Basement Renovation: The Kitchen!



What can I say about this kitchen? It was an awkward waste of space, dingy, falling apart, dark, and frankly kind of gross. The laundry unit was in the corner, the dishwasher was portable (and didn’t work), and there was only a single sink—On the opposite side from the stove and kitchen. The only place for a dining room table was right in the center, and did I mention that this is the suite front entrance?

Here are some before photos…





Here are floor plans (not exactly measured lol, more like eye-balled) to illustrate what we did to maximize the space and pull this basement back into the light. By opening up the walls we re-captured the wasted space of the MASSIVE storage closet (almost bedroom size!) and opened the kitchen up to the light from the big front windows in the living room. The kitchen has only a small window above the sink, so we needed to steal light from elsewhere :D. We also condensed the whole kitchen into half the space and put in an island, allowing us to fit an extra closet, laundry room, pantry, AND dining room. Seriously. It makes so much more sense now! Plus, we got to put in a beautiful new beam that became the focal point of the whole space. So much work…but so worth it! I think the most tedious part was scraping up the two layers of laminate and the glue it left behind, most of it with water and a hand scraper (it was that stubborn)! Moving the laundry unit required jack-hammering a trench through the foundation floor, but I don’t think Dwayne considered that much of a hardship in spite of the physical effort :D. Men and their power tools!






We bought the “new” kitchen cabinets from a woman in New West who was redoing her kitchen. They were original to her late 80’s home and had only ever been used by her, so the wear on them was super minimal. They’re solid maple, and I find their simple style is pretty timeless (and lacking that pink-orange tone that so many cabinets from this era sport – including the ones we have upstairs lol). Plus, they were a steal, costing less than half as much as the counter tops :D. I put on all new hinges and handles (which were the one thing we salvaged from the old suite) and they look amazing. Even if some of the arrangement is a little special (the two skinny cabinets beside the microwave open the same direction :D).

The floors we put in are a mid-line laminate that the flooring company had in stock thanks to a huge developer order, so they came at a good price. We considered doing vinyl plank flooring, which is beautiful, convenient, and just plain awesome…but also expensive, and in the end decided we couldn’t justify the cost. The whole suite is painted in Benjamin Moore “Misty Grey” with a few accent walls of “Bunny Grey,” which is just one tone darker. Its really not much of an accent since you can barely see it, but I’m still happy with the choices!

The front door got an upgrade to one with a window, which allows a teeny tiny bit more light into the space that never-the-less makes a difference.

I can’t forget to mention the island pendant light, which cost me $10 at the ReStore :D. Its probably my favourite thing in the whole suite!

So without further ado…the kitchen AFTER!





Basement Renovation: The Bathroom!



We started renovating our basement suite at the beginning of 2016 and finished halfway through June. What an undertaking! The long and short of it…we learned a lot! My husband does this for a living, but never before on his own house, with his wife as the client(!!). Regardless of the stresses and craziness of the project (plus scope and budget creep lunge), we are thrilled with how it all turned out! We now have wonderful tenants and full confidence that our basement will look and function well for a long time to come. It feels good to know my entire house is clean and safe, whereas before it felt a little like we had a dungeon :D

I decided to share this thing room by room so that it’s not completely overwhelming. We’ll begin with the bathroom, because the kitchen is a harder post to put together ha!

The bathroom, it turns out, had been renovated a few times—we found a tiled shower floor under the bathtub and leftover carpet padding under the Lino. Yup, it was at one point a carpeted bathroom! But even though it is hard to imagine, those were its better days…now we had rotting corners, peeling paint, yellow tub…all of it.





EW, am I right?

We completely stripped the whole room, including the strange drop ceilings and pointless valance, and angled a wall to give it a tiny bit more space. Then we put in allll new stuff, thankfully scoring some fabulous deals in the process! The only thing we bought at full price was the vanity, as a last-minute purchase when we realized the craigslist vanity we had picked up was just too big for the space (oops). The light I found at the ReStore, the beautiful floor tiles at a discount tile place, the mirror at our local outlet Sears, the tub enclosure was a tiny bit damaged which made it 90% off…and ok fine, I also paid full price for the bathroom accessories :D.

We hired out plumbing, electrical, and mudding/taping, but did the rest ourselves. If you’ve never renovated extensively, that might sound like we hired out most of the work…but TRUST ME, we did a LOT. My dad did the tiling in the bathroom, Dwayne did all the drywalling (and in this small but still creatively shaped room that was a lot of work), and my mom and I did the painting & trim. I had never realized how much of our time would be spent cleaning up either – multiple days and evenings were simply spent carting out junk (wood, lino, nails, drywall, wrappers, tenant trash, etc…) and dumping it in the bin. Oh, did I mention that the day we agreed to expedite this whole renovation so that our friends could move in a month and a half later was the day before I found out I was pregnant? So the bulk of this work on my part was done out of breath and slightly nauseous! But my husband is my hero, he did SO MUCH WORK, and we had priceless help from our parents getting this thing finished up.

