Bryant House // Bathroom & Office Airbnb Makeover


This is part 4 of our Bryant House Airbnb makeover.  See more of this series here: part 1 (why we turned a traditional rental into an Airbnb), part 2 (living room), part 3 (master bedroom), part 4 (kitchen and dining nook)

Well guys, this is the last part of the Bryant House makeover that I have left to show you.  I’ll probably still write another post on Airbnb hosting – tips, essentials, lessons learned, etc – but that might not be for a little while.  In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions or topics you want me to cover!

Today, we’re going to look at the bathroom and second bedroom at the Bryant House.  Let’s start with the small but efficient bathroom.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bathroom 2

I really wanted to start this post with a photo of this bathroom pre-renovation, but I couldn’t find one since we renovated this house before I started the blog and I was way less judicious about taking photos back then.  As small as this room is today, it was even smaller when we bought the house.  The area the tub now occupies was originally the master closet, so the whole bathroom was shrunk by 2.5 feet in width.  Trust me when I say, it was TINY, even by old house standards!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bathroom sinkThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bathroom

I’m sure you guys have gathered by now that I am a fan of clawfoot tubs.  Garrett, not so much.  Somehow I won out in this bathroom, though I fully admit that they don’t make for the best showering experience.  But still, they are so charming and beautiful and sturdy and the perfect solution for a small space.  I found this tub at a local salvage shop along with the sink and we painted both in Mango Gold (I believe it was a Ralph Lauren color sold through Home Depot).  I love how cheery they are.

As a rental, we stock this bathroom with white towels, shampoo/conditioner, soap, TP.  We also started leaving black washcloths in our Airbnb bathrooms for makeup removal.  Before we stocked these, we noticed quite a few of our white towels stained from makeup.

Airbnb host tip // provide black washcloths for makeup removal to limit staining on white linens

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bathroom tub detail

For Airbnb, we planned to convert the second bedroom into a bunk room, but serendipitously Garrett grabbed the wrong bed frame at IKEA.  We discovered the error on the last night of our 3-day makeover, and by then it was too late to make another trip to IKEA.  But the stars aligned for Garrett and his error ended up saving us a chunk of change.  You see, the next day Garrett had a tour of the house lined up for a couple that was interested in renting month-to-month.  And wouldn’t you know it, they took the house on the spot, and since they didn’t have kids, they asked for an office instead of a second bedroom.

Can you believe we had a desk, rug, chair, and curtain just sitting in our basement?  I guess that’s the benefit of having had moved so many times in the past 8 years. Ha!  After purging our basement, we were able to whip this room up for $0 in an afternoon.  A win for Garrett…but don’t tell him I said that.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office desk The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office curtainThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office from Living RoomThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office chair

This second bedroom also offered an ideal spot to store extra linens and supplies since there isn’t a linen closet in the house.  For all of our Airbnb’s we have a central location for sheets, towels, vacuum, iron, and a First Aid kit that guests can easily find if needed.  Storing all of this together also makes turns a little easier.

Airbnb host tip // leave extra bed linens, towels, and a first aid kit in a spot accessible to guests

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office closet

Admittedly, this room will likely transform to a bunk room when the house converts to an Airbnb at the end of the couple’s month-to-month tenancy.  At that point, the linen storage will likely end up in the basement by the laundry and this sweet little office furniture will end up back in storage.  But in the meantime, I’m pretty happy with this serendipitous (and free!) office.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office lamp The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Office 2

sources: desk // chair // rug (similar) // lamp // pillows

That’s the last of the Bryant House Airbnb spaces.  It isn’t a large house by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a light and bright and comfortable – just the way an Airbnb rental should be!




Bryant House // Kitchen and Dining Room Airbnb Makeover


This is part 4 of our Bryant House Airbnb makeover.  See more of this series here: part 1 (why we turned a traditional rental into an Airbnb), part 2 (living room), part 3 (master bedroom)

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen 4

The Bryant House kitchen and attached dining room is one of my favorite renovations to date.  We tackled this space in 2013, and although there are things I’d change today (like those miss-colored floor boards), I still love the design, simplicity, and functionality of this room.  But I must admit, the reason that this is one of my favorites has little to do with all that…it’s because this room gets the best natural light.  There are windows facing east, south, and west, which we enhanced by removing an interior wall and adding 2 sliding glass doors to the backyard.  I also love the built-in banquette in the dining nook, and in fact, my fondest memories of living in this house are from right there.  Wilder was born at the Bryant House shortly after we completed this kitchen remodel, and we spent so many late nights and early mornings sitting at the table, playing games with friends and getting to know our baby boy.  Needless to say, it was fun to be back here in August, this time with our 3rd baby, converting the house to an Airbnb/month-to-month rental over 3 days.

Before I show you more of what this room looks like now, I wanted take you back 5 years ago to what it looked like pre-renovation.  In parts 2 and 3 of this series, I showed you the Bryant House as it looked when we arrived to do the 3 day makeover, but since this kitchen didn’t need furnishing (the hutch and table are both permanent fixtures at the house), I thought pre-renovation photos would be a whole lot more fun.  So let’s take a walk down memory lane and look back to what this room was like when we bought the house.  These ‘before’ pictures are straight off of my phone, taken at night and completely unedited, so excuse the quality.

This first ‘before’ photo is from the same vantage point as the above photo.

