“A friend who is far away is sometimes much nearer than one who is at hand.

Is not the mountain far more awe-inspiring and more clearly visible to one

passing through the valley than to those who inhabit the mountain?”

–Kahlil Gibran

As a young college freshman with a handsome boyfriend at an out-of-state school, I pined for my David.  It was an era with no cell phones, no internet, and expensive long distance calling.  Thus we kept in touch the old-fashioned way:  by writing letters.  In between monthly weekend visits and the occasional two-minute phone conversation, I would anxiously race to the mailbox in search of a letter.  In those frequent missives would be descriptions of the mundane, philosophical commentaries, funny stories, dreams of the future, sincere encouragement, and yes, declarations of undying love.  We were young, after all, and everything seemed possible except failure and loss.

As I made the daily trek to the mailbox one crisp, blustery fall day, a box awaited me from my love.  My hands fumbled excitedly while tearing back the brown shipping paper. Cookies!  It was a box of homemade, heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies!  Tucked among the treats was the above quote by Kahlil Gibran.  It helped me deal with the separation to know that he was thinking of me from far away.  (By the way, if you ever ask David about this sweet incident, he will deny any knowledge of it.  He doesn’t want to get a reputation, you know.)


Mountains have always meant something to me.  I only had seen mountains in pictures until I was 16 years old.  I remember driving on a family vacation to Colorado and seeing mountains for the first time in the distance.  We had driven all night to get there, so my first sighting occurred as the sun was rising.  It took my breath away, and upon glimpsing the glorious landscape I began to believe that God could actually be real.  The mountains were inspiring.  At other times the mountains in my life have been hardships, immovable obstacles, or seemingly insurmountable tasks that challenged me and left me struggling to catch my breath.


It was only fitting that when David and I reunited after decades apart, our renewed journey together would begin in the mountains.  At 8800 feet above sea level in the Rocky Mountains of Estes Park, we recounted our long history and said our own vows 27 years after the heart-shaped cookies.  We had come full circle, and this mountain was awe-inspiring.

As I wrote seven months ago, we’ve been working on our master bedroom addition.  It’s been quite a mountain to climb!  Except for a few doors that need to be painted, it is finished!  It is bittersweet knowing that as the last piece of flooring was laid and furniture was moved in, our son-in-law Walter didn’t get to see the result of his labors on this place; however, we smile each time we see his handy work.  As we began the fun part (for me) of construction, once again we looked to the mountains for inspiration.  I wanted the vibe of the new space to be serene-comfy-cabin-cottage-zen meets rustic-masculine-industrial-glam.  It makes perfect sense, right?  While combing magazines and Pinterest for ideas, I came across this gem online:


Immediately it whispered “peaceful” to my soul and reminded me of this terrestrial, tumultuous, exhilarating odyssey upon which we have embarked.  I’m no artist, but I knew that this pilgrimage must begin with paint.  After many trips, paint chips, and coffee sips, I ended up with no less than 19 sample paint colors.  That’s 19 colors for real, people!  In case you haven’t figured this out, I’m one of those people who must see all the possibilities before making a choice.  Case in point:

IMG_0580 IMG_0561

I knew I wanted a soothing blue and gray array of colors reminiscent of sky and mountains, but pinning down 8 coordinating mountain colors plus one sky hue didn’t prove to be as easy as selecting one paint chip with varying saturations.  After much trial and error, I landed on this color combo:


From top to bottom, the colors are:  Gray Owl (Benjamin Moore), Silver Strand (Sherwin Williams), Argos (SW), Cobblestone Arch (SW), Gray Matters (SW), City Scape (SW), Web Gray (SW), Navy Seawall (SW), and Iron Ore (SW).

Our mountain mural is finished.  I love the way the sunlight hits it in the morning.  I love the soothing colors that became the pallet for the whole bedroom.  I love how it represents our past.  I even love how it mirrors our present and future as we continue to climb new heights, get fresh perspective,  and experience some craggy, rough valleys.  It’s our grown-up version of cookies and love letters; I’ll most certainly take it.



Master Bath, Part 2

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

and that has made all the difference.”

–Robert Frost

If any room represents the road less traveled in our little cottage, it’s our new master bath.  It might just be my favorite room in the house:  perhaps because I have a thing for preserving the past, or because I root for the underdog, or simply because it’s a complete rush for me to turn a cast-off into something beautiful.  I think it’s all of the above and then some.  Grab yourself another cup of coffee and enjoy this less traveled road we’ve been on for the last nine months.

