Guest Bedroom: Finally Getting Around to It


The third bedroom at the Dexter House has been a huge question mark since the we moved in last September.  At first, this room was left intentionally empty in order to set up a labor tub for Brooks’ home birth.  After our littlest was born, we started storing stuff in here, until so much stuff accumulated that I simply closed the door and ignored the room altogether (I know, I know, not a good strategy when space is tight!).  But with the threat of house guests over Thanksgiving, we finally had no choice but to clear the clutter.  So we cleaned the room up (threw stuff away or stored it in the basement), tossed a bed in here, and called it good…until now.  Because the least we can do is have a guest bedroom that guests actually like to be in.

The Grit and Polish - Guest Bedroom Progress Collage

At 8.5’x9′, our guest bedroom is a cozy 77sf.  Cozy as in realtor speak for tiny. But worse yet, the only window in this room is north-facing and not particularly large, meaning it’s dark in here all day long.  The only storage in the space is a two-foot wide closet in the corner.  All in all, this room is a design headache and it’s taken me a few months to wrap my mind around what we can possibly do to make it better.

Like it usually does, inspiration struck like lighting last week.  We were showing the Bryant House (our second house) to new tenants, and had one of those “ah ha” moments when I walked into the second bedroom.  See, I actually love the second bedroom at the Bryant house.  And it’s tiny.  Like 70sf tiny.  But it’s a great little room.  And not because of great architectural bones or huge windows (it doesn’t have either).  It’s lovely because it’s cozy (cozy as in actually cozy).  It has tall wainscot and hardwood floors, and the walls are painted a lovely shade of gray, which all enhances the comfort of the space. Basically, it’s a great room despite being only 70sf.  And I thought, hey we can do this!

Back at the Dexter House house, I turned my focus back to the guest bedroom.  Our plan is simple: tall wainscoting, paint, an antique bed frame, white linens, cozy blankets, a hanging pendant, and a side table.  At 77sf, that’s about all this room can hold.  And did I mention that I want to go dark with the paint.  Like really dark.  I debated about dark teal but ultimately decided on black paint.  I know that dark paint colors can sometimes make rooms feel smaller, but I also think that dark colors can help spaces feel more comfortable, welcoming, and well…cozy.  So here’s the design board for our little guest bedroom:

Black and White Bedroom
Blanket, Anthropologie | Bedroom image, via Design Sponge |Chair, Industry West | Light socket, Vintage Wire and Supply | Lightbulb, Amazon | Sheet, One Kings Lane

What do you think?  Would you ever paint your walls black?

We’re on a tight, two-week turnaround before more guests arrive, so wish us luck!  I’ll give you an update later this week.



p.s. Emily Henderson’s recommended colors for rooms like our guest bedroom (aka small and dark).

p.p.s. I was really inspired by this dark teal bedroom.  Don’t you think the wall color just makes that room?!

p.p.p.s. The secret to long lasting love from…celebrities?!  Okay, so maybe not the most authoritative source, but it’s a fun little read!


Dexter Backyard: the Finished Patio Door


We’ve had a couple of sunny moments here in Seattle (in between rain storms), and it’s gotten me excited for warmer weather.  And dinners on the patio.  With twinkle lights.  And drinking wine on the patio under twinkling lights:)

But before we can get to all that, there’s the small matter of the backyard renovation.  I’ll be sharing all the details when we move forward with that project (hopefully this Spring), but for the time being, I wanted to followup on the patio door, a project we started last Fall and just got around to finishing.

You may recall that we enlarged the master bedroom window to accommodate a patio door last Fall.

The Grit and Polish - Master Window

The Grit and Polish - Cutting a new doorway

I really, really wanted to put in a steel door, but that wasn’t in the budget, so I picked a simple fiberglass french door from Home Depot.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Door Install

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Door Install 2

We finally got to trimming the door out and adding a light last weekend. Unfortunately the light couldn’t be centered due to where the wiring came out.  Brick isn’t the easiest siding material to work with…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Door Trim

And here’s a look from the other side of the yard.  Like I said, we have a big project back here…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Backyard Door Trim 2

…but I think it’s going to be a lovely backyard space come this summer!  I’m hoping to create a cozy seating area just off the master bedroom so Garrett and I can enjoy some quiet time outside after we put the boys to bed.  But more on that to come.  Let’s all hope for some nice weather, so we can get this backyard project started!


p.s. we’re doing a quickie bedroom makeover in our tiny guest bedroom.  I’m thinking warm and cozy…something like this except way way smaller and with less natural light.  I’ll share more next week!

p.p.s. Check out this eclectic apartment in Seattle.  Love it!

p.p.p.s. Tales from an Anthopologie stylist.  What a lovely scene that plaster and wallpaper wall make with the flower garlands!

