house & home

Kitchen Moodboard

Best Coffee in Town.

Photo sources:
Kitchen Cabinets
Flooring
Subway Tile
Lighting
Range/Oven
Runner

This past week was demo week at Squirrel Estate.  Our contractors came and tore up all the first-floor flooring, tile, the kitchen, and the powder room.  Now it’s time to put it all back together!  Our contractors took care of tiling the entryway/coat closet/powder room, as well as installing the toilet and vanity.  So the powder room is 50% done, and we just need to power through and finish it off.

Our biggest priority right now is the kitchen.  Since our kitchen is just bare walls and subfloors, we’ve been living off of our Instant Pot (#shamelessplug).  Anywho, it’s time to design our kitchen!  We absolutely love our IKEA kitchen at Squirrel House and we do plan on using the IKEA kitchen system again for this house.  For the past few months, we’ve been noting things we love about our kitchen and some things we wish we had known we would want.  For example, we wish we devoted more of our last kitchen to pull-out drawers rather than just cabinets with shelves.  Also, we wish we could have some sort of pull-out recycling center in the kitchen.  And it would be nice if we could keep the dog food somewhere in the kitchen.

As we dream up our new kitchen, I wanted to create a mood board for what the kitchen will hopefully have elements of.  I want dark blue cabinets (most likely, we will DIY the doors using Semihandmade doors).  I’ve also been loving the more organic-looking, elongated subway tiles that have really delicate textures.  I’m not sure if we’ll tile the entire wall or just halfway since they are really expensive!  We’re going for lighter wood for the flooring, and I’d love to pair it with a fun, patterned runner.  Lastly, we currently have both recessed lighting and a rectangular, fluorescent flush mount light.  Since our kitchen is u-shaped, we probably can’t get away with pendant lighting because our ceilings aren’t super tall.  But I think a low-profile flush mount would look really pretty to replace the fluorescent light, and would hopefully pair really well with the recessed lighting which we will keep.

house & home

Flooring Options & Making OSB Work

Flooring update on Squirrel Estate!  Since August, one thing on my mind is “what flooring am I going to put down on the first floor?”  We knew that the three-type flooring of the ceramic tile/hardwood/carpet combo didn’t really work and really chopped up space.  We wanted to use up to 2 types of flooring (debating on whether the entry will be a separate thing or not) so everything has a more cohesive flow.  So we have the following options:

  • Laminate
  • Bamboo
  • Hardwood
  • Engineered hardwood
  • Luxury vinyl plank
  • Wood-look porcelain tile

Immediately, we knew some we just did not want to deal with.  At our last house, we laid down laminate flooring.  Honestly, for the most part, we really enjoy it.  It looks great, and even though we bought the cheapest (at the time) at Home Depot, it’s actually super durable and has not been scratched or dinged by our dog.  The problem with laminate is that it’s not waterproof.  Since we live in a climate where it rains and snows a lot, it’s quite annoying to have to be super careful when coming into the house and wipe up drips.  This is especially challenging after taking Chewie out on a walk, and he comes stumbling in, drenched.

Next to go are bamboo, hardwood, and engineered hardwood.  I honestly love hardwood floors, but in our season of life (dog and all), it’s just not the most durable.  My friends with dogs all have pretty beat-up hardwood/bamboo floors, and I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars just to have my floors get destroyed.

So that leaves us with LVP (luxury vinyl planks) and wood-look porcelain tiles.  LVPs have come such a long way, and they basically install just like laminate or engineered hardwood (click & lock systems).  Some of the higher grade ones look super real, and is made textured to mimic real hardwood.  They’re scratch-resistant and waterproof, another bonus.  The main one that we’re looking at is COREtec, which is honestly in a league of its own.  They seriously look so good.

