Power to the Pergola

Yay!  Spring is just around the corner, and the warmer temps have been getting us excited about spending more time outside.  Aren’t you ready for cocktails in the backyard???

Last year at this time, we were making plans to have a shade structure built over our deck.  Our reasons were two-fold:  #1, Come summer, the deck was so exposed to the sun, we couldn’t be on it during daylight hours.  And #2, we felt a structure would give the largest, yet flattest, face of the house more dimension.  Here we are back in early summer 2014, after the exterior was extensively renovated.  (If you happen to be new around here, you can read ALL about it in the archives…)


2014 ©johndwyerarchitect

John Dwyer Architect created the new exterior design, and it’s his pro photo above.  Brownsmith Restoration tackled the renovation.  Bless them all!

So!  Fast forward to Spring 2016, and we got serious about getting something built over the existing deck.  It wasn’t obvious how to do this, as we had the balcony to consider in a design that gave us coverage and looked good.  John Dwyer came through with something that made sense.  Let’s take a look at how our pergola came into being:


Project getting underway!

Our pergola project started in early June.  First thing was to get the holes dug for the cement footings.  They were located under the steps of the deck.  That’s why you see some boards up.


Here we are on the other end.  Man!  The sun really did a number on our house paint!


Preparing for the cement for the footings…



First looks at the structure!  The temporary supports were necessary as it was being built.

You may have noticed we lost the stairs on this end?  Just before the pergola was started, we decided to replace the deck boards with new cedar, and that gave us the opportunity to extend the deck surface a bit.  We kept the rest of the original deck structure, but had new stair supports built here.


Temporary pergola supports gone, new stair support, and the last of the old boards coming up!

If you were wondering, we used cedar for the entire pergola structure and for the new deck boards.


Et Voila!

The structure was completed mid-summer, and we LOVE IT.  We spent many late summer/early fall days and evenings enjoying our beautiful new space.


Here’s our new shady spot on a late summer afternoon.

Hey!  Did you all see our new clump birch trees?  They were a feeble attempt to shade the deck the summer before the pergola.  With a little patience, they may help, but for the next several years, they will just look pretty…

One more thing:  We decided to supplement the wood structure with a fabric shade to cut even more sun.  We special ordered it with grommets that hook to a screw system the carpenters installed on the top of the supporting beams.  We removed the shade before winter and will put it up for another summer or two until the birch trees work their magic.


We had the pergola beams and supports painted SW Urbane Bronze – same as the house!  The joists are stained.  The deck is stained Sikkens Butternut.


Fall 2016

At a distance, you can see how the structure makes a subtle impression.  It looks great with the balcony and gives the house just the right amount of depth.  And the new deck boards were the way to go!

A-Squared Design coordinated all of the parts of this project and were wonderful to work with.  No project is without its challenges, and A-Squared gets an A-Plus (Sorry, had to go there)!

Here’s a few things we learned going the the process:

#1 …Small projects will turn into bigger projects.  We know this one from experience, and this project hammered it home.  We started with plans to build a shade structure, and ended up adding on all new cedar for our deck below, including the other two smaller decks we have at the side and front entries.

I think it may be partly psychological, like “This is going to be quick, inexpensive and uncomplicated!  Let’s dive in!”  In our case, the project doubled in cost and tripled in time.  Totally glad we did the extra work, but it’s probably better to have these things figured out before the project is underway.  Maybe we will actually practice what we preach next time? (I wouldn’t bet on us.)

#2 …Choosing a stain color is not one and done!   I thought matching stain for the new wood to the existing stained cedar rain screens and balcony decking above would be easy.  Hahahaha!!!!!!!!  Our builder suggested his favorite brand and I tried and tried, even mixing colors to achieve something close.  I learned older, weathered stained cedar is really difficult to match, and my attempts were unsuccessful.  What to do???

