Soft Stuff – Part 1…

Teddy Bears – Clouds – Curtains?

No. We don’t own any curtains – or clouds – or teddy bears.

I am talking about our area rug and a few upholstered cubes.

I referenced both of these during the last story in regards to color and pattern.

First up is the area rug,  since it arrived before the cubes got a new look – and were sort of the reason the cubes got their new look.

Our living room area rug is made up of FLOR carpet squares. It is a bit nontraditional, but lovely nonetheless (in our opinion).


Why carpet squares you might be thinking?

The simple answer is that it fit all of our personal requirements for an area rug in size, color options, pattern (or lack thereof), and material. Also, we have other area rugs made with FLOR carpet squares – the mudroom & my desk area – and we really like them.

Here is an explanation of our requirements and why these carpet squares are perfect for our living space.

We measured out our living room and furniture placement many times. We discussed and debated the various size options. We eventually decided that we wanted only the 2 front legs of the sofa on the rug.


We wanted to create a walkway from the front door to the rest of the house without walking/tripping over the area rug in the living room.


The size we eventually agreed upon was 7′-8″ wide X 13′ long, give or take 1-3 inches. We also thought it would be cool to have a rug that could fit around the fireplace hearth and floor outlets. These requirements threw us into the custom size and shape arena. The standard 10’X14′ or 12’X14′ didn’t work given our fairly specific size requirement – plus, the fireplace hearth and floor outlet cutout thing…



As you can see, FLOR squares allowed us to cut to a custom size, and cut out around the hearth and floor outlets.

As for color, I wanted something bold with green (because I love green – as I have mentioned before), yellow (to make the yellow entry work), maybe orange (because the sunroom, which you can see from the living room, is orange), and definitely grey (the new walls are all grey and the kitchen floor tile and countertops are grey, which you can also see from the living room) – in an effort to tie all the various colors within our open living space together. Tad wasn’t completely convinced of my vision, but he also didn’t have any suggestions. I believe his comment was something along the lines of “I’ll know it when I see it.” I thought some sort of pattern could be fun. Tad was pretty much against any pattern suggestion I had – no flowers (too grandma), no abstract designs (too uppity), no Turkish style designs (too busy and vintage). Tad likes stripes. I don’t. Good news, though! The FLOR squares come in a bazillion different colors and patterns that can be mixed and matched to create whatever design you desire.

Tad got a few subtle stripes!

Tad's subtle stripes...

I got some green – and yellow – and grey!

Kellee's green...

When it came time to decide on material, I deferred to Tad because he spends a lot of time lounging and sleeping on the floor. He lays on the floor every day. He likes the floor. Anyway, he voted against wool, which I had initially suggested for it’s durability and ease in keeping clean. I believe the tiles we ended up with are some sort of synthetic material made from recycled stuff – and are recyclable. I normally prefer natural fibers, but this material has met all of our requirements – non itchy, easy to keep clean, perfect for yoga, and comfy enough for Tad to lounge and sleep on.

Another benefit to this carpet square thing is the mix and match potential. I like that we can change out a few squares to get a completely different look if we want a color or design redo without having to buy an entirely new rug. For example, we had some left over squares that Tad suggested we use in our front entry. I liked it, but it felt a little too matched for me. We ended up mixing in a few left over mudroom cow print squares for a slightly different identity. I like it. In fact, I think I might like it better than the grey striped patterned pieces in the living room rug – that Tad chose :)


A few final miscellaneous Q & As:

What is with the obsession, fitting the area rug around the hearth and floor outlets? It has to do with a few things. First, the hearth sticks up from the floor about 1/2 an inch. The carpet squares happen to be about the same height as the hearth, making it all feel flat and seamless. We like that.


Second is that fitting the area rug around the hearth was conducive to our furniture layout. Our two main furniture pieces (sofa and chair) are arranged around the fireplace hearth. The rug wrap around the hearth allows for the two front sofa feet and all four chair feet to be located on the rug. Otherwise, the sofa and chair would have been wobbly with just one foot on or off the rug.


Finally, we just thought it was cool to cut out around the floor outlets. We did it just because we could do it! Here is that photo again…


Did the rug tie together the open living space as you had hoped? Yes. I believe it helped by bringing in the yellow from the entry, the green and grey from the kitchen, and a last minute decision to add charcoal to soften the black granite fireplace.