I also was really interested in wood-look porcelain tiles.  Being tile, they’re basically indestructible, plus we could install radiant flooring, so the floors are always cozy and warm.  For a few months, we were pretty sure this was the way we wanted to go.  Until we found out that our subfloors were OSB.  OSB is a super popular type of subfloor for construction because it’s really strong and can hold a lot of weight.  However, one really bad thing about OSB is that because of its materials (wood strands and adhesive), it is prone to expansion and bubbling if exposed to high moisture.  So when you tile, you have to put down mortar (which is high in moisture), what could end up happening is the OSB will expand or contract, making the tile crack over time.  We thought, maybe we could just swap out our subfloors for plywood subfloors and make it work!  And then, we found out our joists are 20″ off-center.  Typically, floor joists are 16″ off-center, but because ours are 20″ off-center, all the tile installers we talked to warned us that floor joists that are spaced out that far apart have 2 concerns: 1) it might have a hard time supporting the weight of the tile, and 2) the wider distance makes it prone to cracking.

Not going to lie, we were pretty disappointed when we heard this news, but alas, these things happen.  So we are going to forge ahead and install ~luxury vinyl planks~ throughout the house!  We are going to install smaller porcelain tiles in the foyer/entryway so it can take the everyday traffic.  Smaller tiles are less likely to crack, so that’s the main reason why we’re still gung-ho about doing the tile in the entry.  Another reason why we’re installing tile in the entry is that we have this big window in the foyer that lets in so much light (south-facing window y’all!)  While the light is great, it bleached the old hardwood that was there before.  LVPs are prone to bleaching while porcelain tiles are not.  So, we figured this will also solve that issue.

The good thing is, LVPs are a snap to install, so we hope to start on this project after Thanksgiving and wrap up before Christmas, so we can have floors for Christmas.  Fingers crossed!

house & home

Foyer Lighting Options

One nice thing about Squirrel Estate is the 2-story foyer.  Throughout the house, we have 8-ft ceilings, but it really doesn’t feel like it because the foyer lets in so much light and it feels so much more open and airy.

Our current foyer chandelier situation isn’t ideal.  It’s not horrible, but very dated and screams the ’90s to me.  It’s a brass octagonal chandelier and the bulbs are encased in glass panels.  For me, it just doesn’t look super inviting, and the dust inevitably makes the glass look cloudy.  I want a foyer light that looks open, inviting, and provides a good introduction to our home.

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We’re probably getting an electrician to come out next month to work on a couple electrical projects, so I need to start narrowing down my foyer light options.  Here are the Top 10 contenders for our future foyer, in no particular order:

  1. Hadley Pendant Chandelier ($299.25 $399.00)

Hadley 4-Light Pendant Chandelier

2. Circles Sphere Pendant Light ($209)

Circles Sphere Pendant Light - Large gold

3. Sculptural Glass Geo Chandelier  ($288.75 $385.00)

Sculptural Glass 3-Light Geo Chandelier - Milk

4. Spheres + Stem Chandelier ($524.25 $699.00)

Sphere + Stem 9-Light Chandelier - Milk

5. Varlene Globe Chandelier ($139.99 $189.00)

Verlene Foyer 5-Light Globe Chandelier

6. Drubin Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier ($309.99 $750.00)

Drubin 10-Light Candle Style Wagon Wheel Chandelier

7. Branch Chandelier ($429)

Branch Chandelier

8. Floral Burst Chandelier ($374.25 $499)

Floral Burst Chandelier

9. Collina Pendant ($260.99 $473.10)

Collina 24

10. Wooden Pendant Light ($194.59)

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I’ve chosen a wide range of chandeliers – some really classic and I don’t think it will go out of style anytime soon.  Some are a little bit more avant-garde, and I might not like it in 20 years.  And some are just pure fun, which I think represents my personality really well.

Which one will I end up picking?  Find out next month!

house & home

First Look at Squirrel Estate

If you’re new here, hi!  A little summary of our house adventures:  in August 2017, my husband and I bought our first house, a duplex in the northwest section of Philadelphia.  We currently live there and are hoping to move out by the end of the year.  We’ll likely rent it out to longterm tenants, but we’re also toying with the idea of turning it into an Airbnb (since we plan on renting it out furnished), that way it can also serve as a pied-à-terre for us.

