One Room Challenge: Week Five

If you’re new around here, two years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Make sure to catch up on our One Room Challenge™ progress from past weeks (week one, week two, week three, week four).

This past week was another massive week for progress.

In the bedroom, we painted the trim, hung a new door, installed new electrical outlets and replaced our recessed lights. We also sanded down the vintage nightstands and prepared them for paint.

In the closet, we hung new doors and finished the window bench. We also completed our hack of the IKEA Pax closet system, which included lots of stunning Metrie trim, adding wallpaper to the back of the units, and lots of woodworking to create custom drawer fronts and the illusion of a custom built in closet. We also primed and painted the entire room.

Not only that, lots of great items arrived for the space that are going to really help transform the rooms.

Let’s dive in.

The Bedroom

Painted the room

After nearly a dozen different sample pots, I finally narrowed down the colour to Benjamin Moore Smoke. What I love about this colour is that it has enough gray in it not to be overwhelming, but also enough depth and pigment to still feel interesting. We ended up going with the Pearl finish, which is similar to Satin, primarily because the Regal Select paint was on sale. Since it’s trimwork, I opted for some sheen to highlight the dimension inherent to applied trim on the walls, and with the paint going on the doors and windows, having some sheen leads to greater durability. I couldn’t be happier with the finish.

We painted the trimwork using a spray gun and it turned out awesome. When we had the wallpaper installers come by for quotes, they were shocked that we had sprayed the room ourselves because the finish looked so professional. Lots of you had questions on how and why we use a spray gun for painting, and we’ve learned a lot about spraying, so look out for a detailed post after next week’s reveal.

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One Room Challenge: Week Four

If you’re new around here, two years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Make sure to catch up on our One Room Challenge™ progress from past weeks (week one, week two, week three).

Well this was quite the big week! It really feels like we took a huge leap forward, which is starting to get me so excited that this will soon be my master bedroom! We accomplished so much, but because everything was so visually transformative, it was less painful to work until midnight each night because we were so excited to see the improved space again the next morning in natural light. That feeling of seeing the work you’ve accomplished make such a big impact is truly what keeps us motivated on this journey to remodel our home.

Let’s jump in.

Installed our new windows

During the inspection phase when buying our house, it came up that the window in the bedroom (now closet) was rotted out and needed to be replaced or repaired. We received some money towards it and put off tackling it for two years. During the winter we would put film over it to keep cool air out, so janky, I know. So, we knew going into this project that a window covered in plastic film would probably need to be addressed.

I reached out to some carpenters about fixing the window, but didn’t find the right person. So, we explored the new window options on the market that might match this window closely and offer some of the upgraded efficiency of modern windows.

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What I haven’t yet mentioned is that clearly the other window in the bedroom had at some point also rotted, and had been replaced with a vinyl window that was not the best fit for the house. Not only was the window too small for the opening, it didn’t match any of the other windows in the house visually and the grille pattern was all wrong.

This sealed the deal for me that it was an opportunity to replace both windows so that I wouldn’t wake up every morning glaring at the vinyl window. Plus, if we were going to ever replace the windows, this was the time when all the trimwork has been removed and the walls hadn’t yet been touched.

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After a few visits to our local home improvement store and to a windows-focused shop, we found the best match for the space. Sadly, they had to be custom made because our space between the two studs was about 1 inch too narrow for the stock option. So, we resolved to paying for expensive custom windows, knowing that it was the best choice for our house. We ended up going with Marvin Integrity with a wood interior. They only have a few minor differences from the windows we currently have in the rest of the house, so I’m very happy with the decision. Plus, they make the room so much quieter, which is a great win in the bedroom. In an effort to be transparent, because hopefully it’s helpful if you’re in the same situation, the two windows totaled $2.5K together.

So, once the windows arrived, we strategized how to install them. Since there’s a roof on the outside where the windows were being installed, we knew it was feasible for Cory and I to install them ourselves. We’d never done this before, but we did a ton of research, gathered supplies and didn’t set any expectations for how long the process would take. It’s when tackling a new project like this that I realize how much our skill set has grown with our experience – both removing each window and then replacing them went super smoothly with only a few moments that required some problem solving. If we had tackled this project a few years ago, I know this would have been a big, challenging project, but now, it took us a few hours and the only real anxiety was related to replacing a window while 20+ feet above the ground.

