Let the Games Begin

As I mentioned in our very first post, in order to buy and maintain a house in our ideal neighborhood, we have been renting our basement. The original basement layout was missing several crucial elements that would allow us to rent out the floor as a separate unit, most notably- a kitchen.

Last January we discussed options and got quotes from two contractors. The quotes came back five thousand dollars apart. In addition, the layout and quality outlined in Pablo’s estimate was far superior. The first contractor wouldn’t even entertain our ideal layout because it involved moving our washer and dryer (and associated plumbing). It was an easy choice. We were able to get Pablo’s quote down another $2,500 by completing all painting and flooring ourselves, which brought the budget within reach.

The original basement layout looked like this:


And we had re-imagined the space to look like this:

basement NOW!

The plans were complete with plumbing to reroute, walls to remove, and the promise of hidden problems. We braced ourselves for our first renovation.


Independence Day Union

John and I got married this past 4th of July. Thank you SO much to all of our friends and family who traveled from around the world to celebrate with us! To those who weren’t able to come, you were missed. I put together a mood board roundup of sorts to give you a sense of the day (click on the image below to enlarge):

Mood Board

1. Guava and Grey: Color palate according to me. As far as I know guava is a color invented by David’s Bridal but it basically means dark peach.

2. Tropical: Color palate according to my mom- mango, guava, and raspberry; We may have had a philosophical difference on color palate but we certainly agreed on the end result.

3. DC Backdrop (without ever having to go into DC): Our reception was held at the Key Bridge Marriot, which has floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Georgetown, the Potomac River, the waterfront, and a handful of monuments.

4. Salsa Dancing: Because what makes more sense when you get married on the 4th of July and have a mixed heritage of Italian, German, Irish, and Norwegian?

5. Carol thinks of everything: My mom is the greatest party planner of all time. If you have never carried a color swatch in your purse for 12 months, trolled craigslist for vintage British toast holders, put together two full-size post card racks, hosted 120 people in your backyard, or considered wedding planner as your next hobby then you might not be ready to compete with her for that title. She was the mastermind behind our wedding and she thinks of everything:

  • Guest names were printed onto vintage postcards and organized on two full-size postcard racks
  • Our cake was frosted in white buttercream with lacey details. The top three layers were chocolate mousse. We learned that a fourth layer of mousse would smoosh under the weight of three stories above so we picked lemon curd for the bottom layer.
  • After graduation John and I traveled to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my cousin Madeline and her husband Ansel. Our favorite souvenirs of the trip barely made it home because they were delicious chocolate covered almonds. We loved them so much we recruited Maddy, Ansel, and my Aunt Moira to fly 20 pounds of chocolate almonds (in our tropical color palate) all the way from Istanbul to share with our guests!

6. Entertainment: We were blessed with beautiful weather! Not only was it unseasonably cool for July in DC but no rain meant a national display of fireworks over the monuments!

7. Groom’s Cake: My childhood babysitter is now an extraordinarily talented pastry chef (http://www.theboutiquebakeshop.com/). When she offered to make a grooms cake we were thrilled to accept. After discussing a few ideas over District Taco she came up with this cake which could not be more perfect. John still has two toadstools and a goomba displayed in the office.

8. Deely-Boppers: Our good family friend Mr. Ricig is an amazing artist. Not only did he design our invitations, he also surprised us with a personalized champagne bottle and Deely-Bopper hats!

We have never felt more loved and surrounded by talent! Thank you especially to our parents who hosted an exceptional rehearsal dinner and wedding!

Thanks to Jessica for Hair and MakeupThankful for these Beauties

Best ManBest Men

hershisMom and Dadgoing to the chapel


too cuteJimmy!

My dad <3my husband

his new fammy new fam

beautiful familyStevens family



GuavaThank you Will, Uncle Don, and Aunt Shelia!


Fireworks and Resolutions

I found out that getting married and launching a new career have a way of thoroughly derailing a blog.  But encouragement from a few of you and our impending kitchen remodel has me motivated to try again!  My 2015 resolution is to finally give a wedding and basement renovation recap.  It’s only been 6 months!  In the meantime here is a review of Running Uphill in 2014:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 25 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Happily Going Grey

Somewhere along the way we developed a love for grey. Maybe we was inspired by our fluffy ragdoll of a cat, Gusburger:
Grey, grey, grey, grey

All I know is before I realized it we had a grey couch, grey duvet cover, grey china, grey towels, and even a grey living room/dining room. That isn’t even counting the grey rattan placemats, pewter napkins, and graphite placemats we are registered for 😀 Perhaps it is the only color John and I can agree on. Regardless, I like that it is gender neutral and looks great with a variety of accent colors.