Our bathroom started life as an office/shower room.  Let’s call it a multi-purpose room in order to make it seem cooler than it was.  The flooring was carpet over industrial tile over concrete slab.  It had a popcorn ceiling that had seen better days.  The steps to the add-on shower had long since lost their dazzle…and tile.  Doesn’t such a place scream “POTENTIAL” to you?  It did to David and me.  Why not turn this into our master bath?  At under ninety square feet it wasn’t gargantuan or luxurious, but it was large enough to shelter everything on our wish list.  The main requirement was a double sink vanity.  Isn’t it funny what things we prioritize?  Even in our 3200-square-feet-city-house-with-the-jacuzzi-tub, we had to share a master bathroom sink.  Considering the fact that we would need plumbers to dig new sewer lines for this addition (as well as the powder room), this wasn’t exactly going to be easy or fast.

After no less than 3 visits by plumbers to fix the old, broken sewer lines and install new ones, we now have the bathroom of our dreams.  I will let the pictures and captions tell most of the story.

IMG_0757 IMG_0789  IMG_0791

Left:  You can see the original door from the family room to the bathroom.

Middle:  Another view of the original shower

Right:  Concrete slab is jack-hammered to prepare for new sewer lines

photo (6) IMG_1140


Above:  I found matching farmhouse sinks at a junk shop.  I paid $50 for the pair; they are deep, porcelain over cast iron, and well-loved (imperfect).  The faucets came from Ebay and were a steal at $20 for the pair.  I love the retro look of the attached soap dishes!  The picture on the left is the vanity being built.  Yes, my wonderfully talented husband built it himself to accommodate these salvaged sinks!  It’s made of cedar and has some iron pipe accents.  The lower shelf is made of FREE cedar fence wood I got on Craigslist.  The total cost of our double vanity came in right at $100 for everything.

IMG_1147 IMG_1122 IMG_1121

Above:  I found these old wire baskets about a half-mile down the road from us at the neighbor’s trash heap!  Can you believe that??!  I didn’t even care that they were speckled with chicken poop.  I brought them home and discovered that they fit perfectly on the lower shelf of the custom vanity!  I gave them a vigorous scrubbing and disinfecting.  I then sewed liners for the baskets and accented them with mini-chalkboard tags and jute ties.  A little hand lettering personalized the trio.

IMG_1139  IMG_1132  IMG_1131

Left:  Soap dispenser I made from a Patron bottle.  I love the shape of it.  I also have a thing for the bee design on the label.

Center:  Outdoor fixtures as vanity lights?  At $32 for the pair, you bet!

Right:  An iron star adorns the cheap mirror.  I bought the mirror because it was the right size, even though it was less than elegant looking.  I painted it to look like old wood.  Adding the star was my homage to the great state of Texas, where I grew up and two of my children were born.

IMG_0786  IMG_1110 IMG_1141

Left:  This is the space where the door was removed, the wall filled in, and the new shower took up residence.

Middle and Right:  Your eyes do not deceive you.  It’s a galvanized shower!  Hubby built this out of roofing material.  I love the juxtaposition of industrial metal with the modern glass doors. It’s trimmed out in cedar.  I was inspired by this and this.

IMG_1123  IMG_1133

Left:  This is the wall that encloses the shower.  I wanted to do something interesting with it.  The poem is by Robert Frost and was on our wedding invitation, so it’s very meaningful to us and a little mushy.

Right:  I know this is a quirky piece, but I couldn’t resist it.  I think it needs a name.  Any ideas?

IMG_0785  IMG_1142

Above:  The tub space before and after!  The painted tub is flanked by an upcycled door mirror that was original to the house.  I added stained shim wood for a custom look.

 IMG_1114 IMG_1115IMG_1126

The towel storage above the tub was part of a group of old wood crates garnered from an estate sale for $5.  Thanks to David’s great Aunt Jane for the vintage lanterns.  I made the artwork with two recycled canvases, masking tape, craft paint, and jute.  It’s part of my mother-in-love’s favorite poem and sums up our journey completely.  The tub faucet came from Signature Hardware.

IMG_1118 IMG_1112IMG_1113

Left:  Galvanized pipe and fittings gave us an unconventional curtain rod.

Middle and right:  I used a window panel and stenciled it with 8 different birds to remind us of our children.

IMG_1125 IMG_1119 IMG_1117


It really deserves its own paragraph, having been salvaged from a construction site by my husband’s grandfather prior to the 1950’s.  In fact, he used salvaged materials to build most of his lake cottage in Wisconsin.  Many happy summers were spent there by David and his family as they grew up.   We discovered this door last summer as my father-in-love showed us around his storage barn; it had been moved a few times after the original cottage was sold. It was dirty with chipping paint but had the original etched glass intact.  What a gorgeous treasure!  David’s parents graciously gave us the door for *our* family cottage.  I can’t even convey how special it is to me to have such a piece of family history in our home.

IMG_0798  IMG_1144

Left:  The original space before the toilet was added.

Right:  The glorious after!  Daughter #2 exclaimed that we were practically the Rockefellers now that we had 3 toilets!

