Happy New Year

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I don't have the most popular blog on the Internet or the most consistent of posting schedules but I have YOU and that's what's important to me!

Thank you for your support and for following along during the long process of renovation at the farmhouse. I have so many things to be thankful for as 2016 comes to a close and 2017 begins and each of YOU is one of those things.

Thanks for always being there to cheer me on! I wish each of you a year filled with health, happiness and prosperity. Here's to 2017, full of promise and another chance to "get it right" (and who knows, maybe even finish the farmhouse?! Hey, it could happen!)

Thanks for reading,


My 2017 Word of the Year: Minimalist

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As 2017 approaches and I sat down to decide what my word of the year would be, it was actually a pretty easy choice: minimalism.  I began the process of simplifying the way that I live three and a half years ago when we moved to the farmhouse, selling furnishings with our former home and selling, giving away and donating much more as we got ready to move.

Over the course of the last three and a half years, I've lived with about 80 percent of what we own in storage.  I've had a basic wardrobe consisting of about 25 items of clothing and four pair of shoes and boots.  We've lived a pretty spartan existence in a 300 square foot efficiency apartment with our 72 lb yellow lab.

It seems fitting that the concept of minimalism originated in France in 1905-1910 and while it was originally a political statement, it has become a design style that I have come to love and embrace.  I've always been a "plain" decorator at heart. Pattern is used carefully in my home and I prefer classic shapes and natural materials with beautiful color and texture rather than pattern. I've always believed in quality over quantity and I also believe one well chosen piece can make a room.

As the renovation of our farmhouse is drawing to a close and I am finally retrieving our belongings from storage, I find that I'm taking a new look at the items that I choose to allow back into our home.  While family heirlooms and beloved collections will return, I have already begun the process of paring down things like my ironstone collection to only those pieces that have a simple shape or will serve multiple functions. I'm repeating that process with virtually everything that we own.

As I complete rooms here at the farmhouse and begin to share them, you'll likely see a "less is more" approach to my design. However, while I do embrace minimalism, I don't want our home to feel monastic; I want carefully edited rooms, not those that feel cold or sterile.

I'm also learning to allow my belongings to have "breathing room" to better appreciate them and through that process, I have found that there's a fine art to creating spaces that lack "excess" but still exude warmth and beauty. I am making the creation of those types of spaces here at the farmhouse my mission in 2017.

I can't wait to share the completion and unveiling of the farmhouse with you in 2017 and as always, I wish you health, happiness and the love of family and friends.

Thanks so much for reading!


Merry Christmas and a Farmhouse Progress Update

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I can't believe how long it has been since I've written here on the blog. It has been so long, in fact, that a few of you reached out to me to make sure that I was okay. Thank you for that!   Between my day job and working on the farmhouse the days have been long and I've done precious little other than those two things. With what free time I've had, I've to spent time with my family. We've celebrated my mom's 80th birthday, my dad's 81st birthday, Thanksgiving, and now, Christmas.
Since my word for this year was "authentic", and since so many of you have asked, here's a real and raw update on where we stand on our renovation at the farmhouse. Progress has been slow but we are clawing our way towards the finish line with our focus being a final occupancy permit from the village where we live.
In late fall, we finished the majority of the landscaping and laid 12 pallets of sod. Grading and drainage issues which were causing water in the basement were finally addressed and I no longer have standing water in the middle of the back yard! Even though it was more costly, I chose to sod our yard rather than seed because we were running out of warm weather with which to germinate grass seed and because, in order to be able to live in the house, the village requires grass that covers 90% of the soil (for those who seed) or lawn "with roots" for those who sod.

Laying sod was  three long days of heavy work with me working beside my landscaper, Manuel Landscaping but at the end of day three, we were finished and we had "instant lawn".  Fall in Northern Illinois was mild and long this year which was perfect for establishing new sod and I'm happy to report that the roots are established, our final "as built" engineering survey is complete and from the village's perspective, the exterior of our home is finished. Whew!
The mason returned in early December to complete the fireplace and install brick on the hearth and in the bottom of the niche's in the kitchen. This brick is special to me because it was reclaimed from a home which was torn down in the town where I was raised and I was there when it was cut into the pieces that the mason used. 

The floors are "finished" with our floors. There are a few issues with the finish and some of the joints which have yet to be addressed and I've been waiting for over a month but I'm hopeful that at some point, they will be.

The electricians have completed the wiring and hung all of the light fixtures that I have purchased. They put caps on the places where I haven't found fixtures and we have passed our electrical inspection which is another check mark on the journey to occupancy. 

