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Budget Outdoor Lounge Agony: Help Mallory Choose A Design Plan

At this point in my life I think I’ve mastered the art of picking up “trash furniture” from the side of the road. Every day it seems I’m hauling some piece of garbage down the street and into my apartment or my parent’s house, and now I’ve officially added my boyfriend’s parent’s house to that list. This skill has really come in handy this summer especially because when you can’t leave your house that often, there comes a sudden motivation to rearrange, redecorate, and improve your living space. However, we all know that updating anything costs money (and usually a lot of it), so when we decided we wanted to upgrade Chase’s parent’s backyard by adding an outdoor lounge, we thought…well how much would it really cost if we go the Craigslist/free roadside furniture route?? When we were first talking numbers, we got an idea in our heads that we could do the entire thing for as close to FREE as possible.

And guess what?? We craigslisted our way into the basic foundation of an outdoor lounge. Is it functional? Yes. BUT does it look good yet? Hell no.

So we found out pretty quickly that our budget was highly unrealistic because we don’t want our free garbage furniture to look like an actual collection of garbage. So now we’re in the mindset of let’s see how we can make it look actually good and last for $1,000 total. This is a design blog after all, so now it’s time to style. play. everyday. I came up with 3 design directions for our outdoor accessories and I need your help deciding which one we should go with…

The Outdoor Lounge

First, let me tell you how we achieved our initial $100 outdoor lounge foundation (the $100 was the cost of the string lights). We started the project with a collective goal in mind that this area could be a little happy hour and hangin’ spot. I initially wrote about it in this post (alongside the rest of this amazing team and their yards) so check it out if you want to see a really sick illustration made by our photographer/HR department/head of production/EHD president, Sara (she does so much we still don’t know what to call her).

Anyway back to the yard. Here’s a little birds-eye view floor plan of their yard so you can see what the heck we’re working with:

See that massive side yard? Well, it’s been nothing but a storage spot for this rusty trampoline for 20 years. We spend a lot of time in the other sections of this yard, but this side yard has been heavily neglected by everyone but the dogs. Here’s what it looked like before we embarked on our outdoor lounge journey:


LOOK HOW MUCH SPACE AND POTENTIAL! Let me fill you in on what’s happened since this photo was taken 3 months ago. We picked up a small IKEA sofa that a neighbor had put up for grabs on the side of the street. It was small, uncomfortable, and was missing cushions (plus the cushions were a wildly weird size), but it gave us the spark we needed to get this thing together. A few days later, I posted on the blog about our backyard plans and boy oh boy I couldn’t believe what happened next. I received an email from an insanely wonderful reader named Kisha (check out her website and IG account –– she’s a very talented designer!) and she offered up this massive outdoor sectional that she was about to list on craigslist. There were some minor issues that she warned me about… the cushions had been stained by a redwood tree and looked a little bit like a murder scene. She wasn’t wrong. The other catch was that she lived in Santa Barbara so we would have to drive 3 hours each way. VERY WORTH IT.

We rented a truck and retrieved the sofa. Now, this is a very EHD scenario and we got really lucky –– but before anyone that’s doing a budget backyard feels discouraged I have to say: check craigslist and facebook marketplace! People dump their free “garbage” there all the time and all you have to do is look at the bones of whatever they’re giving away and be hopeful that you can make it less disgusting. Also, check your neighborhoods and keep your eyes peeled for free curbside furniture because I promise awesome deals are out there if you just look 🙂

Now back to the cushion debacle. Most of the cushions had one side that looked like this (see below), so we washed, bleached, and tried to stain remove the problem spots. Ultimately, it didn’t go very well but we put the badly stained sides of the cushions down and the less stained sides up and covered them with throw pillows. That’s our “for now” kind of solution while we await samples of cushion covers to come in the mail… I’ll keep you posted.

We got the sofa and chairs in the backyard, found a small outdoor rug, and then separated the bad Ikea sofa that we found on the side of the road and took the two usable parts (with cushions) and turned it into a separate little seating area. Then we bought some string lights and strung them up with this pole situation (again see below) that my dad and I figured out originally for my parent’s rooftop deck area (this pole/string light setup works like a CHARM). After all of that, the foundation is pretty much there. Here’s where we’re at now:


Everything in the above photo was FREE except for the string lights which cost us around $100 total. So we spent $100 to go from the first “before photo” to this progress point. Not too shabby.

So after we locked this foundation in, Chase and I sat down one night and we started building out our vision on the computer (because this is what we do for fun). I know how to use photoshop pretty well, so I just threw a design into the actual photo you see above. So here’s what we came up with to make this backyard a little less sad and a little more “outdoor oasis…”


It wasn’t until I showed Chase’s family this design plan that everyone stopped looking at me like I was a lunatic when I talked about how cool the outdoor lounge could be. I could tell this was the thing that made it click for everyone. They could see the vision for real and we were finally all on the same page. Well sort of on the same page. The first thing Chase’s mom said was “this is SO cool, except maybe we should switch out that one pillow.” And that’s when the designing and redesigning began.

So let me introduce you to 3 different design directions we could go in. We all like different ones, and there are no wrong answers, but boy do we need a tie-breaker. Check these out and let me know which one we should go with… A true desperate Ask the Audience!

Borderline Beachy Getaway

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Blue Side Table | Lanterns | Blue and White Pillow | Navy Pillow | Throw Blanket | Tassel Pillow | Gray and White Lumbar Pillow | Coffee Table | Striped Bolster Pillow | Wood Side Table | Short Plant | Tall Plant

TOTAL: $1,055

I call this borderline beachy because honestly, I didn’t know what else to call it in comparison to the other two, but let me just say they do not live by the beach so objectively speaking, this one probably makes the least sense. I do like how calming and serene it is though, and honestly it’s the least offensive and bold option. No one has a problem with it but does anyone really LOVE it?? You tell me.