IMG_1153 IMG_1127

We used the door to provide separation between the toilet and tub.  We added some shelves to the tub side to add stability as well as functional space.  That first shelf holds a lotus candle; it was my mom Bee’s favorite flower.  The second shelf is for my beverage of choice as I soak in that extra-long claw foot tub!  Did you notice the little handle in the middle of the door?  It’s actually a working doorbell!  Twist the copper handle and the sweetest sound rings out, similar to a bicycle bell.  I tease dear husband that I shall use this bell to alert him that my beverage glass needs refilling.  The toilet paper holder is made from galvanized pipe.


This is not quite the end of the bathroom redo.  We still have to add doors to the opening; this is the next project.  Right now the wide bathroom entry is being covered by what I refer to as the “bachelor blanket.”  It’s a ratty, old thing that hubby has used in the past in lieu of actual doors and which wife finds less than attractive.  Soon enough the blanket will give way to sliding, barn-style doors.  For now we are soaking up the history and comfort of this room with the satisfaction that we pulled off another project together…wing to wing and oar to oar.

Found Things: The Master Bath

“For whatsoever from one place doth fall,

Is with the tide unto another brought:

For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.”

–Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queen

Few things make me swoon like a worthy adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  The above quote is from a tender scene in “Sense and Sensibility,” where Colonel Brandon humbly reads to Miss Marianne Dashwood following her epiphany that what she truly yearned for had been right there for her, patiently waiting.  If gentle reader is familiar with the book, she will recognize the idea that strong and enduring is often preferable to new and exciting.

This has certainly been the case while doing our master bath remodel.  I have a confession:  old architectural elements, fixtures, and designs make me swoon!  One of the reasons I haven’t blogged about the bath progress much is that I’ve been gathering materials for quite some time, searching for those things that have been lost to modern design.  If you want the things that endure, such treasure hunting takes time; even longer is the time needed to figure out how to incorporate these rough diamonds into a functioning bathroom.  Dear husband has patiently and expertly endured my journeys through junk shops and Craigslist ads in search of just the right thing, and he’s made sense of how to use them.

Last week I was reminded just how long this project had been dragging on, as the friendly county inspector came out to see our progress 2 weeks ago.  Indeed, he pointed out that my permit for the master bath work had expired two months ago!  Fortunately this is not an offense punishable by neither fine nor flogging, so he offered to extend the permit for another 6 months once he returned to the office.  I was grateful; certainly I had been overly optimistic at the time that I filed for the permit, thinking that it would easily take less than 6 months to redo the family room, powder room, and master bath.  Here we are 8 months later with a completed powder room, good progress on the master bath, and nothing completed in the family room other than insulation.  Apparently when you file for a permit, you should only list and and estimate costs on what you can complete in 6 months.  Silly me!  Lesson learned.

If I’m being frank, the master bath is pretty dang awesome.  It’s awesomeness is such that I can’t show the whole thing all at once for fear that gentle readers will either a.) faint or b.) die of insane jealousy.  Okay, truthfully it isn’t finished yet.  However, we are close!  Today I will focus on two elements that are complete:  the bath tub and the flooring.

I found the antique clawfoot tub on Craigslist.  (Don’t pretend to be surprised.)  I negotiated a good price, visited the charming bungalow on a river that had been the tub’s home, and watched hubby and a plumber lift that beauty into the back of our farm truck.  I knew it could be glorious in our new bathroom.  This one cost me less than the one I found for the kids’ bathroom, and it was bigger.  At 5 and a half feet long (5 feet is standard size), there’s no reason to even bend my knees to recline in it.  Yes, it was covered in bits of gold leaf, peeling orange and yellow 1960’s wallpaper, and the loveliest shade of tan paint that I like to call “skin tag.” Naturally, it was love at first sight for me.

photo (14)

These are pieces of what was haphazardly adhered to the tub!

I knew I didn’t want another plain, white tub.  I could buy one of those anywhere.  I headed over to Pinterest for inspiration:

tub3 tub4

tub1 tub2

Of course, before installing the tub, the floor would have to be installed.  This was no small task considering that we started with chipped industrial tiles on top of bare, uneven concrete slab.  In addition, the slab had to be dug out in places to make room for new plumbing. A doorway had to be closed off from the family room to make room for the reconfigured shower. Walls had to be built to separate the bath from a hallway. Now it’s coming into focus why that permit expired!  After leveling the concrete floor, we put down a 3/4″ plywood subfloor and waterproofed it.  We picked out a porcelain tile that mimics old barn wood and proceeded to lay it.  After completion, we laughingly chanted our mantra once again, “I can’t believe it worked!”

After some painting, stenciling, grouting, plumbing, grunting, and cursing, here’s our finished product:

photo (13) photo (15)

One person’s cast-off can be another person’s treasure, don’t you think?  Our found things are bestowing upon us a most loved and swoon-worthy bathroom!  More updates to come…