Ask the paint store for help!  Hirschfield’s suggested I bring in pieces of my raw cedar, and they opened several stain cans from different brands and brushed it on large sections, sending me home with several big samples.  So helpful!!!  Ended up finding something pretty darn close.  Will have to get back to you on the upkeep, as I’ve been warned we may need to recoat every couple of years…

#3 …Landscape fabric can be a solution for shade structures that need more coverage.  It’s water permeable and you can see through it too.  In our application, screwed to the top of the structure, you don’t notice it much at all.  I custom ordered the size, color (black) and density of the fabric (70% shade).  It was just over $100 for approx. 12 x 20′ size.  It’s amazing what a difference it makes!

Thanks for reading this month!   Looking forward to sharing my Flip House Project, our basement remodel, and how our interiors are shaping up lately in upcoming posts.  Until then, enjoy the month of March!


This Mod House – 4 Year Progress Report


Hi, You Guys!  Oh my gosh, where do I start after all this time?  I just updated my ‘About’ page, so feel free to click over there, if you want a refresh of what this blog and I are doing here.  Quick answer: getting back to having fun sharing our on-going house project.

We all have projects of varying degrees where we live.  Some of us are nuts and buy houses that need tons of help, and spend huge chunks of time (years) making them our own.  ‘No pain, no gain’ seems to be ingrained in our belief system.  We are excited and optimistic and ‘up for the challenge.’


Late winter 2013 – Bad start on the day of cabinet install…

Then, when work starts and things get too painful, we learn our limits.  Never again!!!, we say with absolute certainty.   Only to dive into the next project to come along.

We remodeled a house before this one, and one after (an investment property).  All came with big challenges, and all were so worth it.  I love doing this, even of it means some frustration and a few tears.  (Crying in front of a contractor did happen (twice), and I’m not proud of it, ugh.)

I left you hanging back in May 2014.  We were busy-busy getting ready for our daughter’s grad party.  A couple days before the big bash, the architect who helped us with the interior and exterior remodel came out to photograph our place.  I have been wanting to share some of his photos with you, so here they are, finally!

All photos below credited to John Dwyer Architect:




And there you have it.  Love these photos of our pre-party 2014 home!  I am so grateful John took these and was happy to share them with us.

Whew!  This feels really good to be catching up, but there’s so much more to talk about and show you!  We remodeled the basement summer of 2015, and John Dwyer designed a pergola for over our deck that was built this past summer.  There are new furnishings to show and upstairs bathroom remodeling plans in the works.  It’s going to be fun!

Many thanks to those continuing to follow our progress!  And if any new visitors would like to get an email alert when I have a new post, please join!  Comments/questions are always welcome too… Thanks again.  It’s great to be back.



Painting My Sofa and Other Low-Cost Decorating Experiments

It’s May already???  Just as an expectant mother, who has an incredible urge to “nest” and furiously prepares for a baby’s arrival, I have been getting busy with the decorating stage of our home.  No baby coming, just a graduation party, which is arguably as monumental.  Ha!  Actually, my motivation can be attributed to several factors.  One being the fact that we moved in over a year ago, the dust from the remodeling stage has long since settled, and I feel shame every time someone new comes to the house.  Without fail, they ask how long we have been here (meaning: “Looks like it was since yesterday!”), noting the bare walls, random furniture placements, and the lack of personal objects (except for junk collected in the middle of the kitchen island).  Yes, I would have to agree, the interior of our home hasn’t changed a whole lot from our move-in date a year ago.

It would be a stretch to say we are intentional minimalists (though, there’s nothing wrong with that!), so the reason we have not done more in the furnishing/decorating department boils down to the one thing every member of this family has in common: a strong penchant for procrastination.  Now, being the parent, and the one in this house who usually calls the shots in terms of how a home is decorated, I take full responsibility!  Procrastination, I am sure, has may sources, but I am self-diagnosing my decor delay to fear of doing it wrong(and a wee bit of laziness).  I really don’t think I am a perfectionist.  In fact, I want nothing to do with something that is “perfect”, but after all of this remodeling work and money spent, I want it to be inspired and welcoming.  Pressure!!  So, with our daughter’s graduation party looming in the not-so-distant future (motivation factor #1), I decided a few weeks ago to get going.

