Whole Lotta Lot Love

Monday, 16 June 2014
Hi there. We're the MacLellans, and we're impulse buyers of the worst variety - the big-ticket purchase kind. I talk myself out of insignificant purchases every day, and once forbid Regan from buying a $100 dehydrator when he was on a health kick, but when it comes to major life-changing purchases like land and homes we jump right in! It seems so illogical when I type it out, and yet we've done it almost three times. 

The first time was our house. Back in 2008, Regan and I had been dating for two years and shared custody of Brew but didn't live together. One Friday night, we spent a quiet night in at my apartment (it's true, Mom! I didn't spend all of my 20s at bars) and were discussing how we'd like to build a house someday. Regan said we could build a new house for less than buying one if we built it ourselves, and logged on to MLS to prove his point. While we were checking out home prices in and around Charlottetown, we came across a cute little house that was listed for $45,000. Surely there must be a mistake, we thought. I mean, the house needed a ton of work and it was only 800 square feet, but still - $45k?! For a house?! Just like that our discussion about building a house someday changed to buying a house right now. Regan called the listing agent the next day and we had a showing lined up for Monday. By Wednesday, Regan had met with a mortgage specialist. It turned out the house was a foreclosure which was why it was priced to sell, but also meant we had to buy it 'as is.' The bank wasn't going to negotiate much on price and also wasn't going to do any repairs. We had Regan's carpenter father come look at it, and once we got his OK we put in an offer. We were official homeowners just three weeks after seeing the listing. 

By the time I got home from work the first day the house was in our possession, Regan had it looking like this: 

Carefully thought out plans are overrated. 

Fast forward a few years, and we are talking about building again. We spend many Sundays driving around the 20-minute radius surrounding Charlottetown looking for our dream lot. We find a lot of dream lots, but none we could afford. And then we found one that seemed too good to be true. Cue the foreshadowing. 

My dad bravely trudging through swarms of mosquitos to check out Lot #1.

Sound the trumpets!!! This lot had it all!

This lot was within our budget but seemed way underpriced for the area. We were on the horn to the real estate agent within days lining up an offer, who suggested getting a lawyer to look over the contract first. And thank goodness we did! Our lawyer discovered we wouldn't own the right of way to the lot, which was one kilometre down a dirt road from the main road. She said the dirt road wasn't built to government specs, so it would never be paved by the province, and school buses and garbage trucks wouldn't go down it. And if the current owner of the right of way ever sold it or died, we'd have a major headache on our hands. So needless to say, that put the kibosh to that plan. 

Our lot hunt continued for another year, and after our close call we restrained ourselves from diving in head first. We did get briefly excited about a few options, but ultimately decided against them. 

This lot with a distant water view made the short list, but didn't win us over in the end. 

 This lot made a pretty Instagram photo, but we decided against it because the dirt road it was on would be a muddy mess come spring and not fit to drive down with a car. 

Then one day we went to see Regan's brother's new build, and took the scenic route home. Along the way, we stumbled across our dream lot and this time we immediately knew it was it. In true MacLellan fashion, we bought it the next day. 

And now, 20 months after buying the land, we are finally ready to build on it! It's been a long time coming, people. 

These photos were taken the day we found the lot back in the fall of 2012. Our neighbours (and new friends) built their home themselves as well, so it can be done! 

Just under 1 acre is all ours! 

In case you found the last two photos underwhelming - BAM! This is our view heading down the lane to the main road.

The lot is within 20 minutes of our jobs in Charlottetown, is just down the road from Regan's brother and his family, and is about 40 minutes closer to Regan's parents and his sister and her family. Our current house is east of Charlottetown, and after living in it for five years we realized that we wanted to live west of the city to be closer to his family. My parents live in Nova Scotia and my sister and her family live in Ontario, so the new house will have the room we need for extended visitors. 

The moving trailer we rented for the next six months was delivered to the house today. In two weeks time we will be living on our new lot while we build the house! Check back for the next blog post to see what we'll be living in while we build. 

