Around this time last year, I was writing up our 2017 home report card and feeling all of the overwhelm. I won’t pretend that taking this house on wasn’t more than I bargained for, that all the things I thought I could fix with paint and throw pillows turned out to cost more in time and money than I ever thought possible.
So I had vowed that 2018 would be different from 2017. Yes, I still wanted to get stuff done (there’s no quitting halfway on a house that’s actively falling apart), but I also wanted to celebrate what we had accomplished so far (for at least a week or two) before moving on to the next project and take time out to enjoy living in the Pacific Northwest — ostensibly the whole reason we had sold our sweet little (basically finished!) Ontario house.
To that end, I wrote up a short project list for 2018 — just seven things to do! (Though you might see/remember each of those things contained several to-dos that could probably count as projects in their own right.) I promised that, barring emergencies, we wouldn’t tackle anything that wasn’t on this list. And I said that I would give equal weight to items on another type of list — one that said we wanted to visit Tofino this year and go to a Harbourcats game.
Overall, 2018 was a more restorative year than 2017. I don’t know if we did less, but we were intentional and methodical about what we did do and, honestly, writing that post that said we were going to stick to our list helped me say “no” to a few major things and “yes” to a few others.
“No,” like to a beautiful piece one acre lot about 30 minutes outside Sooke (and 50m from a private beach) that Pierre wanted to buy around September. He drove me out there one morning while Frankie was at daycare, we stopped for brunch, walked the land, talked about where we’d build the house (someday) and visited the beach. I was tempted to go along with it, but, amazing opportunity/property or not, meeting with banks and lawyers, dealing with paperwork and wiping out our savings account right before having a new baby was really not on the list this year.
Speaking of a new baby, she was really not on the list this year, either. But I’ve actually spent most of this year pregnant — first in January, February and then again starting in May. Baby girl will be born next month — maybe early February if she’s stubborn — and that feels like a good “emergency” we made room for, an event that will really help this house and province feel like home. (We’re planning a cottage-on-a-farm birth and hope to introduce her to the Island under the warm glow of fairy lights.)
Additionally, we made it to Tofino. We also did two (child-free) trips to Sooke and one to Santa Cruz, California. Frankie and I travelled back to Ontario in May and then I went on my own for my brother’s wedding in September. We visited Pierre’s brother up-Island in Comox in December. We tried numerous restaurants and took long walks around Swan Lake. We didn’t make it to any Harbourcats games (the first-pitch schedule never aligned with Frankie’s sleep schedule), but we did make it to the Christmas parade this year. So thankful we get to call this island and this house, home!
I think the Life List went pretty well this year and a breakdown of how we did at the house this year is below. Before photos are not the we-just-moved-in before photos, but a snapshot of where things were at the end of 2017.
1. Renovate the Den
Yep, did that — except the den is now known as the nursery! It was a big project that started with demo and included hanging new drywall, refinishing the original floors, a bit of tricky electrical work, installing new woodwork, priming and painting, hanging window coverings and, in the end, hanging a door. I love how this space turned out and can’t wait to cuddle a baby in here in just a few weeks!
2. Kitchen Updates
When I wrote that we had “a few loose ends to tie up in the kitchen” what I really meant was that the kitchen still needed a lot of work. Hanging that hood fan was an epic job and getting the woodwork done at the same time as all the work was happening in our den meant about 60% of my house was taken over by sawdust, men in boots and tools. I couldn’t be happier with the art (what an upgrade from all those dark upper cabinets!); countertops, sink and faucet; and the window covering in here. We didn’t get the cabinet over the fridge resized (I had two quotes and they were both > $1,000), but I did hide what we’re storing up there with some $5 thrift store linen fabric.
