Updating a Bathroom on a Budget

We bought our house in June of 2016, and I had been dreaming for years already of getting to renovate my own house. I grew up in a household that was always renovating, landscaping, and dreaming up DIY projects, so it's actually become a source of creativity and a stress reliever for me. 

There's just something about buying a $50 can of paint and seeing the impact it can have on your house that really gets to me - I know I'm weird.

Anyways, the first easy little project I got my hands on only a month or two after moving in was the upstairs bathroom. We use it as our main bathroom and I wanted to put a fresh coat of paint on it, since the previous users had rented the house for a couple of years and it needed to be freshened up. 

When I first started deciding on paint for our house, I had somewhat of a plan in mind, but really I was just winging it. It's funny to look at where I am two years later, and how my paint palette for the house actually flows so well now - lucky  mistake! 

I chose a bright white for the upstairs bathroom, and we also happened to land ourselves a cheap piece of granite and backsplash, so I decided to try painting the cabinets as well while I was at it. This was my first go around painting cabinets, and I wanted to test out the colour and techniques I had planned for our kitchen before taking on a project that big. 

Painting the bathroom cabinets was a breeze, and now over a year and a half later, the only scuff marks are on the upper cabinet next to the window where the wall scrapes the side of the door - this paint job held up really well.

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It's a pretty plain bathroom I guess, but I like that it's easy to clean, and I prefer bathrooms to be clutter-free - you should step out of the shower feeling refreshed, not crowded and overwhelmed by toiletries. 
Another piece of art might help, but so far I'm happy with my tiny little watercolour succulents that I painted on a whim. That's the cool thing about art these days - you don't even have to be that good at painting to make free art for your home!
Also, side note, do NOT EVER get plain white tile for your flooring if you have a human or pet with dark hair in your home. It drives me insane, and to top it off the only long bathmat I could find was white, so I'm always throwing it in the wash with bleach to keep it from looking absolutely disgusting. 

In the end, this was a fast, cheap, easy way to make the bathroom feel new again. Over the past two years of owning our own home I've discovered a few things about renovations and design:
1. It doesn't have to be top-of-the-line all the time
2. It needs to be functional for your family - not the internet critics
3. Paint goes a long, long way (I think I already knew that one)
4. Your house is just fine the way it is. You're not living in a cardboard box, and that's pretty cool, so be thankful that you have this wooden box to call your home. If you want to change something, do it within a budget that works for you, but don't let the thought of updating your home stress you out. 
5. Decluttering feels like a renovation too, and it costs you nothing.

After it was all said and done, this is what I spent:
1 Can of White Zinsser Primer: $50
1 Can of White Eggshell Paint: $40
1 Can of Grey Semi-Gloss Paint: $40
New Mirror: $60 (Home Sense)
Shower Curtain/Rod: $60
Art: Free
Granite/Backsplash/Sink: Hugely reduced cost - I'd recommend just doing one big piece of tile if you want to update your countertop for cheap, or even trying one of those laminate painting kits (I've never tried one, but they can't be that bad).

If you have any questions, comments, or your own renovations to share, feel free! 
 

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The Do’s & Dont’s of Painting the Kitchen Cabinets

*This post was originally written in 2017 on my old blog*
I honestly think I’ve been putting off writing about the Kitchen Reno solely because I have no desire to look back on all of my photos of painting the kitchen cabinets. Before I started the project, I googled a lot of similar blog posts and talked to my mom about the techniques she used when she painted her cabinets years ago. She warned me that it was an awful job, and to only do it when I was fully prepared. It’s really one of those weird jobs where it’s not necessarily hard to do, it’s extremely hard to stay motivated and finish all of the coats/ commit to drying times. It ended up taking me almost two months to completely finish the job (and if we’re being honest here, I’m not actually done yet – I still have touch-ups and some small areas that I missed to paint). So what I’m trying to say is, don’t be afraid to do this job! But do know that it’s highly likely you may lose motivation part way through, or if you’re really good at powering through these kinds of things, then know that it will take you a full week and a LOT of painting space to do all of your cabinets.

