A “New” Mantel

Back in 2006, when we purchased our current house, the living room liked this (small boy not included):


After some wood floors, paint, and a bit of furniture were added to the scene, it looked like this:


We have loved the transformation, but have lacked a mantel over the fireplace. This year, I began to get very nostalgic for a place to hang our stockings. So today I dragged, er accompanied Jay down to a salvage store in town.  If you’ve never heard of a salvage store before, it’s a place that buys up items from homes which are about to be demo’d, and then sells them to folks who can use them in their current homes. Great model for re-using perfectly good things all the way from light fixtures to mantels to hardwood floors to doors.

It was great fun poking around the salvage store, and because a sweet friend watched all four of our kiddos while we shopped (thank you, Jennifer!) we were able to focus in on what we were looking for. We brought home a very simple mantel shelf which cost very little, whose width perfectly fits our brick fireplace.   My job is to sand and restain the wood till it is the color we’d like, and then my hunk of a home improvement guy will mount it to the brick fireplace surround.

Here is what the living room looks like now, with the mantel shelf leaning against the brick, patiently awaiting its new look.


Update on the “Office Remodel”

Thank you, faithful readers, for your patience with us as we bring you semi-weekly installments of the progress on the little office Jay is slowly creating in the corner of our bedroom.  Our first Horne Improvement episode of this particular series can be read here. And last week I shared the second episode with you.  Admittedly, this office remodel does seem to be dragging on.

Yesterday I decided that we’d waited long enough for the whole thing to get finished, so we brought in some professionals.


Pretty cool gig for them in these economic times especially!! That short one doesn’t even feel the need to spring for work clothes, apparently!

I’m here to vouch for the fact that expertise in painting directly correlates with the amount of clothing worn. In other words, if your painter shows up half naked, you’d be well advised to find yourself another guy for the job!

Well, after painting over the not so attractive streaks created by the littlest member of the crew, I think the wall is looking pretty great!


It’s ready for the carpenter to go to work and build the desk!


It’s been a busy couple weeks since we last posted about Jay’s little “Horne” Improvement project. There has been about a week of various illnesses scattered through most of the members of the family. We’ve finished up two soccer seasons with the middle boys, begun baseball season with the Kindergartener, and have continued with volleyball for Abigail.  We planned for and executed on a sweet garage sale, which not only reaped financial reward, but also the benefit of some major clean out and organization in much-needed areas of the home. Yay! We have even babysat a couple of chickens (yes, CHICKENS!) for some sweet friends who were out of town on a long weekend.

And yet, despite the busy schedule that the end of the year brings with it, I think it likely Jay might be finished adding his little home office were it not for the added excitement yours truly has brought to the household.  Last week I took ill with a weird virus whose main symptom was severe vertigo/nausea anytime I was vertical.  It got bad enough that a trip to the doctor seemed warranted.  Before I made it to the doctor’s office, I caught my left pinky toe on the living room ottoman and broke the poor little booger again. After looking me over, the doctor gave a diagnosis of Vestibular Neuritis/Labyrinthitis and also confirmed that aforementioned pinkie toe was snapped clean through.


Anyway, my being laid-up with dizziness and broken toes has necessitated that Jay kick it into even higher gear than he usually runs at.  So, there’s been no time left for making his office area pretty…till the past couple days.  He’s made wonderful progress, and finished what is arguably the hardest part of the whole job. While I missed getting shots of the mudded walls, I did enjoy watching and photographing the process of his learning to texture. And then him learning to texture some more.  And some more.

It turns out texturing is not an easy task, especially when it is your goal to match pre-existing texture already on the wall which you are updating. In praise of his work, I will say that Jay did finally achieve what I think will be a really great match once the wall is painted to match the rest of the room. Here’s the area, all prepped for painting.


Of course, he’s asked me (Dizzy, Broken-Toed Girl) if I wouldn’t mind doing the painting part. Not at all Jay, anything for you. But here’s hoping I don’t find myself in the middle of a dizzy spell while waving a wet paint brush around our bedroom. I wouldn’t want to spill any of that sticky paint on my pretty boot, ya’ know.

HGTV: HORNE & Garden Television!!

Last week, Jay suggested to me that he’d really like to have a little space of his own somewhere in the house to work, other than this:


It seems that despite the cute and cuddly company, such a workspace isn’t as conducive to high productivity!

We considered various options around the house, none of which were ideal: use an entire bedroom (but it’d be hard to stuff three boys and all their gear into one of our rooms); find a convenient closet to settle him into (he wasn’t keen on this one); convert a formal area to office space (we are using our front two formals right now to home school).  If we had a basement, that might be a neat solution (not only for a home office, but for about a thousand other purposes that immediately spring to mind!); alas, there are no basements in Dallas!!