Modern Desert Oasis

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Black Side Table | Lanterns | Geometric Pillow | Black and White Dash Line Pillow | Throw Blanket | Block Print Pillow | Tassel Pillow | Black and White Lumbar | Coffee Table | Yellow Lumbar Pillows | Wood Side Table | Short Plant | Tall Plant

TOTAL: $1,274

Now this one I like, a lot. I am an absolute sucker for the color yellow (it’s been my favorite since I was a kid) and it’s so happy and cool. I think this one is fresh, contemporary, and fun but does it scream family or suburbia? All the kids are into this one which sure makes sense. But is it too modern and desert-y?

Also, did you notice how the base of the sectional changed color? We have a plan for that, and it was inspired by none other than the awesome lady who gave us this sofa. She spray painted her dining chairs with rust-oleum paint and they looked SO GOOD. We thought it might be an affordable and fun way to breathe some new life into this sofa and make it our own, so that’s another question: should we spray paint the grey wicker sectional black to modernize it??

Contemporary Spanish Courtyard

Rug | Umbrella | Umbrella Stand | Blue Side Table | Lanterns | Tan and White Striped Lumbar | Blue and White Line Pillow | Throw Blanket | Gray and White Lumbar Pillow | Navy Pillow | Tassel Pillow | Coffee Table | Blue Knit Lumbar | Wood Side Table | Striped Planter| Cactus (hot tip: you can look on Facebook Marketplace for more affordable plant options!)

TOTAL COST: $1,184

Chase’s mom told me she really likes Spanish style, which makes sense because they are Mexican and Spanish and live in a suburban town called “Mission Viejo.” This one fits the vibe of their house pretty well, but is the rug too much? Will we get tired of it?

So Chase’s brother is team beachy, his sister and I are leaning toward the modern desert, Chase likes 2 and 3, and his parents are team Spanish courtyard. You guys will be the official tie-breaker 🙂

Please let me know what you guys think we should do, THIS IS SO MUCH FUN! Have a happy hump day and thanks in advance for chiming in! Xx

Opening Photo Credits: Photo by Melissa Oholendt | From: A Foolproof Way to Create an Outdoor Room with Target

The post Budget Outdoor Lounge Agony: Help Mallory Choose A Design Plan appeared first on Emily Henderson.

Custom features to add to your new home


If you’re building a custom home and want to add originality, custom pieces are a great option. Your home will stand out from the rest, and give your home that much-needed sense of character. From the custom home builders at Custom features to add to your new home appeared first on RenovationFind Blog.

How to Build a Prefab Stone Wall

Roger Cook, landscape contractor, visits a stone yard that makes prefabricated stone walls at their facility before installing them on-site.

Watch as Roger Cook visits a stone yard that makes stone walls in sections at their facility using a variety of natural field stone from disassembled old walls.

Once the sections are built, Roger and Kevin O’Connor watch them get loaded onto the truck and taken to the project. In Newton, the crane lowers the sections right into place. One last stone is added over each seam and it looks like a traditional stone wall.

Building a Stone Wall

Building a stone wall by hand is typically a time-consuming and backbreaking 6-step process—from preparing the footing, laying the base course, building up the wall, cutting stones to fit, to tooling the joints—the entire job could take weeks.

Troy Guinther, stone wall builder and CEO of Natural Stone Wall Solutions, offers an alternative to a DIY stone wall that costs 25-50 percent less than most stone and veneer walls and can be installed 20 times faster, saving the project both time and money.

Local New England round fieldstone, a bulk fieldstone made up of rocks that have been salvaged from old farm sites, and old freestanding stone walls were chosen for this project.

Benefits of Adding a Stone Wall to Your Property

Whether a stone wall is used as a retaining wall or a decorative element, stone walls are a low-maintenance hardscaping feature that can help establish property lines and offer privacy. Natural stone walls can also enhance your property by increasing its curb appeal.

How a prefabricated stone wall is made

  • The walls are built with a patented process using molds and forms.
  • Masons set the stones face down, add a grid of #5 rebar, and pour 4,000 PSI concrete on the back of the wall.
  • A geogrid is attached which reinforces and stabilizes the soil—important when building retaining walls.
  • Each section weighs about 6,000 pounds and is lifted with a custom crane that lifts the walls from the back—eliminating the need to touch the stone face or top, maintaining the natural moss and patina of the stone.

Benefits of using a prefabricated stone wall

What would take at least 2 to 3 weeks to build on-site by hand, Natural Stone Wall Solutions can install in a single morning.

Installing a Prefab Stone Wall

Preparing the space for a prefab stone wall is the same process as building a stone wall by hand—it’s the installation that is a job site game-changer.

  • Mark the area with chalk lines.
  • Dig a 2-foot foundation and add 3/4 “ stone. Compact the stone for drainage and a solid foundation.
  • Rather than assemble each stone by hand to build the wall, each prefabricated stone section is lifted off the truck and placed within the chalk lines—fitting together like puzzle pieces. The level of the wall is constantly checked.
  • Workers use a tamping bar to backfill the 3/4 “ rocks around the stone wall.
  • Once the walls are set, exposed joints are filled in with rocks for a seamless application.

Prefab Stone Wall Results

What typically takes an army of workers, a large amount of workspace, and weeks worth of labor results in about a few hours worth of install time on the job site.

The Best Pest Control in Philadelphia

Adobe Licensed

For the best pest control in Philadelphia, explore industry leaders with highly trained specialists and decades of experience—Orkin, Terminix, and Rentokil.

At one point or another, all homeowners have to deal with pests invasions. Whether it’s something seemingly small like ants in your kitchen or something more serious, like termites munching their way through your wood, they need to be dealt with. Unfortunately, the home of the Eagles is also home to termites, bed bugs, fleas, ticks, and more. Many homeowners turn to professional pest control companies to tackle the problem for them, saving them time, effort, and energy.

