Our kitchen remodel

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Months ago I posted a photo on Instagram of our torn-apart kitchen, and I realized I never followed up to say that our kitchen remodel is finished! When we bought this house, the one room that shouted out for an update was the kitchen. Last November, we decided to take the plunge and fix it up. The actual renovation started in mid-March, during my second trimester, and lasted through early June or so, with an added surprise bathroom renovation thrown in (more about that later). At 41 1/2 weeks pregnant now, I don't have the same mental capacity to write an eloquent post about kitchens, so we'll just dive in bullet-point style, ok?

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1. We got rid of the old ironing board cabinet in favor of gaining more counterspace. Yes yes, it was a cute quirky detail but our house has plenty of other cute quirky details to make up for this one. We kept the built-in cabinet on the right to use for our spices. A fresh coat of paint (a barely there minty green) did wonders for brightening up the space.

2. Chris spruced up the windows that look out to our mudroom/entryway, refinishing the wood sashes with tung oil and cleaning up the hardware. I love this detail and the extra light it lets in the kitchen.

3. All new cabinets, counters, sink and backsplash! In an effort to maintain the character of the house and not go too ultra-modern, we opted for oil-rubbed bronze cabinet hardware and a more traditional Shaker-style cabinet front. We were also able to squeeze in a dishwasher! It's hidden behind the cabinet door to the left of the sink.

4. Added wall cabinets, backsplash and an over-the-range microwave to this side of the room.

5. Finally were able to center the stove on this wall and add cabinets. We also had a few electrical outlets added in for extra functionality.

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6. We kept this built-in hutch and had it spruced up a bit with a new coat of paint and new hardware. I think keeping it helped preserve the room's charm.

7. The hutch got a new butcher block countertop and matching backsplash tiles.

8. Chris also cleaned up our air vent cover from a caked-on, crusty white mess to a sharp-looking bronze.

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9. New floor! We went with a pre-finished hickory hardwood, in honor of the oak hardwood that runs through most of the house but with a slight twist for the kitchen. I love the crazy variations in grain and color and the wider plank makes my swollen, pregnant feet not look so huge by comparison.

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One quirk of our kitchen is that the refrigerator is sort of... not quite in it. It's in a little nook in the hallway right outside of the kitchen. Matching wall cabinets and a fancy, slightly-bigger-but-still-not-normal-size fridge tie it all in.

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This isn't technically our kitchen, but we've annexed other parts of our house for storage because that's what you do when you have a 1930s closed kitchen! Our basement door is right off of the fridge nook hallway, so we repainted the walls and stairs and Chris built a pantry shelf for us.

Some restoration detail shots:

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So many layers of paint, everywhere. Why, people?! Why are you painting over everything, and why so sloppily?!

And that's our new kitchen! We are so happy with the outcome and so amazingly grateful we were able to update one of our most-used rooms in time for the baby to arrive. It felt a little bit crazy at the time to have so much of our home in chaos during my second and third trimesters, but it was chaos of our choosing :) Our makeshift kitchen/dining room got us through the renovation along with lots of takeout and bowls of cereal for dinner. Next up, I'll tell you the story of our accidental, surprise bathroom renovation we tacked onto this project. Gulp.

Settling into home

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We are thick in the middle of fall and its darker days, but I'm feeling a little more optimistic than normal. Winters are usually tough on me. I feel cooped up and shut down and unmotivated. This year feels different. Maybe it's because we're coming up on the anniversary of our new home and I know just how damn cozy this place can be.

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This was a stay-at-home summer for us. We had a few key projects that we wanted to complete and so we opted most weekends to stay close to home and put lots of time and love into restoring and improving our house. Painstakingly, we removed the old storm windows, repaired or replaced the rotten sills on almost all of our 20 windows and then scraped, primed and painted the window trim. We climbed up dangerously tall ladders to reach all of the pointy spots of our quirky tudor and repainted all of the stucco. We (well, mostly Chris) scraped and re-coated part of the roof. Just last weekend we installed 20 new storm windows and are officially hunkered down for the cold. We also paid some people to remove a tree, move our driveway and fix our front steps.

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I understand the complaints about houses and homeownership. Every fix is more expensive and takes longer than you think. There's always a project that needs doing. But I've got a heart full of gratitude that we found a quirky little place with a red door and fairy tale vibes, with a working fireplace, a laundry chute (!) and a sun-filled bedroom. We are so lucky to have been able to buy this house and to spend time and money on making it the home we want it to be. And if I have to be trapped inside much of the winter, I'm glad it's in this place.

Next up:  pretty up our kitchen a bit, install some lights on the garage and new window treatments in the living room. Or read quietly on the couch with a hot cider. There's room for all of that.

All toile everything, or a bathroom update

Our home is a 1930s brick English tudor with a bright red door and oodles of charm, if I may be so bold as to say so. Among the steeply-pitched roof, archway and original hardwood floors and trim, there is the toile.

