This is the story of how not one, but two tables got a complete refresh thanks to a little elbow grease and, well, a lot of sanding. And it’s also a testament to how generally great secondhand finds can be (they literally can look like new – or even better than something new). It’s also a testament to how straightforward it can be to breathe new life into an old piece of furniture. Not all DIY projects are always straightforward, so let’s hear it for that adjective!
Since the duplex has two dining spaces (one on each side) we obviously needed two dining tables. For one side we planned to use our old dining table, which you’ve probably seen in this photo from our second book.
We replaced it over a year ago with a bigger table that we also scored secondhand – this time on Facebook Marketplace – and while some sleuths noticed the change on IG Stories or in a random social media photo, it wasn’t always easy to catch because it has pretty much been constantly covered in supplies waiting to be delivered to the duplex for the last six months. So if you saw it, you didn’t see much of it.
Anyway, the table shown above has been stored up in our attic for the last year or so, just waiting for eventual transport to the duplex. But first, it needed some love…
We actually got this table as part of a table swap with a friend. What, you haven’t heard of a table swap? Just kidding it’s not a thing, but it worked out well. She needed a big round table and the one we’d used in our second house was too wide for our current dining room, so we traded our big round one for her rectangular Crate & Barrel one. It fit our space MUCH better, but she warned us it was pretty scratched up and needed some refinishing. We’d always planned to sand & restain it at some point… it just took us nearly 5 years to do it!
We were a little anxious about taking a sander to a Crate & Barrel table, so we dipped our toes in slowly by first sanding the top of one of the legs. If it was a bust, no one would ever see the attempt. But fortunately, it worked. BEAUTIFULLY.
But before I show you more of this table, let me introduce you to the other secondhand table we refinished for the other side of the duplex.
My sister was replacing her old solid-wood dining table (which you can see in this old post from when we house crashed her in 2013) and we jumped at the chance to buy it before she listed it on Facebook. It too was pretty worn from years of use, but the size was perfect and we loved how solid and casual it was. I was less nervous about ruining this one, so I took my sander right to the top and went to town.
The battery-operated corner cat sander I already owned did a fine job, but it took a long time to get the finish off of this table completely. And even after an hour or so of work, it still wasn’t quite as stripped as I’d hoped. So I bought this $79 corded random orbital sander to see if a little bit more power (cue the Tim Taylor jokes) could get me a cleaner and faster result.
It. Was. So. Worth. It.
It immediately showed me how good it was for removing some of the more stubborn scratches and marks on this table (see the left photo above, which was taken before I used it, and the much cleaner and more stripped shot on the right, which was taken as I was going over it with the orbital sander).
It was also a lot faster, which helped immensely when it came to sanding off the thick factory finish on the Crate & Barrel table. Can you even believe how much wood grain was hiding under that dark red stain??
All in all it probably took us 2 to 3 hours to sand both tables, especially because of all of the legs and aprons we had to get too. But I was happy to have discovered the new heavier-duty sander and even MORE happy about the results.
We decided to transport them to the duplex like this and then stain and seal them in place, that way we could be sure we liked how the stain colors were looking in the space (and adjust them if they looked weird in the rooms). First we tested what it would look like if we just clear sealed both tables.
We loved the result on the table from my sister, since it deepened the color only slightly and didn’t disguise any of the wood grain. Sherry applied one coat of basic water-based sealer, and then for our second coat we tried this “Triple Thick” version to hopefully add extra protection and durability. It went on just as easily and we love the satin finish. Highly recommend it.
Here’s a reminder of what the top of this table looked like before:
And once we finished clear-sealing it, the lop looked like this:
Now the room has come a lot further (as well as that kitchen behind it), so this is the final result. We love how it ties into the wood door that you see peeking out of the mudroom next to the kitchen.
When it came to the Crate & Barrel table, our little test spot of the clear sealer just brought out the red undertones of the wood when it dried, which is NOT what we wanted. So we decided to stain it with a cooler brown color to downplay the red. Our first instinct was to use Special Walnut by Minwax, since that’s what we used on the duplex floors (you can see the before & afters of those here).
It was looking good as it was going on, but once it dried it looked redder than we wanted (it kinda felt like it was slowly creeping back to the dark red original color that we painstakingly sanded off). So we darted out to the hardware store and bought a gray stain instead (called Classic Gray) and wiped on a very light coat to see if it would cool off the red undertones.
It did just the thing we were looking for, so it was full steam ahead on this combination of stains. As for how we did this step, we wiped on a really light coat of the Classic Gray and then immediately wiped it off (the can usually tells you to wait, but we didn’t want things getting too gray).
In the end we’re so glad that you can still see the variation in the wood tones through those two layered stains, and after that quick Classic Gray coat dried, we did two coats of that same “Triple Thick” sealer we used on the other table and BINGO BANGO, both tables were done.
Oh and we only had to buy two of the gray dining chairs because four of them were the ones that we already had at the beach house (before we opted to replace four of them them with long benches). Sidenote: our dining table at the beach is ALSO a secondhand find! Yes, we own four dining tables, and none of them are new.
Let’s just glance back one more time at where the red duplex table started.
And here we are now, complete with our tiered capiz chandelier (in the gold finish) above that table.
On the other side we used our mixed-finish wire globe light (which also comes in white + brass, or all bronze) and added the white dining chairs from our furniture line. Sherry laughed about the fact that between the table, the chairs, and the backsplash in here, we’re repping something old, something new, and something blue. Maybe the duplex guests can count as “something borrowed” since they aren’t permanent? Might be a stretch.
In the end, neither of us really knew what to expect as the outcome of these refinishing escapades, but we’re extremely relieved that they worked out so well. And apart from the new sander, some sealer & stain, and the cheap family rate my sister gave us on her table (ha!) we didn’t have to spend anywhere close to the cost of two brand new tables. Which clearly is our favorite party trick because our other two dining tables are also secondhand. Just gotta get around to refinishing them sometime… maybe in five more years if we stick to our pattern.
P.S. For lots of other furniture makeovers & DIY projects, check out our Furniture Upgrades category.
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The post The Miracle That Is Sanding & Refinishing A Table appeared first on Young House Love.
Wanna see how we decorated our house (and the beach house) for Christmas? We have a ton of photos for you, so let’s get right into it. Since we for Christmas (literally all I wanted for Christmas was a white brick house, ha!) we had so much fun trying some new things out front.
We did some (why are those so hard to find?!) on the trees on each side of the door. Remember I upgraded those to because I can’t kill them and the taller height looks nicer on the porch with all the white brick. Those pots are actually the same ones we have had for 4+ years… I just spray painted them “Copper Rose” by Rustoleum (built in primer for the win – took about 30 minutes tops).
And of course I added my magnolia wreath that I make at that I go to with some of my favorite ladies every year (and every year my wreath gets bigger… I’m learning to let go you guys). This year we also added two fresh 14′ evergreen garlands from Trader Joe’s (just $7.99 each!) and I gotta say, we love the real greenery so much that I think that’ll be an annual tradition right along with my wreath-making pilgrimage (John strung up some more of the same in there and we put the garland lights and the potted plants on the same so they switch on and off every night on their own).
Other than that we just have our favorite LED battery candles in all of the front windows (more timers for the win! no running around turning them on and off every night – they’re completely autopilot!). We debated adding some more lights to the bushes and I’m not gonna lie, I campaigned hard for … but John was just not that into them. So while the exterior decorations don’t exactly rival the Griswolds, we do have FOUR CHRISTMAS TREES INSIDE (!!!) so our Christmas spirit is still alive and well.
I can’t wait to take a picture of the house all covered in the ultimate holiday decoration… snow! I might just lose my mind when I see it blanketed in fluffy white stuff for the first time. So, picture of that to come!
We also grabbed one more of those fresh 14′ garlands from Trader Joe’s to hang around the windows in the kitchen, which only took a few minutes (we just tapped a small picture nail into the top of the molding on each side of the window – which is also how we hung the one outside around the door surround). They’re such small nails that we put into the very top of the trim in both cases, so they’re basically invisible. So lazy me is debating just leaving them there year-round so they’re ready to hold garland each December.
I also tucked a few of my favorite little holiday things around the house, like that I got a few years back, which I stuck together in a group on .
I kept the mantel simple this year with one of my favorite big pink bottle brush trees (it’s from Target years ago but here’s ). I also added that I picked up (one of my only holiday buys this year – they’re just so sweet I couldn’t resist – and they have little lights inside that glow thanks to two small batteries in the base).
On the other side of the mantel is a little faux flower pot that I got maybe 6 months ago at Target (they didn’t sell them as holiday decor – I think they were actually out in the spring) but they look so festive with their red & green (and pink – ha!) tones to me. And then I dragged in this pink vase I got maybe a year ago (sadly no longer sold) and added to the inside because DANG IT’S SO CUTE balancing out the glowing pink tree on the other side of the mantel.
This is (I think, they keep moving the link & changing the name) and it hasn’t had a “theme” in years. We just pile it full of handmade ornaments from the kids and friends and things we have made ourselves (like and these made from kid-art along with ornaments we’ve collected over the years, or during our travels. Viva la mish-mash!
The kids’ stockings are the same ones I got a few years back (here are ). Each year I add (random alert!) just because it’s a fun pop of color and hey, if I can’t get John to go for leopard print stockings, at least I can get some sassy little elephants in there.
Over in the dining room I grouped my remaining bottle brush trees (all collected over the years – here are ) on and called it good.
But about those four Christmas trees I mentioned… while we’re pretty minimal with most holidays (like zero decor for Saint Patrick’s Day or Valentine’s Day or Thanksgiving) I think Christmas is just our fav. And I can’t tell you how much we enjoy seeing glowing in the bonus room window at the end of the hall. We spend movie nights in here and can even see it glowing in the window when we pull into the garage, so it’s a nice spot for a little tree. And the kids love hanging the mostly felt & plush stuffed ornaments all over it – complete with the abominable snowman on top.
Oh and just like we do downstairs, we use around the base. We only need one for this little tree, and our main tree in the living room gets three.
Another tree lives in our son’s room, and it’s a retro feeling green tinsel one (here’s) with colorful lights that our boy picked out himself last year. It looks really fun with his bright green closet door (it’s Irish Moss by Benjamin Moore). Also that sequin banana ornament is from Target and he loves it. Oh and the wooden reindeer next to the tree was made by John’s grandpa many decades ago.
