Porch House // Lessons Learned from Finishing the Hardwood Floors Ourselves


A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that we made some mistakes while finishing the Porch House hardwood floors.  Three mistakes to be exact, and it led to some stress-filled days and extra work for Garrett.  In an effort to prevent you from making the same mistakes, I wanted to share exactly what it is that we did wrong.  OR, if you like how our floors turned out (because, honestly I do!), what it is exactly that we did right 😉

All is well that ends well, as you can see from the photo below.

The Grit and Polish - Porch Kitchen Soup G tasting FLOORS

Before we talk about the finish, let’s talk about floors.  A few months ago, we laid white oak hardwood floors throughout the main floor (minus the master bathroom).  If you’ve been following the Grit and Polish for long, you know that we usually save the original flooring in our old houses – for character, economic, and environmental reasons – but sadly the Porch House’s 117-year-old fir floors were too far gone for a refinish.  So, we called up Uncle Dougie and placed an order for 1100sf of 2 1/4″ wide, grade #2, white oak flooring.

The Grit and Polish - Porch House Living Rm ProgressThe Grit and Polish - Porch House Floors and belly

We selected white oak because it’s timeless (though it seems to be having a moment in the design world right now) and inexpensive, and that goes for the 2 1/4″ width as well.  We selected #2 grade, which meant lots of color variation and imperfections, a look that fits the bill in our rural community, but was also the least expensive option.  We wanted to stretch our dollars as far as we could since we’re reselling the Porch House and any way you shake it, hardwood flooring will cost more than other options like vinyl or laminate.

The Grit and Polish - Porch House Living Rm 1

We laid the white oak flooring right over top of the existing hardwoods with a layer of tar paper in between. The new hardwood floors sat unfinished for a couple of months while we worked on the rest of the house. And then it was time to finish the floors, and that’s where things went south

LESSON ONE // avoid drum sanders (or use one you’re comfortable with)

The finishing process began with renting a drum sander, an aggressive sander that removes the top layer of wood.  The only drum sander I could find locally was a Silverline.  I’m not sure if anyone’s had good luck with this type of drum sander, but Garrett didn’t like it and he ended up with some ‘drum marks’ or ‘chatter marks’ in the floor.  The marks aren’t horribly obvious and not too big of a deal, but nonetheless, they’re there.  Sorry, they’re tough to catch with a camera, so I don’t have a picture to show you.  FYI, Garrett prefers any of the drum sanders that don’t rely on velcro to attach the paper.

Along with the drum sander, we rented an edger and sanded the floors with both sanders using 36, 60, and 80 grit paper.  Next Garrett filled holes/gaps/seams with wood filler and let that set overnight.  An orbiting floor sander was next with 80 and 100 grit paper.

The Grit and Polish - Porch Hardwood Refinish G in Closet 1

At this point the floors were reasonably smooth and ready for their finish.  So we cleaned up the dust and then cleaned again (because man there’s a lot of wood dust and it gets everywhere!) and picked out a finish product.

The Grit and Polish - Porch Hardwood Refinish me mudroom

LESSON TWO // Watch out for non-clear sealers called ‘Natural’

We opted to find a different finish than what we used at the Farmhouse last year, because those turned out a bit slippery.  Garrett did some google research and landed on a water-based Bona system that had great reviews.  Bona recommends that a foundation be applied prior to the finish to seal the grain and they offer several sealer color options. He picked out the Bona NaturalSeal sealer and the Bona Mega Clear HD finish in Satin.  Garrett picked the ‘Natural’ sealer since the name and description implied a natural-looking finish.  But wouldn’t you know it.  Natural isn’t ‘natural’.  It’s a cloudy sealer that leaves the wood looking slightly white-washed.

The Grit and Polish - Hardwood finish sealer

The Grit and Polish - Master Closet Floors 1

Thankfully, the ‘natural’ finish is actually really beautiful and works well in this house.  But it wasn’t what we were planning on.  Our original goal was a clear finish similar to the floors at my sister’s old house, shown below.

The Grit and Polish - Sissy's Living Room Chair

The walls in both rooms are the same color (BM Simply White) and both floors are white oak. But you can see that the Porch House floors have a slightly white-washed look with less grain showing while my sister’s floors are warmer and have a lot of grain showing through.  For the record, my sister’s white oak floors are wider and a *little* nicer grade than the Porch House’s floors (#floorgoals). Here’s a side by side comparison:

Hardwood finish comparison

Garrett was initially really bummed with the Porch House floor finish. After a week of sanding the floors and dreaming about warm wood tones and grains, he couldn’t quite stomach the cloudy finish. But if he wanted the finish of his dreams, he’d have to start from square one with the drum sander. Honestly, he considered doing just that, but I strongly suggested he reconsider (that’s wife talk for I told him not to do it).  I assured him that the finish really was beautiful and I really liked that it evened out the high-variation in color of our grade #2 floors.  Eventually he wrapped his mind around it and we moved on.

