One Room Challenge Week 3: Rained On, But Not Rained Out

This week, I wondered if I’m doing the One Room Challenge or if I’m doing Survivor!

Remember last week when I used words from this song: “I can see clearly now, the rain has gone …”

Well how ironic.

This week, the rains came.

And the ORC got rained on at my house. But as you’ll see at the end, the game is not rained out here yet.

Blissful shopping Saturday

I spent Saturday afternoon running errands, getting painting supplies and decorations for the soon-to-be creative studio. It was so fun! You know how it is! You get ideas, you envision what they’ll look like in the room. It’s a blast!! While shopping, I was imagining the final reveal pictures. I chose a few things to add texture and pattern. I found containers to artfully arrange paint brushes. I was excited to make vignettes like this:

Paint Brush Vignette

The Vision

Yeah it was raining all day. But no big deal. I didn’t even carry an umbrella.

I was blissfully unaware of what was happening back at home, in the basement.

The week’s tasks were carefully planned:

Week 3 Schedule

And ta-da!!! Today I would have given you a tutorial showing how to make an old crusty, rustic faux brick wall. There are tutorials online, but mine was gonna be crustier and more rustic with heavy texture build-up.

You can guess now that this post isn’t about that tutorial.

CRANK UP The Horror Show

Before going to the basement to paint on Saturday evening, I feed the cats, make a pizza and drink cider. I’m listening to the patter of rain on the roof, enjoying the apple cider, and thinking simple thoughts: I love October. I love cider.



Oh @%$*&!!!! The water alarm in the basement!!!

I run down there.

There’s water all over the floor! Here’s when I first saw it:

Here’s the thing. I put only plastic containers on the floor. NEVER cardboard boxes. But I was painting these cardboard boxes and they were on the floor for a day. That’s it!! Only 1 day! What’s the chance of a flood the next day? It rains all the time and the basement hasn’t flooded in 2 years. Why now?

Thankfully the painter’s drop cloth protected the boxes and all the fabrics in them. Not a single box got a single drop of water, despite a river of water running underneath the drop cloths! Crazy.

Long sTory Short …

The cardboard boxes stayed dry, but lots of other things got wet. Water was everywhere. The night was crazy.

I wound up dropping a shop vac drain cap down into a basement pipe. And made a mad dash to Menards, squeaking in through the doors just before they closed for a new shop vac. I was soaking wet and had mascara running down my face. Which I didn’t realize until later! I wondered why the nice employees at Menards were helpful but they were … cautious.

Anyway, long story short, water came into our basement all day Sunday, all day Monday, all day Tuesday, all day Wednesday, and on and on.

This is what my calendar looked like in reality:

What I Really Did This Week

I’m calling contractors to come look at the situation, but everyone is super busy because many houses flooded.

I make a long video, capturing all the visible damage.

Knocked Down …

I would love to bounce back and power through the next three weeks and turn this mess into a gorgeous room. I know these three posts have left an ugly impression of my house. I don’t want to leave that impression of my house. And I wanted to deliver on the DIY tutorials so you can see and do the cool ideas I had in mind.

But that would be the wrong thing to do.

I don’t believe in putting lipstick on a pig. I believe in doing things right.

It’s Tuesday as I write this and wait for a basement drainage contractor to show. Water is still running underneath the walls, like a skinny slithery river. It’s following the downward slope in the floor toward a drain. I know the water is doing its damage to the walls. I can already smell mold, my nose is stuffy and my lungs feel stuffy.

We need to do many things that won’t be done within three weeks, before the ORC ends:

  • Talk with our insurer
  • Mold remediation
  • Identify the problem with the exterior drain and fix it
  • Rip everything out of the basement (walls, framing, wood built-ins, etc.)
  • Re-build the walls, etc.

… But Not Knocked Out?

I wrote a “dropping out” ending for today. But maybe not. I’m definitely dropping studio plans for the basement, until we fix the basement.

But I can’t keep painting and doing blog DIYs in the living room and dining room. We do have a guest room that isn’t used much. It’s smaller, about 10′ x 10′. The walls would need to be lightened. I can work with it. It would be a much smaller plan, a “really mini makeover,” because there’s only 3 weeks to do it. I might do it. I’m still uncertain because I still must remove 100% of everything out of our basement, so basement waterproofing experts can identify what’s happening. AND the exterior painting of our house isn’t 100% finished yet — I’m still finishing that too.

Come back next week to find out!