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Yes, that’s a giant hole in our house.
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So much better.

And then in the bedroom, we went from this:

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To this hole
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To this new window.

Knowing that we were going to be painting the windows, we saved some money by getting the interior of the windows unprimed and unpainted. I’m already breathing a sigh of relief with the improvement in the space visually and that we’ve brought back some of the original character. Almost every room we do includes a splurge or two that completely improve the visuals and function of the space, and these windows were definitely that splurge in this project.

Installed Metrie Trimwork

We’re so happy to be working with our friends at Metrie again on our trimwork for this project (as in our master bathroom). The baseboards and crown moulding are the same as in the bathroom and come from the Fashion Forward collection – the profiles on both are the perfect balance between a streamlined modern and a classic traditionalist aesthetic. In the bedroom we also installed a chair rail, which we selected to be a very close match to the chair rail in our hallway. Where possible, it’s best to keep the style of your trimwork consistent throughout your home.

Installed Metrie casing and baseboards

Once the window was in, we were guns blazing on installing the Metrie casing. We had a lot of openings to install the casing around: four doorways and three windows. We used the same Fashion Forward casing as in the Master Bathroom and the transformation was immediate. I will never get over the impact trimwork can have on finishing a space. It covers up all those not 100% perfect edges and completely makes a space look professional, when done right.

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Next up were the baseboards in the bedroom. Again, we used the same Fashion Forward style as in the bathroom. The key to good trimwork in a room is scale and proportion. We went with the 5.5” baseboard which is perfect with our 8’ ceilings. Any bigger and we would have overwhelmed the room.

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How much more complete does the space look already?

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Installed Metrie chair rail + panel moulding

I didn’t want the guest room to have a trim detail on the walls but the master bedroom to not, since it’s such a great way to add character, interest and elevate the room. But, I also knew I wanted a wallpaper moment and I’m personally not a huge fan of a single accent wall, in most scenarios. So, I landed on panel moulding below a chair rail, but to keep it from looking too traditional dining room, the trim will be painted blue.

For the panel moulding, we found Metrie’s new Option{M} collection to be SO helpful, especially because we could pick our style (New Traditionalist, of course) and then look at the options that were appropriately scaled for standard height ceilings. Proportion is everything when it comes to trimwork, and there are so many different directions you can take your trimwork in, so it’s incredible to have such a tight curated selection of gorgeous trim that all works well together.

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I have saved a video tutorial to my Instagram Story highlights, but a quick synopsis of the steps to install panel moulding:

  1. Plan out how many boxes you’re going to add to your walls – think about how they’re going to interact with outlets, switches, furniture, and the scale of the room.
  2. Decide on how much space you’re going to have surrounding the boxes of panel moulding. I like to keep the same distance consistent around the border (we went with 4” to mirror the trim in our bathroom and hallway)
  3. Decide on the right profile of trim for your space. We went with this one.
  4. Measure everything out and make your cuts. All cuts are going to be 45 degree angles using a miter saw.
  5. Locate your first top section and ensure it’s level and the correct distance from the top and sides. We used a laser level to help with this. Nail this piece into the wall using finish nails and a nail gun.
  6. Bank your second piece, a side piece up against the first piece, ensure it’s level and flush on the outside corner. Nail it in.
  7. Do the same for your remaining two sides of your box.
  8. Use scrap wood cut to the border size as spacers to locate your next side piece on the adjacent box and nail it in.
  9. Then resume steps 6 through 8 on that wall. Start from step 5 for the subsequent wall.
  10. Caulk all your edges and nail holes. We use this caulk and this handly little tool to smooth our caulk.
  11. Sand the caulk to be undetectable when you run your fingers over the trim
  12. And then paint!

