Super-Sized Succulents

I’ve been on the lookout for some decor to add to our newly finished bookcases. I knew I really wanted to add plants to the family room, and truly, the whole house, so I started there.

Besides me, Dan, and Phoebe, we don’t have any living items in our home. Honestly, I’m a serial plant killer. I couldn’t seem to keep any plant/herb/flower I was given alive for more than a month or two. I couldn’t figure out the reason. Yes, I watered them. No, I don’t think I watered them too much. Yes, they got sunlight. No, they didn’t get too much sunlight. We’ve had daisies, succulents, and basil, and all have died on my watch. This time, I was determined to succeed.

I ended up going with three different kinds of succulents, which I planted in these cute vases from Target.

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I wish I had taken a better picture, to show you scale. The vases are not small, like you would use for the typical size succulents you think of. The vases themselves are over 5 inches tall, and the succulents were the largest ones I found at Home Depot. I picked three different kinds with different shaped leaves and colors.

The clean lines and modern feel of the planters mixed with the fun succulents look great. I’ve added all three plants to the bookcases, and I really think they look great there. They match, but aren’t too matchy-matchy.

I’ll admit – I’ve caught a bit of the plant bug now. I definitely want to add more greenery around the house, so it’s back to the drawing board to research plants that are easy to keep alive…I mean easy to care for and are good for a beginner.

The Carpet and The Reveal

I originally intended for this to be two separate posts, but after my long break from blogging, I decided you have been in suspense long enough. I give you our (mostly) finished family room.

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We’re so happy with the way it turned out. I’m behind real time in blogging, but much to my surprise (and happiness), from demo to putting furniture back in, the room took a little over 3 weeks. We weren’t quite at the same reno pace when it comes to hanging pictures,styling the bookcases, and adding cabinet hardware. I think we were just so glad to be able to use the room again that we wanted to enjoy it, so the finishing touches waited a bit.

Let’s go backwards a bit in the renovation and start where I left off in my last post – with the carpet. We knew we wanted carpet with a pattern (I thought it would make the room look more like it had a big rug in it than just plain old carpet), but patterned carpet for a reasonable price was hard to find. We found patterns we liked made by Shaw, but that carpet was only sold by small, upscale sellers, which made us concerned it would be out of our price range. While at Costco one day, Dan saw a flyer that Costco sold Shaw carpet through a network of distributors at a discount. We easily found the webpage when we got home, and emailed to find out more information A local seller contacted us immediately.

They brought us a bunch of samples to view at the house, so we’d get a good idea as to how it would look in the space. We found a diamond shaped pattern we liked, and thought would go well with the herringbone tile we had already picked out for the fireplace, so we ordered it on the spot.

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We got a great deal, and in addition, we got 10% of our purchase back via a Costco gift card.

I was nervous that we picked a lighter colored carpet, but felt we couldn’t go with a dark color because of the deep gray colored couch we already had and wanted to keep. I’m happy to report that the carpet was a good choice, and looks great in the room. As for stains, we’ve already spilled a number of things on it, and have no stains! As a bonus, Phoebe’s hair doesn’t seem to be too noticeable on the carpet, which really makes it nice during her shedding season, which is now.

Lately though, I’ve turned my attention toward the bookcases.

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I couldn’t believe that we didn’t have enough decorative items to style the shelves. I started with the golden rule of decorating – trying to use what we had. I pulled a bunch of smaller objects together from throughout the house that I thought might work. That filled about, oh, 3 of the compartments. For the rest, I’ve just kept my eyes open when I’ve been shopping and slowly, I’ve been adding things, taking items out, and re-arranging. To keep things looking cohesive, I’ve been trying to stick to a few main colors, which also appear in the prints we’ve put up on the wall – bright yellow (which is also the color of our curtains), deep blue, and sky blue. I’ve also kept it to dark metallic and wood tones, which are reflected in the butcher block and hardware of the built ins.

We’re not finished yet. We still have more frames and a mirror to hang, I’m on a hunt for new throw pillows, we need a plant or two in the room, and I’m constantly swapping out bookcase items. Even so, I’m really satisfied to see all our hard work pay off. Unlike before, I enjoy being in the room and spending time there. It feels like our space now.

With that, I’ll declare our family room renovation complete!



