Meet The Browns: Part 1

I love solving design problems of all sizes. But I gotta tell you, there’s something magical that happens when clients entrust me to tackle the big ones – the kind that really change the way they live.

Today’s post is the first in a series that’s a step-by-step look at some of the larger projects I’ve worked on – it might give you the gentle nudge you need to address that big design challenge you’ve been fretting about for years.

So meet the Browns, an Omaha couple who loves international travel and minimal, modern spaces. The problem? Their home, constructed in the 1980s, didn’t reflect any of the above. We’re talking:

  • Pickled oak trim and flooring throughout the house
  • Laminate kitchen countertops
  • Appliances that have bitten the dust
  • No pantry storage (they were using portable microwave carts to store everyday dishes, which just makes me sad)
  • A small kitchen footprint that doesn’t jive with the size of the house
  • Lack of a true entertainment area (nobody uses the dining room and huge family room that are just steps away from the kitchen, which everyone crams themselves into during the holidays and other celebrations)

 See for yourself…

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 My concept:
  • Swap the existing kitchen table area with the sitting area in front of the fireplace to allow guests to sit closer to the kitchen during gatherings
  • Create a butler’s pantry by using about 25 square feet of existing garage space
  • Remove the kitchen peninsula and replace it with a long island to create an incredible cooking area as well as a secondary area for guests
  • Add full height cabinetry to store everyday items, household paperwork and entertaining supplies
  • Add an under-the-counter refrigerator drawer to the new buffet area so guests and grandkids have access to drinks without getting in the way of the cook

Take a look:

In Part 2, I’ll be talking about finishes and fixtures. Details and how they work together matter.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

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Sarah Saves: My “Custom” Basement Shower

Sarah B.
Sarah B.

I love saving, whether it’s time or money or the planet. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction, and it allows me to channel my “do it yourself” energy in a lot of different ways.

When Kevin and I decided it was time to tackle our basement, I knew we had to keep the costs down. I also wanted a nice shower – one with a custom feel that set it apart from your typical inexpensive fiberglass or acrylic surround with a curtain.

I decided to tile the shower walls, so I started with a standard sized shower pan. I picked the pan I wanted instead of tiling the floor because it’s less expensive and easier to execute, especially for a DIY’er. When you’re tiling a shower floor, you have to get the right slope for the drain if you don’t want to experience leaks down the road. If that doesn’t scare you from attempting it, consider a pre-molded base that’s ready to have the tile applied to it, like those from Tile Redi.

I love the look of thin, rectangular marble tiles, but they were too expensive for my budget. To cut costs, I bought 12 x 12 marble tiles at Home Depot for $3.99 a square foot and cut them down to 3 x 12. Home Depot sells by the individual tile, so I was able to buy a bunch of boxes and sort through them, picking ones I thought looked good together and returning the rest. I sanded one tile down with an orbital sander and 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper to see if I preferred a honed look, but I ended up preferring the polished look.

If you’re considering using marble tile in a bathroom, make sure to research all the pros and cons. It’s also a good idea to seal polished marble before and after grouting to avoid a cloudy finish on the tile when you wipe off the grout.

Curtains in bathrooms are not my thing, so we purchased a pre-made clear glass door enclosure from Overstock. (I got it for $750 with a coupon, it’s now listed at $944.99 – timing is everything!) It obviously set me back more than a rod and curtain would have, but it was cheaper because we installed it ourselves.

I do not miss that border at all.
I do not miss that border one tiny bit.

The finishing touch – a wood shower grate to hide most of the inexpensive white shower floor. You can buy pre-made grates out of teak, but that can get costly – somewhere between $150 to $200. We made one from clear cedar and stained it to match the vanity, then sealed it with an outdoor use poly. It has rubber feet and can be removed for cleaning, and we used decking screws so they wouldn’t rust. We paid about $40 for the wood, so you do the math.

Since this shower isn’t used constantly, our homemade grate has held up well, and overall, the project has added to our basement’s versatility. I can send houseguests down there to shower and feel good doing it!

– Sarah B.

shower-grate
We made our shower grate out of cedar and stained it to match the vanity.