Category Archives: Home Improvement

Pendant Lights for the Kitchen

We’ve made a few more updates to the kitchen by installing new lighting above the counter. Previously, there were large globe lights throughout both the kitchen and the “great room.” (The kitchen, living room, and dining room share an open layout. We started calling it the “great room,” and the name seems to have stuck.)

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The globe lights are fun and added a bit of whimsy to the space, but the retro style doesn’t fit the kind of environment we want to create. We want to style the b&b with a mix of “cabin retreat” and “modern simplicity.”

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We went light shopping and looked at a lot of options. In the end, we found some large black pendant lights. They’re perfect. They match the black counters and look pretty sharp. Josh likes these lights because they remind him of heat lamps that hang at many expediter stations in commercial kitchens.

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All of the bulbs were out on the lights we were replacing, so to see if the electricity was on or not, Josh used a voltage tester. This is a great device that will tell you if a wire is “hot” or not and prevents you from being electrocuted. So handy!

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Once we knew it was safe to work, Josh removed the old globe lights and installed the new pendants. He measured the length of the wire to the desired height and cut it. The three critical wires were sheathed in a larger plastic tube, so to strip the wires at the new length, Josh cut off the outer sheathing using a wire stripper (with the 18 gauge size).

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As with most electrical wiring, the positive wire is white, the negative wire is black, and the ground wire is green. Then Josh connected them starting with the ground wire.

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Lastly, he tucked the bundle of wires into the electrical box and reattached the plate cover using bolts from the mounting bracket. Polished, decorative nuts cover the ends of the bolts, creating a finished look.

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Eventually, we’ll have to pick out additional new lights to replace the remaining globe lights throughout the house, but for now, we’re really enjoying the pendant lights. For above the dining table, we’re thinking of making our own chandelier – maybe using some reclaimed wood. Stay tuned!

New Cabinet Hardware for the Kitchen

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Last winter, we painted the kitchen cabinets blue, and now we’ve polished the cabinets off with new hardware. We replaced the old hinges with new black hinges, and we also installed simple black pulls on the cabinets and drawers. It really makes the kitchen look more finished and complete, and it seems like the kitchen was meant to look this way. Now I can’t imagine the kitchen without the hardware!

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Luckily, Josh was able to locate hinges that matched the style and design of the old hinges. This happy finding meant we didn’t need to drill any new holes! That saved us a lot of time. We took down the cabinet doors and uninstalled the old hinges. Then Josh attached the new hinges.

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Next he measured to find the center location for the knob, drilled a hole, and installed the knob. For upper cabinets, we placed the pulls on the lower corner of the cabinets, and for the lower cabinets, we placed the pulls on the upper corner of the cabinets.

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I helped out by measuring to find the centers of the drawers so that Josh could drill the holes and install the drawer pulls more quickly. This was a fairly quick project (took a few hours), but it made a big impact. Having knobs on the cabinets and drawers also helps to keep the finish of the cabinets cleaner.

Here’s a before and after:

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Climbing Barn: Framing and Finishing the Expansion

IMG_3995It’s time for another climbing barn update. Again, Josh has made a lot of progress since the last barn post, so I have much to share with you. After demolishing the existing wall and pouring the concrete footer for the expansion, Josh got to framing out the expansion walls, rebuilding the barn wall, and putting on a shiny tin roof. For portions of this project, we had professional help from our very knowledgeable friend Stephan. We are so thankful for his expertise!
IMG_4015With the foundation dry and free of the wooden concrete mold, Josh and Stephan secured treated footer boards to the foundation with 1/2″ spade bit anchor bolts placed at about 2′ increments. They also built the main header that serves as the primary support and structural interface between the expansion and the existing structure. This support is made from sets of three 2″ x 8″ boards bolted together. Josh said that the three boards fastened together are stronger than a single beam of the same size and same density material. Bolting the boards together into a beam also makes it much easier to cut and install.

Then they built each wall panel separately and made sure they were all square and level by measuring them corner-to-corner. Next they lifted the wall panels into place and secured them. Nail guns and an air compressor made quick work of the fastening of the siding boards to the studs, which has to be done per code (we did 4″ spacing at board edges and 6″ spacing at intermittent studs).

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Next, Josh and Stephan measured the angle on the roof, cut the roof joists, and attached them to the header. Josh then put on roofing board (a strand board instead of plywood sheathing). Since the dimensions of the expansion were based on standard board sizes, they didn’t have to make a lot of specialty cuts.


