Checking In: Living Room Built-ins (Nearly a Year Later!)

Checking In: Living Room Built-ins (Nearly a Year Later!)

DIY is always a slow moving train around here. Between the two of us working full time, a 8 month old, and year-round softball – life is one huge time suck and there just isn’t much time or energy leftover for house projects.

I had to scroll all the way back to December 2016 in my phone to find this photo:

Those are our cabinets for the built-in getting delivered – almost a year ago!

Man…we suck!

Anyways…it’s almost December 2017 and we’re still not done. We’re close though!

Ok, I lied. We’re about 50% done. But since the living room built-ins is on our list of 2017 House Goals list, I thought I’d show you where we’re at and how we got here.

After soliciting several quotes and dying of sticker shock (basically this project all over again) we decided to DIY. DIYing a built-in isn’t really all that hard. It’s just intimidating. So before we got started, we pulled inspiration from these DIY built-in projects here, here, and here and just went for it.

We chose to use unfinished upper kitchen cabinets from Home Depot because they were readily available, affordable, and wouldn’t eat up a lot of floor space. They arrived December 17, 2016 – see picture above.

We went with five 30″ upper kitchen cabinets for an almost 13 foot built-in unit! Hellllo storage!

After the cabinets arrived we built a base for the cabinets to sit on. We did this so that we could wrap baseboard around the base of the cabinets for a “built-in look”. We chose to have the base flush with the cabinet fronts rather than set back like a traditional toe-kick in a kitchen set-up.


Since we have 5″ baseboard all throughout the house we built the base for the cabinets to sit on just slightly smaller than 5″. This way…the baseboards would completely cover the base plus slightly overlap the bottom edge of the cabinets. I think we ended up going with a 2×4 and 1×2 turned on its side to achieve the height we needed.


We also ran a 2×4 along the back wall of the living room – secured into the studs – to bump the cabinets out away from the wall about 2″. We did this for a few reasons…the first was so that we could easily secure the cabinets to the 2×4 (which was already secured to the studs) so we didn’t have to worry about hitting studs if we had secured the cabinets directly to the wall. The second reason we did this was because bumping the cabinets out from the wall 2″ allows the bookshelves up top to be recessed a bit. With the 2″ bump out the counter becomes 15″ deep (12″ cabs + 2″ bump out + 1″ overhang = 15″ counter) giving a little extra counter space up top and an overall better “built-in” look.

What came next was probably by far the hardest part of the entire install. So glad it’s over and so glad we both still love each other after the fact – ha!

To install the cabinets we started with the base we had built on the ground, set each cabinet on top, and began securing the cabinets to the 2×4 along the back wall all while making sure everything was level and plum – using shims where necessary (omg – so many shims). The first cabinet was pretty easy and straightforward – it was secured to the side wall, the back wall, the base, AND the adjoining cabinet. It did however, get more difficult with every cabinet we added to ensure that the unit as a whole was level and plum. We had to use quite a few shims along the back wall because our wall is not perfectly straight (what wall is?) and we also shimmed the base quite a bit because our floor slopes down pretty bad in that area too. Other than that…we secured the hell out of these cabinets: to the back wall, the base, and the adjoining cabinet(s) – they aren’t going anywhere!

Below is the side view – right after we installed the cabinets and getting ready to add baseboard. This area got covered up with a project panel so you’d never know we’re cheating the depth by 2″.

A couple things I should probably mention – we did not secure the base to the floor at all. I didn’t want to drill holes into perfectly good flooring in case a future owner wanted to come in and rip it out and then be left with holes. We could’ve secured the base to the side wall if we wanted to but determined that the sheer weight of all the cabinets plus bookshelves up top would prevent this thing from going anywhere.

We also made sure to measure and cut out holes in the back of a few cabinets so that we had access to any outlets along the wall. We did this before securing the cabinet so if we had to make any adjustments, it was easier to do.

Once all the cabinets were installed and secured – we focused on the top or the “counter” portion of the built in.