So…the only viable solution at this time seemed to be the little vanity area (better known under my watch as the “junk-gathering” area)  in our master bedroom. It’s a decent-sized if not gigantic space for this purpose (5 by 5 feet), but since it also serves as the walk-through to get to my closet and one of the entrances to our master bath, we’ll be limited in how we set it up.

I have only a very blurry shot of the space, taken the first day we ever visited the house, so it’s pretty rough-looking (read “ugly”!!). But you at least see the area: a little nook off to one corner of our room.


This angle looks directly into the nook, and gives you a view of the closet doors ahead of you, and the bathroom entrance to your right.


Earlier this week, Jay set about gathering supplies and demolishing the built-in vanity that took up a major portion of this area. Since the cabinets appear to have been built into the walls piece by piece, the process of removing them was not simple.  Here we are in various stages of demo:


See how happy it makes my husband to tear something apart!


Pulling those stubborn cabinets out resulted in a few gashes in the walls:


Prepping the hole for the new piece of drywall:


Taping up and nailing in new drywall:


Wall mudded and ready for sanding and texture…to be completed another day.


Here is Jay taking a break from his work (and nursing an injury he sustained in the demolition when he took a crow bar to the ribs – self-inflicted but still quite painful.).


Next steps after finishing out the wall texture and repainting are: We’ll need to install a light where there is now a blue hole (very top of the picture) to which electrical has already been pulled. And Jay is planning to custom build a desk: which will likely consist of an appropriately-sized shelf on brackets set at a height to serve as a workspace of sorts.  While he’ll be limited by the size of the space, we think he can build something that will give him room to spread out and work in addition to his nifty little Target computer cart (which he’ll keep using in his new set-up).

My hope is that when the project is all done, that the computer cart and desktop might be low profile enough to be gracefully hidden behind a curtain or set of panels which I’d love to mount at the outside of the “office nook”.

If anyone who is reading this has design input, please chime in, and tell us your thoughts. Especially if you have ever put together a little spot like this, yourself. If you have opinions to share on the curtain idea, I’d love to hear those too!!

We’ll hopefully update you soon with progress on our latest little Horne Improvement project!

House Tour Begun

We have lived in the house with the red door for two years now – having moved in partially on Josiah’s first birthday, in 2006.  Before buying this house, we watched the neighborhood for a couple of years (someone, and I’m not saying who, has a little realtor bug in her!), so we had a sense of what houses were worth. Spring Creek offered reasonably sized 3 and 4 bedroom ranch-style homes (22-2800 square feet in general) on flat, generous lots, beautiful trees and an active, involved neighborhood with more of a small-town feel than one usually finds in Dallas city limits.

However, as is usually the case with good value, lots more folks than just ourselves recognized the appeal, and we soon learned that houses available for purchase in this area were a rare commodity, and in some cases, even passed from parent to child (many folks living here now grew up in the neighborhood back in the 70’s and 80’s). Prices were also increasing well above our budget ceiling, so we waited patiently for a “deal” that was the right situation. And, while the acquisition of this house was more of a saga than we’d have wanted, we are very thankful to be living here. The process of fixing this place up has been fun (mostly) and very educational.  Our neighbors are truly the nicest we’ve ever had – we feel so blessed to be in such a friendly place. I have even taken the plunge and signed up to be a block captain this year, and am happy to be involved just a little bit in the runnings around here.

Buuuuuuuut. I digress, for my true intention in this post is to begin what I have wanted to do for sometime: post some before and after shots of our home remodel in progress. I have waited to do this for so long mostly because as you well know, no project ever seems to get completely finished.  There is always something still left to do and I hate to post a picture without the truly finished product.

Now, before we get into “after photos”, please understand this is not a drastic home remodel such as you would get if you hired a contractor to gut a room or two in order to achieve what is virtually a brand new space. Nor are we the types who are brave enough to tear out kitchen cabinets, floors, counters ourselves and build a new room out from the studs.  It might be nice to fantasize about, but it’s not happening.

Personally, I think Jay could TOTALLY do this type of thing and I would be a happy and willing assistant, but in actuality his schedule is so packed with work these days that what little time is left would never suffice for such major projects. Despite being a busy guy on top of daddy to four busy kids, he has made time for being pretty handy around here, has learned to rewire electrical sockets, change toilets, replace plumbing (both pipes and fixtures), install and repair major appliances.  But, so far we have not been brave enough (or stupid enough, depending on your point of view) to undertake a project which is truly massive in scope.

