House Anniversary Tour: Our 2020 Projects

We’re celebrating six years as homeowners! Homeowners may be one of the ultimate adulting moves (besides having kids), as it comes with a mixed bag of unknowns that can be really great and really horrible. This year’s house anniversary tour is going to be highlighting the updates we’ve made this year both fun and not so fun, as we definitely tackled a few while we’ve been quarantined at home!

But, before then — I wanted to share a few of our not so great house moments, since homeownership isn’t always rainbows and unicorns. Before we even moved into our house, our refrigerator busted — that was an automatic couple hundred dollars right off that bat that we weren’t planning on! One of the first really cold winters, we came home to frozen pipes in our kitchen! Since then we’ve learned to run the water over night on those super cold days. Did I mention we live in a 100+ year old home?

Fireplace Hearth Makeover. This was a vanity project that we did pretty early on in quarantine, that was a quick weekend win, once we figured out what tile we wanted! We finally got rid of the original red tile and gave it a lighter update, see the fun before and after here.

New Furnace. This was a not so fun one, but something that B really wanted. The last two winter’s we’ve had to make significant finance repairs to our 25-year old furnace, and B had enough with it! He was able to take advantage of getting a more efficient unit for a decent price with the same company who installed our AC the summer of 2018.

Main Bathroom Budget Update. I loved this project — it was intended to be a temporary update on a space that we will most likely eventually gut and completely redo, so we wanted to make sure this was on a lower budget, while also taking care of a few of our pain points, which were a small, generic counter and sink and the yellowy tiles all over the room. My favorite transformation was painting the tile white, it completely transformed the space! Check out the full makeover here.

Sunroom Flat Roof. This was our least fun project, both from finding a company to do the work to the final price tag. But alas, it was definitely a necessity as we had a pretty decent and consistent leak from our flat roof into our sunroom. Long story short, apparently residential flat roofs are an anomaly and there is a variety of verbiage to describe how to fix these which is super confusing as a homeowner. Thank goodness for good friends with dad’s who are roofers ūüéČ. All in, we had about 6 different companies quote the project, and consumed about a month of our lives for approximately $2,450. But hey, no more leaks!

Backyard Makeover. Oh, I loved this project. It was definitely under estimated of how much of an impact this would actually make — I didn’t realize how much of a sad backyard we had until this project was complete! We added in some custom beds, edging and modern fences to help hide a few ugly things we don’t have control over. I love looking at our backyard now, it’s so pretty! Click to see the full makeover here.

Office Update. Since working from home has become permanent, my at home office definitely needed a little refresh to be a bit more functional for actually being a home office! This project was low budget, and quick which has made the space feel a bit more complete, even though it’s not pink. See my office update, here!

We’ve had six wonderful years at our house, and it’s always so fun to see how far we’ve come and improvements we’ve made along the way. It’s been a staple of fun memories, parties, milestones, late nights and early mornings, it’s been our home sweet home.

DIY – Modern Wooden Fence

As we were working through our backyard makeover, one of the curveballs B threw at me was wanting to hide the paint chipping white garage, in addition to adding the raised planter boxes for extra greenery. I instantly jumped on Pinterest searching for inspiration for a decorative solution that we would be able to customize. I searched ‘modern decorate fences’ and found some inspiration that we could easily recreate and pitched the idea to B.
DecoartiveFence(6)The pitch was a success and the project was a go! The advantage of this project and any DIY project is being able to create a completely custom fence that fits your space and dimensions. We ended up throwing in two other fences to place around our ‘property,’ one in front of our garbage cans along the side of our driveway, and then another on the North side of the house in front of our air conditioner. The thing to remember with these fences is they weren’t going to be complete privacy, but help off-set and distract from the ugly things.
Project Supply List:
– (13) 1ft x 3ft x 8ft
– (6) 1ft x 2ft x 8ft (post supports for smaller fences)
– (5) 1ft x 6ft x 12ft
– (1) 1ft x 6ft x 6ft
– (2) 2ft x 4ft x 10ft (post supports for large fence)
Thompson‚Äôs WaterSeal Stain & Foam Brush
– Post Hole Digger
– Quick Time Concrete
– Nail Gun / Screw Driver + Screws (large fence)
Figuring out the number of pieces of wood and sizes to get and make all three of our fences, was a headache and quite the math equation that B successfully conquered — even though it took us awhile to get there. As I knew I wanted 6″ wide pieces and 3″ wide pieces, I just didn’t have the complete layout and patterned figured out based on the height variations. There has also been a wood shortage this summer, so B had to do some home improvement store hopping to get all the sized pieces we needed — luckily we were able to get everything!

