It takes a year to make your house a home.

Been awfully quiet around these parts lately, eh? Yeah. I’d apologize, but to be honest, I’m not sorry. Been keeping myself busy with lots of fun things, and as a result blogging has kind of sat on the back burner. Sorry not sorry? 

We moved in to our home September 2013. A month after move in, I gave you a tour of our new digs. And here we are, a little over a year later and I’m going to give you, yet again another tour of Casa De Ninja.

Why a second tour?

Well, because the tour I gave you in October 2013 included a modge-podgery of furniture items and decorations we had accumulated over the years, nor did that tour include many of the improvements we have made to the space since. Now that we know we will be staying put for a while, it was time to be a “big kid” and transition from cheap bargain furniture to a more mature taste (that’s not to say we still don’t appreciate an Ikea run every now and again).

I’ll start by showing you before pictures of each room. These before pics are from when we toured the home, before we took ownership. Hopefully you’ll appreciate the changes we’ve made.

Living room before and after:

Clearly the sellers had moved most of their furniture out and staged the space minimally and super impractically. Pretty sure it would be impossible to watch TV while sitting on the couch in that shot without giving your neck a serious workout. Also, the previous owners had a serious knack for green paint. Every room in the house had a different shade of green. Needless to say, there isn’t a green wall in the house anymore.





Cosmetic changes to the room were pretty simple. We painted the walls a light grey and this last weekend I got out my miter saw and finish nail gun and replaced all our cheap-o window trim with something that fits better with our 85-year-old home’s bones. Our entertainment center used to be our coffee table, but with Baby Ninja, we decided to be coffee table-less and repurpose the furniture piece. No coffee table is one less thing for Baby Ninja to bonk his noggin on now that he is crawling.

Our living room isn’t large by any stretch of the imagination, but we sure do love the space. Oh and did you notice we got our San Diego roots up on one wall, and our Seattle roots blinging on the other. I have a lot of love for these two cities.

The Dining Room and Piano area (before):

Has now become the Piano area and Work Space area:



We inherited the baby grand piano when my grandma passed away four years ago. We couldn’t fit it in our 600 sqft San Diego condo at the time so we put it in storage, where it would stay for years and years, until we bought this house. Girl Ninja grew up playing the piano and I believe she plans to FORCE teach Baby Ninja to play as well.




How boss is that desk? I freaking love it. It’s sexy, sophisticated, and a heck of a lot more manly than the white chabby-chic desk we had before.

Fun fact on this desk.

I bought it and the chair for $250 on Craigslist this summer, and posted it the next day for $500. I had two people make full offers within a day of posting, but Girl Ninja got pissed and told me I wasn’t allowed to sell it. I’m always hustling.

The picture hanging on the wall to the right of the desk is a picture I took of Petco Park when we lived in San Diego. It’s probably the best picture I’ve ever taken, hence the reason it’s hanging up.

The breakfast nook is now our dining room:

– Sweet sun clock bro.

– Sweet track lighting bro.

– Sweet green walls bro.



Replaced the light fixture. Painted the kitchen light blue. Added a chalkwall, because those are apparently all the rage? Baby Ninja has his own seat at the table now which is interesting. And that picture frame with the Seattle print is actually an original 85-year-old window that we salvaged from our upstairs remodel.

Kitchen Before and After:


This is definitely where we made the most drastic changes. Changed out all the light fixtures. Painted the cabinets white. Added cabinet hardware. Updated to stainless steel appliances. Got rid of that awful pot rack that choked off the room. I added trim to the peninsula to make it look a little more craftsman-y. Ripped out the tile counters and added a sexy Quartz. And I took my first stab at tiling by adding a subway tile backsplash.

Fun fact: I got quoted $1,200 by our counter guy for the backsplash work. Guess how much the tile cost me? Sixty freaking dollars. Now you know why I did it myself. Booya for saving $1,100 by DIYing.

A few more kitchen before and afters:




We are super happy with the way things have turned out, especially considering the only work we hired out was the counter install. Sweat equity is the best kind of equity to build and I’m hopeful our hard work will benefit us financially in the event we decide to sell.

We still have work to do in our bedroom, the basement, and outside, but hey…we aren’t going anywhere so what’s another couple years before we knock those projects out, right? Just don’t tell Girl Ninja it might take that long 😉

– Have you dabbled in some DIY projects?

– Learned a new trade or skill recently?

– Would you be interested in me posting simple and concise tutorials on how I taught myself to do trim work, tiling, electrical, and other random house stuff? (feel free to say no, my feelings wont be hurt) 

38 thoughts on “It takes a year to make your house a home.”

  1. Not much DIYing for me since I’m in an apartment complex, but I did just take apart my printer to see why it kept jamming. Not 100% sure it will go back together, though. I think the place looks great!