Before bed each of our kids walk into the hallway and ask Alexa to turn off their tree and it magically goes off, which thrills them to no end. Speaking of which, John “Lover Of Smart Tech” Petersik made a quick video to show you how a can make turning a tree on and off whenever you want a LOT easier (especially one with the plug in an annoying spot). You don’t need Alexa or some other hub for this plug, by the way – you can just control it from your phone, which is nice. Sure, we could put this tree – or any of our other trees – on a basic timer like our exterior lights, but we love that we can turn on all the trees in the morning with one command (you can bulk multiple actions to happen at once). And similarly, we can turn all four of our trees off at once if we’re running out the door to a meeting or dinner. Note: You may need to click through from your blog reader to view the video player. And you can.
Our daughter has also loved having a tree in her room for a few years now (here’s ) and she takes great joy in redecorating it pretty much every morning. I like sticking her tree into (it’s a fun deviation from having a tree skirt – and it looks cute with her bold closet door, which is painted Cinco De Mayo by Benjamin Moore).
If you listened to , you know we thinned out our decorations in an attempt to keep things simpler this holiday season (since I’ve been working on simplifying the house in general over the past year, I didn’t want to undo all my efforts by cramming every surface with holiday decor). And thanks to that pairing down session, we ended up with a bunch of “overflow” holiday decorations that we could bring to the beach house! We’ll be spending some time there with family over the holidays too, so we were really excited to decorate it for the first time. So three cheers for not spending a ton of money throwing all the things into my cart at Target, and getting to basically decorate this entire house with leftover stuff (aka: free!!!). I did purchase one tree – but literally even the ornaments on it are things we already had, so I’m calling it a win.
You probably remember seeing these with all over our house (both out on the porch and inside under the console table, depending on the year) and now they’re living it up at the beach house, along with that used to be on our porch before we upsized them.
The wreath on the door is one that we bought last year but (I LOVE the little gold bells with the gold transom numbers over them). Everything was so simple to plop down on the porch, and I love the bright red color of the boots with the pink siding (see for more on my love of pink & red together for the holidays).
Inside you’ll probably remember this as the one I used last year on the mantel. I liked keeping the fireplace mantel more cleared off next to the big green tree this year – and adding our garland to this table was a nice way to bring some rich green color into our mostly-white-and-gray entryway. Plus I was able to double it up so it looks extra thick on that marble top (more on ).
Over in the living room is the tree we bought – the single solitary purchase we made for the entire beach house decorating effort. I’ve always wanted one of these “” with charmingly sparse branches – and they had a big pre-holiday sale so I got this 6.5′ one for around $160.
All of the ornaments are ones that we already had from trees we did ages ago (we did waaaay back in the day, and have also done which is where the little green pear is from – oy, don’t mind those horrible photos from like a decade ago). We’ve found as we add more collected and homemade ornaments to our main tree in the living room of our house, the themed ornaments from those older trees have been used less, just because we don’t need 10 pink balls when we can have 10 random preschool masterpieces – ha! But I’m so glad we saved them because they’re perfect for this little tree here! Especially since it’s the pink house 😉
Oh wait, but we did buy ! I love that little yarn pom-pom stuff. It took three of them to do our 6.5′ tree and honestly if there had been four that would have been even better, but I got the last three.
Over in the back wall of the kitchen are a few other things I’m sure you’ll recognize if you’ve seen past holiday tours. Like that I painted seven whole years ago (how does time fly that fast?!?!) and a hammered bowl full or ornaments I’ve had forever on all sorts of surfaces. I also added a few feather trees to the kitchen and the pantry and in about 4.5 seconds it was feeling pretty jolly. My favorite thing is my girl did for me. I gave her free reign and just said “how about a holiday quote?” You can tell we watch a lot of Home Alone around here.
The funny thing is that John later remembered that I put that same quote on . Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. And I like her spacing better than mine.
Over by My Favorite Pink Stove Of All Time (yes, that’s its proper name), I leaned up a little plate I got a few years back (here’s ) and two white ceramic nutcrackers I’ve had for years. It’s so sweet how just a few things can make the entire kitchen feel ready to host a whole group of friends and family. I love that it doesn’t take much!
So there it is, a tour of our house all decked out for Christmas, along with some sweet stuff that we mostly repurposed for the beach house. We’d love to hear what you guys are doing to decorate for the holidays over on or , and if you’d like to see , and, here are those links. We also have a few other holiday ideas for you below:
Just when you thought we were done with backyards (we shared the duplex backyards last week) we’re back with yet another… backyard! And this beach house backyard has been a long time coming, and it started out in an incredibly lackluster state – so we’re excited to show you what we did back there. It might be one of our favorite updates to date – especially since this backyard is really small but it all feels super functional and useful for our family – we’re out there all the time! And it’s about 1000% better than where we started.
There’s a lot to see because we squeezed in SO MUCH into a relatively small space. And surprise! That actually turned out to be the key to creating this cozy and private-feeling area for our family (despite being closely surrounded by neighbors on all sides). But first, let’s flashback to October 2016 and the overgrown jungle we had just purchased. Gulp.
The next photo is taken just a few weeks later, right after we cleared some of the brush and weeds. It’s also the project that gave me the worst case of poison ivy of my life. #memories
So yes, this backyard and I got off to a rocky start. But all is forgiven now because it has become one of our absolute favorite places in the world. No joke. We are out here basically every night that we are in Cape Charles.
The end result is also made sweeter by the fact that we had to wait for it longer than originally planned. Our original schedule was to tackle this in the fall of 2017, once our contractor Sean finished the inside of the house. But a new little project distracted all of us (ahem, the duplex!) and we back-burnered the beach house backyard. So for our first few months of staying in the otherwise finished beach house, this was our view out the back door:
When the town delayed our duplex plans in early 2018, we briefly returned attention to this area. Sean and his guys cleared out the overgrown vegetation along with the old, rusted, metal shed and we began planning a new one. You may remember hearing Sherry and I debate/argue about the new shed on our podcast around that time. You can hear the details of the disagreement in this episode, but here’s short version: the old shed had been built about two feet onto our neighbors’ property line AND any new structure was required to be set back two feet from that now-closer-than-we-originally-thought property line.
So our new shed would have to encroach four more feet into our yard than the last one had. Sherry didn’t like that and argued for no shed, but I thought one was necessary (are you surprised?) to house all of the sandy stuff like beach chairs and umbrellas and floats that we were dragging into the house for the first summer without it. I’m like the Oprah of backyard sheds. To every yard I’m basically like “you get a shed! you get a shed! you get a shed!” Spoiler: I was right – Sherry even admits it on camera in the video later in this post.
BUT ANYWAYS… by the time we agreed on something, the duplex delays had been resolved and the crew was full steam ahead over there. Meaning this backyard got left in the dust – or, more literally, the mud – for nearly a year.
Having an incomplete muddy backyard for our first summer in Cape Charles wasn’t the worst thing ever, but it was a noticeable rain on our proverbial parade. Because when there was an actual rain (or just a bunch of wet sandy kids coming back from the beach and using the outdoor shower) there was an actual parade of mud into the house even after they showered – cause there was mud between the outdoor shower and the back door. So it made us even more excited to complete this space.
We temporarily satisfied that appetite later that summer in the form of the hot tub we bought in August. Sherry (Lover of Hot Water, First Of Her Name) always wanted one, and I think it was also another way for us to make lemonade out of the limbo that the yard was stuck in. You’ve probably seen pics of it like this on Instagram, and there’s a reason why they’ve always been cropped like this.
The yard around the hot tub was just a grassy, muddy mess. We threw down a few large pavers to create a relatively mud-free walk to and from the hot tub, but it was – shall we say – subpar. I don’t even have any pictures of it. But here’s one from right before the hot tub was delivered to give you an idea. That’s the concrete pad we had poured for it to sit on.
So while the hot tub allowed us to enjoy the backyard, it also made us even more impatient to finish the rest of it. So earlier this year – once the crew was done on the inside of the duplex – we finally got to work on the backyards of the beach house AND the duplex somewhat simultaneously. It was kind of a whirlwind, but we were able to get some cost efficiencies by bundling the projects together (basically 3 sheds and 3 patios all at once – which saved us some money because we got to bulk order materials like stone and hardiplank and negotiate thanks to sheer shed volume).
I wish I had more progress photos, but we didn’t catch a whole lot of “in between” stages on our visits out to Cape Charles. But just like the duplex sheds, this one was custom built in place by Sean’s crew – using the same Hardiplank siding, the same pink paint color as the house (Mellow Coral by Sherwin Williams), and even the same tin roof that we’ve got on the main house. And I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but that was actually cheaper to have this custom built than to have a pre-built one of the same size trucked in.
Here’s what the area looked like back in March, after the patio crew was done and it was now up to Sherry and I to turn it into something inviting and cozy.
And thanks to a few strategic furnishings and a lot of greenery, here we are today! Our little backyard beach house oasis…
So now that you’ve seen how we got here, let me point out some of the details and decisions behind what we did – and why it works so well for us. Let’s start with my pride and joy: the shed. Well, not the red rusted out shed below – the new one. Remember how I said the old shed was built 2-feet over our property line? That tree is effectively the end of our property.
We were initially annoyed by the setback rules for the new shed, since it created a 4-foot wide “dead zone” with the property line shifting 2′ over and the shed having to be placed two more feet to the right of our property line. But then we realized we could make the unconventional choice of putting the shed doors on THAT side of the shed…
It not only made use of that “dead zone” because we realized we could just add a paver path along the 2′ shed setback strip of our property (so the shed no longer felt oddly pushed to the right), and it also meant that we didn’t have to account for door swing clearance on the patio side of the shed, which would’ve prevented us from having a dining table out there. Plus we could focus on making the more visible sides of the shed pretty to look at (like adding a big window box on the front, for example). They call me The Shed Whisperer. Just kidding nobody calls me that.
I’ll show you the inside of the shed once it’s not a disaster pile, but trust me that it has been a game changer storage-wise. We have no garage or basement or anything at the beach house, so until now all of our tools, yard equipment, beach gear, etc has been stuffed inside in various places. So it has been HUGE to be able to keep all of that messy stuff out of the house now.
The shed is 7′ x 11′, which is kind of a weird size – but we chose it precisely to fill the space (it leaves us enough room for everything else we planned back there, but is still large enough to create some privacy and contribute to the cozy, nestled feeling we wanted).
Speaking of privacy, Sean also added that little section of fence for our neighbors since their existing one wasn’t completely enclosed. It couldn’t be as tall as the lattice fencing due to a large tree limb that we all agreed we wanted to keep, but now both of our dogs can roam free in our respective yards and eventually the new section of fencing will weather to be the same color as the existing stuff so it’ll blend right in.
It’s also the same height as the fencing on the right of the shed in the shot above, so it should feel nicely balanced once it darkens in color over time.
The other big feature we added (and perhaps the other “elephant in the room”) is not the hot tub itself, but the hot tub STEPS. The Jacuzzi came with some basic plastic steps that we used all last year, but they were small, low, and a little unstable. So we knew we wanted something more permanent and substantial, and boy did we get it. Ha!
