SURPRISE! We Bought A New House!

You guys! Sorry it’s been quiet on the blog…

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At Last! Refinished Hardwood Floors

Wow I can’t tell you how happy I am to be waking up each morning to look at at my completely refinished hardwood floors.

I’ve had this inspiration image saved on my desktop for a year. It was EXACTLY how I wanted my floors to look in my home.

tim barber

When we expanded and renovated our house almost ten years ago, we continued the red oak floors throughout the house. A seamless transition from room to room in community spaces has always appealed to me, and since the original house’s footprint had oak hardwood, it made sense to match it and continue it throughout. I opted for a natural finish back in 2008 and it looked great for a few years, but little did I know at the time the oil-based polyurethane that was used to protect them would yellow so dramatically over time. After a few years I began to hate my floors.

I replaced the carpet on my staircase with hardwood several years ago and stained the stairs dark, I shared the experience here. I even expressed that I would refinish my downstairs floors to match the staircase, but it took me SEVEN years to finally hire the crew that could get it done. How’s that for procrastination? 🙂 I was motivated by the replacement of the carpet with engineered hardwood in the master and upstairs hallway and wanted the downstairs to match.

I’ll never again use real wood in a kitchen or bathroom, it’s just too risky with the water damage that can occur. In the Las Vegas houses, I’ve installed more modern products like wood look porcelain tile and luxury vinyl plank. I added the same waterproof vinyl plank in my studio above the garage.

But when it came to the 1300 square feet of hardwood flooring in the downstairs of my home I had to make a decision: either refinish them, replace them, or cover them with something else. Replacing them was cost prohibitive. No matter how great the new luxury vinyl plank wood look products are, covering my existing wood flooring with vinyl seemed a crime, so refinishing them was the best option.

Here’s how they look now that the job is complete:


When it came to the stain choice for the floors, I knew I wanted something in the Walnut or Jacobean family. I was adamant about not having any yellow or red undertones. My refinisher suggested one coat of Ebony which I balked at in the beginning. Black stain? What? But when he brought me a sample of Ebony and Jacobean on red oak floors, I was convinced the Ebony stain would give me what I wanted: a dark stain that masked the red undertones in the oak wood.

He brought me a sample of red oak with Jacobean and Ebony, both were close but the Jacobean had a hint of red to it. Not too noticeable, but he steered me toward the Ebony and I’m glad I went with it.


Above is the image of the stain sample on the bottom step of my staircase. Notice the difference between the bottom floor, the steps and the suggested stains, Jacobean on top and Ebony below. Seeing the difference made me decide to also have the staircase steps redone so that the stain was consistent between the downstairs floor and the hardwood steps to the second floor.

My floors had also suffered some damage over the last ten years, with dents in places and some significant wear and tear near the doors due to traffic, another reason I was anxious to have them refinished.



So here’s the basic process. After the furniture was all moved out, the crew came in with a machine sander and got to work, first with 36 grit, then followed up by a second sanding at 50 grit to removed the old polyurethane that was on the floor and get to the raw wood. Notice how much the oil based polyurethane had yellowed, that’s what was bugging me all these years!



As I mentioned, for consistency I also had the stairs sanded down so that the stain on the downstairs floors would match the stain on the hardwood steps.



After sanding it twice, they added a wood filler to the floor to fill in any dents or damage. Notice that I didn’t have to remove any baseboards! They were able to use the big sander for most of the floors, and hand sanders and scrapers next to the baseboards.



After the wood filler, the guys sanded a third time, this time with 100 grit and again with an orbital sander to make sure it was perfectly smooth.



Before the stain was applied they vacuumed the floors. Just before they applied the stain (with a garden sprayer like tool) they misted the floors with water to open up the pores so it would accept the ebony stain.



These pics were taken by the crew, sorry one is blurry, but it shows the machine with its attached pads that were used to apply a single coat of Ebony stain to the sanded red oak floors.




One the stain was dry it was time for the protective coat. They used a water based formula, one that won’t yellow like the one I had before. They applied three coats in a satin finish, buffing with light abrasion between the first and second coats.



There were places where the stain had splashed onto the baseboards, so all of the baseboards and stair risers needed repainted after the crew left, this was a huge chore. Props to Matt for tackling this project and making his way around the house with paintbrush and tape to cover any stain residue on the baseboards.



