Casual Friday: The week we found mold covering our exterior, the Oneders!, Our Closet MVP and Vanity + More

April 17, 2020

We believe we should all love where we live.

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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After nearly finishing the first phase of our renovation just last month, I felt like I needed a bit of a mental break before diving into something else huge. I know most people wouldn’t consider DIYing a closet renovation a “break.” But it really has been that for us. (BTW, this DeWalt Gyroscopic Screwdriver has been the MVP of the closet reno. Seriously, your life will be changed forever!) It’s probably been relaxing because there’s a lot less juggling going on. No one in our house on a day to day basis. It’s just us making a few aesthetic decisions for one room that is structurally sound. Ha! Also, the budget is small which also feels like a nice break…or felt. 

Our DIY-no-major-decisions-bubble kind of popped last week when our contractor came to look at the back of our house (don’t worry, he stayed outside). The back of our house has been open to the elements through the winter while we rebuilt the dining room, added new doors to our bedroom and reconstructed the big arch window. We knew we were going to have to at least make some decision about materials to cover our HOUSE, even if we only did the back right now and the rest in the future. But the news wasn’t good.

Our house is majority stucco and there were some signs of mold underneath the stucco when they did some demo last year, but it’s worse than we thought. The plywood under the stucco is completely rotted and riddled with black mold–especially on all of the inside and outside corners–which our house has a lot of. We did some research about our stucco (which had a styrofoam underlayment–why?!) under it and apparently it was a common thing in the 90s and there have been numerous lawsuits filed and the product is no longer made because of that.

We contacted our home insurance to see if it would be covered–nope. And no home warranty either, even though we have owned this house for under a year. We knew with my fragile health, we couldn’t live in a house with a decaying, moldy exterior layer. We knew that we couldn’t just tackle the back and save the rest either. But I also knew that I wasn’t in a mental state to tackle the major decisions that come with designing an exterior–we’re not doing stucco again! Our contractor has already carefully started removing and replacing the rotted wood and wrapping the house so it’s ready for an exterior whenever we decide. I know the direction we want, but ordering, supervising, actually making those thousands of specific design decisions feels like climbing another Everest and I am trying to recognize my limits a little better right now.

We’ll share more about this next week (it’s not all bad news), but for now…

Other fun things this week!

• Calling all Oneders fans!! Tonight (4.17) the THAT THING YOU DO cast reunites for a live watch party supporting coronavirus relief on their YouTube channel at 7pm EST!! Considering Faye was named after Liv Tyler’s character in the movie, you’ll know where to find me.

This cloud study print makes me weak in the knees.

• We clearly haven’t started our master bathroom renovation yet that was slated to start April 1. It’s on hold until the world can open up again. Which has actually been a good thing because it has allowed us to revisit our plans and tweak some things. This bathroom with the arch (the arch!!) is so gorgeous.

• I just got this top that I’ve been eyeing forever for $29 (down from $75) with code VERYRARE. My perfect colors, my ideal cut. <3

A little inspiration for Faye’s room, am I right?!

This is me 100%. Sorry Chris. (hahaha)

• I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect desk/vanity for the closet for the last 2 months and finally ordered this desk (and this hardware to swap in!) and I can’t wait to see it in person. It’s different than what I was originally imagining, but I think it’s going to be so beautiful.

Conklinhouse just shared a sneak peak of their customized Ikea Pax and it’s so good! Completely different than what we’re going for but so inspiring nonetheless.



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What do you think?

  1. Julie says:

    I’m sure you have an awesome contractor, but be careful with just the building paper on the house. Sometimes the staple holes can weep and let water in behind it. Good luck picking out an exterior!

  2. Aleisha says:

    Absolutely love your blog and have followed along for quite some time! I’m sure the finished product is going to be a thing of beauty.

    Did you have someone come out to do a moisture test with a quality moisture reader? My husband owns a stucco and EIFS company (sounds like you had EIFS, it’s a synthetic stucco). I know this house is new to you, but if you get ahold of the previous owners, maybe you can contact the manufacturer for a warranty if it was installed by a certified installer. The problems with EIFS in the 90s were mostly of poor installation from contractors who cut corrners and it has come a long way since then. Now they have many ways to moisture proof everything and they make waterproof drainable systems. The foam insulation actually has a very high R-value, along with a few other benefits. If you use a quality installer, everything is warrantable for many years to come, as long as it’s installed correctly. Of course, traditional hard coat stucco is a beautiful long lasting and timeless option, as well.

    Sadly, a lot of contractors out there have used people’s fear of what happened in the 90s stucco market to profit off of their misfortune. Either way, can’t wait to see the finished product!

  3. Hailey says:

    I have been dealing with health issues for several years. Some I think is related to having mono (Epstein Barr) when I was 19 but I also think it’s from living in moldy apartments when my husband and I were first married. I’ve also been diagnosed with Lyme disease. All of these go hand in hand with mold illness. My functional medicine doctor and my naturopath both recommended I get my house fogged from a mold remediation company. We just moved into a home that will be a big renovation project and had it fogged as soon as we moved in. See if you have the company PURE MAINTENANCE in your area and have them come fog the inside of your home. You want to make sure you aren’t dealing with mold spores flying around inside your home since it’s been going on outside your walls. If PURE MAINTENANCE isn’t out your way, ask them if there is a company they would recommend.
    Also, thank you for this post. The house we just moved into was built in the early 90’s and is mostly stucco. So we are most definitely looking into mold as an issue on the exterior now.