Where to start?  How about our living room sofa?!  (Oh, and did I mention, in addition to being interesting, any decorating has to be done inexpensively, as well?  Yeah, I would have to get creative.)  You guys know how expensive new sofas are, right?  It really isn’t in the cards for us to splurge, plus we have a puppy, so it’s not a good time for a new one (duh).  But, I hated how dingy our sofa’s oatmeal-colored fabric had become, and even if it was cleaned, the color really looked blah against our white walls.  New upholstery?  Wrong answer!   I got a quote for $2200.  That obviously wasn’t happening either.  So, I did what any really desperate amateur decorator might try, and I painted it.  It took two days of experimentation/labor, and about $130 in supplies.  Et voila!  Our “new” sofa was born!  (I somehow lost the photos I took of the process…  Shoot!  But, this is really not a tutorial post anyway…).  Not sure if I would do it again, or recommend it to someone else, but the result is not bad!  It was worth the risk, in this case.  Ours was a tired sofa, but with good “bones”, so I figured it deserved a new life.  I think it looks much jazzier in its coat of metallic pewter!


My 15 year-old isn’t digging the new feel of painted upholstery, which is more like rough leather, and my husband says it makes him a bit sweaty, but all I can say is, “I just saved us thousands of dollars, You’re welcome!”  (Sweaty….Hmmm.  That would be ME, painting for countless hours…!) One thing is for sure: It looks a whole heck of a lot better.  (And since the initial critiques, I have taken care of the rough texture by sanding it with good old sandpaper.)  I admit, it’s not the most comfortable sofa to ever exist, but it does the job.  The best part is that it is DONE.  On to the rest of the room…

I assume you noticed my “art” above the New Sofa?   Urban Outfitters has great tapestries on the cheap.  You are looking at their flag tapestry that I cut down the middle and back-stapled onto two huge canvases (As opposed to just tacking it up, dorm room-style).  I added a bit of metallic gold paint for some interest, and suddenly my gigantic white wall feels complete.  Big impact for little investment!  I have had nightmares about decorating that wall….





There’s definitely some tweaking still needed for this part of the space…  Some colorful pillows, different side tables, an accessory or two the dog won’t eat…  But, I have a real start with the sofa and wall hanging, and that, my friends, feels darn good!

Across from the sofa, we have our television….



Again, we’re dealing with a two-story wall, so I have tried to bring the eye down with a gallery wall of sorts using my DIY paintings around the tube:



Moving on to the smaller sitting area of the living room:



That is Grandma’s buffet on the wall… apple branches I brought home from my mom’s… And the little coffee table in the foreground I found on CL. It’s such a great color!


Heading into the kitchen/dining space:


Can you believe how big Jarkko has gotten? Nothing is safe on the counter anymore…




Loving my apple-green counter stools! Makes the kitchen island so much friendlier!

At the dining end of the space, I made a gallery wall.  It turned out pretty easy to do, and for no additional cost, I was able to display 15 pieces that maybe are not strong enough if hung alone.  Basically got a bunch of things we already had and played around with it until it looked like a composition I found to be interesting.   It’s kind of random, but that’s probably why I like it!


My gallery wall installation.


And moving on to the other corner of the room:


Here is where some some of our personal photos and objects are displayed.  I envision a more interesting desk-chair combo in place of the one shown.  Looking for some cool baskets for the bottom shelves too…


And!  Looking back through the house:



It feels great to have finally put a few things up on our walls!  There’s still work to do, but the hardest part was getting a start.  Now I am on a roll!   All it took was a little motivation inspired by one too-fast-approaching party.   Our oldest is preparing to leave us, just when things are starting to look up around here…  The nerve!