One of the biggest game changers in getting the trim up quickly was our new-ish laser level. Seriously, if there’s one tool we wished we’d invested in years earlier, it’s this one. Not needing to balance various levels on every piece of trimwork easily cut down the time to install in half.

Installed Metrie crown moulding

Every time we install crown moulding the process becomes a little bit easier, but this will probably forever be the most difficult trim to install in an old house. We scarcely encounter perfectly square walls, so the cuts are a lot of trial and error, but the process and finished product went smoother than ever before. This time around, we made small sample cuts from scrap crown moulding to use as guides for the adjacent sides to make sure all our cuts were going to be correct. Before making any cuts we ensured we had the right angles for each corner of the room, so our cuts were pretty quick. We had to make some adjustments to ensure a correct fit.

We also installed the shoe moulding, which is something I debated a lot, but I’m so happy we added to the space. Since we have an old house and our floors aren’t perfectly level throughout, adding the shoe moulding caps off the space and really amps up the professional look. It hides the slight variance that’s visible from the bottom of the baseboard to the top of the hardwoods. Make sure to install the shoe moulding about 1/16th to 1/8th of an inch off the floor so you can slide paper under it to paint the trimwork and protect your hardwoods. We used pieces of scrap cardboard to hold the shoe moulding up off the floor when we glued the shoe moulding on. Honestly, trim can work absolute wonders on completing a space.

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Caulked everything

This is the step that I always underestimate in terms of effort. We went through over 10 tubes of caulk and spent so, so many hours caulking, sanding, caulking and sanding. But, it absolutely makes a huge difference in the finished product. Make sure to sand down your caulk and then run your hands over the trimwork to ensure you can’t feel any rough edges.

Prepped the bedroom for paint

We used our compressor to blow all the dust off our walls, but if you don’t have a compressor, make sure to wipe down your walls before priming. We also laid down new builder paper to protect our gorgeous newly refinished floors. They’re dusty in these photos, but once we wipe them down, will return to their gorgeous state. Then we taped and papered off our window panes, electrical outlets and doorways.

Primed the bedroom

Last night, Cory tackled priming the bedroom using a spray gun. I didn’t have a chance to take pictures for this post, but suffice to say it’s starting to look so much more finished. Even though we got pre-primed Metrie trim, it’s still good practice to prime your caulked surfaces, and we hadn’t primed our walls before applying the trimwork, so we primed the whole room.

What’s next?

Tonight we’re going to start painting the trimwork in the room, where we’ve found that using a spray gun requires a lot more prep work, but results in a much easier painting process and a huge improvement in the quality of the paint job, especially when there’s a lot of trimwork involved.
We still have so much to do in order to get this project to the finish line, despite knocking out so much in the past week. And that includes:

  • Painting the bedroom
  • Trimming out the closet
  • Creating drawer fronts
  • Finishing up the window bench
  • Priming and painting the closet
  • Installing the wallpaper in both rooms – we’ve decided to hire this one out and have it scheduled for the last week
  • Sewing a window bench cushion
  • Installing lighting throughout both spaces
  • Painting and installing doors and Emtek hardware
  • Building a bedframe
  • Refinishing our vintage nightstands
  • Installing window treatments
  • Furnishing the space
  • Photographing the room

And, that’s a pretty overwhelming list..

 

Check out progress from my fellow One Room Challenge™ featured designers below!

At Home with Ashley | Brepurposed | Dabito | The English Room | Erin Kestenbaum

Harlow & Thistle | House of Brinson | J & J Design | Kelly Golightly | Linda Holt

Megan Bachmann | Michelle Gage | Mimosa Lane | Murphy Deesign | Vestige Home

Old Home Love | SG Style | Shay Geyer | Sita Montgomery | SMP Living

Media Partner Better Homes & Gardens | TM by ORC

ORC fall 2018 Small

One Room Challenge: Week Three

If you’re new around here, two years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Make sure to catch up on our One Room Challenge™ progress from past weeks (week one, week two).

