Gray Skies Outside, Gray Walls Inside

Last weekend, outdoor progress was put on hold, thanks to the on/off rain on Saturday and being gone until late Sunday.  Dreary weather didn’t stop us from making tracks on some indoor projects, though!  #operationpaintbrush is back!

The last time you saw our living room, it looked meh:


In January, we did a test paint of an accent wall in the living room.  We painted it Sherwin Williams Retreat and loved it…IMG_4579until we painted the accent wall in the kitchen/dining area Drizzle. We also played with swapping some furniture around in the living room, foyer, and master bedroom, resulting in the antique buffet landing here for awhile.  It looked great on this wall and especially nice with the Retreat color. Originally, the kitchen/dining accent wall was going to be a color from the same swatch as Retreat, Comfort Gray, and Sea Salt (all colors in the main living space) so that everything would coordinate nicely.  Except it didn’t.  Oyster Bay, the color that henceforth shall be The-Color-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, was a no go for us.  As we said here, we could see it being pretty in someone’s home–just not ours [It also clashed horribly with Retreat, in case you were wondering]. We loved both the Drizzle and Retreat walls, just not in the same visual area.

This led to the decision that the moody green-blueness of the Retreat was going to be a keeper in our house but not in the living room.  We ultimately decided to paint our master bedroom Retreat and move the buffet to the bedroom with it (haven’t painted the master yet, so we’ll see how this goes!) and to choose a different paint color for the living room.  We love gray and intended for the main living spaces of our home to be gray, but the pale blue-green grays we selected (Sea Salt and Comfort Gray) look like blue-green with a gray undertone, rather than gray with a blue-green undertone that you see elsewhere on the Interwebs.  We like it, but it definitely took our house in a decidedly more coastal direction, which we are trying not to overdo.

This time we decided to get as close to a true gray as we could.  Enter Attitude Gray. A dark, modern gray with undertones that are truly undertones.  In the day it looks like a green undertone, at night a blue undertone. Sherwin Williams recent had a 40% off sale, so we grabbed up one of those $ off paint coupons that comes in the Pottery Barn catalog and headed to the sale for more paint.  For most of our house, we have bought the Harmony line to help get rid of the funky smell we mentioned here, but this time we chose the Emerald line for the paint-and-primer combo that would hopefully cover the Retreat (a dark base) more readily than just another regular coat of paint.IMG_4587

When we started painting, we were a tad concerned about the coverage.  I was using the brush and Chris the roller, and both of us could see streaks where we were cutting in or blending roller passes and it was actually taking paint off where we had just put paint down.  Talk about frustration.  We did not have this issue with the Harmony line and have never had this issue with any Sherwin Williams product before.  It also went on very light green-looking, and the Retreat was showing through, making it look like a camouflage wall. Chris was quite dubious at this point, but we pressed forward.  I had painted my mom’s kitchen and den with the Emerald paint line (a different color, though) and although it looked like a very thin coat going on, the coverage was great, even with just a single coat…so I remained cautiously hopeful that the same phenomenon would magically happen for us.


As it turned out, the Retreat wall only needed one coat, but the remaining walls that were sprayed renter-white at some point prior to our purchase of the ‘Zoo, needed a second coat.  We did a second coat on the Retreat wall just for good measure. Chris thinks that the quality of the Sherwin Williams paint on the Retreat wall made it easier to paint, compared to the cheapo stuff on the other walls from who knows where.IMG_4583

The Attitude Gray looks much better with the Drizzle wall–you can see a bit of the Drizzle in the background in the above picture.

We also did some furniture rearrangement, resulting in a new TV placement on an espresso stained media stand my parents gave us, flanked by the two legs of the Pottery Barn project desk that function like regular bookcases when not holding the removable desk top (currently stored under our master bed).  We’ve struggled to find space for this desk monster in this house that doesn’t break up sight lines/walkways and finally gave up hope (until we add square footage down the road). If you are doubting the smallness of our living room, it’s a 12′ x 14′ space with a fireplace on the angle that juts out into the room, making it more of a 10′ x 10′ space, which is quite small, compared to the living rooms of most 3 BR/2BA homes with only one main living space.IMG_4589

We are in the process of Craigslisting most, if not all, of the upholstered furniture in here, as we really need smaller pieces to fit the room, but right now, we have surprisingly plenty of seating yet room enough for Kinect gaming and workouts. Not bad. The ‘comfy chair’ on the smallest wall has already sold since I took this picture yesterday, and we have someone coming to see our sofa Saturday {fingers crossed}!

IMG_4592If you’ve seen some of our previous whole-house posts in the past, you may have noticed that our area rug has been taken up; it is headed to the master bedroom, as it barely fit this space anyway. Of course, now this means you can see the dingy carpet, but not for long!  Part of the rush to get the rest of the house painted is because we are going to be doing an entire-house flooring project in June that we talked about here.

Now, all that’s left to be painted is the guest hallway, the laundry room, and the master bedroom.  #operationpaintbrush soon to be complete!


Furniture Fridays: Fine Dining

Furniture Fridays are back! Last time we posted a whole house update, our dining area looked like this, complete with hand-me-down light fixture and furniture from my parents:

IMG_3061Seemingly functional, but looks can be deceiving:  The china cabinet’s glass shelves were overly bendy, groaning from the weight of four modest place settings, and their jagged edges resulted in chipped china and hand lacerations. The table had the usual surface damage from years of use, and two of the legs had started to split.  It was still useable, but we knew it needed replacing. The chairs had some stains, the upholstery was coming apart at the seams, and two of them had been wallowed out by sleeping animals in multiple households.

