Terrific Broth

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

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Home Stay + Spring Garden, 2020!

Hi friends and family! I hope you had a fun Memorial day weekend. For Northern gardeners like me, a successful Memorial day weekend means getting your vegetable garden planted! Being housebound for 10 weeks, I put more hours into the garden that I could ever hope for. This is the Spring I not only stayed on top of basic tasks like planting, watering and weeding, but also made changes to the garden that will improve our landscape in a long run. I cannot think of a better time to show you the garden than today. Are you ready?

The Video Tours

First, here are the garden walk-through videos! You can click the “play” button in the middle of the video, or for better quality, head over to Youtube.

The front yard tour:

The backyard tour part one, which covers the veggie garden and herb garden:

Backyard tour part two: the berry patch and new patio garden.

If you have trouble viewing the video, do not worry! Below are the pictures I took over the last two weeks of different blooms!

I. The Front Yard Perennial Bed

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Here is our front yard flower bed today!  Most of the plants went in during Fall 2018, when they were just babies.

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Boy did they grow up:

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Planted along the dry creek are irises. They have been blooming since early May:

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Last Fall I dotted some Hens and Chicks along the dry creek. Apparently they all rooted in and came back this Spring:

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The white flowers behind the Hens and Chicks are called “Snow-in-summer”. It is a rather tall groundcover that blooms from early Summer through frost. They are such a fast grower/spreader – this patch was started with two 2-inch cans!

At the end of the dry creek, I cut out this small flower bed last Fall, and planted two peonies and a climbing rose. A trio of grass aligns the fence to add some softness.

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Around the corner of the house is a new honeysuckle, underplanted with stonecrop:

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Imagine the honeysuckle climbing 8 feet tall and filling the space between the window and the gutter, with the sedum covering and trailing off the entire planter…

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The rest of the flower bed is filled with flowering perennials:

Salvias, pink:

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Penstemons, Husky red

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Salvias, Purple

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Penstemons, Pineleaf Beardtougue

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Mugo pine and stonecrop “Angelina”

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English lavender, FlowerKisser “After Midnight”:

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Also planted here are Colorado State flowers and grasses. The Columbines have been putting on lots of foliage growth. They are expected to flower from mid-summer through Fall. The Blue Grama grasses are also getting bigger each day.

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I love this Pawnee Buttes Sand cherry! It grew much bigger this Spring compared to 2019, and we are not even getting to the Summer days yet! This particular Sand cherry variety is a western native and supposed to be a low-mount ground cover, but I’ve seen mature plants about 4 feet tall.

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The Silver brocade sage adds a nice ice-blue color to the flower bed:

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Near the retaining wall are planted groundcovers that flowers in different time of the season. They look like low mounts now but will eventually meet each other to create a nice flowering carpet:

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I tacked some baby Hens and Chicks last Fall into the small gaps between the retaining wall and the sidewalk. I did not hold too much hope then, but look at them now!

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How could you not love a plant that is beautiful, always looking like it is flowering, impossible to kill, but not invasive?

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II. The Mailbox Garden

On the other side of the driveway is our mailbox garden:

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This spot is one of the toughest on our property – west facing, beating afternoon sun, water runoff, compact soil, and being pilled onto salt and snow for months during winter. It is my test ground for plants – if a plant can survive here, it will thrive anywhere in my garden without water! And so far everything I threw here passed their entry exam:

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The Red Hot Poker (Torch Lily), Hot and Cold:

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Salvias, Blue

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Lilies:

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More Stonecrop:

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Creeping Thyme:

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One of the best upgrade we made this Spring, is to automate all the front yard irrigation, not only for the flower beds but also for the trees and the lawn. It saved us so much time and stress, and the plants are much happier too for getting consistent water:

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III. The Backyard Vegetable Garden

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This is the third season of this vegetable garden. Starting with just a couple beds, we now have five 4′ x 16′ in-ground beds, two of which are planted with perennial vegetables. I am a believer of perennial edibles – “planting once, harvest forever” sounds great!

