The First Things On The Tree House To Do List

photo tour | vlog

As excited as we are about our Tree House, I think it’s safe to say that our friends and family are equally so! Not only do they want to know when they can see it in person (if you’re willing to wield a sledgehammer, how about now?), they also want to know what our plans are for the long haul. Will we be doing much of the demo ourselves (they ask while looking at my growing belly)? Does it need demo? Do Jack and CC enjoy it? (Boy, do they.)

Scott and I joke that we wanted to scoop up this getaway home before our baby was born so that we wouldn’t chicken out or come up with excuses why we couldn’t after she’s born. You know we love a good project, but we’re also doing our best to be reasonable with our timelines and expectations. Things have been slow moving since we closed in early August, but as it turns out, finding a good general contractor in the Lakeside area has been an overwhelming challenge! I mean, wow. We initially thought we’d hire a GC to be our eyes and ears for a big first sweep, but after several unanswered calls, a frustrating cancelation and, finally, a quote that made our eyes bug out, we’ve decided to take a step back. For now, we’ll break the work into sizable chunks and play GC ourselves. While this means we won’t be able to take on the ambitious goals we originally had, we’ve realized that this will give us a bit more time to noodle on our design plans without rushing in. We do plan on sharing a longer post with our experience on working with contractors (it’s a question we receive on the daily!), but for now, our new slow approach is surely for the better.

Ultimately, we’ve split our to do list into two parts: This year versus next year. Next year will be the time to really, truly dig in – garden projects, tiling decisions, room layouts and window treatments and paint colors – whereas this year we’re focusing on getting us to a very basic starting point. Here’s what’s first on the list!

1| Install an HVAC System

The home was dubbed as a ‘3 season’ property in the listing, because there was no furnace. Although there is baseboard heating throughout, it’s not very powerful, and it wouldn’t do us much good on a cold, wintery evening (in which I envision us with mugs of hot chocolate, soft blankets and a stack of movies in the Netflix queue). We quickly learned that a gas line was never hooked up to the home, but the good news is that the main line ran down the street, making it fairly simple to run that to us. It was surprisingly affordable to do so – about $200 plus a few fees – and it should be completed any day now.

After a lot of phone calls and a handful of interviews, we finally landed an HVAC contractor we feel great about, and we came up with a game plan that includes exposed loft-style ducts. To be honest, I wasn’t thrilled about this at first, but after a lot of inspiration photo soul searching, I’ve come to terms with it. Scott, on the other hand, is thrilled! None of the ductwork will be seen in the living room (salvaging the integrity of the ceiling was our biggest concern!), but it took a lot of brainstorming with the pros to come up with the plan. During the install, we’re also tacking on an air conditioner and smart thermostat, and we’re replacing the electric water heater with a tankless. All of this is where our money will be going initially, and we want to rip it off like a bandage!

2| Repair the Electrical Gremlins

I can’t help but laugh every time Scott calls our electrical issues ‘gremlins,’ but man, do we have gremlins! The breaker panel needs help, there are outlets that don’t seem to work, switches that turn nothing on or off, uncapped junction boxes and a ceiling fan that’s dangerously close to the ladder. Luckily, finding a qualified electrician has been a teeny bit easier than finding a GC.

3| Demo the Mudroom

The mudroom currently houses a huge water heater in one of those closets, and the idea of spending money heating all that water when this isn’t our permanent residence doesn’t sound like a good time. This loops back into our decision for a tankless, above, which we think will get installed in the bathroom closet.

That means that this room will no longer need a large utility closet, giving us the opportunity to rearrange everything to make room for a proper entryway – one with a long, low storage bench, one skinny broom closet, a stacked washer and dryer, hooks for coats and cabinets up high. We are so excited about this! We’re going to take out all the closets and cabinets you see here, giving ourselves a beautiful blank slate – and a bit of a mess until we get working on the design plan.

4| Find Out What’s Under the Linoleum

While we’re at it, we’re going to peel back a layer of that old linoleum to see what lies beneath. The linoleum (or vinyl?) was installed within the last couple of decades, no doubt, and it runs from the mudroom into the kitchen. What we find underneath will help us determine if it’s something we can salvage and use, or it may have us choosing pretty tile instead.