The light fixture  from my parents was a replacement for the sad, single glass upside down bowl-like light that came with the house.  The bowl had been splattered with white paint from when the former owners/tenants/property managers’ workers must have neglected to cover or take down the light fixture when they spray painted the whole house renter white.  The light from my parents worked, but our CFL bulbs stuck out of it weirdly (look carefully in the picture above and you’ll see them!).  Plus, it hurt like crazy when you bumped your head on it, as we did regularly when getting up from the table, thanks to the typical builder placement of the light in the center of the room (not accounting for table length and china cabinet/buffet/sideboard placement in a house with only 1 eating area).

Well, those days of woe are behind us, because our dining area now looks like this:


We donated the table and chairs to a local charity, moved the rug to the front bedroom, and plan to sell the china cabinet on Craigslist or at our upcoming neighborhood spring garage sale.  This really opened up the space horizontally and vertically.  We also rented scaffolding to be able to paint the two tall walls (Shake, Splatter, and Roll), replaced the light fixture, and got a new CUSTOM dining set from a local business.


The turquoise paint on the south wall is Sherwin Williams Drizzle, the pale blue-gray paint on the west wall is Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray, and the chandy is the Hampton Bay Menlo Park 5-light Chandelier from Home Depot.

I had originally planned to DIY a Mason Jar light fixture, but we decided that we didn’t want to go over-the-top with the farmhouse style.  The Hampton Bay Menlo Park fixture came with the two-story length of chain/wire we needed and had clean lines. The first one we got was a lemon (faulty wiring in one of the arms it seemed), but we took a risk and ordered a replacement with which we’ve been satisfied.  It’s not amazing by most lighting standards, but this is the best we could find in the < $200 price range at different retailers.  We just can’t justify spending $$$ for a light we don’t use that often, given that we mostly eat dinner by candlelight and get enough sun from the southern exposure to not need it during the day, even on cloudy days.  We will eventually replace the shades because the yellowish-beige is the only thing we don’t like about it, but chandy shades (especially the ones we want from Shades of Light) aren’t cheap.

IMG_4366-1We ordered the farmhouse table, bench, and chairs from a local business, Tide Life Southern Coastal Living, run by a husband and wife team.  Their work was recently featured on HGTV and the DiY network! They can make any wood furniture you want in any size and style you like, although they specialize in farmhouse styles similar to what Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Restoration Hardware offer (but for MUCH MUCH less!).  We were also able to get a 7 foot table and bench to match, which is not a standard size offered by most retailers.  The 7 foot table allows us to seat 8 people comfortably without making our smallish dining space feel cramped.  In Goldilocks parlance, the 6 foot would have been too small, the 8 foot too large, but the 7 foot is juuuuust right.  They offer all kinds of paint, stain, wash, and distress options.  We chose to do an espresso stained top for the table and bench, with white legs and chairs painted Bistro White in semi-gloss by Valspar.  They have used Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in the past but typically use Valspar so that their customers can easily find paint for touch-ups as needed.  There is only one ASCP retailer in our area, and it isn’t conveniently located for most of Tide Life’s customers.  They do local deliveries but have recently traveled to other states in the Southeastern US to deliver, as their business has greatly expanded in the last few months.  Isn’t it amazing how a different table totally changes the look of this space?


We love how the dark table top makes our china (Kate Spade Library Lane Aqua) pop, and the blue ridge of our china ties in nicely with our wall colors.  The napkins are from this post.  Now our dining area is a better reflection of our style and is more compatible with our beach lifestyle.  Next up is centering the chandelier, replacing the flooring with wood look tile, and adding some art.

As a final comparison:

                             Before                                                                           After


And doesn’t a bowl of oranges just make it look that much more amazing? Now that’s more like it.


Shake, Splatter, and Roll

While we were on the KaZoo blog hiatus, we didn’t totally stop doing things around the house. In fact, the big project we talked about here, we actually did tackle over the winter–Valentine’s Day/Presidents’ Day weekend, to be exact.  We are obviously romantics (see message in paint below).

We have 4 foot scaffolding that Chris’s mom got us when we bought our first home with Cathedral ceilings, but this time it was too short for the job.  We rented scaffolding from Coastal Equipment Rental over the weekend (you get a better deal that way), and Chris painted while I worked on school stuff.  Call me crazy, but I’d much rather be painting than writing a paper.  Talk about torture–hearing the sounds of rollers against a wall and the creak of scaffolding when you’re in the next room staring at a blinking cursor. The creak of scaffolding made Chris a bit shaky, but it sounded positively delightful to me. Pure madness.  Anyway,  Chris spent Saturday morning prepping the walls for paint and that afternoon painting the west wall of the living/dining area Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, followed by the south kitchen/dining wall in Sherwin Williams Drizzle.   IMG_4209

While he took a break, I studied the paint and came to a disappointing conclusion.  Sea Salt just did not look good on that huge wall.  Sea Salt and Comfort Gray are both considered chameleon colors, which can be good but also tricky.  Unfortunately, the way light hits that big ugly wall, Sea Salt looked good in small test patches but not on such a large scale, and especially bad compared to how awesome the Drizzle looked.  Although Chris wasn’t thrilled that he had spent an entire afternoon painting a wall that would have to be repainted, the paint handwriting was on the wall.