What about orange? Why didn’t you incorporate orange into the area rug? I eventually decided that we didn’t need orange in the rug because we have a ton of natural cherry wood and it’s natural orange tones in the living room already. Yep. I believe that was the right choice.

How did you decide on the design? We played with a few different designs on paper and in person when the tiles arrived. We initially thought some sort of repeating pattern would be best.


In the end, we liked a random design. We just moved the squares around until we liked how it felt. We did intentionally avoid putting the charcoal next to the black fireplace hearth, and we obviously didn’t want 2 of the same exact tiles directly next to each other. However, we didn’t mind it 2 of the same exact tiles were diagonal to each other.

Random Pattern...

Are these carpet squares compatible with radiant floor heat? Yes, these particular squares won’t stain or damage our hardwood floors. I did call the company to double check because these tiles do have some sort of vinyl/rubbery backing – and we have radiant floor heat – and I wanted make sure our new hardwood flooring wouldn’t get damaged. So far, so good. Though, I did alter one thing during installation as a result of previous experience. The sticky circles that are provided to hold the squares together do not hold up to radiant floor heat. In fact, the sticky goo seems to ooze out onto the floor below when it gets warm. That sticky goo is very, very difficult to get off hardwood flooring. I have found that basic blue painter’s tape is the way to go. It keeps the tiles firmly together and doesn’t get all over the floor below – even with radiant floor heat.


Why does Tad lay on the floor all the time? I don’t have an answer to that question. Tad doesn’t even have an answer to that question. Some questions just can’t be answered. As mentioned above, he just likes the floor.

You are so nice to let Tad choose some stuff – and you work hard to incorporate his design ideas whenever possible – how do you do it? I guess, I just feel like he lives here too, so he should get some say – when it works with my ideas.  And – thanks for pointing out that I am nice!

Welp. We don’t have time for upholstered cubes today. We will cover those next time as “Soft Stuff – Part 2…”

Planning for our “Main Level Project” – all because of a toilet…

We’ve been talking about our next big project for a little over a year. I am ready to get a move on this thing. In fact, I’ve got a free day on Friday – as in tomorrow. I’ve got no work, no plans, no distractions, nada. I am thinking I may start a little demo for this project – just don’t tell Tad…

I’ve done measurements and a few sketches with our tentative plans.

The highlighted pink area is what I have officially labeled as our “Main Level Project”.

Scan 13

Here is the new space plan proposal – up close…

Scan 14

We will be moving an existing bathroom to a new location – what is now a small walk in closet. I think this will be the most extensive and problem solving part of the project. We’ve got to get all the plumbing to the new location. I don’t see that being an easy part of the project.


We will move this entryway wall a few inches – like 4ish inches or so – towards the front door. I realize 4 inches doesn’t seem like much, but it is necessary if we want to be able to include a toilet in the new bathroom.


We will also move this existing bedroom wall out about 27 inches. The bathroom entrance will stay near where the current closet entrance is – it’s on the left in the photo below. We will also create a reach in closet for this room along this wall. This room will become a guest room so we feel like a reach in closet is more than adequate.


There will be one slightly odd thing in the room – the existing window will be in the corner of the room. The new bathroom wall will end up about 6 inches from the right side of that window. I am trying to decide if that is going to be ok with me.  I like asymmetry so I think it will work for me. It might not work for our symmetrically oriented guests though. I guess we will just have to see.


This is the view from our dining room. It annoys Tad that you can see the toilet from the dining room. That is why we are moving the bathroom elsewhere.  Yes, this toilet is the reason for this whole entire project!


We will expand the guest room by about 2 feet into the current bathroom space. This wall on the right will move left – over past the edge of the existing cabinetry.


This purple wall will move back into the existing bathroom area. The bathroom window and all the space in front of it and to the left of it will be added to the new future master bedroom – about three additional feet. Again, three additional feet doesn’t sound like much, but in an older house like ours, three feet is huge. Three feet will potentially allow a king sized bed – if we feel the need for a king sized bed.


As a result of all this space reallocation, we will need to replace two windows. One window is currently a frosted bathroom/shower window. This will be replaced with a regular non frosted window – and I am now wondering if we should enlarge the opening and make it the same size as the other window in the room – that would involve adding some saw cutting and/or masonry work to the project. I will need to give that some more thought.



