Young House Love | DIY Home Decorating Projects, Tutorials, & Shenanigans
Here you'll find nearly 3,000 free DIY & decorating projects and updates, from painting & home improvement to crafting, organizing, furniture makeovers, & more. Run by John & Sherry, DIY nerds, podcasters, product designers, & NY Times best selling authors of Young House Love, Lovable Livable Home, & Color At Home.
Finally… we have a full video tour of both sides of the duplex! A ton of people have asked for this (or asked if they missed it) and, well, today is the day. If nothing else, I recommend watching it to see the ecstatic relief on my face at the end that WE. ARE. DONE!
Also I talk through a bunch of our changes and choices throughout the reno, and share some of our favorite decisions that upgraded the house in the biggest ways.
The video is also just good for seeing how each room flows together, checking out what’s different from side to side, and basically “walking through” the entire project with us. Just click play to watch it below:
Note: If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you may need to click through to see the video. You can also watch it here on YouTube.
And speaking of finally, we’ve also made a Duplex Source List page for everyone who has been asking us over the past six months (sorry for the wait, but it’s very thorough!). We have yet to add it to our website header bar, but here’s a shortcut to it. And it’s linked in our Instagram profile menu too.
This is a screen shot of the beginning of that page (it’s linked too, so you can click it to see the entire source list):
But back to the duplex makeover itself. If you want more details or different angles of each room that you saw (as well as some pretty crazy before & after photos), the following posts should fill you in on all the details:
Just when you thought we were done with backyards (we shared the duplex backyards last week) we’re back with yet another… backyard! And this beach house backyard has been a long time coming, and it started out in an incredibly lackluster state – so we’re excited to show you what we did back there. It might be one of our favorite updates to date – especially since this backyard is really small but it all feels super functional and useful for our family – we’re out there all the time! And it’s about 1000% better than where we started.
There’s a lot to see because we squeezed in SO MUCH into a relatively small space. And surprise! That actually turned out to be the key to creating this cozy and private-feeling area for our family (despite being closely surrounded by neighbors on all sides). But first, let’s flashback to October 2016 and the overgrown jungle we had just purchased. Gulp.
The next photo is taken just a few weeks later, right after we cleared some of the brush and weeds. It’s also the project that gave me the worst case of poison ivy of my life. #memories
So yes, this backyard and I got off to a rocky start. But all is forgiven now because it has become one of our absolute favorite places in the world. No joke. We are out here basically every night that we are in Cape Charles.
The end result is also made sweeter by the fact that we had to wait for it longer than originally planned. Our original schedule was to tackle this in the fall of 2017, once our contractor Sean finished the inside of the house. But a new little project distracted all of us (ahem, the duplex!) and we back-burnered the beach house backyard. So for our first few months of staying in the otherwise finished beach house, this was our view out the back door:
When the town delayed our duplex plans in early 2018, we briefly returned attention to this area. Sean and his guys cleared out the overgrown vegetation along with the old, rusted, metal shed and we began planning a new one. You may remember hearing Sherry and I debate/argue about the new shed on our podcast around that time. You can hear the details of the disagreement in this episode, but here’s short version: the old shed had been built about two feet onto our neighbors’ property line AND any new structure was required to be set back two feet from that now-closer-than-we-originally-thought property line.
So our new shed would have to encroach four more feet into our yard than the last one had. Sherry didn’t like that and argued for no shed, but I thought one was necessary (are you surprised?) to house all of the sandy stuff like beach chairs and umbrellas and floats that we were dragging into the house for the first summer without it. I’m like the Oprah of backyard sheds. To every yard I’m basically like “you get a shed! you get a shed! you get a shed!” Spoiler: I was right – Sherry even admits it on camera in the video later in this post.
BUT ANYWAYS… by the time we agreed on something, the duplex delays had been resolved and the crew was full steam ahead over there. Meaning this backyard got left in the dust – or, more literally, the mud – for nearly a year.
Having an incomplete muddy backyard for our first summer in Cape Charles wasn’t the worst thing ever, but it was a noticeable rain on our proverbial parade. Because when there was an actual rain (or just a bunch of wet sandy kids coming back from the beach and using the outdoor shower) there was an actual parade of mud into the house even after they showered – cause there was mud between the outdoor shower and the back door. So it made us even more excited to complete this space.
We temporarily satisfied that appetite later that summer in the form of the hot tub we bought in August. Sherry (Lover of Hot Water, First Of Her Name) always wanted one, and I think it was also another way for us to make lemonade out of the limbo that the yard was stuck in. You’ve probably seen pics of it like this on Instagram, and there’s a reason why they’ve always been cropped like this.
The yard around the hot tub was just a grassy, muddy mess. We threw down a few large pavers to create a relatively mud-free walk to and from the hot tub, but it was – shall we say – subpar. I don’t even have any pictures of it. But here’s one from right before the hot tub was delivered to give you an idea. That’s the concrete pad we had poured for it to sit on.
So while the hot tub allowed us to enjoy the backyard, it also made us even more impatient to finish the rest of it. So earlier this year – once the crew was done on the inside of the duplex – we finally got to work on the backyards of the beach house AND the duplex somewhat simultaneously. It was kind of a whirlwind, but we were able to get some cost efficiencies by bundling the projects together (basically 3 sheds and 3 patios all at once – which saved us some money because we got to bulk order materials like stone and hardiplank and negotiate thanks to sheer shed volume).
I wish I had more progress photos, but we didn’t catch a whole lot of “in between” stages on our visits out to Cape Charles. But just like the duplex sheds, this one was custom built in place by Sean’s crew – using the same Hardiplank siding, the same pink paint color as the house (Mellow Coral by Sherwin Williams), and even the same tin roof that we’ve got on the main house. And I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but that was actually cheaper to have this custom built than to have a pre-built one of the same size trucked in.
