Building Home & Family

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ISO: The Perfect White

While we are not quite at the painting stage yet, I wanted to select the colors we will use at White House now so my husband can pick them up at the same time as another client’s paint (he’s a general contractor) whenever it’s convenient.

Fittingly, I knew I wanted the walls at White House to be white. I figure (a) it’s an inoffensive color when we move out and rent the unit, and (b) I love color and won’t have to be quite as restrained in my choice of decorative items. It’s just that there are about a million shades of white.

For a handful of reasons, it is easy and inexpensive for us to buy paint at Sherwin Williams, so knowing our source helped me narrow the selection of white paint colors initially. Then, I picked my top six colors, including a variety of warmer and cooler shades, and bought quart-sized samples (the smallest size available at my local stores). There’s no magic to the number six: I wanted a small variety without spending too much on sample sizes, so it’s just what fit the bill.

My brother-in-law cut me some spare pieces of drywall to paint so I could audition them on all the walls of the various rooms. If you paint either paper or drywall samples, definitely aim for several coats, the same finish you will use in the room (satin, eggshell, etc.), and LABEL your samples!

Johann laughed and said they all looked the EXACT. SAME. I disagreed outdoors but had to admit some of them looked pretty similar in the poorer indoor lighting.

I originally thought a really bright white would make the nursery, which has only one window that is partially obscured by a large and too-beautiful-to-remove lilac bush, would be the best way to brighten the room. I was surprised that colors like Pure White and Extra White actually looked garish in there. Instead, I opted for a more muted white. (Note: All the colors looked significantly different on my computer screen, even after calibration, than they did as in-person paint samples. You get a sense of relative color, e.g. one is brighter than another, but not actual color.)

My final(-ish) selections are Marshmallow for most of the unit and Snowbound for the nursery. Marshmallow is slightly warmer, and Snowbound is a little more blue-grey. Like I said, I was really surprised my nursery selection didn’t follow conventional wisdom. I’m glad I tested the samples indoors before committing to a color. With that quart paint sample of Snowbound, I might even paint a full wall of the nursery before finalizing the selection.

The selection process was reasonably smooth for me. I’m glad I had a direction before I entered the store or I might have died from being overwhelmed. There are just so many colors! If you have any paint color selection tips, I’d love to hear them!

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We Bought a House! (Actually, a Whole Building!)

Late last month, Johann and I closed on our very first home! Only instead of “home,” it’s also an investment property, a three-flat (three unit) building with tenants currently renting all units in a suburb of Chicago. It’s a giant white building, so to distinguish between it and the apartment where we’re living now, we call it the “White House.”

Our mortgage requires that we move into the building within sixty days and live there for a year. We already gave the first floor tenants notice to leave so we can comply with the mortgage. It was HARD! As a lawyer, I know the type of notice we should give to protect ourselves and why partial deposit refunds can create issues. As a human being, I understand it’s a difficult time of year (between Thanksgiving and Christmas) to be apartment hunting and why having some portion of a security deposit refunded could make moving out and life in general a little easier. We asked our lender to extend our move-in date by a month as an exception to avoid the holiday season and received a hard no, so I was thankful the tenant was understanding. We also compromised with the tenants to help make the move a little easier. I’ve spent a lot of years being frustrated with landlord issues, so it’s an eye-opener to be a landlord myself!

All that said, we are eager to get into the basement and first floor so we can start updates and renovations. We are fortunate Johann owns a construction company and can do a lot of the work himself or with the help of family. (I call it fortunate; he calls it good planning, haha.) Of course, unpaid work for ourselves is much slower than paid work for clients! I plan to do a Before & After series of posts, but since we can’t get into any of the units while they’re being rented, here’s a photo of us in the very, very unfinished basement:


That plant was a housewarming gift from Johann to me. Isn’t it sweet?!

Can I just say how weird it feels that our first home will only be a temporary home? And that we know it’s only temporary before we even get started? Still, it’s exciting to be making an investment in our future.