storage, storage, who wants some storage?

we do. that’s who.

it should be noted that we are constantly amazed at how time seems to disappear once a small human enters your life . . .well, perhaps not completely surprised, given that we are ever-so-quick to drop everything just to tend to our cute and lovable bundle of small human – anyone interested in a quick game with thomas the train?

despite the fact that we claim we have no time, we have found periodic episodes (nap times) to do a few home improvements, just not actually showcase them. so here is my attempt to bring the world (and ourselves) back up to speed on our progress.

so this first project we are talking about is also very small human centered. over the past three years we have been watching many, many items no longer be in our control: time, money, energies, food, and now colorful, play objects that seem to keep on appearing out of nowhere.

in attempts to reclaim some of our identities (don’t get me wrong, i can build a mean train track for thomas and find myself loving it), and blend the kiddie toys in our main entertainment area, my husband and i have been seeking smart (and stylish) storage solutions.

keep in mind, our home is 13-ft wide, and essentially comes without closets of any sort.  baskets have been employed, bins with handles, purging, you name it, we have tried everything to make the plastic, brightly-colored, noise-making toys “blend” with our style . . . and by “blend”, we mean hide.

living room built inso as we began looking further at long-term solutions, because we think the human will stick around for a little while (at least we hope – though we hear the teenage years can be “challenging”), we started taking a hard look at our front entrance where a half-wall existed. Its a wall with essentially no purpose other than to act as a railing and hold the electrical outlet for interior and exterior lighting.

we began to think a nice built-in shelf with doors might be the answer here. we already had wired our television so that the cords went behind walls and under the floor back when we installed it (see old post here).

so my hubby and i looked into several different solutions and we ended up going to ikea and getting the upper kitchen cabinets with glass doors as the starter and then framing it in to have the built-in look we wanted.

sans drywallso first things first . . . a little destruction and pulling down old drywall (see right). we then had to move the massive amount of cords coming out of the front wall of the house (see far left in photo) so that they would enter the cabinet from the back, in the middle.

once those few things were completed, we were able to put together the ikea cabinetry – which, honestly, came fairly easy given that these were only 3 cabinets, and not the 60+ boxes we had to organize, build and place from our kitchen renovation (see old post here).

ikea boxes

my husband then took measurements to create a platform for the shelves to sit on, to help raise the entire shelf unit, and also ensure that our molding would be able to fit under the doors. we wanted to ensure this detail, so that there wasn’t an extreme visual break when looking at the floor.

ikea boxes and wiring

he then installed the backer to the cabinets and pulled wire through the wall to make sure that everything worked before starting to close in the edges of the cabinetry with wood, spacers, glue, nails, etc.

then began the process of measuring, cutting, measuring again, cutting, nailing, filling, sanding, drying . . . all to make this set of cabinetry look like it was custom made to the area (which, in reality, they kind of are).

shelves sans doors

end cap

as my husband cut and fitted the surround wood, he made sure to include a clean endcap feature that managed to tie in some of the classic and modern lines we have going throughout the house. we saw this style in one of our friends homes, and loved it so much we thought it would look nice in our home too (check out their born again kitchen here).

from there i was able to come in and install the doors (my husband likes to give me the “serious” tasks), like a champ. and the cabinetry was near complete. the only thing left was trying to figure out what kind of topper we wanted.

book shelf

we debated stone, as we have half a slab of our kitchen countertops still in storage (awaiting a wet bar that we intend to instal one of these days . . .), but decided that texture-wise it might look a little out of place. We also debated just a plain piece of wood painted white, which is what was there before, but that had inherent problems in that it always seemed to look dirty (despite my incessant and mildly obsessive cleaning of it). finally my husband suggested that perhaps we call the same company that provided us with some amazing seating for our kitchen (details here) about what kind of reclaimed wood they might have available.

we went for a visit one saturday, and sure enough, they had a backer of one of the church pews – the same ones that we had purchased from over a year ago. and, as if the look couldn’t be better, the size was perfect and would require very little altering to fit to the dimensions of the surface.

