The Finished Kitchen Pass Through 

Ta Dah!  We are FINALLY finished with the last major project for now at 8th and M. By major I mean time-consuming, mess making, frustrating, or expensive.  This one only ticked off the first three boxes.  The pass through has completely changed the feel of the house.  It was also the hardest project that we personally (As in, no handy man or other assistance) took on and finished.  This project felt worse than the bathroom gut and remodel but we had help on that one.  Our son and friends gutted the place, and we hired a plumber to get it up to code.

When we bought the house and you opened the door, this was the view.  A solid wall directly in front of you that closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house.  The first post about this project is HERE.


It changed to this view for about a month.

And now,  this is what you see when you open the front door.

I know, right?  Wowsers.

The photo below shows the big opening but is missing the transition at the floor.  That got put in before we left so hopefully some of the pictures show it.

It is my second favorite thing about the house.  The floors still are holding the top spot.

We turned this $50.00 hunk of beech butcher block from IKEA into this beautiful pass through/ counter height bar.  We still had almost two feel of butcher block left over so I am thinking that a cutting board is in my future.


It has the same stain as the floor, Minwax Jacobean and three coats of oil based polyurethane in a satin finish.  I drove up three nights after work to sand, steel wool, and re-poly so that we could finish this weekend on this last big project.

The cabinets that are below the butcher block on the inside are really wall cabinets so they are only 12 inches deep.  They are repurposed from ReStore and were $10.00  Solid wood cabinets that will provide additional storage and support the counter top.  Win win.

We are still trying to figure out what to do with that open space where the cabinet ends.  Our initial thought was to  put in shelving but we are now thinking that a trash can might hide out there.  The plug will allow for electrical like crock pots on the counter.

I have had the cast iron shelf brackets in our last three homes.  They fit the shelf perfectly and will provide solid support for the overhang.  The counter top is screwed into the cabinet and a liberal amount of construction adhesive is holding it down.

I whitewashed the ship lap walls and love them.

The view inside the  kitchen looking out now is a lot different.  You can now see out and have more light in the space.

The fridge we got off Facebook from a friend is really big and awesome ( water, ice maker, side by side) but it will keep us from putting in an island that I thought would fit.  That scrape on the side of the fridge?  Well, when you get a 36 inch fridge though a 32 inch door there can be collateral damage.  Thankfully no one fell off the porch and that it is nothing that a little appliance paint can’t fix.

Here is an updated shot with the door knobs fixed and installed.

It is so great to see them in place.

So the reason that I cannot show more of the room is… well the photo below is the elephant in the room.  In order for us to keep up with our stuff I have set up a tool station in the living room.  If we need something it is either here or in the one room we are not touching right now. ( More on that room another day.)  I did have a mini meltdown before the pictures because it took me 45 minutes to clean the kitchen well enough to photograph.  It is all put away, thrown away, or moved to storage now so all is right with my little corner of the planet.  Oh and yes that is a leaf blower you see below, and yes at times I have used it in the house (don’t ask) but mostly it is to keep the sawdust on the front porch from making it inside.

We still have projects to do but they are ones that will not be as physically difficult.  Did you notice that the door to the hallway still doesn’t have a knob?  I do.  Every. Time. I. Look. At. It.  But, we are making progress.

The total cost of the project was right at $200.00 including the paint, new switches and outlets, the cabinet, the butcher block, wiring, caulk, additional lumber etc.


Thank you all for following along on our journey.




The Exterior Paint Color

Choosing a paint color for the exterior of an all wood home is a commitment.  You are committing to the look of the exterior, the feel of the home, and the impression that a potential renter has about the house.

When we bought 8th and M the house was tan and the trim was a lighter tan.  The house looked tired, and a little shabby. Boring.  The homes in this area improving part of Huntsville are not boring.

Our daughter and son in law live in Charlotte where there is a neighborhood called NODA North of Downtown Arts.  I think of our neighborhood as Huntsville’s NODA. ( We are also north of downtown and wow there is some art in our neigborhood.)  Soon I am going to give you a walking tour of the neighborhood, because I think you will be surprised at some of the homes,but today I will just show you a few of our closest neighbors.  They are not afraid of color and/ or have a sense of fun.  It is a college town after all.

FYI they totally copied us.  This house just got painted.  I think imitation  is greatest form of flattery.