I knew going in that this would be the portion of the project that would be our biggest hang up. We built a 13 ft cabinet but finding a 13 ft topper would prove to be either very difficult, very expensive, or both. SPOILER ALERT: it’s both.

One of the tutorials that I referenced above used a single piece of butcher block for affordability and while butcher block is affordable, a 13 ft length was still a few hundred dollars and more than I wanted to spend. Plus…I didn’t want a stained top. I wanted an all white top to achieve the look of this project. Except they were working with pre-fab Ikea cabinets and didn’t need a top like we did.

So after procrastinating about it way too long, we decided to make our own. We chose a high quality, paint grade, birch plywood and seamed 2 smaller pieces together to make one massive counter top that could be painted to match the rest of the cabinets. We purchased the plywood from Home Depot and had them rip it down to size in the store.

Here’s my handy helper:

I’d tell you how we seamed the 2 pieces together but we aren’t wood workers and our approach is probably embarrassingly incorrect. We attached flat brackets on the underside for support and we used birch veneer tape on the edge of the plywood top to give it a nice finished look. We also made sure to fill, sand, and plane the top seam to make it look like 1 long piece of wood vs 2 pieces stuck together. No one but us will know (and now too you I guess) that we took the cheap way out: the cost of a single sheet of high quality plywood – $50!

To wrap up where we’re at now, the cabinets and top have been painted white, we attached the top to the cabinets using construction adhesive and installed some pretty gold hardware – a well deserved splurge since we saved thousands doing this ourselves.

Next up: bookshelves, shiplap, and trim!

Here’s to hoping it doesn’t take another year to knock this out…


A few more Sun Room Updates

A few more Sun Room Updates

We’ve done quite a bit of work in the sun room over the last few months – nothing amazing or particularly hard – but it really has come a long way and I wanted to show you how this little extension of living space has evolved since we moved in.

When I blogged about replacing our windows you may have noticed in the after photos that we added curtains. I say windows but really…our “windows” aren’t actually windows – they’re sliding doors.

Sometimes…ok – most the time – sliding doors aren’t great looking. Often times they’re old, aluminum, yellowed, rickety, or they make a lot of noise every time you open and close them, and everyone would really like to have french doors instead. Right? It’s what you see all over those home décor magazines and design shows – big beautiful windows that let in tons of natural light or French doors left wide open, leading you out into a perfectly manicured backyard. #housegoals

But sometimes you live in an apartment (we have) or sometimes, like in our case, French doors just aren’t in the budget (it wasn’t) and those #housegoals just isn’t your reality. So you opt for the budget friendly option and install sliding doors.

We did and they ain’t all that bad now, are they?

Remember in this post where I told you that the quotes we received ranged anywhere from 8k to over 30k? I remember being about 4 months pregnant and gasping when the rep quoted us 30k to replace our sliding doors with all-wood french doors. Triple what vinyl sliding doors cost us!!! We promptly told him thank you but hell no – we have kids to feed.

As you already know, we went with the sliding doors but here’s how I make them look like we paid 30k without actually having to:
  • If installing new – go white. We had to have a different color on the outside per our HOA requirements so we paid a little extra to have the frames white on the inside. The white will draw the eye away from the window itself and allow you to focus on the view beyond. It’ll also make the area look and feel larger. I toyed around with the idea of black frames because it’s super on trend right now to have black framed windows against stark white walls, but unless you’re dealing with actual windows or French doors, white is your best bet.
  • Always add curtains! Throw a curtain rod above your sliders just like you would a window and I promise, you’ll be happy you did. Just remember to hang your curtains high and wide! I did this in our last apartment – even with the vertical blinds that were already there – and it made such a huge difference. Here’s an old picture I dug up to show you:
It took a little while to get around to adding curtains to the sun room mainly because our configuration is a bit odd.
Our sliders go floor to ceiling (there’s no wall space to install a traditional rod above the slider) and then we have a beam running between each set of sliders. In addition to the tricky configuration, each set of sliders are 96″ wide which made finding a long enough rod that wasn’t $$$ even more difficult.

