What needs to be done to finish the mudroom and garage

As I mentioned in last week’s post, our missing door arrived for the mudroom, our contractor finished the trim and a bunch of other little tasks, we passed our final inspection and our contractors have left the building. Now, the garage and mudroom are my project. Which feels fun.


I always intended to be the one to finish off the mudroom, so I’m excited to get out my paint roller and complete this space. Here’s what’s on my list.

Sand ceiling. The cedar planked ceiling is going to be staying natural. I love the tone. The lumber mill said that as long as the boards don’t receive direct sunlight, they should hold their colour and not turn grey. But some of the boards were marked for their length with chalk. So I had to sand 7s off a couple of boards.

Finish stairs. The risers and nosing on the stairs are wood. It’s a beautiful maple, and it needs to be protected from dirt and footprints. I’d like them to have a similar tone to the cedar ceiling–I’d rather not introduce another colour to the mudroom. Though I am also going to test a grey that will blend with the floor tiles. I feel like the wood is so beautiful that it can be a bit of a feature.

Patch & caulk walls. The V-groove planks were not a true tongue and groove, so our contractors had to face nail the planks in a few (a lot of) places. I’m about halfway through patching all of the holes. I also have to caulk all of the corners and a few joints in the trim.

Paint. There is always so much prep to get to this point. The walls, trim and hookboards are all going to be painted the same colour as the rest of our main floor, Abalone from Benjamin Moore at 75%.

Paint the door. I’m going to make the door a pop of colour both in and out. I’ve chosen a grey-turquoise, and I’m excited to see how it looks.

What’s not happening yet. I am not planning on putting any built-in storage in the mudroom yet. I have an idea of what I want, but we’re going to live with the space for a little while and see what works best for us. I’ll be moving in some dressers, hooks, a bench, mirror and some art to decorate the space a bit and make it functional for now.


For the garage, there are a couple of things that I didn’t think about at the start of the project (like how much dirt would be dug up from the addition that then needed to be levelled and seeded). These are more the niggly little details that are a little less fun.

Spread top soil & seed. Ellie and I have spread a lot of grass seed already this year. However, we didn’t go right up to the edge of the garage, as work was still in progress. Now that the scaffolding and ladders have gone away, we have to finish it off.

Make a step. The step from the mudroom to the driveway is a bit high. It will eventually be corrected, but a simple step of some kind would be helpful in the meantime. It would also be easier to shovel snow off a patio slab than the gravel.

Restack firewood. Oh the woodpile. It took me two days to move the firewood out of the way for the addition. Now I need to restack it all.

What’s not happening yet. We will not be paving the driveway this year. I want to let the gravel settle for a while first. I also need to figure out a steps-patio-garden solution for the living room patio door, mudroom door and flowerbed around our well. I’ve placed a pair of benches and table there for now to see if I like a little seating area in this spot. I am going to be setting up a workbench and moving some tools from the driveshed to the garage. I’m enjoying thinking about a functional work space in the garage and what projects I’m going to tackle.

We’ve been using the mudroom and garage every day even though they’re not fully finished yet. We’re parking our car in the garage and going in and out through the mudroom. I’m loving having these two spaces, and I’m excited to finish them off.

How do you decide what you leave to professionals and what you take on yourself in a renovation? What finish would you choose for the mudroom stairs? What part of a home project is hardest for you to finish? What DIYs are fun or less fun for you?

We have door

I so wish I could say, “We have doors!” in this garage/mudroom update. But all I have to keep it singular. After waiting four months for the doors to arrive, we have to wait a bit more.

Our contractor came with the doors last week. But, the door between the mudroom and garage was wrong. Argh.

It swung the wrong way.

Going all the way back to my initial scribbles, I always had the door swinging into the garage and toward the back wall. Our official blueprints show this configuration. Our contractors and I also discussed the door swings a couple of times.

The door that showed up last week swung into the garage but toward the front. That meant that I’d have to walk around the door every time I wanted to go in or out of the garage.