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The following weekend Josh finished the expansion soffit and the eaves, framed out the large barn wall (connecting the expansion space to the existing barn), and nailed on the ply board. He used 1″ pine boards to apply board-and-baton to the large wall and all the expansion walls to seal up the board edges and cover most of the nail holes. It went from looking like a bunch of boards to a real building! 
IMG_4747After framing out the door, we caulked all the edges and used spray foam in a couple larger gaps in the old barn frame. I almost forgot, Josh also attached new tin panels to the expansion roof using gasketed tin screws. It looks so nice! 
IMG_4762Finally, I covered the new walls with a fresh coat of light gray paint to seal the wood and make the barn look “finished.” Next steps include painting all of the cinderblock walls of the barn to match and painting the barn door a snazzy, cool color. Also, I’d really love to make a barn quilt for above the door (like one of these barn quilts). There’s a perfect space for one – it was meant to be. Stay tuned for updates on our future projects!

Tab-top Curtains for Bathroom Window

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We’ve been finished with bathroom renovations for a bit now, but the room still needs some finishing touches – curtains being the number one priority. I wanted to sew some sheer and simple curtains so decided on an unlined, tab-top design. Here’s the tutorial I followed.

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Each room in the future bed and breakfast will be inspired by a type of tree found at Ridgeside, and this bedroom and bathroom’s tree is the sycamore. We’ve gone with shades of gray and white to mimic the tree’s beautiful bark, and we’ve used copper accents to bring in the color of the sycamore’s seed pods and fall foliage. To match the copper shower curtain rod, Josh built a copper curtain rod for the window, too.

For the curtains, I purchased four yards of a heavier weight cotton – not as thin as a quilting cotton but not too thick, either. I still wanted it to be sheer and have movement. I went with a light gray color similar to the gray grout between the tiles.

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The instructions were so easy to follow, and I was able to adapt the pattern to fit our bathroom window perfectly. For detailed instructions, visit the step-by-step from Stitched by Crystal. I’m just going to summarize my notes about the project and include pictures.

I made two separate curtain panels, each one with four tabs, so once I took the dimensions of the bathroom window, I cut two large panels, eight tabs, and two skinny strips (used to sandwich the tabs at the top of the curtain). I folded, ironed, and pinned the sides, then sewed both edges.

IMG_4745Instead of sewing the bottom edge next, I made my tabs and pinned them in place along the top edge.

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After sewing the panels in place, I lined up my skinny strips of fabric and sewed them along the top edge of the curtains, sandwiching the tabs.

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Then I folded the strips up and ironed them nicely. When you fold over the last edge and sew it in place, it creates a very clean tab-top finish.

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Lastly, I folded, ironed, pinned, and sewed the bottom edge. I did this last because I wanted to make sure the length of the curtains was just right. I hung the curtains on the rod and made note of exactly where I wanted them to fall.

This was a very fun sewing project with a pretty and functional result. Now the bathroom has some elegant curtains to keep out light and provide privacy. I like the simple tab-top design and plan to make many more curtains for the bed and breakfast.

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Climbing Barn: Foundation and Footer for the Expansion

IMG_3592This week’s climbing barn update will focus on the concrete foundation and footer. Josh is building an expansion on the existing barn that will become a bouldering, yoga, and general training space, and the first steps of the expansion included digging, framing, and pouring the foundation and footer. In case you’ve missed the previous posts about the climbing barn, you can visit them here: Plans for the Barn and Climbing Barn: Ledger Boards and Framework.

To begin, Josh measured out the dimensions from the engineer’s drawings and marked the future footer on the ground with surveyors flags. Let the digging begin! He dug out the footer to a minimum of 18″ below grade as per Nelson County code so the footer is below the frost line. Once the footer trough was prepped, he and friends (thanks, Jake and Stephen!), built the internal framework out of #4 rebar and the concrete mold out of 2×4 lumber and 3/4″ plywood.

Here’s a detailed step-by-step (with lots of pictures) for building the rebar and wooden mold:

Take proper measurements for the rebar lengths and for the wooden mold dimensions.

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Then mark the rebar using a wax crayon and bend the rebar using a rebar bender to create the necessary shape for the footer.

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Rebar “chairs” sit on the ground and ensure that the rebar remains suspended in the concrete, offering support to the footer and protecting them from rust and corrosion that can be caused by water in the ground.

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Connect pieces of the rebar using bar ties and a twister tool. The twister tool makes tying the rebar together a snap!

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Below is an image of the shaped and connected rebar, suspended in place by plastic chairs.

