Ample Parking Day or Night

I hope at least one person got the South Park reference in the title.  *Ahem*

For many years I lived in neighborhoods where the only place to park your car was on the street and you were lucky if you found parking anywhere on your block. When we first bought our house, I remember thinking how great it was to now have a nice, long driveway and ample street parking for guests. What could be better? I thought.

But after a few years of suburban living, the fact that our driveway was only wide enough for one car began to annoy us. Mark more than me, but we both agreed it wasn’t ideal. I realize that alot of folks are probably thinking, “wow these are real first-world problems!” and they are, but they are our problems all the same. Because Mark leaves before me in the morning but also gets home before me in the evening, we both can’t park on the driveway during the week.  And on the weekend, we often need his truck for a home improvement errand when my car is parked in front of his, or find ourselves headed into town (where his massive truck is a problem in parking structures) at the times when his car is in front. The struggle is real.

The other issue is the way it looks.  When the house was first built, they only installed 2 long strips of concrete-ish, not a whole driveway and then someone a long time ago added additional concrete around the strips so it looked like this.

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I apologize for not taking a better close up.  We didn’t know what day the folks were showing up to do the work and they did so as I was rushing out the door to catch a train and I completely forgot to snap one, but hopefully the visual of the grass coming up through the middle of the driveway tells you everything you need to know about its condition. Not only does it look worn out and hodgepodge and totally takes away from all the other hard work we have done to increase the curb appeal of the house, all the cracks and lack of smooth surface make it a pain to shovel in the winter.

We got a couple of quotes a few years ago and were shocked to find out how much it was going to cost.  One of the quotes was for over $10,000!  But after a few more years of saving, and parking on the street, we asked around again earlier this spring and got a quote for just over $7,000 that would include a wider driveway, and also a wider step up to the porch.  So we said, “ok fine.”

What I like most about this project is that I wasn’t required to do a thing!  I left one morning as they crew was getting there to start the work, went to New York over night for my own job, and when I got home the following evening, the whole thing was done.  It was still wet, but they were done!

On first day, they were able to jackhammer up the existing drive way and porch step and create the mold for the new one.

Drivway During

The second day they poured the new concrete, blocked if off, and said wait a week to drive on it.

Driveway After

The one casualty of this project was the fence on this side of the yard and bit of the brick sidewalk.  Mark has never liked having the fence line so close to the front of the house, so this is an opportunity to change that and he re-built the sidewalk so that it comes up and meets the end of the driveway.

In addition to figuring out where to re-install the fence, we are also looking at getting a new garage door to further spruce up the curb appeal of the house.  There are so many styles to choose from these days.  I will have a whole post about that process in the weeks to come!

 

 

Master Bedroom – It’s Finally Done!

Our master bedroom has come together in fits and starts. First, I himmed and hawed over the paint color before finally taking the plunge and painting the room Normandy by Benjamin Moore over a year ago. That decision quickly led to some lamps, a rug switcheroo, and some new blinds. Then summer came and everything pretty much halted. At the beginning of fall, I planned to make some striped curtains so I took a trip to IKEA to pick up some plain, white curtains for the project. I talked in this post about how I had been unable to find any for sale that were just the right shade of yellow to match the lamps that I had already purchased. So there I was in the window coverings section of IKEA, analyzing the various white curtain options, when I saw these:

Henny Rand Curtains

I really had my heart set on horizontal stripe yellow and white curtains, but my friend Jean encouraged me to give these a try, so I bought a set and brought them home to test out. I was elated to discover that they are a winner!  Nice weight, the pattern looks great in the room.  The only two issues were that I needed another pair to fill out the wide window, and they were way too long.

And here’s where the curtain saga begins.  If you don’t care about my emotional well-being over the past six months, you can just skip ahead to the reveal pictures, but I will remember you did so.

ANYWAY, When I went back to IKEA get the second pair, I realized that they come in two lengths – 98″ and 118″ – and I had originally bought the longer ones.  The ceilings on the second floor are just shy of 8′ so both would have had to have been hemmed, but the 98″ would be much easier, so I bought that size for the second pair.

When I got home I measured how long they need to be, marked each panel accordingly and then took them to a seamstress to be hemmed.  I got them back and they were still about 3″ too long, all of them. I have no idea what happened, but I was so bummed and also out $50.00.