I’m not willing to compromise, so our contractor scrambled to find a fix.

I’ve been told the right door should arrive this week. However, after a four-month wait for a 6-8 week order, I’m not entirely confident.

On the topic of doors we do have some things to celebrate though.

The garage doors are in (this happened a couple of weeks ago). I’m happy with the simple profile I chose, and best of all, I’m happy with how the colour looks with our board and batten siding. Phew. We are still waiting on the decorative handles and hinges to give them a carriage house look.

The person door that was correct is beautiful. This door leads from the mudroom directly outside. I chose to have a big window in this door, and I’m so glad that I did. The view through the glass and the light coming into the mudroom is better than I hoped.

I’m thinking it’s going to even more lovely once it’s a deep smokey blue-green.

The other high point of the week is that the contractor finished all of the trim in the mudroom (aside from the casing for the missing door).

I chose to use the same baseboard that we used in the basement. Ultimately, I’d like to change all of the baseboards upstairs to this trim.

Rather than going with the matching profile for the door casing, I decided to use a simple flat stock instead. With the panelled walls, I felt like trim would be too busy for me–even though the basement casing is very simple. I asked for a butt joint with a little overhang on the top piece, which appears a bit rustic to me.

Some more flatstock finished off the top of the walls where they meet the cedar plank ceiling.

The room is looking so much more finished. Just ignore the sheet of plywood over the one doorway.

What reno mix-ups have you experienced? Anyone else enjoy the power of trim? Who else is a fan of windows in doors?

Renovations and the art of compromise

I recently said to my Mom that I feel like I haven’t compromised on the garage and mudroom reno. I did exactly what I wanted, and it’s turned out great.

Not so great for the bank account, but it does feel great to get what I want.

Renovating our first house, I was always thinking about resale. It was our starter house. We weren’t going to be there that long. We didn’t want to spend very much money.

It was a very different experience to move to the farm and think only about ourselves and what we wanted for the long-term. We’re still thrifty, but it’s all for us.

(On the topic of thriftiness, when Chris Loves Julia shared their budgeting philosophy it was an ah-ha for me. Allocating a budget to a project gives you freedom to spend that budget. Splurge in some places. Save in others. For me, this releases me from the “renovate for the least amount of money possible” philosophy.)

When it came to the garage and mudroom, I decided that I didn’t want to have any regrets (and we’d saved the money to make it possible to approach the project like this). We’re only doing this once. It has to last for Ellie and me for a long time. It’s a space we’re going to use every day. I want to like it every day.

So we added on. The pool would have made a comfortable two car garage. Or a generous single car garage with a big mudroom. It wouldn’t do both. But I wanted a two-car garage, and I wanted it to be big. Extra space on the side for recycling bins. Ten foot doors, so I didn’t feel squeezed driving in.

I wanted a big mudroom with details–heated floors, paneled walls and ceiling. A wide opening to the kitchen that matched the one in the living room–meaning a beam to raise the header.

Of course, with any reno, I realized once I thought about it that there have been compromises.

I decided not to go with the expensive overlay garage doors. I still love that style, but our doors are just fine. I chose another tile rather than waiting for my back-ordered first choice.

Certain things that may seem like compromises are just how I do things, and I’m not sure they’d change even if I had a bigger budget.

I don’t like to spend a lot on light fixtures. In fact, when I was shopping I sorted the light fixtures by price from low to high and stopped looking when I hit $200. Fortunately, I had already found fixtures that I really liked (for less than that).

I patched the drywall in the living room and kitchen myself, and I’m handling all the painting myself. I like DIY.

I thrifted a mirror and have some hand-me-down dressers that I’m planning on refinishing for the mudroom. I like reusing and repurposing.

I’m not finishing the mudroom with built-ins and cabinetry yet. Nor am I paving the driveway this year. I always planned to phase this project slightly to give the budget a break–and figure out exactly what I want.

