Category Archives: Home

Bathroom Remodel!

December seems to be the month for bathroom remodels around here…in 2012, we re-did our downstairs powder room, and in 2013 we took on our full bathroom upstairs. This time, with a baby and Robby working long hours, we actually paid a remodeling company to do the work for us. I hate that we had to pay for work we could have done ourselves, but I’m so glad we didn’t have to spend every moment of our precious spare time working on the bathroom. :)

The process was kind of difficult, since the work ended up taking 2.5 weeks. Which means 2.5 weeks without a sink or toilet upstairs, and 2.5 weeks of trying to keep the dog and baby away from a construction site. But it was all worth it in the end, and I love how fresh and clean the bathroom feels now!

Here’s how the room looked before (it’s looked like this since it was built in 1981, yikes):

Vanity area off the master bedroom. Note the horrible pink tile, ugh.

Another view of the vanity area off the master bedroom.

Main bathroom.

Our construction pile in the living room! We got the vanities, counters/sinks, and floor tiles from Lowes. Faucets and accessories (towel bars/hooks, etc.) are the Moen Banbury suite from Home Depot.

And this is after demolishing everything but the shower:

Vanity area off the master bedroom, mid-demo.

Vanity area off the master bedroom. No more pink tile!

Main bathroom, mid-demo.

And, finally, the finished product!

Vanity area off the master bedroom. So much brighter and cleaner!

Vanity area off the master bedroom.

My nail polish and perfume cabinet in the vanity area off the master bedroom. :)

View from the master bedroom. Wall color is "Sea Salt" by Sherwin-Williams.

View from the vanity area into the main bathroom.

Sink in main bathroom.

I still need to find some kind of art to put over the toilet...and I also need to iron that shower curtain, yikes.

Now that we’ve re-done the flooring, ceilings, kitchen, powder room, and upstairs bathroom, I think we’ve finally finished all of our larger-scale remodeling projects! All that’s left to do to finally make this house complete is to update the fireplace (a mantel-less monstrosity covered in pink tile and tarnished brass), paint trim and doors, and switch out the doorknobs. Yay!

Slipcover Success! (And Coffee Table Makeover)

Just a quick post, since we’re off to multiple parties today (a friend’s daughter’s first birthday party, and a combined party for 3 of my sisters’ birthdays and my sister’s boyfriend, who got into medical school!).

When you last saw my sofa slipcover, it was a sad mess of light blue and grey splotches:


I did some Googling on the dye I used (Rit Pearl Grey), and found that many people had similarly disappointing results. I also found numerous people recommending a different brand and color for grey dye: Jacquard iDye in Silver Grey.

The biggest selling point for me on that particular dye is that it comes in easily dissolvable packets, and each packet dyes 2-3 pounds of fabric–so I would only need to order 7 to do my whole slipcover. Score! I searched around for the best price, and ordered 7 packets on sale from JoAnn Fabric.

After waiting 8 whole days for the dye to arrive (seriously, Amazon Prime has ruined me for other retailers!), I again started the process of dyeing my slipcover. I went much slower this time, dyeing smaller amounts in each load and doing calculations to make sure the dye concentration was consistent each time. And it worked like a charm–my slipcover is now a deep, even grey!!

Silver Grey for the win! Lucy approves, too. :)

The second part of my project was distressing, staining, and sealing a pine board and attaching it to the top of my coffee table. This was another success, and I think it makes the table look more casual and coordinated with the other furniture in the room.

Antique-stained pine top for the coffee table. Lucy's not as excited about that, ha.

Hooray for successful DIY decorating! The other fun thing is that Robby and I got a fancy new DSLR camera. I have a LOT to learn about how it works, but for now I love the “auto” setting. Here’s one more gratuitous shot of our living room using the new camera:

I love how much more in-focus my photos are with the new camera.

Last but not least, Happy Easter! We are looking forward to celebrating Jesus’ resurrection with our church family tomorrow.

Living Room Redecorating (Again!)

Since finishing my MBA, I’ve found myself with a lot more time to notice little things I’d like to change about my house. And, thankfully, more time to actually do something about it! Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on yet another round of living-room redecoration. I think I’m finally moving closer to finding the right mix of style and function…

The last time I showed you my living room, it looked like this:

Stephenson living room, circa January 2013.

