The Southside RAK Great Room Reveal is here! It's been a 4 month transformation that at times felt so bleak, but we made it through (mostly) and the results are so satisfying and beautiful! Huge, giant props to my DIY handyman extraordinaire of a husband, Ryan! None of this could have been possible without him. While I loved designing the overall look, appearance, and functionality of it all; Ryan was the one to really make my visions come to life. He was the one to figure out how to install a fireplace from scratch and build its own cabinet. He learned how to wire lighting and install new fixtures and fans. He installed the beautiful kitchen cabinets and the sink plus did all the intense prep work for the concrete countertops and helped mix and pour them. He was also the one who laid the entire floor in just two days so we could have a Christmas party at our house. I know I’m very blessed with a talented husband who is motivated and determined and sacrifices a lot to make our house the perfect home I never want to leave! So thank you, Ryan!
So, let’s get started.... what is a Great Room you ask? I have watched endless amounts of HGTV but never knew what a Great Room was or rather never knew it was called that until I started listening to one of my now favorite podcasts (that sadly has ended) called the Chris Loves Julia podcast. A Great Room is what you call an open living space that is comprised of your Kitchen, Dining Room and Living Room.
Since the very first day we walked through our house with our realtor back in August 2015, I told Ryan that I wanted to knock down the walls that separated all of those rooms and redo the wood floor. Even though we had the same real wood parquet flooring that is in the iconic Friend’s apartment, it just had to go. Plus our kitchen was straight up from the 1960’s with a weird and super dark cabin in the alps vibe to it. So the next 3 years were torture for me because I knew we didn't have the money to do what we wanted yet and I had to wait. But the waiting certainly paid off!
Initially this was supposed to only be a project that consisted of knocking down the walls and redoing the floors and we were going to save the kitchen for another time however as we proceeded, plans changed- surprise surprise. Once we knocked down the walls, we put in beams to be safe. The walls we removed technically weren't load-bearing but we wanted to be cautious, plus we both love the look of beams so we decided to keep them in. As we installed the beams, we ended up needing to mess with the kitchen's drop ceiling so we decided to take the whole ceiling out of the kitchen. However, we then realized we should probably take the soffit down ,which is that dry wall block that connects the upper cabinets to the ceiling so we could redo the whole ceiling at once. That led to us wanting to change out our cabinets and the in-wall oven that attached to the uppers which attached to the soffit so we could get a new range that actually worked properly. One thing led to another and we found ourselves or rather we found our good friend Luke taking a sledge hammer to the entire kitchen! One thing always leads to another when renovating! It’s a slippery slope, people!
So here are 6 lessons we learned while renovating:
1. You will ALWAYS need MORE time and MORE money than you think you will!
That’s pretty much a no brainer but if you’re like me, you are optimistic and naive and want to believe it isn’t true. But there we were at the end of September now renovating our entire kitchen while hoping to maintain our initial goal which was to get everything done by Thanksgiving so we could host our family dinner. But with all this extra work, it wasn't looking promising. I remembered a friend came over one time to help us with some electrical work and I was telling him how I was going to get my sink in by Thanksgiving and he laughed and said that when he was renovating his kitchen, he lived without the sink for 3 months. I gawked at that and thought it would never take that long. How wrong I was! I didn't get a kitchen sink until 3.5 months later on Christmas Eve! But what a Christmas gift to me =)
It's important to set realistic expectations. During the main part of our renovation, Ryan was working full time and doing grad school full time so he could only work on weekends. I was also working part time plus my full time business which was getting busier and busier the closer it got to Christmas.
While goals are really great and keep you motivated so projects don't last for years on end; they can also get you really down when you don't meet them. Always plan on everything going wrong and taking more time and more money than you planned. Ryan's Eeyore sounding refrain throughout the whole remodel was "Nothing can ever be easy". Poor guy.
If you ever have watched one of my all time fave TV shows, Fixer Upper, you know how it was common to have Joanna ask the homeowners for an additional several thousand. It's just how it goes a lot of the time unfortunately. You always run into problems that cost more money than you budgeted. I have heard that you should always add 15% more of your budget for all the unexpected expenses and problems you will more than likely run into. Because we ended up doing the kitchen, we needed to remove the pellet stove which meant we had to buy a a natural gas fireplace since the pellet stove was our main source of heat. Because of all this we went over budget by a lot but there weren’t any major problems we ran into so I am thankful for that.
