Basement Makeover

As you may recall, our basement flooded in late June.  We lost a great number of possessions, the damage was pretty catastrophic, and my stress levels were elevated for several months as we dealt with the aftermath, including a lengthy renovation process.

A week after the initial flood, our basement was a shell.  Most of the walls had been ripped out, the carpeting was gone, fried electrical equipment had been disconnected, but things were dry, our insurance company paid out pretty quickly (though the funds covered a small fraction of the costs), and we had accepted that we had a long road ahead of us.  Incidentally, we had to pay a fine for not having pulled a permit giving us permission to conduct the demolition – even though the insurance company, health and safety, and common sense required that we complete the demolition on far too tight a timeline for that to have been feasible.

2019-06-28 12.57.04

Fighting through layers upon layers of red tape was a persistent, aggravating, and stressful theme of this whole restoration process.  As with so much of our contact with bureaucracy, we found that we were caught in this perpetual Catch 22 of submitting paperwork which we were then told could not be accepted and filed because it was missing some components or that more detail was required but they could not inform us as to what we needed to do to successfully amend it.  Over and over this was our experience.  Thankfully the inspectors that came to the house were always pleasant and helpful but, man, there were a lot of inspections for us to get through at various stages of the work.  This, therefore, extended the timeline for the whole project as work would have to shut down in order for us to be inspected, submit the next permit, and be given permission to proceed to the next stage of work.  It was frustrating and mentally exhausting.

2019-11-23 12.53.25

As I wrote before, we were grateful that, while our basement was finished, it was overdue for a makeover.  I think the basement had been finished in the late 1970s with a bit of remediation work done some point in the 1980s.  We, therefore, decided to focus on the silver lining of having this opportunity to really turn this useful but dark and dated space into a light and appealing living space.  Having the space reduced to its bare bones even provided us with the ability to spruce up the electrics and the airflow for heating.  We installed two egress windows so that we could turn the basement into living space, including a bedroom, and those let in a whole lot more light than the hideous windows there before.

2019-12-20 10.59.48

2019-12-20 11.53.49

2019-12-21 13.15.14

Anyway, after all of the hassle, expense, stress, and frustration, we now have two lovely rooms in the basement.  One is a teenage hangout space for our four boys (which they are especially loving during this social distancing time) and one is a bedroom that means all four of our boys can now have their own bedrooms.  Our soon-to-be 13 year old has the basement bedroom and is loving it.

2020-03-20 15.56.58

2020-03-20 15.53.56-1

2020-03-20 15.55.41

2020-03-20 15.58.48

We still have some decorating to do in the basement – pictures up on the wall and that type of thing – but that is all on hold right now because of the Covid 19 pandemic.  However, I am sure you can see from the photos how much the space has been transformed.

As a reminder, this is what the basement looked like not long after we moved into the house.

Before - Basement 5

And this is what it looks like now.

2020-03-20 15.57.15

Hallway Makeover

Home projects have a way of snowballing and spiraling.  As I have explained before, much of our house had not been renovated or even redecorated since it was built in 1968.  The staircase banister was starting to show its age in a terrifying manner as it was rickety and wobbly and threatening to pull away from the wall any time any of my boys leaned on it.  Pretty terrifying.  It, therefore, jumped up to the very top of the list of home improvement priorities.  But removing and replacing a banister was going to damage the carpeting and the walls.  And if we were going to repaint all the walls then we were best to replace the tiles in the downstairs hall.  And if we were going to replace the floor tiles then we should do that at the same time as pulling out the old downstairs loo.  So that one problem with the wobbly banister Hulked out and became a major project.

I forgot to take Before photos.  However, these images show what the hallway and downstairs WC looked like when we moved in to our house in August 2014.  Not much had changed since then.  I was not going to miss those “crazy paving” vinyl tiles.

Before Downstairs Hall 1

Before Downstairs Hall 2

Before Downstairs WC

I don’t do well with chaos so the period of the project was something I endured rather than enjoyed.  As much as I knew the final outcome would make it all worthwhile, constantly having other people in my house when I got home from work, having building materials stowed in our living room, and just the mess and disruption made it all quite stressful.  There were three peak incidents of stress: the contractor ripped out the old banister early on in the project but did not install the new one until the very end which meant living for weeks without any barrier whatsoever on the staircase – and you can imagine that my sons took full advantage of that opportunity to freak out their mother; the second was that the same period coincided with some of our worst weather of the winter which led to snow days and the kids being home while the work was underway and, on one such day, the floor was retiled while the kids were trapped upstairs – with the bathrooms – while I was trapped downstairs – with no bathroom – for several hours; the third peak stress moment was the absolute worst and involved the stair carpet still being installed after 10pm – installation having started at 1.30pm – partly because the carpet fitter stapled his own finger and had to be taken to the ER by an extremely jet-lagged Mr Pict.