The This Old House Reviews Team believes the best pest control companies that service Philadelphia are Orkin, Terminix, and Rentokil’s division J.C. Ehrlich. Each of these companies offer nearly 100 years or over a century of experience and protect against a broad catalogue of common household pests.

If you’d like a free quote from Orkin, call 877-871-4752 or fill out this form. To get a free quote from Terminix, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this form. Rentokil’s division J.C. Ehrlich services Philadelphia, and you can reach them at 844-334-1157.

Why You Should Hire Pest Control in Philadelphia

All pests are nuisances, but some are worse than others. Disease-carrying pests like cockroaches and mosquitoes are actually dangerous, termites can cause thousands of dollars in damage, and bed bugs can infest whole rooms. Unfortunately, Philadelphia has all of them. Even one type of infestation can be more than a Philly homeowner can handle alone.

Pest control specialists are equipped with the experience, strategies, and products to remediate your pest issues. They can identify the pest infestation, assess the severity of the issue, create a treatment plan, and work with you on setting prevention methods in place and monitoring the area for returned pest activity. The top companies even guarantee that their treatments will be effective.

The Most Common Philadelphia Pests

Philadelphia homeowners are likely to encounter a variety of pests, all of which are annoying, and some of which are dangerous. Here are some of the most common pests that invade Philadelphia homes.

  • Ants: Colonies of these pests grow quickly as ants infiltrate homes in search of food. Unfortunately, Philadelphia is home to Carpenter ants, which can damage wood structures.
  • Cockroaches: American and German cockroaches are prevalent in Philadelphia, and they both contaminate food and carry disease. Cockroaches can survive harsh conditions and can be difficult to eliminate.
  • Mosquitoes: These pesky blood-suckers can transmit disease and leave itchy welts.
  • Termites: These pests are incredibly destructive, and can cause thousands of dollars in damage in a short amount of time by damaging the wood of your home.
  • Bed bugs: Bed bugs can infest more than just your mattress, linens, and bed frame. They can take over entire rooms and are very hard to eradicate with DIY methods.
  • Fleas and ticks: These parasites are more commonly found on animals than people, but pets or walks in wooded areas can bring them in your home where they can multiply and spread disease.

Pest Control Providers in Philadelphia


Orkin, The This Old House Reviews Team’s top recommendation, services 1.7 million residential and commercial customers across the country and has more than a century of experience battling pests. The provider offers a general pest control plan guarding against almost 20 common household pests through its Integrated Pest Management, involving the assessment, monitoring, and prevention steps.

The company’s highly trained pest control specialists must complete 160 hours of targeted training. Orkin is customer-focused, offering an array of online resources to customers so that they can become acquainted with Orkin’s methods and the pest control issues they may encounter. We give Orkin a score of 94 out of 100.


Terminix may be synonymous with termite control, but the pest control provider also offers protection against bed bugs, more than a dozen common household pests, and more. The company services 2.8 million residential and commercial customers across the country and has been in the industry for more than 90 years.

Terminix employs pest control experts, with a team featuring graduate-level entomologists and members of the Entomological Society of America. Customer service includes an online, real-time chat function with Terminix representatives. We give Terminix a score of 92 out of 100.


International company Rentokil provides pest control throughout the U.S. with its divisions like Presto-X, J.C. Ehrlich, and Western Exterminator. Its pest control specialists combine regional expertise with Rentokil’s resources. Rentokil has almost 100 years of experience in the pest control space.

Rentokil uses Integrated Pest Management and offers the most extensive general pest control plan of our top recommendations. Its comprehensive Pestfree365 program, offered by all of its divisions, protects homes against nearly 40 common household pests. We give Rentokil a score of 85 out of 100.

*N/A signals inconsistent accreditations and ratings

We always recommend getting multiple quotes before making your final decision. To get a free quote from Orkin, call 877-871-4752 or fill out this form. If you’d like a free quote from Terminix, call 866-569-4035 or fill out this form. Rentokil’s division J.C. Ehrlich serves Philadelphia and can be reached for a free quote at 844-334-1157.

How to Choose Pest Control in Philadelphia

You might want to examine several aspects of a pest control company before making your final decision—are the services within your budget, is there a customer satisfaction guarantee, etc.

Here are some factors you can consider before you select which company to hire.

Type of pests

Different pest control companies guard against a different catalogue of pests as part of their general pest control program. Some companies offer wide coverage while others are more limited. Choose the one that most closely matches your needs.


Many factors determine the exact cost you’ll pay for pest control services, including the type of pest you’re dealing with, the degree of infestation, and the size of your home. Some companies tend to charge more than others—but they may offer greater value, so the increased price could be worth it, depending on your needs. Requesting a free quote online is simple—fill out your name, address, and basic contact information on the company’s site.


Reading expert reviews is a good way to determine whether a pest control company is competent, reliable, and trustworthy. Details about real customers’ experiences can be informative.

If you want to find out if a company is reliable, competent, and trustworthy, reading expert reviews can tell you a lot.


The best pest control companies promise that their services will be effective with a customer satisfaction guarantee—offering free service calls, a refund, or both. Orkin and Terminix guarantee a pest control specialist will return to your home as needed to re-treat the targeted areas if you see pests within 30 days of the last application. They also offer to refund your most recent treatment if you’re not 100% satisfied. Rentokil will re-treat between applications at no extra cost.

Plan schedules

Pest control plans can be executed according to a variety of schedules, including monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, and more. Your pest control specialist can help determine the best schedule for your needs, but if you have a preference, this could be worth looking into.

Philadelphia Pest Control FAQs

How do you get rid of bed bugs?