Not bad, but that sofa was just so huge. And so dark. And, I came to realize after months of sitting on it while cramming for finance exams, so uncomfortable. It makes me sad to admit that, because the sofa wasn’t actually that old (you can read about when we bought it here: But, I realized it just wasn’t working well in our space, and so I started warming Robby up to the idea of getting a new one. ;)

My other motivation for getting a new, smaller sofa was that it would allow us to get a bigger dining table. Our old one was cute, but could really only seat two people comfortably, and we’re hoping to have people over more often!

It took a while to get Robby on board with the new-sofa plan, especially when I initially fell in love with a $2,400 model:

So pretty. But so expensive.

Eventually, I came to my senses and realized that a $2,400 velvet-covered sofa just wasn’t affordable or realistic given that we have a slobbery bulldog. So, I did more research on small sectionals with chaises, and kept finding good reviews about the Ektorp sofa from Ikea. I know, 75% of my house is from Ikea, but when you’re trying to live on a budget it’s hard to resist those prices. Plus, the sofa actually had a 10-year warranty and tons of relatively affordable replacement slipcovers.

So, a few weeks ago, I broke Robby down we decided to take a trip to Ikea to purchase our new sofa. In white, no less! I also moved the bouncy chair upstairs and replaced it with a cushy armchair from World Market (that’s a story in itself…we bought the chair the night before we left for Hawaii, only to discover that no amount of shoving would get it into our car, and World Market couldn’t deliver it that night. So we actually sprinted over to the U-Haul place and begged the guy to let us rent a truck 1 hour before closing, just so that we could get the chair home. It’s funny now, but didn’t seem so funny at the time!).

Anyway, once we got the new furniture in place, our living room looked like this:

New sofa and chair!

Living room, different angle.

My parents actually took our old leather sofa. They’re redecorating, and it fits much better in their big house! When they came to pick it up, they brought an old friend with them…Robby’s old, old dining table and chairs, which they’d been using since Robby and I got married and decided to keep my smaller table!

The table and chairs were in pretty good shape, and were the bigger size that I wanted, especially with the leaf extension. But, I didn’t love the color (cherry-stained wood with forest green accents). Here’s a REALLY old picture of the table, I think from 2004 when Robby first bought our house (check out the old kitchen, too!):

Dining table way back when.

Bad lighting, but you can sort of see what I mean about the colors. So, I started another DIY project: refinishing the furniture! I decided to go with an antique pine stain (to coordinate with our other furniture) and black accents. It took a LOT of sweat equity over several weekends to strip off all the varnish, apply multiple coats of stain and paint, and seal everything, but I’m really happy with the results!

Close-up of the refinished table and chairs. One of my more successful DIY projects, I think!

I also decided that the old dresser we had in the dining area felt a little big for the space. So, we moved it upstairs and replaced it with two floating shelves that we had once used underneath the bar counter before we remodeled the kitchen (you can see them in action here, before they fell down…whoops: Here are the new shelves:

Refinished dining set and new floating shelves. Much lighter than the old dresser, I think!

So far, the changes seem to be working well for us. The new sofa and chair are super comfortable, and the room seems bigger and brighter. We even had some friends over for dinner and were able to fit 4 people plus multiple serving dishes on the table, hooray!

Sadly, though, there’s one catch. I had talked myself into the white slipcover for the sofa, reasoning that I could just bleach it anytime it got dirty. And then, on our very first day with the new sofa, Lucy jumped on it with muddy paws. I washed everything (which took hours), and then, a few days later, she did it again. Argh. It actually bugged Robby more than it bugged me, and he started hinting that maybe we should look into getting a different-colored slipcover.

Before spending money on that, though, I decided to try to salvage our initial slipcover investment by dyeing the white fabric a darker color. I settled on the Pearl Grey color by Rit, and went on a grand tour of two Michaels and a JoAnn Fabrics to find enough boxes to dye the whole slipcover (you need 1 box per pound of fabric, and our slipcover weighs 14 pounds).

I’m still working on finishing the dye job (the final load is in the dryer right now), and sadly, it’s not going well. :( I don’t know if I didn’t use enough dye, or if there was just too much fabric in the washing machine, or if the dye was just off, but all I know is that the slipcover is supposed to be this lovely shade of taupey grey:

Pearl Grey

But, instead, it’s this strange shade of pale blue with random grey splotches:

Yeah, that doesn't look like the box AT ALL. So frustrating.

