Grout Cottage: Apt. A Bath

Grout AptA Day 5 HeadWe started with a shell of a bathroom. When I say shell I mean just framed walls with plywood because the previous owner had at some point demolished the entire bathroom and was in the beginning stages of putting it back in. The shell of a bathroom that we had to work with was not quite big enough so we widened it and gained a few more feet. I also added a window in the bathroom because I just don’t like bathrooms without windows–that really goes for any room, natural light is always a good thing.

Grout AptA Bath Before After

I had a little fun and tried out a vanity in a color other than white in this bath. I waffled for a while about doing a gray vanity or a camo green vanity but finally settled on blue. The vanity is Benjamin Moore’s Stratton Blue mixed in Pittsburgh Paint’s Breakthrough paint line.

stratton blue



Apt A bath vanity after


Grout AptA Bath Vanity detail

I also had been itching to try a patterned tile and a Victorian age home like this was the perfect opportunity. I loved the black and white floral patterns but didn’t want to make it too feminine so I used this starburst SomerTile from Overstock. Along with the blue vanity, the tile gives this small bathroom a little interest and character.

Apt A bath tile closeupAnd to finish it off, we used a standard fiberglass shower/tub surround because its a rental property but if this was a private residence we would certainly go with tiled shower surround.


Grout Cottage: Meet & Greet

I’d like to introduce you to my newest project—the Grout Cottage.

She’s hurtin’ and the people in the neighborhood are delighted that we plan to rescue the house and so am I.

For a proper introduction– here are some basic stats,

  • Built in 1895 (the oldest property we’ve renovated to date)
  • Two story, Queen Anne
  • Duplex; two apartments both two bedroom, one bath
  • Has some original stained glass windows
  • German wood lap siding
  • metal roof
  • has small dilapidated carriage house in rear w/ dirt floor

Queen Anne architecture will incorporate bay windows to avoid smooth surfaces, one of the unique features in this house is the single cutaway bay window on the right corner with bracket detailing.

Moving around to the rear, this is lovely isn’t it. I’m looking forward to improving that upstairs porch. If you’re thinking it looks structurally unsound…you’d be correct.

the old carriage house,

up close,

We’ll begin in the first floor apartment because the upstairs is currently occupied,

Current living room,



Kitchen– the previous owner started some renovation when the apartment was vacant,

they terminated the chimney in the kitchen and framed in what looks to be a pantry,


Hall, nice little stained glass window to let some light in


The bathroom had already been gutted and re-framed. There’s no window in here and they actually left a cavity on the right side which creates an opportunity to expand and widen the room.

Bedroom 1,


Bedroom 2,


Are you excited for demolition to begin on Monday?

Sarah’s House: Mystery Leak

Ever wonder why I don’t get anything accomplished on my punch list, well that’s because when you live in an old house and don’t have the dough to rip the place apart before move in day– you have to take it one repair at a time.

The master bathroom was not really at the top of my list for improvement but a month or so ago we discovered that there was a steady drip down in the basement after morning showers.

Our plumber Doug came over to assist me in determining what exactly was leaking.

First, we ran all of the fixtures and none of them were causing the drip. So Doug had to open up the partition wall that houses the shower/tub plumbing, he didn’t see a leak there but he saw a lot of wet stuff and what he thought was a crappy tile job.

There was a size-able caulk line around the perimeter of the tub where the surround meets the tub and it didn’t appear to Doug that the tile had been carried all the way to the tub deck.

So he sprayed water all over the perimeter of the tub and then it started to drip. Time to call the tile installer. Our tile guy Chris agreed with Doug and we had two choices, we could re-caulk and hope that it held until we were ready to renovate the bathroom or we could re-tile the surround. After some discussion we decided to go ahead and re-tile.

I of course wanted to rip out the tub and have a big shower with frameless glass doors but that’s not in the budget right now.

At this point you might be asking yourself, how is it that Sarah has been blogging for like 4 years and she didn’t have the presence of mind to take before pictures? I don’t really have an excuse answer. But the tile before was 6×6 squares that was totally early 90’s tan. I found this image and this looks almost exactly like what the before looked like.