When we were deciding on the ‘design’ aspect of our reno, I knew there were a few things that were high on the list of what our kitchen was lacking:

  1. It was too dark. You can’t really tell in the photo below, but I really had to bump up my flash settings to get this photo to appear bright. That fan didn’t give off enough light, and the kitchen window faces the North, as well as our covered front porch, so there wasn’t a whole lot of natural light streaming in either.
  2. The grey/beige walls weren’t helping reflect light into the room, and made it feel a bit dingy and dirty.
  3. The whole kitchen felt stunted, for lack of a better word. It felt closed in, and not as welcoming as I like a kitchen to feel.
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So I wanted something bright and clean that made our kitchen feel bigger, but still welcoming and cozy: two-toned cabinets. A little bit risky, since this is probably a bit of a fad and might go out of style quicker than painting your cabinets all the same colour, but it fit the bill for what I was trying to accomplish in our kitchen.

We went with a darker grey on the bottom cabinets to keep that cozy, welcoming feeling. They also get the most wear and tear in our house, so the darker paint tends to hide more dirt. For example, our friend (he felt awful) accidentally spilled two glasses of red wine all over the kitchen the other weekend, but it only hit the grey cabinets and wiped off super easy. I’m talking tidal wives of red wine. Everywhere. It would probably come off of white cabinets too, but it would definitely take some more elbow grease.

Moving on. I chose a cool white for the top cabinets to create the illusion of height and openness. Putting a lighter colour on top makes the room appear taller and less “stunted”, and reflects more natural light back into the room. I hesitated for a couple minutes before I went to buy the paint, and considered just doing it all grey, but I knew I wanted that big, open feeling – so glad I went with my gut!

I think it’s really important to sit down and think about what  you really want from a space, and what aspects of it aren’t making you happy before you start a renovation. I believe renovations should be about adding functionality and beauty to your space – don’t get focused on big ticket items and wowing “the internet” or your friends. It has to be suitable to you and your family, and make sense in your house. There are two areas that I always feel like need to be clean and bright – the kitchen and the bathroom. It makes the spaces feel welcoming to me, and puts me at ease.

Ok! On to the actual painting of the cabinets. Could you tell I was procrastinating again?

Here is what I did to paint my cabinets in short step-by-step form:
1. Remove all of the existing hardware

2. Fill the hardware holes with Wood Filler, let dry, and sand/wipe to create smooth surface

3. Remove the doors from the hinges and place all screws in a ziploc bag

4. Set up your painting space – a flat surface on sawhorses, garage floor, outside – wherever you’re going to do it, make sure you have enough room to do a significant amount of doors at a time

5. Wipe down doors with hot water mixed with TSP (found at local hardware store)

6. Prime! Yup, I skipped sanding completely. Tsk, tsk. 

If you can, just leave your drawers in place and prime/paint them where they are. This is so much easier than lugging those drawers around and standing them up to paint. I recommend making sure your kitchen floor is relatively clean and vacuumed before painting each coat though – little hairs and fibres can easily pop up from the floor and stick to your paint before it dries.

7. Paint. 

By now, I was completely painting by hand with only a brush. I believe this isn’t recommended, and everyone warned against it since you can usually see the brush strokes after, but I’m stubborn so I painted the entire door with a brush, and didn’t use a roller for these. I did all the creases first, then the sides, and then the middle. Super fast. One thing you should know about me is that I will cut corners wherever possible as long as it doesn’t affect the overall integrity of the project. I know that I’m super fast with a brush, and that I was procrastinating way too hard on this painting project, so I just went for it. I suppose if you want to do it the right way, make sure you sand after wiping down your cabinets, and then spray them or roll them. But who wants to do the right thing all the time?

I made sure I stacked my doors carefully, or left them on the sawhorses drying, for at least 3-4 days before moving them. This really extended the time of the project, but I wanted to be sure that the paint cured before hanging them to avoid any chance of peeling the paint. As for the cabinets, I waited about a week after painting them before I hung any doors on them. Our cabinets are not real wood, and the crown moulding on the tops are actually plastic, so I wanted to be absolutely sure that the paint was on thick and fully dried before re-attaching the wooden cabinet doors.

The last step was adding the new hardware! We bought our handles from IKEA, and it cost us about $150 total to buy all new handles. Hardware is expensive, but it makes such a big difference. A more budget-friendly option would have been spray-painting our existing knobs and handles – don’t be afraid to think outside the box and do what works for your budget and household. 

And here are the end results:

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As always, if you have any questions or you’ve done your own renovations, feel free to share! 