Mod House Update – One Year Since Move-in

Hey there, Guys!  It’s been over 4 months since my last post, so there’s a good chance you may not remember me…  I am the Minnesota mom with the 60’s mod fixer, who naively thought it would be a quick and easy remodel… And then spent 11 long months with workmen parked out front.   Some of our set-backs had to do with bad luck (like the 3-day torrential rain last June when the roof was exposed), and some of them had to do with poor planning (like spending a week installing a vented soffit, and then determining the fin walls had to come off, losing that work). These set-backs were expensive and absolutely prolonged the project.  For sure, our home’s design made for challenging work for everyone involved, and I am happy we were able to find some brave souls to tackle it!  It has been an up and down journey, but as I sit here one year later, I think we may have made it through.  We toughed this one out, and feel (most days) that we made the right decision buying this home.  It’s all good, you don’t have to worry about us anymore!

Sooo, I bet you’re after a little “before and after”???  I really wish I could make that happen, but I am needing just a few more months for decorating and landscaping to present a more dramatic “after”.  Sorry!!!  But, I am going to include a few photos of the cedar on the exterior and some “in-progress” interior shots.  I know, a year should have been enough time to have it all perfect, but I am struggling a bit with the look I want inside.  Another excuse is:  We have a puppy.  Enough said!


Last November, the stained cedar screens were added to the house. Our carpenter built them off-site.


Here’s a close-up of one screen… I like how boards of varying widths were used.


Liking the warmth of the wood…


And the cedar is all on!


We got one coat of opaque stain on the deck before the temps dropped, but I am not digging the lighter color… Maybe we should change to a deeper gray-brown?


The green door.

Okay!  I gave you a little sneak-peak at how the exterior is shaping-up…  I really look forward to rethinking the landscaping, and getting the deck recoated and furnished.  Things that will have to wait a few more months, due to the crazy amount of snow and cold we still have!  Let’s move on to the situation inside, shall we?


Here’s our present-day kitchen.


DSCN0337 A few random furniture pieces are hanging out until sold on craigslist… Anyone need a glass table or a sweet pair of white counter stools?


Still looking for some new dining chairs to fall in love with… And my diy art has already changed 3 times!


This corner of the room is giving me the most trouble… I might try a comfy chair and ottoman. Of course, a rug would be nice too. At the moment, our puppy still likes to chew on textiles, so other than the little mats by the doors, we remain rug-free.


The living room is soooo blah. I think it has amazing potential, but we definitely have some work to do in the decorating department! Two thirds of the space is 3 steps down with a 2-story ceiling, and the other third has the loft overhead. Any ideas for this space? I need help!

DSCN0351 DSCN0348

That about does it for my “still in-progress” update.  I will try to check in again as changes are made…

Making a modern home with big volumes warm and inviting is so challenging!  But it’s not going to happen on its own, so I will keep experimenting.  It would be nice if our doggy would stop chewing on everything, so I can at least put a few pillows out…  Gee wiz!  Good thing he’s so cute!

Mod House Musings & Other Developments

Since I have not posted the entire month of October (shame on me!), I have lots to talk about.  So much to say, so little time!  Hoping I can give you a concise recap…  (Now that the house is quiet again after an active Halloween night!)

Hmmmm.  Gotta think about where I left off.  Oh, yeah!  The siding and paint job!


The next step was to rebuild the second story balconies.

ImageThe guys started with the small one on the front of the house…  That’s stained cedar for the decking (except for the front board which was originally stained, but I requested another sanding because it was noticeably more rough than the 2 by 4s, so alas, it and the other face-boards were put up unstained.  More work for another day!).

ImageAbove, you see the master deck with the spindles.  Some were pre-painted, but we misjudged how many to do, so extras will have to be painted installed.  Shoot!

Below, there’s a view of the side balcony off the loft.


ImageAll smiles after completing the job!

Balconies all up, just needing a little touch-up paint and stain.

So, one would think all is swell at this point.  Wrong!  I hated the railing height!  The proportions looked strange.  Here’s the back-story:  The spindles were cut as called out, and the plan said they were to extend 12″ below the balcony decks.  Before the carpenters got to work installing the spindles/railings, I was concerned we would see too much spindle from the inside with 12″ hanging underneath, and asked to have them installed higher.  Granting my wish, they were installed up 6″, making the railings 42″ tall, instead of the standard 36″ height.  I thought it would be fine, but after stewing on it for a few days, I knew what I had to do:

Admit it was a bad idea, and ask the guys to redo it.  That was hard, but it was the right thing to do, and now all is swell.  Lesson learned:  Trust the architect when it comes to proportions.  Here’s a pic of the master balcony with the much better railing height (Whew!).