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. There was toile in the upstairs washroom and in most of our closets. I tried to make peace with it. As ugly as it was to me, I did sort of love it. Look at the country folk dancing! Watch them sing and play! Wave hello to the man playing the flute as you shampoo your hair! But, no, it could not last in our home.

So when we had a few days off around the holidays, we tore it down. Then Chris patched up and repaired the wall in many, many spots and we painted it a light gray that we though went well with the oversized original tiled wall.

We figured we might as well replace the mirror on the built-in original medicine cabinet, and in a stroke of genius and keen observation, Chris realized we had a wooden-framed mirror that would fit perfectly. Et voila, he took the old one off and put the new one up and now our bathroom feels like a whole new space for just the cost of some spackle, a can of paint and a few screws. And a new shower curtain. I love it.

We hung up a bundle of fresh eucalyptus in the shower because Pinterest told me the steam would make our washroom smell like a swanky European spa. Sold! In our old place, we were used to showering and getting ready in a windowless basement bathroom, so basically I feel like a queen every morning in this 1930s bright and airy space. Next step is re-tiling that floor.

Let it be known that I found curtains with the exact toile scene as the wallpaper that was in our bathroom. I haven't bought them... yet. What say ye? All toile, e'rything?

christmas wreaths

Our new house is the coziest. I'm sure I will love it once summer comes around, but if I had to move into a house right before the darkest, coldest season... I would pick this one over and over. We build fires in our fireplace, light balsam fir incense and snuggle up on the couch. It's just too much coziness for me to comprehend sometimes, but I try. In an effort to get our home ready for the holidays, I've done two things.


The first thing was to make this wreath. I made this wreath! My co-worker and I took a class at a local florist shop last week during a nice snowstorm. I have no idea how this turned out so nicely, but I can only guess that having a bright red door as inspiration and a tiny bit of experience with making floral crowns helped.


The second thing I did to deck the halls was complete an obsessive, worldwide hunt for the perfect Christmas window candles. As soon as we moved in, I thought, "This home would look lovely with Christmas window candles." You know the type, right? Well, the perfect ones aren't as easy to find as you might think. Retailers are sold out or only sellings one with a terrible haunted orange glow. I searched far and wide, increasingly worrying my loved ones with my singular focus. I'm happy to report that I found the perfect ones. Battery-operated, on a timer and with the perfect glow.

The bulk of our Christmas spirit came out on Friday, when we bought our tree and put up all the trimmings around our home, while sipping on faux eggnog (trying to save the real stuff for closer to Christmas) and blasting holiday tunes. What are your go-to decorations for Christmas? 

our apartment, a look back

We are all moved into our house! It's awesome. I'm in love. But I thought I'd share a few photos of the old apartment, now that we are moved into our new home. One day, assuming we ever unpack our boxes, I'll show you the new place too.


Chris and I have lived in two apartments together and before that, many apartments with roommates. When we decided to move in together, we decided that an itsy bitsy apartment in a big old brownstone would be a good first step. You remember the one with the tiny kitchen, right? It was on the third floor of a walk-up, a block away from restaurants and pubs and overlooking one of the nicest parks in Albany. It had a quirky layout that we loved and lots of quirks that we didn't love. At the time, I know the apartment frustrated me but looking back I'm filled to the brim with nostalgia.

Then we upgraded our space and moved into the bottom two floors of another historic townhome a few blocks away. It felt much more like a real home, with a bigger kitchen and living areas, storage space and even a shared back yard and deck. We lived in the first floor and garden level (that just means basement) of a four-story brownstone. The building owner and our landlady lived on the second and third floors. Our main living space was upstairs and the bedrooms were down below grade. The whole first floor was open. Kitchen melded into the dining area which led into our sitting area and then to the living room.


Funky exposed brick! Our apartment had a lot of that. It's a conversation-starter, for sure, and I think it made our place ten times cooler. There's that door that Chris cleaned and hung up as a room divider. I was skeptical at first, but it was the number one most complimented feature of our space.


Our bigger kitchen! One of the first things we bought when we moved 2+ years ago was this Ikea island and I'd say I spent 75% of my waking time in the kitchen or at that island. We also had a dishwasher for the first time in both of our lives.


And the bedroom, with more funky exposed brick and purple walls we inherited from previous tenants. I will just say that we are really happy to be sleeping above ground, where the sun has a fighting chance of peeking in and passersby have a lesser chance of watching us sleep.

This apartment is right in the heart of Center Square and we walked everywhere. It had a small city yard and a back deck, too. When we first started looking for homes to buy, we included the neighborhood in our search but ended up falling in love with an adorable Tudor home with a bright red door in another 'hood. So that got me thinking a lot about different neighborhoods, and I think that's where we'll pick up in the next post...