Friday, October 31, 2014

Before & After: Exposing a Brick Chimney Under Plaster Walls


We've sort of been all over the place with house repairs around the upstairs of our home lately — we've been tackling a few plumbing issues, repairing wall damage in two rooms and even opened up the plaster wall in Brandon's room to expose the brick chimney hiding underneath. While we've got a lot going on, the most solid progress has taken place in Brandon's room and we're finally at a point where we share a pretty substantial "before and after" progress update for this space! As you can see from the picture above, Basil asked if he could do the honors of revealing today's makeover.

Perhaps we should rewind a bit though and show you where we began...


We hadn't done much to this room (sorry Brandon) other than plop furniture down since moving in almost three years ago. We call it Brandon's room, but it functions as a guest room too since he spends the majority of time at JMU. Upon moving in, there were some pretty serious wall and ceiling cracks with bulging around them in the room that concerned us. During our inspection, each of these areas returned as not being actively wet during our inspection, which rendered them under "cosmetic" repairs. Below shows a good picture of how the wall and ceiling both looked upon moving in, which can be normal for older homes with plaster walls:


Over the past couple of years, the wall cracks and bulging along the wall remained the same (something we tucked in the back of our heads to tackle down the road when time and money permitted), however, the ceiling crack at the back of the room only began to deepen, open further and the ceiling gradually sagged until it fell onto the floor about 3 weeks ago. We actually heard it fall to the ground when we were having tile demolition done in our shower — hey, when it rains it pours, right?


We were left with exposed wood lath and layers of history showing through in the walls — pushing the boundaries of the "industrial chic" style we usually go for, ha! We'd recently had extensive roof repairs done to take care of any outstanding water issues, so we at least knew this area was free from further damage, even though it looked ridiculous.

You might remember how we've tackled restoring the plaster walls before in Stephanie's room ourselves, but felt like the ceiling in this room was a different skill level then we felt comfortable taking on at this time. So we ended up calling in a professional to come take a look after completely clearing out the room.


He gave us the option of patching the ceiling with plaster or a patch of sheetrock with plaster skimmed overtop. We opted for the sheetrock since the area was pretty small, we wouldn't be messing with any of the original lathe underneath and it could be taken care of very quickly. While he was there, we opted to have the same style of repair done of the wall that had cracks and bulges from moving in.

It was fascinating getting a chance to see the wood lath underneath the walls, and how sheetrock can be screwed in, then covered in plaster to match and flatten the wall:


It was the same process for the ceiling:


We hired the basic repair and patching, but let our specialist know we'd handle prepping the lath, priming the patch and painting the ceiling and walls ourselves. Not only do we like painting, but it helped cut down on overall work budget by doing the portions of the job we felt comfortable handling. Our guy was very amenable to this, and even gave us tips for the different areas he thought we could tackle on our own:


Speaking of painting, we had Brandon pick out any paint color he wanted, so long as it fell within the Restoration Hardware color palette, ha! We're huge fans of the RH line of paints and have used it in every room we've painted in so far (the entire downstairs, upstairs hall and Stephanie's room). It's eco-friendly, goes on so easily and the color palette matches with anything — we rely on their paints anytime we're talking about freshening up a new room.


He decided on the Silver Sage color from this palette, which we all loved, so it was a winner. You might remember we used the Light Silver Sage color from this same palette down in our front office. It's incredible just how much a fresh coat of paint can help a room feel clean and make the trim details stand out:


Another one of our favorite tricks for freshening up a room is installing bright white light switch/receptacles plates — just look at the difference:


In-between the ceiling/wall repairs and painting we also decided to expose the brick chimney behind the plaster walls at the back of the room:


We realized there was brick back there when the ceiling fell in, giving us an inside peek behind the walls:


We absolutely love how it turned out, and feel like the brick chimney is now the real star of this room. You can check out the entire step-by-step process we went through (with video!) to expose the brick in our latest project post over on eHow.

So! How about a look at some proper "before & after" shots?

