thoughts on the family room

A few months ago I was given a renovation project at work.  It's a big project, one that has a good amount of public attention and use.  During one of the initial meetings, after walking the existing space and looking at the floor plan for only a few minutes, I was able to confidently state that I thought the client needed to rotate an entire set of restrooms 90* and move them 15' away from their current position.  This opened up the flow of the space and solved some major circulation issues.  It was a big move, it will be an expensive move, but it just seemed to make sense.  The client loved the idea, and we moved forward with it.


I'm telling you this because you'd think, that given that this is my profession, that I'd be able to walk into our new house and make these same kind of assessments.  Cause the new house has issues!  Not as many, and not as obvious as our St. Louis house, but this house still needs some help to make it ours and to make it work for our family.  What I am finding is that I'm really having a tough time coming up with a game plan for this "project".  Can we work around any of the existing finishes to help offset costs?  Or do we want to start fresh and go more modern this time around?  How do work in the cape cod aesthetic?  And because of all this, even a small detail like choosing a new light fixture for the hallway, starts to completely stress me out. 

On the plus side, we have plenty of time to live with the space, to see how we use the space, and to decide what big changes we want to make.  That's what we did in St. Louis and it worked out well for us.  But in the meantime, we have a broken hallway light that reminds me every evening as I stumble up the stairs in the dark, that it might be helpful to start making some general design decisions.

Taking a step back for a moment, one of the biggest sticking points for me is the family room.  As I mentioned in the last post, we haven't done much with the space because I cannot decide what to do. This is the space where we spend most of our time, where we watch tv, where Wesley plays, and where people tend to hang out when we entertain.  I keep thinking that if I can figure out what to do with the family room, perhaps some of these other, small, details will start to fall into place.

As a reminder, this is the family room:

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A few other views:

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I have not taken any new photos since we've moved in, but we have painted the walls a really light gray, and have tried out a few different furniture arrangements.  Right now, we have our large, lounge sofa (it's medium gray in color) under the 3 windows.  We have a larger upholstered chair on the opposite wall, near the step, by the basement door.  Our tv is on the far wall, beside the single window, because that is where all of the outlets and speaker plugs are located (the house came wired for surround sound).  We are still struggling with the arrangement, but the biggest issue is obviously the floor.

Not only is the carpet dark red, it is also seems to be a low quality carpet and despite the dark color, our dogs have already managed to find ways to stain it.  It also shows all of the pet fur and never looks clean, even right after we vacuum.  We've gone back and forth and think that we've identified all of our options:

1.  Replace the carpet with hardwood floor to match the existing hardwood floor:  This was our initial thought, and we actually already got some quotes on it.  Since this is in the addition, we do not have hardwood under the carpet, so we'd need to start with new hardwood.

2.  Raise the floor to be the same level as the rest of the house, and then add hardwood:  This is where it gets complicated.  I'm not sure why the previous owner decided to make this a step down from the rest of the house, but the line between the kitchen and the family room is just odd.  It makes furniture placement limited, and really breaks up the space.  We've already had a guest trip over the unexpected step.  It's also awkward to step up into the office. We have not gotten a quote on raising the floor, but it wouldn't be cheap, and it makes the hardwood installation even more difficult as well since it will be against the existing floor.  If price was no issue, and it could be done without complications, this would be my first choice.

With 1 and 2 - we'd need to buy an area rug.  Those of you with larger spaces know how expensive big area rugs can be, and those of you with pets know how hard pets can be on rugs...

3.  Replace the carpet with new carpet:  We would probably be looking at this as a "temporary" solution.  Ideally we'd really like hardwood throughout the first floor.  But, given our current budget and the fact that we have a toddler playing on the floor, we're also considering just updating to a more neutral carpet for now, and then maybe doing the hardwood in a few years.  With this, we'd try to find a carpet that could be bound into an area rug at a later point, to help offset some of the cost of a "temporary" solution.  It should be noted that we have started looking at carpets and haven't found one that we like yet.

