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When death comes knocking, change your address…

When death comes knocking, change your address…

I confess I can’t even remember (or find) who wrote that, but I’m guessing they didn’t mean do this:

Screen Shot 2018-01-29 at 1.34.10 PM

But better safe than sorry right?

Yes, we moved from one side of the country to the other – from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Sooke, British Columbia to live with my parents and basically exhale.


That’s all our worldly belongings in a U-Haul at the bottom of my parent’s driveway. This is the moment that you REALLY hope you remembered to lock it…

And then a year later we moved again, this time up the Island to the small town of Ucluelet.


And that first move from Nova Scotia was two years ago already, though it feels like yesterday, and also a million years ago.

And I’ve been meaning to update and end this blog ever since, and it bothers me daily that I haven’t, even though really only 3 people read this: my mom, Sam, and (briefly) a guy in Panama…

So…here we are, on the other side, both literally and figuratively. The short story of how and why is that Sam got really sick, so we sold our house, packed up our things, and moved across the country to be closer to my family. The long version of the story is…just way WAY too long, and probably just too much information anyway – plus, let’s be real, I will definitely never get around to writing it. I’ve started and stopped this update multiple times and have pages and pages written in my head (usually at 3am, obvs) about all that transpired…but I have come to the conclusion after two years that I really just don’t have it in me to write something profound and inspiring. Maybe one day.

So, yes, we sold our precious home in a move that was both heartbreaking and like removing a gigantic weight from our shoulders.

Here’s what it looked like when we left:

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A little reminder of where we started…

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Blood, sweat, and more than a few tears to be sure.

And now we have a new home in which to direct our energies, though this one is about 100 years more modern…but not without its own special quirks (you didn’t think we’d buy something completely normal and trouble-free did you?).

I was toying with the idea of re-starting this blog as we update this 70’s split level wonder we just moved into (the classic ‘BC Box’), but honestly after all we’ve gone through…I’m done. For now.

Before we found a house we could afford we spent 7 months in a camping trailer.
(feel free to google ‘B.C. housing crisis’ )


And after that, plus Sam nearly dying, home decor just isn’t a huge priority anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I still obsess over paint colours and light fixtures and all that fun stuff, but I’m just grateful right now that we have a place to live that’s not on wheels, and that my little family is intact and happy and healthy. The fact I have popcorn ceilings and carpet is really neither here nor there.

But I did write a poem for our new house…ahem:

Oh BC Box
you cost quite a lot
for something that
is very…
But you have four walls and a roof
and it’s incontestable proof
that we’re much better off than
if camping

So I may be back at some point. Goodness knows, there’s always something to work on…


(clearly we won’t live in a pink house forever)

But for now, I wish you all good renovations, but more importantly, good health, and a sound roof and four walls that don’t keep you up at night…

Carly x

You can find me over at as I focus full-time on my art career, and on Instagram at carlybutlerart


Spring = get off your ass

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Spring = get off your ass

Ahhh…so here we are, after a small (cough) hiatus…

I could blame motherhood, but then everyone and their dog seems to be writing blogs about parenting (not even going to bother searching for dog-writing blogs to reference here, just sure they exist) so clearly that is not a valid excuse for not writing.  I will say, in my defence, that it is difficult to renovate in 1-2 hour nap increments.  And if you’re worried that I’ve been holding out and not updating you on all my wonderful new creative projects (this would possibly apply only to my mother), I assure you, that is not the case because I HAVE NOT RENOVATED ANYTHING.  Yep, it all looks pretty much the same as what, a year or more ago?  Two? Jeepers.

Oh – here’s some awesome highlights from the past year I neglected to tell you about:

Finally put a plate on a light switch:

DSC04972 IMG_2647

– pretty fancy right?

Uh…labelled some bins in the pantry with chalk:


Yep. Take that Martha Stewart.

What else?  Well, we haven’t been completely idle, but most projects are falling under the category of ‘things that started to look worse’.

For example:
…we tore the tile off the tub when it leaked into the ceiling downstairs:


– because this happened:

IMG_0804  IMG_0834


And then this (unrelated):

IMG_2401   IMG_2399

And both events probably would have made very good blog posts if I wasn’t just so angry/upset/sad, and feeling basically overwhelmed and out of love with my house (not to mention poor).  I couldn’t even make them sound amusing, because they weren’t.

