Surviving the Snowzilla

Well we survived D.C.’s fourth largest snowstorm on record, and after two days have mostly dug ourselves out from the two-plus feet of snow that covered our area. Until now, our winter has been pretty mild; we actually got our first real snow late last week, when an inch of fluff covered the city a few days ahead of the big blizzard. Over the weekend though, winter arrived in full force.

We started our storm prep early last week by stocking up on a few food items and buying a snow shovel since we didn’t own one.


The federal government closed Friday at noon and it started snowing shortly after. We woke up Saturday morning to a foot of snow outside. Heat pumps don’t do well in snow and frigid temperatures and the fan on our snow-covered pump froze overnight, so Nick headed outside first thing in the morning to get it cleared and working again (this pump heats our upper bedroom level, while our furnace heats our lowest two levels, which were still toasty warm).


The worst was yet to come though; the heaviest snow and wind were expected Saturday and we picked up another foot of snow during the day.


As anticipated, the heavy winds caused a tree to come down in our area, and for a few hours Saturday we lost our power and heat. Nick and I bundled up with an extra fleece jacket and lit a fire since we weren’t sure how long the power outage would last, but thankfully it was restored later in the day.


We’ve been slowly digging out ever since; thankfully, Sunday was sunny and mostly warm and the snow was light and fluffy, so it wasn’t too hard to shovel the sidewalk and a path up to the house.


D.C. averages about 15 inches of snow annually, and we got that and plenty more with this snowstorm, so hopefully we are done for the winter!


Making a splash (tiling the kitchen)

Our galley kitchen was built as an addition to the house right before Nick and I bought it. We have a large dining room next to our kitchen (remember when we added board and batten), but we eat most of our meals at the small eat-in-kitchen table.


Our kitchen is cozy – about 200 square feet – but has lots of windows and feels light and airy despite its small size. Since the space was built new, everything in it was too; having new cabinets, counter tops and appliances means we haven’t had to do much to it, other than make it our own.

For awhile now, Nick and I have been wanting to add some personality and character to this room, since it felt rather boxy and boring, and we figured a tile backslash was an easy upgrade.

*I took these photos the night before the project began, and we’d already pushed the stove away from the wall…it’s not usually floating in the middle of our kitchen 🙂


Earlier this year I blogged about hiring an electrician to help with a few electrical projects around the house (the majority of our home is wired in old cloth covered wiring, which isn’t grounded and can be tricky connecting to modern wiring). At the time, I mentioned that the electrician finished the wiring behind a blank plate in our kitchen, which we had upgraded into a USB outlet for our iPad (aka our modern recipe box) since we have six other plugs on the wall.

I didn’t mention it at the time, but the electrician also disabled the wiring of a phone jack, so we could cover the the box with tile (we haven’t had a landline for a decade and it was just cluttering up the wall!).


With that prep work done, we turned our attention to tile selection. Because our kitchen is small and already has dark marble counter tops, we decided to go with a lighter, brighter color tile. After visiting several tile stores, we narrowed our choices down to two: white and an off-white bone. We eventually settled on white; and while that sounds very boring, it’s bright and clean and reflects light well and that really helps make small rooms feel larger. Plus, decorating trends and color preferences frequently change, but white never goes out of style!

The majority of tile sold in stores is a standard  3 x 6 inches. Given the petite size of our kitchen, we chose a slightly smaller and more contemporary 2  x  4 in. ceramic subway tile.

After choosing the tile color, we turned our attention to the grout. Nick and I were concerned that white tiles with matching white grout would be a real contrast to our dark granite counter tops.

white-subway-tile-decorating-22Pinterest provided lots of inspiration, and Nick and I agreed be both wanted the grout to stand out more with a contrasting grout color.  We contemplated a much darker grout, which is a style I love and is very popular right now, but it’s a very modern look and it felt too bold in our historic home.


We eventually settled on a light neutral grey grout. The grey color highlights the pattern and layout of the white tile, but its not overly contrasting and offers a more traditional look that blends in well with the rest of our home.


We considered attempting this project by ourselves, but the perfectionist in both of us won out and we decided to hire it out to a professional. We bought all of the supplies ourselves and only paid a few hundred dollars for the work, which was finished in two days. It was completely worth it (especially since all of our cabinets have under-mount lighting and any flaws would have been very noticeable).

*Our tile installer was unsure about using the grey grout and caulk, and I honestly questioned our decision for a hot second, but we trusted our instincts and went with the plan. When the job was finished, the tiler was surprised by how much he liked it, which made us very happy!




It was Nick’s idea to take the tiles all the way up the wall to the ceiling around the main kitchen window, and it turned out to be one of my favorite features of the project.


I’m very happy with how the white tile backsplash ties in with the sink and think its a good contrast to the darker counters. Overall we are very pleased with the results.

I’ll be back soon with a few more updates we made to the kitchen before sharing the final room reveal.

The Best Quarter I Ever Spent

I have two more projects to share and then I’ll be done with my bathroom update.

After I updated the door of my bathroom cabinet by replacing the slats with a more modern looking flat panel, I also needed to tackle the inside to organize and add more storage to the bathroom.


Our house has three bathrooms and not a single one has a pull-out drawer! Having only vertical storage available to us presents some challenges and means we have to make the best use of our medicine cabinets, under sink storage, and shelves. The cabinet in my bathroom has three nice shelves, but its especially hard to organize given that it’s very long and narrow at 1 foot wide by 2.5 feet long.

I made only a few small changes, but they’ve really made a difference in keeping the closet more organized. On my top shelf, I store our body towels, so not much needed to be done there. The middle shelf is where I store my hair care and bottles.


