Welcome to Berrybrier!

I bought a house! AHHHHHHHHH!! That is the sounds of my brain doing somersaults with my stomach. It’s a lovely feeling. But, truly, this is an incredibly exciting thing I’ve been wanting for a looong time. To have a place of my own feels fantastic! We closed on August 18th and I’ve been up to my ears in dirt, dust, and tools ever since. It’s the best thing ever. I finally feel settled in to my own home and you can bet that I’ll be tearing up DIYing the heck out of this place. In fact, I’ve already gotten started, but before I share that, I’ll give you a look around the place!

This moneypit house is a real fixer-upper and not in a cute Joanna Gains farmhouse-y style. As in, this house needs help. BIG HELP. And I’m here to lend a hand! Pretty much everything needs fixing on this place, and yes I do mean everything. Name something that could need to be repaired on a home and this house needs it. Although to some, that could be completely daunting, I’m just looking forward to many years of projects ahead! Which is excellent considering that’s all I’ll be doing for the next long while.

From the very first moment I saw the first pictures of this house on Redfin, I knew it was my house. I literally gasped aloud and got a strange feeling in my gut. THIS was my house. I knew it. After seven months of looking and putting in offer after offer, I had found the one. It checked all the boxes: pre-1940s, 2+ bedrooms, a big yard, room to grow, good location near shops and restaurants, easy commute, plenty of projects. Y’all are going to think I’m crazy when you get a look at these pictures, but something about this house is just so right. Enough preamble, though! Let’s dive in.

That very first image I ever saw of the house looked something like this one below. Basically, you could tell there was a house and that it was blue, but mostly all you saw was greenery!

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At some point, someone really loved this yard and planted tons of wonderful things like walnut trees, redbuds, hydrangeas, asparagus, mint, dill, parsley, fuschias, roses, etc etc etc. That person has not lived in this house for a loooong time though and in the last many years, this yards have become completely overgrown. It’s a mess! But a glorious mess full of glorious surpises like late blooming Magnolia trees and hidden troves of bricks!

You walk to the front door of the house through the driveway, which isn’t ideal, but I’m unlikely to be able to afford to change that any time soon. So everyone who comes over is greeted by the sight of my lovely garage. Don’t mind the doors. That’s just what they look like when they think they’re “closed.”

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The garage is basically falling down. But don’t worry, it’s not the garage’s fault. The garage has a terrible parasite: poorly planned additions. Yup, that’s right folks, the garage has not one, not two, but three additions! Awww, bless it’s little heart, it is still  hanging in there.

If we walk down the driveway to the back of the house, you get to meet yet another fun add-on: an octagonal deck and it’s multi-material roof. Now this is beauty, ladies and gentleman. Oh and yes, it is also basically falling down.

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Does the above picture confuse  you a little bit? Here, let me help. This should explain things better…

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Still confused? Me too. Let me try to state a few facts to help clarify. The above picture shows two of the garage additions: a workshop and a chicken coop. The structure coming out of the garage is the roof that covers the deck. It’s made of corrugated fiberglass, plywood(??), and a whole lot of screws. The supports for this little DIY roof, descend into the garage and chicken coop roofs, essentially ensuring that all water will collect there and all the things will rot. It’s a fantastic design. Truly, I could not have thought of it myself. The octagonal deck is made of 8 sides of different lengths varying from 15′ to 2′, just because, why not? The stairs of the deck descend into the corner of the garage and end about 4″ from it. As far as I can tell, this is designed specifically so that when you fall down the stairs your skull will crack completely open. That’s just my interpretation though. Also, this deck? Covers seemingly perfect condition original concrete steps. God, I love this house.

