Tag Archives: remodel

Basement Built-Ins

Hi and happy Tuesday!

I really want to wrap up this basement project, but I feel like the projects just.keep.coming.  Luckily, in “real life” it is finally all finished, but in blog land there’s still a couple little things we haven’t shared yet.  Hopefully I can get them knocked out in the next few days so we can finally move on with our lives. Sound good? Ok, here we go…

So this post is basically a photographic progression of the built-ins that we added to the back wall of our basement…remember this lovely area, complete with a random “what is this??” block in the corner (for more about the beginning of this project, check out this post):

Never content to just paint a wall, we decided to add some built-in storage across that wall to add some architecture to an otherwise pretty plain space. Since I’m not really up on all the details of cabinet making, this will mostly just be pictures with my ingenious descriptions.  Let’s be honest – you probably just scan the pictures most days anyways. If nothing else, pay attention to how much progress we make in the basement while making relatively no progress on the cabinets.  There’s a reason this post took so long!

Here’s the base that we built after painting, starting the ceiling, and installing the beadboard/trim, but pre-floors:

Oooooo look! Progress! Floors, furniture, and some cabinet carcasses (FYI: Bryan told me that the “bones” of the cabinet are called “carcasses” and I straight up told him he was lying.  Turns out he’s right…I only believe it cause I heard it on the Nate Berkus Show, and if Nate says it, you know its true).

Fine Strawbridge craftsmanship (no, seriously….it’s legit):

Here’s a close up of in interior:

I gave them a couple of coats of the same white semi-gloss paint that we used on the beadboard…you can see it in the background.  This is how we were living with the room for a good couple weeks.  Notice the little decorative boxes and candle we set up to try to disguise the weird corner block. Fancy.

Here’s the last bit of the lower cabinets installed and waiting for paint…and check out the wine fridge in the far right cabinet! And yes, that’s beer inside that we were trying to cool down.  Classy (and, as it turns out, ineffective).

It was finally time to paint over the black tile-esque top on the corner block, since it would be visible when we opened that cabinet:

So after giving the final cabinet a coat of paint, our built-ins needed a top.  You may remember our precarious trip home from IKEA, resulting in this situation for the 2 hour drive…

Notice the cardboard mass taking over the upper half of the photo?  That’s the countertop we brought home, and here she is partially unwrapped. Yeah, somehow we fit that in the Tahoe…but just barely.

Here’s the info packet if you’re interested in the type we purchased, and here’s the link to the IKEA page about the countertop.  This is one of those things where IKEA is an amazing resource…the 96 inch countertop only set us back $69 and we think it looks pretty amazing!

It was a little longer than we needed, so we had to cut it somehow.  The instructions suggested using a hand saw, so that’s where we started after measuring the cut line and covering both sides of the countertop with painters tape to prevent chipping.

The handsaw method flat-out sucked.  It would have taken all day. Enter, jigsaw.

We popped the countertop on with a little glue and some screws on the underside to hold everything in place.  We had also added some more beadboard going up the wall to create a back for the next project…bookcases!

I’ll spare you the details (since I don’t have any pictures), but here are the bookcases up and painted, along with some crown molding across the top to finish off the look.  These still needed some caulk and paint touch-ups, so ignore the messiness.


Alright…home stretch! We touched up the paint/caulk around the bookcases and decorated them with empty picture frames (anyone else do this? I just haven’t found the right picture yet…oops):

…added some cabinet doors (also made by Bryan…he’s so handy to have around):

And FINALLY this project is finished! (Ignore the glare on the wall…It’s not a crazy painting mistake, I promise)

Eventually we’ll find some baskets or other chotchkies to fill the open shelving, but for now this is it.

Don’t worry – there’s only 1 basement post left and then we can all finally move on with our lives. Til then…





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Filed under Build It, DIY

Stairway to Heaven

If our basement=heaven, then the title of this post is totally accurate.  If not, it’s a little sacrilegious, especially considering yesterday was Easter. My bad.

So, I know we’ve stretched this basement project over way too many posts, but here’s another one (and it’s not even the last one…by far…get excited). This time, we’re tackling the basement staircase.

