Our New Outdoor Living Room & Patio Cover

Our house is wonderful in many ways. What is not wonderful, however, is our backyard. Yes, we back to a pretty creek so we have really nice views of the trees from inside. However, it's so shaded that we can't grow any grass. And anything that does grow is promptly demolished by our dogs. An army of squirrels is always on our roof, tossing leaves and acorns and all sorts of debris down on our wooden deck. We have always been embarrassed to take people back there because it's just a roughed up wooden deck covered in branches on top of a glorious dirt pit. Can you say unattractive?

Anyway, we finally got fed up with it. We decided to bit the bullet and invest in a big project - a custom patio cover - so that we could spend time outside and actually enjoy ourselves. Now we have this beautiful space to relax with a glass of wine in the evenings!

Let me start at the beginning. This is the biggest project we've ever undertaken, so it's going to take me a long time to explain. Get comfortable!

This is what the deck looked like when we bought the house:

Before we moved in, we painted that minty green railign brown to match the rest of the deck.

We tried various furniture arrangements back there and it would look cute for a day or two before all of the leaves and debris ruined it again.

Our first step in the backyard was to remove a few trees. Our neighborhood was built on land that used to be a tree farm, and the trees are really our special feature. However, we have learned there is a such a thing as too many trees. Especially when your house is literally built around the existing trees (we have holes cut into our roof line to accommodate the trees) and those trees have outgrown their spaces. We had to fork over a lot of money (so painful!) to have some trees removed, including the tree closest to the deck. 

Once that was done, we had a few companies come by to give us estimates for the patio cover we wanted. We figured that we can't prevent leaves from falling on the deck, but we can cover part of the deck so that we can use it year-round despite the falling debris. We thought it was a worthwhile investment because the backyard is our worst feature and this would go a long way with potential buyers. Still, we experienced some sticker shock when we got the bids back from the companies who came by to provide estimates. They wanted $10-$12,000; we had a budget of $5,000. Something had to give. 

So like he normally does, the husband got resourceful. He reached out to our roofer to see if he knew a good framer ("Those guys all know each other," he told me) and sure enough, he did. Those two guys came over and we described what we were looking for -- a gabled cedar deck cover that extended our existing roofline -- and sure enough, they were confident they could do it. We would draw the plans, get the permits from the city, and buy the supplies. They would build the structure and put on the roof. We would install the electrical features - the fans and chandelier. Together, we would come in right at around $5,000. And sure enough, we did!

Who got stuck drawing the plans? Me, of course. I love to draw, but I have never done any "architectural renderings." Of course these aren't professional, but they were good enough to get the thumbs up from the city to get started. PHEW. One hurdle crossed.

Once the permit was approved, Scott purchased all of the lumber and the framers got to work. It was amazing how quickly they worked. I had a great view from inside the back door, enjoying the air conditioning with the twins while Scott and these guys melted outside in the July heat.

This project required 3 inspections from the city. Scott was in charge of that part. The first inspection involved examining our concrete footers for each post. We were worried, but we passed the inspection. Full speed ahead!

On the next inspection, we ran into a problem. They wanted to see how we attached the structure to our roof. We did it differently than we originally proposed in our plans, so they made us resubmit more drawings with our new method. Let me tell you, that was tedious to illustrate. I didn't really understand how they did it (I don't speak contractor), so I did my best. Thankfully, they looked at our new plans and then came back for another inspection. We were super nervous, but we passed. We literally did a happy dance. We looked ridiculous, but we were so happy!

The posts were installed and we sailed through our final inspection, so the roofer and framer were officially done with their part. Now it was time for Scott to install our light and fans.

The light is quite possibly my favorite part. It was my job to find the perfect chandelier, and I couldn't find anything that I thought was the right fit. I decided to search Craigslist on a whim. My search term was "huge chandelier." I figured I needed something really big to look right with the proportions of the gabled ceiling. What popped up? This amazing, HUGE, 50" Camino Vintage Candelabra Restoration Hardware chandelier

It retails for $1,120, but we paid $400. That's not exactly chump change, but the chandelier ended up being SO perfect for the space. Anything smaller would have looked silly. Scott installed it on a dimmer so we can adjust our mood lighting, which is so nice. I think it really makes the space.

The husband also bought some oscillating fans because it's just SO hot here. Without the fans, we wouldn't be able to use the deck during several months of the year. They were a must have. This goes without saying, but Scott saves us so much money with his electrical skills. He never fails to impress me. I would never have the patience for any of this intricate work. Thank goodness he does.

Oh, I forgot a step! The gutters. The stupid gutters! Scott had to teach himself how to install new gutters since the old ones were part of the former roof line. It took him a little while to figure it out, but he did. Is there any project less sexy than installing a gutter?

