Owner’s suite bathroom: check!

Hello again! The house is still coming along, bit by bit. We enjoyed our summer so much – we camped Yellowstone with my siblings, tailgated a Bears game, had a few great weekends up at Lake Geneva, hung out in Chicago, went strawberry picking, and took an awesome vacation to the Smoky Mountains. It was infinitely better than last summer, when all of our time was spent tearing up and rebuilding the house.

As summer has been winding down, we’ve starting working on the house a little more. We finished a big part of the kitchen and did a ton of landscaping in front of the house, and I’ll share that progress in a future post. Today, we FINALLY finished our owner’s suite bathroom. It is so exciting because it was a big spot that made us feel like the house was really far from being “done.” It’s funny because that bathroom was literally the first thing that we demoed – and it’s the last big thing to finish.

Here’s what the bathroom looked like on Reno Day 1:


A while later, I ripped up the ugly green/gold/brown floor tile…

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And then I demolished the shower tile.

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A year and a half later, this bathroom has finally been put back together again. Here’s what it looks like as of today!

We moved our stuff in, and we can’t wait to shower in there tonight! It’s been a long road to this bathroom, but it looks great. Many thanks to Cullom for the perfect floor and shower tile work, including the marble-shelved niche that I love, and for installing the shower doors. Lu, Mike, and Dadalino installed the vanity and sinks (after the countertop sat on our bedroom floor for about 9 months). Benj hooked us up with the electrical. Lu installed the trim, toilet, lights, and towel bars. Thank you all so much for all the work you did, on this little room and on the rest of the house!


House Tour 2015 and 2016

The process of buying our house took a long time. Since it was a foreclosure owned by the bank, they took their sweet time getting us the keys. After our initial viewing and winning the bidding war, our awesome realtor Karen Gold took us back to the house so we could have a second look around. Lu took a video of the house that day so that we could remember what it looked like and start planning our renovations.

We recently watched that video again, and we were amazed at how different it is just a little over a year later! We decided to make a new video, and put the two side by side to show the difference and all our progress.

In the new video, you’ll see little hints of what we’ve been working on – the master bathroom and the basement are still works-in-progress, but we’re getting close! Our to-do list has gone from 4 pages long to half a page. Here are the two videos. The top one is both videos side by side – if that’s a little overwhelming, we’ve posted each one separately as well. Enjoy!

2015-2016 Side-By-Side Comparison:

2015 Video:

2016 Video:


Starting the basement

Yesterday, we went to the Windy City BrewHaha for the third year in a row with Laura and Mike. We had a great time, and it was a welcome break from the mess that is our house. Today we were ready to work on tackling the basement! To be honest, I didn’t think we were going to do anything to the basement for the next 3-5 years. However, we came down here a few weeks ago and started daydreaming and getting inspired, and then suddenly Lu was all ready to get to work again, soooo…

We started doing a little bit each night this week. Before we began, it looked pretty horrifying…

imageimageimageimageHere’s a little bit of progress made…


We saved the cabinets and laminate countertops from when we demoed the kitchen and installed them for a workbench in the area of the basement that we are going to leave unfinished. We also installed one of the upper cabinets (the rest are going in the garage). Domenic came over and cut out a hole in our countertop to leave space for the support pole. 
We left a little spot between the base cabinets so that Lu can sit on a stool and, as he put it, “take things apart.”

Looks pretty good for being the repurposed remains of a 44 year old kitchen!

And we took another one of the base cabinets and the rest of the leftover countertop and placed it next to the washer and dryer (across from the workbench). It’ll be a great spot to store detergent and fold clothes. It’s definitely not an adorable, pinteresty laundry room, but it works and all it cost us was 1 tube of Liquid Nails!

We’re going to keep working on the basement in the next few weeks. Next up, we’ll go through all the tools and stuff and get them organized in the workbench area. Then we’ll take all the stuff we’re currently storing in the basement and bring it all into this laundry/workbench area. Then we can get some drywall and seal the concrete floors!

Closets and pantries

I feel like all we’ve done for the past month is paint doors. I painted four closet doors for our bedrooms, and left a little surprise on the inside of one of the doors…it’s a play on our initials, L & E:

We had a little party at our place to celebrate my coworker’s bachelorette! It was so fun having everyone over. Congrats to the beautiful bride!