Renovations are about a lot of different things. Better function in your home. Prettier appearance. Budget. Resale. It’s important to think about what matters most to you. That helps to guide the decisions–and compromises–as you go through the project.

What compromises have you made when renovating? How do you budget for home improvements? Have you renovated for resale? Or for yourself?

Mudroom update

We’ve talked about tile for the mudroom. We’ve talked about paneling for the walls and ceiling. Do you want to see it in real life?

Here is the new mudroom in its current state.

We are two doors, some trim and paint away from being done with the mudroom and garage. Sooooclose.

(I feel like I’ve been saying that for a while).

But I can see it coming together, and it’s all looking so good.

I went with a mid-grey porcelain tile. You may recall my biggest criteria with the tile was maintenance. I will not be cleaning this floor every day, and the tile need to hide all of the dirt that comes with a farm. We also chose a dark grey grout for the same reason.

The tiles are 12×24 and installed in a brick, running-bond, offset pattern. This is my second choice tile. My first choice had more variation in tones and the veining, but it was back-ordered, and I didn’t want to wait. When I picked up my order, I was pleasantly surprised to find tiles were more varied than I expected, based on the single sample tile I selected from.

The floor in the main area of the mudroom (the lower level) is heated, so yay to warm boots.

The risers and nosings on the stairs are faced with beautiful maple. I didn’t want a metal or rubber or tile edge on the stairs, so our contractor worked with me to come up with a solution and then he had his stair supplier fabricate the pieces. They are absolutely lovely. I will be protecting them with a stain and varathane.

The walls are the V-groove panelling, which I also love. It adds so much character to this room. My contractors did not love the panelling so much. Strapping the walls so that they were perfectly level took a lot of shims and a lot of time. (The new walls that they built were fine. The original wall backing onto the living room was c-r-o-o-k-e-d.)

One surprise with this V-groove is it’s not a true tongue and groove. Each board has a very small overlap, so my contractors ended up having to face nail each piece in a few spots. Lots of tiny holes for me to patch.

The ceiling is a really, really special feature. This is cedar V-groove that I found at a local supplier. I will be leaving this natural, as I love the tone so much.

For the lights, I ended up going with three flush mounts. My original plan was for two barn style pendants in the main mudroom area and a flush mount on the landing, but my Mom convinced me to go with one type of light for the whole room.

I chose the exterior lights first, and then picked the matching flush mounts. They look a bit rustic, a bit industrial, fairly casual, and I’m really happy with them.

I feel like I could change the title of this post to the mudroom is lovely. I truly love everything so much.

Hopefully doors arrive this week. Once they’re in, trim can be installed. Then the contractors will be done, and I’ll paint and we can start to use this lovely room.

Odds & sods

When we first moved to the farm, a row of forsythia bushes beside the driveshed were covered in blooms at the beginning of April. Since then, I’ve measured the progress of spring by the forsythia.

The forsythia flowers arrived last week–the most flowers we’ve had in years. Unfortunately, right after they arrived, snow returned. So I’m not sure that forsythia is my best measure of spring this year.

Here are some other things that caught my attention this month.

Have house prices gone crazy where you are too? Farmhouse sells for $1,115,000 over asking

I haven’t been able to listen to music since before Matt died. The other week I found this song. I still cry, but I love it.


I went waaaay back in my recipe archives to make this pasta last week, and it was so good. (I omitted the pepper and added tomatoes, artichokes and spinach to up the veggie quotient).

Mudroom inspiration for coloured cabinets and large-scale rough stone tiles.

Sources: Hali MacDonald in House & Home (left), Jeffrey Dungan (right)

We’re finishing off April by picking the mudroom tile and paying taxes (worse than snow in the spring). We have a bunch of outdoor projects underway here, so I’m hoping that warm, sunny days return soon.

How was April for you? What signs of spring have you been seeing? Are you cooking any retro recipes?

Picking a mudroom floor

Last week I was talking about the exterior of the garage. Today I’m moving inside to talk about the mudroom. Specifically the floor.