So I decided to try and correct this miscalculation myself by using the left over hem tape from the sun room curtains.  But these curtains are just too think for hem tape, so I cried (literally) and resigned myself to the fact that I would never have curtains in my bedroom. Then my friend Jean, the one who helped get me into this mess, encouraged me to measure again, this time I had Mark do it, and then take them to her “girl” to get hemmed.  And thank god, this time they were right.

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Now at this point, I had spent more money having the curtains hemmed than I did on the curtains themselves, but I think it’s still a pretty high-end look achieved for a grand total of $150. (Emotional costs not included).

You can also see in this picture that we removed the ceiling fan and replaced it with this flush mount lamp from Shades of Light. Since our ceilings on the second floor are not quite 8′ and the fan wasn’t actually centered over the bed, it hung really low and I would often hit my hands on it when I was making the bed. Mark wasn’t sold on the idea of losing the fan, but I finally convinced him to try it.  I love that it doesn’t hang over the space anymore and so far, the small, standing fan that we bought has been a fine replacement.  I will report back on how we feel after summer!

In my last little update post, I shared this picture, which was taken before the curtain saga had come to an end, but it did include our new headboard, which I also purchased last fall. It’s the Roma Tufted Headboard from Target and I have had my eye on it ever since we bought the matching bench last spring.  One  day I went online and there was a code for 15% off, so I went for it.  I saved $52 on what I thought was a pretty reasonably priced king-size headboard.

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I also bought these two Hawaiian Art prints on Art.com that would fit an IKEA frame and hung them in the corner for some visual interest.  The headboard wall is hard because it’s long, but the sloped ceiling makes it asymmetrical.  I decided I needed something else to balance that side of the room and a standing lamp seemed just the thing to do it.  It’s this one from Target.

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The last thing I needed to do was replace the handles on my old, Craigslist dresser.  For a long time, I planned to paint this guy and so I wasn’t really concerned about the hardware because I figured I would just fill in the existing hardware holes before I painted and then do whatever hardware I wanted.   Well over time, I decided that if I painted this dresser, that would leave the other dresser the old man out in the color/wood tone scheme I had going on in here and I wasn’t really interested in painting two dressers.  So I decided to leave it be. Neither of these dressers are in fantastic shape, but they are the same wood tone and fit their respective spaces in the room, so I am going to make them work for now and perhaps replace them both somewhere else down the road.

So back to the hardware.  Since I was no longer painting the dresser, I had to work with the holes I already had.  No problem I thought.  Well the holes are only 2.25″ center-to-center and there aren’t alot of options out there for the small a size.  I ended up with these and I think they look ok.

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To remind you, here is where we started.  I love the deep, moody color so much and the room is so much more inviting.  Plus, Bruddah is pleased to announce he hasn’t needed that crate in several years!

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So that’s it!  Master bedroom complete! We have officially moved on from the upstairs for awhile as the only other thing up here is the bathroom.  We are getting quotes for our driveway widening project and I hope to have info on that for you soon!

 

An Update (well not really.)

Hi Everyone!  It’s been awhile since I checked in here, so I wanted to stop by with an update, sort of.  I wish I could report that there’s been alot going on behind the scenes and that I have alot to share with you coming up soon, but that’s just not the case.

While our adventures in tiling did knock us off our DIY game, that’s not what’s holding us back.  We are again trying to save up some money for some larger projects such as a new driveway and garage door and a decor reset in the living room.  I am also pinning black and white bathrooms whenever I see one I like in the hopes that one day our “master ” bath will finally get a spin in the reno machine.  Isn’t this one lovely?

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Erin Williamson Design via Apartment Therapy

We are thisclose to FINALLY completing our master bedroom, which I made good progress on about a year ago and then have just stumbled to the finish thanks to some curtain drama, cold weather, and laziness.  But we are almost there, so I am trying to ride this one out.  If you take a picture from just the right angle, it looks done!

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So that’s really all there is to report.  We are still loving our kitchen and sun room, we use both all the time.  That mini-split AC/heat system that we installed has been fantastic and we really recommend it for spaces like that.  It heats and cools really well and is so quiet.

I hope everyone is surviving winter, whatever that may look like for them. I for one am looking forward to spring!

 

Adventures in Tiling

Hi Everyone!

Apologies for not being around the past few months. We took the summer off from home stuff to relax and let our bank account recover from the big kitchen reno. In the fall we started back in on some projects, namely working more on our master bedroom, which is coming along but is still not done, and adding a tile backsplash to the kitchen. Both have taken longer than expected, but the kitchen is finally, totally complete! Here’s the down low on our experience with tiling a backsplash.