The crew who did the patio made these wide stone steps using a cinder block base covered with the same affordable pavers (they’re adhered in place over the cinderblock). The steps not only provide a much easier entry into the hot tub itself, but they also act as a convenient place to set your drink while you’re in the water and, better yet, even create additional seating. Sherry describes them like having a console table/bench right outside the hot tub and it’s true – we set a ton of stuff down on them, sit on them, etc.
These stairs are actually one of the shadiest spots throughout the day so they’ve become one of the more popular spots for our kids to hang out. They’ve probably eaten more snacks and meals there than at the table! And I know we’ll be so grateful for them when we have people over for a 4th of July cookout next week! Flexible extra seating and space to set things down = jackpot.
As for the dining area, we just wanted something that could seat 6 people but still fit in that pretty small space between and shed and the hot tub, and this 7-piece set was such a great buy (it’s even lower now because it’s a “Special Buy” – just $561 for seven pieces!). We paid $100 more and still thought it was an awesome deal because we saw it over here for $800 something!
I also have to point out a surprisingly beloved feature that is a complete fluke. See all that ivy? That’s our other neighbors’ old, rusty, metal shed (also built 2 feet onto our property – just like our shed had been shoved over on the other side). We originally hated it, but now it adds SO MUCH to the nestled-in-greenery vibe back here that we’re hoping our neighbors don’t replace it anytime soon.
Right across from the hot tub is our outdoor shower. Our contractor installed the same vinyl outdoor shower kit that he put in over at the duplex and it’s quickly becoming the most used shower in the entire house. We recently had to cut down some ivy that was encroaching on the house too much, but we’re eager for it to grow over the shower a little bit more because there’s something weirdly satisfying about having greenery in your shower.
Oh, and this is what that same area looked like when we bought the house – complete with a not-so-safe-looking awning that we tore off ourselves. But the back door is still the same one, Sherry just repainted it a cheerful new color (SW Pale Patina – the same color as the duplex shutters and the doors to our pink shed).
While I take full credit for the shed (I also take full credit for my modesty) – I will give Sherry her due for the little lounge area she carved out in that spot next to the back stairs. We originally considered a planting bed there, but Sherry realized if we extended the patio all the way to the house, there’d be room for one of the functions the back yard lacked: a place to recline, kick your feet up, dry off in the sun after hot-tubbing, read a book, snuggle the dog, whatever.
She kept telling me she wanted something like two lounge chairs side-by-side, almost like you’d find on a pool deck. But we actually had a lot of trouble hunting down something that wouldn’t stick out too far into the walkway. But eventually Sherry stumbled on this lounge set and it’s been PERFECT (we got it on Amazon, but now only the bench is there for some reason – but we did find that one on Ebay). It has been perfect, not only in size, but it’s also super flexible. The bench can be pushed in to create essentially a big outdoor bed, or pushed out to become a foot rest, extra seating, or even a little coffee table.
The listing photo shows it with a fabric canopy draped over the top rails (and inexplicably, a rain chain???) but none of that is actually included. So we originally planned to cut off the posts, but they’ve kinda grown on us. The house provides plenty of shade so we’re thinking maybe some string lights around it? Or some outdoor curtains for effect – like this $4000 version but less intense maybe?
And I suppose we should talk a little bit about the plantings and greenery, even though they’re something we’re still kinda winging. Some of this was stuff we planted earlier this spring (like the boxwoods and lamb’s ear in front of the shed that has already doubled in size!) and some literally went in this past Sunday, so time will tell how things grow/survive.
We’re most excited to see how the window box fills in. Sherry found this perfect-sized box and my nephew and I hung in last month. It comes with a cool self-watering system that would be an easy DIY, but I’ll get into that in next week’s email newsletter. We basically filled it with elephant’s ear (for height), sweet potato vine (for trailing) and some rosemary (for mosquito prevention).
Speaking of which, we tried to work in some other mosquito-repellant varieties throughout the yard – like the lavender along the shed, mint in that giant clam shell planter (here’s a similar giant clam shell). Ours is an old accessory Sherry has owned for like 7 years (remember it in our last house’s fireplace?). We also added citronella and peppermint plants in the white pots by the hot tub. We’re not sure how much it’ll actually do to ward off mosquitos, but we figured it was worth a shot.
Sherry also shot this quick video (only 2 minutes!) if you want to get a better sense of how it feels to walk around the space at dusk – or if you just feel like your day would be incomplete without a Limp Bizkit reference.
NOTE: If you’re viewing this post in a feed reader, you may need to click through to see the video. You can also watch it here on YouTube.
And I’ll leave you with one last before & after as I wrap this puppy up. This was the view down our side yard when we bought the house (ours was the tree-covered one on the right side).
And here’s that view today. The fence is also new and matches the ones that both of our neighbors already have in their side yards. It gives us some privacy, allows our dog Burger to be loose in the backyard, and offers a sweet little peek down towards the shed when it’s open. It also swings to be double-wide when needed (future planning for parking a golf cart back there). We love that our neighbors on both sides have the same one so from the street it all looks nicely cohesive – once ours weathers to be that darker brown/gray color it’ll be great.
So we hope you guys enjoyed that tour around the beach house backyard. I feel like I didn’t even come close to capturing how happy this space makes us, especially since it feels like the beach house is finally complete*.
*Okay, not really. We’re already realizing this summer that there are some areas inside that could work harder or more efficiently for us (the kids need a crafting spot pronto, because the dining table is always buried in paper scraps and markers). Plus there’s the whole issue of the interior of the shed… which I may or may not have filled our car with lumber to remedy. More of these shed-shelves are on the horizon…
P.S. To see more before & afters of the beach house, and read about fixing it up, here’s a category with 35 posts that cover the entire renovation.
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The post The Beach House Backyard Makeover (It’s A Biggie) appeared first on Young House Love.
As is the tradition, I’m a little late with this. Ha! But here it is! (I’m also late with my actual gift buying, so I better get cracking). We like to put all of our gift guides in one place, so below you’ll find the one we made for grown-ups, another one for kids, and (my personal favorite) one full of stuff that’s under $15.
Gifts For Grown-Ups
Here’s what we’re loving, either firsthand stuff we bought for ourselves and have really enjoyed – or things we’re getting for friends & family (or hoping to find under the tree).
Gifts For Kids
Once again we put things we actually own and love in here, along with stuff we’re buying our kids this year, or considering for other little cousins & friends.
Gifts Under $15
Here’s my favorite list to make each year, just because I’m always amazed at how many budget-friendly things are out there that’ll make so many people smile BIG.
And since there are some pretty great sales going on right now, here’s what I’ve found so far:
– Up to 70% off
– Up to 40% off furniture and holiday decor
– Today only, 30% off home
– Up to 50% off gift items
– Up to 50% off ready-to-ship furniture
– Up to 70% off & free shipping
– 20% off your order & free shipping
– Save an extra 30% with code REWARDFORYOU
– Up to 30% off
– Gifts from $4 and up to 60% the entire store
– 40% off your purchase
– 40% off your purchase with the code WINTERFUN
– 50% off your entire purchase with code MONDAY
Psst – To see last year’s lists, a lot of which is still linked and for sale, click here
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The duplex kitchens are looking more and more like real kitchens, and they took an especially big leap forward this past weekend after we got all of the cabinet hardware installed. But drilling holes into new cabinets can be scary and there’s not a whole lot of room for error or do-overs. So unless you’re a fan of buying a whole new door or drawer front, it’s important that you get everything centered and level on the first try. No pressure, right?
Thankfully, after installing three kitchens-worth of pulls and knobs in the last year and a half, we’ve perfected our system. So here’s how you can keep things straight, centered, consistent throughout the entire kitchen, and bring down the fear-factor when drilling into your brand new (or freshly refinished/repainted) cabinets.
We even included a short video that’ll take you through each step (and show you a sneak peek at the wood kitchen side of the duplex), so let’s get started.
Installation Tools & Supplies
Here are the tools and supplies you’ll want to have on hand to help your installation go smoothly:
This two-pack of hardware templates
Screwdriver (with Philips head or whatever head matches the screws that came with your cabinet hardware)
3/16″ drill bit (one’s included with our fav hardware templates)
5/64″ drill bit (or smaller – ours is from this drill bit set)
Pen or pencil
Video: Installing Your Cabinet Pulls
We made a start-to-finish video while installing one set of drawers so you can see the process in real time. We’ve also shown each step in photos below if you’d prefer to see the steps that way, but the video will give you a really complete view of what’s involved (and show you a sneak peek of the wood kitchen side of the duplex). Plus you can play Where’s Waldo and try to spot Sherry’s slippers somewhere in this video.
NOTE: If you’re viewing this in a feed reader you may need to click through to the original blog post see the video. You can also watch it here on YouTube.
Step 1: Mark Your Hardware Templates
The hardware templates are the real heroes of this project, so if you’re hesitating to spend the $10 on them – THEY ARE COMPLETELY WORTH IT. They’ll save you so much time and stress. They have holes for all of the standard handle spreads (ours were 4″) and lots of options for how far down from the cabinet top you may want them placed (we did a 2″ drop). If you’re doing knobs, you’ll just use the holes down the center at whatever drop you choose, which is also nice and handy to keep things consistent.
Once we’ve determined which holes will give us our desired handle placement, we use tape and a pen to mark them right on the template with a circle and a big arrow. There are a lot of holes in close proximity on these templates, and you don’t want to accidentally drill through the wrong one at any point, so whatever you have to do to idiot-proof the process is worth the few seconds it takes. This is what ours looks like after we’ve marked our chosen holes at the right spread (again, your pulls determine this – ours were 4″ pulls) and drop (remember we chose a 2″ drop for all of ours throughout the kitchen).
Step 2: Tape Off Your Cabinet Fronts
Before drilling, place painter’s tape roughly where you’re going to hang your hardware. This not only gives you a surface you can mark up without actually marking on your cabinets, it will also help prevent your cabinet finish from cracking or splitting as your drill into it. For efficiency, we like to tape off all of the drawers in one cabinet at the same time and work our way around the kitchen that way – just taking it one area at a time.
Step 3: Mark A Center Line On Each Front
This step is important, especially on stacks of drawers like this because you’ll really notice if one handle is even slightly off-center or not level with the others. So we like to take our time and really triple check ourselves.
First, measure the full width of your door. Even though ours is a 24″ base cabinet, the drawer fronts themselves are slightly smaller (23 7/8″).