During Hall 1

During Hall 2

In the end, however, we are happy with the results.  We now have a much sturdier and much more secure banister, dove grey walls, dark grey floor tiles, very plush and soft carpet for the stairs and upstairs hall, and a fresh and more modern looking downstairs WC.  Now we can start to personalise the space by pulling out framed art that hasn’t been on display since we emigrated and some pieces that need to be framed and getting those up on the walls.

After Hall 2

After Hall 1

After Downstairs WC 2

Bathroom Makeovers

For the past couple of months, the Pict home has been upside down because of a major renovation project.  Our bathrooms were original to the house and, while I could live with the 1960s stylings, we could no longer deal with the stressful ramifications of maintenance.  When a toilet seat broke (thanks to a sleep addled child) we had to source a vintage one and even things like the washers were non-standard sizes so we had to seek those out online.  We decided, therefore, that it was only a matter of time before some aspect of the plumbing failed in spectacular fashion and that it was better to get ahead of it than to have to deal with the whole process on an emergency basis.  There was a point about five weeks into the project where I definitely thought and felt like we were deranged for having done so but we determined that we should have both bathrooms ripped out and reconstructed at the same time.  The time efficiencies and budget savings made it worth doing but it definitely was super stressful having six of us trying to live among that degree of chaos for a couple of months.

Just to add to the mess and chaos and clutter, our formal living room was the designated set down space for all of the construction equipment and materials so a huge percentage of our home felt like a builders’ yard.  And then there was all the noise and the dust and the dirt.  I eventually just gave up properly cleaning the house because it was a Sisyphean task.  The dust was breeding quicker than I could ever clean and it was depressing.  I had no peaceful, tidy, clean space to retreat into.  It was actually really stressful but – now that it is all over – I think the end results were worth it.

2018-04-09 18.50.02

2018-05-03 17.37.41

I did not take great before pictures.  I actually entirely forgot to take some so the photos are from our moving in day three years ago.  The pink bathroom was our hall bathroom, primarily used by our four sons and occasionally by guests.  The turquoise bathroom was the en suite for the master bedroom.  I am sure they will give some readers flashbacks.

2018-04-11 07.12.10

2018-04-11 07.12.03

12a Main Bathroom

3a Master En Suite

I hope you will agree that both bathrooms were transformed.  We wanted to keep things pretty neutral because we want these bathrooms to last a long time.  I pretty much never want to have to rip out a bathroom ever again.  The hall bathroom is the beige/brown one and the en suite is the grey one.  Also my after photos suck almost as much as my before ones because the spaces are small and I wobble when taking panoramic shots.

2018-05-27 09.27.43

2018-05-27 09.26.36

2018-05-27 09.26.19

2018-05-27 09.26.08

2018-05-27 09.20.33

2018-05-27 09.19.53

2018-05-25 11.53.46

Incidentally it turned out to be very fortunate that we chose the bathrooms as our next renovation project because, once the tiles were gone, it revealed that the floor was disintegrating in one spot and would have eventually collapsed through the ceiling and caused major damage.  Of course, now that we have brand, spanking new bathrooms, it makes the hallways look even more in need of resuscitation than before and my bedroom – always the worst space in the house – looks even more wretched.  Definitely way more work to be done in this do-upper of a house but I think we might take a pause before we launch into another major project.  I need time to recuperate from this first.

Teenage Bedroom Makeover

We actually decorated our oldest son’s bedroom months ago but I forgot that I had been sharing our makeover process on the blog.  He has the smallest bedroom so it was the easiest to tackle.  Having become a teenager since we moved into this house, we also felt his room deserved to have a bit more of a mature look to it.

When we viewed the house, this room was being used not as a bedroom but as an upstairs snug living room.  It was full of chairs and tables and a TV and so looked very cramped.  It also had a mud brown shag pile carpet.  We had the carpet replaced before we moved in to make life easier.  The room was very spartan but provided us with a totally blank canvas.  It has a built-in closet that provides good storage space but we definitely needed more furniture to make the room functional.

9a A Bedroom

We asked our son what colour he wanted his walls to be painted and he said black.  The compromise was a deep charcoal grey.  While moving furniture around in order to paint the walls, his bed collapsed and broke beyond repair.  Happily, the previous owners had left a nearly new double bed in the basement so we dragged that up to his bedroom.  He was thrilled to have such a large bed to himself.  His younger brothers were warned to not even think about breaking their beds in order to get bigger beds. We also installed additional furniture to store all of his stuff, especially all of his school and stationery materials.  We had these great quality shelves that had been in our formal living room so we put those on our son’s wall above his bed so that he could display his collection of Funko Pops and other assorted nerdy things.

After - A Bedroom

All really simple changes but now he has a bedroom that will last him a good few years.

Our Library Corner

We have been like the Three Bears trying to find a feature chair for our library corner in order to finish the makeover of our more formal living room: we wanted a chair with some personality and visual interest but those we had found were either too expensive or were not comfy enough or looked too rigid, lacking the cosy feel we were aiming for.  We had put our active questing on hiatus and figured we would resume our search at some point and would maybe stumble across something appropriate in the interim.