Saturday night/Sunday afternoon Chris put a second coat on the Drizzle accent wall and repainted the west and north living room wall in Comfort Gray, which was a huge improvement over the Sea Salt.  Is it a perfect color combo? No, but it is so. much. better. than the Sea Salt.  In the long run, we plan to shiplap this entire wall, so this is a temporary fix to tide us over.  Yes, I just used shiplap as a verb. #shiplap 


While taking a dinner break from screen-staring, I quickly slapped some Sherwin Williams Light French Gray I had from years ago on this small, yellowy-beige table we use to store the cat food.





I still need to scrape the paint off the glass panes, though.

After the wall paint dried, I hung 4 Pottery Barn chalkboards in the kitchen that we bought five years ago with a coupon from our sofa purchase (making them half price) and my favorite vintage travel poster art print in the dining area.  It is difficult to photograph this area because of the southern exposure and the dimness of the living room. Apologies.


The font color of the poster is almost a perfect match to the Drizzle!  Interestingly enough, Drizzle is also a color that changes dramatically with light.  Note how blue-green it looks in some picture, compared to how green-blue it looks in others.


As our mini-command center in the kitchen, the chalkboards have proven extremely useful, and we get lots of compliments on them.


Now, those blah renter white walls are gone.  It’s amazing how just a little paint (or in this case, a lot) can make such a dramatic difference.  Yay paint!


Because I’ve seen so many people Pinning Sea Salt and Comfort Gray as colors, here are my two cents on these colors and other members of their family we’ve tried (Oyster Bay, Retreat): Comfort Gray dries with more green-gray undertones, Sea Salt dries to a paler blue, which is pretty, but I’m not one for ‘pretty’ colors.  I want colors that are clean, crisp, moody, or dramatic, and it is none of the above.  I would describe its gray undertones as dishwater gray–perfect for the rustic, shabby chic, cottage look, but we prefer a more industrial farmhouse look. Our kitchen is currently Sea Salt, but you won’t see any of it when we do our big kitchen reno, and right now, its dinginess makes our truly dingy cabinets look crisper.  We’re also using the rest of the Sea Salt we bought in hallways because it is light and airy, helping the tiny hallways out.  In larger rooms, we like a little more color.  Oyster Bay dries to a dusty blue-gray color (again, not what we wanted in our main area), and Retreat dries to a deep, moody, marine green.  Interesting how they seem to alternate which undertone is more pronounced as you move down the swatch. We love Comfort Gray and Retreat best.  Of course, the light in your home plays with all of these colors in different ways, and the light in our house is arguably the weirdest we’ve ever experienced…making for tricky business indeed. Live and learn, right?

Mista Lista: September Aha’s and Ta Da’s

Now that the KaZoos have made almost all of the small and affordable repairs and improvements they can at this juncture (except for a few things needing to wait until cooler weather later this fall), Mista Lista will only be sharing seasonal updates on their home improvement progress.  These home improvement to do/ta da posts will come at the end of November, February, May, and August.  Not to worry, though: Mista Lista will be sharing other to do and ta da posts that focus specifically on certain projects that are receiving some KaZoo love in the interim months.  Let’s get this party started!

September Aha’s and Ta Da’s:

Receding Yard Uglies
Our neighborhood HOA has a policy (not always well-enforced) that air conditioning units and trash cans should not be seen from the road, and while some people may not follow this policy, we happen to like hiding the yard uglies.  My parents gave us a leftover lattice screen to hide our trashcan, and we bought another lattice screen to hide our AC for $17.13 (on sale at Lowe’s end of summer clearance sale).  We also put down 9 red square patio stones ($7.83 also on summer clearance) underneath our trashcan, since the grass underneath it was dying from lack of sunlight anyway.  We dug down the area so that the patio stones would be level with the ground for easily rolling the trashcan into place behind the lattice. Now if we could just hide the ugly meter in a way that would still allow it to be read….


Reorganized Garage
Once the KaZoos started some of the more involved projects like installing the range hood, they realized that they needed a location to organize everything for their current and upcoming projects.  After putting away some clutter that had accumulated on various shelves in the garage, they designated one shelf as their DIY project shelf.  This shelf holds all the smaller items they are/will be using for projects, grouped by project, and sequenced by order of project.  Although one shelf may not seem like very much room for all of their DIY needs, this is one way the KaZoos are keeping their to do list manageable for the future.  Plus, now Mr. KaZoo can fit his car in the garage where all of those things were taking up valuable car real estate. Mista Lista applauds the KaZoo family’s efforts to minimize clutter and maximize efficiency.


Remixed Office/Living Room
When Mrs. KaZoo first arrived from the big city, her home office was set up in the front bedroom where she would be encouraged to work by the abundant natural light.  Mrs. KaZoo knows she works best in natural light in an open, minimalist space free of distractions, and the front bedroom offered a nice picture window on the north side of the house.  Plus, this would make the front bedroom seem like less of a space-waster if it could double as an office.  Unfortunately, the cramped space in the front bedroom was cramping her thinking.  Keeping the draperies open on the picture window allowed plenty of light but also plenty of heat,  not to mention the constant distraction of neighbors passing by the window while she was working.