Cully came down and installed our pantry doors! Lu’s first opinion was that they make our kitchen looks smaller, haha! We mostly just installed them because having holes in the drywall has been driving Domenic crazy for the past 6 months. (You’re welcome, Dadalino!) Here they are just after he put them in:

 Yes, back to the wonderful painter’s tape handles…

Getting a few coats of paint on them…

And the beautiful finished product! Well, almost finished. We still have to fill and paint the nail holes in the trim and build shelving inside the pantry and the broom closet.

Lu headed up into the attic to kick around some insulation and had a pretty miserable time.  You can’t see his face, but it’s a combination of sweat, fear of falling through the ceiling, and claustrophobia. He was re-insulating the master bathroom. We demoed most of the drywall and ceiling in that bathroom a few months ago, and since we are working on it now, it has been hella cold. After Lu returned the insulation above the bathroom, it’s nice and cozy again. Except for the fact that there’s still no floor. That’s not too cozy.

We took our front hall closet from this…

To this! It’s so exciting to start doing the little things that make our house become a functional home 🙂 


And I changed my closet from this mess… 

To this! I plan to stain the boards and install them properly when it gets warmer outside. 
This closet goes so far back there! These are almost 8 foot long boards.

Next up, working on the master bathroom! Cullom’s doing it all. We just play with shower handle plates.

One year ago today…

Lu and I saw our house for the first time! We drove up to Lake Geneva on a Friday night, and saw the listing on our ride up. The next day, we went to the winter fest in Lake Geneva and jumped on the frozen lake for a while…


And left Lake Geneva much earlier than planned so we could meet up with our awesome realtor, Karen, and Lu’s parents to see the house. I remember walking in and running straight to the dining room. When Lu and I saw that the dining room was right next to the kitchen, we got SO EXCITED. We were hoping that there was some space next to the kitchen so we could blow out the wall and make ourselves a big huge kitchen. It was exactly what we were hoping for. I remember telling Karen, “I want this house. How much should we bid to make sure we get it?” There were so many other people looking at the house and we were so scared that we would be outbid.

On the way out, Lu took this picture of the tree in our front yard:


Happy anniversary of the first time we met, house! We love you so much more now! You’ve come a long way in the past year…

We saw these 9 blurry pictures on the real estate posting and had no idea what part of the house most of them were –

  1. Outside of the house
  2. Kitchen
  3. Master bedroom
  4. Upstairs hall bathroom
  5. Eating area adjacent to the kitchen
  6. Family room with horrible wood paneling
  7. Half bathroom on the first floor
  8. One of the bedrooms
  9. Basement (This is the only room that looks worse today than it did a year ago!)

Ok that was fun, now we’re off to paint some closet doors…

Island pendants, stairs, and more!

We were preeeeeeetty sick of working on the house after our last post (and we had a bunch of other stuff going on in our lives.) So we took a nice long break from doing anything for a while. We DID decorate the house for our first Christmas here, though!


Yes, that is a second, tiny Christmas tree in the family room.

For Christmas, we bought ourselves a few rugs. This white geometric one is so cozy in our bedroom:

And this superplush gray rug for the family room:


Then Lu and I (mostly Lu) installed these beautiful, simple pendants over our island. They go so well with the Sputnik light over our kitchen table. It’s so awesome to have these instead of three holes in the drywall over the island!



Also, our kitchen is famous – my mom got me these microfiber cloths for Christmas, and there’s a picture of a kitchen that looks so similar to ours on the back!

Lu also installed a Nest, which he had been drooling over since they came out. It’s great! We love being able to conserve as much heat as we can – and being able to turn up the heat when we’re on our way home, because it connects to our phones!



This cutie was pretty excited about patching the wall beautifully and installing his favorite new gadget!

We also bought this sweet new lamp for the family room – it matches the vases we have in the living room and makes us look like we have our shit together:



Lu made quick work of patching up the trim holes in the trim above our kitchen cabinets and the baseboards on the first floor. They’re all patched and painted and it really makes the first floor look a lot more finished! (Meanwhile, I painted 5 closet doors. I’ll spare you the pictures, even though painted white doors are terribly exciting.)