Our Fence Dimensions:
– Back Fence: 7-feet tall* by 4.5-feet wide aka (16) 3″ pieces, (5) 6″ pieces and (2) 1″ pieces
– Garbage Fence: 5-feet tall* by 3-feet wide aka (12) 3″ pieces and (4) 6″ pieces
– Air Conditioner Fence: 3-feet tall* by 3-feet wide aka (8) 3″ pieces and (2) 6″ pieces

*This is the height above ground, we accounted for 1-2ft in the ground depending on the overall height. 

Once we secured our wood, based on our estimations, B cut away to get the estimated pieces per board. Once we had everything cut, I was able to play around with the pattern and get the pieces figured out — it was definitely a move around, take a step back and see what looked and felt right. Once we had our pattern in place it was go time. For the two smaller fences we used a nail gun and getting these put together was relatively quick, as we also just eyed the spacing between each pieces, made sure things were level and fired away.
The large fence was a bit different and took some adjustments after we created the two smaller pieces. One adjustment was switching up the support pieces to 2ft x 4ft x 10ft — due to the size and slatted wood pieces, this fence was not only heavy but also pretty big (see me standing with it above), especially accounting for 2-feet to put in the group, it was a bit guy to navigate. We also ended up screwing the large fence together (instead of a nail gun) and did the screwing from the back, so that you wouldn’t see any holes from the front.

When it came to staining, we used the same stain we had from our planter boxes, we had plenty left over to create a cohesive look. I ended up staining the fences two different ways, one with the fences built and one as individual pieces — I’m not sure which I liked better, the individual pieces was definitely a bit more tedious. But, I do know overall I would pick staining any day to painting — it’s so easy and workable to make it blend the way you want. Luckily we were staining in the heat, so they dry time was quick if we wanted to apply two coats.
We ended up angling most of these fences for final placement so that more space was covered and we were blocking the ugly things just right. This of course, took a bit of time and tapping to get just right! We also made sure to strategically place the larger back fence in front of the garage, so that form a farther distance you couldn’t see the end of the fence! I think my favorite fence beside the big one, is the one in front of the garbage cans, when you walk into our backyard it’s just such a welcomed look and as we’ve worked on adding flowers along the side it definitely makes it feel more complete!

bee (1)


5 Tips for Dealing with Contractors

It’s that time of the year when contractors start to come out of the woodwork, random projects or emergencies pop-up and we’re at the mercy of depending on someone else coming into our home to help us complete vital projects.¬† To be honest, we hate working with contractors, they all seem to be the same in one way or the other and try to avoid whenever possible… but at the same time as handy as we are, there are a few projects where we just draw the line. So here are some pro tips for dealing with contractors!
Contractor Tips - the bee life
Ask Questions.¬†It’s important to ask questions before you commit; How much? What is this price inclusive of? Are there any extra material costs? What are payment expectations and timing? How far out are you scheduling, how long will this take? And then it’s important to ask questions during the work; How’s it going? Have you run into any roadblocks? Why are you doing that?

Set Expectations.¬†One of the things we’re often at the mercy of when it comes to projects is times and dates – often being inconvenienced during the work week or the weekend waiting around for untimely workers to show up. So not only it it important to set expectations for the work being done, but also set expectations around schedules. We’ve had contractors stay as late as 9:30PM on a Friday night… which was completely longer than they initially said and we were held captive, but also our faults for not asking or speaking up sooner.

Get It in Writing.¬†This may be a no brainer, but it’s easy when you know someone or have a family friend contractor to want to make a commitment via phone or in person. But! These projects can often lead to unexpected things and it’s not uncommon for extra materials, additional time and added costs to creep in. Having the price, expectations, and deliverables in writing helps for peace of mind and something to point back to if things get shaken up.

