Kitchen Refresh – A Little Elbow Grease for My Dream White Kitchen

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted a white kitchen. As cliche as it is, I love anything light and bright! Our home was built in 2000 (or somewhere around there) and from what I can tell, it still has the original kitchen. There was nothing wrong with it. The flow is great, there are lots of cabinets, it is just… brown. I don’t have anything against a natural wood kitchen. Our hardwoods run into the kitchen, so we had one giant brown room. Plus, if I am just being honest, it isn’t my style. We get a lot of light in our house, but it still seemed dark in here! Being a stay at home mom, I spend 90% of my day in the kitchen. To pay someone to refinish the cabinets would have been expensive. And while we are in the process of updating our home, it wasn’t in the cards for last summer. I am not one to sit back and wait, so…. I did it. I refinished the cabinets myself. So before I show you the finished product, here are a few before pictures for context!

Before

I was able to find these pictures from the original listing of our home of the kitchen in all if its woodgrain glory (because you know me by now and I forget to take decent before pictures):

(Previous owner/renter’s furniture)

So see what I mean? Lots of brown. Wood. Boring. Great layout, lots of space. But lots of room for improvement! So I did what I’ll call phase one of the kitchen renovation. While we have no plans of doing a new kitchen in this house, there are other things I have planned for it to make it even more special! Alright then… who is ready for some after pictures?!

After

And here is a before and after because it is just that good!

Let’s Talk About It

So, let’s talk about it for a minute. Or I will wait until you pick your jaw up off the floor… dramatic transformation, right?! So if you’ve followed along on my instagram, you know I refinished the cabinets back in July. Or maybe it was August. Either way, it was a very long time ago! I knew I wanted to do it correctly from the start, so it took an incredible amount of time. And I wanted to live in it for a while to give you a good review of how we liked it and how they wore. And also because sometimes these things take forever to plan ahead… But I digress.

Finishing the cabinets was a huge undertaking. Basically it was the only thing I did for three solid weeks. Thank you, warm weather and outside play for the kids!

Here are a few tutorials that I used. I read a million, but these methods were closest to what I did:

Young House Love 

Home Talk

If I were to go back in time, I would rent a paint sprayer. And use my power sander. For some reason I forgot they existed and I hand sanded each cabinet, front and back and between layers, AND I OWN A POWER SANDER. I’ll blame it on the mom brain thing… If I had used both those machines, this whole project would have been so much faster! Take my advice and don’t do it by hand. The finish will be nicer and it will take way less time.

Am I happy I did it? You bet!  I haven’t regretted it one bit. Even Marcus is glad I did it. While he doesn’t always understand my ideas and projects, he understood this one 100% after it was done. So, thank you honey for trusting me and letting me do crazy things!

Cost & Materials

The total cost for the project was around $200. That includes a gallon of primer, two gallons of paint, and about a half gallon for the island. Such a big impact and hardly any cost compared to installing a new kitchen!

Here’s what I used for the project. Don’t skimp on materials! You’ll save your hands and time. Promise.

Brush

Mini Roller

Foam Roller

Paint tray

Handy Paint Cup (oh my goodness buy these!!)

Paint Key

Behr Alkyd Enamel Paint (Link is for semi-gloss, I got Swiss Coffee in satin)

Zinsser Oil Based Primer 

Hand Sander 

Sanding Paper

I also changed out the knobs on the drawers for pulls. I feel like it is more substantial and looks nicer on a drawer!

So how has it worn? Well. I am not a professional, and neither was the process refinishing. And I have three kids four and under. The kitchen takes a beating! Little nicks are easy to touch up with some paint and a little brush. It is quick and worth it to me! How well does a white kitchen stay clean? I would say that white cabinets are no dirtier than any other color, you can just see the mess/dirt a little more. I don’t even mind it because I would rather clean something than have dirt hide! (I’m looking at you, carpet!).

Also, as a side note, I will admit that decor-wise, it is super pared down right now. But that is also the time of year, post Christmas decoration overload, and post January get-all-the-things-out-of-the-house.

