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

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There is no planet B.

The New Guest Bath is Here!

After a 6-month-long renovation, finally, the main floor bath is complete!









Without looking at the before, the after would have easily been taken for granted:


Above picture was the old bathroom when we moved in. With bigger fish to fry we continued using this bathroom for 3.5 years. Finally, after renovating the nearby office/guest bedroom, we decided that it was time to refresh the guest bath.


The biggest change we made in this bathroom was to remove the bulky bathtub and install a walk-in shower.


We opted for a clear glass shower door similar to what we installed in the master bath,. It is a lot more expensive than using a shower curtain, but it really brought an elevated look to this small guest bath. it made the bathroom look more spacious, and it allowed the textured window to be the focal point of the room. We picked a winter-themed, frost-like pattern for the window way before we picked out the shower door, and now the patterned window looks very intentional through the shower glass!


The old window sill was slopped in the wrong direction, which led to rot and mold in the old shower. To keep the water at bay, we installed full-length marble sills around the fixed window panel. We also chose to install a shower pan instead of tiling the floor in the shower, so no water will ever get behind the walls.




Just like in the master bath, we chose to extend the tiles beyond the shower area for a grand look. We picked light-colored marble-like tiles for the walls, which bounce off the light around the room.



Instead of small subway tiles, which have dominated bathroom walls for decades, we chose rather large tiles for the walls. I think fewer grout lines make the room feel less enclosed, and the marble veins prevent the room from looking like a surgical unit.


To echo the grey vein we installed a light grey colored vanity, which serves as a soft transition from the near-white walls to the dark floor.


I always liked bathrooms with big color contrast (see bath inspiration here). In our master bathroom we used white subway tile in the shower and one wall, with big dark tiles on the floor and the other wall. In this bathroom, we used large tiles on the wall with small black tiles on the floor. The floor tile was laid in a geometric pattern, which draws attention to the floor and grounds the room.


Unlike the master bath where we utilized mostly masculine colors and shapes, the fixtures in this hall bath is more decorative and feminine. We did keep the brushed nickel finish throughout – brushed nickel is a really versatile finish in my opinion. When it was paired with dark cabinet and tiles, as in our master bath, it looks modern and stylish. When used against white tiles in the hall bath, I think it looks more classic and sophisticated.




The toilet also offers an elegant architectural look.


Both of the tiling and plumbing contractors did a good job and paid lots of attention to details. I feel really good about the quality of the finish in this bathroom.


You may notice that we do not have a mirror here yet. Honestly, the biggest struggle in the whole bathroom design process was the mirror. I originally wanted a round mirror, but it ended up looking too trendy for this bathroom. On the other hand, frameless mirrors with integrated LED lighting looked too modern, and rectangular mirror looked too plain…Slav suggested DIYing a mirror and we will give it a try at some point.


Since the demo last December, Slav has worked many weekends in this small space. Professionals were brought in for window installation, plumbing, tiling, and shower door instllation. Slav took care of everything else, including replacing the rotten framing and subfloor, upgrading electricaladding new ceiling lights, finishing the drywall, and installing the pocket door and door trims. It has been a lots of DIY projects. But it is so worth it!

1. Demolition – removing all the fixtures and wall/floor materials;
2. Assessing the water damage, replacing rotten framing, and mold control;
3. Installing new bath window and insulate the exterior wall;
4. Removing the ceiling drywall from the attic, wiring for new recessed lights from the attic;
5. Upgrading wall electrical, including adding outlets and wiring new switches;
6. Installing a new exhaust fan and recessed lights;
7. Drywall the bathroom ceiling and soundproofing the interior walls;
8. Purchasing a new toilet, a new bidet, a sink/vanity, and sink and shower fixtures;
9. New plumbing and waterlines for bathroom fixtures;
10. Upgrade master bath (basement) exhaust fan from above;
11. Replacing all the subflooring with added support;
12. Pocket door framing and installation;
13. Drywalling around the pocket door;
14. Installing and Waterproofing bathroom walls and floor;
15. Tiling the bathroom and installing a new window stool;
16. Finishing/priming/painting entry wall drywall and ceiling;
17. Installing/painting pocket door trims;
18. Installing vanity light fixture, ceiling can lights, and outlet wall plates/covers;
19. Installing new glass shower door;
20. Installing all plumbing fixtures including toilet/bidet, vanity/sink, and shower trims.

Finally, we can erase the planning board clean, and move onto the next chapter for the ranch house!