I can’t believe we’re already at Week Three! And yes, the panic is starting to set in. We’re going to be dialing up the volume in the next few weeks in order to hit the reveal date. So let’s recap this past week, which consisted primarily of finishing the IKEA Pax build-out, building most of a window bench in the closet, our new windows arriving and finalizing the design plan and placing (most) of the orders. At the bottom of the post is the long-awaited design board for the walk in closet, too!

We finished building out the base closet units

There were some pieces that had been out of stock last week for the IKEA Pax units that we were able to install this week. Beyond that, we’ll be picking up adding the trim to all these units in another week or so. I can’t wait to see the transformation (Ikea hack) that I’ve been planning come to life.

We built (most of) a window bench

We constructed the majority of the window bench that will be located in our walk in closet. We used a similar technique as in our sun-room and it came together without too much trial and error.

This is the window bench in our sunroom that we’re mirroring:

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This was before:

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And this is during:

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The shape of the bench is unusual because we didn’t want to lose any storage space in the wardrobe units. By angling the right side, we have both enough depth to sit on the bench and also full access to the pants hanging beside the bench. We’re hoping that once everything is complete in here, this bench will feel totally seamless and intentional.

We will be adding trim, priming, painting and installing perforated metal screens for the heat to escape. Oh, there will definitely be a wood top and bench cushion on top of this bench. Stay tuned!

Finalized the design plan in the closet

I’m so excited about what we have in the works for the closet. We’re going to be starting by trimming out an IKEA Pax closet with Metrie crown moulding, baseboards, and flat poplar boards, and then painting the entire room an inky blue.

The striped wallpaper will be going on the ceiling, which will then be topped with two of those gorgeous Hudson Valley Lighting flushmounts. When you live in a house with standard ceilings, as ours is, you have a constant need for stylish and interesting flushmount lights, and Hudson Valley Lighting has SO many great ones to choose from. I’ve bookmarked so many for future projects.

The antique mirror is from Hayneedle and is going to be a nod to the Venetian mirror in our guest bathroom, but with simpler, more pared down lines. I just love the curves of the frame and think it’s going to be the perfect spot to check yourself before leaving the closet and heading out into the world every day.

As I mentioned earlier in this recap, we’re building a window bench that will serve as both a radiator cover and a spot to put on shoes in the morning. On the bench, SWD Studios is working on a sophisticated black and white chinoiserie pillow to elevate the spot.

The cabinetry pulls are coming from Emtek in my all-time favourite: Unlacquered Brass. I just love how this finish patinas over time. Living finishes are my love language. We went with the larger size, so we can get away with a single pull per drawer to avoid visual overload (we have 16 drawers…).

For art, I’m going with a calming abstract from Minted artist Carmen Guedez that will ground the space that will already have a lot going on visually. I love that abstract prints can be both energizing and calming and I think that this one does both masterfully. I’m opting for a natural wood frame to bring in some more warmth.

For the floors, my go-to is always to add a vintage rug – I haven’t exactly nailed down the rug yet, our measurements are a bit tricky, but I’m certain it will be a beaut. When in doubt, ‘add a vintage runner’ is pretty much my life’s motto. The great thing about vintage rugs is that then come in completely unstandard sizing, so I’m hoping to find one that is both narrow and long enough for the walkway.

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What’s next?

It’s going to be a huge week. Now that our windows have arrived, we’re kicking our pace into over-drive since once we install the windows we can tackle the trimwork in the bedroom, and the closet (no, we’ve never installed windows before, so that is definitely anxiety-inducing). And just maybe we’ll get to a point where we can start painting. To follow along in real time, there will be lots of stories on my Instagram Stories.

Check out progress from my fellow One Room Challenge™ featured designers below!

Media PartnerBetter Homes & Gardens| TM byORC 

ORC fall 2018 Small

One Room Challenge: Week Two

If you’re new around here, two years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house. Make sure to catch up on our One Room Challenge™ progress from past weeks (week one).

The first week is down in the books and we’ve made a decent amount of progress. This past week focused on the closet and getting the base IKEA Pax system in place. Make sure to read all the way through the post for the design plans at the bottom.

