Happy new year!

2014 has started off with a nice and easy work week–a good 10-12″ of snow meant early dismissal yesterday and no work today. Therefore, I’m taking the opportunity to update the long-ignored blog!

Snow day

Snow day

The blog has not been ignored for lack of house progress. In fact, we’ve been busy with a lot of updates since we came back from our trip to Peru in October, which is where we left off. We had the best vacation ever, and came back to our house 10 days later with a whole new appreciation for it! It was nice to feel like we were coming back to our everyday lives with fresh eyes.

One of the things we learned to appreciate was the comforts of flushing toilet paper–a non option in much of South America. Coincidentally, about a month after we returned, our old pedestal sink broke, which led to a 3/4 bathroom renovation. Once Brendan took out the old sink to replace it, he surmised that it was time to do something about our old, crumbling tile floor as well. And while we were at it, we decided that we would replace the toilet with a fancy new dual flush. Because while your at it, why not right? Had a realized that we would be without a toilet for 2 days in our 1-BA house, I might not have agreed to that statement initially. But ignorance can be useful sometimes. After a few days of inconvenience, we ended up with a beautifully retiled floor, a new sink, faucet, toilet, and new storage units. Brendan did all of the work himself, and as usual, i was very impressed! We also switched the paint color in the bathroom. We had previously painted the wood paneled walls with a dark charcoal gray. Being partial to dramatic colors, I thought it looked great with our “vintage” black and white mosaic tile floor. It was a huge transformation at the time. Now, with our new light marbled tile, a brighter, softer neutral felt like it belonged more.  you’ve waited long enough–here is the end result


My favorite part is our new pedestal sink and faucet

Before and after

Before and after

It feels much lighter and more open now, especially without the large, wide vanity to the right of the sink. We’ve replaced that with the smaller, chrome and glass tower and a large, tall white cabinet. I am so very happy and grateful to have our bathroom back!

We also updated our front door since I last posted to the blog–there was some offline, heated debate about the color, with a lot of fans pulling for the yellow door. Alas, we couldn’t get comfortable with it. We painted the door and shutters a softer, more neutral brown color instead, and also added a storm door.


A little hard to see the door, but you get the whole picture, here with the snow softening our winter yard. Here’s a close up with our new wreath as well.


Thats it for now, but you can be sure that there are many house update resolutions to come in the new year!

Painted black

We’ve moved on to fun-with-paint with the interior of the house, now that the exterior is finished! One can of glossy black paint has taken us pretty far with some small but dramatic upgrades to our entry/living room. I read a quote from some designer in the last small spaces issue of House Beautiful–this guy, whose name I can’t recall–says that painting an interior door black was one of the quickest easiest and space saving ways to add some “sass” to a small space. I’ve seen this look a lot lately and decided the back of our front door could benefit from some drama.

Black door

But it didn’t stop there! We had a fruitful week of curbside and garage sale finds. A sad looking pair of these chairs was waiting on the curb 2 sundays ago, looking for a home.

Wood chair before

This guy also got the sassy black paint treatment, and is now sitting pretty as an accent chair in our living room.

I was looking for a chair this size for this spot in the living room for quite some time, so this was a satisfying find. This isn’t the final view for this chair–I am hoping to make a seat cushion for it or get a different throw. Maybe we will come back from our upcoming trip to Peru with some interesting textiles?

In another bit of luck, I came across this slightly beat up mirror at a yard sale last week.  I had also been on the lookout for a larger mirror to go over the console table in our “entryway”. The one we had previously was just way too small proportionally.

The  mirror didn’t end up getting a coat of black paint–that could have been overkill. Instead, it got a coat of bronze metallic paint, which went on easily and helped cover up the scratches and chips in the frame. The  bronze helps give this space a little more warmth I think.

One last thing! Back to black–our stair railing also got a coat of the shiny stuff. This is also a new popular trend that I’ve noticed, the black railing. Kind of helps tie it all together. I know, I know, we are missing a baluster in this scene. just ignore.

Much better! Amazing what a can of paint can do… Do we really have that many jackets for just 2 people?!


Better in beige?

After all my talk about our move to a yellow front door, we started to backpedal a little. Is this color just too bright?

Yellow door

Maybe we don’t have the chutzpah to go yellow after all. Or maybe we have too much sense–after seeing the overall effect we it seems like a calmer beige or stony gray might complement rather than compete with our blue siding.

We are planning on living with it a little longer to see how it it sets in. In the mean time, I took to Photoshop to help visualize what a more neutral color door would do for the front of our home.

Squint a little and compare these:


What do you think? I always thought beige was boring, but in the context of our little blue house I’m thinking it might be in order.

Yellow rain coat

I know what you’re thinking–two posts in two days?? A new record for Our Lil Blue House.