Well, maybe a little in retrospect…

Right, but all that’s fixed.  Actually, that’s a lie.  The kitchen ceiling still needs to totally come down and be replaced but I can’t face it yet (it’s a long boring story about the chimney, my fear of heights, and the ‘Jamaican Mason’ – actually from Antigua – who hasn’t shown up yet).

But moving on, I am ignoring that for the minute (yes the hole in the kitchen ceiling still looks exactly the same, possibly growing larger) and going to tackle other (smaller) things.  First up – the bedroom, because my life coach has determined it’s why I haven’t been sleeping properly.  And if that sentence sounds totally insane coming from me then a) yes, you probably know me well and b) yes I got a fucking life coach – don’t judge.  Sometimes when your house is falling down around you and you wonder what the hell you’re supposed to be doing with your life (and figuring drywalling ceilings isn’t it), a life coach seems like, and is (as it turns out), a good idea.

But basically this mini project is giving me the kick in the ass to get on with it and get out of the funk I was in.
Was I depressed?  Maybe.  Tired?  Definitely.

So here we are, the bedroom as is – unedited (SO hard to release these photos to the internet):

IMG_2640  IMG_2642 IMG_2641

Yeah, it’s not a bedroom made for lovin’ right now.  No wonder I haven’t been sleeping well.

And yes, that is grey fabric stapled to the wall.  We finally put up drywall (you can read a bit about that saga – and why the floor currently looks like shit here), but couldn’t face sanding, the excuse being it was too cold to open the windows – nice one right?  The fabric was Sam’s inspiration while I was away on holiday with Fin.  Not like I expected it to be finished and painted or anything when I got back…no no, stapled grey fabric on the wall instead was an AWESOME surprise.

And that was over a year ago.

I do feel the need to point out that I am usually a stickler for making the bed, but Finley has this new favourite game of climbing on it and tearing it all apart so she can throw pillows, so, yeah, sometimes I just let her.  The rest of the mess, yep, that’s just us lately.  So.  Embarrassing.

But there you are.  I feel like we were well on our way, and then at some point just got stalled.  And messy.

So here’s what I managed today:

IMG_2644   IMG_2645  IMG_2659

Look – an empty shelf!

And yeah, those yellow pillows look weird now (the were bought to stop Fin from falling down the crack when the bed was against the wall – a legitimate concern as it turns out), and I HATE the carpet (though Sam loves it), and we have no headboard, and the Mexican blanket is just there to distract from the fact that we’re sleeping on a box spring…and there’s about a hundred other things to fix, but it’s still a vast improvement.

I thought I liked the bed against the wall in the corner, but I just ended up feeling trapped as that’s my side of the bed – though it was a good excuse to make Sam get up in the night to deal with Fin.  I also thought that we’d gain all this great space that Fin could use to play in, but she never did, and then it just became a dumping ground for crap.

As it turns out, right after I finished moved everything around Fin came home from daycare and seemingly disappeared, until I found her here:


This has NEVER happened (though I would love to pretend it did all the time and I’m some kind of supermom), so I guess moving the bed was the right thing to do.  So weird though.

Tomorrow being Mother’s Day here, I have asked that in lieu of brunch or flowers or whatever other amazing things they had planned, we instead spend the day finally sanding and painting this damn wall.

But flowers would still be ok too.


paint it black (well, some of it) – a finally functional upstairs kitchen

So I finally got the balls to paint a wall in the kitchen with black chalkboard paint…against the advice of mostly everyone.

I had a slight wobble half way through when it looked like crap and I thought ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ (is there anything worse than a wishy washy ‘not quite’ black when decorating?  It’s like when you try and match black clothing and discover you’re wearing about 4 different shades of dark grey) – but I loved it when it was finished and had the second coat.

black wall

We’re not finished here (hopefully somewhat obviously), as we’re planning a cabinet above the range hood and few decorative tweaks (so ignore the wire ok?) – but now I realize that for blogging purposes this is all a big ‘so what?’ as I haven’t even properly documented the upstairs kitchen at all.  And of course I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo of the white wall in my haste to get started; my excuse being that with an infant, when the planets align and you get time to actually accomplish something not mom-related, your brain is just saying ‘GO GO GO!!!’ and you don’t want to dick around composing blog photos.