And that would be the husband painting our main level deck.  We were told it was too far gone to sand and stain, so we cleaned it up as best we could, and bought deck paint.  I thought it might be a good idea to go lighter than the house, but now that we have a first coat down, I can tell we need to go darker.  That’s just my luck, but not too tragic of a goof.  It always takes me a few tries to get a paint color right!

IMG_0608What the????  Major makeover going on for our front door!  Even the camera couldn’t focus on this crazy hue!  (But I can’t take credit for this one.  Totally our architect’s suggestion.)  It’s not the most attractive door to start with, but until we want to spring for a new one, some fresh paint will have to suffice.  You will have to wait to see how this turned out!  (I know…the suspense is just killing you, right?)

Coming up in the next few weeks, we will be getting the stained cedar accents installed on the house.  I think it will really add that somethin somethin it needs for some interest, and to break up the dark paint color.

One other development that happened in September/October is that I took a job outside of the house.   It’s retail, and my place of work is at the MOA (Mall of America).  People have been asking me if it’s fun.  Not exactly fun, but it is a new challenge for me, and that’s a good thing.  One perk is that I meet people from all over the world on a daily basis.  I never knew shopping there was such a destination.  We have always lived about 20 minutes away from it, so it has always been just another mall to us… Another perk is that my husband has been helping out a lot more with the kids and all the other stuff that happens at home.  Yeah!

Unfortunately, though, having a job does mean there’s less time for working on the house.  There’s still so much!  I have barely even started to decorate!  But, wait.  Remember this guy??

IMG_0600It might be a good idea to put that new sofa off a few more months, if ya know what I mean!

New Siding, Fresh Paint…and an Addition!

Over here at This Mod House, things have been really rockin’!  We are completely sided and painted, which has been a long time coming!  Want to see how things went over the past two weeks?


The siders started with adding trim around the windows.


After the first soffit material was torn out (due to our late decision to remove the original fin walls), we needed to redo the soffit and chose this ventilated composite material. The siders put it up as they worked their way around the house with the window trim.


And this ended up being the new siding choice. We were considering several different siding panel materials, and ended up with Hardie because it was available in a 10′ length. Our house is about 20′ 6″ tall on most sides, so this length allowed for two full panels with a break mid-way down and a break close to the foundation. We liked that configuration best.


Siding the top half of the house was very hard work. The panels are so heavy!


The back of the house with its new siding.


You may have noticed the 2″x6″ vertical boards running down the length of the house on both sides of the windows in the the previous photos…Here’s a closer look at this detail on the garage. After removing the original fin walls, we thought the house looked too flat and decided to add the boards.


All sided-up, we needed to choose a paint color. Since the beginning, we have been planning on painting the house a dark charcoal. The black chair is for reference, as the fascia and downspouts will be black metal. What color did we go with???


Urbane Bronze by Sherwin Williams! As the name implies, there is some brown in the color, but I think of it as a warm dark gray. The cooler charcoal grays felt too dramatic. 


I hope it’s not too dark, but I think it will be great with the planned rich-stained cedar accents above the windows.


A pic from this morning.  This is how one end of the house looks with the black metal fascia.  Do I dare say things are starting to look better around here?  The key word is “starting”….Still have much to do!


I haven’t forgotten to tell you about The Addition!  No, there is not a big change to our renovation plans… No proposed additional square footage….We aren’t that crazy!  But we are a little crazy, and felt the desire to add a bit more excitement to the household…  Have a look at our newest family member:


Introducing “Jarkko” (pronounced Yarkko). It’s a Finnish/Swedish name, meaning “God is Gracious”.

Our 8 week-old lab pup is the grand-pup of my grandfather’s last hunting dog.  And Jarkko’s mother is also the mother to my dad’s last dog that he loved so much as he was battling leukemia.  This is one special Addition to the family!