On to the backyard. This – and no sarcasm here – is what truly won my heart. This yard is bursting with potential. Potential and a whole lot of berries. On the far right is a huge magnolia tree that provides plenty of shade for a future table and chairs. Beyond that? All berries. Yup that huge mound of greenery is all RASPBERRIES!! AKA the best thing on earth except for chocolate. I spent my time touring this house eating raspberries from the backyard and it was heavenly. I cannot wait until next summer! You can also see a falling down fence, 1940s laundry line, and the huge chicken coop window in this picture. Why your chicken coop needs such a large window is a little beyond me, but I am assuming it’s so your chickens can torture Portland’s raccoons and coyotes.

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Here’s another view of the backyard looking towards the front. Here you see a huge rosemary bush, tons and tons of mint, a redbud tree, some parsley, and plenty of bees & butterflies. It’s really gorgeous if you can get past the flaking paint on the house. Yup the house needs painting. And a roof. Somehow I can afford this? I am surprised too. Luckily the windows are all updated! They’re double-paned which is pretty essential here in the Pacific Northwest. They are dark green vinyl exterior, wood interior windows which although it’s not my first choice, I’m pretty happy to have updated windows. I get to pick a really awesome paint color for the house’s siding to coordinate with the hunter green exterior windows and I can paint the inside any thing I want!

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Let’s go inside shall we? Here is the foyer! I am obsessed with this multi-paneled door. I think it is absolutely gorgeous and just needs to be sanded down and re-stained a darker walnut tone. That will make it look far less orange and 1980s. The foyer is open to the living room. Originally, this part of the house was an exterior porch that was converted into living space in the earlier part of the century. You can see the transition of the flooring. When they enclosed the porch they decided to keep the downward slope of the floor (that all porches have for drainage). That, my friends, is called “character.” The light fixture is kind of hideous, but also weird and beautiful, so I’m keeping it. The opening on the right to the dining room.

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The floors in the house are softwood – fir. They’re gorgeous and miraculously in good shape! The living room is relatively spacious and gets great light through south and west facing windows. The fireplace is an “update” from the 1960s or maybe 1970s. I’ll be completely reworking it down the line, but for now, it’s a functional fireplace! Which means s’mores! And fire! The pyro in me is just too pleased.

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This picture explains some of the flow of the house too. Standing in the corner of the room by the fireplace you can look out of the big front window to the front jungle yard and almost see the front door tucked in the niche in the corner. The dining room opens to the living room and you can almost see it on the right.

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The dining room is a little less bright since it has more northern light, but it’s a great size and fits my round table with room to grow. There is also a closet which we can’t close the door to, because it gets stuck shut. Which it is right now. Stuck shut, I mean. Just add that to my to do list, mmkay, thanks! Shout out to my dad about to walk up the front steps carrying tools though!

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Next you go through this teeny hall that has the basement door on one side and this strange hall to the lower floor bedroom on the other side. This is from the end of the hall looking towards the living room. The ceiling in the hall here drops lower because of the stairs. This lovely accordion door could be closed if you wanted to hide the kitchen from view. But yeah, that door already bit the dust. No thanks, accordion door!

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The weird little hall to the bedroom is kinda gross, but there’s a big closet at the end. This will end up being my closet because there isn’t actually a closet in the lower floor bedroom. PFffft. Closets. Whatever. So last year.

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The lower floor bedroom will end up being my bedroom. The other two I will be renting out. This room has nice high ceilings, picture railing, and northern light (good for sleeping). It also has a 24″ wide door to Portland’s smallest powder room.

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If you ever wanted to wash your hands while peeing, this bathroom is for you. Your knees literally tuck right under the wall mounted sink. In a bathroom this small, you’d better add 1970’s faux-paneling though. That’s the cherry on top. Truly, it’s precious, vct flooring and all. Plus look! The previous owner left us toilet paper.

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Let’s go into the kitchen. Look at these cabinets! The wallpaper! The old cast iron sink! This room is pretty dim from the roof that’s over the back deck, but I have a quick fix for that. It’s called demo. I wanted to try to keep these cabinets, they’re not in bad shape at all! Two weeks into the house, and I’m not positive they’re salvageable though. The flooring in this room though? The exact same as what my Oma had in her kitchen!