Waaaaahhh! I’m going to try to salvage things with another batch of dye (darker grey, from a different brand), and smaller loads, so we’ll see if that helps. I’ll let you know how it goes, but we may be saving up for another slipcover soon. :/

My other upcoming project is to add some distressed, antique-stained pine planks to the top of our coffee table. Partly to make the table look more interesting, but mostly to cover up the area where I spilled nail polish remover and ruined the paint on top (sigh…).  Oh, and I’m also brainstorming ideas to replace the cheap Target-clearance art that’s currently hanging over the sofa with something a little more sophisticated. Wish me luck with my never-ending DIY-decorating quest!

Christmas, New Year’s, and More!

Can you believe it’s been almost a month since Christmas? Robby and I have been SUPER busy since my last post. Between the holidays, a week-long trip to Mississippi, trying to get over a nasty cold that took us both down, going back to work, celebrating our anniversary, and tackling about 10 different home organization and craft projects, the time has just flown by. I hope to be back with updates on the home projects soon (we’re in the middle of several!), but for now, here’s a photo-log of the last month.

Hope your New Year has gotten off to a great start. Ours has–I’m looking forward to what 2013 brings!

Powder Room Remodel: (Almost Completely) Finished!

Remember the bathroom remodel we started Thanksgiving weekend? Well, it took plenty of blood (Robby’s), sweat (ours), and tears (mine), but it’s finally all but finished! Every single aspect of this project was more difficult than we expected, but I’m proud that we persevered and finished the work ourselves.

Our first challenge was the sink wall. We had to add blocking for the pedestal sink, one of the supply lines had a leak, and the pipes were off-center. Robby managed to get the blocking done with some creative geometry, and we got a plumber to replace the supply line valves, but the off-center pipes had us stumped.

The plumber said he could re-route things, but that it would be pretty expensive. Robby finally found the solution: an angled drain pipe that would allow us to center the sink on the wall without moving the pipes! Of course, the angled pipe had to be special-ordered, as did the parts we needed to connect our cast-iron plumbing (ugh) to our chrome p-trap. The plumbing took a couple of weeks (and about 8 trips to Home Depot, and some cuts on Robby’s hands), but we finally got everything figured out and installed.

The next challenge was installing the grasscloth wallpaper. I had carefully researched and ordered exactly enough to finish the bathroom, but the rolls that were delivered were several feet shorter than had described. That meant I didn’t have enough to cover all of the walls. :( So I called Amazon customer service, and ordered replacement rolls that were supposed to be longer…only to have Amazon send me the EXACT same (short) rolls. Argh. At that point, I gave up and just ordered an extra roll so I’d have enough to finish.

When we finally got started on the wallpaper-hanging, we quickly found that grasscloth is incredibly difficult to work with. Even though we used tons of paste, the paper kept peeling away from the walls. We eventually discovered that we could use heavy-duty staples to hold the paper on the wall while the glue dried, but Robby and I still ended up with cuts and scrapes on our hands from trying to smooth the rough paper down. We also found that it was nearly impossible to line up the edges correctly, probably because our walls are so crooked.

We encountered another problem when we had to put wallpaper behind the toilet. I had the idea to take the tank off to give us more room, but one of the bolts was completely rusted in place. Unfortunately, trying to get the rusted nut off caused a small leak. :( Robby was able to fix the leak eventually, but it definitely added time and stress.

Slowly-leaking toilet.

The wallpapering took much longer than we expected, and ended up consuming several of our evenings after work. The results aren’t perfect (we have a few spots where the old blue paint shows through; I plan to cover those with tan paint to make them less noticeable), but I love the way the new wallpaper looks:

Grasscloth wallpaper!

After we finished the wallpaper, it was time to install the sink. We had to use a hammer drill to put an anchor bolt into the concrete subfloor, but that actually turned out to be the easiest part of the whole project! Robby did a GREAT job getting the sink centered and the pipes and faucets attached:

We have a sink! And the water works!

At that point, all of the major fixtures were in place, and we were finally able to install the mirror, towel ring, and toilet paper holder. The mounting hardware for all 3 turned out to be very difficult to install (of course! why was I expecting anything different?!), but we finally got them all secured to the walls. And with a bit of accessorizing, the bathroom was finally presentable again!

Mirror, towel ring, and art over the new sink.

Other side of the sink. Sorry for the weird angles--I wanted to get a shot that didn't have me in the mirror, but the bathroom is too narrow! And I still need to paint the door white.

Old toilet and new paper roll holder.

We still have a few small things to finish (I need to touch up the spots where the blue paint shows through, and I want to paint the door white and add a couple of shelves above the toilet for storage), but for now we’re counting this project as completed. Special thanks to Robby for working so hard to make my vision a reality, and for persevering through all of the challenges…I love my handy husband!