As I mentioned in the beginning we had the grueling task of completely moving out of the house so the work could be completed. All the furniture went either in the garage or the courtyard. My dining room table spent 10 days covered outside before it could be moved back in. Say hello to Matt about to move it back inside! Nice work sir. 🙂



As much as I love my new floors, what’s true is the darker stain shows every little thing. I admit the natural wood floors hid more dirt but I wanted dark so I’ve got to keep up with them. To do it, I give the floors a daily quick sweep with a Bona duster with a velcro microfiber cloth attached, it makes keeping the floors clean quick and easy.



The Ebony sheen was the right call, it gave me a rich dark stain on my floors, I also love the satin finish, it’s a very subtle sheen. It changes in depth too, darker in the evening…


… but lighter during the day. 🙂


You’ll recall I remodeled the powder room just a few weeks ago. Here’s a peek at the space with the new dark stained floors.


I’m not allowed to put any rugs down for two weeks until the protective coat fully cures. We’re slowly moving furniture back in, but with my vow to not have anything come inside that isn’t meaningful. We made a pact, if it’s clutter or simply unimportant, it doesn’t come back into the home. As a result, my garage is filled with a lot of things, and it will take me weeks to donate or sell it all. But I started piecing back together the community spaces, first the family room.


My teal sectional sofa and the trio of mirrors I love, but not the inherited chair that used to sit in the left corner, so I’ll be shopping for a cozy reading chair to replace it. For now, that corner sits empty.


We’re enjoying the barely furnished nature of the house, it feels brand new again. Cozy and comfortable, but also like a breath of fresh air.

I’m inspired to make more changes such as swapping out light fixtures and bringing in some new rugs and art. Stay tuned.

Weekend Reading

It’s been quiet around here for the last two weeks, I know. That trip to France distracted me but I decided to soak it all in instead of worrying about blogging. Thanks for your patience with me. I’ve spent the last few days getting caught up, and recovering from a little jet lag.

While I was away, my home underwent a big change. The entire downstairs floor is oak wood and they’ve needed to be refinished for years. The polyurethane had yellowed and there was damage in several places. Before I left for France, we moved all the furniture to the garage, then Matt and the kids moved up to the studio for a week so an entire crew could come in and refinish the floors. It was a major headache but props to Matt for handling it in my absence. I’ll share the story next week!

Favorite links from the week below:


Don’t miss this farmhouse cottage makeover.

This beach house kitchen has a gorgeous backsplash.

I’m also crushing on this textured brick pattern tile.

Shiplap in a shower? Why yes it can be done.

Celebrity homes are usually quite posh, but this one is warm and welcoming.

You heard Trading Spaces is returning, right?

Weekend getaway idea: 10 fall hiking trails in the US.


Three Days in Bordeaux

I arrived home last night from an amazing trip to the south of France and it was a whirlwind nine days. Once I landed in France I hit the ground running since there was a lot I wanted to see.

I toured Bordeaux and the surrounding wine regions of Medoc and St. Émilion for three days. I then took the train to Aix-en-Provence where I spent three days taking small trips to Cassis, Avignon, and the Pont du Gard. My last stop was Nice, with a few more day trips to Eze, Monaco, and St. Paul du Vence. Words cannot describe how amazing this trip was!

I wont bombard you with vacation photos all at once, but I did want to share just a glimpse of what I experienced in Bordeaux, France. As you know I live in the California wine country where we grow and bottle our own wine. I’ve grown up around it but I wanted to experience something different and it was one of the reasons I chose Bordeaux as my first stop.

I learned so very much about how they make wine in this region of France, and they’ve been doing it centuries longer than we have. They label their wines by appellation, not by grape like we do. The growth, blending, and marketing is all very controlled. A very small percentage of their wineries (they call them chateaus) are open to the public for tastings, but since I was part of small tours, I was able to visit a few.

There are several companies that offer small 6-8 person wine country tour groups, I signed up for one on my first day. You hop in a small air conditioned van with other English speaking people from all around the world, it’s great fun. I met the nicest people from Australia, South Africa, England, Ireland, etc. I did this on several days throughout my trip and as a result made many new friends, it greatly enhanced my travel experience! I also did a few DIY excursions while in France where I just hopped on busses and trains on my own.