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Here’s a shot of the room that helps with layout. I took this standing on the landing of the stairs that lead to the upper level of the house. Look how cute the glass cabinets are though! SO MUCH POTENTIAL!

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This is one of my favorite details of the house. a little paint, a little crown moulding, and these will be cute cute cute!

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But why talk about the cute when we can talk about the ugly? Let’s go into the bathroom! Space planning these bathrooms was an issue. They’re also located in part of the house that was originally the back porch and it’s only about 54″ wide. So clearly you should put a ginormous bathtub in there, slap sheet vinyl on the floor AND the vanity, paint the walls dark magenta, and buy a pink toilet to match. It’s only right!

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Okay, let’s move on. The stairs! They’re not so bad! I mean the railing is black because it’s apparently NEVER been cleaned, but other than that, they’re quite pretty and not super narrow like most added to this era of home.

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The bedrooms on the second level are both under the eaves and just so cute. They both get fantastic light and are super cozy. And by cozy, I mean hot as balls right now, but you get the picture. The plaster is looking not so great on that back wall because someone plastered over wallpaper, because… well I’ve already said it.

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The closets in this room are a little funky, but that’s just vintage. A little rehab-ing and it will be completely adorable. Look at the gorgeous door though! Five panels!!!! I love it, love it, love it. Also the daisy flower heat register? THERE IS NOTHING MORE CHARMING.

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The other bedroom is where I am currently sweating sleeping, because I’ve given the lower floor bedroom to my parents who are helping me jump start the renovations on this place. Yay! Parents! The closet in here is a little more spacious and a little less funky. The room is a sweat sweet blue color that will be great in the fall or whenever Oregon decides to no longer be 100+ degrees. It’s just a tad hot at the moment. But my tried and true method of sleeping with a washcloth full of ice is doing the trick.

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And that’s it! That’s the house! I can’t wait to share all that I’ve been up to in the last few weeks and all that I’ve been dreaming about starting in the months to come. Get ready for oversharing and lots of learning experiences. Like this one for instance: I recently learned that I look like this after spending 3 hours moving bricks in 100° heat.

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I promise, give me a few months and this house will be almost as beautiful as that face. If that’s even possible. And if the spiders I keep finding EVERYWHERE don’t eat me first. Only time will tell!

Oh! And I named the house. Or I named the property. I am a total nerd, but I’ve always loved when people named their homes. This place is officially named Berrybrier. I’ll get into all the reasons later, but a good part of the origin starts with that out of control raspberry bush in the backyard!

So what do you think? Am I totally crazy, in over my head? Probably. Did you buy a fixer upper? Have tips for laying brick patios? What is your house called?

 

 

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Bringing the Living Room To Life

Happy Monday! I cannot believe it’s December! How did this happen? It’s insane. December means I’ve officially lived in Portland for four months. It definitely feels like I moved yesterday! However, four months seems to be about the amount of time it takes me to bring a room together because the living room is finally in a good place. It’s been all over the place since we moved here, but has always seemed un-finished slightly sad, now things are beginning to look more permanent!

Do you remember when I moved in and it looked like this? A pile of boxes, some old IKEA furniture, and my plants scattered over every surface. It was right as we were moving in and the space was in the midst of being cleaned, cleaned, cleaned!

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Eventually it began to slowly transform as we settled into the Duplex and started to get more organized. The room became a place holder for mix-matched furniture  and art we already owned.

Living Room | Land of Laurel

But it still didn’t feel quite right. Things needed adjustments. We didn’t have a sofa (because I couldn’t quite find the perfect one at the perfect price), the faux cowhide rug wasn’t very cozy, and the furniture arrangement needed tweaking to create a more conversation oriented layout. Still, it wasn’t bad, just temporary. Things were looking so much better than when we first moved in!