Last weekend, we were perambulating around Costco with the four kids in tow and, somewhere between buying enough toilet roll to build a wall and a huge sack of basmati, we wandered past one of the furniture aisles and spotted a chair that looked like it was worth investigating.  The kids wasted no time in giving it a test run and discovered it was a recliner chair.  We had not even considered a recliner chair for our library corner but I instantly liked the idea.  It was comfy, had a high enough back to support the neck and head, had sturdy arm rests and was sturdy enough to make a visual statement in that area of our living room.

We bought it.  We are now all enjoying having a really comfy spot to park ourselves for quiet activities.

DSC_0002

DSC_0003

 

Home Makeover – Family Living Room

As I explained in a previous post about gradually making over our home, our house dates from 1970.  Home owners of the 1970s appear to have had a fondness for wood panelling and our new home was no exception.  When we moved in, the family living room was very dark and felt small because all four walls were dark wood panelling.  That was not for us: we wanted the room to feel light and spacious.  Part of our aim in redecorating the house, however, is to maintain some of the original features.

In the case of the family living room, two of the walls were lined with storage cabinets.  On the window wall, there are cupboards with lattice work doors.  One of the cupboards was designed to house a television set.  The opposite wall – which also serves as a corridor between the formal living room and the kitchen – is lined with almost full height, deep cupboards.  The central two doors of the four open up to reveal a cocktail cabinet.  How awesome is that?  When we came to view the house, I was instantly smitten by the idea of having my very own cocktail cabinet.  I was won over by that particular original feature.  Of course, the reality is that what I actually store in there is baking equipment, salad bowls and serving platters.  But some day I will fill it with ingredients for cocktails.  As a family of six, storage was important to us when we were looking for a house to buy in America.  I was sold on this house partly because of all the good quality, sturdy storage available throughout the house.  So all the cupboards in the family living room had to stay.

That decision taken, we knew we had a few different surface types to deal with.  We decided to paint directly onto the wood panelling and cupboard doors in order to unify them while also retaining the original features and the textures they provided.  We went for a very pale stone paint in order to make the room as light as possible.

The before photos were taken once we had been living here a few months so we had already purchased new sofas and the media unit.  The photos still illustrate what the walls and cupboards looks like, however.

Before - Living Room B

Before - Living Room C

These are the after photos.  The room is much lighter as a result of the painting and, therefore, looks more spacious.  We have also been able to personalise the space by having a gallery of our art work – half of which is by me – on the sofa wall and objects we have collected over the decades displayed on the media unit.

After - Living Room D

After - Living Room E

After - Living Room F

We still have a couple of projects left to attend to in this room: the walls have speakers built into them and the fronts of those speakers are brown so we would like to replace that brown mesh with something lighter; there is a copper plant trough beneath the window which we have a plan for but which we have not gotten around to yet; and the oriental style handles on the cabinet doors need to be replaced with something more contemporary and less stabby.

Home Makeover – Formal Living Room

We bought our new house last August and have been chipping away since then at making over the house.  It is none too easy to redecorate as busy parents of four kids, especially with Mr Pict working long hours.  It has also taken us a bit of time to purchase all of the furniture we needed.  When we emigrated from Scotland, the only furniture we shipped was a dining table and chairs, a coffee table, a roll top desk and two pull-out chair beds.

Our house dates from 1970 and retains all of its original features, fixtures and fittings with the exception of the kitchen which is from the 1990s.  We found many of those original features appealing when we viewed the house, they added character and charm, but we also knew we would have to update the house a lot and make it more functional for modern life and more “us”.  Initially we made a start on almost every room – and some rooms need a lot more work than others – but that was too chaotic an approach for the time we could regularly commit to DIY.  We, therefore, narrowed our focus to the public rooms.

The formal living room was in good condition.  The original hardwood floor and fireplace were features we wanted to retain.  I quickly grew to like the 1970s fabric of the main curtains.  We quickly ditched the net curtains and roller blinds, however.  The net curtains were so brittle that the fabric broke to pieces as I folded them.  There was also a wooden panel with grass wallpaper attached to one wall, where a piano had once stood.

This is what the room looked like when we had been living here a few months, a view of each end of the room:

Before - Formal Living Room B

Before - Formal Living Room C

The walls needed filled and repainted.  We chose a light but warm pale sand colour and hung a mirror above the fireplace to bounce light around the room.  The mirror also made the fireplace more of a feature since it does not have a mantelpiece.  Then it was just a case of filling the room with new furniture, getting our trinkets and objects out on display and hanging some of our collection of art work on the wall.  At the front end of the room, we created a little music corner to house all of the guitars and a library area for all of our non-fiction books.  We will eventually replace the Ikea chairs for something with more character and personality but they are comfy and do the job so that is not a high priority.  We also want to replace some of the lamps but again that is not a high priority right now.

This is what the room looks like now:

After - Formal Living Room F

After - Formal Living Room H

After - Formal Living Room K

After - Formal Living Room O