Major news alert

Monday, 2 June 2014
Big news, people, big! But before I tell you what it is, I'm going to bore you with the details of our house-selling journey. 
And no, I'm not growing a baby human in my belly.

We first put our house up for sale 17 months ago. Back then, we thought we might not even need a realtor - and by 'we' I mean Regan, he's much more optimistic than I am. Regan made a Kijiji listing and in no time at all we had lots of inquiries and a number of showings. Regan was starting to look very proud of himself. But then nothing progressed, and after a few months we signed on with a realtor. The day the official 'For Sale' sign was pounded into the ground was an exciting day. We began to plan our new house that will be built on the lot we purchased in late 2012, and were sure we'd be living in it by the end of 2013. But six months after that sign went in, and after half the Island traipsed through our home, we hadn't received a single offer despite being our realtor's busiest listing. And believe me, he tried. 

April 2013

That brings us to October 2013. We had just returned from our honeymoon when our contract with the realtor was up. We decided to take it off the market for a few months to get some badly-needed renovations done, namely the deck. 

The covered deck that wraps around the front and side was one of the things that first drew us to the house - it just seemed so darn cute back in 2008! My youthful idealism clearly clouded my vision because anyone else would have seen it for the rotting death trap it really was. I'm sure Regan saw it for what it was all along, but why take on a project that your wife actually isn't nagging you about? That man is smarter than I sometimes give him credit for. Then one morning I fell through the deck when a board disintegrated beneath my feet. Foot, actually. One leg was dangling through the deck while the other was desperately trying to reverse squat my ass out of that predicament. It was at that point I realized the deck needed a whole lot more than a coat of paint. Yes, apparently I am both blind and naive. 

Luckily for me, I married a pretty handy guy who comes from a very handy family (my father-in-law even has a construction company). The only problem is that I also married a man with a million hobbies - hobbies he enjoys more than building decks. 

Here's a sampling of how Regan would prefer to spend his time. I couldn't even find pictures of his ball team or his cross-country skis. Meanwhile, I'm probably at home eating BBQ chips. 

Finally, this past November, Regan managed to set aside two weekends in between biking and hunting seasons to demolish the old deck and build the new one. 

Regan suggested we extend the deck by the back door (the main entrance) so there'd be enough space to set up the patio table in a usable way instead of having it pushed up against the wall on the formerly narrow deck. I wasn't totally on board at first because I was hesitant to put more money into a house we wanted to sell, but he convinced me it was a good idea and I'm so glad he did. 

Hubby's impressive autoCAD skills helped me see the light. 

We saved a boatload of cash by building it ourselves with the help of Regan's super handy brother, Justin, and his always helpful cousin, Adam. I kept myself busy moving the junk pile of old deck boards from the front yard to a semi-organized pile in the backyard. It was like a never-ending game of Pick Up Sticks only with heavy boards and rusty nails. 

In the end, our only regret was not replacing the deck earlier

November 2013

We spent the next few months painting almost the entire interior and relisted in February. We listed it at the same price as the first time and our realtor was confidant we could get it sold. A month later, we got our very first offer and it was a good one. We were ecstatic. Unfortunately, our happiness was short lived. The buyer was unable to secure the financing and had to back out of the deal. womp womp

Since then, we've had a fair amount of showings but no offers. Meanwhile, most of the other houses in our area have sold, including ones we considered competition. 

And so we've made a big decision. I am excited to announce we will be taking the house off the market, renting it out and are going to be breaking ground at our lot in a few weeks! Yes, it's a little risky, and certainly not what we had hoped, but you've got to take a few chances in life and trust that they'll work out in the end. We had no trouble finding a great couple who are eager to sign a year lease and they will be moving in June 30. We want them to be really happy here so we've been busy getting projects crossed off our to-do list. 