Photo Oct 19, 5 53 30 PM

Ugh soffit.  And don’t get me started on those cheap cabinets.  Any why why is such a small space shrunk even further with a wall running down the center of the room?! Speaking of that wall, it separated the tiny dining space from the kitchen.  Here is what the dining space looked like back in 2012 (I’m barely pregnant with Wilder in this next shot and look oh so thrilled ;):

Photo Oct 19, 5 53 50 PM

As you can see, the dining space was originally small, dark, and completely closed off from everything.  Honestly, I’m not sure anyone ever used this space.  I’d like to think that by removing the wall, adding a sliding door to the backyard, and building in banquette seating, we increased the usability of this room by 1000%.   Yes, 1000%!  Here’s that same view today:

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining Nook

Ah…much better!  We didn’t have to do much in the ding room during the reno (the windows, floor, walls are all original) but we did add that sliding door, build the banquette, replace the light, and add shelving to the nook.  I’ll share more of this dining space in a second, but first, let’s do one more before and after, because they are just so fun.


Photo Oct 19, 5 53 39 PM


The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen 7

Gosh that makes me happy.  The big change here was removing the old chimney, which terminated into the wall (that big lump in the wall by the doorway in the before photo).  We never could quite figure out whey it didn’t extend into the basement like 99% of all chimneys I’ve ever seen, but there you have it.  This chimney stopped mid-wall.  There was no fireplace, gas stove, or HVAC attached to the chimney, so it made removing it easy – we just had to patch the roof.

Let’s get back to the Airbnb makeover part of this post.  While we didn’t have to buy any furniture for this room, we did buy a ton of supplies.  I won’t provide a complete list here because it would be a mile long, but think about everything you use in your kitchen on a daily basis and we pretty much bought it.  Dishes, silverware, coffee pot, baking pans, drinking glasses, knives, oven mitts, yada, yada, yada.  Two suggestions I have for anyone setting up an Airbnb – get a teapot (you’d be surprised how often it’s requested) and buy a simple coffee pot that is easy to operate.

Airbnb host tip // provide guests with a teapot and the simplest coffee pot you can find (that even coffee-deprived, jet-lagged people can operate first thing in the morning)

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen SinkThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen 3The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Kitchen to Living room

To give you an idea of how this space connects to the rest of the house, the living room window in the previous photo is at the front of the house.  And here’s the reverse view from the living room looking into the kitchen and dining space.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Room to kitchenThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Kitchen long .2The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen 5

This kitchen is narrow and long, and doesn’t have a ton of countertop space, so we brought in a rolling metal cart to function as an island.  The rolling cart works great in here because it provides a ton of countertop space (it’s 2’x4′) but doesn’t take a lot of visual space, plus it can be moved around to where it’s needed.  If you have a similar issue in your own kitchen, I highly recommend a similar cart!  BTW, all the sources are listed at the bottom of this post.

The hutch by the sliding door is another awkward-space solution.  That area isn’t deep enough for standard-depth cabinets and countertops, and a custom cabinet for this spot would have been pretty pricey, so I found this hutch on Craigslist.  It provides a ton of storage but was one-fifth the price of cabinets.  I like that it adds a little interest at the end of the kitchen too.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Kitchen

One of my favorite parts of the design of this room is those original cabinets.  You guys probably know by now that I’m always trying to save original cabinets in our old houses, and I was thrilled it actually worked out in here.  To integrate them with the new cabinets on the other side of the kitchen, we gave these oldies a coat of paint (the same color as the new cabinets) and some fresh hardware.  The countertop isn’t very deep (maybe 18″), so it functions great as a butlers pantry/storage space.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Kitchen to Dining

Another favorite in this space is the dining nook.  I LOVE built-in dining spaces as a general rule and this one fits perfectly into this bump-out space.  This dining space is sure to get a ton of use from guests and can fit a surprisingly large number of folks for such a small table (it’s 42″ diameter).

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining NookThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining Nook 2The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining Table

As part of the decor, I included a basket with kids books and filled an old picnic basket (yes, another picnic basket 😉 with some of our favorite games for guests to enjoy.  I love finding games to play when we stay at other people’s homes, so I wanted to have that here too.

Airbnb host tip // provide a few games for guests of all ages to entertain themselves with.

Other than the games, I kept the decor light, bright, and organic like the rest of the house.  Hopefully guests find it as welcoming and enjoyable as we did!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining Shelves

Sources: rolling cart  // countertops // backsplash (similar) // faucet (similar) // sink (we under-mounted it) // drawer pulls // cabinet latches // knife set // soap set // utensil crock // hanging light // pillows // stripe throw // dining chairs // cement pot (similar) // eucalyptus vase // wood frog // rugs

Gosh I miss this sweet space 🙂  And in case you’re wondering, this is how this kitchen and dining space was styled when we lived here. I like it way better now, but of course, it helps that you don’t need as much stuff when you don’t live in a house full time.  I’d love to hear what you guys think of this space!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Kitchen G and C

There we are, at the end of the 3-day makeover, tired and yet completely energized.  Next up, I’m going to show you the bathroom and second bedroom of the Bryant House and share all the drama about the bunk beds turned office. Plus I’ve got an extra post coming at you this week, so look for that on Thursday!



p.s. butcher block countertops


Bryant House // Master Bedroom Airbnb Makeover


This is part 3 of our Bryant House Airbnb makeover.  See more of this series here: part 1 (why we turned a traditional rental into an Airbnb), part 2 (living room)

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Master Bedroom Door Knob

Today, I’m going to show you the master bedroom of the Bryant House.  This space is long and narrow, and the window placement has always made the space a little tricky to arrange.  Large east facing windows bring in good morning light, which makes the bedroom light and bright and a pleasure to wake up in.