Many other rooms are being renovated and decorated during the One Room Challenge. Some of the 20 featured designers are creating textured, neutral spaces like I was planning to do, and I can’t wait to see what they do! The nearly 200 guest participants share many useful ideas, renovation tips and innovative designs. Check them out!

Yeah, cheesy free clip art! This was a rare moment of kitschy fun this week.

One Room Challenge Week 2: I Can See Clearly Now

These words ring in my head today:

I can see clearly now, the {STUFF} is gone,

I can see all obstacles in my way

Gone are the {TALL PILES} that had me blind

It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)

Sun-Shiny day.

Hear these words in the voice of singer Johnny Nash and be uplifted! All things are possible now!! I’m gonna bring bright sun-shiny sunshine into this basement space. I’m gonna turn it into a light, airy creative studio.

Here is what I see clearly now:

Clean Room

Clean Room

Far cry from what I showed you last week, huh? To recap, this is a room makeover that I’m doing as a One Room Challenge guest participant. I am turning an insane mess into an inspiring creative studio. If all goes as planned, a finished studio will be revealed in early November.

Even though the room is clean now, there’s nothing in here that’s fashionable or inspirational. My goal is to change that, but do it on a budget. I want to show a:

Big change that doesn’t cost big money

I will re-use and re-purpose things that are already hanging around our house, but not used much. And apparently, according to the “to do list” below, no surface will go unpainted …

The To Do List

During Week 2 of the One Room Challenge, I did a lot of half-baked things. So there’s no DIY tutorials or completed projects to share yet. Today I’ll show you more solid plans, in the actual room instead of a moodboard. And I’ll show you a few quirky things — don’t all rooms have their quirks? — that I must work around. Think of these things as “obstacles in my way.”

First, let’s revisit the inspiration photo because I’m serious about capturing the feeling of this room:

ORC Fall 2017 Inspiration Photo


Though my basement ceiling is 7 feet — yeah! only 7 feet!! — so my room won’t have the effect of a tall soaring wall. But we can use elements of this inspiration photo: brick texture, white, woven, slight industrial, storage, big table.

I warn first, the photos that follow are not gorgeous!! I feel like I’m ruining my blog with these photos! Where is the gorgeousness? Well, it gets worse before it gets better, right? And the photos are really yellow even after I toned the yellow down in Photoshop. That’s another issue to deal with in this room — the yellowish lighting and surfaces!

Faux Brick Wall with German Smear

I’ll be covering this wall with faux brick panels:

Faux Brick Wall

The brick will be painted light neutral colors and given a German smear treatment. It’s a 24-foot long wall. So this is gonna be some work.

Weathered Oak

I will be using matte chalky paints to get rid of honey oak. Good riddance!!! That change is worth three exclamation points.

To paint like weathered oak

Shelves to paint like weathered oak

I will paint the entertainment center and the shelves with gray/white/neutral colors that will show off the natural oak grain, like a limed oak effect.

White Paint

The oak doors, trim and ceiling will get 1-2 coats of Benjamin Moore’s Simply White paint. Also the gray exterior door leading to a staircase outside will be painted. This door was installed years ago and I never bothered to paint it.

Paint Exterior Door

All the cardboard bankers boxes that hold fabrics in the oak shelves will be given the white paint treatment. I’ve already started this. Sorry the first pic is blurry — I forgot to take a “before” picture so I screen-captured it from my Instagram stories:

Painting Storage Boxes White

The boxes will be labeled with metal label holders, sort of card catalog style.

Rot Repair

There’s some moldy rotted wood trim that will be fixed by digging out the rotted wood, treating the trim with Rot Terminator, and filling it with epoxy. I recently went through that process on the exterior of our house and I’ll be sharing reviews of the products I used. They are magic products, and easy even for a first-timer like me to use.

Rot repair

Stenciled Rug

I’m keeping this rug from Ikea in the room. It will go under the crafting tables:

Ikea Rug to be Stenciled

It’s synthetic, which is great for a basement that floods periodically. I will stencil a big suzani pattern on the rug. I’m still investigating paint that won’t run and stick to the tile floor if the basement floods.

Drop Cloth Covered Craft Tables

The four tables will get covered with drop cloth, to capture the inevitable drips and spills of paint and glue that happen during mammoth crafting sessions:

Paint Folding Tables

I’ll also spray paint the green legs black for consistency.

Vintage Folding Chair Makeover

I have truly vintage folding chairs from my teen years. Because one of them has OZZY written on the bottom!!