Back at It!

Hello, Friends.  So sorry to have kept you hangin’.  Although it’s been quiet on the house front the past few weeks, I have been itching to write.  And today is as good as any.  Actually, its better than any,  because today:




Both developments are nothing short of fantastic!  The kids are back having their minds engaged, and my house is back to getting whipped into shape.   And I am back with a few hours to myself for posting and tackling the piles of laundry/detritus from the long weekend.  So happy to have some good news to share!

Since my last post, the only house things that were worked on were the balconies.  I snapped a few shots:




Here’s a photo from the archives, showing the master bedroom balcony joists that were cantilevered inside. Obviously, there were some rotten boards. We had high hopes of keeping them intact, maybe cutting them down from 8 feet in length to 4 feet. Inspector said “No way, Jose!”, and we were forced to cut them off completely


Prep work.




Joists cut into the house.


I really wasn’t too upset to lose the rotten joists… We all know Rotten=Bad.   But, there’s another side to the story (literally).   And that would be INSIDE.  Only look if you are brave!


My brand-new dining area. Quarantined. New ceiling. Hacked up and thrown away like garbage!

Why the inside invasion?  Because we are wanting the new balcony to look like the old one design-wise (cantilevered), and that means new joists must run two times the length of the balcony inside.  Here’s one reason to remodel the exterior of a home before the interior!   Live and learn!


The newbies: 16′ pressure treated boards.


And they’re up! The new deck will be 5′ deep.  You can see the new boards are sistered to the existing interior joists inside.


The inside shot.


Finishing up some details, so that the area is ready for the siding material to come.


And here’s the small balcony off our daughter’s room. Luckily the joists here were considered stable, and just some minor changes were required. Whew!

There will also be a mini balcony off the upstair’s loft.  Just enough space to swing the door open and sing to the tree-tops if so inclined!

Well, that’s about it for progress.  The dining space is still under quarantine, so the rest of the main floor is suffering the consequences of misplaced furnishing until the area is patched and painted, and we can put it back together.  Kind of a drag, but it should be remedied in the next few weeks -Yay!

And it’s almost time to get the kids!  Where did the day go?  The guys have been hard at work.  I haven’t even stepped out to see what they have done, but from the sound of things inside, it’s been a lot!  So look for a post in the not-too-distant future about our siding progress.  Liking the way that sounds!





House Love – Getting to the Heart of My Exterior Reno

It’s official.  The honeymoon phase of our relationship is over.  Sooo over!  I’m talking about my 49 year-old modernist house, of course.  (Because every minute with my husband of 18 years has been sublime, and exponentially honeymoony.  Ha!)

It’s nothing I didn’t see coming.  I knew this house needed a lot of work, and eventually the renovation would go from fun and games to a bit of a drag.  But as the saying goes “No pain, no gain”, I am hoping the “gain” manifests itself soon, or I may LOSE MY MARBLES!

Don’t get me wrong, I still love my house.

Our relationship is much too strong to throw in the proverbial towel.  I have seen it at its worst, looked beyond its rotting wood and peeling paint, and fell head-over-heels.  And , inside, it cleaned up really well.  So smitten with its new handsome maple floors and open-plan layout!  Who says they’ll never change?

Outside, the transformation has been slow, and things seem to be going in the wrong direction. What was supposed to take the month of June, start to finish, is now in its 3rd month, with no end in sight.  Why?  This bad-boy of a house has some serious problems, more than first understood.   Hint: That’s where this post is coming from.

And because no one likes a Negative Nelly, I want to assure you I have tons to be grateful for in terms of the house reno:  (45 minutes later…)  Well, I guess “tons” is a bit of a stretch, but I can say that I know in my heart that we will get the results we set out to achieve.  It just might take a lot more time than expected (and our first-born’s projected college tuition – Sorry Kiddo!).

Enough chattering….Here’s the photo scoop from the past couple of weeks:


Guys hard at work installing the soffit material.


You can see the soffit all closed up, with the continuous venting, cut around each and every of the 24 fin walls that enclose the window and door areas.

