Archives For Renovating

Even if you didn’t read yesterday’s post about my plans for updating our kitchen you may have already known that I recently removed our tile backsplash thanks to these two pics I posted on instagram and facebook.

how to remove a tile backsplash

I read a bunch of online tutorials about collecting various tools, protecting the countertops, etc. etc., but as I sat on the sofa researching I looked over into the kitchen and decided I had nothing to lose by just going for it. So on a sleepy Sunday afternoon right before Christmas I grabbed my hammer and a flathead screwdriver and chipped out just one tile, just to see how hard it would be. It came right off, so I knocked out another one. And another one after that. And before I knew it I had tackled a whole section. I thought briefly about whether I might damage the counters, but, ya know, whatever. I figure that if I haven’t scratched them so far with just my regular careless/clumsy daily behavior then they must be pretty tough (they’re quartz, which a quick google search tells me is, in fact, highly scratch resistant). But if you’re wanting to try this at home and are working with a more delicate surface maybe try taping down a dropcloth or even some thick paper.

This was my technique: position the screwdriver flat against the wall with the tip resting just behind the top of the tile.

how to remove a tile backsplash

Then tap, tap tap with my hammer until the screwdriver is wedged in there nice and deep. See that crack along the bottom of the backsplash where it meets the counter? Another quirk of living in a house that was sort of haphazardly renovated by previous owners. I could have fixed it with some caulk but now I never get around to it. The new beadboard backsplash will be trimmed out at the bottom and probably caulked as well.

how to demo a tile backsplash

From there I could use the screwdriver to pry the tile off. Sometimes they came up several at a time and sometimes I had to fight for each one. The drywall got messed up pretty badly in the process but, again, whatever. I’m covering it with beadboard. What I feel less cavalier about but still didn’t address properly is the issue of lead paint. I didn’t think about it until I was more than halfway done and by then I figured I may as well just go ahead and finish and do a good job of cleaning up all the dust afterwards. So that’s what I did. Hope I don’t regret it.

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I am so glad it’s done! This is definitely one of those cases where things look worse before they get better. I’ve started cutting in with the new paint on the walls and am hoping I’ll get a chance to roll on the rest sometime this week, then I can start the process of hanging beadboard (painting before I install the backsplash will save me a little bit of cutting in around those edges). I’m SO excited but trying to take it slow and not get ahead of myself. No beadboard will be purchased until those walls are painted!


Besides being as old as my grandfather, our house has a bit of an interesting history. We bought it from a house flipper. I’m told that the folks who owned it before him had taken out a second mortgage to remodel the place and foreclosed before they could finish. So this guy bought it at an auction, completed the remodel and sold it to us for a TIDY profit (after we’d completed all the paperwork for the sale I found a document showing that he’d bought it for 100k less than he’d sold it for). We are so lucky to live in an old house that has been mostly updated, but there are a few quirks owing to the fact that the renovations were completed by two different owners. And besides that, there are a few cosmetic issues that I’m sure would come up even if the house hadn’t been flipped-everyone has different tastes and there’s no way to predict what the next owner will like. All that is to say that our kitchen is cute and nice but could use a few changes. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but when I found myself feeling jealous that Jack’s new kitchen was nicer than mine I decided the time had come to finally do something.

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The photo above illustrates one of the “quirks.” The cabinets on the left are new, but the cabinets on the right are not. That doesn’t really bother me, actually, except for two small issues with the drawers. 1) The old drawers are starting to show their age. I don’t know if it’s dry rot or what, but the silverware drawer makes this awful grinding sound when you open it and we’re treated to a steady flow of sawdust in the cabinet below. 2) I want to replace the drawer pulls with something more my style but the new cabinets/drawers are laminate and so drilling new holes for the pulls is not so simple. I actually bought some black bin pulls for them ages ago but the holes don’t line up.

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So I’m not sure how to go about replacing the drawers, but I’m going to figure it out.

I used this old photo to illustrate some of my other concerns. The wall color and backsplash are just not my style (the countertop isn’t really either but that’s staying). I like the cover over the range hood but the fan itself is really, really bad. I’m trying to work up the courage to disassemble it so that I can see how/if it’s vented and assess whether it will be a simple matter to replace it with a new one. And also, for the love of storage, why are there no shelves or cabinets on this wall?

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I had to use an old photo above because I’ve already made some progress by knocking out the backsplash! More on that tomorrow.

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Here’s the other side of the kitchen before I finished demoing the backsplash. There’s not much I plan on changing here, other than the new drawers, backsplash, and fresh paint previously mentioned. Please excuse the cluttered counters and dirty dishes. These are “before” pictures. I’d love to someday open up that pass-through and convert the ledge into a breakfast bar but that would require the expertise of a structural engineer and contractor and thus will probably never happen.

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And this is not a big deal but I feel like the pantry could be improved. The door is a pain to open and close and so it stays open most of the time, leaving Jack free to rifle through whatever’s within his reach. There’s also a lot of wasted space, especially in the lower portion.

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So here’s my plan:

  • demo the tile backsplash and replace it with white beadboard
  • paint the walls the same creamy off-white that’s in our downstairs bath and master bedroom (Quail Egg by Valspar. One choice made by the previous owners that I love).
  • install open shelves flanking the stove
  • replace the range hood
  • replace the drawers and add new pulls
  • possible replace the pantry door
  • add a new shelf in the lower portion of the pantry.

I’m taking this one step at a time and giving myself the whole year to get it done. I have a bad habit of diving headfirst into a project, buying all the supplies, and then never finishing. So I’m not letting myself buy a single supply for the new beadboard backsplash until I’ve got the old one demo’d (check!) and fresh paint on the walls (halfway done!). But if you have advice or tips on any of the projects I’ve got planned please do feel free to chime in. Do you know a good source for buying individual bits of cabinetry (like five drawers?)? Or have experience replacing a range hood inside of an existing cover like that?


