Fireplace Mantel Project

While we are waiting for a contractor to come out and give us a quote on installing drywall in the family room (which is currently faux wood paneling painted green — yuck), we decided to redo the fireplace mantel. We wanted a distressed, reclaimed wood look without having to buy a new mantel or hunt down an old piece of barn wood.

The Fireplace and Mantel – Before

We decided to use an iron acetate finish to achieve an aged, distressed appearance and bring out the grain of the wood.

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Iron acetate is really just a fancy term for a piece of steel wool in a jar of vinegar.


Mantel before the original stain was removed


We tested the iron acetate on an unfinished spot on the back of the mantel. This picture was taken immediately after dabbing some on with paper towel.


The iron acetate finish already starting to react after 2 minutes.


The iron acetate reaction after about 20 minutes.










The supplies: Our new 5″ random orbital sander, 80/120/150 grit sandpapers, foam brushes, and iron acetate.


Alek sanding off the original stain with 80 grit sandpaper.


Applying the iron acetate finish. Sorry for the blurry picture. I snapped it real fast because I was supposed to be helping, not taking pictures. Hahaha.

At this point, we had to let the finish soak into the wood, and unfortunately I lost enough daylight to take more pictures. We had neglected to dilute the finish before applying, so the wood turned black. I tried to get a decent picture, but none could really demonstrate just how dark black it had turned. I wasn’t nervous though because we were able to sand off a couple of layers of the wood to reveal the grain again:


After sanding. Most of the finish clung to the grain of the wood, making it appear aged and distressed.


We applied an all-natural beeswax finishing wax to seal the wood and put it back up on the fireplace.


The finished fireplace mantel.

Mantle Before and After

On the left: the stained mantel before with corbels. On the right: the finished distressed mantel without corbels.

We’re pretty pleased with the mantel. It was a small project that made us feel like we’re still making progress on our home, little by little. It might look a bit out of place right now, but once we’re able to paint and decorate, it will all come together. Our projects in the family room have stalled until we can tear out that paneling and get drywall up in the next week or two. After that, we plan on doing the following projects in the family room pretty much in rapid succession in preparation for Thanksgiving:

  • whitewash the brick fireplace
  • paint the walls
  • install crown molding or trim
  • box in the rough sawn ceiling beams with smooth wood and paint white
  • cover the rough texture ceiling with beadboard or wainscoting
  • replace the dated ceiling fan that doesn’t have a light
  • get rid of the vertical blinds on the doorwall
  • replace the carpet

Thanks for following along! I’ll have much more to share very soon! 🙂

Hardwood Floors – Part 2

The hardwood floors are finally done! After pulling up the carpet, we tossed around a lot of different ideas for a couple of days. Alek spent a lot of time researching different refinishing techniques that would best suit the condition of the floors. We didn’t need to do a full refinish since the floors were in really good shape. It also appeared that the floors had been refinished several times over the last four decades judging by the thinness of the planks, so we didn’t want to end up inadvertently refinishing them for the very last time and being forced to replace them sooner than we needed to. Alek decided to use Varathane’s water-based Renewal No-Sanding Floor Refinishing Kit in Semi-Gloss. It was a really easy-to-use kit, and Alek only needed one 1-gallon kit to do the dining room and living room (about 400 square feet). I wish I could give specifics on each step that Alek did, but he had already done all the steps right up to spreading the polyurethane before I even got home from work that morning. This project was all him; I actually got in the way when I tried to help with the polyurethane. 😀


Preparing to spread the polyurethane.


Spreading the polyurethane. I was tasked with watching for bubbles and missed spots.


Still wet polyurethane. So glossy! Alek said it looked like a gym floor though, so that’s why we went with semi-gloss. It’s really bringing the rich color of the floor out.


The dining room after the polyurethane dried into a semi-gloss finish. Quite pretty.


On the left: dining room with carpet before – it really closed the space in. On the right: dining room with the finished floor. They are nearly perfect except for a couple of stains near the two entryways. The next time we refinish, we’ll go with stain-tinted polyurethane to conceal those.