OZZY Folding Chair

And no, that’s not about the Ozzy Osbourne of the MTV show of the 2000s — I was honoring the Ozzy Osbourne of about 1980, 1981 and the Blizzard of Ozz album! Yeah make me feel old. So if I’m old, these chairs are old. And they’re built to last!

The chairs will get a spray paint treatment and, believe it or not, cushy silk cushions! Using these chairs is a great way to repurpose what we already have around the house.

Desk Makeover

As another example of re-using what we already own, this desk will be painted:

Desk to be painted

Because it’s a left-handed desk, it would make a great sewing station! Sewing machine on the right where the chair fits, and the left side can hold fabric going through the machine.

Pattern-Full Things

I am inspired by mixes of patterns and textiles, so there will be fast ‘n easy miscellaneous projects to decorate with patterns and fabrics. I’ll leave those as a surprise for posts in future weeks!

Natural Light

Somehow I have to boost the natural or white light in here. All photos are so yellow! I even toned down the yellow and warmth in Photoshop, and the photos in this post are still yellow. It would be most convenient to do DIY tutorial photography in this room. But the light needs a major overhaul. I do have portable photography lights, and need to play with those to see if they balance out the yellow from the ceiling lights.

Oh yeah, I almost wrapped up here, and almost forgot about the quirky things …

Quirky Things

Get a look at this BULKY HVAC BULKHEAD:

Bulky Bulkhead

Ugh. Hate this thing. Our basement ceilings are already only 7 feet. Then this bulky bulkhead brings a thing running through the middle of the basement that’s only about 6 feet off the ground! Good thing we’re short people. Anyone over 6 feet tall who visits my house, fair warning, our basement ceiling could knock you out.

The good news is, we have air conditioning because of this bulkhead. So it’s not going anywhere. It’s a quirky thing I have to work with. Our 50-year-old house was obviously retrofitted in recent decades to add central air. I just wish they had found a different way to run the ducts through the house.

Related to the bulkhead, look what happened over here by this window:

Bulkhead craziness by window

Crazy!!! This is the wall where I want to install the faux brick. I also want to wrap the brick into the window opening, because that’s what real brick would do (to cover all area where you can see the wallpaper here). I’ll need to do some cuts in the brick panels to work around this crazy bulkhead business.

We have warped oak baseboards because of past flooding. So I’ll replace those with cheap plastic/polyurethane baseboards, which is a better material than wood for this flooding situation.

To Be Continued …

Now on to the real work!!

There are 20 featured designers and more than 200 guest participants sharing their One Room Challenge Week 2 updates this week at the Calling It Home blog. Check them out and see their progress and plans! I’ve already caught up on the featured designers’ Week 2 posts and oh my goodness, so much yummy inspiration to see!!

One Room Challenge Week 1: From Insane Mess to Inspiring Creative Studio

Whoa!! I’m jumping from one big project (our exterior paint job) to another! I’m doing a basement makeover as a guest participant in the Fall 2017 One Room Challenge. If you haven’t heard of it before, the One Room Challenge happens twice a year, and 20 featured designers and blogger guest participants renovate a room in six weeks. Today kicks off the first of the six weeks! Why join the One Room Challenge? I’m doing it for one simple reason:

I need some accountability to get my butt in gear and fix our basement!

I know I need to clean up our basement. My husband has been pleading with me to clean it up. I need a grindstone to hold my nose to, so to speak. The One Room Challenge provides deadlines, a support community and public accountability. Sign me up!

The Dream …

Our basement could be a beautiful, light, airy and inspirational space to create. Every time I see the Where Women Create magazine, my heart aches that I don’t have a space like that. Don’t creative souls want their own space? This is why women swoon over “she sheds.” Instead, would you believe I often create my DIY projects on the living room floor, on the family room floor, on the sunroom floor, at the dining table?

There’s plenty of room in our house. It’s 2,400 square feet and there’s only 2 adults and 2 cats here. It’s how you use the space that matters. So far, I’ve used our basement as a dumping ground. It’s an insane mess. Rather than tell you, here I show you:

Before Basement Makeover

Whew that was tough. I honestly don’t want to ever show people the “before.” I want to show you these things after they’re fixed up. This feels like I’m hanging out all my dirty laundry for everyone to see! Also my Siamese cat followed along as I shot the video. This was her face afterwards:

Seesa Says Its An Insane Mess

Yeah!! I know!!

So how did this basement mess happen? Mostly, busy-ness and laziness. Two things that you would think are opposites. But, there are never enough hours in a day for everything, so busy-ness with some things results in laziness for other things. We all make these choices. The basement was at the bottom of the barrel of life priorities. And anyway, the only people who ever see it are me, my husband, the plumber, a washing machine repair guy, the boiler repair guy.