Just imagine a very blah expanse of white.

So my big moment (well, in my world) was a bit anticlimactic for ‘reveal’  purposes – except, I suppose, if we go right back to the beginning (like we should have in the first place).


kitchen in progress   new island close up

Ta Da!

Can you even believe the stove used to be there?  It was just all freestanding crazily against the chimney brest sticking out from the wall like it might start to walk across the room.  Insane.

The above is actually also a recent development as we only just got the kitchen island seen above – an amazing $80 auction score (it’s the Ikea Varde unit).  Before this completely serendipitous purchase a few weeks ago, we were still using the blue drawers our former tenant left behind that Sam had raised up on a base:

sam making cabinet basenew:old cabinet

It looked kind of fun, and served us well for the past year, but it wasn’t particularly functional.  The drawers didn’t really open or close properly, and having the table so close (I don’t think the above photo is representative of the table/drawer proximity) meant it was pretty much unusable as a surface when anyone was over – plus, who wants to face the wall when working?

We were actually planning on putting the Ikea unit right where the blue drawers were, but something clicked when it was delivered and placed in the middle of the room, as in: ‘why not just leave it here?’.

A revelation.

new island

I then decided to use my leftover chalkboard paint to cover the disgusting sink cabinet doors (chalk artwork thanks to 4 year old Georgia who was visiting), and the whole kitchen was completely transformed.  Here’s a tip though: if you, like me, pretty much only ever wear black, having white chalk on cabinets that you work in front of is not the smartest idea.  Duh.

We tried to use the old kitchen table (another parting ‘gift’ from our tenant), but it was too squished between the wall and fridge (or we were too fat to squeeze into the chairs), so we dusted off our old teak dining table from the basement (you might remember it downstairs here).

new kitchen table

Much better.  Plus I missed it.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much more functional this layout it.  It’s changed the way we use the kitchen (as in, now we hang out there), and actually makes me want to cook a lot more.  People aren’t constantly underfoot as we’re preparing food but can hang out and enjoy our scintillating conversation!  Everybody wins, right?  Amazing what just having a work surface can do (especially one with a view out the window).

So finally, just because they are so gross, and thus make me feel better about life (well, my life NOW), here’s photos of the kitchen as it looked when we first viewed the house:

kitchen first viewingkitchen first viewing 2kitchen first viewing 3

The photos are a little weird and fuzzy as we felt a bit awkward taking them.  It’s not the most comfortable thing to photograph someone’s place as they’re living there – well, if the place looks like a shit hole (we’re not talking about shooting an Architectural Digest feature which would possibly be uplifting, and use better lighting).  So the pics are a bit ‘stealth’ – but I think you get the idea of what we started with.

And here is what we were left with when we moved in (you might recall, or want to review how the whole place looked here  ):

kitchen in progress 2 kitchen in progress 3 kitchen in progress 4

It’s always reassuring to look back on these when I feel like nothing is progressing around here.  I look at these and think, damn – we’re doing ok…

table from windowblack wall  view to pantry  new island

…but note to my mom friends coming over this week: it’s definitely not going to look this clean by tomorrow…

teaching an old door some new tricks

So, to recap (as I realize it’s been over two months since I’ve posted anything, or  done anything – let’s be honest), this is what we were dealing with:

x 2 don’t forget.

Are you excited yet?  Yeah well, I was tired just looking at it.  So I tried not to.

I got around 4 quotes to replace the doors – hoping, as you do, that someone will give you the answer you want, but it was no good.  I didn’t realize that it’s not the doors themselves that are that expensive, it’s the installation that costs a fortune.  Given our neighbourhood, and the weather, it’s not something you want to dick around with.  We did install new back doors ourselves…actually, not really as we had our friend Matt (of downstairs kitchen-reno fame) who helped us.  Ok, he really installed them while we ‘helped’, but even he had trouble and he’s amazing.  Old houses and new doors are not always the most compatible.