The strawberries bed has been producing for two years:

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A chive border was planted in front of the strawberries last Fall by splitting one – yes, just one – chive plant! Gotta love a plant that is beautiful, edible, tough as nails, and attracts pollinators!

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Last year I asked Slav to “pick a vegetable you want me to grow”. And he picked asparagus! The plant ended up loving our soil and intense sun.

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This Spring, I added 25 more crowns around it and dedicated this entire bed to asparagus. All the crowns sprouted nicely. We should be able to start harvesting asparagus next Spring, and many decades ahead!

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I am a big fan of garlic scapes. Growing up, garlic scapes and strawberries were only available for a couple weeks each year, usually around my birthday. Each year I look forward to them as birthday treats. Starting 2018, I plant a whole bed of hardneck garlic every Spring for the scapes.

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The remaining two beds are planted with annual vegetables we love – tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumber, cabbages, radishes, beets, arugula, and salad greens.

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After filming the video tour, I put up some trellises for the climbing beans: This year we are growing Limka and red noodle.

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IV. The New Ginkgo Tree and Helleborus Garden

One of the new addition to my garden this year is a Ginkgo tree. I planted it next to the veggie garden. It is a slow-growing tree, especially during the first a few years, so it would not cast shade on the veggie garden any time soon. But eventually, I would love to have the whole yard covered by canopies of big trees for a forest-type micro-climate.

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Before that happens, this little flower bed under the crabapple tree is my only “shade” garden. I dedicated this whole space to my favorite plants: helleborus.

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Helleborus, or hellebore, is also called Christmas rose or Lenten rose. It flowers in January through April, and offers the most delicate looking flowers that often used for water art.

I planted this garden last year with white, dark purple, and black flowering helleborus, basically what you see in the picture above. They have not flowered this year, but all of them came back from the winter looking much stronger. Without the flowers they still got nice and glossy foliage to look at:

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V. The Pollinator/Herb Garden

Besides the veggie garden occupying the south side of the backyard, and fruit trees and climbing roses aligning the east fence, we also densely planted the north side of the backyard. This part of the yard receives full sun and is on a slope. To prevent water run-off, we covered the entire area with wood chip mulch and turned it into an edible garden.

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The flower bed in the front is our pollinator garden. Planted here are all sun-loving perennial herbs and flowers. There are sage, English lavender, mint, tarragon, catmint, lemon balm, oregano, hyssop, walking onion, Black Eye Susan, lavender cotton, sulfur flower buckwheat, and some ground cover.

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To add more shade trees, I planted a maple tree here in 2019. It will eventually become 40 feet tall and its canopy will meet the canopy of the crabapple tree.

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VI. The Berry Patch!

A big part of our edible garden, besides the vegetable beds, is a berry patch we planted last year. 20 berry plants, including 15 raspberries and 5 black berries, and two hazelnut trees went into this big mulched area:

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The three rows of raspberry are different varieties. You can see the difference between their sprouting time and growing habit. The row on the very left came up first and spreads the most, and the right row has a more of a tight form.

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VII. The New Patio Garden + Planters

Last is the newest addition to our backyard – the patio garden!

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What I call the “patio garden” includes the patio planters (planted with stawberries), the strip of mulched area in front of the planters and the berry patch (which is mulched with dried grass clippings for now), and the area between the herb garden and the shed.

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Due to the pandemic, we did not manage to get perennial plants to fill the new patio garden. To fill the space, I seeded some annual flower and vine crops. The entire patio garden, from the patio to the shed, is full-sun and get overspray from our grass sprinklers. It will be fun to plan this garden this Fall!

The space closest to the house now have a couple annual herbs, with cosmos seeded in between:

Lemon verbena

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Rosemary

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Cosmos

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The pink flags are there so Roxie does not get into the flower bed – this girl likes to nap on fresh mulch, which I totally understand. But the new flower seedlings would like to disagree.

I did manage to put in two perennials here, one being a Chinese Snowball Viburnum. It will eventually grow to be a multi-stem tree, 8 feet tall with a 6 feet spread. It will provide some afternoon shade for the snowboard bench and the flower bed below.

