Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Beauty & the Beast Renovation Novella

HGTV Meets Hallmark Movies

When people ask about my writing, I tell them that my books are "HGTV meets Hallmark movies." They're sweet romance with a little do-it-yourself spirit. While the other books in my Romance Renovations series are more directly about home renovations or building, this one is more on the garden side of things. Emma Treager, the female main character, is a landscape architect at a historical plantation, so it does have a little bit of what my readers expect. This book also sets things up for the next Romance Renovations novel that I am working on where the main character will be remodeling the old church on the plantation. (I am so looking forward to writing this one!)

Anyway, here's a little more about my newest release, Beauty & the Billionaire Beast!

Book Description:

Landscape architect Emma Treager is searching for answers to a family mystery. She stumbles across an important clue at the run-down Indio Pointe Plantation where mystery floats through the air like the ghosts of the former owners. She can’t pass up the job that property owner Theo Lambert offers like an enchanted rose, despite his reputation of being a beast of a boss. As the two of them delve into the secrets of the past, Theo and Emma discover that finding clues is almost as much fun as finding each other.

This contemporary retelling of Beauty & the Beast with a touch of Romeo & Juliet is the next sweet romance in the Destination Billionaire series.

My Thoughts:

I had so much fun writing this book!

When I first started writing the book, I hadn't planned on making it a Beauty & the Beast retelling, but somehow it ended up that way. The fact that it coincided with the release of Disney's live version was a happy coincidence. In fact, I already had it written before I watched the movie the first time, but I did add a few more details before sending the manuscript off to the editor after watching the movie a second time. Fun fact, the main character's name (that I could never quite get just right and changed about a dozen times) became Emma after Emma Watson.

Beauty & the Beast has always been one of my favorite Disney movies with the strong character of Belle, the music, the enchantment. Once things started to fall into line for my story, I just couldn't help myself--but I hope you find some fun twists on the story as you read mine.

Then there is the setting. Although my family and I had lived in Texas for more than a decade and a half, I'd never been to Louisiana. So for Spring Break one year, my husband and I convinced our high schooler to accompany us to New Orleans and the surrounding area. I knew I was going as book research (everything is a research opportunity!), but it was way more than that. It was enchanting and beautiful. Each of us chose an activity for us to do together, and we ended up with a fabulous trip--ghost tours, food, plantations, and more. If you're curious about my fictional Indigo Pointe Plantation, the Evergreen Plantation was the basis for my plantation, though I changed some details and made it my own to suit my purposes for this book and the next Romance Renovations novel, which will also take place on the plantation.

This is also the first of my books with a hint of mystery and magic in it. I plan to continue that on as well (okay, mostly the magic since the mystery is solved in this book).

Anyway, if you like Beauty & the Beast, Romeo & Juliet, Louisiana plantations, historical restorations, landscaping, garden gnomes, or sweet romance, I hope you love this book! Happy reading!

Beauty & the Billionaire Beast

by Maria Hoagland

is available in ebook. Paperback coming soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Any Excuse for Shiplap

Is there any DIYer out there who watches Fixer Upper who hasn't been dying to try out a shiplap project?

Of course I knew a house built in 1974 wouldn't just happen to have the perfect shiplap safely hidden away behind its walls, waiting for me to come looking for it. And I really had no idea where a good place for it would be in my house. But that didn't keep me from wanting to find a place... until I found the perfect project...

If you've read my previous posts, you'll see it went from a necessary kitchen tile re-do to expanding our laundry room to bringing this 1970s half bath into the 21st century.

Really? Who needs double medicine cabinets in a half bath?

Since we were doing tile, we could change the footprint of those rooms--which led to the expansion of the laundry room (see that blog post here). Because expanding the laundry room would require drywall and texture, why not overhaul the half bath? So here we are...


Removing the medicine cabinets, soffit, and the moldy drywall (from a leaking washing machine behind the wall) was the first step.

Wall paper and medicine cabinets gone! Whew!

Checking to see if we can get rid of this, move the light, and open up the space.

Figuring out what to do next...

Moving the Light

It was about this point in the project that I decided I needed to have shiplap on this wall. The nice thing was that meant we could remove the existing drywall (that made it even underneath since some was already missing). If all of the drywall had been there to begin with, we probably wouldn't have removed it. This also made it easier to move where the light would be.

Because we needed the light, my husband went ahead and installed the new fixture. Isn't it adorable? I love it. It kind of has a bit of a vintage feel to it. Anyway, installing it when we did ended up being kind of a pain with installing the shiplap and then staining/painting it. Oh well.

Drywall & Texture

When replacing the drywall and doing the texture in the laundry room, we also did the half bath. Because of the bulkhead that was removed, we needed to repair some of the drywall on the side walls.