Then do whatever math you need to do to figure out half of your drawer front measurement (ours is 11 15/16″ – or just one tiny tick mark inside the 12″ line). Once you’re certain of your center measurement, mark it on your blue tape – then double-check yourself by measuring again from the OTHER side of the drawer to make sure it’s the same on both sides.
I know that last step may seem like overkill, but we caught our own mistakes a couple of times during this installation (once you’re on your 20th drawer, 12 15/16″ starts to look a lot like 11 15/16″). So double-checking from the other side saved us more than once from some badly placed holes.
Once you’ve marked the center on each drawer (you may even want to do a quick visual confirmation that they seem to line up with one another) draw your marks a little bigger so they’ll be easier to see in the next step, and step back to make sure they all look lined up.
Step 4: Line Up Your Hardware Template
On your first drawer, rest the hardware template’s lip on the top of your drawer and then center it over the lines you just marked. This was a little easier with our old template (which was clear) but with enough squinting through those center holes on the template, we could see our premarked line on the blue tape behind it.
Once you’re sure you’ve got the template centered on your marked line AND evenly resting on the top of the drawer, we like to clamp ours in place so it doesn’t move during the next step.
Step 5: Drill Pilot Holes Through Your Hardware Template
Some people prefer to just mark their handle holes through their template with a pen (remember these are the holes in the template that you taped off with the arrow pointing at them), but we find that we’re able to get a much more precise hole if we drill directly through the hole in the template. You’ll need a pretty small drill bit to do this (ours was 5/64″) but you’d want to drill a small pilot hole to start each hole anyway (before moving onto the larger bit) so it’s nice to just do it through the template.
Assuming your cabinet hardware is like ours that screws on through the back of the drawer, you’ll want to make sure your pilot hole goes all the way through the drawer and pokes out the back. I show in the video how we tend to drill slowly as we go through the back to minimize any potential cracking on the backside of the drawer. You can also put more painter’s tape on the back of the drawer where your drill bit will poke through if you’re especially concerned about splintering on the back, but in most cases it will be covered by the screw head anyway.
Once the first drawer is done, we like to repeat Steps 4 and 5 (center your template, drill pilot holes) on the rest of the drawers in whatever cabinet we’re working on so that we don’t have to switch our our drill bit back and forth for each drawer. Bulking stuff this way makes you faster and gets you into a nice rhythm.
Step 6: Drill Your Final Holes
Once you’ve made all of your pilot holes, remove your hardware template (but not your tape!) and switch out your drill bit for a 3/16″ bit. The hardware template actually comes with one because it’s the standard size for most hardware screws. But it doesn’t hurt to make sure it creates a large enough hole for your screws. Then, carefully drill through your pilot holes with the larger bit – again being sure to go through the back of the door, but without too much force.
Once all of the larger holes are drilled, you can finally remove your tape.
Step 7: Attach Your Cabinet Hardware
Now you can screw your hardware onto each door or drawer front. Your screws will go through from the inside of the drawer, and I like to connect both ends before tightening each screw with my hands first.
Once all of my pulls are loosely attached, I go back with a regular screwdriver and tighten everything so it’s held firmly to the door. I suggest NOT using your power drill here because screwing too tightly could cause damage to the door or drawer.
Step 8: Clean Up & You’re Done!
The last thing you’ll want to do is break out your vacuum hose to suck up all of the drill shavings in the drawers, cabinets, and on the floor. But other than that, you’re all done. Well, or you move on and repeat these steps for the rest of your cabinets.
And I should note that the process works pretty much the same if you’re installing knobs or pulls on a door like the cabinet fronts under the sink. You just use the OTHER template included in the set. It’s designed to rest along the corner of your cabinet door like the one you see below:
So I hope that helps take some of the fear and guesswork out of installing your own cabinet hardware. We’ll never not wince a little when making holes in cabinet doors, but following these steps helped us knock out both duplex kitchens in less than two hours – without a single crooked or off-center handle!
And for everyone who wants to see the entire kitchen and hear a bunch of tips for installing Ikea cabinets, stay tuned for a post coming up where we talk more about the process as a whole. Since we’ve gotten lots of practice installing Ikea kitchens, we have some tricks we wanna pass along. In the meantime, here’s a previous post on installing Ikea cabinets that will give you some info.
Want more kitchen how-tos? Check out these posts below:
Your Own Cabinet Hardware Template
Installing Under Cabinet Lighting
How to Hang A Subway Tile Backsplash for $200
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We’ve done so few upper cabinets in our recent kitchens that we actually haven’t installed under cabinet lighting in ANY of them. But we did install it under the cabinets in and – surprise! – I just came across a bunch of pictures of the installation process that I took waaaaaay back in 2014 but never shared. It’s a remarkably straightforward process, so it could be an easy upgrade if you needed more task lighting in your kitchen, laundry room, or any other space with upper cabinets.
The cabinets in here are from Ikea, so we also used one of their stock under-cabinet lighting options called GRUNDTAL Spotlights. These don’t appear to be sold anymore, but the current seems to be a similar (even improved!) version. The OMLOPP ones are now LED and are lower profile, plus some cord management covers are included, which is nice. Based on the downloadable instruction sheet, the new ones install almost exactly the same way, so the same basic steps I’m about to outline for you here still apply.
Most people do one spotlight per cabinet but we wanted to give the appearance of one continuous bar of light, rather than distinct spotlights under each cabinet, so we decided to do more. The GRUNDTALs were sold as 3 packs, so we did 6, but 4 or 5 probably would’ve done the job just fine.
The first step, once everything is unpackaged, is to pop the actual lightbulb portion of each spotlight out of its casing, leaving the wiring in place.
This exposes the holes that you’re supposed to screw through to secure the light to the underside of your cabinet. Just be sure to measure and mark your placement before you start doing this. We centered each spotlight front-to-back on the cabinet and spaced them equally apart side-to-side (around 10″ away from the next one). We secured ours using 1/2″ screws so that they wouldn’t poke through the inside of the cabinet. Then the light just snaps back into place.
Once all of your spotlights are secured, you need to connect everything to . This is sold separately from the new OMLOPP spotlights, as is . I know that sounds kinda crazy, but they sell things a la carte like that because the number of transformers and power cords you need depends on how many spotlights you’re installing (you can add up to 9 spotlights per box, and up to 10 boxes per power cord). The photo below is how I wired my spotlights to the transformer box, but the new stuff is even easier – it’s basically like plugging in a phone charger.
At this point your installation may look something like this. The cord situation is not very pretty, but before dealing with that it’s always a good idea to check that all of your connections work.
The transformer just plugs into any regular outlet and it has a toggle switch on the cord, so you can get everything powered up without the help of an electrician. So it was super easy to get ours working within minutes.
The newer spotlights come with some cord covers to help hide the wires against the bottom of the cabinet, but you still might have to get creative with all the extra wire between the cabinet and the transformer. I picked up a variety of cord management options from the store and the most helpful items ended up being (basically a zip tie with a screw hole) and some wire staples (you may need to swap in different nails or screws if the provided ones are long enough to poke through your cabinet bottom).
Yours probably won’t look quite this messy with the newer system, but you can see what I did with ours. I wrapped up most of the excess wire in a zip tie (screwed in place) and then kept everything else tight to bottom with the wire staples.
You see zero of this chaos thanks to a cover piece that you add later. You’d pretty much have to lean over the washer and dryer and put your head under the cabinet to get a good look at it once it’s boxed in with that cover piece, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Back to the whole “wire management” thing. You also have to find a place to hide your transformer box. Ours got mounted behind a gap on the side of one cabinet that’s hidden with a filler piece in front of it (the transformer box comes with holes for mounting it with screws). That placement also allowed the power cord to hug the corner as it snakes down to the outlet.
A couple of years after our initial installation we had an electrician hardwire the power cord to a switch on the wall, and that makes it even easier to flip on and off. But when there was a wire tucked along that left corner, it wasn’t really that bad. You can hardly see it in this photo:
One more word about the transformer box: I actually think a more popular location for that is ON TOP of your cabinets, but you may need to install an outlet up there. Ikea sells so you can turn everything on and off without needing to have access to the power cord switch. Pretty smart.
The last thing we did was to install that cover strip I mentioned across the bottom of the cabinetry to hide the lights and their wiring. It’s just a spare filler piece that Ikea sells, mounted in place using small L-brackets and caulked at the seams.
We don’t really mind the cover piece on the bottom, but I do feel like it’s one shortcoming of the Ikea system. Their cabinets are totally flat on the bottom, as opposed to lots of other cabinets that have a slightly recessed area that’s great for tucking lighting into. That’s probably why they’ve improved this new system by giving it a slimmer profile and including cord covers.
I don’t have my receipts saved from this project, but the same set up with the new system would be about $75 ($90 if you include the remote). And you could cut the cost down to about $45 if you just did three lights and used .
Here’s an updated photo taken this month of the switch we had installed that turns ours on easily. We probably only use these lights around 50% of the time, just because the ceiling light is pretty adequate for such a small room, but we still think they’re a great “nice to have” upgrade. Especially if you have an area that could use a little extra light.
So if you’ve been dying to add them somewhere or have just wondered how hard they are to install, hopefully this project illuminates (har-har) the fact that it’s not a very daunting or expensive task to take on. Any beginner can do this one for sure.
P.S. You can check out a summary of our entire laundry room makeover (including a full budget breakdown ). And if you’re looking for a source list (paint colors, where you can find the green tins, etc) that’s right .
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If you’ve got a tiling project in your future (even the distant future), remember, bookmark, voice memo, tattoo, or do whatever you need to do to remember Mapei Flexcolor grout.
I know this sounds like I’m overreacting, but take it from people who have grouted 7 bathroom floors, 3 showers, 3 mudrooms, and 2 backsplashes in the last two years: this grout has been life-changing. And no, this is not sponsored by either Mapei or Floor & Decor, which is where we typically buy ours (sorry, necessary disclaimer because this post is going to sound pretty gushy).
I meant to proclaim our love for this grout after finishing the beach house tiling two summers ago but we got sucked into the duplex and, well, this post never got written. But the duplex tiling just gave us more time for our romance to blossom, so I wanted to tell you why this has become THE ONLY GROUT we ever buy & use. We are going on 2+ years of not buying a single other type of grout (we don’t even look their way – our heart is TAKEN). Even our contractor swears by this stuff. That’s actually how we found it.
So I’m going to just dive into all the whys of that very big statement about grout – and I’m also going to toss in some tips for picking the right grout color (including our go-to color that works nearly every time – we’ve used it in so many rooms) and my new trick for minimizing grout haze while I’m at it.
1. This Grout Is Pre-Mixed
If you’ve ever mixed your own grout, I don’t need to say much more about why pre-mixed is a better experience.
