Update on the tragic tale about the Washing Machine(s)

After our long journey through appliance shopping hell, we have finally settled with a brand new, fully functioning washing machine. It is a ge and we did get it from Lowe's. When we returned the "lemon" that Lowe's sold us from the scratch and dent section, they were very apologetic. They happily took the washer back and refunded our money.

They also gave us a great deal on a new washer (see Washer #4 below).

Now Washer #4 has settled in nicely in our laundry room and is washing away as quickly as it can. I do not miss the singing, chiming and beeping of the old fancy washer. This one is very standard, with turn knobs and nothing digital. True, this whole situation could have been avoided if we had just gone to Lowe's and purchased a new washer to begin with but that just isn't our style. We like the adventure and, eventually the humility that comes with owning a house and trying to make it a home.

Moral to this story: Yay, Lowe's!

Now, I have to go. I have LOTS of laundry to catch up on.



Because I saw it on Pinterest....

Ok...I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy Pinterest BUT I am NOT obsessed with it, by any means. I think most of us use it as a mindless escape from whatever it is we are supposed to be doing. I try never to "re-pin" anything that I won't actually use, do, buy, copy or laugh again at. With that said...

So I saw this thing on Pinterest a few months back. It was a wall (in an entryway, I think), that someone decorated with framed fabric remnants. I am a BIG fan of photo walls; in fact, we currently have several photo walls in our home. I liked the idea of the fabric though because it seemed easy, cheap and unique (my three primary requirements for just about everything). Wal-mart I go (side note: I absolutely HATE Wal-mart). I wanted to use this project for the master bedroom because I thought it might add a little color to the wall, without overwhelming the relaxing blue/green/grey theme we already had.

So a few fabric scraps and a 8 cheap-o frames later....

 Fabric scraps from Walmart. 
I spent about $3.00 on these babies.

And there you have it!

Easy, right? Total cost: about $30.00, for eight frames. If we get sick of the fabric, I can always change it out or re-purpose the frames for another use. Not bad for a quick fix, if I say so myself.


An Unfortunate Tale About the Washing Machine(s)...

Once upon a time... a nice young couple purchased a brand new washing machine for their "new" home. It was an overly fancy but reasonably priced "high efficiency" model with lots of buttons and a song and dance to indicate a finished wash cycle. We shall call this washing machine Washing Machine #1.

Eighteen Months after the purchase of said washing machine, the machine began offering an error message. It was fancy enough to communicate that it was broken, but not fancy enough to actually repair itself. To make matters worse, the machine was exactly six months out of warranty. The sweet young couple talked to it, encouraged it and tried to be patient with it. Unfortunately, however, the washing machine eventually bit the big one and, if there is any justice in this world, will burn forever in appliance hell. Sorry...the wound is still a little fresh.

    <This washer is currently sitting on my front porch (I know...super classy). I invite anyone who's interested in a "fixer upper" to come and steal it. You'd be doing us a favor. is where the story really begins. The nice young couple (you probably know them), began talking about buying a new washing machine. As the laundry began to pile up, the need for a washer grew greater and greater. Chris (1/2 of the nice young couple), decided it would be a good idea to try a local used appliance dealer, as recommended by a close friend. Amy (me, obviously), did not think this was a good let it be documented in cyber space history forever.

Chris brought home what seemed to be a great deal.  A $200 "gently" used washer was hauled home, brought into the house, and plugged up. We shall call the great deal Washing Machine #2. .Chris began running a small load of "test" clothes and soon discovered that the great deal was actually a lemon. The "gently used" washer, in fact, had a crack and did not quite all.

Not that I would ever say"I told you so," but this was quite ironic.

So, after a long household debate about whether or not to return the washer for a refund, or try to get another "good deal," in exchange...the refund team won.

The nice young couple then decided to head to good ole' American Lowe's...where prices are guaranteed and products are too.

Or so we thought...

We, being the thrifty folks we are, decided to buy a washer from the Lowe's "Scratch and Dent" section. We found an awesome deal on a brand new washing machine and were happy to haul it home after all of 15 minutes of shopping. We drove home, completely satisfied with our thriftiness and eager to make a dent in the accumulation of dirty laundry as soon as possible. We'll call this purchase Washing Machine #3 (that's right....#3).

We carried the new (Lowe's) washing machine into the house, placed it in the same space the first and second washer had been, and eagerly plugged it in. Much to our chagrin, nothing happened. We stared at the washing machine like it was about to say something. We could not believe our luck with something that should be so simple.