Here is the bathroom AFTER, almost complete except that one vent cover in the ceiling :D. (Since our tenants moved in before we were 100% done the whole suite, some of my “after” pictures are not actually completely done).





A Grand New Adventure!

A Grand New Adventure


We (the Vanderwel’s) have embarked on a grand new adventure. Come January 2017 we’ll be parents to a squishy, little (and most likely long-legged) human! I’ve debated in the back of my head for a while about sharing this journey on the blog: in the end, I decided that since I’m not really sharing much else here these days I might as well just keep it real! My life is going to change, that’s the truth: naturally, so will the blog!

We’re currently clocking in at 19 weeks and 4 days, which—I’ve been reminded often—is almost half way. Thats crazy. It’s only just beginning to feel like the real-deal, mostly because of the emotional and incredible ultrasound we had last week, where we got to see little #babyvdwel wriggling and kicking, flipping and chewing, hiding from the camera and demonstrating how very real this really is!




As far as the learning curve is concerned, I think I’m still somewhere on the horizontal plane. Yesterday I bought a diaper bag online, decided which stroller I’d really like to find second-hand (and then found it!), and became 85% sure I’m going to do cloth diapers. All these things feel HUGE. But then I think about all the things left to learn…like how to actually have a baby around, much less HAVE a baby…and its pretty daunting! Halfway there and nowhere near prepared :D! But we’ll figure it out. Everyone else does :P.

We’ve made some progress on the “nursery project,” moving Dwayne’s office into mine and creating a cozy, cramped workspace where we can both get stuff done (while the cat poops and eats in the corner). So far I’m actually loving that we can hang out in the same room while doing our own thing – having our own offices was nice, but totally unnecessary! The cat loves it too – he sprawls on his back on the floor between us in his “I’m so happy I could die” pose.

As is proving true for us, we’re not doing this thing halfway, and we’ve decided to use the leftover flooring from our basement renovation to put laminate down in the hallway and two smaller bedrooms (nursery and office). We’ve also got to paint away the turquoise and get closet doors before we paint all the upstairs doors and install the trim. We put the new doors in over a year ago, and have been living in a half-renovated state while we contemplated flooring and then spent 6 months re-doing the basement suite :D.

And of course, I’ve got to decide on some decor: I’ve launched Lop + Lore and have a good selection of artwork already available to me, but I’d love to create something JUST for my little babe. Of course, that goal carries a bit of pressure so we’ll see what happens! That hippo + chick combo I put together for this post is pretty cute… :P.

Piano Studio Brand Project

Piano Studio Brand

Piano Studio Brand

Piano Studio Brand

Piano Studio Brand

Piano Studio Brand

McKee Piano Studio is a small studio located in the Greater Vancouver area that offers piano lessons and exam preparation for pianists of all levels. Elizabeth McKee, ARCT, BMUS, MMUS, has spent the last 20 years perfecting her skills as a professional pianist, learning from and performing for top musicians and teachers around the world. Her specialty is working with students who really take their learning seriously, and she desired a brand that would communicate her professionalism – as well as her personality. As principle operator, she wanted a brand that would represent both herself and her skills. I was pretty thrilled that her tastes happen to jive completely with the visual world of pianos and music, and we moved forward with a modern editorial style and sleek palette of black, white and red. She required a complete branding package, delivered primarily as a functioning responsive website and including a photoshoot for head shots.

The McKee Piano Studio brand appeals to serious musicians and would-be musicians, but doesn’t discount those who are just starting out. The classic palette of black and white with pops of red is a not-so-subtle nod to the elegance and poise of a classical grand piano, but also communicates the modern and sophisticated presence that Elizabeth herself exudes. Through this modern brand and responsive web application, we were able to position Elizabeth as a desirable source for musical eduction to both experienced piano players and parents of those who may one day be professionals themselves.


Logo design // brand package // responsive website // head shots



Introducing: Lop + Lore!






I have this thing from my childhood. I don’t remember when it came into my life – it honestly seems like I always had it. “It” was named Lop, and it was a plastic mouse shaped like an L. It was never a favourite toy or go-to inanimate friend, but for some reason it had special meaning to me. I’d lose it and then discover it in some dusty corner and joyfully cry, “Lop!” and study it with happiness. It always seemed to be smiling and had these weird bubble eyes that seemed like they should be creepy but weren’t. Before long it would get put down again in some other corner or box or drawer until the next time.