Here’s what the area looked like back in March, after the patio crew was done and it was now up to Sherry and I to turn it into something inviting and cozy.
And thanks to a few strategic furnishings and a lot of greenery, here we are today! Our little backyard beach house oasis…
So now that you’ve seen how we got here, let me point out some of the details and decisions behind what we did – and why it works so well for us. Let’s start with my pride and joy: the shed. Well, not the red rusted out shed below – the new one. Remember how I said the old shed was built 2-feet over our property line? That tree is effectively the end of our property.
We were initially annoyed by the setback rules for the new shed, since it creates a 4-foot wide “dead zone” where no one can build anything. But we talked things over with our neighbor and (since they weren’t about to move their pretty, jasmine-covered fence) they said that 4-foot space was ours to use. Although town code prevented us from putting our shed there, it didn’t say we couldn’t put a path to the shed there…
So we made the unconventional choice to put the doors on THAT side of the shed. It not only made use of that “dead zone,” but it also meant that we didn’t have to account for door swing clearance on the patio side of the shed (which would’ve prevented us from having a dining tableout there). Plus, it meant we could focus on making the more visible sides of the shed pretty to look at (like adding a big window box on the front, for example). They call me The Shed Whisperer. Just kidding nobody calls me that.
I’ll show you the inside of the shed once it’s not a disaster pile, but trust me that it has been a game changer storage-wise. We have no garage or basement or anything at the beach house, so until now all of our tools, yard equipment, beach gear, etc has been stuffed inside in various places. So it has been HUGE to be able to keep all of that messy stuff out of the house now.
The shed is 7′ x 11′, which is kind of a weird size – but we chose it precisely to fill the space (it leaves us enough room for everything else we planned back there, but is still large enough to create some privacy and contribute to the cozy, nestled feeling we wanted).
Speaking of privacy, Sean also added that little section of fence for our neighbors since their existing one wasn’t completely enclosed. It couldn’t be as tall as the lattice fencing due to a large tree limb that we all agreed we wanted to keep, but now both of our dogs can roam free in our respective yards and eventually the new section of fencing will weather to be the same color as the existing stuff so it’ll blend right in.
It’s also the same height as the fencing on the right of the shed in the shot above, so it should feel nicely balanced once it darkens in color over time.
The other big feature we added (and perhaps the other “elephant in the room”) is not the hot tub itself, but the hot tub STEPS. The Jacuzzi came with some basic plastic steps that we used all last year, but they were small, low, and a little unstable. So we knew we wanted something more permanent and substantial, and boy did we get it. Ha!
The crew who did the patio made these wide stone steps using a cinder block base covered with the same affordable pavers (they’re adhered in place over the cinderblock). The steps not only provide a much easier entry into the hot tub itself, but they also act as a convenient place to set your drink while you’re in the water and, better yet, even create additional seating. Sherry describes them like having a console table/bench right outside the hot tub and it’s true – we set a ton of stuff down on them, sit on them, etc.
AT LAST! The backyards of the duplex are DONE DONE DONE! And with basically zero time to spare (our first weeklong summer renters arrive this Saturday and we actually have some early-birds staying on one side right now until Saturday since we finished in the nick of time and they inquired with just enough time to squeeze them in!). There are lots of pics in this post, so I’ll try to keep the words under control – but this is one of our favorite makeovers in the entire renovation.
Let’s go back in time for a second to appreciate how far the back of this house has come. This is what it looked like when we bought it:
Let alone the structural changes we made to the back of the house (which you can read more about here), it’s just amazing what some grass and hardscaping and string lights (and some cute little sheds with decorative oars on them – ha!) can do for ambiance. I took this picture while it was lightly drizzling the other night and it’s STILL CUTE. What kind of magic is that? It’s literally the power of string lights, which make anything 1000% more charming. Beauty tip: Wrap them around your face a few times and tell me you aren’t positively radiant (this is a joke, but really they are miraculous beautifiers).
Also, I can’t underplay what a heroic role the metal awnings and the secondhand diamond doors play in the whole backyard makeover scheme, so let’s dive right into the specifics of what we did back here.
Since the keypads to get into each unit are on the back of the house (along with the outdoor showers, where people will rinse off after beaching it up) we added a nice paver path to lead people back there on each side of the house.
shutters / shutter color: Pale Patina by Sherwin Williams / house numbers / porch lamps / bench
These were extremely inexpensive $2 pavers, but the herringbone layout really upped the style-factor, and that little shed awaiting each guest in the backyard is not only extremely cute, it’s extremely practical (it’s where we’re storing the beach chairs, toys, umbrella, and other stuff for our guests to use throughout their stay). Also the picture below underscores just how amazing green stuff is. Same exact shot before the trees greened up and we planted grass. Pretty crazy, right?
Oh and I teak oiled the bench that you see on the front porch after the grass came in (I use this stuff – you just rub it on with a rag). Can you see how it’s richer in the photo with the grass? That’s a great way to protect wooden outdoor furniture. I plan to do that to the backyard furniture set too – along with covering that in the off season.
Ok, but onto the backyard! Our contractor built the sheds for us (we priced out ready-made options and his were cheaper! Plus we got to use the same matching HardiePlank siding as the house and even do metal on the roof like the front porch! We painted the shed doors the same color as the diamond back doors and the front shutters on the duplex: Pale Patina by Sherwin Williams. And the decorative oars – we actually bought them at HomeGoods and painted them to match the colors of the house. Overkill? MAYBE BUT I LOVVVVVVE THEM!
As for the always-gorgeous string lights, we set them up so they run on an outdoor timer (they click on for two hours in the evening, although our guests have info about how to change that if they want them on longer or shorter). We also planted small Japanese maples in each of the tiny backyards for some color, and we think they’ll be so pretty when they grow in a little more. The pressure treated wooden 6′ privacy fence makes each yard feel nice and nestled – and it’ll get a bit darker/grayer so it’s less new looking over time, which we think will be nice.