At the same time, the KaZoos were feeling frustrated with their living room arrangement because they could not sit on their favorite couch to watch TV, due to the size limitations of the room rendering it impossible to have the media stand opposite the sofa.  Plus, the living room was feeling very crowded with its oversized furniture awaiting a neighborhood garage sale in October.

Mrs. KaZoo had an “aha” moment when she realized that the KaZoos could swap out some furniture with existing pieces in other rooms to solve both the living room and office dilemmas.  When Mr. KaZoo came home from work one evening, they shifted the TV to a smaller TV stand, relegating the larger media stand to the front bedroom for media storage.   The smaller TV stand fit on a smaller wall in the living room, allowing the sofa to occupy the longest wall opposite the TV.


By putting the TV on the smallest living room wall instead of a bulky loveseat and moving a French chest to a different wall beside the piano, the angled wall was freed up for Mrs. KaZoo’s displaced desk.


Now, both desks are in the living room area (making for a more functional office space), the KaZoos can watch TV from their comfy couch, and the front bedroom still serves a valuable double purpose as book and media storage in addition to a guest room.  Having a media stand in that bedroom also provides a flat surface for guests’ suitcases, and we can eventually put a TV in that room if we so choose.  Three birds with one stone, fools.  That’s what Mista Lista calls efficiency.

Re-Mastered Closet
For under $100, the KaZoos completely redid their master bedroom closet, maximizing storage by reusing existing shelving from the garage.  See these posts for other details: Part I, Part II, & Part III.

IMG_3203Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • 1 can Sherwin Williams Harmony paint in Sea Salt = $31.79 (on sale)
  • 4 packs of Rubbermaid fastset back clamps = $7.24 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid 12 inch support brackets = $7.62 (on sale)
  • 1 pack of Rubbermaid c-clamps = $6.20 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid wall end brackets = $3.28 (on sale)


Not too shabby, eh?

You may have noticed that there are only ta da’s here and no to do’s.  Say what?! Mista Lista and the KaZoo family have decided to set monthly project goals, so tomorrow Mista Lista will be back sharing the KaZoo To Do list for October.

Master Closet Part III: Remix

In last week’s great purge of our master bedroom closet, we cleared out our closet in order to scrape ceilings, paint walls, rip out carpet, and add more racks for storage, using leftover wire shelving from our garage that we took down to make room for paddle board racks.  Chris also attempted to put on pants from high school. Spoiler alert: They didn’t fit.

We painted the walls before doing anything else (usually we wouldn’t), primarily because the taller KaZoo was on work-related travel, and the shorter KaZoo couldn’t reach the ceiling well enough to handle the scrape, patch, sand, prime, and paint all by herself. When Mr. KaZoo left, the closet looked like this:


When he returned, he found the closet looking like this:


Then we combined forces to tackle the ceiling.  Our usual prepwork involves removing the carpet, tarping off things we don’t want covered in dust, and then scraping the ceiling, but this time, we used the carpet as a floor tarp to catch all of the popcorn debris raining down since the carpet was going to be leaving anyway.  I don’t recommend this unless you like slogging through a sea of popcorn ceiling and shag carpet while covered in drywall dust.    We first tried the dry-method of popcorn removal–simply scraping away at it.  Although this method resulted in fewer scratches and fuzzy places in the drywall, it was also considerably more tedious than the wet method we have used in the past.  We normally use one of those garden sprayers, but ours had recently been used for weed killer, so we just used a regular spray bottle filled with water to mist the ceiling, rather than gassing ourselves in the closet.  After waiting a few minutes for the water to saturate the popcorn, it came off in nice, soggy strips, rather than little chippy dry sections.2014-09-25 14.42.49

We brushed everything down to get rid of residual dust on the ceiling surface, applied joint compound to areas needing to be smoother, and let that dry overnight.  The next day, we sanded, brushed, and sponged everything down (again), after which we ripped out the carpet.
2014-09-26 12.38.48

After vacuuming up the residual dust and debris, we were ready to paint the ceiling.  We decided to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls (Sherwin Williams Sea Salt) for three reasons (a) We have plenty of it. (b) It is not the typical white. (c) It is light enough to not make the closet feel like it is caving in on us while trying to find clothes in the morning.

2014-09-26 19.08.53

While waiting for the painted ceiling to dry, we measured and cut the extra wire racks we removed from the garage to be the sizes we needed for the closet.  Then we forged ahead to installing the racks.  This was a tedious process that took the form of this cycle:

  1. Chris holds rack while Amy marks one spot for height and width of crevice between wires for wall bracket.
  2. Amy uses level to measure and mark all spots for back wall brackets and side brackets.
  3. Chris drills holes for all back and side brackets.
  4. Amy and Chris hammer in the anchors and nail-ish things (we like to use the technical language for things around here, in case you haven’t noticed).  The instructions said to tap gently, but the long wall had extra plywood backing that meant we had to break out our steel-driving John Henry skills.  We’re fairly certain we woke up the neighbor’s baby doing this, which means our neighbors probably had a great Friday night. Except not at all.  
  5. Amy and Chris snap wire rack into place and set into side wall bracket.
  6. Chris adds C-clamps for maximum support, using a manual screwdriver.  The directions said to use 1 1/2 inch screws.  This was a total impossibility, and we ended up using 1 1/4 inch screws instead, with much more success.
  7. Amy holds support arm brackets in place while Chris drills holes, taps in anchor, and hammers in the nail-ish things.
  8. Repeat four times.

