We happened to be at Home Depot and wanted to make a decision without testing a bunch of colors and having to drive BACK to Home Depot for the thousandth time. We took a chance on Behr Dark Everglade, and it was the exact shade I was imagining. It did come out a bit shiny because we used a semi-gloss, but my understanding was that this was the preferred finish for a bathroom that may have steam/moisture. I think it looks pretty good, and it even matches the shower curtain we had back in DC:
Our next round of projects will involve some professionals and many more $$$ but I will keep you posted on how that develops!
Home ownership is exciting but overwhelming at times. Do you have a good fixer-upper story? Words of wisdom or warning? What is your favorite source for interior design or decor info/purchases? What Etsy shops do I need to know about? And can we all agree that home improvement is excellent cross-training?!