Early on John and I agreed to go grey in the living room. Because our living room morphs into the dining room and also leads down the hallway to all the bedrooms, it meant we had a lot of ground to cover. We wanted the rooms to flow together, so we decided not to chop up the connected spaces with different colors. We grabbed a handful of grey swatches at Home Depot as well as our local paint store that carries Benjamin Moore. We decided to go with Benjamin Moore because we liked the color options and had heard that higher quality paints can give better coverage and hold up longer.

We picked up two test pots in Moonshine and Silvery Moon. We painted test splotches in several different areas of both rooms.
dining room swatches
dining swatches
Gus Grey

Moonshine is on the green spectrum, while Silvery Moon is has hints of blue. I was fully expecting to pick Silvery Moon because I’m generally not a big fan of green but we both agreed Moonshine was the winner. We lived with the test splotches on the walls for several weeks before taking action. They even made it into some of our holiday pictures:
Christmas cats

Eventually we took the plunge and bought a full gallon. We ended up painting over the course of several non-consecutive days. I did most of the cutting in by hand and John rolled when he was in town. He mysteriously seems to go out of town on business whenever I get the paint rollers out. Maybe I’m more ambitious when he is traveling.

It took us 3 separate days to paint the living room, 2 days to do our little hallway area, and we did the entire dining room the same day we finished in the hallway space. I had left work early that day due to heavy snows and I figured if I was using up my precious PTO then I would be productive! This is somehow our only progress picture from all of our painting days:
My Little Helpers

In pictures the difference is subtle but it makes a big impact in person. Here are our slightly less barren walls:
Living Room Before


I played Ultimate Frisbee in college so I would love to start this post with a quintessential end zone layout picture to represent the only meaning of layout that ever used to be important to me. Unfortunately, I have no such picture to share. NOT because it was never captured on film. I was never able to fling my body horizontally forward at top speed. I would have loved to! I guess the kinesiology major in me could spot a contraindicated exercise from a mile away. More likely to cause harm than good.

Regardless, I have a new found appreciation for another kind of layout these days. I love a good house layout so I decided I’d share ours:

upstairs floorplan

Downstairs (as it was when we moved in in 2013):

Not Yet “Afters”

Today we are celebrating our one year house-iversary!
Seasons of House

One year ago today we woke up early, signed closing paperwork, moved two U-hauls worth of furniture, cleaned the condo we had been renting, made a quick Home Depot trip, and started unpacking. My favorite memory of the day was in the evening when my parents brought over Thai food from our favorite local restaurant and we ate at the dining room table surrounded by boxes. It was dusk, so every neighbor who walked by had a clear view into our living and dining room through the big bay window. We waved at everyone who stopped to stare.
Clear View

We thought our one-year anniversary was the perfect time to show you around upstairs. Both where we started and where we are now. Big thanks to Christine Rich (http://www.bestarlingtonhomes.com/) who gave us permission to use her pictures so you can see some “Befores” of our home. Most of the rooms in our house have come a long way since we moved in but we aren’t ready to call any of our rooms done. Trust me, there is a lot we are simply tolerating at the moment, but I’ll share all the rooms with you anyway:

Exterior Before

Living Room:
Living Room Before

Dining Room:
Dining Room Before

Kitchen Before

Bathroom Before
Curtains x2

Office2 Before

Guest Room:
Guest Room Before

Master Bedroom:
Our Room Before

We still have a loooooong way to go but we are excited with how far we have come in our first year as homeowners. We can’t wait to spill the beans on our basement renovation. I wonder what changes this year will bring.

**We now have a “Home” tab up above so check back to see our progress.

Paper Shade Upgrade

One feature of our house that I fell for right away is our big bay window. It is the cats’ favorite as well:

Paper blinds got us through the better part of a year. Including one cousins weekend:
Cousins Weekend
They actually looked really cool with our Halloween decorations:

After months of avoiding the living room on weekend mornings (paper doesn’t do much to block direct sunlight), we decided to take the plunge on a permanent solution. We could have put curtains above the window moulding but that would have blocked the window seat whenever we closed the curtains, which would not only cut our functional seating but also would make our room feel smaller. We contemplated getting curtain rods specific to bay windows or installing blinds. Ultimately, we decided that we loved the look of plantation shutters in bay windows. They are by far the priciest option but we hope to stay in our house long enough to make it worthwhile. We even justified it as our splurge for the year….which ended up being overshadowed but that is another story for another day.

We got price estimates from two different companies and considered both vinyl and wood shutters. The company we chose charged the same price for vinyl and wood shutters. We floated the idea of only getting plantation shutters for the living room even though the original quote was for the living and dining room windows. They offered us 10% off the total quote if we did both rooms at once, and we signed on the dotted line.