The dining room ceiling has been replastered due to the water damage that occurred last spring when the roof was off.  All of our belongings are out of storage and in the house. The one item that I'm most excited about is our sons' piano which spent just over three years in storage!
I have begun to paint the interior walls. To date, I  have completed two rooms and three hallways. Painting has taken longer than it should have because when the hardwood floor was installed, the installers splattered glue all over the walls. This means that every wall  has to have the splatters scraped off, sanded, patched and primed before it can be painted. The flooring guy promised to send a painter to look at it five weeks ago but that hasn't happened so I've put away the paint until after the holidays. 

We currently have one bathroom that is functional. I waited for over a month for the plumber to show up to connect the fixtures. When he did, I realized that they had thrown away the thermostatic valve for the shower and I had to order a new one. After a couple of more weeks, he completed that bathroom and I have been waiting for five days for him to return to connect the remaining fixtures in the master bathroom and the gas lines for the fireplace starters.  Also, when I turned on our recirculating water pump for the hot water on Monday, it leaked all over the basement floor... obviously, that will need to be fixed.

Plumbing has been one of the worst parts of this project...immediately behind the first mason...but let's not start on that.

I still have no kitchen. No cabinets, counters, or appliances. I have no interior doors with the exception of those that are required by the village for occupancy. I have no interior trim.

With all of that said, what I do have is a home that I love and faith in God's timing for the completion of this project and while this may  seem like a "complaint" post, it's really not.

There is so much about the farmhouse that I LOVE!  I love the way the sun shines in the kitchen windows in the morning and dances in the hearth room in the afternoon. I love looking through the stone arch in the middle of the house to see family walking down the hall toward me at the end of the day and the sense of accomplishment that I have when I finish putting hardware on a cabinet or painting the table for the master bath. Yeah...let's strike that for now since the vanity has to be remade because the plumber cut the holes in the wrong spot today.
My sons are both home for Christmas and I decided a few weeks ago that "house stuff" would wait until after the holidays so that I can spend time with them. Believe it or not, we're actually hosting family on Christmas day! There will be crock pots, coolers, and a microwave but if  I've learned throughout the process of renovating this house it's that what really matters isn't whether or not I have a refrigerator, it's spending time together with family and friends and that the people who love you show up anyway.  

Painting and interior trim will begin again in mid January after my son goes back to college. The kitchen cabinets should arrive in January or February and until then, I'm savoring time with my sons and the sound of piano music in the farmhouse for the first time since we moved here three years ago.

I wish all of you the very Merriest of Christmases, the Happiest of Holidays, and the best for a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous 2017! Thanks again for sharing this crazy journey. It means the world to me.


Tutorial: German "schmear" Lime Putty Stucco Red Brick Ranch Makeover

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Today I'm going to tell you about the products and process that I used to create the rustic, time-washed look on the 1950 red brick portion of the farmhouse. I'm told that it's called "German schmear" by those in "Fixer Upper" circles...of course, all of that is lost on me because I've never had cable television in my life and I've never seen a single episode.

Tutorial: How to Stain and Waterproof Cedar Wood Garage Doors

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Today, I'm sharing a quick tutorial on how to stain and waterproof cedar wood garage doors.  After I spent two weekends unsuccessfully trying to strip found out that our old garage doors were unsafe and we needed to replace them, I quickly decided on Carriage House insulated cedar wood doors.  I called the same local, family-owned garage door company that had supplied the garage doors for our last project to assist with doors for the farmhouse. The doors arrived in about eight weeks.

My Best Gift Ever: A Vintage Midwest Corn Crib

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I have to admit that when it comes to gift giving, I've got some of the most generous, creative,thoughtful friends and relatives there are.  Over the years, I've been blessed with some amazingly cool gifts but none quite as incredible as the one that I received two weeks ago: a vintage Midwest corn crib. 

Farmhouse Renovation Update: Drywall and Priming!

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My new studio/home office
Renovation on the interior of the farmhouse took a GIANT step forward last week with the installation of drywall, the taping and the beginning of priming.  I can't begin to explain how different the house feels now that it has walls  .....and ceilings (or how strange it is to spend 10 minutes looking for the broom that I left in the back of a closet because I can no longer look across the entire house and say, "oh yeah, there it is" ).
The hall bathroom
As the drywall was going in, I also took the time to install soundproofing (rock wool insulation) in all of the interior walls of the laundry room, the bathrooms and the furnace room which makes it much more quiet in the house.

Arched masonry wall with reclaimed scaffolding plank shelves
In a related note, it also makes it so that I spend a fair amount of time saying "where are you?" and "hello?" when I can tell that there's someone in the house but can't really hear where they are or see them (see "we have walls" above). Part of this may also be attributed to age but we're not discussing that so let's just stick with "the soundproofing is really great"  and move on.