That said, we will begin our tour of House of Horne at the beginning, as in, we are going to show a few of the scenes we saw on that first evening we ever toured it ourselves (accompanied by some family, who were admittedly not so crazy about the place, right Jamison!!?!!). Next time we come back I plan to have photos of the front and we’ll proceed through the house in a somewhat logical manner.  Ok, here goes…

This is what we saw as we drove up. Good bones, simple ranch style, pretty trees (in back) but obvious signs of neglect: rotted wood shutters hanging askew, or in some cases completely fallen off and never put back up, rusted out light fixtures, landscaping gone absolutely wild, including vines all over the front of the house, grass beginning to die due to lack of watering.


Here you can see the butchering done on the two front elm trees. So sad, little stumps for branches.


Entering the house, you can see the lovely shade of brown that greeted us.


Stepping into the main living room. For whatever reason this area really bothered me: it was ALL beige: ceiling, trim, walls, built-ins, fireplace, and carpet. And while the pictures don’t convey it well, it was all very dingy and sad, not your calm soothing sort of beige. I kept thinking to myself: what could we do to possibly help this room?


Turning to the other side of the room:


From the living room were two sets of french doors leading to the deck, which could sound romantic if it hadn’t looked like this:


And this. Three layers of paint were peeling off the deck, a tree was dying in the back corner of the yard, and the brick around the deck area was filthy, courtesy of the previous owners’ dogs who lived out here:


But in my mind I could see the possibilities of this indoor to outdoor living space, if only….

Back inside for now, and heading down the hall on one side of the house to the secondary bedrooms, here is the first, in a bilious shade of yellow:


Other secondary bedroom on this side of the house, with um, artistically decorated wall?


The bathroom between the two rooms, its wall and ceiling paint adding to the slate of how shall we say it, vibrant colors?


I love this shot: it shows the full color palette in all its awfulness:


Traveling across the hall to the master we were greeted by walls and ceilings the color of silly putty (hat tip to Katie) and blue carpet that was very old and stained.


Stepping into the master bath we saw what was probably the most updated space in the entire house, complete with flashing strobe lights in the soaking tub – YEAH! Yet even here the blazing red walls, dark brown ceiling and absence of lighting needed attention.


Back to the kitchen, which was a pretty good space and layout for a house of this size and build era. But there was no oven/stovetop. It appears that a previous owner converted the space which had housed a double wall oven, to a large cabinet, and stuck a freestanding range in a slot they literally sawed out of the cabinets and countertop. And then took that range with them when they moved. How ’bout that?


You may recognize the shade of brown again.


And again here, in the third little bathroom off of the laundry area and 4th split bedroom (they must have really LOVED this color):


Inside the shower stall, more evidence of basic work needing to be done before things could run properly, let alone be cosmetically pretty:


Much of what I have shown you may look like a decent enough home which someone just painted with less than pleasing paint colors. But there was work to be done besides paint: all the carpet was in very bad shape: dirty, stained, matted, and worn – it would eventually have to go. The gas lines beneath the house were made of copper, not up to code, and needed to be replaced. There was no insulation whatsoever in the attic.  There was no electrical grounding anywhere and the circuit box was so old and deemed a fire hazard by inspectors, so it could no longer be used. The grass around the house, after three months of no watering, was largely dead, especially in the back yard. The picket fence in back, while charming-looking, was rotting like the shutters on the front of the house.  One of the toilets was completely unusable, another went out just after we closed on the house. There was no vanity lighting of any kind in any bathroom, and two had hardly any light to speak of. There were bad cracks in the walls of every room, not unusual for Texas but nonetheless unsightly. Miraculously, both inspections showed no foundation concerns.

After re-reading the above laundry list of issues, I am feeling daunted even though most of those problems listed have been resolved by now. I hope to return soon with evidence for you of the improvements in the form of photos, and then little by little continue to show you some of what we have done and are still doing to make this house our home. Hope you enjoy the tour!

Home Sweet Home

Two years ago today we were on the way home from the kids’ week of summer swim lessons and as was our practice at the time, I detoured to take a peek at the neighborhood we checked on regularly during our search for a new house. And to my surprise came upon a FSBO sign in front of this:


It had been vacant for a few months and was in need of lots of TLC but the bones were great, and the price was right. And despite all sorts of trouble and craziness during the purchasing process, we moved in (albeit only partially, and with scarcely any furniture) just a little over three months later.

Two years later the little house has indeed received lots of TLC from the Hornes (though of course we are still working on it!) and I think it shows.  We are grateful for this blessing, this haven with a red door where we watch our family grow, experience the richness that is our life, welcome family and friends, live together, laugh together and love each other. We are thankful for this, our own home, sweet home.