Over 3 days at the end of August, we transformed this space (and the rest of the house) into an Airbnb/month-to-month rental.  Here’s what the space looked like when the previous tenants moved out:

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb before master bed

We didn’t have too much to do in this space besides clean and furnish it.  I did chose to swap out the overhead lights because the previous ones bugged me so much, but otherwise we kept everything, even the IKEA drapes we’ve had in here (with a good washing, of course).  In case you’re curious about any of the sources, they are all listed at the bottom of this post.

Without further ado, here’s what the space looks like after 3 days of elbow grease.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom 2The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom night stand

I’m not usually one to put a bed in front of a window, but due to the long-and-narrow shape of this room, it made the most sense.  I ordered this bed frame after seeing it in Chris Loves Julia’s guest room because it is the right size for the space and has a vintage vibe.  This is actually the first non-antique bed frame I’ve purchased in years, but I didn’t have time to look for one this time around.  Good thing this bed frame is a great alternative!  We also splurged on a new mattress from Costco, that is so comfortable I wanted to take it home with me.

Airbnb Host Tip // Give guests a good night sleep with a nice mattress.  It’s one of the first things guests notice and comment about.  

This room is so narrow that it made traditional nightstands impossible.  I hunted for the perfect narrow nightstand, looking especially for something antique since they tend to be smaller, but I didn’t have any luck until we happened upon plant stands.  In order to free up the limited tabletop space, we mounted swing arm lights above the nightstands and covered the cords with cord covers.  By the way, I love the look of cord covers!  It’s a must for all wall-hung lights in my book–it makes inexpensive lights (these were only $50!) look much more expensive.

I dressed the side tables up with simple botanical art that was a DIY project the boys and I did back at the Farmhouse. I love the pop of green.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom Botanical 2The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom Closet

This bedroom originally had two closets, but four years ago we removed the larger of the two closets to increase the size of the bathroom, which lays directly behind the built-in closet wall.  It was a tough decision to remove storage in an old house (which in my experience is always lacking), but the additional square footage was a game changer for the tiny bathroom.  The second original closet is a small side closet, which Garrett used when we lived here, and it now houses a luggage rack.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom luggage rackThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom 4

For the decor, I stuck with a relaxing, natural, and comfortable look.  Bedrooms are ultimately for unwinding and sleeping, so I tried to focus on creating a calm space, keeping a neutral palette and simple decor.  I also brought in a bit of nature with the botanical art, plants, wood frog, sheep skin and cowhide rug.

Airbnb Host Tip // patterned sheets make linen storage easier.  Buy different size patterns for different size beds, and you will always know which sheets go where.

One thing that has made Airbnb turns easier for us, is buying patterned sheets.  I used to always stick with white, but we found it really difficult to figure out which set of sheets fit on which bed.  Sometimes I’d be in a hurry to make 3 beds and have to unfold 4 or 5 sets of sheets in order to find the right size (and re-folding sheets is…ugh!).  So now we buy different patterns for different bed sizes, and it’s made my life much easier!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Master Bedroom CThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Bedroom 1

sources: bed frame // swing arm lights and bulbs // cord cover // overhead lights // night stands // wood frog // sheets // throw pillows // bed blanket // blanket in basket // bench // cowhide // botanical art frame // luggage rack //

That’s all for this simple master bedroom.  I’d love to hear what you think.  Next up, I’ll get to the kitchen and dining spaces.




Bryant House // Living Room Airbnb Makeover


This is part 2 of our Bryant House Airbnb makeover.  See more of this series here: part 1 (why we turned a traditional rental into an Airbnb).

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Room long

sources: couch, hanging chair, blue stripe throw, blue dot art, side table, rug (similar), pillows (IKEA)

The Bryant House’s living room is spacious and full of natural light. The front door (a dutch door!) opens into this room, so it’s also the main entry. When we got over to the Bryant House at the end of August to complete our 3-day Airbnb makeover, this room needed a good clean.  But other than that and a broken blind, it was in pretty good shape.  Have a look:

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Before Living Room 1 The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Before Living Room 2

Since this is the first room that our Airbnb guests and month-to-month tenants see when they walk into the house, I really wanted to make sure that it sets the stage for their stay.  My goal was a welcoming, bright, organic, and comfortable feel.  That meant lots of throw pillows, slip-covered seating, a neutral palette, plants, relaxed art, and a compiled-over-time vibe that only comes with the addition of antiques.  Thankfully we were able to reuse a lot of furniture that we already owned for this space (the benefit of owning 6 homes…), but we did buy a new sleeper sofa and some finishing touches.

Airbnb Host tip // first impressions are important.  Start your guests’ stay off on the right foot by creating a welcoming entry space.