In August of this year, we bought a house in Montgomery County.  If you aren’t around the Philadelphia-area, Montgomery County is basically the county to the northwest of the city, and it’s mostly comprised of small, suburban towns.  The main reason we’re moving is because of Ian’s commute.  Although our current house is only around 15 miles to his work, it can take up to 90 minutes to drive one-way (darn you I-76!).  Our new house is 1 mile away from his work, and it shortens his commute to 5 minutes.  Hooray!

This new house is also huge (to us, anyway).  Our Philadelphia home is around 1,200 sq ft (1,500 if you include the finished basement), and it is more than enough room for the two of us and our large dog.  The new house is 2,000 sq ft (2,600 sq ft including the basement), and it’s gargantuan.  We lovingly named our old house Squirrel House, because we lived on a street that had a nature-themed name and we had a lot of squirrels running around.  Our new house is situated on the edge of a forest, so we also have lots of squirrels.  Hence, we decided to name the new place Squirrel Estate.  I know, I know, our house is probably not big enough to be considered an estate.  But it feels like one to us!

We feel very lucky because the last owner (also the only owner) took really good care of the house.  It truly has good bones and he took care of all the important stuff you don’t notice first (new furnace, water heater, windows, roof).  The last owner was a single guy who lived in the house for 20 years by himself.  So it makes total sense why he didn’t feel the need to update anything aesthetic.  As long as it worked for him, why did it matter?  It’s interesting, some rooms feel like it’s frozen in the 90s, in mint condition.

Anyway, it’s been 3 months since we got the keys to Squirrel Estate, and we’ve been slowly and painstakingly transforming it to a house that we can call home.  It’s not easy since we both work, so the majority of the renovations are done on weekends.  By the time we move in, we won’t be anywhere close to being done either, but hopefully, the house won’t be in complete disarray.  We estimate it’ll probably take us anywhere from 3-5 years to get this house to a point where we’ve put some DIY touches on everything.  Without further ado, here’s the first look of Squirrel Estate (apologies in advance for dog photobomb).

entry/foyer

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One thing we really don’t like about the first floor is that it has 3 types of flooring.  Hardwood in the entry/coat closet (door to the left), carpet in the living area, and ceramic tile in the powder room (door to the right) and kitchen.  These transitions make the overall house feel smaller than it actually is.  The plan is to make this entryway, coat closet, and powder room all the same flooring (we chose a porcelain tile, more on that in another post), and the rest of the house will be one flooring.  Additionally, the entire first floor was painted a peachy color, which did it no favors at all.  I painted it a really pretty soft white that brightens up the entire space.  I also plan on giving the door some TLC with a sleek black color.

powder room

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The powder room wasn’t bad, it’s just extremely dated.  This house was built in 1998, and everything just feels very 90’s.  Since we’re re-doing the floors of the entire first floor, this powder room will get new floors, new vanity, new toilet, new mirror, new lighting.  It’ll have the same layout but will feel like a totally different room.

living room/formal dining room

One of the reasons we were so drawn to his house was the open-concept of the living room/formal dining room.  We plan on making this my future piano studio space, leaving it pretty empty so we can easily set chairs up for recitals and baby & me classes.

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dining room

I feel like today’s families don’t typically need 2 dining rooms.  Luckily, we have an eat-in kitchen sort of situation, so we plan on just using that as our dining room.  If we ever host a large party, we can always set up folding tables in the “piano room”.  Along with the rest of the first floor, all the flooring will be replaced.  Like our last house, we’ll be building our own dining table!

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kitchen

We really loved our IKEA kitchen in the last house, and we plan on doing it again.  This kitchen layout will probably stay the same (since we don’t want to move windows, we probably will still do the corner sink).  But the huge change here will be knocking down the pantry closet.  I think that’ll really open up space, and I want to install floor to ceiling cabinets that will serve as the pantry.  I think it’ll look really cohesive.