lucky us.

so we installed it on the top of the cabinets, smoothed out the edges, and then finally added handles to the doors. resulting in a fantastic, built in cabinetry that we absolutely love and can’t believe we waited until post-kid to tackle this project.

final cabinet

final cabinet

IMG_9044(before and after)

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skinny seating for a skinny home.

one of the more milder projects we have embarked on is to start to make the dining room look as sophisticated as our kitchen . . .

last spring, i started looking into alternatives to the standard dining room table with the goal of making it more comfortable, someplace we all wanted to hang out, and ultimately, somewhere our son would be eager to do homework (ha – who am i kidding. what kid wants to do homework.)

as i scoured local shops and internet sites looking for a banquette of some sort (essentially a small, upholstered couch typically found as a built-in for dining rooms), the only ones i could find were fairly pricey, not quite sized appropriately for a 13 foot wide row home, or the style was bleh.

not super sold on having a custom couch made for the space (toddlers are not known for their tidiness and i was having visions of spaghetti noodle parties),  i resourced my mother about other possible solutions. she immediately asked to if we had considered a church pew. she assumed that because baltimore had so many churches in the city that perhaps finding an old pew may not be that difficult.

well? she was right.

and since both my husband and i love reclaiming old furniture, materials, thingamabobs, we were excited about the possibility of owning something that predated us and came from our current hometown. so we started looking into what we could find at local shops and through online searches.

thank you google.

i was lucky to find a company, ecm antique flooring and architecturals, who happened to recently rescue church pews from a decommissioned church in fells point, maryland. emc works at preserving old wood, and managed to get these pews from st. michael’s roman catholic church, a church that dated back to 1857. all the pews were a varnished walnut and absolutely gorgeous.

so we contacted the company and went to check them out in person to make sure it was something we could use/fit into our ever-so-narrow home.

church pew endslucky for us, the pews came in 6 and 9 foot sections and we were able to find a 6 foot section that was in great shape. everything had been taken apart in the church to help preserve the pews during transport. we were able to pick through the palettes for two ends, a seat, a back and cap, none of which were part of the same pew. and, as a bonus, we were even given the original hardware to fastened the bench together.

bench pieces

so, ecstatic over our new find, we took our parts home and started the assembly process – me watching and my husband doing.

since none of the individual pieces were from the same original pew, minor cuts needed to be made to make everything the same length. new support cleats for the bench seat were constructed from a cutoff that emc gave us for this purpose. once the back and the seat were fastened together, then the end-caps were reattached from the outside with the antique hardware. lastly, the cap was attached to the top of the back rest with countersunk finish nails.

bench pieces 3

overall, a very easy process (at least from my observation, my husband might think differently) and the finished product is beautiful. the fact that we own something that predates our home is impressive and all-the-more-so because it fits into our little 13-foot wide slice.


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we resolve to stick with this resolution. . .

four months late.

so its been over two years since we overhauled our kitchen and over a year since we updated this blog . . .

our sincerest apologies. between tiny human, work endeavors, the incessant desire to attempt to maintain the same schedules we had pre-baby (like all new parents, right?), this poor blog has suffered a little . . . and perhaps our sanity as well – ha!

frankly, there is nothing quite like the flip of a new season to remind you of all the things that you “need” to do or “want” to do or perhaps that you “intended” to do all along, but just got distracted with — you know — life.

this blog has been one of those “yeah, we’ll post tonight” or “let me quick finish ____” (fill in the blank here with everything/anything) or “i’ll totally finish that post once the tiny human is asleep” (which often results in passing out from exhaustion on the couch, full glass of wine still in hand).

fast forward 1.5 years later and both the hubby and i are asking ourselves “where did the time go” and realized that we miss posting to this fun, mildly witty report of our attempt to stylize our lives.

in the past 1.5 years we certainly haven’t stopped working on the house, we just stopped writing about it.

so. for the remainder of 2015 we both have resolved to revive this little “slice” of our life.