DIY approaches often yield minimal results, but they include extensive laundering and steam cleaning, placing bed bug interceptors beneath the legs of your bed, and sprinkling diatomaceous earth in areas you suspect will have high bed bug activity.

The most effective way to eliminate bed bugs is by hiring a pest control company. Specialists can use proprietary freezing products and bring in specialized equipment like heat chambers.

What questions should you ask an exterminator?

If you’d like to get a better sense of the exterminator’s competence, consider asking how long they and their company have been in the industry, the way they determine which treatment plan to follow, if the company has any testimonials, and if they offer any guarantees.

How are mice getting into my home?

Unfortunately, mice can fit into a hole as small as a quarter of an inch. The best way to prevent them from entering is by sealing off any access points with caulk or other suitable materials. This should also help prevent other pests from getting into your home.

Is it hard to get rid of cockroaches?

Getting rid of cockroaches can be challenging because they can survive on little food, can hide in tiny cracks and crevices, and can lay up to eggs every 30 days.

Artificial Grass Cost in Canada

Do you love the idea of a maintenance-free yard, but don’t want to have a hardscape design? Or maybe you just live in a low-water area, where owning grass isn’t ideal. The good news is that you can still have grass without the maintenance or water bill costs.

The post Artificial Grass Cost in Canada appeared first on RenovationFind Blog.

A 300-Year-Old Home Gets a DIY Remodel

Erin Little

A young couple tackle the project of a lifetime, showing what’s possible when you’ve got DIY skills, a go-for-it attitude, and stamina to spare. See this Cape Cod-style home get a complete makeover.

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, dining roomErin Little

Homeowners are often in it for the long haul, but not many of them get in shape for a major renovation by long-distance running.

“I ran a marathon when I was six months pregnant,” says Sarah Madeira Day, one half of the brains and brawn behind the kind of whole-house reno that would give pause to a seasoned general contractor. “I have energy like a ten-year-old!”

Shown: The core of the original house, believed to be nearly 300 years old, was built around three back-to-back fireplaces. The homeowners modernized the living space with a frugal blend of rustic materials like exposed beams, bricks, and lath—treated as artwork over the dining room fireplace—and fresh furnishings and paint colors.

Interior design: Sarah Madeira Day. Table, chairs, hutch, and pendant: IKEA. Pendant cord: West Elm. Paint: Behr’s Ultra Pure White (walls) and Benjamin Moore’s China White (floors). Painting over fireplace: Anita Madeira

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, Wesley and Sarah Madeira Day, with daughter Elle at the front entryErin Little

Energy is handy when your new house, perched seaside in Cumberland Foreside, Maine, is in shambles, and you’re living out of one room while gutting others and also working full time. Also useful: having a track record as a DIYer, a background in design, a hard nose for a budget, and a great eye—not to mention an equally hardworking spouse and supportive family members.

Shown: Wesley and Sarah Madeira Day, with daughter Elle, now 4, updated the clapboard Cape by grafting on a two-story addition with board-and-batten siding, a standing-seam metal roof, and a new everyday entry.

Portico light fixture: Northern Tool + Equipment

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, front exteriorErin Little

With a soft spot for rescue dogs, forgotten heirlooms, and neglected houses, Sarah has heart as well as muscle—and a dry sense of humor hasn’t hurt. Asked how two young professionals like her and her husband, Wes, know how to ply a tractor and crane, she says, “We don’t!” Pause. “We’re so lucky we’re still married.”

Shown: Previous owners added two wraparound porches, a front portico, and a two-story side addition, which is now augmented by another two-story addition behind it.

Addition siding: James Hardie. Addition and portico roofs: Hancock Lumber. Doors: Brosco. Paint: PPG’s Base White (exterior)

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, alcove near the side entranceErin Little

He’s a pharmacist and skilled woodworker; she’s an artist who sells her prints online and has worked for an interior designer. Both grew up in Maine, in do-it-yourself families. Sarah’s skilled dad and uncle worked at a pile of a hotel on Mount Desert Island, keeping its aged infrastructure functioning. “If my sisters and I wanted to hang out with them, we’d do what they were doing,” she says. “We learned a lot through just being with them, and the same with Wes and his family. You get the gist of things, mess up, do it again, and eventually catch on.”

Shown: An alcove near the new side entrance is a natural spot for a window seat, with a cushion sewn by homeowner Sarah.

Entry door: Brosco

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, kitchenErin Little

Still, no one is ever fully prepared for what an old house can dish out, and theirs was no exception.Having already survived the renovation of their first fixer-upper, in nearby Portland, the couple were now about to tackle a four-bedroom, one-bath Cape Cod–style house steeped in salt air and neglect. Real estate websites dated it to 1729—“You could say, ‘Great!’ or you could say, ‘Scary!’ ” Sarah observes.

Shown: The open kitchen was designed to capture light and minimize clutter. Upper cabinets are relegated to a new pantry (glimpsed here) whose pale gray cabinet paint color and butcher-block countertops complement the cooking zone’s contemporary white walls, custom range hood (built by Wes), and expanses of marble.

Range: Viking. Refrigerator and dishwasher: Frigidaire. Cabinets: Island Cove Building. Cabinet pulls: Lew’s Hardware. Countertops and backsplashes: Bangor Wholesale Laminates. Sink and faucets: MR Direct Sinks & Faucets. Paint: Sherwin-Williams’s Inkwell (kitchen cabinets) and Light French Gray (pantry cabinets)

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, living roomErin Little

The place came with an old garage, giving rise to fantasies of a finished workspace. Much of the house, meanwhile, needed immediate care, though its roof was okay and the structure sound, if “extremely hot in summer and very, very cold in winter,” Sarah says. The yard was ragged, the roof, walls, and floors uninsulated, the wiring no-good knob-and-tube, and the wheezy oil-burning boiler in the dirt-floor basement could not keep up. The windows defied saving, the floors were uneven, and the water-damaged “kitchen” comprised discrete stop-offs in a rambling L-shaped wing added who knows when.