Dan-Phillips-Recycled-Affordable-Texas-Houses-5.jpg (600×450)

I just knew when I saw 8th and M I knew that I wanted the house to be a dark bluish gray with white trim.  My daughter in law suggested a yellow door and provided me with pictures.  I knew it would be the perfect accent to the porch.

Picking that bluish gray was trickier than I thought.  Some were too purple, some too brown, and some too light.

I settled on Sherwin Williams Slate Tile.  The painter recommended satin finish to hide some of th imperfections in the home.

Photographing this color is tricky but the square above is from the SW website and is the actual color.  It is less blue than it photographs.

If you have this much house to paint, and there is repair work involved, and it has two stories…hire a painter.  It took three men four days of hard work to get the house painted and wood replaced

The first step was to replace rotted wood and scrape the peeling paint from the house.

It looked ROUGH at this point.  I was nervous.

Our painter, Carlos, had a team that showed up bright and early and stayed until late.

The blue paint without the trim looked awful.  I was a little lot nervous.  It looked so drab.

And then… let there be white.


The white was a huge improvement but look at that pop of yellow below.

The difference in appearance is stunning.  Right after it got painted we had two different people knock on the door for information about renting the home.    Don’t you love the yellow?  I do.  Thanks Sweet Amanda for the color choice.

We have cement patch and concrete colored porch paint that at some point we will get done,  just probably not right away.  We are tired and power washing, patching, and painting would be another whole weekend.

I know that you can see that in addition to changing the paint color we also added a new roof to the home and garage.  The two changes were dramatic but not cheap.  Those changes were just a little less than half our budget ( add in the foundation work and it is half of what we budgeted to spend) but we are not sorry.

Right around the corner there is this empty and under-loved house.  I am going to keep my eye on this one. It could be a cute home.

My dad has been anxious to see what we have done to the house so the exterior was the first installment.

Thanks for following along on our journey.



The Garage Apartment 

I am pretty sure I will be adding Part 1 to the title of this post soon but I have had several friends ask for an update on this sweet little space.

Here you go: 

The first thing we did was scrub her down.  Top to bottom.  The only thing that is still dirty are the windows outside.  We are going to try that hose in spray on them soon.  

Next we got busy painting the ceilings white. I like a bright white ceiling.  The walls got painted a very light bluish gray that my mom found in the oops section for me.  The trim got painted semigloss white.  This past weekend my buddy Larry got the bamboo roll up blinds up in the main room.  They are going to look great with the furniture we scored for the place. 

Today Mr. Math helped me get mini blinds up in the other windows.  Filtered light and privacy were key.

Here is my quick tour of the space.

Welcome.  As you walk into the main room the is a door ahead for the bedroom and an opening to the right for the dining room.

We have added blinds, a window unit and I bought this brushed nickel light from Home Depot and painted it flat black to the dining nook.

The phone niche is so cute.

I had to give a close up of the light.

I really like the roll up shades.  

This space is going to be furnished with a sleeper sofa and some other cool stuff.

I used a flooring restoration kit to get the floor refreshed.

The kitchen still needs some work.  The cabinets have closing issues.  

This light was buried under layers of gunk.  I love it.

The sink is cute.  Very small but cute.

The fridge goes here!

The bedroom is going to have another window unit but the blinds are in. The floor looks good.

The bathroom is almost done.  I bought the wrong sized blind and the tub needs another scrub down.

Well, there you have it.  A pint sized home.  

It is close to being rental ready and we are excited!

Thanks for following along on our journey.  



Opening Up the Kitchen

One project that has turned out to be a pain in the neck has been opening the kitchen.

We broke the investment property rules when we decided to make the kitchen more open.  It has taken a lot of time, cost us some a lot of aggravation, and won’t increase our rent.  I do think that if we decide to sell down the road it will make the home more appealing so that is what I hang on to when I am struggling with getting it to look finished.  The reality is, I just like the open feel so much better and it makes me happy to know that the house will be more functional.

When we first looked at the house, this is the first thing we saw when we opened the front door.


Perhaps looking right at an almost clean wall was preferable to the floor, or the dirty kitchen.  

When we walked around to the opening of the kitchen, this was our view.


The opening to the dining room side of the kitchen was 32 inches wide.

Except for time and aggravation the project hasn’t cost a lot.  We found butcher block on clearance at IKEA.  Can you believe the deal we got on beech butcher block that is going in the pass through?


