The Final Countdown: Can We Make It?

We have 16 days until we officially sell the Edgewood house, which means 15 days to finish Barton. Otherwise, we’ll be packing all of our belongings into storage and taking our baby, two dogs, two cats, and sorry selves to live with some poor soul right before Christmas. We’re trying as hard as we can to make our deadline, but even some of our contractors seem doubtful. Probably because the house looks like this:

It’s officially a disaster zone. But we have a plan, and if we can make it, we’ll prove to ourselves that we don’t need a general contractor to renovate a house. Especially not one who is unlicensed, as we found out that ours was before firing him (and wasting a month waiting for him to get everything up to code.)

After failing multiple inspections, we hired a new electrician to rewire the house, and we finally got the green light to move forward on Tuesday. Drywall started right away, and the kitchen was installed bright and early Thursday morning. It still needs hardware, counters, appliances, a backsplash, and shelves—but we’re pretty stoked.


If all goes well, this house will look a lot different on Monday. Drywall is finishing up this weekend, Todd is tiling the bathroom, electrical trim-out is starting, and so is the trim installation. Next week is painting and refinishing the floors. Counters are set to arrive a day or two before we move in, after which we can tile the backsplash and add some shelves. Besides that, we just have a big ol’ list we need to accomplish ourselves, including trimming out HVAC, pouring a sidewalk, painting the porch, tiling the hearths, finishing out the closets, trimming out the bathrooms, and a bunch of other stuff.

Please send us your good vibes. We’re gonna need them.



Barton Update: Renovation Limbo


There’s a reason we haven’t posted any photos from the Barton house in a while: We’ve been in renovation limbo. Or renovation hell, depending on how you look at it. (We’re currently leaning toward the latter perspective.)

We’ve had some challenges with permits and inspections, and we’re currently waiting to get approval from four different inspectors before we can finish the house. Finish the house meaning replace drywall, paint, install trim and doors, install kitchen and bathrooms, refinish floors, trim out electric and plumbing, build a fence, and some other things.

In other news, our own house is under contract and we close in about a month. Yes, that means we have one month to finish this renovation and move. Anxious doesn’t even begin to describe our current mood.


Despite our intimidatingly long to-do list, if you look hard, you can see that we have made quite a bit of progress on the house since we started just about two months ago. We did all new electric, plumbing, and HVAC, insulated the whole house, and rearranged a lot of walls, doors, and windows. The floor plan has been drastically improved, and the house is much brighter and modern-feeling. Yes, there’s lots to do but we’re trying our best to stay positive. If this was easy, everyone would be doing it, right?


Going Green in the Kitchen — Literally


When writing last week’s post on French inspiration in the kitchen, I kept running across images of one of my favorite restaurants in D.C.: Le Diplomate. Everything about this French restaurant in Logan Circle is gorgeous, from the exterior with bright red awnings and patio with cheery yellow chairs to the bathrooms. But my favorite part of the restaurant is the sunny atrium with striking green tiles on the walls.

And that’s when it hit me: Green is really underrated in the home. And I’m really feeling it.

I usually lean toward shades of blue when I want to add color to the home, with the occasional pop of yellow or red. But I love the unexpectedly fresh look of green, and I think it may be just the accent we need in the Barton kitchen.

Not convinced? Here are a few more photos to prove my point:

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Parisian Design Inspiration in the Kitchen

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We didn’t eat at many restaurants on our recent trip to Paris—markets and picnics are much more baby-friendly, we’ve found. But I did a lot of peeking in doors and windows, and I was so inspired by the city’s restaurants’ designs—both the old-school places and the new, modern ones. It seems like just about every place in Paris is so thoughtfully, beautifully designed, and I wanted to take some ideas back to our own kitchen redesign. Some things I noticed:

  • Tile — From boldly patterned cement tile to classic white subway tile, tile is used often both on the floors and walls.
  • Seating — Of course, there are plenty of classic bentwood chairs and leather banquettes, but I also noticed a lot of velvet chairs with a midcentury modern flair. And the iconic rattan bistro chair is not a cliche—you’ll find them outside just about any eaterie in Paris.
  • Lighting — Lots of vintage-inspired lighting, including milkglass globes, schoolhouse lights, and barn lights.
  • Contrast — Black and white. Modern furniture against a rustic wall. Shiny brass against dark wood. A bit of contrast adds so much interest.
  • Bold Color (in Moderation) — Many places will just choose one bold color—like rich navy, hunter green, or bright pink—and allow it to pop against neutral surroundings.

Here are a few inspo images I’ve run across, plus some items we’re considering to add a bit of Parisian style to our kitchen reno.



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The Perplexing Nature of Paint

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I distinctly remember the day we stopped by the Griffin house (our last renovation project) to see the progress the painters had made on the exterior paint job. We drove up, I looked at the house, and I asked Todd, “When are they starting?”