I'm tired just writing this. This project was sooo long! And you can only imagine that we were trying to balance work and watching the twins, so we worked on this when we could. It felt like it would never end.

The last step was to stain and seal the new cover, paint the new gutters and put a fresh coat of paint on the deck. We decided to choose a darker color for the deck, so we used our favorite color - Valspar Hematite. It's the same color we used on our front door and our shutters.

I think it feels like Portland with the rich colors and lush greenery. It's dreamy. It helps me ignore the dirt pit below!

We used stuff we already had to decorate, including 3 stumps from the tree we removed in the back. Shout-out to my mom for giving us the rug from her extensive rug stash!

Citronella candles everywhere, but the mosquitoes are still a problem. Can't wait for some fall weather!

So there it is, our new outdoor living room! One fun element is that we now have a really pretty view from the den, too. 

Just for fun, let's take is all the way back to see the full transformation. 

It wasn't cheap and it wasn't easy, but it was worth it. This is where you'll find us every Saturday night this fall. Can't wait!

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Upgrades in the Den: Fireplace Makeover

We've talked about tiling over our brick fireplace surround for a long time now, but we never got around to it. The brick wasn't really an eyesore, but it wasn't really a showstopper either.

Here's a recent photo from my baby shower back in January. That's the same brick as the exterior of our house.

But let me go back to the beginning with this room transformation, because we have changed pretty much everything except that fireplace surround. When we bought the house, the built-ins were their original wood finish and the walls were a baby blue color.

Before we moved in, we painted the cabinets white and the walls gray. That was a major improvement. We put up some art, hung curtains and had a pretty nice space to watch TV.

The next major improvement was swapping out the carpet for travertine. We also extended the paint from the walls up to the ceiling to better emphasize the tray ceiling.

And other than rearranging the furniture and trying out new shelf accessories, that's how our den has looked ever since. We recently added some DIY framed photos of the twins to either side of the TV, which makes me very happy.

Then we finally turned our attention to the fireplace. For some reason, it took me forever to figure out what tile I wanted. It was harder than I thought to find something that would tie in with the gray walls without clashing with the travertine floors. I tried several natural stone options before remembering that I already had a sample of this beautiful herringbone mosaic. Of course it was the perfect tile choice; all that design agony and the ideal option was sitting right in my garage, collecting dust!

The only problem with this herringbone tile is that it was pretty challenging to install it properly around the fireplace opening. As you can imagine, it required a ton of patience to make the cuts so that everything fit together properly. It's not perfect, but it's close enough. The hubby has more patience in his pinky finger than I have in my entire body, and he did a wonderful job.

We debated about whether to continue the herringbone on the hearth, but at the end of the day we decided to extend the travertine floor tiles to the hearth instead. This option was both more affordable and faster, since the cuts for the bigger tiles went much faster than the herringbone.

The process went like this:

1. Clean brick surface thoroughly.
2. Allow light coat of thinset to brick surface to create an even layer for the tile. Allow to dry overnight.
3. Use mortar to adhere the tile to the surface. We held the tile sheets up with heavy duty tape because we didn't finish it all in one day.

This is what the tile would look like with dark grout. This was taken before we grouted.

4. Grout. (We used an ivory color to match our travertine floors.)
5. Clean, clean, clean. It takes several attempts to wipe all of the grout and dust off the tiles.
6. Seal the tile.
7. Seal the grout.
8. Step back and admire your handiwork.

I was confident that I would love the updated look of the tile, but I didn't realize how much bigger the room would feel without that dark brick fireplace jutting out into the space. The way the griege tile just sort of blends into the background (in the prettiest way possible) inspired me to "calm" the built-in shelves around the fireplace to better complement the tile. I took away almost all of my knick knacks and instead used books that I turned backward so the pages showed instead of the spine, which makes them all the same color. Visually, it's so calm and serene. I think it looks very elegant. Is it practical if you need to use those books every day? Nope. But we don't do a lot of re-reading. Once a book is read the first time, it's pretty much just decoration. My mom and I spent a long time arranging those books, using a few neutral metallic accessories to add some interest.

The TV area is looking a little different, too. We finally had our flea market chair reupholstered! Well, the brown leather stayed, but we replaced the rust-colored microfiber with the graphic grey pattern. The bar cart no longer houses baby items (all things baby have been moved to the play room!) and we are still loving the DIY picture frames for those smushy, perfectly edible newborn photos.

Let's see the full transformation from the beginning, just for fun!

Ahh, now that is satisfying. 

I'll be back soon with our new playroom, my mom's bathroom makeover and some other fun projects we've done lately but haven't had time to photograph and blog about!