The shutters had to be custom ordered so it was several weeks before two gentelmen were able to come for installation. Of course Al wedged himself into the process as often as he could.
Al on the side
Al worried about his view

As the shutters were being installed, we learned that nothing about our bay window was plumb. Not even the window seat was flat. The guys who came to install ended up trimming and shaving each shutter so they would fit our wonky windows. Before we added the shutters three of the five window pannels could be opened. We didn’t make a habit of opening them because we didn’t like the way the screens obscured our view and an open window without screens would make our indoor cats outdoor cats. However, it is always nice to have options. We were bummed when we first found out that the shutter trimming and shifting would block our ability to open all but one of the windows. In the end we couldn’t stay mad at our beautiful shutters long.

We ended up removing the white, plastic window grills. John never liked them. I thought they were a good architectural detail but along with the shutters they made the windows too busy.
even better

We have been living with our shutters for about five months now and haven’t yet felt the need to open our single functioning window. Regardless, it feels like a fare trade to be able to use our living room when the sun is out!

Carbon Monoxide Detectors, Detection, Confusion

We purchased smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on the day we closed on our house, but it took us three weeks before we activated and installed them. So it came as quite a shock a few days later when the carbon monoxide detector started tweeting. It made a cute little double tweet sound that we soon learned to fear and loath. Seriously, that sweet little twitter could haunt my dreams.

After determining that double beep meant carbon monoxide and running a makeshift reliability test (taking the detector outside made it stop beeping and bringing it back in made it go off again), we called the non-emergency police number and evacuated the house along with the dinner I was in the middle of prepping.

If you haven’t met all your new neighbors, chopping beets on the hood of your car while an ambulance and two fire trucks pull up with sirens blaring is one option.
Roasted Beets

The fire department detected low levels of carbon monoxide throughout the house that dissipated down to an acceptable level while they were there. They turned on every gas appliance in the house and said the carbon monoxide was not a malfunction of any appliances (phew) so they suspected it was from a floor drain in our basement with a dry trap. They poured water down the drain and told us to have a plumber come the next day for a full assessment. We thanked them profusely and got a plumber to come the very next day. He agreed that it was most likely a dry trap probably from the house being unoccupied while it was being readied for going on the market. He said that as long as the trap isn’t broken we should just pour water down it a few times a month. We started dutifully pouring water down the drain every time we did our laundry and thought the problem was solved until our carbon monoxide detector went off again….

We called the plumber right back and he was able to send someone the next day. They snaked the ventilation pipe because back pressure from a clogged or improperly vented pipe can cause a suction effect to the water in the trap.
Al in the mix

We were told that it was possible the trap was broken but we wouldn’t know unless the alarm went off again….and it did.

So we called back our plumber and he laid out our options. We could:
1) Replace the trap in the floor drain, which would require drilling in the cement floor and re-pouring cement = very pricey
2) Fill the drain with cement, which is less expensive but a very permanent solution in which we are left with no floor drain in case of flooding or any of our appliances leaking- washing machine, furnace, hot water heater.
3) Buy a $10 expandable plug similar to this one

Of course we liked option three best… until the carbon monoxide detector went off again. By this time my mom was so concerned she had gifted us a fancy carbon monoxide detector that displayed the amount of carbon monoxide in the house in parts per million. When we weren’t able to bring down our carbon monoxide levels by opening our windows we called non-emergency once again. We begged the dispatcher not to have the firemen use their sirens this time. They checked all our gas appliances once again and said they were fine so they recommended we call our plumber back.

By this time we were beyond distressed. Not even the experts could figure out the source of the carbon monoxide in our house. We tried to piece together a pattern. We couldn’t pin down anything conclusively, but the alarm sometimes went off after we ran a load of laundry and sometimes when a few people took showers consecutively. We decided to run a little test. We do NOT recommend this strategy and we know that carbon monoxide detectors are not supposed to be located in a furnace room and certainly not directly next to your gas appliances. However, we were desperate so we got creative in an effort to prove our suspicion. We put the carbon monoxide detector next to the hot water heater. It continued reading zero. We turned the basement shower on full blast using hot water and kept our eyes on the carbon monoxide levels. Within a minute it read 60! This was all the evidence we needed. We turned off the water, opened the windows, aired out the house until the meter levels were back to zero, and scheduled to have a new hot water heater installed immediately. Despite our unconventional/incorrect means to an end we have not had a single problem or heard a peep from even one of our THREE carbon monoxide detectors since we installed the new hot water heater. I know they say you can’t buy piece of mind, but this particular purchase felt pretty darn close!
hot water love

Bonus Hutch!

Thank you to everyone who weighed in on their favorite buffet here!

Last week we went to go check out Buffet # 5 (aka the MadMen-true-50s-style-buffet).
Mad Men Hutch

It has a really cool look but it is all drawers. We have a couple of large items (KitchenAid!) that need a safe spot within reach of the kitchen so all drawers isn’t ideal. The drawers were on old metal rollers which made them pretty sqeaky and difficult to open. A bit of WD-40 might be enough to fix the squeaks and skids but for $500 we weren’t willing to find out.