For starters, it eliminates a lot of time and effort spent measuring out your powder and liquid additive, stirring it together, and adjusting until you get the right consistency. Instead, you can just pop open a tub and get going.
But a lesser appreciated benefit of premixed grout is that it also ELIMINATES COLOR INCONSISTENCY. We ran into this problem when grouting our covered back porch. We used a dark grout for the first time and the way that we mixed/applied it caused it to dry lighter in some spots than we had hoped (some areas that we mixed ourselves must have been a little more watered down, so it dried a slightly different color in those spots). It wasn’t a huge deal, but we were definitely disappointed that after all that time and labor it didn’t look consistent. So using premixed grout means you don’t have to worry about your color changing from one mixed batch to the next.
And the last thing I’ll say about pre-mixed grout is that it also stores well for touch-ups later (like if you drop something heavy and pop some grout out of a crack and you need to smear some more onto that spot, or if you see that you missed a spot). The tubs seal up nicely (firmly press the lid down until it snaps all around the perimeter and that’s it), so I’ve really appreciated reopening grout that’s over a year old to use it for another project and finding it fresh and ready to go.
2. This Grout Doesn’t Need Sealing & Is Stain Resistant
Again, need I say more? Probably not, but that’s never stopped me before.
Tiling already has enough steps involved so I’m always happy to eliminate one, especially the annoying ones at the end like sealing your grout to prevent stains. This Mapei Flexcolor is somehow formulated to prevent stains (how, I don’t know – magic? crystals? the dark arts?) so all you have to do is let it cure for 3 days and it’s good to go (you can walk on it after 24 hours).
I should disclaim that it’s water-based stains that this grout is resistant to and like any “stain resistant” surface, you still probably shouldn’t slather marinara on it and let it sit for days. But we’re over 18-months in on the beach floors and they’re still looking as good as new. As in, not a single crack or stain. Anywhere. In any of the three bathrooms, the mudroom, the backsplash. Everything looks as good as the day we grouted it. In fact, I took the photo above this weekend, over a year & a half after we grouted just to demonstrate that this stuff goes the distance. Looks like new, eh?
3. It’s Crack Resistant & Shrinkage Controlled
Old grouts that we used to use recommended a special liquid additive in place of water that made it more flexible to help it resist cracking or shrinking. So it was extra money and an extra step. Meanwhile, that feature is built right into this formula, and we have never had it crack or shrink in all of our years of using it – which isn’t something we can say about the other grout we’ve used (even with that special liquid additive).
4. This Grout Works For (Almost) All Situations
Tiling indoors? This grout works. Tiling outdoors? Still works. Got a small 1/16″ grout line? Cool. Got a big 1/2″ grout line? That’s fine too. This essentially means we don’t have to debate over sanded or unsanded grout or worry that one product is better for one application, but we better use some other one for something else.
Now, if you read the fine print in the “Limitations” section of their brochure, it does nix some application scenarios – like not submerged in a pool or in saunas or steam rooms – but any basic bathroom, kitchen, patio, laundry room, or mudroom tiling scenario should be all good. And while they warn you that you should test it on sensitive materials like glass or marble tile first, it does say it’s compatible with those applications too.
In the end, if you’re unsure, always double-check or ask an expert at your store, but the range of use here is pretty impressive. Which probably explains why we haven’t purchased any other type of grout for the last few years. This stuff earns my final rose.
Picking The Right Grout Color
It still amazes me how much grout changes the finished look of any tiling project, so it’s important to give some thought to the color you choose. If you don’t believe me, Emily Henderson did a great post a couple of years ago showing off the impact of your grout color section.
That being said, we use Warm Gray in 85% of our tiling projects. To us, it’s the perfect neutral grout color that offers enough contrast to the lighter tiles that we choose (like white subway tile) while still looking great with darker tiles (it almost reads as white with a darker tile next to it, but isn’t as harsh and unforgiving of dust/dirt as bright white grout would be).
And since it’s so agreeable to so many tiles, you can use it throughout an entire room to help tie your various surfaces together (floors, walls, etc). For instance, in the downstairs bathroom at the beach house we used it on both the shower and the floor. It provides a different type of contrast in each spot – but using the same grout helps them work together.
And if you study that photo above, you can see what I mean about how crisp and white it looks when paired with darker tile, without being as unforgiving as bright white grout can be. That’s the same exact grout color (Warm Gray) everywhere in the picture above – although it looks grayer when it’s next to the white subway tile and lighter when it’s next to the dark floor tile.
But if Warm Gray isn’t what you had in mind for a particular project, there are a TON of other colors to choose from that Mapei makes. I’d almost argue that there are TOO MANY colors (paradox of choice, anyone?) so if you need or want something different, here’s some advice:
Don’t work off of paper samples. You might see posters or brochures around the store with the various grout colors, but they aren’t always super accurate. Instead, ask an employee to borrow the stick samples like the ones shown here. If you ask someone at Floor & Decor they should be able to dig up these little plastic sample sticks for you to debate your options (they don’t usually let you leave with them, so just bring your tile to the store and hold them up to it). Not only are they truer to color, but it’s a lot easier to place them right onto your tile and get a much better sense of what your final result will look like.
Pay attention to undertones. In addition to choosing your grout based on how light or dark it is, note how warm (yellow-ish) or cool (blue-ish) a color looks – especially as it relates to your tile.
For instance, I said we used Warm Gray in most, but not all, of our spaces. It’s on the warmer side of gray (hence the name), but there’s a cooler gray called Frost that Mapei also sells. We used that in a couple of rooms, like the one below, because the grays on the tile were a bit cooler and we wanted the grout to align with that.
Look around the store for input. If you’re uncertain or nervous about your grout selection, see what you can learn while you’re in the store. Most tile stores will identify the color that their tile displays are grouted with, so you can choose to just mimic the display grout that they used with the tile you’re purchasing, or you can go lighter/darker or cooler/warmer than what they show if you think you’d prefer that to what they picked.
I noticed our Floor & Decor store also has this newfangled grout selection tool. I played around with it a little bit using tiles in the store (you’ll want to bring your own tile if it’s not something you’re buying at the same time) and while I wouldn’t blindly go with whatever it tells you, it could at least help you hone in on a few finalists.
Parting Tip: Minimizing Grout Haze
Now, this Mapei grout doesn’t seem to leave more or less grout haze than any of the other grouts we’ve used (you know, that film on your tile that’s often leftover once your grout has dried). And grout haze is one of my least favorite things in the world because it’s like the LAST THING I want to spend time on after having survived tiling and then grouting.
So a thing I experimented with in the duplex that worked really well was doing a preemptive tile wipe while the grout was still wet. I don’t have any pictures of this, so let me explain.
It only really works with larger tiles, but after I applied the grout with my float and did a couple wipe downs with my damp sponge, I let it sit for another 5-10 minutes and then I used a rag or paper towel to dry just the surface of the tile, being sure not to rub the grout lines themselves. It sounds more tedious than it was, because it really was only one quick swipe (almost like washing a window pane) and it basically wiped up all of the liquid that would eventually become grout haze.
Again, it’s really most practical on larger tiles where you can safely wipe the tile without touching the wet grout, but it completely saved me from having to buff the floors or use a grout haze remover after the fact. And you know how much I love to eliminate extraneous steps!
Long story short: next time you tile, grab some Mapei Flexcolor grout (maybe in Warm Gray) and think of me fondly when it makes things easier.
PS: If you’re new to tiling and want to see the process from start to finish in one post, check outhow we tiled this kitchen backsplash for $200. And here’s a post about all of our duplex tile choices & one about our beach house tile picks.
The post The Only Grout We Ever Use (And How To Pick The Right Grout Color) appeared first on Young House Love.
We’re working overtime (so many trips to the beach these days!) to get all of the rooms in the duplex finished and photographed so we can get our rental listing up on Airbnb for weeklong summer bookings. Don’t worry, we’ll make a big announcement when that happens – you won’t miss it! So even though we still have a bunch of rooms that aren’t quite done yet (like 2 kitchens, 2 living rooms, 2 laundry rooms, and 2 more bedrooms and bathrooms), it feels extremely momentous to be 100% finished with the four rooms in this post. *Please imagine every single celebratory emoji here*
So without further ado, I’ll show you around the two bedrooms and two bathrooms at the duplex that are done, done, done! *Imagine that gif of Shaq doing the happy shoulder dance here*
This is the completed master bedroom on the right side of the duplex. Each side of the house has some slightly different challenges and measurements, and this bed wall was slightly less wide than the one on the other side, which meant that hanging accordion sconces made the most of the space, and they can be flipped on or off from bed. Meticulously planning our outlets so they were placed right by each nightstand (and not behind the bed for example) means there’s a free outlet on each side for people to easily charge their phones right by the bed.
We aimed for as much function as we could, and as for the actual character of the room, we loved exposing that original brick chimney that was hiding behind the wall. And adding a window behind the bed made the room feel so much brighter and more welcoming. We had to appeal to the historic review board and get their permission to add it, so it wasn’t without effort, but it was well worth it! This is a picture we took during the framing stage of that window going in. We really have come a long way, huh?
And we actually love a bed in front of a window (remember we have one in the front bedroom at the beach house!). Our tip is just to choose a bed that allows light to pass through it, like this metal one, so it feels like it layers into the room instead of sitting heavily in front of the window and blocking things off, if that makes sense.
You probably also remember that we added a small addition in the form of a full bathroom off of this room to make it a true master bedroom (another thing we needed permission from the historic review board to do – more on that process here – and you can see how that addition totally changed the back view of the beach house here). We think it’s one of the best things we did to add value and function to this house!
We’ll have to snap a few more photos when we can to capture it all (it’s a small room, so a video tour might be the best way to show you everything), but the bathroom feels airy and bright thanks to the tonal tile and the greeny-gray doors (Oyster Bay by Sherwin Williams – this entire side of the duplex has doors that color). They pair so nicely with the crisp bright walls (Spare White by Sherwin Williams, which is the wall color we used throughout the entire duplex).
Bathrooms are some of the hardest rooms for us to tackle because we tiled all the floors ourselves, which takes significantly more time/sweat than just assembling some furniture like you do in a bedroom or a living room. But let me tell you, the final accessorizing is so easy and fun. It’s like they slowly come together for months with heavy plumbing and tile stuff and then bam, finished in a day when you’re at the “decorating” stage since they’re so small. YESSSS! We’ll celebrate that little victory!
We added a mirror, a few towel hooks, a long white shower curtain, our favorite toilet paper holder that we use everywhere, some leather pulls on the vanity, and a few frames for the wall and called it good. Oh and speaking of the mirror, we knew we’d have to find a somewhat unusual solution since there’s a window right over the sink, but we love how this cool hinged chrome one looks! It’s functional, and it still lets tons of light flood in from behind it. Oh and we frosted the glass so you don’t have to worry that someone is peeking in on you or deal with some weird blind-behind-the-mirror scenario.