I spent Saturday attacking the flower beds while Regan installed a new window in the spare room and put up a new clothesline. 

Is that the worst window you've ever seen, or what?! Gozo thought it should be a cat door.

I pulled practically everything out of the flower bed and divided the larger clumps. 

Then I amended the soil with seafood compost. 

Next, I played around with a new arrangement, moving the goldstrum to the back and the smaller hostas to the front. Some of the plants were mysteries to me, so we'll just have to see what happens! Regan also nailed the lattice back on, and that was an instant improvement. 

All in a day's work! I still have to put some black mulch down, maybe add a few annuals and prime and paint the soffit white. I was planning to paint the doors black, but something tells me I'm not going to get around to that in the next 30 days. 

New, longer clothesline! Can't wait to hang the first load of laundry out. I think little touches like a sturdy new clothesline and well-tended flower beds will make the tenants feel at home and entice them to stick around! The bonfire pit can't hurt, either. 

We've got a big summer ahead of us but it's sure to be a memorable one, and I'm going to document it all right here. 

Couch confessions

Sunday, 4 May 2014
It's amazing how long you can live with truly horrendous furniture before deciding to pry out the wallet and invest in something respectable. Or at least that's the case with Regan and I and our beat up, sorry excuse for a couch. "It's fine for now," we told ourselves. "No one else ever sees it anyway," we said. Except that sometimes they did, and it was embarrassing. Our nephew once asked if the torn section of the seat with the cracked and chipped-off faux leather was Brew's spot (our beloved beagle). "Ummmmm, nope. It just looks like that." And, to top it all off, it's the least comfortable couch in the world, or at least in the running to be. 

Ok, so maybe it is Brew's spot sometimes. He's conveniently covering the most offensive part. 
Trust me, it's worse than it looks. 

I've been stalking Kijiji for months looking for a cheap replacement and we've even gone to see two. The first was a poorly constructed used Ikea couch Regan deemed unfit (and that says a lot), and the second was a newer, similar version of what we have but much smaller - too much smaller. Then, as luck would have it (because it definitely wasn't pure skill), Regan won over $600 in a poker tournament! He suggested a GoPro and a hydraulic mountain bike seat, but naturally I persuaded him that a couch was a much better idea. #goteamwife

In an effort to curb our habit of impulse buying, we decided on a list of criteria the new couch would have to meet before we went shopping. 
1) $800 or less
2) Small enough to fit in our current living room 
3) Big enough to work in our future, larger living room
4) Must be comfortable - for Regan
5) Must be nice looking - for me 
6) Must be practical - for Brew and Gozo (le chat) and future kidlets

Our budget limited our shopping to furniture warehouses. In our area that means Leon's and The Brick. I was surprised to find quite a few options given our criteria. The sales people at both stores told us there were amazing, limited time sales going on at the moment, but isn't that always the case at these types of stores? "These prices won't last long! Buy now!" Despite being aware of these sale tactics, we're still suckers for them. I'm working on my poker face ...

I was a big fan of number 1. Regan agreed based on the high comfort factor. We talked ourselves out of it after realizing a pale blue/grey couch was a stain magnet. I still love the look of it, but I worried the colour would be hard to design around and I may end up regretting the purchase. My runner up was number 5, but it scored low on Regan's super subjective comfort test. His top picks were 2 and 6, both of which I could live with but wasn't particularly excited about. 

We were on our way out of the store to mull it over when a keen salesman noticed the sucker signs on our foreheads. Ten minutes later, he had sold us this couch:

Yup... it's cream. Didn't I say something about not wanting a stain magnet? Keen Salesman had an answer for that - fabric guard. I'm actually not sure what it's called but it's basically insurance on the fabric for the next five years. For a small added fee, of course. Still, this couch came in under budget at around $700 all in. I would have preferred something more streamlined, but this is something we could both agree on at a price we can afford. And it sure beats a hydraulic bike seat if you ask me. 

