Making My Ugly Fireplace Pretty….

This morning, before I left for my studio, the sun was shining on my newly renovated fireplace and I took a few quick pics and thought I would update y’all on my latest home improvement DIY.

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When we moved into the house almost five years ago now, the kitchen and the fireplace were the two things I hated the most. The kitchen was torn out in the first 4 months but the fireplace was kind of put on the back burner…yes, it was ugly but we had to remodel the kitchen and master bath and paint and the list went on and on…..I mean there was a whole lotta Hunter Green tile…Ick!!!

So, I worked around it and lived with it (and its green tile)….then this summer we had a stone mason at our house for the exterior job. He inspected this fireplace and really recommended we tear it down. Yikes!!!! We are land locked on that side of the house with our neighbor plus the roof was built around the chimney. HUGE undertaking!!! So we went around and around in our discussion….and finally we were all in agreement we could repair this old guy. I mean it is pretty cool….this old field-stone fireplace does add to the cottage look….so instead of getting a new one and throwing tens of thousands more into this house, we will repair and rework it.

Demmo time!!!!

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Can you imagine how happy I was when we tore off that old oak mantle? I was literally jumping for joy and…..surprise! We found photos of the old homeowners from the ’90’s who put it in! How fun is that? I always wanted to find keys to the past in our house….but I was just not thinking it would be in such the recent past. Either way, it was fun! And one of the pics had the father and daughter standing in our great room with all of the walls torn down to the studs….so that’s when the drywall was replaced?!?!?

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Demmo was complete and my stone masons got to work to raise the hearth for me with a bit of limestone. They took off the doors and raised those too so it made a bit more sense. Yes, we lost a few stones and we broke a few in the process, which was sad but luckily, my yard was full of field-stone when we moved in and we still have some left even after the landscapers built retaining walls with most of it. They took a couple from the yard and worked them back into the face of the fireplace.

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After a week, the dust settled and they guys left us with this. The mortar is still wet in this photo and the doors were still off, but it was still an improvement!

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Now, it was our turn to build the mantle. I, of course, came up with the design and my talented husband built me what I wanted. He has become such an amazing carpenter….and I think he loves it as a hobby! I hit the jackpot ladies!!!

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We added Car Siding to a focal wall in our family room and we thought we would repeat it over the fireplace. When my new sectional, chairs and entertainment cabinet get here I will post about that project we completed over Christmas….stay tuned.

I really just wanted to keep the mantle simple. Our dining table sits in front of the fireplace so I wanted the mantle to draw your eye up the wall above the table and also break up the long expanse of wall on that side of the room.

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Here is the finished product as the sun came up over the lake this morning and streamed in the windows. Once my new table arrives you will get the full view. I think we did the right thing by keeping the old stone and altering/repairing the old girl. This fireplace was part of the original structure and hopefully she will be sound enough to last for may years to come.

 

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A little secret to stay on budget….

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Today, I have a little design rant! I am sorry, I cant help it.

So, I know everyone flips through the Pottery Barn catalog , Ballard Designs, Restoration Hardware or whatever your home decor retail catalog of choice is, and drools over all they have to offer.

I admit, I get sucked in too!

Most of the time people pay the extremely high mark ups because they think it will make their room look like the room in the catalog photo.

Newsflash, Pottery Barn knows they have you sucked in!

If you shop other online retailers you can get the same item at a lower cost.  At the very least, try to get a coupon code. I never pay full price for anything and hate to pay shipping!

These rooms you see are also styled by visual merchandisers. Why do you think  all of the walls are almost always white in each vignette? They want to sell you the product and the product to stand out….but do we really live like that?

No!

Quit painting your walls washed out colors because Pottery Barn says so!

I think  it is OK to use these large retailers for a few items but the web offers us so many more bargains.

I can literally buy the same rug that is $400 at West Elm for $200 just by doing some research.

Today, I proved that! I found a basic jute rug for $360 to put in my study. I did a bit more research and hit my favorite rug resource, Rugs USA.