After installation of all the racks, I sponge-washed the walls to get rid of residual dust from the drilling and vacuumed the baseboards and floor.  Once we installed the racks in their new location, the closet started looking less like a secret safe room and more like an actual closet.  Of course, adding clothes back in the closet helped with that, too.

To plan the new location of our racks (and determine the measurements for our cuts), we inventoried how many categories of clothing items we had (i.e., how many skirts, pants, shirts, dresses, etc.) and decided where it would be best to hang the respective categories.   We decided to do two long racks (keeping the existing long rack plus a new long rack cut from the garage shelving), one for each of us to hang our shirts and pants.


With the residual section of the garage rack, we made another short shelf/rack for my shorts and knee length skirts to hang opposite the long wall.  We trimmed an existing closet rack to fit the same wall for my long skirts and capri pants.

We decided that a galley-like closet arrangement was more functional than the previous corner system that rendered part of each shelf useless for hanging items where they t-boned into each other.  Plus, this provides easier access to the outlet and gives us a nice path for a runner rug.  Not that room for a rug was a major part of our planning and decision making, but having a rug over the concrete floors (until we get our wood-look porcelain tile) definitely softens things up a bit underfoot.


The mid-sized existing rack we raised a few inches to allow for long dress and suit storage for both of us, storage for my purses, and room for Chris’s shoes.

While cutting the shelving, Chris noticed that the garage wire racks weren’t the same kind of rack as the ones already in our closet: They didn’t have the clothing “bar” at the bottom.  Aesthetically, we thought it may not look the best, but after install, it is barely noticeable and is actually a functional improvement in some ways because the divided sections keep you from cramming too many clothes in one location..  Plus, if we upgrade to a real closet system down the road, we only have to live with the mismatch for awhile. Given my perfectionistic, OCD tendencies, I really thought it would bother me more than it does.  Maybe I’m too short to really see the top rack, so I don’t notice the difference.IMG_3198


I hung my flip-flop shoe organizer back over the door, and we mounted our coat rack behind the door to hold hats and scarves.

On the left wall (as you enter the closet), we brought the 3 x 3 Cherry Cubeical back, which is currently holding my swimsuits, swimsuit cover ups, board shorts, work shorts, and work pants.


Note: The purple labels hanging on the blue handles differentiate my ocean swimsuits from my pool suits.  This may seem ridiculous to some of you, but if you have ever had a home with a pool, this may make some sense to you.  Basically, if you wear a swimsuit in the ocean and then wear it again to swim in a pool, you can introduce algae to that pool, and algae (especially some kinds) are hard to eliminate from a pool.  If you wash your swimsuit in hot water every time you swim in the ocean before swimming in a pool to “kill” living organisms, there still may be some algae stuck to it (especially if you have a lined swimsuit), and your swimsuit may now be faded and ill-fitting. A simple rinse of your suit between ocean and pool or showering in your swimsuit between venues does not suffice. Since I frequent both the pool and the ocean, I handwash my suits after wearing them and choose to keep two different sets of suits to avoid the risk of contamination.  

The middle sections of the Cubeical are currently empty (!), but I’m sure they’ll be filled soon, too.  We also added some interest to the wall in the form of a pinboard with a coral motif, a panoramic photograph of Neyland Stadium, and Chris’s diploma (because where do you hang those if you don’t have a dedicated home office or man cave)?  My diplomas aren’t framed, so they don’t get a place of honor in the closet like his does.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to framing my first two diplomas.  Probably about the time I frame my third and final one. Which could be never at the rate my dissertation is going.

Eventually we plan to upgrade the light fixture from its mushroom-like state, add the wood-look tile I mentioned earlier, and install a real closet system, perhaps with some additional shelf lighting to help with visibility.  For now, our under $100 fix will work just fine.

Organizing Clothing:


For Chris’s clothes, organizing was simply a matter of hanging his shirts from dressy to casual, followed by his pants, also from dressy to casual. My clothes required a little more work, and I organized them in a slightly unconventional way.  I typically sort by kind of article and keep like with like: dresses with dresses, shorts with shorts, etc.  For shirts, I normally vacillate between organizing by color and by category (business casual, casual) as the primary category, followed by type (sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve).  On the one hand, I like organizing by color because there is just something harmonious about color continuity that I prefer, but I keep wearing the same tops over and over because I know how to pair them with other things to make outfits, rendering much of my wardrobe useless.  On the other hand, organizing by category shows me more options for particular occasions, thus increasing the likelihood I try wearing something different than usual, but walking into the closet is a visual jarring experience that makes selecting anything difficult.  When re-doing this closet, I decided to analyze my clothing pitfalls and use that to come up with a happy medium.

I frequently find myself stuck in three kinds of clothing ruts: (1) I wear the same tops/outfits over and over. (2) I prefer casual to dressy.  (3) I gravitate to neutrals. After having to conduct my dissertation research out of state and live in a hotel for six weeks, I re-learned the art of capsule wardrobes.  I used to be good at this when traveling internationally.  In high school, I took a small size carry-on for a month in Europe and laughed at all my friends lugging giant Samsonites up nine flights of stairs in Greece. I love the simplicity of capsule wardrobes.  I am a minimalist at heart, so having a closet full of clothes overwhelms me with too many possibilities.  Consequently, I’m planning to start cataloguing outfit ideas, beginning with my neutrals that I love.  Rather than fighting my preference for neutrals, I’m going to use that as the starting point for developing my outfit building skills, essentially building a capsule wardrobe with neutrals as the base.