One of my first memories of this house is the overwhelming smell of dog on this staircase.  As I may have mentioned before, our entire home is hardwood floors with the exception of two areas: the guest room closet, and the staircase to the basement. Totally random, right?  Although carpet is comfy-cozy, it also holds onto odors and dog smell was no exception here.

(Disclaimer: Despite our current pet situation, I am totally a “dog person”…grew up with them, love them. Believe me when I say that I’m not over-dramatizing the whole dog smell thing.)

Could we have tried a carpet steamer or deodorizer? Sure.  Are we that practical? Absolutely not.  Besides the smell, it was also kinda dirty looking and run down.  Here’s a shot of the staircase before we touched it (and a lovely reminder of the original red paint color):

Also, notice the bannister and how unnecessarily bulky it is. Easy fix right? We figured we’d just remove it and replace it with something more our style. Here’s how it went to down (complete with inner monologue):

“Hmm…no visible screws. That’s ok, we’ll just gently pry it off the wall using this nice chisel…”

“Just a littttttttle pressure and surely it’ll pop right off…”



Oh hey wall innards!”

Ok, so that bannister didn’t go down without a fight…and some serious damage to the drywall. But hey, no big deal.  Lucky for us, we had a guy coming to install drywall on the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs (a topic for another post), so he patched up those little blemishes while he was here.

So, moving on to the dog carpet.  I had the bright idea that there must be really nice hardwood stairs under the carpet, and wouldn’t that look lovely?  I decided that I’d just rip the carpet and pad off (super easy, right?), sand them down a tad, and viola! New hardwood stairs. Great – let’s get started!

I WAS RIGHT! Hardwood! This will be a piece of cake…except for those pesky staples with the carpet fibers attached, but those will pop right out according to every other blogger I’ve ever seen do this to their stairs.  I WIN!!!”

Oh wait…there are a LOT of staples. Are there gonna be that many on every step? And they aren’t exactly popping right out…actually, they seem kind of stuck.  WHY ARE THERE SO MANY STAPLES?!?!?!?!”

Yes…I discovered that there were that many staples on every step, and then some.  When I could actually muster enough strength to rip up the carpet and access the wood (remember….millions and millions of staples), I discovered a war zone underneath; rusty staples that would break in half with slight pressure, nails everywhere, and a tack strip which splintered into a million pieces (each having to be individually pried off) when any force was applied.  A few hours and only a couple of steps later, I began to rethink my brilliant idea.

Luckily I have a roommate who has more upper body strength and patience for this crap, and a couple of days later we had this:

(I also painted the formerly red staircase walls white, to make the staircase appear less cave-like. Yes, I was messy with the paint on the steps…I don’t care.)

By this point, we had long since given up on the idea of keeping the stairs as hardwood.  Besides the fact that they were riddled with nail and staple holes (and some nails that we just flattened into the staircase because we couldn’t get them out), the color was all wrong and there were gaps between the stairs and the wall (almost all were much bigger than what you can see in the above picture…think 4-5 inches).  Carpet it is.

We’re not so bold as to think we could install our own carpet, so we gathered three in-home estimates from both local and national companies.  We ended up going with Lowe’s…they were the least expensive, plus we just like them and basically live in their store.

(Begin Rant) One guy who came from Empire Today patronized me for saying that I wanted to discuss their estimate with my husband before agreeing to schedule the installation (aka hedging because we still had two more people coming to give estimates).  He said something along the lines of how I must not be “allowed” to spend that much since I had to check with my husband first, then tried to give me grief because I didn’t end up buying the carpet and he doesn’t get reimbursed for mileage for driving all the way to my house, located squarely in their service area.  Shock of all shocks, we didn’t go with them. Poor form, Empire Today. (End Rant).

Within a few days, we had lovely new carpet, sans doggie smell and stains:

The carpet and installation ended up costing around $375, which was way more than we were expecting to spend on this little project, so be forewarned if you want to try this yourself.  Maybe give the carpet steamer a chance? I’m also wondering how much more it would have cost to have them remove the old carpet…I definitely would have paid it looking back on that hellish experience. But, that being said, we’re very happy with the way it looks and feels.  We’re still on the hunt for a bannister, so we’ll give a little update when the staircase is finally finished.