Leaving a hidden note. Maybe someday someone will see it. :)

And because the walls had been smooth with wallpaper, we needed to texture the entire room (except where the shiplap would be.


The first thing we found out is that the product that Lowe's and Home Depot carry in our hometown doesn't look anything like what Joanna Gaines calls shiplap on Fixer Upper. What these stores call shiplap are basically just tongue and groove boards--which I like, so I was okay with it. I was a little afraid to just nail boards on the wall and call it shiplap, so absent any other ideas, I went with the tongue and groove.

Tip: Use a rubber mallet to tap the boards together so you don't dent the soft pine. As you can see from the picture, he started from the bottom and worked up.

Although I thought we would finish off the sides of the shiplap with some kind of trim piece, we ended up not doing that. I didn't mind the small gaps--it looks more rustic. One thing my husband had to be careful of though was measuring each piece every time because apparently the walls weren't square.

At the top, he added a trim piece on top--almost like a crown, though it was flat--to finish it off. Another full tongue in groove board wouldn't have fit, and couldn't have been tapped in anyways.

To Paint or to Stain?

The hardest part of the project for me was figuring out whether to paint or stain the shiplap--and what color.

I had to do something, of course, because with the sink right there, the wood would need protected from the water. I wasn't wanting to change the countertop and cabinet color as a cost-cutting measure, so I had to find something that was neither white nor ivory. I didn't want it to clash and I didn't want it to blend in.

I thought about staining the wood darker, but I was afraid it would be too dark, especially with the new tile. And I wanted to use a different mirror, which just so happened to have a fairly dark frame around it.

So I went with something I thought was cool, but will probably feel dated pretty quickly. I decided I could live with that. If I need to paint it later, I can always do that.

So I decided on a beachy, weathered look. To achieve this, I pulled all of the blue, green, gray, and white paint I had already around the house to see what I could come up with.

I brought in my inspiration piece (the egg candles) and the leftover pieces of shiplap to try out my dry-brush technique.

Then I made myself a little plan...

And then I went for it.

I felt like my first shot at it was a little too dark, so since then, I dry brushed a lighter shade over top (I think it might have been the wall color), and then I went over it with the sander.


What do you think?

From Cramped Utility to Utilizing a Mudroom

When we bought our house, there was so much that needed done. Although I didn't love the off-white tile in the kitchen, laundry, and half bath, I figured I could make it do. More than anything, it was a cost-saving measure, but time and effort was factored in as well. But then something happened to our kitchen floor that meant we had to do something... (see this blog post for that story).

So because we were now changing the kitchen tile, we realized it freed us up to change the footprint of the house. Projects that had occurred to us before and then were summarily dismissed because I didn't want to mess with the tile were now all of the sudden possibilities again.

The biggest was the utility room. It had a flaw--a big square of a closet butting into the mudroom space. While some may think getting rid of storage was a bad idea, this closet wasn't being used well anyway, and the better flow and more useful space had me excited.

This closet wasn't being well used from the hallway and took a quarter of the space from the utility room behind it.

Removing a closet would mean doing drywall (walls and ceiling), which also meant texture. And if we were already going to do drywall repair and texture, well, that meant I could do some updating on the half bath as well (see that blog post here). And that was how a "small" project of kitchen floor tile came to include so much more.

Removing the Closet

This part was easy. Clean out the clutter. Remove the door, shelves, and trim. Knock out some walls!

This gives you a better idea how much of the space it was taking up. (Sorry about the fuzziness.)

Removing Popcorn Texture

This really wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Just scraping it with the same taping knife my husband used for mudding worked great. But by the time I was done with two small rooms (the laundry and the half bath), I was glad I wasn't doing the whole house. (What's so bad about popcorn ceilings again? Now if it's glitter popcorn, well, I understand...)

Adding New Drywall

We did notice that the walls in the hallway were thicker than the walls between the kitchen and utility room (or maybe it was the other way around), so be sure to measure before you head to your home improvement store.

Because it was just the length of a door way, my husband didn't need to add any new studs. He just measured and cut to fit the existing opening and used drywall screws to attach the drywall to the studs from the door frame.

You can see the original door frame that will be in between two new sheets of drywall.

While he measured and cut as well as he could, he didn't worry about having it perfect, knowing that any little gaps would be covered by tape and mud in the next step.

Fuzzy, but you can see the ceiling repair.

Tape & Mud

Better known as floating the wall. This was the part I was most worried about, especially since there seemed to be a bit of a bow in the wall.

Tip: Always make sure the studs are level before attaching the drywall. If there's been settling or shifting, especially if there's been an warping of the wood due to water leaks, you might need to make some adjustments so that your drywall goes on flat and flush.