In my original plans, we were going to do a concrete floor. I liked the idea of colouring and stamping it to look like tile. But I liked that it would be one solid surface with no grout to clean.

Our contractor and I both called a bunch of concrete installers, and we couldn’t find anyone to do the mudroom floor. The space is too small, and there would be extra charges for a partial load of concrete. Heating the floor wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I thought.

Change of plans. We’re going with tile, grey grout and a really, really, really good sealer.

Now I have to pick a tile.

My mudroom plan is to plank the walls and ceiling. The walls will be painted a light greige, taupe colour. Fairly neutral. Not white. Hide dirt.

Source: Sarah Richardson

The ceiling will be wood.

Source: Style at Home

So what do we do with the floor?

Let’s start with the two floors above.

The first mudroom by Sarah Richardson appeals to me the most. The floor is light, but close to the colour of dirt. I’d go with a grey grout over the white because… dirt. The tile looks a bit peachy in the picture, but I like the idea of something more brown-toned rather than grey. I’m worried grey tile might clash with the taupe walls. The tiles are a mix of sizes and the rough edges feel rustic.

In the second photo, we see slate, a common choice for mudrooms. For me, it feels a bit dark. Our mudroom will have a window in the door and that is the only natural light that will come into the room.

The other common material choice is brick. It feels a bit trendy these days, though some would say it’s timeless. It’s definitely rustic and durable. For me, I feel like the brick would start to feel too busy. There would be a lot of grout lines and tones of red. I’ve learned that I get tired of strong colours and patterns eventually. And I don’t want to get tired of this floor. Though a non-red brick might be an option.

Source: Brooks & Falotico

Ellie and I went tile shopping a few weeks ago, but nothing jumped out at me. (Unprompted, she chose red brick.)

What would you do? What would you want for a mudroom floor?

Barn board hook board

It could have been the paint fumes, the sleep deprivation or four hours spent in the two by nine foot front hall closet, but once the brainwave hit, I couldn’t get it out of my head. “What this closet really needs is some barn board!”

Barnboard hook board

So I made my way out of the closet, out of the paint fumes and out to the barn… where surprisingly it’s more difficult than you might expect to find barn board. Don’t get me wrong. We have plenty of barn board. It’s just that most of it is attached to the barn.

I found one piece that was just lying there waiting for a woman on a mission. He was close to the right length, beautifully weathered, lovely tones of grey, knots and a ragged edge. I told him he was a contender.

And then, on the far side of the barn, stacked amongst some giant planks and a very long log, I saw it. Perhaps not quite as weathered as his predecessor, slightly more brown than grey, the exact right length, not too many knots but a couple of rusty nails, one ragged edge that even had a few worm holes… a truly authentic barn board… right down to the… is that? … yep… it is… manure that was caked on the one side.

And that is how I found myself standing in the driveway on Sunday afternoon in November, brush in hand, cleanser close by, hose spewing frigid water, scrubbing a piece of wood as I frantically rehearsed responses in my mind for what I would say when Matt came out to ask me “What the heck are you doing?”

I didn’t think my new-found philosophy of interior design that every room–closets included–needs an element of something rustic would be met with the same enthusiasm I was currently experiencing.

I picked up my dripping–but now clean–board and strolled as nonchalantly as possible back to the house. I studiously avoided looking at the dining room window where I knew my husband was sitting at the table working.

I carefully propped my board by the front door to dry while I returned to my closet, preparing my hooks for hanging, sweeping the floor, killing time until the husband disappeared somewhere, and I quickly scuttled outside and retrieved my still damp board.

I held it up to the wall and it was perfect. It was going to make the closet.

I screwed it in place, attached the hooks and felt completely validated in my new decorating philosophy. My enthusiasm was so great that despite its dampness I started grabbing coats and hanging them up.

Wrought iron hooks on a barn board backer

It was at about this time that Matt reappeared and peaked around the corner to check out the closet.

I shifted my feet. I avoided direct eye contact. I did not say anything.