As I was browsing Pinterest the other day I came across this photo. I think I let out an audible gasp.

Shopping Candy

It’s a coat closet turned into a little mini library. Isn’t it gorgeous? My mind immediately went to the long, skinny closet off our guest room that we currently use as a pantry/tool shed/attic.

This picture is actually from the last time Nick and I cleaned it out last February. It’s a complete disaster right now. The biggest problem I have with our house is that there is no utility storage. No garage, no shed, no carport, and only a tiny little hatch to an attic with no flooring. I dream of someday getting a shed, adding proper attic access, and laying down some plywood up there, but those two projects combined would probably total over a thousand dollars-inexpensive in the grand scheme of home improvement and resale value, but not really possible in the season of our lives in which we live on one income. So the closet will look like this for some time to come, but if I ever do get all that crap out of there here’s what I’d love to do with it…

Floor to ceiling built-ins lining the left side, with shelves that reach between the studs to maximize the narrow space and cabinets along the bottom to provide some practical hidden storage. Eight inch deep shelves and cabinets would still leave 28″ of clearance for the walkway. I’m not familiar with the residential code for our area but google tells me that that meets the OSHA standard for public buildings.

Diane Bergeron Interiors

A glass-paned door at the entrance so you don’t feel like you’re locked in a closet. The door that’s there now is original to the house so I’d like to be able to reuse it elsewhere instead of throwing it out.

Home Depot

A built in bench at the back of the closet, where the space extends to the left underneath the stairs. Maybe we could have cubbies underneath the bench to store extra blankets and pillows. And a little light above to make the perfect reading nook. It’s almost as deep as our Ektorp sofa and long enough for little ‘ol me to stretch out fully.

Of course I’d need a way to reach those top shelves, but one of those fancy rolling library ladders is outside of even my fantasy budget. This stepstool is not too bad to look at and could hang unobtrusively on a hook on the wall.


It’s quite dreary out today and I can’t help but daydream of curling up in a pile of pillows to read a good book in my little library. Of course that would require that I actually had time to read a book, haha. But seriously, how great would a space like this be to encourage a kid (or grownup) to read? What could be more fun than a reading nook that feels like a secret hiding spot? I remember hiding in my closet with a book trying to avoid having to do chores. I read all the time, so my mom had no qualms about telling me to put down that book and come wash some dishes.

I hope this Monday morning is not treating you too badly. I had a looooong weekend of single parenthood while Nick was in Baltimore for a buddy’s wedding. I will not be agreeing to anything like that again for a long time. It was HARD being the only parent for eighty consecutive hours, even with a break to visit my inlaws for a few hours Saturday night. Next time maybe I’ll go to the wedding and leave Nick at home with a freezer of frozen milk, haha.


As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, although I’m extremely happy overall with the kitchen we inherited when we bought our home there are lots of little things I’d like to change. And I’m not a picky person. I don’t mind at all the mismatched old and new cabinets-adds character, I say. The biggest beefs I have with this space are functional.

Exhibit A: Why are there no upper cabinets on this side of the kitchen?

I really want to add some attractive storage on either side of the range hood. I was thinking cabinets for a long time, but the more I think about it open shelving seems like an easier option. I could DIY it and easily customize the length to fit the space available. I’m digging the look of these, from Young House Love.

But I think I like the bracket style of these shelves better (from Pure Style Home). And that beadboard is pretty amazing, too.

Also on my list of complaints for this area of the kitchen is the range hood. I like the way the big metal cover looks (although it could use a good scrubbing and a few coats of paint), but the vent inside has seen better days. It doesn’t really even work at all, just makes a bunch of noise. I don’t know how to go about replacing it, though. Do I just buy a new vent and mount it up inside there?

Exhibit B for the case against this kitchen’s lack of function: the lighting. This is the only light fixture in the room. Lots of people come over and oooh and ahhh over the fact that it appears to have been designed to double as a pot rack. The only problem with that is that it hangs smack dab in the middle of the room, as opposed to over a counter or island, and even our nine foot ceilings are not tall enough for us to be able to hang pots from it and still walk underneath. Well, I could walk under it, since I’m only 5′ tall, but anyone closer to Nick’s height would have some serious problems.

The other issue with it is that it is always behind me when I’m working, casting the area in front of me in shadow. I get so sick of prepping meals in shadow. That’s my excuse for why I make Nick do all the cooking these days. I’d like to move it to hang over the section of counter I’m about to talk about in my next point and maybe add recessed lighting spread throughout the room for better lighting overall.

And third in my list of stupid things: this.

I think the official name for it is a pass-through. I hate it. It’s better than having a solid wall there, but not by much. If I had unlimited funds I would call a structural engineer right this minute and get that wall knocked down ASAP. I have dreams of someday opening it up and adding a bar overhang to make it a bona fide breakfast area. Check out my very, very rough mockup below.

Doesn’t it make so much more sense? The kitchen feels bigger already just looking at it. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly the kind of project Nick and I can tackle ourselves over a weekend, or even feel comfortable hiring a handyman to do. We need someone professional to come out and determine if it’s structurally safe to take that wall out and make sure it’s done right. Can’t have the house falling down on our little family. And when I think “professional,” I think, “expensive.” How much would a structural engineer charge for something like this?

So that’s my list of complaints, in order of most simple to remedy to most difficult. What would you do if this were your house? Would you just leave well enough alone, or chip away little by little at turning an okay kitchen into a really nice one? Would you knock out that wall? I don’t know if I’ll ever be brave or rich enough to do it, but a girl can dream.