Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bare Bones New House Tour

It's moving time!! Excited? Check. Stressed out? Check. A little nervous? Check. Thankfully, all went well and we are starting to settle in nicely. It feels like a dream and we are so in love with our new home :)

I thought I would share with you a few photos that I snapped of the finished new house before the big day of the move.  It looks so clean, peaceful, and lovely--here's to hoping it won't become too cluttered with all our stuff.

It's amazing to see how much stuff one can accumulate over the course of several years--we are really trying to purge whatever we can and pare down to the necessities, things we love, and keep in storage only the few things we can't bear to part with yet.

Anyway, now moving on with the house tour.....

Let's start with the entry (viewed from the dining room). Also included in this photo is the door revealing the powder room. There is a pop of pattern (surprise!) from wallpaper that I just love in that room, but you'll have to wait for a later post for more photos :)

Next we have the dining room:

The "great room" is two-stories high and features a fireplace with brick surround and old-growth heart pine mantel, built-in bookcases, and beadboard above the fireplace mantel. Floors throughout the first floor (except in the master bedroom and bath) are standard red oak hardwood floors stained in dark walnut. 

Here is the view from the great room looking into the kitchen where the kitchen table or "breakfast nook" will be: 

 I am so in love with our kitchen. We opted for a wide galley style with no island since I wanted a big open farmhouse kitchen. If need be, we can always pull in a cart to the middle for extra prep space but honestly we have plenty of counter space as it is. The cabinets are shaker style all custom made by our builder who specializes in cabinetry, with a custom range hood to match. The big cast iron farm sink is one of my favorite things in this room and I absolutely love the view of our future garden out of the casement windows.

The view from the kitchen into the little bar nook that accesses the pantry and the laundry room:

Our wonderfully large laundry room also doubles as a mud room. It's a great storage and utility space which we desperately needed.

Continuing on to the master bedroom, located on the first floor:

In between the bedroom and the master bathroom (shown below) is a hallway with a walk-in master closet on one side and a large linen closet on the other. Glorious storage!

A large vanity and mirrors built by our builders provide ample storage and counter space. The master bath shower features white subway tile, grey quartz and a "pebble" shower floor. We plan on adding in a bathtub later to the room. A water closet is located on the other side of the vanity. 

Walking up the stairs to the second floor, a nice view from above of the great room:

Upstairs we have a miniature "loft" leading to two bedrooms each with their own bath and a bonus room. The bedrooms and baths mirror each other in their layout. Below is the girls' bathroom:

And the girls' bedroom is, of course--pink!! 

The guest bath turned out so adorable with all the classic grey and white tile, an antique washstand used as a vanity with a vessel sink and wall-mount faucet. 

The guest room: 

And finally, the room with the most beautiful view: our screened-in porch. These pictures were taken before the floor was stained in a dark slate color. We can't wait to entertain out here and relax in the peaceful countryside.

Hope you enjoyed the brief tour. It's been a crazy week getting everything moved and unpacked. I can't wait to share with you each room once I have it set up and decorated. It's been tiring but oh so much fun!


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Shaker Design Inspiration

I've always been a huge fan of Shaker design and Shaker architecture. Every time I took a visit to Shakertown, or Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Kentucky--not far from where I grew up--I would come away inspired and in love with the beauty scattered all over the village's rolling hills.

Me and BJ at Shakertown (photo by Orange Sheep Photography, 2011)

Numerous volumes have been written on the architecture of the Shakers and their well-known, simplistic designs for furniture, use of materials, and interior arrangements.


I feel like Shaker design and furniture has a timeless appeal--it almost never goes out of style if used in the right context. I love the clean lines and the look of a well-made, primitive piece.

We choose to go with several Shaker-inspired designs for our new house--mostly embodied in our cabinetry, simple interior trim, stair and stair railing, and shelving with Shaker peg rails underneath. I'm not strictly married to Shaker principles because, after all, I still want an overall farmhouse feel, but I love the simplistic look enough to opt for it over something else more fussy when forced with making a design choice.


For example, we decided to forego any crown molding--including any on the top of our cabinetry in our kitchen and our built-in bookshelves in the great room. We do have baseboards--but those are common in farmhouses of all types and serve a practical purpose rather than just decorative. Our cabinets are simple, Shaker panels with inset doors/drawers and wood knobs--no beading or any other decorative detailing.

Below is a sneak peek of some of our kitchen cabinetry. Sorry for the poor photo quality--I've only had time to take pictures on my phone at this point:

I think Shaker design goes well with a farmhouse and I love that I'm able to pull inspiration from one of my favorite places in Kentucky to visit :)

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Flooring: Hardwoods, Tile, Carpet and More

So. many. decisions.