LESSON THREE // buff at your own risk (and if you risk it, do it evenly)

Because the oak grain raised a bit when we sealed the floors, we decided to rent a buffer with a 220-grit screen to knock it down prior to applying the finish coats. The dangerous part about buffing after the sealer is already applied, is that you have to buff the entire floor completely evenly.  If you don’t, or if you have any unevenness in the hardwoods due to say, chatter marks leftover from the drum sander, than the buffing is going to create an uneven finish.  And that’s just what happened to our floors.  There were small areas where you could see more of the wood color and small spots where the sealer was a thicker.  Based on our experience, a tip is that buffing after applying a non-clear finish should be done with the utmost care, super light and evenly.  Our unevenness was fixed, at least mostly so, by Garrett applying another coat of sealer to the light areas and he feathered it into the already-coated areas.  After it dried, he applied two coats of finish to the entire floor.  In the end, the finish isn’t perfect, but after all that work, it looks good.

Hopefully sharing this process helps someone else from making the same mistakes.  And if you’re wondering if finishing your own hardwoods is worth the headache, I will say, it’s not a task we like to do.  But, and this is a big but, the total cost of finishing the Porch House’s 1100sf of hardwoods ourselves rang in around $1200 for sander, rentals, and product.  That’s a savings of over $4,000 from the professional quote we got.



p.s. What the Farmhouse floor refinish cost us


Daphne’s Nursery // DIY Glider


It’s been awhile since we talked about the Farmhouse here on the blog, but we’ve made a few changes recently and I wanted to show you one of my favorites: a DIY glider chair for Daphne’s nursery.  Daphne’s space is far from finished, but we recently moved her into the crib in her nursery for sleeping, meaning I’m stumbling in here at least once a night to nurse.  Having a cozy spot to curl up together has been a life saver!

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider final close .2

sources: armchair // pink striped pillow // strawberry stuffie

I’m going to walk you through how we made this DIY glider, but first let me back up and explain why we decided to DIY this nursery staple.

Since about the time I found out I was pregnant with Daphne, I’ve been looking for the perfect glider or rocking chair.  But I couldn’t find one that I loved and was a reasonable price.  Awhile ago, I was lamenting this fact to a friend when she suggested, “why not DIY one”?  She pointed me in the direction of glider bases and got my brain turning. These bases are technically designed as replacements for existing gliding chairs, but they work perfectly for a new DIY glider too.  I picked out this slipcovered armchair at IKEA, which just so happens to have have a striking resemblance to a $2,000 glider that I was eyeing at Restoration Hardware.  Next, I ordered the base and then on a Saturday morning, with Daphne napping in the other room, Garrett and I put together this glider in less than an hour.   Better yet, the grand total for this DIY rang in at $460 (we had the plywood and screws already), so way cheaper than most gliders on the market.  And honestly, I am thrilled with the end product!

Here’s how we made the glider:

The Grit and Polish - DIY Nursery Glider

Materials //

Armchair – I chose a slipcovered armchair because babies are messy, but a chair with a skirt would work too.  Just make sure you select a chair with a hidden bottom so you can’t see the glider base when finished. tip: look in the “as-is” section for a chair without legs

Base (we selected the adjustable swivel rocker, item #3540)

3/4″ plywood, cut to dimension of the bottom of your chair (for the Farlov, we cut ours at 32″ x 36″)

1 3/4″ screws to attach plywood to chair (we used about 10)

1″ screws to attach base to plywood (we used 4 screws, but depending on the base you pick, you may need more)

Tools //

Cordless drill

Measuring taple


Step 1 // take the legs off of your chair.

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider step 1

Step 2 // attach plywood to the bottom of your chair using 1 3/4″ screws (or longer).  Make sure the screws go into the wood frame of the chair.  We used about 10 screws.

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider drill

Step 3 // attach base to plywood using 1″ screws.  Positioning the base is the trickiest part of this whole DIY.  We first attached the base to the center of the chair, but ended up moving it farther towards the back of the chair.  You can move the base until you’re happy with how the chair rocks.