But it’s also all the little things you don’t think of costing money that you forget to budget in like how Ryan had to rebuild the window in our kitchen and buy a bunch of wood to put in a new beam because it was a supporting wall. Plus all the nails and screws and face masks, oh my! It adds up!
2. When to Hire Out: Demo and Hanging Dry Wall Ceiling
While it's fun to slam a hammer, the mess was a nightmare cleaning up. I can’t tell you how many trips I made out to the garage which has become our current dumpster. I hauled tons of old dry wall and 2x4’s and pieces of the drop ceiling and old insulation and so much more! And then having to load up the hugest Uhaul we could get and having it stuffed to the brim so we could take it all to the dump. It was definitely one of the worst times. And now our garage is full again so we have another Uhaul run to look forward to in the next month.
Another memory I’m not so fond of is hanging the dry wall ceiling and sanding all the dry wall. We had so many holes for our lights that we had to cut out and fit perfectly. I remember Ryan and our friend, Julian taking probably 2 hours on just fitting one section of the ceiling properly.
If you have the money just hire someone to demo everything, get rid of it all and hang any ceilings you need to hang. There is no shame in hiring things out! Sometimes I wish we did and now know for the future.
Oh and hiring an electrician is also a good idea if you’re not willing to mess up several hundred times and have some serious patience! We are thankful that my brother in-law Nate Ingalls helped us a bit and also our friend, Stephen. But there were definitely frustrating times for Ryan when he couldn’t figure out why a switch wouldn’t connect to a certain light, etc. We actually still have a little electrical issue in our living room that hopefully Ryan will be able to figure out someday soon! All in all I am so proud of Ryan for sticking with it and figuring out how to do all that electrical stuff. He had some great mentors too along the way!
3. Drywall Dust is your worst enemy and It’s Okay to Cry
The worst part of the entire remodel and renovation was the dry wall sanding and even more than that the dry wall dust that got EVERYWHERE. Again, me being naive, didn’t think the dust from our kitchen would travel all the way into my studio so I didn’t think to shut the door while Ryan used his orbital sander. What a mistake that was. Dry wall dust was literally on every single thing in my studio including all my products and it was on the rest of the house besides our bathroom and bedroom. It caused one of my many breakdowns. Thankfully my mom came shortly after and helped me clean up some of it.
So the lesson I learned is to be prepared for dust to get onto everything and make sure to shut every single door and hang plastic every where possible. When we went to sand our DIY Concrete countertops, I put plastic EVERYWHERE and as my brother in law sanded I followed him with our giant shop vac so the dust went right into the shop vac. It was a genius idea that Ryan had. Unfortunately some dust still got onto everything. So just be prepared that no matter what you do, you can’t escape the DUST!
4. Plan your permanent layouts far in advance and really think them through!
This was a problem for us because we didn't think we were going to be redoing our kitchen until we just started doing it. Obviously I had 3 years of dreaming up my future kitchen but logistically thinking about the spacing of the cabinets and how far out the island was going to be and how far to hang the pendant lights apart from each other and what they should be centered on were things I hadn’t really thought about before. So we didn't really fully plan as we probably should have.
There are two big secret mess-ups I will let you all in on. One was that when we first decided to renovate the kitchen we bought the cheapest unfinished cabinets we could from Lowes without doing a ton of research because we wanted to keep costs down and thought how we could just upgrade in the future. Well when we hauled them all home by ourselves with our friend Luke using his dad’s friend’s random truck and trailer and got them all in to our home; our brother in law came over and looked at them and told us they were literally crap and wouldn’t last long at all plus we had bought a couple that actually wouldn’t fit the way we thought they would. So we ended up taking them all back. Ryan is still embarrassed thinking about that day when we brought them back in the Uhaul to Lowes. He made me speak to the customer service employee, haha. It was pretty embarrassing but I am glad that is all behind us now. So my brother in law who owns A&J’s Window’s and Doors came over and helped us pick out MUCH NICER cabinets and convinced us we should just do the kitchen the right way now and offered a payment plan that allowed for us to get the nicer cabinets. He also helped us make sure we got the right size for the layout we thought was best. But then I realized our plan wasn’t the most functional when it came time to pouring the concrete countertops. I asked my sister Bethany to come over to help me figure it out and explained my thoughts to her. She was the best on bouncing design ideas off of throughout the whole process. So the original plan was to put this little connecting concrete side bar in front of the window on top of corbels and thought someone could sit there and then 2 people could sit at the island. So we planned our pendants on that idea and were going to have 3 matching pendants to the 3 seats below and cut the ceiling dry wall out for that layout. But now I realized after the fact that maybe it wouldn’t be functional to have someone sitting with their back to everyone else plus 3 pendants all next to each other forming an “L” probably would look silly and Bethany agreed.