Shown: Like many older houses, this one featured small rooms with cramped ceilings and worn wood floors. During their first months as owners, Sarah and Wes pulled down walls, exposed original ceiling beams, and revived floorboards with paint. Richly colored vintage rugs now ground open spaces washed in white.

Rug: Portland Flea-for-All. Sofa: Mello Collection. Ottoman: Youngs Furniture. Artwork: Sarah Madeira Day

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, storage bench next to the kitchenErin Little

Then there were the head-grazing ceilings, particularly poignant in the only bath, where a good soak after an evening of scraping paint and tearing down walls meant folding up like an accordion in the miniature cast-iron tub (Sarah) or crouching under the shower and throwing water on one’s hair (Wes). The house had maybe three tiny closets, or as Sarah sums up the storage situation, “You wouldn’t want to live here as a normal person.”

Shown: A built-in storage bench runs under new windows that draw light into the open kitchen, setting off a brick furnace flue that was exposed during the renovation.

Door: Brosco

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, staircase (left), side addition (right)Erin Little

The old wing that was added at some point holds narrow, semi-spiraling stairs to the second floor, where the steeply pitched roof ensures more headaches for tall people.

Perhaps the most striking feature inside is the ratio of fireplaces to square footage. Picture three large fireplaces downstairs facing three different directions in the center of the oldest part of the house. The brick structure is so large, “it feels like another room,” says Sarah. Alas, the chimney stopped working long ago and can’t be easily fixed.

As serial renovators often point out, your best investment may be the cheapest house in the priciest neighborhood, and a big attraction of this one was the way it fits in among gracious big guys along a coastal stretch favored by sunbirds. It sits on the far side of the main drag, but you can see the ocean, and that’s no small thing. The couple figured they could sell their old place, knock off their student loans, and still have enough to buy and upgrade—provided they did most of the work themselves.

Shown left: The staircase winds as it climbs, creating a curved wall that continues up to the bedroom-now-studio above. It makes for a tight squeeze when furniture has to go up the artfully painted stairs. The built-in hutch in the kitchen–turned–dining room is original.

Shown right: The addition’s vertical board-and-batten siding and black casement windows contrast with the existing house’s clapboards and double-hungs. The side portico is topped with an aluminum standing-seam roof.

Siding: James Hardie. Windows: Mathews Brothers

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, master suiteErin Little

Their first three months in the house were akin to an Olympic sprint—taking place amid chaos and with occasional visits by friends and relatives offering to help. The couple would run off to work in the morning and return home at night in time to demolish another wall, coaxing meals out of the stove’s one working burner and a microwave in the bedroom. When they were removing water-damaged plaster in the dining room ceiling one day, beautiful beams emerged, along with extra headroom. “It was fun, like a treasure hunt,” Sarah recalls. But there were also tears along the way, “because we sort of know what we’re doing, and sort of not.”

Shown: The compact master suite holds a windowed walk-in closet and new pine floorboards with a pickled finish. The new spaces in the addition rely on heat pumps to keep temperatures comfortable.

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, master bath, showerErin Little

They took down walls, doing relays to a dumpster in the driveway. They turned four rooms downstairs into three, and assembled a no-froufrou kitchen that would serve until they could afford something better—if they could just get rid of the ugly vinyl floor. Ripping it up, they found six more layers, including vintage linoleum. And kept ripping and chipping until they reached the original pine. Later, when they were adding on and had to unite new and old flooring, they pulled up that pine and hired subs to put in a new subfloor and wider pine boards, which they topped with a pickled finish.

Shown: The new master bath features marble slab walls installed by Wes and his dad, and an updated frameless-glass enclosure.

Floor tile: The Tile Shop. Toilet: Kohler. Marble shower-floor tile: MSI

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, studio/officeErin Little

Wes and Sarah also gutted and rebuilt the tiny original bath on the second floor, salvaging and refinishing the claw-foot tub. They hand-sanded and -painted nearly all the old floors, which were pretty banged up. For most, they chose white—Sarah’s go-to color. Then, eyeing their small budget, they hired pros to replace the windows and wiring, convert the boiler to gas, remove a second oil tank that was no longer in use, and banish resident carpenter ants.

Shown: A former bedroom with no closet became a studio for Sarah with a light-channeling French door in a relocated spot and a wheeled storage unit for art supplies.

Storage unit: IKEA. Paint: Behr’s Ultra Pure White (walls). Artwork: Sarah Madeira Day

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, guest bedroomErin Little

In their spare time, the DIYers had a baby—Elle, now 4. The expanding household led to a craving for more functional space, as in a real kitchen, a master suite with a shower you could stand up in, a centrally located playroom, plus a workshop for Wes and studio space for Sarah.

Shown: A guest room upstairs is kept cozy with the help of an existing cast-iron radiator. The artwork was nabbed at a flea market.

Bed linens: HomeGoods. Lamp: IKEA

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, hallway (left), built-in (right)Erin Little

But first, some unplanned trouble. Converting the existing boiler from oil to natural gas meant digging up the yard for a gas line. “We got this bad rainstorm,” Sarah recalls, “and water started spouting through the basement walls—it used to seep down without coming in, but the soil was disturbed, and it was really, ‘Oh my gosh, there is water pouring in!’—the floor just turned into mud.”

They discussed a water-diversion plan with a landscape contractor but deemed his bid too high, so the game young couple decided to regrade the yard and build a retaining wall and outdoor space themselves. “That was probably the project with the most amount of near breakdowns,” Wes says. “We were learning on the fly, moving steel beams and granite blocks that weigh 600-plus pounds with a little kid running around. It made us appreciate what professional hardscapers do.”

