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oh Winona

30 September 2013

So, last we talked, I had a 7 month baby bump and newly finished kitchen backsplash tile. Now that baby is 9 months old and run-crawling around our 900SF house!  What happened? I’m pretty sure all I did between then and now was blink.

well, that and change diapers….

but I digress.

We learned a bit ago that this lovely little house that we’ve called home for the past 4 years actually has a proper name – and that name is “Winona”.

[pause for you to think about how adorable that is]

Well, actually, it is THE Winona.


Yup, our home was purchased in 1930 from the Sears Catalogue for a mere $1,742.00.

It’s actually quite a fascinating subject. [or is that just the two architects in this house talking?] The homes were a mail-order, kit-of-parts that included everything from pre-cut/labelled studs, floor joists, and roof rafters, to the exact number of paint cans needed to paint the house from top to bottom. The kit was typically shipped via train and was either built by the family who purchased it, or local builders. My favorite line in the catalogue page above is “The Porch measures 24 feet by 8 feet. The family, especially the children, will enjoy the porch throughout the good weather months.”

Thank you, Sears – yes, we do!

We’ve had our suspicions that our home was a kit home, and finally received confirmation of this when Joey happened across professional photographers setting up outside our home one weekday afternoon. They were collecting images from all of the kits homes around Raleigh to be featured in an exhibit at the Raleigh City Museum downtown. The homes were also the subject of a lecture given by Rosemary Thornton, a writer who has devoted many years to researching and studying kit homes across America.

The story was also featured on NPR’s The State of Things last year. 

We were unable to attend the lecture, but did make it down to the opening night of the exhibit.

winona exhibit

Considering the differing states of disarray our house has been in, on and off, during the past four years, I think we were actually looking pretty good at the time the [unannounced] photographs were taken.

Luckily, I am in complete control of when the interior photos are taken.

winona floor plan

We first fell in love with our house because it is full of original charm and has a fantastically efficient floor plan. The nine-foot ceilings provide relief when the square footage might otherwise feel tight.  The only alterations to the plan since 1930 include small modernizations – the addition of a utility room and a HVAC chase in a bedroom closet. I just love that a house designed and built over 80 years ago still works for the modern family in 2013. [you know, minus the piano…]

Two of my favorite original features of this house are the sideboard in the dining room and built-in medicine cabinet in the bath.


Truly though, I could probably store gnomes in that sideboard and it would still be beautiful.


The medicine cabinet might seem like an odd feature to take notice of, but I just love the trim work paired with the beadboard walls. The shelf we added takes it up a notch as well.  These are the kinds of details that make an otherwise ordinary space feel special.

If I piqued your interest enough to click the link above, you might notice a few other things that look different in our bathroom. Can you name them all??

everyday I’m tilin’

7 October 2012

I guess I should clarify that when I say “I,” it really means Joey….

Since this project commenced during the early parts of my first trimester, I was beyond useless [aka.asleep]. But hey, at least I got some pictures of the process, right? That’s a victory in my book.

Last you saw our kitchen, we had some tile backer up on the backsplash between the countertops and the upper cabinets. This is the same stuff that went down below our floor tile a while back.

Joey set up camp in the back yard with his tailgate tent and a borrowed tile saw. [thanks Charlie!]

Since the process of laying wall tile is painfully similar to laying floor tile [which I wrote extensively about here], I won’t bore you with the repetitive details. We’ll focus on the few differences, and move right on to the after photos. That’s why you’re here anyways, right?!

Since we still had some leftover supplies from the floor tiling, we began the wall tile with the same x type spacers we had used before. [If you squint, you might be able to see them at the corners of each tile in this picture below.]

They worked great for our 12″ x 24″ floor tile. But once we started using them on the wall, we discovered that they are NOT the way to go for our 2″ x 4″ backsplash tile. Our tile did come with a mesh backer [which made it a sheet of 21 tiles], but this offered no real support when it came to resisting the Earth’s gravitational pull. The tile was slipping down and closing all the grout joint gaps, so the only immediate solution was to have a ton more of those spacers at each joint – which meant we immediately ran out of them.

Plan B? Remove the tile and scrape away the thinset on the wall behind it. Tile is just not one of those things that’s easy to fix later, so it’s better to just know when to call it and start over again.