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider step 3

And that’s it! Pretty easy, I know. This DIY has definitely been done before, but I wanted to share it anyway in case you are looking for a nice glider without the crazy price tag too.

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider final 2.2

Oh goodness, I’m excited for all the cozy story times we’re going to have in this chair in the coming years!

And as for Daphne’s nursery…I have lots of ideas on how I want this room to look.  So stay tuned for more as we work on this room (probably after the Porch House reno is done).

The Grit and Polish - DIY nursery glider final text 2



p.s. Daphne’s arrival and a few things I’ve bought for this space


The Cost of Refinishing our Hardwood Floors Ourselves


On Tuesday, I shared the process we used to refinish our hardwood floors at the Farmhouse, and today, I want to tell you what it cost.  As a reminder, we refinished about 600sf of fir floors.


Here’s a breakdown of the expenses:

$120 Drum sander rental (2 days)

$160 Drum sander sanding belts (20 @ $8/each)

$40 Sand paper for palm and belt sanders (for edging)

$30 Wood putty

$40 Orbital sander rental (1 day)

$40 Orbital sander pads (8 @ $5/each)

$150 Polyurethane Finish (3 gallons @$50/each)

$20 Incidentals

$600 Total

In the past, we’ve paid $3.50/sf for a professional refinish, which would have added up to $2,100 for this project.  So we saved about $1,500 by doing this job ourselves, which for us, was totally worth it!  I just hope the finish holds up to our wild boys and the dog’s nails…fingers crossed!


The finished room photos are of our farmhouse master bedroom, which we redid for the One Room Challenge.  Check out that room reveal here.



p.s. Krystal recommended this book for the holiday season. I ordered it last week and can’t wait to read it with the boys!

p.p.s. I’m all about baking this holiday season!  This tart looks delicious and I want to recreate these cookies plus there will probably be a cake or galette and I’m still figuring out what to do with the rest of our apples (maybe this!).  Any favorite holiday baking traditions?!

p.p.p.s. I’m really not elaborate when it comes to holiday decor – stockings, garlands, and a real tree is about all you’ll see at our farmhouse – and this roundup of holiday spaces is full of amazing inspiration!


Refinishing our 104-year-old Hardwood Floors Ourselves


If you followed along on the One Room Challenge, you already know that we refinished our hardwood floors.  And oh what a difference it made!  We went from paint-splattered hardwoods hidden under stained, rust-colored carpets


to these lovely hardwood floors…


You might be surprised to hear that despite being hardcore DIYers, Garrett and I rarely refinish our own hardwood floors.  The first time that we tackled refinishing floors ourselves, we found it to be timely, labor intensive, and super disruptive to our lives since we were living in the house.  Plus the finish didn’t seem to hold up nearly as well as a professional finish.  After that experience, we hung up our belt sanders and called in the pros to finish our hardwood floors (like at Ravenna and Dexter) and they turned out beautifully!

For some reason we decided to try our hand at refinishing the upstairs farmhouse floors ourselves this time, which totaled about 600sf.  It came down to a matter of schedule (it had to be right away so I could finish the One Room Challenge on time), money (we didn’t have thousands to spend on a professional refinish), and the fact that we just moved to town and don’t know any floor refinishers here.  Plus refinishers usually require a minimum hardwood area, and I’m not sure our 600SF would have been enough for a professional refinisher to bother with.  For all these reasons, we got busy and did the job ourselves.

In the end it was a biiiig job, but totally doable.  It was just as disruptive and labor-intensive as we remembered, but I think we ended up with a much more durable finish this time.  And because we were dealing with time and money constraints, doing a DIY refinish on the floors was absolutely the right choice for this project.

Here’s what we used:

// Materials

Drum sander (rental)

Orbital finishing sander (rental)

Palm sander

Belt sander

Wood filler

Polyurethane, satin finish

Putty Knife

Pad applicator

Dry rags and Vacuum

Safety equipment: ear plugs, glasses, respirator mask

Here’s what we did:

Step 1 // empty the room and prepare for dust onslaught.  Because there will be So. Much. Dust!  I recommend removing everything from the room and then hanging two layers of painters plastic on the doorways.  Dust will still leak out, but these precautions will keep most of it contained.  (Tip: it’s best to paint walls/ceilings before refinishing floors so you don’t get paint splatters on your brand new floor!)


Step 2 // we started sanding with a drum sander because our floors had a lot of layers to remove.  Our 104-year-old floors are covered with layers of paint splattered on top of a thick coat of finish.  Drum sanders can take some serious wood off your floors, so I’d only recommend using one if you have a similar situation, otherwise skip to step 4.  We used our palm sander and belt sander to get the edges and corners of the floor where the drum sander couldn’t reach.  We used 36, 60, 80, 100 grit paper for this step.  In all, this step took us about 18 hours for 3 bedrooms.