I thought I knew what I wanted going into this house build and I have surprised myself so many times with our final choices for materials. Flooring is no exception. There are certain types of flooring that simply couldn't fit into our budget and also other types that I had no idea I would end up using but am excited to see installed.

looking from second floor down stairs into living room

Since we are building a farmhouse and I love the look of classic farmhouse style that will stand the test of time, I knew I wanted wood floors throughout a good portion of the house. We decided to lay hardwood in most of the downstairs (living and dining rooms, kitchen, pantry, powder room) and are using a standard oak hardwood with a dark walnut stain. I would have loved to have done reclaimed heart pine throughout but it proved to be too expensive to fit into our budget.

first floor oak hardwood flooring, dark walnut stain
Our master bedroom is also located downstairs and it (along with all the other bedrooms) will be carpeted. We did this to make our budget work but also I just love the feel of carpet in a bedroom (even if I don't like the look as much). We chose Mohawk Smartstrand Natural Splendor II in "soft linen" for the master bedroom. The entire upstairs (except bathrooms) will be carpeted as well since most of the rooms are bedrooms anyway. For the upstairs we chose Mohawk Horizon Collection in a light beigish grey color. None of the carpet has been installed yet (it's the last thing that happens), so I don't have any pictures to share yet!

The bathrooms are the only rooms we chose to do in tile and the girls' bathroom is actually vinyl plank. We chose Armstrong Luxe Plank in "Farmhouse Plank."

the girls' bathroom flooring

girls' bathroom flooring, Armstrong vinyl "Farmhouse Plank"

Picking out the tile was so much fun and I ended up choosing some tile that was way out of my "comfort zone" in terms of classic tile patterns and colors. Still, most of it is pretty neutral in color, classic in pattern, and hopefully will give the rooms a timeless appeal.

master bath tile flooring

The master bath floor is a white hex tile with grey grout, white subway tile walls in the shower with grey grout, and a (surprise!) "pebble" or stone shower floor in a white-grey-black color scheme. I've been told it feels super nice on the feet. The shower threshold and shelves are a grey quartz.

master bath shower "pebble" tile flooring

The guest bath is a classic white and grey hex pattern tile for the floor and shower floor and grey subway tiles with white grout for the shower walls. The shower threshold and shelves for the guest bath are a white quartz.

guest bathroom tile flooring

guest bathroom grey and white tile shower

 Can you tell I'm afraid of going with anything too trendy or committing to color?!?

laundry room flooring, vinyl plank "Meridian Stucco"

For our utility spaces, like the laundry room, we chose a vinyl plank in order not only to save on costs but also because wood flooring in a laundry room can be problematic with moisture issues. We chose Adura Max in "Meridian Stucco" for the laundry room which has more of the look of a light colored tile or stone.

laundry room flooring

With so many different wonderful options for flooring it certainly can get overwhelming at times. The key is to have an idea in your mind of what you like best, then chose an option that will match that but also be practical for your needs and your budget.

Another tip I highly recommend is going to one or two local flooring stores to make your selections--it keeps your options much more limited and manageable rather than having to search and compare everything on the internet and at all the big box stores.

living room oak hardwood flooring next to brick fireplace hearth

The house is moving along fast--our lighting fixtures and plumbing fixtures have been installed and all the little details are getting completed. Looks like we will be moving within the month (*deep breath*). Can't wait to share pictures with you!

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Cooking from Deep Run Roots Cookbook

Y'all--I'm obsessed with this cookbook.

If you haven't watched the show "A Chef's Life" or heard of Vivian Howard and you love southern food--you are missing out! We have watched the show since Season 1 came out and I fell in love with all the recipes, the stories, and the culture of Eastern North Carolina foodways.

Vivian Howard stars in "A Chef's Life" and recently released her first cookbook--Deep Run Roots. If you are not familiar with her story, after being in New York working in the restaurant industry for some top chefs, she returned to where she grew up and started her own restaurant--Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina. It features local ingredients and showcases food grown from farmers all within something like a 75 mile radius of the restaurant. We have been once to the restaurant and it was amazing!

I got the cookbook for Christmas this past year and I haven't been able to put it down--I just love how it's organized and I can't wait to try all of the mouthwatering recipes. The commentary, stories, and photographs are wonderful as well. The cookbook is quite large--it contains 24 chapters each showcasing a different but significant Eastern North Carolina ingredient.