Living Room | Land of Laurel

Well things have continued to move around and now this space actually feels like a comfortable place to hang out! The biggest change, however, came from another room in the house! Remember the rug I bought right after ripping out the carpet and painting the subfloor in the bonus room? It’s a great Moroccan Inspired white and charcoal 8’x10′ rug that’s oh so soft and cozy! We loved it in here, but it was a tad large for the space (which I knew when I bought it) and it seemed sad to waste such a lovely rug on a space we hardly used.

Furniture in the Bonus Room | Land of Laurel

It lived up there for about a week and a half until I decided we needed to really rearrange. The next Saturday I rolled up the rug and dragged it downstairs (literally). That day I also finally decided I wasn’t going to buy a sofa for the Duplex. This place is a transitionary home and I’d rather buy a sofa for the Portland home I decide to live in more permanently when my lease here is up in June. Since I am not going to buy a sofa, it made sense for my roommate’s futon to take on that roll downstairs. So that needed to change locations as well! Down the stairs it went (I moved this by myself and nearly died when it decided to try to take me with it when I was sliding it down the staircase). I continued moving furniture around. The bench that served as primary seating before? Poof! Up into the bonus room it went. I tried the rug a couple of ways before sliding it into it’s final position and plopping the furniture back down. I also grabbed a canvas drop cloth I had in the garage and draped it over the purple futon to brighten it up. The black mud cloth stayed and popped more against it’s new white backdrop! The rest of the furniture in the room stayed and just got moved around a little bit. The entire space feels so much brighter and cleaner now! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to do, but this finally feels like a good space!

Living Room | Land of Laurel

Moving the rug and the futon downstairs was a huge change for the better! The room feels so much cozier and put together and a million other things. The only thing I really want to switch out now is the TV console, which I’d love to replace with an old dresser. Other than that, everything is here to stay! Luckily, even though I bought the rug for upstairs, it fits perfectly down in here! I laid it about 10″ from the window wall (to clear space for the heater vent that’s behind the sofa) and it ends with just enough room for the stools to slide out when you’re sitting at the counter. Jackson has taken over the old cherry-crate-turned-cat-bed I made Malary back in Berkeley. I placed it over in this corner to help fill in the space by the snake plant and pantry cabinet and it has become his new favorite place to sleep.

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I promise he’s not as crosseyed as this photo makes him look. He’s quickly become part of our home and absolutely dotes on Malary – following her around constantly – which annoys her to no end!

Most everything in the room is repurposed from before, but I did buy a few things in the last few weeks. The fiddle leaf fig tree came home after my last Home Depot trip. It’s hanging out in front of the fixed panel on the slider door for now and I’m hoping to give it a nice long life. We only have eastern and northern light in this house, which I’m hoping is enough for it to thrive. I’ve decided it’s large enough to deserve a name, so I’m calling her Finley. This spot is bright in the morning through early afternoon, but doesn’t get any of the hot evening sun. In fact after 2pm or so this room is a little dim. Anyone else have a fiddle leaf fig? Let me know your tricks for keeping it alive! I’ve wanted one for ages and when I stumbled upon this nice tall one, I jumped on her! The deer head is also new – an impulse buy from Cost Plus World Market. I kind of love it! It’s green and red and gold; my favorite colors!

Living Room | Land of Laurel

This room feels so much nicer these days and we’re using it so much more. Before it was definitely a transitionary space both in look and use. We mostly passed through here on the way to our bedrooms. We’d rarely hang out down here since there was no where cozy to lounge. Now with the futon and the comfy rug, it’s just as likely you’ll find us laying on one as the other! I swear this rug is so fluffy underfoot you just want to stick your face on it!

Living Room | Land of Laurel

It’s a far cry from where we started right?

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

The space is transformed and now it’s perfect for board game nights and curling up with popcorn to watch a movie. It’s cozy for winter and winters last a long time in Portland! Plus I just can’t get enough of that deer head.