The Paint

We had only a couple days to paint before the carpet guy came for installation. Obviously, we wanted to get the job done before then, so spills wouldn’t ruin our new carpet. We painted at warp speed to keep the renovation going at a quick pace.

Our big decision was to decide on a color. I had taped up greys, blues, whites, and even a minty color during the planning stage, before any demolition took place. Nothing was decided.

Now, as we find ourselves needing to buy paint, I was super hesitant on selecting a color. I wanted the ability to tape up more paint chips and see what I liked, but I did not have that luxury. For starters, we were only in the room to do work, so I wasn’t spending much time looking at the colors on the wall. Plus, without the new bookcases painted, our carpet, or our furniture in the room, I wouldn’t get a true sense of how the color would look. We ended up holding paint chips up to our couch (which was in another room), our teeny carpet sample, and some spare herringbone tiles to settle on a color.

We got down to two colors – Manhattan Mist, which is the color we have in the rest of our house, and Lunar Surface, which is a shade or two darker than Manhattan Mist. (Both are Behr paints). We still hadn’t made our decision when we got to Home Depot, so I pretty much told Dan to pick and walked away from the paint counter. Dan went with Lunar Surface. I couldn’t wait to see the color up on our walls, so the moment we got home, I painted a large swatch.


With it being late, I didn’t have the best light to decide if I liked it, so after Dan finished painting the first coat of white on the bookcases and mantle, we went to bed and would have a fresh look at the paint in the morning.

I ended up really liking the color, and Dan and I spent the next day painting, painting, and painting – the walls, the bookcases, the mantle, and the ceiling. It took all day, but we got it done.


I really like how the colors turned out. I think Lunar Surface was definitely the right color to go with after all. I was worried it would be too dark, but I think it works well in the space and plays off of the marble herringbone tiles and grey grout, as well as being a contrast to the bright white built ins.

Only one thing stands in the way of being able to move furniture back into the room – the carpet. Next time.

The Tiles

Once the mantle was built out, next came the tiling. Dan and I contemplated a few choices, which I shared with you previously. We ended up going with choice #1 – the marble herringbone tile.  It looks great with the darker grey grout we picked, and the black fireplace doors. The herringbone really pops.


To get some contrast, and save a bit of money, we ended up doing plain subway style marble tiles for the wood nook. We actually found both kinds of tile cheaper at Floor & Decor, so that’s where we bought all the tiles and the grout.

Our contractor spent the next day or so finishing up the mantle, including building the step in front of the fireplace, doing the tile work, trimming out the entire bookcase wall, adding the butcher block to the top of the mantle, and installing the fireplace doors.

Yes, we decided to install doors to our fireplace. It turns out, it is a much cheaper option than the alternative of buying and installing an insert, which we had looked into for fuel efficiency purposes. The doors will help prevent air loss up the chimney by up to 90%, so that should mostly solve the problem of the room becoming so cold when we have to leave the flue open overnight. Hopefully. Plus, I think the fireplace looks more finished with doors on it, rather than it being just a big opening in the wall. I shopped around to find the best price for the doors, and surprisingly, I found the best deal at Walmart. It looks like the price is back up to its normal cost, but when I bought the doors, they were on sale for $210, down from $268, with free standard shipping (I paid $5 for the rush shipping, which was still cheaper than the next best price at any other retailer).

After all that work was finished, our contractor’s role was complete, and here’s what we have to show for it:


Doesn’t it look great?

Next up is where we step in again – the painting.



The Fireplace

Once the bookcases and cabinets went in, it felt like the room was (finally) starting to take shape, and we were making progress with the renovation. Instead of ripping rocks down, shelves were being built – things were going well!

On Day 2, our contractor spent the day building again – this time, the fireplace, including the mantle, surround, and step.


We had pretty specific plans to be sure we could add the wood nook, which would visually center the fireplace. Unfortunately, we hit a snag. The blueprint called for the wood nook to be just 6.5 inches to the right of the fireplace. Well, Dan drew up the plans before we took down all the rocks, so we didn’t know there would be fireplace bricks where we wanted the wood nook to be. Ugh.

To fix this, we moved the wood nook over a few inches to accommodate the extra bricks. It pushed the center of the entire mantle to the right a bit, but we didn’t really have another choice.