This was also the longest part of the project--or at least it seemed to be. It must have taken three-four days because after you apply the mud, you have to wait for it to dry completely, sand, and then float again with a larger swath and then repeat and repeat until you can't see the tape or where you begin or end on any of the seams. My husband did a great job on this though! And it was well worth the work and the wait.

Spray Texture

We rented a hopper and sprayed the new walls with texture. This is by far the best way to texture. Do not try the roll-on/paint on/aerosol texture. Those never match the rest of the house and scream DIY-fail.

Prime & Paint

Duh. Of course.


One of the things I really wanted in my new mudroom, besides the ability to walk through the room without running into a door or a corner, was a place to hang jackets and a place to tuck away shoes. If it had a bench, that would work well too.

My husband and I designed something to work for our space, and it's great! So much better than it was!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wallpaper Removal. Is It Worth It?

Or More Like What Worked and What Didn't.

One of the first and most daunting tasks a lot of people face when they first move into an older home is what to do with the wallpaper. For most people, living with it just isn't an option. Wallpaper preferences are not only deeply personal, but trends come and go so quickly, it gets outdated pretty quickly.

When we moved into our 1974 house, there were six different wallpapers in the house and I wasn't going to keep any of them.

1. Rip off what you can.

Sounds like common sense, and it really is. If it's possible, do it. Some of the wallpaper in our house had been there so long and the air so dry, that it was practically falling off the wall as it was. THAT was awesome! In the living room, where an entire "focal" wall was papered, it came off in huge strips--like a quarter of the wall at once. My son and I had so much fun!

But even if it doesn't come off in large pieces, it's easier and cleaner than anything else.

While monotonous, pulling off pieces was highly satisfying when you get a large chunk. I started to feel like I was playing Minesweeper. In the picture above, you can see by the shadow that it isn't stuck, so I would tug on that part, and sometimes I'd get a big piece to come off, and others it would be disappointingly small.

What didn't come off easily, I tried to pry off with a scraper. NOT a good idea as it left pits and scratches and even huge gouges. Which meant that I would need to repair the wall before painting it.

2. Spray with Mixture of Laundry Detergent and Water

I wasn't very exact when I mixed this up. You could probably find a "recipe" somewhere online if you're worried about it, but I think I did about equal parts liquid laundry detergent and water in a spray bottle. After letting it sit only a few minutes, the liquid penetrated and the wallpaper was easily scraped off the walls.

The biggest problem with that--there was an awful residue left behind. I ended up washing it with a mild dish washing liquid and water mixture until the sticky was gone, and then rinsing with pure water. It took a little work to get rid of the slippery soapy feel and the sticky wallpaper paste residue.

3. Roll-On Wall Texture Paint

Looking for an easy way to texture the walls where I'd removed the wallpaper, I decided to try out wall texture paint. Instead of adding texture to the paint, I purchased a pre-mixed roll-on texture. I wouldn't recommend it. We tried to apply it with both the recommended texture roller, which made for very close, very rough peaks, and a regular paint roller, which still looked awful.

Not sure what I did wrong, but the texture paint didn't create an appealing look.

Not only that, but it didn't stick well at all. (Which may have been due to the laundry detergent trick.)

So I just tried to scrape it all off the wall so I could start over.

4. Forget What I Said and Do This Instead!

What I learned from this project was that the easiest solution is to rent a hopper and texture over the existing wallpaper. Period.

When we realized how long this process had taken just for a small bathroom (out of three) and one focal wall when we had entire entryway and breakfast room still to go, we knew something else needed to be done.

Enter hopper and texture. As in the kind you mix yourself and spray onto the walls. We rented a hopper from our local home improvement store, bought some of the dry texture, mixed it up, and were on our way.

Well, okay, so it wasn't quite that easy--we had to do a lot of prep. Most of the time it took us to do this project was in masking off light switches and wall outlets, as well as draping windows and doorways. And of course, you need to protect your floors as well, except that we were planning on replacing our carpet, so we only had to protect the floors in a couple of the rooms.

Prepping for texture. That took the most time.

The hopper was easy to use and it only took a few hours to do all the rooms versus the days I'd already spent trying to remove the wallpaper in the two rooms I'd started on. It was so worth it!

Be warned though, it is a very messy, fun, two-person job--which is why I didn't get pictures taken. Sorry about that. But it was so nice. My husband sprayed and I followed behind, lightly knocking down the texture with a knockdown knife. One tip about using the knife, you will need to make sure you wipe if off every time and look out for build-up that can leave lines in your texture.

One thing I loved--we didn't remove the wallpaper border, but with the texture, you couldn't even tell one was there under the texture.