After another quick shopping trip, Joey was able to determine that “T spacers” are actually the way to go on wall tile. As you can see in the picture below, you just shove one of those spacers into each T joint of the running bond pattern and you are good to go. Notice how we also placed a thin spacer along the bottom edge of the tile to hold it up off the counter top too. This joint will be caulked at the end so that these materials can move independently of each other. If that caulk joint wasn’t there, you’d likely end up with cracked grout and/or tile if and when things move [they always do].

much better!

Now, just keep going…

Next up – grout. Not much about this is different from the floor tile except for one pretty major thing. Since we chose to use glass tile on our backsplash rather than a ceramic tile, we had to make sure our grout was un-sanded. If the grout you use on glass tile has sand in it, it will scratch the face of the glass tile as you smear it on and wipe it off.

As I’ve mentioned before, the goal with the grout is to get more than enough into each space between the tiles. It’s much easier to take away excess grout during the smoothing/wiping process, rather than adding more once it’s all dry. Actually, it’s impossible to add to once it’s dry because the new grout wouldn’t bond to the cured grout. Thus, it’s all the more important to take your time and get it right the first time. That seems to be a common theme in tiling, no?

Once it was all cleaned up, here’s how it looked.

ta da!!

It’s a good thing Joey usually doesn’t see the pictures I decide to post until AFTER I hit publish…

The last step was to caulk around the bottom edge where the tile meets the counter and the top edge where the tile meets the upper cabinets. Tile stores sell colored caulk to match their grout selections, so it’s something to keep in mind when you are shopping for supplies. Since our grout is “Arctic white,” the color match on the caulk is pretty good. I’d have my doubts about the ability to color match had we picked a grout color other than white.

Once the grout was in, we had a pretty good looking kitchen – if I do say so myself!

and because no post would be complete without a baby update, here is one of September’s monthly baby bump photos.

Happy weekend, everyone!


27 July 2012

Hello, July!

Ummm really?! where did April, May and June go?

Don’t let my internet silence make you think that things have slowed down one bit here in Raleigh. In fact, they have only gotten crazier.

For starters, I was recruited for – and began – a new job in March and April! I worked for almost a year at the same design-build firm as Joey, but now work for a different design-build firm in Durham, NC. I have really enjoyed seeing a completely different style of design-build process. There aren’t too many firms doing this type of work, but I think it is where Joey and I have found our niche. Both firms focus primarily on residential design – something we both love. I miss seeing Joey intermittently throughout the day and our daily lunch dates at home with Gracie, but I know the experience I am gaining through this new job will be crucial in my career development. That makes the 25 mile commute more tolerable!  I recently had my website photo taken, so keep an eye out for yours truly to grace the “About us” page. Miss Gracie will even get some screen time on the website as well!

The transition and adjustment to the new job’s schedule took a toll on me during those first few weeks. I was EXHAUSTED! I think I even told Joey at one point that I thought my new job was killing me… (a little dramatic, I know!)

Turns out, it wasn’t only my newly elongated working hours that was making me so exhausted. This little guy or gal may have had something to do with it…

That’s right! Casa Fante will be growing by one (only one) this December!

Joey and I couldn’t be more thrilled about this news and are already counting down the weeks until we get to meet our little munchkin!

As for me, aside from complete exhaustion during my first trimester, I have felt great. Everyone who knows me, knows I love me some sleep, so even the exhaustion wasn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. Joey has been so far beyond helpful and supportive that words cannot even describe it. He’s cooked, he’s cleaned, he’s kept up house projects, joined all of our appointments – seriously, amazing. When I lay down at night, I look over and thank the Lord for giving me a man who loves me so completely, and for the gift of this child we have together. It truly has been such an amazing process so far.

Over the past couple weeks, I have started to feel the little baby movements inside me and Joey actually was able to feel a big ninja kick last week! Feeling the baby and seeing my belly expanding has definitely made this whole “we’re pregnant” thing a million times more real.

I am officially past the halfway mark at this point and so thankful for this little miracle that we are witnessing grow everyday. Can’t wait to meet you in December, little one!

Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court. Psalm 127

one year old

19 March 2012

Since all we seem to be doing is painting these days, I figured I would take a break and talk about something else for a change.

You’re welcome.

Our sweet niece, Ella, turned one at the end of last month. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it has already been a year since her birth.

We headed up to Joey’s sister’s family’s new apartment in Old Town Alexandria – right outside of Washington D.C. for a weekend of celebration.

We took the eastern route up to D.C. in hopes of dodging a huge band of storms coming across North Carolina and Virginia. We caught the northern most part of the storm, but it was all worth it once the rain ceased, the clouds broke, and this sunset appeared.