Step 3 // we cleaned all the dust off of the floors using a vacuum and then dry rags.  Make sure rags are bone dry (make sure the rags are bone dry or you’ll raise the grain on your hardwood floors and have to sand again).

Step 4 // Once the floors were free of dust, we filled cracks with wood putty and let it dry overnight.  We filled the seams between boards that had seperated a little and any large gouges or cracks.  Again our floors are 104-years-old so there were quite a few of these spots!


Step 5 // Using an orbital finishing sander, we sanded the floors using 100 grit. This machine is square and was able to get right up to the edges, so no need to pull out the palm and belt sanders to sand the corners.

Step 6 // we cleaned up the floors again using dry rags and a vacuum (see Step 3).  At this point, it’s important to make sure every last spec of dust is up, otherwise it’ll be permanently captured in the finish.  If we weren’t 100% sure, we vacummed twice.

Step 7 // If you want to darken your floors, this is where you would add stain, but we skipped this in favor of a natural floor.

Step 8 // Now that the floors were sanded and clean, we applied a thin coat of polyurethane using a pad applicator.  We poured a little of the polyurethane on the floor and then pushed it around, following the direction of the grain, with the pad.  We followed our products drying instructions, which was 2+ hours.

Step 9 // Once the floors were dry, we gave them a light sand using 100 grit sandpaper on the orbital finishing sander.  You don’t want to scuff up the floors or remove much finish, so keep a light sand.  This step is just to get rid of any imperfections.

Step 10 // We cleaned again…urgh, I hate dust! (see step 3)

Step 11 // Next we added 3 more thin coats of polyurethane (for a total of 4), letting each coat dry completely before adding the next.


Step 12 // the last step was to clean…again!  This time we vacummed the floors, walls, and ceiling to get rid of all lingering dust.  Honestly, you’ll probably find dust everywhere, even outside the room!  We also gave the floors a quick mop with water before moving furniture back in.

All-in-all the process took us about a week of work, drying time, and supply runs.  With kids in the mix, moving out of the upstairs for that long was definitely inconvenient, but on the plus side, we saved a bundle.  I’ll tallly up the cost and share that on Thursday.

I’d love to hear from you guys.  Have you ever refinished your own floors?  Any tips or different methods you used?




DIY Hanging Brass Light

Hanging lightbulb fixtures are nothing new.  Scroll through Pinterest (or take a look at Wilder’s bedroom for that matter) and you’re bound to see a ton of examples.  But when I started shopping for a simple hanging brass light fixture for the guest bedroom redo, I couldn’t find one.  At least not in my price range.  So I decided to make one myself!

The Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom 8

Luckily, I had just completed this DIY for coco+kelley so had a pretty good idea where to find the parts for this light.  I went with twisted cotton wire because I love the look and picked out a brass socket because it feels really current.

Truth time: I haven’t done a lot of wiring before – that’s what Papa’s for, after all 😉 – but even for a novice electriction like me, this DIY was easy.  It took a couple of hours at max.  And best of all, the materials can be ordered online (I used this retailer) and cost less than $30.

The Grit and Polish - DIY Brass Hanging Light labeled


  • Scissors
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Cutters
  • Small screwdriver


  • Socket
  • Strain Relief
  • Wire
  • Plug
  • Wall/ceiling hook

The Grit and Polish - DIY brass light parts labeled 2

Step 1. Remove the cotton off of 1/2″ of the end of your wire using sharp scissors.  Strip the black and white wire cover away from the copper with wire cutters.  Disassemble the socket so that the cap and threaded washer are separate from the main part of the socket.  Slip on the strain relief, socket cap, and threaded washer onto the wire and slide them out of the way.

Step 2. Wire the socket by wrapping the copper from the black wire around the gold screw and the copper from the white wire around the silver screw.  Make sure the wires are secured tightly around the screws and then tighten the screws down.  Reassemble all parts of your socket, including the cap and threaded washer that are already on your wire.

Step 3. Pull the strain relief to the socket, thread it onto the socket, and then tighten down all screws.  The socket should now be securely attached to the wire.

The Grit and Polish - DIY brass light 2

Step 4. To wire the plug, start by disassembling the plug from it’s cover.  Slip the cover onto the other end of your wire and push it out of the way.  Strip the cotton from 1/2″ of the end of the wire.  Strip the black and white plastic from the copper wire.  Wrap the copper from the black wire around the gold screw on the plug and then wrap the copper from the white wire around the silver screw.  Once the wire is wrapped tightly, tighten down both screws.  Attach the cap back onto the plug.