The same rug with free shipping coming to my door was $120! A sisal rug is a great design basic and you can use it just about anywhere!

Another favorite site of mine is Joss and Main. You can find fabulous furniture, lighting and accessories for half the cost all shipped straight to you.

The other benefit to this site is that these items are a bit more rare and grouped sometimes by designers or bloggers so you can stay on trend.

One Kings Lane is another site that has great stuff, not always at the lowest price, but more original, that’s for sure! They also have collections done by famous designers grouped for ease of shopping.

Did you know that you can find tons of artists with affordable original artwork on Etsy?

I love Etsy!!

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I also buy pillows and bedding there or fun prints like this one in our study! I paid $20 for it and framed it myself….perfect sentiment for the way my husband looks at life.

My point is this…You don’t want to walk into your neighbors house and you all have the same lighting from Pottery Barn or the same knobs from Restoration Hardware….especially if you live in a subdivision and all the houses are the same.

I think good design shines through when its original to the owners of the home, not to what everyone else is doing.

So don’t be afraid to be original!

Think outside the box!

Buy it because you love it, not because it comes from Pottery Barn!

Renovation-aholic

“Renovation-aholic” is my term for what this house has turned me into. Let me give you some background….a few years ago, my husband and I were going through a pretty tough time personally. We were living in Ann Arbor, and we needed a change. I had no idea what that change was, but one day, I had an epiphany! I wanted a boat!! Water is the best therapy, right? On a boat you can get closer to nature and we are a family that loves the outdoors…we grew up on Lake Michigan…and that’s what we needed! Water! Around that same time, my husband was offered a job in Southwest Michigan, so off we went to find a house on a lake. Well, after lots of research, I learned two things…..

1) A lake house is never going to be your standard two story colonial suburban home

2) they can be very expensive the larger they get

So, I find the perfect lake….really, its the best lake in Southwest Michigan by far. I fell in love with the area first! Now I had to find a home within our budget and make it work….I can do this! I am a designer who can transform anything, right? Well, we searched and searched but were very limited in our price range and knew no matter what we had to renovate. My hubby and I are known to be “Do-it-yourself” er’s so we also felt like we could take on a project of this magnitude because in the end we hope to actually gain sweat equity…..the last few homes we have had were new and there was not much equity left when we moved if you know what I mean….our new motto, never buy a new house, always renovate!

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So, eventually we found this 4 bedroom 2 and a half bath 1961 Lake House on Gull Lake. It has some great bones and we knew we could shape it to what would work for our family. The photos shown in this post are all before pictures. The pictures dont do the house justice. They were all taken when the house was occupied….but when we saw it, no one had lived here in quite some time. In my future posts I will share with you my journey on the renovation…still ongoing….but I am never satisfied because, I believe design is always evolving. If I hung a picture up on the wall and left it for 20 years, it may date itself, right? My grandmother was the perfect example of that….her house looked like the “Leave It to Beaver” set until she died 9 years ago. I have an entire blog post on her home but that is going to have to wait until later….I have too much to say today about this Crazy lake house idea I had.

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Looking back, two years later, this was the best project that we could have taken on. Everyday, we discover something new that needs our attention, but we have the beauty of the lake and woods that sounds us. The inside of the home is getting there and that’s OK, I am working on patience with each project still. This house has taught me about what we can do together as a family, how to relax and have fun, and how you don’t need the largest most expensive home to be happy. I love my 2200 square foot lake house. Downsizing has had its challenges but we use 80 percent of the house….when we were living in 3500 square feet, we used maybe 50 percent. (And I don’t have to clean all that square footage! Woot! Woot!)

The most “shocking” thing that has come out of this entire experience is My Hubby and I take the summer off from renovations! We never used to stop home projects during the summer but, our time outside on the lake seems to take precedence, which is has been great for our family!

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Summer on Gull Lake can not be beat, that’s for sure!