5| Close Up the Bedroom Closet

We shared this in our video walkthrough, but the sad closet in the second bedroom isn’t doing much besides hogging precious bathroom space. Let me explain; the bedroom closet shares a wall with the bathroom, and to make room for that closet, there’s an awkward bump out in the bathroom. As a result, the bath only has enough space for a single vanity, and it makes for an extremely narrow entry into the room, too. At this point, we may just drywall over the closet in the bedroom so we can whip that room into shape, and we’ll demo the bathroom obstacle when we gut that room completely. To give the bedroom storage, we’ll add either a tallboy dresser or bureau.

6| Refinish the Hardwood Floors

This might be our most ambitious goal for this year, so we’re saying this tentatively – but it’s high on the wish list! While we absolutely love the hardwood floors in the living space, guest bedroom and loft, it has seen better days. There are areas that are almost a deep red and others that have faded in the sun, and the guest room seems to be a different finish completely!

If we’re going to refinish them, we’d love to lighten the floors overall, which we think will also give the whole house a brighter, airier feel. To prep for this, we’ll need to rip up the faux brick surround by the corner potbelly stove (which won’t be staying), and we’re crossing all our fingers that the hardwood continues underneath!

Right now, we’re still debating whether to DIY the refinishing versus hiring a pro, although Sarah gives us hope that we can do this ourselves! Even still, we’re in the process of gathering a couple of quotes to compare the cost of professional labor versus our time + rental materials.

7| Make the Beds

This is so simple, right? When we purchased our Tree House, the beds and appliances were worked into the contract so that we’d have a starting point. Right now, we’re in the midst of an amusing game of The Bed Shuffle, as this gorgeous thing is sitting in our garage, waiting to go into the master bedroom. The current white bed and mattress will either be sold or donated, and we’ve already given the second bedroom’s full size frame and mattress to our brother (for our little nephew’s big boy room).

The adorable vintage beds in the loft aren’t going anywhere – we are way, way too excited about those gems! – but all the mattresses are getting upgraded to our favorite bed-in-box brand, Leesa. We’re excited to be partnering with Leesa once again for the Tree House, as we want this home to be every bit as comfortable, cozy and enticing as our own. And my goodness, do we love our Leesa! With the amount of time we’ll be running up to the house with friends and family who will be pitching in to help (especially during my last trimester before baby girl arrives!), it’s important for us to create a relaxing retreat at the end of the day. Decor and paint will follow in due time. Psst: If you’ve been curious about giving Leesa a try, you can always take $100 off on us when you use the promo code YBH100 at checkout. Here’s our take on the Leesa after sleeping on ours for the past year.

We’re caught in a bit of waiting game until the HVAC is installed, but we’re marking dates in the calendar for our next trip up, adding to the to-do list (every day – ha!) and keeping our eyes open at flea markets, estate sales and the thrift. We’re looking forward to sharing the progress with you, and we’re toying with the idea of more laid-back vlogs to share the behind the scenes. Is that something you’d be interested in? Please let us know what you think!

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  • Tricia10.5.17 - 7:24 AM

    I know what you’re going through- I’ve been trying to find a contractor in St. Joseph for a very long time. There is such a shortage around here. Finally got a quote last week and it was way over what we expected. It’s so frustrating! I’ll let you know if we ever find someone.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 8:37 AM

      Very frustrating! We got a lot of great recommendations that all fell through for different (frustrating) reasons, but I guess a good GC is hard to come by anywhere, really.ReplyCancel

      • Carolyn10.8.17 - 2:59 PM

        I have family in Long Beach renovating a home and they have good luck looking in The Beecher. Still a frustrating process, but it’s a starting point. I think they pick up a weekly copy at the grocery store.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah10.5.17 - 7:38 AM

    You can definitely refinish the floors yourself. We refinished ours when we bought our house before moving in. I’m not sure if ever convince my (now) husband to ever do it again, but there’s honestly nothing like getting up close and personal with your floors to fall in love with your house. I’m always puzzled by the number of DIY blogs that hire this out. It’s a relatively straightforward DIY and a huge money saver. We got $5K off the asking for our house since we decided we’d do it ourselves- it cost us less than $500 when all was said and done.