I ended up going with this Ikea rod and these wall mounts that we attached directly to the beams but for those lucky people who have normal sliders in a normal configuration, any curtain rod will work! We used the Ritva curtains also from Ikea to save on cost and these curtain rings from Amazon. It was by far the cheapest way to go to dress this many “windows”. Plus it can withstand my 8 month old trying to climb the curtains sooo there’s that.

Aaaand for the easiest DIY ever…if you ever buy a pair of curtains that are too long, this no-sew hem tape is MAGIC! I literally just hung the curtains up and trimmed off the excess fabric while they were still up and then used the hem tape to finish them off for a clean hem line.
A few other updates we made in this space:

The water damaged drywall by the laundry room got patched:

The entire room got a fresh coat of bright white paint – Super White by Sherwin Williams and the yellowed recessed lights all got sprayed white too – Rustoleum White in a Matte finish:

The laundry room and master bedroom doors both went darker – Tricorn by Sherwin Williams:


Here’s a before and after side by side looking towards the master bedroom:

And looking down the other direction:

Still to come: adding a long runner (probably FLOR tiles) and I’m tossing around the idea of planking the ceiling and wood wrapping the beams.

There’s always more work to be done it seems…


Combating Design Indecision

I kinda had a moment early on while S and I were discussing an expensive upgrade/repair we want need to make to the house. I was waffling back and forth, procrastinating like it’s my job, and just out right delayed calling for quotes/consultations as long as I possibly could. Picture me telling him that I’d call around for estimates tomorrow but “tomorrow” turned into next week and the “next week(s)” just kept on coming.

The problem? I didn’t know what I wanted. Therefore…I didn’t know what to ask for.

S is kinda the guy that would prefer an already “finished” house (one he doesn’t have to renovate, rip apart, just to put back together) – but he’s also smart enough to know that, for me (lover of all things interior and design), no house will ever be “finished”. Through this entire renovation journey, he islearning to love the process and realizing that no cookie cutter house could ever be as great as the one we’re creating with our own two hands. But he has moments where he gets stuck in that “what-did-we-get-ourselves-into?” and “I-can’t-see-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” state of mind and just can’t grasp why I’m so frozen with indecision sometimes.
To him, a door is a door. Grey is grey. But no, my friends, it’s not. Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe.
So when it came time to make this decision I was undecided about what it was I wanted vs what we could afford and I just couldn’t – as he put it – “hurry up and decide”. At first he didn’t understand and was annoyed but I was feeling pressured and rushed into making a huge (not to mention expensive) decision about OUR house that I just wasn’t ready to make. I hadn’t thought it out long enough, gathered enough inspiration, researched all the options, the best materials, contractors…and frankly, I just wasn’t well informed.

After explaining to him that even though my indecision was stalling our progress and as he put it, “annoying”, it was for good reason. I want the decisions I/we make (especially the really expensive ones) to be well thought out and purposeful. The last thing I want to do is pour money into a decision that we end up hating or regretting. For the very first time in our lives we have the opportunity to give these decisions the time and consideration they deserve because when you buy a house, there really isn’t (and shouldn’t be) any rush. We’re here for 30 years.

He finally gets it.
I’m enjoying the renovation process and this stage of life that we’re in right now. As a renter, I never had the freedom or 30 years laid out before us to take all the time we could ever possibly need to make the right choices for us, for this house. By far the best thing about buying this house is that I don’t feel rushed. And I’m sorta digging it.

But if you’re like me a need a little help from time to time to get over that hump, here’s 5 ways I combat design indecision:


It’s always the first stop when starting a new room but it also helps pull me out of that funk too. I log onto my Pinterest boards to re-confirm that “hey girl, you got this”! Pinterest is a great source for inspiration and does a heck of a job compiling all my likes into one place. It’s a great at-a-glance tool to see that I pin a lot of light/bright/all white spaces and orange/red food (haha) so if I’m designing a super moody room and suddenly feel like this “isn’t me” betcha Pinterest will agree.