So, the big question to my ladies…ever been in a situation like I had with the carpet dude? How did you handle it? Do share!





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The moment you’ve all been waiting for!

Hello ladies and gents! Hope everyone had a great weekend (you can still say that on Tuesday, right?)  We had a wonderful time at the wedding of two friends in Cincinnati on Saturday, and met some great people (more on that at the end of this post, so keep reading!)

Cincinnati ties into this post in another way, because it also happens to be the home of our nearest IKEA. As part of our basement makeover project, we decided to bite the bullet and buy all new furniture.  Remember, it was where all our old, mismatched furniture had gone to die? See some of the “before” pictures here.

So, after some deliberation, we decided to venture east and stock up at IKEA.  I know…we’re adults, not college sophomores. But….we’re cheap budget conscious, and the swedish wonderland has a number of options that are higher quality than a $7.99 table that looks and feels like it is made out of cardboard.  We wanted a comfortable-yet-modern looking basement on a budget, and found plenty of options that fit the description perfectly.

As a reminder, let’s take a look at the empty, finished room:

Since IKEA is such a trek away, we wanted to make sure that what we brought home would fit in the space.  That’s where a free website called floorplanner.com came in really handy.  We put in the dimensions of our room, and played around with different furniture layouts based on the dimensions given on the IKEA website for the different pieces we were considering.

We knew we wanted at least a couch with a chaise lounge.  Then the practical side of us said that we’d probably both want our own lounges (I know, spoiled), so we wanted to see if there was any way to fit both in the room.  After playing around with a few layouts, we decided this was our best option (not totally accurate to scale, but close enough):

As far as what furniture dimensions to use for the floor planning, we decided we liked the Kivik line from IKEA…specifically, the loveseat + chaise combo:

And an additional chaise, just for fun:

Of course, we (Bryan) picked the most expensive cover (Teno light gray), but let’s be honest, it looks good.

After picking up these two pieces (and tons of other stuff of course), we attempted to load it all in a Tahoe.  This literally took almost two hours, which included unpacking everything because the BOXES took up too much space.  Anyone familiar with IKEA will know that they are known for flat-packing all their furniture to create the smallest possible package.

Not small enough, apparently. IKEA should take a lesson from us on packing effeciently…

The drive home was less than comfortable, especially with a huge countertop piece (seen in the very top of this next picture) over my head for the entire two hour drive. (Psst: the countertop is also going in the basement, but that project isn’t finished yet…sad day.)

Upon our arrival home, we unloaded everything and prepared for an evening of allen wrenches and stick figure assembly instructions:

So, are you ready to see it all set up?

Are you sure?

Ok, here it is!

We lovvvvve it and have been spending so much time down there!  Besides the sofa/chaise, here are a few more items we picked up to complete the room:

Two Dalfred barstools, which we are using as little side tables (and extra seating in a pinch):

The Hemnes TV unit:

(still kind of unorganized in this pic…sorry!)

And this cool lamp that reminds me of something you might find at Restoration Hardware:

So there ya go! Just for fun, let’s take a look back at what we started with:

And after:

Hope you all like it and enjoyed following this project! Don’t worry about going into Strawbridge basement withdrawal though…I still have a few more details to share about this project, and of course we’re already busy working on new things around here so keep checking back!

Speaking of blogs to check out, remember how I mentioned the awesome people we met at the wedding last weekend?  Well, one of those people happens to be Megan from the amazing blog Pink to Green.  We had a great time discussing all things blog related (over a couple cocktails, of course!) and I was blown away by pictures of her beautiful home and a ton of helpful tips for staying healthy and eco-friendly.

I mean seriously….I love her house:

And her adorrrrrrable puppy :)

Be sure to pay her a visit.  I’ll also link up her blog on the sidebar so you can find it anytime!

Whew! Long post!  Thanks for sticking around….catch ya on the flip side.