    Selfishly- I’d prefer no vlogs. I like to read blogs when I’m at work on break or in the quiet over breakfast in the morning and video content really turns me off. I’m likely to skip it and move on to another written blog. I want to follow along though, so I hope you can get a good mix!ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 8:38 AM

      Thanks for another vote to DIY! If we did hire, it would simply be due to time (it’ll be nearing the holidays and I’ll be very pregnant by then!), but we can’t kick the idea of trying our hand at it. We’ll definitely let you know how it goes! And also good to know about the vlogs – we receive a lot of requests for ‘more!’, so we’d be sure to strike a good balance. Looking forward to others’ thoughts on that as well!ReplyCancel

      • Katie10.5.17 - 9:12 AM

        For future vlogs, maybe you provide a good summary with pictures for those of us that can’t watch? I like the way YHL does this. Another option would be making sure the video captions are correct. I usually can’t watch with sound (reading while baby naps on me) so this would be great! Can’t wait to watch this reno :)ReplyCancel

      • P W10.24.17 - 12:16 PM

        I am on the side of those who prefer to read text than watch video.ReplyCancel

    • beks10.8.17 - 11:23 AM

      Im on the no vlog bandwagon as well, I too sneak in reading between projects at work and video is too laggy on my computer, and I’d hate to miss anything!ReplyCancel

  • Michelle10.5.17 - 8:47 AM

    Looks great! Did you consider space pak for your hvac? Are you keeping the ladder?ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 10:56 AM

      We are keeping the ladder! And after going over a ton of HVAC options, we finally feel comfortable with where we landed.ReplyCancel

  • Arli10.5.17 - 9:31 AM

    Love the treehouse! I NEVER watch vlogs on any blog.ReplyCancel

  • Jane10.5.17 - 9:35 AM

    I would love to hear details on solving the electrical issues. I enjoy the Vlogs but enjoy reading more. Your blog is part of my day, thanks for doing it!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer10.5.17 - 9:46 AM

    I like the vlogs for posts where it would be hard to show just with pictures – like all the layout posts of the entire space a la introducing the garden apartment and the tree house. Otherwise, it’s frustrating because I read blogs while nursing or getting the kids to bed so there can’t be any sound or video.ReplyCancel

  • jenn aka the picky girl10.5.17 - 9:52 AM

    Another vote against vlogs. I am just not a video person and can’t watch at work.

    LOVE the update on the tree house and can’t wait to see progress!ReplyCancel

  • Kim10.5.17 - 9:54 AM

    So interesting, thanks for chiming in, guys! You’ve got me wondering… any vlog lovers out there? I know I personally love watching them on my lunch breaks, as they feel a little more personal. Of course, written blogs and photos will stay the most frequent, but if y’all aren’t into vlogs, I want to make sure I strike a balance of what you’re enjoying vs. what doesn’t work!ReplyCancel

    • Molly10.5.17 - 10:11 AM

      I love vlogs! I use my lunch time to read/watch all my favorite blog updates- and I’d love to see vlogs during your renovation!ReplyCancel

    • Kate10.5.17 - 12:48 PM

      I personally LOVE the vlogs (especially for layout/overall flow/room tour type of things) but also really appreciate the blogs and photos.ReplyCancel

    • Loryn10.5.17 - 4:51 PM

      I really like the video tours, like the one for the tree house and the garden apartment before and finished tours. For most other things I prefer reading/photos, especially as your writing is enjoyable to read.ReplyCancel

    • Stacy G.10.6.17 - 7:59 AM

      Another vote for vlogs. I enjoy them, but I admit that shorter is sweeter. :)ReplyCancel

  • Trish10.5.17 - 10:24 AM

    I also never watch vlogs on any blog. They are so often shot with someone holding a handheld camera and walking and that kind of makes me car sick. I much prefer pictures that I can zoom in on for closer detail.ReplyCancel