This isn’t to say that you can’t/shouldn’t divert from your normal aesthetic but Pinterest can also help you hone in on your evolving style too. It’s a great tool to really narrow down what you like but more importantly, what you don’t. I turn to Pinterest a lot when I’ve hit a wall and need another jolt of inspiration to push me over that hump.

Build a Board

I’ve mentioned this a few times before but after browsing Pinterest, putting together a design board is usually my next step. I’ll virtually build my room right there on the page and swap items in and out all day long. This can be very time consuming, sometimes taking me hours/days to get it to a good jumping off point. But the great thing is that it can be tweaked along the way and all my rooms usually end up with 3 or more versions of its original design after all is said and done.

Putting together a design board is a great visual road map that can be used to trigger product purchases for the room or what needs to be DIYed / hired out in order to complete your vision. Nothing is off limits here either. If in my searches I find an out-of-budget item that I just have to have, I’ll still throw it into the design and either a) find a more budget friendly look-alike option, b) scale back other aspects to afford that item, or c) save up until I can purchase my dream piece.

Sky is the limit here and when you’re paralyzed with making those design decisions, nothing’s worse than being strapped down with limitations.

When in doubt, try it out!

We’ve all been there.

You go to Target for deodorant and leave with one of everything. We take a detour down the home décor aisles, get distracted by the “pretty” things, and suddenly what started out as a $5 shopping trip turns into a $500 one. Target décor is on point these days and it’s OK to drink that Nate Berkus/Threshold kool-aide. I ain’t mad-at-cha girl!

This is by far one of the best ways to help me combat design indecision. I call it auditioning. While searching for a particular item I’ll bring home two, three, or even four options (because they’re just thatgood!) and audition them at home in their would-be-space. As a visual person, this helps me immensely! So go for it. Fill your cart up with 97 pillow options and then try them out at home. See what works and what doesn’t – what you like or don’t like. Your husband/wife might think you’re nuts but that’s what a 30 day return policy is for.  
It’s OK to change your mind

Even after I’ve done all the pre-planning and auditioning sometimes things still don’t work out and it throws me for a loop. Instead of getting stuck, I give myself permission to change my mind, course correct along the way, and you should too. Just because you put it in the basket and brought it home, doesn’t mean you’re committed to it forever. If you hate it, get rid of it. Most things aren’t that important to keep around for the sake of keeping around. You’ll love your space a whole lot more if you allow yourself a few do-overs along the way.

Spaces rarely come together over night and instead, the best spaces evolve over time. Don’t feel pressured to get it right the first time because for me, half the fun is trying.

Wait it out

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was your house. There have been many rooms I started and then abruptly stopped because I just “wasn’t feeling it” or didn’t like the direction it was going. In fact, half my apartment sat semi-finished for most of the time we lived there and I’m prepared so sit on these rooms in our new house if I need to. That’s life.

There’s no reason to force your design choices or to make rash decisions. Some of the most well styled and put together rooms happened over time…not overnight. If you’ve hit a brick wall and don’t know what to do, buy, DIY next…wait it out. Turn your attention to another room, space, project and inspiration will come soon enough and you’ll have a clear enough vision to pick back up where you left off.

And that’s it, blog friends! Sorry for such a wordy post this Friday but we’ve all been there before and sometimes we just need a little help to get over the fear and design indecision. Anyone out there been here before? What did you do to jump start that creativity and get the ball rolling again? Do tell…

Entry: The Plan

We’re in that awkward stage of renovation where if feels like we’ve got a whole lot going on but not a whole lot is actually getting done. Can any of my reno buddies relate?! To date, we’re still knee waist deep in flooring that needs to be laid, and only 1 of 6 room is 100% completed, floor-wise (!@#$). #pleasesendhelp #andcookies

So! Even though the majority of our spaces are only partially completed, we’ve got enough of the foundation laid that we can start living like humans again and begin to work on stuff like what I came here to talk about today: plans for our entry way!

The entry of any home is one of the, if not the most, hardest working area in any home and I don’t think anyone would argue with me about that. The entry way in our apartment could hardly be called a proper “entry way” but I did the best I could with the space we had in conjunction with the adjacent coat closet to make it functional for us while we lived there. It came as no surprise to me that in our new-to-us home, this was the first space I wanted to tackle.