We also made a trip to see Buffet #1 (aka our inspiration) from West Elm.
West Elm Buffets

The store didn’t have a floor sample of the Mid-Century Buffet (above left) but did have the Dumont Buffet (on the right above). The Dumont gave us a pretty good idea of the quality and size we could expect (with the “Mid-Century Buffet” clocking in at 4 inches longer, 1.5 inches shorter, and 2 inches deeper). As expected we really liked the West Elm buffet but the $1025 price tag (price+delivery+shipping+taxes) convinced us to keep our options open.

The last field trip we took was to see Buffet #7 (aka fan favorite and best storage).
Buffet and Bonus Hutch

It was being sold with matching hutch, which we consider a bonus. We have a hutch, which is currently stuffed to the gills:

When we inherited our current hutch we knew it wouldn’t be a forever piece in our dining room. The blonde wood veneer isn’t our favorite. We considered painting or staining but we don’t love the shape either, which is much harder to manipulate. We might try to paint it a funky color and use it for a liquor cabinet…. or we might Freecycle it. Any suggestions?

We knew we were serious about Buffet #7 before we even walked through the door so we came armed with measuring tape and a notepad. The buffet came in at 71 inches long, 35 inches tall, and 19 inches deep. Both the buffet and hutch are a light cherry color and the drawers opened smoothly. We were even more impressed with the quality in person than the craigslist post had let on. Our one concern was that he buffet was HUGE, which is great for storage but possibly overkill for our little dining room. Once once we got home we taped off the walls and floor to see how they would fit our space.
Always in the mix

We will have to move the bar cart and side table to other rooms to make it work but we felt pretty comfortable with how the buffet and hutch would fit our space. Gus felt really comfortable:
Our Hutch Might be Growing

The asking price for both items was $350 but we knew from our craigslist search that our area is fully saturated with people trying to sell buffets. We offered $300. He accepted. Our friend Jeff graciously volunteered agreed after much flattery and few details to help us move the furniture.
Thank you Jeff!!!!!

Once you factor in Uhaul rental and gas we paid almost exactly $350- yes we are suckers and got the uhaul insurance. We were happy with the final price tag considering the runner up options were $500 and $1025. The way I see it we paid less for our buffet and got a bonus hutch!

Here is how they look in the dining room! I’m so happy we no longer have our beautiful gifts on the floor!
Inside the Hutch

Richmond Homearama 2014

Friends since 6th grade
This past weekend my friend Rosemary and I drove down to see the Richmond Homearama 2014 (http://richmondhomearama.com/). Actually, Rosemary drove. I attempted to navigate until Rosemary realized I had us 30 minutes off course and had to take over both responsibilities. Sorry!

For Homearama seven builders and designers team up to showcase their talents. My interest was piqued when Young House Love announced they were one of the design teams this year (http://www.younghouselove.com/2013/07/our-other-new-house/).

As we made our way through the seven houses, I stopped to snap our favorite features. I loved this custom wainscoting in the YHL Dining Room. It adds interest to the walls and balances out the charcoal color on the upper half of the walls.
Super Cool Dining

I have always had a thing for built-in banquettes. Unfortunately, John does not share this passion. I have a pipe dream that we might add one in the basement someday. Just what every basement needs. Regardless, YHL had an awesome one in its eat-in kitchen complete with beautifully styled built-in bookshelves. I especially loved the guava accents. Guava has become a buzzword in our family (if only between my mom and me) ever since we decided on our wedding color scheme (spoiler alert to those attending the wedding: guava is the dark peach color):
mmm, pretty

My favorite room in the YHL house was the master bath. If only we could squeeze all of this into our 4.5x7ft bath!
welp, we also have blue tile

One house had a secret garden complete with potting bench. Now that is some inspiration we could bring home!
if only I had green thumbs

Rosemary and I both loved this TV concealed by a large rustic frame suspended by curtain brackets. John pointed out that in reality, the TV would also have exposed wires and cords. I think there must be a workaround and he is just the engineer for the job 😀
you can do it honey

A detail I loved in a hallway office was a suspended rack full of office supplies and craft essentials in mason jars.
we need kids before we need crayons

My favorite room of the day didn’t fully come across on film as inviting and lovely as I found it to be in person. It was a man cave/media room complete with a bar in the opposite corner. The room got enough light to handle the black wainscoting and built-ins.
Should the man cave have pink curtains?

One aspect of all the homes I found myself drawn to over and over was the tiled floors and walls. I love all the fun colors and patterns available:
tile dove tile dove tile dove dove

We had a great time on our road trip and homeshow adventure aside from the detour to an adjacent Richmond suburb. Next year we plan to stay local and go to the Tuckahoe Home and Garden Tour (http://tuckahoetour.org/). I’m guessing I won’t be navigating that day either…..