Monday, December 14, 2015

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! 

With Christmas less than 2 weeks away, I wanted do a blog update with pictures of our house decorated for the holidays. 
Our beautiful front door
All of our lights out front
Our Christmas Tree
Our table decorated for the holidays
Without a fireplace we used our railings to hang our stockings
Coffee Table decorations
We wrapped our stairs in garland and bows
Table decorations
Hiding decorations everywhere
We've been in our house over 6 months now. We are still loving our house and are just now starting to see some nail pops and settlement cracks. The cracks are worse on our crown molding in the basement than anywhere else. I'm looking forward to getting everything fixed and painting after our 1 year, but for now I'm just enjoying our first holiday season in the new house.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Organizing our tools

It's been awhile since I blogged and honestly we slowed down on work around the house for a bit, which has been nice. Now that we are relaxed and refreshed from the break, we're starting to get back into planning our projects. We have a growing to-do list with hopes to redo our master closet, the  pantry, and the laundry room in the new year as well as start painting around the 1 year mark. We're also working on finishing a DIY makeover for our old dresser, which we hope to finish over the weekend. With all of the projects coming up plus decorating for the holidays, I plan to get back into blogging more frequently.

Recently we did get one minor project done: Organizing our tools. After about 6 months of fishing through our toolbox every time we need a picture hook or hanger, we finally decided to organize with some classic pegboard. We still don't have a ton of tools since we were just in an apartment before we moved in so we opted for a durable pegboard that is easy to add on. We just picked up some panels on one of our many Home Depot trips. We went with 4 of the Everbilt 16x16 Pegboard and the Everbilt Organizer Kit to start, which only cost around $35. It was super easy to install, and we already filled our 4 panels so we'll probably be adding more soon. The kit even came with little jars and cups for nails and screws. It has been so nice to have the pegboard so we can easily grab our tools whenever we need them plus we can see what we have so we don't end up with 4 of the exact same screwdrivers. Here's a couple pictures from the project:

Pegboard Kit 
Our pegboard in the garage

Hope everyone is enjoying their new homes or their builds! Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Fall

Our front door decorated for Fall!
Happy fall and happy (almost) Halloween!  We started adding fall touches around our house to get in the spirit.
Our beautiful basement with a shiny new pumpkin :)
I have also been spending a lot of time browsing stores like Homegoods and Target as well as online sites for decorating ideas.  We have two spaces that we have really been struggling to decorate: the nook at the top of the stairs on the bedroom level and the space behind the island in the kitchen.

I'm happy to say after months of trying to figure out what we wanted to do, we finally have the nook upstairs almost fully decorated.  We went with a cheap red console table from Target to add a pop of color to our hallway and a set of black frames I found on clearance at TJ Maxx.  I want to find some additional black frames to keep the gallery wall look going further up the wall.  I also want to find some small decor pieces to put on the table so it doesn't look so empty.  Here's our work in progress:
View from the guest bedroom
View from our laundry room
View from the bathroom

Development in Greenbelt Station

It's been a long time since I updated. We have been busy keeping up with the news about the development in our community.  For anyone that is building early on in a development (we built early in phase 1 of our community), it is definitely worth it to start researching and think about attending local city, township, or county meetings where they're discussing the development of your community. You can usually find the meeting information on the city, township, or county website.

Since the full development for Greenbelt Station (south core) hasn't been finalized my husband and I have attended a few of the Greenbelt City meetings on the development of the community.  It has been really cool to be able to give our opinions on the design of different parts of the community.  The City of Greenbelt definitely seems to listen to our opinions since we are actually living in the community.

I will also say that being early in the development is also frustrating since it seems to take forever for any of these development plans to be approved and completed. Long term, I think it will all be worth the wait though. Here's a status update on some of the major development projects in Greenbelt Station:

Traffic Light at the Intersection of Greenbelt Station Parkway and Greenbelt Road

This project was approved pretty much right after we moved in so we didn't go to any meetings on this.  We are extremely excited about it though!  I never thought I would say I was excited about a traffic light, but for those of you who live in or have visited Greenbelt Station, you probably understand my excitement.  There was a median on Greenbelt Road that forced us to make u-turns pretty much every time we left our house.  Needless to say it got old fast.  However the developers have finished their work on the traffic light and the state highway group has broken through the median.  The last we heard is that the road should be patched where the median was soon so we can make a left turn out of our community!  The traffic light will also be in but in test mode by the end of November (meaning it will just be blinking).

