Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

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Planning a Basement Media Room

When it comes to home renovation, I am always the one coming up with ideas. From the purpose of the place to furniture placement, from the vibe of the room to the paint color, I spent weeks contemplating every detail of the room before presenting them to Slav. Planning our basement renovation was no exception. As soon as we decided to make the north side a master suite, I kept feeling the large space we called “living room” should become our new media room.

Let me remind you this space we called “basement living room” for the past two years. It is the first room you walk into when entering the basement, and it is a large 22′ x 12′ common space that opens to all the bedrooms, the hall bath, and the laundry space.

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During the first year we lived in the house, we combined the laundry room and the neighboring bedroom to create a big utility room. Last year, we removed the wall between the new utility room and the basement living room to create an open floor plan.

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Most recently, we converted the remaining two bedrooms into one big master bedroom, and expanded the hall bath into a bigger master bath. The current floor plan looks like this:

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As you can see, this 22′ x 12′ “living room” space has become a buffer zone between the basement entry and our master suite. It is still the first room you walk into when entering the basement, and the only room from which we access the most private space in the house. Functionally speaking, this space should have some characteristics of a sitting room, where we could curl up with a book, as well as those of a family room, where we could sprawl out for a movie. When we host guests, who will be sleeping on the main floor, this room should function as the second living room to which we could retreat and relax in private.

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Therefore, we decided that this room functions the best as a media room, which will house a comfortable sofa, bookshelves, and our projector/home theater setup for late night movies. We also envision a dry kitchen/bar area so we can make hot and cold beverages without going up to the main floor.

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This room is a long 22′ x 12′ space and could comfortably house everything we need for a media room.  After getting Slav’s input on the home theater setup, we have decided to put a TV on the west wall neighboring the bedroom; the projector screen will be mounted on the ceiling right in front of the TV so we can get more cinema experience while watching movies.

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A big sofa on which both of us and our dogs can sprawl out will be placed in the middle of the room, facing the TV/projector wall.

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Behind the sofa will be a reading area. I imagine a big, comfortable chair surrounded by several small bookcases and a big electrical fireplace. It will be where I hibernate during Christmas.

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The big opening to the utility room will not remain open, and the utility room will not stay as an unfinished laundry space. Our basement 2.0 plan includes finishing the utility room as a dry kitchen, with a big island on the right half of the opening facing the media room. We would like to be able to serve some drinks and make simple breakfast in the basement, which will be extremely helpful during the main kitchen renovation.

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Despite of calling it a media room, I try not to let it become a mancave. Slav does not crave that vibe and I do not want to create a place meant for isolation. Aesthetically speaking, I would like the new media room to be just as cozy, calming, and breezy as a bedroom, which can be a challenge with all the media equipment such as TV, projector, and speakers. We are in the process of choosing the flooring, picking paint color and making furniture decisions while our contractor is still working on the bathroom. Below is a sneak peek and I cannot wait for the day when the bathroom finishes!

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Closing Up the Walls! A Basement Update

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I have not talked about the basement renovation for a while. Progress has been made, just not at the pace we were hoping for. But today, I think it has improved significantly compared to our last update and finally worth another post.

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First, drywall! The picture above shows the wall between the basement living space and the utility room. We took off the paneling here and some of the wall framing to open it to the living room. Below is how it looked like after we added soundproofing insulation around the furnace:

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Now, fresh drywall covered the insulation, I-beam, and the new framing around the doorway:

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We also removed all the ceiling drywall in the basement for new electrical and sound insulation. Since then, we have been looking at a sea of brown for a couple months:

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You can imagine my excitement when the ceiling drywall was hung. Bright and smooth ceiling made this space feel like a room again, even without paint:

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More drywall happened in the master bedroom. In addition to the ceiling, the newly framed soffit was covered and all the remaining walls were smoothed out:

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The vertical column next to the door contains the supporting column for the I-beam. It was exposed after we removed the closets dividing the two bedrooms.

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Inside the new soffit are the horizontal I-beam, a big air duct, and the HVAC pipes.

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A much improved look from this:

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The recessed lights and smooth ceiling definitely made the ceiling feel higher. Below is the space below Slav’s office, which will be our future walk-through closet.

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The space next to the bathroom will host our king bed and night stands. The pocket door to the right leads to the new master bath:

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Speaking of the new master bath, it is a complete different space now with the walls closed up:

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Under the window will be a shower area, hence the pebbled flooring and the red water-proof coating. The double-sink vanity and a big medicine cabinet will be mounted on the blue coating-covered wall:

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Neighboring the two doors will be the toilet. We asked the contractor to add a electrical outlet behind the toilet for a bidet attachment.

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It is not our preference to have the toilet so close to the doorways. In another words, I’d rather to have the vanity here and the toilet next to the shower. But the ceiling at this corner is lower due to an air duct, so it make the most sense to place the toilet under the lower ceiling. The pocket door will save some space in front of the toilet.

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With all the surfaces smoothed out in the bathroom, our contractor has started tiling. The floor tiles were completed last week:

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We chose a smokey black/grey color for the floor and pebbles in a similar color for the shower area. I think they complement each other nicely.

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Next week we expect to see tiles on the walls. The same dark floor tile will be carried up onto the wall neighboring the bedroom, budding against the pocket door. The end wall and the vanity wall will go white. We want the bathroom to look simple and sleek with big contrast.

