Terrific Broth

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

Category: Our House Page 1 of 9

Growth: the 2020 Ranch House

It has been two months since we moved into the basement master. This move did not only grew 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 with recessed lighting, smooth walls, and simple color palette, the end result was spacious, minimal, yet cozy.

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I love spending time in our new bedroom. In fact, I now prefer spending time here. I take long and hot showers, care for my skin and hair, stretch, read, and daynight-dream. Slav gifted me a massage chair recently and I started relax on it after evening exercise. This space helped me so much to rejuvenate and rest at the end of each day.

The Main Floor TV Room

As a result of the move, our old bedroom which used to house our bed and clothes, 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. He has been wearing headphones in the evenings. So having a TV room where he can let the volume up and close the door has been great for each of 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 inkpainting 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, 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 some place to cook simple meals while renovating the upstairs kitchen. Hopefully we can get our hands on the main floor for the second part of the year.

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Strategize the 2020 Renovation

As of the renovations in 2020, most of the interior work will be 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 in each one. If we want to have high quality results without living in dust forever, we need professionals we can trust.

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 respectful.

The 2020 Garden

With the plan of hiring out the interior work, I will be picking up the shovel in the garden. My gardening goal of 2020 is to grow a better vegetable garden and to take better care of the plants we have. I want to stay on top of tasks such as tree pruning, lawn fertilization, rose training. I also want to improve the look and function of the existing flower beds by automating the irrigation and setting up paths and terraces. In summary, I will try to do better with less with gardening, and I believe that being more focused will help both me and the garden grow.

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!

Finally! The Master Bath is Complete!

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It’s been a long journey to get to this reveal post. But hey, we are finally here! Let us unpack, shall we? (And if you are interested, you can see the old bath here.)

The glass shower

This new bathroom features all upgrades we had craved for years. Starting from the new shower glass. We’ve been living in student housing and cheap rentals before this house, and all of them sported shower curtains. Having a piece of clear glass that we can see through into the shower, that is seamless, custom-made, and that requires a squeegee, is like ten Christmas’ wishes come true at once.

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The shower door and installation was done by L & L glass, a local glass company in Denver. Our experience with them is nothing but great: efficient communication, quality choices of the products, fair price, and quick and reliable service. Every interaction with L & L glass we had, from the showroom quote, in-house measurement, to the actual installation was a breeze and a pleasure. I cannot recommend them enough.

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To create a see-through shower we chose clear glass, and Slav picked brush nickel finish for the hardware. To keep the view of the glass unobstructed, we opted for a single knob instead of a long handle on the door. The fixed panel is held by silicone and a single clip, and there is a door sweeper under the moving panel as well.

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For a basement bathroom moisture is the biggest enemy. We stopped the shower glass at the height of the soffit to allow steam to escape. The new bathroom fan was mounted right outside of the shower to help with the moisture removal.

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The floor-to-ceiling tiles and large shower niche

We like to keep the bathroom squeaky clean, so floor-to-ceiling tile is one of the first things we agreed upon. For the color, I listened to my minimalist heart and went with two contrasting tones. I showed Slav the inspiration photo below and he immediately agreed. So we basically used the same colors and sizes for our tiles.

The inspiration photo

Our bath:

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In person this color combination looks even better than the photo. While the slate keeps the room grounded and feeling steady, the white lightens it and makes it restful. Both of slate and white tiles we picked have warm undertones, so the room does not feel sterile.

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We picked pebble tile for the shower which is so nice! It is like a foot massage every time taking a shower.

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Same as the tile choices, I found out what shower niche to install with the help of Pinterests. As the inspiration photo below, we chose to the one that spans the whole width of the end wall.

The inspiration:

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Our bath:

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Unlike the photo above, we made ours even simpler using the same white tiles in the shower. We did that to further reduce visual clutter. I think it worked very well with our small bath and see-through shower doors.

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I crave some green color in the basement but there is not enough lighting for plants. This Buddha head brings a bit green into the bath.

The new water-wise toilets and bidet

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Although the shower and tiles are the most prominent elements in the bath, the most important piece in any bathroom will always be the toilet. Not only we got the water-saving toilet from our favorite local water-conservation non-profit, we also splurged for a bidet seat. Bidets are necessity at home in East Asian and central Europe, so not having one during the time living in the States felt weird to us. We vowed to make this house ours which means it will fit our needs and desires. A bidet in our master bath is certainly a right step towards our goal.

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The new double-sink vanity + medicine cabinet storage

In order to expand the footprint of the master bath, we removed a linen closet in the hallway during demo. We chose a vanity to add storage:

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The sink + vanity combo is another of our favorite in the master bath. We do not like to store things in the open so choosing trough-style sinks with limited counter space is a conscious choice.

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In this way we can keep the sinks as big as possible, while keeping the vanity narrow to save its floor print. With our narrow bathroom, this particular vanity allowed 38″ space in front of it, which enables two people to walk around without problem. It also leaves enough room for us to operate the 29″ wide shower door.

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The middle drawers do not interfere with the shower door:

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In addition, we mounted a medicine cabinet above the vanity:

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This medicine cabinet holds a ton. It is only 4″ thick inside but 48″ long and 26″ tall. It is at least four times bigger than the one we previously used and provided more than enough storage for our daily use.

Where do you store your toilet brush? 

To date we have used our bathroom for a couple days. It is very functional despite not having a towel bar or a toilet paper holder. With the brand new tiles and drywall it is hard to decide where to drill for these items. We are still on look out for a few things, such as a toilet brush. Is there an elegant yet functional toilet brush out there? One can be stored off the floor? If you have good suggestions, let me know!

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