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best sound ever.

a tenant of parenting is that you will do anything (i.e. peekaboo, silly faces, crossed eyes, self-battery) to make this happen:

it just so happens that our friends are willing to do the same.

we seriously believe this noise could cure cancer.

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a few weeks back i captured this little video.

i know its mother’s day and this video is all about “dad,” but it gives me such pride to see this little guy grow up. a friend once told me that “the days are long, but the years are short” and she couldn’t be more accurate.

where o where has the time gone?

to all the moms (and dads who are moms too) – happy mother’s day.

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for your viewing pleasure.

wanna know how to you work a sexy tube television in a 13-foot wide home?

you don’t.

you buy a flat-screen television.

when my husband and i first bought our home in baltimore in 2007, we knew that purchasing a home that was only 13-feet wide, would pose some interesting challenges when it came to room layout and function. its not that our home is tiny by any means, we are over 2700 square feet of livable space (not including our unfinished basement), its just that each room is only 13-feet wide and the left-hand side of the home is essentially a “hallway” to get to the subsequent rooms.

so, when we moved in, we found that our ever-so-classy tube television took up a ton of precious space . . . space we could really use. the only solution we could really come up with was to buy a flat screened television. i should note that my husband and i are pretty frugal, and the idea of purchasing a luxury item just to create space seemed a little “wrong” . . . yet, the idea of moving into the 21st century was really appealing (please keep in mind that this was about six years ago and flat screen televisions were still new-ish and prices hadn’t dropped a whole lot).

so, we did what many other frugal-minded folk do – we hunted around for the best price and ended up purchasing a vizio flat screen hd television from costco for double what the cost of that tv is today (we don’t like dwelling on it too much).

so our first labor day weekend in the house, my husband and i made it the weekend project to recess it in our wall. we gauged our space and thought the most useful place the was the long wall that was part of the “hallway” (see photo below).

not knowing what would be behind the drywall, we cut carefully and were pleasantly surprised to see that nothing out of the ordinary lurked behind the drywall. we were even hoping to determine whether doing exposed brick in the house was possible (which it wasn’t). we ended up finding a hundred years worth of layered wallpaper laying on top of an inch of plaster that was on top of the brick.


television 2the wallpaper was amazing. we peeled back through the decades until we found the oldest layers that we believe date back to 1920’s. we were able to preserve small fragments and framed them to hang on our wall.

because the studs were not load bearing (fact: a nice perk to owning a row home, the load bearing walls are only the two sides of the home – making it possible for an open concept living space), we cut out an area sufficient to fit the television and attach a piece of half-inch plywood to the masonry wall, also attached by angle iron to the cutoff studs in order to create a very solid surface to be able to attach the television mounting system.

television 3the trickiest part to this was obtaining hdmi cables long enough for us to route our accessories to a corner of the room that was not part of the hallway. this way there are no visible cords or wires running from the television to the cable box or dvd player. instead, the cables are run from the television, behind the wall, underneath the floor, around the main entry stairwell, up the adjacent wall and into the respective accessories (this took some getting used to, as “changing the channel” means pointing the remote not at the television, but at the corner of the room).

we then closed in the open cavities with drywall, covered the corners with cap molding, mudded, sanded and painted. finally, and very carefully, inserted the oh-so-then-expensive-television, plugged everything in and were happy (and shocked) to see that it all worked perfectly!

the finished product (pre-painting . . .)

the finished product (pre-painting . . . pre-kitchen reno. . . pre-everything. . .)