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A Room for Living + the Finished Fireplace


It’s been a while (a long while) since I showed you the living room at the Dexter House.  So today, I want to show you what this space looks like now and how the fireplace turned out.
Dexter House Living Room

The living room is a powerhouse room for us.  We relax here.  We play here.  We live here.  Everyday this space is strewn with dinosaurs and trucks and train sets and baby books.  And when we put those away (they’re stored in a bedroom closet), we pull out blankets to build forts or hunt the imaginary big bad wolf at the window or watch dinosaur train on the TV.  I tell you all this so that you understand when I say, this room does not look like what it would have looked like pre-children.  There’s no long coffee table or cozy hanging chair by the window – two things I would love to add – because that would cut into the boys’ play space.  And we can’t have that.

So our living room is a minimalist design.  Something I’ll just call unfinished-but-finished, a.k.a. kid-friendly.

The Dexter House - Living Room BIGDexter House - Front Door

The living room is made eternally more cozy by the addition of a fireplace.  As you may recall, there was no fireplace in this room originally, so we added one.  We picked out a gas insert, framed a structure around it, tiled the surround, and added a mantle.

The Grit and Polish - Fireplace Construction 1The Grit and Polish - Fireplace Construction 7

The Grit and Polish - fireplace tile 5

And this is a look at the finished fireplace:

Dexter House - Living Room Fireplace

So that’s how our living room/family room/play room turned out.  What do you think of the fireplace and our minimalist-because-we-had-to-leave-space-to-play look?

Resources: Rug Pad, RugPadUSA | Rug (Mirabelle in Cobalt), Lulu and Georgia| Couch (Rose in Narwahl velvet), Interior Define | Cement tiles, Overstock | Mantle, oak, Hardwood Industries | Gas insert (Lopi), Armstrong’s Stove and Spa | Rocking chair, Industry West (out of stock; similar) | Black and white throw, Anthropologie | Curtains, Ikea | Animal head, Ebay


p.s. there are so many living rooms that I love, like this one and this one!  You’ll probably not be surprised to know that I have a whole board of living rooms on Pinterest.

p.p.s. we’ve been cooking with a whole lot less sugar around here.  And I’m dying to try these!

p.p.p.s. Need a pick-me-up on this gray, winter day?  How about this amazing kitchen!


Wilder’s Third Bedroom


Today I want to introduce you guys to one of my favorite rooms at the Dexter House: Wilder’s bedroom.  I shared a little about my son’s room yesterday on coco+kelley, but before you head over there to see the finished space, let’s talk about the renovation.

This is what Wilder’s bedroom looked like when we bought the Dexter House last April:

The Dexter House - Wilder's Room BEFORE

I planned minimal renovations for this bedroom: paint the floors black, new lighting, redo the electrical, repaint the walls and ceiling, and install a chalkboard wall.  The chalkboard wall – a must for my two-and-a-half-year-old who loves art and drawing on walls – is on an exterior wall of the Dexter House, which had prior water damage.  Years of neglect had left the paint bubbling away from the wall behind it, so after we checked it for lead with a home kit, we started peeling off the paint.  The plaster hidden behind the paint was the stuff of old house love.  It was art without trying to be art, a 110-year-old canvas of wall colors from tenants past.  So naturally, I decided to leave the plaster exposed and cover only the bottom half of the wall with chalkboard paneling.

The Grit and Polish - Plaster Wall progress 1

After exposing the plaster, we started on the chalkboard paneling and paint.