As always, if you want real time updates (since I am a bad blogger and it takes me a while to post these days), follow the blog on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook for the latest updates. You can find direct links in the top right column of the blog. Thank you for supporting our family and this blog with your encouraging comments and feedback!

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Road Trip: Magnolia Market at the Silos

My maternity leave is almost over and I was itching to get out of town for the day, so we decided to take a family road trip two hours south on I-35 to Waco, Texas, to visit the latest masterpiece from Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Market at the Silos.

 Chip and Joanna are household names thanks to their extremely popular show on HGTV, Fixer Upper. They have wisely taken that fame and used it to expand their brand to have a bigger footprint in Waco, buying these old silos and converting them into a family-friendly market area to sell their wares. And as suspected, it just oozes Joanna's style!

Let's walk through the market together, shall we?

It is located right in the heart of Waco, very close to Baylor University. I can only imagine how grateful Waco is for the positive publicity that Gaines bring to Waco, especially after the horrifying Baylor football scandal has continued to make headlines. That school seems to have a knack for scandal, but the Gaines bring nothing but positive press and plenty of jobs to Waco. They owe them a key to the city or something.

It was a Monday - the first Monday that most kids were off school down here in Texas - and as expected, the Silos were really crowded. Here we are walking up with our awesome double stroller, trying to find the entrance.

There is a lot of construction right near the front entrance because they are expanding to include their bakery, Flour, which you can see in the background of this photo.

She has posted a couple of progress pictures of that space on her Instagram, and it's adorable. However, it looks pretty small from the outside so I can only anticipate how crowded it will get.

She said in this month's HGTV magazine that black and white is her favorite color, and that classic color scheme is used throughout the Silos.  Even the main building – seen in the background of this photo below – is black and white. And how cool are those cedar planter boxes? I'll get back to the outside areas later...

Inside the main building is the actual Magnolia Market, where they sell all of the things they sell in their online store. The double stroller was not the easiest thing to maneuver inside the market because it was filled with people. On the other hand, Scott was a total chick magnet all day. So many people came up to talk to him about the twins while I explored the shop.

It's all styled very beautifully. The first level has a definite Anthropologie vibe. Lots of inspiration to be had, which is nice because the merchandise was a bit too expensive for me.

Beyond this area, you go downstairs into a much larger space that is half shop, half warehouse. It looks out into the grass courtyard area.

The outside area of the Silos was actually my favorite part, but it was hard to linger out there because the Texas heat was brutal that day. We had the babies with us, and we couldn't just sit outside and let them get overheated. We did walk around quickly to enjoy the separate areas. I loved the black and white striped awnings and bean bag chairs on the lawn.

Over at the actual silos, they had created a shaded area with picnic tables. Notice the wire details and the way they used the pipes as planters.

In the back corner was a small shop that housed the gardening part of the market, called Magnolia Seed & Supply. It's tiny, but adorable. It's actually close to the size of their first Magnolia Market, which we visited a couple of years ago.

The outside area was lined with food trucks, so we sampled some of the gourmet grilled cheese. YUM.

We took refuge under the silos, taking a minute to eat our lunch, cool off the babies in the shade and get a couple of family photos.

Please note how our black and white stroller perfectly matches the color scheme at the Silos. Great minds think alike, Joanna. ;)

Look at how big the twins are getting! They are 10 weeks in this photo. They'll be 12 weeks in a couple more days. Hard to believe!

Poor Evan was a little grouchy. It was past his nap time and it was pretty hot in that stroller.

Grammy Jo came with us and entertained Hope while we chowed down.

And just like that, we packed up and headed back up I-35 to Dallas. I know what you're dying to know: Did I buy anything?

Yes. A t-shirt. And it's super comfortable. Two thumbs up!

I will admit that we had some preconceived notions about the market that left us a little disappointed, but it's probably our own fault. I'm not sure where we got these ideas– probably just misinterpreting some of the social media posts about the Silos.

First of all, I thought the actual silos – the giant round buildings – were part of the shop. I thought you could walk in that area and they were renting our spaces to other vendors, like an antique mall. It's possible that I made this up entirely, or maybe it's part of Phase II. But just know that right now, the silos are just there for decoration. The actual shopping is only Magnolia Market merchandise (not flea market style like I thought) and it all happens in the big white building behind the silos.

My mom thought the shop would be selling some of the bigger items, like the couple's new furniture and rug lines. They don't sell that stuff there, so don't go expecting to see it. She was a little bummed about that. If you're in the DFW area, the only place that sells it is Nebraska Furniture Mart. You can find a retailer near you. Interested in Joanna's rugs and pillows? Find them here.

All in all, we still had a great time. It helped us pass the day (which can be hard to do with two infants) and gave us some fun family time. If you're ever in the area, you should definitely swing by and check it out.

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