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GO HOOSIERS! (and another basement project)

Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great St. Patty’s Day weekend! We spent the weekend in Nashville, TN with a bunch of friends and had an amazing time, ESPECIALLY because our Hoosiers are going to the Sweet Sixteen!! I’m sitting around today fighting off a nasty cold (probably not helped by the festivities this past weekend…oops), but I figured I’d give another little update on the basement.

Last week I mentioned that we wanted to replace the old checkerboard vinyl sheet flooring:

Since we have hardwoods throughout the entire house, our first instinct was to look at hardwood or laminate options.  However, we quickly realized two things.  First, although we’ve never had any water issues in the basement, there’s always the possibility.  In fact, there was a drain in the middle of the room that the existing floor had been cut around to leave open.  We didn’t want to invest a lot of money in flooring that could easily be destroyed with moisture.  Second, because of that drain and a couple other weird features, there are places in the floor that are reallllllly uneven.  Uneven floor + rigid laminate planks = disaster.

We briefly considered carpeting the room, but it didn’t solve the possible water damage issue, and we would’ve had to hire someone to install it instead of doing it ourselves.  Luckily, around this same time we discovered vinyl planks that have the appearance of wood. It’s less expensive than the other options, is waterproof, and easy to install.  The planks are also extremely flexible, so they would follow the unevenness of the floor instead of creating gaps underneath.

The flooring we chose is Lowe’s Style Selections Vinyl Plank Tile in Cherry:

Here’s the box for anyone who is looking for it – like our ceiling tiles, our selection was somewhat based on what Lowe’s had in stock…this seems to be one of their staples so there were plenty of boxes available:

Each plank is 6″ x 48″, and they are literally peel-and-stick.  Installation was super easy – I did it by myself in one afternoon.  I started on the longest wall and did a “dry run” of sorts to see how many planks I would need to get across the room:

Luckily, the dimensions of the room worked out to where I could fit exactly 5 planks in the first row without having to make any cuts.  Here’s the first row after I installed each plank – you can see how the seams basically disappear:

Starting in the 2nd row, I cut a plank in half and started with that 24″ piece to stagger the seams.  I continued in the 48″ – 24″ – 48″ pattern for the first piece in each row, but if I were to do it again I probably would have added a third length to break it up even more. Oh well.

I will say, we certainly had our doubts about vinyl floor, but about half way through laying the planks I started thinking that it was looking pretty decent:

The only part about this project that was a little tricky was working around corners and angles.  Luckily, these planks can be cut with an Exacto knife or good scissors, and a little measuring helps a lot.  Here, I used the paper backing from the plank to create a template for cutting a piece to fit around this corner. Very scientific:

So that was it! Super easy.  After the floor was in, we spent the evening painting and then installing the baseboards (another project where our new nail gun came in handy).  I painted them ahead of time so I wouldn’t risk getting paint on our new floors, which meant we only had to do small touch-ups from the nail holes. We made sure to pick a style that was tall enough to hide the gaps between the paneling and the floor…these are around 4″ tall:

And I lovvvve the way the paneling looks with the new floors:

So, here’s a mini reveal of the room with all the biggest projects completed (and with my $20 Lowe’s rug…holla!):

Not bad considering what we started with (don’t get confused, this picture is taken from the opposite side of the room.  We still have some surprises left, including what we’re doing with the back wall in the picture below):

Stick around this week for a few more posts about the staircase, the bar area, furnishing the basement, and a few new building projects.






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Basement Progress

Happy Friday! Hope you’re all recovering from that IU win last night…so excited to be back in the tourney! I’m not gonna lie, I have them winning it all in my bracket, so haters need to back off.

As promised, here’s the next episode of the basement saga. As a recap, we’ve already demo’d part of the room:

Primed & painted the upper half of the room in dark blue:

Installed a drop ceiling:

And rearranged some lighting (with the help of an electrician) to avoid issues like this:

Next, I think I’ll reveal what we did with the lower half of the wall, and here’s a hint (via another less-than-helpful picture taken at Lowe’s):

Ohh yeah…that’s some beadboard (aka paneling, aka wainscoting…still not clear on the differences, but you get the point). We thought adding some white beadboard would balance out the dark color and prevent the basement from turning into another dark cave.  This went up pretty easily, since we had the guy at Lowe’s cut each 4’x8′ sheet in half, creating (almost) perfect 4’x’4 squares.  The job was much easier thanks to the purchase of this little wonder:

Nail gun/air compressor. Badass. Bryan found out about a sale Lowe’s was having on these, so I picked one up for $99.  This thing paid for itself – I really don’t see how we would have done this project without it.  Between the beadboard, trim, and baseboards, it would have taken forever and a day to nail it all by hand.