Installing the IKEA Pax

After a lot of research, we opted for the IKEA Pax system since it’s relatively budget friendly and includes a lot of options for drawers and accessories. If you’ve ever lived in a smaller home before, then you know how critical thoughtful and intentional storage can be, hence my obsession with making the most of every inch. While our home isn’t super small (2,100 sq. ft.), we still need to max out our storage potential. Before purchasing any units, we spent a lot of time in the planning phase. The overall dimensions of the walk in closet are 14″6 feet wide x 6″5 feet deep. Below was our initial plan, where we intended to each take one wall of the closet and then share the dressing area by the window. I mocked all the dimensions up on the IKEA site using the Pax planning tool and then again in renderings. Looking at the plan, it looks a tiny bit tight but workable, and we were assured by the staff at IKEA that the 32″ walkway was doable.

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However, once we got the first two Pax units in place, we immediately felt claustrophobic and knew it was going to feel like a tunnel and not like the grown-up closet we imagined.

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You can see how narrow the walkway looks when Cory was standing in it (for reference, he’s not a small guy, but it still felt a bit claustrophobic for me).

So, we went back to the drawing board and to IKEA for two shallower depth units (13″ instead of 23″), resulting in the below plan.

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Once we got the new, shallower units in we couldn’t believe how much more spacious the closet felt. There was no longer a concern over our ability to open drawers and even whether we could see into the back of the closet, since light floods into the space from the window. Even though we gave up some hanging space, I can already tell that the revised layout is going to function so much better for the space.

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We live in an old house so our floor are… quirky and not super level, so getting the units totally level to one another required a lot of shimming. We’re still waiting on a few missing pieces that are due back in-stock at our IKEA this week, as well as needing to finish up some electrical work.

Once we have the missing pieces, we’ll be moving forward on installing trimwork all over the closet system, followed by paint and hardware, so hopefully you’ll never even know there’s an IKEA system underneath. Given that our home is from the 1940’s, we’re always conscientious about ensuring any features we build in blend in seamlessly and the lines on the Pax read very modern without any modifications. Stay tuned from a massive IKEA hack!

In addition to installing the wardrobe units, we also mostly finalized the design plan. There are a few pieces that I haven’t quite nailed down, but I’m hoping to do so within the week.

The Bedroom Design

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As with the other rooms we’ve completely remodeled in our house, were leaning hard into the New Traditionalist aesthetic for a sophisticated but modern and fun retreat. Starting with the walls, we’re adding lots of Metrie trim: baseboards, crown moulding, casing around the windows and doors, a chair rail and panel moulding on the lowers of the wall. All that trim is going to be painted a medium blue. Yes, blue.

Then, I’m going even further outside my comfort zone with a patterned blue and white wallpaper from Fabricut’s Trend collection, a brand new design from the Vern Vip collection (aka one of my fave TV designers of all time and possibly one of the reasons I’m obsessed with design in the first place).

The Ace light fixture from Troy Lighting is bringing all the modern edge to the room, where it’s mix of brass, black and white globes is everything I look for in a light fixture. Plus, with our standard height (read: not tall) ceilings I wanted a dramatic light fixture that was adjustable in height.

For the bed, we want an upholstered bed that slides right under the window, meaning we’re likely going to DIY another bed frame, since the dimensions are pretty atypical and low. I picked up vintage Ming nightstands for free off Facebook Marketplaces that I’m planning on refinishing, where I haven’t quite decided on the color. At the foot of the bed will be this great leather Article bench that has a super slender, modern base that I absolutely adore.

For a rug, we’re adding a jute herringbone rug, with a zebra printed cowhide from Hayneedle. I love adding a graphic cowhide layered over a natural rug for that extra visual interest.

Since we no longer need a dresser in the bedroom, we’re going to be adding a seating area in the corner, with the aspiration of curling up in the corner with a good book (a girl can dream). The Article Matrix chair is going to be the perfect chair for the job and the luxe velvet adds some more texture to the space.

Bedding is still TBD, but I knew this room needed some more edge, so I’m working with SWD Studios on a long lumbar for the bed in one of my favourite fabrics, Kelly Wearstler’s Graffito.