It was hard. We didn’t do a very good job. We will never tile ourselves again.*

*probably.

If that’s all you need to know.  Here’s how the kitchen looks now.

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If you’re interested in some details.  Here they are.

Prior to this project, neither of us had every tiled anything before, but we had seen so many other DIYers do it, we were confident that this was  a project we could handle. We went to The Tile Shop because we had heard good things from friends and other bloggers and got some samples.

We decided to go with the 2″ wide Hampton Carrera marble hex. I thought that the more round pattern would be a nice contrast to the squareness of the room’s layout. I also thought that it looked best with the quartzite counters.

Tile Shot

We went back to the Tile Shop and gave them our choice and our dimensions and they hooked us up with literally everything that we needed to do the job ourselves. Their website has how-to videos and they do on-site classes as well.

Admittedly, I didn’t do as much research on the process and I normally do. Almost all of my favorite home bloggers have tiled something before as so I have read about the process many times, but I didn’t go back and re-read much before we got started. Mark had read up a bit, and since we had heard that the process was fairly straightforward, we weren’t very worried.

We started the project by removing everything from the counters and killing the power and gas to the outlets, stove, and microwave. Then we pulled the stove out so that we could tile around it.

We also added a layer of cardboard over the paper covering on the counters so that the tile would not sit directly on the countertops. This step was a part of every “how-to” we researched. What we didn’t pay any attention to was the thickness of the cardboard. This proved to be a costly mistake.

The day we were set to start this project we randomly didn’t have any cardboard boxes laying around, which is weird for us given how much stuff we order online and have shipped. So we bought a moving box at Home Depot while we were dropping off our paycheck picking up other supplies. This was a heavy duty box and the cardboard was about 1/4″ thick. We didn’t realize at this time that that would be a major problem, so let’s keep going for now.

After we put the cardboard down, we mixed this first batch of thinset and, starting in once corner and working from the bottom up, applied the thinset to the wall and then gently placed the sheets of tile into the thinset and sort of massaged them into place.

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As we went along we got better at both applying the thinset and also getting the tiles worked properly into place, but in general it’s not that tricky of a process. The math and angles that you have to calculate to deal with things like corners, outlets, etc. is a bit more challenging, but if you passed 9th grade math, lack a crippling case of dyslexia, and have a small amount of patience, you can figure all of this out. I don’t claim to meet these criteria, but Mark does.

It took us about 7 to 7.5 hours on a Saturday to get all the tile laid. Then everything had to sit for 48 hours to dry before we could move onto grouting, so it was Monday evening before we could start that process.  We mixed the amount of grout they gave us in two batches. The first batch was the right consistency, the second was a little more wet and took a bit longer to set up. Wet grout is much darker than dry grout.  You can see from this picture that the grout looks grey.

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But here is what it looks like dry, almost white.

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Once the grout was dry, we came to the disappointing conclusion that we need to apply a second coat. The tile still stuck out farther than the grout in many places, and there were even a few holes that needed to be filled.

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Not only did this mean more work, but it meant another week without a functioning kitchen, which we were not planning on. So the following weekend, we went back to the tile shop and got more grout. We applied the grout on a Saturday and again, had to wait until Monday before it was dry. In being more careful not to wipe too hard with the wet sponge to remove the grout from the tiles, many of them were hazy with grout when dry. This meant several evenings of scrapping and buffing many of the individual tiles to get this clean and gleaming before we could apply the sealer. There are chemicals you can apply to do de-haze the tile for you if you are using glass or porcelain tile, but since we were using a natural stone, we had to use elbow grease.

By this point, both Mark and I had decided that we wish we had left to the professionals. We didn’t think we were doing a very good job and it was taking forever. But there was nothing we could at that point but forge ahead.

After cleaning up all the tiles, we applied the sealer one evening and it was dry by the next day, which we thought at the time, meant that we were on the home stretch. All we had to do (we thought) was remove the cardboard from between the tile and the counters, run a bead of caulk to connect the two, touch up the paint where needed and Viola! We would be done.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!

Since our cardboard was so thick, we had a massive seam to fill.

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We ignored this gap and tried to caulk it anyway. It took a ton of caulk and looked pretty crappy. I was willing to live with it, but Mark was not. By the time I got home from work that Friday, he had ripped it all out and had a new plan.