Lovely baseboards above and clean, smooth crown trim below!

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A really big impact change was that we got the kickplates of our stairs painted. We were going to do it ourselves, but the fear of destroying the beautiful wood treads was greater than our desire to save money. Here’s a before shot of the stairs:


And here’s after they were painted!


The foyer is so much brighter now, and the white really makes the wood pop. I never would have thought to paint the kickplates, but Lu wanted it, and I’m glad that we went with his judgement on this.

We ordered our pantry doors (finally!) and they should arrive at the end of February. Cullom will be coming down then to install them and work on our master bathroom. We’ve still got a list about a mile long of things we want to do on the house, but it’s nice to see some of them get checked off. We’re not nearly as sick of doing house things as we were back in November. The little break has restored our drive, and we’re definitely back to being weekend reno warriors!

Garage! Kitchen handles! Trench!!!

We’ve been thoroughly enjoying living in the house, and we’ve been taking the renovation a little slower now. My brother came down an installed our kitchen handles so we were finally able to move in to the kitchen. As stylish as our makeshift painter’s tape handles were, I was not sad to see them go…


Mom came over and helped us put away all of our stuff! And there was a lot of stuff to put away…thankfully, we have a bunch of cabinets!

Not sure if we have enough drawers for utensils…

Loving how nicely everything fits in here…and a whole cabinet just for Tupperware!


Cullom also put up our entry closet doors. When we moved in, there were louvered doors here that we decided to replace.

Then we celebrated Lu’s birthday and our first anniversary!


Over several weekends and weeknights, Lu dug this trench like a rock star. Our sump pump used to empty into our neighbor’s yard – turning their backyard into an ice rink every winter. So Lu dug a long trench and buried the tube. He also did a lot of thinking to figure out how to do all this awfulness. And much of the work was done by lamplight, thanks to daylight savings time.

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This weekend, we finally tackled the garage. We have been piling all our construction materials in here for the past 7 months, and it was full of wood – up to the ceiling and over to the door. After a few days of scraping the ice off our cars in the morning, we felt extra motivated to empty it out! Here’s the horrifying before:


Making progress…. image

And it’s empty!    YAYYY!!!!!   image

We put all our stuff back in, and it looks so nice and clean!


And Lu put up a shade in the garage
(it was originally in the dining room when we bought the house)

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We currently have a few Bagsters (huge bags that are like dumpsters that the waste management company comes to pick up) in our driveway. They’ll be picked up some time this week, and then we’ll finally be able to park in our garage for the first time ever!

We live here now!

Why yes, our kitchen is always spotless, we always have several vases of fresh flowers to enjoy, and we always bake adorable cupcakes for our guests.

Just kidding. But Lindsay came to visit, so we had to make it beautiful for her. Look! No more tool pile! And we got rid of the cardboard box corner, too!


We finally got some hardware for our kitchen cabinets! Cullom is coming down later this week to install it for us because Lu is terrified of drilling into our beautiful, brand-new cabinets.


Then Lu took a little trip to New York and got “New Yorked.” (He’s sick.)

We bought this super ugly coffee table from the Arlington Heights Online Garage Sale. Our plan is to stain the top the same color as our floors and paint the bottom black. I think it’ll look cool, especially once we can put some rugs down! (Our floor refinisher guy told us to hold off on any rugs for a few months to let the floor color settle in. Or something like that.)

We also perked up the lamps in the guest bedroom! I’ve had these lamps since I was maybe 11 years old. They were originally navy blue, and then I painted them lavender, and then creamsicle orange, and now they’re the same oil-rubbed bronze as our doorknobs. We got the cute little leaves at IKEA – they’re like bobby pins for lampshades.

And Lu installed our powder room light! So cool!


Finally, we moved our white bookcase into the living room from the garage. It was pretty filthy after being out there for the last 5 months. We used it to hold random tools, nails, our dusty radio, and all the old trim we pulled out (with nails sticking out of it.) We cleaned it up and now our living room looks a little less awkward, yay! We are still planning to install a vented fireplace on that wall, but that won’t happen until the spring at the earliest, so this is a nice feature in the mean time.

We also got to have some fun in the last few weeks – YAY! It’s so amazing to be able to actually enjoy our life instead of just working on the house at every waking moment. We had a great time at Goebbert’s for Dadalino’s birthday — Happy almost birthday, Domenic!