The other window is a small clear window that looks onto the front porch from the current closet – which will become the new bathroom. That window will need to be replaced with a frosted window. Nobody wants to be seen from the front porch or see out to the front porch while using this new little room. One might be a bit exposed if we kept it clear glass.



We will replace plaster and lath walls/ceilings with drywall pretty much everywhere. All the wall movement will make it difficult to salvage the plaster walls/ceiling in the bedrooms. The ceiling in the living room and dining room is on the verge of failing – we’ve got a serious sag. And – Tad has a serious dislike of plaster and lath. I like it but it is pretty difficult to repair. Oh – and – have a good laugh at my faux paint treatment on the living room /dining room ceiling. I never actually finished the treatment – not that it would look any better than it does now. I will say the one good thing that the faux treatment has done is hide all the sagging and cracks up there. We are looking forward to flat, nice, bright, white ceilings.




While the ceilings are open in all these areas, we will reinforce the ceiling joists – like we did in the kitchen. Actually, in the kitchen, Tad insisted on removing and replacing all the ceiling joists in there. I hope we can just reinforce the joists in the rest of the house. Tad also feels like this is a good opportunity to repair the roof rafters in the attic – while the ceilings are open – and the joists are strong enough to be walked on. It is one of those things that I’m not completely excited about doing, but it does need to be done. We have a few cracked rafters up there. We really don’t want the roof caving in. That would not be great.


We will add insulation in the ceiling/attic space – like we did in the kitchen. We liked the denim insulation we used in the kitchen so we will use it in the rest of the house as well. Tad hopes to also add sound proofing between the interior walls.


Some recessed lighting will be added in the new bathroom, the living room, the dining room, and maybe the bedrooms. I like recessed lighting – as you already probably know.


We will also install new hardwood flooring throughout. I would like to keep our existing original floors and just have them refinished, but they are in really rough shape. There are multiple bad patches (from previous owners),

DSCN4052           DSCN4053

a few weak/maybe rotted spots,


and several heat registers/air returns that need to be patched in (since we now have radiant floor heat – we no longer need the forced air vents).

DSCN4054        DSCN4055

We will also need to patch where walls will be moved. So, it does seem that the obstacles are too great to overcome.


Despite all these old flooring issues, I would like to at least keep the old floors as a subfloor and install the new stuff over the top. Tad doesn’t agree – he wants to rip out all the old stuff and put in a plywood subfloor. I plan on standing firm on this issue. I think we should keep something of the original house intact. I believe it should be the floors!

Then, comes all the finish work – woodwork, tiling, paint, decorating. This stuff is all still in my head – not yet on paper or out there for discussion yet.

Prior to formally starting the project, here are a few things we are needing to work out…

  1. I think we would both love to hire this out – get it all done in a few weeks. On the other hand, I don’t want to hand over all my money for work that I feel we could do ourselves.
  2. Do we need architectural drawings? I’m not sure. It seems pretty straightforward so I am leaning towards no. Tad says yes.
  3. I want to do this project in phases – create the new bathroom first, then demo and fix the bedrooms, then do the living room/dining room. Tad wants to do it all at once.
  4. The flooring situation. As I already mentioned, I want to keep the old floors. Tad does not. Actually, I’m not sure why this is on the list to work out – we are keeping the old floors :)

Fireplace + a cow and a red telephone booth…

When better to check out fireplaces than in the wintertime…

When I was looking for a house all those years ago, I was pretty excited when this house had a fireplace.  Though, I knew that I would not ever use a wood burning fireplace – we have wood burning bans in Denver pretty much all winter and I am not much interested in cleaning up after a wood fire.  Below is the only picture I have of the old fireplace – not sure why I didn’t take a picture of the whole wall…


I figured I could easily get it converted to gas (and it was ugly – and not original to the house) so I decided to start demo one sunny afternoon.  Tad came home to a pile of bricks and a dismantled mantel on the front lawn.  He was a little distressed I think – but it worked out.  We discovered some seriously charred wood underneath the hearth.  So, I say it is a good thing I decided to demo this monster rather than keep it as wood burning.  I had to search around quite a bit for an appropriate gas insert though.  The firebox was pretty shallow and small in size so my options ended up being limited to basically one – thank goodness I loved my one and only option.