The patio furniture was a steal of a deal! I got this giant set of two sofas, four chairs, and two coffee tables for just $534 during a big Wayfair sale, and it broke down to being under $90 per furniture item (under $90 for a wood sofa or even a wood chair with cushions!). THAT IS CRAZY AND THEY’RE SO WELL RATED! They’re still an amazing price right now ($619 for all 8 pieces!) if you’re in the market, and I love the idea that you can break them up (some on the front porch or side yard, and others out back for example).
So far we’re extremely pleased with them and we heard from tons of people who already owned them when we ordered them and apparently they’re great, just throw down a few accent pillows for added comfort & back support – which we did (I grabbed a few of these striped pillows and these double-sided pillows from Target). Again, I plan to cover these in the off season (and will teak oil them probably every spring/fall to keep them looking good). And don’t forget our tip for keeping light outdoor cushions clean… we pressure wash ours on a low setting every season (this is our pressure washer).
We actually have two more tan colored adirondack chairs in each shed for people who want more seating, but to keep it simple and uncrowded we aren’t leaving those out – folks can just pull ’em out if they’d like to use them.
Wait but the oars. Have I told you how much I love them? I have? FINE I WILL MOVE ON.
If you spin around with your back to the shed you’ll see the sweet diamond back door, which you’ve seen back in this post about the makeover of the back of the duplex itself(it also covers how we added the awnings and our overall changes in the facade of the house itself). We did add a little address plaque that we got (ours is the chocolate/gold color) just to make sure folks are on the correct side of the house when they’re entering their code. We don’t want people standing in front of the wrong door and wondering why the code doesn’t work, which is totally something I’d do… so… address plaques!
I know folks will ask about the showers, so here’s the deal. The actual outdoor shower kit is this exact one (our contractor Sean has tried all sorts and likes this one best). And the no rot composite shower surround is actually just fencing from Lowe’s that he buys and uses to build the surround. Oh and it’s important to have a draining base under an outdoor shower, so that’s Azek (a composite no rot product like Trex) with little gaps between it so the water drains into the gravel filled base below, so it doesn’t flood the patio or pool anywhere. Works so well!
Each shower stall is completely walled off from the one on the other side, so you can’t even stand in one and bend down to see the other person’s feet on the other side (see that extra board along the bottom of this picture below?). Nice & private.
We doubt anyone who would feel self conscious using one next to a stranger would ever end up doing that anyway, because each family would have to return home from the beach at the exact same time to shower off, which seems unlikely – but even if they do, that fully divided bottom ledge hopefully feels nice to have. Speaking of nice to have…. hooks galore! ALWAYS AND EVERYWHERE GUYS! Each side has 8 out here and 12 more in the mudroom.
Here’s a wider shot to orient you and show you how the back is arranged. They’re basically mirror images of each other, but that nice tall 6′ privacy fence keeps them feeling separated if the two groups that rent each side don’t know each other and want some privacy.
But if relatives or friends booked both sides of the duplex together and want to hang out, we designed that fence to have a giant 6′ opening that can be revealed so it essentially goes from being two private yards into one big shared one. WE LOVE HOW THIS TURNED OUT SO MUCH! We have at least a few renters who are friends/relatives so we know the gate will get some use in the open position this summer, which makes me so happy.
This week we’re digging into a survey that reveals the top homebuyer regrets – as in what features their homes have that they ended up not loving (and the results may surprise you!). A new study also concluded some shocking-to-us things about millennial dads versus their baby boomer counterparts – and we have some big feelings about one aspect of the results. We’re also sharing a crappy situation (literally) at our beach houses, and the weird measures we’re taking to resolve it. Plus, more design norms from around the world and our picks for summer entertainment.
Since I’m not about to show you a bunch of bird droppings, in that photo above you can see the “bird city” behind the duplex fence that caused quite the mess on the duplex patio, outdoor furniture, and even the duplex itself. Even our cleaning lady marveled at how much “stuff” was on the windows.
Thankfully these decoy owls have encouraged them to stop doing their business in the duplex’s tiny backyard, and we’re grateful for the quick resolution.
We also grabbed a pack of these reflective bird deterrent discs, which actually don’t look half bad hanging from the trees. We even put some over at our pink house because we started to notice things were getting “spotty” over there too.
And if you missed our previous discussions about trying to prevent the deer from munching on our landscaping, check out Episode #99 and our recent update in Episode #142.
Game Time: Homeowner Hindsights
If you want to see more stats from that study we mentioned about homeowner regrets, you can check out the summary here.
We talked a lot about hardwood floors, and Sherry promised some links to posts about how miraculous it is that even super old damaged hardwoods can be shined up to look like new. Like the duplex floors below:
Here’s the Business Insider article about the rationale behind the Charmin Forever Roll we discussed in Episode #143. Speaking of which, our friend was VERY excited about his prize for guessing who would reign at the end of Game of Thrones.
And speaking of things made for Millennials, you can hear our original discussion of things our generation is “killing” in Episode #92.
This Buzzfeed article summarizes the discussion of Millennials not using “scary weird” doorbells anymore because they just text when they’re at the door (and of course, there’s that Wall Street Journal article that was written about the trend back in 2017)
I especially loved this tweet that Buzzfeed highlighted, considering Sherry’s description of hiding when our doorbell rings.
And because we’re still a little surprised a third of households don’t own screwdrivers or a hammer, here’s a simple tool kit that’ll solve that for just $12. Sherry is still seriously disturbed over here.
Global Design Norms
Those are some of the photos I found when Googling “Dutch Stairs” like listener Erin suggested (source for top, source for bottom). I think I just got vertigo looking at them, so I can’t imagine actually scaling them!
I also mentioned that Amazon Key service that turns your garage into a smart garage that Amazon delivery folks can access to leave packages in (it comes with a security camera too!). It’s the high tech version of listener Allison’s in-house mail delivery norm in rural Vermont.