Don’t Assume. Sometimes when you’re working with a contractor, they don’t aways do the work but bring in guys who do – it’s important to run through everything with the workers as well, even if the contractor already did. We ran into that with our patio this past year – they were going to completely miss a HUGE portion of the project and I called it out… they totally wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t mention it and then A LOT of rework and probably additional money would’ve been needed.

Create A Dialogue. Don’t be afraid to check-in with these contractors as work is being done, it may even be beneficial to set the president of checking in at the start of the day (What are you planning to accomplish today?) and then before they leave (Did you accomplish X, Y, Z? When will you be back?)¬† B and I often tip-toe around not wanting to hover or get in the way, but guess what! It’s your house, your money, and you can’t be afraid to offend someone, ask questions, or simply check-in on the process – because at the end of the day you’re living with the end product.

Working with contractors and home renovation projects in general is exhausting, expensive and always seems to take longer than originally planned – so that is why it’s crucial to set up the project with these tips to help with some of the headaches!

Image Sources: Bathroom | Kitchen 

DIY – Coordinates Sign

Remember our big attic renovation into our master suite? ¬†Well the little details have still been a work in progress, as they usually are. But we are getting closer to getting the little details finished up. I am finally happy to share one of the last pieces to the gallery wall puzzle. It’s a coordinates sign that I made using old wood from our house and the renovation!¬†IMG_4970IMG_4972I love the way it came out, the old wood is what brings this simple sign to life. The metallic silver lettering also pops on the wood grain with a nice mix of old and new. I wanted to keep it simple with the text and not do anything to fancy to really rely on the wood to pull this piece to life with the metallic accents. One of my goals for the gallery wall if you remember wayyy back to my Gallery Wall Inspiration¬†was that I wanted to add color, textures, and different elements that represent B and I without it getting too girly. ¬†I feel like the earthy wood grain in the coordinates sign helps balance the ‘girly’ along with pulling in the other wooden frames used on the wall.
IMG_4716IMG_4972For now the gallery wall is feeling pretty complete. There may be some additional pictures added below but for the longest time there was this awkward section where the coordinates sign ended up going, so order has been restored! And I am loving the piece of our home that we’ve been able to restore in more than one way.

DIY – Window Side Table

I am excited to share my latest project with all of you; a window table. ¬†Once you have the materials, this project is pretty easy and low cost! It’s a win-win when it comes to creating a cool piece that’s custom to your needs, whether it be a coffee table, plant stand, or a side table the options are endless.

What You’ll Need;

  • Window (of your choice) – I used an original¬†window from our basement, since they were pulled out when we had glass block put in. Total cost; $0
    • Don’t have any old windows laying around? Check garbage day, it’s amazing what people will put on the curb!
  • 4-Legs; length and style of your choosing. I used: Waddell Ash End Table Leg from Lowes. Total cost; $16
    • NOTE: I bought legs with pre-installed hanger bolts that allowed for a clean smooth finish without needing extra hardware to attach the legs
  • Wood Glue
  • Paint – color of your choice & paint brush
  • Drill and drill bit to¬†predrill holes for legs
  • Blade to scrape off excess paint on windows
  • Timing; finished within a weekend

From there you can prep your window by cleaning it up and sanding if you’d like. I opted to keep the hinges and some of the other rustic elements since I was working with a 100-year old window.

Next, flip over and mark out where you’d like to place your legs – as you can see with the window I was working with the spacing and exterior width was inconsistent and not much to work with so I eyed about an inch from the edges. Once I had those marked, we pre-drilled a hole, although we didn’t go deep enough a few times so we had to go back over the holes.

Before screwing the legs in we added wood glue in the hole and around the bolt on the leg. Make sure your legs get all the way in and are secure, some of ours were wobbly, so we had to re-drill new holes and start over. But once they were in and secure you definitely knew it. The wood glue required about 12-hours to dry, so day one was finished.

After the wood glue was dried, I flipped the table over and began to paint! I opted to use a primer over the preexisting brown, and also did the legs in the same color.  I had to do 3-coats before this beauty was looking clean.

I let B do the fun stuff and scrape the paint I’d gotten on¬†the window. ¬†This really cleaned up the piece to give it that finished look. From there it was just giving it a good clean with some Windex and setting it up in place – we added this gem as an accent in our sun room. The light and airy of the white and windows ties into the space perfectly.IMG_4428IMG_4430IMG_4432Using most of what we already had, the main expense was buying the legs for $16 – you can’t even get a coffee table for that! ¬†I love the way it turned out, it still has a vintage and rustic flare¬†to it. Not to mention it has multiple purposes and I am sure it will change overtime for us!