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stairs

So one of the first projects I tackled was painting the stair railing.  In my opinion, this particular oaky color just looks really dated.  I painted it a really pretty black color and painted the spindles a smooth white to bring the railing to the 21st century.

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upstairs hallway

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I think there’s a lot of potential here.  I might do some fun wall treatment.  It looks really dark all the time because of the peachy color that is painted in the main living area.  A new lighting fixture will also update this space drastically.

bedroom #1

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The smallest bedroom in the house and is painted the darkest color in the house *facepalm*.  For all the upstairs bedrooms, we will swap out the carpet for an LVP flooring, get new baseboards, and paint all the walls.  Since we think this room will be the future nursery, we plan on just doing the aforementioned swaps and then leaving it empty until the time comes for when we need the space.

bedroom #2

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This will serve as the guest room.  New floor, new baseboards, new wall color, and maybe a fun wall treatment?

bedroom #3

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This room is the largest of the 3 bedrooms (besides the master), and it has a mini walk-in closet.  We figured this could be the perfect office for both Ian and myself, as well as a general lounge area.

master suite

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I think the master suite has so much potential to be so cozy and perfect.  But it does need a ton of work.  Besides the flooring, baseboards, and paint, we plan on removing the popcorn ceiling in the bedroom.  Also, where the media stuff is set up, we think it could look really sweet if we did some sort of built-in electric fireplace/tv combo.  We’re lucky enough to have 2 (!) closets.  I think these wire shelving systems are just very inefficient and don’t use the space to its full advantage.  We plan on doing different wardrobe systems to maximize the space that we have.  The bathroom is just not my style, it’s very dated.  Some day, we’ll probably gut the entire thing.  But until then, we’ll do a budget refresh so it can still feel luxurious.

hall bath

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Along with the master bath, we will do a budget refresh to this space and gut it at a later date.  Everything here is in pristine condition since the previous owner obviously used the master bath instead of the hall bath.  So it also feels like a waste to just gut it when it’s still in great condition.  The main thing we don’t like about this bathroom is how low the vanity, toilet, and tub are.  BUT, when we have children, it’ll be the perfect height for them.  So the plan here is to do a budget refresh and let our future kids use it.  That way, we won’t feel bad if they destroy anything.  And somewhere down the road, we’ll probably do a full gut job.

laundry closet

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I actually really enjoy doing laundry, so this sad laundry space makes me really discouraged.  We’ll get new flooring put in, and I’ll come up with some clever storage solution in lieu of the wire racks.  I want to make this space look really fun and modern.  Also, the laundry closet has two doors that just knock into each other (and block the hallway), so I also need to figure out a clever solution for that.

basement

 

 

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The basement, again, has so much potential.  We’re so glad the previous owner finished it as a large, open space (it’s an L-shaped basement).  We’ll paint the walls, swap out the carpet for something that’s more pet-friendly, and swap out the ceiling tiles to something more aesthetically pleasing.  The wet bar looks super cool, and we plan on keeping it and just updating it so it’s more our style.  The future basement will have 3 zones – a board game zone with a large table, a movie theater zone with a cushy sectional, and the coffee bar zone.  The basement also has a half bath … that is also very dated which we’ll fix.

backyard

An amazing draw of our house is that even though it is in a community of other homes, it really doesn’t feel like it once you step out into the backyard.  Our house is at the end of the cul-de-sac, and it’s just on the edge of a forest.  We have lots of mature trees (one of our must-haves).  The previous owner landscaped it to be pretty low-maintenance, so the backyard is mostly trees and moss.  We plan on laying down sod at some point and maybe moving some trees around.  But we get a ~jacuzzi~.

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house & home

Photo Walkthrough of Squirrel House

Ian and I first moved to Philadelphia in the summer of 2017.  We bought a fixer upper at around 1,200 sq ft in a quiet neighborhood, and got to work.  Over the last two years, we changed everything from painting the walls to swapping out flooring.  Needless to say, everything looks very different from when we first moved in.  I love looking back at the photos of when we first saw the place to see how far we’ve come.  It also is a good reminder of the power of paint and a little elbow grease go a LONG way.