This house doesn’t have any impressive architectural features.  It’s simple.  Eight foot ceilings, original fir floors, and simple moldings.  But I think that simplicity makes this room really comfortable too.  The space feels humble and approachable, allowing the decor to shine.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Hanging Chair 3The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Room to kitchenThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Living TVThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Plant and Art

sources: art print, gold frame, gold bar cart

This room is arranged to accommodate TV watching and hanging out, but also provides additional sleeping arrangements with a pull-out couch.  The hanging chair is something we bought for the Farmhouse, but wasn’t working, so it found a home here.  The chair adds an element of fun to this fairly basic room and has turned into one of my favorite spots in the house.

I tried to mix a few vintage pieces in with the new finishes we bought for the space. Okay, so I always mix in vintage pieces into our spaces, but in this house I felt it was extra important since so much of the furniture was coming from Ikea and other big box stores.  This room has a 50s-era dresser under the TV, an antique armoire, which serves as the coat closet, and a vintage trunk and picnic basket to give the space a little character.

The internet login information hangs on a clipboard by the front door so guests are sure to find it.

Airbnb Host Tip // place wifi login info in a prominent spot for guest’s ease (by the front door or on the fridge)

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Room 2The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Art VignetteThe Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Old House Photo

Many of our guests are families with young children, so we tailor our spaces accordingly. Baskets of toys, books, and games provide entertainment for little ones throughout the house. And to ensure the house remains tidy, we limit it to that.

Airbnb Tip // Make kids’s stays more fun with books, toys, and games placed strategically throughout the house!  To ensure the house remains tidy, keep it contained to a couple baskets

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Room Couch

That’s it for the living room.  Next week we’ll look at the master bedroom.



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Bryant House // Why We Turned a Traditional Rental into an Airbnb


This is part 1 of our Bryant House Airbnb makeover series.  Stay tuned for more…

We recently converted one of our Seattle rentals into a furnished Airbnb.  I’ll be sharing the quick transformation of the Bryant House (we did it in just 3 days!) over the next few weeks here on the blog, but today, I wanted to begin with a little history about the house, explain why we converted a long-term rental into an Airbnb/month-to-month rental, and take a peek at the numbers.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Master Bedroom Door Knob

The Bryant House was built in 1920 and is a compact 2 bedroom/1 bathroom bungalow in a cute Seattle neighborhood. We purchased the house in 2012, our second house, and moved into it so we could rent out our first house, which we had already renovated. We did a quick bathroom renovation at the Bryant House and a couple of months later tackled the kitchen and dining rooms. We lived there for just over a year, during which time we welcomed baby Wilder and then bought and renovated the Ravenna House. The Bryant House then became a traditional rental, left unfurnished and leased annually.

Fast forward to 2017. Bryant had seen a few tenants over the years and in August, the most recent lease was up. Garrett and I debated whether to rent it for another year or convert it to an Airbnb, the former of which was easier and the latter of which was definitely harder, but also more lucrative (although it would require an initial investment to furnish the home).  Ultimately we decided to furnish the house and list it on Airbnb.  There were other considerations too – like the neighborhood culture and the house’s busy location next to a coffee shop, restaurants, and a yoga studio – that made this property a good fit for short-term and month-to-month tenants.  And if you’re thinking about a similar conversion, a few other things to consider: local short-term rental laws, the impact of the rental on the neighborhood, and the city housing climate as a whole.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb Living Hanging Chair 3

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Over the past 9 years of being landlords, Garrett and I have found that renting on Airbnb during the summer months and then finding month-to-month tenants for the rest of the year is our ideal rental model. It’s a delicate balancing act between cost, effort, and return, but we make almost double using Airbnb versus any other rental model between June and September (high tourist season in Seattle).  Of course there is the expense of utilities as well as cleanings/turns, which we try to take on ourselves as much as possible, but even with hiring some of that out, we still make substantially more renting through Airbnb over the summer months.

When Fall hits, we like to find month-to-month tenants on Craigslist.  These tenants – who are usually looking to buy a home of their own or are undertaking a renovation on their existing house –  pay between 12-25% more for a furnished rental with flexible lease terms than they would for a traditional year-long, unfurnished rental.  We’ve also found that month-to-month, furnished rentals make close to the same in the Fall/Winter/Spring as Airbnb would over the same time period. But the biggest benefit with this model is not having to clean the property or deal with guest communication (which takes quite a bit of time) for months at a time.  For us, that means less driving over a mountain pass, less time on our cell phones, and lots more time outdoors and with our kids.  So even if we make a bit less on month-to-month tenants than we could on Airbnb during this time, it’s worth it to us.  I will mention that when we haven’t found month-to-month tenants in the Fall/Winter/Spring, we’ve made quite a bit during the holidays and graduation season with Airbnb, so it’s not a bust.

Airbnb Host Tip // balance effort and profit by using Airbnb during peak months and finding month-to-month tenants during slower months. We often use Airbnb for just the summer months and switch to lower-maintenance month-to-month tenants for the rest of the year.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant Airbnb After Dining Table

So that’s a lot of information packed into a few paragraphs, but hopefully I answered the question of why we chose to convert Bryant to an Airbnb/furnished month-to-month rental. One more thing I wanted to share about hosting on Airbnb…it can be really fun. Hosting guests is a great way to meet people (or at least communicate with them) from all over the world. We’ve found that in general, guests are really respectful of our homes, and we have loved sharing our spaces and Seattle with those guests.