In Bordeaux in September, the weather was hit and miss during my stay, sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, it’s unpredictable! Taking small wine tours allowed me to get out into the countryside and see the flatter Medoc wine region known for their cabernet blends. I went on a day trip with Bordovino, they are located in a central spot in town and have friendly and informative guides.


On another day, I took a train to visit hilltop St. Émilion, known for their merlot and cabernet blends. It drizzled this day but I loved strolling the cobblestone streets, admiring all the architecture and charming shops.


One must indulge in cheese and wine and bread while touring in France, especially after a hike around the town.


There is a beautiful church in St. Émilion that is also worth a tour. It was difficult to photograph on a cloudy day but I loved this courtyard with all its arches.

In St. Emilion, there are a lot of wine shops in a condensed area which do offer tastings, so if you only have one day to explore a wine region outside Bordeaux, I’d highly recommend this hilltop town. It’s so easy to get to by train, simply take the tram in town to the Gare St. Jean and buy a ticket to St. Émilion. Plan on a 45 minute train ride, walk to the town (about half a mile) and spending a few hours walking around, then the train ride back, it’s a charming little day trip!


Bordeaux is famous for little cakes called cannales, they have a caramelized exterior with a custardy center, don’t miss a taste of this regional specialty!

I stayed in a small hotel in the heart of town which made it easy to get around and see everything I wanted to see on foot. Another great way to see the city of Bordeaux is on a bicycle tour, I used Bordeaux Bike Tour and Jean-Christophe was an excellent guide. It was a leisurely ride around town, with our guide pointing out all the landmarks and sharing the history of the city. I recommend a bike tour as a great way to get acclimated and capture a feel for the city so you can explore it on foot later.

After my bike tour I spent the afternoon and evening walking all around town and had dinner at the most charming café surrounded by a mix of locals and tourists. You’ll notice again the weather is unpredictable, rain showers one hour, sunny the next. Bordeaux is a beautiful city, filled with meandering streets and cafes, lovely shops, and a great evening scene with people walking all around, sharing beer or wine and dinner at all the little cafes. I loved my three days here!




In the cities of France, you know many people ride scooters and motorcycles to get around. I ride a white Vespa around my hometown so I was always on the lookout for them while in France. This one parked on the sidewalk caught my eye, such a great color!


I put together a 2 minute video to give you a flavor for the region of Bordeaux on my new YouTube channel. Watch it below!

If you’re a wine lover (or just want to tour a really cool French city) put Bordeaux on your list of places to visit!


Vacation Homes in France

Greetings friends! I want to thank you all for your travel tip suggestions for my journey through the south of France. I departed yesterday evening and I arrive in Bordeaux today. Follow along on Instagram, I’ll be sharing a lot of my experience in my stories there. 🙂 Also thank you for the kind comments on the powder room makeover, I love that new refreshed space.

There won’t be much time for blogging this week since I have planned excursions every day and don’t want to waste a minute! I booked a few small group tours (GetYourGuide is a great site for this) but I also am exploring on my own via public transportation, it will be an adventure!

I’m traveling on the cheap by staying at small B&Bs throughout, but I thought I’d leave you with a dozen dreamy vacation homes you can stay in if you ever make a trip to France yourself! Can you imagine renting any of these? Bliss!

Live the dream life in glamorous Parisian apartment filled with natural light.



This sophisticated apartment in Paris is beautifully decorated but also family friendly.



Enjoy sea views from this chic apartment in Biarritz.



Transport through time with a stay in this rustic farmhouse in Burgundy.



Rent this historic villa near Bordeaux with its own pool and adjacent vineyard.



Live like a celebrity in this villa with a sea view in Cannes.



Float away to paradise in this home with a private beach in St. Tropez.



Enjoy a retreat on the cote d’azur with a stay at this villa in Nice.



Explore the Loire Valley while you’re living in this charming chateau.



Stay awhile in this modern townhouse in the heart of Aix-en-Provence.



Or perhaps you prefer a private villa with vineyard and pool in Provence countryside?



How fun to gather up a large group for an event in this historic chateau.



Enjoy the tours! I’ll be back to blogging next week, au revoir mes amis!