Our original fixture configuration included a shower head, diverter, hand shower and shower valve. The plumber advised me that we would save $200 but eliminating the diverter and shower head from the equation. Since this isn’t the dream bath remodel we need to fix this with some level of style and move on. The fixture set up we would have to save that $200 was a hand shower on a vertical slide bar that would function as the shower head and we would still have the function of the hand shower for cleaning.The set up would look like this,


So I set out to try and find a hand shower with a bell shape that mimicked a shower head for a little pizazz for an affordable price like this,


This Rohl kit above was at my local plumbing showroom for about $600. Pretty, well made but too expensive. Goodbye Rohl display.

OK back to the Delta section. The Delta kit I purchased was $400 with a shower head that I could eventually install upstairs. So just to keep this in perspective, that is $400 for just the fixtures. We’re not even talking about any plumbing, tile material or tile labor.

So we  go to Lowe’s to get my trusty American Olean white subway tile and ring up a tab of $500 in tile materials combined with the $150 water proofing material at the tile showroom. I show Chris (tile guy) a picture of the shampoo niches I like,

Chris gets to work and we make progress,


we have a snafu with the niches, they need some adjustment but then Chris finally grouts and then the plumber comes and we are in business,



Project Expenses

Plumbing demo & valve rough in – $349

Tile labor – $900

Tile material – $500

Fixtures – $322.76

Plumbing finish – $95


$2,166.76   (what!)


and the leak stopped in the basement, boy I feel much better now.

Guest Cottage Kitchen Remodel Part I

Late last year I began remodeling a little kitchen in a guest cottage on our property. This project had a significantly lower budget than the Indiana project or the Midland duplex remodel so this kitchen won’t be gracing the pages of…anything. But I think it’s a great improvement!

The footprint of the kitchen is pretty small, its only about 8′ x14′ and as you can tell from the dimensions–narrow. Fortunately, the kitchen has a pantry which offers the opportunity for additional storage.

Here is the before,

yellow cottage kitchen before

corridor to cottage kitchen before

Hallway with ugly sink, scary fluorescent light and open shelving, looking in to kitchen

cottage kitchen

I think the thought behind the sunshine yellow wall color was–trying to brighten the space and detract from its decaying fixtures. It wasn’t working for me.

Inspiration and points of reference for the remodel,

ikea brackets open shelves kitchen

Focusing on the open shelving which is an IKEA shelf & bracket.

wood countertop Laura Moss photography

Seriously considered butcher block/wood countertops, talked with a number of trades people and did internet research

Galley kitchen AT

small white galley kitchen

Apartment Therapy

Southern Living shelf over sink

Southern Living

white pantry Boston Bash

considering bronze hardware

Marinate on that for a bit, Part II will be demolition.

Kristine’s House: Kitchen Demo

You might remember my post about my friend Kristine’s house.  She and her husband Fred are remodeling their kitchen and redecorating their living room.

I’ve been helping Kristine a bit in both of these pursuits.  Kristine has chosen IKEA cabinets in the new Ramsjo door style, which is a shaker/traditional fusion. By electing to install IKEA cabinets she and Fred will save some money without having to sacrifice quality.

Here is the space after drywall repair and floor installation,

Ziems kitchen before cabinets2

Kristine completed the demolition herself to save money and when I say “herself”…I mean just her. She rented a dumpster and went at it! She hired a plumber and an electrician to come and terminate the connections and to relocate some of the plumbing and install recessed lighting. For the new floors, Kristine chose 4” wide white oak which was continued from the kitchen in to the living area, down the hall and in to the master bedroom.

Ziems kitchen before cabinets

After Kristine and I talked through the layout using a measuring tape, a pencil, a calculator and a little painter’s tape, Kristine got to work and downloaded IKEA’s kitchen design software and begin putting the layout on paper. She and Fred travelled to IKEA and loaded it all up themselves.The couple is lucky enough to have a contractor friend who is experienced in installing IKEA cabinets.

I have been encouraging Kristine along the way to wrap the island with wood. The reason why–because we (I’m) are shooting for a modern rustic, Southern California aesthetic. Kristine really had her heart set on white cabinets and so in order to warm things and play up the rustic vibe, I have suggested wrapping the living room side of the island in teak or maple or another warm modern wood material with less grain. It also acts as a compromise between the natural finished wood cabinets I wanted her to get and the white kitchen she wanted.