  4. Kami Balmforth says:


    I love that movie so hard. Every time something goes wrong (especially these days) I say, “Looks like Lenny’s goin’ fishin’.”

    Also a fave: “There he goes, off to write that hit song ‘Alone in My Principles.”
    Nobody ever knows what I’m talking about.

  5. Michelle says:

    The first architect I worked for basically made his entire business on replacing and redesigning exteriors for 90’s stucco buildings that were leaking and full of mold. Definitely no good solution but to rip it all down and start clean. We could ask “Why??” but we are also the same species that created asbestos ( and used it as fake snow in movies!!), sooo….. ;-). We live and learn! Can’t wait to see where you head with the exterior!

  6. Aimee says:

    Hi Julia, Did you guys have a moisture test done on your home during the inspection? I’m just curious because that test should have picked up moisture in the walls. Our area has had stucco problems as well. A local builder cut corners during the housing boom and did not install the stucco to code. Stucco itself has been used as a building material for many, many years. I think it’s helpful to point out that any building material will fail it it is not inatalled correctly. (We have several neighbors who have to remove/reinstall their siding because it was not put on properly. Why?????) Anyway, just to be clear. It’s not the stucco per se that is the problem as a material. Problems can generally be traced back to the installer. Can’t wait to see what you end up doing. The house is looking Beautiful!

  7. Carol says:

    That desk is *exactly* what I was imagining for your vanity (I have a similar one that was my grandmother’s, so perhaps that influenced my vision!). Can’t wait to see it in situ.

  8. Estelle Carlson says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your mold problem! I was actually thinking about you guys after watching an episode of drop dead diva a couple days ago that talked about a haunted house and they found mold that according to the show some of the weird light problems and seeing ghosts can happen from mold in a house. It’s tv, so I haven’t checked if any of it was real, but it made me think of you guys and your house and if it maybe had mold. My husbands family had some black mold in their house in Alaska for years that caused a lot of other problems for them so make sure whoever you hire to take care of it knows what they are doing!! They had multiple companies come from out of state that said it was taken care of, but it wasn’t. My recommendation is do your research on how to get rid of mold and find a company that is on the same page. My husband and some of his family members now have a mold illness and we had to move from Washington to Utah for a drier climate. It was so hard! We have to be really picky on where we live, where we can travel, etc. it’s changed our lives. Just make sure you get it taken care of the right way as soon as you can.

  9. EP says:

    Oh no! It’s good you’re taking the mold seriously, but don’t write off real stucco because of the problems with this material. The real thing lasts forever and requires minimal maintenance, and has such a classic look. I live in a house with 90 year old stucco and it’s been the easiest part of this old house, by far!

  10. Sara says:

    I am SO EXCITED to see where your inspiration photo leads to with Faye’s room. I know you’re not afraid to replace a window and that photo makes me feel like that’s what the space needs. Fit for a QUEEN!

  11. Virginia Napoli says:

    Nothing “casual” about mold! So sorry you are going through this. But I am sure whatever you end up with will be beautiful.

  12. Allie says:

    Oh No! The 90s stucco is/was a major issue in MN too – home inspectors now look for it – did you guys do an inspection? No clue why they decided styrofoam was a good choice, thankfully it’s gone on a lot of homes around here. Hoping you guys get the mold remediated soon and can have a good air quality test done!

  13. Lori R. says:

    Hello from California!
    so sorry to hear your news about the house exterior but good to recognize your limits and to proceed in a way that gives you peace. especially during these times. On a happy note, your closet is a fun distraction and a design element that you’ll derive daily pleasure from. Your vision for your house is an exquisite combination of luxurious yet livable! You 2 are amazing in your ability To maintain the feel of continuity throughout your home yet providing design surprises throughout ????

    Yes , the Courier top is so YOU … And I can say that as an affirmation even when I don’t know you personally, LOL.

    And finally, yes yes yes ! that is the inspiration for Faye’s room, remarkably good! I cannot wait to see your interpretation of it ????

    Wishing you all health & happiness!

    P.S. I had a thought about your home’s exterior have you had your roof inspected at all the corners.. perhaps there’s a problem causing water ( from rain/snow) to run down in the corners?

  14. Jordan Stratton says:

    Great post as always. :) Enjoyed this while having breakfast in bed, and now I think this will be my weekly habit! P.S. Did you see Lulu & Georgia is having 20% off (today only) on decor, lighting, & wall items?

  15. Carmen says:

    I read the meme to my husband and he laughed so hard and yelled ‘yes!’ He really related ????????????