Now a bit more about the numbers… I still need to tally the total cost of furnishing the Bryant House (i.e. our initial investment or cost to turn a traditional rental into an Airbnb), but we anticipate the number to come in around $6,000. And while that is a lot of money, it is not a very large budget for furnishing an entire home. I had to be pretty creative to keep this budget in check by utilizing a lot of hand-me-down furniture and finishes we had stored from other properties.

From an investment standpoint, our return on converting Bryant to an Airbnb/month-to-month rental looks like this: we expect to recoup our initial investment in the first 11 months, which means the switch to Airbnb would pay off before the end of the first year. Admittedly it’s hard to project exactly how Bryant will rent over the year – that’s the constant uncertainty that goes along with being a landlord – but that’s our projection based on past experiences.

Next up, I’ll be sharing the transformation of the house, starting with the living room, plus tons more tips for Airbnb hosts. Let me know if you guys liked this look into the life of a landlord and/or if you have any more Airbnb questions. And if you happen to be an Airbnb yourself, I’d love to hear any advice you have for other hosts!



p.s. The ‘How I Built This’ podcast featuring the Airbnb founders.  It’s a great listen!

p.p.s. the Bryant House kitchen renovation


Reader Question: Mixing Old and New Cabinets


Well it’s time to answer the final part of Miyuki’s reader question about the Bryant House kitchen: mixing old and new cabinets.

Here’s a quick reminder on what she asked:

“My husband and I own a small home in LA, and looking to remodel our kitchen.  I love what you did on the Bryant house kitchen and I’m wondering if you can tell me about how much it ran you and in general, how do you budget for a kitchen remodel?

“We have a galley kitchen with very poor storage space.  Our cabinets are old, but I think we can salvage some of them so long as we can find a way to make the new ones match the old which is why I like what you did with the Bryant house.  Was it hard to make the cabinets somewhat match each other?

“And using butcher block is exactly what I want to do in ours too (my husband thinks I’m crazy).  Is Maple the standard wood you would go with, or would you suggest other wood qualities to consider?”

I strive to keep as much of the original home in tact as possible when doing a remodel – for both charm and cost reasons.  So whenever there are solid wood floors, a cast iron sink, or great original cabinets, I say keep them.  Of course this can get a little tricky. Old cabinets are usually only 20″ deep (instead of modern 24″ deep cabinets), which is too shallow for a dishwasher.  The countertops are usually placed lower than the current day 36″ standard height and uppers tend to be so close to lowers that you can’t always fit a coffee maker in between.  So let me say it again.  If there are great original cabinets in your kitchen, I say keep them…if they don’t interfere with the goals of your kitchen reno.

The Grit and Polish - Original 1926 Cabinets with New Clamshell Pulls.jpg.jpg

We were able to accomplish this at the Bryant house when we saved the old cabinet bank on the south wall of the kitchen.  These cabinets feel like a built-in hutch and luckily were built without appliances or plumbing, so we were able to keep the original charm without making them work with modern-day dimensions.  And how great is that window sitting smack-dab in the middle, letting in oodles of natural sunlight?!

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House Original Cabinets

The west and north walls of the kitchen, however, were full of flimsy, cheap cabinets from a mid-century remodel with a layout that didn’t work for us – and couldn’t have really worked for anyone, ever.

Original Kitchen Photo

We designed custom cabinets for the ‘L’ shaped kitchen, and removed the wall to the right of the kitchen (see above photo) that separated the dining space from the kitchen, letting in even more natural light into the space.  

The Grit and Polish - White and Bright Kitchen Renovation at the Bryant house.jpg

To integrate the new cabinets with the old, we had a cabinet builder replicate the door and face dimensions of the original cabinets.  To keep the new cabinets from looking too ‘new’, we hand-painted them leaving brush strokes in the finish like those seen on any original cabinets – after all, they didn’t have paint sprayers in 1926.  We also added the same butcher block countertops and hardware to both the new and old cabinets.  I’m pretty happy with the results!  Although the new and old cabinets are noticeably different (perhaps not on your first glance, but definitely on your second), they don’t scream mis-matched.  Plus keeping all those old cabinets kept our renovation costs down, which should always be a kitchen reno goal!

What do you guys think?  Would you ever keep any of the original details during a kitchen renovation?



p.s. A bit of whimsy in Nashville.

p.p.s. Mint Milano cookies were a staple of my childhood.  I’m embarrassed to admit that my sister and I could down a bag of those in a evening.  Needless to say I can’t wait to try this homemade version!

p.p.p.s. Check out this cool house tour.

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Reader Question: Butcher Block Counters


Last week I went through the Bryant House kitchen remodel budget with you guys in response to a reader question.  This week I’m going to continue to answer Miyuki’s question, but focus on our butcher block countertops.

the Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with apron front sink and industrial faucet.jpg

Here’s a quick reminder on what she asked:

“My husband and I own a small home in LA, and looking to remodel our kitchen.  I love what you did on the Bryant house kitchen and I’m wondering if you can tell me about how much it ran you and in general, how do you budget for a kitchen remodel?

“We have a galley kitchen with very poor storage space.  Our cabinets are old, but I think we can salvage some of them so long as we can find a way to make the new ones match the old which is why I like what you did with the Bryant house.  Was it hard to make the cabinets somewhat match each other?

“And using butcher block is exactly what I want to do in ours too (my husband thinks I’m crazy).  Is Maple the standard wood you would go with, or would you suggest other wood qualities to consider?”