Given how much woodwork it was to build everything, this day’s progress was visually the least when I got home. But, I knew we would need the building structure in place before the other things like installing tile and adding the mantle could be done.

Slow and steady progress.

The Bookcases and Cabinets

Now that the rock demolition took place and we had a plan to build, the next steps were to put up drywall, build the bookcases, and install the cabinets.

Dan and his dad spent a whole day and then Dan spent hours each night after work getting drywall up on the walls.


It takes so much time because you have to measure, re-measure, make any needed cuts, and get the drywall hung on the wall. We used a professional to do the tape and mudding, but were able to save some money by getting the drywall up ourselves. Because the bookcases, cabinet, and mantle would be going up on the fireplace wall, we didn’t need our drywall contractor to come before working on this wall. But, if we weren’t adding built ins, we would have needed the contractor to tape and mud that wall too.

Now, as I mentioned in a previous post, the cabinets we bought were standard, unfinished cabinets from Home Depot, which we sanded and painted ourselves. One thing I didn’t mention was the the cabinets are uppers, not bottoms. Why did we do that? We didn’t want drawers in the cabinets. You ever notice that most bottoms have drawers? Plus, we wanted a slimmer profile, which are how uppers are built. Bottoms typically are larger in depth so you have a good space for your counters.

The cabinets went in first, so our contractor could build on top of them. After the cabinets were attached to the wall, the butcher block we had already stained and sealed was cut and placed on top. Finally, each bookcase was built and secured to the cabinets and the wall.


You’ll notice the built ins hug the sides of the room, bordering each adjoining wall. Remember, we’re trying to camouflage the fact that the bookcase is so far to the left, so that little wood nook will be built in just to the right of the fireplace.

To save a bit of cash, we told our contractor to leave the bookcases unpainted. You guessed it – we’ll be painting those ourselves.

So ended Day 1 with our contractors. Next up: building out the fireplace mantle and wood nook.


Our Master (Not Evil) Plan

With all the demo complete, I thought now would be a good time to share our master plan for the room, in blueprint style.

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Big thanks to Dan for putting that together, both as a visual aid for me, and for a guide for the contractor. He even made the blueprint to scale – one inch to every foot!

As you can see, symmetry is key in this design. We had to come up with a way to camouflage the fact that the fireplace was built left of center…by about 18 inches. It was only sort of noticeable when the rocks were up.


But when the wall was down to just boards and the raw fireplace, it was really, really obvious.


Dan and I both agreed this was a big problem, but we had difficulty trying to come up with a solution that didn’t involve knocking out some masonry and physically either moving or enlarging the fireplace itself. I wish I could take the credit, but Dan came up with the plan you see – creating a little nook and building a mantle over both the fireplace and the nook. So, that’s what that rectangular hole is in the blueprint, just to the left of the fireplace. Problem solved.

The rest of the design focuses on clean lines and storage. Cabinets will give us some hidden storage on the bottom (I’m thinking for things like DVDs, games, and extra blankets/pillows), and they will be topped by stained butcher block and custom built in bookcases. The mantle itself will be minimalist and simple – framed out and topped with more butcher block. The face of the hearth will be covered by tile (I showed you a few of our options in an earlier post).

Dan and I bought the cabinets and butcher block ourselves, to have the time to prep them before the contractor needed them. Home Depot had a cabinet sale back in January, so we took advantage and bought the cabinets then. They’re just stock, unfinished cabinets, which was the cheapest option we found. We briefly considered ordering pre-painted, but still stock cabinets, but decided against it when we realized that the white of the pre-painted cabinet would not perfectly match the white we planned ot paint the bookcases, so we thought we’d just save the money on the cheaper cabinets since we would have to paint anyways, not matter the option. We sanded and painted the cabinets, using  the Behr paint color Snowfall, which we have used for all of out painted trim throughout the house, and they were ready for installation.

The butcher block is from Ikea. We got it home ourselves (which I would not recommend!) then stained and sealed it a few days before our contractor started his work. We keep a can of Minwax stain around in the same color our floor is stained, Jacobean, and used that same color for the butcher block, which will tie the same wood tone into the room, even though there won’t be any hardwood.

The next step is to get our contractors into the room so they can install the cabinets and create the built ins and mantle. I’m hoping this next phase will go quickly – letting the professionals do their thing.