Just to be clear, the work shown above took about a week, and two of the days included a second “crew” on a second lift.

That Friday morning, there was an unfortunate (but not completely unexpected) discovery.  When starting to replace the worst siding panels, it was determined the wood underneath was rotten in the areas by the fin walls/windows and compounding the problem, the windows were improperly installed and flashed.  A meeting of the minds resulted in an entirely new plan.  The fin walls were to come off.  All of the siding was to come off.  The soffits and venting completed the previous week would have to be redone.  And when that got going, the observation of little/missing insulation in the walls led to upgrading the basic house wrap to a 1″ thick foam board.  Ultimately, this was good for the house.  But bad for the wallet.  Gulp.


Removing the fin walls was a big job. The method of choice involved cutting it and prying it loose, and finally pulling it off the main body of the house using a chain.


The lift supplied the power necessary.


Lowering the top half to the ground.


Temping where the fins are off.

Working in sections, the guys removed the fin walls and put up the insulation panels.


1″ foam board will insulate and bring the wall almost flush to the window framing.


The front of the house. Foam panels are on most of the house by the end of last week. The seams are still being taped today.


Where there once stood a fin wall, a concrete support must be removed to the ground.


Taking down one of 22 cement supports….


Deck boards coming up to get at the concrete supports.


The concrete needs to be taken below deck level.

I bet you may be wondering where we may be going with the design, now that we removed another original architectural element.  Our architect came out and drew up another rendering.  Here it is:


It’s kind of hard to see the details, but we plan to trim out the windows with larger vertical boards to create new, but less dramatic fin walls to contain the stained cedar accents. The decking on the balconies will be cedar, and the railings painted black.  The siding material is still getting figured out, but we like the idea of painting it a dark charcoal.

As much as it’s difficult to be changing things up so late in the game, we know we need to do it right.  In the meantime we will be practicing patience and hope the change-order monster stays away going forward!

Oh, and I wanted to share what we found when we returned from a 5-day vacation!




Sure it’s a broken window….And we still don’t know the cause, but can you see the glass shattered away leaving the shape of a heart? I am taking it as a sign that our house loves us back.

Mid-Century Modern Stairs Makeover

We are in the thick of renovating the exterior of our 1964 modernist home, but still tying up some loose ends inside.  One of those being the stairwell and its multi-step (ha!) makeover.   Hope you enjoy seeing the transformation!


The Before, in all of its beige poly shag carpet glory. The oak slat-work is cool, but a bit too orange and in rough shape.


Carpet was pulled up, revealing the wood (pine? maybe fir?) risers, with their original stain.  Left behind are remnants of two carpetings – the beige and a very late-70’s green.  Here’s the biggest bummer: Two layers of carpet x 23 stairs = a gazillion embedded staples.


I started to work my way down removing the nasty carpet staples. About a half hour per stair, not including the back side. A screwdriver helped lift them to a point I could grab them with a pliers.


Ended up needing some help. The back of the stairs were brutal and many were out of my reach. Really! They were!


Next, the slats and railings were primed and painted white with a sprayer. Made the job much easier for the painters, but it sure made a mess! The steps were covered with paper, but some paint ended getting through. Luckily the plan was to sand them!


It took two guys a half-day to sand all of the risers (not bad!). One used the sander you see here to do the majority of each step…


And the other used a scrapping tool to take the finish down to the raw wood on the edges and corners.


Cleaning up.

With the stairs sanded, I was taking responsibility for the project from that point on. It may be worth pointing out that the backs of the risers were in such bad shape from the staples, we had a 1/4 inch thick piece of pine cut and nailed on prior to sanding. Also, you may notice the undersides were not sanded. They were in ok shape and because it would have been super challenging to sand them, we decided to leave them alone.


Here’s with two coats of oil-based stain. I attempted to find a color as close as possible to the original stain still on the undersides.  I used a foam brush to apply and wiped it in with a rag.


Doggone painter’s tape! Guess leaving it on for weeks wasn’t the best idea. There was a 6 week delay between the tape job and sanding, plus a couple more until I got the right stain applied. Unfortunate.  Learn from my mistake.