“They’re already done,” he replied.

It was only then that we realized the color we’d chosen, though very different on the paint chip, was so similar to the house’s original color that you couldn’t even tell we’d had it painted. Or that we’d spent about $3000 on it.

After some hormone-fueled tears on the way home (I was about nine months pregnant at the time), Todd made me feel a bit better by reminding me that the house did look cleaner with a fresh coat of paint, even if it looked like the same color. But it was then that we vowed that we would be much more careful when choosing paint colors in the future.

We probably could have gotten by with a power wash and trim touch-up on the Barton house, but we wanted to make it look new. We started by looking at the other houses on the street. We wanted it to stand out from neighbors, but not too much. There are a lot of light beiges and grays on the block, so we opted to add some color and depth.

We briefly considered a sage-ish green, but decided that would blend too much with its surroundings. So we shifted to blue—and that’s when things got complicated. There are about a million shades of blue to choose from. We spent quite a bit of time poring over paint chips and catalogs and Pinterest before deciding we wanted something veering toward navy with gray undertones. But that still left a lot of options.

So then we did something we haven’t done before: We bought paint samples. Lots of them. For both the house color and varying shades of coordinating trim. Our house looked like a patchwork quilt.

And we were reminded that in most cases, the color on the paint chip looks completely different in real life. One beautiful navy looked like purple on the house. A pretty slate blue looked almost pastel. The colors would also look different in the shade versus the sun, and depending on how many coats we applied. Our confusion deepened.

Finally, after many coats of paint and many trips to Lowes, we settled on a color combo we liked: Sherwin Williams’ Slate Tile with Black Magic for the base and trim. The painters aren’t quite finished yet, but we’re really happy with the look so far (forgive the crappy iPhone pic):

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So, the lesson of the day: You can’t be too careful when choosing paint colors.



The Surprise Gut Job


There are few things that can ruin a trip to Paris. One of them, we recently learned, is a text from your contractor saying, “I gutted your house.”

Luckily, this surprise news didn’t completely derail our vacation, but it did put a huge damper on the day, became a topic of frequent discussion for the rest of our trip, and made us extra eager to return home.

After several weeks of talking and negotiations, we’d officially signed with our contractor and gotten him his first check literally the day we left the country. We resigned ourselves to being completely hands-off for the first few weeks of the project, curious how much he would be able to get done while we were away. We were initially drawn to his ambitious schedule—he hoped to be completely finished within six weeks.

Things seemed to be going well until that gut-wrenching text. Our contractor was moving right along with our punch list—which did not, in fact, include gutting the house. The old plaster walls and trim weren’t perfect, but we were fine with them. However, he’d made the executive decision that the house would be better without them.

International calls were made, along with apologies and new agreements. Eventually we decided to let him finish up with phase one, repair what he had done, and reassess when we returned home (to put it simply).

We also decided to make the most of the situation. By taking out all of the walls and ceilings along with some damaged floors, we had unexpectedly been given a blank slate. So we decided to completely redo the electrical, add insulation, add new closets, and change the floor plan a bit. All of this while on vacation an ocean away.

The moment of truth came early this morning, when, heavily jet-lagged after a long day of travel, we went to check out the progress on the house. The walls have been opened up and the new closets have been framed out. HVAC, electrical, and plumbing are well on their way. Damaged floors have been repaired. The exterior has even been painted. It looks… good. Really good.

We have several weeks to go, and a lot is hanging in the balance, but we’re feeling good about where we stand. Here are some photos of where we are about three weeks in.

Opening up the hallway.
Starting to expose the fireplace.
Opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room, and added French doors on the back.
Framed out laundry closet.
Oliver approves.
Looking into the dining room from the kitchen. Todd removed all of the plaster on this side of the fireplace.
Looking into the new pantry.
Bedrooms with new closets added.
This room will become a master bath in Phase 2.



5 Kitchen Trends We Love

As we mentioned in the last post, the Barton kitchen is on the large side—at least for this style/age of house and neighborhood—and we’re super excited to create this hub of the home. We’ve been playing with different layouts using Ikea’s home planner (addictive), and thinking about how to give the room some style and personality without going overboard—we want potential buyers to easily envision putting their own stamp on the space.

We went fairly basic with our first renovation, with white cabinets, butcher block counters, subway tile, and stainless appliances. We loved the clean look, but we don’t want to do exactly the same thing. Here are a few things we’re considering this time around.

  1. Grey Cabinets

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White kitchens will probably never go out of style, but the all-white look can feel a bit one-dimensional. That’s why we’re leaning toward a pale gray cabinet instead. In the right shade, it warms up the room and adds an unexpected element, and it pairs beautifully with white subway tile (which we’ll probably use again, just maybe a slightly larger size).