My neutrals are sorted into three categories: up, up/down, and down, a.k.a. classy, convertible, and comfortable. Up clothes are dressier and more likely to be considered businesswear in a traditional workplace setting.  Items in this category are more likely to closely resemble menswear and/or have an element of elegance about them, such as being made of better material, adding a touch of lace or silk, or creating an interesting neckline or back.   Clothes in this category have a certain feature that makes them seem classy.

I love gray, but I hate gray areas.  The murky gray clothing area is what I call up/down wear, or clothing which can either dress up an outfit or dress it down.  Clothes that could be considered business casual in a less formal work environment or in a trendier/artsy environment fall in this category.  To qualify as an up/down top, the style and cut of shirt is likely based less on menswear and/or may be made of a material that makes it appear more casual.  For example, the blouse on the left is an “up” blouse, but the one on the right is an “up/down” blouse because of the material and style. Note the sleeves of the blouse on the left are nicely cuffed, whereas the sleeves on the right blouse aren’t.  I would wear up/down clothes when I’m wanting to appear put-together, but not necessarily needing to be “polished.” Here, the emphasis is on the versatility of the piece–can it be easily converted from work to play?

Down clothes are items like basic tees and polo shirts–anything that is decidedly more casual or sporty.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t throw a blazer over a tee and turn it into a work outfit (my default, in fact), but the tee itself has a dressed down, at home, casual feel, where comfort is king. This is literally my comfort zone when it comes to clothes.

The rest of my tops are organized by color.  Here at the coast, the weather is warm enough year round that having entire sections of my closet devoted to long sleeves is unnecessary, but because the air temperature can feel cool in the early mornings and evenings, even in summer, having access to all kinds of sleeves year round is essential.  Consequently, I elected not to do the secondary sort I typically do by sleeve length.

We’ll see how “the best of both worlds” turns out.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Hood: Part II

Today’s post is a continuation of Wednesday’s post about our new range hood installation.

Daffy Duct
After the hood was attached to the wall, next on the list was installing the ducting to ventilate the hood.  This entailed having a hole cut in our new roof, a roof cap installed, a hole cut in our ceiling, and ducting installed from hood to cap.  This is where things went from bad to worse.

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Per the instructions from our roofing contact, my dad drew the location of the hole on our interior ceiling.  While my dad and Chris were both traveling for their respective jobs, the roofing team came out to do the cutting plus roof cap.  Unfortunately, when the team leader began cutting the ceiling hole, he ran into a roof truss in a place where there shouldn’t be one. If we had cut the hole ourselves earlier, we would have known about this issue and would have had more time to troubleshoot (that’s what we get for following instructions, I guess), and there I was, with the roofing crew, trying to figure out what to do.  Note: My declining Spanish proficiency was not a help here.

The truss was a few inches out from the wall, right in the middle of where our duct needed to go, rather than sitting along the top of the wall as it ideally should be. Because of the thickness (or lack thereof) of the interior wall, we couldn’t run into the wall and up through its middle without hitting the plates for the wall studs.  We couldn’t go to the left or right because of studs (and the same truss issue); plus the gas line was running up the right.  Thankfully the roofing team leader spoke decent English, so the two of us were able to brainstorm a solution.  The only viable option was to cut the hole in front of where our hood needs to connect to the duct.  Now, rather than getting to use our awesome stainless steel chimney, we were going to have a funky pyramid hood with awkward ducting coming out of its top and curving into the ceiling out in front of it like a trumpeting elephant.  Less good for ventilation because it required two elbows rather than a straight shot, and major ugly.

There was no turning back at this point, and not seeing any other options for venting through the roof, we implemented the trumpeting elephant plan.  The roofers cut the ceiling and roof holes and installed the roof cap.  What complicated our situation even more was that we don’t have an accessible attic space above the kitchen, so we can’t connect the duct to the roof cap inside the attic space.  To work around this, the roofing crew had to cut an even larger hole in our ceiling so that we would have just enough room to work inside the headspace to install the ducting.  The picture’s kind of dark, but if you look closely, you can see the truss on the inside left of the big hole.  The original circular pencil marks show where the desired hole location was, the small hole is where the roofer began cutting until he ran into the truss, and the large double-bubble hole is the final hole cut to work around the truss plus extra work space.image (8)

Now we had a gaping hole raining down insulation on our range until Chris or my dad could get home to help install the duct (I am way too short to reach anything remotely higher than the hood itself).  While waiting for this phase of the hood project, I painted what I could reach in the kitchen.  The color is Sea Salt by Sherwin Williams.  


Later that evening, Chris and I finished the painting and the ductwork.  We used one 5 foot section of 6″ rigid metal duct cut into two straight sections for each end (our range hood called for 6″ sized duct), two 6″ elbows, a clamp for connecting to the hood, and foil tape to bind and seal all the seams.  We had to measure, mark, cut, assemble, and tape everything down below in the kitchen before putting it through the hole and attaching it. Tricky, tricky.