So back to the truck we go; we loaded the washer back onto the truck and headed back toward Lowe's.

Our neighbor, Chris and Marcie loading the Lowe's washing machine BACK onto the truck,
after its initial failure to launch.
We raced to get to the other side of town before the store closed. It was 9:30PM and we knew that at 10:00PM, our scratch and dent specialists would be turning out the lights and closing the doors. About half way to the store, I had a thought; I asked Chris if he had actually turned on the water before trying the washing machine. He paused. You see....we have made this mistake before, but with a dishwasher (we'll save that story for a later post). After a five minute discussion, we decided to turn around and head back home to try the same (Lowe's) washer again. We convinced ourselves that the washer must have some sort of sensor that prevents it from actually turning on, until the valve for the water is actually turned on and allowing water to the machine. We figured, obviously, this is mechanism which is designed to prevent the washing machine from burning up from being run without water (I reiterate...we have seen this show before, only with a dishwasher).

So we race back home, Lowe's washing machine still in tow. Chris and I unload the washing machine, carry it back inside, plug it back in and this time, turn on the water connected to the machine. No dice. We still have a non-functioning washing machine.

Needless to say, this story is not yet over. Chris will be returning the Lowe's washing machine today. I wanted to go ahead and post this story, though because I can already tell you how it will end. We will end up buying a full-price washing machine from a trustworthy store. We may try Lowe's again; it will all depend on how they handle the fact that they sold us a lemon to begin with. We will lovingly call the new washing machine Washing Machine #4, even though there should never be a washing machine #4, especially for a nice young couple that has lived in their house only two years.

Moral to the story, homeowners: Don't cheap out on things that matter. If its an appliance and you need it (like a washing machine), do your research, find something with a good warranty and buy a good machine.

Our first washing machine was, we thought, a great washing machine. It was a Maytag. It is the second Maytag product we've had a problem with (the first was the infamous dishwasher). I am not endorsing any specific brand, but we do seem to have rotten luck with Maytag and will not be purchasing another Maytag as long as we can avoid it.

Yet another lesson learned at the "mansion". Let's just hope we can wash clothes again before the week's out. I am not a washboard in the river kind of girl....


A place to hide stuff...

Every home has a junk room/drawer/closet/box...don't even try to tell me you don't have one. If you live in an old home, you know how strange some of the closet situations can be. Many people (back in the "day) had free-standing wardrobes, instead of closets. Well...let me tell you...this girl needs some closet space.

When we purchased our home, the guest bathroom had two "nooks" for storage. Both included built-in wood shelving and were exposed, with no door. We actually really liked the open storage and I had planned to make the bathroom a regular little pottery-barn style spa, complete with stacks of fresh, white hotel towels, bath salts and other luxurious bath-time items.

Then life happened. We realized we have lots of crap. Too much crap, in fact, to haul up to the attic; too much to hide under the bed; too much to find any true solution other than to make a closet.

So, my luxurious organizational dreams were crushed and replaced with two matching doors on the largest of the bathroom "nooks". Now, here is a photo of what it looked like before we added the doors...and here is what it looks like now. I am NOT going to post a photo of these doors open for fear that an avalanche will overpower me from the stacks of "crap" being stored. One of these days, I will organize this closet but until now, it is reserved as the junk closet; everyone has one, after all.

<Here is a photo of the "closet" before we added doors. You cannot see the shelving from this angle but, there are wood shelves mounted to the wall on both ends of the space. As you can see, this does not utilize the space to its full potential.

*Side note: We have also replaced the floor tile since purchasing our home. The tile we now have is much larger and is a lighter color. See more recent photo below. order to hide all the "stuff" the two of us had accumulated, we decided to add the doors and make an actual closet. My goal is to one day make this a wonderfully organized linen closet. For now though, it is a hiding place for all sorts of randomness.
In order to make the doors just the right size, and make them functional, we decided to go with a double-door set up. Chris found a deal on an accordion door, which is supposed to open on tracks. Instead of using the accordion feature, we decided to just put hinges on the outside of the frame and make two doors that open to the outside of the room. Chris added knobs and inexpensive and relatively easy fix for our storage conundrum. These could easily be removed at a later date, if we decide to revert back to the original set up or do something else with the space.
*Fair Warning: If you ever visit our home and decide to try to open this door, you will risk the possibility of being crushed by multiple falling objects. Open at your own risk.

