worth its weight in gold!

>> 5.28.2010

Don't you love when you learn something from a blog that helps you out in real life? When Kate recommended the Bissell SpotBot for cleaning pet stains a couple months ago I thought it might be worth a try. Hugo's recent puppy ways had me thinking that I needed it... and WOW it was maybe the best purchase I've made all year. Seriously... Kate, you weren't kidding when you said that it is amazing!!


It not only cleaned up the recent spots, but completely erased a few set in stains that have been haunting me since I've lived here. If you have a decent amount of carpet in your house (and a pet), go for it. Now!

You simply fill the tank with water and cleaner...

...let it sit and scrub...

...then a few minutes later you have a perfectly clean carpet!

I promise, I wasn't bribed by any Bissell people to praise the Bot (but I'd love to test out some other products ;). I grabbed my $130 machine from Target earlier this week...

...along with this super cute $1 dog muscle tank :).

Have a great holiday weekend everyone! I have a lot of blog reading and commenting to catch up on (try 998 items in my Google Reader!!!), but I just wanted to share an example of why you bloggers out there rock!

PS Another thanks to Kate for convincing me to upgrade to the more expensive and healthier dog food. I know my puppies are better for it :).

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One Expensive Tomato

>> 5.27.2010

Have you ever seen a $100 tomato?

I had Nate use the old fisherman's trick of holding the tomato close to the camera to make it seem larger.

Garden Scorecard:
Us: 1 tomato
Pests: every thing else

Like I mentioned before, we didn't build the garden to save any money, but it's not so much fun seeing all of our precious plants eaten away by the pests. I keep telling Nate that we'll figure it out eventually! Until then, we're going to enjoy every precious bite of this uber-expensive fruit!!

This tomato reminds me of the time I went out to dinner with my mom while on vacation in Chicago. The food was amazing, but we had raked up an over $200 bill before we knew it! Spending $100+ on one non-holiday/ special occasion meal... yikes!
Be honest... what's the most money you've ever spent on one meal or food??

PS If anyone is wondering about my Dollar Tree flower experiment... the seeds were total duds. I haven't seen any sign of a bloom yet.

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Move Over Oprah...

>> 5.26.2010

As I mentioned before, I just might be one of the only left who records and watches Oprah every day (well, at least the only 25-year-old). For the past few months I've been wondering what would fill the giant void on my DVR when she finally goes off the air next season... until I found out that Nate Berkus would be coming out with his own show this fall. I can't say that he's my favorite Nate (the bf will win this title every time), but he sure does come close ;).



Watching Nate's sendoff show yesterday just confirmed my excitement!

I remember obsessing over this 300 square foot box that Nate turned into a home during his first appearance. Eight years later and I could still remember the exact layout of the room!

It was Nate who taught me what real design brings to a home. Before watching him, the only "design" I knew was the matchy-matchy catalog-like look that I would watch on Trading Spaces. When I saw the before and after of the room below, I started seeing the potential in spaces within my own home...
To me, the space above looked fine as-is...

Nate brought it from "okay" to "amazing!"


Nate was also the person who taught me that ceilings were important. I remember seeing him cover up a ugly popcorn ceiling in one of his makeovers. It was that day that I decided that I would make sure to remove the popcorn if I ever bought a house... many years later I removed the popcorn in my new home!


When he gave his first tour of one of his homes on Oprah, I completely fell in love with the guy. I loved absolutely every choice he made in his space!
From the furniture to the artwork (print created by his deceased partner), Nate has a connection to every thing he places in his home. Stuff isn't collected... memories are preserved. I see his "treasure your belongings" philosophy as a very thrifty way of decorating.



Any other Nate Berkus fans out there?
It looks like the answer is yes! Check out #nateday on twitter!

 
*all images found via Oprah.com

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A Groovy House...

>> 5.25.2010

Groovy? My house? Um, not so much... more like lame (you know, 1980's slang type of lame). At this point, I am starting to wish that it had a bit of '70s grooviness going on. So we all know that most post-1980 builder homes were not built with quality in mind, right? For the past thirty years, it has all been about getting people into homes and making money. This meant a lot of cutting corners and building with cheap materials!

Based on the information that I've gathered from the contractors, plumbers, and electricians who seem to now live in my house who have worked on my '80s issues recently (including dangerous wiring and shoddy plumbing), I've come up with three possible plans for finding the next (and possibly "forever") home:

1. Look for a groovy home.
There are several great money saving reasons for me to go for a 1975ish home:
*It is less likely to have asbestos or lead paint issues (compared to pre-1975).
*There was stricter code enforcement during the building.
*It's likely to have copper wiring (although aluminum was also popular).
*The plumbing will most likely be safe and up to code.
*At this point, the roof will probably be newish since it wouldn't have been able to last 35 years.

Ugly, but sturdy.