A Minimalist Retreat

Looking back I realized that I never gave you a full reveal to my retreat room – we worked on it last Fall and I am really proud of the DIY projects here. So without further ado, here it is:









This room had served as our bedroom for a couple years before we moved into the basement master. Since then, we thought hard about what to do with this space. We needed a place for guests to sleep, but did not want to dedicate an entire room for this solo purpose. Then the pandemic hit and I started working from home.


As you can see I really needed a home office at least a desk. So we designed this room as where I can write and read in peace, take video conference calls, exercise, and relax. This room offers the best lighting in our house. So we left plenty of space for our houseplant haul. I think in the end, we achieved all the goals and really turned this room into a multi-functional retreat. Let us take a look around, shall we?

The closet wall

When you walk into this 10.5′ x 11′ room, immediate to your left is the closet wall. To the left side, we built a full-size closet for winter gear and sport equipment.


Slav DIY-ed the plywood doors since we could not find doors in this size without breaking the bank.



The right half of the closet space was converted to house a full-size murphy bed.


The full-size murphy bed frame we got fits into the closet perfectly. We also had a full-size mattress in hand which is the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on.


I added a wedge bolster pillow as headboard. Slav installed an outlet next to the bed for charging electronics. I think our guests will be pleased.


The north wall and the corner desk

Being able to tuck the guest bed away saves lots of floor space in the room. When the bed is down and in use it extends half of the window on the north wall. But when it is up and hidden, there is a perfect spot for our Norfolk pine.


The picture window looks out to blue sky and neighbor’s spruce trees. In summer, this north facing window let in plenty of cool and fresh air, making it very comfortable to sleep under.


Moving clockwise, sitting at the northeast corner of the room is my desk. Oh my desk! It is no doubt my favorite furniture in this house. We built it with butcherblock and motorized legs we already owned. I spent majority of my time at home here reading, writing, planning, and drawing. This corner desk does not take much room at all, but creates a perfect home office with views to my backyard.


Speaking of backyard views, my favorite feature of the room is the window facing the backyard, which is packed full with fruit trees, perennial flowers, and a vegetable garden. I added a peony garden last year and cannot wait for it to bloom next Spring.



The art work

To create a cheerful workspace I added lots of colorful art, decorations, and plants to the room.



This wind chimes is a gift from my mentor. One of my favorite decor in the house.


Pictures of Roxie and Charlie are must-haves. I created the travel log below using map and push pins to label the space we have visited and desire to be around the States.


Slav took this picture of Mt. Baker during a ski vacation. A magical winterland indeed.


Slav’s zodiac animal is the dog, and I am a goat. 🙂


Can you tell the violin in this picture is assembled with surgical tools? I work in medical field and cannot resist this nerd art.


The south wall/exercise space

We originally planned for a seating area next to the desk, but soon realized the need for more storage and additional space for house plants. Hence the bookcase.


Practical and cute, this small bookcase became a mini nursery for young cuttings and provided a much less offensive spot for the router.


Above the bookcase is a portrait of my immediate family – parents, sister, and my two nieces when they were still kids. Now both of the girls are in college!!!




We have created a library wall in Slav’s office. So this small bookcase only houses my gardening books, seed collection, and some keepsakes.


Such as my favorite picture of Slav’s. This photo was taken in 2007 shortly after he started graduate school, during a visit to his home country and taken by his childhood friends. I love how fearless he looked in this picture.


Next to Slav’s picture is a silver mug I was given when I left my previous job. My mentor and colleagues engraved their wishes into the mug. The best farewell gift ever.


The last wall in the room was intentionally left empty for yoga/inversion practice. The space above the doorway provided a perfect spot for my hang board.


During the demo we took down the bedroom door. The future bedroom door will be mounted onto the doorway closer to the living room, which will help to create a guest “suite” that includes the bathroom. Slav patched the original doorway and it is like there was never a door here!

Here it is…

My retreat room – how do you like it? It is airy, it is bright, and it is comfortable. I am definitely more productive with a dedicated space to research and create. I cannot wait for the time when I can see all the blooms and fruition in the backyard from my desk. We still yet to refinish the original hardwood floor here and add baseboard which is on our 2021 renovation to-do list. But for now, I enjoyed immensely having my own space. A big thumb up to Slav, the man who made it happen!


What is in Store in 2021

Planning for 2021 turned out to be difficult. I’ve never experienced such level of unpredictability before, which prevented me from making plans. After all, nothing went as planned last year. We were looking forward to an awesome ski season; I was supposed to celebrating Chinese New Year with my family for the first time in 15 years. We were getting on a cruise (for the first time) to accompany our good friends on their honeymoon. My parents’ 50-year-old anniversary celebration, my grandaunt’s 100-year-old birthday celebration, my sister’s big birthday celebration on the west coast, and my high school reunion… 2020 was supposed to be about family, love, and companionship. At the end, it was filled with isolation and endurance.