Shown left: The homeowners widened the upstairs hallway to meet code and let in more light, which is amplified by white-painted walls, ceilings, and floors.

Shown right: The built-in to the left of the fireplace and ceiling beams in the living room are original to the house.

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, upstairs bathroomErin Little

With Elle scrambling around the house, the couple found an architect, Kevin Browne, who could deliver their wish list. Working with a structural engineer, Browne reinforced the old wing’s second floor with a ceiling beam before adding a two-story, 774-square-foot addition behind it, replacing a shed-like structure put on by previous owners. The addition’s side entry, off the driveway, would be the everyday entrance. Into the addition Browne fit a master suite above a porch and a cluster of workspaces: mudroom, laundry, powder room, closet. He also laid out a new kitchen open to the pantry.

Shown: The upstairs hall bath’s small cast-iron tub was salvaged, painted, and reinstalled after the space was gutted and rebuilt. Homeowner Wes made the mirror frame.

Tub fittings: Kingston Brass. Vanity: Walmart. Faucet: Signature Hardware. Toilet: American Standard. Floor and wall tile: Daltile

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, playroomErin Little

Grafting new onto old would require marrying rooflines, widening a hallway, and knocking out the one upstairs closet. Sarah pitched the project to Mike Meyer, a general contractor with an unusual tolerance for homeowners moonlighting as subs.

Shown: Highlights of daughter Elle’s first-floor playroom are a child-size hutch passed down to her from Sarah’s dad, and a play tent she sometimes shares with the family dog, Hartley.

Storage bench: IKEA

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, kid’s bedroomErin Little

Because, of course, these homeowners could not keep their hands off the lumber and paint. Wes carpentered built-ins and called on his dad, a countertop wholesaler, to help with the kitchen and baths. Sarah harnessed her designer chops to help give the interior its Maine-meets-Scandinavia style. Somewhere in there they managed to stay solvent, while also buying, renovating, and selling another fixer-upper nearby.

And they’re still married.

Shown: Lots of white paint, a sleek toddler bed, a refurbished dresser, and a vintage rug give 4-year-old Elle’s bedroom grown-up style.

Rug: eSaleRugs. Paint: Behr’s Ultra Pure White (walls)

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, guest bedroomErin Little

Five years in, the ramshackle house and yard have become a gracious home. While the family, not surprisingly, gravitates around the new kitchen island, “I’d say our favorite spot is either the living room, when we are all settling down from the day, or the outside area,” Wes says. “When it’s nice in Maine, we try to be outside as much as possible.”

That window of time would be about now—and before these marathoners realize it’s time to start working on the garage.

Shown: A bank of drawers recessed into the wall boosts storage in one of the two guest bedrooms.

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, master bathErin Little

The mix of materials in the master bath includes champagne-brass-finished wall-hung faucets, matte-black hex tile, a period-inspired sconce with a contemporary glass shade, and a stained-plywood vanity with twin vessel sinks. Wes made the mirror, and his dad helped with the marble-slab shower walls and vanity top.

Floor tile: The Tile Shop. Sinks: Overstock. Faucets and shower fittings: Delta. Sconce: Schoolhouse. Toilet: Kohler. Marble shower-floor tile: MSI

Floor plans

a Cape Cod-style remodel in Cumberland Foreside, ME, floor plansIan Worpole

A shed-like rear add-on and several interior walls came down to open up the first floor, relocate the kitchen, and make way for a 774-square-foot, two-story addition. The new section holds a mudroom, pantry, laundry, and powder room; upstairs a master suite extends over a new side porch; a new portico on the other side of the house now serves as the main entry. In the existing house, which held four bedrooms and one bath, a second-floor hallway was widened, a closet demolished, and a window closed up; one bedroom became a studio. The house now holds 2,480 square feet of space.

Renovation Recap

The Homeowners: Wesley and Sarah Madeira Day, who became parents to Elle 11 months after buying the house.

The house: An existing 1,706-square-foot Cape Cod with three exposed fireplaces—plus a nonfunctioning chimney, head-grazing ceilings, no insulation, miserly closets, and no real kitchen.

Why they chose it: It had a half-acre lot, ocean views, and genuine old-house cred. And because it needed work, the price was right.

Their plan: Open up the cramped rooms, create a working kitchen, add a bath with a shower that Wes could stand up in, put on an addition, and do something with the backyard. Oh, and find a way to better heat and cool the place, which was freezing in January and hot as blazes in July.

What they did: Tore up the first floor within three short months while eating out of a microwave, then gutted and remade the one bath, upstairs. After their daughter was born, they called in pros to design and build a two-story addition and—finally—a proper kitchen. Excavated and reshaped the yard themselves. After five years they still want to add dormers in front, and do a major garage overhaul to give Sarah a bigger studio space.

Reno regret: Putting beautiful but stain-prone slabs of marble in the kitchen. Says Sarah: “Wes’s father tried to warn us.”

Lessons learned: “If you’re female on a construction site, you’re often asked, ‘Where is your husband?’ ” says Sarah. “This can be very frustrating. With my work on the house, this tune slowly changed. It seems you have to earn your stripes.” Adds Wes: “Sometimes you can get in over your head, and a good, honest contractor won’t take advantage of you, but will take over and complete the project and even show you where you went wrong.”

Specialty cleaning services make home maintenance easier

Properly cleaning and maintaining your home can ensure it’s protected and retaining its value. You might be managing your regular house cleaning yourself, but what about those big projects? Save yourself time and energy by hiring specialty cleaning services from Calgary Trusted Cleaners.

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Mould and asbestos testing and symptoms of exposure

The last thing you want to hear or find is that there is something in it that is compromising your health like mould or asbestos. As a homeowner, it’s essential to recognize any symptoms or signs of these things. You should also never attempt to test or remove mould or asbestos yourself.