I guess I should have said that all the doors on this side are Oyster Bay except for these, which were quirky old original doors that we saved! Many of the other doors, trim, windows, and light fixtures in this house had been replaced over the years, so we LOVE that we could save these doors and use them to create two built-in closets that flank the large window. The original charm that they add = priceless!
We added the cubbies on top to balance things out since the original doors are shorter than standard ones. And inside each closet there’s tons of nice storage space to hang clothes, put suitcases, etc – with bonus storage space up top in the cubbies. Sidenote: I love a wood hanger and a luggage rack, so we tucked them into each master closet for people to enjoy.
We also added a dresser across from the bed with a nice big mirror (this one that I LOVE!) for even more space to store clothes. The rug is also really cute in here – I love the beachy feeling and the soft color. It’s interesting but not too demanding, which helps the room feel serene (and the price was right!).
When I walk into that room it just feels so surreal to see it all finished! It has been a long road, and we hardly can picture what it used to look like back when we bought it. There was painted plastic paneling to hide the mold in the walls and a drop ceiling to cover rot from a roof leak that had been and issue for years. There was also threadbare wall-to-wall carpeting and baseboard heating that didn’t work (we redid the entire house’s heating and cooling systems, along with new electrical and plumbing to get everything up to code & safe). This is a before shot of the room from one of our first walk throughs (you can see the entire before tour of this house here).
The window you see above is essentially where we placed the door that leads to the new bathroom addition, and then we added a new window further over towards the chimney on that wall, which you see behind the bed below.
Since before & afters are so much fun, let’s switch gears to the front bedroom on the other side of the duplex. This is what that room looked like before. The theme of this house was definitely add-coverings-to-hide-damage-in-the-walls-and-ceilings, so once again there were drop ceilings and plastic faux-paneling on the walls. And that little front closet (with the blue door) was devoid of any natural light. We quickly discovered that they had covered a window with drywall (!!!!!) so we dug it out of the wall and exposed it again – and it was one of the ones with diamond grills!
Ripping out that crazy window-blocking drywall and exposing the beautiful diamond-grilled window allows light to flood into the room from that closet as well – and lighter walls also help things feel airy and fresh. Again, this front bedroom is on the opposite side of the duplex as the master bedroom we just showed you, which is why it has pink doors like all the other doors on the left side (White Truffle by Sherwin Williams). And the old floors look so much better since refinishing them (more on that here).
I always feel like before & afters skip a HUGE part if you’re doing a deep renovation because a ton happens between them. You go backwards, sometimes A LOT, before you can go forwards again. This house had so much rot that we had to strip things waaaaay back to get rid of it all and rebuild it. So just for kicks, the window you see above is almost exactly where I’m standing in this picture below. Did I mentioned we had to strip things waaaaaay back?
So that might explain why we’re feeling so good to be in the home stretch! If you walk through the bedroom door and turn to your right, you see this cozy bed that we found at Ikea and two soft greeny-gray nightstands with pretty gold hardware that ties into the wall mounted accordion lights. The hilarious thing is that we only have two sets of these lights in the entire duplex (one set per side, so someone renting one unit won’t even see the other set) but the two bedrooms that happen to be done both have them in there… which is why they’re all over this post. I promise all four of the other bedrooms have different lamps! Ha!
How cute are these nightstands though?! And the price is SO GOOD. I love that they’re super functional with three drawers each (yay storage!) and that they bring in some color. It’s actually a subtle nod to the other side of the duplex since they’re almost exactly the same color as the greeny-gray doors on the other side! #MintToBe
There’s also a nice little closet in this bedroom, complete with a dresser for folded clothing. Remember the room with the diamond-grilled window? That’s all redone and it’s such a sweet space. But we haven’t fully finished and snapped photos in there yet. Soon I hope.
Now let’s skip over to the hall bathroom on the right side of the duplex (back to the side with those greeny-gray doors). The tile in here is one of my favorites (even though it was kind of a pain to lay), and we finished the room off with some natural touches, like some leather vanity pulls and a floating wood shelf. We rounded things out with a few other classic items, like an extra long white shower curtain, a round gold mirror, a simple white vanity, and some beachy art.
Each side of the duplex originally just had one full bathroom, but the upstairs of each side now has two full baths – along with an additional powder room downstairs, which is so nice. This before shot of the one and only bathroom on the left side is yet another demonstration of the cover-rotting-things approach (don’t try this at home, folks). See how the vinyl floor is bubbled and loose? It’s because there were all sorts of water issues going on under there and they were trying to mask them with sheet vinyl.
And now for the fourth room we’re completely finished with… which is pretty dang similar to the third, ha! It’s the hall bathroom on the left side of the duplex, which has different tile floors but the same vanity and accents.
It’s kind of fun to just change one major thing and stare at both of these and try to pick a favorite. Is the bolder blue floor more your speed, or the scrolly pink & green hex? John’s favorite is the blue one and I love the pink one. Maybe when the whole duplex is done we should do a room by room duel and have you guys vote your faves in various polls (I know John’s data-lovin’ mind would enjoy all of those stats).
GOh and while we’re on the subject of sides, so many people ask me if I have a favorite side – even close friends lean in and say “whisper it in my ear, I won’t tell anyone” – and I honestly can’t choose! There are so many elements on each side that I love, so I just ping-pong back and forth. For example, I love the kitchen with the pink tile and the blue cabinets on the left side a smidge more than the wood one with the blue backsplash if you super twist my arm (it’s very very close though, you can see them both here), but my favorite twin bedroom by a sliver is the one with the oranges, which is on the right side. DON’T MAKE ME CHOOSE!
P.S. You can see the entire process of bringing the duplex back to life hereFrom buying it and planning the layout to , it’s thorough.
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The post Wanna See Some Finished Bedrooms & Bathrooms at The Duplex? appeared first on Young House Love.
Many of you have asked for tips and tricks to make installing an Ikea kitchen go more smoothly and look (and function) the best it possibly can. And the good news is that after installing three of them in a little over a year and a half (!!!), we have learned A TON about how to make things a little easier and help you end up with a better result. So settle in, I’ve got twenty tools & tips that can make all the difference.
First off, we like Ikea cabinets and have personally installed them in five rooms: our laundry room & bonus room at home, our beach house kitchen, and now these two duplex kitchens. We have lived with the ones in our home for nearly five years and they’re great. Not a single issue. They are smartly made, very durable, and they have a great 25-year warranty and a great price tag (often thousands cheaper than other options). They also come with many thoughtful features like soft close drawers that come standard and tons of customization options. So yeah, some Ikea furniture is known for feeling a little cheap and wobbly, but that has not been our experience with their cabinets AT ALL.
Ok, but back to the point of this post – tips and tools to make your Ikea cabinet install easier. Some of the tools I’m listing here are absolutely necessary and some are optional (they’ll just make the process easier, faster, and less frustrating). And as you read through this list, I think you’ll also get a pretty good sense of the steps (and curveballs) involved too, which I hope will help as well.
I’ll include a short bulleted list of everything at the end of the post too, that way you can use it as a tool checklist. But let’s just get right into it.
1. Your Itemized Receipt/Order
Before you build anything, you’ll want to take time to inventory and organize all of your boxes. We had over 200 boxes (!!!) delivered for our two duplex kitchens, so it helped to sort everything into piles beforehand.
We personally like to sort boxes by item (Sektion boxes over here, Maximera drawers over there, all of our cabinet fronts somewhere else, etc.) but you may find it helpful to sort yours by cabinet instead (ex: the box, drawer, hinges, and front for one cabinet all together in one pile – this is how Ikea breaks them up your order form). Either way you do it, this sorting process will help you identify any missing pieces and also make it faster once you start building.
2. Power driver (with Philips head)
This combo gets a lot of use in this install (especially the power driver/drill) – but they’re needed first to construct your cabinet boxes (Sektion pieces). We love constructing the boxes first because you quickly get to see the shape of your kitchen come to life.
And even though Ikea is known for their allen wrenches, you don’t use them AT ALL during a typical kitchen installation! So don’t worry about having lots of specialty drill bits. You just need a normal Phillips head to screw these puppies together.
You’ll also need a hammer handy to nail the MDF backings onto the cabinet backs. It may also be useful if you need to tap any anchors into your drywall when it comes time to hang your cabinets.
4. Magnetic Drill Bit Holder
Having one of these on your drill can save you a lot of frustration while building your cabinets and drawers. You can buy one separately for about $2 or it often comes included in drill/driver sets like ours. It’ll magnetize your drill bits, meaning many of the screws that Ikea provides will stick to your drill handsfree (thanks to the magic of magnets). We found this VERY helpful when trying to screw into small spots that were too tight for our fingertips (we couldn’t reach in and hold the screw steady, so having a magnetized drill bit that held it for us was key).
5. Measuring Tape
The next several tools are needed for attaching your cabinets to the wall. Whether you’re doing upper or lower cabinets, Ikea’s system uses a metal track (called the suspension rail) that you attach to your wall and then the cabinet boxes hang from these. The rail system is extremely handy because if you make sure the rail is level, your cabinets all hang from that and are guaranteed to be level! I know, it’s GREAT. The only time I don’t use their rail is when I don’t have a wall behind my cabinets, like if you’re doing an island. In that case I’ve built my own bases from 2×4″s, but more on that later.
For now, just know the measuring tape will be useful in determining exactly where in your kitchen you’re placing your cabinets – both side-to-side on each wall, and how high the rails need to be hung (Ikea provides guides for this in their instructions). You will probably want to have your kitchen plan/schematic from Ikea handy too.
6. Dremel Or Hacksaw
Once you know where each run of cabinets is going, you’ll need to cut your metal suspension rails to size. The rails are sold in 7 foot lengths, but if you only have 4 feet of cabinetry in one area – you only want 4 feet of rail.
You can cut these by hand with a hacksaw, but we find it much faster to use our Dremel Multi-Max with a metal cutting blade.
I typically mark my cut on a piece of painters tape and cut across the open top of one of our cabinet boxes (with a piece of cardboard to protect the cabinet underneath).
7. Stud Finder
You want to screw the rail into at least a few studs in your wall for maximum hold. So it’s smart to use a stud finder to locate and mark the studs that fall within the area you’re hanging the rail – that way you can be sure to go into them and get a nice firm hold. Since studs are typically 1.5″ thick, I like to mark the full width that my stud finder indicates, since you may not know exactly where the holes on the Sektion rail will line up.