Greenbelt Station Park 

My husband and I attended some meetings on the Greenbelt Station Park and the design was finalized and approved by City Council.  Here are the plans.  The construction of the hardscape (sidewalks, etc) should be starting any time now and finished by Spring 2016. The developer will then plant trees and grass.  The grass area will be roped off most likely until Spring 2017. So we won't have a fully functional park for almost 2 years.

WMATA (metro) Trail

The WMATA trail is probably the most contentious topic in the community right now.  I think all of us (or almost all of us) bought in Greenbelt Station for the access to metro.  However, we signed our contract over a year ago and the walking trail to get to metro has not even been started yet. It really sounds like some of this hold up was due to the City of Greenbelt taking a year to finally agree to be the jurisdictional sponsor of the work on the trail. The developers and the City of Greenbelt are still finalizing plans for the trail to WMATA.  A proposed design already went to a city council work session and the developer is working to address some questions.  It sounds like the developers and the city planning team are hoping the final trail will be in front of city council for approval by the end of the year.  Once city council approves the plan then this will go to WMATA for review and approval.  It sounds like it will probably still be about 18 months until we have a functional walking trail to Greenbelt Metro Station. This is definitely the most frustrating part of our home purchase.  Although I will say since we purchased and aren't renting we are looking long term and eventually we will have the walking path and our purchase will be perfect. Also when/if we ever choose to sell, the walking path will help with our resale value. :)

Phase 3 of Greenbelt Station (South Core)

We went to a meeting last night where the Greenbelt Advisory Planning Board reviewed plans for Phase 3 of Greenbelt Station.  The plans aren't yet posted online, but what was presented last night was a mix of townhome models and a small section for retail or a city park.  The proposed design included 161 townhomes all with rear-loading garages like the Strauss model already in the community.  The proposed models will be NVHomes's Andrew Carnegie, Ryan Homes's Strauss, Clarendon, and Hepburn. As for the small section of retail or park, Woodlawn Develpment Group (another branch of NVR) is required to market the lot for retail for a year.  However they said they would not build a space for lease and that it would be the responsibility of whoever purchased the lot to build on it.  When I asked how exactly they will market this lot, Woodlawn just said they would post it on a commercial real estate listing service that is the commercial equivalent of the MLS. They are working with a real estate agent to get the lot listed in the next 30 days.  Overall it sounds like there won't be a lot of active marketing, and no one seemed optimistic that the lot will become retail.  It seems like the lot will likely be a small city park.  I personally would love to have retail so I'm hoping someone likes the lot.  Anyway the city council work session on this plan is set for 11/16.

There's lots of exciting development happening around Greenbelt Station, and we really are loving our house.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Are Ryan Homes Really Energy Efficient?

The answer is definitely yes.  After months of trying to sort out our electric bill with Pepco, we finally got an updated bill last night.  It came to about $115 per month and this was for the summer months with the AC running nonstop.  I am extremely pleased with this since we used to pay this amount for a our little 650 sq ft one bedroom apartment!  For those of you trying to budget your utility costs for a Strauss townhome, here's how our costs break down:

  1. Pepco: about $115 per month
  2. Washington Gas (gas oven, no gas dryer): $15-$20 per month
  3. WSSC (water): unknown (paid every 3 months)
Sometimes with a new construction homes the utility companies take longer to get your bill sorted out. 

WSSC is still working to put us on their meter reading schedule since we're a new construction home. The latest we heard was that we should have a water bill by the end of the month. 

Pepco was sending us bills with estimated readings based on when Ryan Homes was building the house and using electricity 24/7.  They claimed they couldn't read our meter but every time we called they were able to pull our meter reading and see that our bill was wrong. It took months for them to "investigate" our situation but eventually they sorted it out and got us an accurate bill.  Our neighbors in the block didn't have any problems with Pepco, so hopefully our situation was just unique. 

Washington Gas never had any issues getting us our bills and they were always accurate.  At this point they're our favorite utility company :)

For everyone building I hope this helps you budget for your monthly expenses and good luck dealing with your utility companies!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Building Our Bar: The Final Product

Our bar project is complete and it turned out great!