Living Room | Land of Laurel

Have you switched up a room with the simple addition of a new rug lately? It’s such a quick change and yet it can make the whole space feel completely different! I’ve been designing lots of custom rugs lately and they’ve been on my mind! I want to get around to writing a “what to look for in a rug” post soon. For now, you’ll find me curled up with a blanket and two sleepy cats on the futon (as I am right now). 🙂

 

 

 

The Long Weekend

Before we moved in, I walked the Duplex with my landlord and she pointed out several issues. One of those issues was the poorly laid LVT tiles downstairs, the other was the gross, old, stained carpet in the bonus room. She mentioned during this tour that she was considering replacing it with laminate. I heartily agreed. In my opinion, hard surface flooring is the way to go in rentals. Carpet simply doesn’t last and gets gross quickly. For anyone who has allergies to dust or dander, carpet traps dirt and dust and even the strongest of vacuums can’t get it out. It’s affordable in the short term, but over time, the cost of ripping up and replacing carpet adds up quickly.

Fast forward two and a half months. I reached out to our landlord via email and asked about her timeline for replacing the flooring on the stairs and in the bonus room. The carpet was nasty and a little smelly. I’d gone to Home Depot and gotten a quote on the installation and labor for a laminate floor. Home Depot estimated $250 in costs to remove the existing carpet and $850 in labor and materials to replace everything with an inexpensive laminate. The bulk of that cost was in the expensive laminate stair treads.

Unfortunately, life happens, and due to some unforeseeable personal matters, replacing the flooring was no longer in her plan or budget. So I suggested something else. What if I ripped out all the carpeting and painted the subfloor? A quick look around the internet told me I could do this for under $250. I proposed this solution as a way to make me happy in the short run, and allow her to spend on new flooring when she was ready. With her approval (yay! Happy dance!) I planned my attack. It was less than 200 SF so I figured I could knock everything out in a weekend. Little did I know how back breaking that would be.

My weekend commenced and proceeded to look a little something like this:

Friday

5:50pm – arrive home from work

6:00pm – quickly eat left overs from fridge, change clothes

Bonus Room | Land of Laurel

6:15pm – move all the furniture out of the bonus room

Empty Bonus Room | Land of Laurel

6:30pm – begin ripping up all the carpet

7:30pm – finish ripping all the carpet out

Carpet Gone! | Land of Laurel

7:45pm – finish ripping all the carpet pad out, try not to gag looking at the amount of dirt that’s been hidden under the carpet for going on 20 years (see brown smears in picture, much more obvious in person!)

Dust Under Carpet | Land of Laurel

8:00pm – finish carting all the carpet and pad into the car (laying it on top of a tarp to protect the van)

Stairs Carpet Pad | Land of Laurel

9:30pm – finish pulling up all the tack strips, add these to the pile of stuff in the car

9:45pm – sweep floors

10:00pm – vacuum flooring

10:15pm – begin pulling the 253 billion staples out of the stair treads/risers with a pair of needle nosed pliers

10:30pm – my roommate comes home and helps pull out staples from the bonus room

11:30pm – roommate goes to bed

1:00am – finish removing all the staples I can find (approximately 589 trillion)

1:30am – fall into bed, showered, but sore

Saturday

8:00am – alarm goes off

8:45am – finish breakfast and dress in project clothes

9:00am – sweep floors

9:15am – vacuum floors, assess supplies, realize I don’t own a spackling knife, hope the tinted primer works well with the paint selection

Supplies | Land of Laurel

9:30am – wipe down floors with wet cloth, remove the 33 million more staples I find while doing this

Ready for Paint | Land of Laurel

10:00am – run to Home Depot for spackling knife

10:30am begin filling screw holes, saw cuts, and spaces between particle board panels, day dream about how much easier than paint prep, painting will be

Wood Filler | Land of Laurel

1:00pm – eat quick lunch of something you just pop into the oven from Trader Joes

2:00pm – hop into car

2:30pm – buy Benjamin Moore Natura Semi-Gloss paint in Waynesboro Taupe at Powell’s Paint. Color selected quickly as the swatch  isn’t yellow-brown, but doesn’t clash with the trim and is light enough to help reflect light around this dark windowless room