8. Medium-Size Level
Once I know where my studs are, I hold my cut-to-size metal rail and, with a medium sized level (like this 24″ level) held against it, I mark the top line of my rail AND where the holes line up with my studs. I suggest amedium sized level for this just because they’re easier to wrangle during this step.
I also mark a few additional holes where I’ll use screws paired with anchors. I believe Ikea suggests at least having a screw every 12″ inches – but for short sections like this, I like to make sure I hit at least 2 studs and then have a screw at either end of the rail that goes into an anchor.
9. Heavy Duty Screws & Anchors
After some trial and error, we found that we like using these GRK Fastener Cabinet Screws to secure our rails into studs. They’re easy to drive, they hold really tight, and they include the star-head bit you need for them. We have tried other, cheaper “cabinet screws” and the heads kept breaking off. It was MADDENING.
We also like to have some anchors on hand too, like these E-Z Ancor packs that come with screws, for those additional support screws that we add.
10. Long Level
One of the biggest challenges we’ve found in this process is getting things level. Just because you’ve hung your rail level on the wall doesn’t prevent things like slopes in your floor or bows in your wall from chucking some additional curveballs in your direction. So your best defenses are a lot of patience and a nice long level, like this 4ft level we bought specifically for this task (after learning that it’s a lot harder to use a smaller level to solve these issues).
Your medium sized level will help with the process as well (especially in checking that each individual cabinet is level front-to-back) but you’ll want something bigger to check longer spans of cabinets. You could purchase an even longer level if you wanted, but they can start to get pricey, so we found a 4 foot long level to be sufficient, especially for checking across the gaps that you’ll leave for appliances like a 30″ stove or a standard 24″ dishwasher.
A lot of level issues can be corrected by twisting the adjustable plastic feet that come with your base cabinets, or by adjusting the placement of your metal rail. But if you’re dealing with bows in your wall (which you can find by placing your long level against it) you’ll want to have some wood shims on hand to place behind the metal rail. In these old houses, we had to use quite a few in a couple of places!
When it comes time to install your sink base cabinet, you’ll need to make some holes for your plumbing. For smaller pipes like your water supply lines, you can just drill holes using a large drill bit (we used the 3/4″ bit in this set). But for things like your large drain pipe, you’ll either need to buy a larger hole bit or break out a jigsaw. Even though we don’t get the cleanest cut with it, the jigsaw gives us a little more wiggle room when placing the cabinet (since the drain pipe isn’t flexible like the supply lines) and we can also use it for other cuts like for exposing the outlets along the wall (the one below powers the garbage disposal under the sink).
Just be sure to make careful measurements before you cut. We usually put a layer of painters tape around the area we’re cutting. It allows us to mark our cut without marking the cabinet, plus the tape helps keep the white finish from cracking off. Either way, this stuff will all be hidden under the sink so it doesn’t have to look perfect.
As you start to get your cabinets in place and leveled, you’ll want to secure any adjacent cabinets together. Ikea provides screws for doing this, but you’ll want to use some clamps (we like these 6″ bar clamps) to hold the cabinets tightly together before you begin screwing.
We didn’t get a picture of that process, but the clamps come in handy A LOT as an extra set of hands – like when we were installing this bracket for the exhaust hoods that we hung over the stoves.
14. Circular Saw and/or Table Saw
In addition to screwing cabinets together, you may find yourself attaching cover panels or filler pieces at some point. Cover panels go on exposed ends of cabinets (so you can’t see the metal rail they hang on) or, in our case, we used some large cover panels to create a box around the fridges at the duplex. So you’ll need some sort of larger saw to make long, straight cuts. Our cover panels were a bit too wide, so I used a circular saw to shave a few inches off one side.
I didn’t use a table saw for that panel because running an 8 foot tall panel that’s this wide across my table saw would’ve been tough. But for smaller pieces (like filler pieces that are only about 3 feet long) a table saw is often easier, especially if you’re only shaving off a little bit. But if that’s too pricey and you’ve got a steady hand, you can get by with the circular saw.
15. 2 x 4″ Boards
Every time we’ve installed an Ikea kitchen we’ve needed some 2×4″s at some point. At the beach house we used them to make some bases for the island cabinets.
Basically, they were just some boxes we made almost the same size as each cabinet (slightly narrower to account for the toekicks) that we secured to the floor using pocket holes. To drill the pocket holes, you can use something like a…
16. Kreg Jig
Now, a Kreg Jig isn’t absolutely necessary here, but I’ve had one for around nine years now so I’m accustomed to breaking it out for tasks like this. So while I’m a big fan of having one in your arsenal, I understand that you’ve just bought a new kitchen so tacking on another $99 tool to your budget isn’t always practical.
I did use it again for the duplexes to make more 2×4″s into boxes (this time for mounting the above-fridge cabinet away from the wall, so it sat closer to the front of the fridge).
The boxes acted as an extension of the wall. The top one was for mounting the metal rail, and the bottom one gave the base of the cabinet a spot to rest so it didn’t tip back wildly. They also gave us a way to mount that large cover panel to box in the fridge.
I guess I should add in here that a step ladder is also useful, so let’s officially put that on the list.
17. Manual Screwdriver
Once your cabinets and panels are hung, leveled, and secured to each other, the next part of the process is to add your doors and drawers. The instructions here are pretty self-explanatory and the main tool you need is a power driver to screw everything together. Our main word of warning is to pay close attention to screw placements when you’re assembling drawers! Depending on where each drawer goes in the stack (top, middle, or bottom) there are sliiiiight differences in the instructions. So while we find it most efficient to do multiple drawers at once, we still pay close attention – especially for the first few.
Ok, back to the manual screw drivers. One big part of installing doors and drawers is tweaking and adjusting them for even and level spacing. For this you’ll want to a regular ol‘ manual Philips head screwdriver. It can be kind of tedious and frustrating, but it’s worth taking your time with it. This video shows it in a bit more detail.
You also will want a flathead screwdriver for twisting the little piece of plastic that locks each cabinet onto the metal rail, which comes up earlier in the process.
18. Miter Saw
Tasks like cutting your 2×4″s or even your filler pieces will be made easier and faster by having a miter saw on hand (we own this miter saw). You’ll also find that it’s helpful when it’s time to cut and install your toekicks. Ikea’s sells toekicks to match your cabinet fronts and they clip on to the plastic feet you will have attached to the bottom of your base cabinets.
In our beach house kitchen we installed quarter round in front of the Ikea baseboards to help disguise some floor level issues, as well as using quarter round around the island where we built our own base (we used standard wood baseboard trim instead of the Ikea toekicks around the island). Meanwhile, we just used the Ikea toekicks in the duplex kitchens and the floors were more level (and we think the wood and blue cabinets were more forgiving than white ones) so we didn’t need to add quarter round and it looks great.
19. Nail Gun
In addition to using a nail gun to attach additional molding like quarter round if you’re adding that (again, the Ikea baseboards just snap on so you won’t need it for that) I also find a nail gun comes in handy sometimes for attaching small filler pieces. Especially in cases where they’re too thin to take a screw.
20. Others Tools
Real quick, here are some other items you may want to have on hand. Some I’ve mentioned or shown already, but haven’t officially listed:
Pen or pencil
Utility knife or scissors (for opening boxes faster!)
Crowbar (if you need to remove any baseboard or molding)
Broom, dustpan, and/or vacuum with a hose (we have this one)
Your Ikea Kitchen Installation Tool Checklist
As promised, here’s all of the items in one place so you can make sure you have everything you need on hand. I’ve organized it a bit differently than above, just to put like items together. You may have special circumstances for your project that require more, less, or other tools – but I’ve found this to be a pretty comprehensive set:
Your itemized receipt / order
Pen or pencil
Drill bit set with magnetic bit holder & 3/4″ bit for plumbing holes
Dremel or Hacksaw
Medium level (24″)
Large level (48″)
Cabinet screws (roughly 4 per cabinet)
Screws with anchors (roughly 2 per cabinet)
Circular saw and/or table saw
Utility knife or scissors
Kreg Jig (optional)
Broom, dustpan, and/or vacuum with hose
Good luck and happy installing!
P.S. For other posts we’ve written about installing Ikea cabinets, here’s one about installing , and another one about using Ikea cabinets to make .
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The post The Tools (And Tricks) You Need To Install An Ikea Kitchen Yourself appeared first on Young House Love.
This post is going to be full of photos, because I think they do most of the work in making a case for a house full of greenery. But like, easy greenery. That isn’t stressful and that doesn’t remind you of that emoji of dollar signs with wings. Because when things die repeatedly, it can GET YOU DOWN. Ask me how I know. The point is that I TRULY AND DEEPLY BELIEVE that nearly every single room in a home can benefit from greenery – it adds a splash of life and a gorgeous and vibrant texture.
So if you’ve got some low light spots that just don’t allow anything real to live, and you’re hunting for a good convincing fake that will never die, well, I’ve gotcha covered. And if you’re looking for real plants you literally would have to try hard to kill… trust me, I’m well versed at killing plants, so I’m only going to list the truly hardy stuff.
Exhibit A is this herb that will never die on my desk. That’s right, it’s fake. And I bought it at Michaels with a 50% off coupon (total spent: $7.50). I loved the soft texture and the tiny little feathery branches it has – and here’s one of my tips. I saw it in person. So I could poke it and prod it and judge if the color was too blue-green or too yellow or whatever. And it convinced me. It’s just as delicate as a real asparagus fern or an herb from the garden. But it’s from Michael’s and I paid for it once and it’ll last forevermore.
Also, never buy a real asparagus fern. They die spectacular guilt-inducing deaths. At least for me. On the other hand, I have some other real plants that are SURVIVORS. Put them in matching outfits and call them Destiny’s Child. They are all over five years old. Some might even be a full decade old! And here’s the curveball: I completely neglect them. They’re called and they just need a little water and seem completely unpicky about sunlight amount, which tends to be key for me.
You can even clip off the long droopy legs (?!?!?!) – clearly I am not one of those green thumbs who knows all the plant terms – and then you can put them in water TO MAKE MORE FREE PLANTS (more on that here). So they’re high on the hardy and hard-to-kill list for me if you want some real greenery. And real house plants have all sorts of benefits like cleaning the air, and making humans feel happier (that’s legit backed by science, which is pretty amazing for something that you can buy for under $5).
Jumping back over to the dark side (aka: fake plants), I fancy myself a faux plant diva, in that I DO NOT PLAY AROUND. If something looks fake, I keep it moving. I have sent back faux plants I’ve bought online for not being good enough. And if someone messages me and says “hey how is the Ikea faux fiddle leaf fig?” I will very honestly say “I’ve seen it in person, and I don’t love it – from far away it looks ok, but I’ve seen other fake figs up close that look more full and real for around the same price or even less.”