And Lindsay was here — our first houseguest! We went apple picking and to Botanic Gardens, and it was so awesome to have her here for a few days. Miss you already, Linds!

We also got to have Mary Ann and Al over, and they brought us some beautiful flowers! It’s been so wonderful being able to relax and chat with people in our little home.

Happy early Halloween/Lu’s birthday, everyone! Lu carved an awesome scary pumpkin (go art school!) and I tried to make an owl but it doesn’t look like an owl. That’s okay though. We still have punkins on our porch and a huge mess of leaves in our yard, and that’s means it’s autumn, so we’re happy and cozy in our home. We keep looking around, still in amazement that we have walls and floors!

We moved!

Last Saturday, September 26th, we finally moved into our house! It’s been a long 6 months since we closed on April 7th, and we are so, so happy to be living here. We were welcomed by a lovely bunch of flowers from Lindsay – thank you!

The first thing we got set up was our kitchen.

Once the espresso machine was set up, Lu was officially home 🙂

And here are the stools for the island. They’re so comfortable and convenient (especially since our kitchen table is covered in tools.) We’re planning to cover the backs of the cabinets with wood eventually.

We did a bunch of other stuff that day, with the help of our families: painted the upstairs bathroom closet, hung some curtains, put up more lights, painted the front window – oh yeah, and moved some more of our stuff in. We celebrated that night by drinking some hard root beer and falling asleep on the couch while watching terrible non-cable TV.

Here’s our room! We’ve since added some lights and shades.

We brought the rest of the doorknobs from this…

To this!

Lu and Domenic installed the powder room vanity cabinet, top, and faucet – and it looks amazing! We were worried because the vanity tops weren’t supposed to arrive until a week or so after we moved in – leaving us brushing our teeth in the kitchen. But they showed up early, so we had a functional bathroom just a few days after we moved in!

It’s like a little waterfall!

Lu worked on getting the upstairs hall bathroom plumbing ready for the vanity top.

And installed the faucets in the vanity top.

Mike and Domenic came by to help carry the vanity top upstairs and install it. It’s cultured marble and weighs approximately 4 billion pounds. Thanks guys! This bathroom is so much brighter than when we bought the house – it originally had brown cabinets and a brown vanity top, and terribly dim lights. Now it’s bright and white and so sharp!

We also put up some curtains in the family room. They’re so cute and match perfectly with our yellow and gray pillows. We need to shorten them, but my sewing machine is still buried in a pile of boxes in the basement.


We decided that we liked the diamond entry light so much that we bought two more for the entry area. So much pretty!

My dad also put up our upstairs hallway lights. They look so cool and cast awesome shadows!

We found a light for our closet! We had originally bought it for the powder room, but it was way too big. We really liked it and didn’t want to return it, so we put it up in our closet, and it fits great.

Lu and my dad also put back all the mirrored closet doors. Those are also super heavy, and it was pretty scary to put them back up. But our closet looks great now – it’s so big! We bought a shade and it’ll go up soon so we can take the sheet down from the window.

My dad and Lu also put up our kitchen chandelier, which we love. It’s a Sputnik light and it’s so cool!

And just to keep it real, here’s the kitchen table and surrounding area, which are still a mess. There are tools and screws and old lightbulbs everywhere, and our cooking supplies are still in boxes. We’re waiting until we get handles on our cabinets to put everything away, because as ingenious as Lu’s painter’s tape handles are, they rip pretty easily.

Next up, more finishing details. We’ve got a lot of nail holes to fill in, the powder room light has to go up, there are a few areas we need to touch up with paint, we need to buy cabinet handles…the list goes on and on. But at least we live here now! We are so happy to finally be living in this space that we have worked so hard on for the past half a year.

Backsplash, trim, and painted bathrooms!

Although it hasn’t been that long since our last post, we have gotten a LOT done! We are SO grateful to Cullom who came down for a week-ish. Cullom is so careful, thorough, and smart – and he did an amazing job. Thank you so, so much, little brother, for sharing your skills with us this past week! We love you and miss you already!

Cullom’s big project was finishing the kitchen. He put up the backsplash, installed the crown around the tops of the cabinets, installed the light rail under the upper cabinets, and installed the kickplates under the base cabinets.

