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“The best money I’ve ever spent”

21 May

That’s what Ben said last night about our newest upgrade- Sonos. For those not familiar with Sonos, it is a wireless home music system that you control on your iPhone, iPad or computer.

I have to admit I wasn’t as excited as he was about getting the Sonos (guys go crazy over that stuff), but now that it’s in, it is awesome!

Ben had been eyeing getting a Sonos system for a while, so when we had the ceilings open after we took out the wall, it was the perfect time to get it installed. Ben became friends with one of his subcontractors, Ish, who is a audio/video specialist and he put together a package for us which included:

  • Two in-ceiling speakers for the kitchen/living room/dining room
  • Two rock speakers by the pool
  • One dual speaker mounted outside on the back of the house.

Speaker collage

Because Ish is a contractor he was able to get it a little cheaper than consumers. Plus being a friend, he installed everything for just $200. Ben was his helper for the afternoon and assisted him running all the wires and cutting holes in the ceiling.

Ben and Ish enjoying a beer after install

Ben and Ish enjoying a beer after install

Both of us were surprised about how cool it really is and how easy it is to use. We just downloaded the apps on our phones, and can now play our iTunes, Pandora stations, radio stations from around the world, and more (Sirius, Spotify, etc). You can play the same or different music inside or out by the pool. Friends who come over can play from their devices. I really like the “queue” function where we can each add songs to a playlist. Ish was even able to hook up our record player (Ben has started a pretty decent record collection), so we’re now able to play records inside or outside.

The Sonos website says their goal is to “make listening a valued experience again” and it is kind of cheesy but true. We sat up until midnight last night just listening to music, each alternating playing D.J.

We’re looking forward to listening to music a lot more and having some fun parties out by the pool!

Once said pool doesn’t look like this…..


6 Month Progress Report

24 Apr

This week marked 6 months in our house (and 6 months of blogging). Time has flown by and while it usually seems like renovations are moving slowly (and never-ending), I think looking at how each space has evolved in 6 months helps show just how much we’ve been able to accomplish thus far.

So here is a house tour with pictures of each space when we closed compared to how they look today…..

Front Exterior


12 Oaks Before 308



Upgrades so far include a “new” front door and lights, new roof and new windows. Next up will be landscaping and then painting.

Back Exterior


Back of house and pool



Not a huge improvement yet but in addition to a new roof and windows, we added the french doors, cut down a lot of weeds and started working to restore the pool (details to come on that).






Upgrades to this area include re-finished stairs and paint (Perfect Greige by Sherwin Williams). To come will be a new railing.

Living Room


Living Room on Closing Day



Besides paint (Analytical Gray by Sherwin Williams), the major change in here is the wall removed. Next in here will be finishing the support beam and putting lights in the ceiling. Down the road we are going to change up the built-ins so they are floor to ceiling with cabinets at the bottom. Plus re-finishing the floors.

Dining Room


12 Oaks Before 139


IMG_2848This room has seen a new light, french doors and paint (Cliff Rock by Behr above the chair, white below). Also we made the homemade tree art here. Future plans in here include shadowbox molding, a new handmade table and a rug.



12 Oaks Before 129



Not much has changed in here besides taking out the main wall. A complete renovation will come including new cabinets, countertops, lighting, flooring and appliances.






Little progress in here except for paint (Behr’s Wheat Bread). We’re now thinking of turning this into a 1st floor office. Still need to re-do the fireplace, re-finish the floors and add some french doors.

Powder Room


First floor bathroom



Little progress in here too but that’s because this is going to turn into the kitchen pantry. See our future floor plan to learn more.

Upstairs Landing


Upstairs hallway before



Paint and floors are new in here. That railing and banister is also new but just needs to be stained to match the floors.

Guest Bathroom

Pink bathroom beforeAfter


This is the only room I’m calling “After” instead of “Current” because it is 100% done. We’re pretty proud of this space especially since its the reason we are getting most of our blog traffic because of people finding it on Pinterest and other blogs. You can get all the bathroom details here.