Well Miyuki, I love butcher block countertops!  I think of them as the DIY-preferred, budget-conscious countertop of choice for homeowners.  We installed them at our Bryant Houses and been very happy with the results. (We also installed them at our Wallingford House with a little less satisfactory results, mainly because we bought cheap butcher blocks from a big box store that didn’t hold up great, but more on that later.)

There’s a lot to consider when selecting the right butcher block so I called in a wood expert to give Miyuki some answers.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House White Kitchen Renovaiton.jpg

Uncle Dougie (aka Doug Wirkkala of Hardwood Industries) is my brother-in-law and he’s been working in his family hardwood business pretty much his whole life. He’s our go-to wood guy and has helped us select butcher blocks, cutting boards, stair treads, and moldings with great results.

Uncle Dougie agreed to answer a few qustions to help Miyuki through the process of selecting a butcherblock (and persuading her husband wood is a good choice).  So read on for some great info on butcher blocks!

What species of wood would you recommend for someone looking for a beautiful and durable butcherblock countertop that is also budget-friendly? 

Maple is our most commonly sold butcher block.  It is priced well and performs well.  We offer it in two styles;  one we call “white” which is uniform in color made from all sapwood and the other we call “natural” which has more color variation due to a mix of sapwood and heartwood.  People seem to like some character in their wood because natural outsells the white.  

If Miyuki wants to use a local wood, are there any options native to the LA/California?

If you want something local, the best bet would be looking to Northern California / Southern Oregon.  You can get some Madrone, Claro Walnut or Western Maple that look cool and unique.  (Western Maple is also grown in Washington.)

What other butcher block properties should Miyuki think about?

Thickness:  The majority of butcher blocks we sell are 1-1/2” thick.  The thinner the butcher block, the cheaper they are, but you don’t want to go too thin as they can become unstable.  The other common sizes we run are 2-1/2” and 1-1/4” thick. 

Panel Type: There are two main types of butcher blocks: edge grain and end grain.  The look is drastically different between the two types, so it is worth thinking about.  Edge Grain is what most people think of when they think of butcher blocks, with the wood running horizontal along the length of the countertop (like at the Bryant House).  They are by far the more popular butcher block type and have great durability.  End Grain is less popular but definitely my favorite.  The wood runs vertical, so you literally see the end of the grain, often in a square pattern.  End grain costs more than edge grain (about double), but is more durable and will probably outlive its owner.  You often see thick end grain butcher blocks in chef’s kitchens because knives won’t dull as quickly on end grain butcher blocks.    

How should a homeowner prepare the butcher block for installation and use? And how should they maintain them? 

Butcher blocks are easy for homeowners to install and maintain themselves.  If you intend to cut directly on your butcher block, finishing is as follows: sand the butcher block with a 200/220 grit sandpaper until smooth, clean with a dry rag to remove sanding particles, then apply a butcher block oil product (a mixture of mineral oil and wax) with a clean towel.  The product I use at home is Howard Products Butcher Block Conditioner, which can be found at your local hardware store  When your butcher block countertop is new, you will need to repeat this weekly.  After four weeks or once you notice your butcher block stops soaking up the conditioner, you can maintain it monthly.  After a few months and once you get a feel for your particular butcher block, you can oil it as needed.

If you wish to seal your butcher block and never ever cut directly on the surface, you can use a standard conversion varnish.  I recommend calling in an expert at a local finish shop to do this work for you to ensure a perfectly smooth and lasting finish.  

Any ammunition for my reader in order to persuade her husband to use butcherblock countertops? 

In general, wood is an environmentally friendly renuable resource that sequesters carbon so you can feel good about the environmental impact of your purchase.  Our Maple butcher block countertops are grown, sawn, and manufactured in the United States.  The European Beech is grown in Germany and France where forestry practices are amongst the strictest in the world.  Even better we manufacture them from lumber to countertops in the Northwest.  Another great feature is they are easily cut and installed by the homeowner, which can be quite a cost savings.   

If money were no object, which butcherblock would you select for your own home?

For a US-grown wood, I’d choose Eastern Black Walnut in an end grain panel type.   It’s definitely an expensive option but absolutely beautiful!  For a more exotic look, I’d choose teak.  Teak is the best performing wood in the world, with natural oils and other properties that allow it to remain stable even when exposed to large humidity changes.  

Well there you have it, straight from the horse’s mouth, which is actually Doug’s mouth, in this case.  Those are the major things to chew on when thinking about butcher block countertops.

So let’s talk price.  Hardwood Industries sells butcher blocks for between $27 and $35 per square foot for basic options, which I’m sure is an average price for quality, custom hardwood distributers.  Yes, you can get them cheaper at Ikea, but they’re not nearly as beautiful or durable.  We actually installed Ikea butcher block in our Wallingford House (due to time constraints) and have been disappointed with how soft they are ever since.  Common daily wear has left them looking pretty bad.  Like anything else, you get what you pay for in countertops – I won’t use Ikea for butcher block again.

What about you guys?  Do you have butcher block countertops?  Would you ever put them in your kitchen?



p.s. What makes a man (or future man) happy.  Turns out it’s got a lot to do with his mama.  I love this quote: “Happiness is love. Full stop.”

p.p.s. Who knew creating a design plan was so fun! (p.s. I want to work in Emily’s office!)

p.p.p.s. Peanuts in infancy are in (kinda)!  Is it just me or do food recommendations change like the tides?

