Tag Archives: remodel

Emmett’s room on AT

Eeep! I’ve been reading Apartment Therapy since forever and after documenting our dormer renovation and posting the finished nursery pictures, I decided to submit our project to the site. It’s up today as “Emmett’s Raise-the-Roof-Room.”


If you’re new to the blog and interested in seeing more of the process, I’ve included some posts in chronological order below. Special thanks to Matt Coen for letting us know the dormer addition was do-able, and to Woodland Fair, our contractors. Adjusting to life with a newborn has been a lot easier with such a pretty space to hang out in.

The room is definitely getting more lived-in now that Emmett is home, but the setup is working out great!


Trying to decide what to name your little bundle? AT posted a roundup of 100 “stylish names” based on kids names from rooms they’ve posted on the site.

P.S. The lovely Marissa from The Moon and the Honey announced she and her husband are expecting a baby in February. She always puts together the best nursery inspiration boards – can’t wait to see tiny Kephart’s space take shape!

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Aww, honey(comb)

I’ve been jonesing to incorporate the honeycomb trend into our home decor, and went ga-ga over these shelves from “A Beautiful Mess” a few weeks ago. Joe channeled all of his last-week-before-baby nervous energy into making them for me for my birthday!


I watched from the zero gravity chair, popsicle in hand as he tackled the project. (It took a couple of hours over a few days.)


We installed the shelves in our landing, which transformed from a snore-ville junk-piled catchall into an actually adult looking sitting space after the remodel.


Slowly but surely, the nursery isn’t the only finished-feeling space.


I think it has an unintentionally woodsy, Portland-vibe now that everything is together and I’m loving it. My mom finished the Posie Daisychain Crewelwork sampler! It’s one of my favorite gifts, ever.


The quilt was handmade by my friend Amy, for Emmett. The fabrics are so perfect.


As far as styling the shelves goes, I think they need a terrarium.


I’ll have to stop by seed in the East Village sometime soon to get succulents and supplies, but in the meantime, here’s some inspiration:


The “TERRA” Terrarium by Fort Standard

full_Kitty_Terrarium_12Succulent terrarium

il_570xN.360178552_5y1vQuill & Fox postcard set

Terrarium+Tutorial+9Pieced Pastimes tutorial


Filed under At home, Getting crafty

Making room: Our bright, book-filled nursery

It’s hard to believe our former attic nook is now my favorite place to sit and read and watch birds and branches and the clouds roll by. I can’t wait to welcome our baby home.


I will admit, though, to shedding a few tears in trading in this lovely life for two to grow into a family of three. I’m a person who appreciates quiet time to herself, and I know being needed by another little human is going to reshape those moments forever. A child becomes like a phantom limb; s/he’s an extension of yourself that always holds a piece of your mind.

As we set about making space, it was a literal and figurative task: To create a bright room where there was none, and fill it with books and hopes and a bird’s eye view. To prepare for this next adventure of parenthood by way of paint swatches and nails and carpet and curtains.

It’s hard to believe our dormer addition nursery started out like this:


Our contractors took care of opening the roof to the sky and building out the structure, installing drywall and windows. We took on the electrical and hired out the carpet installation and did our own painting and decorating.

Want to peek inside? I’ve been so excited to share this space!

from hall

We started out by painting a gender-neutral, bright green, crushing on some animal decals and building up a lovely collection of books to base the room around. It turned out we incorporated quite a few pops of red, too.

door open

The radiator cover was a custom DIY collaboration built by my brother and Joe. It covers our heating and cooling unit and the top is hinged so we can open it up when it’s in use. They worked their butts off on it, and I think it really finishes the room.

dresser:shelf angle

I wasn’t sure where to start, but the whole inspiration for the room began with the safari animal wall decals that now peek out from different spots. I love their sweet personalities and Joe suggested we put most of them down low, so the baby can crawl to them.

Sweet zebra

Animal decals by gingiber on Etsy.

crib angle

The Jenny Lind crib was a great deal on Overstock,and gifted to us by my grandpa. This is the first great-grandbaby in the family and I can’t wait to introduce those two! The print at the head of the bed is by Kate Daisy. I am obsessed with her designs!