I did not expect finishing drywall to be such a significant step in the basement renovation – all the sudden, all the rooms look like rooms again, which invites all the imagination on how they should look eventually. We still have lots of big decisions to make: paint colors, flooring, shower doors, bedroom closet layout, the color and finish of the stairs, and whether to drywall over the big section of paneling in the living space. Each one of these factors can drastically change the feeling of the basement.

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For example, what should we do with the living space paneling? It will not stay brown for sure. Slav insists in covering it with drywall, but I would like to paint it white first to see if they can disappear with a lighter color. What do you think? Drywall or paint?

Since we completed the demo, almost 4 months have passed. This basement renovation has been a slow and painful process, but nevertheless, I am happy to be at a point that we enjoy thinking about the basement again. In the next a few posts, we will discuss how we are gonna use the living space, the flooring choice, and the potential bedroom layout. At the meantime, I am impatiently waiting for our contractor to finish tiling and wrap up the bathroom. Because after that, it will be DIY time again!

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Adding New Planting Space to Our Front Garden

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After an uncommonly wet Spring, we welcomed the heat of summer. It has been over 90 degrees (32 celsius) for the past two weeks. Despite of daily thunder, there was very little rain. Our garden immediately reacted – all the cool weather veggies lost their cool, and the lawn started to turn yellow. Without the leisure of natural precipitation, we started to spend our evenings dragging around hoses and watering different parts of our yard.

Backyard bee garden – the 2nd year:

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I had every intention of giving you a garden update before leaving for summer vacation, at which time the lawn was still green and the new growth on perennials were tender. But several unexpected incidents kept my up to my neck. First, our basement renovation hit some major road block, which we are still clearing away till this day. Shortly after, several wishful attempts at my day job did not work out as I hoped. Around the same time, my mom fell and broke her ankle back in Beijing.

Awakening climbing rose, the 2nd year:

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This might have been the first time I lost so much control of my life and in almost every aspect of it. To make peace I walked out to the garden. Chinese proverb says “谁非过客,花是主人”, which literally means “we are just trespasser on the land owned by flowers”. There is some truth to it, right? I am pretty sure that bindweed is the real owner of our property. Jokes aside, watching life rise and fall in nature did give me a fresh perspective on accomplishments. Not everything will work out, and too much attention might in fact stunt the growth.

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The Mailbox Underplanting

Have I shown you the small flower bed under the mailbox this year? It was a little dirt patch filled with weeds when we moved in two years ago.

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Last summer, we got rid of the weeds and created a mowing strip with brick pavers.

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And this is the same space today:

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Salvia, lily bulbs and grasses were planted this Spring to hold down the fort at this possibly the toughest spot of the whole property. The red rose are the only thing we kept from previous owner’s flower bed.

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Black Lily

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Creeping Stonecrop ground cover

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Creating a New Flower Bed

Since returning from our summer trip, I’ve been slowly working on a new flower bed in our front yard:

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This area is around 12 ft x 4 ft, and located right in front of our DIY horizontal fence on the north side.

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See the dry creek in the picture above? The new flower bed is located to its right and in front of the fence.

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We decided to replace the lawn with flower bed here for two reasons. First, it is hard to maintain this patch of the lawn. It is so close to the house that we had to water it by hand. It is also on a steep slope and hard to cut with our lawn mower. Second, we would like to soften the fence with some plants.

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I started by removing the grass and moving the edging separating the lawn and the old flower bed forward. Three blue avena grasses (helictotrichon sempervirens) were planted in a row a few feet from the fence. They are supposed to get 4 feet tall in a few years and will provide some soft texture in front of the fence. Along also planted was an iceberg climbing rose. We are lucky to have nurseries selling plants that have adopted our high country climate.

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We have pretty bad bindweed issue in this area, so I covered the area with my favorite landscape fabric. We have used it in our front yard flower bed and under the southern fence with success. It is worth the initial investment.

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I found the edge of the landscape fabric along the dry creek, and continued the  fabric to cover the entire new flower bed. I use this landscape staple to secure the fabric.

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The next step is to run drip irrigation, which we installed in all the perennial flower beds. It does not only water more effectively, but also avoids hard water deposits on the foliage of the plants from overhead watering.

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Running drip irrigation is easy and fun, like lego for adults. With the existing drip tubing nearby, I simply T-off the existing tubing and added emitters close to the root balls of the new plants:

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I also added two mist emitters to water the lawn immediately adjacent to the new flower bed:

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Fresh mulch makes everything look better:

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New plants in their happy home:

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Now when your walk around the corner, the view of this new flower bed replaced yellow and overgrown grass:

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The two emitters linked to the drip irrigation tubing will give plenty of water to the lawn between the dry creek and the evergreen pine. Our current lawn sprinkle does not reach this corner.

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We still have plenty of room for plants in this flower bed. I am taking my time to find plants I truly love. I am considering Arctic Fire dogwood for some red winter color, however a close contender is Chinese peony, if they can handle the beating afternoon sun and strong wind in this area. What do you think?

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How do you like a new flower bed? As I finished spreading the last bag of mulch, I realized how much creating a new flower bed meant to me. It is a new start. It is a new opportunity to succeed, a new battle to win. It is something I may start taking back the control I had been losing since the beginning of this year. I still might not succeed, but at least I am giving another shot. And this time, I need to let go all the expectations and just enjoy every inch of growth it gives, however small it might be. At the end, I am just trespassing on this land of, hopefully not bindweeds, but flowers.

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