In any case, when the energy audit happened, the guy told me that the doors were fine, and actually the least of our problems (you might recall we scored a spectacular 14 out of 100).  To be honest, I was a little bummed by this, as I was hoping for a good excuse to replace them.  Sigh.

So here we are.

It only took two and half months, (actually, I’m not even being grumpy about that – sometimes time stands still when you have a newborn), but we finally did it.  Newly painted doors!!!!

Horray! Take that crack house!

(…and for those who care about these things, the colour is Origins Staffordshire Blue:

And I almost forgot, a big thank you shout out to for the tutorial on how to paint doors.  I’ve been winging it for so long, I thought it was probably time to look up the professional way to do it!

no one puts baby in a crack house

– except us apparently.

Given we have a child, it’s probably time to address the indisputable fact that, from the front at least, our place looks like a crack house.  I don’t know why having a baby means you feel the need to have a cuter house, but you do.  Call it a strange hormonal side-effect, or just feeling weird entering what looks like a former drug den (because uh, it is) with our new million dollar Bugaboo yuppie stroller (I joke, but that thing rocks – thanks Geoff and Powell , best gift EVER), but the exterior of my house is depressing me.

Truth be told, Sam actually likes it this way as he sees it as a free security system.  He’s right, I suppose, but we (ok, I) can only live like this for so long.  I want a pretty house!  Well, at least not a crack house.

Up to this point I have avoided posting any photos of the front of house as I’ve just been plain embarrassed.

But ok, deep breath…
here you go:

Pretty bad right?

‘Curb Appeal’ is still a mystical notion we have yet to get a handle on.

Making it worse, we live in a neighbourhood and city of very cute wood shingled, brightly coloured homes.

via Property Guys (was going to take my own photo, but that would mean leaving the house – not that easy these days, plus it’s raining)

Yes, many of them used to be derelict and as sketchy as ours, but we’re rapidly becoming the worst house on the street.  Yikes.

So, ideally, we would like to pull off this god-awful vinyl siding and replace it with cedar shingles.  Unfortunately, we really should replace the windows first, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so we’re pretty much stuck with the siding for a while. Plus, there’s nothing actually wrong with it, unless you count the level of embarrassment I feel every time I have  to explain to people that we live in the ‘mint green’ house.

At least I no longer have to say ‘the house with the mailbox falling off’ as my sisters finally replaced the mailboxes for me when they came to visit.  But I do come from a long line of embarrassing house monikers, as my childhood home used to be identified as ‘the house with the Christmas lights up all year round’.  Ah yes, procrastination, you are genetic…

Obviously, paint seemed like the solution.  I got beyond excited picking a colour scheme and settled on grey with yellow doors and white trim.  No one was that enthused, but yellow is what the doors should be according to feng shui (yeah I know, but it narrowed the choices), and grey seemed like a good choice for a house that is not, and never will be ‘cute’, but could be what you might call ‘handsome’.  And imagine a window box with some red flowers.  You with me?

Sam was a hard sell until we started watching Casino, and Robert DeNiro was sporting the same colour scheme:

house colour inspiration? why not!

This is when you press pause and go ‘SEE? It can work!’  And voila, Sam was on side.

Here’s a few other better (but less fun) examples:

via Holly Smith Interiors

via fric and frac

via PeaHen Pad

Now, ideally I wanted the dark grey as above, but with a slightly softer, less acid yellow.  I got totally carried away and collected about a million colour cards (it’s like my new hobby) until I finally talked to someone at Benjamin Moore who told me that, actually, you can’t paint vinyl siding a darker shade than it already is as it will absorb more heat from the sun and then warp.  Shit.  Cue deflating balloon.

So I could go white, or really pale grey, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as merely getting dressed and having a shower is a challenge these days, painting the front of the house is just not going to happen.  And it’s definitely not going to happen if the colour is a boring compromise.  Let’s be realistic (for once).

Project ‘I don’t want to live in a crack house’ take two…

Stuck with the mint green siding, and feeling that I might actually find the time to paint the doors, I started thinking differently  – what about blue?  This image was the inspiration that pulled me from my despair:

via design-vox

Back for more colour samples:

We’re deciding between Benjamin Moore’s Staffordshire Blue and CIL’s Arctic Night – neither of which I can find on-line.  Annoying.  And they look completely different in the photo above than they do beside me here on the couch.  Imagine them darker like in the ‘inspiration’ image above.