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The other perennial is a lingonberry, and it flowered right after being planted!

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Where the patio garden curves along the berry patch were recently seeded with lettuce and beets. It is treated like an extension of our veggie garden this year, but will be plant with pretty perennials this Fall! I have some leftover cantaloupe seeds that are fairly old, so they all got thrown there too. Maybe one of them will come up!

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Near the newly built shed patio I planted a vine crop patch! All the seedlings of  zucchini, squash, cucumber went in here.

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The goal is to let them becoming a green mulch for the area, so less weeds can come up:

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I did manage to get one perennial in this area, and it is an apple tree!

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We already planted a honey crisp apple tree a couple years ago, but transparent apple is Slav’s favorite. Although popular in Poland, we could not find this apple sold in stores around us. So let us grow it!

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VIII. The Shed Patio and A New Pollinator House

Remember the shed patio I created a few weeks ago? It is still bare and covered by black plastic…given the current situation of the pandemic, this patio might have to wait until next Spring.

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We did spice it up a bit by setting two faux evergreen trees in front of the shed. One of (many of) Slav’s snowboards serves as a temporary seating.

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Oh, the leave-cutting bee house we DIYed last year reached full occupancy! Totally did not expect it and very encouraged by it. We put up a bigger native pollinator house for native bees and butterflies this Spring, and hope it ill be appreciated.

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So, here you have it, our 2020 Spring gardens! We put lots of hard work into landscaping over the last two years, and I think the garden really shows it. Although many of our trees and perennials are still young and need time to fill in, I’d say that we’ve landscaped 90% of the property already! I especially appreciate the hardscape we put in, such as patios, fence, dry creek, the retaining wall, and the most recent drip irrigation and automation system, which will all serve us well for years to come. I cannot wait for our garden to mature and to support the native ecosystem – the pollinators, birds, and even animals. Grow little garden, grow!

Growth: the 2020 Ranch House

It has been two months since we moved into the basement master. This move did not only grow the square footage of our living space, but also dramatically changed our way of living. In today’s post, I’d like to show you the current status of our ranch, and bring you up to date on our 2020 renovation plan. Are you ready?

The Basement Master

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The biggest change inside the ranch since our last house tour, is in the basement. We placed a brand new master suite in the previously unoccupied basement, and finished the big living space as our future media room. This basement was “finished” when we got the house, but it was in such a rough state that it required an total overhaul:

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We demoed the whole basement to studs, combined two small bedrooms to create the new master, and installed a new bath.

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The adjoining living space was renovated too and will soon become a media room for movie, music, and games:

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To be honest, I never had high hopes for the basement before it was finished. Its low ceiling and lack of lighting convinced me that it would never be as comfortable as the main floor. But adding recessed lighting and installing new drywall made it spacious, minimal, yet cozy. It looks and feels a lot better than our main floor now.

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I love spending time in our new bedroom. I take long and hot showers, care for my skin and hair, stretch, read, and daynight-dream. Slav gifted me a massage chair and I love using it in the evenings. This space helped me so much to rejuvenate and relax at the end of each day.

The Main Floor TV Room

As a result of the move, our old bedroom was suddenly empty. Since the holidays, it became a Slav’s TV room. Slav always likes to watch videos and play music at home, whereas I prefer quite evenings. So, he has been wearing headphones in the evenings. Having a TV room where he can let the volume loose has been great for us to relax in our own ways.

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I always loved this room – it locates at the back of the house and has a big east-facing window overlooking our garden. It is private, it is bright, and it is… perky. The morning lights bounces among all white walls and fills the room, making the house plants happy. One day the bedroom furniture and TV will leave the room (after we set up the basement media room), and this room will become mine. I always wanted a grey+pink office. A yoga/tea room filled with indoor plants also sounds good… The possibilities are endless and I cannot wait to create here. It also needs to function as a guest room for weeks at a time, so making this room multi-functional yet minimal will be a design challenge for me.