We decided to find some 1/8″ thick cardboard and try and to grout “down” a bit to lessen the thickness of the seam. We still had some leftover grout from our second round of that process so we tried that and it seemed to work.

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Once it was dry enough to remove the cardboard, we removed it and were able to run a much smaller, and easier to apply, bead of caulk to connect the counters to the tile.  Since we had to buy new caulk after using all we had on the first go-around, we also decided to try a grey caulk with a “sand” consistency rather than the white silicone stuff we used the first time. This looked much better!

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Once we had the seam caulked, we were able to start putting the kitchen back together, which I was so glad about. We had family coming for Thanksgiving and I was eager to start getting the house back in a livable condition.  At this point we were only about a week away from Turkey Day.

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So as I said at the top, this was not a fun job and we still wish we would have left it to the pros. While we were able to correct most of our mistakes, it’s in no way our best work. From far away, it looks ok, but up close you can see our amateur effort more clearly.

You can also see from the photos above that we also added in some floating shelves where we had DIYed some other shelves before and added a bamboo shade over the window.

After hosting my first Thanksgiving this year, I can report that the kitchen continues to be a much more functional space than it was previously in addition to looking alot better as well.

Now we have moved on to finishing things up in our master bedroom, I really hope to be back soon to show you how that all finished up, but it’s had it’s challenges as well.  Mainly of the curtain variety.  *sigh*

 

 

 

The Invasion of Normandy

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been holding out on you.  There’s a room in my house that I’ve been quietly working on since March, but I haven’t shared it with you.  I know, and I am sorry.  I really didn’t mean for this to happen.  It started out innocently enough, but one thing lead to another and well, we’ve made some pretty significant progress on the master bedroom.  I know.  I feel really badly.

So let me try and win you back by catching you up to speed as best as I can.  This is going to be a long post so settle in…

It all started with a paint chip, Benjamin Moore’s “Normandy” which I  picked up a sample of last fall when I was trying out paint colors for the guest room.  You may remember that two years ago I created this inspiration board for our master bedroom that looked like this:

Mood Baord

At some point since I made this board, I had decided that I liked the color Normandy better than the Providence Blue color that I used on the board.  But since I had had such a hard time with the grey for the stairway, I was nervous that I wouldn’t like it on the wall and just wanted to go ahead and see if it would work so I could start mentally working on that room.

I put the sample on the wall and immediately loved it.  I moved forward with the guest room project knowing that I had my jumping off point for the master bedroom whenever I was ready to proceed.  But as I thought about that room in my head over the next several months, I still struggled with how to move it forward.  So I put off painting the room in the hopes that some decorating brilliance would come to me and I would know what else I wanted to do in there.

To remind you of what the room looked like, here are some photos from a few years ago.

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This room has two large dressers, two night stands and a king size bed and it still felt sparsely furnished.  That’s because it’s a big space (15’x17′) which is part of the reason why I was having so much trouble figuring out how to properly decorate it.

In the years since these photos were taken, we added a desk that didn’t work out, swapped the night stands for some end tables that came from my mom when she sold her house and got a new duvet.

Then, one day in April I just decided to take the plunge and paint the room.  I had the time and was sick of looking at the beige walls.  After another painfully long and cold winter, I needed a change.  Now I wish that I hadn’t waited so long, I absolutely love it!

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After the paint had dried, I suddenly started having a vision for the space.  I went into Target one day and saw the yellow lamp you can see in the photo above and brought home two of them to see if they would work and I loved how they looked against the deep blue wall.  I am so glad I snapped them up when I did because Target appears to have stopped selling them already.  I can no longer find them on their website and I haven’t seen them in stores in a couple of months.

I really meant to do a post just on the paint and the lamps, but the kitchen reno got started not soon after and we all know that took longer than expected and so before I knew it the room was half finished and I hadn’t even mentioned that I had started.

When the faucet for the kitchen arrived, the box contained a coupon for $30 off any Home Decorator’s Collection product so I used that to replace the the old, vinyl blinds with new faux wood ones like we did in the guest room. Then I added this bench from Target under the window.  Things were starting to come together.

As I mentioned earlier, I had put a small, white parsons desk in one corner about a year ago thinking that I might use it to work from home on the few days that I do that, but over the winter I realized that that corner is a very cold spot in the house and that the table in the sun room is really where I like to work when I am at home.  Plus the desk didn’t fit the space proportionally and always looked funny to me.  It was a decorating fail for sure.