Future Plans:

If you are interested, here are my future plans for my glorious and beautiful white kitchen:

Paint walls

Install new backsplash

Remove cabinets to the left of the sink and add open shelving

Remove cabinets to the right of the refrigerator and add open shelving

Add pendant lights above island

Replace pendant above sink & over eat-in table

Replace blinds with fun pattern?

Built cabinets up to the ceiling

New appliances

(and ultimately) Refinish floors

Add chunkier baseboard & crown molding

A girl can dream, right?


Outfit details here:


Also, if you were wondering if I feelcomfortable in front of the camera and rationalize by being awkward and doing weird things, here’s your confirmation:

Do you have any questions about refinishing your cabinets? Any reservations? Please ask below! I would love to help you out and give you the confidence you need to do it.

Also a special thank you to Ashleigh of Ashleigh Laureen Photography for these amazing pictures! Check out her site and say hi (tell her I sent you!). She is beyond talented! She is also so nice and super sweet. We chatted for nearly 45 minutes before we even got to shooting!

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The Woods – The Great Backyard Renovation

We live in New Hampshire which is notoriously rocky. Our town in particular has some hills. And when I say hills, I mean HILLS. Our whole neighborhood is basically built on a mountain (or so it seems). While the developer did the best they could to plop as many homes down as possible, it also meant they didn’t put too much attention into creating usable, level yards. We have quite a bit of land, but not much was usable. Our backyard had a nice, small grassy area then a huge dropoff to another level. The lower level was moderately cleared but was not at all level, very rocky, and had 13 not-so-healthy fruit trees. 

Go back in time to September 16 (or somewhere around there). Our last home had a playset with swings and a slide and we used that thing every. single. day. We really wanted to get the kids one for Christmas, we just couldn’t figure out where to put it. We have 4 acres, but not a lot of it was cleared. And the cleared portion in the backyard was pretty much entirely septic underneath, so we didn’t have much area to work with. So Marcus goes to our side yard this September day and starts clearing an area to put the anticipated playplace. But he didn’t stop there.

I love a good before and after, so here’s what we were working with before. You can see the grassy area (which we will eventually fence in because, hills) and then a drop off to a wooded area. I know these pictures aren’t the best quality, but unfortunately this is the best I could find. I need to get better about taking pictures before we start a project, but in my defense, this is a project I didn’t realize was going to happen!

Picture Marcus’ initial clearing to the right of this picture. And where you stop seeing grass is a big dropoff, so we will essentially have two levels in the backyard. 

Before

You see the tops of the Japanese Maple and Evergreen trees? Keep scrolling to see where we moved them! The fruit trees were just beyond those decorative trees. 

This is where the future path is going to be. I will describe that more in a bit…

Exterior pictures are so difficult because you don’t really see the magnitude of the progress! Anyways, here is where we are at now:

This is pretty much the same view as the previous picture. You almost don’t even recognize it! (And do those trees look familiar?). 

After

Picture a fence where the grass and rocks meet. Please Lord let there be a fence #momofsmallchildren.


Do you see the two Japanese Maples?  We transplanted them to the edge of the cleared area and are crossing our fingers they stay alive! They were leaning towards the sun where they were previously, so we will have to stake them and hopefully help them straighten up. By some miracle they survived the crazy wind storm we had the night we planted them!

This is a view standing at the furthest cleared portion. 

More brush to burn!

Pretty spectacular, right?!

Do you see where that wood pile is? That is about where we will put the playplace. 

The stake on the right is the marker of our neighbor’s land.

Turning back around at the stake

You can see where we tore the trees up. I think the previous owners put these trees in to block the less than beautiful lower portion of the yard. (It was very rocky and not level at all and we had MAJOR groundhog and chipmunk issues. The ground was literally caving in some spots.) 

Here is a better picture of the trees we transplanted. Say a little prayer they survive! They are so big and beautiful. 