While we were there, we stayed at a friend’s apartment a few blocks away from the action. [thanks Lauren!] It was the perfect setup for this aunt who was still trying to finish up her niece’s birthday present the day of the party… It also meant that Joey and I had several picturesque morning and afternoon strolls to meet up with the rest of the group.

We made it to Ella’s apartment.

[house numbers changed to protect the innocent – thank you, photoshop]

We ate our Saturday lunch at a fun restaurant in the heart of Old Town Alexandria named Columbia Firehouse. As the name suggests, the space was a converted firehouse and we ate in an area that seemed like it would’ve held the firetruck quite nicely. If you are ever in the area, you should check it out – the food and drink were delicious.

Our birthday girl made a friend all the way across the restaurant, so she and him continued to talk back and forth to each other off and on throughout our meal. Our tables were probably the only ones who thought it was cute.

The afternoon consisted of cake baking, decorating, present opening, and eventually cake EATING. Laura used my mother’s cake recipe, so I was especially looking forward to the indulgence.

Sunday morning, we had a lovely brunch at La Madeleine and eventually wandered back to our host’s place to say our goodbyes.

It was a quick weekend trip, but we had a great time walking around Alexandria and spending time with Ella. She is becoming more and more interactive every time we see her, so it’s fun to see how much she’s changed between visits.

Happy Birthday sweet girl! You are loved more than you know.

is there even anything left to paint?

11 March 2012

Apparently so!

Raise your hand if you are sick of seeing us paint.

[If you’re wondering, I’m raising my hand…]

I don’t think I even showed you the front of our house with the siding up top all done and painted. Well, here it is for anyone that is still interested!

It may not be 100% complete, but it’s a far cry better than what we started with.

in my opinion, at least…

Since we are going down Memory Lane, let’s compare some more photos – just cause it’s fun and makes me feel accomplished! :)

Here’s the kitchen now

and here’s what we were dealing with when we moved in.

the living room has come a long way too

I loved our house when we bought it, but good grief it has come a long way in almost 3 years!

Ok, we can now go back to talking about the never-ending painting projects at our house…

A couple of weekends ago, Joey decided that he was going to tackle the front porch ceiling. There were so many layers of paint on that old ceiling, that the bead board was almost disappearing. Plus, there’s something not so comforting about eating dinner under flaking paint…

Joey scraped and scraped and eventually rigged up two heat guns on a 2×4 so that his arms didn’t fall off.

After a few days of hard work, he had the entire ceiling ready for paint.

I kinda like the way this looks all scraped down to the raw wood.

But I REALLY love the way it looks freshly painted in Benjamin Moore’s “Summer Showers”.

Have you heard about painting your porch ceilings blue? If you live around older homes, take a look next time you pass one. There are deep historical roots to blue porch ceilings. While there may be several theories as to its origins, my favorite is the “extension of the sky” theory. Although, I wouldn’t mind a few less mosquitos this summer…

steel-ing the show

21 January 2012

Last time I told you about our kitchen, we were getting rid of our old, red VCT tile, and installing our new floor tile.

During the rest of the summer, we moved to outside projects – like finishing the installation of our hardie board sidingpainting, painting, and more painting.

Our kitchen to-do list remained in the back of my head – tile the backsplash, paint the walls, and buy new appliances. So when Joey and I both heard a radio ad for a tax-free weekend AND an extra 10% off Energy Star appliances at Lowes, we knew it was time to buy.

We were in the market for a new range and a new refrigerator, since both were old and white. They were bringing the look of our nice kitchen down for sure. Our house didn’t come with a fridge, and since we had just acquired a large amount of debt, I scoured Craigslist for a temporary fridge until we got around to buying new appliances. I ended up finding a developer who was renovating an old apartment complex and selling everything inside. I wish I had snapped a picture, but you can imagine about 30 refrigerators and 20 stoves in the front yard of the complex. Very classy :)  We were one of the first few people there, and got to watch a few guys pressure wash all the appliances with a bleach solution. [thank goodness] A lot of them were dinged and scratched, but luckily, we were able to find one that looked pretty good. Since a lot of them were the same brand, we might have even scavenged some of the other refrigerators for the best shelves, drawers, and racks. [you snooze, you lose, people!] We’re lucky we got there when we did though, because an appliance repair man showed up and wanted to buy every appliance in the yard. I told him he could buy all except for ours and luckily, everyone laughed and agreed. Pretty soon, we had our new [to us] fridge in its new home.

