Our Renovation Floor Plan

 Our kitchen island soon after the plumbing was hooked up!

Our kitchen island soon after the plumbing was hooked up!


Welcome back! In reality I need to welcome myself back to my blog because it's been so long since I've been here. Full disclosure - I've had a major aversion to the thought of blogging about our house progress for almost a year now. The whole process has been so consuming that spending any additional time on it, even to show major progress, has been too overwhelming. I even put off documenting the foundation work in my last post for a while and then backdated it somewhat closer to the time it actually happened. I was anticipating posting all the major steps since then, but as we see, that clearly didn't happen! 

Compounding my guilt about neglecting my blog has been the fact that my sweet and talented friend Olivia created a logo and brand new website for me LAST FALL, which I absolutely love and have yet to put to use! I have some holes to fill in before I'm ready to switch to the new site, and have had zero motivation to do it in the midst of everything else going on. I'm so excited to show you her work when I can get my act together!

That picture above might be one reason why I've been a little unmotivated for at least the past few months :) Baby Hymel is due December 9, and we find out the gender this coming Monday!! I can't wait!

I wanted to show you all the floor plan we ended up with for our addition/renovation. The photo below shows our original house and the demo plan our architects created for us. All the dashed lines are walls that were demoed (or originally planned to be - you can see in my blue edits that some plans changed).

I'm now writing from our bright and very comfortable new living room! We are SO happy with the outcome of this project and really enjoy our house every day, but it has definitely been a different experience than moving back into a brand new, completely ready-to-enjoy home like we see on TV...or like jobs I have worked on where the clients live somewhere else until all is done. Six weeks was the longest we wanted to be out of our house, and only so much can get done in that timeframe. I had to push our contractors consistently during that time to accomplish what we did - drywall, hardwoods, cabinets and paint. We often had two groups in the house at the same time, sometime in each other's way.

 The day drywall went up!

The day drywall went up!

It was still so exciting to move back in after major progress happened in a relatively short period. But, our master bathroom and closet were still a shell and our kitchen and laundry room were non-functioning (other than cabinetry). Since then we've spent most of our weekends on house projects - though the list is ever-decreasing! - so the gratification has been more of a gradual stream of small joys rather than one big moment. 

Below is the original floor plan we landed on with our architects. At the time, we were planning to do a set of stairs to go up to our attic space, which we wanted to build out as a second floor in the future.

After we got some bids from builders for this plan, we realized we were going to have to make some big changes or not do the project at all. This is when we spent a couple months debating, looking into moving, and eventually decided to GC the project ourselves. We also refined the plan by deleting the stairs, changing some doors and windows and other minor adjustments. Below is our final floor plan!

The only major things that differ from what we actually did is the side stoop and the deck, which Jon just finished this past weekend. The deck floor actually extends out to where our master bedroom ends, and we have a single set of stairs running perpendicular rather than straight out into the yard as shown here. The stairs at the new side door now run along the side of the house toward the front door. 

Here's what our deck looked like last night at our 4th of July cookout, the first party we've hosted in the new house! It's been so nice to have a covered deck this time so we can have some shade in this miserable heat we've been getting. Hope you all had a great 4th! 

Foundation is Laid/Laundry is Gone

After we finished the demo on the deck, we were ready for the foundation crew to come start their work. First we had to relocate our water heater because it was housed in a little room attached to the back of our house, which was right where a footer had to go for the foundation. The picture below is after the foundation crew knocked off the room, which was where the unpainted brick is. 

Since we're staying in the house while most of the work is done (and still wanted to have hot water), we had our plumber install our new water heater the same day the old one was disconnected. Our foundation crew cut a new access hole in the crawl space for the new one (covered up where the PVC pipes are in the photo above) because our current crawl space access is SO tiny - a literal crawl space. 

Next the crew dug the footings for the addition. The footings (trenches) basically outline where the addition will be. You can see below how the right side will jut out further than the left. Our master bedroom will be on the back right side and our family room will be on the left with doors going out onto a deck.