  • Janette10.5.17 - 10:37 AM

    Another “no” vote for vlogs for all the reasons above. I don’t want the noise, I prefer reading to watching, and the video footage often makes me feel kind of sick. I always skip them in favor of text and pictures.ReplyCancel

  • Jenna10.5.17 - 10:54 AM

    I like vlogs but I also think the ability to reread sections and really pore over a particular part of a blog is nice. Blogs are so organized and well-thought out, which I like when I’m trying to understand design choices. Both have their advantages though, and I’m sure it will depend on the type of content you’re working with in a particular situation! Love the blog (and also vlog haha)!ReplyCancel

  • Carol10.5.17 - 11:27 AM

    Count me among the “never watch.” It’s much faster for me to read the information and look at pictures than it is to slog through a vlog. Every time I try (and to be clear here, I’m not just talking about YBH!) I’m generally going “come on, come on” within the first 2 minutes and going elsewhere.ReplyCancel

  • Brittany10.5.17 - 11:30 AM

    You may have already considered this, but your outlets and switches that don’t seem to work could be linked together. Plug in a lamp that is on to any outlet that doesn’t work, and then go flip the light switches that don’t seem to do anything. Your outlet may be controlled by those switches, turning on your lamp. I’ve seen this done often in older homes where installing overhead lighting may not be an option.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 12:10 PM

      Right! I should have mentioned that. We did test outlets with a little portable fan, but we still couldn’t figure it out. We’ll have the electrician tidy all that up when he does the other work.ReplyCancel

  • Tanja10.5.17 - 11:47 AM

    Hi Kim (&Scott), I like vlogs. It’s a nice break during the day. I do work from a home office so I can watch a vlog with no disruption to anyone but my companion Sunshine (our cat).

    I’m so excited about this lakehouse reno and watching what you guys get done. Is it just me or is that list SO AMBITIOUS for this year. There are less than 90 days left in the year with Thanksgiving and Christmas mixed in there. That said if anyone can do it, you can. I know Chris and Julia ( got a ton done when she was pregnant with Polly so you can too!ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 12:10 PM

      Thanks, Tanja!

      I don’t know how they did it, but here’s hoping we can accomplish all of that! Yikes.ReplyCancel

  • Rosie10.5.17 - 11:50 AM

    Do I understand correctly that you’re getting rid of the woodstove? Why?? If your planning to be there at all in fall and winter, a woodstove is so lovely and cozy – there’s no heat source like it! And it looks like that’s a relatively new Vermont Castings brand – those are nice stoves. Agree that the faux brick has to go, but if that’s the only objection, there are so many other great hearth and surround options – slate, soap stone, marble, terracotta, etc.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 12:09 PM

      We are, and we’re looking to add a smaller gas stove in the opposite corner of the room. Where the stove is now is the perfect place for a built-in banquette / seating / dining area. Also, the chimney was capped a while ago, so there’s no place for that guy to vent right now. We’ll find a new home for it!ReplyCancel

    • Haley10.5.17 - 1:15 PM

      Second! I love the stove too, by aunt and uncle have a house right of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains in VA and they have a wood stove. There is nothing like being cozied up with the fire crackling in it.ReplyCancel

    • Danielle10.5.17 - 3:49 PM

      I agree with Rosie – wood stoves are amazing. I was not a fan of ours when we moved into our house in Oregon – I refused to use it for months. It was cold and our electric heat wasn’t great. And then I used it – I am a total convert. Nothing beats the heat from a wood stove, it is amazing. I agree the hearth should go (I plan to move mine to a more central location and do a more modern surround to try to balance out the less than stylish monstrosity), but there are some really cool ideas out there for helping a wood stove look a bit more stylish. At least give it a try for a bit before getting rid of it!ReplyCancel

      • Kim10.5.17 - 3:52 PM

        We LOVE the stove, it’s all about the placement and no where for it to vent. Otherwise, we would definitely keep it! We’ll find a good home for it.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Raymond10.5.17 - 12:35 PM

    I love the vlogs. Specially if they are not super long :)ReplyCancel

  • Jane Hoffmann10.5.17 - 6:20 PM

    I like casual Vlogs for seeing more of “you” and the voices behind the blog. But I also love your blog posts. Sad to see the wood stove go, but get the space factor. Plus, with a toddler running around, that’s something super scary to have to be careful about!ReplyCancel