Products Used:
Primer: Zinsser Bulls Eye Primer for All Surfaces (walls and cabinets).
Paint: Standard Latex Paint Semi-Gloss
Cleaner: TSP for prepping surfaces

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Minimalist Maternity Session: Keeping it Simple

I was overjoyed when this lovely lady approached me about photographing her maternity photos - I don't often do maternity sessions, but every once in awhile I'll take on one of these projects, especially when I know someone is on the same page as me.
We both agreed - simple, beautiful portraits that showcased her cute bump at this important stage before baby.

A maternity session can be whatever you want it to be. 

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Shop Renos: 7 Months Later & Going Strong

I often spend so much time waiting for something to be perfect, that I never spend time appreciating the progress or the current state. For example, my new office.

Already over seven months have gone by since we first jumped into this new project, and not once have I stopped to look back on what we’ve accomplished.

New to my business? Then you’re probably wondering who’s we? And where is your “new” office? And why should I care about it?

So here’s the story in a nutshell, with some iPhone photos to illustrate along the way because it’s actually incredibly hard to always document my life and work, despite the fact that I’m a photographer.

 

There are actually three stories here that I could tell, or rather, perspectives, but I’m only going to tell you my perspective, and I’ll leave the other two alone.

This past April (2017), I decided to open up a small office in Rock Steady, a local clothing store that’s been operating in Dawson Creek for over nine years. Why the heck would I put my office in a clothing store? Community.

The owner of Rock Steady happens to be my boyfriend’s sister, and the three of us together came up with a plan that would allow all three of our businesses to operate under one roof - Rock Steady, District Co., and Loch Evergreen. We threw this plan into action with barely a second thought, and started the process of moving into Rock Steady. For my business, this meant building a large, moveable wall divider that acted as my office during the day, and opened up to create a barrier blocking off the clothing store by night for large photo shoots or events.

This was much easier on paper than in real life.

So began the renovation and building process to end up with the photo below.

 -a lovely iPhone photo of the current state of my office

-a lovely iPhone photo of the current state of my office

The first thing we did was cover the old linoleum with some fresh new vinyl planks. I knew if I was going to be shooting in the space I wanted a flooring I could work easily with. The stars aligned or something, because we ended up hitting a random sale day when we went to pick up our flooring, and got it for 50% off. We floated the flooring right into the bathrooms as well. Side note: all of Dawson Creek’s downtown businesses seem to be blessed with the most disgusting washrooms ever, or is just me that thinks that? So that was also a priority - making the bathroom feel bright and fresh so that my clients would feel comfortable. If you’re wondering how we did all of this while keeping Rock Steady open, and me still working full time, I’d have to say we couldn’t have done it without the full commitment of his time and energy that my boyfriend gave (and some visits from our nephews).

After flooring and updating the bathrooms, paint came next. We discovered some lovely wallpaper underneath the slatwall on one side of the room, and thankfully it just fell off with a bit of water. We chose white for the front portion of the store where my office would go for two reasons: to provide simple backgrounds for me to shoot against when I needed to, and to help the shop feel more bright and airy. We also planned to hang a lot of local art on these walls, and it’s my personal opinion that art looks best on a background that doesn’t overtake it. I always find it very odd when art galleries or photo studios choose super saturated colours for their walls. Always consider the light that you’re reflecting back on your subjects. 

Moving on - thus began the process of figuring out how to build a 27 foot stable wall on wheels.

There are some things in life that require a great amount of creativity and innovation, and this project was one of them. Say what you will, but I strongly believe that ‘expertise’ sometimes stands in our way. What do I mean by this?

I don’t believe that a Journeyman Carpenter, or a structural engineer per se, would have believed this wall could be built. I don’t think I ever truly believed it would stand until I saw it with my own eyes.

My boyfriend, Kurtis, spent hours and hours, staying up late many nights thinking outside the box, coming up with a plan for how this wall could be put together. Friends and family continuously stopped by and questioned him while he was building it, not believing he had thought it all out. It honestly started to feel a bit like he was building Noah’s Ark, I kid you not.

Finally, the day arrived when we could stand it up, and see how it worked. We asked over 10 of our friends to come down to the shop and help us lift it. 

And it was done.