We got our first piece of bad news after this. Jameel, the head of the foundation crew, realized that the foundation under our laundry room was in really bad shape. We knew the laundry room was a later addition to the original house and could tell the work wasn't done very well, but we had no idea how bad the foundation was. After doing some demo and seeing it better, I don't think there's any way it could have passed inspection! :/

We had to decide then if it was worth it to keep our laundry room for a little longer. We could keep it for another month or so while they finished the foundation work they had started and get that inspected for a partial pass. But then we would have to have the laundry room demoed and get the crew back out to do the foundation work where the laundry room was, get that inspected, etc. We decided having laundry a little longer wasn't worth splitting up the work, so we put the foundation on hold and made plans for having the laundry room ripped off. It all happened pretty fast. I think we got the news Tuesday, and Thursday night we were moving everything out of the laundry room so demo could start the next day.

We had a demo crew come Friday and get as much done that day as they could. The photo above is mid-demo looking through the door that led from our kitchen into the laundry room.

The crew got all the windows, walls and most of the roof off. That Saturday Jon and I finished the demo ourselves. That was (and still is) the worst day so far in my opinion. It was unbearably hot and we were basically picking up concrete blocks and bricks and carrying or wheeling to the dumpster we had in our driveway for hours. Wheeling the heavy wheelbarrow through/around the trenches that were now all over our yard was so hard it was almost not worth it. Jon did some other things like pulled the rest of the roof down and pushed the floor off. It was such a shoddy addition it was pretty easy to rip off. 

The photo above shows where our demo stopped, which is where the original house stopped. We uncovered these concrete steps in the process, but left the steps plus a few feet of our laundry room floor (which has an original brick patio underneath) in place because our new floor can go over top of both. 

Next the crew came back out to finish digging the footings in the space we had cleared out. At that point, we already had most of the footings dug for a couple of weeks and it had rained at least a few times, so Jon had to bail water out of the trenches several nights to keep them somewhat dry.

Just when the crew was almost done and ready to call for the footings to be inspected so they could move on to pouring the concrete, they realized there was a concrete slab from the old water heater room in the way of where that footer needed to go. They almost didn't finish busting up the concrete in time for the inspection. I was really nervous the inspector would show up before the guys were done and put us on his "bad list" for calling it in before we were ready. Thankfully Jameel handled all the interaction with the inspector on his own and we passed!

The rest of the foundation was pretty smooth-sailing, comparatively. I think we lost one day due to rain, but the actual concrete pouring didn't take long. Then it just had to set for a day or two before they laid the blocks. 

The blocks went up pretty quickly, and then it started to feel like we were finally making progress!

Below is the view from our backyard (much smaller now!) after all the block was laid. 

I'm writing this at the very end of December (yes, I'm tricking you with the backdated post...sadly there's no way I can keep up with the progress), and we lost our laundry room mid-September (RIP), so it's been 3 1/2 months now. I'm pretty religious about doing our laundry and changing our sheets every week, so I was a little concerned about how long I would be stuck with Jon's smelly workout clothes before we could wash them, but thanks to lots of sweet friends and family, we haven't gone a week without laundry since then and have only been to the laundromat once!

Next up: framing begins!

Demo Begins!

So excited to say we finally hit "go" on our project this month! We've gotten all the quotes from subcontractors we can get this early on and determined that GCing the project ourselves should (fingers crossed) help us save enough to do the extent of addition we originally planned with our architects back in the spring. 

Our very first steps were getting a survey of our lot and applying for all our permits - three separate applications for the addition, existing and deck - such a pain!! But our real Step 1 was demolition, and the first thing to go was our deck plus a couple trees in our backyard, sadly. Here are a few pictures of what our backyard and deck originally looked like!

Jon and his friend Ross built this bench on our deck when we first moved in...so sad it had to go :(

It actually looked nice out there a few times...just a few!

The big pretty maple that had to go! :( 

First was tree removal...don't worry, we didn't try this ourselves. This is me taking a picture through the back door while the crew was working and trying not to be seen. 

Jon did the deck demo with three amazing, wonderful, helpful friends! Shoutout to to Ben, Wesley & Stahler :) Y'all are the best.

This huge pile of wood got to the dump in a few truckloads, handful by handful :/

Jon saved a portion of the deck to make a ramp so Murphy wouldn't fall out of the house!

