A year ago on the 24th of July, Ben and I tricked someone into selling us their house! (Well, it was actually a legitimate transaction and everything, but it felt like trickery. Are you sure we’re old enough/ financially secure enough/ responsible enough to own our own home? Are you sure?) It felt- and still feels- like a huge milestone. Maybe because we- and so many others in our generation- are stuck on that question: what makes you a grown-up? For us- this really felt like IT. WE ARE HOMEOWNERS, THEREFORE, WE ARE ADULTS. Spoiler alert: we still feel like kids playing pretend. But I think that’s okay, we’re still in the process of figuring out who were are, and exactly what our goals are. Walls and a roof don’t make us self-actualized, but the process of making this place our home- together- has certainly felt like the right kind of journey to be on.
Ahem. Slightly philosophical tangent aside, we wanted to take this time to celebrate our housiversary by looking back at everything that has transpired here in our little abode over the past 365ish days, as well as our goals and plans for our home and our future. Apologies if this gets too lengthy… I get a little chatty when I’m excited.
For starters- this is where we live:
Our house is situated about 40 feet back from the street-which we love, and has a very generous backyard, which is what sold us on the house in the first place. When we first came to see this house with our realtor, we overestimated our time to get here and ended up being about 20 minutes ahead of her. However, this gave us the chance to check out the backyard. And while swinging on those swings, looking at all that space and visualizing our pups running around, nights by the fire pit, movies projected against the siding, it was pretty amazing. I know that sounds hokey, but it was really that moment of “this is going to be our home”. We had looked at many other houses before this, and had even been under contract for one that was COMPLETELY different from our current home, but once we were here, we knew this was it.
While it’s an older home (1950’s rancher), previous owners underwent a huge project in 2007/2009, adding the master bathroom, laundry area, and back patio. This meant that any massive changes had really already been done for us, and now we just got the opportunity to make the house feel like “us”. In our House List post, I talked about the challenge of moving into a home and wanting to immediately make changes, but the importance of living with something to make sure you really know what you want. So, in celebration of one year here, I’d like to take you on a little tour of our digs, and share how we’re continuing to pursue #ProjectJenjamin. We’ll talk about successes as well as mistakes, because if everything is perfect, it’s just not that interesting, you know?
PROJECT JENJAMIN Hits:
Removing the door in Ben’s closet. It swung into the closet and reduced the usable storage space by a lot. Easy change with big reward. You can see by the diagram, we’ve still got some door problems to solve in the master bedroom, but we’re excited about our plans!
Painting the front door and shutters. Our house is painted a light olive green, which we’re cool with (although we’re dreaming of gorgeous light blue someday), but we were struggling with the burgundy door and shutters. The color combo just made the house look old. A one-day project to freshen up the paint with a gorgeous dark blue made a HUGE difference, and the house just looks happier, and more current.
Adding easy access to oft-used kitchen items. In the last house we lived in, the owners had added an Ikea pot and pan rack, and we LOVED it. We snapped one up immediately and added it to the open space on the left wall. Opposite that, we also added rails and S-hooks for our mug collection. Since I’m making tea and reaching for mugs several times a day, it just made sense to have them so accessible. We also store all our tea in the little bar area between the kitchen and living room, so having the mugs close by is perfect. Function is pretty much all we’ve done in the kitchen so far, but it’s been a great change!
Gallery Ledges in the Dining Room. There’s a big open wall in the dining room that was just beginning for something fun. Instead of a traditional gallery wall, I liked the idea of being able to layer items collected over time. Also, real talk: I do not have the patience for traditional gallery walls. I love how they look, but I just can’t. Using this style from Ana White, tweaking it just a bit to make shallower ledges, we created offset shelves that worked around some of our existing oversized art. This was such a great way to mix up the ledge style and incorporate large pieces without having one huge vertical gap between ledges. The mostly white canvas on the left in a stitching project in progress, but we’ll be framing one of Ben’s gorgeous photos from a past trip to Ireland for that spot.