The basement is a 12′-14’ x 24’ space and it has lots of room for all my creative dreams to come true. I know I’m lucky to have that much space, and it’s terrible that I have treated it this way. There’s a ripple effect too. When I want to play with paint and a gelli plate, I have to do that in another room. And then our dining room looks like THIS:

Dining Room Mess

Aggggghhhhh! I can’t take it anymore!! My husband can’t take it anymore! It’s time to clean up the basement and make it functional, usable, and inspirational.

Below is my moodboard. Scroll through it for a sneak peek, then I share more about the makeover goals, functional needs, design ideas:

One room Challenge Moodboard

One Room Challenge Moodboard


The Goal:

  • A studio space that neatly stores all supplies, with function and décor that inspire new heights of creativity and creation. It’s like a “she shed” but in the house – I don’t have to walk outdoors to another place.


  • Accommodate a variety of visual arts and crafts activities
  • Ample storage for all the supplies ‘n stuff
  • Maximize the limited natural light; lots of light for nighttime work
  • Provide neutral but interesting, textured, inspirational background
  • Project photography space
  • Protection from floods/water on the floor

Key Concepts for Functionality:

  • Squeeze in maximum storage while leaving lots of open floor space
  • Portable/moveable things
  • Stations for various crafts

A Word About Water:

If water wasn’t a life-sustaining force and an important way to keep clean and smell nice, I would ban it from the house. I swear that we have a water poltergeist. In our house, anything that can go wrong with water, does. It started with our first night staying in this house after we bought it 13 years ago. Don’t even get me started. I tell one story in the video above — water once fell all over all my craft supplies. Nooooooooo!! Yes. Yes it did.

It’s guaranteed that the basement will flood again. It will often get minor water spreading around part of the floor, but the entire basement has flooded to about a 1-2” depth.

So, water figures into all decisions in the basement. It would be unwise to make decorating choices that look good, but do not account for the inevitability of 2” of water on the floor. This is why our basement floor is tiled. This is why I can’t use colorful vintage Moroccan and Turkish wool rugs in this room. The oak entertainment unit and oak shelves (seen in the video tour above) were installed by our home’s previous owners and so far, they don’t appear damaged, so they stay until the day they’re wrecked.

Everything on the floor should be easily moved so we can clean up water. You will see me use decor with minimal footprint on the floor. Things that touch the floor will be plastic or non-rusting metal wherever possible. No poufs. I made a really cool stenciled Moroccan pouf a few years ago. Soon after, the basement flooded and the pouf’s filling wicked up a lot of really yucky water. RIP, dear pouf.

So water is a major design restriction.

The Look:

Now for the fun stuff. The “mood” and the “look n’ feel” that I’d love to create in an art studio were shared in a blog post I wrote five years ago (!!!) about inspiring art studios. They’re still my fav inspiration. Overall, for a studio, I’m drawn to bright white, ivory, neutral backgrounds. Textures. A touch of warmth. Brick, definitely brick. Some metallic bling through copper, a warm metal. I love to see a mix of patterns and textiles because they get my creative mind spinning with ideas, so that will figure into the decorations.


One final note. The budget is small. Because … my husband is in India for some of these six weeks and he doesn’t know about this.* Those might sound like two really disjointed sentences. But here’s the thing. When my husband travels overseas for a long time, I get bored. And when I get bored, I get ideas. And I go shopping. And ideas and shopping cost money. And sometimes I have spent more than I should have. And now, for the first time in about 25 years, I am not working full-time and earning my own income. So I’m trying to be good this time. I will be re-using and recycling old and unused things wherever possible.

I also want to show you innovative ideas that don’t cost big money to get a big change. So I am determined to do this on a low budget. I will be transparent about costs.

On with the One Room Challenge!

Let’s get started! Follow along for the next 5 weeks here at the Nomadic Decorator, and visit the One Room Challenge’s 20 featured designers and guest participants – we all share updates every week on our progress. I’ve already gotten inspired and motivated by visiting featured designers’ blogs to see their plans! Check ’em out! Thank you to Linda at Calling It Home and House Beautiful for making this challenge possible!

* But if he finds out now that it’s online, he’s going to love it – finally a clean basement!!!