Next up, foundation work begins!

Hardwoods for White Kitchens

A lot has happened on the renovation/addition front for us since I last mentioned it. We went from thinking demolition would start in April or May to not knowing if we would do the project at all. We considered moving instead and looked at several houses, which turned out to be affirmation that we really want to stay if we can make the project happen -- which led us to consider being our own general contractors. So that's where we are now. Several things played a part in all the changes, budget and timeline being the biggest - not a surprise to anyone who has done a renovation of any scale! Right now I'm in the middle of meeting and getting quotes from every type of subcontractor we'll need. 

For the addition, we're planning to use the same kind of hardwoods we currently have - 2 1/4" oak. But we'll get them all refinished to match, so I was thinking recently about the stain color I want. Our kitchen will basically be all white, so I gathered some images of different hardwood stains in white kitchens. 

The light blonde option...

The light blonde is basically what we have now, except ours may have a little more orange in it. This is probably my least favorite option...maybe just because it's what we already have. 

You could do a blonde stain with less yellow, more reddish orange tones:

I'm calling this look "coastal ash"....it looks casual, has no sheen. More transitional. 

You could go much more grey, like this. I like the pattern of these floors and I like the color, just not for our house. It still looks a little beachy to me.

Here's a medium-brown, a little more sheen. Back to the width our floors will be. I like this one, just a tad darker...more brown, less yellow/orange. 

Similar to above, but wider planks:

This is one of my all-time favorite kitchens (and features from Southern Living), and I think these floors might be my favorite too!

You could go really dark brown, like these. I love the richness of the dark brown. 

There's always the dark cherry option...I wouldn't do this in an all-white kitchen because I think it could end up having a purple cast.

I think these are really cool! I'd do them in someone else's house :) Probably too yellow for me. But I love the variation...I'm guessing it's not oak?

SOMEDAY, somewhere I want to have glossy black hardwood floors. Not practical with a golden retriever...that hair that is always everywhere would be the death of me on all black floors. 

What's your favorite? Do you like my choice?

Europe Trip!

Jon and I got back a couple of weeks ago from a two-week trip to Europe! We had been thinking about this trip for a couple years, so we had a lot we wanted to fit in. We tried to do as much as we could in the two weeks, so we were traveling to a new city almost every other day.

Here's the map of our route:

In case you can't quite read that, it was:

  • Madrid 
  • Salamanca
  • Barcelona (through Madrid)
  • Cannes
  • Monaco
  • Florence
  • Rome

Montpellier was supposed to be a one-night stop between Barcelona and Cannes, but our Airbnb there canceled, so we continued on to Cannes and had an extra night there. We flew into Madrid and did all the traveling by train. 

I'm glad we started out in Spain because I can still speak some Spanish, and Jon a little too, so that helped ease us into a foreign-language mindset. By the time we got to Italy, we were mixing up all the languages, so I think our Spanish would have been a mess if we had done the trip backwards.

Here are just a few photos from each place we stayed...


Parque del Buen Retiro, "Park of the Pleasant Retreat"


This is where I studied abroad in college - not a city the average person would plan to visit during a week in Spain, but I really wanted to go back and I wanted Jon to see it. It ended up being nice to have a small town on our itinerary of mostly big cities. We felt like we could do everything we wanted in our 2 days there, and that was not the case anywhere else except maybe the French Riviera. 

our view into the plaza from our hotel room - BEST hotel location of the trip

the pedestrian bridge//the famous cathedral


Plaça de Catalunya at the end of La Rambla

La Sagrada Familia, forever under construction, exterior & interior!


On to FRANCE where we were totally lost with the language! We skipped our night in Montpellier and had an all-day travel day getting to Cannes, home of the famous film festival which was happening the following week! Unfortunately no celebrity spottings in Cannes. Apparently Blake Lively arrived the day we left :(

Cannes is also known for its super yachts $$$$$

It wasn't good beach weather when we were in Cannes, but I still insisted on renting beach chairs while we had the chance to lay out and do nothing. We went to an amazing crepe place for dinner/mostly dessert!