Dresser front rocker

These dressers were a Craigslist coup we re-painted. We decided to try an ombre effect on the middle drawers, using leftover paint with the samples we’d tried when choosing one for the walls. We’re using the smaller one as a changing table and tucked it in the closet to save space. I stuck some of the advice tags from my baby shower along the top.



The curtains are IKEA. I think they’re festive without being too circus-y, and they’re nice and thick and came super-long. The bookshelves are painted IKEA spice racks (Pinterest inspiration actually put to use!) Thank goodness for IKEA.

toy basket

My mom made the toy basket at a workshop in Wisconsin. She made it before I was even pregnant, which is kind of funny. Guess who’s excited to become a grandma?


The rocker came from Craigslist, too, and a friend generously reupholstered it with fabric we had on hand from an earlier project we’d abandoned. I was skeptical about needing a rocker, but Joe insisted and it’s probably the most functionally awesome part of the room. We’ve both been reading in there a lot. The red campaign chest came with our house and fits breastfeeding supplies inside. Cara knit the blanket we’ve draped over the footstool for optimal coziness.

crib wall

The Eric Carle ABC poster is Target and the hanging quilt was made by Joe’s grandma. Nobody had told her the color scheme and theme of the nursery, but when we opened it we knew it needed to be in the spotlight!


And the books! This baby will be well-read, and I love that.


Joe’s sister, Ellen, threw a sweet book-themed baby shower on Mother’s Day, which quickly filled the shelves. My friends at Ephemera made the most beautiful invitations, and each came with a customizable book plate inside. Joe’s sister Molly crafted the cool elephant bookends.

Invite Inside

I think the most special part of the room is that almost every element inside was crafted or gifted with love from someone in our lives. I am in awe at the talents and generosity of our friends and family, and I hope that this baby soaks up the values and lessons all of the smart, sweet people he or she will be surrounded with. The plan is for this room to someday get shared with a sibling, too!


Filed under At home, Baby, Getting crafty

Feeling French

I’ve been focusing on the nursery addition, but the rest of our attic master got some attention with the remodel, too. The most significant update is a new wall and French doors that separate the master bedroom from this landing space and our upstairs bathroom.


The landing area was mostly just a catch-all with papers piling on top of a desk shoved against one wall. In the end, that’s probably what it will become again, but I’m doing some daydreaming for now and “shopping” from other sections of the house to make it a sweet sitting area. Because honestly, sitting sounds really good right now.

The upstairs also got a fresh coat of Benjamin Moore Heather Gray paint on the walls, re-whitened trim and our once-brass fixtures got the ORB treatment. ORB is awesome. Our contractor couldn’t believe we didn’t buy new hardware.


We’ll see how much more progress gets made in the coming weeks. Maybe in three years the landing will still look like that, with a lampshade on the floor. I can’t even post a total picture of our bedroom wall with French doors because it’s still such a shambles in there.


The French Door setup (these are actually white but the lighting was off) will provide a little more privacy without really sacrificing the open feel of the space. Plus, it will be a nice way to keep Wilbur contained without having to put him in his kennel. Eventually, we might get a pretty patterned window film for the glass panes, although Joe questioned my dedication to cutting so many rectangles.

Instead of decorating, a few favorite French-ish things these doors have me daydreaming about:


This quartet of French-y cards from Rifle Paper Co. Ephemera has carried these before.


Mornings at La Mie. (I have a feeling maternity leave will involve several stroller walks to get breakfast sweets.)


A delightful collection of shorts. Yeah, forget hanging curtains, I’ll be re-watching these.

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Nursery update: Blank slate

The carpet went in, the carpet went in!


I’ve never been present at a carpet installation before, but I was working from home while they were putting it in, and the smell brought me back to the plastic animal Mold-A-Rama machines they had at the Brookfield Zoo. (Anyone else remember those?) Probably toxic, but I kind of love it. Joe wanted to take photos of me doing carpet angels.

Carpet angel

Now this feels like a room! We still have to get the windows replaced, per Des Moines city code egress mandates (whomp-whomp), and the exterior painted, but otherwise, we have our blank slate and have begun filling it with furniture. It’s a small room (165 square feetish? Not counting closet space), but the slightly vaulted ceilings make it feel open and there’s so much natural light. I love it.

Sneak peek at things getting arranged:

nursery progress

We went with gray carpet in a square kind of pattern, and green walls, so the palate is gender-neutral but maybe leaning a little boy-ish? Everyone thinks JamJam is a boy, and I’ve just had my first two boy dreams. All the others have been girl dreams. In the first boy dream, though, the baby was immediately talking (like Stewie from Family Guy) and had a full head of curly hair and freaked me out. I can feel entire slabs of baby pushing against my belly. A little rump here or what might be a head there. Sometimes I get a full-on inside out punch to the gut, which is my favorite.

Today is the baby shower for the Paluch 3-pack, and I’m baking that pineapple upside down carrot cake again. I crafted part of their present and am excited to post about it.

Last night, I made my favorite (chocolate chip-filled) banana bread. It smells cinnamony and is so good for this wet and dreary weather we’ve been having.


Filed under At home, Baby, Getting crafty

Room to remember


This baby is due on June 4, exactly nine years and 364 days after my father died. I remember the bright sunshine of that afternoon, and feeling helpless as I watched his life slip away on the driveway, under the bay of windows that looked out of my childhood room. It’s strange to teeter on the verge of parenthood now and the things that remind me of him.

I don’t think of my dad – Papa –  when I stand among pine trees on a hike, and the wind tickles the needles. I don’t see him in a Bluebird perched on a fence, and I don’t often visit the grave site where he is buried. Instead, it’s in things like spotting an Eames lounge like the one I used to get in trouble for twirling on as a kid. It’s in imagining his appreciation for the Saarinen-designed dorms at Drake, or wondering if he was on the S.O.M. team that designed Cap Square.

Kneeling to cover a corner of the new nursery in a coat of paint, a wave of missing him came over me like I haven’t felt for a long time. I took in the light bouncing off the primed white walls and imagined my dad in the space, assessing and appreciating as an architect would. I could practically hear him telling me to keep the walls white in the same modern aesthetic that never really worked in our house when I was growing up. (We were more handprint smudges and clutter and dust than a page from DWELL. I’m the same, still.)

In my early teens, I rebelled against the white walls in my room. I picked out a can of Martha Stewart Batter Bowl Green and my dad taught me how to roll it on by making V-shapes instead of going straight up and down. This weekend, I let the tears fall as I retraced that motion with a shade of green on the walls of the nursery.

I realized that, in a strange way, building this room has helped me to feel like my papa is a part of his grandchild’s life, even though they’ll never meet. I could almost imagine him alongside Joe and his dad, working on the electrical, or there with another paint roller, helping even though he disagreed with the shade. (The heather gray hall walls, I know he’d like.) My dad and I refinished a dresser together once, and Joe uses it in our room. I think I’ll have to play Warren Zevon’s album “The Wind” when I paint over the baby’s this weekend. I wonder what will remind my baby of me when I’m gone.

Warren Zevon: Keep Me in your Heart

Shadows are falling and I’m running out of breath
Keep me in your heart for awhile
If I leave you it doesn’t mean I love you any less
Keep me in your heart for awhile

Sometimes when you’re doing simple things around the house
Maybe you’ll think of me and smile
You know I’m tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for awhile


Filed under At home, Baby, Life lessons

Thanks, Craig: Nursery furniture!

While our upstairs remains draped in plastic tarps (the drywall stage of our remodel is coming to a close), downstairs is beginning to resemble a stall at the Brass Armadillo.


Tail down = Wilbur is not pleased. But he’s been super curious, too.


It’s getting to the stage where we’re going to be able to start decorating the nursery in a few weeks. My grandpa has this tradition of buying beds for his grandchildren (I think I started it when he gifted me with my first real grownup person bed when I moved to Des Moines), and he’s keeping it alive for the first great-grandchild in the bunch!

I had originally planned on going with a modern crib, but then Jenny Lind cribs kept catching my eye. (This nursery is so incredibly lovely, it put an arrow through my heart.) Grandpa came through and our crib arrived this week. We haven’t set it up yet, but here’s the website image:


Reality is setting in that our new room is actually going to become filled with things, like furniture and a child.

I’m not the kind of person who needs to have everything new, especially considering the environmental impact of having kids, but I also know what I like. I had a vision of finding some of our nursery furniture on Craigslist. We hadn’t had much luck finding what we were looking for, but then yesterday ended up nabbing a glider and dresser set within a few hours of each other for supercheap. Score!


The glider cushions might get re-upholstered if I can figure that out, and a few paint touchups. The dresser will not remain that violet color. (Likely, it will go white. I tried painting a desk a teal color a few years ago and that was a total fail, so I’ll keep it simple/gender-neutral.)

The dresser has a mirror that gets attached on one side, and I think I’ll use the other side for a changing table. And it has a matching mini dresser that will likely go in the closet or something.


Pardon the sandwiching, but I wasn’t about to move furniture today.

We plan to paint the room a light spring green and decor is inspired by the sweetest wall decals that ever lived graced Etsy:



Filed under At home, Baby

It’s electric!

The biggest component of the remodel that we decided to take on ourselves (and by “we”/”our” here, I mean Joe and his dad), was the electrical work.


Joe’s dad was once an industrial electrician and is a super handy guy. Joe got out stacks and stacks of books on electrical wiring and whatnot from the library — and he even appeared to read them in preparation for wiring the nursery. Our home was built in 1920 and still has some knob and tube wiring that they had to navigate along with putting in the new stuff.

He was pretty nervous about applying for a permit because he heard they test you, but he designed a super snazzy room diagram/plan and sailed right through. Then it was on to implementing the plans.


In case anyone else is considering a project like this, I asked Joe to share a few things he’s learned in the process:

  • Check out guides to residential wiring from the library. The one he used the most was done by the tool company Black & Decker. He also looked up the Des Moines code, which is pretty much the National Electric Code, but the permit and code center on the city website has some good resources.
  • Rough out a plan on paper first, but then make sure it looks legit to show the inspector. Joe used InDesign to create his diagram of how the wiring would work, basing his rendering off our contractor’s CAD drawings of the room and using the same wiring diagram symbols suggested in his books.
  • Remember that when you start a project like this, especially in an older house, you’ll find weird things. Our main goal with the new room was to keep everything separate from pre-existing wiring, both to help with the inspection and make sure it was as safe as possible.
  • Cornstarch (yes, from the pantry) can help as a lubricant for pulling wire through the conduit.
  • Labeling wires and adding nail strike protectors in places where wires run too close to the end of studs are a few details that can show an inspector you know what the heck you’re doing.
  • Joe really liked this online guide to get an idea of things to keep in mind when doing residential wiring.


    Joe wanted me to make sure to note that the wires look messy because he returned them to the box, ready for drywall. I was too late to capture them in their pre-inspection glory.

  • This isn’t a DIY to take lightly. (Pun not intended.) Even with a dad who knew what he was doing, the project seemed overwhelming at first. Joe lost a lot of sleep over this, but we also saved like $3,000 because he was willing to study up and put in the effort.

I think the wiring was basically Joe’s right of passage into fatherhood. He was pretty stressed about the process and didn’t have the option of asking for an epidural or anything. But in the end, I think he emerged learning a lot from his dad. I’m super-impressed with what they accomplished over two weekends. And guess what? They passed the inspection!

The electrical inspection happened at the same time as the building inspection, which did have a bad news moment. (What remodel project doesn’t?) Apparently our windows, which we are totally in love with, aren’t big enough. Even though there are four of them, and they are gorgeous, Des Moines city code dictates that the egress has to basically accommodate a manatee. So. The contractors will be removing the windows and replacing them with probably three larger ones. We got the wooden fancy ones for half off because they were left over from one of our contractor’s other projects, so our replacement windows probably won’t be as high quality. Bummer sausage. I’m sure they’ll be fine, but it’s maybe little bit like test-driving a Mercedes and driving home in a VW. I mean, we totally drive a Passat, but once you’ve sampled the upgrade…

Insulation also went in this week, thanks to some handy friends coming over to pitch in.I wish I had gotten them all wearing their tool belts, but I was busy hanging out, watching The Mindy Project with Arin while our husbands sweated it out putting everything up. Hooray for no longer hemorrhaging heat out of the new room!


Batter up, drywall. Then, paint. Does anyone know how to go about matching exterior paint on a house?


Also, house-hunters, check out Joe’s sister and brother’s historic house for sale in Des Moines’ Union Park. We spend a lot of time there, and it’s comfortable, full of character, close to the park/bike trails, and has a big garage and fun party patio backyard. It’s a lovely home and once they sell theirs, they plan to move closer to us, so spread the word!


Filed under At home

A new view

The windows went in the nursery today! Four big windows overlook the backyard and the backyards of the street beyond, which we’ve never seen before. I can’t wait to gaze out when everything is lush and green, and I hope our apple tree fruits again this fall.


The boxed area below the windows is for the PTAC unit. I think we’re going to try to build a radiator cover for it, like this one. Home Depot has lots of pretty grates for them.

The framing went in for the wall that will divide our room from the landing, too. I love having high ceilings and I think the french doors will keep an open feel.


All the hammering and wiring and whatnot upstairs has me more excited than ever about decorating our second floor. We really kind of neglected our “master suite” for three years after we moved in, but now I’m feeling like we need to capitalize on its potential. I mean, the baby can’t hog all of the style, right?

It’s probably not a great idea to go too trendy, but the finishings upstairs allow for us to go a little more modern in our decor and I’m currently obsessing over honeycomb/hexagon-y things.

Kate Daisy print

Kate Daisy print

Apparently I’m not the only one, but Joe and I did get married on a beekeepers farm, so there’s that. Babble has this roundup of Honeycomb Awesomeness.


I’m especially loving the honeycomb shelving on “A Beautiful Mess.” Maybe for the hallway, in place of a big book case?

I have always loved the hexagons in the “Grandmothers Flower Garden” quilt. I got this one at a Valley Junction antique sale for a crazy deal:


This modern take has an almost scientific look to it, which I also like:

A hex hexagon upon me, I suppose.


Filed under At home

Meanwhile, back at the homestead

Yesterday was hole-in-the-roof day! From the curb, you can’t really see much. It’s like a mullet remodel. Still pretty business in the front.


But the party was getting started in the back when Joe and I popped home over lunch with some groceries so we could keep the crew fueled on what our contractor predicted would be one of the most intense days of construction.


It was pretty wild to walk upstairs and see the one-time wall exposed to the elements.


Remember that wall just the day before?

What was crazier was getting back to the house at the end of the day and seeing the room pretty much framed out.


Inside, we could really start to visualize how furniture would work out, and evolve from a crib to maybe bunk beds or something some day.


There will be a big bay of windows overlooking our little backyard, and we have to have a PTAC unit installed for heating and cooling because of the nature of our old house and how the HVAC is set up. Our room can get pretty toasty in the summer, so we wanted to make sure we were able to keep it cool on this side.


Wednesday night, Joe and I went on a dinner-and-Lowe’s date (pretty sure it was an excuse for him to try some of the new beers on tap at Rock Bottom) to look at some finishings.

We started to wrap our brains around carpeting options, although my boss recommended Louie’s Floor Covering on Ingersoll, which we’re totally going to check out. I’m not sure if this ceiling fan will be too big, but we’re fans (har har) of it because it seems to blend the craftsman and modern styles we love.

Wilbur, by the way, is being a champion about all of the pounding. He’s sequestered in his kennel in the extra room during the day, but the crew says he’s hardly made a peep and he just doesn’t go upstairs at night. Lots of treats for that pup these days for not completely freaking out.


Filed under At home