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Next step is building the wooden mold for the footer. Using the measurements for the foundation footer, cut the lumber and assemble the frame with screws.

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Connect the corners of the wood frame in place to make sure that everything fits properly in the dug footer. Use straps of wood to prevent the mold from pulling apart once the heavy concrete is in it. After the rebar and wood frame are installed, fill the dirt back in, surrounding the mold on the outside (don’t fill in the interior of the mold).

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Next is a pretty exciting part – concrete! Josh hired a “ready-mix” concrete company to deliver concrete, and while the concrete was poured, he guided the concrete to make sure it was evenly dispersed. He also vibrated the concrete in layers to remove air and level the footer.

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I helped out by evening out the surface of the concrete with a trowel to make the texture smooth and level. It’s helpful to mark the level line on the mold or use a string level at this stage.

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Almost done. After the concrete cures (this depends a lot on the temperature and the mix but it is usually hard enough to break it out in a day or so), clear away the surrounding dirt from the outsides of the frame so that the wooden mold can be removed. Once the wood is removed, the dirt can be replaced. Beautiful! After all those steps, we now have a sturdy concrete foundation and footer for the climbing barn expansion.

To prepare for the next steps of the climbing barn expansion, which will include framing out the expansion, Josh demolished the existing wall (saving all the wonderful “reclaimed” hardwood for future projects).

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Stay tuned for more updates on this project in the next few months! We are so excited just thinking about climbing and bouldering in the barn.

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Exterior House Makeover

Big news! We gave the exterior of the house a makeover. When we purchased the house, the wood siding was painted a pale, yellowy-brown color. Color can do a lot for the look and feel of a space, so I thought the house would look great with a bold new hue. Blue!  (Like our kitchen cabinets.)

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We tested a few options and really fell in love with Starless Night from Behr. It’s a dark, saturated blue (not too green or too bright), and we hoped it would make the house look polished and crisp. Here’s an image that inspired me. I love the way coral, pink, and terracotta colors will look against it, plus all the pretty greenery from the trees and gardens.

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This project has taken a looooong time – I started painting last March and slowly but surely painted section by section, every little surface. We’ve had a few friends and family members help out, too – thanks all!

Each weekend I was excited to paint, but it was a little more challenging when it became hot and humid outside. I went through lots of sunscreen, cold glasses of water, and ice cream. The occasional sudden shower sent me running inside with my supplies, and I got one nasty wasp sting, but all-in-all it was a fun project! Sorry it’s taken me so long to share the photos with you.

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Next steps for the exterior include replacing the railings (will will either paint them blue to match the house, or we will use finished wood), painting the trim a shade of gray (maybe charcoal-ish), and further down the road replacing the roof with gray shingles. We’ll also re-stain the deck and back porch. This place will be looking sharp!

What do you think? Here’s a before and after:

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Climbing Barn: Ledger Boards and Framework

IMG_3184Josh has made so much progress on our climbing barn, which means now I have a lot to share with you. Let’s jump right into the project (if you missed the first post, read about the climbing barn here).

Once the exterior of the barn was sealed up and the roof was repaired, Josh installed ledger boards in the inside of the barn. Here’s a little step-by-step:

First, he moved the dirt away from the bottom of the concrete wall, creating extra work space and room to install the lower boards.

IMG_2654Check for warping of your boards – if there is a slight curve, make sure to apply the convex side of the board to the wall. That way, when you attach it, the warping will be evened out and “absorbed” by the wall as the anchors are hammered in.

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Next, Josh cut the boards to the required measurements and drilled pilot holes for the anchors:

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Here’s a close look at what type of wedge anchors he used for attaching the wood to the concrete:

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Before installing the anchor, Josh used a level to ensure the board was setup just right. Then using the pilot hole on the board as a reference, he drilled a pilot hole right into the concrete with a 1/2″ masonry bit and a hammer drill:

IMG_2681Next, he hammered the anchor in and used a wrench to secure the anchor with a 1/2″ locking hex nut:

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Done! Josh continued with this method until all the ledger boards were installed – he put up three sets of them all around the interior of the barn. These ledger boards serve as the base for further construction of the climbing walls.

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For the next part of this project, Josh began constructing the climbing wall framing. He and a friend (thanks for your help, David!) framed out the south wall, including a slab feature and a vertical section.

IMG_2764IMG_3181And if that wasn’t enough progress, Josh also constructed the framework for the arete and chimney section of the climbing wall:

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It looks so great, I cannot wait to climb it!