We used the second "nook" in the bathroom as shelving for other stuff, including bath items for guests, towels, etc. It is not quite the Pottery Barn style luxury I had envisioned, but it is functional and doesn't look half bad. I am still trying to think of cute/creative ways to use this space so let me know if you have any ideas. This story is to be continued...

The Yellow that Kept Me up at Night...

Before we purchased the mansion, it had previously been under contract with another buyer. The person who intended to purchase it had painted each room prior to our seeing the house. He painted all four main rooms (+ the mega-foyer), as well as both bathrooms.  We actually really liked the bold colors he had chosen from the very beginning.

As we began to live in the house though, something just was not right. The foyer, living room, dining room and guest bath were all painted a sunshine yellow. Now, if you know paint colors (not claiming that I do), you know yellow to have multiple personalities. The same shade of yellow will look different in each room, depending on the number of windows, etc. in that room. I should take an opportunity here to disclose the fact that I, Amy Abel-Kiker, am a lover of bold colors in the home. I am immediately attracted to anything that is non-traditional and "happy". As a result, our house is a quilt of bright florals, abstract cow paintings (yes...cows. We'll get to that later), and mixed up prints. There...glad I got that out in the open.

Back to the yellow...
The yellow in the foyer, bathroom and dining room were fine. I was and currently am satisfied with the state of the yellow. It is happy, welcoming, attractive and versatile. In the living room, however, it gave me nightmares. Perhaps it is because I chose a red and brown theme to go with it, which I was not willing to negotiate on. More importantly though, the yellow was not conducive to relaxation. The living room is where I like to relax. It is where I like to clip my coupons on Sunday mornings, watch the news and drink my coffee. SO the yellow had to either go or we had to tone it down with something else.

I knew that "something else" would have to be brown. Not sure just had to be. SO, I thought about painting the ceiling brown. After toiling with paint swatches for a month or two, I realized that painting the ceiling would not only be risky, but it would also be physically difficult. I was pretty sure that if I asked Chris to paint the ceiling with me, we would probably want to kill each other by the end of it.

So...enter "Behr: Mocha Latte," stage left.

I tell you all of this to tell you something more important: painting is hard. Painting with a dark color is harder. Painting with a dark color in a crazy sunshine yellow room, decorated in horses, cows and books though, will save the day. So many people tried to tell me that painting the room dark brown would make it look smaller, too dark, etc. etc.. I didn't listen (surprise, surprise) and I am so glad that I didn't. The high ceilings and extra tall windows in the room + the fire place and other nooks really made the brown "work".

Here are the before and after photos. I can now sleep soundly knowing that the yellow has been laid to rest behind a subtle, cozy color that has TOTALLY changed the feel of the room.  Disclaimer: I take pictures with my phone. They are sub-par. Use your imagination to determine what these photos would look like, if I took them with a real camera.  :-)

Forgive the photo: it seems to be the only one I can find of the room when it was yellow. We have re-arranged almost everything since this photo was taken, but you get the idea. This is from April 2011. We also only kept the red blanket on the sofa for Thomas to snuggle up in. The pig, as you will learn, basically runs the mansion.

<And here is a photo of our fun little built-in living room nook, during what we call the "yellow period".

<Same living room nook, but post-"Mocha Latte". See...don't you feel more relaxed already?

We also changed the color surrounding the fire place from a burgundy color (same color on all 4 fire places in the house), to a darker brown.

Moral to the story: Don't be afraid of paint. We painted this room ourselves, and took a risk with the dark color. Paint is not permanent (even though it is a pain to deal with).


A Shower of Problems...

One of the primary selling points of our little house was the huge custom tile shower. Now, please don't misunderstand, the shower itself was wonderful. What was not wonderful, however, was some of the small mistakes that were made during its installation that later lead to BIG PROBLEMS. Any homeowner knows that whether you own a new home or a really old one, you are going to have issues. Even if Frank Lloyd Wright designed it himself, something will go wrong. While the shower was beautiful and functional upon our moving into the house, there was a small leak underneath the tile that lead to months of excavation and eventually, a full-on shower rebuild. I am by no means calling out the builders of our home...this kind of problem could happen to anyone and it is not necessarily their fault. The reason we are including this story in our posts is that through our tile shower journey, we learned a great deal about tile and how it should be installed. We also learned quite a bit about the different options available for custom showers. Home improvement nerds, get ready to enjoy:

This is what our beautiful tile shower looked like when we bought the house. It's pretty great, right?