Exterior Paint Job: Shave, Sand, Wash, Stain, Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Usually I appreciate textured surfaces, and the occasional chippy paint. I love an “old wall” look. But I don’t love it when my house looks like this:

Peeling Paint on Cedar Siding

Peeling Exterior Paint

Twice in the past 10 years, we paid contractors to scrape and paint our cedar-sided house. But they scraped pretty much half-heartedly, kind of just barely. It’s not a fun job, for sure. Now we’re doing the job. On all 3,000 sq ft of siding.

Removing Paint from Cedar Siding

Scraping Paint from Cedar Siding

Shave. Sand. Wash. Stain.




For 4 months. This was my Summer of ’17 AND Fall of ’17. Days and evenings!


We HAVE to. Because when you’re up close, it looks like we have the haunted house on the block. And beyond the looks, the siding and house are not protected from the elements. Though we have cedar which is rot-resistant, some areas are starting to rot and rot is spreading.

Some neighbors warned us, don’t do it yourselves!! Replace the siding instead! It’s easier! Yeah and that’s really expensive. And there isn’t much wrong with the cedar. Sure there are a few rotten areas and some woodpecker holes. But they can be easily fixed with epoxy and rot terminator, or replaced with a few new cedar boards. Our house is nearly 50 years old. I think that 50-year-old cedar is better than today’s new cedar?

We talked with several contractors about doing this full job of scraping all wood down to raw wood. Some wouldn’t even do it. Others quoted way more than we can pay for the entire job, I’m talking some quotes were around $18,000! We’ve already paid many thousands — twice — in the last 10 years for re-painting.

So, this time we’re doing it.

PaintShaver Pro on Cedar Siding

Removing Exterior Paint from Cedar Siding

Removing Exterior Paint with PaintShaver Pro

Shade Seekers

We live near Chicago, so we’re in a race against the weather. We have to finish before snow flies. But seeing that it’s 95 degrees on September 23 — thus I’m indoors writing a blog post at high noon and not scraping, sanding etc. outdoors — maybe we’ll have more time than we think.

Here’s a video from this morning. We have to organize our days around the sun, so we work as much as possible in the shade. For awhile, the wall over our garage was shaded:

So, this blog has been quiet for a long time because I’ve been very busy. I’ve been busy since spring on this project. It started with researching everything we’re doing, and then actually doing it. I don’t know how bloggers who do serious big-time renovations can do the work AND edit the photos AND write about it. I’ve been physically and mentally exhausted after days of this work! But I will say, this also feels like good healthy work for the body.

This project is also a perfect time for design changes on the exterior of the house. Of course you know I love opportunity for that!

  • I’m changing the color on all the trim, windows and doors from white to a warm gray.
  • New shutters! Real functional shutter hardware with wood framed board and batten style shutters. And, shutters properly sized for the windows. The real deal.
  • It’s hard to see lights in the photo above, but we’re replacing porch and garage lights. From cheap traditional colonial lights, to bigger “modern industrial farmhouse” trendier lights. With motion sensing, so every time deer, raccoon, skunk, fox and coyote walk by at night, I can freak out and think it’s a burglar.
  • We’re adding a big walkway from the driveway to the porch. I am pining for bluestone but we’ll likely do pavers with a bluestone look.
  • Next spring, more of a garden in the front. We chopped down a row of bland evergreen bushes that ran along the front of the porch. I’ll be researching shrubs with four-season interest.
  • I think we’ll run out of time this year, so likely next spring we’ll add stone veneer along the bottom half of the sunroom that’s on the back of the house. And eventually a patio will be added to wrap around the sunroom.

Future Blog Posts

I’ll follow-up later with more posts about this big exterior paint project:

  • Product reviews – I’ll do a post about all the products that helped us.
  • Paintshaver Pro review. This tool is a dream come true and makes this job possible. You can see my husband using it in the video above. I’ll do a whole post about the tool.
  • There are color and design decisions to share — not just a show n’ tell but the reasons and why’s behind the decisions.
  • DIY shutters and functional shutter hardware. I still have to make samples of the shutters. There’s more than 30 shutters to make. I am more of a “one & done” DIY’er, not a production person, so I honestly think making all those shutters will be more painful than this exterior paint job!
  • Some safety tips. Some people might say we’re going overboard – we’re renting a big boom lift for the highest parts of the house next week, instead of rigging up DIY things to get higher up. I worked in safety for decades, and I’ve worked in a trauma center and seen first-hand what can happen to people. So I’m cautious. Not overly-scared because I’m up there on the roof too, but cautious. So I’ll have some things to say about fall prevention and the importance of investing in safety.

So this was a quick update for now, more later!

Boom Lift for Exterior Paint Job