The plan is to create a path down at the bottom of those rocks along the treeline leading up to a playplace just through the trees you see (and that wood pile if you have good eyes!). I would love to line the path with flowers and bushes and have a sweet little retreat for the kids! 

The view standing at the back shed. It kind of messes with your mind, but where the grass ends is that steep dropoff. Hence the necessary fence. 

Looking to the right a bit. We have a small fire pit here, but we are planning on relocating it to the lower portion.

So here is what we have done:

  • Clear a million trees (I seriously wish Marcus kept track. Sooo many trees!)
  • Ground a few stumps
  • Used an excavator to dig huge holes to bury said million stumps and the plethora of rocks that were unearthed (did I mention New Hampshire is rocky?). 
  • Remove and bury the stone wall that went into the lower portion of the property (we kept the back wall.)
  • Level the lower portion as much as possible. There will be a slight slope still, but it will at least be smooth!
  • Burn said million trees and unkempt forest brush
  • Moved decorative trees to perimeter of cleared property

And here is what we still need to do:

  • Fence the top portion of the backyard
  • Build a path down to the future playplace
  • Install flowers and shrubs on path
  • Fill in current fire pit and build a new one at the corner of the lower level
  • Install zipline (!) that I got Marcus for Father’s Day
  • Possibly add a vegetable garden on the top portion 
  • Add dirt and grass to lower level
  • Add staircase from top deck to the right (we have one on the left, but this would make easier access to where the playplace will be).
  • Pool?!?! A girl can dream!

I am sure there is a lot more we have done, and a lot more we will add to our to-do list! I will do a better job of recording things next time, promise. And in full disclosure, we are doing this ourselves. And by ourselves I mean Marcus, my dad, and brother. My husband works for a company that lent him the machine, so our costs have been pretty low. But if we were to estimate the work that has been done, it would be somewhere near $40,000-$50,000. 

If you are thinking of doing some yard work yourself or hiring it out, just consider the factors. It took us (him) nearly two months to do the amount of work that was done. That is most weekends and most evenings, and the occasional helping hand from family and friends. But, the cost savings was significant. So if you have the time and the willpower, go for it! If we can do it, you can do it.  And I did help! I moved some branches and corralled kids…

Here are some of the items that were so helpful during the process:

Chainsaw

Gloves

Safety Glasses

Shovel

Having a large tractor and an excavator was extremely helpful too! Even if you rent one and do the work yourself, it would be worth the investment. We couldn’t have done the amount of work we did without them!

So, what do you think? Is there anything else we should add? I am so excited at the progress and I can’t wait to see it complete. But in the meantime, I will continue to give daily baths from the kids playing in the dirt.

 

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Oh You Fancy, Huh? A Simple Garage Door Upgrade

I’m huge on items that make a big impact for little money. I mean, aren’t we all? This little upgrade is so simple and inexpensive, but totally elevates the look of our house! I wavered if I should even do a post on it, but it is too good and simple not to share!

Here’s the before. The doors are fine. No problems, just simple, boring white. And trim that needs to be repaired, but that’s low on my priority list.


I’ve seen homes around that have that have those fancy hardware & pulls on them and I figured there has to be something I can buy, right? Amazon didn’t let me down. I first ordered a magnetic set. Installation was obviously very easy, just set on the door. Well, as nice as they looked, they moved as soon as the door was opened. So if you have a garage door that is not used often, this is a less expensive and good option for you!

So I returned that set and I forgot about it. Until last month! I found another set that was a screw-on version. So I bought it last month, and then decided to paint our kitchen cabinets and forgot about them… until yesterday! (Can I blame mom brain?) It took me less than five minutes to install the hardware onto both doors. Seriously, it couldn’t have been any easier!

So without further adeau, I present to you our new garage doors!



Pretty impressive, right? And for less than $25. I feel like it looks a lot more expensive than that! That’s my kind of upgrade.

So there you go! A super fast project that makes a huge impact.