The insert was built up on a small platform – I like having it up off the floor six or eight inches. The existing chimney worked for the exhaust and air ducts – I like that they didn’t have to punch an additional hole in the back of the chimney for air.  The gas line was easily installed by a plumber.  Everything was covered in cement board – so we wouldn’t have any further charring of our wood structures.  It was in working order – warm and toasty for those cold winter nights.  All we needed to finish was the decorative stuff – the mantel, the surround, and the hearth.  This is where the project screeched to a standstill.  This scene (below) is what you saw when you entered our front door for 4,5, maybe 6 years – maybe longer – not quite sure.  The mantel, surround, and hearth remained unfinished for a very long time.


We debated the design over and over again. We even sought outside help in the form of an architect for this wall.  Below is when we thought we might do some sort of a built in around the fireplace.  We finally decided on a simple design of tile and/or stone.

Before Fireplace

Then, there was a $6000 bid (yes, the 3 zeros is not a mistake) for some basic cinder block work to create a base for the surround.  A year or two or three later – I decided we could do it for a lot less than $6000.  Tad was skeptical about our masonry skills.  However, a few hours later (with Sunday afternoon football games on the TV) we got it done for less than $60 in supplies!  I still wonder if masons really do make $1000 per hour.


I bought some mosaic tile – Tad didn’t like it.  I still have that mosaic tile in the basement waiting to be installed somewhere, some day.  We agreed on slab stone.  I talked to numerous stone fabricators.  None of them were willing to attempt to cut and install the surround face as a single piece.  A chance meeting at a friends house resulted in a stone fabricator who was willing to give it a try.  He came over the next day and templated it out.


Success – a single piece of stone – no seams – on the front face of our fireplace!  The stone is polished Absolute Black.  I debated whether or not I wanted a polished finish or a matte finish.  Since I went with black all over, I thought it would feel a bit heavy and imposing – in matte.  The polished felt less like a big black hole.  I think polished was the right choice.  It is very reflective – and  despite being solid black, it doesn’t take over the whole space.  In fact, you can see in the photo below how reflective it is – I tried a ton of different shots to minimize the reflection but to no avail.


The minimal mantel has worked out great.  Plenty of room for a few pieces of Jonathan Adler pottery and some big glass cherries.  At Christmas, the mantel becomes a forest display for my collection of trees.


We also added some fun artwork above the fireplace – a cow and a red telephone booth.


You are probably wondering if I am obsessed with cows?  The last post – our Mudroom – featured an O’Keefe cow print and a cow print area rug.  I will admit that I do have one other piece of artwork in the house that is a cow (you haven’t seen that one yet), but I wouldn’t call that an obsession…  Besides, this particular piece of art – the cow and the telephone booth – has a story associated with it.  During a trip to England with our friend Jennie, we went on a hike in the Cotswalds.  Jennie had a guidebook that recommended this particular hike.  It guided us along a lovely walk of rolling hills – and a few cow pastures – full of cows.  Tad, Jennie, and Clara (another friend who was living in London at the time and nicely hosted us for a few days – she was wearing brand new, bright white Keds for this adventure) were afraid of the cows – so, I was charged with shooing the cows out of our way.  Imagine me making mooing sounds and wildly flailing my arms about in an effort to move the cows – it was quite the scene.  The cows just starred at me like I had lost my mind – eventually they sauntered out of the way so we could pass.  At the end of the walk (in the middle of some cow pasture), there was a red telephone booth.  The guidebook said to call a number – from the red telephone booth – and a taxi would come get us.  The wife of the taxi driver answered but it seemed that all the taxis in town were in use – it was prom.  It was getting dark and we weren’t sure if we could wind our way back through all those cow pastures in the dark.  Plus, Clara’s footwear choice was a bit of a problem – she wasn’t happy about the thought of having to hike back – several hours – in her now cow poop stained Keds.  The taxi driver’s wife felt sorry for us – she came to pick us up in her personal car.    We still laugh about that hike – the cow pastures, the cows, my flailing arms and attemps to move the cows with mooing sounds, Clara’s Keds, the red telephone booth in the middle of nowhere, and that lovely taxi driver’s wife who took pity on us.  So when I stumbled upon this print, I laughed out loud – thinking about that hike – and had to have it in our living room.  I gave it to Tad as a Christmas gift.

I am sitting in front of my warm, completely finished fireplace right now – laughing about that trip – we had so much fun.