Help.

The adjacent office (the doorway with the step up that you can see above, it has a sliding door) does have hardwood under the carpet, so once we decide what we're doing on the family room, we're planning to remove the office carpet and refinish the floors underneath.  Or maybe we'll be lucky and they'll be in great shape, ha...  For some reason we just cannot make a decision on the family room floor, and I really feel like it's causing a road block in my mind, preventing us from making decisions on other things.  If you all have any thoughts, please share...

And if you know of the perfect flush mount light fixture for my hallway, please pass that along as well :)

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slow progress

As you can see from the photos, our new house is very different from our old house.  We now have much shorter ceilings, and more windows.  We have a little more square footage, but a layout that is broken up.  Our basement is much smaller, but we have a lot more closets and cabinets.  The original features and "character" in this house is much more subtle.  Not to mention that this house has an addition that is only 10-15 years old and includes some odd design decisions that were very specific to the previous owners' taste and lifestyle.

This house is in way better condition that our previous house was when we first bought it.  Even though the style is not our preference, it technically doesn't "need" anything done right away.  But of course we already have a wish list of things we'd like to change...

When we moved in to our stl house, we spent the first few weeks removing wallpaper and carpet, making repairs, and patching walls.  We jumped right in to painting and replacing light fixtures.  We lived out of boxes and ate microwave meals for the first 6 months.  We were ok with that though because we felt like we were making progress, and enjoyed working on our home.  Over time, we slowly unpacked the boxes.  We acquired more furniture and started to fill the rooms.  And eventually, 5 years later, we were settled in our home.

This time, we started with our furniture.  Some of what worked in our old house just doesn't work in this house.  The dining table is probably too big.  The seating arrangement in the family room is odd.  We need some kind of bookshelf in the office before we can unpack books.  I miss the built-in hutch. All of the windows, while great for natural light, make it difficult to arrange furniture in the rooms.  I'm sure that Mike wants to be done with the "lets just see how this sofa looks over there" game.  I know that this will all get figured out over time, but it's a little chaotic right now.

As for house projects, we've been able to focus on a few things, but it's been a much slower process this time around.  This house doesn't have the same sense of urgency because it is very livable as-is.  We also weren't trying to work on the house with a 15 month old the last time, so there's that...  nap times are precious moments :)

One of the first things we did when we bought the house was to start thinking about the flooring.  The house has hardwood throughout, except for the dark red carpet in the family room and office, and the lavender carpet in the master bedroom.  Not only are the colors horrible, the quality of the carpet is surprisingly bad.  We've already had some issues with staining, and the pet fur just sticks to the carpet, making it difficult to clean.  Mike and I decided that we were ok with keeping carpet in the bedroom since it's so expensive to install hardwood.  Wesley helped me shop for new carpet.

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Even though I likes some of the other styles of carpet, realistically we knew that we needed something super durable and pet friendly in the bedroom.  That may seem odd, but all of our pets sleep in our room at night, and the cats tend to hang out there during the day as well.  They all tend to be pretty rough on rugs, so we were willing to pay a little more to get the super pet resistant carpet.  Notice that the carpet sample colors are a nice mix of gray cat and golden retriever fur :)  

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I found that the local carpet shops had much larger samples for you to take home, and am glad that we took the time to check the samples in our space.  Although everything looked better than the purple carpet, ha!

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Installation seemed easy enough and they were even able to work around our bed, which was nice.  Mike sent me the above photo during the installation process.  Did I mention that we got a new bed when we moved in?  From our roof insurance repair in stl, we needed to replace our guest room bed so we decided to put that money towards upgrading our bed to a king instead.  Although it's a little bit too wide for the windows, we are so happy we decided to upgrade.

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We've also been able to start painting a few rooms.  Wesley's room was the first priority.  We thought about a few different options, but decided that we liked the dark navy of his previous room so much, that we went with it again.  We picked a deeper color this time though.  