And he said, “It looks good, woman. But what about that board up there?”

I followed the direction of his gaze.

He was looking not at my beautiful barn board, but instead at a plywood support I had screwed together to hold up the eight foot shelf that couldn’t quite span the whole nine foot length of the closet. He was concerned that it wasn’t painted the same as the rest of the wood in the closet.

He didn’t even seem to notice the barn board. There was no admiration. There was no disgust. I feel a bit gypped by the lack of reaction.


I am consoled by the fact that every time I open the closet doors, I know exactly what the best part of the closet is.

Closet makeover after

When thinking about options for increasing the functionality of the front hall closet, I strongly considered converting it to an open nook with built-in bench like Shelley and Cason did over at House of Smiths.

House of Smiths entryway closet makerover

However, the closet is right off the kitchen, and I knew our coats and shoes and outerwear would not always look tidy. Being able to close the doors on any mess appealed to me. Plus, I had a lot of other things I wanted a home for, so a variety of storage options was important, and I felt I could do that better behind closed doors.

Because the closet is behind closed doors, it’s not as pretty as some of the spaces you see on other blogs. And definitely not as pretty as the Smith’s nook. However, it is exactly what we need.

At the top, we have one long shelf that stretches the full nine feet of the closet. It holds mitts, hats, scarves at one end, and light bulbs, plastic bags and pest control (mouse traps, ant traps, bug spray) at the other. The shallower shelves at the one end (made with white melamine, of course) hold flashlights and rags, Baxter items, cleaning supplies and reusable and plastic bags. Cleaning buckets tuck underneath the bottom shelf. The broom and the mop hang from nails tacked into the wall, and a hook board hangs along the back.

Closet with different storage options

At the other end, a short hanging rod goes perpendicular across the closet to hold dress coats. A bin of extra cold weather gear sits on the floor along with my backpack.

Closet with different storage options

Behind the rod, there’s a hanging caddy that holds (some of) my dress shoes. It’s a vintage caddy that my Mom had before she was married. How cool is that?

Hanging shoe caddy

A row of cup hooks screwed into the shelf/rod support hold extra keys and flyswatters.

Key storage in a closet

If I was truly a blogger, I’d have a lot more pretty baskets to hold all of the hats and mitts and scarves that currently are just folded on the shelf. However, the shelf is taller than I am–too tall for me to see into a basket–so stacks of clothing work best.

Hats and mitts on a closet shelf

Obviously, this was not an intense makeover. Patching the walls, a fresh coat of white paint, a few 1x3s and some white melamine to make some shelves, reusing the closet rod, a handful of cup hooks, a hook board made out of barn board all add up to an organized, functional space that accommodates everything that was on my original list. Even better, we still have room to grow with more space on the shelves and some hooks to spare.

How do you organize your front hall closet? What items do you find hardest to store? Any tips for making sure there’s a place for everything and everything’s in its place?

Closet makeover before

Along with the mudroom, updating the front hall closet was also on last year’s fall to-do list. Now that the mudroom makeover has been revealed, it’s time to share the closet as well.

But not today.

As with any makeover, there is of course a before.

Here’s the closet just inside the front door. The mudroom is just outside the front door.

Front hall closet

This closet is the scene of the first injury we had at the house, which occurred on day one when the shelving that was in here collapsed on my sister. All of the shelves had just been propped against each other and weren’t actually attached to anything. When my sister and brother were cleaning them out and wiping them off, everything came crashing down. Fortunately, the injury was only a pinched finger with minimal blood and was easily solved with a bandage. (I’m still sorry, Jenn).

In the photo collage below, the white strip in the centre (and it is supposed to be white on both halves) is where the shelving was originally. In its absence, we had piled cleaning supplies and everything else on the closet floor–not the most efficient storage method.

