Category Archives: Home Improvement

Turning Drab Army Housing into Our Home: Blog Series Introduction

Home vs Residence

Home isn’t simply where you sleep or live–it’s the space in which you do your living, and as such it should reflect your personality and express your lifestyle.  It should be a place that makes YOU feel welcome and comfortable.  It should function in a way that makes your life just a tad bit easier.  In all, it should be YOURS and not “theirs” (aka the manager/owner).

The Renter’s Dilemma

Because every rental comes with its own special set of rules, renters often feel that they must live with those white, off-white, or other bland colored walls.  Though we are allowed to paint our space, I am going to try my best to avoid it simply because I don’t want the hassle of repainting them when we leave in 3-4 years (which is inevitable in the Army).  We are however, allowed to mount pictures and shelves with no repercussions or special repairs before we move out.

In this blog series–which I will complete over the next year–I will share the process of making any drab rental into your home.

Drafting Ideas

I have several ideas brewing already and can’t wait to share all of the finished projects and rooms with you.

Here are some of my plans for our new space.

The Entry Nook

After entering the house, there is a longish hallway with an opening to the immediate left that leads to the sitting room/dining area followed by a strange alcove that sort of looks like it could be a closet, and then another opening to the left that leads into the kitchen.

I call this weird space the Entry Nook.  I want to use this space pragmatically, but make it stylish at the same time.  The idea is to have a dresser with four drawers (even though I drew it with three)–one for each family member.  Hats, scarves, gloves, umbrellas, purses–or whatever can be stored here. It is a dropping zone right now, and I hate it.  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

2014-02-20 17.33.01


 The Dining Room

This is our dining room. In this picture it is pretty empty because I took it the week after we moved in (2.5 months before our furniture arrived).  This is still the basic plan, but we are planning on buying Ikea’s Ingatorp table and Ingolf chairs in white.

The door in the picture leads into the kitchen. The bookcase corner is positioned between the dining room and living room, but the hubby wants to put a large fish tank there. It is still under debate.

2014-02-19 17.36.18


Blank “Hallway”: AKA the Family Command Center

As I mentioned before, there are two openings to the left of the entry hall. This area is almost like a small hallway. There is a good sized blank wall and an otherwise useless space.  Here, I have a temporary “command” center.  I should have all of my supplies for this space in the next week or so.  This will probably be the topic of my second or third posting in this blog series.

2014-04-27 17.40.40


The Coffee Zone

We are coffee LOVERS in this house. As soon as I saw this kitchen, I knew exactly how this space would be used.  After a recent trip to Ikea, I now have pretty much everything I need for this space and will be posting about it soon.

To help make more sense of the layout of the house, I’ll tell you what is behind this wall: It’s the Entry Nook!  And behind the wall of the command center is the guest bath.

2014-02-20 17.49.45


I am very excited about the upcoming projects and hope you will enjoy this blog series.


From Drab To Fab: Days 10-14–Lighting Fiasco and Road Bumps–Rescued Post From My Drafts

**This post was originally written/saved last on August 25, 2013–Just before I started my heavy and tough course load at UCCS and began the moving process.

I have have been MIA Since I lost the battle with the Chandelier and I apologize. things at Casa Stevens have been crazy!

Day 10–A new Chandelier

I finally found a decent chandelier for the right price at Home Depot! The installation was a bit of a hassle though. The mounting rod was too short, so we went to ACE and bought a coupler to connect the short rod to the mounting rod from the old chandelier–not a good idea. Now the mounting rod was too long. We gave up and hubby moved on to cleaning up the backyard and I worked on some end tables that have been half done for weeks. Just as I got out all of my supplies, I realized that the mounting rod from the old chandelier was slightly longer than the new one…so I went inside to compare them. It was longer–by at least 1/4 inch–which was all we really needed! So I did the sensible thing and started mounting the chandelier by myself. Mounting a chandelier to the ceiling by yourself is a real pain. My wrists were sore, my neck was permanently kinked, and my shoulders were on fire. But I did it!

Transitional Chandelier

We still had a minor problem though. The entry still had no light fixture.  The Chandelier that I had such high hopes for was originally in the entry and this ugly thing was in the dining room.

chandelier 004

For about 2 weeks, we have had a hole with taped off wires sticking out of the ceiling in the entry.

The pendant that I originally wanted matched the new chandelier perfectly, but was not sold online or in any of the Home Depot stores within a 100 mile radius of me. So why do they even show it on their website?!? So, I bought one that I thought would work–at least according to the picture online.  When it finally arrived for pick-up at my Home Depot store I was so giddy with excitement.