Improved function in the master bathroom. The towel bar in the master bathroom was originally under the window. The fact that I’m not into towel bars aside.. WHO MADE THIS DECISION? You can see in the diagram that the shower door swings to block the window, so when you take a shower you’d have to get out of the shower, move out of the way of the door, and then close the door before you could reach your towel. NONSENSE. It was an easy fix to add two rope cleat hooks to the open wall between the shower and the closet for perfect towel reachability. We also added another hook to the side wall to hold hand towels. Then, one day Ben accidentally used his Norse God Strength and pulled the toilet paper hook right off the wall. (Norse God Strength has also broken a hairbrush cleanly in half). We had a small woven basket that fit perfectly between the vanity and the toilet, and BOOM- now it’s our toilet paper holder. Can I tell you how much more I love this setup than having a single roll on a holder? A lot more. That’s how much. A lot.
Making a central desk in the office. We’ve always had separate desks, but they were totally different sizes and styles, and we couldn’t find a layout that maximized the space well and didn’t have us crammed into corners staring at the walls. After working together at our dining table one evening, we realized how great it was to share one big work surface. We grabbed this sit/stand desk from Ikea and can’t wait to hack it with a gorgeous wood top. With the divided shelves on either side, we’ve both got tons of storage space, and lots of room to move around.
Creating the Vestibule of Greatness. This is the most “complete” room so far, and it’s probably my favorite. Is that cheating because it’s only a 6′ x 6′ square that isn’t technically a room? Don’t care! My house- my rules! This space has 6 doorways(!), so it creates a lot of smaller walls. We decided to make this our fun little art gallery hallway, adding our favorite artwork: a print gifted to Ben from an artist friend, some wooden printing plates from a printmaking class, and my favorite squares from my materials exploration class project. On the last wall, I added a magnetic poster hanger, but we’ll talk about that one in the MISSES section… But maybe my most favorite part of this small space is the ridiculous pendant we bought. We were at Ikea buying frames, and I happened to see this giant cloud (3 feet!) of cardboard goodness floating through the lighting section, and I knew it was just right. AND IT ONLY COSTS $7! I mean, come on! Of course, we bought the cool stripey cord set, so our grand total was brought to $15, and that’s pretty dang amazing. Sure, it would look great in a properly scaled room as well, but this room is our tiny funky square of coolness, and we think it’s just perfect. Putting the round rug underneath was icing on the cake. We got the rug on sale for $64! (Side note: an awesome patterned round rug is NO JOKE to find. The struggle was real). Including paint, this hardcore rug gripper, and materials for my DIY-fail, we spent less than $150 turning this simple square into a Vestibule of Greatness.
DIYing a Mural in the Master Bedroom. This project seemed really intimidating. And it does require a bit of preparation, but it does NOT require for you to be a master artist. We were inspired by this mural, but Ben took it to another level with a special twist. All the mountains shown on our mural are ones that we’ve visited together- Moose’s Tooth from Anchorage, AK, the Pitons of St. Lucia, and the ranges near Denver, CO. This is such a special and unique feature, and it’s so personal to us. If you’re ready for a semi-permanent claw-hand, this is a great DIY project to tackle.
Making the most of a dead corner. When we bought our sectional, we knew we wanted it centered on the window, but that left some open space between the sofa and the wall. By adding floating L-shaped shelves, we created a little library for a handful of our books, plus some discreet storage for board games, some craft supplies, and a dog bed.
Keeping the dining area small. Our dining table isn’t very big. It was perfectly sized in our last house, but here there’s a lot more space to work with. However, there are generally only 3 people eating at it, so it didn’t make sense to us to take over that whole room with a bigger table and individual chairs. We’ve got a vintage trunk serving as a bench (and sneaky storage!), and some modular box seating that is easily moved. This made it easy to turn the long end of the table against the back wall and leave a lot of open room, instead of floating the table more centered in that space. We’ve ended up using this free space so much: it’s perfect for yoga, ballroom dancing (I know..), and temporary storage of client projects. We’ve also got it on the docket to create a little entry of sorts here, so it’s great to have free space.