For example, I have loved these $39 faux fiddle leaf figs from Target (seen above and below), although I’m adamant that they need to be feathered out a bit. Just gently pull their branches apart so they’re less smushed vertically. Real fiddle leaf figs have leaves that are almost parallel to the ground, so doing that helps with the realism. And adding a bigger planter or basket for them to sit in makes them look a lot more convincing and proportionate.
We have these faux figs at the beach house and the duplex, which are vacant for many weeks at a time (so real plants aren’t really an option except maybe for some succulents that I might add) and I also have one in our living room above. I kept trying to get real figs to live in that corner of our living room and it’s just too dark. I probably killed three before I faced the music that it was “faux or nothing” in that spot.
It’s also really nice to have one up in the bedroom between the windows since the sun shines further into the room, but doesn’t really hit that spot on the floor much, so real plants kept getting stick-like after a while there. They were trying to grow towards the light so they’d end up looking really long and floppy as they basically dove in slow motion towards the window.
But let’s bounce back to real – and SUPER EASY – greenery for a second. These branches have been in two bouquets I have received in the last few years – and they are like mutant plants from Planet Neverdie. From a decent amount of googling I believe that they’re called Ruscus (specifically Isreili Ruscus I think) and THEY LAST FOR MONTHS! If I’m wrong, someone who is a plant expert DM me the name because we all need to know what these are.
Saying they last for months sounds like I’m exaggerating and you might think, ok maybe one month… but I have had them last for OVER THREE MONTHS! I do not do a thing except put them in water and watch all the other flowers and cuttings around them die as they live on for literally a full season or more. I probably change the water once a month if I remember.
These are the same thing in the photo below. Just really great greenery that’s real long-lasting, but REALLY LOW MAINTENANCE.
Oh and see that big faux fiddle leaf fig in the background of the photo above? That’s from Target a while back when they made these tall ones as part of the Opalhouse collection. I hope they bring them back because they’re GOOD. Like my-mom-has-watered-them good. If you’re looking for a big fiddle leaf fig like that one, I’ve seen this one in person too, and it’s great.
Sidenote: I get asked all the time if you put something into a larger pot, how should you deal with the extra space between the small original pot and the larger planter or basket you use. I have three ways I deal with it:
1) I leave it – real potted plants might be placed in a larger basket and there’s no shame in that game, it looks fine
2) I add dried moss from a garden center – you can get a whole bag of it for cheap and just shove it in there (see my picture below)
3) You could also add something smooth and pretty like white or black river rocks in there – I’ve seen this look great
You might be wondering, but where can she keep a real fiddle leaf fig alive? And the answer, after living in our house nearly six years, is: One. Freasking. Corner.
Yup, just one spot, in the corner of the office, gets enough light to keep a real one happy. So you can see it here in the background of this picture. I find the fiddle leaf fig to be a SUPER EASY PLANT to keep alive. BUT YOU NEED ENOUGH LIGHT. So like, 99% of my house = not enough light. So it would die in literally every other corner. I have killed MANY.
This corner though, equals enough light, so this thing is older than my four year old. All I do is completely ignore it, except for dumping one big glass of water into its soil every 9-10 days or so. When the leaves look droopy I dump the water on it and it perks right up. That’s it. But again: super sunny is the key to the equation. Otherwise, don’t mess with real fiddle leaf figs.
I also REALLY love real eucalyptus, and I grab it when I’m across town at Trader Joe’s (they have THE BEST GREENERY and it’s SO CHEAP!). It smells great and it lasts a nice long time – you can even dry it and have it forever, although I find that it can start to fall apart and it gets sort of a dusty-gray tone after a while. So fresh is my jam over dried (I also just discovered there are Etsy shops that will send it to you fresh). And in some spots where I want the look, but zero maintenance (aka: the beach house & the duplex) I’m a big fan of these $5 Ikea fakers. Yup, that’s a fake stem from Ikea in that “vase” below:
I put the word vase in quotes, because the container from the photo above and below is actually a marble utensil holder, and I love it so much for faux stems since it’s not great at holding actual water, but it looks amazing with a good fake stem or branch. I’ve bought like three of them to use as vases around the beach house and our own house – and I may or may not have picked up two more for the duplex. Hey, when it’s love, it’s love.
And yes, that stem in the photo above is another Ikea faker. The one key to those is not to bunch too many together. They actually look a lot more convincing and like real eucalyptus if they’re splayed out and not too crowded together if that makes sense.
Bouncing back to the real plant realm, aloe (along with other succulents) can be extra easy. It literally needs nothing more than a tiny splash of water once every two weeks or so. I love the little pink pot this guy is in (from Ikea a while back – but here’s a similar one) because between the greenery and the cute pot, it definitely cheers things up. Plus aloe is known to be one of the better air purifying plants. Score.
Meanwhile in our completely window-less and natural-light-less laundry room, we have a faux succulent. They’re usually some of the best fake options since they can look extremely real for some reason (maybe it’s the thick rubber-y leaves that real succulents have?). I’ve had this faux one for probably a decade (found it at HomeGoods forever ago) but these two look similar and have good ratings.
This one below is another HomeGoods find from eight or so years ago. Yup, it’s as old as my oldest child and still going strong. One tip I have for you is to hit a garden center and buy a pot you love (maybe an understated concrete one, or even a bright colorful one that makes you smile) and then hit a store like Michael’s and grab a few succulent stems that you can “plant” in the pot. You can even use real dirt. Literally nobody will be able to tell the difference – especially if you pick the succulents out in person and grab only the most real looking options.
That’s actually what I did here, with another pink pot from Ikea – I took these little faux succulents from Michaels a few years back and just shoved them in there. It’s very convincing, and I love that they’re next to my ceramic succulent candle (from Anthro ages ago). Do I love plants or do I love plants?
Also, I get the “how do you dust them” question a lot, so my favorite method is actually just a feather duster. I do it before I vacuum like twice a year when I remember, and it just tosses some dust on the floor and I vacuum it up. I figure every single item you put on any surface of your home needs dusting, so it’s not really a big deal to run a feather duster over a real plant, or a fake one.
I haven’t really talked much about faux flowers and it’s because I think they’re harder to find when it comes to being truly eye-trickingly-realistic. Sometimes they’re gelled into that fake water but something about a few of the ones I’ve seen isn’t really quite convincing. Which is why I lean towards completely opaque pots for the ones I end up getting. It just feels more like these could be real cut flowers and leaves in this vase to my eye. I got these at Target maybe six months ago, and I love the bright color they add. Wish they still sold them for my fellow pink lovers out there.
This is the laundry room at the beach house, and as I’ve mentioned, since we’re not there for weeks on end, we don’t have any real plants there, but that orchid on the top shelf is (so cheap! And I dropped it into a larger white Ikea pot just to balance it out a little).
There’s also a faux Ikea plant on that first laundry shelf – it’s this one – and I have another one at home in the guest room (seen below). They’re convincing – especially in larger pots – and the price is pretty great.
Actually, the one above is this one with the whiter little buds on the edges, and I loved plopping it into a pretty textured pot from HomeGoods. Half the fun of plants = pretty pots.
To go back to the faux flowers thing, and how it’s hard to find something colorful that looks real (even the Ikea orchid from our beach house laundry room = white), I do LOVE these happy yellow ginkgo leaves. They’re from Crate & Barrel a while ago, but they brought them back once, so I’m hoping they come back again soon.
They’re just a nice way to add color and texture – they feel very spring/summer to me.
Here they are upstairs in the bonus room too. They’re versatile because a burst of happy color looks nice pretty much anywhere.
One other sort of abstract way to bring greenery into your house is with the use of some really cool art or even a wallpaper. This leafy mural we hung at the duplex definitely makes the room feel green and alive (you can see how we hung it here).
Simple art can also add that outside/green element to a room that might have less than stellar views – and you never have to water it. These large framed prints are from West Elm a while back, but I’ve seen similar stuff on Etsy (you know I love these and they also have them with a white background).
Oh yeah and that potted fern above? Fake from Target around a year ago. This one is the current version they make, and it’s well rated too.
Let’s bounce back into the real greenery realm again, because I feel like I need to tip my hat to the old “free cuttings” category. Many months of the year, there’s free greenery at your disposal if you just walk outside with a clipper. These cuttings are from the bushes right in front of our house, and I steal from them pretty much every season except for winter when they go dormant.
And whenever I stage houses, you know I love going outside and bringing some 100% free clippings into each room to make it feel alive and just plain welcoming (you can read alllll about house staging and my other tips here – I loved writing that post).
Here’s a shot of some other “real greenery” we have embraced on a seasonal basis. We love grabbing fresh holiday garlands from Trader Joe’s (they’re super cheap and last around a month – at least that was our experience this past holiday season). We just tapped two small nails into the corner of the molding to hold this one up over the sink. And you know while I was at TJ’s I had to grab some fresh eucalyptus too.
We also string up a fresh garland around the front door (actually it takes two to span that area, so I wire them together with green floral wire, and once again we just hung them over two small nails on the corner of the trim). But what’s worth mentioning is that in this photo, the wreath is also real – I make one out of fresh magnolia leaves every winter at a Wine & Wreath event that I go to with my favorite ladies – but the five foot bushes on either side of the door are faux.
I feel like that’s worth noting, because they’re so convincing they can literally be right in front of a real garland and next to a huge magnolia wreath and they hold their own. We actually bought of those front porch bushes first – and loved them. After over a year of use there was no fading or damage to them through rain and snow. So when we painted the house white and wanted something taller next to the door after removing the portico, we upgraded to the 5′ versions and sent the three foot ones to the beach house.
The pots above are from Home Depot (just in store – can’t find them online) and the copper porch pots from the photo before the one above are a DIY project – more on them here.
I’ll leave you with one last real outdoor plant that has been deliciously low maintenance for us – at least here in our climate. Those big $12 ferns that Home Depot and Kroger sell in the parking lot…. we buy a few each year in the spring. And they last all the way until the very end of the year when it gets below freezing. There is literally nothing easier than plopping our annual fern friend into a few of the large pots we have out back – I don’t even have to touch dirt. And they just do their thing for nearly a year.
So there you have it, an exhaustive rundown of easy green stuff that hopefully won’t stress you out like… say… all of the other green stuff I have tried and then failed at and then decided not to list here because IT’S JUST TOO EMOTIONAL FOR ME, OK?!
Also, it occurred to me that as much as John has special eyes for light bulbs, maybe I have special plant eyes. Because nobody ogles the green stuff like I do.
Love ya, plants. Mean it.
P.S. There were SO MANY pictures of our house, the beach house, and the duplex in this post, so if you have paint color or source questions, here’s where to find info about our house, here’s info about the beach house, and we’re just starting to get duplex info together here.
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