3:00pm – arrive at Environmentally Conscious Recycling and weigh van

3:30pm – finish unloading car at ECR, weigh car again, pay minimum $25 fee

3:45pm – stop by Home Depot again for more wood filler and wood transition strips

4:00pm – fill remaining holes and cut marks

5:00pm – hop into shower

6:00pm – wash ibuprofen down with wine (not recommended) at Nikki’s, eat authentic homemade Japanese curry, try not to fall asleep on her sofa

10:00pm – fall into bed, more sore than before

Sunday

7:30am – alarm goes off, groan in pain, take more ibuprofen

8:00am – finish breakfast and get dressed in work clothes

8:15am – beginning cutting in Kilz Max Stain and Odor Blocker water based primer (highly recommend! Not too smelly – though I wore a mask – and had excellent coverage)

11:30am – finish cutting in primer, begin rolling primer

12:30pm – finish rolling in primer, eat lunch, take break while primer dries, realize I’ve missed tons of screw holes/cuts that will need to be filled

2:00pm – start second coat of primer in certain areas (like those that now have exposed wood filler)

3:00pm – wash brush and roller, eat snack, take break

6:30pm – install wood transition strips at entries to bedrooms and bathroom

7:00pm – start cutting in paint, realize wet paint is nearly the exact same color as dry primer and it is basically impossible to tell where you’ve painted or just primed, discover the paint (luckily) dries much darker. Primer is the main field color below with cut in dry paint on the right and cut in wet paint on the left!

Primer vs Paint | Land of Laurel

10:00pm – finish cutting in paint, start rolling

Cut in Paint | Land of Laurel

11:00pm – finish rolling, eat dinner,  shower

 

Painted Particle Board Subfloor | Land of Laurel

11:30pm – fall into bed more tired than ever, dreading work the next morning.

Whew! I’m exhausted just remembering all this! Yup, that was my weekend. My exhausting, back breaking, someone please feed me, weekend. And I am 100% glad I did it and 100% not willing to do it again any time soon. Especially since the next weekend I went back in, touched up a few spots I missed with paint (got to love Benjamin Moore paints that only required 1 coat!), and then sealed the floors with Safecoat Acrylic. I let that dry for another week before bringing the furniture back in.

We still have the futon in here for guests and all of the electronics on the built-in counter I want to drill a few holes and add some grommets to tame that mess. I did buy a nice big West Elm rug which I’m hoping will cozy up the space!

Furniture in the Bonus Room | Land of Laurel

You can see here how the window in the stairwell sits low, below the half-wall railing in the bonus room, preventing much light from illuminating this room. Even in the middle of the afternoon, this room is pretty dim. A light colored paint on the floor was a must for brightening up the space!

Bonus Room | Land of Laurel

Our yellow brown trim will always stand out pretty starkly, but that’s the nature of it. If the room was brighter, I would have painted the floors a nice deep black. The trim would still have popped against the black, but the room would have been dark dark dark! In person the color is the perfect blah tone that fades away on the floor, letting everything else speak for itself. I don’t mean that in a bad way at all! It’s a nice safe background. This picture below shows it very close to how it looks in person.

Painted Particle Board Subfloor | Land of Laurel

And this post wouldn’t be complete without a kitten photobombing, so here we go, model pose!

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How much did it all cost?

Supplies and a Gallon of Primer cost about $60

Benjamin Moore Natura Paint Gallon also $60

Recycling Fee for the carpet $25

Safecoat Acrylic Sealer $95

Which left me spending about $240 which my landlord happily reimbursed me for. Although the labor was quite demanding, I’m pleased with the result and couldn’t be happier for the change! It’s mush nicer walking on the painted and sealed subfloor. I don’t miss that gross carpet one bit!

Have you ever painted subfloor? How has it held up for you over time? Although painting didn’t take long, I was a bit shocked at the number of staples that needed to be pulled up. My hand had the imprint of the pliers for a week afterwards!