Also, after removing the super thin (1/4 inch) sheet rock we discovered ship lap on both sides of the wall.  Another score!

The wall to the dining room was not load bearing so taking it down was easy.  Chop, chop and done.  Well, that and removing all the nails from the ship lap that came down then storing it in the garage because no way on the planet is it going to waste.


The picture above shows the opening from the dining room side but also that cabinet back by the stove came down from the corner and is going to be a fun project soon.  

The hole where the wall came out to the right is now filled and this weekend the threshold will be tiled to match the kitchen. 

The only electrical that needed attention on the whole project was that light switch that only needed to move a few feet over and an outlet that just needed to be “killed”.  The switch has been the BIGGEST pain of the project.  For some reason when it was moved, it will not work as a switch.  It is holding up progress in the dining room.


That wall that we left on the right side?  It looks so good now.  Except where the wires are hanging out from the switch that still wont cooperate.  Here is a peek at what it looks like now.


The wall you saw at the top of the post is load bearing so we had to make adjustments to our original design in order to make sure that the ceiling did not fall in.

Instead of the huge opening we thought we would have, we now have a counter height pass through that will this weekend have a butcher block counter top and additional cabinetry under the butcher block on the kitchen side. on the living room side there will be an overhang that can accommodate bar stools.

First, we cut both sides of the ship lap which of course we saved and added to the pile but made sure not to disturb the two by fours in the wall.

The only electrical wiring in the load bearing wall just needed moving over to be encased in the corner post.  Thankfully there was enough slack that we did not have to mess with that one too much.

Then Mr. Math figured out the height to cut the studs and after much discussion and me worrying an appropriate amount, he cut the two by fours and knocked them out.

Mr. Math then added two by fours to each end floor to ceiling that were called Jack studs.  He added a header, and additional support underneath for the counter top.  I found a great site to show us what to do.  Here is their picture of the process.  We did exactly that except we put the header all the way up top.

source House Craft

I bought a wall cabinet from ReStore for ten dollars that got attached under the opening where it will serve two purposes; add support for the heavy butcher block and provide additional storage.

So, this weekend our plan is to finish this space, like finish finish but today this is how it looks:

This is one project that I am looking forward to being done with but I know my husband is even more excited, especially if he gets that stinking switch to stop being live if the switch is on or off.

All in, this project has cost us about $200. Including the butcher block, wood supports, the cabinets, shims, etc. That is good because other areas have turned out to be more than we budgeted.

I am looking for a cheap (like almost free) idea for the back door that you see through the opening because it will be visible when the front door is open.  Any suggestions?

It is hard for me to have so many almost finished projects right now and I apologize that you have not seen anything that I consider finished yet, but we are almost to the point where I can start to show you some totally finished rooms and our nice exterior.





The Bonus Rental

The biggest worry we had about the property turned out to be one of my favorite spaces.  The home had a totally illegal garage apartment.  My fear was that it would cost us a fortune to get up to legal standards.

The garage apartment wasn’t even mentioned on the real estate listing even though it was being lived in by tenants when we checked out the house.  This was the one and only picture of the garage apartment in the home information on the realtor site.

I snapped these two from the front of the house.

It took some work to get the realtors to change their listing to include a mention of the unit and even then the listing said it would be a great place for family to visit.  The odd thing for us was that the unit was built at the same time the house was and should have been legal.  It took a little digging to figure out that the place no longer met minimum requirements for a rental.  Heck, it didn’t meet minimum requirements for anyone to be in.  The unit was missing smoke alarms, there was no carbon monoxide monitor, there was a hole in the floor that opened to the garage below, it had a gas leak,  the garage below had an unvented working gas hot water heater that also had a gas leak, it needed the foundation worked on, and the only method for escape in case of fire was through the door.  You know just the basics.

I have absolutely no photos of the inside of the apartment before we bought it. There were three pit bulls, guns, foil over the windows, fly papers hanging all over the place inside the unit, two people and three dogs living in less than 400 square feet, cigarette smoke, and moth balls everywhere. I was too overwhelmed to venture into the space very far and feared the worst.

Once the tenants moved out we got our first real look into the space.  I loved it.  I did not expect to be so happy about the space but I was almost giddy.