I apologize for the poor lighting, but it’s the best I can do without overhead lighting. On the left: the living room floor after the carpet was removed — again, the carpet closed the space in, and the floors were lackluster before the new coating was applied. On the right: a nice semi-gloss finish brings out the rich color of the wood and almost hides the carpet padding pattern. Good enough for now, though.

In the end, we spent about $150 total redoing the floors using the no-sanding kit and on a couple of other supplies, like the paint trays and paint brushes for cutting in under the baseboard. It took Alek three days to finish with all the drying time in between the three coats, which actually only took about 30 minutes to apply. Before deciding to do it ourselves, we had made an appointment to have a professional buff and refinish the floors and were given a quote of just under $1,200 for the living room, dining room, stairs, and hallway. That is reasonable for all that square footage, but I feel pretty good about us doing it ourselves and saving all that money for the other various projects around the house we have yet to tackle. The next time we have to do this, we’ll try staining the floors or using a tinted polyurethane to hide some of the imperfections.

We might still do something like this with the stairs, but I don’t think we’re going to bother with the hallway and bedrooms, since we’re just going to put a runner in the hallway and re-carpet or use rugs in the bedrooms anyway.

Thanks for following! I swear we’re going to get started on the family room soon, but all this early fall weather is just making it too cozy to want to move around! 😛

Hardwood Floors – Part 1

Now that we’re done with the landscaping until next spring, we’re excited to start some projects inside the house. Our goal is to get the family room and dining room completely finished before Thanksgiving. We have to remove paneling, install drywall, paint, whitewash the fireplace, get the chimney swept, and replace the carpet in the family room, as well as do some decorating so it feels a bit more like home. Whew, that’s a lot! So, in spite of that whole to-do list for the family room, we started an entirely different project last week — the floors.

We discovered after we first moved in that there appeared to be hardwood floors under the carpet in the Green Room upstairs. Over the past couple of months, we wondered if there were hardwood floors throughout the rest of the house and what kind of condition they were in. We had four days off together last week and decided to just tear up the carpet and find out what was underneath. The previous owners never mentioned that the house had hardwood floors, so we were taking a chance on ripping up perfectly good carpet… but we got lucky!


All three bedrooms, upstairs hallway and stairs, living room, and dining room have hardwood floors in excellent condition! The carpet had been professionally installed so the staples were easy to find and remove.

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The high-quality padding had protected the floors, so there were only three stains in the living room near the north window (see below), obviously from hanging or potted plants. It shouldn’t be too difficult to fix, but it just irritates me that the floors are in near-perfect condition except for these few careless spots. Water is this floor’s enemy! Right, Dad?! 😉


The dining room

The dining room

The upstairs hallway

The upstairs hallway

The living room

The living room

The stairs were a bit more time-consuming. There were a lot of staples that were tough to remove. The risers were also unfinished and bare. We thought we might try to whitewash the risers, but after finishing just one step, I decided I didn’t like the way it looked. We just went with solid white for now.


The stairs after the carpet was removed with the plain risers.


Painting the risers


The risers: completed.

For the record, those little bits of paint on the steps are not from us. We were very careful and wiped up any mistakes we made, so it’s a little annoying to see that old paint on almost every step. How careless! It will get sanded off when we refinish the stairs and the rest of the floors, but it’s just bothersome for now.

HallwayFloorComp DiningRoomComp2 LivingRoomFloorComp2 StairsFloorComp

We are probably going to refinish the floors ourselves. I say “probably” because we’re still on the fence about it. They’re in great shape and still have a top coat on them, but the carpet padding left a pattern everywhere that will have to be sanded or buffed out. It’s still a lot of work to do ourselves, and I’ll be devastated if we ruin the floors, but it’s also pretty expensive to have it done professionally… so we just keep watching YouTube videos and talking to people to see if it’s something we want to take on.

The bedrooms have hardwood floors, too, but we have not removed the carpet at this time. We haven’t decided if we want to replace the carpet as we redo each room or if we want to remove it and just use nice, big area rugs. Both carpet and rugs can be expensive, though. I don’t think we’ll bother refinishing the bedroom floors because they’re probably in good shape like the rest of the house and they’ll mostly be concealed by furniture.