The second mess up is two fold. Now we have a hole/electrical box in our ceiling above the window where a pendant was supposed to go so we just covered it up for now. It’s annoying though because that piece of drywall took us forever to hang because it was a nightmare getting all the dry wall holes to fit the electrical boxes. In addition if we could go back we would have liked to have put another recessed light in to match the other task lights on the left side now that a 3rd pendant isn’t going there. But oh well. Secondly now that we weren’t doing the 3rd pendant, the 2 remaining pendants looked off center and were too far over on the left of the island. So I convinced Ryan that we should bring the island countertop to hang off on the left side as well as the front so it would make the lights centered. So that is why it overhangs in front and on the side. It was initially supposed to just overhang in front. We do plan on putting posts underneath the overhang on the side of the island though to make it look more intentional.
So the lesson is really plan your kitchen layout out before you hang and cut out the dry wall ceiling to fit the spots for the recessed/task lighting and any other lighting you put in!
The planning part of a renovation or remodel is really important and I never realized how important until I wanted a kitchen sink so badly. You need to plan knowing that there is a certain order in which things need to be done. I think it would have helped me if I had known and was prepared ahead of time.My example of this that we couldn’t put our kitchen sink in until the concrete countertops were mixed, poured, cured and sealed but you couldn’t do any of that until all the dry wall is up, mudded, sanded and painted and we couldn’t finish all the painting until we replaced one of the windows and we couldn’t replace the window until the pellet stove was moved which sat in front of the window and we couldn’t move the pellet stove until we could put in our fireplace (so we didn’t freeze) but we couldn’t put in our fireplace until the pipes were connecting to the gas line which we needed a plumber to do. Keep reading to find out how we got a plumber to do this on such short notice when our other one backed out. But anyways, you get my point. It all has to happen in an order and knowing that order when you begin will save you lots of frustrations!
5. Understand Color Theory
I feel like our walls look green sometimes now. I researched a ton on white paint colors. Did you know how many different shades of white there are, and how they all look different in different lighting or next to different decor, etc?! Well I landed on Simply White by Benjamin Moore. I specifically picked it because it has a warmer hue to it and is a bit more creamy. Since all my walls were going to be white, I didn’t want it feeling like a hospital by using the more true cooler white I had used in our bedroom, entry room and my studio. But the thing is Simply White has a green undertone which I didn’t realize until after I purchased the 4 cans of it. Thankfully paint is paint and I can always repaint down the road but I do wish I had sampled it more. Sometimes it is very hard to tell until it’s all done though but knowing Color Theory can help you avoid some pitfalls. You can listen to a whole episode on the Chris Loves Julia podcast about this. It’s so fascinating. I wish I had listened to it before I picked out paint colors!
Basically you need to know that if something has a green undertone then you want to make sure you don’t have any red around it unless you want that undertone to pop. Since green and red are complementary colors (they are exact opposites on the color wheel) when they are next to each other, they pop more. This is why when you have green eyes you want to wear reddish/burgundy hued eye shadow because it will bring your green eyes out more or you can wear red colored clothing for the same reason. So to make simply white look more true cream and less green-ish I need to decorate and accent with blues because blue is a contrasting color to green so that is what I plan to do. Also if something has a green undertone and you pair with something else that has the same undertone it can help make both things look more true in color and less green.
