Dirt has been dug on our lot! Work began this week with forms placed for the slab and trenches dug for plumbing. It’s exciting to see action on our little plot of land.

Our neighbors’ houses are also going up quick. Since they’re a few weeks ahead of us in the process, we can just look next door to see what’s coming next.

We also made final decisions on materials. It was so hard to pick with such small samples and no pictures of what they’ll look like installed but this is what’s going in:

  • White shaker cabinets.
  • Monte Cristo granite counters (in the kitchen and butlers pantry).
  • Marazzi Norwood series tile in Oak through the first floor.
  • Shaw Parkland series carpet in Frosted Ice through upstairs.
  • Dal tile Florentine unpolished Carrara tile in the master bath.
  • White hexagon marble tiles for the master shower floor.
  • Dal tile Mariella tile in grey for the other baths and laundry room.
  • Moen Brantford series faucets in chrome for the bathrooms.

We did all stainless/brushed chrome for the kitchen including faucets and knobs/pulls.

We mostly did the standard lights since we’ll change out those later, but did upgraded light fixtures for the bathrooms: Savoy House Melrose series. Some spots got two pendants, some got three.

Obviously there are a lot more upgrades that are going in but those are the big material upgrades.

The things that keep me excited are the fireplace, giant kitchen island and the wine fridge in the butlers pantry. The fridge being a totally unnecessary splurge that we totally needed 😉


Let’s build a house

The process to build our new home has begun! After much debate on whether to stay in our house or start from scratch, we decided to take the leap and move forward with the build process. It was pretty scary since there are many unknowns (including final price!) when you do new construction. But the house, the builder and the location just kept drawing us back.

Morrison Ranch - Aspen Manor

For those unfamiliar with the process, once you made the decision to build in a community, you pick a lot, a floor plan and elevation, then work with a salesperson to determine a general idea of structural and interior options you’d like to put in the home. They tabulate all this for you and give you a general idea of cost. Negotiations take place to build in discounts and incentives, and if you’re satisfied and committed to move forward, you sign a contract at that point to hold the lot and begin the process.

Of course there is lots of paper signing and you have to hammer out a basic mortgage guarantee. The real financial details don’t have to be finalized until approximately 60 days from completion, though.

Then you move on to the fun stuff: choosing your interior finishes.

Ashton Woods Design Studio Phoenix

Yesterday we started this process. The builder we’re using (Ashton Woods) does it over two 3 hour appointments. And boy, do you suffer decision fatigue after three hours.

We got through the big ticket items: cabinets, countertops, tile and carpet.

Ashton Woods interior finishes Aspen Manor Morrison Ranch

The colors are all very neutral and similar to what is in our home right now.

White cabinets are a must.

Flooring is still being debated but we definitely wanted a lighter wood look tile since we have dark engineered hardwood right now. It dings really easily and shows every spec of dirt and dust. With kids and dogs, they are a nightmare to keep clean.

Countertops are an even bigger debate. We narrowed it down to two granites and a Silestone (quartz).

Bianco Antico

Bianco Antico Granite

Casa Blanca

Casa Blanca Granite

Pietra (Silestone)

Pietra Silestone

We currently have honed Bianco Venatino Marble countertops. We hand selected the slab and chose specifically which sections would be cut for particular areas of the countertop. It looks just like Statuary Vein Marble, but is slightly less expensive. Those counters were the crown jewel of my kitchen renovation.

But we need to stay within budget and pick something more practical (because of kids). Marble is extraordinarily beautiful but hard to maintain. So granite or quartz are our two options. I’ll be honest, neither really “wow” me like the Venatino, but we’re leaning towards the Silestone since its more white than the other options.

Bathroom tile was an easy choice since they had a very white, marble looking ceramic. This will grace the entire shower surround, floors and tub surround. We’re going for a very white and very clean look in the master bath.

Carpet was a fairly easy choice – something that matched the other materials and would wear well for the kids. Over time, this is an easy one to change-up, so we didn’t let ourselves get stuck on it.

At the next appointment we finish up the smaller details: lighting, hardware, railings, plumbing fixtures, etc. It’s a very exciting process, even though it’s a bit overwhelming. We still have eight weeks for permits to be drawn up before groundbreaking can happen, so after the second design appointment it will be quiet for a while. But we’re hoping for a smooth build after that.


A New Beginning

It has been almost three and a half years since I posted on this site and a lot has changed.

First, the name has changed… and for good reason. I will get to that in a minute. I used to blog under the name Sweaters and Pies. This journaled our move from the North Shore of Boston, Massachusetts to the east valley of Phoenix in Gilbert, Arizona. But that name no longer seems appropriate because we don’t wear sweaters in the desert and now I have two kids, so I don’t have time to bake pies!

Which brings me to the next big change over the past few years. My last post was about my son’s nursery. He’s now three and a half. I also now have an eight month old daughter. They keep me busy and I haven’t really had time to write.

I’m hoping to pick up this blog again to chronicle our next project: the building of a new farmhouse here in Gilbert! Thus the name change of the site. The Desert Farmhouse makes much more sense at this point.

We hope you join us on this exciting, nerve wracking, overwhelming and joyous adventure to build our dream house!

xo, S


Next project: Nautical Nursery

Well it’s been a while since I posted. Our house projects have slowed down over the past couple months because we were working on a new project: a baby! I’m due in January, which is just about 11 weeks from now, which means it’s finally time to get cracking on the nursery.