The couch was over-sold (Keen Salesman knows what he's doing), so we won't be bringing it home for about three weeks. In the meantime, I'm coming up with a plan for a DIY ottoman. Stay tuned. 

Laminate Armoire Makeover

Friday, 2 May 2014
Since moving into our starter home five years ago, the husband (Regan) and I have been living with some less than desirable furniture. At 25, we were just happy to have things to sit on and store stuff in. At 30, we began to notice that while our friends were evolving their styles, we were just letting the dust settle on ours. 
Literally. Things were getting dusty up in here. 

But I have declared 2014 to be the year of change. Cheap change. In full disclosure, this motivation mainly stems from the fact that we're trying to sell our little home, and have been for about a year. (Any takers?) 

The first piece of furniture to benefit from the newly-lit fire under my butt is this beaut:
I call her Behemoth. 
Think 'monstrous,' 'beast-like.' 
Not the most becoming name for a lady.

The armoire was generously given to us by my mother-in-law when we first moved in, and though it's not a looker, it is sturdy and provides much needed storage space in our master bedroom that is a little lacking in the closest department. Basically, it was the perfect candidate for a DIY update. 
And really, it couldn't get any worse, right? 

After years of sit-and-stare sessions with Behemoth, I had a pretty solid vision in mind. Crisp white paint, satin nickel hardware and some kind of design in the sunken panels. 

While perusing the Internet one day, I came across this post and inspiration struck. The quatrefoil pattern would be perfect for the armoire! The simple geometric pattern mimicked the shape of the panels and would allow me to introduce a pop of colour into the room without making the armoire look too busy.  And best of all, it was a FREE printable! #boom 

I printed the pattern on card stock I had on hand and used an exacto knife to cut out the stencil. 

But, first thing first, I prepped Behemoth with two coats of Zinsser 1-2-3 Primer which I applied with a brush then smoothed out with a foam roller. Then came two coats of paint - I chose Benjamin Moore's Chantilly Lace that I had colour matched at my local Home Hardware in economical Beauti-Tone paint. And here comes the tedious part – I decided to trace the stencil onto the sunken panels with a pencil then paint in the pattern using a small artist's brush rather than rolling over the stencil with paint in order to get cleaner lines. This took forever! And by forever I mean approximately a week worth of trace and paint sessions while I watched Netflix in the evenings. A week feels like forever when your project is causing disruption in 60 per cent of the house. Like I said, it's a 'cozy' house. 
Excuse the terrible photo, please. This was taken around midnight with a less than stellar point and shoot by a less than stellar photographer (moi). But you get the idea. 
I used leftover paint from my bathroom to fill in the stencil. It's Colonial Aqua by Pittsburgh Paints. This was after one coat. It took two. 

This is more true to colour. 
PS – While painting by pellet stove light may look romantic, it's actually a terrible idea. 
Dust and wet paint are not amigos. 

Meanwhile, Behemoth's hardware was getting a little spa day of its own. 

From brassy to classy with a few quick coats of Krylon Satin Nickel spray paint.  

And, finally, all of this hard work had to be protected. I went with Minwax Polycrylic. Apparently polyurethane yellows over time on white paint, but polycrylic does not. I applied the first coat with a foam brush to avoid brush marks, but I found it created tiny air bubbles in the finish. I lightly sanded down the first coat of finish to fix that, and painted on the second coat with a decent synthetic bristle brush, making sure to work quickly and not go over the same area twice to minimize brush strokes. I had better results using this approach. 

After two torturous days of curing time, Behemoth was ready to reassemble and in need of a new name befitting her new look. 

Let's remember where we started:

Drumroll please …

I am just so stinking happy with the result! I've been eyeballing all the furniture in my house looking for my next victim project. Nothing is safe.... nothing! 

What do you think, is it worth all the time and effort to paint outdated furniture? Have you painted laminate furniture before and, if so, has it held up? Do you sit and stare at your furniture and give it names, or am I alone on that one? 

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