One of the most frustrating things in my cabinet was this small vase that held my hair brushes. This was probably the sixth cup I’ve tried using over the years – everything was either too tall, and I had to tip the cup over to get the brushes out, or too short and wide and every time I reached into the cabinet I knocked one of the brushes out.


I had an aha moment when I was finishing my previous project papering the inside of the new door.

The conversation in my head went something like this: “These gold clothes pins are great…I wish I could pin my hair brushes in these, but that would never work…I wonder if my brushes even have holes at the end to hang them…oh my goodness my brushes have holes at the end, I’M GOING TO HANG THEM!”


The very next day Nick and I made the trip to the hardware store, where we spent $.25 on two gold screws that Nick drilled into the side wall. I can’t believe it took me four years to come up with such a simple solution, but I’m telling you it makes a world of difference, and I no longer want to throw my brushes across the room.

Brushes I also had an aha moment when it came to storing my hair dryer. A few years ago I had a blow dryer flame after the power cord frayed from wrapping it around the dryer too many times.  The event scared me enough to stop wrapping the cord, but every time I pulled that darn thing out of my cabinet the power cord dragged several other things with it. After I stayed in a hotel earlier this year, where the blowdryer was hanging from the door in a bag, I got the idea to sew a simple drawstring bag for my own dryer using leftover fabric. Another super simple solution that has worked out so well!
Dryer bag

Another problem I solved was storing my face cleansing wipes, which never seemed to stay in one place. So I bought a basic black mail organizer and spray painted it gold, and then Nick attached the whole thing to the wall with a small screw. It does a great job preventing my shelves from turning into a jumbled mess in a few weeks.

MakeupwipesFor a cohesive look, I also recovered all of my storage boxes in the same gold patterned paper as the door.

That’s one more thing off my to-do list for the project:

Step into my Closet

(I’m still working on updates to my bathroom, but in the meantime I wanted to share pictures from a closet project that Nick and I tackled before this blog was created.)

I’ve mentioned it before that our 1920s home seriously lacks closet space. In fact, we don’t have a single closet on the main level of our house (we installed coat hooks near the front door for guests, but Nick’s and my coats hang in a closet on our upper level).

When we first moved into our house, the master bedroom was especially lacking in closet space. It had only one closet, a tiny 3-foot wide space situated above the hall stairwell. You might recognize this closet from another post, when we moved the closet rod further from the bi-fold door to make it more functional. Today, we use this closet for hanging longer items (dresses and pants)…but back then it was not suitable for two people with an appreciation for clothing. 


All of my hanging clothes ended up in the bedroom next door (what’s now my craft room/office), but that closet is incredibly narrow – so narrow that it can’t accommodate a standard-sized hanger, so we had to temporarily remove the doors and replace them with a curtain. Since that closet is useless for hanging clothes, we eventually installed shelves and turned it into shoe and purse storage, which I’ve also shown a few times before. 

Luckily, our master bedroom had an attached under the eaves closet space. Because of its odd dimensions, we’d planned to use it for storage and not much else.

The photo below is very old (from before we moved into the house), but it shows where this space is from outside…it’s literally over our front porch!


Here’s where the closet is located inside our master bedroom (obviously, this photo is old too and from before we moved in).


While the space is decent sized (at 5 ft deep x 13 ft long) it has a steep angled ceiling that measures only about 5’5″ at the tallest point.


I can stand in the entry of the closet, but Nick’s only option is to duck down when he steps inside. While this was far from an ideal closet space, it seemed like our only option.

The first thing we did was carpet the unfinished wood floor. Then we started planning out the closet for hanging space. We knew one long closet rod across the entire 13′ span wouldn’t work since the weight would surely bend the rod over time, so we researched dozens of options, such as movable garment racks, angled ceiling closet rod brackets and wood shelving systems.

We  eventually decided that the best way to divide the space was with a small dresser in the middle for support and then attaching rods to each side wall. But we needed a dresser in the perfect dimensions. 

I spent hours and hours searching online and eventually realized the perfect height dresser didn’t exist. A few weeks later, I came across an article about building shelving units out of galvanized plumbing pipe and realized it was the perfect solution for us…


We found a dresser that was closest to our desired width aka very shallow (for the curious, it’s the Hemnes Chest from the children’s department at Ikea, which we bought for $100 and is no longer available). 

modern-kids-dressersWe then purchased a 12′ length of galvanized pipe at Home Depot and had it cut it to size and re-threaded. The pipe and all the fittings cost less than $25. From there it was easy to secure the pipe fittings into the side wall with heavy screws and onto the top of the dresser to give us the extra height we needed so our clothes wouldn’t drag and wrinkle (the fittings were spray painted to match the dresser color, but I didn’t paint the entire bar because I thought the hangers would eventually scrape it off).

We also added some shelving units at each end of the closet for folded clothes, and hung peg board for Nick’s ties and my jewelry and scarves. (Sorry for the poor quality photos, it’s a tight space to photograph, and even harder with that bright overhead light).



Even after three years, this setup continues to work well for us, and the galvanized steel pipes are holding up and not at all bowing.

So, it’s a tight space and by no means anyone’s dream closet, but it’s fully functional, only cost us a few hundred dollars, and makes a huge difference in our daily routine.

Here’s what the closet looks like from outside the door…


And a view from across the room…


So what do you think of our closet solution; can you think of any other way to have made it work?

P.S. Industrial pipe has recently become an urban trend (check out these West Elm curtain rods), and I like to think Nick and I were ahead of it. 🙂