The hardest part about the paneling was the fact that NOTHING in this room is level, including the floor. To avoid having major unevenness around the room, we started at the highest point (the far back wall) and made the rest of the panels level to those.  We ended up with some pretty big gaps under the panels on the low side of the room, but the spaces were covered with baseboard so no worries!

We proceeded around the room and knocked out the panels pretty quickly.  We also decided to frame out the 3 tiny windows to give them a little more bulk (window in progress seen below):

(You can see we worked in no particular order, so clearly in the picture above the ceiling was nowhere close to finished).

We didn’t want to leave the top of the paneling unfinished, so we decided to install 1″x 2″ boards across the top…

With decorative molding underneath:

The white marks above the trim is from where we used caulk to seal the space where the 1″ x 2″ met the wall for a clean finished look (later touched up with more blue, which led to more touch-ups on the white trim…I’m not the neatest painter).

Meanwhile, the ceiling was slowly being finished after having the electrician come by to help us out…notice how the lights are now even with the ceiling tiles:

That checkerboard floor is starting to look pretty horrible, right? Check back on Monday for another update!





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Drop (ceiling) it like it’s hot

Hiiii friends! We’re back with Part 2 of our basement project.  Did you miss Part 1? Read about it here.

At the end of the last post, I gave you a little preview of the wall color we chose to cover up the bright red we inherited…annnd it’s blue!

That looks crazy, I know.  I was a little worried when I opened the lid, considering I had asked for Benjamin Moore’s Marine Blue, which is significantly darker:

And is supposed to look like this in a room:

Thinking (ok, hoping) it would look much darker on the wall, I put on the first coat:

Ok…still kinda bright…

…stillllll pretty bright (except where it was covering the red instead of the white primer). Bryan called it “Smurf-like” at this point, which isn’t exactly the look we were going for.

(There’s the door Bryan installed!)

Annd…this is probably when I came to the realization that covering a dark red wall with white primer before trying to paint it dark blue wasn’t my smartest decision ever.  This was later confirmed by the paint store when I returned to buy a 2nd gallon and they kindly told me I should have used a dark primer.  Ok – I do a fair amount of painting and never knew such a thing existed. Dumb. They said another coat should do it, so I was happy.

So, while we were waiting for the paint to dry (literally), we realized that the black ceiling didn’t look so hot with the blue walls.  We had played around with the idea of putting in a drop (aka suspended) ceiling, and now we didn’t really have a choice (besides getting a sprayer and painting the ceiling a lighter color…that doesn’t sound messy at all).

Luckily, Lowe’s has a decent selection of drop ceiling options.  Since we were trying to be as cost effective as possible, we ignored the fancy panels like these, which retail for a whopping $17 EACH…

And went straight to the aptly-named “commercial” section.  Basically, these are your standard office building/school ceiling tiles:

These are relatively inexpensive, coming in at just over $4/each…we bought a few packs of 16 2′ x 2′ tiles for $68.28 each.  Although the price was right, the main reason we picked these was that they were one of the few tiles Lowe’s keeps in stock – the rest were special order and could take almost a month (!) to come in. Sorry…no patience for that.

The brand we bought is Armstrong, and they had a really nice planning tool on their website which helped us figure out what we needed for our room after entering the dimensions:

(Yes, that is a picture of a computer screen. Ghetto.) It ended up being almost correct…but we definitely had to make a return trip for a couple extras, and we have a few unused pieces that are waiting to be returned. No big deal.

Here we are at Lowe’s. Bryan’s face tells you how helpful I was being in this process, snapping pictures for the blog instead of helping :/ Oops.

