Small bedroom gets a BIG facelift

The smallest bedroom is complete! We had waited until all the other rooms upstairs were finished before starting to work on this room for a few reasons. First, it was our storage room for tools, supplies, and furniture while we worked on the master bathroom, master bedroom + closet, and medium-sized bedroom. The plumbing to the new master bathroom shares a wall with this room so we waited until the shower was finished to close the wall up. Also we knew it would be the “easiest” room to finish since it was technically the best room in the house when we bought it 10 months ago! This is what it looked like the day we bought the house:

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The small bedroom on the day we bought the house. It had smooth walls and a finished ceiling. On the surface it needed the least work.

In December of last year, we demolished the original (and tiny!) closet in the corner of the room with the intention of putting in a larger closet. The house suffers from lack of storage space so we decided to do an IKEA hack and create a large ‘built-in’ closet using their PAX closet system. After demo-ing the old closet, we patched up some of the wall that would be exposed. Then….we shut the door and didn’t do anything in this room for half a year.

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We tore out the original closet and this salmon-colored wallpaper was all the remained

Honestly the door to this room had been closed for so long I had forgotten what it looked like in there. But after we finished tiling the master bathroom and tested the shower (it worked!!), we were ready to close the wall and finish this small bedroom. After we moved all the crap we were storing in there out, I realized how big it felt! Yes there’s only one window but this room has potential to be a nice sized bedroom or home office.

This room originally had a door to the bonus room (now it’s the master bathroom), so we framed it out and covered with drywall. Jeremy is such an expert at drywalling and compounding that he closed up this wall in one day!

 

 

He also easily closed up the HVAC duct with studs and drywall. He really is unstoppable.

 

 

Jeremy also added two more outlets to this room, applying his brick-chiseling skills that he learned downstairs. The room originally had only one outlet so this was a must!

We primed and painted the walls the color Metropolitan by Benjamin Moore (and a huge thank you to Elizabeth for helping me paint the room!!). It is their 2019 color of the year and I am so fatigued of trying to figure out color palates at this point that I figured the best color of the year would work for us! As a contrast, we painted the built in IKEA closet Hale Navy. Jeremy made it look built in by propping it up on a platform and installing baseboard trim around the base. In fact, he cut and installed baseboard trim around the entire room. Again, he is UNSTOPPABLE.

We had removed the window trim last year and put it in the basement for safe keeping.  Now we were finally ready to sand it down, re-install, and paint it. 

Jeremy replaced the sad dangling light bulb with this beautiful, simple light fixture I found on Amazon for $140. I love it so much….and it brings much needed light into the room!  We opted not to install a ceiling fan because the room is pretty narrow and there wasn’t enough space. Will we regret this decision? Only time will tell!

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Our new light fixture!

One of the most exciting things we did was install the interior closet organizers. Last year, we demolished the closets in all three of the bedrooms in our house, plus there is no closet of any kind on the main floor of the house. Needless to say, I am PUMPED to now have TWO whole functioning closets in our home! The last thing to do in this room is install crown molding on the top of the closet to hide that ugly patched ceiling, so STAY TUNED!

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Inside the closet, care of Ikea!
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The outside of the closet, doors painted by yours truly and installed by Jeremy

We got this beautiful bed from a neighbor who was giving it away for free! I couldn’t believe our luck when I saw it posted on our neighborhood freecyle page. It is GORGEOUS and the right size for our mattress. Jeremy’s parents were visiting last weekend so luckily they helped us pick it up and put it together.

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Loving this gorgeous and free bed from a neighbor!

And just like that, the smallest bedroom is complete! We still need to install curtains and outlet/lightswitch cover plates, but we had our first guests stay overnight last weekend  and they slept like royalty!

 

Master closet is complete!

One of the first “difficult tasks” we did for our home renovation back in AUGUST of last year was the frame out the walls for our walk-in master closet. Well it’s been eight long months of living in complete disorganized chaos, but we are FINALLY ready to finish our master closet and put our stuff away. Our clothing has been strewn about our master bedroom in boxes or on temporary hangers since we moved into the house in December. It has not been fun living this way.