2. Find an older, but updated home.
Let's face it, '70s does not equal charm. In a dream world I would be able to have the charm and solid construction of a 1950's brick home, but live without worries of electrical fires or lead poisoning. Hopefully I can find someone who has stepped in and done all of the hard work for me!
A 1948 dream... a super expensive and fully updated one!

3. Save the cash to rewire/ update the plumbing in an older home.
Saving tens of thousands of dollars on top of a down payment doesn't sound like much fun... neither does having my home torn apart in order to update it! I would only go for this option if I planned on staying for a while!!

When do you know that you're in for some fun? When the listing says, "as-is!"

Although I'm not the best of friends with my current home, I'm still happy to live and learn with it for the next few years. By buying an affordable two bedroom home, I'm fortunate enough to have wiggle room in my budget to make those unexpected upgrades.
What home generations would you avoid or look for?

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The Fine Print

>> 5.20.2010

Remember how my pile of unfinished furniture projects turned into a Craigslist ban last month? Well, I've figured out a way to continue seeing Craig while following the verbal contract I made with Nate. Technically I'm not allowed to buy any more furniture projects off of the list...

Enter my new rugs! I was actually in need of a new rug for the dining room and when I saw a listing for a year old 8x10 West Elm Jute Bouclé Rug for $50 (retail: $199), I had to check it out! It was in perfect condition and destined to come home with me...

Thrifty tip: Use your favorite store's name as the keywords for a search. You never know what will pop up!

Thrifty tip: Once you head over to pick up your purchase, always ask a seller with great taste if they've listed anything else. When I did this, the seller offered another 8x10 rug to me for $10! This one is the Henley Rug by Pottery Barn... which currently retails for $499!


If I hadn't asked, I wouldn't have walked away with two 8x10 coordinating rugs for $60 (retail $600).


Wall decor doesn't count as furniture either...
That's why I was able to swoop in and grab this 27 inch mirror from Four Hands for $30. I thought it would be perfect for the fireplace, but was wrong. I'm sure you'll see it popping up on the wall sometime soon.

compare to:
Finally, in my (non-furniture) search for a new statement light fixture for the living room, I came across this $20 modern chandelier. It was interesting and cheap so I emailed the seller as soon as I saw it.


Yes, I do have the three other shades; they're still in boxes.

Thrifty tip: Check listings before bed! I found this light at 9 pm and bought it at 8 am the next day. Because of the amazing price, I had to get in quick to beat out the other buyers.

It turned out to be a great deal; these currently retail for $489!

What do you think about my idea of painting the chandelier a different color? White to soften the look? A fun color to add pop to the room? Should I make Nate happy and keep it as-is?

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Budget Breakdown: The Kitchen

>> 5.19.2010

I went back through my receipts and added up the total for the kitchen transformation. Let's go ahead and look at what it took to turn this baby around. To make things more fun, I'll list the purchases in the order that I decided to make them (remember, there wasn't exactly a plan for this renovation... I just added projects as I went).
*A few of the numbers are estimates because my online bank statement was erased when my purse was stolen.



1. Demo work and new lighting above sink: $240
The first thing that I knew I wanted to do in the kitchen was to knock out the cabinets above the sink. They weren't all that functional (too small to store most things) and really cramped the space).

Demo work (by me!): free

Lighting and patch work to install two 5-inch recessed lights: $240
Totally on a whim, I decided to add in a couple of task lights while the ceiling was already ripped open.


2. New countertop and undermount sink: $2180
Thanks to a little help from you , I made the decision to go ahead and replace the damaged laminate countertops. It was my first big splurge and toooootally worth every cent!

Demo work: free
Have I mentioned how much I love my crowbar? DIYing this saved me $500.

Plumbing of new sink: free
Thanks to my handy boyfriend, I saved $250 here.

New faucet: $110 (with coupon at Lowe's)
Faucets don't really excite me so I just went with a simple off-the-shelf model at Lowe's.

Countertop and sink: $2070 (sink free with promotion at Lowe's)
Once you go undermount, you'll never go back! (Read about my decision to go with Lowe's here.)

3. New subway tile backsplash: $530
Once the new counters went in, I either had to pay someone to repair all of the missing tiles in the dated and yellowing old backsplash or use some of the surplus subway tile from the bathroom reno to get a new one... let's just say that I'm happy with my choice :). I could have probably saved money by DIYing this or looking for a more competitive bid, but it was the holidays and I just wanted my walls back together!

4. New stainless appliances: $2,013
Once the refrigerator sprung a leak, I took it as my cue to start looking for a more functional bottom freezer model with a whole lot less bisque going on.... thanks to a little more help from you all, I came across the Cash for Appliances program and found myself able to afford an entire new set! (Read more details on the cost breakdown here.)

5. Three additional 4-inch recessed lights: $390.46
Due to a recent bathroom flooding incident, I found myself needing to replace the kitchen ceiling. What do I do when the ceiling is missing? Pay to install more recessed lights!