The Grit and Polish - Wilder's Room Progress Collage
With the bulk of the renovation work done, I began decorating.   Since this room is just over 100sf, play space and toy storage are at a premium.  But that hasn’t kept us from designing a kids room that we love.  If anything, it’s helped us avoid the too-much-kid-stuff trap and focus on the things that really matter.  Like a comfy bed that’s big enough for cuddling during story time, a bookcase that holds Wilder’s beloved Dinotopia and The Eleventh Hour, and space-conscious activities like the chalkboard wall and a folding trampoline in the closet.  Here’s a peak at the finished space:

The Grit and Polish - Wilder's Room Wide The Dexter House - Wilder's Room Bookcase

I’m almost embarrassed to admit that this is Wilder’s third bedroom in the past two-and-a-half years.  I guess you could say that we have a little ‘house-buying/moving problem’.  Or if you’re of my mindset, a ‘heathy renovation addiction’.  Either way, practice has made me better and this is our favorite of Wilder’s bedrooms to date (you can see his last bedroom here).  Pretty soon this room will transition into Wilder and Brooks shared bedroom, which will be a brand new challenge for a whole slew of reasons.  But more on that later.

The Dexter House - Wilder's Dresser 2The Dexter House - Wilder's Dresser

Now jump on over to coco+kelley for tons more photos of Wilder’s bedroom and a DIY on the chalkboard wall!

The Grit and Polish - Wilder's Room 1

Resources: animal heads, Target (discontinued) | Rocking chair, Industry West | Bed and dresser, vintage from Craigslist | Antique quilt, from my mama | Sheepskin, Ikea | Turkish towel, Amazon | Hanging light, Ikea | Alphabet Blocks, Land of Nod | Whale, Land of Nod | Jellycat stuffies: Lion and Monkey, Amazon | Painted ‘W’, Anthropologie (discontinued)


p.s. The next room I do for Wilder (cause let’s be honest…there will be another house) this wallpaper is going in it!   Or maybe this dinosaur wallpaper!

p.p.s. Ever since having kids, I’ve love kids rooms.  I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to them.  But lately I’m even more excited about shared kids rooms.  Here are two of my current favorites (this one and that one).

p.p.s. I’ve been getting into Ted talks as of late and this one on kids and school and creativity is a must!  Dance people. Dance!


The Dexter House on Apartment Therapy

Happy Friday! Just wanted to pop in and tell you that the Dexter House master bathroom is on Apartment Therapy…!  You can check it out here.

The Grit and Polish - Master Bathroom Renovation All

There’s quite a spirited debate going on in the comment section.  Do you guys have an aversion to separate hot and cold taps?

Also…the Dexter House’s kitchen was featured on 702 Park Project last week.  Sarah and I have been blog friends for a couple of years now and I love her old southern home.  Anyway, you can check out the feature here.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Renovaiton Open Shelves

More soon on Wilder’s bedroom and the basement renovation.  But in the meantime, wishing everyone a quiet weekend with lots of pancakes!




Dexter Kitchen Renovation Part 3: Cost and Resources


This is part 3 of a 3 part series on the Dexter kitchen renovation.  Please see part 1, the renovation process, here and part 2, the reveal, here.  

Now that the kitchen renovation is complete at the Dexter House, I wanted to show you guys what this project cost us.  I had Garrett empty out the truck seats and check behind the kitchen drawer for any missing receipts and logged them in my handy-dandy Excel budget tracker.  Let’s take a look, shall we…

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Renovaiton Open Shelves

When we first toured this house, I earmarked $10,000-$15,000 for the kitchen renovation, but narrowed that number down to $12,200 after deciding on a layout and design plan.  That number doesn’t include tax or house-wide expenses like the new electrical panel or the main plumbing runs, but it does include everything you can see in this room.  Here’s how our budget turned out:

$4200 Appliances

$1500 Cabinets

$920 Countertops

$460 Hardware

$450 Skylights

$790 Sink

$275 Faucet + Pot filler

$950 Lighting

$150 Electrical

$100 Plumbing

$700 Flooring materials + refinish

$255 Shelves

$220 Backsplash

$400 Framing & Building Materials

$250 Paint

$200 Incidentals

$11,820 Total

That’s a lot of money.  But considering that the average US major kitchen remodel runs between $18k and a ton, our figure seems kinda reasonable, right?!  In truth, we’ve spent between $5k and $12k for all four of our previous kitchen remodels, so while the Dexter House kitchen remodel is cheap by US standards, it was on the high side for these DIY-ers.

We made some big splurges this time around, like the swing-arm lights, the appliances (especially the Blue Star range), the handcrafted shelf brackets (which seem to be everyone’s favorite and we still have 5 more of them…!), and the campaign hardware.  These items were all ‘big impact’ and thus justifiable, at least in my book.  Of course if I were to design this kitchen over, I’d change a couple of things.  Like I’d probably switch out the campaign hardware with something cheaper and easier to use.  I’d also consider replacing the cement tile backsplash with classic white subway tiles and extend them behind the open shelves for higher impact.  I really didn’t want to do a large tile installation after the exhausting Ravenna herringbone backsplash, but in the end, large backslashes are a crowd pleaser, so I’d probably make the effort next time around.   Hindsight is 20/20.