When I began refining my desire to open a print shop, it was that memory of Lop that helped me craft my vision. That unexplainable fondness for a random icon of my childhood, and the way it fit perfectly into my world at the time – that is what I want to create through my art prints. The things that were a part of my childhood space helped craft my imagination, and my imagination as a kid helped craft the way I see and interact with the world as an adult. I am a firm believer in imagination and creativity, and how nurturing these things allows us to be critical thinkers and active participants in our world.

I am also a firm believer in fun and beauty, and let those two requirements guide each piece I’ve created for the shop. We’ve got partying pandas, ambitious giraffes, and playful foxes. We’ve also got cozy deer and dreaming babies. The future probably holds some rowdy raccoons and maybe a squirrel or two…who can say for sure? The beauty of this story, like any other, is that we don’t know yet where imagination will take us!

I hope you enjoy Lop + Lore, and that you might find the perfect piece for a little one in your life, or know someone who might enjoy shopping at Lop + Lore. My business goals at this point are very modest, but my seeing these characters find homes and imaginations to encourage would make me happy as a clam (or perhaps an oyster, one that has worked really hard turning that grain of sand into a pretty little pearl…?! ). Thank you sincerely for reading, and shopping, and sharing, and following. You are the best!




Object::Lesson – Sliver



I grew up with the BEST backyard. For a city kid, anyways! Our house was the last on a dead-end street, so our modest-sized yard was extended on two sides by forest and cow pasture. We spent our sunny days outside, running around barefoot riding hockey-stick horses and building tree forts with my dad’s leftover lumber. Our yard was split into two levels, the bottom being a soggy mess of moss, and the top containing a sturdy playhouse (complete with slide!) built by my dad. There was a landscaped stairway between the levels built out of rough wood and filled with gravel, and it is there this lesson begins.

One typical dry day I raced around the yard in my bare feet, chasing adventure and my sisters. Unfortunately, as I climbed the stairs in the middle of the yard I did not exercise as much caution as I should have. Pain! Into my tender foot a large sliver lodged itself. Taking a peek at my sole, I was astonished at its length: it must have been a full 2 inches! As a second grader, my foot couldn’t have been much more than 5 inches long itself. That thing was a MONSTER.

As every kid knows, getting slivers removed is the absolute worst. The poking, the prodding, the lectures…I wouldn’t stand for it. There was absolutely no way I was going to subject myself to that! So instead, I ignored it. I told nobody, and went on with life. I didn’t acknowledge the growing pain that nagged at me with every step, choosing instead to stick with my original decision to move on.

Two days later my teacher pulled me aside as I limped into the classroom after recess.

“Laura, are you limping? What’s the matter?”

Overcome by the pain, I finally broke. “I have a sliver! It’s really big…”

“Let me see, let’s take off your shoe. Oh my! That is quite the sliver! It looks infected, we need to get that out.”

Noooooooooo!!!! She supported my arm and helped me hop up to the principles office. We took the elevator (!). As the office staff gathered around me on the sick bed and the principle used the tweezers to gently remove the offensive sliver from my foot, it came to light that I had let it fester for a number of days. As adults tend to do, they looked at me incredulously and asked the question:

“Why? Why didn’t you tell somebody? If we had dealt with it right away you could have avoided all this pain!”

And as often is the case with retrospect, my reasoning seemed pretty dumb.



Monster Sliver

Lesson: Grace is relief, freely given, but can’t be offered without an admission. You let the pain fester because you’re afraid and stubborn and don’t want to deal with the clean up of your mistakes. You don’t want to admit you’ve been wrong.  But the limp and shifty eyes give you away, and before long God WILL get through your stubborn shell and show you how silly you’ve been. He’ll clean your wound, put you back on your feet, and give you a candy from the jar along with a gentle reminder that taking the sliver out really isn’t as painful as leaving it in.

A big thank-you to my second grade teacher and elementary principle, who are still teaching me life lessons.


Object::Lesson – House VS Car



This past week a car hit my house. That’s right, a car. Hit my house.

A more apt description might be that it bounced off my house. It hit the corner of a concrete foundation wall, which is probably the strongest point of the entire house (the damage was very minimal!), and bounced to the left a few feet before stopping. The craziest part of this whole experience was the timing: I had just locked the front door, and turned around to watch it happen from my front porch.

I overheard the police saying the driver seemed to have hit the gas instead of the brake, which is why he couldn’t make the corner (our house is directly across from a stop sign). All I know is that I went from thinking about the coffee I was going to pick up (and the rim I’d be rolling) to thinking “man that guy is going fast” to “that guy is going very fast!” to “that car is coming very fast straight towards me and my house!” to “that car is going to hit my house!” to “that car just hit my house!” I will confess, I did swear a little bit. It turns out I don’t scream in emergencies, I just exclaim loudly.  I fumbled my way through calling 911 while helping the driver take a seat on my patio chair (he was “fine,” although he hit his head and did leave in the ambulance). They stayed on the line until the police arrived in droves – I think when “a car hit a house” hits the scanners they expect the worst. More than one exclaimed to me, “wow, you’re really lucky! …well, considering.”