When I got home and took the pendant out of the box, I was struck with irritation. The pendant was on some kind of pole. We have cathedral ceilings on the main level of our home–which seemed nice when bought the house. Never Ever again will we buy a house with cathedral ceilings.

This is the light fixture that I ordered:


I put it back in the box, and returned it to Home Depot.  I looked at all of their ceiling light fixtures.  The pendants and small chandeliers that would work with our ceiling were well beyond our budget–except for one.  I grabbed it without really looking at the box and took it home.

Day 11–Entry Light Fixture Nightmare Continues

I couldn’t wait to get started on the entry light. It was going to be beautiful.  I opened the box with excitement.  And then I screeched as if a bucket of ice water was dumped on my head.

This pendant is part of a track system. I don’t have the track system. What was I thinking?



Back to Home Depot and back to the drawing board.  In the meantime, I worked on the end tables that will soon become my nightstands.


Day 12: Back to the drawing board

Normally I am not a huge fan of Lowe’s.  I have several reasons–primarily the poor customer service at my nearest location.  But I decided to take a look at their website and see if they had a pendant or small chandelier that would work for my entry.  I hit the jackpot with their Portfolio Mini Pendants.  The pendant fixture is separate from the shade which allowed me to choose all of my finishes and shade design.  I went with the Aged Bronze finish on the pendant and the Scavo lamp shade. And I even received good customer service! I may be changing my mind about Lowe’s and will return in the near future.

While the hubby was at work, I installed the new pendant. It was simple and straightforward. Absolutely no bumps in my way.

And it is lovely.

IMG_20130823_184516 IMG_20130823_184516


I Fell Into a Whirlwind of Crazy

I know it has been awhile since I have updated this blog, and for those of you who actually followed it and read it—I give you my sincerest apologies.  If you even bother at all to read this, I am very very grateful!

I did not fall of the planet, but I did fall into a whirlwind of chaos.  I was supposed to share my experience of updating our home before we left for Germany.  I even have two blog drafts that I never got around to completing! Well, after my last post, things became hectic.  I started my first semester at UCCS–and it was TOUGH! Tons of papers had to be written for my classes, I had to run around town returning cable boxes, modems, picking up medical records, getting the dogs ready for international travel, getting the kids and myself check-ups for international travel, and running up to Denver twice to get our passports in order.  We also traded in “Cherry,” my Chevy HHR for a Honda Odyssey. There seemed to be a million and one things in my way.

So what did we accomplish? If you haven’t been reading, the Drab to Fab home improvement list can be found here.

We replaced the kitchen counter tops, sink, and faucet.  We painted the kitchen cabinets and replaced the ceiling light fixture.  We tiled the family room (all 340 sq feet).  We replaced the vinyl flooring in the laundry/3rd bathroom and the kids bathroom.  We re-grouted the master bath and kids bath.  We re-glazed or re-surfaced the shower tubs and caulked all of the bathrooms.  We replaced the garage door openers (well hubby did that all by himself). We repainted the basement, kitchen, living room, dining room, and family room. We also replaced all of the outdoor light fixtures.  I’m sure there is much more that I left of the list.  We did it all in 4 months and went about $400 over our $8,000 budget. Here are some images that I did manage to take with the intention of blogging about all of this.

Tiling the family room
Tiling the family room
Our “New” Honda Odyssey
kids bath
Re-finishing the Kids Bath Sink with Rust-Oleum Counter Transformations
kitch light
New Kitchen Light Fixture
Backyard Landscaping–this is only the first of 2 deliveries.
Entry Light Pendant
Entry Light Pendant


Transitional Chandelier
Dining room Chandelier
New counters, sink faucet and a fresh paint job for the cabinets
New counters, sink faucet and a fresh paint job for the cabinets


I got all A's in 4 tough classes! The studying instead of blogging was worth it!
I got all A’s in 4 tough classes! The studying instead of blogging was worth it!

Traveling overseas for vacation is not this intense, but a military relocation overseas is ridiculously difficult! With all of the work in the house and all of the other “stuff” that needed to be done, there was no time for blogging. I didn’t have time to take very many pictures of the progress.

It took the packers 2 whole days to pack up the house and another whole day to load our stuff into crates.

Moving sucks.

Moving Day
Moving Day

We drove from Colorado Springs to the Dallas airport in the afternoon on January 7th.  What a whirlwind of crazy! We packed that minivan with 7 suitcases, two teenagers, two large dogs, and ourselves.

Just a "few" of our bags
Just a “few” of our bags

Looking back, I honestly don’t know how we made it to Germany without losing our minds.  After a very long flight to Frankfurt (9.5 hours), we still had a 4-hour drive to our duty station—and sleep.