Also last week, I finally ordered a fireplace insert which should be here this week.  I also gave up and ordered new garage doors after spending four days with chemical stripper and power tools and getting about 1/4 of the first door done. At that rate, it would be winter here in the Midwest before I finished.  I also had someone out to look at the springs and tracks and was told that they were not in good shape and would likely need to be replaced soon and that soon would probably mean sometime just after we finished installing the new siding and the drywall in the garage. He also mentioned the words "serious injury" so I decided that it was probably a good idea to replace them.
Guest Bedroom
Master Bedroom (with the old corner cabinet from the kitchen that still doesn't have a home)

On the exterior, we had a couple of nice cool days this weekend so I also got more of the lime stucco applied to the brick. I haven't forgotten about the tutorial. I just ran out of stucco (and daylight)...stay tuned.
Master Bathroom Extra Deep Built in Medicine Cabinets

Master Walk in Closet
Front door slabs and frame
 Lastly, the front door frame was installed this week which will allow the sill to be put into place. You're probably looking at this photo and thinking "Wow, I wouldn't have chosen that front door." Don't worry, I wouldn't have either. I had the door frame shipped with temporary slabs instead of the beautiful glass and alder doors because I don't want anything to happen to them during the remainder of the construction...a lesson that I learned from our last project when a trim carpenter ran into the door with a big piece of wood and took a gash out of it that was repaired but never looked the same.

We're still working on final grading, gutters and the last of the trim detail (shutters, a barn door, beams and posts on the porches) but that should happen soon....in the mean time, I've started doing a little planting and the gravel for the walkways is being put in.

Television opening in the hearth room
On the interior, this week, the primer will be completed, the fireplace is being installed and  the wood for the flooring will be brought into the house to become acclimated so that it doesn't expand and shrink after it's installed. I'm ordering the interior doors and the trim so that it will be here in a couple of weeks when we're ready for it.

Thanks so much for being a part of this journey!

Farmhouse Renovation Update and Being Authentic

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This month marks the second half of 2016. Since there are only six months left in this year, I decided to take a look back at my goals for 2016 and to take another look at my word for the year, "authentic". July also marks the third anniversary of our purchase of  the red brick ranch that is slowly becoming our bespoke farmhouse.  In honor of those things, I thought that I'd share a little "before/during" comparison of some of the initial shots that I took on the day that we officially took possession of the farmhouse and fill you in on what's been going on at our renovation.

Farmhouse Renovation Progress Photos

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I can't believe that it has been such a long time since I've posted here....Yikes! To be honest, I wasn't sure that there was anything to show you but I've had more than a few of you send me messages asking how things are progressing over at the farmhouse so I thought I'd share a few photos. The renovation at the farmhouse is moving forward slowly....
                                                                                                                                       but surely.

Rather than rushing through this process, I've decided to allow both myself  and the artisans who are helping me with the renovation to take the time that they need to create the details that will make our home special. 

Farmhouse Construction Update: Roof and Windows

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The outside of the farmhouse is finally beginning to look more like what I had envisioned and less like the rundown ranch that I first saw almost three years ago.  The new cedar shake shingle roof is complete with the exception of some copper flashing and a small section around the new chimney.

Did I mention how nice it is to go in the house now and not have water dripping from the ceiling when it rains?!
                                                                I never thought that I'd actually utter those words but it is.

Craftsman Style Residential Remodel

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A few months ago on Facebook, I shared a photo of the green stucco two story home below at the early stages of a renovation and addition. At the time, It didn't look like much and I had just been asked to consult on the project.  Today, I'm sharing the "after" photos of the inside of this craftsman style residential remodel. I got involved in this project in the middle of the reconfiguration when the owner was beginning to make selections for the exterior..
 I really wish that I had some "before" photos but you'll just have to trust me when I say, "you wouldn't recognize the place". 

Spring Garden Themed Bridal Shower

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Hi! It's been awhile. For those of you who don't follow SR on either Instagram or Facebook, I'm sure that it feels like a very long time.  I haven't fallen off of the face of the earth, honest.  I've been finishing up a couple of  projects and it's the end of the quarter at my day job so I've been a little "absent" but I'm back and I've got a lot to show you in the next few days so thanks for hanging in there with me.  I've decided to share the pretty thing first: a spring garden themed bridal shower.

Choosing Plumbing Fixtures for the Farmhouse: Porcelain and Unlacquered Brass Faucets

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source: MY SOULFUL HOME on Instagram
As I start to share the final selections for the farmhouse, I wanted to take a moment to say,

Thank you!

I truly appreciate all of you hanging in there with me for the last two and a half years while I navigated the difficult parts of getting a project of this size and scope off of the drawing board and into reality.  I know that it hasn't been particularly fun or pretty to look at photos of excavation and framing but now that we're only a few months away from completion, I think that I can safely say that we're finally getting to the good part!