I don’t know about you, but when I walk through the front door after a long day of work (or rush out on a hectic morning), the last thing I want to be greeted by is chaos and clutter. Just the sight of shoes, bags, keys, or mail, cluttering up such a high traffic area can make or break my mood for the day. After living here for 2 months without an ounce of organization in place, enough was enough!

The entry in our new home isn’t without its fair share of challenges. Albeit longer – not sure if that counts as “bigger” – it’s narrower and doesn’t even have a closet!! #holyheckbatman – how did I not notice that when we viewed the place?! That’s #nobueno. I have my work cut out for me. #again.

As I do with any makeover, I start by pinning some inspiration images. Here are a few that I was drawn to:
With inspiration in hand, I pulled together a mood board for the space. Doing this really helps me see how everything will come together in the end and more often than not I love the result a whole lot more when I take this approach rather than putting the design together as I go. For being such a visual person, it’s important for me to see the ideas that are percolating in my brain laid out on paper. That way I can play with color, texture, or finish combinations before I make any purchases and it results in less “buyer’s remorse”.

After swapping items and ideas in and out over the course of a few days, here’s the final version of the mood board I ended up with: 

Aside from being one of the hardest working areas in our home, the entry will set the tone for our entire house. Colors, textures, and finishes seen here will be repeated throughout the main living areas to create a cohesive look and feel throughout. Some of what I’ve shown you in the above mood board are items we already own but will be re-purposed to work for our needs.

In an area that needs to check a lot of boxes, each item chosen serves a very specific purpose and will work really hard to make our entry way a whole lot more functional and organized. Let’s dive right in and break it down a little further:

Light fixture:
          We only have a single can light in this area and aside from the fact that it doesn’t provide much             actual light, it just isn’t rocking my world. It feels very “apartment-esque” to have this type of                 lighting in our entry and adding a semi-flush fixture is the easiest way to class the joint up a bit.             Yuh feel me?

Shiplap walls:
          This house lacks so much character and adding shiplap to the walls here in the entry will right                that wrong. It’s easy, inexpensive, and will bring interest where there is none.

          Because grown men and tiny humans know not what a hanger does or is. Hooks make life easier           for everyone involved. #mainlyme

           We may not have a closet but I scored a campaign dresser a while back and the dresser will                    accomplish the exact same thing as any closet would. There will be enough room for a mail                    station, our re-useable shopping bags, umbrellas and such.

            A lucky Goodwill find will give us a place to put on or take off our shoes. The concealed storage             is the perfect place to hold our shoe polishing kit too. 

Vintage runner:
            Because every space is more beautiful with a one of a kind vintage rug. And because the cat                   needs a comfy place to lay while waiting for our arrival home. #truth

Well, guys…that’s the plan for the entry. Thoughts?! I’ll be working on it over the next few weeks and will be sharing bits and pieces here on the blog and on Instagram but man…I can’t wait to have a fully functioning (and pretty) space to call done! What’s the one thing you need for your perfect entry? Join the convo and share below!

Fall for $20

Although the calendar indicates that Fall is officially here and underway, Southern California hasn’t gotten the memo. It’s still hot around these parts (we’re flirting with the 80’s) but temps have been dropping and I hope they continue to do so. There’s no time of year I love more than Fall.

I usually break out the Fall / Halloween décor by late September / early October to really get into the spirit of things that this time of year brings but with everything we’ve been through over the last few months, I just haven’t gotten around to it.
With Halloween almost here and Thanksgiving just around the corner, I wanted a quick and simple project that would sprinkle our home with those warm and cozy fall feelings without having to drag our décor bins from the depths of the black hole garage.
Buffalo check is all the rage right now and what perfect timing because this bold take on a classic plaid print is so fitting for the season. Ive been oogling over these gorgeous pillows but when I spotted a similar fabric at Ikea for a fraction of the cost, I picked up a yard on a whim and decided to make my own low-budget version.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again – pillows are the easiest way to change up the look and feel of a room in an instant without much of an investment. So with my Ikea fabric, I made two pillow covers in about 30 minutes start to finish all in an effort of infusing a little fall coziness into our main living space.

