Home Office Upgrade

I’m not exactly what you’d call a “DIY” kind of girl. I’m more of an “order online while wearing yoga pants and drinking red wine” kind of girl. That’s a thing, right? I mean, I want to be… I have a whole Pinterest board just mocking me with all the amazing, homemade, affordable crafts I could be whipping up to turn my house into the rustic farmhouse wonderland I’ve always wanted it to be.

But Joanna Gaines lied to me. It’s not a magical fun time with perfect results. By the time you round up all the necessary parts and tools and shop for all the stuff, you realize you’ve spent hundreds of dollars and made about 6 extra trips just to get everything you need. By then you already hate your project with the fire of a thousand suns so you have to make ANOTHER trip to get some more red wine and cookies for stress eating, and at this point wonder why you ever got off the couch in the first place. And you haven’t even started the “DI” part of DIY yet.

Ughhhhh. But I keep trying. I keep buying supplies and I keep hoping some of these things are going to turn out. I mean, the bottom line, truth of the matter is that DIY projects are A LOT OF WORK and you kind of have to know what you’re doing going in or you’re going to go crazy. I prefer to be the “idea girl” and watch Gil execute on things. Or shop. I really just prefer to shop.

But sometimes life throws you off balance a little, like when you take a new job at a start-up where you aren’t making nearly as much as you were before and realize YOU CAN’T AFFORD SHIT ANYMORE.  So you have to get creative.

Or in my case, you have to have in-laws who are creative and willing to share their time and skills (I’ll get to that part in a minute).

When I first started redoing my home office, I had a lot of grand ideas. Since I work from home and spend a ton of time in here, we made it one of our first projects to try to get totally done, so I’d have a zen space for my sometimes very stressful days.

This was a kid’s room before and while I don’t have pictures of the weird giant flower pictures that were bolted on the wall, I do have evidence of the terrible shade of yellow and icky curtains that were happening:

office - before

Blech. No thanks. Gil and I painted the walls a nice taupe and tore those curtains down, and my parents and I replaced the baseboards. And I added a giant fur rug of course.

office pic.jpg

But on the opposite wall, I had wanted to do some kind of show-stopping accent wall. Like a giant wall of flowers. Or since I was on a rustic kick, some kind of wood wall. Luckily for me, Pinterest had the answer. There is a company called Stikwood that sells these peel and stick wood plank pieces. Now, I haven’t seen them in person so I have no idea if it’s just super thin real wood, or if they look more like stickers. Either way, I was really impressed with the pictures and was ready to buy.


Only one problem. For the size of the wall I wanted to do, it would run me around $1,600. Ouch. Maybe if I still had commission checks rolling in and my old mortgage on the condo, but in this life that wasn’t gonna fly.

So I did nothing. We just painted that wall and I figured at some point I would figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, I had shared the Stikwood site with my mother-in-law and she LOVED it (because we basically have the exact same taste in things). And she IS what you would call a DIY girl. She has done so much work on their house, from stenciling the walls, to creating these beautiful mosaic pieces in the yard and in the guest shower.

So she decided to DIY the look and she and her husband bought the supplies and made it happen. This is why you always want someone else to go first on these kinds of things… she told me all about the things she learned on the project and what she’d do differently. And that she and my my father-in-law had time this summer if I wanted to do my office wall.

SOLD! So we planned a weekend for them to come down and help us. And then Gil and I adopted a dog a day before they arrived. I’m a great planner that way. (Don’t worry, we all survived just fine. The dog didn’t start running away until weeks after, but that’s a story for another day).

Guys, we did the whole project in ONE DAY. It was a long day. And super hot. And weirdly humid. And I wound up sweating so much I rubbed my inner thigh and butt skin raw. BUT I MADE SOMETHING WITH MY HANDS THAT LOOKS LIKE A REAL THING.

Well, I helped. My mother-in-law and I did all the prep work for the wood – we sanded it, stained it, painted it, and sanded it again. The boys measured, cut, and nailed it all in. I’ll show you exactly what we used to do it, but first LOOK AT MY GORGEOUS OFFICE WALL. LOOK AT IT.

office - after

office - after close up

office wall after

It looks BETTER than that Stikwood stuff. And guess how much the whole project cost me? Guess!!! Less than $300.

We got bender board from the garden section of the hardware store, and it was a weird light reddish color when we got it and really rough. I think it was around $2/board. Cost for wood: $160. We just sanded those strips down and then hit them with Minwax stain in Espresso. It took way more stain than we thought it would since we tested a few and the wood soaked it up so fast, so I had to go out for more. Cost for the stain: $50

office stain

Once the stain set, we painted over it with white paint. Cost: $30

office paint

Once that dried, we just hit it with an orbital sander to get the desired effect, which we already had so didn’t cost us a penny.

There was the unforeseen cost of extra brushes, rags, etc as well, along with one bra casualty when I exploded one of the stains all over myself.

ruined bra

But all in all, coming in under $300 and turning out something even more beautiful than the pictures I see on Pinterest almost makes me want to DIY this whole house.


Gil & Courtney Go Country

I’ve been MIA for months, and it’s really made me feel bad, but to be fair, I’ve been a little overwhelmed.