Which brings me to the flooring we chose. Many of you know that we went back and forth on flooring for forever. I am actually a very decisive person except when I am spending lots of money on something I know can’t be changed. It was one of the hardest things to choose and ultimately, I’ll be honest, I didn’t love what we chose but it’s growing on me. I wanted really light floors and Ryan wanted dark so we went with a medium and while I am not against medium, I am not a fan of the undertones of this medium. It was very hard to visualize this floor covering the whole space until it was done. We did buy a sample box of it initially but even that was hard to see it all. I think I will learn to love it and it is more or less a classic color that hopefully won’t go out of style but it definitely has a yellow undertone to it and I am not the biggest fan. Thankfully up against the simply white walls, it pulls the cream out instead of green so it helps there but it’s just too yellow. In addition another secret is that it is fake which I think is why I also don’t like it. BUT I am glad we went with Luxury Vinyl Plank. Everyone and their mother was telling us that LVP was the best of the best because it is waterproof and scratch resistant and much more affordable than real hardwood so really now that it is laid, I have no worries and no matter if we someday get a dog or have many children, I don’t have to worry about the floors getting damaged. However the repeating patterns make me sigh, haha. If we had more money we could have bought an LVP with more patterns but again I think it’s growing on me and really it was the least expensive LVP we could find from a small business. We really wanted to go with flooring from a local business as opposed to Lowes or Home Depot and I am really grateful we did. We can’t say enough good things about Endwell Rug Fair. They had really great customer service and the quality of this flooring is awesome. The employee who helped us (Shoutout to Jeff!) even got us in touch with a plumber (his dad!) who could help us out the next day when our other plumber didn’t work out. And as you know the whole project was waiting on a plumber coming so we are grateful that worked out. So that being said, I definitely recommend Jeff for flooring and his dad for plumbing! =)
Sidenote: The Chris Loves Julia podcast which I mentioned above, is soooo awesome and was super helpful to listen to all while renovating. Julia gives so many wonderful tips! I had so much fun listening to it while I was painting the walls and ceiling forever and a day among all the other odd jobs I was in charge of. Tere are a couple other small things I learned from Julia; another thing that helps with undertones is picking the right temperature for your light bulbs! I learned so much about the Kelvin scale and Lumens and how soft light verses day light . By the way the best number on the Kelvin scale is 2700 if you like warm tones but not too yellow! Another thing I learned is that you should always hang curtain rods as close to the ceiling as possible to help make the room look taller. And did you know that professionals say that curtain rods are to windows like eyeliner is to eyes. They should always be black! Anyways, there are so many great tips. Definitely check them out!
6. Give yourself breaks and keep other areas in your home clean for when you break!
It was so important for us to still have somewhat normalcy in our home so I made sure to clean up as much as I could after each part of the renovation. Even though our Great Room looked like garbage dump, I tried to keep our bedroom, the entry room and our office clean and organized even though most of them had totes of pots and pans everywhere. We made our entry room into a makeshift living room/dining room (picture to the left) so we could relax in another part of our home that wasn’t our bedroom. While I don’t mind eating in bed lol, I didn’t want every meal there. I am grateful we had that space which hopefully will be renovated in the future!
I may have been good about keeping things tidy and clean in the rooms not effected but I definitely wasn’t the best at taking breaks. We did always try to take a break to eat dinner and watch The Flash though. I think I will always associate the Flash with our renovation and our makeshift living room now which is a fun memory to have.
People have asked me during this process if Ryan and I will want to continue doing things like this- maybe for other people as part of some sort of side business and the answer is HECK NO, haha. At least maybe that's how we feel momentarily. I keep comparing it to how probably a new mom feels when someone asks her when she is going to have a second child. You don't even want to think about it at that moment and I think that's where we are now. It's too fresh. The torture of hanging dry wall ceiling, washing dishes in the bathtub, getting concrete mix everywhere, plus having a layer of dry wall dust on EVERY SINGLE THING still haunts us. I think it would be totally different though if we weren't living in the space we were renovating. If it could be a place that you lock up and leave at the end of the night and go home to a clean and comfy home, that would definitely be a different story. So if I could add one more lesson, that would be it. If you can avoid renovating at least the major stuff while living in that space, for the love of all good things, do it!!!