Anyway, this is all the fun part.  First I have to actually tackle the door trim which is, oh boy, a little desperate, and more than a little overwhelming:

Fun times ahead…

we have a new pantry…oh, and a new baby

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Yes, it’s been quiet for a while on the blogging front.  Surprisingly, having a newborn is not really conducive to spending hours naval gazing about your renovation. I know – shocking!

Some people manage it, but I have no idea how (see Young House Love for folks we love to hate – their weekly photo project of their daughter is damn cute, but as I could barely dress myself during my first month of motherhood, such things were beyond me).  I had to wait a while as this blog was in grave danger of becoming about parenting as looking after a newborn actually does take up EVERY minute of your day, and thus is pretty much all you think about.  But frankly, I spend enough time now obsessing about being  a mom on Facebook, email and in ‘real’ life, that I don’t need to write about it here too.  Plus, the hilarious Amy Morrison at Pregnant Chicken has that shit covered.

But without further ado, here’s what we made:

Ok, she’s not always so red and angry (not always…), but she does have, let’s call it ‘personality’.  Here she is looking more angelic:

Her name is Finley Rose, though we usually just call her Fin (or the monster/poo machine/peanut, depending on the day).  Yep, she came out with a shock of red hair, and without much drama (though she does drama quite well now thank you).  But she’s pretty much amazing and awesome.
We did good.

So…back to the house.  It’s been easy to forget sometimes that we live in a glorified crack house, but there’s nothing like family visiting to remind you of all the projects that are still ‘in progress’.  I feel like I spent weeks constantly apologizing and explaining – ‘oh right, that shouldn’t really be there’ and ‘yes, that’s supposed to be painted/fixed/less dangerous/not a hole’.  It’s amazing what you learn to live with and then just forget about.  Whoops.  My mom and my two sisters were here (My dad declined: ‘why would I want to go to Halifax in February?’  Why indeed.  And my brother also stayed home, ’cause brothers are like that.), and as Fin was almost 2 weeks late – cue feeling unbelievably sorry for myself and other pregnant dramatics (idiot, someone should have told me it only gets harder) – my family and I had a lot of time to discuss what still needs to be done to the house.

My mom, always one for a project, took on the pantry at my request.  She has a thing for pantries (we’ve never had a house without one, which in North America, is something of an accomplishment), and ours didn’t really look much better than when we first moved in:

Ok, it looked a bit better, but I don’t have any photos.  The walls had been painted, but not the ceiling, and the floor was still the same, as were the gross shelves.

Cue supermom.  She’ll hate me for doing this, but here she is installing floor tiles to match the rest of the kitchen (I think she looks cute, but she’ll be horrified she’s ‘on the internet’):

She painted the ceiling, put up new shelves, reorganized everything (or I should say organized – there was no ‘re’ about it as it had just been a dumping ground), and even bought me a new broom and hooks to hang it on.  Actually, they all made me buy a new broom as mine was deemed ‘dickish’ – though I had bought it at a home show from a guy giving a demo with a headset (when are they ever wrong?) and thought it was the bee’s knees…

So here’s the pantry progression:




Hurray!  It’s not gross anymore, and now there’s actually room to put stuff.  Even the random crate of tools we’re too lazy to keep in the basement has a place (though why we need a saw in there I’m not quite sure).  I even have somewhere to put non-kitchen stuff, like rolled paper and canvas, bottles, and diapers, which is great, as there is only one closet in this entire apartment, which, as you might expect, is full.

There’s also room for the vacuum that I desperately need.  I know, I know, I don’t own a vacuum. Don’t judge – it’s a long story involving wet dog smell and carpet that I SWEAR crept into the vacuum I had so I had to get rid of it, even though, yes, no one but me could smell it.  Anyway, now I live in a house that smells like dirty diapers so I guess the last laugh’s on me.