Though we finally got into our housing on Jan 20, we are still not quite settled in.  Our car arrived safely one month after we did.  Let me tell you—grocery shopping without a car stinks! Sometimes we used the taxi, but it isn’t cheap, so we hauled our loaded bags on foot most of the time.

It was almost 3 full months before our household goods arrived.  Army loaner furniture=YUCK!  I am and always will be grateful for the furniture and borrowed kitchen items, but it certainly wasn’t ideal.  We didn’t even have internet for the first month.  Imagine teenagers with no TV, cell phones, computers, or video games for 1.5 months! Yup it was a picnic.

The house is now mostly unpacked and I have the internet, my car, and a growing wardrobe. I am almost satisfied.  I will have lots to share as we make a home in government housing, travel around Europe, and learn about the German way of life.  For now though, I am mostly happy and can’t wait to blog about our experiences over the past 2 months.


Welcome to Germany
Welcome to Germany



From Drab to Fab: Day 9–The Great Chandelier Battle of 2013 Winner

If you would like a replay or have no idea why this is a battle, you can read about it here.

I finally made it to Home Depot for more of the Oil Rubbed Bronze paint and a new chain.  I opted for black because it was cheaper than buying an oil rubbed bronzed chain. I figured that I would just give the chain a very light coat of the ORB spray paint so that it has the same sheen as the chandelier.  Good idea right?

It was! the chain looked great.

The chandelier looked great too after all the pieces received their final coat of paint.

Round Four: Me–yay!

Though the chandelier won the first 3 rounds, I was determined to win the battle.

Saturday was our final bout. It was the day that I would mount it and dance with joy.

That’s what was supposed to happen. But instead, this is what happened.

Broken & Welded Coupler

The bits shown in the top photo are of the coupler that connects the rod which holds all of the top pieces into place.  It crumbled. Okay, I thought, no big deal, I’ll just remove the remaining bits and run to Ace for a new coupler.

Good idea right? I kept my cool and was not going to let this little incident defeat me.

So I got out my needle nose pliers and tried to remove all of the pieces–only I couldn’t seem to remove the rest of the coupler.  Why? Because it was welded on! Even if I can manage to remove it all, I would end up with ruined threads.

Once again, this chandelier had me dreaming of taking a sledge-hammer to it and tossing it out of the window.

Round Five: Chandelier

Winner: Chandelier

I have been beaten. Badly. By a chandelier!

I’m going to keep the stupid chandelier and repurpose it–eventually.

Thanks to DIY Show Off, I have the perfect use for the chandelier.

Chandelier Planter

I’ve already spent too much time and money (ORB paint isn’t cheap) on this project.  So we will now have to find a suitable replacement at a decent (cheap) price.

In the meantime, my entry is dark.

Have you ever lost a DIY battle? I’d love to hear about it!

From Drab To Fab: Days 5-8–Trunks, Budgets, and Life

It’s been a super busy week here at Casa Stevens. Here’s a summary of what I’ve been up to in my efforts to get this house done.

Day Five: Tuesday Touch Up

Most of the day was spent touching up the paint in the formal living and dining rooms.  I also worked on the vintage steamer trunk, which is coming along nicely. I started working on this on Sunday (Aug 11). It was tough work getting it prepped for priming.  Here is the before & after shot (of primer, not paint).

Already looking better with just a few coats of Primer

Day Six: Mom Duties Called

I had to take the entire day off to finish up my daughter’s school clothes shopping.  In all, it was the most pleasant day that I’ve had in at least two weeks.  She even found her homecoming dress on sale at the Goodwill for $10!

Day Seven: Project Budget and Number Crunching

I spent the majority of my day using Excel to create my itemized budget worksheet and virtual shopping lists (thanks Home Depot!).  Though it was time consuming, I broke each project down into categories and created expense columns which included projected costs, actual costs, and a column for the difference.  I made sure to include a good amount of money for incidentals in each category.  The hubby was pleased.  This way we will know exactly where we stand budget wise for each project. This should keep us on track and prevent us from running out of dough before we are done.

I also finished up the painting of the chandelier and bought a new chain for it.

Day Eight:  School Prep

Unfortunately, I had to take yet another day off from getting the house done.  At least sitting at the PC and working on the budget was a necessity for this overhaul of the house.  Friday was the day I got all my ducks lined up for my fall semester at UCCS.  Buying textbooks, turning in forms, and getting familiar with the campus (locating my classes) was in no means how meant to spend my Friday, but I’m glad I could check it off of my very long to-do list!