A couple weeks ago we had an electrician come by and split our electrical outlet so we could plug in our wine cooler in the bar and our new TV above the bar plus we moved our cable outlet up on the wall so it would be above the bar. I meant to post an update but work/life has been crazy. We ended up finding an electrician on yelp since the one that is working in our community wasn't calling us back. It cost about $200 but it was easy to schedule and only took about an hour. We also picked up our wine cooler from Home Depot and so far we're loving it. 
Daisy with the wine cooler and the adjusted outlets
On Friday we had Panda Kitchen come out and install the bar. They were great to work with and it only cost $1820 including the installation. They arrived on time and finished in about 2 hours, including the granite installation. It turned out beautiful!  They even added some of our flooring trim around the bar to make it look like it really belongs. 
The finished product!
After the installers left, we got our new TV from Costco. We went with a 70" TV since our sectional sits so far back from the bar. Although the TV is huge, it's narrow so it doesn't take up too much of the bar countertop. 
Our big TV
Watching the Terps win on our new TV
To finish off the space we extended our sectional and moved the chair piece around to the side. We've really enjoyed being able to use our basement more with this new setup.
New sofa piece added to the sectional
View of our basement from the front door
The entire sectional!
Our seating area (view from the garage entrance)
Daisy enjoying her big sectional
To finish up we're going to order a canvas set of the Philly skyline from Etsy for above the sectional. Then we're done with this room until we paint next year!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Building our Bar: Final Design and Quote

We went back and forth on a few of the options for the angled wall cabinet and just received our finalized design for the bar.  This is the 3D design with generic white cabinets and counter top.  The steel object towards the middle is our wine cooler and the doorway is the entrance to our garage.  We're really loving this design!  And the great news is it is only going to cost about $1800 including installation!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Building Our Bar: Putting Down a Deposit and Finalizing Options

We had a follow up meeting with Panda Kitchen at their design center in Laurel, and I'm excited to say we ended up putting down a deposit for our bar installation!  We went into the appointment thinking we would just take a quick look at the design and put down our deposit.  However when we got to the design center we started wandering around all the different sample kitchens and began rethinking some of our choices.  

Originally we selected white shaker cabinets with blue pearl granite, but we switched that after seeing a kitchen in the design center set up with light oak cabinets and blue pearl granite.  We decided that the blue pearl granite was too gray and we didn't like it with the light cabinets.  So we stared at the granite samples for a while and ultimately ended up with Santa Cecilia Light, which is what we have in the rest of our house.  We also debated getting flat white cabinets with the full overlay, but decided to keep the shaker cabinets.  To finalize the design we added the same bar pulls that are in our kitchen and bathrooms.  This was a no-brainer add-on, since it was less than $15 to add including installation.

Here are all of our options:
Santa Cecilia
White Shaker Cabinets
Bar pulls
We're still working on getting an electrician out to move some of our outlets so that they aren't all behind the bar.  Once we get that resolved we can give Panda a call and they will schedule our installation.  Hopefully we can get everything scheduled soon.  We can't wait to get our bar in so we can spend more time in the basement, which is Daisy's favorite room in the house.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Building Our Bar: Getting a Second Quote and Purchasing our Wine Cooler

This weekend we had Panda Kitchen out to measure our space for the bar, look at some of their options, and get our free design quote.  We picked the same options that we did at Home Depot (whiter shaker cabinets and blue pearl granite).  Panda's installation was on special, which made it only around $100 more to have the cabinets installed by them, so we priced that out.  The quote came to $1900, which was about $700 less than the Home Depot quote where we were going to have to install the cabinets ourselves.  They also are going to build a cabinet for our angled wall instead of just putting a cabinet front there like Home Depot suggested.  We were really pleased with the quote so we set up an appointment to go into the showroom and most likely finalize the order this upcoming Saturday.

We also ordered the wine cooler we've been eyeing, so that we have it prior to installation.  We didn't want to spend a fortune on the wine cooler but we wanted something that could be used as both a wine cooler and beer/soda fridge.  We also wanted something that was a fairly standard size so that we have the ability to switch it out easily in the future if we decide to get something else.  We also wanted a modern stainless and glass look.  With all of this in mind we ended up getting this Magic Chef Dual Zone Cooler from Home Depot.

I'm really excited that this project is coming together quickly.  Hopefully we'll have the bar in place this fall, so we can use our basement a little more for entertaining.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Building our Bar: Planning and Getting our First Quote

Building a house is overwhelming, whether this is your first house or you 5th house, so it's natural to overlook a few things.  Well one thing I wish that we had thought more about was our basement.

We initially priced out getting the basement bedroom because we thought everyone loves more bedrooms and bathrooms in a house.  Then we switched to wanting the open concept rec room featured in our model because it was more appealing to us and we can always put up walls if we need to in the future.  I'm glad we went with the open rec room in the end.  It looks great!  I just wish we would have though more about how we want to use our basement when we made our selection.