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12 Tips To Make A Spec Home, Special…With Max Humphrey

We would love for you to officially meet Max Humphrey! You might already be familiar with his work from Apartment Therapy’s Small/Cool Event that both he and EHD got to be a part of earlier this year. And in case you missed it, check out his fun-loving “Inner Child” space here. He has been one of Emily’s favorite designers for some time now after instantly falling for his effortless PNW eclectic style. Anyway, this is how he describes that style…“My style is a lived-in, layered look and I think every room should show signs of life. I believe style is about knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.” Emily and I completely agree and is a reminder to “Style, Play, Every Day” because why not, it’s fun, who cares! 

Today, however, I am excited to give you the grand tour of the home below that he transformed from a spec house to a very special home. In case you are not familiar with the term “spec home” this is typically referred to as a new build house that is constructed with the intention to sell to a speculative buyer (get it?). This project however was slightly different, the homeowners actually purchased the house before they broke ground in November of 2017 which allowed them to customize it during the 2 years of construction to their own personal style.

The project is located in a suburb just west of Boston which is a, “really old New England town with lots of historic homes” he said. Luckily enough, Max was already familiar with the area and style of homes having previously attended college in Boston. Since he takes on clients all over the US working on a project from the other side of the country wasn’t really new to him. But this time he had a strict schedule from the builder with due dates for all the specifications of the home. So to adjust they worked backwards from that list as they were designing. When I asked him how they communicated the design plan Max said, “The clients wanted their house to be different than the others in the neighborhood – even if they all had basically the same floor plan. They have two young kids so there were the normal client requests about nothing being too precious. I definitely didn’t have to fight for any ideas – my clients Greta & Bill were super fun to work with and both were totally on the same page and there was a ton of communication between all of us. We basically designed the whole house together over a year-long group text. I’d text ideas and they’d both weigh in with yes/no/maybe. A lot of clients need to see the ‘big picture’ before they make a single decision but I don’t really design that way, like with fancy mood boards and stuff. They trusted that each decision we’d make would work in the grand scheme.”

What I was really curious to know was what the design limitations were working on a spec home so here is what Max had to say, “The contractor said we could do anything we wanted cosmetically as long as we didn’t try and change the original floor plan. So no moving walls. I did add and widen a few doorways but that’s it in terms of the layout. Beyond that, we had a set of specs from the builder with things like what kind of windows and moulding they had planned and then allowances for all the spec materials (tile, flooring, plumbing fixtures, etc) so we were able to choose all that stuff as long as we kept within the basic budget parameters. If we went over by choosing some super expensive marble countertops or something that would be something the clients would have to pay for on top of their initial agreement with the builder. Everything else was up for grabs and I was able to design all of the kitchen cabinetry and built-ins everywhere and bathrooms and stuff. I added wall moulding details where there was only sheetrock in some spaces and was able to select the exterior siding finishes.

Honestly, sometimes the hardest part of a new build is figuring out the floor plan so if the flow of the home works then this sounds like a designer dream to come and add in all the fun stuff aka the materials, light fixtures and furniture.

So how did Max help them customize the home you ask? Well, come on in and take a look for yourself!

Non-Traditional Cabinetry

pendants | counter stools | sconces

Let’s begin in the heart of the home, the kitchen. This is probably one of the easiest yet expensive rooms in your home to customize to your heart’s desires.

So in terms of customization, let’s just talk about the non-traditional uppers in this space for a minute. I am a big fan of the countertop cabinet or cupboard, as one of my favorite kitchen companies deVol refers to them. That moment combined with the more modern open shelving really helps to touch on both the old and contemporary styles Max mixes together throughout the home.

Unexpected Cabinet Color

rug | backsplash tile

Before you ask in the comments below the color of the cabinets was custom and so unfortunately we don’t have a name to share with you but we do have some others paint colors so stay tuned. In my opinion, it is the perfect gray-blue that doesn’t feel like it belongs in a nursery. I’m currently holding my paint deck to the screen to try and match it, yes I am that designer.

Special Details

cabinet knobs | drawer pulls

It’s the little details in this space like using a more elongated textured subway tile, two statement pendants over the island, adding a pot filler for the stove area, and having a beautiful yet very functional farmhouse sink that gives the kitchen that upgraded feeling without going over budget.

My favorite addition in the space is that additional storage over the doorway which not only makes it feel custom but that way the fridge doesn’t look like it is ‘floating’ off on its own. Plus now there is an en-TRANCE to the formal dining room where we are headed to next.

Adding Modern (Wide) Wainscoting

paint color| pendant | dining table | table lamp

I’ve already mentioned my love affair for a well-designed chair in this post here so you better believe that when I laid my eyes on this photo of the dining room my jaw literally dropped. Now, this is a dining chair that is both beautiful and looks so comfortable (but no longer available!). Dear Greta and Bill, I am more than happy to come over in the future for a long dinner party, just saying. Is it about time that we pull together a comfortable dining chair round up?

Those chairs combined with the blue boxy wainscoting that Max added is color combo perfection. He opted for a wider moulding than the standard size which helped to add that traditional architectural interest to the walls that we all crave in a house while keeping it current. As Max would say, “Otherwise they’d just be big drywall box rooms and drywall has no soul.” Agreed. 

Quiet Playful Patterns

There are three other great additions in this space that really put the room over the top and tie it all together. First is the custom roman shades (which is a staple you will see throughout the home) the tiny dot pattern is so playful juxtaposed to the other wonderful wallpaper addition. Adding wallpaper to a space, especially when paired with some custom millwork, will really make a room feel complete. The pattern he chose for the space is subtle but effective and adds that warmth to the walls to balance out the large black dining table. Lastly, consider adding in sconces to every room you can instead or in addition to can lighting. Even though can lights are functionally great a sconce will add a touch of your personality. If the only thing that is holding you back is the height placement then we have you covered in this post here. 😉

Bold Accent Moulding

paint color | sconce | basket

Try for a second to imagine this room without the gray box moulding and those custom built-in benches flanking the white brick fireplace. Not only would the fireplace really stand out (and not in a good way) but something would just feel like it was missing. Max, being the smart designer he is, created two areas for all their reading, lounging, and staring out the window desires. I am also very into the scale of the box moulding which is modern and helps draw your eye all the way up to those high ceilings without being busy. Plus the fact that they are slightly contrasting in color helps your eye not have to compete between the texture of the brick on the fireplace and the millwork.