Hubbub at House of Horne

Early this morning alley workers arrived to rework some sections of the concrete behind our house which apparently were not soundly constructed during the Alley Rebuild of 2007-2008. They originally showed up this past Saturday, during the Bridal Shower of 2008 (more on that another time) and began the loud and smelly work of cutting through cement whilst 27 fashionably dressed women drinking champagne punch watched them with interest through the windows along the back of our house.  The Bride-to-be of course appreciated the extra drama and excitement which this added to her special day. Thankfully she is my sister, and quite used to the antics and craziness which is life around here!

The timing wasn’t supposed to work out like this, but then you don’t get to plan these things. Three weeks ago we drew up a contract for a fence rebuild around our backyard. Our charming picket, while lovely to look at:


is pushing the 25 year old mark, and Jay has resorted to holding it together with rubberbands and scotchtape. So, it was time to say goodbye.

Today while the rather moody city workers laid rebar in preparation for pouring cement, who should arrive but our wonderful fence folks for their first day of work, and of course they needed to be in the same exact spot as the alley laborers. And the alley men were none too happy about it. I got grumped at by the foreman (who by the way had assured me on Saturday afternoon during the bridal shower, that all the pouring of cement would be completely finished on Monday and our fence guys could be back there working with no problems by the end of this week) who told me I’d best hold off on constructing my fence (but sir, we already had, they were supposed to begin construction on Monday, remember, but you told me not to?) or else. Huh. I told the fence workers I was sorry for the trouble, especially after I’d already asked them to postpone their work earlier in the week.

Regardless, the fence teardown commenced in the midst of the alley work and no one threw any punches (or bits of picket fence) that I could see. Heheh.  About an hour later, our sprinkler service showed up to repair a line we unfortunately nicked while sodding part of the back yard a few weeks ago. They turned on the various sprinkler zones to verify the source of the leak, and promptly gave the fence workers a bit of a bath, which maybe they appreciated – it is almost 90 degrees out! Even so, I found myself apologizing yet again to the guys from Zarate Fence, as I feel they will be more than tired of this job before it’s even begun at this rate.

But as I write this, things are calming down.  The alley workers are almost done with the cement behind our yard, and have moved just next door, and are making noise and such behind our neighbor’s house now, so the area is clear for fence work. The sprinkler dudes have repaired the nicked line and also informed me that our pipes are not really dug deep enough for sodding/planting purposes, so we’d best be careful when doing any future landscaping. Brilliant, but I regress.

Work continues on the fence, and in another week’s time, if all goes as planned (hah!) maybe we’ll have pictures of a brand spankin’ new fence to share with you. For now, I leave you with an early picture of the teardown:


Mommy’s Little Helper + Deck Spruce-Up

Just so’s you all know: Josiah has a pretty sweet side to him too. When he’s not making messes and being ornery!! This morning I walked outside and found him doing this:


He was watering all the new little plants I put in last week!  No one told him to; but he’s seen me go turn on the garden hose and sprinkle all these tender plants each day, so I guess he figured he’d take care of that chore for me today. What a helpful boy!!

For a bit of history, when we bought the house, this was the place the previous owners let their dogs sleep. It was a real mess, full of dirty hay (for dog bedding??) and looked like this:


Early this year after the deck redo was complete, I finally got down to the business of cleaning out the hay and other debris.


We pulled brick after brick after brick out from underneath the hay.


I had lots of good help.


And some folks who just wanted to play in the dirt, but hey that’s cool too.


After our hard work, it was at least free of junk, and tidy-looking. But since January, it has sat feeling rather lonely and empty.


Until last week: I visited a local nursery and got some advice on what to plant here in hopes that we could keep it alive despite mostly shade and no sprinkler system feeding this area. I wanted as many evergreen perennials as would work so as to minimize effort/expense in the future. Among other things I planted a jasmine vine which I am hoping will happily climb and bloom all over this cute little birdy trellis I painted black (I love my trellis!):


And a Japanese Holly Fern, a Gardenia, Curly Red Coral Bells, and some Purple Shamrock.

I have yet to choose a plant for the corner, where I’d like something that will grow somewhat tall, yet narrow enough that it does not cover the kitchen window and block light from coming in. I definitely want to put something evergreen here. If any of my wonderful, green-thumbed readers have suggestions, please speak up! I need all the gardening help I can get.


Looks like Josiah knows that, and it’s a good thing he’s jumped in to help with the efforts to keep my little plants alive and thriving. Let’s hear it for Mommy’s Little Gardening Helper!