Happy DIYing!

Weekend Recap – June 24

Remember how all your weekends are booked? And before you know it the weekend is over, and the work week is looming. Ugh!! Not to mention, this past week didn’t even seem real, or that anything productive happened, I have a feeling this week will be the same. But any who…

This past weekend was a fun one, and one of many consecutively booked weekends. My parents came in town on Friday, I had Friday off, so it was nice to run errands in the morning, take Moz for a walk, vacuum the house, and then spend some time with my parents before our plans. We surprised my parents (but especially my dad) with a tour and tasting at a local distillery, Cleveland Whiskey. ¬†One of the game changers for Cleveland Whiskey is that they speed up the maturing of the whiskey, and can produce an aged tasting whiskey/bourbon within 2-days! They’re not a favorite in the whiskey world, but they’re definitely shaking things up, and their drinks are tasty and innovative. My dad is definitely a fan! I enjoy the whiskeys in my manhattans, *smiles.*


Saturday was a busy day, I had a few surprises up my sleeve for Mom, more details to come at a later date *winks* needless to say, she was surprised and I think she liked what we ended up doing! The guys worked away at the house, and we (my dad and B) finally installed our new storm door on the front, it’s all open so you can see our pretty blue door! ¬†It looks awesome! ¬†My aunt and uncle came up for dinner, so we all went out along with G&P. We went to a new spot, at least for us called Forage. I was pleasantly surprised, the food was really great, especially the appetizers we ordered: pretzel sticks, calamari, and devils on horseback, OMG, yum. ¬†I really need to get in a better habit of snapping some pictures before we dive into the food… telling you it was good without showing you half defeats the purpose! ¬†B and I will definitely be going back for a date night.

Sunday, B was itching to do something around the house Рso why not on a 84+ degree day do decide to do some sweaty gross yard work. We made small progress, but progress still, which is huge when we want to finish the project since we figured out all the kinks (hopefully) with our test round today!  Getting more items crossed off our to-do list, woo!

Today, marks a new chapter and journey in my professional career, it’s not how I imagine it would be, but I think that’s part of life’s journey of growing and evolving and continually finding and pursuing things we love.

Please send me your positive thoughts and energy this week!



10 Tips for (future) Homeowners

As the snow starts to melt (for good), and the birdies chirp a little more, and the blooms start to bud, the “for sale” signs start popping up more and more. As a kid growing up I loved looking at houses online (especially the really expensive ones) and then as B and I started our house search in the summer of 2014, it was definitely an experience that is probably different for most, making it hard to prepare for until you’ve actually done it.  So here is my advice for any of you who are on the house hunt to hopefully help you prepare for this potential roller coaster of a ride.

10 tips for future homeowners - the bee life

1. Love your realtor. We liked our realtor, but there were definite moments we did not like our realtor (like the time we wanted to make an offer on our house, and she told us she felt uncomfortable writing the price we wanted to go in at, and refused). You’ll be spending some nights and even some weekends with this person, in hopes they find you your dream home within a price point you’re content with. Try and find a family friend or referral and make sure they’re a good fit for your area and you! Do a few “phone interviews” before you truly commit.

2. Take notes and pictures. Don’t be shy, it is a bit awkward (especially the first few times)  having someone watch you look around your potential future home, but this is a serious decision so take your time, take notes, ask questions and take pictures! This is especially helpful if you’re looking at a few houses in one day, trust me after a few days or weekends you won’t be able to tell them apart – looking back at notes/photos helps you compare and eliminate as you go.

3. Go with your gut. Love at first sight? Or it’s an immediate no? Then cut the visit short, no need to waste the time of your realtor or yourself. On the flip side if you know it’s the one, go for it even if your fear (of a major commitment) starts setting in!

4. Be ready to act fast.  In our market, houses we would look at would literally be listed contingent the next day. So we learned quickly that if we saw a house we liked, we needed to be ready to act fast, because we lost a few good ones, even before we could look at them!