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The picture is mid-painting, we have his room more together at this point.  Although we still need to hang things on the walls and remake his curtains to fit the two smaller windows.

We also started painting the downstairs.  Similar to our stl house, we wanted to paint all of the main spaces downstairs the same color.  We will continue the color in the hallway and up the stairs.  We wanted a light warm gray.  Even though the photo below is of Wesley, you can see just a few of the many samples on the wall behind him.  Picking the right color was very difficult - we even had to remix 3 gallons after we thought we had picked the right color, and then it looked blue once we started painting!

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We finally found the right color though and have been slowly working our way through the downstairs.

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Sorry for the poor quality iphone pictures...  that's the update for now.  it's hard to believe we've been in the house for almost 2 months!
 

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our new house

we are officially in our new house!  we had a big moving day on friday, august 1.  it took several full truck loads, much appreciated assistance from our family, plus we hired a couple of guys to help with the furniture - but we are in.  of course we still have furniture sitting in random places, so much to unpack, and a pile of boxes at my parents house, but we're slowly getting settled.

the night before our moving day, we were able to have a little time in the empty house - walking around, talking about our plans, and taking pictures.  i thought i would post a thorough house tour, so be prepared for tons of pictures below...

you've seen the exterior photo before, but here is another picture of our house from the street.  you can barely see the sunroom behind the tree to the right.  that is our driveway leading back to the garage behind the house.



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the back of the house has a new(ish) 2 story addition, and a stamped concrete patio.  that's the sunroom, now on the left side.

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the yard is small but has some established landscaping and is fenced.  the garage is to the right.

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moving on to the interior - this is the entry, the front door is to the left with a coat closet behind the door.  the front half of the house is the original portion of the home.

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standing at the entry and looking into the house, you see the living room.  there is a working fireplace and a built-in shelf in the corner.  the open door leads to the sunroom.

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the sunroom...

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standing near the sunroom door, this is the view back into the house.  the front door is on the left, and the dining room is beyond.  the walls that separate the dining/living room have a curved edge.  the doorway just before the dining room leads to the hall, and the door off of the dining room is to the kitchen.

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the dining room, kitchen to the right.

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standing in the other corner of the dining room, you can see another built-in, and the curved wall.

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looking into the living room from the dining room.

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this view is standing at the doorway from the dining room into the kitchen.  it's a galley style kitchen. straight ahead is the back door.

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this photo is looking back towards the dining room.  there is another doorway on the other side of the ovens that leads back into the hallway.

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the kitchen connects the addition to the original house - this photo is taken near the end of the counter, looking into the family room.  the back door is on the left of the photo.  you can see the backyard and the garage through the windows.

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the family room actually steps down so the carpeted area is one step lower than the rest of the first floor.  the door on the right is for the first floor den / office (original to the house, and was probably a bedroom).

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standing in the family room, you can now see the step and the end of the kitchen counter.  there is another closet inside the back door.

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another view from the family room - the office is through the door on the left (which is actually a pocket door).  the door on the right leads to the basement.  there is a full basement under the original part of the house, but only a crawl space under the addition.

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stepping up into the office, there is a built-in with shelves and drawers, another closet, and another door that leads back to the hallway (the door is open, the actual doorway is on the wall to the right in this photo).

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walking through the office, you are now in the hallway - you can see how it circles back to the kitchen.  outside of the photo but the the left is the doorway back to the front living room.

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looking back the other direction you can see the office.  there is a half bathroom at the bottom of the stairs.

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the half bathroom...

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moving on upstairs - at the top of the stairs, if you turn to the left you are in the master bedroom / addition.  if you turn to the right, you see the view below.  wesley's room is the door on the left at the end of the hall.  there are 2 built-in cabinets in the upstairs hall.

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turning the corner in the hallway, you see the third bedroom, which will be a guest room.  there is a full bathroom at the end of the hall.