Aside from our hardwood we went with the basic selections down there.  Up until about a week or two before closing we didn't even consider putting a bar in the basement even though it's featured in our model, so we never priced it out with RH.  We currrently have one outlet and one cable hookup on the wall that we will be putting our bar on.  Both of which will be behind the bar which makes it nearly impossible to put our TV on top of the bar once the project is complete.  Honestly we didn't even consider the complication with the outlets until we got home from our first design appointment.  So now we're probably going to have an electrician out to move the outlets up on the wall so we can easily hook up a TV.  Had I considered all of these issues when we purchased our house I would have at least gotten the pricing from RH and thought seriously about just having them install the bar.

Anyway onto our first quote appointment.  I set this up with Home Depot, specifically the kitchen design section, since they're our closest big box store and they had online appointment scheduling.  We measured our wall thoroughly, including the angled section of our wall in the corner and where the outlets are located (without remembering to think about the height of the outlets).  We brought our measurements with us to the appointment on a little sketch of the room.  This allowed our consultant to really price out everything we wanted.  FYI - the default for Home Depot is for you to order the cabinets and install them yourselves.  We were fine with this since we're only doing base cabinets.  Our consultant started by asking us what look we were going for and what cabinet we wanted.  We decided on a white shaker style.  These came with soft close hinges/drawers, but no pulls or knobs.  Our consultant did the design on his software using the cabinets we selected.  He let us know its way cheaper to rent their truck for an hour and take the cabinets to our house then to pay for delivery so we did not include delivery.  Overall the quote for the cabinets was roughly $1300 and that was with the cabinets on sale.  Here's an idea of our design.
Front view of the design
View from above (since we have the angled wall the far right cabinet is just a front)
3D view of the design
After we went through the cabinet design our consultant asked us if we had an idea of what countertop we would want.  We knew we wanted granite and one particular blue granite caught our eye last time we were in the store.  Of course it was level D, but we priced it out anyway because it would look so great with our basement furniture.  Here's a picture of our dream granite:
Blue Pearl Granite
The granite including installation was going to be another $1300.  So we're up to $2600 without even buying the wine/beverage cooler or the big screen TV and we would have to install our own cabinets.  We decided to walk away and set up more design appointments to get additional quotes.  Tomorrow we'll be meeting with Panda Kitchen, which my parents just recently used to renovate the kitchen in their new condo.  I'm hoping for a cheaper price, but we'll see.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Staying out of the heat = house projects!

It was an incredibly hot weekend, so my husband and I focused on completing some of our projects around the house to stay cool.  Mainly we hung a lot of stuff up.  We put up a picture wall in the morning room/kitchen area.  We also put up curtains in our office and guest room.  We ordered curtains for the master bedroom and are looking for a valance for the master bathroom.  Once we get those couple items, then we'll be done with window treatments.

Here's some pictures of our work from the weekend:
Our picture wall (looking from the middle of the kitchen)
Our picture wall (looking from the end of kitchen/stairs)
Curtains in the office
Curtains in the guest room
Curtains in the guest room

Friday, August 7, 2015

Update and planning for our first project

Sorry for the long time between posts.  We haven't done too much around the house lately since we were out of town last weekend, but we did make some progress on getting more decor on the walls.  We're still planning to hold off on painting until our one year follow up since we are already getting a few nail pops.  So none of our rooms are really finished, but we did get to a point with the powder rooms where we won't be doing anything else until we paint.  It's hard to get a good angle to really see what they look like since they're so tiny, but here are a couple pictures.
Powder room on the main level
Wall decor is up
Close up of our decor
We still need to pick up a couple candles
Powder room off of the rec room
After we "finished" the powder rooms, we worked on finding a stylish coat hanger for the rec room.  Since we went with the open floor plan rec room and powder room, we didn't get a coat closet, so we wanted a coat hanger that blended with the decor for when it gets colder outside.  We found this great coat hanger by Umbra on Amazon and we're really happy with how it looks in the room.
The coat hanger blends perfectly with our hardwoods
You just pull down the sticks and you have a functioning coat hanger
Speaking of the rec room, we're planning to put in a bar area similar to the one in the model, and we are starting to research companies.  So far we learned that we can't use Ikea cabinets, since we have an angle in the corner of our wall, and they're cabinets can't be altered.  We're going to start reaching out to other companies for quotes over the next couple weeks.  I'll do some additional posts once we get the process started, but for now we put our foosball table in the rec room.
Bar in the model home
We'll likely go with white cabinets to brighten up the space
Our current rec room
The bar will go on the wall behind the foosball table

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


We haven't been doing too much work around the house, but we have hung a few more pictures.  Since it's just the two of us (plus Daisy) we decided to use the smaller of the two additional bedrooms as an office.  We hung all of the pictures on the walls and the keyboard is all set up so we have completed the room.  We used all existing furniture so this was an easy room to finish.  Here's a couple pictures of our completed office/music room.