I’ve done my fair share of sewing but usually just ask my super-sewer Mom to make my pillow covers for me instead of bothering to do it myself. But these ones? They’re all me! Even someone with the most basic of sewing skills could whip these up, no problem!
With a little direction from my Mom, I made two super simple envelope style pillow covers out of 1 yard of fabric. The Internet (and Pinterest) is flooded with tutorials for this type of DIY so I won’t bore you with another – just click here and use any one of these tutorials to make your own.
But how about a few helpful hints before you dive right in?
#1 – Always remember to make your cover smaller than your pillow insert. This may seem illogical but it’s the most important thing I’ve learned and the key to getting the fullest pillows! A general rule of thumb is to make your cover 2″ smaller than your pillow insert. For example: if your inserts measure 20″ x 20″, you’ll want to make your pillow cover a finished size of 18″ x 18″. Be sure to account for your seams when cutting your fabric!
#2 – Reinforce the seams where the two back flaps of your cover overlap. When you’re stuff your cover with the insert, that area will have the most stress put on it from all the pushing, pulling, and re-arranging your insert. Having a reinforced seam will make sure that your cover doesn’t literally rip at the seams.
With those tips in mind, after my covers were sewn, I gave them a quick press with the iron just to iron out any wrinkles and to press the seams. But I didn’t stop there. I decided to add a few yarn pom-poms to each corner of the pillow because nothing says fall like a good plaid and some cozy textures!
To make the over sized pom-poms you’ll need:
  1. Yarn
  2. Scissors
  3. Steel yarn needle
I started by wrapping the yarn around 4 of my outstretched fingers like so:
I wrapped the yarn loosely around my fingers approximately 70 times until my bundle was pretty thick. The same technique can be used around less fingers or wrapped around fewer times to achieve a smaller pom-pom too.
There are several tools out there that you can buy to assist you in making pom-poms but I didn’t have any of them so I improvised and used my fingers instead which seemed to work out just fine.
Once I wrapped the yarn around a sufficient amount of times, I carefully slid the bundle off my fingers and laid it in the center of a 12″ piece of yarn that I had previously cut.
With the single piece of yarn, I tied a knot in the middle of my bundle and then flipped it over and tied a second knot.
With the tied bundle, I slid my scissors through the loops on either end and cut – careful not to cut the center tie.
After cutting all the loops on either end you can choose to trim your pom-pom for a more uniform look or leave it as is.
Once I had all my pom-poms made, I used a steel yarn needle threaded with a length of yarn and sewed each pom-pom to the corner of my covers. Easy-peasy!
Ready to see the final result?

How cozy are these pillows? And what a big difference they make! Not too shabby for $20, right?!


Gimme all the heart eye emojis…I think I’m in love! Are you too? Please tell me you agree!


Living Room Cha-cha-changes

I’ve been making a few changes to our main living space and am dropping in today to share the first of many minor tweaks that have been happening over the last few weeks.
I’ve been eager to infuse a little more color into our normally neutral living room for quite some time and one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to do that is through pillows. It’s so easy and convenient to change out your pillows throughout the season or hey…just because! I’m a known hoarder of pillows and can always be found perusing the pillow aisles at any home décor store. One of the greatest things about having a mainly neutral base is that it makes adding color on a whim, so easy!
I picked these vibrant blue floral motif pillows up at HomeGoods and I think they’re the perfect counterpart to the darker navy curtains while boldly standing out against the neutral backdrop of the couch.
I’m loving these new pillows so much and think they bring in the perfect amount of color for summer.
What do you think? Do you love HomeGoods as much as this girl does? Have you ever switched out your pillows for an instant change or for a quick living room face lift? How are you infusing color into your home this Summer?
Be sure to check back soon for the other living room changes we’ve made over the last few weeks! I’m so excited for you all to see!