Step 5. Screw the light bulb into the socket.  Before installing the light, I recommend testing it.  Plug it into an outlet and flip the switch.  If you’ve wired everything correctly the light should go on.  Wiring a light isn’t complex, but if you have any questions (any at all!), make sure to discuss it with an electrician.  Faulty wiring is dangerous.

The Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom light bulb

Step 6. To mount the light, place a hook in your ceiling about 10″ out from the wall (or however far away you want it to hang).  Place a second hook next to the wall.  Drape the wire over both hooks.  I slid the braided cord onto the hooks (so one strand was on either side of the hook) to hold it in place, but you could also use a clamp.

The Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom hook

So there you have it.  An inexpensive, easy light fixture.  If you’re like me, and have monkeys for kids and a rowdy dog, you may want to consider throwing on a shade or one of these cool guards onto your light.  I’m thinking we’ll probably end up with a guard on our light!

The Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom lightThe Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom nightstand

Now that I have a little wiring experience under my belt, I’d definitely like to try to make more lights.  Like maybe these wall scones!



p.s. here’s a guest space I love!  And here’s to wishing that some day we have a bigger space for family and friends!

p.p.s. Guys, it’s all about black this season.  At least that’s what Apartment Therapy says about kitchens.  Love hearing that we made the right choice with our kitchen cabinets!

p.p.p.s. I love hearing about how people who are downsizing/paying off their mortgage/or figuring out other ways to retire young.  Here’s the House Tweaking story.

Leave a Comment

Guest Bedroom: Striking Craigslist Gold


When I’m in the market for a bed frame, I like to buy vintage.  As in used-on-Craigslist vintage, not the I-paid-a-fortune-for-it-at-an-antique-store vintage.  There’s such a wealth of beautiful old pieces on Craigslist, it would be a shame not to at least look.  Well, that’s what I tell Garrett when he catches me under the covers at 10pm scrolling through craigslist furniture ads ;).

So, as you probably already figured out, when we started this little guest bedroom redo, I hopped onto Craigslist for a bed frame.  I had two things going for me: I’m in a CL-rich location (Seattle) and I was looking for a full-size frame, something not a lot of other people are looking for, but a common size in antiques.  Not surprisingly, I found two gems, which were being sold together for $120 (!!!).  I was in love.

Bedframe CL Ad 3-9-16 page 1 copy

The only problem was that the beds were located a good hour and a half away from Seattle.  But have I mentioned that I have an awesome husband (I do!)?  Garett volunteered to pick up the beds up and take the boys with him.  He actually made a whole day out of it, taking a picnic lunch and stopping at the beach and an aquarium.  By the time they made it home, Brooks had taken two solid naps and Wilder couldn’t stop yammering on about crabs and seagulls.  And almost as exciting as all that, were the two bedframes sitting in the back of our car.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Guest Bedroom Bed 2The Grit and Polish - Dexter Guest Bedroom Bed 1 two

Let me just start by saying that these frames are gorgeous and in really great condition.  I found out from Mary, the seller (who I struck up an email conversation with), that both beds had been in her family for many years.  The dark wood rope bed dates back to the 1800s and was a wedding gift to Mary from her mom, an antiques dealer in Wisconsin.  The lighter maple bed (Mary called it birdseye maple; my go-to wood guy, Uncle Dougie, called it figured curly maple) dates back to the 1920s.  Mary’s grandparents received the bed in 1927, assumedly for their wedding.  Her grandfather had come to the United States as a 13-year-old runaway from Canada.  He went to medical school and later became mayor of their town in Wisconsin.  Mary’s grandmother was a botanist and “something of a tyrant…but hilarious”.  Mary’s grandmother took a teaching job at a seminary after her wedding.  Because of her job, she had to hide her marriage and live apart from her husband for a time.  She eventually switched careers and worked in the office of her husband’s doctor practice, which meant they got to share this beautiful bed again.  They kept the frame until 1999.  72 years!  A good omen, if I do say so myself!

Now that you’ve seen the beds, I should show you the progress we’ve made on the space we’re going to put them in.  These photos aren’t too great, but at least you can see what the wainscoting looks like:

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Guest Bedroom Wainscot ProgressThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Guest Bedroom Wainscot Progress 2

Up next is painting the walls.  Like I said on Tuesday, I’m planning to go black.