Some images to illustrate,

customized ikea kitchen Living Etc

Living Etc

Modern kitchen-Real Living Au

Real Living Australia

Jeffrey Alan Marks kitchen Elle DecorJeffrey Alan Marks, Elle Decor

Indiana Project: No peeking

Just a little peek of the new and improved exterior at the Indiana house. Its not finished yet so I can’t unveil.

entry detail


entry detail

Indiana Project: Upstairs Bath

This is what the bathroom looked like in the beginning,

upstairs sink

upstairs bath upstairs bath

Upstairs bath sink

This is the current state of the upstairs bathroom at the Indiana project.


I did consider leaving the brick exposed but the mortar was in bad shape and decided to skip expending time and resources on revamping it.


A close up of the window and the shelves that have been framed in the shower.


Standing in bathroom looking toward door and hallway.  You can see the ring for the toilet on the floor on the right.

Both rough in electrical and plumbing work are complete, as well as insulation.  This room has passed inspection and is ready for drywall.
This bathroom presented a few challenges,
  • Challenge #1– How to best position the shower?
    This room is long and fairly narrow but the challenge is the slanted ceiling.  We had to restructure the entire bathroom and really part of the upstairs hallway to get the room you are looking at now. We had to carve out a space in the room for a shower. Our first design included a clawfoot tub along the slanted wall and then the shower stall against the right side of the room, eliminating the window and adding a large skylight. The final design is a tub/shower combination at the far end of the room.
  • Challenge #2– Where can we put the toilet?
    We are required by code to have a certain amount of vertical inches from the front of the toilet to the ceiling.  Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but in a room with a slanted ceiling it quickly becomes a problem. The inspector was asked to come and consult with us on our preferred spot for the toilet. He agreed to allow us to put it where we wanted to because it was a remodel and it had previously been a bathroom. If it would’ve been a new house, the inspector wouldn’t have given us as much leeway.  Even after we placed the toilet, the challenge wasn’t over.  The plumbing has to tie in to the sewer so it has to travel down to the lower level.  The position of the toilet routed the pipe through the downstairs hallway ceiling. When this happens you have to build a box to house the plumbing. In order to make this box make visual sense, the carpenter built a tray ceiling in the downstairs hallway–problem solved.
This is what I have planned for the fixtures in this bath,

Indiana Project:Upstairs Bath

Some of you might be interested in some other details,

  • The window is vinyl clad with obscured glass.  The window itself will not be affected by shower water. The window will be trimmed in composite material that will not rot and then painted.  We may choose to apply a water resistant epoxy, which we’ve had a lot of success with in the past.
  • A custom, frameless glass door will be fabricated to shield the floor from splash.
  • I’ve already purchased the American Standard rain can, extension arm, faucet, shower controls and tub filler from Hubbard plumbing supply. I also bought the Aquaglass unskirted tub at Hubbard’s as well.  I did compare prices at Lowe’s and Hubbard’s because I knew Lowe’s carried the Aquaglass brand. Hubbard’s came out lower and they stock the particular tub I needed, no special order necessary. The side of the tub that is visible in the room will receive a custom wooden paneled front built by the carpenter. As plain as this tub might seem to those of you that are designers or cruise shelter mags or design blogs on the reg, it was still $500.00. Trust me, if it was in the budget I would install a $1500-$3000 soaking tub.
  • There are four 4″ recessed lighting cans in the ceiling in addition to the sconces.

Fixture Sources:

Vanity, Home Decorators

Hexagon floor tile, Overstock

Subway tile, American Universal

Sconces, Lighting Universe

Grohe faucet, Overstock (sold out)

Rain shower head, Faucet Depot

Wooden mirror, Overstock (I purchased ours at Home Goods)

Towel hooks, IKEA

Right now I’m leaning towards Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace for the wall color. I like to test the color out in the room so I’ll finalize the choice once I take the fan deck over and observe it in the room. The trim will be oil based, semi-gloss white and the ceiling will be white.