Today was a beautiful sunny fall day and we went at it on the house painting–we’re now about 90% finished! In addition to the siding and trim, we took a stab at painting the front door. This is fun part, where a home’s true personality is revealed–in my humble opinion.

What color to pick? I had my little heart set on a classic red front door for some time now. Alas, our new next door neighbors beat us to the punch (by the way, we have new next door neighbors. They are lovely people). Unfortunately, we felt our houses were too similar, especially for such a tiny street, and we didn’t want to appear to be copy cats. Red is out for now. We decided to go with yellow instead–spunky sunny yellow. A twist on traditional without being totally off the wall. Very Bernard Zove.

After trying two swatches this morning, we chose Benjamin Moore’s Yellow Rain Coat, a bright golden hue. The result? Well, at first we felt a little shocked by this strange new creature. It certainly provides a pop. Too poppy though? We weren’t sure at first. We took a car trip after painting the first coat and our first view of the new house front from down the road shocked us a bit.


But as we mellowed out, the sun set a little, and Brendan painted the thick trim on the front of our house with the blue paint that we used elsewhere, it seemed to calm a bit. Now we’re still getting used to it a little, but we think we’re starting to fall for it. What do you think?

Yellow front door blue house

Chez Bernard

What have we been up to over the last month or so? It’s been a while since we had a chance to update on here…summer weekends booked up fast and left us with not much time to work on house projects that we had planned. Brendan is still diligently working on painting our house (we ended up going with Wharf View) and it is going slowly but surely and looking pretty cute.

a few other small updates have included painting the brick and tile surround of our fireplace.


Brick fireplace before

I used heat-resistant black paint on the brass trim of the fire doors, then primed and painted the brick and tile using leftover dark gray paint from our bathroom.


Primed fireplace

Painting brick has become a little “controversial” in the home improvement world, as some consider the irreversible act sacrilegious, similar to painting over wood. In our case, the brick wasn’t that nice looking and I couldn’t see us wanting to go back to it in the future. I think some day we will change the surround and mantle altogether and tile over/cover with marble or something like that. So I was comfortable with going down this painted brick road. The result is a much more contemporary looking fireplace in our living room:

Living room

Before and after view


We also added a giant chalkboard to one wall in our dining room–giving a kind of bistro look that is both decorative and functional.

We made this by painting a large square of chalkboard paint that we had right onto the wall, and then surrounding with pieces of molding at we had leftover. we used decorative finished corners to make it easier to put together. All in all it cost us about $11 and was a fun weekend project.

We plan to use if for lists, calendar dates, notes to each other, etc. when we have parties or people over for dinner we can use to display our dinner/drinks menu. Bien sur!





Our little _____ house

Ahem, one more day left to vote for us in the Small, Cool Kitchen contest! Last I checked, we were in the top 10, which made us pretty happy.

This past weekend was devoted to prepping for painting our house. The hardest part seems to be committing to a color! We’d like to remain a blue house, but update the shade to make it a little more modern looking. Also, we are painting the navy/black trim white, for sure.

Below is a picture of our test patches from this weekend. I think the middle two swatches (2nd and 3rd patches from the left) are our finalists – California paint’s Wharf View, and Benjamin Moore’s Vermont Slate. I am a sucker for the names when it comes to choosing paint…

Now’s your chance–tell us which you prefer!

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Vote for our small, cool kitchen!

Lately, I’ve entered us into a few home contests – partially as a way to motivate wrapping up some little projects. One of these included The Kitchn’s annual Small Cool Kitchen Contest (for kitchens under 120 square feet). At 90 square feet, we were easily eligible to enter into this weight class. I just got word that we’ve made it into the contest and our entry is now up on The Kitchn’s site! Anyone can “favorite” any of the kitchens in the contest (and as many as you’d like to vote for). You can see our entry here. Voting is going on until August 6!

The Kitchn contest

Below is the before/after photo that I submitted for the contest. The kitchen overall hasn’t changed too much since the last photos I posted on this site (although these are a little more styled and were taken with my good camera).

We did add a new pendant light over the sink, and hung a new “curtain” over the sink. The curtain is really just a tea towel, draped over the plain white roller shade that came with the house. We don’t really need to be able to lower it, so this is purely decorative, and adds helps to add a little color to the room. We’ll probably seek out something more permanent at some point, but I think it works for now.


Check out our entry and the others on The Kitchn – there are some beautiful, small kitchens on there! And of course, we’d love your vote 🙂

Mission accomplished: Housewarming

Our absence of blog posts for the last few weeks has not been due to a lack of house progress–we have just been too crazy busy to stop and take any pictures! This past weekend marked our first official housewarming party–we had about 30 friends over, most of whom had never seen our house before. The party gave us a hard deadline for getting our projects finished and having the place look as good as possible.