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Behold the hot mess that is currently our master bedroom…our clothing has no where to go!

To finish the walk-in closet, Jeremy started by focusing on the interior walls. He applied compound and then sanded the walls smooth . He is now a super professional and can do drywalling and compounding in his sleep, so this task was pretty easy for him. After Jeremy finished sanding the walls inside the closet (I sealed him and the dust inside), I painted the walls Tundra (the same color as the bedroom).

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We considered many different closet systems. The problem challenge with our bedroom that we don’t have room for ANY dressers in the room, so we need to fit all of our clothing into the closet, including hanging clothes AND folded/dresser clothing. We needed to find a system that maximized every square inch of available space in the closet, wasn’t too expensive, but also didn’t look or feel too cheap. We looked high and low and finally settled on Home Depot’s ClosetMaid system (due to price and quality).

We bought a few pieces online as a sample and we decided to go for it! It all arrived in the mail and we put it together (it was easier than Ikea furniture but still very time consuming). We anchored the dressers to the walls and put up the brackets and shelving. One of the walls is brick so Jeremy used our heavy duty hammer drill to screw things into that wall.

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Starting to install the closet system!

After the rest of the items arrived in the mail, Jeremy quickly and expertly installed the remaining shelves and rods while I was at work, and I came home yesterday to this AMAZING master closet!!

There’s space for short and long hanging clothes, plus all of the drawers we will need to replace our dressers. I don’t know if it will fit everything we own, but it’s still so great and exactly what we were hoping for!

 

 

 

Walls, windows, floors

This last week we kicked it into overdrive! Handyman Alex brought a friend on Sunday and together the four of us almost finished putting up all the drywall! We seriously underestimated how long it would take to complete the drywall but I think that will be a major theme of this next year. In other exciting news, we installed lights in all three bedrooms plus the walk-in closet! Some rooms didn’t have any overhead light when we bought the house, and other lights had been ripped down by various contractors earlier this month. I was sick of moving our only lamp around from room to room to work, so I bought the cheapest light I could find and now we have a single light bulb dangling from the ceiling in each room. Let there be light!

Dangling light bulbs!

We also have almost all of the new outlets installed. We need to wait until we close the seams and paint the drywall before covering the outlet and light switch holes with covers. Jeremy and I are going on a long-planned vacation at the end of this week so we’ve asked our handyman to work on finishing the drywall while we are away.

 

 

In other news, we’ve been getting quotes for window and door replacements and floor refinishing. I was worried that our old house would require the more expensive full window replacement, but several companies said that the opposite is actually true—old homes are well suited for the less expensive pocket insert windows. Pocket inserts are less invasive to install and cheaper! Huzzah! We also need to replace our front door and basement door, which is proving tricky because the basement entrance is not a standard height.

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This original window, while cool and old, is barely functional. Time for a new one!

As for the floors, everyone agrees that the original pine floors upstairs are ah.maz.ing and super expensive to purchase new and totally worth refinishing. However the first floor is a different story—we’re probably going to have to replace them entirely for several reasons: they’re already super thin, they’re in way worse condition than upstairs, and they don’t flow into the kitchen or bonus room under the tiles like we were hoping. Either way we plan to refinish upstairs now and do downstairs later after major renovations in the living/dining/kitchen/bonus room. (UPDATE: the fourth flooring company that came discovered there is beautiful pine floors UNDER the messed up oak floors on the main level of the home. Fingers crossed we can just refinish it instead of getting all new floors!). We also have a funny issue with our staircase–each step has a gap where the riser is slightly pulling away from the wall. We are trying to figure out the most cost-effective solution to fill that gap so any recommendations are welcome.

 

 

Meanwhile Jeremy has been spending a lot of time at DCRA trying to get a permit for the structural changes to the house. We hired an engineer to draw up plans for removing the structural wall to open up the first floor and the city is proving very particular about these drawings. Now I understand the term “back to the drawing board!” On Thursday, Jeremy finally proved VICTORIOUS and we have permits for all the upcoming major work we plan to do.