And, to be fair, there have been a few misses:
- Not thoughtfully assessing wear and tear. The huge plush rug in the living room was the 2nd thing we bought for the house, after the sectional. It was the perfect size, and it’s just so gorgeous and comfortable. But we have to admit, it just wasn’t the right choice for this space. Because it’s such a high traffic area, the high pile just got crushed so quickly. A few months ago, we turned it around to maximize its life a bit, and we almost cried feeling how soft and lovely the un-walked-on side was. But it’s already becoming flat and trampled again. We do have a carpet rake -why yes, that is a thing, thank you for asking- and it does help make the rug look less flat, but truthfully, we’ll end up replacing the rug with something more suited to this space down the line. HOWEVER we got it at MAJOR discount from RugsUSA and don’t regret a single penny we spent on it. Long story short: when buying anything fabric-y (rugs, upholstered furniture, draperies) think long and hard about the realistic use and abuse it will get.
- Doing something quickly instead of doing it right. I mentioned the magnetic poster hanger I made as a surprise for Ben, but to be frank, it was a DIY fail. I was inspired by this type of poster hanger, but the truth is this just didn’t work for my project. You see, Ben works as a cameraman in the film industry, and his amazing dad always buys the theatrical posters of his movies as a gift to Ben. I wanted to build a cool way to display them where they could be rotated in and out because we would quickly run out of wall space if each were displayed individually. Even though I used several magnets, I just don’t think they were strong enough to hold up multiple posters, and definitely not the right configuration for something that would be opened and rearranged. Also, the posters are all slightly different sizes (THANKS, MOVIE INDUSTRY), so it was hard to build and place a frame that would fit them all perfectly. In an ironic twist of fate, the slightly undersized Ant Man poster is what did me in. So, we’ve got the posters set aside now, and a bare frame to serve as a constant reminder of a future project we need to tackle. Or maybe its bareness is an artistic statement..
- Putting aside important tasks. During the inspection before we bought our house, it was noted that 2 of our windows had condensation within the frames and the glass panes would need to be replaced. We were reassured that this would be pretty simple and inexpensive, and I think for that reason, we just kind of forgot about it. Cut to several months later, and we discovered that the moisture in the office window had seeped into the room and completely covered the sleeper sofa we had placed in front of it. It was absolutely horrifying, not to mention upsetting to destroy something that was relatively new and in good condition. The takeaway: even if those kinds of notes from an inspection aren’t fun or exciting, get them taken care of immediately.
- Taking too long. This will seem contradictory to what I said in the House List post, but there’s a difference between rushing to get settled, and taking way too dang long with it. I tried to justify our delayed unpacking with the fact that our move had felt so frantic. (There were delays with the closing, and we were fearful of completely packing up our old place in case we got delayed again. But by the time we closed on the 24th, we only had a week to get completely moved out, so it feels like we just chaotically threw things into boxes and brought them over here.) But the truth is, you have to just take the time and put in the work once you’re in the new place. What’s the point of having a home when you’re not using whole sections of it because they’re just filled with unorganized stuff?? We couldn’t see the back wall in our dining room for almost 2 months after we moved in, and when I think back on it, it just makes me mad. What a waste of time. So no, you don’t have to “complete” a house within any rushed time frame, but for goodness sake, at least unpack all the boxes.
- Neglecting the yard. Neither of us are really yard people. I love to admire beautiful landscaping, but it’s never brought me a great amount of joy to be out there, making it happen. However, when I realized that an entire year had passed, and we had done nothing other than mow, it embarrassed me. The backyard has a lot of growth along the perimeter that needs to be cleaned up, but now just approaching that project seems overwhelming. The front planters are just sort of random, and not particularly nice. It’s not like we’ve got broken toilets and mile-high weeds in our front yard, but compared to our neighbors (one of whom is a florist, and his yard is like a magical secret garden of beautifulness) it just looks a little neglected. And we love our house- we are so happy to call this place home. That means we need to put in the effort to show this place that it is loved.
Since things are getting a little long-winded over here, we’ll wait on a proper tour, where we can take you through each space and talk more about the projects we’ve already taken on, share any DIYs we’ve done, and discuss plans for future updates.
If you made it all the way here, 10 million bonus points to you!