Okay, so here are all those things that’ll help keep you busy and entertained over our podcast’s summer break.
First up, our friend Sabrina Soto’s new podcast “Redesigning Life with Sabrina Soto” which we’re interviewed on this week! You can find her show pretty much wherever you listen to ours.
If you missed Sabrina on our podcast, she was our very first interview waaaaaay back in Episode #2 (!!) and she was super candid about what it’s like to film a makeover show.
And in Episode #4 our second interview was with Orlando Soria, whose new show Unspouse My House is such a funny and fresh series for HGTV. You can watch a snippet of the show’s intro below (which legit made me spit out my drink). We’re so grateful that HGTV didn’t strip out the randomness and hilarity that is Orlando.
And if you’re looking for a newsier podcast, we both loved The Dropout from ABC News, which tells the story of Elizabeth Holmes and how she duped the world with her healthcare startup Theranos (which I can’t hear without simultaneously thinking of a Thermos and the Avengers’ villain: Thanos). Anyways, it was a riveting story!
Lastly, I loved reading the WWII story Unbroken (it has over 25,000 5-star reviews and spent 4 years on the NYTimes Bestseller list!). It’s not a book I would’ve thought I’d get so engrossed in, but I was FULLY engrossed. So much so that I think I might dive into the author’s other big book, Seabiscuit.
And if anyone has seen the Unbroken movie, let me know what you think. I liked the book so much I’m worried the movie won’t measure up.
We’re back with the (finally!) finished photos of the two small-but-mighty bonus sleeping spaces at the duplex! Plus we’ve got pictures and details of two of the hardest working spaces: the linen closet and our locked owner’s closet that guests won’t see – but you can! In short: these little nooks & crannies GO HARD for us. So we’re excited to show you how they turned out.
Since we have two larger bedrooms on each side of the duplex with closets and dressers (you can see them here and here), we refer to these as “bonus sleeping nooks” – which are pretty common around Cape Charles, as well as in other beach communities. They pass all building and rental codes in our town (yes, we have an annual rental inspection!) and are basically just a cozy spot to sleep extra guests, complete with little comforts like a ceiling fan, light-blocking blinds, a sound machine, and two wall sconces you can flick on & off without getting up.
It’s probably not a room you’d want to sleep in year-round (I mean there is that whole tiny house movement…) but for a weeklong vacation, where you’ll pretty much be hanging out all over town/at the beach and just crashing in here, well, they do the job. We aimed to make them feel cozy, comfortable, and fun – and a ton of visual interest came from the murals that you saw us hang a few months ago (you can read more about how to hang them here).
If you’ve followed along as we planned these rooms, you’ve seen us consider several layout options (bunks! two twins! a trundle! one big bed – or even a murphy bed!), and two side-by-side twins won pretty handily when over 13,000 of you tookour poll! They’re more comfortable for grown-ups to climb into than bunk beds (and much easier to make!), plus two twins can be pushed together for a king-sized sleep surface if someone requests that instead (hello versatility!).
A trundle got significantly fewer votes (whether it was a pop up or a traditional one) since many people have kids who don’t sleep well together – or adults who don’t want to climb over each other. And one big bed (murphy or regular) got even fewer votes – probably because there are two other queen beds for people who want to sleep together and folks seemed to like the flexibility of one room where people can sleep separately.
I gotta say I’m not surprised that twin beds won because when we travel we always look for… drumroll please… a room with two twins for our kids! It also doesn’t hurt that two twin beds can be RIDICULOUSLY GOOD LOOKING. Like the inspo photo below (or this one, this one, and this one). I’m 100% convinced that even the smallest spaces can have tons of style!
Ok, on with the tour! If you spin around in the space, there’s a pocket door (they make the most of small rooms since it doesn’t swing into the space). We also hung a handy little wall shelf with empty baskets that provide some vertical storage (you could store kids pjs, favorite books, or some clothes in them if you wanted those things within the room).
Here’s a better shot of the shelving system. It’s just 9″ deep (about the same depth as the sconces by the head of the bed) so it doesn’t feel like it’s IN YO FACE. I’m 5’2″ and have no issue reaching each item on those bottom two shelves – and the stuff on that top shelf is just decorative. There’s also room at the foot of the bed if someone wants to slide a suitcase in there.
Since we know that may not be enough storage, here’s the good news: there’s a nice, big, half-empty closet just outside the room. Yes, literally one step.
wood shelf | quilt | walls: SW Spare White | trim: SW Extra White | door: SW White Truffle
Here it is all opened up. While it has a few shelves dedicated to extra guest towels and linens – plus a high chair and a Pack ‘N Play for anyone staying with infants – we left the bottom half empty so guests can toss in extra clothes, suitcases, whatever.
And see those silver rods corralled in the bottom corner of the closet? That’s John’s ingenious way of storing the legs to the high chair that lives on that top shelf (so they’re easier to see/grab and not hidden up there on that high shelf). The white hoops are just 3″ PVC pipe couplings from the plumbing aisle at Home Depot ($1.68 each!) and we labeled them so people aren’t like… “are these headless golf clubs? Some sort of fold-away tent? A new way to communicate with aliens?”
Here’s a closer shot of things like a few extra bath towels (each room has a pair left on the bed for guests when they arrive), and we have two Pack N Play sheets for people to use along with an iron, hairdryer, and first aid kit. We had some fun with a label maker as John mentioned on Monday’s podcast (I know, we are PARTY ANIMALS) just so everyone knows where to find things. It also makes it easier for our house cleaners to put things back in the right spot between guests.
We were even able to communicate some simple instructions to our guests with the labels we added. For example, the washcloth bin says “use gray ones for makeup removal please” since we heard from our cleaners that light colored washcloths rapidly get ruined when guests use them to take off their makeup.