But its true. More than anything what sticks with me after this experience was how “lucky” I was. I believe that God has his hand in all the events of my life. He counts the hairs on my head, for goodness sakes, so I’m pretty sure he knew how that morning would go down. I keep replaying the moments before impact as I saw that car speeding straight at me. It really didn’t get that close to me, but if the driver hadn’t tried to turn the results would have been dramatically different. That slight change in angle could have quite possibly saved my life and that of the driver (plus the house). Where he did hit allowed the car to stop without crushing his legs, without breaking our windows, and without hitting anything else.

I’ve been asking God “why?” Not as in, “woe is me, why me?” but like…why would a car hit my house, just in time for me to watch it, on top of all the other things that are happening in my life right now? I believe and have seen that He is active in the events of my life, so why would He bring this experience to me? The truth is I don’t really know completely – but I have never felt more sure of God being at work and never been more trusting in His capable plan. And that my friends, is not nothing.

Object: Wayward Car

Lesson: Perhaps an accidental impact is actually a directed miss. Which carries a lot of deep implications.


Object::Lesson – Basket Chair



When I was a kid, we had in our home a chair sort of like this one. It was unpainted, that raw golden wicker colour, with hand made corduroy cushions sewn into the seat. My mom had held onto it from her teen days, and when I was 4 or 5 it was hung up in our unfinished basement.

This chair hung from a sturdy chain on a hook that was screwed into a sturdy beam. It hung about a foot of the ground, which left a good 4-5 feet of chain on which to swing. To kids this meant (of course) that we had an indoor swing.

One fateful day my sisters and I got it in our heads that it would be super duper cool to swing as high as we could in the chair. Maybe we could even touch the ceiling with our toes! As the tallest but not strongest, I sat in the chair while my older sister pushed me. Higher. Higher. Almost there…

Remember how I mentioned this chair hung from a hook? Well…hooks aren’t closed loops. The chain slipped right off the hook and the chair and I plummeted to the concrete floor. Thanks to laws of gravity, I landed on my front with the chair on top of me. My next memory is of stumbling out of the basement looking down at my favourite sweater in dismay as blood ruined it beyond hope (it had concentric circles of Pandas holding hands around the world…). I was probably wailing but don’t actually remember experiencing any pain, probably thanks to shock. What followed is a blur, but strange things seemed important to me: I got to ride in the neighbours car (as she drove us to a dental specialist so my mom could sit in the back with me), the dentist was really friendly, and I got to pick out a ring (!!) even though it wasn’t my dentist! I chose purple.

Not once did it seem significant to me that I was loosing my two front teeth. That realization didn’t hit until I got TWO dollars under my pillow the next morning, which of course was totally worth it. Thanks tooth fairy! In the two years that followed before my adult teeth grew in, I don’t ever remember being self-conscious, uncomfortable, or concerned by my lack of front incisors. It was, after all, a great story.

Object: Basket Chair

Lesson: Focusing on the positive is not only beneficial, its probably what you did before you grew up learned to be cynical.


Another year, another calendar.


One of my favourite yearly projects is the IFLC calendar. This year I got trendy with some customized type and warm tones – I think it turned out great! As usual, I scoured my favourite sources for stock photos and collected 12 of the best that represent the heights of our great country. Its beautiful, inspiring, and write-able (don’t worry, we’ve tested!) … a good start to another new year. (gahhhh!)





Take a Seat

Take a Seat  // Laura Vanderwel Design

Its almost October.

As is true for many who work in publishing or media, I’ve been thinking about thanksgiving since the end of August (yes, it does really mess with you!). So I’ve had quite a head start when it comes to figuring out what I’m thankful for. The list contains the usuals: family, friends, work, opportunity, abundance…

But thanks to the article this illustration is going to be paired with, I’ve been thinking a little deeper too. I’m thankful for a metaphorical table that is laid before me that will never run out of the tasties. For a host that will never stop asking me to join Him. For the promise of eternal parties and an end to the suffering of this world. For a God that uses my weaknesses to remind me that he is sufficient (another post for another day!). For social and moral challenges to my worldview that have forced me to ask and answer tough questions. For people who take the time to encourage me and combat the negative voices I tend to listen to. For my ability to learn – and know that I can change.

So, take a seat. Skip the usuals this year and dig in a bit – what are you thankful for?