Well...this is what it looked like after we realized that a tiny leak was leading to major saturation. Tile lovers beware...this can happen to anyone. Make sure if you tile anything that will get wet (i.e. a shower), it is sealed like a submarine. My Dad, who is a professional contractor, has always said that "water is an immediate enemy to any structure". Well, Dad was right.
A tiny bit of water leaked into the floor of the shower, underneath the tile and here is what happened underneath, despite my obsessive cleaning habits.

I will spare you any further details about the nastiness found underneath our tile. The takeaway from this post is....if you suspect a leak in a tile shower, take care of it ASAP. Just the tiniest bit of water leaking underneath your tile will lead to major issues and, as you can see, gross mold and fungus-y types of things. No matter how much you think you're cleaning your tile shower, it will never be clean underneath the tile is water is trapped. Had we not fixed this when we did, the water would have destroyed the pine floor in our bathroom. Whew...that was a close one!

We took the the lemon that life gave us with the shower leak and made some brand new, custom shower lemonade. We chose new tile and re-designed the shower to include a ledge (for easier leg shaving) and a recessed soap shelf.  We did not actually install the tile ourselves. After our experience with the leak, we decided this was better left to a pro.

Here are some photos of the finished product. It does look similar to the original, but there are a few major differences. 

<------Interior of tile shower.

So, the moral to the story is this: Problems arise with any house and not EVERYTHING can or should be DIY'd. We learned so much about tile, water damage and plumbing in general through this experience. 

The Birth and Life of the "nook"

For those who live in small homes, you know how valuable additional storage can be. For those who live in historic homes, you know even more! Historic homes often have strange layouts; nooks and crannies that seem to make no sense. Truthfully, each nook and cranny had a purpose at one time. Most historic homes are really quilted together with decades of additions, subtractions, mistakes and successes. 

Our historic home has a huge foyer. The foyer is large enough that it could be a room all on its own. Rather than waste this space as simply a pretty entryway, I decided that we needed something attractive and functional to help utilize the space. comes what we lovingly refer to as "the nook".  The nook idea sprang from an article I found in Better Homes and Gardens (cliche', I know).  Here is the page I tore out of the January 2012 issue:

And here is our version:

The nook is probably one of my favorite interior features of our house. Chris cut all the wood and painted it outside, assembled it and then brought it in. Theoretically, the nook is 'built in' to the wall but it can be removed.  We then painted the wall behind the nook, (Behr: "Mocha Latte") to match the color of our living room. The hooks are just plain 'ole hooks from Hobby Lobby. The trim came from Lowes.

The bench is a refinished, sealed piece of wood we found at an antique mall. It was not intended to necessarily be used for a bench. It was just unfinished wood with some bark still left on it. The bench is one of my favorite things about the nook. It is both beautiful and functional. I find myself perching on the bench often to put on my shoes in the morning.

Here is the finished (and functional) nook. You will often find our pets modeling for you in our posts.

The nook has become home to our boots, hats, books and umbrellas. It is sort of a catch-all for busy lives. Everyone needs a space like this in their home.

The nook really is like a little
mini mud room
...but prettier.----->

All in all, the nook was a pretty budget-friendly project. The wood for the bench was a lucky antique store find, refinished to look pretty. The wood for the rest of the project was a little costly, but certainly not as costly as it would have been to purchase something like this.  The most expensive part of the project was the edging for the shelves and the decorative additions to the sides of the book. This is certainly not something that we had to add to it, but it did make all the difference in the way it looked in the end. This is a project, like all of our projects, that we didn't actually have instructions or a plan for from the beginning. This is something we found a concept for, adjusted, and built after drawing it out.


Backyard Farmin'

Besides the fact that we live with a pig (Thomas, not Chris...hardy, har, har), nothing about our yard lends itself to gardening....

or does it?

Once we got the building and the pig pen straightened out (and cleaned the debris out of the yard), we were able to add beautiful raised beds. One bed is made of cedar and the other is stacked stone. Now, I do not grow things. I have a cactus that is still alive after two months and we are quite happy together. Chris is the gardener. He has planted herbs, tomatoes, strawberries and all kinds of other delicious things.

The Cedar Bed: home to strawberries and other yummy things.


The Compost Bin, made of recycled pallets. This bin is home to anything organic that Thomas won't eat.

The Back Yard

Wow...the back yard. Where to begin....

When we moved into our new house, our backyard was our "special project".  It took us about a year to really get it where we want it to be. Before our house was restored, it had been unoccupied for many years. Prior to restoration, the house was, quite frankly, in shambles. It had been boarded up and left to rot away.