Special Nooks

roman shades | floor lamp | hardware

Again, it’s those little details like the contrasting hardware paired with the buffalo check cushion and custom roman shades that will make a home feel unique to the client and stand out from the rest of the block.

Contrast Furnishings Style to Architecture

rug | paint color | sconce | door hardware

This double-height entry is such a stunner with the same style wainscoting as the dining room but now is a clean and fresh white. To me, this is the most traditional space of the home with the wood & white staircase and the transom window over the doorway so I was excited to see that Max choose to furnish the space with an entry table and two stools rather than a more traditional entry storage bench. He said, “Some clients who renovate old homes get stuck on making things look period specific but for me its about the mix. I like using vintage furniture in new homes and modern furniture in historic homes.” Which will make a lot of sense once we get to the main bathroom.

But we have one very special space left before we go upstairs for the grand finale. I spy a peek of green from the far right doorway which I think we should all go check out next.

Go Moody

paint color | rug

Max wanted the study off of the entry to feel cozy, I think I can safely say mission accomplished. He really went for it by painting not only the custom built-in bookshelves but also the baseboards, crown moulding and walls all the same beautiful green color.

Custom Forward Thinking

sconces | cabinet knobs

It was such a smart choice to design the custom built-ins to the dimension of the sofa. The additional storage is probably great for the homeowners but this is a design trick that I’ll be putting in my back pocket for a future project. Instead of spending the additional money on a built-in day bed or bench, you can buy a sofa that you could take with you if you need to move or swap out if you want to change up the style of the space. SMART.

roman shades | sconces

Last but not least, the main bathroom of the home which is huge and has a seriously unexpected ‘wow factor’. This comes in as a close second for one of the more traditional leaning spaces of the house with the plaid custom romans and white beadboard paneling which Max mentioned it seemed appropriate to New England. But since it’s a brand new house he didn’t want it to look too “olden timey” so there are a few details though that help to keep it feeling modern.

Mix Up The Permanent Detail’s Style

cabinet knobs | paint color

The mix of the beadboard and modern thin shaker-style cabinet door fronts mixed with the crystal knobs. Had he opted for a standard size shaker cabinet it would’ve been too close in width to the beadboard and maybe even make the bathroom feel a tad “farmhouse”. Also, the subtle cutout for the builder grade mirrors make them now feel intentional and custom to the space.

Add A Disco Ball (jk…but maybe not?)

roman shades | paint color

There is a DISCO BALL over the freestanding tub, I repeat there is a disco ball in this house! You know I had to ask the backstory of this surprising design choice and I loved Max’s response, “We couldn’t get the contractor to install a chandelier over the tub due to some pesky building code nonsense so the disco ball was the next best thing. When the light through the window hits it it’s an instant bathroom dance party.”

And there is definitely room for a dance party so why not?!


A huge thank you to Max Humphrey for letting us show you this beautifully designed spec house and how to mix styles flawlessly. To the lucky homeowners, Greta & Bill, we hope you are enjoying all the personal touches he added that make this house feel like your own special home.

Have any of you implemented these tricks or any others into your own home to make it feel more than just a white box with a roof? I’d love to read all about what you’ve done in the comments below or better yet share some photos with us over on the EHD Insider Community. Talk to you all soon. xx

**Design by Max Humphrey

*Photos by Christopher Dibble

The post 12 Tips To Make A Spec Home, Special…With Max Humphrey appeared first on Emily Henderson.

How to Remove Old Grout

Nat Rea

If the grout in your kitchen or bathroom is chipped, moldy, or just no longer working for you, it may be time to replace it. Follow our guide for removing it manually or with a power tool.

There are two ways to go about removing grout: with an electric-powered tool, or with a manual tool and a lot of determination. We’ll go over both methods below.

Removing Grout Manually

If you’d rather not purchase a power tool, the pointed metal tip of a traditional, lever-type can opener (also called a church key opener) works just as well, albeit with more time and effort.

Draw the point repeatedly along the joint to scrape out the hardened grout. If the tool becomes dull, clamp it in a vise and resharpen the tip with a file.

Alternatively, you can fasten a 6d (2-inch) finishing nail to a short wood dowel for a handy DIY grout-removing tool. Bore a small pilot hole, about an inch from the end of the dowel, then use a hammer to drive the nail through the hole.

Hold the dowel up to the wall and place the nail point in a joint between the tiles. Use short, downward strokes to scratch out the old grout. If the nail point becomes dull, sharpen it with a metal file.

Removing Grout with a Power Tool

The advantage of using a rotary tool or oscillating multi-tool for this job is speed. Rather than possibly taking a few days to complete the project, the entire project can take just a few hours. The disadvantage is that the tool may be too powerful—you might end up chewing through your tile in addition to the grout if you’re not careful.

To use a power tool, fit it with a blade made for tile grout, then turn on the power and lightly apply it to the grout straight on.

The blade should remove the grout without a lot of pressure from you. After you’ve removed the visible grout, angle the blade slightly to reach the grout hidden just behind the tile—but work slowly and carefully to avoid damaging the tile.

After you’ve removed as much grout as possible with the power tool, use a flathead screwdriver to knock out any loose pieces that are still hanging on. Then remove any leftover grout using the manual methods described above.