As I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in the bedrooms, I’m finally starting to think about paint colors and decor!! I’ve been very inspired by Emily Henderson’s series on how to incorporate the Modern Victorian style into our house. I feel very torn between being a basic millennial and wanting everything to be blush and rose gold, versus respecting the history and character of this house which has unique and beautiful Victorian features. We plan to strip the paint off several doors and window trim to reveal the gorgeous wood hiding underneath. I’m leaning toward rich deep paint tones for the bedrooms (examples here, here, here, and here). Maybe I can sneak something close to millennial pink, but more subdued, into the smallest bedroom. We’ll test our paint colors when we return from Europe in October.

Progress in the bedrooms!

Soooo many activities happening in the house right now. We hired our favorite handyman to help out over the weekend because, let’s face it, we move really slow. He helped us add outlets in all the bedroom and change the location of the lighting fixtures on the ceiling. In prep for putting up drywall, we had to carefully pry all the old, beautiful, heavy wood trim off every window and doorframe. We hope to refinish and reuse the original trim because you can’t find that kind of high quality real wood anymore.
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We started to pry off the beautiful door trim so we can re-use it after the walls are done.
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Work always goes faster when friends come to help!
Jeremy and his buds and I started putting up drywall. The bedroom already looks so much better. We bought a drywall lift to assist us to hoist up the drywall and it was a lifesaver. This thing costs $130 on Amazon, compared to renting from Home Depot for $45 per day. We know we’ll get a lot of use out of it as we put drywall up in all the bedrooms. We also bought these cute little guys to help us put up vertical drywall on the walls.

 

 

Drywall is heavy and awkward to maneuver but the lift helps a lot. No room is perfectly square or rectangular, and our old walls and ceiling aren’t perfectly flat or level. Installing drywall requires lots of patience and measuring to get the piece the exact right size. Plus we need to cut out spaces for light fixtures, ducts, closet openings, etc. The process is slow but we are learning as we go. One painful lesson we learned and and tip I would share with anyone doing their own drywall is to purchase a single sheet and test it in your home before buying 30-50 sheets. We didn’t do this, and learned the hard way that the extra long size we bought was too long to fit up our staircase…now we are stuck with 45 heavy huge pieces of drywall that we must manually cut to downstairs before installing upstairs. I’d also recommend buying less than you think you’ll need because it’s just so big and heavy that disposing of excess when the project is over will be a huge headache.
I’ve also been smoothing out imperfections in the plaster wall in the master bedroom. We’ve decided to keep two of the existing walls as plaster and not cover them with drywall because they’re in pretty good shape and plaster has so much more character. Unfortunately one wall had taken quite the beating so I’ve been filling holes with joint compound.
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Before: Lots of damage to repair in the plaster walls
There have been continual delays in turning on the HVAC system that I won’t go into too much detail on—suffice it to say that our contractors are all annoying in their own special ways. All that’s left is installing two outlets in the attic and then they can turn on the air!
All this demo and construction has produced a ton of debris, and we had been piling up old pieces of wood, trim, bags of plaster, and any other construction garbage in the bonus room/addition on the first floor. We discovered this awesome pop-up construction dumpster at Annie’s Ace Hardware in petworth. For only $130, this company picks up the dumpster from your house and hauls it away. It can hold up to 3,000 pounds! Unfortunately with this hurricane coming toward the east coast it meant I had to load it up in the rain on Sunday, but at least now we have our bonus room back!
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My fearless mother helping load the dumpster during the start of the great rains

We moved! And we started to build a closet!

This week we moved out of our beloved apartment. In order to get a mortgage for our new home, we had to rent out our Columbia Heights apartment starting September 1st. The timing is far from ideal but it’s what we have to work with. So we took a break from fixing up the house to pack up all our stuff and move on Friday. Unfortunately our movers were delayed by many hours and the crew finished moving our stuff at 1 AM on Saturday morning.

We decided the best plan is to move our stuff into the basement of our new house and live a nomadic life for the next few months until the house is in a better condition. Our amazing friends have offered to let us stay with them for a few weeks. We have precisely three weeks until we leave for vacation in Iceland and Germany, so it’s GO TIME!

