Category Archives: before & after

Before & (Almost) After: A Quick Basement Bathroom Refresh

Basement Bathroom Remodel

When our house was built in 1917 it was equipped with one bathroom on the second floor. Somewhere along the way – and judging by the Bathking shower I think it was post-WWII – a bathroom was added in the basement. This little bathroom has been great in a functional kind of way when we’ve had houseguests. Or even when it’s just the two of us and nature calls at the same time! Still, this little bathroom could use some refreshing. From the army green wall to the peel and stick floor, it was time to give this bathroom new life.

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So Long Shrubs & Hello Clean Lines

Landscaping Update: Goodbye ShrubsThere are about a dozen projects inside the house that should be getting our attention. Half of those – like the fireplace and bathroom – were started over the winter and left mid-project. I said I’d come back to them when it warmed up and I could work with the windows open. Instead, we’ve spent most of the summer working on exterior projects. This is the upper Midwest, after all. We spend roughly six months of the year hunkered indoors, shivering and stuffing our faces full of baked goods to survive the darkness and cold. Once nice weather hits, we want to spend all of our free time outdoors.

Fortunately, there’s always gardening and landscaping to be done. Which means that we can be outdoors while also advancing the goal of transforming the house. This weekend, in addition to weeding the garden, which seems to be a never ending job, we finally cleaned up the south side of the house.

shrubs06We’ve been planning to remove these shrubs from day one. With this big, boxy house and its decorative trim, the tall, floppy shrubs felt too fussy. And this became even more apparent when we put the geraniums in the window box. No, this house should not be surrounded by commanding shrubbery. The house should shoot straight up from the ground, the trim and window box unimpeded. Besides, we recently learned that having tall shrubs close to the house has contributed to the deterioration of the wood trim and stucco at the base of the house. That was all the confirmation we needed!

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The four evergreen bushes came out easier than I expected. First, I used a saw to cut of the branches big branches off and then I cut them down to a stump.  If I had thought of it, I would have waited until fall to cut down the shrubs. The branches would make beautiful arrangements for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Instead, they’re going to make a wonderful bonfire.

After they were cut down, I dug up the roots. OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve only dug up one bush’s roots. Digging up the roots is the hard part, of course. Not helped by the rocks that were used as ground covering on this side of the house. Besides, once the bushes were out, it was obvious that the hostas in front of the window box also needed to be transplanted elsewhere. So I abandoned the stumps and dug up the hostas.

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(Don’t worry – this will not be another project left half-finished. The rests of the stumps are coming out this weekend and mulch will be going down until we decide which plants we want to use as ground covering.)

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Yes, the house looks quite bare in the after photo. In fact, I probably shouldn’t call it an after photo at all. It’s really an in-progress photo. We will plant something on this side of the house – it will just be low and will probably have some white in it.  For now, we’re happy to let the house breathe a bit. You can probably see how the paint on the lower trim has flaked off in large patches. It looks like we’re putting off our plans to have all the trim repainted in a new color for the second summer in a row. However, we are going to take this opportunity to try to repaint the lower trim with color-matched paint. Having pulled out the shrubs, patching the lower trim will now be an easier job.

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway
Throwback Thursday

Before & After: The Stenciled Entryway

We haven’t been making very fast progress at This American House, so I’m digging back into our photo archives and seeing how the city apartment has evolved over the years. First up is my favorite room in the apartment. Which, actually, isn’t a room at all. Even five years after stenciling it, the teeny tiny little entryway still is my favorite space.

Stenciling the Entryway

When we first moved into the apartment I painted everything in cool pastel colors. I don’t know, I guess I was feeling very mellow or something. The entryway got a few coats of pale pink that seemed like a good idea at the time. And then I quickly grew tired of it. So I did a complete 180 and went from pale pink to black and white.

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Painting the entryway black was a giant leap of faith. I mean, there’s nothing like taking a space that’s 2 feet by 4 feet and painting it a really dark color. I had a what-have-I-done moment when I stepped back and looked at the black walls before me. Once the stencil started going on, however, I could immediately see that I was doing the right thing. Whereas the black walls made the small space feel dark and claustrophobic, the addition of the white pattern opened it all up and actually makes the space feel bigger.

The Stenciled EntrywayI was able to reuse the existing furniture and accessories in the space. I painted the table and coat rack bright red to allow them to stand out from the patterned walls. (These are the only things that I’ve tired of over the years. I’d like to replace those red accessories with white ones.) I even repurposed the canvas that hangs over the table and hides the electrical box. I applied white fabric over the canvas and then used black paint to apply the stencil, creating a negative effect of what’s on the walls.

Black and White Stenciled Entryway

This little entryway is the first thing that people see when they enter the apartment and it always gets a reaction. Whether it’s a friend dropping by to visit or a delivery driver bringing us food, their eyes usually widen as they look up and down the walls. “That’s really nice wallpaper,” they’ll usually say. “Oh, it’s a stencil actually,” I’ll proudly inform them. “Wow, that must have taken forever,” they’ll reply.

Yes, it did. It was a long, painstaking process that left my arms sore. And it was worth every minute.

Images: This American House

Before & After: A Summer’s Worth of Landscaping Progress

Before & After: A Summer's Worth of Landscaping Progress

On this day after Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, it seems fitting to reflect on the progress we’ve made on the landscaping. We’re not even close to being finished and we’ll probably change it all again next year, but we feel like we’ve made some really good progress over our first summer at the house.

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Before(ish) & After: Reupholstered Chair Makeover

Before & After; Reupholstered Chair Project | This American House

On the left: a chair that has been re-painted to cover its 1980’s speckled faux wood finish. On the right: the same chair just before it left This American House with a freshly upholstered seat and cushion. Three cheers for DIY upholstery jobs!

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