Yes, it had all the problems I remembered but what I had not seen before was the original charm that somehow had not been stripped in 67 years.  Some of the light fixtures were original, the phone niche was still there, original doors, aged pine flooring, and original kitchen cabinets.

The stairs and deck were solid, even if they were a little dirty and someone scorched the deck with a grill at some point.

I think my favorite room in the unit is the dining nook.  The windows, the light, the phone niche… I like it all.

Look past the dirty in the picture to see the wide baseboards and the light that comes in.  

The kitchen is amazingly efficient. The original cabinets go all the way to the ceiling.

I like the faucet coming out of the wall.

Not the biggest fan of the stove, but now thanks to my buddy who worked for over an hour solid before I joined in for another hour, it is clean and there are no gas leaks.  It isn’t perfect, but until we find another apartment sized stove for a decent price it will work.

The bathroom vanity is original and super cute.  I wish I had the time to strip it down to see the original hardware without a million coats of paint on it.   That light must go.  I know what I want.  I hope I can find it.

The bathroom was a nice size for the space.  It has a huge, deep cast iron tub.  One day I hope we can get it reglazed.
This is my one and only photo to show you just how dirty this sweet place was before we scrubbed, washed, went back to the store for more cleaning supplies, cleaned some more, and sealed the floor.  My buddy cleaned the windows but it took cleaning them twice to cut through the crud to clean glass.  She is a superwoman when it comes to cleaning.

I am not ready to show off the newly painted, cleaned and ready inside quite yet because we still have a few things to knock out but isn’t the space great?

Here is how the old girl looks from the outside now.  I think I will be  painting the porch posts white but it is much improved.  I can’t wait for you to see the tree house as a my buddy calls it.




If you are not my Facebook friend (The Corner of 8th and M), My Instagram Friend (thecornerof8thandm) then you may not have seen the color of paint that we picked.  I really like the color.

What a journey we have been on.

Thank you for following along.  We love to hear from you.



How to Get Rid of that Smoke Smell

After dealing with not one but two places that were lived in by smokers on this investment property, I can say I have read, researched, and tested a lot of different methods to get rid of that lingering smoke smell in a home.  Here is what I have learned from my four weekend battle with smoke.  The absolute worst room in both units was the master bedroom and adjoining bath in the house.


This is what I learned:

First EVERY single square inch has to be cleaned or removed.  No exceptions. Walls, ceilings, floors, closets, windows,doors, tile, wood… it all needs a good cleaning and if it can’t be cleaned, rip it out.  I cleaned every surface that could handle the chemicals with TSP.  I recommend starting at the ceiling and work your way down. The trick to getting the ceiling scrubbed without damaging the sheet rock was fist to use a brush on a handle that is used to clean RV’s and boats dipped in a TSP solution then to use a saturated microfiber cloth on a Swiffer sweeper.  I changed the microfiber cloth frequently.  It rained nicotine on me.  Brown liquid ran down the walls.  After ceiling and walls were all washed I used clean damp cloths to wipe it all down.  It took two times to wipe every surface down with clean water to get it to the point that the water did not turn brown after wiping it down.

After it was completely dry the next step was to run an ozone generator.  I rented one on Labor Day weekend so that I could keep it from Saturday morning at 7:00 am until Tuesday morning at 7:00 am for $60.00  I ran it every second we were not in the house and it helped.

Finally, after the ozone generator was returned I painted the wall and ceiling with B-I-N primer.  This primer is super thin so be prepared to treat it almost like water.  It is some amazing stuff but it is not cheap.  It took two gallons to get the walls and ceilings sealed at over $40.00 a gallon.

The floor got a serious mopping at the end of every day I was there.  The hardwood had long since lost any varnish and we planned on sealing and covering the flooring with vinyl plank flooring.  Luckily I did not do any damage to the floor and we were able to have them sanded, stained and sealed.  More on that in a future post.  Once the painter finished the house lost that stale smoke smell. (Yep we paid a painter to get the entire interior and exterior painted.  I am not sorry we spent that money.) 

I know you see that half-finished bathroom through the door. We are making progress there but the bedroom is done except for two outlet covers and the blinds on the window.  I wish I had smellavision.  It smells great.

Look at that beautiful nicotine free wall.

The cat smell was not as bad as the smoke.  The carpet and pad contained a lot of the smell and a good scrubbing with      laundry detergent in water using a scrub brush helped.  Three or four mopping jobs knocked most of it out.  Hydrogen peroxide on the worst spots made it fade almost completely.  Open windows on hot days and baking soda finished off the smell. 