  • Meg10.5.17 - 9:16 PM

    I’d love to see regular (or, at least, semi-regular) vlogs! They give a level of understanding spaces that you just can’t provide with written posts and photos. Plus, it’s fun to watch your personalities on video – I love watching your Instagram Stories for this reason.ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.5.17 - 9:47 PM

      Thanks for chiming in, guys! :D We’ll definitely work on a balance of vlog + blog, but don’t worry, most of the content will remain written with imagery.ReplyCancel

  • JUstynn10.6.17 - 7:49 AM

    For what it’s worth… I like vlogs if they are “active” and relatively short. Meaning not a 20 minute video of one person talking to the camera in the same spot the whole time, or the camera facing the same thing for the majority of the video. But the really do help you figure out layouts of the space, and size of spaces- I always have a hard time with photos getting a feel for size!

    That being said like someone above mentioned I love when there’s pictures and descriptions as well so I can scroll up and down to determine what’s being said in the text.

    I think you have a pretty good balance between images and text, as well as with the videos- they’re interesting, fun and informative. I say just keep it up!ReplyCancel

  • Stacy G.10.6.17 - 8:08 AM

    I always enjoy reading your posts, and I cannot wait to see the Treehouse come together. I already love the living room so so so much. (Three sos/soes worth! Made up words are problematic.)

    We have a similar mystery outlet and switch problem. It is all a big puzzle.ReplyCancel

  • JoniB10.6.17 - 11:33 AM

    I vote for some of both, a vlog is great as long as it’s not too long, but I also love the regular pic/blog postings with your descriptions and thought process. And I am loving your little cabin in the woods. Every time I see a post about it I envision my family there and who would want to be in the loft, who would want the downstairs rooms, etc. So excited to see how you transform it to your own space.ReplyCancel

  • Erin Matheny10.6.17 - 1:36 PM

    Another vote in favor of the vlogs. One of the many reasons I love YBH is getting to see such a supportive and creative couple work on projects. Also, its a nice refresher when things aren’t so over stylized in the blogoshere (although I’ve enjoyed the more produced videos also). Even if I can’t watch at work durign the day, i will always find time to squeeze them in later. Can’t wait to see where you go with the cottage!ReplyCancel

    • Kim10.6.17 - 1:42 PM

      I really appreciate this comment, Erin! Thank you so much.ReplyCancel

  • JaneS10.6.17 - 1:58 PM

    YES! Vlogs please. It makes it so much easier to see the layout. I hope you do as someone suggested, write, include lots of pics but do the video also. More work for you, but… Good luck with it all and baby too!ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa10.7.17 - 2:18 PM

    I don’t really go for vlogs BUT I was unable to sort things out spatially until I saw your Garden Apartment vlog so I guess that it was helpful. It is also quite personal to hear the voices of the people who you have been reading for so many years. Another gift to the reader.

    As for the tree house, go slowly. Don’t rush through it, live with it for a while to see what’s up. Houses can talk pretty quietly sometimes, “I need this, I need that,” might take some time.ReplyCancel

  • Jannike10.7.17 - 2:51 PM

    Our “Shacklet” a shack that wants to be a chalet is an hour north of Montreal and our never-ending reno project. We have electric heat throughout which is standard in Quebec. We did upgrade the insulation and windows. We tossed the ancient wood burning stove to reduce our insurance cost. We plan on putting in a gas stove one day. We have a hot water tank and turn off the breaker when not at the shack. It doesn’t take long to reheat the water even in winter. We also leave the heat on super low all winter to keep the pipes from freezing.

    I know your pain of find a good contractor. We have the same problem at the shack so over the years we’ve diy most everything and found people for certain projects, ie new foundation, septic system, landscaping.

    As always I look forward to seeing progress on the Treehouse both vlogs and regular posts. Show us the garden!ReplyCancel

  • Joan10.8.17 - 9:33 AM

    I love, love, love the vlogs!!! Please post more…. I love watching the videos with you and Scott. And I love when all the pets are in them too!ReplyCancel


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