Indiana upstairs bath colors

Indiana Project: Mission Accomplished

Last week the deck was completed. Let’s review again…


Rear Exterior


New deck

deck railing

As you can already tell the windows are in too.

kitchen windows

new windows front exterior

I hope to receive sign off on the rough in inspection this week, that would mean clearance to begin hanging drywall and really begin making the magic happen on the interior. I should be able to make the call to the inspector on Wednesday requesting the inspection. Thats my goal.

We’ve come a long way but still have quite a ways to go at the Indiana project.

Bathroom Remodel

This bathroom remodel took place at a rental house in Southern Pines, NC, the same house with the painted stair runner posted about here.

I don’t have a true before and after for you because I didn’t make it over to the house with my camera before it had already been demolished.

There’s a different approach in renovating a rental property. Generally, I like to keep things neutral and keep a tight budget in mind which is why you see a lot of off the shelf fixtures. I don’t want to push the design envelope because I know that most of the people in my area probably won’t appreciate it, the painted stair runner blew a lot of minds but in a good way.

I’m not trying to sell this property, I’m really just trying to maintain it or remodel it to a level that will set it apart and guarantee higher rent.

Here’s a picture of the bathroom after it had been gutted.

ashe bath before3 ashe bath before

ashe bath before2

Here’s what we did:

  • Stripped everything out except for the shower. It stayed because it was tiled with neutral mocha brown tiles. I regret leaving the shower now, I think we should’ve gone ahead and re-tiled the shower. If we would’ve done that, I would’ve certainly used white subway tiles.
  • New plumbing
  • New wiring
  • New toilet, Lowe’s
  • New pedestal sink, Lowe’s
  • New faucet, Overstock
  • New mirror, Lowe’s
  • Sconces, CSN Lighting
  • New floor tile, Marjorca
  • Added wainscotting
  • New valve trim, showerhead, local plumbing supply
Here’s what the bathroom looks like now

ashe bath after ashe bath after2

ashe bath after3

I think it turned out great!

Indiana Project: Exterior Repair

Checking in with the Indiana project…really I don’t check in, I should actually pitch a tent out back because I’m there so much.

Front exterior 2/20

This week there are different sub-contractors running all over the house.  The HVAC will be roughed in and should be complete by the end of the week. This was a significant unforeseen expense. The house has an existing oil furnace and we are changing it over to natural gas, this required all new equipment.  We knew that we had to extend central a/c to the upstairs but we had no idea that we would upgrade the entire system and switch fuel types. This was a blow to the budget and we had to make some adjustments.


Plumbers will begin their work this week.  The plumbing rough-in is expected to be complete by the end of this week. I spent most of last Friday afternoon learning about drop-in acrylic tubs and doing some price comparison.

Electrical rough-in is almost complete, the absence of a concrete kitchen plan has delayed the electrician’s work.

Kitchen windows

The windows were measured last week. The window installation is now 3-4 weeks away, this will result in the largest delay in the project thus far. I cannot move on to the next level until the entire rough-in and framing are inspected and the house cannot be inspected unless the new windows are in.

Left side exterior

This week the carpenter will continue to repair the exterior. Some of the shakes needed to be replaced or added where windows were deleted. When the vinyl siding was installed all of the molding around the windows was trimmed down and the original wood brackets were also cut.  All of those are being repaired to look as they did when the house was built.

window trim cut

Who put the B*S in building?

Good Morning and let the venting begin!

bureaucrat faceless

Who put the poo poo in the construction/remodeling process? Local city officials like those sitting down at planning and inspections, that’s who. Bureaucrats who live some times happily, most of the time unhappily under a mound of forms and are so ingrained in a process or code that seems to serve no one.

I know, I know those bureaucrats are someone’s mother, daughter, niece or father. That doesn’t mean that I can’t dislike their process and sometimes along the way not like them very much. Trust me I talk to bureaucrats all day long at the “real job”, I have lots of pent up disdain and for totally justified reasons.

stack of paper

OK so I live in an area that is referred to as the Sandhills in North Carolina, adjacent to golf mecca (Pinehurst), its a collection of small towns.  Although the downturn in the housing market has slowed things down here and selling prices are down and it is very much a buyer’s market, we haven’t suffered as much as other areas of the country.  The point is that the housing market isn’t booming here, meaning these compliance officers like planning staff and inspectors aren’t that busy.