It’s crazy to think, we were just two kids in our mid-20s with a few power tools and big dreams.  We did over 90% of the renovations ourselves and probably put in around $20,000 for renovations throughout these past 2 years.

It’s very bittersweet, since we are in the midst of renovating a new home in the suburbs which we’ll hopefully move into in the next few months.  But we’re excited to rent out our current home to tenants who will love it as much as we do.

Oh, and for those wondering, we call our house Squirrel House because our street name is squirrel-related and there just happened to be lots of squirrels running around the neighborhood.

Most of the before pictures are from the listing when we first bought the house.  Some of the before photos are taken when we first moved in.  All after photos are taken on my trusty little iPhone SE.

living room – previously, this space had really outdated (and damaged) laminate flooring.  we swapped out the flooring, painted everything, replaced baseboards, and built fun furniture like the art ledge and the tv console.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: simply white by benjamin moore, newburyport blue by benjamin moore

dining room – our dining room isn’t super big, but it’s a good size to fit a large dining table.  we built this table that seats 8-10 people, painted everything, new baseboards.  but our proudest accomplishment here is probably removing the little hats on the chandelier.  instead of an outdated chandelier, it’s actually quite chic.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: simply white by benjamin moore

kitchen – the kitchen was super outdated, so really anything we did would’ve been an upgrade.  we decided to keep the range and refrigerator since they were in decent condition.  we opted for an ikea kitchen, since it was the most affordable for us at the time.  we tiled for the first time when we did the subway tile backsplash.  we built a floating shelf and painted (!) the existing tile floors.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: grey owl by benjamin moore

upstairs hallway – besides getting new flooring all throughout upstairs, the biggest change in the hallway is the faux shiplap wall treatment that we did throughout the length of the hallway.  it really does a good job brightening up the hallway and adding interest to the walls without adding pictures of artwork.

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wall color: polar bear by behr

bedroom 1 – the office.  for all the bedroom upstairs, we swapped out the floors, redid the baseboards, painted everything, and swapped out the eyesore boob lights and replaced them with stylish flush mount lights.

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wall color: simply white by benjamin moore

bedroom 2 – guest room.  this room was by far the tiniest room in the house.  we are still unsure how the previous owners managed to put a full-size bed and a desk in this tiny room.  but since we are currently using it as a guest room, we just opted for a full fize bed and a small nightstand that we had on hand.

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wall color: simply white by benjamin moore

bedroom 3 – master bedroom.  this room was one of the hardest rooms to renovate.  the layout the previous owners chose made us scratch our heads in confusion as to why they would position their furniture that way.  this room also had a significant amount of water damage in the ceiling and wall, so we had to get a plaster repair contractor out to fix that.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: simply white by benjamin moore

bathroom – the funny thing is that we ended up finishing the bathroom within the first month of moving in.  mainly because i refused to take a full shower in the old bathroom (i opted for quick 2 min quick wash) since the shower was sooooo dingy.  the old bathroom was painted a color that did not do it any favors, so i painted it a light gray that has a coastal vibe.  by swapping out the pedestal sink for a regular vanity gives us a lot more storage.  but the biggest transformation is probably removing the old shower door and opting for shower curtains.  since the bathroom is so tiny, it really opened up the space and made it seem much bigger than before.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: grey owl by benjamin moore

basement – we hired a contractor to do the majority of the work in the basement.  we had the staircase completely rebuilt, took off the old paneling and framed out the entire basement.  we added stylish drop ceiling to brighten up the space (the basement is actually really low, only about 7 1/2 ft height).  lastly, i laid down peel and stick vinyl flooring which is really great to have in the basement since the basement door leads out to the garage/outside, so we do come through the basement entrance quite often, and the vinyl flooring is so good for the high traffic area.

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| A F T E R |

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wall color: polar bear by behr