I had been keeping my eyes open for an inexpensive chair that I could replace the desk with. Since I figured that any piece of furniture in that space would rarely receive use by a human, I didn’t want to spend very much money.  Then one day in June I think, I saw this chair from Wayfair.com.  The price was right, the style was right.  It was the perfect option, so I swooped it up.  The throw was a random Home Goods purchase.  It’s Cynthia Rowley Home.

The nightstands are the aforementioned hand-me-downs from my mom.  I sanded them lightly and then hit them with one coat of primer and two coats of BM’s Simply White in their Advance paint that is great for furniture.  Before I sanded I painted, I also removed the old hardware and filled the holes with wood filler.  Once it was dry, I drilled new holes and added the new hardware, which I got at the same time that I ordered the hardware for the kitchen.

The mirror above the bed is this one from Target.  I sprayed it silver to match the room. It doesn’t pop on the wall as much as I would like it to, so I think at some point I may prime it with white primer and then go back over it with the silver in the hopes that it might look a bit more platinum and contrast with the wall a bit more.

The rug is actually re-purposed from the living room.  Long story. different day, but that room is up next on my to re-do list.

We’re not quite done in here, however.   I have been on the hunt for the right curtains and have come up empty, so I think I may make my own.  I would like a wide, horizontal stripe like these ones from Nautica, but the yellow is too bright and doesn’t match the lamps enough.

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I haven’t been able to find exactly what I am looking for and there are lots of tutorials online about how to make your own striped curtains so I think I may go that route.

The other issue is the dressers.  The dresser with the TV “conveyed” with my first apartment in Hawaii.  And by “conveyed” I mean that the previous tenants just left it, which was great for me because it’s a nice color and well-made, but it’s not in the best shape.  The shorter dresser was a $99 Craigslist purchase simply because we needed more storage and it fit the space.  It’s missing some handles and not in the best shape either so I still trying to decide whether I should try and work with either of these or start over.

We also desperately need to replace the ceiling fan.  The ceilings upstairs are not quite 8′ high though so there’s not alot of good options.  All of the semi-decent looking (for a ceiling fan) lighted flush mount options have blades that are actually lower that the ones on the model we currently have, and I already have to be careful not to raise my arms too high when I am making the bed.  I would like to forgo the fan and just do a flush mount ceiling light, but Mark thinks we need the fan, so we’re still negotiating.

Even with these outstanding issues, I think that we can all agree that the room looks much better now than it did a few months ago.

I am sorry for holding out on you guys on this one, but I hope that you like where we’re going in here.  The wall color alone really has made all the difference, so if you’ve been thinking of changing up the paint in one or more of your rooms DO IT!  It’s the fastest, cheapest way to make a fresh start.

Have a good weekend everyone!

Kitchen Reveal

Happy Fourth of July!

We are laying low this weekend after a really insane couple of weeks.  I apologize for leaving you all hanging for so long on the kitchen reveal.  I really didn’t mean to.  We got everything pretty much done the day before my parents came to visit over Memorial Day weekend and then from there it’s been one crazy week after another in terms of work, travel, etc.  Throw in the fact that Mark’s computer bit the dust so he’s been using mine for schoolwork and well, there you have it.  Again, I apologize.  So we’re pretty much trying to stay off the grid this weekend and allow ourselves the chance to catch our breath and re-group.  But I am thrilled that the downtime is allowing me to finally share with you the kitchen reveal!

So as you may have guessed, the kitchen is *basically* complete.  We still need to install  a backsplash, but pretty much everything else is done and I could not be happier with how it all came out.  What do you think?

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I did my best with the photos.  The room is so small and it doesn’t get the best light, but I am in love how it looks and the functionality.   It’s exactly what I wanted and I am very happy with all of my choices.  But since you asked (you did ask right, Internets?), here are a few random thoughts on everything.  There’s no real order to this so we’re going bullets.

  • I am pleasantly surprised that the shiny chrome hardware doesn’t show fingerprints.  I haven’t had to wipe them down once!
  • The new range is amazeballs.  So much better than what I had.  The burners have so much more power and the griddle in the middle is very useful!
  • Ditto for the venting.  I haven’t really put this baby through its paces yet, but it did a great job with the onion smell as I caramelized two big onions over Memorial Day weekend for our burgers.
  • It was also super awesome to be able to be using the broiler on one oven to melt cheese on the burgers while I kept the buns warm in the other oven.  Seriously the double oven is so clutch for holiday meals.
  • Being able to set each and every pot and pan I used completely flat in the new, single bowl sink made washing them so much easier!