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It doesn’t look as bad as we thought it would because we were able to use part of the hood chimney to hide some of the duct, and the current plan is to create a soffit above our future upper cabinets that will hide the rest of the exposed duct.  We aren’t huge fans of soffits above cabinets and do like the industrial look, but the metal foil tape doesn’t really have aesthetic appeal for us.

Sugru to the Rescue
You may have noticed the dangling power cord in the picture above.  Before we could actually use our hood, we used sugru to patch the insulation on the wiring.

image A little goes a long way, so we also patched some other electronics like those wimpy iPhone power cords while we were at it.


It worked fairly well, thought it leaves a funky residue where you use it (and on your hands) and doesn’t bond as seamlessly as I hoped (note the slight roughness on the right in the picture below).  Of course, this could be a user problem, rather than a product issue.  This was our first time trying it, so with successive uses maybe our technique will improve. Chris was more satisfied than I was.


It did seal the hole in the insulation, and after waiting the requisite 24 hours for it to cure, we cooked dinner with our new hood running for the first time.


The new hood works amazingly better than the previous hood. So quiet, yet so powerful.  The light is soothing yet sufficient.  We also had a huge thunderstorm that same evening, and nothing rained down our hood.  Except insulation, which is still dribbling from the part of the ceiling hole not filled by duct.  I guess we know what’s on the to-do list next….

If you have a precision eye like I do, you may have noticed that the hood looks slightly off-center to the range.  It is.  We plan to move the range ever so slightly to the right when we redo our kitchen cabinets, so it will end up right underneath the hood at that point. It is realllllly tight (scrapingly so) right now, so we want a little more room for our range.  Plus, that whole section to the left of the range  (one micro-sized base cabinet and the pantry) is going to be redone in a more useful way down the road.  Get excited!

Master Bath Updates

Mista Lista’s last post gave you a sneak peak of some painting happening around the ‘Zoo if you were looking closely.  Painting a whole house is s a slow process, especially when you are trying to work full time (Chris) and work part time/finish your dissertation (Amy).  Between the two of us, we’ve managed to paint five rooms (and one room twice–more on that in a future post) since the beginning of March.  Isn’t it amazing the difference that paint (and furniture and bedding) can make?





Our master bathroom is feeling a lot better now that it has been painted in Sherwin Williams Comfort Gray and has a new toilet.  We’ve adjusted to the plastic seat, which is apparently a good thing since we can’t find a non-plastic Kohler seat that would fit with our toilet should we want to swap ours out at some point.  We love the chameleon nature of Comfort Gray: As the light changes in this room, it shifts from gray to green to blue.  In the shadowy water closet/shower area, it even looks like a marine blue.


Oh, and did I mention we have a new shower curtain, too? I found this at Target last Friday for $19.99.  IMG_3097

I wasn’t supposed to be shopping for home things since we had to shell out big bucks for the roof this month, but my mom had a coupon for $15 off a home purchase of $75 that she wasn’t planning to use.  While I was at Target purchasing essentials like toothpaste, I took a tour of the home goods section and found this new quilt for the spare room bed. It coordinates nicely with some pillows I made last summer.  It will likely become the quilt for the guest room bed once this room becomes a nursery, but right now I’m happy that the fabric helps the random assortment of antique white, white, and black furniture and the Drizzle paint color (Sherwin Williams) come together in a more cohesive, intentional way.



Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) the quilt was $69.99, so I wouldn’t get to use the coupon if I didn’t add something else from the home section to my cart…and that’s when I heard this shower curtain calling my name.


Even without the coupon, the $20 shower curtain is still a bargain compared to the $50 one we had considered buying from Bed Bath & Beyond.

Another change to the master bath involved the addition of some much needed storage in the form of a maple Cubeical that was previously snoozing in a closet waiting to be used somewhere.  IMG_3102

Even though our master bath has plenty of storage in theory, the deep wire rack shelves in the linen closet and the lack of counter and drawer space make storing small bath essentials difficult.  We barely have room for soap dispensers and toothbrushes on the countertop. Seriously, builder, what were you thinking?! Ever notice that builders frequently make choices that don’t consider how a space will actually be used, other than for basic verbs (eat, sit, sleep, pee)? ALL. THE. TIME.

Cubeicals are hardworking little things around the ‘Zoo, let me tell you, from books to crafts to bath storage.   This one tucks away nicely behind the door, so you wouldn’t know it was there if I hadn’t just told you.


The open storage is much better for accessibility and makes the best use of the otherwise dead space on that long, empty wall. IMG_3104

I’ll continue to play with the arrangement of items stored here, but for now, it is helping make morning and evening routines faster.  Chris even commented on how he liked having everything stored in the Cubeical.  Yessir, we are making progress when the hubs actually likes and utilizes the organizational changes the wife makes.

Decision Diaries: (Feeling) Painted into a Corner

Back in November when we first learned that the bank had accepted our offer and we had an official closing date for the new Florida house, I went crazy brainstorming furniture layouts, design schemes, and home improvement ideas. Over Thanksgiving, Chris’s mom, an architect, advised us to paint and then put in new floors before moving our furniture into the house, and she loaded us up with floor samples to take back with us.  Echoing my MIL’s advice, my mom kept asking what paint colors we were planning to use throughout December.