We did save some money in a few spots too.  Like doing all the labor ourselves.  And using open shelves instead of upper cabinets on the east wall.  And salvaging the original pie safe.  We also went with stock cabinets and painted them ourselves, which added high contrast and turned boring-looking cabinets into something a bit more high-end.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel north

What would you guys have splurged on?  Would you have picked any of the same splurges I did?
Okay, before I wrap up, let me share my resources: Cabinets, GS Cabinets | Countertops, Hardwood Industries | Sink, NB Drainboards | Faucet, Wayfair | Potfiller, Signature Hardware | Tile, Overstock | Floors, Red Oak, Hardwood Industries | Shelves, Red Oak, Hardwood Industries | Shelf brackets, Etsy | Campaign Hardware, Etsy | Cabinet knobs, Home Depot | Range, Blue Star (bought at warehouse sale) | Mudroom bench, vintage, Craigslist | Swing arm lights, Rejuvenation
Paint: lower cabinets, Onyx, Benjamin Moore | everything else, Simply White, Benjamin Moore
And in case you’re interested, here’s a recap of all the Dexter kitchen posts… the Reveal | the Renovation ProcessCampaign 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



p.s. seriously digging these fold away teepees handmade in the USA!

p.p.s. When I was little, my family would go hiking every summer.  We’d pack sleeping bags and a cook stove and enough food to last two weeks into backpacks and just go.  I think that’s why I’ve never really been into the whole “glamping” movement.  Until now.

p.p.p.s. A few of my favorite pins recently: this dinner.  This bedroom.  This littles’ bedroom.  This look.  And this family.


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 Renovation Part 1: the Renovation Process


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

When we first toured the Dexter House in October of 2014, one of the things that stood out to me the most was the kitchen.  It had to go.  Complete with black mold and a horrendous layout, the kitchen was going to be a gut job. And that was exciting for this renovation-loving gal.  Kitchens are my favorite!

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel - Before

We got the keys to the Dexter House on a Friday and Garrett and I spent our first evening at the house demoing the kitchen.  This happened to coincide with filming our mini-TV pilot, so producers caught all the action on film, adding a bit of extra excitement to the event.  With or without the cameras there, it was a pretty awesome night.  I love those first few moments in a house, when all that potential is there staring you in the face before demo starts and turns everything dusty and messy and looking like a ton of work.  So spending the first moments at the Dexter House with Garrett (and Brooks in my belly) was perfect.  Here’s an iPhone picture that the producers took of us on that first evening.

The Grit and Polish - Demo night 1

Once demo was complete and the camera crew went home, I spent some time coming up with a layout for the kitchen.  This remodel is unique because in the end, we decided to remove square footage from the kitchen.  I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but hear me out.  As I mentioned, the layout was horrendous.  The kitchen had four doorways and very awkward geometry, and there just wasn’t any room for cabinets or prep space or even a dishwasher.  So, we made the kitchen smaller, enabling us to recapture wall space.  We closed off the attached eating nook (and converted it to a master bathroom…!), framed in the doorway to the hallway, and demoed a small closet that encroached into the kitchen.  This got us the wall space we needed to bring in more cabinets and create a nice workflow.  The kitchen is now an efficient 10’x11′ square, with only two doorways.  You can see the general floor plan here.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Remodel - Progress 3

It seems like I try to save original cabinets in every kitchen remodel we take on.  And by ‘seems’ I mean ‘do’ – like at the Bryant house and the Ravenna house and now, naturally, at the Dexter House.  Right from the get go, we discussed saving the bank of original cabinets on the south side of the kitchen, but as time and planning went on, this was widdled down to saving just the floor-to-ceiling pie safe and the upper cabinet next to it (seen in the photo above).  Sure it would have been faster and easier to just demo everything, but what’s the fun it that?