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  • This set up above the fridge is so much more convenient that storing any of this stuff by stacking it in a cabinet.  Just grab what you need and go!

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  • Although it is a tiny bit tricky to load all the silverware into the lower level of this drawer without it obstructing the upper drawer, the added storage is so nice!

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  • And last, but certainly not least, we have the pull-out double trash cans.  So convenient I can’t stand it.  Before my trash was all the way over to the left of the stove and transferring wet/messy items from the sink or counters was a pain and usually resulted in something falling on the floor.  Now I can wipe the counters where I do most of my food prep directly into the trash by pulling the cabinet out.  And scraps in the sink are a breeze to transfer as well.  It’s love I tell you.

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  • I think the biggest surprise for me has been how much more functional this kitchen is now.  Considering that we didn’t rearrange any plumbing or appliances, I am amazed at how much more counter space I have as well as the fact that there really is now two separate work stations.  Adding the small counter area on the sun room wall really allowed for that and it’s a huge plus!

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So that’s the big reveal.  We have decided on a backsplash, but I don’t think we’ll have time to tackle that project anytime soon.  Maybe over the winter?  We would also like to add some open shelves on the wall above the counter in the photo above at some point. It just seems that our schedules aren’t allowing for much DIY these days.

But fear not, we have made some changes/progress in our master bedroom and I look forward to sharing those with you soon.  In the meantime, have a wonderful holiday weekend!

Kitchen Progress

It wasn’t easy, but we’re almost through the kitchen renovation.  When last we checked in, the space looked like this.

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It so wasn’t good.  After the contractor failed to do the work the week we had agreed upon, he kept trying to take shortcuts and compress the timeline in order to stay on schedule for the counter measuring.  But we weren’t about to comprise on the quality of the work to accommodate his schedule, so we stood our ground.  This meant that the counter measuring appointment had to be pushed back and the whole job continues to be a week behind schedule, but at least the drywall work and HVAC were done properly and we were able to paint before the cabinets were installed.

I wasn’t able to update the blog last weekend as Gretchen, our older pup, suffered a rash of seizures early Saturday morning.  She start having occasional seizures about 3 months ago, and she’s been on anti-convulsion medication, but something happened on Saturday and she started having a seizure every hour at first.  It took the vet all day to get them stopped and the meds they gave her have pretty much had her down for the count all week.  Don’t worry though, Gretchen is a tough ol’ bird and she’s going to be fine.  We don’t know what’s causing the seizures and are considering an MRI to help determine the cause, but for now, she’s on more meds and seems to be doing better.  Whew!  So anyway, most of the work detailed below happened not this past week, but the week before.

The rest of the trade work was completed on Tuesday of that week.  Wednesday was a non-work day for the contractor so we had Tuesday night and Wednesday night to prime and paint both the ceiling and walls.  Thursday and Friday and cabinets and hardware were installed.  I didn’t know that they were going to install the hardware and I was a little frustrated that they didn’t consult me on the location of the knobs.  I would have placed them in a slightly different place.  They look fine, but I would have appreciated being consulted.

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The cabinets look great.  Against the “Zuma” blue wall paint, they really pop and I don’t think that they feel out of place being new in our old house.  We were told that we could go ahead and start putting things back in the uppers, but that the lowers need to remain empty until the counters are installed.  However, I am impatient and have pretty much gone ahead and put everything back in all the cabinets.  My parents are arriving for a visit this Friday and I just didn’t see how I could get it all done if I waited for the counters to be installed first.

Speaking of the counters, they are set to be installed this Tuesday.  They will install the sink and the faucet, but they won’t actually hook all the plumbing back up. Allegedly, our contractor is going to be here on Thursday to do all the plumbing, which is cutting it awfully close, but I’ve come to expect this from him.  In fact he still hasn’t even ordered the under-cabinet lighting, something that has been in the plans for this project since the beginning, so I have no idea when we will actually be fully done.  Grr!  We still also have to install the range and the dishwasher once the counters are in place so I think there will be a few more late nights this week as we try and at least get the kitchen functioning again by this weekend.

The contractor was at least able to install the micro/vent.  It’s a very fancy microwave that at this point, I have no idea how to work!

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Today Mark and I got the fridge back in it’s place. We both think that it looks so much better with the cabinet built around it than it did when I was just free-standing, although it is in exactly the same place.  What do you think?