Messy front hall closet

The closet’s other issues are illustrated below: chipped baseboard cut out for the extremely flimsy shelving (plus a paint job that went around the shelving and a strip cut out of the ceramic tile for some long ago storage arrangement), wire shelving jammed into the drywall rather than installed properly, a hole in the ceiling likely belonging to a critter (plus a beautiful paint job) and an old non-functioning electrical box of some kind (perhaps an alarm?).

Closet problems

As I mentioned previously, the mudroom is not heated, so this closet was the spot for all of our outerwear–coats, hats, scarves, mitts. I needed both a rod and hooks because I want to be able to hang my nice coats on hangers, and Matt will never ever use a hanger.

While boots and running shoes live in the cooler climate of the mudroom, some of my dress shoes were going to move into the more temperate zone of the front hall closet.

Along with the coats, jackets and shoes traditionally stored in a closet, I had a few special additions that I wanted to accommodate:

  • Broom, mop, dustpan, mop bucket, rags, cleansers
  • Plastic and reusable bags
  • Light bulbs, flashlights and timers
  • Pest control, including fly swatters and mouse traps
  • Keys
  • Dog paraphernalia

Obviously, the space needed some help to accommodate any of those items. Through a variety of storage solutions, we managed to fit everything in.

Tune in next to find out how.

What do you keep in your closet? Are there any items that you find difficult to store? Who else has suffered a shelving injury?

Trompe l’oeil barn board

If that title isn’t a contradiction in terms, I don’t know what is.

I associate trompe l’oeil with fancy murals and beautiful chateaus. Not with farmhouses, and certainly not with mudrooms. However, in my recent mudroom makeover, I created the look of barnboard in an attempt to dress up basic boring slab bi-fold closet doors.

The closet doors are one of those projects that were added on to the makeover because I had to. The doors were coated with an anaglytpa wallpaper that had been painted. It did not match up to the rustic feel I was going for, so I decided to strip it off the doors. Doing that revealed why the doors had been wallpapered in the first place: layers of badly chipped paint that I couldn’t simply paint over.

Chipped paint on bifold closet doors

I briefly considered covering the doors right back up with another textured wallpaper–bead board this time–but then I had another brainwave and decided to strip them back to the bare wood. The thought process went something like this: “Bead board… paneling… planks… vertical planks… like siding on a barn… like barn board… hey, barn board!”

I had seen Minwax Classic Grey stain on the dollhouse Jessica made over at Running With Scissors and was impressed by how she was able to replicate weathered wood, so I decided that was the way to go.

However, just like when I was painting trim in the mudroom, the motivation to strip the closet doors was hard to find. After a few months of procrastinating followed by many, many coats of stripper and lots and lots of sanding, my closet doors were finally naked. Perhaps because of all of the stripper I had to use, I found it difficult to get an even coat with the stain, but I think that works in my favour, as barn board is made up of varied tones.

Minwax grey stained bifold closet doors

Then to make my flat bi-fold closet doors look a little bit more like weathered grey boards, I took a black marker and drew vertical lines down the middle of each door to make trompe l’oiel planks. If I’d really been serious, I could have routed a very shallow gouge down the middle of each door, but I was just going for the feel of barn board and not trying to replicate it too closely.

Draw barn planks with a marker

I reused the black metal pulls that were on the doors originally, turning them vertical to look a little more barndoor-ish. Remember, this makeover was all about cheap and cheerful and working with what we had.

So there you have it. Magic marker barn board planks. Or if you want to be fancy, trompe l’oeil barn board planks. Not a bad way to dress up basic flat panel bi-fold doors.

And there you have the last project of the mudroom makeover. Thanks for all of your great comments and suggestions throughout these posts. It’s so great to finally have one room done.

There are lots more ideas on how to make flat doors more interesting on Pinterest and all over the blogosphere. What are some of your favourites? Do you have barn board (real or fake) in your house? Anyone have any suggestions of the best paint strippers to use? I’m not sure the brand I chose was the most effective, because I felt like these doors took an awful lot of stripper. Any stripping horror or success stories to share? Have you ever “faked it” and made your own trompe l’oeil?