    Forgive me if you’ve broken this out in the past, but I’d be curious to know how the piano experience worked out for you. My parents have a baby grand that I grew up playing, and I’d like to have it one day. But now they’re going to be moving about 1500 mi away for 4-5 years and even though I might be able to fit it in my apartment now, I wouldn’t be able to play it given the noise. Probably moving a bit in that timeframe, too. Parents aren’t sure what to do with it – some of the key tones are going and they say it would be hard to even give away, and they’ll probably be downsizing with the move. How much were you spending to store yours? Does it sound okay after the storage?

    • Cost was about $65 a month at a piano specific storage facility in Riverside, CA. The piano was there about a year before we moved to Seattle. I had the piano put in the back of our moving truck and drove it up here. Then i put it in regular storage (still a climate controlled unit) for two and a half years at about $50/mo.

      Even though the piano was stored upright for almost four years, it still sounds pretty darn good. Thats not to say it couldnt use a tuning and cleaning, but it doesnt NEED it urgently from a sound perspective.

      If this wasnt an heirloom, we probably would have just acquired a piano through CL as people tend to post them for free or dirt cheap frequently since they can be a headache to move.

  2. Looks very nice. I would be interested to see how you did your DIY projects. I am always looking to learn more. I have done some pretty decent DIY projects including: Replaced 80% of the light fixtures in our house, adding GFCIs to kitchen and bathrooms and swamped out old outlets for newer ones, replacing sinks and toilets, replaced a sump-pump and many many other small projects.

    I have to know… what does the switch on the end of the “island” control?

    Did you consider buying a microwave with a vent to put over the stove to save counter space?

    • Switch on the island cobtrols the two pendants above the counter.

      And we looked at the microwave above the stove option, but decided a pretty stainless steel hood looked better than a big bulky microwave unit.

  3. “Guess how much the tile cost me? Sixty freaking dollars.”

    Oh come on now. You also had to buy spacers, cement, and grout.

    Glad to see your piano survived. But you should have it tuned twice a year as a rule, and even if it sounds fine to you, it may need pitch-raising if it’s been unused for several years (though that’s less likely if it was stored in a climate-controlled environment). I would have a qualified technician inspect it thoroughly.

    • Ah come on Larry. Subway tiles have built in spacers so no need to buy those. But ya got me on the grout and mastic 😉

      And youre right we defibitely need the piano serviced.

      • Yeah, don’t wait too long before calling a technician. The instrument has been moved from a climate-controlled environment to a less stable one, and only an expert can evaluate what is needed to get it accustomed to its new home. Remember, even though it was a gift, a piano of that calibre could be worth easily $10,000, and as such it’s probably one of your most valuable assets.

  4. Love the kitchen reno!

    I’m not much of a DIYer myself (apartment living, no background in anything handy) but I’d DEFINITELY read tutorial posts, especially since I plan to move to my own place this year and there’ll be lots to do, I reckon.

  5. Ninja! First of all, I have to say your house looks spectacular. The chalkwall is amazing, I have not seen a feature like that in many homes.

    I have noticed you have not been posting here often, which makes me sad, I am not going to lie. I’ve been reading this blog for years and I love the humor and the advice that you give. My question is, are you open to having guests post on your blog? I honestly do not want to start a blog of my own, but I want to write about money and help people punch debt in the face. Is there ever a chance to write guest posts and email them to you for publishing? I do not know if this could be paid opportunity or not, but look me up if there is a chance for this type of work.

    • I am not Ninja, but on one occasion I contributed a guest column. No, I wasn’t paid (perhaps I should submit my bill).

    • Always down to host a guest post every now and again if you wanted to write something. My only rule is it cant be boring and dry. Haha.

      If you want to have one put up here shoot me an email!

  6. Yes on the DIY! I want to know how to change overhead light fixtures, and how to swap out a kitchen sink faucet. Please & thank you 🙂

    Also, I love the gray couch in the living area & the stools in the kitchen. Where did you get them?

  7. I’d love to see tutorials! I’m impressed with your back splash tiling. Please tell me it’s not toooo difficult or time consuming.

    • It’s actually really simple. Especially with subway tile since they have built in spacers around the edge. A tape measurer and a tile saw is all you need. Nothing too fancy.

  8. Love all your improvements – just beautiful!

    Didn’t you update the attic/baby ninja’s room? Also, how are your bedrooms and bathrooms – do they need updating? And finally, any yard improvements?

    I’m so nosy:)

    • No garage, just a carport here. Our house was built in 1930 and most of the homes in our neighborhood are older and lack traditional garages. We do have about 600sqft of basement space though.

      You can see our bathroom photos in the link towards the top of the blog.

      • I don’t see bathroom pics when I click on that link. I don’t mean to sound like a weirdo with this request, but I always like to see the bathrooms on these older homes. I personally like these older homes, as they have a lot more character than the newer cookie-cutter homes. One day, I’d like to buy something similar to your house.

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