The Grit and Polish - kitchen demo completeThe Grit and Polish - Kitchen DemoThe Grit and Polish - Kitchen Cabinet demo 2

With demo complete, a layout established, and a tuxedo design plan in the works, it was time to start building the kitchen back.  We began by framing in the old entrances to the hallway and dining nook and then enlarged the opening to the dining room, exposed the brick chimney, laid a new hardwood floor, roughed in electrical and plumbing, cut in skylights, drywalled and installed cabinets, vented the hood, tiled the backsplash, added butcher block countertops, installed the sink and faucets, painted everything, removed the door to the mudroom, added lights, brought the appliances in, built a dishwasher panel, hung the open shelves, and installed the cabinet hardware.

The Grit and Polish - Progress Collage

Phew!  That was a lot of work.  We spent the better part of the summer renovating this room (along with the rest of the house) and finished the project just after moving into the house at the end of September, which happened to be about a week before baby Brooks was due.

I’ll show you the entire finished kitchen on Thursday.  But for today, here’s a peak at the kitchen and the family that built it.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Family 2

I’ll tell you what, renovating old houses is a dusty job, but I’m really glad we get to do it!



p.s. I gathered a lot of inspiration for this tuxedo kitchen remodel on Pinterest.  Here are all of my favorite kitchens!

p.p.s. Did you catch my DIY on coco+kelley yesterday?! We photographed this project right here at the Dexter House and it was a blast!

p.p.p.s. So much truth about renovating and collecting and marriage is wrapped up in Victoria’s post.  Seriously though, read this!  She will have you laughing out loud.

p.p.p.p.s. And one more because this is pretty dang awesome…an extinct species is found again!

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Dexter Kitchen: Campaign Hardware


Well, I can finally say that I like the look of the campaign hardware as much as I had hoped.

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Campaign Hardware

There are also more issues with the hardware than I expected (did you notice the booboo on the lower right drawer?), but I’ll get to that in a minute. First up, let’s talk about where we found this undeniably beautiful cabinet hardware and the installation process.

After searching high and low for recessed pulls for the kitchen drawers, I found the perfect campaign-style pulls on Etsy.  They’re handcrafted to by a group down in LA.

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 11.25.29 AM

Installation was tricky at best even for an experienced DIY-er (or maybe not even then…see aforementioned booboo).  We had 13 pulls to put in and it took three of us a solid 6 hours.

Since campaign hardware is recessed below the face of the drawer, you have to use a router for installation.  You need a template of the recessed area that will serve as a guide for the router blade.  Garrett made us one by tracing the back of the pull on a small piece of mdf and then cutting it out with a jigsaw.  Let me apologize in advance for the slew of bad iPhone pictures coming your way…

The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install template

The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 2

We clamped the template to the drawer face, checking that it was tight and centered, so the pulls would end up in the middle of the drawer – obviously this is super important for function and form.  Next we drilled two holes for the screws before cutting out the recessed area with the router.  Routers are messy, so we had the shop vac on hand.

The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 3 The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 4 The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 1The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 6

We attached the pulls with screws from the inside of the drawer and voila!

The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 7

Oh, but this bottom drawer.  The template wasn’t on securely when we began to router, so the template shifted, causing a large hole in the drawer face.  We filled the hole with putty, but haven’t gotten around to painting it.  Super frustrating!

The Grit and Polish - Campaign Hardware Install 8

So, what do I think about the campaign hardware as pulls?  They’re beautiful!  And unique.  Kind of like our shop vac operator 😉

On the flip side, the pulls are hard to use.  Since the recess isn’t very deep, it is difficult to grab the pull unless you have toddler-sized fingers.  Really this hardware is pretty much the opposite of child-safety latches: hard for adults to use but easy for toddlers.  And that is not a good thing in our home these days!

The Grit and Polish - Dexter Kitchen Campaign Hardware and Wilder

My other complaints are that these cabinet pulls were expensive – like $25 apiece – and they’re on the ‘very difficult’ side of the hardware-install scale, probably best left to a professional.  So while I love them, I probably wouldn’t use them again in a kitchen.  Maybe on a furniture piece or some rarely-used storage but not in a heavy use area like the kitchen.

What do you guys think about the look of the campaign hardware?  I’d love to hear it!



p.s. did you see Chip and Joanna’s “barndominium” project?  I dig it!

p.p.s. Speaking of barns, check out this barn house.  I would have lightened the interiors up a bit, but I love the concept!  In fact, I’ve got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to barn houses, cause that’s just how I roll.

p.p.p.s. More “after” photos of the Dexter kitchen are coming next week!  But in the meantime, I’ve been posting a few peaks on my Instagram page.


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!

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