I’m so happy with the outcome so far. The rooms feel so much bigger now! I really love how elegant hardwood floors look, so I’m thrilled that we don’t have to pay a fortune to have them installed. It was risky to just jump in and tear out the high-quality carpet that was there before, but I’m so glad we did. Now we need some furniture to make it cozy! Keep following along to see the floors and the family room completed in the next few weeks!

Boxwoods and Poison Ivy… and Bees (Landscaping Part 2)

It’s been almost three weeks since my last update about the landscaping, and we have made substantial progress. I am happy to report that almost all of the poison ivy around the house has been eradicated! We’re still finding a few small vines here and there around the yard, but the gardens around the deck and shed are finally safe.  My wonderful husband donned a disposable suit and got in there and pulled all those suckers out for me (I wish I had remembered to take a picture!).

A disposable suit may seem like overkill, but these vines were huge. While pulling them out, they inevitably would have had contact with Alek’s skin or clothing. We initially thought we could just kill the poison ivy with a natural homemade weed killer and we’d be safe from it, but further research told us that the oils may still be there and cause a reaction. It was effective though, so I would recommend it for weeds if you’re trying to avoid using Roundup or other chemicals. It consisted of vinegar, salt, water, and Dawn dish soap.

Poison Ivy Comp

Once Alek got the poison ivy out, our landscaping progress took off:

Back Deck Weeding Comp Back Deck Weeding Comp 4 Back Deck Weeding Comp 3 Back Deck Weeding Comp 2

I also knocked down the two trellis’ in the backyard with the help of my soon-to-be mother-in-law, Traci. Now that they’re gone, the yard feels much larger.

Back Trellis Comp Back Trellis Comp 2 Porch Trellis Comp Porch Trellis Comp 2

I am quite pleased with how the backyard looks now. It’s not really a drastic transformation (like the plans I have for the back deck next summer 😉 ), but the yard looks much nicer without those dated trellis’ and rebellious weeds.

Next, we started to insert scalloped concrete edging along the length of the wraparound porch to replace the rotting wood beams that were there before. Menard’s had a fantastic deal going on, and we got 45 blocks for $1.19 each.


Right behind Alek in the picture above was a carpenter bee nest under the deck. They didn’t have a problem with us working near them at first, but by the second day, they were extremely agitated and wouldn’t let us work there at the steps (which actually was a good thing because we figured out we needed to start with the curved section in the corner first). I would have liked to peacefully coexist with them, but they had to go after this:


My first bee sting ever! Right through my glove! And my God, it hurt a lot more than I thought it would. I took this picture almost immediately after it happened, but it did swell up quite a bit shortly after. After Alek sweetly tended to my wound and made the pain stop, we got back to work.

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I’m afraid to say that this project has stalled at this point for about a week now. It’s tedious and time-consuming because of the roots we have to keep pulling out to get the blocks to sit level. What we have completed so far is not perfect, and that’s driving me nuts. We put in so much effort trying to get the blocks even with each other and with the ground, but I know that when winter comes, they’ll shift a little and the OCD part of my brain will just explode.

Landscaping is certainly not all fun and games, what with bee stings and poison ivy and such. I’m paranoid about bees now, and I jump around like mad every time a fly or other bug comes at me. But when I take a step back and look at my beautiful yard and the sweat and blood I have put into it so far, I feel so incredibly proud. All of the little projects we have started is kind of like taking our first steps; we’re a little unsure and a little unsteady, but we’ll find our stride soon enough.

Thanks again for reading! Keep following along; I have a few new posts coming soon, including new family room furniture and us learning how to cut down a tree!

Transformation Of The House & My 25th Birthday

I celebrated my 25th birthday yesterday! I took three nights off so I could have a mid-week birthday weekend. Alek and I went to dinner at Black Rock in Hartland on Monday, and I got to do one of my favorite things Tuesday– go shopping!



We got so much food at Black Rock, we could have used a bigger table! I got the Steak & Lasagna entree and Alek got a giant steak with burgundy mushrooms. It was a very cool experience cooking my own steak on the 725 degree volcanic stone. We also got the Lobster Dip appetizer and a couple of beers. It was a very nice meal; absolutely delicious. I would highly recommend checking them out if you’re in the Hartland or Novi area. On Tuesday, I went shopping after Alek went to work and bought myself a new wallet and a Fitbit Charge HR in purple. I have worn a Fitbit almost every day since May 2013, and I love their products and their app! It’s a great way to remind myself to move around and be active, especially since my job as a 911 dispatcher is so sedentary.