  16. Mary says:

    I’d press your homeowners insurance company to explain to you how that could possibly not be covered. Unless there is a specific exclusion, it should be. I would advise you to have an attorney review their claim that it isn’t as well. Further, if you had a home inspection prior to purchase and the inspector didn’t uncover it, then the inspection company is liable as well. Inspection companies also carry insurance to cover things like this that they might miss. If you have lived there under one year, there is nothing you could have done in that short time that would have caused something that extensive and cannot be your fault or your duty to cure. That is why banks mandate insurance coverage, so their investment in you is protected as well. Finally, if this is the same insurance company you were using that didn’t cover your cabin properly, I have to ask why you are still using them. You guys are incurring far too many expenses that should be covered. This is what attorneys are for and it isn’t frivolous to engage them on something like this. Something isn’t right. Trust me on this.

    • Gina Swanson says:

      Unfortunately, the liability of the inspector (and potential reward if sued) is usually limited to the cost of the inspection. I can tell you as a Realtor for nearly 20 years, Dryvit (trade name for faux stucco) is a HUGE concern. So much so that most buyer who are relocating due to a job change are not even allowed to buy a home with this exterior material unless they are willing to forfeit their relo benefits. That tells you something right there. And I’m pretty confident that with this long-known issue with this material, insurance companies are not covering it. The only way to make this material work long term is to have an annual maintenance check so that any cracks or gaps in the material and caulking are caught early on before a huge problem can fester. And I’d never trust a previous owner to have followed the rules diligently. Just way too expensive of an endeavor to fix. The repairs and restoration usually cost in the six figure range.

  17. Lauren H. says:

    We had the same issue with our 1990s era house and had to remove our stucco 2 years ago. Most of our issues were below windows and primarily on the west side of our house, but we also decided to take it all off and start new. There were no signs there was a problem until we discovered a leaky window, and where I live (Ohio) a stucco inspection isn’t typically part of the home buying process, despite so many homes here having stucco exteriors :( Frustrating that it’s a known issue so many places yet people have no idea! We ended up replacing it with Hardie Plank siding, and while the whole process was a pain I’m glad it’s done and we have peace of mind—good luck!!!

  18. Brooke Bullard says:

    I really want that shirt too! I was trying to not buy ANY clothes this year, BUT I mean, how cute?? Also, that desk…..omg the most perfect desk every! I will live vicariously through you as usual. Cant wait to see it in the closet. I know it will be dreammmmy!

  19. Cheryl says:

    We have a stucco house built in the 90s too. What signs were there that there was mold under the stucco?

    • Julia says:

      The scary thing is, there were NO signs at all. The only reason we started investigating it is because we had to take some off during our renovation last year and we saw some mold.

  20. Lindsey says:

    This is a great time to recommend to your readers that if you are buying a house with synthetic stucco (also known as EIFS) you can get a EIFS inspection during your contract process. They sample the stucco, use moisture meters, and make sure you don’t end up with a home with this kind of issue. It’s not a common inspection and most realtors don’t recommend them as they don’t know about them, but I’d highly recommend it.

  21. Julia says:

    Interior Designer at a commercial architecture firm here!

    It sounds like the exterior of your house is actually not “stucco” at all, but an exterior cladding product called EIFS. It’s a very common exterior product commercially where I live (Oklahoma), although it is basically the cheapest exterior wall system you can put on to a building. The standard practice is an underlayment of styrofoam that can be easily molded and formed with a hot-knife, then covered with what is essentially a durable paint with aggregate in it, unlike stucco which involves layers of cementicious products on top of a metal lath. It preforms well here – although our climates are quite different! I do think it is odd that you’re seeing mold growth consistently in the corners of your house…it makes me wonder if perhaps there is an issue with how the corners of your house were put together, rather than just a failure of the EIFS product. I’d think the problem would be widespread if it were just the EIFS. Anyway – just thought I’d share the little bit i know about it.

  22. Amanda says:

    Oh no! I am so sorry to hear about the outside of your house situation Julia and Chris.

    I love all of your inspiration you linked to in this post. The cloud print! Yes you need to add that arch in the bathroom! The desk will be beautiful! I can’t wait to see which colourway you went with for the knobs! Sent that dad post to my spouse too. It’s totally me! Why do we do this? Haha.

    I will definitely be watching the Oneders tonight. I LOVE that movie! So cute Faye was named after it. You should add an ode to the movie somehow (in a print perhaps?) to Fayes room.

  23. Patricia says:

    That inspiration photo for Faye’s room, genius! She’ll really feel like a princess. Oh, I really hope you do some creative version of this. It’s so good.

    You’re building a closet and I just finished purging and re-organizing mine.(my version of a massive DIY). I’m so proud; I want to invite all the neighbors in for tours of my tiny almost a walk in closet. But that will have to wait. And of course I didn’t take a before photo.

    I love an arch for your bathroom. You’ve got that as a theme downstairs so this is a perfect spot to echo it upstairs.

  24. Kristin says:

    Bon Appetit’s Priya Krishna has been wearing that top while in quarantine with her parents, and it’s adorable. In one video, she had her mom do a messy step for her because she had to protect the Madewell top!

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