I’m curious, which bed frame would you use?  I’m planning to keep both of them (hopefully the boys will get to use them when they’re a little older), but of course, only one will fit in this tiny guest bedroom!



p.s. my DIY on coco+kelley this week is my favorite project to date.  The shelf/light concept was all Cassandra’s, but I sure loved building it!
p.p.s. I’ve been crushing on antique wood headboards for a long time.  In addition to the gems I found, this one and this one are a couple of my favorites
p.p.p.s. Pinterest’s biggest trends of the year (looks like I’m on-point with the dark walls!).

Dexter Kitchen Renovation Part 2: the Reveal


This is part 2 of a series on the Dexter House kitchen renovation.  Part 1 (the Renovation Process) can be found here.

After months of hard work, it’s finally time to share the renovated Dexter House kitchen with you.  And let me just say that no one is more excited about the finished space than me!  I love this kitchen – it is simple, elegant, efficient, and totally approachable.  And best of all, it’s 100% done!  Well 95%, but who’s counting…

I already told you guys about the renovation process in part 1, so lets get down to the main attraction.  The ‘after’ photos of the Dexter kitchen…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter KitchenThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel northThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel south

Early in the design process, I decided to go with a ‘decidedly-not-white’ approach for this space, opting instead for a tuxedo plan that called for black lower cabinets.  The look is quite a bit different then our previous all-white kitchens (like the kitchens at the Ravenna and Bryant houses), but one that we really like.  In fact, this is both Garrett and my favorite kitchen renovation to date.

It took us a good 5 months to complete this room in tandem with the rest of the Dexter House renovation.  We did all of the work ourselves with some help from family and friends.  And by ‘family’ I mean mostly Papa, my father-in-law, and by ‘some’ I mean all of his nights and all of his weekends for the better part of half a year.  I know, you’re wondering where to get yourself a Papa right about now…what can I say, you’ve got to marry in 😉

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel open shelvesThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen AfterThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen After Sink BigThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Renovation Details Collage 2

There’s a lot that I love about this kitchen.  I love the warmth of the wood, the sleekness of the stove, and vintage-feel of the sink.  I love that we can fit two adults plus a sweet baby and a toddler nicknamed “the tornado” in here and still manage to cook dinner.  I love that the kitchen is open enough to the dining room that you can sit and have a conversation with the chef (aka Garrett) but it’s not open so much that it feels like your whole house is a mess if there’s a bowl left out on the counter.  There’s also something not too precious about this space (as opposed to the Ravenna kitchen, which always felt a bit on the precious side), like you could render a duck in here and that’d be cool.  But what I love the most is that the kitchen feels cohesive with the rest of our 1905 Spanish-style house, which was my number one goal.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel AllThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Renovation Shelf Details CollageThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel mudroom

At the end of every renovation, I like to take a look at the before and afters.  It really puts into perspective just how much work we’ve done.  So without further ado, here’s a look back to the Dexter House in May 2015 compared with how it looks today.

The Grit and Polish - Before and After Collage EastThe Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Before and After South The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Before and After North Wall

Back in June, I wrote this description of what I wanted this kitchen renovation to turn out like:

“…I’m going for something a bit more cozy and rustic and old world.  A space that may look a bit more chaotic, but always feels like the heart of our family.  Basically I want the Dexter kitchen to feel like the kitchen of a 50-year-old Italian/Spanish/French mother of six, where you roll out biscuits right on the countertop, stir boiling pots of homemade marinara with your kids (your great grandmother’s recipe, obviously), and wear a cotton apron all day long.  Or perhaps an efficient, newer version of that.  Do you feel me?”

I summed it up as a “warm European feel” in August.  And while I think we achieved that generally, along the way, we also drifted off the mark a bit (like painting the lowers in high-gloss and installing an pro-style range).  But ultimately, we ended up with what we wanted.  Something efficient, welcoming, and ‘decidedly not-white’.  And most importantly, we ended up with a kitchen that we love!

