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

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House tours and stuff

Happy Five Year Anniversary, My Little Ranch

It just occurred to us that this weeks marks the five year anniversary since we moved into our little ranch! This is our first house and absolutely holds a soft spot in our hearts. It also holds our blood, sweat, and tears too – we have been renovating it room by room since the day we moved in.

Main floor – before

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Main floor – now

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Curb appeal – before

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Curb appeal – now

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Backyard – before

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Backyard – now

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We learned so much from renovating on this little ranch. Built in 1964 and with great bones, this house has been neglected for decades and maintained with duct tape. We did not just do a quick flip – we took our time to renovate room by room, spending money on high quality materials that are meant to last a long time. And we tried our best to increase the energy efficiency of the house during the renovation, such as replacing the roof, adding insulation, putting in new windows and better doors, and upgrading to new appliances and plumbing fixers. During the past 6 months, we finally got to renovate the last room inside of the house – the kitchen! In fact, Slav just installed the range hood which capped the kitchen renovation, just in time for our five year anniversary in the house. ūüôā

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To celebrate the end of major renovations inside the house, we purchased our first leisure item – a hot tub! We have been testing it and so far, I love it! We are looking forward to relaxing more and spending more time outdoors this summer, instead of working on renovation projects all the time – starting from weekday hot tub nights!

But what will we be posting on the blog from now on? Do not worry, I will not be showing you fancy drinks and vacation photos. There are still so much we want to do inside and outside of the house. Just to finish the kitchen, we have door trims and baseboards to add, backdoors to refinish, and electrical to finish for the island. Slav still have to complete the air return ducting inside the island as well.

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Besides tightening loose ends in the kitchen, we will also work on furnishing the living room. We sold the sofa during kitchen renovation which was a placeholder to begin with, so now the entire living room is just a console table and a bookshelf Рquite like when we first moved in, actually! Slav is on the mission of hunting down a comfortable sofa for his standard. It is a high bar to meet I promise you. And I am in search of a storage coffee table, some kind of book storage, and a comfortable chair for reading and sipping morning tea in. We are excited to decorate the main floor living space completely open to the new kitchen space. So stay tuned!

I did not have time to show you the garden this Spring, but I promise you that it was not ignored – I spent every weekend in April for garden cleanup, weeding, and mulching so the garden beds were all kept in great shape despite the chaos inside the house. I am happy to report that all the perennials we have planted in 2018 and 2019 leaped this year. They got so big and started blooming profusely. We harvested so many hellebore, irises, and peony blooms so far. And more blooms of summer perennials are underway.

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We certainly made lots of upgrade to the curb appeal of the house. But there are still things we can do to add comfort to our outdoor life. We gathered all material we need to pave the shed patio it will be flagstone and I am excited! And I would like to DIY some garden seating. We also would like to add a hot tub + deck in the backyard, where we can unwind with better privacy and in style.

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We have talked about replacing the back fence, which has been failing slowly, post after post. We intentionally left it out when we replaced all the chain link fence in 2018 to save $$ and time. And now all the more critical renovations are done, upgrading the back fence starts to float higher and higher on our to-do list.

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Thinking long term, we want to add more Evergreen trees to the property, which means to reconfigure the garden space. Recently, we even contemplated the idea of converting entire front yard lawn to a Xeriscape garden, namely to eliminate all the remaining lawn grass in the front yard. Still thinking about it though! But all these can wait. this summer is about resting, playing, and enjoying the fruit of the labor in the nest we created. Cooking our own garden harvest in the new kitchen filled with our own cut flowers sounds like a dream but we have made it come true… Happy five year anniversary, my lovely little ranch!

The Season of Joy

Merry Christmas, everyone! My wish comes a couple days late which only speaks for how relaxing the holiday break I had. We cooked a lot, hung out with friends, and went skiing a couple times. We spent a lot of time in our newly finished living space, where the Christmas tree was set. We replaced all the lights on our old pre-lit tree to make it a lot nicer. This is also the first time we have enough ornament to make the tree look full.

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We have been collecting ornaments for years from antique stores and estate sales. We favor wood toys, woodland animals, and weird-looking Santa ornaments.

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2020 was a special year. We did not go thrifting or get any ornaments online. Slav’s co-worker knit some coronavirus dolls for everyone in the company. We put ours in the tree as an ornament to remember this unusual year.

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We kept each other’s gift under the tree for a good part of December and opened them on the Christmas day. I gifted Slav a pair of cast iron pans and Slav gave me a birdhouse terrarium.

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We centered the Christmas tree in front of the living room window so it can be seen from the street. We also put lights on the pine tree in front of the house. In the evenings, both trees can be seen from where we sit.

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Pups often lay under the tree at night. I think they enjoy the twinkling lights too.

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The Christmas tree turned the living room a perfect space for sitting still in the evening, watching reading listening to music, and just spending time together. We have had a busy year with lots of upgrades to our home. We just need to make sure that we spend as much time enjoying it as we do working on it!

The New Guest Bath is Here!

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

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

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The toilet also offers an elegant architectural look.

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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.

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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.

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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 electrical, adding 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!

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