6. Cabinet updates: $297.48
With the counters, backsplash, lighting, and appliances already updated, I saw myself at the finish line to this renovation! I decided to go ahead and pay someone to paint and re-hinge the cabinets to get this thing over with!

Paint: $30
Painter's fees: $175

Hinges: $18.62
Part of my decision to go black and white was knowing that I could get pre-sprayed black and white hinges at Lowe's.

22 Pulls: $73.86 (with coupon at Lowe's)
My pulls were in stock at my local Lowe's store for under $4 each.

7. The accessories: $57
It wouldn't be a finished space without the details!

Rug (IKEA): $25
Framed print (IKEA as-is): $20
Fruit bowl (garage sale): $2
Salt and oil dish (Marshalls): $10

Grand total: $5,708.33
*see before/ after post here

Phew! I'm glad to be finished with this room for a while.
Feel free to ask any extra questions about my supplies or thought process in the comments section. I hope I added correctly this time!!

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What could have been...

>> 5.18.2010

First, I have to say I felt a bit like a dummy yesterday when I said that my rough estimate of the kitchen was $8,000... thanks to a little questioning from Sara (she'll keep you in check!), I redid my math and realized that I added in one of the numbers twice (duh!). The total will be more like $6,000. I'll look through my receipts so that I can come back with a completely accurate number next time!


Do you ever wonder what a space in your home might have looked like if you went in a different direction while decorating? Lucky me, a neighbor with my exact same layout (but mirrored) has his home for sale! I stole a few pictures off of the MLS listing to show you what my house might have looked like if I went in a different direction...

His house:

My house:

 See? Same 1980's cabinets and galley layout!

His house:

My house:
I'm sososo glad that I ripped out those upper cabinets, scraped the popcorn, and updated the lighting!

His house:

My house:
It does look like we have similar rugs in the dining room... weird!

Can you imagine how much better that kitchen would look if he just painted the cabinets white to match the appliances?! Just spending a couple of hundred dollars on the paint and new knobs would work wonders on the space instantly!

Have you ever had a chance to compare your decorating decisions with those made in your house's twin? If you were my neighbor, what would you put your money into changing first?

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Kitchen Afters!

>> 5.17.2010

Have you ever accidentally redone an entire room?
After going through the list of improvements that I've made to this kitchen, I found out that it was exactly what I did! What started as a small facelift turned into an almost complete renovation.

Before: off white appliances, yellow walls, green lower cabinets, laminate countertops, dim track lighting, yellowing backsplash, and dated knobs:
 
Over the past 9(ish) months, I've redone: the countertops/ sink, backsplash, lighting (twice), painted the cabinets, replaced the hardware, and purchased all new appliances. The cabinets and floors were the only elements that were in the house when I bought it.
After:

Removing the popcorn ceilings and cramped upper cabinets really brought the space into 2010.
Before:
 After:
(Notice how that light fixture is missing? More on that later!)


I have to give a shout-out to IKEA I'm loving this $25 runner, it's the perfect weight for a kitchen (and the $20 artwork from the as-is section can't be beat)!


I'm really loving the black and white cabinet scheme paired with classic subway tile. Although I went modern with the hardware, can't you see the room totally transformed by swapping out the pulls with glass knobs and the rug with a floral print?


There are still a few little details that need to be updated in the space (like a touch-up job on the upper cabinets), but we're loving the space as-is for now! I'll be sure to come back with a full budget breakdown later on, but I'm going to estimate that the total for all of the projects will be around $8,000 *Edit: After Sara questioned that number in the comments, I redid my math and realized I added one of the numbers twice... it will be more like $6,000.  **See how much it really cost HERE

So... what do you think?

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Kitchen Progress

>> 5.12.2010

I promised to show up with some official kitchen afters this week, but I'm sorry to say that we're not quite there yet. You see, my kitchen currently looks a little like this:


Yep, the cabinets are finally getting that black paint job that you supported me in way back in December. Okay so you might need to pick your jaw off the ground for this one... I paid someone else to paint them! I found someone who would do the work for cheap and couldn't resist having them do it. Unfortunately, that meant that I was at the mercy of his timeline and will have the cabinet doors back in a few days later than planned. Still, I think I can get those after shots to you this week!

For now, lets look at some of the progress my tiny kitchen has gone through in the past 9 months:

If you've been reading for a while, you'll remember this super claustrophobic little space:

That I knocked apart with the help of my own two hands and a crowbar.

I haven't looked back since!

You'll also remember how awful, damaged, and dirty my laminate countertops and sink were...


...and how much I love the new and improved versions!

Then, of course, how can we forget that tile backsplash (it's difficult to see the yellowed grout and dated textured tile)...

...and how I destroyed it as well.

Then there were the new appliances, depressed kitchen, and additional recessed lights... but if you've been reading over the past few weeks, you know all about those.

Trust me people, I want to share the full "afters" of my kitchen as much as you want to see them!! Stay tuned!

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