2. Cement Tiles

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Cement tiles (or cement-look) are definitely very trendy right now, and they may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we love the look of a few placed over a range. It’s a simple, low-cost detail that can have a huge impact. And as trendy as these patterned tiles are, they’ve been decorating buildings in Spain, Portugal, and Morocco for centuries and no one’s complaining.

3. Open Shelving

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Yes, open shelving means you have to make a bit more of an effort when it comes to keeping your dishes organized, but it also means they’re within easy reach. And if you have cute dishes, why not show them off? The look is open and airy, and best of all, installing shelves is a heckuva lot cheaper than a bunch of wall cabinets. We think we can get away with it here because the kitchen will have a big pantry, too.

4. Subway Tile to the Ceiling

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Because we’re just going with shelves up top, we’re thinking tiling all the way to the ceiling will help create a more finished look. Subway tiles come in a range of sizes, but they always look clean and crisp—and they’re always affordable.

5. Herringbone Floor

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We haven’t decided for sure what to do with the floor—one of us is leaning toward wood to keep a nice flow with the rest of the house. But we also really like the look of a slate-like tile installed in a herringbone pattern.

The Barton House: Before Photos


Some people would walk into a house like this and walk right back out. It’s old. It’s dirty. It needs so much help. But walking into a house like this makes us giddy. We work hard to look past the grime and the years of neglect and see the possibilities. And there are so many of them. We’re so excited to get started on this house!

First, the exterior. It doesn’t look awful, but we’ll be painting it (stay tuned for a post on choosing exterior paint colors), completely replacing the roof, replacing the front door, landscaping, installing a fence, redoing the sidewalk, installing porch railings, replacing the light fixtures, and doing other minor repairs.



Inside, the layout is very segmented, with every room situated off of a main hallway. We plan to open this up as much as we can, including the walls between the living and dining rooms (above) as well as the hallway. This should brighten things up quite a bit and improve the flow dramatically. The fireplace will be a challenge to work around, but we’re excited about the wood floors and great natural light.


Of course, the kitchen is a complete gut job (as it would be in any older home). But if we’re able to open up the walls between the kitchen, dining room, and mudroom, we’re going to have a ton of space to work with. We may be able to add a walk-in pantry, an island, and a little breakfast nook if all goes according to plan. As for the overall look, we’re thinking of using classic subway tile again, a nice slate tile floor in a herringbone pattern, quartz or granite counters, open shelving on one wall, and some really great lighting. We want to make this room a real gathering place in the home.


There are technically four bedrooms upstairs, but one is very small without a closet. We’ll either turn that space into a master bath or a walk-in closet/dressing room, depending on how our budget shakes out.


This is the current state of the upstairs bath. Unlike the Griffin house, we won’t be keeping the clawfoot in this reno. It’s just too big for the space, which is pretty compact. Instead, we’ll be adding a new tub with a tile surround. The downstairs bath is pretty much too small to photograph, but we’re hoping to do something fun in there, like a patterned floor tile.


The bedrooms are all a good size, but as with most of these older homes, the closets are tiny. We could either eat into the floor space by adding new closets, or hope buyers will be OK with what we’ve got. We always lean toward the latter option, because we prefer to keep the square footage.


This house has a great backyard with both shady and sunny spots. We’ll be removing that old balcony and replacing the door with a window. We’ll also add a privacy fence around the whole shebang.

Next steps: We’re getting quotes from contractors and starting to put together our budget and shopping list, with everything from tile and light fixtures to appliances and doorknobs. Luckily, we learned a thing or two from our last renovation, so this stage will be quicker—and probably more fun—than last time.

Want to see what’s inspiring us? Take a peek at our Barton House Pinterest board, which we’ll be updating on the regs.

On to the Next: The Barton House


After many months of waiting, we can finally share some news we’ve been excitedly sitting on: We have purchased another house to renovate! And we’ve already learned something from this experience: Short sales are no joke. Seriously. Lots of red tape. Lots of back-and-forth. Lots of waiting. But it was worth it, because we got a great deal on this house.

And it’s a good thing we did, because it is going to need a lot of work. Previously used as a halfway house, it’s in serious need of TLC. It needs a brand-new roof, new HVAC, and all-new kitchen and bathrooms. Refinished floors and significant exterior improvements. Not to mention all the little things like paint, light fixtures, and landscaping. The current layout isn’t great, so we’re planning to tear down a lot of walls, too.

A few things we love about this house: The big, shady backyard. The spacious kitchen (we’re planning to put in an island). The original tile fireplace. The beautiful wood floors that just need a little work. The spare room upstairs that will either become a master bath or walk-in closet. The location just off up-and-coming Brookland Park Blvd., spitting distance from Black Hand Coffee and The Luncheonette.

Stay tuned, as we’ll be documenting the process once again from beginning to end. We can’t wait to share the journey of this house with you!