I'm gradually working my way through the cookbook and have been pretty pleased with the results of the recipes thus far. Some of them are a bit more involved and time consuming than you might want to take on for a simple week night meal, so I try to save them for weekends or a special occasion. So far, I have tried a handful of recipes including:

  • Sage Honey-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Bacon-Roasted Rutabagas
  • Mom's Cornpone
  • Turnip Root and Green Gratin
  • Crispy Ginger Rice with Leeks, Shiitakes and a Fried Egg
  • Grandma Hill's Hoecakes
  • Salt and Butter Roasted Pecans
  • Brussels Sprouts, Apples and Pomegranate with Blue Cheese Honey Vinaigrette
  • Slow-Roasted Beef Short Ribs with Herb-Scented Turnip Puree and Turnip Gremolata
  • My Favorite Beet Salad
  • Squash and Onions
  • Blueberry Rosemary Pudding
  • Grilled Corn with Bacon Mayo and Pecorino Romano
  • Shirred Eggs with Stewed Tomatoes and Ham Chips
  • Blueberry Cobbler with Cornmeal Sugar Cookie Crust
  • Squash and Fontina Casserole Pudding

Today I'm going to make Fried Okra Hash since okra is in season and we are getting it from our CSA!

The recipe is as follows (on p. 402 of Deep Run Roots):

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cups okra sliced 1/3 inch thick (about 15 medium okra)
2/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cayenne in a medium bowl. Rinse okra well with water and toss the damp okra with the cornmeal mixture. Set aside. In a cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add okra once oil begins to sizzle, spreading it out in a single layer. Lower the heat slightly and sizzle on one side for 4 minutes.

Toss the okra around and cook an additional 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer okra to paper-towel-lined-plate to drain with a slotted spoon. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Serve warm.

I'd love to know if any of you have Vivian's cookbook and which recipes are your favorites. Happy cooking (and eating)!

Monday, July 31, 2017

How We Cut Costs in our Farmhouse Build

Even though we are building a custom home, which tends to be more costly, we have deliberately made many decisions that aid in cutting expenses to stay within our budget. In other words, yes, you CAN build a custom, high quality home on a reasonable budget! (especially if you have a great builder who will work with you and give advice to keep costs down).

One of the most important ways we stayed within budget was allowing most of the things we wanted within reason but also compromising on quite a few things too. I learned to be very flexible and to be content knowing that not everything on our wish list was going to be feasible for us to do. The items we splurged on were windows, the front door, countertops, tile for our master and guest bath, and the height of the ceilings.

It seems like many aspects of the new house that are standard for our builders are pretty high-end, but it turns out that's just how our builders roll. For example, custom wood closet shelving systems at no extra cost?  Built-in cabinetry in laundry room? Yes, please!! Interestingly, our cabinets for the kitchen and bath vanities are custom-made by our builders who are master carpenters and do all their own cabinetry work, and they were no more expensive than any other basic cabinets (even ikea!) that we could have bought elsewhere.

Below is a partial list of what we did to help with cost savings:

-simple house plan, no fussy exterior (the more corners there are the more expensive!)
-two stories instead of one is more cost-effective
-addition of a full-length shed dormer on the rear of house
-removed gabled dormer windows on the facade of the original house plan
-hardieplank siding exterior rather than brick or stone, with a brick foundation
-wood-burning fireplace insert (with gas pipe) with a brick veneer rather than a full masonry fireplace
-metal roof (one of the more budget-friendly materials for roofing)
-budget-friendly (but still high quality) flooring choices: basic oak for hardwood downstairs, carpet in  bedrooms, tile in some bathrooms, vinyl plank in girls' bath, vinyl plank in laundry room.
-no fancy wall treatments and simple interior moldings
-composite but still solid core interior doors
-fiberglass French doors to screened porch and steel door in laundry
-regular decking on screened-in rear porch instead of tongue and groove
-screen tight system on screened porch instead of custom fabricated panels
-no bathtub (yet) in master bath (just shower for now)
-high quality but reasonably-priced ("mid-grade") lighting fixtures and plumbing fixtures
-recessed lighting in closets, kitchen, utilitarian spaces instead of higher-priced fixtures
-re-using our current washer and dryer
-re-using our current refrigerator
-re-using a few of our light fixtures
-taking advantage of holiday sales for fixtures and appliances
-no doors (just framed openings) on master closet, bonus room, and a few others
-minimal upper cabinetry in kitchen
-designing and completing landscaping ourselves

Of course there are a lot of building material costs that are difficult to cut down and the only way to really save is by cutting square footage. Still, we were able to make quite a dent in the cost of our house by choosing our house plan wisely and being conservative on high-end finishes or treatments. Additionally, since we were going for a simple farmhouse look, this lends itself to simple, cost-effective finishes anyway (think beadboard, subway tile, simple cabinets and trim, etc.).

The funny thing is, many things I thought I wanted in the beginning or "compromised" on, I don't even miss! I'm just so thankful to be able to design and build a homestead of our own :)

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