We also had a contractor install our new, glass sliding door in the dining room–it looks amazing! Several people commented that it “looked like it had always been there” because it is such a natural spot to have door. Brendan built some temporary stairs that we had up just for the party, so people could move freely in and out of the house. Here she is:

View to our backyard!

View to our backyard!

Brendan worked like a mad man to put up the molding around the doorway and paint the wall after the contractors were done. He was a home-reno all-star! He also put up molding around the door headers between our living room/dining room and kitchen, giving it a much more finished look

photo (4)

And speaking of the kitchen, it is finally “finished” (for now!) with the beadboard painted, a new ceiling fan installed, and our shelves and Ikea-organizers in place

Remember when the kitchen ceiling looked like this?


Not anymore:

photo (8)

Pretty good, right? In keeping with each of our own strengths, I was working more on adding some finishing touches around the house, including some wall decor.

To cover up our ugly old doorbell, I made this quick piece of “artwork,” a photo transfer on canvas, and hung up a few other pieces around it to make a little gallery wall in the space between our dining room/hallway

The guest room was updated with this nautical map that I got at a flea market and mounted on foam board, and Brendan build a little desk into our window dormer nook:


Last, but not least, in a stroke of good luck we found some battered outdoor chairs on trash day that were in pretty good shape but in need of some love. They are Crate & Barrel chairs, and probably made of teak. After sanding, staining, and getting some new seat cushions, they made a perfect addition to our backyard, just in time for entertaining:

After all our last minute work, hosting a big party on Saturday, plus a family BBQ on Sunday, we are pretty darn tired now. We are taking a mini-break before the next big projects–exterior painting and patio building!

Guest weekend

My parents came up and stayed with us over Memorial Day weekend and helped us out a ton with projects around the house! To prepare for their arrival, we bought a bed frame, to finally create a proper bed in our guest room.

new bed frame!

We also dressed up the nightstand/dresser to help pull the room together more. Google “Rast hack” and you’ll come up with all kinds of different ways that people love to dress up these little $35 untreated wood Ikea dressers. We put a whitewashed finished and silver cup pulls on ours.

ready for guests

While we hadn’t originally planned for the weekend to revolve around making home improvements, the lousy weather meant that we were stuck indoors anyway, so ended up using our extra manpower to tackle a number of annoying tasks that we had been putting off. Here’s an inventory of some of the things that got done:

– painting stair banister and trim throughout the first floor

– spackling and painting the stair risers

– switching out our old outlets with much prettier and safer white, GFI outlets

– cleaning out our bathroom heating vent and replacing the grate on top

– fixing old yucky closet knobs and replacing with fresh knobs

– removing our ancient phone jack on the middle of the dining room wall

-adding our cabinet doors back on in the kitchen (finally!!) and attaching our new pulls*

None of these were the most glamorous of house projects, but they are all the little things that add up to a house that looks a lot more “finished.” Doing all of these would have taken us months on our own!

My mom also helped me to learn how to use my “new” sewing machine, which I got for my birthday last year but still didn’t know how to use. We made a few pillows using some fabric that I bought almost a year ago at Brimfield Antique fair to make these new throw pillows for the guest room.

new guest room pillows

The patterned side of these pillows is from an old linen fabric sample. The other is made from an antique Hungarian grain sack that is around 100 years old.

A little history lesson: families used these handmade flax and linen sacks for filling up on grains at the local mill. The stripes and the initials on the sacks (hard to see in this pic, but there is a U and an R at the top of the pillow on the right) was to identify the family so that their grain piles wouldn’t get mixed up.

My dad also took stock of our lawn and gave some advice on how to plan for our next big project: our back deck; as well as where we can plan on building a patio and fire pit someday, and where to put some new plantings. We have lots of grand visions for our backyard now!

After they left, I was feeling inspired from all that we got done, and went ahead and took part in the great American suburban tradition of lawn care on Memorial day–I pulled out a bunch of weeds and put in some new little plants in some of our flower beds out front, like these shade-loving ground cover plants around the base of our crabapple tree.


This was definitely the most productive Memorial Day weekend I’ve ever had!

Before & afters

Not much new to report on the home progress, but I did get this new iPad app for doing photo collages that I wanted to play with, so I put together some “before & after” shots of our house so far. Even though we’ve had these pictures from our first tour for a long time, it’s fun to see them with the present day shots side by side

Here is one more of our dining room as it currently looks. We had a contractor come to the house today to give us an estimate on installing a big sliding glass door on this back wall where the window currently is–probably 6 ft wide and almost floor to ceiling. We got very excited talking about how cool that will look once its done. hopefully soon!