And a special thanks to my sweet friend Kelly from My Soulful Home, who posted the photo above just as I was struggling to finish choosing the plumbing for our master bathroom for finding the perfect faucet...the one with amazing proportion (and enough handle choices to make me happy). It's the one that finally felt right. She's renovating a 100+ year old home. If you don't follow her, you should. We're kindred spirits.

Farmhouse Construction Update: Framing is Nearly Complete

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Hello from my still frozen, single digit temperature, midwestern farmhouse renovation! It has been a couple of weeks since my last update and to tell you the truth, since I'm at the site a couple of times each day, I don't always realize that progress is being made but after looking through these photos, there is a definite difference in how the house looks today.

 The first and second photos are of the larger of the two additions on the east side of the house. The first is looking at it from the south and the second is the view from the north. You can see the exposed rafter tails waiting for the bead board that will be visible from below. Once the bead board is installed, the rest of the plywood sheeting will go on, the roof will be felted and the metal roof will be installed.In the second photo, you can also see the covered porch that is along the north side of my new studio and the start of the new stone covered front entry.  Below is how it looked ten days ago.

I moved the front door "out" three feet to take care of some transition issues and to allow us to have a space that would act as an entry foyer. When I did that, the existing porch got really small so I decided to enlarge the covered entry and took the opportunity to add a little more limestone to the front of the house so that the materials would feel more cohesive.

Here's a closer look. It will have an arched opening and stone all around that is yet to come but I love the way the new roof line makes the front of the house look less "flat".  One more fun "before and after...below is the original breezeway that connected the house to the garage.  We used it as our mudroom when we moved into the farmhouse two and a half years ago but it will become our new master bedroom closet when this phase of the renovation is complete.

When we opened up the structure to frame the new floor, we discovered that the "walls" had no studs in them. Nope. Not one. The windows were screwed into the roof header and the rest of the wall consisted of a layer of vinyl siding, a layer of solid insulation and a layer of plywood being held in place by quarter round.  No wonder there were always spiders and other bugs making their way inside!
Here's the new structure. It has real walls, three windows (openings behind the blue house wrap) and it too will have a metal roof.  There is still more framing to be done on this side of the house including exposed rafters and a custom dovecote on the garage so stay tuned for that in a future post.
This is a view that I haven't previously shared. It's one taken from the rear yard standing in front of my sweet little potting shed.  In this photo (from left to right) you can see the existing garage, the new rear addition , the existing brick house and the new addition in the front yard.

Tucked in behind the new addition is a cute little covered porch that is just off of the kitchen. There's just enough room for a table and chairs or a love seat, a place for a grill, and a porch swing like I used to have when I was growing up.  I can't wait!
On the inside of the farmhouse, the framing is nearly complete. Above is the hearth room ceiling as well as my new walk in pantry and powder room. Below is the new kitchen space. I guess that I need to be more serious about cabinets soon.

The window opening still needs to be moved over but I don't imagine that will happen for another week or two when the windows come in.This is the view standing in the kitchen looking at the hearth room.
There will be a fireplace in the wall to the left where the window used to be. It's not started yet but they did remove the window and cover the opening today.
And finally, the space that I'm most excited about, my new studio! There is plywood partially blocking one of the east windows and those huge sheets of plywood on the left are covering a 14 foot wall of windows that will face north.  I've got big plans for these cathedral ceilings! There are only two of them but I intend to make them count (think reclaimed beams)!

So, what comes next? Well, the framers will finish the few odds and ends of interior framing in the next few days (things like the clothes bays in the closet, a built in niche for our television in the hearth room and the raised ceiling in the foyer. The roof will be sheeted, felted, and then, the plumbing rough in will start.

During the rough in, the plumber will run new waste lines to the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms which will connect to the main sewer line and will replace the old iron lines that we removed.  He will also run new water lines to all of the sinks, toilets and tubs as well as the washing machine, dishwasher and humidifiers on the furnaces. New water service will be connected in the spring when the ground thaws. The plumber will also install mixing valves in the walls for things like showers and tubs which is why I'm choosing plumbing now even though I'm a couple of months away from needing toilets, sinks or tubs. I'll share final faucet and fixture choices next week.

Around the same time, the new roofs (a combination of metal and shingle) will be installed and the windows should be here too! Also, I've ordered samples of four different shades of "white" for the siding and should have them at the beginning of next week so that I can make a decision and we can order the siding.

Still to go: Figuring out the size for the windows that are behind the tub in our bathroom (see large beam and missing wall in the middle of the photo above because I can't decide) choosing interior doors, a new front door, the stone for around the front door and the porches and the KITCHEN (as well as heating air conditioning, electrical and what they call "low voltage" (things like wireless, security, and phone)).  As you may have guessed, I've still got a lot to do and I had better get going!

Thanks for reading.