My First 3 Shawnee DIY’s

One of my favorite feelings is the feeling I get when I finish a project. Since moving in to Shawnee Street, Nick and I have completed a few, but there are 3 in particular I thought I would share. Our home was built in 1955, and has a very unique mid-century modern, split-level design… so I naturally began to run with that theme when decorating. When we bought our new house, I knew that the large amount of exposed brick was something I would want to “remedy” as quickly as possible. Although brick can be a very classic look, I felt that it was a bit outdated for our taste, and I had a strong desire to soften the color, as well as bring out the natural texture. So, the perfect solution for us was to “white-wash” the walls and fireplaces!

Before moving in, we had several rooms professionally painted, and we had the hardwoods re-finished as well. The previous home owners had already painted a few of the brick walls within the house. They are completely covered in a white, semi-gloss finish, and I like the way they look. However, I did not want to mimic that exact look on the rest of the brick in the house, so I went with a few different options. In the kitchen and living room, I used a very special type of paint called “milk paint” which is just a powder that you mix with water. It is designed to let the brick “breathe” and preserve the integrity of the clay. It took me about 5 hours to paint this mixture on both fireplaces, and I am pretty obsessed with the final product. Eventually, we will add a floating mantel to the fireplace in the kitchen. I’m thinking a big, thick piece of re-claimed wood will do the trick! Here are the before and afters:

Hearth Before.jpg



Fireplace Before.jpg



Downstairs, there were two very large brick walls that gave the room a “dungeon” feel to me. I HATED them. Luckily, Nick has patience with me when I get the “itch” to fix something, and he let me complete this project over the weekend, and even hung the curtains for me (which required drilling into brick… not easy). Initially, I thought I would paint these walls a solid white, but once I began the priming process, I actually really enjoyed the basic washed look on them as well. So, it turns out, they just have 1 coat of water-based white primer on them. Here is the before and after:

Downstairs Before.jpg

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Overall, these projects were not too difficult to complete, and I am happy to answer any questions about how we did them! I am definitely feeling pretty accomplished right now 🙂



The Long-Awaited New Kitchen

Summer of 2011. I had just started a new job in Durham and Sarah was away at her last summer at camp. Neither of us had a place to live come August, and though we tried to find something before she left, nothing worked out. It was all up to me and she was quite worried. Fortunately, I found our house on Huron Street. I loved the yard, the size, the hardwood floors and the big oak trees. I’ll never forget when Sarah returned from camp, and saw her new home for the first time. I had assured her she would love it, but I could see the uncertainty as she approached the house for the first time. She loved it, saying “it’s perfect…except for the kitchen, we’ve got to do something about that”.

Well, it took us four and a half years, but we finally did something about it. Sarah’s pregnancy was definitely the jump start we needed to start moving forward on the project we had been contemplating for so long. We knew we wanted a dishwasher, to switch the fridge and stove locations, as well as new floors (the old ones were not something you’d want an infant crawling around on), but that’s what about all we knew a couple months ago.

I called Roger (who has done some house work for some co-workers) and asked him to come take a look and see about making a plan for the kitchen. Before I knew it, we had drawings with a new cabinet set up all done, and Roger said as soon as we emptied out our current cabinets, he’d be ready to get started. We emptied them out that night and put everything in the dining room. I remember thinking “Wow, this is really happening!”.

We snapped a few pictures that night. Here’s what our old Kitchen looked like.

The next day, Roger got started. Before I even got home that evening I received a text from him that read something to the effect of, “I assume you’ve seen the carnage by now. We’ll need to talk about a plan on moving forward.” Needless to say, I was a little alarmed, and wondered if I had made a huge mistake embarking on this project. The below is what I saw when I got home.

While it was exciting to see all of the cabinet’s down, there was quite the mess in the piping behind them. An old cast iron pipe, which carried the old sink water was basically completely rusted through. Fortunately, that was pretty much the extent of the damage, and all it took to fix was some new piping. It added some costs we hadn’t foreseen, but as this would end up being the only real hiccup in the whole process, I never again wondered if we made the right decision. See our new pipes below.