We also learned that it’s smart to add photos to your Airbnb listing of the perks you’re offering, so we snapped some shots of the high chair set up downstairs, so anyone scrolling through the pics sees it without having to read a bunch of fine print.
We also took a photo of the Pack N Play, which fits nicely between the double closets in the master bedrooms (as well as in a few other spots). It’s hard to see in this pic, but that window has white faux wood blinds, cause nobody wants to put baby in a corner super bright spot ;)
And before I show you the locked owner’s closet, I couldn’t resist throwing in this before & after of the upstairs hallway. Here it is today:
tile | wall: SW Spare White | trim: SW Extra White | doors: SW White Truffle
And here’s that same vantage point when we bought the house back in 2017. How funny is that pink trim? It was one of the reasons we chose a pink tone for all of the doors on this side of the house (White Truffle by Sherwin Williams). The super cool wallpaper border didn’t come back, but we did move the door to the master bedroom over about 5′ to the right so we could add this awesomely useful hall linen closet, and WE’RE SO GLAD WE DID.
But the hardest working closets in the duplex are downstairs under the stairs, right next to the TVs on either side. Renters won’t have access to them, but we thought you might be curious to see what’s in our locked owner’s closets.
We recently made two big changes to our shopping habits that are having both positive and negative repercussions. So we’re sharing what we did, why we did it, and how we’re trying to course correct a few pitfalls that popped up. We also got a refreshing reminder that it’s liberating to acknowledge that you don’t have to be good at everything – especially in a social media world where everyone else seems to have it all figured out. Plus, we share a big hiccup that was narrowly avoided at the duplex, an organizational tool that we’ve fallen hard for, and Sherry’s deep feelings for a certain crunchy green snack.
If you want to hear the previous chat where we shared our thought process on not to having Amazon Prime (and even did some math!), it’s in Episode #60 starting around the 4-minute mark. And of course, you can hear about our No Spend Month in Episode #97.
Also, these are the beach chairs and beach umbrellas we bought for our beach house last year, and picked up this year for the duplex (they’re even cheaper in store at Costco). The chairs are durable, comfortable, and they’ve got perks like built-in cup & phone holders, two zippered storage pockets (one insulated), and backpack straps for easy carrying. If you aren’t a Costco member, they’re on Amazon too, but they’re currently more expensive.
The Costco website doesn’t have the Pistachio Squares Sherry has fallen truly, madly, and deeply in love with – but the link above will take you to them on Amazon.
For reference, our downstairs HVAC units are housed under the stairs on each side of the duplex, so the loud humming was coming through the vent near the TV (and was even louder when you we opened our locked owner’s closet next to it – which is where we access the unit).
Luckily the “broken motor” that the installer diagnosed from our video just turned out to be the instruction manual one of his guys had left inside the darn thing. Phew!
It’s Okay Not To Be Good At Everything
Here’s that New York Times article I thought was a good read, especially with the lens of how we judge ourselves as adults / workers / parents / partners too.
The quote that really struck me was: “School is the only place in the world where you’re expected to excel at everything, and all at the same time. In real life, you’ll excel at what you do best and let others excel at what they do best.“
And if you missed it, here’s the recent episode where we talked about our shortcomings in the kitchen.
Above is a photo of some of the labels we made with our new label maker for the duplex. It was $15, and comes with a standard white label & black ink cartridge (we bought a couple of extras though).
You can also hear our full conversation with The Home Edit about pro-level, star-worthy organization tips (yes, including labels) in Episode #60.
And here’s the Boy Brow thingamajig that Sherry bought from Glossier to beef up her eyebrows. She gonna show how it works on Instagram stories at some point this week, but for now you can see it in the side-by-sides below:
And lastly, a big thank you to Annie Selke for sponsoring this episode. Check all of her classic and colorful designs at annieselke.com/YHL, including their Dash & Albert Designer Favorites – to help you zero in some great no-fail rug options. And get 15% off your order with the code YHL15.
This is the story of how not one, but two tables got a complete refresh thanks to a little elbow grease and, well, a lot of sanding. And it’s also a testament to how generally great secondhand finds can be (they literally can look like new – or even better than something new). It’s also a testament to how straightforward it can be to breathe new life into an old piece of furniture. Not all DIY projects are always straightforward, so let’s hear it for that adjective!
Since the duplex has two dining spaces (one on each side) we obviously needed two dining tables. For one side we planned to use our old dining table, which you’ve probably seen in this photo from our second book.
We replaced it over a year ago with a bigger table that we also scored secondhand – this time on Facebook Marketplace – and while some sleuths noticed the change on IG Stories or in a random social media photo, it wasn’t always easy to catch because it has pretty much been constantly covered in supplies waiting to be delivered to the duplex for the last six months. So if you saw it, you didn’t see much of it.
Anyway, the table shown above has been stored up in our attic for the last year or so, just waiting for eventual transport to the duplex. But first, it needed some love…
We actually got this table as part of a table swap with a friend. What, you haven’t heard of a table swap? Just kidding it’s not a thing, but it worked out well. She needed a big round table and the one we’d used in our second house was too wide for our current dining room, so we traded our big round one for her rectangular Crate & Barrel one. It fit our space MUCH better, but she warned us it was pretty scratched up and needed some refinishing. We’d always planned to sand & restain it at some point… it just took us nearly 5 years to do it!
We were a little anxious about taking a sander to a Crate & Barrel table, so we dipped our toes in slowly by first sanding the top of one of the legs. If it was a bust, no one would ever see the attempt. But fortunately, it worked. BEAUTIFULLY.
But before I show you more of this table, let me introduce you to the other secondhand table we refinished for the other side of the duplex.
My sister was replacing her old solid-wood dining table (which you can see in this old post from when we house crashed her in 2013) and we jumped at the chance to buy it before she listed it on Facebook. It too was pretty worn from years of use, but the size was perfect and we loved how solid and casual it was. I was less nervous about ruining this one, so I took my sander right to the top and went to town.