Sometimes being wrong is best

Regarding that lake. To review. I took a shower that was lukewarm. I looked under the house and saw several inches of standing water as far as the eye could see (which was, admittedly, fairly limited given it is a crawlspace with ducts throughout). I checked the water meter, and there were no leaks. So I reached the tentative, and admittedly impossible, conclusion that we were leaking hot water, but only when the water was running.

We had a plumber come by the next day. Turns out the number one cause of death for plumbers is electrocution, so he would not go under the house with all the water there. But he also said it was too shallow and dispersed to pump out. And he said my hot water leak hypothesis was impossible. Instead we had a broken cartridge in our shower faucet and an unrelated incursion of water from the recent rains.

Our shower faucet is of the unknown variety, so I headed to Teter’s Faucet and ordered a new one. Then I jammed a screwdriver in the old one and broke it further before putting the whole thing back together. Now it is biased toward hot water instead of cold water as we await the arrival of our new cartridge… much better for showers.

About the water. It’s actually very good news. We already knew we had a moisture problem under the house (due to the cupping of our wood floors), and we knew roughly how much it will cost to fix (installing powered fan vents). We just didn’t know how bad it could actually get after 7 inches of rain. What does all this mean? That no new expenses were introduced into the mix. If we spend money to control the moisture under the house, it isn’t a repair, and was already known.

But what to do in the interim when we can’t spend the money? And how do we lose the water so someone is willing to wire up electric fans under the house? I had this vision of using these, attached to a fan sitting at the entrance to the crawlspace, and venting the moist air out a window. Then my brother-in-law Peter asked, “Why don’t you just turn the fan facing down?” Yes, well, why not indeed.

So, here’s what my plywood-form-with-weatherproofing-and-big-fan looks like. It works amazingly. We just opened a window and closed the door to the room. Two days later, there is no visible water under the house, and the dirt looks less like mud and more like, well, dirt.

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My Sweet Chair

I stopped in a little consignment furniture store near our home this past fall “just to look”. And happened upon something I could NOT leave behind, no matter that it was near the end of the month, and after this purchase we had to eat beans for the remaining week left so that I could stay within the bounds of my budget. (haha, not really, but almost.)

This little chair and ottoman were hidden back in a corner – both pieces looked to be in wonderful shape except for a noticeable stain on the chair’s off-white slipcover, and the fact that the ottoman was missing its slipcover altogether. But they looked like “good furniture” to me, and the price was really amazing. I managed to wrestle the slipcover off the chair and was rewarded with a little tag that read “Crate and Barrel”. Not that I ever shop for furniture there, but I knew enough to recognize a good deal, as long as I could get that stain out. So, after talking the owner of the store down to $99 for the pair, and consulting a friend over the phone to make sure I wasn’t about to do something incredibly stupid, I paid for the pieces, ferried them home in my minivan and got my hunk of a man to lug them inside for me. (This was taken AFTER the ottoman got a replacement cover – don’t they look cozy??)


Like all good obsessive-compulsives would, upon arriving home I immediately got on the web to look up these pieces of furniture, since I knew I’d at least need to order a new slipcover for the ottoman part, and this is what I found: I had just purchased The Potomac Chair and The Potomac Ottoman. Which, it turns out, are really incredibly made – these are quality pieces of furniture…..with a pretty high quality price tag to go along with them. The combined cost of this chair and ottoman bought new, made my jaw drop. Wowsers. In fact, once I had done the math, I calculated that what I paid for both of them after tax, was the exact dollar amount (give or take a few cents) one would pay for JUST THE TAX on the purchase of these two pieces new. Snap!

Of course, I did have just a little more money to shell out before I was finished. But, as Providence would have it, Crate and Barrel were right in the middle of their big annual custom upholstery sale: perfect time to go choose a slipcover, and they still carried the fabric I needed. Plus a hundred other fabrics they also tried to sell me. After all, the saleslady reasoned, why not pick up a second cover for the chair and ottoman for the winter months!?! Hmmm?? Well, maybe next year. For now, I am content with my wonderful new spot for cuddling up with a book, or as is usually the case, and CHILD and a book. Nicolas and I often do his reading lessons here with the sun streaming in the window.

Oh, and in case you are wondering…Yes! that stain came out with lots of pleading on my part, and a nice long soak in Oxy-Clean. And even though off-white furniture may seem foolhardy in a house with all these kids, I for one am a pleased customer, and a proponent of the slipcover…I’ve only washed these once since originally getting them back in September, and they really look great.

So here’s to thankfulness for little surprises in the back corners of used furniture stores. Now to get some pictures up on that wall!