We found out it was a boy back in September, so we decided to use the room we had already painted blue for the nursery and work from there. The wall color is Nocturnal Sea by Behr, but it felt too “blue” and less navy despite being dark. I knew immediately after we were done painting it that I would want to do something different, but had no motivation to repaint it. What we’re planning to do is add tall white wainscoting to the bottom of the walls, and leave the blue at the top. I think with the mostly white walls, the blue won’t feel so overwhelming. This is what it looked like before we started:




The first step was replacing the old blinds with new plantation shutters. Not only do they look nautical, but they don’t have any cords to strangle a small child.


I also picked up a great red, white and blue madras quilt, crib skirt and curtain set at Pottery Barn when it was 60% off at the end of the summer season. The wall color actually matched it pretty well and I think we’ll just leave it as is.


So over the next few weeks, we’ll be adding the wainscoting and molding, bringing in the furniture (Bonavita’s Peyton Lifestyle Crib and 5 drawer dresser, a glider/ottoman, and a couple Ikea book shelves) and getting everything set up for baby’s arrival in January! Stay tuned!


Kitchen Complete!

Well, it’s been a full four weeks since this project took off, but we are finally done! (Actually, I’m still missing one drawer pull, but I’m not counting that.) Our kitchen has been gutted and turned around into a clean, bright, white space. We had some minor setbacks, but all in all, we finished on time.

The final piece of the puzzle was the tiling and the mounting of the shelf brackets, which we did on our own. The tile started out fine, but we quickly realized we under estimated how much time it would take. We ended up having to rent the tile saw for two days and rushed it back to Home Depot at 7:45pm last Sunday night, minutes before the store closed.

We also had many debates regarding the open shelves and just how we were going to get them to stay on the wall with such heavy objects on them. Some google-ing and another trip to our lovely neighborhood Home Depot later (we really should buy stock in HD), we experimented with three brackets for the bottom shelf. It looked a little “over engineered” so we went with two brackets a piece for the top two shelves. We used wall mounting screws that hold at least 50 pounds a piece, cumulatively. At minimum the shelves should hold 300 pounds, so we figured that would be enough! The screws that came with the brackets (bought through Signature Hardware) stripped almost immediatly. Two of the screw heads just fell off entirely, so another late Sunday night trip to Home Depot later, we had new, stronger screws and we were back in action. We also pre-drilled the holes in the shelf, which seemed to help a lot. In the end, the kitchen came out exactly as I had hoped and looked a million times better than it did when we bought the house almost 2 years ago.

It was a real test for our D-I-Y skills and patience. Not having a functional kitchen and the endless parade of contractors and mountains of dust were harder to deal with than I expected. Tiling took up an entire weekend, sunrise to sunset. But we learned a lot and will put that to good use on the next project. We’re just not planning that next project anytime soon!

Kitchen Before (July 2011)


Kitchen After (March 2013)


Kitchen Before (July 2011)


Kitchen After (March 2013)



Kitchen Reno: After Week Two

Week two started off with lots of promise. After a full week of construction, on Wednesday morning the cabinet installers were at my door. Within a half hour our designer called to tell me that the contractors had installed the new soffit at the wrong height… a full six inches too low. After a scramble of phone calls, the contractor was back on site to apologize and create a plan.

Soffit at the wrong height

Soffit at the correct height 

While this whole process was a lot more stressful and frustrating than I’m about to describe, the good news is that we didn’t lose any time. On Thursday morning, the contractor was back on site to rip out, reframe and wallboard the new (higher) soffit. The dry-wallers were on site later in the afternoon, and after some tense moments of unpreparedness on their part, they finished dry-walling by 6pm.

Fortunately, the cabinet installers could be rescheduled for Friday and Saturday to make up lost time. Friday showed a lot of progress. The countertop installer also came by to take his final measurements for the countertops. Saturday was also great, until I noticed a couple things that were off. One was the tip out tray under the sink which I had specifically asked about several times. The designer had not noted it on her design and the installers were not aware of it. Easy fix, they told me.

Another was a drawer pull that was clearly off centered. When measured, we noticed it was an inch off to the right. Totally unacceptable. But with one email to the designer to complain, the problems were addressed and should be solved tomorrow when the installers come back to finish up the work. Can’t say I’ve been happy with these issues, but they have handled them well and are taking care of everything. The cabinets that are done so far look really great.

We have just about one week left until we’re back in business. The cabinet installers will finish tomorrow, then the countertops come on Friday, and the contractor comes back to finish his work and re-hook up everything on Monday. We definitely can not wait for this to be over. Being without a kitchen has been a lot harder than we originally thought. If I never eat another microwavable dish again, it will be too soon!


Kitchen Reno: After Week One

It was a very slow first week with minor action happening each day. I couldn’t help but think that if the construction crew was more organized they could have done their whole part of the project in a day and a half. We’re now on day 10 without a kitchen and the pace of this project is frustrating. I’ve eaten enough microwavable food to last me a lifetime.

But today we’re moving on to cabinet installation. Last week the kitchen was demolished, the soffits were raised, new recessed lighting was put in and electrical outlets were adjusted.

With the soffits removed:



New recessed lighting goes in:



And after the new drywall was finished, textured and painted: