Bright and Sunny: The Sun Room

One of the most common things people said to us when we bought the house was, “What are you guys going to do with that back room?”  They were referencing an addition to the back of the original house from probably the 60s or 70s.  They took what used to be a covered walkway connecting the kitchen to the garage and enclosed it and built it out to be a family room.  It acquired several nicknames quickly:  “the dungeon”, “the smoking room”, and “the paneling room” to name a few.  It is the largest room of the house with wood paneling walls, acoustical tile ceiling, and green mosaic linoleum flooring.  The paneling seemed to have a dark ring of smoke, nicotine, and who knows what else around the top.

A neighbor told us this is where the last owner spent most of her time because it has a ton of natural light and looks out to the side and back yards.  Besides, it has a lot of room and is right off of the kitchen and dining rooms.  Here are the before pictures:  (check out the gas log fireplace and the old gas heater in the wall)


We knew we wanted the room to be light and airy with neutral colors.  Since the floor in this room was lower than the rest of the house, we figured we could do something interesting with the ceiling.  We wanted to have a coffered ceiling like the one in the picture here, but we needed a less expensive alternative.

We decided the alternative was to get sheets of plank board and trim it out in rectangles to get a similar look of a coffered ceiling.  We also added just a few recessed lights just because–and by “we”, we mean we came up with the design and the contractors put it up!

We had originally planned on putting the plank board right on top of the acoustical tile.  However, when the fans were taken down, we found out that there was no insulation in the ceiling!   SURPRISE!  So then the plan was changed to take down the acoustical tile, and insulate!  And FYI we did have it tested for Asbestos, and it was negative! Here’s the mess after the acoustic tiles were torn down!


For the floor, we decided to go with charcoal gray 2’x1′ rectangular tiles in a 1/3 pattern (you may recognize these from the master bathroom) laid in the direction that would make the room feel wider.  Here was pin on Pinterest that reinforced what we wanted!

The fireplace was pretty basic with NO character so we wanted to make it more substantial since it is the focal point of the room.  This is the pin we used for inspiration!

We were originally going to tile around the fireplace insert, but we decided that with the wood trim, the granite hearth, and the ceramic floor, it would be too much!  Then we decided we would paint the brick, but once the trim and everything was in place, we liked it as is–AND that meant less painting for us!

We instinctively knew this is where we would spend most of our time as previous owners had, so we wanted to have a TV mounted above the fireplace.  Our contractors took care of placing the brackets and they also wired it to have an electrical outlet and HDMI connection (brilliant!).  Here is a look at the renovation in progress.

For the walls, we had a couple of options–keep the paneling (yuck!), paint the paneling, or replace it with drywall.  The drywall would have been the most expensive route so we looked up methods on painting wood paneling and it was a bit daunting.  We tried to sand and prime it, but the primer just scratched right off (we used Kilz 2).  We talked to an employee at Lowe’s and he directed us to a great primer to use (Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3) and told us the Kilz was the worst primer they had!  Great!  No sanding was needed and this new primer went up with ease.  We painted a large section white to see how it would look.  As it turns out, we didn’t like the look at all because you could see every gap between each sheet of paneling and to fill and smooth out those places would have been extremely labor intensive!

Finally, we thought of covering the paneling with grasscloth wallpaper.  We knew we really liked the look because it was textural and neutral.  All we had to do was prime and paint the walls and the grasscloth was ready to go up.

Next we also replaced all of the windows in the room.  Two were old single pane crank windows, and the other 2 in the room were relatively “new” vinyl windows with a “wood” finish.   So we called Jon at Gilkey Windows, and he took care of us!  We can’t say enough good things about them, if you need windows, siding, gutters, etc., call Jon, he’s the best.

AND FINALLY! The room was done! Now we could move stuff back in.  Because the room is long, we divided the room into 2 areas: one facing the fire place, and one smaller area by the windows in the back of the room.  This allowed us to have plenty of space to host guests, as well as a space for the 2 of us to have as a small sitting area with a table, kind of like a breakfast nook.

Here’s the room! (As always, click any image to enlarge!)


photos courtesy of Shaun Ring.





Ready, Set, Demo!

Before the ink was even dry on the contract, the half-bath demolition commenced.  Our house only had one full bathroom on the main floor, but more storage than we knew what to do with, so the plan   was to combine two coat closets off the foyer into a half-bath for all of our guests to use.  Fortunately, for sake of the house, we weren’t the ones doing the work.  That’s why we hired wonderful contractors!



That wasn’t the only project that started on day 1!  The foyer and dining room floors had been covered over with the ugliest vinyl tile flooring east of the Mississippi!  And probably west of the Mississippi too, for that matter.  We knew that we wanted to rip it up, but we had questioned what the situation was like underneath the tile.  Was it beautiful hardwood or was it hardwood that had been destroyed?  or God knows what else.  We had a chunk of it removed and tested for asbestos.  It truly wasn’t as scary as it sounds, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t going to be part of a class action lawsuit with mesothelioma.  Fortunately, it was negative…. so up it came.  Beneath a sea of a thousand nails and staples, the floor was actually in great condition.  It just needed to be refinished.



photos via


Third Time’s A Charm

View From Kitchen

Old Home

Seven years ago, we moved into a townhouse that had just been flipped… and by flipped, we mean they basically put down new carpet and painted the walls beige. This was a perfect opportunity for the flipper because it was almost 2100 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 3 and a half bathrooms, and was only 7 yrs old with no problems. It was also a perfect home for us at the time because of the layout and blank slate we had to work with and that it was probably the most spacious home we could have afforded at the time. Over time, our needs changed, and the neighborhood changed.

I suppose every neighborhood has its story. Yours may include toilet papered trees, loud traffic, or the occasional murder. Ours included a little girl playing with a hula hoop on top of our mailbox, bonfires in the neighbors driveway, and a chicken coop in someone’s front yard. Nevertheless, it was time to move.

We put our house on the market on Valentine’s Day. 16 days and 25 showings later and we had a buyer! Sounds great, huh? We only had one problem… nowhere to move to. At that time, Lexington had a very low inventory of homes for sale and quite a few people looking to buy. We checked websites every single day looking for a new place to call home. We knew we wanted a place with character and one that was not showroom ready–There’s no point buying a house that has been remodeled when we are just going to change everything about it. Our realtor even set us on on an email alert for everything in our price range and desired neighborhoods. Still, nothing. We found that there are plenty of homes with character in Lexington, but they all come with a price tag. You know what you learn about buying–it’s location! location! location!–which we totally ignored the first time around. This time, we tried to find something with the charm, but also with location as key. Well… if there’s two things that drive up the price of a home, it’s location and charm. What can we say? Caviar dreams.


House #1, Lansdowne Neighborhood

The first house–great neighborhood: check, charm: blah


House #2, Lansdowne Neighborhood

The second house–good neighborhood and potential to make money with a remodel: check, charm: negative (well yes it did if  you like midcentury modern, it just wasn’t the style we were looking for)

At that point, we had to re-evaluate our checklist. How can we get what we want where we want it and make sure we can still afford to keep the lights on?

We remembered a house we saw online about a month before that had great curb appeal (or potential) and in need of updating, but we knew nothing about the neighborhood. At that time, we put it in our “maybe” file, and continued looking, but now after getting nowhere, we decided to go look at it… right then. Literally. We dropped everything (even bailed out on dinner plans) to go explore a neighborhood we knew nothing about, Meadowthorpe.