Here's the look at this space as you first walk in from our upstairs hallway:


The transformation for this view is probably the most dramatic. The little ledge you see poking into the bottom left of the above shot is actually the entrance to a back staircase we have leading back downstairs. Here's a better shot of the ledge from this below view, if you were to walk into the room and turn around, looking back out at the hall:


To give you an idea of how pleased we are with the wall repairs, here's a reminder of the cracking and bulging plaster we lived with, followed by the smooth, clean wall we have now:


And last but not least, facing the back wall of the room, where the bed frame nestles between two bookcases:


With the ceiling and walls patched, a fresh coat of paint, and the exposed brick — we're really feeling the transformation of this room. We've still got plans to make sconces to replace the ones above the bed (hence those empty holes) and we'll add in decor to fill up the walls, but progress is progress!

Thanks for stopping in to take a look!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Halloween Skeleton Cookies

While our niece, Virginia, stayed with us over the past week, we'd lined up several little activities to do with her after picking her up from kindergarten each day. Tuesday was cookie day, and with Halloween in mind, we decided on skeletons!


Just the week before, I'd pinned this clever idea for making skeletons from gingerbread man cookie shapes with the help of a little icing and thought it would be the perfect project to make together.

We have a giant box of cookie cutters (just like this), so the gingerbread cookie shapes weren't an issue. To keep things simple, I picked up a basic sugar cookie mix and tube of squeezable icing from the grocery store.


Mixing, rolling and cutting the dough was a perfect job for 5 1/2 year old Virginia. We also had fun digging through all the different shaped cookie cutters, deciding on which ones we'd actually use. We ended up making 2 separate pans — one for skeleton cookies  (gingerbread men AND cat shapes), then another pan with letters that spelled out her name.

To make the cookies a little deeper in hue (so the icing bones would stand out), we added a couple heavy tablespoons of cocoa powder to the base sugar cookie mix. Virginia begged me to take a little taste of the cocoa powder and I tried to explain that in its raw form, she probably wouldn't like it. This turned into one of those "experience is the best lesson" scenarios and she crinkled her little nose at that first little "snitch" of the powder. Isn't it funny how we all seem to know from experience when it comes to some lessons, but understand deep down it will take the same experience for the next generation to learn the same lesson?


Once the cookies were ready, we let them completely cool before adding the icing so it wouldn't make a melty mess all over the place. Baking the cookies before dinner and allowing them to cool throughout dinner made for the perfect "dessert activity."

When it came to icing our cookies, we didn't have a fancy tip to create the elaborate designs from our inspiration shot, so we didn't worry about it and did the best we could with the tip of the icing tube just as it was:


With a couple cross hatches, a little blob for the head, arms and legs later — we were shaping up just fine. And let me tell you, there were no complaints in the taste testing department!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Weekend Basics

As mentioned last week, we had out 5 1/2 year old niece staying with us last week as a house guest while her parents were out of town. As you can probably imagine, she kept us busy and on our toes in the best of ways. Highlights in between school included the pumpkin patch, our first time watching Frozen, baking cookies, and a trip to the Science Museum of Virginia to see Pandas: The Journey Home in the IMAX theatre:


Oh, and we can't forget Basil's proper introduction to Barbies...


Don't ask me what's going on with the Barbie in the background of this shot — we clearly have some #nakedbarbieissues.

After an adventurous and eventful week with Virginia, a few days at home were much needed — but it didn't mean we relaxed, ha! In true-to-us fashion, we took the the weekend to complete the work we've been doing in Brandon's room, the back bedroom in our home where we've been working to expose the brick chimney.


We'd recently gotten the ceiling and areas of the wall in this room patched up (that were previously damaged), so went ahead and painted the room while in there working. Look for before and after pics and the project post for exposing the brick chimney publishing later this week!

And since we're crazy, we decided to go ahead and start similar wall repairs in our own room. Back when we had roof work done to fix water damage coming in through the upstairs walls in Stephanie's room, there was some wall bubbling leftover in our own room that we knew we'd eventually need to take care of as well. So this weekend was as good as any!


While the work in our room will remain a work in progress, we're excited to call Brandon's room almost complete in terms of renovation work and paint colors — and are looking forward to sharing the progress there here on the blog!