Getting started: We chose simple white subway tile for our backsplash. We love the clean, classic look of it.

They also installed the microwave!

Dad helped too – thanks, Dad!

This side went up SO fast!

Measuring and figuring. Cullom’s a very smart dude. His high school math teachers would be surprised.

It’s so beautiful!

After finishing the backsplash, he got started on the crown for the upper cabinets and the light rail under the cabinets. He also grouted the backsplash with a light gray grout, and installed (and built) the kickplates.

Looks beautiful! Lu and I will eventually fill in the nail holes.

While that was going on, Lu and I worked on the powder room. We painted over the horrible cream-yellow with a playful, bright mint.

Lu was a total rock star – he learned how to install trim! He finished the trim in the powder room and installed the toilet.

We had removed the vanity base from this bathroom a long time ago. I painted it white. We’re waiting for the new vanity top we ordered to arrive, and then we can install it all and have a functional bathroom. Fingers crossed that it gets here soon, because we’re moving in on Saturday with or without it!

I think this picture is after coat #1. I did another coat and it’s bright white now.

Lu and I also worked on the upstairs hall bathroom. It started out that same horrific yellow-cream that the entire house was painted. Even the ceilings. Why, previous owners, WHY?

Lu and Domenic removed the brown vanity, and Lu removed the avocado toilet while I gagged behind him. 40 year old wax rings are no joke, people.

This is kind of funny, because Lu didn’t help too much with the first coat of paint in the bathroom (he was working on trim and helping Cullom). Laura painted the baseboards, Mike did the edging, and I painted that goddamn louvered door. Thanks guys! After they left, Lu and I painted out the walls and the ceiling.

Here’s a terrible picture of it. It’s white! Yay! Lu and I (mostly Lu) did a second coat on it a few nights later. Now, the only place in the entire house that still has that disgusting yellow-cream paint is the tiny closet in this bathroom. Becca volunteered to come paint it this weekend….right?

The very next day, Cullom installed our new vanity cabinets in there! We’re also waiting on our vanity top for this bathroom. I am looking forward to scrubbing the heck out of the tile in here and restoring the grout. It’s in surprisingly good shape (especially in the tub’s tile surround), but it could use a little brightening up.

The other huge thing that Lu and Cullom did was finish installing all the trim! We now have trim around our sliding back doors, both of the windows in the kitchen, and all the baseboards are in. We will fill in all the nail holes and caulk it soon. It looks fabulous and makes the house look so much more finished! Lu had never installed trim before, so that’s another awesome skill he learned, and Cullom finished it all up while we were at work. Great job done by both dudes!

That was all the big exciting stuff! Here’s a few pictures of the smaller things that got done:

My dad and our painter brought up Becca’s old IKEA couch into our master bedroom. It looks great and fits perfectly with our ottoman!

My mom spotted a table and chairs out on the curb, so we went and garbage-picked them. Besides a little rust on the chair legs, it’s in great shape and will work perfectly for a while. We’ve eaten out there a few times and it’s really nice to have a table on the back porch! (Thanks mom for making us lots of food, and for feeding Cullom while he was working!)

Domenic and Lu finished installing the dishwasher – it works! There’s a red light that comes on when the dishwasher is running because it’s so quiet. The future is now.

We did a trial run and spray painted one of our doorknobs with Rustoleum oil-rubbed bronze spray paint and a matte clear coat. It looks so sharp! We’re going to live with it for a while and make sure that it holds up before we paint the rest of them. Has anyone else ever spray painted doorknobs? Did they hold up?

And my dad installed our awesome diamond light in the entry. We have an LED Edison bulb in there, and it’s just so pretty! I love the shadows it casts on the ceiling.

It’s pretty amazing how much work got done with Cullom here. Thanks again, brother!

Next up, we will hopefully get those vanity tops soon – otherwise we will be brushing our teeth and washing our faces in the kitchen sink. We move in this Saturday – EEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!! This weekend, we need to get a tension rod and shower curtain, install our shower head, get some curtains and curtain rods for our room, and a million more little things. But the house is pretty livable, and we are so freaking excited about it. YAY and thanks again to everyone who helped this past week!