If you are thinking about investment property there is a reason people shy away from the problems we had.  I don’t want to clean another place again, but if the price was right who knows?  

I hope this helped you.  If not, I hope the idea of me driving home wrapped in trash bags so I wouldn’t get it in my car at least amuses you.



Finding Just the Right Property

We have owned homes, 6 homes to be precise. All of those were truly where we would live (even just on weekends), call our home and rest our heads.  Buying an investment property is, or should be based on what the home is or will be worth and less about emotion.  I will give us a B- on keeping the emotion out. 

Before we started shopping we set some rules that overall, we have stuck to.  I will be telling you where we did not and what we wish we had done down the road.

1. The house had to be on a numbered or lettered street close to Sam Houston State University.   Homes in this area just don’t come along every day.  Here is the Zillow map of what is for sale right now in the area we were looking.

2.  The house had to make sense for us financially.  We tend to lead with our hearts then make it work later.  The numbers had to work or we were willing to walk away.  We did walk away for a while from this house, but the house kept calling us and the owner accepted our offer finally.  We would not have purchased the home if we did not believe the rent on the property would give us a return on our investment.

3.  We needed to know what we were getting into.  We checked local codes, researched the house with the city and county to make sure there were no surprises.  I advise hiring the best inspector you can find and go on the walk through with him or her.  Bring in trades for estimates if there are problems.  Know what the electrical, the plumbing, the foundation, the roof etc are going to cost.  I have names if you live in our area.  Run the numbers.  After you know what you are looking at does it still make sense?  If after everything it is too expensive and even if you love it…walk away.

4.  We knew to look past the ugly.  Does the house have a good layout?  Is it structurally sound? If not, is the price low enough to make it so?  If the answers are yes, don’t worry so much about ugly paint, nasty floors, missing or filthy appliances, or overgrown backyards.  (Our house had all of the above.) 

I cannot wait to tell you about what you see in the photo above. 

Oh that master bedroom and bath.  Nicotine coated everything that cat urine or hair did not. We learned a lot here. I took a lot of showers. A. Lot. Of. Showers. 

Track lighting in the dining room.  Wall right when we walked in. You are going to be so surprised at this space…if we ever get it finished.

A broken stove, nasty floor, leaky faucet were just a few of the treasures that this closed off kitchen had for us.

The hardwood floors… well what can I say?  Paint, carpet padding, carpet tacks, and pet staining had done their damage on the floor. 

I cannot even explain how nasty this house was.  It smelled so bad of cigarette smoke and cats that our realtor didn’t want to go in and oh yeah…there were fleas. 

Were we crazy? Yes.  It has been the phycially hardest home we have ever worked on. It has been an emotional ride. We have learned a lot about ourselves and a little about home repair.

Was the home a good investment? I believe that it will be.  Only time will tell.  

We look forward to showing you our progress, and our failures as we take on this journey.   We love to hear from you and value your input.

I have started a Pinterest board about our 8th and M home if you want a peek into what we have planned.  8th and M on Pinterest


The Beginning

Well hello there.  If you are a new friend, welcome.  If you are one of my old friends from The Weekend Country Girl, thank you so much for following our twisting and turning journey through mid-life.  My name is Karen.  I am a wife, mother, grandmother, and public school administrator who lives full time in the country, but drives into the suburbs to work.  ( I am no longer a weekend country girl.) I am married to a handsome guy who has put up with me for more than 30 years. He is a farm boy who can fix, build, or figure out just about anything I think up when he is not busy mowing our 15 acres or teaching math to 8th graders.  

So, what is up with the name The Corner of 8th and M?  Well, our mid life journey is going to include rental property.  Our first project (and when I say project I mean PROJECT) is a two unit rental that includes a home and garage apartment located on the corner of guess where?  You got it, it is at the corner of 8th and M in one of my favorite quirky Texas towns, Huntsville.  My husband and I are moving toward another corner in our lives as well.  The name just felt right.



On this blog you can expect offbeat furniture  projects, what we are learning about home renovation, our trials and tribulations of learning to be landlords, the awesome Texas towns we love to visit, our life in Coldspring at Providence Acres, and a healthy dose of family in mid life.


I hope you enjoy the ride as much as we will.