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standing outside of wesley's room, looking towards the master.  the stairs are on the left beyond the cabinet.  the door to the right is a closet.

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this is the master bedroom, which is part of the addition, and is over the family room at the back of the house.

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looking back the other direction (the door to the room is just outside of the photo on the left), you can see the door to the attached bathroom and closet.  the room has vaulted ceilings, and the space above the bathroom door was built for a tv.

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once you pass through the doorway into the bathroom, the vanity is straight ahead, and shower/toilet/bath area is on the right.

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to the left is a walk-in closet.

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there is a second closet off of the bedroom, but it doesn't have any shelving or clothes rods.

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wesley's room is at the front of the house and has a nice dormer window.  

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it's a good sized room for a little boy, and has a decent closet.  it also has 2 windows and gets nice light.  there is a mirror on the front of the door, which makes the photo below a little odd.

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the guest room is the other room at the front of the house with a dormer.  it also has 2 windows, and is a decent sized room.

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lastly, there is a full bath at the end of the hall.  behind the door is one more built-in cabinet.

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so that's it!  i'm sure that those of you who know me, know that there is already a running list of things that i'd like to eventually change or update.  more immediately, we would like to starting painting the walls, and already have a date scheduled to replace the lavender carpet in the master bedroom.  after much debate, we also decided that the best solution for our yard was to install a short section of electric fence across the driveway, making the yard fully secure for our dogs.  

most importantly, wesley seems to really like the new house, and we are excited about turning it into a home for our family.  

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wesley's first birthday

wesley turned one at the end of june.  i am still amazed at how quickly his first year went, but i guess that is to be expected.  probably even more so when you also complete a home renovation, sell a house, move, start new jobs, and buy a house.  it sure has been a busy year for us all!

wesley had his one year dr appointment on june 26.  he weighed 21 lbs 3 oz, putting him at 47% for weight.  i was happy to hear that he was gaining again, after his drop a few months ago.  surprisingly he was in the middle percentage for height too - 29.75" and 43%, as he's always been near the top.  i think he looks tall.  his head was 18.5", and 75%.  poor guy must have gotten his big head from me.

by the time he turned one, we had stopped be as cautious with introducing new foods and he was eating a wide variety of things.  he didn't really eat sweets though until his cake on his first birthday (more on that later!)  he seemed to prefer meats and veggies over fruits and cheese.  he began to be really interested in playing with toys, and was "talking" more, although still hasn't said any formal words.  he started using the "more" sign when he wanted more food though.  one of his favorite activities was chasing after the dogs with one of his push toys.  right after he turned one we started phasing out nursing - dropping first the morning session, and then the evening session.  we mixed in whole milk, and he did great with the transition.  since i no longer needed to wake him up in the mornings before work, we started letting him sleep in.  he would typically sleep from about 8:00 or 8:30 a night, until 8:00 or so the next morning.  he continued to take 2 naps a day - little man loves to sleep!

wesley's first birthday just happen to fall on a saturday, so we decided to have a little party for him at my parents house.  we kept it simple, although i did make a fun birthday banner that i plan to use each year.

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wesley and his friend had fun playing in the baby pool, that shovel is still a favorite toy.

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i also made a second banner with all of his monthly photos from his first year. i think it turned out really cute, and i hope to hang it in his new room for a little while.

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as for the food, we grilled a few kinds of mini burgers, and then just had a pasta salad, a cabbage salad, fruit and chips.

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i made wesley his own funfetti cake.  he was a little hesitant at first, but after a few bits, he started eating  cake by the handful.  in addition to pieces of birthday cake, we also made strawberry lemonade cupcakes for everyone else.

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after cake, wesley opened his presents.  he received some very nice gifts and enjoyed playing with the ribbon and paper - until he realized that the boxes had toys inside.  then he just wanted to get down and play with his new toys.

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it was a great day, and we were happy to celebrate with everyone.  happy birthday little man!

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