As the world knows, we are still experiencing dark times in the States, but I have to say, the vaccine distribution and more importantly a new leadership did bring a glimmer of hope. I still dare not to make any plans when it comes to family and friends, but I am able to make plans for the ranch house due to the solitary nature of DIY…So, what is in store for the ranch house in 2021?

1. The main floor bath

The 2021 renovation has started in the main floor bathroom.


This 5″ x 8″ bathroom is the only bathroom on the main floor (labeled as “5” in the floor plan below). Upon completion, it will be a guest/hall bath as our master bath is located in the lower level. As you can see, we have started the renovation by demolishing the old bathroom into studs and upgrading the electrical. We will start plumbing work in January and hope to complete this renovation by end of Spring. You can see our design plans for the new bathroom here.

Ranch main floor_3D

2. The kitchen

After the main floor bathroom, the kitchen will be the last room to tackle in the ranch house. I cannot believe that how long we have waited! Below shows how the kitchen looks today, which has not changed since the day we moved in.




The current layout of the kitchen is shown below. The L-shape layout provides very little counter space.

Kitchen plan_current

Furthermore, the fridge is located right next to the back/garage door and stair area, obscuring the view of the kitchen and making the kitchen feel crowded.

Northern wall

The new layout will feature the stove/oven between the two windows. This arrangement not only removes the visual obstruction near the backdoor, but also allows us to look into the backyard while cooking.

Eastern wall plan without soffit_

The fridge will be relocated to the left side of the room. We will also remove the soffit which are empty inside to make more head room. The upper cabinets are attached to the soffit will be replaced with new and taller upper cabinets to provide more storage. The open shelves were drawn in the SketchUp below just for comparison sake.

Northern wall plan with shelves

The non-weight-bearing wall between the kitchen and the living room will be removed. We will also create a pass-though window on the upper half wall above the stairs to provide more light into the living room.


Renovating this kitchen will be a gut job. The cabinets are moldy and Slav is looking forward to a dishwasher. The old tiled flooring is half inch taller than the hardwood floor. We also would like to add more lighting in the kitchen and the adjunct living room.

3. Main floor floor refinish + baseboards

We removed all the carpet on the main floor and uncovered the original hardwood flooring shortly after moving into the house. But the wood floor was in rough shape and need to be refinished.


23 after office

24 after hallway


Later on, during the office renovation, we patched the hardwood flooring at the new doorway. These were brand new flooring and more shining than the old ones.


We will be refinishing all the hardwood flooring in the living room and two offices once all the bath and kitchen renovation work is complete. In addition, we have been waiting for the floor to be refinished before installing baseboards in Slav’s office, the living room, and my retreat room. All the work will be performed after removing the wall between the kitchen and the living room.

4. The shed patio

One of the big landscape project in 2020 was carving out the shed patio and adjunct terraced garden. Due to our inability to get landscaping supplies, we did not actually pave the shed patio, but covered the bare dirt with some black plastic for weed suppression. We were fortunate to get 800 sqft of pre-owned flagstone for merely $100, which is more than enough for the patio space I have prepared. As soon as the ground thaws in April, I will be paving the flagstone patio around our shed and building the retaining wall around it!


5. Structures and hardscape in the garden

Garden structures provide layers, dimensions, and functionality to a garden. After getting most of the perennial beds established, I am dying to add pieces like garden trellises and bird bath to my garden.


Above is a picture of the raspberry garden. It is so productive that in the peak season, bounties of raspberry weighted down the brunches down to the ground. Come around Spring/Summer, we will be building a trellis system for the raspberry bushes like the one below.

Raspberry Trellis

(Photo credit:


A new addition to our edible garden is grapes. We will be planting four grape plants along the northern fence (facing south) next Spring, and building garden arbors like the ones below for both function and form:


Our 2021 renovation plan

might be short in numbers, but it is actually plenty of work as the bathroom and kitchen projects will likely take months to complete. Paving a patio and set all the trellises into the ground also require lots of elbow grease. I am hopeful that by the end of the next year, we will be at least wrapping up the renovation inside of the ranch house. No matter how far we get to the tasks in the garden, the garden will come to fruition, and we will have more leisure time in 2022 and finally get to explore the State we now call home.

What do you think about our renovation plan? Are you planning for any renovations to your space in 2021?


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