5. Hold your ground. When it comes to price, whether it’s going in low or going in at a price that’s comfortable for you, even if it comes down to negotiating, know what your bottom line is. Is it getting the closing costs covered? Or a lower sale price? We ended up coming up in price in order for the closing costs to get covered, because over the span of our mortgage it was not a big deal as opposed to having to pay more out right.

6. Compromise.  Wallpaper? Paint color? Carpet? Gross curtains? Don’t like the kitchen cabinet colors? All easy fixes- don’t let the little things affect your decision or turn you off from a house.  I’m honestly amazed at what a little (or a lot) of paint can do to improve the house without breaking the bank.

7. Be prepared for extra costs. When you’ve made the decision and are moving forward be prepared to have a little extra cash on hand for closing costs, the inspection and any other incidentals. These creeped up on us and can be scary if you’re not expecting them! We even had a few extra costs after we received the keys, like the refrigerator breaking that was an extra $700 dollars or so that we weren’t expecting to pay.

8. Push back your move-in date. (If you can) Yay! You have the keys! Let the fun begin! If there are projects big or small, try and get them done BEFORE you move in, you’ll be so much happier after the fact. Especially painting, it’s much easier to paint and tape and make a mess when you’re not worried about furniture.

9. Be ready, to notice a lot of random imperfections… once you move in and start cleaning! New house or old, your going to notice little things about the molding or floor or a crack in the wall you hadn’t noticed before and it’s ok! You’ll also learn the kinks that come with the house, good or bad, what I like to remind myself and B is, that it’s character!

10. Remember to relax. If you’re like us, with a century home there are plenty of projects big and small to do nonstop. Since we’ve lived in our house for over a year we have done A LOT! So remember to relax and take breaks in between the projects especially so you don’t get in a hole financially because random expenses will pop up!

This will be stressful, but it also will be fun! So enjoy the most of it, because once you find the house and can call it home, it’s all worth it. I love the fact that we have something we can call and make our own!  Good luck!

Attic Update – 6 months

We’re just over the 6-months into this project, yes definitely longer than both B and I anticipated – but hey! What can you do?¬†Attic Renovatoin Update - Month 6 - the bee life - emilyboylan.comAs fantastic as the holidays were, they definitely helped delay progress as two back-to-back weekends were filled with parties, family, and endless amounts of food and drinks. Two, back-to-back weekends where virtually zero work took place in the attic.

Since, B has been back at it and focusing the weekends on mudding! Damn, mudding. Oh and then there is the sanding… and then more mudding… oh and then you sand again! The endless messy… messy cycle. ¬†All “joking” aside, progress is being made, there are complete sections that’re ready to go and they look so great!

The bi-fold doors for our closets have also been installed, since the last update, and it really makes the space feel like a room. Since we bought the house the closets have been wide open so that was an awesome piece to finish!

Another update is that we ordered furniture for our sitting area along with¬†nightstands, it’s¬†getting us¬†really¬†excited (and anxious) to get on to the next part of the project; painting and trim work – so that we can decorate and live up there! I am obsessed with the chairs,¬†they’re absolutely perfect.

As many times as we’ve wanted to hire someone to get this done, mainly because it would be much faster than our time frame, it’s truly awesome that we (but really, mostly B) have done 95% of the work, building a room from the studs, to insulation, to drywall, to paint, to life.

Hopefully next month we have a fresh coat of paint on the walls!



Attic Update – 5 month check-in


A month ago we were just getting started with drywall but¬†now the drywall is¬†complete! Yes,¬†all 40, 8-foot pieces were used up! ¬†Although there were a decent amount of big pieces, there were also a lot of small random nooks and crannies and grooves. ¬†I can’t say this enough, but B has been doing an amazing job, I know he is completely sick of working on the project – he has put in a lot of long days and nights! But it’s going to look incredible and is already looking awesome!

Since then the mudding has begun. ¬†Which from what EVERYONE… yes, everyone says is the worst part. ¬†So far, it hasn’t been too bad, but then again no sanding has taken place yet. ¬†Which again, I’ve been told I’ll be finding dust in our¬†kitchen 3-floors below, months from now! With the Christmas holiday fast approaching, I am not sure how many useful weekends we will have! But we do have a lot of PTO at the end of this month, so we hope to start painting before 2016!

The important part is that progress is being made! We can’t wait to get up there and start using that space!