Here’s those items again if you want to try them for yourself!
Screw on

Magnetic
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Basic Master Bedroom



So in full defense of my master bedroom, it isn’t done. Phew, glad that is out of the way!
In all seriousness, we have never prioritized decorating our bedroom. Our last home’s master was quite teeny, but we shoved this behemoth bed into it anyway (the majority of the time we lived in our last home I was pregnant, so naturally we needed the extra bed space #babybody). I am so happy to finally have a bedroom that will fit our bed! The nightstands were our anniversary gift to each other for our third anniversary (maybe? I can’t keep track anymore!). And that is pretty much it! We have lots of room to grow into this room so I am excited to start decorating! Now if only I could figure out my direction…

This room has a lot of potential; huge windows and plenty of space. It just needs a bit of…freshening. The house was pretty recently repainted, but the previous owners were reeeeally into tan. Not that there is anything wrong with tan, this particular shade is more on the green side and pretty dark. When the sun is down it is straight up olive green. So, needless to say, paint is high on my priority list! If only I could settle on a color. Suggestions are welcomed!

The carpet is also original (circa 2000) and has to go. It is white and really has seen better days. The carpet was professionally cleaned prior to us purchasing the home, and the edges are permanently stained and black. Our cat also decided to christen our move by throwing up all throughout our bedroom which has us heavily leaning in the direction of replacing the floors. The combination of it all won’t be touched by my carpet cleaner. Who would choose a white carpet anyway? Oh well, it has seen better days!

Here are some ideas floating in my head/Pinterest.  I am still not sure of my vision. Sometimes it helps just to get started and be inspired from there! That may be my method with this room 😉

(Yes, I know the wall colors are all kind of crazy in each picture. They aren’t cooperative.)

If you follow me on instagram, I’ve mentioned how this “sitting room” will eventually become our closet. If you look at the current closet situation above, you’ll notice how awkward they are. Well, you probably can’t tell in a picture, but behind the row of clothes is the house’s eaves, so you have to crawl under the row of clothes to access more storage. First world problems, I know. We decided that instead of having wasted space next to our master, we would walk that in and make a nice walk in closet. Crossing our fingers we can do it this year! I’ll go into more details another time, but it is a project I am super excited about! 

Toy (thanks Levi) as a reminder that I have children and taking clean house pictures is near impossible. I love them 😆
So pretty much a blank slate, which I am really excited about. And slightly overwhelmed. I can’t wait to see it come along! Any suggestions are welcome!

Sources:
Bedframe (DIY plan from here, knockoff from Pottery Barn
Duvet Cover 
Lumbar Pillows (old, similar here
Circle Throw Pillow (old, similar here
Nightstands (shelf  & cabinet)
Lamps (similar)
Dresser 
Desk 
Mirror (similar

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Finishing the Basement: Done! (Well, Mostly)

We have finally made it! The fastest renovation in history. While we aren’t completely finished (I will break that down at the end), it is done to the point where it is usable and contractors aren’t in our home every day. Sources linked at the end. So without further ado, the (mostly) finished basement!

Also, keep in mind that any decorating or furniture is simply placed there at this point. It is not decorated or complete in that aspect, merely finished. Mostly. Sorry, without further ado…

The view coming in from the garage. I still smile every time I walk through the door!

Turning slightly to the left. Where that giant TV is, I would like to put a smaller one and a full length mirror. This was the TV we had in the living room in our old house, but we upgraded when we moved in. So if anyone wants a giant TV, let me know 😉 You can see some of the workout equipment found a home in that little nook under the stairs. While that won’t be their home forever, it is nice to have them out of the way until we actually set up the workout area.

Here’s a little closeup of that under-the-stairs nook, sans equipment. Super cute, right?

I am picturing a ton of pillows, books, and some other toys for the kids when they want to hang out with me while I am working out.

This is the view standing in the guest room looking out. That little storage unit is a placeholder until my uncle installs our built-ins (praise hands!). I am picturing a storage closet on the left and right of that bump out, with a bench and cubbies in between. Check out my Pinterest board for the basement to see what I am brainstorming! I picture all our kid shoes and jackets (the kid stuff is out of control!), winter gear, and sporting equipment having a nice, organized home here. Eventually.