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel W and Mama

And in case you’re wondering why I said we’re only 95% done, well there’s still some paint touchup and caulking left to do.  But if you didn’t notice, I’m not going to point it out! 😉

Here’s a recap of all the Dexter kitchen posts… Campaign hardware | Butcher Block Countertops | Tuxedo Kitchen Progress | Cement Tile Backsplash | Tuxedo kitchen plan | Drywall and Cabinets | Rough In | Dexter Kitchen Plan | Framing and Final Demo | and all about the Mudroom

Next up is the budget and resources for this renovation.  But in the meantime, lay it on me.  What do you guys think about our tuxedo kitchen renovation?  I’d love to hear it…the good, the bad, and the I-would-never-ever-EVER-do-that!



p.s. I’ve been pretty obsessed with “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” lately.  Not that obsession is a bad thing.  Have you seen it?  In another life, I think I might have married Phil and weighed 300 pounds and laughed so hard every day that I had a wrinkly face and killer abs.  ps It’s on Netflix!

p.p.s. Need a home tour fix?  Here’s another great Amber Interiors project, and check out how these newlyweds redid Grandpa’s Hollywood home.  And for something a little more sophisticated, check out this Brooklyn townhouse!

p.p.p.s. Planet 9.  The never seen, newly discovered planet in our solar system.  And shucks, they want to name it after one of my favorite nephews! 😉

p.p.p.p.s. I’m going on 30 days of clean eating and I’m loving it!  Actually the whole family has been loving it…our 2-year-old included!  Have any meal suggestions or tips for sticking with it?  I’ve got a small collection on Pinterest but would love more recipies!


Dexter Kitchen: Butcher Block Countertops


If you’ve followed the Grit and Polish for long, you know that we love using butcher blocks for kitchen countertops (like this one).  They’re inexpensive, timeless and easy to install yourself, making them the perfect material for DIYers like ourselves.  At the Dexter House, we decided to upgrade our usual butcher block countertops to red oak (from Uncle Dougie of course) to match the new floors we laid.

Red oak cost a bit more than basic beech or maple – I think we paid around $26/sf for these – but the final result is stunning!  If I do say so myself.  These countertops are warm, approachable, and down right beautiful.  Here’s a sneak peak at the finished product.  I promise more “after” photos of the kitchen renovation soon…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Progress stove and potfiller

Installing the butcher block countertops took some time and precision, but overall, the process was fairly easy.  First, I measured the kitchen and ordered the countertops in four pieces, each 26″ deep and a couple inches longer than the length I measured.  I added the extra length to the order to account for the ‘old house factor’.  You know, the nothing-is-ever-square-or-level-and-something-unexpected-always-seems-to-come-up factor.  It’s better to have too much and cut it down to size than to start with too little.

When the butcher block arrived, we laid them out on top of the cabinets, marked the exact layout, and then cut them down to the precise size we needed.  To cut the countertops, we used a circular saw with a new blade on it to assure really clean cuts.  Then we sanded each section with 100 grit, 150 grit and 220 grit sandpaper.  (Please please pretend you never saw this mess of a garbage dump backyard!)

The Grit and Polish - Butcher Block Countertop cutting The Grit and Polish - Butcher Block Countertop sanding

Once they were smooth, I sealed the butcher blocks using Waterlox.  We decided to go with Waterlox this time because we wanted something that sealed the butcher blocks instead of just conditioning them.  This product is pretty popular with DIYers and I found lots of positive reviews online.  (We’ve only lived with the butcher blocks for a couple months but so far I’m happy with the finish.)

After the first coat dried, I gave the butcher blocks a quick sand with the 220 grit to cut down the raised grain, and then put on a second coat.  Then I brought the butcher blocks inside to dry overnight.

The Grit and Polish - Butcher Block Countertop sealing The Grit and Polish - Butcher Block Countertop staging

After they dried, we installed the butcher blocks.  There was a little more minor trimming involved in order to make sure each section fit snuggly and then we secured them to the cabinets using screws from the underside.  Then we cleaned all of the butcher blocks thoroughly, sanded them again with 220 grit sandpaper, vacuumed up the dust, and sealed them with a third coat of Waterlox.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter butcher block counter clean  The Grit and Polish - Dexter Butcher Block Install Seal 2 The Grit and Polish - Dexter Butcher Block Install Sealed The Grit and Polish - Dexter Butcher Block Install Sink 2

Since we have kids in the house, I rounded all of the corners with the palm sander.  We haven’t had any bonked noggins yet, but when we do, hopefully they’ll be minor.

You may remember that we painted our lower cabinets black (you can read about that here), so we covered the countertops with thick paper to protect them from overspray.  When we uncovered everything, the kitchen looked like this.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Progress 6

The countertops look good with those floors, right?!  Would you use butcher block as a countertop?  If not, what material would you use in a kitchen like this?

I promise to show you the entire kitchen renovation soon!



p.s. 1880 never looked so good!  Check out this gorgeous Australian renovation.

p.p.s. My latest rug crush.  I love how Julia used it in her minimalist playroom!

p.p.p.s. I’m on day 11 of clean eating and I have to say, it feels goooood!  Definitely motivated to stay off sugar after watching this documentary.  Watch it!  This film will blow your mind!