We had only one night/day in Monaco, which is just an hour train ride from Cannes. Monaco is its own tiny principality and is known for the Grand Prix, fancy cars, casinos, Grace Kelly and again, super yachts.

The Historic Grand Prix race took place the week after we were there, so we got to see all the setup. The bigger Formula 1 race ended yesterday, I think. The race takes place in the center of the city around the downtown buildings and harbor. The city streets were already lined with barriers and bleachers at the harbor. It looked like a huge construction project to go through every year.  


There was way too much to do in too little time in Florence and Rome. It kind-of feels like we ran around non-stop listening to Rick Steves and trying to see as much as possible. We could have done a whole week just for these two cities, but I'm so glad we fit in what we did!


We did not mean to climb the duomo. I wanted to climb the bell tower (behind me in the picture below), but we got in line for the duomo without realizing it and when we got inside there was no choice but to go upstairs. We realized what we were doing about halfway up the 463 steps!

Then Jon ran up the 414 bell tower steps by himself (haha!) to get the duomo IN the picture.


We hit all the big spots in Rome - everything pictured here plus the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel of course (inside the Vatican) and the Spanish Steps. There was still a lot more we could have done. The biggest surprise in Rome was how CROWDED it was. It wasn't even the high tourist season yet, but I couldn't imagine it being any more crowded. 

The Forum

Vatican City

Arch of Titus//St. Peter's Basilica - coolest thing about the Basilica is that Peter is buried here!

The end! We highly recommend going to ALL of these places!

Tiny Kernersville Installation

Since I've started working with Brenda Bateman (bdb interior design), I've helped her with four installations for our largest commercial client, North State Bank. Brenda has been NSB's interior designer for years, and she keeps up with SO many big and small things for NSB corporate and their offices throughout NC. They have had huge growth this past year, which explains why we've installed five new locations in three months. Make that six locations as of this Friday! 

At the end of March we installed an office in Kernersville for just one mortgage loan officer - one office and one lobby/conference room in a larger office building. NSB took on this office in its current state - no renovations were in the budget this time. So this was one of those jobs where we had to accept and overlook the negatives where necessary. Just keep in mind we would have changed the carpet, trim and doors in a heartbeat if we could have :)

Here are some BEFORE photos below. We came in to a completely empty lobby/conference room and office (plus a packed storage room) when we arrived. 

The door in the photo above opens out to the lobby of the building. 

Beginnings of the office...

It's crazy how much artwork just a small space needs. Cute Brenda working on a lamp below!


The fun guest chair fabric:

Look at what a gorgeous lamp she got! Probably my favorite lamp we've put in an office so far.

A job like this is so fun because we get to make someone's everyday work environment prettier, more enjoyable, functional, etc. This one in particular was rewarding because we got to know the woman who works here throughout the day and see her excitement over the artwork, furniture, etc. as we brought it in. It's also so satisfying to see a completed product at the end of the day. We always leave NSB installations so grateful for our work! 

Prettiest Pantry Doors

 via tinyme

via tinyme

Happy Easter! I hope everyone had better weather than we did here in Raleigh on Sunday. The sun came out yesterday, but Easter was cloudy and cold. Not accommodating for a cheery, spring outfit. Nevertheless, He is risen! That's enough reason to celebrate. 

We spent a lot of our weekend studying and reworking our kitchen renovation plans - cabinet placement, what will be stored where. I want to do open shelving instead of all upper cabinets, and getting the placement to feel balanced has been a little challenge. Before that, I thought a lot about our pantry doors, so I wanted to do a post dedicated to some really pretty pantry doors. Not even the inside of the pantry - really just the doors!

 via hayburn & co.

via hayburn & co.

If you do have a dedicated pantry in your kitchen and aren't just using kitchen cabinets (which is what we're doing now), there are pretty much two ways you can go: a built-in pantry using cabinetry or open shelving behind one or two interior doors. Of course if you choose the second and you have the space, you could have a walk-in pantry. Let me know in the comments below what your preference is!

The built-in pantry seems to be the more popular choice in new kitchens if you don't have the space for a walk-in, which we don't. I was undecided on what I wanted for a while, but I ended up choosing to use interior doors and open shelving. The first photo with the black French doors is what I'm aiming for. 

 via decor pad

via decor pad

A built-in pantry usually saves some space and the continuity of the cabinets can be nice, especially if you have a small kitchen. Our kitchen won't be huge, but we will have a decent uninterrupted run of cabinets/counter, so continuity isn't a concern for me. I feel like we have enough cabinetry already and it will be nice to have something unique for the pantry.

I don't think we'll have space for sliding barn doors at the pantry, but I love this look below for barn doors in general.

 via the kitchn

via the kitchn

I REALLY like the windowpane doors, but whether I'll be okay with seeing everything inside the pantry is questionable. I might just have to get baskets and bins to hide everything. I haven't even started looking at doors yet, so this is all very TBD. 

 via this old house

via this old house

 via magnolia market

via magnolia market

These below are not pantry doors, but they're the most gorgeous pocket doors ever! I'm not sure where the original image is from, unfortunately. Just imagine if these led to your pantry! The rest of your kitchen would have to kick it up a notch. 

 via the decorista

via the decorista

I'm not doing a built-in pantry, but I wanted to include a few pretty options of those, too. I would definitely choose a built-in pantry for a small L- or U-shaped kitchen where you can see all angles from anywhere in the space. When you already have a fridge, dishwasher and oven breaking up the cabinetry and you can see it all at once, you don't need another block for your eye to jump to.

How cool is the one below with a light inside? Looks like you're opening a fridge. 

 via premier custom-built

via premier custom-built

The middle cabinet below might really be a fridge, but I think we can still call this a pantry WALL. So pretty! You've got to have the ceiling height for this to not feel too weighty in your kitchen.

 via kitchens by eileen

via kitchens by eileen

If we did a built-in, we would use roll-out trays like this inside. Especially helpful if your cabinets are deeper than 12!"

 via carla aston

via carla aston

Last but not least, a pantry that defies my "one of two options" statement. So actually you can have a built-in AND a walk-in if your heart desires. :)

 via mark williams design associates

via mark williams design associates

I can't wait to share our actual floor plan for the addition! When the plans are officially ours, I'll share a photo of the whole thing, hopefully soon!

The Best Editor's Letter

I'm an avid - maybe obsessive - magazine reader. I have this unwanted conviction that I have to read every article and caption before I'm done with an issue. I don't know anyone else that has this problem, so if you do, please tell me so I don't feel like such an oddball. I've been trying to overcome this compulsion, partly by subscribing to more magazines so that maybe the influx of glossy pages will persuade me to give up reading every single one. I think I'm making some progress! Just don't ask my husband.

I'm still probably the only person I know who reads the Editor's Letters. I've always found these interesting, probably because I studied journalism and wanted to write for a magazine. Writing for a shelter magazine still sounds like a dream job. On that note, THIS editor's letter below from the Elle Decor April 2016 issue, is my new favorite. I can never find current issues online, so I had to resort to a picture of mine. I hope you can read it.

I just love everything about this letter. He touches on some of the reasons why I believe interior decorating is important (among others) and at the same time makes us all feel more okay about our messy and incomplete homes. Hospitality is key to building relationships. I think it affects us more than we give it credit for. Think about it - how much closer do you feel to someone when you've seen where they come home to every day and eaten a meal at their kitchen table? It's a pretty instant signifier of a closer friendship with someone. It's so easy to do, and yet we so often don't. 

Our homes are reflections of who we are, so it's no wonder you feel you know someone better once you've been to their home. You see colors and patterns they love, pictures of family and favorite places, their to-do lists, calendars, and their kids' play rooms. It's this safe place where you can most easily get to know someone. And that should be our focus when inviting others over (even sleeping over!), not how clean our kitchen is or how perfect the guest room looks -- and that -- is so hard for me.

It's not easy. It's really humbling to let others get close enough to possibly see your laundry room spilling over with dirty clothes or your dusty baseboards you've been meaning to clean for five months. I love how Michael Boodro admitted his own fear of others' expectations of his home and his delight in being invited over to others' homes, no matter how stylish they look at the moment. If the editor of Elle Decor can say those things, I think I can, too.