Nights of planning, and weeks of building, and hoping it would work, and there it stood. It sounds so dramatic, and if you don’t understand how walls are built, probably pretty mundane, but this was a pretty awesome moment. For months after, we hated talking about ‘the wall’, and that it felt like such a simple thing that we had turned into something bigger. But I realize now that wall was pretty symbolic to the start of our new journey, and seeing it stand and knowing that it only worked because of Kurtis’s ability to see past what everyone else does, and come up with a new way for things to work, was a thread of belief that I needed to have the courage to face our new life plan.

 

Once the wall was taken care of, we set to work ripping out the outdated window display, and changing it into a seating area for my office, as well as for the future events Kurtis would hold under his District Co. business (a business that supports local artists through music and art).

One of the best days was when we received our new vinyl stickers for the front windows, and everything started to come together. I had my first meeting in my office, with my iMac propped up on a tiny little side table, using a stepladder for a chair. Then we hosted our first District Co. event, with Shake Appeal being the first band to play in our new space.

It has definitely not been an easy seven months, and entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Even with five years of my business under my belt, this year has still taught me so much more, and I can guarantee next year will be just as big of a learning curve. 

We didn’t have access to a huge amount of funds, and we didn’t have anyone backing us up. We just had a dream that turned into a plan, and now we’re learning how to implement it. Business is ever-evolving, always changing, and you have to be willing to change with it. It’s been fun to see so many new clients walking though my door because of this change, and even better to see more and more people discovering District Co. and Rock Steady. 

Thanks to my sister-in-law for providing the space, and my boyfriend for putting it together, I’ve now taken a few more steps closer to my long term goals, and accomplished short term goals I thought I wouldn’t complete for many more years. This process has taught me many things, but one thing stands out in my mind: we are the only thing standing in our way, and we accept the life we believe we deserve. In 2018 I plan to believe in a better life.

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Jamie & Michael: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue

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Jamie & Michael

These two and their laid back wedding are proof that wedding planning doesn't have to take over your lives leading up to the big day. Michael & Jamie got engaged just a short six months before their chosen wedding date, and managed to pull together all of the details without a hitch. It was simple and clean with a vintage flair, and just a touch of whimsy. I love that all of the little details reflected them as a couple, and all of the decor was simple with a slight ethereal feeling - nothing overwhelming. Clean. Classic.

And those shoes! If you've been following along this summer on my Facebook page, you'll know that I've been obsessed with all of my brides shoes lately, and it's not hard to see why. Blue suede Steve Madden's? Yes, please.

To top it all off, the bride and groom have the most adorable bulldogs, and what photographer doesn't love photographing a squishy face?

Jamie & Michael included a little memory box in their ceremony to be opened in the later years. It's so interesting to see what each couple chooses as a personal touch to add to their ceremony - I've seen Celtic hand-fasting, memory boxes, pouring sand together, and lighting unity candles just to name a few. It totally doesn't matter what you choose to do, or if you choose not to do any of those rituals; your ceremony should reflect you as a couple, and it's becoming more and more common to snuff traditions and go with new, modern rituals that resonate you as a couple and are less about following the norm.

I seriously can't say enough good things about my friend's company, Rustic Rebellion Events & Rentals - she has so many cool props to rent for weddings. Jamie chose a white antique sofa and chair set to rent for her family photos, and we ended up using them for most of the formal shots. If you really aren't sure what you want for your formals, or if you'd like to jazz it up a little bit, even one sofa or chair will do the trick. I just had a couple in my office the other day wondering what kind of props or extras they should be thinking about for their photos: the reality is, I've done entire wedding shoots in a ditch before. Yup. With no props and a whole lot of champagne. Wedding photos can be whatever you want them to be, and I can work with whatever is given to me. Props are just another way to show your personal taste, and let me tell you, grandma and grandpa never complain when they have their very own antique chair to sit on during family photos :)

The moral of the story: if you want props, rent from Rustic  Rebellion Events & Rentals. If you aren't sure, don't sweat it. It's all going to turn out exactly as it should.

Only the cutest cake toppers ever! How hilarious that they were able to find two little bride and groom bulldogs to match their little fur babies.
A little nugget of photographer wisdom: It's so important as a client searching for a wedding photographer to make sure you know your photographer can shoot all lighting situations with confidence. Often you'll see photographers list "natural light photographer" on their descriptions, which can sometimes be a red flag. Although I prefer natural light shooting over shooting with flashes, you should always be prepared to use artificial light. I have a good story that is the perfect example! But that's for another blog post :)

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