The battery-operated corner cat sander I already owned did a fine job, but it took a long time to get the finish off of this table completely. And even after an hour or so of work, it still wasn’t quite as stripped as I’d hoped. So I bought this $79 corded random orbital sander to see if a little bit more power (cue the Tim Taylor jokes) could get me a cleaner and faster result.
It. Was. So. Worth. It.
It immediately showed me how good it was for removing some of the more stubborn scratches and marks on this table (see the left photo above, which was taken before I used it, and the much cleaner and more stripped shot on the right, which was taken as I was going over it with the orbital sander).
It was also a lot faster, which helped immensely when it came to sanding off the thick factory finish on the Crate & Barrel table. Can you even believe how much wood grain was hiding under that dark red stain??
All in all it probably took us 2 to 3 hours to sand both tables, especially because of all of the legs and aprons we had to get too. But I was happy to have discovered the new heavier-duty sander and even MORE happy about the results.
We decided to transport them to the duplex like this and then stain and seal them in place, that way we could be sure we liked how the stain colors were looking in the space (and adjust them if they looked weird in the rooms). First we tested what it would look like if we just clear sealed both tables.
We loved the result on the table from my sister, since it deepened the color only slightly and didn’t disguise any of the wood grain. Sherry applied one coat of basic water-based sealer, and then for our second coat we tried this “Triple Thick” version to hopefully add extra protection and durability. It went on just as easily and we love the satin finish. Highly recommend it.
Here’s a reminder of what the top of this table looked like before:
And once we finished clear-sealing it, the lop looked like this:
Now the room has come a lot further (as well as that kitchen behind it), so this is the final result. We love how it ties into the wood door that you see peeking out of the mudroom next to the kitchen.
When it came to the Crate & Barrel table, our little test spot of the clear sealer just brought out the red undertones of the wood when it dried, which is NOT what we wanted. So we decided to stain it with a cooler brown color to downplay the red. Our first instinct was to use Special Walnut by Minwax, since that’s what we used on the duplex floors (you can seethe before & afters of those here).
It was looking good as it was going on, but once it dried it looked redder than we wanted (it kinda felt like it was slowly creeping back to the dark red original color that we painstakingly sanded off). So we darted out to the hardware store and bought a gray stain instead (called Classic Gray) and wiped on a very light coat to see if it would cool off the red undertones.
It did just the thing we were looking for, so it was full steam ahead on this combination of stains. As for how we did this step, we wiped on a really light coat of the Classic Gray and then immediately wiped it off (the can usually tells you to wait, but we didn’t want things getting too gray).
In the end we’re so glad that you can still see the variation in the wood tones through those two layered stains, and after that quick Classic Gray coat dried, we did two coats of that same “Triple Thick” sealer we used on the other table and BINGO BANGO, both tables were done.
Oh and we only had to buy two of the gray dining chairs because four of them were the ones that we already had at the beach house (before we opted to replace four of them them with long benches). Sidenote: our dining table at the beach is ALSO a secondhand find! Yes, we own four dining tables, and none of them are new.
On the other side we used our mixed-finish wire globe light (which also comes in white + brass, or all bronze) and added the white dining chairs from our furniture line. Sherry laughed about the fact that between the table, the chairs, and the backsplash in here, we’re repping something old, something new, and something blue. Maybe the duplex guests can count as “something borrowed” since they aren’t permanent? Might be a stretch.
After over a year and a half of renovation, the duplex officially hosted its first overnight guests!!! And it was an exciting, emotional, and eye-opening test of all the work that we’ve put into it. So we’re sharing what we learned and what we’re changing before it plays host again. We’re also talking about how a house that we considered buying last fall as a long-term rental popped back onto our radar with some surprising news. Plus, how we solved some household frustrations for under $25 – and Sherry rants about a certain paper product while John finds unusual joy in another one.
***Heads up, there’s a Game of Thrones spoiler a few photos down, so if you haven’t seen the finale yet (and have miraculously managed to avoid spoilers so far) just don’t look too closely at the photo after the one of me holding the toilet paper.***
If you want to hear the original conversation we had about potentially buying another rental property and why this particular house in our neighborhood wasn’t the right one for us, you can tune into Episode #114.
Can We Just Talk About… Tissue Boxes
Now you can see what we were venting about regarding the tissue box options when we recently went to buy them for the duplex.
We can see how they’d offer a nice dose of pattern and color for a simpler bathroom, but with colorful floor patterns (and painted doors) we just wanted something subdued – and it was surprisingly impossible to find. Especially when a four-pack might have two toned down designs that we liked paired with two that were much bolder.
Here is the house-shaped tissue box cover we decided to buy to “neutralize” the boxes throughout the duplex. (That’s just a product shot on the website – I don’t have a book called “John’s Story.” Ha!)
They were $6.90 when we bought them, but now they’re showing up as $14. Boo! But still significantly less than some of the woven versions Sherry looked at. Some were $30, $40, even $100!!! This $17 teak one is a nice option, just not when you have to buy 6 of them… to the tune of $102.
Which takes us back to our appeal for literally just one 4-pack of subtle tissue boxes (like linen-looking ones or some other woven textures scanned onto cardboard). Anyone? Bueller?
But more importantly, I know you guys are DYING to see the Forever Roll. It arrived shortly after recording the episode and…WOW. Just wow.
That’s the standard “Double Roll” that we buy in our household on the left above, compared to the behemoth that arrived as part the Forever Roll starter pack that we bought as a gag gift for our friend (he won our Game of Thrones finale episode bet).
And for any GoT fans out there, you might appreciate the image I photoshopped to dress up the outside of the box that we gifted him. Now he’ll never have to leave the iron throne.
The Duplex’s First Guests
You may have caught on Instagram recently that our family stayed at the duplex a few nights to test drive everything before our first Airbnb guests arrive in June.