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Reader Question: Kitchen Reno Costs


I know you guys are going to be really surprised to hear this, but we’re still (STILL!) working on the backyard at the Ravenna House.  The shed is getting close-ish to being done and we’ve started planning a fence.  We’re also still waiting to hear from the lien-holders to find out if we got that mysterious new house I keep hinting at (we’ll call her fixer #4 for now).  So with nothing much by the way of progress to share, I thought it would be a good time to answer a reader question.

I received this question from Miyuki last week:

“My husband and I own a small home in LA, and are looking to remodel our kitchen.  I love what you did on the Bryant house kitchen and I’m wondering if you can tell me about how much it ran you and in general, how do you budget for a kitchen remodel? 

“We have a galley kitchen with very poor storage space.  Our cabinets are old, but I think we can salvage some of them so long as we can find a way to make the new ones match the old which is why I like what you did with the Bryant house.  Was it hard to make the cabinets somewhat match each other?

“And using butcher block is exactly what I want to do in ours too (my husband thinks I’m crazy).  Is Maple the standard wood you would go with, or would you suggest other wood qualities to consider?”

Great question, right?  Since it is such a detailed question, I’m going to split it into three parts and tackle one a day – today we’ll focus on budget.  But first let’s get reacquainted with the Bryant House kitchen reno.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House White Kitchen Renovaiton.jpg

We completed this renovation in March 2013 when I was 6 months pregnant with Wilder.  It was a gut job besides keeping a wall of existing cabinets.  We added appliances, custom cabinetry, lighting, tile, fresh hardware, and painted everything.  You can read more about it here.  This is the finished product:

The Grit and Polish  Bryant House Kitchen Renovation with Subway Backsplash Floor to Ceiling.jpg
the Grit and Polish - White kitchen renovation with classic hardware.jpgThe Grit and Polish  Original 1926 Cabinets with New Clamshell Pulls.jpgthe Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with built-in dining nook featuring West Elm lighting.jpg

I’ve said it before, but this kitchen/dining space is one of my favorite rooms that we’ve ever renovated.  It’s so light and bright and just plain happy.  We spent more time in this room than anywhere else at the Bryant House.  And I will always have such sweet memories of  holding 1-day-old Wilder at that table, introducing him to family and friends, as we drank coffee and ate apple cake.

Okay, now let’s get back to the topic at hand.  Money.  Luckily I kept really good records when we remodeled the Bryant House, which unfortunately is not a trend I continued at the Ravenna House.  I’m going to blame it on the birth of Wilder and the strange void which I used to call spare time.  Anyway, the Bryant House kitchen remodel cost us $9,700.  It was a 100% DIY job, so we didn’t pay for any labor.  We did get plenty of help from family, especially my father-in-law who happens to be an electrician and is cool with being paid in beer.  What is family for after all?!

Here’s what the cost breakdown looked like:

Custom Cabinets                $2,266
Appliances                           $2,875
Lighting                                $900
Vintage Table and Hutch  $640
Countertops                         $460
Tile and tool rental             $400
Electrical                               $248
Plumbing & Fixtures          $513
Building materials              $610
Misc (paint, etc)                  $788

Total                                      $9,700

The pair of sliding doors, which we installed ourself, were an additional $1,540.

Of course every renovation is unique and so is the budget.  It depends on your scope, how much work you plan to do yourself, and the level of finish.  Our budget for the Bryant House kitchen probably won’t work in 90% of kitchens.  I’ve read that the average kitchen remodel runs somewhere in the $15k-45k range.  Based on that, an average remodel breakdown would look more like this:

Cabinets                             $10,500
Labor                                  $6,000
Appliances                         $6,000
windows                             $3,000
Fixtures                              $1,500
Fittings                               $900
Other                                  $2,100

Total                                   $30,000

And then add contingency.  I usually use 10-15% of the total budget, but I’d recommend 20% for a novice renovator.  That would equal an additional $6,000, in this scenario.  If you don’t use it, great.  But I find that the unexpected always happens on an old-house remodel and it’s best to be prepared.

Back to Miyuki.  I think a $36,000 budget is a good place to start.  Yes, that’s a ton of money.  But you can subtract from there (or add if need be), based on size of the project, work you plan to do yourself and the how nice of finishes you’re planning.  Obviously we subtracted a lot in labor but didn’t have to scrimp on the finish level much (sure I’d love a pro-range, but we really didn’t need it).  Quality cabinets were really important to me, so we spent the extra money on custom shaker-style cabinets, but saved about 10% by painting them ourselves.  I also think we got a lot of “style mileage” out of the inexpensive white subway tile backsplash, installed floor to ceiling.  Renovations are about compromise, just make sure to keep your goals in tact!

What about you guys?  Any budget advice for Miyuki or feedback on our renovation?  I’d love to hear about it in the comment section below!



p.s. “Children’s menus are the death of civilization.” An interesting look into the recent history of kids and food.

p.p.s. Did you guys know the Pioneer Woman renovated a commercial property?  It’s beautiful!

p.p.p.s. Have you guys seen Jersey Ice Cream Co’s renovation work?  I’m obsessed with these guys!