WHAT'S TO COME:
Baseboards and trim everywhere will be added shortly!
Kitchen: We will be adding floating shelves and a venthood above the range plus a subway tile backsplash. The range we just put in is a cheaper one that eventually will be moved into our apartment and we hope to get a much nicer one down the road for us. Ryan will also be building a rolling island for the center of the kitchen that will have a built in trash system with a butcher block countertop. When we have parties, I will roll it under the window on the opposite side of the island for easier access of the garbage and for more room! We also are still going back and forth about painting the kitchen cabinets. Initially we wanted white cabinets but then thought black would be super cool and more masculine for Ryan plus such a fun contrast. But now that the cabinets only could come in white and are installed, we are liking them! We will see. Maybe in a year or two, I'll paint them! I definitely don’t feel up to the task now. Stay tuned!
Dining Room: We still have yet to stain the beams! They will match the floating shelves in the Kitchen which will be a darker brown. Ryan is also going to build us a new dining table and we will get new chairs and an area rug to go underneath which will help me with not liking the floor so much. It will break up the space some more. I am also going to take my time figuring out where and how I want to hang up art everywhere. I want a thought-out, curated and collected feel instead of just putting stuff up to put it up. We also plan on changing the door in the dining room to one that is mainly all glass to help let more natural light in. Annnnd really down the road, we plan on changing that big dining room window into sliding doors that will go out onto a back deck! But that’s definitely years down the road. A girl can dream though, right!?
Living Room: Ryan will be making built ins on either side of the fireplace. Cabinets on the bottom to hide all the ugly DVDs and gaming systems/ cable box, etc. plus maybe future kid’s toys and shelves on top for pretty books and decor! We will also be laying brick (painting the brick white, obvi) for the fireplace and Ryan will be making a wooden mantle that will also match the beams! I'm toying with the idea of painting the wall/nook that the bigger sofa is up against, a deep matte charcoal/black! We will see. And someday we will be able to purchase a new sofa with an attached chaise lounge and a new complimentary loveseat! The day I don’t have hand me down sofas and slip covers will be glorious!
There is still so much left to do but we plan on taking our time and making it feel cozy, comfy, collected and curated! I’m sure our plans will change too over time but it feels nice to really make this house more into our home that we invested so much time into.
And if you’re still reading this, huge props to you!!! Thanks for sticking a long for the ride. We are grateful for all the friends and family who helped us along the way. Follow me on Insta to see updates and more behind the scene stuff as we continue to make our house a home!
Many thanks to:
Ryan’s dad and brother for helping us knock down the walls and put in the beams and to Ryan’s dad for always being a facetime call away to answer any questions and give tips and advise!
Luke Moran for literally helping almost every single weekend doing all the not so fun things except for slamming a sledge hammer into our walls and kitchen cabinets- that was fun. We are so appreciative and will certainly be there to help you renovate your future home!
My mom for helping me paint the whole great room! She is the best cutter inner and made the job go so much quicker!
My sister Bethany for helping me work through a lot of design problems and helped me make the hard decisions!
Justin Bailey for putting in the wall in our dining room!
Heather Bailey and her girls plus my sister, Amy and Terri for coming over and keeping me company!
Mark Miller for helping pour the concrete countertops! So thankful you happened to come over that fateful night!
Nate Ingalls and Stephen Novellano for helping with electrical stuff and to Stephen for selling us a natural gas fireplace at a really great price!
And last but not least to Dennis Kropp who made our kitchen reno the best it could be! For helping us pick out and install our cabinets, and giving us a great deal on them with a payment plan. He replaced the window in the kitchen so we could fit the countertops in. Plus gave us the idea of doing concrete countertops, helped in the ordering process of it all and did the work of mixing the concrete right in our kitchen, pouring it and leveling it. He stayed so late so many nights and we are forever grateful. Having concrete countertops is so freaking cool. They look amazing and dramatic but also give a natural and industrial vibe, they are cool to the touch just like real marble or quartz and have no seams plus they were cost efficient for a solid surface countertop! If you are looking into remodeling or renovating your kitchen, go to Dennis at A&J’s Windows and Doors. He’s the man!
Love you all XOXO -Kimmy