I’ve spent most of my adult life living in apartments with white walls, white kitchens, and beige carpet. You brighten things up with colorful art and accessories that you bring with you from place to place. Even the Emerald Bay house mostly had neutral walls and carpet, at least until I did some renovation. So that’s what I’m used to, even though I’m someone who loves color.
When I saw my Meadow Lake apartment in July 2021, I didn’t really compute that I could change things because, well, it was an apartment and you don’t change apartments. I moved in 3 weeks after seeing it, then spent 10 weeks in rehab before coming home almost exactly a year ago. I concentrated on functional things because it was necessary – but my home didn’t bring me a lot of visual pleasure. I did try to screen in the porch but that didn’t work right because the sides were done with solar screen that cut off my line of sight and blocked the light.
Well, things have certainly changed. I didn’t exactly do things in any planned order, but everything works. My floor was replaced with new luxury vinyl plank in a lighter wood stain than what was here before, which brightens everything. I bought a new couch and coffee table for the living room, with lots of bright print pillows. I’ve ordered a teal lift chair that should be here this week.
The kitchen was completely transformed. I replaced the granite with something brighter, and just had the cabinets painted off-white with a blue/green paint called “Swimming” on the walls, which makes the cabinets pop. I have black cabinet pulls that work with the black appliances and are easy for me to open using my grabber. Everything is fresh, clean, and bright – so bright! The kitchen feels twice as large and I love looking over at it from my chair.
And today my porch screen was fixed, with metal trim and bug screen replacing the dark stuff that was there. MUCH brighter and it opens my view and my world.
I’m really happy with the changes. It feels like me. It feels like home. I spend so much time home, especially in my chair, and I hadn’t realized how much the dark floor, cabinets, and blocked porch view impacted my mood. I plan to stay here for a long time and now that feels like a gift and not a sentence.
This week I ventured out and took walks out in the hall by myself, without a trailing wheelchair in case I needed to rest. This was a first here. I’ve been building up to it by walking around the apartment with a walker instead of the chair. Obvious differences were distance and turns; the hallway is straight and the apartment has me making circles around furniture and turns into doorways. But it was still good practice and the living room looks way bigger without the wheelchair sitting in the way.
My first trips took me from my chair out the door, then a turn and down the hall to the first apartment, then turning around and going back to the chair. Today I upped the effort and went past the apartment to the fire doors before turning around and going back. Not sure how many feet that is, but it’s getting closer to the whole distance I did before with a trailing chair. My legs and feet weren’t tired, but my arms were. Note to self: more arm exercises are in order. I won’t push my luck, though, and will aim to do what I did today twice tomorrow.
I also called and made an appointment for my Medicare Wellness Visit with my primary care doctor, as well as researched local dentists. I really need to get my teeth cleaned but was worried about how to handle the visit in the wheelchair. Friends in my Facebook group for spinal cord injury rehab gave me some good tips and I will call this coming week to make an appointment. Hmmm. I also need to make an appointment with the cardiologist for my annual visit.
What bothers – not worries, just bothers – me the most is the amount of edema I have in my right foot and leg all the way from toe to groin. The left has some, but the right is really excessive. I’m already taking prescription diuretics balanced by extra potassium, drinking water, adding as much movement as I can. I sleep with my feet elevated as far as my adjustable bed will let them go. And I try sitting with legs elevated rather than the chair with legs down where that’s an option. So I hope one of the doctors has a good suggestion.
I did something else for myself this week: new granite countertops for my kitchen. I loved my new granite at the house sooooo much and then left it to move here, where the kitchen was nice but dark. I have warm wood cabinets, black appliances, and dark floors. I came to really hate the black patterned granite that always looked as though someone scratched it. I was really lucky to update my counters with granite remnants from a local company that were expertly cut and installed. They look fabulous and really brighten up the kitchen, especially with my pops of red on the counters. I lived in white apartments for so long that I learned how to perk things up to suit me, and my bright red Kitchen Aid mixer is a big part of the decor as well as a kitchen tool.