3. Bathroom Updates
I’m amazed at this bathroom refresh! We spent basically no money in here as all the updates were just add-ons to things we were already doing (e.g., installed some new woodwork during the bigger den job, installed a new countertop, sink and faucet as part of the way bigger kitchen job). I found the toilet in a dumpster, my Dad and I replaced the frosted shower doors with a curtain, replaced the hollow door with a heritage-style door and I painted the vinyl floor white. It’s still not my dream bathroom (nothing short of a space with porcelain hex tile and a clawfoot tub will ever get that label), but it really is pretty good. One more update is coming for this space in 2019 and then it’ll be truly done.
4. Paint the Exterior of the House
Oof. Luckily we were able to hire this out and love the result, but it was a big, expensive job. Workers here all day every day for nearly a month. Thankfully it’s a once-every-decade sort of project. We get so many compliments on the house now and the house feels so much more “ours” with its colourful paint job, a few perennials in the rock bed out front and cushions in the perfect palette on the porch.
5. Front Landscaping
We knew landscaping this 5,500 square foot property would be a multi-year job so “landscaping” will likely end up on many an annual House List to come, but we did make a start this year, using cedar wood chips, rocks and driftwood to create a few beds in the front, back and side yards. We planted hydrangeas, lavender, blueberries, snapdragons, foxgloves and delphiniums for a start and plan to maintain and add as the years go on.
6. Window and Window Coverings
We didn’t end up replacing this front window (the water damage ended up looking pretty old/not like an issue anymore), but we did do new trim around the window, primed, painted and added window coverings. Now every window has historic trim and a cellular shade. Everyone always comments on the beautiful light our house gets and I couldn’t agree more!
7. Screen Doors
We replaced both the front and back storm doors with matte black ones from Lowe’s and updated two of our three exterior light fixtures. (There’s one light fixture tucked under the back deck next to a rear “garden door” that still needs replacing.) The doors are great — full screens for summer and full glass for winter.
That’s everything on our 2018 list — it looks like the only thing that didn’t get done was that cabinet over the fridge and the front window that we opted out of replacing.
There were, however, a few “emergencies” that got checked off, too.
8. Seismic Overhaul
Come May, it seemed like we’d really have to deal with the rotted-out parts of our house’s frame and that it made sense to do a seismic overhaul, complete with anchor bolts, new insulation in the basement and shear walls. This was an unpleasant time, with Pierre using a solid three weeks of vacation to pull chipboard walls and 1930s asbestos-laced insulation out of our basement to make way for the new materials. I do honestly sleep better at night knowing we’ve at least taken some steps to secure our house against seismic activity, but this project felt like a lot hot on the heels of the den renovation and exterior pant job.
9. Central Vac
When my parents visited in October, my Dad “couldn’t help” but replace our central vac system while Pierre and I had a few days away in California. It’s nice to have a working central vac again (I think I had sucked up one too many baby wash cloths for our 1970s HP unit to handle), but I could’ve done without the argument with my Dad over what was clearly on the list (e.g., taking his granddaughter to the pumpkin patch) and what wasn’t.
10. Replace Interior Doors
Finally, in adding a door to the den to turn it into a bedroom for baby girl, we elected to have two other interior doors in our house replaced, so that all our interior doors match. When our hallway is all drywalled, trimmed out and painted (2019!), I’m sure we won’t regret that detail.
So, in comparison to 2017, when the number of “add-ons” outstripped what was on the original project list, I think we did really well at “sticking to the list” this year. We spent a weirdly nearly exactly equal amount of money (within $600) in both 2017 and 2018, but 2018 got the lion’s share of cosmetic (read: satisfying) updates with projects like the kitchen countertops and exterior paint job. I’m in the process of writing up our 2019 house project list and this reminder of how far we came this year (all the while maintaining some semblance of a normal, dust-free life) is so motivating. For 2019’s List, I’ll be looking to paint projects with a finer brush (i.e., my 2018 Kitchen Updates project should have really been broken out into several projects) and get the number and cost of projects way down from 2017 and 2018.
What was the best project you accomplished at home this year?