Once the piping was all fixed, it was time to get the cabinets in place. We left the cabinet layout much the same as our previous cabinets, but also added in a pantry and some additional cabinetry along the side wall. At Roger’s recommendation we decided on Sheffield Honey cabinets we got at the Surplus Warehouse. The biggest factor was the price, but we liked the color and the fact that it was solid wood. Definitely a big improvement from the particle board/laminate cabinets we had before! It only took Roger a week, and the cabinets were all in place. See a picture of (most of ) the cabinets in place below!


After the cabinets were in place, it was time to take on the floors. While on a trip to the Surplus Warehouse to decide on cabinets, we looked at some floors, and found some gray plank vinyl that seemed as though it’d be fairly easy to install ourselves. We looked into having the floors done professionally, but the price difference made it an easy choice. It took the majority of a weekend, but we were able to handle the floors ourselves, and I think it was easily the most rewarding part of the process. We first removed all of the toe molding. We then starting laying the vinyl, one row at a time, directly on top of our old floor. For the end of rows and around odd shapes, we had to do a decent amount of cutting the floors, but it was relatively simple with a utility knife score and a hard snap. The most difficult part was locking the floors into place, but between the two of us we got the hang of it. Once it was all in place, we put some new toe molding down (thanks to Roger for letting us borrow his nail gun!) and the floors were good to go! There was no glue or adhesive involved. The floors just “float” in place, secured by their weight and the toe molding. See pictures of the floor coming together and finished below.

With the floors done it was time to get our new appliances in place. We were able to get a decent deal from AJ Madison since we were getting 4 appliances. We went with stainless steel and we are really loving our choices! Having the appliances installed was one of the more stressful parts of the whole experience. I still am not sure how the delivery people managed to maneuver the fridge through the entry way (even after taking removing the fridge doors) but they did it. There were a couple dings on the walls, but we knew we still had to paint, and were just happy to have our appliances in place! I must say, getting used to having a dishwasher again has been a bit of an adjustment, but definitely a welcome one! Likely due to the stress of the delivery, we forgot to snap any photos at this point, but you can see them in the finished shots at the end.

After the appliances were in place, and all hooked up, it was onto the counter tops. We definitely splurged a bit here and went with granite. We went with a slab that had lots of reddish brown, grey and black to match other parts of the kitchen. We also decided to create a little breakfast area with an extended bar behind the sink. Speaking of sinks, we also got a 10″ deep (to Sarah’s delight) under-mounted sink. See some pictures of the installation below by the fine folks at marble unlimited.

At this point, we finally had a functioning kitchen and we were thrilled. Rather than relax and enjoy our 3/4 finished kitchen, we decided to keep going and spent the entire next weekend painting and organizing. Sarah painted, I organized. In case you didn’t know I can be a little particular about how things are organized, particularly when it comes to the kitchen, so I was thrilled to find new homes for all of our food, pots, pans, dishes, cleaning supplies, etc. Sarah chose the color “racing red” (by Sherwin Williams), though, we think of it more like a terracotta. I put on some basic cabinet hardware we got at the Surplus Warehouse, as well as some shelving we got at Ikea. We also got some new bar stools and smaller chairs for our dining room table as well as some new lights. We put in some small touches like like stain less outlet covers, paper towel holder, knife magnet, drying rack, salt & pepper grinders and a sponge holder to boot. By the end of another long weekend we were almost done, only back splash stood in our way! See a couple progress pictures below.

The back splash was the final step. We went with some gray ceramic subway tiles purchased from South Cypress Floors (online). The first step for the tile was to apply SimpleMat, an easier bonding alternative to thinset. In the picture below (though hard to see because its clear), the SimpleMat has been applied to the wall.


Next, we simply removed the plastic covering and applied the subway tiles to the sticky surface, cutting the tile where necessary (thanks again to Roger for letting us borrow his tile cutter!). The tile had built in spacers, so the process was quite strainforward. Once all the tiles were in place, we filled it all in with premixed grout. See the results below!


So, that was it! We had a completely transformed kitchen in about 6 weeks. Aside the obvious improvements of better appliances and cabinet functionality, we have been thrilled how our work opened up the dining room, and has made everything feel more spacious (as well as more visually appealing) than it did before. It’s going to make it all the more difficult someday when we grow out of the house, but we are excited to get a few good years of use out of hard work and efforts! Pictures of the finished product are below!