After two months, the renovation is finally over. Yayyy! And I must say that I’m really happy with the results, although there is still tweaking involved and things to find that are somewhere but not where I’m looking for them. I had a good contractor who stuck to the timetable and budget, had excellent subs, and was good with communication, and I even got smart and hired a cleaning service to do the post construction cleanup.
I think my favorite things weren’t even on the original list at all: the fabulous windows in the living room, kitchen, and master bedroom; the new under cabinet mount lighting; and my sparkly light fixture in the bathroom. But of course I love all of it. I only changed the things I didn’t like and now I do. It looks like me and not my parents, and feels great to come home to. My brother and sis-in-law were here to help me put things back and hang art, which can be hard to do by yourself, and they like the choices made as well which made me happy, since of course my parents were his parents and he’s been coming here for 35 years.
So because I’m a lunatic, I held an open house on Sunday to show off the house. So many people wanted to see if, this seemed like the best way to get it done all at once. I provided punch, hot cider, and cookies that my friends made to help because standing for a long time hurts the back. I even had a “soft opening” on Saturday for my neighbors, who are the ones who know the house best because my parents entertained them here through the years. Plus they are mostly elderly (80+) and I wanted them to not be all crowded while they were looking.
It was really fun to have so many people here milling around, nibbling cookies and looking at the house. I created a spec sheet detailing what was done in different spaces, listing paint colors, contractor contact info, and sources for materials. Yes, I’m a little OCD but it was a very “Anne” thing to have created and I tucked a copy in my project binder for future reference when I forget details.
My house has been in chaos for five weeks. I knew it would happen but greatly underestimated how hard it would be to have so much dust in every nook and cranny, with belongings in boxes everywhere. I’m losing track of what’s where. The hardest part is corralling the kitties into the “daycare suite” so they don’t get out or in the way of the workers.
It’s almost finished, though. If all goes as planned, I have two more weeks left. Backsplash installation starts on Monday, followed by the floor. Then the following week, a day or two to finish up if needed, then crazy time with the carpenter, plumbers, electricians, and painters. I didn’t know to budget for final cleaning, but because the project budget is right on the estimate, I’m having a team of 2 come to deep clean when all the work is behind us. Then it’s time to put things back, if 1) I can find them, and 2) I remember where they go. There’s time to figure that out, though, and to assess whether I even want everything.
I love how it looks and am enjoying the changes. I wanted the kitchen done last, even though it has the biggest changes, because I wanted everything else to be more normal. Bathrooms are done, except for installing towel racks, the living room wall and garage are repaired and painted. Best of all, the screen porch is finished and the cats want to be out there every minute. I can keep the house doors open to the porch because, well, it’s screened in so bugs can’t get in. It gives me fresh air and the cats run in circles.
To be honest, I never thought I’d say that my garage was amazing but it really is now. The dryer vent was rerouted to the outside and the ceiling was repaired; the joints were coming down from moisture from the dryer. The “measuring wall” that Dad used for 30 years to measure his grandchildren was removed and will go to the ranch so my brother can measure HIS grandchildren on the same panels. Best of all, the dark wood paneling was painted beige. BEIGE. It looks clean and open and fresh. All those nails in the walls were removed so I can start fresh with where and how I want to hang tools and gear. Good thing it was completed early, since we’re using it to temporarily store kitchen appliances and equipment.
And oh, the windows! I hadn’t even planned to replace them but they have transformed the house. After a month, I’ve gotten used to them but I do not take them for granted. Instead of old metal windows with grids and seals that weren’t in the best shape, I have huge energy efficient vinyl windows with unobstructed views – well, except for the breakfast table in the living room while the kitchen is finished. I’m kind of mad at my parents for not having done window replacements because I know they would have loved the result. Now I’m planning to replace the windows in the front of the house as well, for energy efficiency and because they are both beautiful and affordable.
I’m also spending a fortune on new art for the walls. But I love everything I’ve chosen. A few pieces came with me from my previous life, but most of the house had art that had been chosen by my parents and that I didn’t really like much. My style is more images of places where I’ve lived or traveled, such as Manasquan, Maine, and Switzerland, and some whimsy as well, such as fairies and orange kitties. A tree of life for the genealogy research area in the office was always on my list.