To close out the weekend, we did venture out for Sunday morning breakfast at Lamplighter for with Basil:

What about you? If you're in RVA did you make it out to the Carytown Zombie Walk or the Scott's Addition Pumpkin Festival? There's so many fun things to do around here this time of year!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Over on eHow: Floating Fall Leaf Placecards


These autumn leaf-shaped place cards are simple to make and add a touch of seasonal whimsy to any tablescape. I made these in about an hour for our latest eHow project post, using actual fallen leaves from around our neighborhood as the templates for the leaf shapes.

You might remember that this is a project we first tried out for our wedding with heart-shaped place cards at our rehearsal dinner. With fall gatherings and Thanksgiving around the corner, we thought it'd be fun to put an autumn spin on the same idea.


Head on over to eHow to see more pictures of these fall leaf place cards with step by step instructions for making a set of your own.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Over on Etsy: The Poison Apple Halloween Cocktail


With Halloween around the corner, we've been getting in the seasonal spirit, concocting up a handful of sweet ideas. Yep, we've really been getting our "creative juices" flowing, har har har...

OK, all puns aside, we recently teamed up with Etsy to create this Halloween cocktail recipe we've dubbed The Poison Apple and have been excited to share more about here on the blog:



The secret potion? Through a little experimentation, we found that a healthy dose of Chambord will sink to the bottom of a martini glass when dropped into the other mixed cocktail ingredients — hence creating that eerie poison effect.


The black cocktail rim sugar from Dell Cove Spices on Etsy was the final touch that really made the drink come together.


Add a little dry ice and we've got an instant spellbinding effect.


Head on over to Etsy for the step-by-step recipe tutorial and more pics of this fun Halloween concoction! What are you favorite Halloween treats to whip up this time of year?

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Weekend Basics: Pumpkin Patching it!


Over the weekend we took the chance to hit up the pumpkin patch with my sister's children, which is shaping up to be a fun yearly tradition.


There are many local pumpkin patches and farms to choose from here in Richmond, and we've enjoyed spending time at Gallmeyer Farms this time of year. They're open everyday until dusk and all the activities are free for the family to enjoy. We purchase pumpkins by the pound and almost always leave with a haul of fresh produce from the farm, this year being no different.


It was a big group of us this year, with the addition of Teller's 4th child, Chelsea, along for the fun. My mother, aunt, Tim and I teamed up to take the kids out for the afternoon, and I think we enjoy going to the pumpkin patch just as much as they do.


There's the giant hay maze, playground, hayrides and of course, the pumpkin patch.


Tim and I tasked each of the children (except for Chelsea) with finding their own pumpkin. We wheeled them over to the patch in wheelbarrows and explained that they could choose any pumpkin in the entire field they liked, so long as they could pick it up and lift it into the wheelbarrow — basically, whatever their little arms could handle. Here I am explaining this challenge:


They each took this personal mission very seriously.


This face cracks me up — little Virginia is trying her best to smile holding up the first pumpkin she found:


...even though she later settled on a rounder, bumpier pumpkin:


Benjamin also found his right away, but was a sweet big brother, very concerned with helping Sophia find a pumpkin she liked — which he even offered to pick up for her:


This poor little gal was the most stressed about finding a pumpkin she could pick up, or maybe just deciding on one she liked in general. I can relate, as sometimes I get overwhelmed when needing to make a decision with endless options:


Just look at that little pout:


Eventually we happened upon her perfect pick, which she happily lifted and I carried the rest of the way. Whew, tough decisions, let me tell you!


Virginia ended up with the very bumpy pumpkin, while Sophia and Benjamin both wanted a little green coloring mixed into theirs, thinking they could make witch faces with them. It's always amazing to me how different each personality is and it's fun getting to see them emerge at such a young age.


We also challenged them to find the largest pumpkins in the field so we could take a picture next to them. We did pretty well finding a string of four biggies in a row:


Looking back at last year's pumpkin patch trip, it's fun to see just how much each of the kids has grown over the past year.


After the patch we headed home, bringing Virginia back with us. She'll be staying with us this week, so we're excited to have a little house guest and have been planning fun activities to take on while she's here — one of which will now involve deciding on how we'll decorate the bumpy pumpkin!

Discover More Pumpkin Decorating Projects:


Script Pumpkin

Carve Pumpkin Designs With a Power Drill

Carve a Constellation Pumpkin

Golden Doily Pumpkins

Painted Letter Pumpkin

Cookie Cutter Pumpkins