Our Tiny Master Bathroom: What it Cost


I showed you the finished master bathroom last week, so let’s take a quick look at what it cost.  As you probably remember, this space was originally a dining nook, so we had to buy everything that went into building a bathroom: plumbing, venting, tub, sink, toilet, etc.

The Grit and Polish - Master Bathroom Renovation Process Collage

And considering the massive transformation, I was surprised just how little it cost us to build this bathroom!  We kept the budget down a few ways.  First of all, we know an electrician (thanks Papa!) and my husband is a plumber and a framer and a carpenter and a painter and an all around pretty handy guy (when he isn’t busy in the lab being a biochemist…serious!), so we didn’t have to pay for any labor.  I also picked up vintage fixtures, which fit better and cost less than new ones.  We were also able to work with the existing floors so avoided expensive tiles or new hardwoods.

Here’s the cost breakdown:

$250     Plumbing rough-in

$250     Electrical rough-in

$500     Claw foot tub

$630     Tub hardware

$45       Sink

$30       Mirror

$130     Toilet

$180     Vent

$50       Light fixture

$75       Shower curtains

$200     Door

$25       Window film

$230     Demo/Framing

$100     Paint

$100     Floor Finishing

$200    Incidentals

$2,995 Total

Yup, it cost us just under $3,000 to turn the Dexter House master into a suite.  Of course, this doesn’t include house-wide costs, like adding a new electrical panel or taking out permits, but you get the picture.  All in all, pretty darn reasonable.  I’m not a realtor by any stretch of the imagination, but I think one would agree that this was money well spent if we ever went to sell the Dexter House!

The Grit and Polish - Master Bathroom Renovation All

Want to know more about this bathroom?  Here are posts on demodesign/layoutthe sinkfloor paintwall paintprogress and the reveal.



p.s. Check out this really lovely Christmas home tour on Lark and Linen!

p.p.s. I love decorating for the holidays, but with a two-year-old and a toddler, this year is all about simple.  As in we-bought-a-Christmas-tree-in-the-Fred-Meyer-parking-lot simple.  So no DIY wreaths for me.  But if I did happen to find myself with two free hands and a couple of hours, I would try to make something like this or this!

p.p.p.s. Some of my favorite holiday decor.


Our Craigslist Headboard


A few months back I scoured this headboard on Craigslist. It was $195 and I was in love.  I sent Garrett to pick it up since I was conveniently out of town visiting my sister.  The headboard went straight into our basement for storage since we were still knee deep in the upstairs remodel and I kind of forgot about it.  Well shortly after the floors were painted, Garrett brought the headboard out of storage and set it in our master bedroom.

The Grit and Polish - Master bed 1

It’s probably difficult to get a sense of the scale of this thing, but suffice it to say, it’s massive.  I’m 5′ 7″ and can barely reach the top of the thing.

The Grit and Polish - Master bed 2

Excuse the massive belly – that picture is obviously a bit outdated 😉

The headboard didn’t come with a frame, so we decided to build one.  We had already ordered one of those ‘comes-in-a-box-and-inflates’ mattresses and knew we didn’t want a box spring, so followed the manufacturer’s recommendations for building the frame.  That meant that we ran 2″x6″‘s every 8.5″ so that we didn’t exceed a 3″ gap.  We surrounded the frame with fir 1″x6″ that match the headboard and set it on 2″x2″ fir legs.  We attached the frame to the headboard with metal brackets so that we can separate the headboard from the frame should we ever decide to move this bed.  The thing weighs a ton, but at least it’s really solid.

The Grit and Polish - Master bed 3

I sealed the headboard and the fir 1″x6″s with orange oil, which smells amazing, and that was it. The materials for the frame cost $150, so we’re into the bed for a total of $345. Seems really reasonable for a solidly-built, unique headboard like this one.

The Grit and Polish - Master bed 4

So that’s our Craigslist headboard.  It’s pretty unique and probably not to everyone’s taste, but I’m curious, do you guys like it?



p.s. Have you guys seen Chip and Joanna’s farmhouse renovation?  Love these guys!

p.p.s. I’m not really into playing favorites, but yeah, this is probably my favorite kitchen ever!

p.p.p.s. With so much of my time these days spent snuggling baby Brooks, I’ve had plenty of time to keep up on Pinterest.  Here’s my favorite kitchen pin, living room pin (that ceiling! that fireplace!), and recipe pin this week!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...