The same wall in previous pictures.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Adventures in Insulation

We'd never done it before, though we've lived in several houses that could have used it. But in this 1974 house, it couldn't be ignored. The house had almost NO attic insulation left. What was there had compressed so much, it only measured a couple of inches in most spots. As in two inches--nowhere near where it should be.

So we decided blowing in attic insulation would be high on our priority list in renovating this house. We moved in at the beginning of the summer, and in Texas, there was no way I was going to send my husband up into the attic in the sweltering heat, possibly to never find him alive again. (And I wasn't volunteering myself, that's for sure!) We did, however, want it done before winter.

Phase one of the project involved my husband installing an attic pull-down ladder. Instead of expanding the woefully tiny attic access that only the circus tall-man could have slipped his skinny little body through, he chose to create a new space where the ladder could be easily accessed and sturdily attached to the ceiling joists. (Later he did trim out the hole so it doesn't look quite this rough.)


Once we had comfortable attic access, we scheduled the day for blowing insulation. The first Friday evening in October, we prepared everything we needed. By purchasing the insulation from Lowe's, we were able to borrow the hopper free of charge for 24-hours (with a ten package minimum purchase, which was about a quarter of the amount we used). Using charts we found online and in the store, we calculated the number of "bales" we thought we needed for the size of our home and the existing amount of insulation, and loaded our garage for an early morning.

Not having any idea how long this little project would take us, we got up at dawn-thirty on a cool Saturday morning and hoped we wouldn't make too many enemies in our neighborhood with our racket. We hooked up the hopper--which consisted of plugging it in and dragging the hose up the attic ladder to the furthest point in the attic.

My job was easy: making sure the hopper didn't get low. So basically, I just fed the monster all day long. It was noisy and dirty and completely boring. Pretty much almost as soon as I opened the plastic and pulled off chunks of the insulation (which came off rather easily) and dropped them into the churning hopper. I was pretty happy with the insulation we chose. It was clean and easy to use, and the hopper never got stuck.

My husband's job was just a tiny bit harder, but mostly on his knees and his head. His mission was to wrangle the hose, angling it over our cathedral ceiling and into each crevice, while simultaneously making sure not to fall between the ceiling joists. All the while, he needed to remember to make sure his head didn't get snagged on the roofing nails that jutted out like a medieval torture device.

It took approximately 7 hours and 39 packages of the GreenFiber R-13 to R-60 to insulate our home. One of the easiest (says me, who only had to stand there) and most effective projects to date.

You Will Also Need:

Make sure each of you also has a good air mask and goggles (personally, I would spring for the anti-fog variety so you can actually see what you're doing).

And a MUST for the person in the attic: a headlamp for hands-free light!

Tip I wish we'd been smart enough to consider:

Make sure to do any electrical work BEFORE doing this. We are still planning to install recessed lights in the kitchen. Now hubby will have to dig through his hard work in the attic to get access. Eh, but why make it easy on him, right?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Build a Floating Wood Fireplace Mantel

One of my favorite renovations in our house--and certainly my husband's pride and joy--is our fireplace mantel. Not only does it look fabulous, but it was cheap, easy, and a fun way for father and son to have beating something up.

As with pretty much every surface in the house, when we moved in, the fireplace was all one color--vanilla. Boring.

After painting the brick a brighter white (I would have loved a whitewash look over the natural color of the brick, but I wasn't about to go through the work of somehow getting rid of the previous coats of paint), we were left with this "lovely" look for a mantel. Granted, it was a different color, but that was because we knew it wasn't going to stay. I mean, look at it! Maybe in 1974, but nope, not in 2016.

The best thing I can say about this mantel is it has an outlet.

Scouring Pinterest (oh, such torture to be forced to perform one of my favorite pastimes, right?), hubby and I decided on a plan. And it was a simple one.

After measuring, we decided on 1x6x8 and 1x10x8 pine boards. We liked the softer wood of the pine to work with. While we wanted the boards as straight as possible, we weren't too worried about how rough they were because step two involved beating up the wood as much as possible. That's where father and son had some fun using their muscles to scar the wood with screws, hammers, chains, and anything else they could do to make it look a little more rustic.

Inside the floating mantel. Crafted to slip over the existing brick one.

Once the wood was sufficiently beat up, my handyman crafted this box to slide over the existing brick mantel. You may notice that he didn't miter it anywhere--and that was on purpose.

No-Miter Mantel

Using the same Minwax mahogany gel stain I'd used on the beams overhead (see blog post about that here) in that room brought out the detail of the "flaws" and helped tie the room together.

The nice thing about the fact that the new mantel slides over the existing one is that there aren't any screw holes that had to be fixed, it can be changed at any time with no demo, and--it makes a great hiding place for letters or valuables or whatever. . . Not that I've done that. Probably.

Checking the fit before finishing the stain.

I think it turned out pretty great!