I also got another tiny gift. Alek found this little treasure yesterday while looking through some old papers he found in the basement:


Photos of the house before the porch was added on!!! I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have these photos! The house was adorable before, of course, but that wraparound porch made such a huge difference. These photos were found attached to the back of a survey done in 1983. We plan on getting the photo of the front of the house blown up so we can hang it somewhere.

Porch Comp

So on my “Quarter-of-a-Century” birthday, I am certainly counting my blessings. I am so lucky to have such a beautiful house and a loving husband, and I can’t wait to spend many more birthdays with both. Thanks for following!

Ellie Is Finally Home!

It’s two weeks since we brought Alek’s childhood dog, Ellie, home. We weren’t able to keep her while we lived in the apartment for the last four years, so she stayed with Alek’s sister, Tyler, in Warren. We are so grateful that Tyler loved her and cared for her until we could finally take her home.


Look at the heart on her side! So sweet...

I love the heart on her side!

The hour-long car ride was a little stressful for her, and she was a little uneasy when we introduced her to her new surroundings. I couldn’t help but feel like she was in disbelief that she was spending so much time with Alek again. When Alek would visit her, she was so thrilled to see him. She couldn’t get enough of him! Alek sometimes expressed his concern that she forgot about him, but she never did. She has always adored him, ever since he got her from a flea market when he was in 8th Grade. It was heartbreaking when she realized he was leaving again. But now they never have to be apart again.

While Ellie was getting used to her new home that first day, the cats were getting used to the newest member of the house. Tucker had only seen a dog one other time in his life, and LC has never has. To say that greetings were difficult is an understatement. When LC first saw Ellie, she took off running, and Ellie chased her. Ellie wasn’t trying to hurt her; she just curious and couldn’t help herself when LC ran away. This is what happened to the wall when Ellie cornered LC and Alek accidentally spooked them during their standoff:



When the cats skittered off around the house, we realized how creative they were in finding the furthest possible places away from Ellie.

We found Tucker in the bathroom upstairs. He stayed up there for a few hours. We still have no idea how he got up there other than probably jumping straight up in the air. I wish I could have seen that!

Look how puffy his tail is!

LC in the family room

LC in the family room


I am sad to report that they are still uneasy with Ellie and will only come out of the basement if they are certain she is not around. I can tell that they listen to her nails on the floor to see if she is in the kitchen. I’ve made the basement comfortable for them with beds and toys, and they seem really happy in their own space. I hope that they’ll realize soon that Ellie won’t hurt them and that this is still their home, too.

But Ellie is adjusting nicely and doesn’t get as upset anymore when we leave the house. It breaks my heart to think that every time we leave for work, she might think we’re never coming back for her… but we will always be here for her. She is a part of the family and always has been, even when she couldn’t stay with us. Alek told her the day he left that as soon as we got a house, he would come back for her.


So we’re getting pretty close to a full house here with one dog, two cats, a panther chameleon, a hedgehog, and a little desert lizard… but we hope to add a puppy to the mix in the near future!

Keep following along to see all our adventures here at the White Lake House!

Boxwoods & Poison Ivy – The Joys and Horrors of Landscaping (Part 1)

Earlier this week, we took advantage of the perfect July weather and decided to rip out all of the landscaping around the porch. When we moved in, I said I didn’t want to do any landscaping until next spring because it seemed too daunting. Bushes and small trees were planted haphazardly with no apparent order or reason, weeds had consumed whatever flowering plants were left, and I have no experience with landscaping whatsoever. I can’t even keep houseplants alive for more than a few weeks. But once we started to notice just how bad the overgrown shrubbery looked, it was impossible to ignore, so my wonderful husband decided we should just jump into it and he would teach me what he knows along the way.

Before: Front Landscaping

Before: Front Landscaping

Before: East Side Landscaping

Before: East Side Landscaping

You can see it looked pretty bad above ground, but once we started trying to pull these things out, we realized all of these ugly bushes had expansive, intertwining root systems underneath. The burning bush (the large bush seen on the right of the picture above) would not budge. It halted our work for about a day and a half until we could borrow an ax from my dad to chop it off at the roots that most likely spread far under the porch and into the yard.

I wish I could say that I assisted with pulling this out, but this was all Alek's hard work!

I wish I could say that I assisted with pulling this out, but this was all Alek’s hard work!

During: most of the front landscaping ripped out. We were contemplating saving that one unruly boxwood, but it was better to start fresh.

During: most of the front landscaping ripped out. We contemplated saving that one unruly boxwood, but decided it was better to start fresh.

We shopped around online for prices and found that Lowe’s had the best deals by far. My parents have bought all their plants from Lowe’s for years and never had anything die. They also have a one-year warranty on their plants, so we felt confident that all our hard work wouldn’t be in vain. We decided to get 40 Green Mountain boxwoods to line the entire porch with about a foot and a half left in front for any kinds of flowering annuals or perennials we might want to add another time. We plan to hang flower baskets for a pop of color against the evergreen boxwoods. When the boxwoods fill out in about a year or two, they will showcase the beauty and size of the porch without concealing it. We also liked the idea of the boxwoods because we have a lot of deer in the area and they don’t care to snack on boxwoods.


We were only able to get 10 of the small Green Mountain boxwoods from the Lowe’s in Flint Township, so we had to run over to the Lowe’s in Burton to get 30 more.




We also bought a 75′ soaker hose to steadily water the plants to conserve water and not wash out the loose, sandy soil. Digging the holes and planting them only took about two and a half hours total over the course of two days because we had to stop to go back to work, so it wasn’t too difficult, but it was tedious. I never did any sort of landscaping like this before, so making sure the plants all lined up and the holes were deep enough — but not too deep — and undoing the bound-up roots was a little frustrating for me. When I was getting irritated, Alek said to me, “You should be enjoying this. You’re outside, and there’s no rush to finish. Just have fun with it,” and that helped me realize that landscaping and gardening should be therapeutic, not stressful.


I think it looks fantastic! It’s definitely a huge improvement on what it looked like before. For now, the boxwoods look small, but once they fill out, we’ll trim them into a nice, lush evergreen row around the whole porch. I’ll have to wait until next spring to invest in some flower baskets, but I think it’ll look quite charming in a few years. I haven’t been able to find an image that matches what I hope it will look like when it grows in completely except maybe this one from Pinterest (sort of):


We still have to do all of the landscaping on the West side of the house along the garage and in the back, which I expect to take several days because it’s not only extremely overgrown like the front, but littered with poison ivy vines. I am terrified of poison ivy. I have never had it before, and I can only imagine that it’s painful and that it will scar my sensitive skin. We have to figure out a way to kill it all without using Roundup (which Alek vehemently refuses to use). I freak out if I think I’ve touched it with my gloves or any of my yard tools because I don’t want the oils to transfer to my skin if I’m careless. Alek tried a homemade spray of vinegar, table salt, Dawn, and water on one of the vines, and it does appear to be slowly killing it. I’ll have more updates on that when we start ripping out the landscaping in the back.


Poison Ivy!

Poison Ivy!

I’ll have another post coming up soon about finally getting Alek’s dog, Ellie, back! She had to stay with Alek’s sister while we lived in the apartment, but now they’ve been reunited! Thanks for following along! 🙂

Learning Curve

It’s been two weeks since we’ve moved in to the White Lake House, and while we wanted to pace ourselves with projects over the course of the year, we realized that the house has other plans.

One night, we discovered a leaking pipe in the basement. It was just a slow drip that steadily got faster when Alek just barely touched it. My dad came over the next morning, tightened a little tiny bolt, and fixed it. Yes, that’s right… we didn’t know how to tighten a bolt on a pipe. I didn’t let Alek mess with it more before my dad could take a look at it. I just kept envisioning that the pipe would burst and we would be scrambling around trying to figure out how to turn off the water on our ancient well pump.

Sometimes, this feels more overwhelming by the minute.

Thankfully, we haven’t faced any more urgent repairs, but our opportunities for learning didn’t stop there. We installed an invisible dog fence in the yard a few days ago, which wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. We had initially ordered a PetSafe invisible fence on Amazon before we moved into the house, but after considering the price of the fence, renting an edger and the amount of effort installing it would entail, we decided to return it and buy a wireless fence from Tractor Supply Company. The wireless fence was appealing because we wouldn’t need to run a wire around the perimeter of the yard; it would just emit a signal to warn the dog to stay in the boundary.

Easy peasy, right? No. It never occurred to us that the wireless fence box wouldn’t work with the aluminum siding on the house.

So we had to return that and purchase the wired fence from the store for about $50 more than we had spent on the one we initially got online. That’s what we get for trying to take a shortcut. It took us a couple of days to tuck the wire into the ground and cover it. It wasn’t difficult, just time-consuming and dirty. My dad came over and showed Alek how to cut into the driveway so the circuit could be completed.

We also installed a two-way cat door to the basement so the litter box isn’t in the living space. Alek’s mom helped us use the jigsaw to cut a hole into the basement door and install it. It took some trial-and-error to get the two sides to fit right since we didn’t seem to have any of the proper tools to get the job done. I would have liked it to fit into one of the bottom panels, but I was concerned about the cats trying to jump through it, overshooting the first step, and then tumbling down the stairs (I know it’s mean, but it makes me laugh to picture that!) I think it turned out really nice! It took the cats a few days to figure it out, but now they seem to like the extra space to roam around.

The “Green Room” is still a work in progress. We opted to take advantage of the gorgeous, breezy July weather to get some landscaping done — or I should say, anti-landscaping… but more on that later. 🙂

Thanks for following along as we slowly make this house a home!

Finding The White Lake House

The name, the White Lake House, actually refers to the road the house is on. The house is not on a lake, like the name might imply, but it stuck because that was how we referred to the house when we were going through our house-hunting process. In a three-month period, we viewed nearly sixty houses and lost five offers (technically, four offers because we missed our chance to submit an offer by one measly hour) before we discovered this one. Whenever we found a house we wanted to view and started talking about it, we would name it for the street it was on so we could keep track. After seeing 10+ houses a day every week, it became impossible to differentiate between them by calling them “the blue house”, “the house with the tiny yard”, “the old house” or “the really, really old house.”

After so many disappointing losses, when we saw the White Lake House come on the market, my immediate reaction was, “This house is too nice for us. We’ll never get it. Someone else will swoop in, offer more than asking price just like the other houses before, and we’ll go through this heartbreak all over again.” Our realtor had even set up a showing for us to see it that week and we canceled because we were completely burned out from searching.

When it was still on the market the following week, we figured we might have a chance and went to see it. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, we fell in love with the beautiful, secluded lot full of mature oak trees and the gorgeous wraparound porch.


We walked through the house quickly, checking only for any major structural issues. I was convinced we would find something seriously wrong, but when we didn’t, we wanted to put an offer in immediately. We had a couple of other showings scheduled for the day, so we opted to see the rest of the houses, just in case we were let down once again. But the sellers accepted our offer, and the rest went smoothly from there for the very first time.

We had an opportunity to meet the sellers of the house when they returned home during our inspection. They were a sweet older couple that needed to relocate to a house that required less maintenance. They built the house in 1968, where they spent 48 happy years, raising their four children here. It originally featured four bedrooms, but they turned one of the bedrooms into a large bathroom and hall closet when two of their kids went off to college.

It's a little blurry due to poor lighting. We had asked for a copy of this photo but they weren't able to come up with one

It’s a little blurry due to poor lighting. This photo was taken circa 1980s before the wraparound porch was put on. What a difference that porch makes to the entire facade of the house!

The house now features three bedrooms, one full bathroom, and one half bathroom downstairs. All are in great condition; just in need of our own personal touches to make it our own. Pinterest has been an incredible inspiration for small changes we can make to update each room, and I will certainly share my tentative ideas soon.