Yesterday I received an amazing bookcase quilt that I’d commissioned a year ago from a quilter friend in New Haven. We talked about it in January but I had no idea what she decided to do, so the whole thing was a wonderful surprise. She captured elements of my life and some of my favorite books, and I love having something so personal and unique. It arrived just at the perfect time.
My friends and neighbors have followed the house progress with interest and enthusiasm, so I’m having an open house so everyone can check out the final result. The cats will be contained in the guest bedroom but everything else can be open for inspection. I chose the date based on the church, club, Pro Shop, and Cowboys schedules. I’ll have two weeks between final cleaning and the Open House, which should be enough time to get stuff put away. I’m worrying a little about what to serve, but want to keep it light and simple because the goal is to see the house, not stand or sit around and visit. I wrote up a sheet detailing everything that was done in each room, paint colors, granite vendor, etc. Hopefully that will save answering the same questions 50 times. We’ll see about that.
I never thought I could or would do something this involved or expensive, but it’s been worth it and I know I’ll love living with the results for many years to come. It’s my house now and I love how it looks.
I’m making choices right and left; you’d think I’d been contemplating making changes to the house for years. Well, er, um, I have been, just not thinking I could actually do any of them.
In the last two weeks I’ve made decisions about a whole bunch of things.
Cabinets: I’m not painting them. I like the wood, and the dark wood trim in the kitchen, and I’m keeping them.
Countertop: I visited three granite yards, one of them three times. Such pretty colors and patterns! And the prettier the pattern, the pricier the slab.
I picked Giallo Napoli Granite. I fell in love with the purple splotches that look like little drops of wine. This wasn’t my first choice, but when I went to pick out faucets and sinks, I saw a counter on display made out of this granite. I just loved it, so I went back to the yard to look again. It’s hard to envision from a giant slab what a smaller section will look like, so it was great to have the chance to see it before I committed to my first (and more expensive) choice. It didn’t appeal as much in the slab but looks amazing as a counter, and I’m very pleased with it.
I picked a faucet and new composite sink (no sink picture; sorry, but here’s the faucet). The double sink will be “chestnut” which has a little sparkly in it, with a low divider between the two sides, making it easier to wash large pans. The faucet has a pull-out sprayer on the end that pulls back with magnets. I’m also getting a new disposal.
Yesterday I picked out a porcelain floor tile and a marble and glass tile backsplash. It has rough stone with both frosted and shiny glass, and is pretty neutral. Here they are with a small door from my cabinets and my granite sample. Because the cabinets are heavily grained and the granite is busy, I wanted neutral floor and backsplash that wouldn’t fight with either one. They will really brighten up the space, and the floor tile is textured so it won’t be slippery.
Still not sure what I’m doing about paint colors – so many! so many that look almost alike, except some are pinkish or tint yellow or green or are too dark or whatever. But it’s probably going to be one of these:
To help me figure it out, I’ve ordered more 12×12″ peel-and-stick samples from Samplize.com. These are so cool and so easy – they paint the squares with real Sherwin-Williams or Benjamin Moore paint. You peel off the backs, then slap them up on a wall – or cabinet, or ceiling. Whatever. Easy to peel off and slap up on another place to see how it looks in different light. Right now I’m leaning forward Kilim Beige but we’ll see after the samples get here.
I have an estimate from one contractor on all of the work requested, including screening in the back porch, reworking the garage dryer vent, and painting the bathrooms. The bottom line is below the number I’d mentally set as my limit. I’m pleased and relieved to know I can actually do this, with money left over for soft changes like window treatments, a new couch, and new seats for the dining room chairs.
I stopped by the cemetery today to talk with my mom about changing her kitchen. I know she’s not actually there, and I’ve talked with her here at the house. But I just want to feel that she’s okay with the changes I’m making to her home. And I think she would be. She would want me to be comfortable, to make this place mine. She wouldn’t be going as fast as I seem to be in moving forward, but she would support me – and go with me to pick things out. I miss you, Mom.