On Sunday, we went forth and framed a wall! The area that we previously destroyed is being reborn as a larger walk-in closet. After watching some DIY tutorials on youtube (I highly recommend this one from Nils the Carpenter), we rented a nail gun and got to work! It took three power tools and 6 hours, but we managed to remove the existing studs and put up new framing for the closet.

Honestly, it wasn’t too difficult. We framed two simple, straight walls without any obstructions in the way (like pipes or HVAC ducts) so it was a great beginner-level framing project.

I’m realizing as we’ve tackled two major projects so far that everything is going to take longer than we expect, especially at the beginning. We literally wasted an hour trying to make the nail gun function and figure out why the circular saw only cut 3/4 through the stud before inexplicably stopping. As we finally got the hang of things and got into a groove, we were done with the wall!

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Behold our powertool!

We rented a compressor nail gun from Annie’s Ace Hardware in Petworth for 30 bucks. The people who work there are SO helpful and knowledgeable. I’d recommend Ace over Home Depot any day.

On Monday, we ripped out the remaining trim in the bedrooms upstairs and detached the radiators in prep for putting up drywall later this week. Before the drywall goes up, Jeremy plans to install more electric outlets in each room and change up some of the lighting.

 

I’d also like to point out that we still don’t have A/C yet! The process of installing the HVAC and upgrading our electric panel has taken much longer than we expected it to, but hopefully by this Friday we will be able to turn the system on!

In which we learn the joys of plaster walls

Jeremy and I have made incredible progress on the house since my last update. After two solid weeks of cleaning the place (and feeling like we hardly made a dent) we moved on to a more immediately satisfying activity…knockin’ down some walls ! On HGTV, everyone always goes nuts for demo day and now I understand why. You literally just knock everything over, pull all the nasty stuff off the walls, and hammer to your hearts’ content. While those home improvement shows may have prepared me for the fun of destroying a home that someone once loved, it did NOT properly prepare me for the reality of a home with plaster walls.

Plaster was the building material of choice before drywall was invented. It was the best method for creating walls, but it was incredibly time-consuming and labor intensive to install. You had to frame the room with studs, then nail hundreds of wood laths to the studs, then slather on the fresh plaster mixture. It lends older homes a distinctive character that was lost when drywall was invented.

All I can say is thank GOD they invented drywall, because plaster is a b*tch to remove. We are doing the same process in reverse. And since the plaster has been dry for 100 years, it literally crumbles into dust as we remove it (side note: plaster dust makes for a nice dry shampoo alternative…even though I’m exhausted my hair has never looked better). We prepared for the activity by buying crowbars of varying weights and sizes, and covering the floor with a big construction blanket. Jeremy plopped two plastic bins down on the floor to catch the falling debris and it worked like a charm!

After about 10 hours of smashing the walls to bits and yanking thousands of laths and nails off the studs, our home is coated in a fine layer of dust. BUT we can see the vision of our master suite coming to life. And we feel so accomplished about how much work we got done.

The reason we are doing this insane thing is that we are taking some space from the largest bedroom to build a walk-in closet.  Apparently people didn’t own any clothes 100 years ago because the closets that came with the house are teeny tiny–this is our solution to create storage space. And honestly, it feels so good to punch this house. Jeremy and his friend Harry literally karate kicked one of the walls in, much to their delight. And our friend Sydney showed up to help shovel up the rubble and ideate our dream closet.

We also pulled off the horrible fake wood paneling only to reveal even worse plaster below. We will refinish the walls with drywall in the coming weeks, so anyone who wants to try putting up new walls is welcome to help! We took a class at Home Depot so we are basically experts and can show you how it’s done.

In the meantime, we plan to frame out and build the closet, re-wire some electric outlets and put in recessed lighting in the next few weeks. Oh and did I mention we are getting our HVAC system this week!? No longer will we toil in filth and sweat….only filth! Here’s to smashing our way into week 3 of home ownership!

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Selfies and safety gear