The stairs got two coats of a water-based poly, and then I taped them off to re-paint the skirt boards, where the paint had come off when removing that tape.  Painter’s tape can be friend or foe, and after the new paint seeped under the new tape onto my newly finished steps (still following?), I am banishing it from the house!  Luckily, the paint was still wet and I could wipe most of it away.   Whew!

The After:


Love the look!  Believe me, the stairs aren’t perfect, but they were worth it!

Yo-Yo Renovating – The Ups and Downs of Remodeling a Mod House

Summer is upon us, and what should be a more carefree, relaxed few months of the year, has taken a different turn in my little world.  No trips yet to the lake for me.  No m’am/sir!   More likely, my summer day includes a trip to Menard’s and Home Depot.  What about gardening and planting flowers?  Fuh-gid-a-bad-it!  Anything within 100 feet of the house is in the work zone, and sure to get trampled.  Ah, the joys of remodeling!

Okay, I am being a bit dramatic… It’s not like this house project has been forced on me.  I chose to take it on, and happily so!  (Why didn’t somebody stop me???)  Anyway, it has been quite the challenge with many ups and, to be fair, many downs.  I wonder if there is such a thing as “renovation therapy” to get people through the tougher legs of the house-improvement-journey?  I swear I have developed multiple personalities since this all began…I’m only kind of kidding!

What’s the back-story for this woe-is-me attitude?  It has been a slow week on the ‘ole pra-jay.  I have been crazy frustrated, as the weather has been cooperating, but not the workmen!  There have been various excuses made for the guys to not be on my job, like incorrect weather forecasts, and my not being cool with the carpenter’s 7-year old kid coming to “work” with his dad all day….But I know these guys have other jobs going, and you know what that means.  My project was being stalled.

Of course, I complained.  A lot.  Called, texted, emailed.  Lots of negativity (by me).  I put my foot down!  No more Mrs. Nice Gal!  You might even say I was being just ever-so-slightly bitchy (no doubt)….

So this is the craziest part:  James, the builder/remodeler/owner, had a way of talking me through the frustration and helping me understand the situations.  His response to each complaint seemed genuine, and he always pledged to try to resolve the problems.  One point that has been made is that our project is different than most.  It’s residential, but has a lot of commercial-type details like the flat roof.  Mod houses like ours come with unique challenges, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of dudes around who are super comfortable with this type of residential design.  Many of the subs primarily work on commercial projects, so there’s a few things that get “lost in translation”, in dealing with me and my house.   Anyway, James most definitely has talent when it comes to calming down a client in a tizzy (Now, if he could just promise his guys will come to work each day…)!

So, here’s where we are at:


The main roof has been insulated, pitched, and has its fully adhered rubber membrane glued. The raised part is the top of the soffit that goes around the whole house.


With the main roof mostly complete, things got going on the garage. Here, you see the new soffit getting built. It will only be on the front side. Other sides will be flush with the walls.


Roofers take over, giving the garage the same treatment as the main house.


The garage roof all done (except for finishing touches on the parapet). Isn’t it pretty?


Close-up of the scupper, where the water drains from the garage roof into a future downspout/gutter.


The guys are adding the strip vent and the underside of the soffit. It’s the same stuff (Hardie Cement Board) as the siding and will be painted along with the house.

Today I am feeling positive, even optimistic, that the project is en route to completion.  I won’t get my hopes up too high, as I know there’s lots left to do, and surely a few roadblocks to come.  But, I will take this “up” mental state for now, and when the “down” surfaces, I know James (aka “The Remodeling-Client Whisperer”) is just a phone call away.

p.s.  Dear Friends,  I promise to get back inside for future posts!  Sure, I will continue to share the progress on the exterior, but I know it’s a bit technical/boring, if it’s not your thing.  Have been saving up some goodies like how my stairs turned out, and yesterday, I finally got my island counter top replaced!  Sooo exciting!  (I am really not that exclamatory in person, but it sure is fun here!)