More Home DIY Improvements

One of the things I most love about our new home is all the windows. I love natural light, I love being able to watch the kids while they play outside and see the birds and squirrels in our yard. However, it is nice to have privacy sometimes and not always feel like you’re in a fishbowl. Our house came with these ratty, torn, barely-working blackout roller shades in the bedrooms and some very old mini-blinds in the kitchen windows and that’s it. All the large floor-to-ceiling windows in our living room and front room had no form of blinds, and neither did the enormous picture window in our dining room/play room that faces the next door neighbor’s house. In addition to a lack of privacy, Zach and I had noticed that the thirty-year-old windows offer very little in the way of insulation. While sitting on the couch in the living room at night, you could feel a draft from the wall of windows behind you. The front room (my yoga/zen room) was always noticeably several degrees colder than the rest of the house, a result of the combination of the wall of five floor-to-ceiling windows and the vaulted ceiling that let any heat escape to the rest of the house.

After putting in all the carpets and hardwood floors, the next priority quickly became addressing the windows. Zach and I agreed right off the bat that we liked the cellular shades, particularly the ones that allow you to lower from the top as well as raise from the bottom. After a couple of estimates it was abundantly clear that, in order to afford and entire house full of these shades, we would need to install them ourselves. We shopped around for a good deal, getting samples sent from multiple online ordering sites. Many of the samples from those sites showed poor quality fabrics that didn’t look very nice and seemed as if they wouldn’t be very durable either. Then, we lucked into Costco putting the Bali brand cellular shades on sale. It ended up being only a couple hundred dollars more to outfit our entire house with the high end Bali shades than with the cheaply made online brands.

Behind the kitchen sink. These are the only shades we installed with cords because we realized I would never be able to reach far enough back to raise them otherwise. So there is a loop cord on each end, and they only raise up from the bottom.

I often call Zach “Mr. Meticulous,” a nickname that describes him perfectly. He has an incredible ability to pay attention to detail and take the time to do even the most mundane things (like spreading peanut butter) exactly right. I love this trait about him, and it has served us well many times. This was yet another time, as he meticulously measured and re-measured each and every window in our house down to the nearest sixteenth of an inch before ordering all our new blinds. He then did a fantastic job installing them all once they arrived.

The living room windows and back door. It’s so much warmer on the couch at night now!

We are thrilled with this newest update to our house. We were able to order blackout shades for the bedrooms, and light-filtering ones for the rest of the house. We now have privacy, better insulation against the outdoor temperature fluctuations, and can even still have daylight in our rooms while maintaining privacy if we lower just the top of the shades. I love the versatility of opening and closing them in whatever direction we choose. I also love the fact that they are simple to operate and cordless, so I no longer have to worry about Alden deciding to strangle himself with the kitchen blinds cord.

It’s hard to fight the lighting challenges here for a good photo, but this is one of the bedroom blackout shades. As you can see, it is very effective at blocking light. 

The blackout shade in our bedroom is especially wonderful, as there is no overhead light in our room. The only sources for light are the window and skylight. One half of one power outlet is controlled by a light switch on the wall, so we have plugged a floor lamp into that. However, it really isn’t the best for functioning by during the day. Now I can have natural light come in the top half of our bedroom window (which faces the street and all our neighbors) while still maintaining enough privacy to get dressed. The last “window” that needs addressing is the skylight, which still mercilessly pours light directly into my face in the morning. Not such a problem in the winter months, but during the summer when the sun rises before 5am and doesn’t set until 10pm, it’s a problem. Not to mention when the baby needs to nap (which will be in our room for the foreseeable future) or when I go back to work and have to work nights and sleep during the day. We’re looking into the blackout cellular shades for the skylight, to match the rest of the house. However, since our bedroom ceiling is vaulted we’re thinking it’s going to need to be a remote-controlled, motorized shade for the skylight. Otherwise, I’ll be standing on the bed with a ten-foot pole every day trying to open and close the shades (and we will have to open and close them daily since it is the main source of light for the room).

I feel so incredibly lucky that we have been able to make all these improvements to our house. We scrimped and saved for seven years in Seattle to build up our savings us much as possible before buying a home, and we have done a lot of the work here ourselves (replacing the blinds, painting walls, installing new faucets and shower heads, etc). However, we’re still very privileged that Zach is able to earn what he does so we can do all this and still pay our bills. And we’re both extremely glad we’ve maintained such good credit scores over the years so that we can qualify for no-interest loans that let us pay off things like our minivan and all our new flooring over several years, rather than having to have all the money upfront or pay thousands more in interest. It hasn’t always been easy, but we are definitely reaping the benefits now!

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