In applying for a permit for the Indiana project, we first filled out an application. Then we had to submit drawings of the major renovations and the fixtures because they need to figure out how much to charge us for the permit.

The planning person calls me and says:

Planning: “we need to see a drawing of the structure on the lot so we know how the house is positioned on the property.”

Sarah: “don’t you have access to the GIS property lookup on the county government’s website, its pretty fancy now they just updated it. There are layers to use, you can see the topography and everything”

Planning: “oh those satellite pictures aren’t accurate, we can’t be sure that those measurements are accurate”

Sarah: “so you want me to go out and physically pull a measuring tape across the lot lines?”

Planning: “yes”

Sarah’s dream question: “What the hell do you folks get paid for and why do I see county employees out surveying?”

So I drew it. Went to turn it in to inspections, planning person says no not yet, you have to go see the Erosion Compliance office because you’re building a deck and a front porch. So we play along. We submit our erosion compliance form, the secretary says the inspector won’t be back until Wednesday and he won’t be able to get back to you until Friday (my thoughts–because he’s so busy and all). But we say thank you and hand over our form.

The erosion compliance inspector calls today and says we have to install silt fencing along the front and the back of the property! Why because we’re gonna dig some holes for porch footings, we could potentially flood the river with mud that is miles away or we’re going to erode the land away. Yeah…not so much.

silt fencing

So I guess we’re just going to ask the Erosion Compliance person if he happened to even get up from his desk and go out there and look at the property or did he just say oh lets make them intall silt fencing.

This is what sucks about renovating.

Could this be it?

Oh boy, thank you Remodelista for unearthing this on Inspace Locations and presenting it to us all. It really helped me piece an idea together for the Indiana project.

English cottage2 Inspace

English cottage Inspace

So after seeing Remodelista’s post on the English Cottage entry, it was easy to draw a line from that to an image I found not too long ago at Canadian House & Home.

exterior color CH&H

The color contrast is delicious and my love affair with watery blue seems unending. And as I said before, there are painted cedar shakes on the exterior of the Indiana house. 

And I found this rooting around in Flickr one day,

Sears Roebuck Amsterdam

 This is an old Sears houseplan, it was called the Amsterdam. After doing some light research I’ve found that this house is a Dutch Colonial Revival and I think the Indiana house is too.  I originally thought the Indiana house was begging for a big covered front porch.  But after collecting all of these images, I’m beginning to think a generous covered entry is the way to go. Enter support brackets,

entry brackets molly frey

entry Molly Frey

 Both of the images above are from Molly Frey Design

 Just a reminder, this is what the Indiana house looks like.

Front Exterior

 Thanks for following along with my thought process. I love when things to start to come together.

It’s A Beautiful Butterfly

Clearly I’ve read The Very Hungry Caterpillar way too many times to DC (hence the title of this post).

I love when you find those home transformations where the beginning structure is a 1950s ranch or as some call it a post war box and it turns in to a Craftsman style cottage or bungalow.

Example given…

ranch before Fine Homebuilding

And then…

ranch after Fine Homebuilding

images via Fine Homebuilding

Some of  architect Ross Chapin’s fine work,

ranch before Ross Chapin

and after…

ranch after Ross Chapin

The Rental

My family and I are working on a cottage in Southern Pines, NC. We plan to locate tenants for this property. It will be on the rental market by the end of this month.

We did some slight revamping and had to do some significant repair to the plumbing, kitchen, new windows and a bathroom upstairs. We purchased it at the beginning of December and experienced some setbacks mostly because we couldn’t all agree on whether or not to gut the kitchen. We ended up emptying it out.

This view looks in to the kitchen from a bathroom, the sunroom/laundry area in the back.


I snapped a few other pictures just for fun. We’ll take a look at the whole place once it’s done. Below is the exposed lath after cabinets and dilapidated beadboard are removed. Despite the raw quality of the lath, the color is a warm honey color, it will be covered over once again.


The linoleum underneath the cabinets


Vintage seeded glass in the downstairs bathroom, the old blue tile will stay for now.

downstairs bath

Here’s a little reminder about our TEOT’s Flickr page which has an abundance of images for your design-related pleasure as well as images concerning this project, past and future projects.