The Pink Room – Before

The Green Room – Before

The Blue Room (our bedroom) – Before

Large upper bath – Before

Large upper bath – Before

Lower half bath

Lower half bath – Before

Family Room with fireplace

Family Room with Fireplace – Before

Kitchen – Before

Breakfast Nook – Before

After we closed on the house on June 18th, we discovered our original list of “Wants” and “Needs” and were pleasantly surprised to find that the White Lake House not only matched almost all of our requirements, but exceeded them. Although we had a couple of near misses with houses we almost settled for just because the house-hunting process was beginning to drive us insane, we found our dream house and couldn’t be happier. Everything truly happened for a reason and worked out wonderfully.

I can’t wait to share my ideas for each room. We plan on taking our time, budgeting and doing a lot of research before jumping into any projects. I almost enjoy the anticipation of waiting to see what new ideas I might come across before starting a project. It’s great to not feel like we’re in a temporary space anymore, like the apartment. It just felt so pointless to make any changes or updates to a space that we would inevitably have to undo and abandon, but in the White Lake House, we have the rest of our lives to grow into this space and I want to enjoy every minute of it.


The “Green Room” Renovation – Part 1

Over the last two days, we have made a lot of progress on several different projects. Yesterday, Alek’s mom helped us replace the locks, we installed a two-way cat door in the basement door so our cats have their own space (and the litterbox is no longer in the living space) and we started to tackle one of the bedrooms – what we lovingly refer to as the “green room.” Please excuse the low quality photos… it’s hard to get good light in these rooms since there is no overhead lighting.


How can you not love that green carpet and satin drapes, the dark wood paneling, dirty striped wallpaper, and my favorite, the old rotting corkboard? While my husband, Alek, and his mom were replacing the locks, I started hacking away at the corkboard on a whim, trying to get an idea of whether it was nailed in or glued to the wall.


Of course, it was glued to the wall. I’m disappointed I forgot to get a close-up picture of the cork, but I became obsessed with removing the nasty material once I started. It was a dirty, crumbly mess to scrape off with putty knives, chunk by chunk. It must have been there for decades and mostly disintegrated on contact. You can see where the glue and pieces of cork took off the first layer of drywall, so now our project just got a little more complicated. I don’t think we will be able to get that glue off anyway, so we will just replace that section of drywall. Yet another fun thing for us to learn how to do.

The Green Room

I started slow, trying not to create a huge mess, but Alek came up to see what I was up to and took over. Once he started chipping away at it like crazy, it became immediately apparent that we needed to wear masks. All that old, decaying cork turned into a fine black dust that stuck to our skin and got into our noses. We were covered in it by the time we were finished! That can’t be good for us, but thank goodness we had masks on hand.

My husband cleaning up before moving on to the next step – paneling.


Alek’s mom helped us remove the wood paneling and striped wallpaper, and now the “green room” is not so green anymore… except for the carpet. The good news about that carpet, though:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt has been hiding these lovely hardwood floors (excuse the dust)! We had no idea there were hardwood floors throughout the entire upstairs. We even met the previous owners of the house twice before we got the keys, and they never mentioned it. We suspect there are more beneath the carpet in the living room and dining room downstairs, but we want to leave the carpet intact until we are ready to tackle each room to protect them.



A couple of before and in-progress comparisons of the “green room” so far. Not bad for our first two days in the house! I can’t recall exactly how long it took us to make all this progress, but I know that it might have gone faster if: 1) we had all the right tools, and 2) the few tools that we did have were not downstairs in random boxes still. I lost count how many times I ran up and down the stairs looking frantically for tools or something to improvise with. Lesson learned, I suppose.

I intend to make this a craft room/office/place to keep Alek’s various critters (more on those little guys later). Now that we’re looking at a blank slate, it’s easier to visualize what we want to do next with this space. The carpet will definitely be ripped out at some point, and then we can assess what kind of work the hardwood floors need – hopefully not too much. I’d like to add beadboard on the lower portion of the wall and paint it a nice light, airy color to reflect light around the room once I can get some lamps in there. There is only one window facing north and no overhead lighting in here, unfortunately, so I’ll have to get creative.

We both have to get back to work after having these last few days off, and there is still a lot of unpacking and organizing to do, but I will not let the “green room” remain in such a sad state of deconstruction for too long.