Master Bedroom


Master Bedroom



Paint is Benjamin Moore’s Metropolitan. Also new is the ceiling fan and floors re-finished.

Master Bathroom


Master Bathroom



We just painted, added some shelves and put in a cheap vanity in here. This room is going to turn into an upstairs laundry when we relocate our master bedroom.



Bedroom #3 (Future office)



This room got a new coat of paint (Benjamin Moore Dry Sage), light, windows and re-finished floors.

Spare Bedroom #1


12 Oaks Before 261


Paint color in here is Glidden’s Soft Suede.

Spare Bedroom #2


12 Oaks Before 229



New window, closet doors and floors re-finished in here. The paint color is a lightened version of Benjamin Moore Mineral Alloy.

That concludes the tour. Not bad, right? A lot accomplished, but still a lot to go. Our guess is it will take 2 years to complete everything so I guess we are 25% of the way there.

Brand Spankin’ New Windows

13 Apr

Our house was in desperate need of new windows. They were old, cracked, broken and overall just grody. We knew they would need to be replaced but it was a big investment, both in money and time to put in all 27 (!) of them.

We got a couple of initial quotes and even doing the installation ourselves, we thought we’d have to put it off for a while. But then Ben got a call from a local showroom called Studio 41 who had been trying to get him in for a couple years. They make their own windows called Climate Guard and offered to give him a tour of their downtown Chicago plant, take him to lunch and give him a great deal on the windows.

studio 41


It worked. They were a couple thousand dollars cheaper than any other place, had free delivery and the quality was excellent (low E, double glazed, etc.) We got the Climate Guard 2500 vinyl double hung windows with grills.

Slowly but surely Ben put in each of the windows which consisted of removing the old ones, putting in the new ones, spraying in foam around the windows to make them 100% air tight, and then putting new trim on inside and out.


Installation is really important so Ben says this isn’t really a DIY project. You can have the best windows but if they aren’t plum or sealed correctly, you will lose a lot of energy and can have major problems like rotting or insects.


Each window took a couple hours, so times 27 it was a time consuming project.

It is totally worth it though! I won’t share photos of every single window, but here are a few from the inside….



IMG_2878And outside…


Can you spot which of these windows isn’t new?IMG_2885That’s the kitchen and we’re holding off on replacing it because we plan to make it bigger when we do the kitchen remodel.

Windows are one of those upgrades that isn’t wildly exciting, but is functional, helps a lot with energy costs and is really good for resale.

Now that Spring is here (barely), we’re tidying up on the outside and starting to work on the pool. Plus we are still working on the living room and installing lights, whole home audio and framing out the beams. Lots going on so stay tuned!

A Window Becomes French Doors

7 Apr

Pretty much right from the beginning we knew we wanted to take out the window in our dining room and add French doors. This way we’d be able to walk out right to the pool from the main living area. Now that they are in, it feels like it was always supposed to be this way.

Here’s a before shot of the aformentioned window.


Here’s Ben and my brother Josh working on the doors. Josh helped us out while he was home on spring break from college a couple weeks ago (thanks bro!).


And here is how the room is looking now. It makes a huge difference!


The doors let in a ton more light and it is so convenient to walk right outside from here. We use them constantly.


My apologies it’s really difficult to take good photos of windows and doors from indoors. Tips welcome.


What’s really neat is that you can open just one, or both of the doors at the same time.


Of course those stairs are temporary and it will lead out to our future patio and deck.

Here’s a shot of the window from the outside before.


And now.IMG_2864The doors came from Home Depot by a brand called Feather River. They were only about $400 without hardware and we just added 2 oil rubbed bronze doorknobs and a deadbolt. Not bad since we were quoted up to $3,600 for them.

Gotta love when an upgrade is equal parts form and function!

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