I also worked with Emtek to source door hardware that matches the aesthetic of the vintage knobs we have throughout the house. We’ve slowly been replacing the builder grade brass knobs with character-rich door hardware, and I’m excited for the same look, but with the modern features like a privacy button… it’s the little things, my friends!

I’m still finalizing the art selection with Minted and haven’t yet decided on window shades, but I love the natural bamboo shades (with blackout lining!) that Select Blinds offers, I just need to narrow it down.

Since this was already such a novel of a post, I’m going to leave you in suspense for one more week until I share the design plan for the closet.

What’s Next?

Come back next week for the closet design plan, and (hopefully) lots of progress. To follow along in real time, there will be lots of stories on my Instagram Stories. The plan for this week is to start tackling building out the window bench.

Check out progress from my fellow One Room Challenge™ featured designers below!

Media Partner Better Homes & Gardens| TM by ORC 

ORC fall 2018 Small

One Room Challenge: Week One

If you’re new around here, two years ago my husband and I purchased our first house: a 1940’s Colonial located in a very cute coastal Connecticut town. We’ve been tackling remodeling the house room by room, where we’re always looking for ways to add equal parts function and character into our house.

I’m so excited to be participating as a featured guest in this season’s One Room Challenge™. This is our third One Room Challenge (Guest Bathroom, Master Bathroom), but the first one on the big stage as a featured designer. After the last season, my ORC master bathroom project was chosen by Sophie Dow Donelson of House Beautiful to become a featured designer (mind. blown.), so here we are! As a quick refresher, 20 designers will be tackling transforming a space over the next six weeks and will be sharing their progress every week.

This time around, we’re putting away the tile saw and focusing on our Master Bedroom and Walk In Closet (but really walk-through closet!). These two rooms have been part of a long-term project for us. At the start of the year, we moved out of our bedroom into our guest bedroom (don’t worry, no complaints there, it’s one of my fave rooms in the house), in order to completely reconfigure our master suite.

BEFORE PHOTOS

When we started the room looked like this (these are the original listing photos):

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It was awkwardly shaped and highly inefficient. Like what is going on with that corner by the window? In the corner on the left is the closet and straight ahead is the original bathroom.

Crushing on Lacquered Walls

When I spotted the below image in Paloma Contreras’s new book, I knew I had a brand new obsession: lacquered walls. I can’t get these luxe, glossy walls out of my head. The light blue has the perfect amount of grey to keep this room feeling elevated and sophisticated. The lacquer adds this incredible luminosity to the space.

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Now, I’m imagining all the rooms I could lacquer in my house to get this chic look in my own home. Which sent me down a design rabbit hole in search of fabulously lacquered rooms.

How to refinish your hardwood floors with natural hardwax oil

After years of dreaming about having beautiful hardwood floors, we’ve finally made it happen and I’m so thrilled with how they turned out. But seriously, ever since the floors have been refinished in our Master Bedroom, I’ve made a habit of walking past the room just to ogle them every morning (and evening, if I’m being honest). Let’s dive into the details.

We opted to use Rubio Monocoat, a natural penetrating hardwax oil for a lot of reasons, which I laid out in detail here. But in a nutshell: it’s VOC-free, all-natural, and is applied in a single coat. Oh, and the finish is absolutely gorgeous.

Depending on your square footage, this is at least a two day process. I’m going to break what you need by day one (prep and sanding) and day two (stain application), but recognize that you may need more days to complete your own space.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Day One

Day Two

Refinishing Our Hardwood Floors with Natural Hardwax Oil: Part One

Like many of you, when looking to buy a house, hardwood floors were at the top of our list, knowing that refinishing them eventually would lead to a big boost in both the aesthetics and the value of the house. Well, now that we’ve been in our home for nearly two years (but really, how did that happen?!), “eventually” is finally here and I couldn’t be more excited.