I sold my condo, and Gil and I bought a new house on 7 acres that needs some work, and uprooted our lives in the city to move 3 hours south and become country people. Which, honestly, I thought just meant being able to not wear pants with the drapes open since there are no neighbors close by, and having sex really loud with the windows open. Gil has informed me that sound carries out here since there are no buildings to absorb it and since it’s pitch black out here, a neighbor could easily see in at night when our lights are on.

Fine. Country: 1, Courtney: 0

Although our neighbors across the road (it’s not even a STREET out here guys – we live along a mile long dirt road we share with a handful of other houses) have a for sale sign up and are planning to move, so if they happen to see my butt through the bathroom window while I’m getting ready for bed, I think I can live with that. And the sound traveling thing? I am currently choosing to believe that is false, and proceeding with zero caution.


There are other things I don’t think I was prepared for out here as well. I envisioned basically having a very glamourous farm property like Chip and Joanna Gaines on Fixer Upper, and that I’d magically develop the design chops to make the inside of this place look like one of the “after” houses on their show within the first month or so. Turns out, shit is EXPENSIVE when you’re trying to furnish a whole 2100 square foot house and make improvements because the previous owners did a lot of weird, questionable stuff. So you’re damn well going to keep the high quality pieces you already have, and then work around those. We’re making progress, but like everything we’ve encountered so far, it’s more work than I thought it would be.

Plus, it’s like this twisted catch-22 with everything. There are cracked tiles in the master bath and the tub leaks. Well, they only way to access the tub for repairs is to rip up all the tiles. (Nice work, whoever installed that). So we could do that… but then I’m paying to have tiles I don’t even LIKE repaired, to fix a tub I want to replace eventually. So maybe we should replace the whole tub then. And maybe just rip out ALL the tiles and replace them with ones I like. At that point, why not just renovate the whole bathroom? Then it starts to sound like a huge, expensive project, and I decide maybe we should wait. Now I finally understand why my mom hasn’t changed out the flooring in her kitchen in the last 20 years. She’d basically have to renovate the whole first floor.

It’s this same logic that is the reason we don’t have door handles on some of the rooms. They were so old and defective they would lock and stick, and then I’d start screaming from my office because I couldn’t get out, and claustrophobia aside, it was inevitably when I was trying to get out to the hall bathroom to pee, so things got a little dicey. Panic and a full bladder do not go well together. Finally Gil just took the handles off.

So, a normal person would just replace the handles. No. I hate the doors. I don’t want to spend money on something I hate. We’ll just get new doors. But that means picking doors I like that don’t cost a million dollars and that Gil doesn’t hate. And then priming and painting those. And picking out all new hardware. And sanding and painting all the door frames. There are like a million doors in this house. We’re both working a ton of hours right now, so instead of all that, we choose to live our lives without door handles at the moment so at least I can pee without having to break through a window or ruin the carpet in my office.

And then there are the little things that I didn’t think about. I can’t flush tampons out here. I know, you’re not really supposed to flush them anyway, but I definitely do that sometimes. No wet wipes for my tushie anymore either (and I ALWAYS flushed those)! Which if we’re being honest, those are pretty clutch after sex, so I’m bummed about it. BUMMED…. get it?

In the past, if there was a plumbing problem, one quick call to the landlord or home warranty company, and they’d come clear the pipes (although I never really had that issue with any of our toilets in recent memory). But NOW…. now if I accidentally flush anything other than the bare minimum, I risk DESTROYING our septic system and triggering a poopacolypse. Because we have our own septic system now. I mean, I knew that when we bought the place, but now I’m realizing I never really thought through what that actually MEANT. I basically live on top of an underground poop farm. Or lake of poop? I admit, I have no idea how a septic system works, but that’s how I envision it and now apparently if I anger the septic gods, there could be a poop eruption on our property. Gross.

So OK, no flushing things. But now I have to research things like whether I can use bubble bath. I can live with throwing my tampons in the trash. But I don’t think I can live without bubble bath. Also, by “research,” I clearly mean that I will tell Gil I’m going to to it, and he’ll research it to tell me if it will destroy our house or not.

Spoiler alert – it’s been a stressful couple months and I AM going to go buy bubble bath today because bubble baths can solve almost any problem and we have a second bathroom with a non-leaking tub I can use. I’ll report back on how that goes.


But honestly, even with all the adjustments and new challenges we are encountering along the way, I wouldn’t trade this house or experience for anything. We finally have a home where we both have seperate space to do our own thing (even if those spaces are works in progress) and we are basically alone out here, which was the goal. When I stand on our deck at night, I can see more stars than I realized there even were in the sky, because there isn’t light pollution out here. The only sound I hear is the whinny of a horse or two on one of our neighboring properties. No traffic, no sirens, no screaming babies. Just quiet.

AND I’ve gotten to see deer up close and personal – which for a city girl, feels weirdly magical, like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie.

It really is everything we wanted for ourselves at this point in our lives. There is always work to be done, but when I look out our kitchen window to the views and realize that this really is all ours, I have zero regrets.