One thing led to another, and by closing day, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted instead of being blissfully excited.  When Chris said we needed to finalize the paint colors so that we could get our paint ordered before the sale at Sherwin Williams ended, I could feel myself beginning to hyperventilate like Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride.  Paper bag. Now.  I realized I was feeling painted into a corner by paint I hadn’t even purchased yet.  We decided to put on the brakes and didn’t buy anything home-improvementish for the house in December or January (Chris did get a mower through Craigslist, though).

So what’s the takeaway here?  Any professional will tell you that painting before putting in new floors before moving your furniture into a house is a good idea.  We agree.  However, it is never sensible and smart to make hurried decisions that you may live to regret, especially ones that involve dropping a considerable chunk of change.  For some people, $1k to paint a whole house at one time is no big deal, but for us it is because we are currently funding two separate residences (one rent, one mortgage, two sets of bills) on one income + student stipend for a few more months.  Shelling out another $10k for floors made us positively queasy.  We also needed to build our savings back up after making our down payment in December at the same time as Christmas travel + presents for lots of people. We chose to save instead of splurge a la Dave Ramsey style.   

As soon as we decided not to buy paint and floors, I could feel my blood pressure dropping and the chest pains subsiding.  Plus, after a couple of months of saving, we were ready to consider less expensive purchases, such as a gas stove.  The house came with a functional electric stove in extremely good condition, so why replace it instead of buying paint? Look closely. Very closely.


I spy with my little eye…that’s right: more little eyes.  Three little eyes and only one big eye, to be exact.  While the electric range has been serving Chris’s needs quite well during the week, cooking on it during the holidays was frustrating for me when making meals to share with a large group, and I knew this would drive me nuts sooner or later.  Most likely sooner, given my proclivity to cooking large batches of food to make meal prep during the week faster. It also took the oven FOREVER to bake things. We’re talking 40 minutes for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, folks.  Waiting the typical 25 minutes for their yummy deliciousness to be ready is already hard enough, but double the time?  Talk about delayed gratification.

When the gas company turned on our gas in December, they gave us a free installation coupon for any one appliance, good through March.  Since they also gave us the happy news that we have a ‘gas nub’ behind our oven, we knew we’d want to switch to gas at the earliest opportunity.  When we found out that it would be $140 regularly for them to install a gas range (and you have to pay $60 for installation if you get Sears to do it), we decided that purchasing our gas range during Sears’ Presidents’ Day sale (35% off Kenmore appliances + additional 10% online purchases + free delivery) and getting free installation would be a better idea than buying paint.

After doing some research, reading Consumer Reports (strongly recommend a subscription if you are making big $ purchases) and product reviews until our eyes rotted in their sockets (not really), and discussing our needs/wants, we narrowed our choices down to three Kenmore products.  We’ve had great experiences withKenmore appliances in the past, so we were comfortable/confident going with another Kenmore product.  After weighing features and prices, we selected the Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel top as our winning gas range.  We actually chose not to get a Kenmore Elite or Kenmore Pro, primarily due to price but also because the regular Kenmore met all of our needs/wants.  See it here:

Unfortunately, the range we selected wasn’t 35% off, presumably because of the beautiful stainless steel top. Womp, womp.  We decided to get the $350 cheaper-but-same-model Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Black top that was discounted, and we’re more than happy to be saving even more money that can go towards other things.  


In the end, we saved $500 on the range and got free delivery, thanks to the awesome sales and two coupons/promotions we were also able to use towards our purchase.  Major score for us. We also Craiglisted our electric range and recouped $150 for it.

The gas range installation went rather smoothly, with only one small hiccup: There isn’t a regular electrical outlet behind our stove, so we had to plug the range into a wall outlet on its left (I know you’re thinking: Wait? I thought the original range was electric, so how is there not an outlet behind it (or how did they not notice this before)?  Answer: There is a special outlet at the bottom of the wall that was perfect for the electric range but not for our new gas range.)


It’s a bit awkward-looking to say the least, but that’s something we can remedy in the near future, thanks to my dad who happens to be an electrical engineer and rather handy with home repairs and fixes in general.IMG_0383

Best part? It looks more high end than it actually is and cooks like a dream.  The burners light instantly (no repetitive clicking and hoping, for those of you familiar with older gas ranges), and all the special burners (simmer, turbo boil, etc.) perform their respective functions exceptionally well.


My husband inaugurated the oven by baking yummy cookies, but unfortunately (for me) I was in the city at the time so did not get to enjoy them.He used soy-filled chocolate chips, so none for me anyway.  After eating some of his cookies, he decided my soy-free chips taste better. #foodallergies #smartman


On my ‘spring break’ this past week, I joined Chris in FL and baked some of those pumpkin chocolate chip muffins again.  They were easily done in 20 minutes and could have probably have been taken out earlier than that–faster than the time range given in the recipe!  As for all those people who say that gas ovens don’t bake well, think again.  Double-fisted muffin eating may have happened in our household. Evidence, you ask?  They were devoured so quickly I didn’t even have time to snap a good pic.  Next up? My favorite pound cake recipe that hasn’t ever worked in an electric oven yet turned out perfectly every time in a gas oven.  Pound cake + fresh berries = Supreme Deliciousness.

Overall, moving more slowly down the path of home improvement is allowing us to savor every minute instead of sweating every dime and decision.  We’re enjoying the calm and contentment of knowing we will get around to doing things when the time is right.  After all, we’re on island  beach time here, and we’re good with that.