Here’s the lowdown: we have pretty basic 3” wide Red Oak hardwood floors. Red Oak is among the most common domestic hardwoods, so they aren’t exactly the most special. One distinguishing feature of Red Oak is that it has very strong red undertones that will often lead to them looking very pink or orange if left a light or natural tone. One upside to Red Oak is that, unlike some softer woods like Pine, it takes a stain very uniformly, and can hold up to a good deal of abuse.

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While our house was built in 1940, there was an addition to the home in the early 1980s, which is I believe, in part, when the hardwood floors were installed. We wish the species of our floors had more character or at least were more unique, but alas, you make the most of what you’ve got, and these floors are going to be gorgeous once we’re done with them.

As you may know by now, we’re obsessed with researching projects for months in advance of starting them, so we’re as educated as possible when executing on a project. I have been researching refinishing hardwood floors for at least a year now, so I feel very confident in the direction we’ve decided upon. Let’s dig in.

20 lessons from renovating two bathrooms in six months

Over the course of six months, we managed to tackle two complete bathroom remodels from the studs up, and I wanted to share some of our biggest learnings, since these were our first two bathroom renos ever and we learned a lot. These lessons apply if you’re tackling the work yourself, or if you’re hiring it out.

You can check out our Master Bathroom and Guest Bathroom reveals.

Planning Stage

1. Take your time to rethink the layout. You may be able to unlock space and make your room more functional. It might be expensive, but it’s worth exploring the cost in case it fits in the budget.

2. Determine your must-haves for the space. Prioritize the things that matter to you: tubs, rain shower heads, steam showers, a double vanity, heated floors, etc. if you’re limited on space and/or budget (like us!) you’re going to have to identify what matters to you and what is less necessary. Everyone has an opinion on whether they think a master bathroom needs a tub, but space constraints are real and it may not be critical for you.

How to Install Wainscoting

As we’ve gone through the process of remodeling our house one room at a time, we’ve become huge believers in the impact trimwork can have on elevating a space. We added panel moulding in our guest bedroom, highlighted the beadboard moulding in our main floor bathroom with a high contrast black and white palette, added crown moulding and baseboard moulding to our sunroom and even added crown moulding in our guest bathroom. It’s the finishing touch that takes a room to the next level.

For our recent remodel for the One Room Challenge, we paired with Metrie to bring trimwork to a space that is often forgotten: the bathroom. Our bathroom layout is long and narrow, with all the fixtures on one length of the room, meaning there’s a lot of exposed walls. This expanse of unused walls was begging for a special treatment to make them shine. I knew immediately that trimwork would be the way we could bring some detail to the walls.

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Recessed wainscoting was the solution for this space for a handful of reasons:

  1. It’s so elegant and classic. There’s no fear of becoming tired of it, since it’s such a historical treatment that has withstood the passage of time.
  2. Raising the trimwork on the walls to match the depth of the tile in the shower allowed for a flat surface to run crown moulding across, tying the two areas together
  3. The trimwork would mirror the pencil tile we were planning on adding in the shower.
  4. The moulding could frame out a giant mirror over the vanity, making the space feel even more custom,

So, once we had decided wainscoting was the way to go, here are the steps we took:

1. Select your style of moulding.

Metrie offers five gorgeous collections that suit different aesthetics and styles of homes. We gravitated toward the Fashion Forward collection since it mirrored the classic lines throughout the rest of our home, but is also so chic and sophisticated.

2. Determine the types of moulding your space will require.

For wainscoting you need (and links to the ones we used):

  • Baseboards – they should be flat on the top edge so the stiles slide right over them
  • Stiles – the flat boards that are raised off the wall
  • Casing for windows and doors – it needs to have a greater depth on the outside edges than your stiles so the casing stands out
  • Fingerjoint Applied Moulding – this is the trimwork on the inside of the stiles that make up the decorative boxes
  • Crown Moulding

The best aspect of the Metrie collections is that all the pieces work together and you don’t have to worry about the depths of the pieces not working perfectly in unison.

I’ve indicated below each of the pieces:

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3. Make a detailed plan.

Of all the types of trim we’ve installed to date, this wainscoting required the most planning in advance. Since the stiles create a fixed border on everything, you have to put a lot of thought into placement. There are different widths of stiles, baseboards, crown moulding, etc. so planning can help you to understand what will work within your space.