So yeah, all that to say we brought home a very basic fridge for $75 and it was a great stand-in for the past two years. But, the time had come for us to move on. [it’s not you, it’s us]

We weren’t really picky about the brand of appliances we wanted to get, so we just went to the store and looked around. Our microwave is a Samsung, and our dishwasher is a GE, so really, our new appliances could be whatever we found the best deal on.

Being the designers that we are, we were of course instantly attracted to the sleek, professional look of this Samsung gas range.

The use of stainless steel in the design of this range takes it far beyond the plastic-y look of the other ranges in this price range. We also found a great deal on a Samsung refrigerator perfect for the space we had available in the corner of our kitchen.

We opted for a french door/bottom freezer model. Since we use the fridge on a more regular basis, it is definitely nice to have the freezer on the bottom and the fridge contents at eye level. No more forgetting about the potatoes hiding in the bottom drawer.

We scheduled our delivery and about two weeks later, had the delivery truck outside our house.

woo hoo! look at that awesome stove.

and my favorite part – peeling the plastic!

Let’s not forget about the fridge – so fancy!

Here’s the range in its new home as well.

See how nicely it goes with our microwave? We were definitely excited about that.

Of course, a little bit of prep work had to go into getting our kitchen ready for these appliances. We were switching from an electric range to a gas range and our new freezer had an ice maker. [oh the joys of modern appliances!]

We had a professional run the gas line for us. Our furnace is gas-fueled, so he just had to tee off the existing line in our basement. Joey was able to run a water line himself though.

This next picture doesn’t show the finished water line – it is off center which is why you can see the edge of the drywall on the right. But, I didn’t take another picture before Joey got it hooked up and covered over with the fridge.

Here, you should insert the picture of the gas line that I forgot to take. Please don’t be like me.

ahhh – how beautiful is that?!

a bathroom storage upgrade

7 January 2012

oh my….

did I really let 2 months slip by without a blog post?! no worries – it’s not for a lack of projects! consider yourself warned. :)

remember back in September when I told you about our rather dingy bathroom?

and then I showed you how we scraped, patched and painted practically EVERY surface – eventually getting to here?

[sorry for the weirdly yellow night picture – I am still learning my camera]

Well, all that work left us with a pretty bathroom but even LESS storage than we had before! We had a crummy towel rack/shelf system at the end of the tub [the same wall that the door is on in the picture above] but that came down and went straight to the trash. It wasn’t even worth donating sadly… and notice my hairdryer in a basket on top of the toilet? yeah, that was less than ideal.

I shared some inspiration pictures before on how I thought we could deal with our storage situation.

from here

from here

from here

I really loved the storage ledges in the first two inspiration images. We didn’t even have anywhere for guests to place a hairbrush or razor or bobby pin! Unfortunately, on top of the toilet tank was the best option – yikes!

I also really loved the clean lines and look of the floating shelves in the third inspiration image.

So we did our own version of both!

Our house doesn’t have any frilly details, so we chose to just keep that ledge board crisp and clean across the top of the wainscoting rather than add trim/moulding. Joey did an excellent job making sure the ledge was seamless with the bottom shelf of the medicine cabinet. See, in the third picture of this post, there is a small window sill-type ledge at the base of the medicine cabinet? Joey cut that back so that our seam where the new ledge met the old medicine cabinet sill would be covered by the closed cabinet door. [you know, in case it looked terrible]

I get really antsy when we start demolishing things in our house – which is probably why I stayed away and didn’t take any progress pictures.

anyone notice where I am standing/sitting to get this shot? [hint: look at the bottom left corner of the picture above]

While we’re here, I’ll show you the new shower shelf to my left.

I just love all the added storage space we were able to get with just 3 shelves. [no more hairdryer on the toilet! no more digging through the guest bedroom closet to find more toothpaste!]

PS. How perfect are those baskets?! I breezed through the baskets section at Michael’s while I was picking up some picture frames for Christmas presents this year and they had ALL their baskets at 50% off. I think I paid $12.50 for each. And since all of our shelves were made from scrap wood from old projects, the only money we spent on this project was for paint and new bathroom hardware. We got the double towel bar and toilet paper holder from Lowes and opted for simple hooks to hold the hand towels. Not too shabby if you ask me.

I am so thrilled with the way everything turned out. Of course, there are still a few tweaks that we still need to work on – but that’s how we roll. Here’s hoping this weekend is a productive one!

oh yeah, and HAPPY NEW YEAR, friends!