It may not look like much, but seeing the kitchens in use (and the bedrooms! and the dining tables! and the outdoor showers!) was so exhilarating in the weirdest way. It was like all of our work was finally paying off and people were enjoying the house!
Here are just a few of the items they helped us realize we were missing (some may seem obvious, but with aallllll of the things we’ve been trying to check off, it’s easy to forget literally everything):
Outdoor furniture covers for the patio sets (we realized as a group that it would be the easiest way for guests to enjoy the patio – they can just pop off the cover versus having to bring out all of the cushions from the shed each time they use it).
Here’s the freezable grocery bag that we bought (in “Fresh Stripe”) to use as our beach cooler this summer after seeing my sister with hers. We love that it’s simple, affordable ($25), and the whole thing folds up to be stored in your freezer – so it’s always ready to use!
We mentioned it matches our beach chairs – so here those are in case you’re in the market (in the “ocean stripes” colorway). These hold up so much better than others we have bought.
And here’s a look at our coat closet situation with the motion-activated puck lights (of course we ordered the warm white option). As Sherry pointed out, they aren’t the brightest lights in the world, but a 3-pack is just $18 and the motion activation works remarkably well (they turn off after a few seconds of no motion). Here you can see 2 of them that we stuck to the inside of the door frame so they illuminate the items we’re looking for in the closet. The third one is on the other side.
And if you were curious, here’s a peek at the fluorescent light we have hardwired in there. It’s in a weird spot that made our options limited when we replaced it a few years ago (it had to have its own on/off switch, since there isn’t a wall switch in the closet itself). I think it’s actually an under-cabinet light, now that I think about it.
You can’t see it in this photo, but the switch – which is VERY tiny – is tucked way back into the lefthand corner, so it’s annoyingly hard to find in the dark.
And there on the metal electric box (for the house’s old alarm system) is one of the puck lights. They can either be screwed in place, attached via magnet, or stuck using the included 3M adhesives.
Ok, so this post was born from a random comment on Instagram a while back where someone asked if I had ever shared a video of myself styling a bookshelf on video so they could see my process and watch me shift things around… and I was like “would it be interesting/helpful if I recorded myself doing that and shared it?” And then so many people commented under that to basically say YES DO THAT. So I did. And here it is.
My friend Teresa recently added built-ins to her living room and asked if I’d mind coming over to style them. She knows my soul, and is well aware that’s basically my love language (tied with cheese and shrimp). And thanks to that IG request a while back, we brought the camera & tripod to capture it all. Speaking of her new built-ins, this is what the room looked like before with the Ikea bookcases they had from their last house.
And this is what they built with the help of her dad. These things are amazing! The bench seat under the window even folds up to reveal an extra compartment for stashing stuff, along with those two big base cabinets for concealed storage on each side.
Let the record state that there’s nothing wrong with Ikea bookcases, and they can look fantastic. We’ve had inexpensive freestanding Ikea bookshelves in our office for the last five years and love them. In Teresa’s case, she and her husband Andrew said they fit better in her old house – but ever since they moved six years ago they dreamed of someday adding built-ins along that wall. And it finally happened thanks to her extremely handy dad (John was literally wolf-whistling at the finished product). And then I got to swoop in and style them.
Much like nearly anything else you do, there’s a definite learning curve to tackling a bookcase. And I have a few specific (and very easy/free) things you can try that’ll help A TON. So you can hopefully skip over some of the mistakes I made for years and get to a finished result you love.
Oh and whenever we talk about bookcases there’s the inevitable question about what the ratio of books to other objects should be. It most likely will just depend on how many books you own and want to display in that area. That’s how we landed on the number of books on the built-ins in this video. Since they have other spots with books in their house, and that huge lower bench seat serves as additional book storage for the ones they didn’t want out, I just styled the shelves with the ones they wanted up there. It was that simple. Just do whatever you like – it’s your house.
Ok, but on to the video, which I truly think demonstrates so much more than words and even photos can:
Note: If you are viewing this post in a feed reader, you may need to click through to see the video player. You can also watch it here on YouTube.
We looked back at the timestamps, and the entire video took about 22 minutes to film, but I had spent around 10 minutes arranging things into stacks and groupings before we started filming (more on that in a second). So the full process took me about 32 minutes, but it could definitely take you longer if it’s your first or second try at loading up a bookcase. But the key thing to note is that I just kept trying things. Did you see how many items I put down and then moved around?! BASICALLY EVERYTHING. There is so much trial and error, so just try to stay flexible and switch things around until you step back & love what you see.
You’ll have to watch the video to see me demonstrating each tip that comes up on the screen (so definitely come back & watch that if you can’t now). But in addition to those tips – here are three more extra things I thought of after I recorded the video.
Initial Prep Makes Things A Lot Easier
Before ANYTHING goes on the bookcase(s), take out everything you want to put on them so you can see it all together on the floor en masse (like books, large vases, storage boxes and/or baskets, potted plants, picture frames, etc) and combine things to make LARGER GROUPINGS. For the books, put them into larger horizontal and vertical groupings. You can group them by color or subject or whatever you’d like (I often remember the color of a book better than the exact title or author, so I find them more easily when I group ’em by color – but do whatever works for you).
You might also have decorative boxes that you can stack to create a larger grouping. Or smaller objects that you can add to the tops of a few stacks of books that you’ve already made to add height and finish them off. You also might have similar objects that you can display together to make one larger grouping that reads as less busy (for example, a collection of 3 blue glass vases that you can group on top of a large horizontal stack of books).