So...when we cleaned out our backyard we found all kinds of artifacts from the previous owners. Don't get excited; there was no gold, pottery ruins or arrowheads, but rather, truck loads of garbage, debris, glass, etc. Here are a few photos of the progress we made in the back yard, as well as a photo of what our house looked like prior to being re-habbed. You'll find pre-renovation photos of our house throughout this blog because we want the world to see that restoration is real. If you can restore this.... you can restore just about anything.

Here are two photos of the back of the mansion, before it was restored. I can barely even tell what's what in these photos:

And here is what it looked like when we bought it:

We started with the back yard by building Thomas a pen under the porch. Look for a later post about Thomas and his pen. It deserves a post all its own. The next step was building the "man cave," raised beds and the compost bin.

Now for the Man Cave 
(aka Step #2 in making the backyard perfect)

<Behold: The "Man Cave," in all it's framed splendor.  It is really just a storage shed. I will not spend alot of time on the man cave because we did not actually build it (see man cave disclaimer below). Chris did design it though, and he purchased the materials. We had a friend who is a carpenter actually build it. Let us know if you need someone to do something similar; he has mad skills.   

< Finished Product of the Man Cave. Chris has filled the man cave with lots of man things, including this refinished farm table.
 This has become his work table, one of our better Craigs List finds if I do say so myself.

Add a little sod, pine straw and flowers:

<and there you have it; a backyard, complete with man cave and landscaping. 
Good job, Chris! (I supervised, of course) 

The Front Yard

Upon arrival to our new house, we noticed that there was plenty to be done in the front yard. The rehab team had done a wonderful job grading and planting, but had left us with a pretty blank canvas for our own design and tastes.  Chris, being the talented landscaper he is, added more azaleas and planted more grass.  He has also planted a variety of flowers in the front yard, making it a perfect picture in the spring time.

< Here is a photo of our adorable house, before it was so adorable. This is what it looked like before it was restored. We've often wished our walls could talk but sometimes I am so glad they can't. Talk about a "fixer upper".

Here is a photo of the yard, after it was rehabbed. This is before we really added anything.

And here is a post-landscaping shot. We have two small blooming cherry trees in the yard, so in the spring time, we have gorgeous cherry blossom. In the winter, we usually have pansies...although Thomas (the pig) tends to want to eat them.  We also added a porch swing and rocking chairs to the front porch, making it a perfect place to sit on a summer evening.

Our Journey: House to Home

We purchased the "mansion" from Historic Macon Foundation in 2010. If you are not familiar with HMF, visit . Prepare to be amazed. This organization has truly made a lasting impact in the city of Macon. We are so proud to be part of the HMF initiative. Just five years ago, many of the neighborhoods surrounding the area were falling apart; it is now one of the most desirable places for people to live, thanks to innovative preservation and promotion.

<---This plaque hangs next to our front door.

This was a momentous occasion: installing our house numbers! 
That's me...with a drill in my hand. 

Our Minimal Mansion

Almost two years ago, my husband and I bought our very first house. The house is a small historic home (originally built in 1865), that was rehabbed before we bought. We jokingly call the 1300 square foot cottage our little "mansion" because it truly is the little house of our dreams. It may not be a mansion to most, but we cannot imagine starting life anywhere else.

If you have ever lived in an old home, you know how much "character" they can have. We are constantly learning something about our house. Our floors consist of old heart pine that are stained, cracked and imperfect. We LOVE them. There are holes in our floor (we call them charming), large enough that we have patched them with wine corks. We have high high ceilings, old crown molding and four fire places (none of which are functional). The house is truly special and it is our pride and joy.

Now, as a newly married couple, living in our first home together, we have learned a great deal about home improvements. I am fortunate to have married a man who is truly in love with handy work. He has not only single handedly landscaped both the front and back yard, but he has also completed a number of indoor projects that would make any pinterest fan drool. We have created quite the system for improving our living space; I find the idea and he builds it (with my supervision, of course).

SO...I have created this blog to rival that of the Young House Love people because I think that we are truly mastering the art of living life to the fullest in a small home. We are both passionate about historic homes and rehabilitation. We are also both passionate about utilizing space in the best way possible.

Stay tuned for photos, funnies and fantastic projects. We are continually learning and coming up with new ways to maximize our little mansion.

Here we are, in front of the mansion. That's Thomas, in case you were wondering. 
Marcie (the Shih tzu) missed this photo-op. Don't worry...she will make it into others.