So it’s not quite finished – my mom will kill me for posting photos without the final shelf up (there’s a small one for spices and it still bugs her that she left without having time to put it up – hmm, guess where I get my obsessive personality?), and she wants us to round the edge of that wooden counter top as she says it looks ‘stupid’ as it is beside the window –  but really, if I waited to post this until it was totally finished we might be waiting another 4 months…

It may not be a design marvel (despite the poster of cheese varieties I recently re-discovered and put up – I know, check me out!), but it works.  There’s even some lovely mom touches that I only noticed after she’d gone:

Thanks mom, you’re the best.  I should have a kid every year – just imagine how much you could accomplish!

A Nursery in 36 Sq Ft – The Final Countdown

So we’re about to get this show on the road.  Yep, baby times are ahead.  9 days and counting…

Which is why it’s probably a good thing that we actually got the nursery finished.  Finally.  And sort of.

Cue our new theme song:

‘We’re heading to Venus’ folks.
Maybe we should play this in the delivery room?  Hmmmm…
We can embarrass this kid before it even comes out of the womb.

But compared with my panic back in November, I have calmed down somewhat.  In my now 38 weeks of pregnancy wisdom, here’s what I have learned from friends and strangers (or just stubbornly decided myself) are the only things necessary for a nursery:

1. A place to store all the baby crap – drawers seem to suffice.  Even if you buy your child nothing to wear, he/she will soon have more clothes than you thanks to all the gifts and hand me downs you’ll receive.

2. A place for the baby to sleep.

And actually, as the baby is supposed to sleep in your room for the first 6 months (yep, guess who finally dragged her ass to a parenting class?), the nursery need only be a glorified closet for the first little bit.

But, and it’s a big but, the other thing I’ve learned is that none of this means dick when you’re pregnant, hormonal, and nesting.

No.  You want THE NURSERY.  I think it’s just totally psychological (and cultural).  I was having a complete hyperventilating meltdown about the state of our nursery (really wish I was exaggerating here, but yes, the lack of ‘nursery-ness’ really made breathing difficult occasionally), that only went away when Sam came home with a pine chest of drawers.

Antique Nova Scotian pine no less – though missing the part of the bottom apron, which made it affordable for us, so I’m not complaining. (And whoops, you can also see some evidence of my failed painted floor experiment – one day we’ll put some proper flooring down.  One day.  Oh, and put the heater pieces back on too.)

Turns out all I actually needed was to take the baby stuff out of the bags in the closet (some of it had been given to me around 6 months ago when, to be honest, it just freaked me out), fold it all, put it in drawers, and all was well with the world.  Who knew?

As you might remember, this is what the office/nursery/dumping ground looked like before:

And here it is now:

Now, let me come clean and say this is a bit fake.  The crib (it’s a travel crib – small and on sale, so perfect) will be going beside our bed.  The chair – the BEST baby shower gift from our amazing group of friends who obviously know us well (though I also need to show you guys the sexy stroller our other friends sent us – yes, sexy and stroller in the same sentence…) – will also be moving, into the living room, or maybe our bedroom if I can get it to fit.  The only thing actually staying in the room right now is the chest of drawers.  We bought it as the height means it can double as a change table, but from what everyone tells me, we’ll probably end up using a changing pad on the floor or the bed.  Truth be told, I only put the change pad on the dresser for the pictures so no one thinks I’m a bad mom-to-be who doesn’t even have a place to change her kid’s diapers…

So there you go – a basic gender-neutral nursery (yep, still don’t know what’s going to come out) in 6 x 6 ft.  It is possible.

The other side of the room has our long desk that Sam built in December – one side for me with a variety of egg-related art and studio ephemera, and the other for Sam’s accounting textbooks and place to study.  It’s organized and working (finally), but it’s too stressful to try and take pictures of that right now.  I want it to look good, and right now it really doesn’t.  I need some drawers and containers to make it look less cluttered, but that will have to wait.  So just imagine for now that it looks amazing and I’m some kind of Wonder Woman.
Did I mention I’m having a baby in 9 days?

But for the next month at least, the nursery/study will be a room for my mom.  Who arrives tomorrow.  Which means I should probably get off my pregnant ass, stop farting around taking fake nursery photos, and inflate a bed so she has somewhere to sleep.

One more time…

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