The installation of the ceiling was actually pretty easy (Armstrong’s website also has a tutorial video and lots of FAQs that we referenced quite often).  The hardest part was figuring out the layout of the tiles, since most rooms aren’t perfectly sized to fit full tiles all the way across.  Basically, you don’t want to end up with a row of six inch tiles when you have full 24-inch tiles everywhere else. We figured it out with the help of the online guides, and got to installing.

First thing to go up was the wall moldings, which are the border ledges that hold up everything else. Here’s the first piece, about 3 inches below the existing molding:

Apparently there are only a couple rules for these types of ceilings.  First, make sure you keep everything level. Second, stay about 3 inches below any pipes/wires/stuff in your existing ceiling. Easy peasy.

We had a few quirky areas in the ceiling where a random duct would be protruding too far into the room.  If we had based the height of the ceiling on those, it would have ended up being way too low. Instead, Bryan built a couple boxes to cover the ducts:

We painted them blue so they blended with the wall, and installed the ceiling around it:

Unfortunately, we installed the box to be level with the old ceiling, and shock of the century, that ceiling isn’t level (nothing in our house is). So, that’s why it looks a little wonky compared to the wall molding installed in the picture above.  Oh well, it blends in and we hardly notice it.

Anyways, once the wall moldings went up, we just snapped the grid together and started popping in the tiles:

I guess now is a good time to talk about the lighting situation in here.  The room already had a few can lights, but they were obviously installed to be even with the beams in the ceiling.  We were super safe and called an electrician immediately tried to do it ourselves first, but after a few minor shocks we used an Angie’s List “Big Deal” to hire an electrician for a couple hours to move them all for us.  So, we avoided this situation:

We also had him remove the wine glass light fixture from the bar area…remember this one?

And we replaced it with a simple pendant.  But unfortunately, I can’t show you until the next post because this one is already too long and rambling.  On Friday I’ll show you what we did to the lower half of the walls, and lots of other fun details!




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Basement Renovation: Part 1 of…several

So, I know it’s been forever since we posted anything, but we have a really good excuse!! My computer died (oh yeah, and we’ve been busy remodeling our basement…more on that below).  Obviously sad news about my computer, mostly because I lost Photoshop and can’t download it for free anymore (another reason to never leave school). So, I apologize in advance for the iPhone-quality pictures that will be gracing the blog until I figure out an adequate replacement.

Okay, so back to that basement project.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with our house, here are a few pictures of our fratty basement, pre-project (I’ll just say for the record that this was where all our old furniture had gone to die, and we clearly had never taken the time to decorate at all beyond hanging stolen gifted frat composites and random sports/music memorabilia on the wall)…     First, this basement just screams man cave. Notice the open black ceiling, bright red walls, stained vinyl checkerboard floor, mismatched furniture, ill-fitting slip cover, old hardware from our kitchen makeover on the coffee table, and random stuff everywhere…

And here’s our “bar area”, which had just become a catch-all space at the bottom of the staircase.

All decor issues aside, we just really never used this room because it wasn’t comfortable.  Since we didn’t want to be down there, we definitely never entertained there, which was a huge waste considering it’s the 2nd largest living area in the house. So, after many hours of careful planning, and with a clear vision for what we wanted in the room, we began the remodel.

Orrrrrrrrrrr we just started ripping sh%t apart. Yeah…that sounds more accurate. This picture was taken about .5 seconds after we decided to redo the room:

(In the interest of full disclosure, I suppose this project REALLY started when Bryan decided to install a door to separate the room we consider “finished” and the storage/laundry area, you can kind of see behind Bryan in the picture above.  The door was supposed to just be a door, and not the catalyst for an entire renovation, so I’m skipping that for the time being.)

Then we cleared out the furniture, and started ripping out the rest of the molding.  Instant gratification.

You know what else is instantly gratifying? Primer.

Lots of primer. Luckily I had plenty leftover from when I painted the kitchen:

At this point in the madness, we had at least decided on what to do with the walls, which is why I was only worried about getting the upper half covered.

That’s all I have time to write about for now, but I’ll leave you with this hint about what’s coming next time!

More coming soon!




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