The Bryant House Kitchen: Before and After


I want to take you guys back…wayyyyy back…to 2012.  Back before Wilder was more than a little bean in my belly and we were just embarking on the renovation of our second old house. I’ve told you about the Bryant House before – how we moved into it on a whim and how leaving it was really sentimental for me – and now I want to show you one room in more detail: the kitchen.

The Grit and Polish - White and Bright Kitchen Renovation at the Bryant house.jpg

Back when we bought the Bryant house in November of 2012, the kitchen was dark, closed off, and inefficient.  Since we had earmarked the house as a rental, I had no intention of spending the money on a remodel.  So this is what the room looked like when we moved in January of 2013:

Original Kitchen PhotoOriginal Dining Photo

Not awful, but it sure wasn’t great (as you can tell from my disappointed expression).

Once we lived in the house for a couple of months we realized the closed-off space just didn’t work for us.  So the kitchen had to go.  We had the foresight to wait until I was really pregnant to tackle this renovation, which meant I sat out of the demo and all the heavy lifting – not a bad deal for me.

We gutted all but a small bank of original cabinets, removed the wall that closed off the dining space, and sold all the appliances on Craigslist. We added two sliding doors to capture the light and the territorial views.  Then we began putting the kitchen together – cabinets, backsplash, plumbing, electrical, appliances, and so on.  Once again, we did all the work ourselves.

The Grit and Polish - Bryant House White Kitchen Renovaiton.jpgthe Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with stainless steel cart.jpgThe Grit and Polish  Bryant House Kitchen Renovation with Subway Backsplash Floor to Ceiling.jpgthe Grit and Polish - White kitchen renovation with classic hardware.jpgThe Grit and Polish - Original 1926 Cabinets with New Clamshell Pulls.jpg.jpgthe Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with apron front sink and industrial faucet.jpg

These subway tile backsplash was a lot easier to install than the Ravenna Houses’s marble herringbone backsplash.  Mostly because they came on 12″x12″ sheets and didn’t require any diagonal cuts.

The Bryant House’s kitchen has new, custom cabinets with the exception of the the original bank of drawers and glass uppers that were in good enough shape to keep.  We selected maple butcher block countertops because it’s classic-looking, easy to DIY, and Uncle Dougie hooked us up with a good deal.  To keep the traditional look going, I used Martha Stewart hardware (here and here).

For the dining nook, we built in a storage bench with a cushioned top to maximize seating.  There was originally a cabinet over the bench, but we removed it to make space for open shelves.  The dining nook has windows or doors on three sides, making it the brightest spot in the house.

The Grit and Polish  Kitchen Renovation with 2 Sliding New Doors.jpgthe Grit and Polish - kitchen renovation with built-in dining nook featuring West Elm lighting.jpgThe Grit and Polish  Cozy Dining Nook with Pillows and West Elm Light.jpg

That chandelier is from West Elm – I have a thing for their lighting!  All the furniture is vintage except the armless chairs from Restoration Hardware Outlet.  The stainless steel cart can be found here and the industrial faucet here.

The Bryant House’s kitchen is probably my favorite renovation we’ve ever done, especially the dining nook.  It’s the brightest, coziest spot to relax in the morning with a cup of coffee or in the evening with a roudy crew for beer.  And I have a real sentimental attachment to this space since I spent so much time here with Wilder when he was just a wee-guy.  Oh I miss that kitchen.

What do you guys think?  Love it, hate it, over it…?  I’d love to hear 🙂


p.s. I’m pretty obsessed with adaptive reuse and this army-administration-building-turned-home is a perfect example!  Bonus: it’s for sale!

p.p.s. What eating ice cream for the first time looks like.

p.p.p.s. We’ve been working on our backyard remodel at the Ravenna House.  I’m dreaming that our space turns out something like these…any one of them!


Nostalgia and a Goodbye to the Bryant House



I was feeling nostalgic last Friday.  Maybe it was because we’re moving or maybe it was the sunny weather, but it hit me hard.  We were walking back to the Bryant House as the sun was going down, and miraculously for March in Seattle, there wasn’t a rain cloud in sight.  I walked in the front door, Wilder in the carrier on my chest, and I was taken back…

Back to summer.  Back to when Wilder was born, here in this very house.  Back to sipping beer with Garrett at the kitchen table in the afternoon. Back to those first weeks after Wilder was born doing nothing but holding him, and learning – learning about babies and patience and above all love.  Back to bare feet on the hardwoods.  Back to this kitchen and this dining table and the wingback chair where Wilder slept in my arms every day.  Back to those cribbage games on the back deck with Auntie Dayne and Uncle Adam.  Back to warm evenings and open doors and ice cream.  Back to Sunday night dinners with friends.   Back to True Blood and Falling Skies and Alphas on the couch with Garrett while we learned how to put Wilder to sleep, hour after hour.


I will miss this house.  Mostly the memory of the summer we spent in it.  This house will always be the home that Wilder was born in. The home where we first met Uncle Adam.  The home where I watched Garrett become an amazing father.  The home where I fell head over heels in love with my son.  It’s only been 14 months since we moved in, but our lives are so much fuller now.  And I will always, always be thankful for the part this house played in that.


So it’s on to the next.  We leave the Bryant House behind in the capable hands of renters and we move into the Ravenna House, this time as a family of 3 (plus Bubba).  I look forwards – oh do I ever – to the memories we will leave behind there someday.

Wish us luck!


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