The Main Floor living

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The rest of the main floor did not change much, except most of the house plants went into the TV room. We just took down the Christmas tree and I am thrilled to have this unobstructed view into Slav’s office again. I like empty space. Leaving void is big in Chinese culture as it represents possibilities, growth, and inner peace. And the ability of doing so often require restrain and strength. I think the same principle applies to interior design. After gaining 600 sqft finished space, we’ve been careful not to acquire any new furniture, but let the new space dilute the pieces we had so every room now has more breathing room.

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The Basement Media Room

What happened the new media room? We had plans to furnish it with a big leather sofa and bring down the TV, speakers, projectors, and records. But considering the upcoming utility room renovation (more on it later), we decided to halt the plan so we do not expose electronic to drywall dust. For now my new massage chair is holding down the fort, and of course tools.

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Oh, and this painting. Can you tell whose portrait it is? Slav was borderline upset when I gifted him this portrait as an anniversary gift. But this is something I wanted for years. It represents everything of Slav that attracts me: handsome, intelligent, dignified, and strong.

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I am glad we did not just go out and buy a big L-shape leather sofa it was really tempting. Nowadays it is so easy to spend money just with a few clicks. But every time we waited, better ideas and choices came along. Being patient is so important part in home renovation, and so is in life.

The Basement Utility Room

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This utility room is the last unfinished space in our basement. And I think it will be our next renovation project. We need to update the old plumbing, and we would love to put a kitchenette for serving drinks and snacks downstairs. With all the demo and new electrical this room has improved so much already, but I want to make it the star of the basement. It will be finished with color and texture. I want it to be unexpected. Then we can officially close the curtain on the basement renovation – who cannot wait?

The main floor kitchen and bath

You may notice that I did not show you our kitchen and the main floor bathroom – we have not touched them at all since the last house tour. With their close proximity these two rooms will be renovated at the same time, which means the renovation project will take months, cost thousands, and turn the whole main floor into a complete mess. The plan is to tackle the utility room first so we can a completely finished basement to hide while renovating the upstairs kitchen and bathroom, maybe next year.

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Strategize the 2020 Renovation

The renovations in 2020, namely the basement utility room, will be mostly hired out. 2020 is a year both Slav and I want more professional growth, so we will try to trust and manage instead of DIY. The truth is, renovating a house requires many different expertise and experiences. If we want to have high quality results without living in dust forever, we need professionals. Looking back, I am actually thankful to the bad experience we had with the previous GC in 2019. It revealed my strength and weakness in project management, and show me exactly what triggers my stress response. I am not stressed over financial challenges, unexpected technical difficulties, or making decisions in an emergency. Years of the laboratory experience has trained me to make the best possible snap decisions without overthinking or regretting them later. What I cannot stand is incompetence and lack of communication. And this was exactly how our last GC was. But as soon as I started interacting with experienced subcontractors and focus on one task a time, I did not feel stress only excitement. So the key elements of a successful 2020 ranch reno will be to identify contractors who are knowledgeable and responsible.

The 2020 Garden

With the interior work hired out, I will be focusing on the garden in 2020. We have some hardscaping projects for the backyard, and I would like grow a better vegetable garden. We planted so many trees and shrubs during the last two years, and this is the year all of them needs pruning, fertilization, and training. I also want to iron out the irrigation. These are big work and will surely keep me busy and fit for 2020.

In 2020 we are hope for a year of growth, both professionally and personally. What is your 2020 goal?

Moving into the New Master

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Merry Christmas, everyone! We are having the coziest Christmas in our new basement master. Having never slept in a basement before, I am glad to report that I like basement living! The new master is quieter, warmer, and more comfortable. Although bigger, with the furniture placement and blackout blinds, it feels cozier. More importantly, it feels private. Much more than sleeping on the main floor with big windows that seeing into the neighbors’.

The east side: the sleeping quarter

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Our king bed is placed directly under the egress window we put in earlier this year. The new window let in bright light during the day, and effectively blocking cold air at night – we do not feel any cold draft during our sleep.

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For lazy mornings in bed we installed a blackout blinds on all the windows. I am very impressed with the quality and effectiveness of the these blinds. They are from IKEA and only around $45 a pop, but they are as effective as those $150 Bali blinds in big box stores. You cannot tell day from night when the blinds are closed. My tip is to get blinds a few inches wider than the window opening to reduce the daylight escaping from the side.