Now turning slightly to the right, standing in the guest room doorway. That is the door that goes out to the garage. I am planning on putting a treadmill in the corner, maybe a spin bike and a weight rack on the right wall.

Looking at the garage door, stairs to the first floor on your right. The built-ins would be on your left here. Can you picture it? My mind is racing with the potential!

You can see the area where the built-ins will go a little better here. (Pardon the orange. Not at all how it is in person!)

Now onto the guest room! This was taken before the trim was done or I mopped. But you get the gist.

We actually fit a queen bed in here! It is tight, but it fits AND we got two small nightstands. I can’t wait to show you more! That door there is the closet/AC unit.

Because of the tight squeeze, picture taking is difficult. Here is my attempt at an angle where you can see the other side of the room.

Onto the office! This is the room on the other side of the stairs. This is the hallway, with the office behind you. The door directly ahead is the water pump. Having the door there would give us easy access to change the filters and turn the water on/off if needed. The door on the left is where the mechanicals and storage is. I will spare you the horror of seeing that room. It needs some major work… We installed an oversized door so we can easily move in/out bigger object if needed.

If you did a 180 degree turn, here you are, in the office! Again, not styled, so don’t judge. Do you spot anything new? Maybe a WINDOW?! This was one addition I was adamant about adding, and I am glad I stuck to my guns. It lets in so much natural light! Since Marcus uses the office daily, it was important for him to have actual daylight. If you are ever considering adding a window, just do it. You will never regret adding more light!

This is the view if you walked into the room and turned around. This acts as a second guest room (hey, pull out couch!) so safety wise, I liked the idea of having a window for a quick exit in case of emergency.

Standing further back. You can see this is actually a pretty good size room! With the couch pulled out (because of course we had to break it in the weekend it was finished! Told you we have guests over a lot!) it fits right up to the desk. Of course you can move the desk back more, but we still have a little wiggle room which is nice.

We are almost done with the tour! If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. I am impressed! So remember how I said we aren’t completely finished? Well here’s one of the big ones. We still haven’t installed the stair treads. The walls in this hallway (and a few other areas) need to be finished a little better and painted again. It isn’t super noticeable, just something that I notice and will drive me nuts #perfectionist. 

Excuse the cute little assistant.

You can also see the mess of wires from the TV. Wires are my nemesis!

This is the view coming down the stairs. You can also see the mess in the basement before I cleaned for pictures. Real life, right? (Also, if you are reading this and recognize those shoes, they were left at Eloise’s party. Please claim them!).

And now you are on the first floor looking down! That mirror is coming down (poor placement if you are using the powder room and the door is open. Not that I know from experience. I have kids, ok? You are welcome for that visual) and I think I will do a couple picture ledges.

So that’s it! For now. We are so thrilled with how it came out! Obviously we still have a lot of work to do to button it up, and a long way to go in terms of decorating. But at this point we can pick away at it slowly instead of rushing to get it done. See below for sources! 

Items that needs to be done still:

Stair treads

Install handrail in stairway

Add new light in hallway

Add built ins

Switch out TV

Add mirror in gym area

Finish sanding/painting rough areas

Finish out closets

Add picture ledge leading up to office

Organize mechanical/storage area

Thanks for following along 🙂

As a side note, the colors are hard to show exactly as they are in person. The gray is the perfect gray with no purple or green undertones. The floor is a true brown with little orange influence.

Walls: Grey Owl, lightened 50% (colormatched in Behr)
Floors: Red River Hickory COREtec Laminate 
Doorknobs: Schlage Gregorian style in oil rubbed bronze  
Contractor: CR Ayers (603)553-0517 and as side note, yes, he is my uncle. But his work is phenomenal and reasonably priced! I highly recommend if you live in the New Hampshire/Massachusetts area.

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