We ended up creating a to-scale mock-up in Photoshop and played around with the different sized pieces until we got to a plan that worked for us. We were also cognizant of scale, since our ceilings are standard height and the room isn’t huge, it made sense for us to go with mostly the smallest sized trimwork (though it was still very chunky and substantial – perfectly proportioned to our space).

Below, you can see how we mapped out the trim.

We used the window as the anchor for the trim layout. First, we planned the casing around the window, then we used the bottom edge to set the horizontal middle stile. From there, we ran a stile along the top, added baseboards and the stile above. We added the vertical stiles on each side of the window and framed out the right-hand opening. We then mirrored the dimensions for the boxes in the shower. Since the space above the window wasn’t large enough for an opening, we filled it in with a stile.

Master Bathroom Trim Plan - Window

This is the window wall, where we used the stiles to fill in the space above the doorway, since it wasn’t large enough for an opening. When we installed, we actually didn’t add the fingerjoint behind the vanity so it would sit flush against the wall.

Master Bathroom Trim Plan - Door wall

The short wall was the simplest, with just a frame along the outside edges and one middle stile.

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4. Install the trimwork

Once you’re armed with a plan, actually installing is fairly straightforward. The tools we used at this point were:

  • Levels in an assortment of sizes – we used a 6-foot level on the longest sections, a 4-foot level where necessary, and a 2-foot level on the shortest runs. The goal is to use the level that’s closest in size where possible to keep your trim as straight as possible. We also used this laser level to set a guide for the entire width of the wall.
  • A nail gun with finish nails, we use a compressor with ours, but I’ve heard excellent things about this electric nail gun
  • A nail punch, to use with a hammer when nails don’t go as deep as you intended.
  • A compound miter saw – we started out with this one and recently upgraded to this larger one (both are great, we just needed a larger blade for a few recent projects)
  • Caulk plus this little tool that I loved using to smooth the caulk along the long seams
  • Wood putty (though we later switched over the drywall spackle, which we discovered works better on MDF).

Since we had a lot of moving pieces happening at once, we didn’t install the trimwork in the order I’d recommend, which would be:

  1. Casings on windows and doors
  2. Baseboards around the room
  3. Horizontal stiles that run above the baseboards
  4. Horizontal stile that runs the middle length of the room
  5. Measure the distance down from the crown moulding and install the stile at the bottom edge of where the crown moulding will land
  6. Install the vertical stiles throughout
  7. Install crown moulding

This was our progression:

Drywall primed and ready to go.

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Then we installed the casing, you can see how big a difference it makes.

Then first round of stiles up, set off the bottom edge of the window.

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Then baseboards and bottom stiles.

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5. Caulk the seams, edges and nailholes. Use wood putty and spackle to even out planes.

This is where you underestimate how much caulking needs to happen.

Here you can see we caulked and filled in between adding the applied fingerjoint moulding (as seen on the bottom box).

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Then all the fingerjoint moulding  went up.

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6. Sand

Make sure everything is perfectly flat. Run your hand over all the seams and ensure you don’t feel any variance in the surface. You will see any imperfections after you paint.

7. Paint prep and paint!

Then we prepped for paint, by priming over the areas we had sanded. This was our first time painting a room with a spray gun and we learned a few things:

  • It’s all about the prep. This part takes the longest by far, but once it’s done painting with a spray gun is so quick and easy.
  • You use a LOT less paint. We bought two gallons of paint for this room and only ending up using about a half a gallon. Wow.
  • Maintain the same distance from the wall across your entire stroke, even if it means flexing your wrist at the ends.

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8. Hang your crown moulding*

Ideally you do this before you paint, but since we were hanging it over tile, we painted it in the garage and installed it painted. Then we caulked and touched up with a high density foam roller.

9. Admire your finished space

And that’s it! We’re obsessed with the final result and couldn’t be happier with our experience of working with the Metrie trimwork (and team!).

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Thank you to Metrie for sponsoring this project – while the product was provided, all opinions are my own.