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Behind the bed we added a pair of velvet darkening curtains on each side of the blinds. I was really going with a grey on grey look and I like how the two colors and textures play with each other.

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For bedside tables we used the floating nightstands I built earlier this year. With wall scones above we each have our little corner to recharge, hydrate, and relax before bed.

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Here is Slav’s side:

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The theater masks were acquired on our recent trip to New Orleans in mid-November.

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I joked that it was our “renovation moon” because we took this trip right before the last push of the basement reno. It was after the DIY flooring installation, but before the shower door and the plumbing work in the bathroom, as well as the PAX assembly. It is amazing how long ago that moment felt with all the tasks completed even it was merely 6 weeks ago…

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Looking into the bedroom from the bath

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This is a view from the bathroom looking into the master. The oil painting features the castle in Slav’s hometown and it is his favorite childhood place.

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The small heater I’ve had since 2011. It is one of the first pieces of furniture I bought after moving cross-country and starting my first job. It not only puts out good heat, but also can give out just ambient light that looks like wood burning fire. Roxie loves to sleep in front of the fake fire.

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The west side: walk-through closet

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Stepping back from the bed is the closet area. We created a walk-through closet with three IKEA PAX wardrobes. They fit the space well and provide generous storage for all of the soft things. With the sliding door they give more of furniture appearance than traditional built-in closets.

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Slav and I both love the bamboo sliding doors. Mirrored doors were chosen for the corner closets to lighten up the room as well as to add function.

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The bamboo is darker than the color of the flooring, but I think they look great next to each other with the dark frame in between.

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For the space under the window we found this perfect little bench. The space between the two wardrobe is 48″ 1/4 wide, and this bench is 48″! It was meant to be.

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It functions as a drop zone for coats and bags at the end of the day. Plus we no longer have to perform tree post while putting on socks in the morning.

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Tucked away is our new laundry basket near the main door. When looking for a new laundry basket we searched for something narrow for the space and tall for the capacity, which is harder to find then you might think. Fortunately, this one popped out on Amazon.

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I liked its organic shape and soft material. After a couple weeks of use I can definitely recommend it. The fabric is thick and the basket holds its shape well. It also conceals a week of laundry without any problem.

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Above the laundry basket I hung the first photo Slav and I took together – it was over 10 years ago! We look like babies. Slav took it with a tripod and I think he planned for it. I had no idea what the photo was for – didn’t even bother to take my sunglasses off. Ha!

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A look back on the flooring

Living with the NuCore flooring for a while, I can finally give more details about them. Overall we are very satisfied with this floor. It feels supportive and warm under the feet. I can walk on it with bare feet in the middle of the night without feeling cold or harsh, which speaks a lot for its insulation property.

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The NuCore is LVP so it is harder than pine flooring. It feels solid – probably because how individual pieces are interconnected. It is quiet to walk on and I do not feel any bounce to it. I also like its texture on my bare skin.

We have not spilled water on it yet so I cannot speak for its waterproofing quality. But I did tip over a big candle and hot wax spilled all over the floor. I cleaned it up with some warm water and a razor – it looks just like new again. Overall I will give it a 4.5 star and definitely use it in the basement again. The reason for the half star off? It is because of the dogs.

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When these doggy paws hit the floor it was loud! Our dogs are terrified of clipping nail, so we might have left their nails a bit too long. But it is the reality we live in. Moreover, the texture of the floor gives enough traction for human feet but not enough for doggy paws. I notice that the dogs skid around when running on this floor. Charlie has face-planted a couple times at the bottom of the stair landing due to the speed he carried down from the stairs. It definitely brings some unease to the dogs as well as us.

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So here you have it, our new master bed and bath. We still need to work on the doors and add baseboards. But for the holiday season we are grateful to have such a cozy and comfortable space to relax in. I will start working on the doors this week and hope for some good progress. However with old basement and non-standard size doorways it will take some persuasion. Check back in the next post, friends!

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