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when the planets align . . .

it occurs oh-so-rarely, but when it does . . . brilliant things happen.

our little family was out for a very rare lunch after a very successful six-month doctors appointment (three shots, no tears – we are still holding our breath – one month later) and having a grand time (forget that we were eating way before the super old folk dining hour – say three o’clock here . . . look, we have a child . . . we have to take what we can get when it comes to dining in public . . . we are as “real” as one can get about these situations) – hubby was making witty jokes, i was retorting with something not-so-witty, both of us enjoying adult beverages, our son cooing at the successful choice of toys we made, hubby snapping photos of me, i snapping photos of the two of them . . .

and then i got this little gem:

word bubble 1

brilliant, right?

so i did what every sane-minded person would do – i placed the call out to friends (on facebook, of course) with a simple request: “funny word bubble caption time everyone . . . ready, set, go!” – and “go” they did.

here of some of their brilliant interpretations.

word bubble word bubble 2 word bubble 3 word bubble 4 word bubble 5 word bubble 6

and one friend decided to send their own graphics, in addition to verbiage . . . serious bonus points. we love you jordan.word bubble 7 word bubble 8

please share yours, and we will gladly add it to the mix.

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happy 2013.

this is the “birth announcement” that quickly became the “holiday greeting” which evolved into into the “new year’s card” and finally became the “happy-holiday-chinese-new-year-five-month-announcement-valentine’s-day-thank-you-greeting-card.” (let’s face it – “parenting” should be defined as: people who guide children to adulthood and manage to accomplish much – it just happens to be on an eighteen- minute/day/month/year delay.)

happy 2013

happy 2013

happy 2013

from our family to yours – happy 2013!

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parent fail.

i blame the following on #newparentignorance, #lackoflove, #expertmarketingguruswhowereboredbylongwinters.

mom and dad valentines

so . . . apparently, that little hallmark/kay jewelers/my-significant-other-is-obligated-to-pay-attention-to-me holiday that just passed is really important in the world of kids. (and i should know this, as my go-to all-things-mommy-expert-friend has been prepping v-day messages at work for weeks now . . . oh – and i work at a school.)

on valentine’s day, i drop my son off at daycare as per usual, not really thinking about the fact it was v-day (of course, my hubby and son had already surprised me with a cute note and flower that morning – but hey, i’m still in that post-preggo world of not remembering crap, so i didn’t connect the dots), said our usual greetings (in fact, i’m pretty certain i even acknowledged the holiday because i wished everyone a happy one) and went on my merry way.

it wasn’t until pick-up that those little dots started to connect . . .

gian's paintingfirst, i am presented with a very large bag of “goodies” that gian made for me and dad (clue #1 here) and then, with much fanfare, i am handed an additional set of adorably decorated bags – bags that contained messages of “love,” “friendship,” and “coolness” from his friends (clue #2). in fact, as i opened them on behalf of gian, one of the bags contained specialty freeze-dried yogurt drops because they new he was too young for any other festive treats (light bulb now fully on).

*%!@?* !!!!!

we were that family – that family that didn’t share the love with gian’s classmates on the day that is earmarked for love, with a capital ‘l’. gian broke all the little girls hearts and his bros didn’t get spongebob telling them how cool they were.

as our (you bet i’m including the hubby in this too) mistake became very clear, my apologies began . . . to which i was reassured with comments like “its ok – you’re new parents.” (but let’s be honest here – they were all thinking, what the *%$@! is wrong with you – we all figured our *%$@! out . . . )

perhaps not really realizing the full extent of my errors, i called my ever-so-wise-sister, telling her how we messed up and then asking if i could make it up the following day. she was like, “nope, you are a #parentfail (with a capital ‘#’) and there is no making this up.”

well? lesson learned. all holidays are now very important in our world.

watch out st. patty’s day – it’s on.

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the first supper.

we did it. gian did it. the first “real” food was had and it appears that our hungry little man is eager to dive into the world of non-dairy products.

the final decision for what the first food would be?


*for those other new moms out there . . . we took one teaspoon first squash (organic baby food from earth’s best) and combined it with breast milk (about a 50/50 ratio). since the first went down so well, we attempted a second try with a little less breast milk. the second attempt wasn’t quite as successful, but we aren’t certain if that is due to taste or attention span – or both.

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