This initial grouping step with everything laid out on the floor makes the entire process FAR EASIER. In the adjoining room to the bookshelves in this video, I did this exact thing on the floor. So that’s why I just breeze into frame with a stack of boxes all ready to plop down, or a whole grouping of books that are horizontally stacked together. Obviously large objects like vases and baskets, and smaller objects that you’ll pepper in later won’t necessarily have a grouping yet, but pairing up books and boxes and a few smaller things you’ll be displaying en masse is a huge help. Which brings us to my next extra tip…
Fewer Larger Items & Groupings Beat Lots Of Smaller Ones
This tip is born from a mistake I pretty much made constantly for years until it finally dawned on me… LARGER ITEMS AND GROUPINGS ALWAYS LOOK BETTER. Smaller vases sitting alone? Little picture frames not added to a stack of horizontal books or layered in front of a larger one? They look busy. They look piddly. They look lonely with so much space around them. The shelves just don’t look as grounded and balanced and complete when there are tons of little items everywhere.
Literally look at every gorgeous built-in you’ve ever seen and they’ll either have: 1) larger items everywhere (like zero small vases or little picture frames or tiny stacks of books anywhere) or 2) smaller items grouped with other things to appear larger and more unified so they don’t read as a bunch of tiny busy items (like stacked boxes that read as a grouping, small vases or frames placed on top of a horizontal stack of books that read as one unit, etc).
If you’re wondering why your bookcase looks off or busy or just don’t have the presence you’d like, my very first suggestion would be to remove or group smaller things to unify them and make them read as one larger “unit” to the eye when you step back – and to consider adding a few large scale items like a giant vase, a large basket for storage, or some larger book stacks. Sidenote: this also works for mantels, tabletops, open shelving, etc.
Also, This Can Be Gloriously Free!
Don’t forget to check wherever you have extra storage, (the attic, the garage, or even your kitchen cabinets) for large vases, plant pots, frames, and boxes. I often have to style shelves when I stage homes (more on that here and here) and I’m always scouring the house for anything I can use! I’ve totally stacked white shoeboxes and brought in pretty decorative bowls from the kitchen! In the words of Jay-Z, “I’m a hustler, baby. I just want you to know.”
Sometimes just 30 minutes spent using what you have around the house & trying a new arrangement or grouping can make you SO HAPPY. I did it a little while ago with our own living room built-ins and it still feels like a breath of fresh air whenever I walk in there. Talk about a free pick me up!
P.S. Have you signed up for our free newsletter? It’s like a bonus post that comes to your inbox once a week and we promise never to spam you – you’ll just get tips and photos you can’t see anywhere else.
So it turns out there are some weird spots in the kitchen where germs go to party – so we’re learning more about that (and what you can do about it), as well as talking about why we gave up on those meal delivery kits and found a better solution for our family. We’re also talking about how shopping for your home can be fun, but it can also be frustrating and time-consuming. So we’re sharing our tips for how to streamline your hunt and pick things with confidence. Plus, you’ll hear how our backyard is finally winning the war against our hungry deer, and what new face thing Sherry is obsessed with now.
We originally took a bunch of meal delivery kits for a spin in Episode #66. You can hear more about what we thought in that episode, but I think our general conclusion was that Hello Fresh was our favorite of the bunch – the recipes were good, not too complicated, and not too expensive.
We hadn’t tried Home Chef’s boxes at the time, but below is a peek at one of the a la carte, single box meals we picked up at the grocery store recently. Remember, none of these are sponsored, we buy them ourselves, just to see what we like (and what we don’t).
And you can hear about last year’s landscaping massacre in Episode #99 and how we were trying some weird/gross techniques to deter the deer from munching on our new landscaping any further. You can see below how they stripped off any new growth that was within their reach.
This is what those same bushes and trees are looking like now, after all of our faithful applications of Liquid Fence over the last year-ish (as discussed in Episode #105).
I know it’s kind of hard to see in pictures (it all just turns into a blob of green) but we’re extra relieved that our cherry tree and gingko tree not only survived, but came back even better than before.
When you feel like you’re burning hours and hours shopping for the “perfect” thing for your home (whether it’s a light fixture, sofa, table, basket, bathroom tile, etc) we ultimately think it’s worth it to hold out for something you truly love and not settle…
…buuuuut we also talked more in Episode #130 about how sometimes it’s helpful to buy a cheap placeholder to hold you over and give you more time while you keep your eyes peeled for the perfect solution (like the current secondhand coffee table in our living room).
In short: don’t settle for something meh or basic & hold out for “the one” that makes you feel super elated. But if you’ve looked for a while, and still can’t find it – a cheap secondhand option can help you hold out longer for the right thing to come along (so you don’t rush into buying something you’re only feeling warm about because you’re just tired of not having one at all). Note: you can usually resell that secondhand thing on Craigslist later – once you find your long-term favorite – so it doesn’t ultimately have to cost you much at all.
We also mentioned that we’ve been using the Google Shopping search function a lot more lately (it’s just the “Shopping” tab on the regular Google results page) because it helps us browse lots of sites at once – which saves us a lot of time versus searching something like “fabric shade pendant” on 10 individual home websites.
Like any Google search, it’s not perfect, but it does offer some helpful filters. Sites like Overstock and Wayfair are also good for searching a lot of options of something if you just plug in a keyword or two – they just won’t return results for other retailers like Pottery Barn, Target, Crate & Barrel, West Elm, etc…. which is where that Shopping tab comes in.
Here’s a link to Highlights Magazine and Highlights High Five (the preschool version our son gets). They’re both a bit more than my random guesstimate of $12/year (more like $35 – oops!). But they still make a great gift, so much so that we got one for our 4-year-old nephew right after we recorded this episode!
And that’s Sherry ice roller that she uses on days when her regular jade roller just isn’t enough (she says it’s for when she’s feeling extra puffy or didn’t sleep well). You literally store it in the freezer so the roller part is like a cold ice pack on yo’ face.
And lastly, a big thank you to Agility Bed for sponsoring this episode. For Memorial Day you can get 15% off your ENTIRE ORDER. Just visit AgilityBed.com and enter your email address to unlock the discount. And after the 28th, you can still use the code YHL to get $200 off a hybrid mattress of any size.