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So far we are really loving all our choices and can’t wait to see how it all comes together.  For the counters, after they came and measured, they sent two template proposals to choose from.  As I mentioned, the stone has some natural tan tones in the upper right hand corner that I wanted to minimize visually in the kitchen and the two layouts allowed me to select the one that I thought did the best job of doing that.  Unfortunately, there will be one seam to the left of the sink, which isn’t ideal as it’s my primary work area, but they weren’t able to put it on the other side of the sink because you can’t have a seam above the dishwasher and the slab isn’t long enough to place it anywhere else.  I am ok with this, but I did make sure that this was my only option.  It never hurts to ask!

So that’s where we are. I am getting very excited for the finished product.  Although there have been some delays, things have moved along so quickly it’s hard to take it all in.

A Whole Lotta Nothin’

I really hoped that tonight I would be able to share with you pictures of great progress in the kitchen, but alas it still looks pretty much like it did last weekend.

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This was not supposed to be the case.  We should be all ready for cabinet installation, but our contractor had other jobs lined up this past week and was only here one day. We are not happy campers.

On Tuesday, the electricians did show up and they did a great job installing the pot lights, adding new outlets, and bringing us to to code.

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Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends.  The HVAC person also came on Tuesday to install the outside vent and move the HVAC vent over a little bit to accommodate the tall pantry cabinet.  Here you can see the new exhaust vent.  It looks good from here, but in reality there is a hole in the side of it that needs to be plugged and the flashing around the exterior hole is not sufficient.  There’s a visible hole in the brick that needs to be covered up.

Exhaust

The HVAC vent is in even worse shape.  Instead of going up through the floor as we discussed with the contractor, they just tried to shift everything over inside of the wall, leaving only about a 2″ corridor for the air to go through.  We’re pretty sure none of this is to code.

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We were very upset not only with the work that was done, (minus the electrical, those guys we great) but also that no one would came back at all this week to continue the job.  The agreement was that not only would the electrical and HVAC be completed, but all the plaster/drywall patching would be done as well and that we would be “paint ready” by this weekend.  As you can see, that’s far from the case.

So tomorrow they are supposed to be back out here to fix the HVAC and patch the walls. Allegedly, we will be ready for paint by the end of the day. We are skeptical. However, we did go ahead and select the wall color so that we are ready whenever we are finally ready for paint.

We wanted to find a nice, deep, ocean blue.  Since there is so much white in the kitchen, we thought it would be a nice contrast.  We tried lots of samples.  We were lucky that our friends had recently painted their nursery a similar color and had a few colors we could try in addition to the couple that we had picked up.  Here are our choices.

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As you can see, some were darker and inkier than others.  We wanted something that still read blue, even when the room was dark, but still had nice depth and felt like a navy. The one we chose was the one on the bottom right.  It’s actually a combination of the bottom left (Down Pour Blue by Ben Moore) and second from the top right, which is Amalfi Navy by Ralph Lauren. We wanted something a little darker that Down Pour, which is coincidentally, what our friends chose for their nursery, and rather than go back out and hunt for the perfect sample, we just mixed our own until we got the color we liked, painted it onto a index card, and had the folks at the paint shop color match it.

So that’s the latest on the kitchen.  It was a disappointing week, but we are hopeful that things get back on track in a hurry.  Right now the stone fabricators are scheduled to come on Wednesday to measure for the counters.  That means that by then at least all of the lower cabinets have to be installed.  We both think it will take a miracle for that to happen, but we’ll see how things go tomorrow.  I probably won’t be able to update again until next Sunday, so think good thoughts for us this week!

I Like White Kitchens and I Cannot Lie

I like white kitchens and I cannot lie.

Although I did give a good deal of thought to all the kitchen details, I really never much waivered on the idea of white cabinets. I prefer painted cabinets to any of the natural wood looks, so I didn’t consider any of those. There are some beautiful grey, grieges, and tuxedo kitchens out there, but I didn’t think the space was large enough to do different color uppers and lowers and I liked white enough that I didn’t think spending the extra coin for a custom color was necessary.

In keeping with the period of the house and their overall popularity, I chose a traditional shaker door profile for the cabinets. The cabinet company we choose was Merillat. Our kitchen designer recommended it based on our style preferences and budget. They have three different product lines and we ended up going with their Masterpiece line as this line had the pieces that best fit our space such as the 16″ deep cabinet for the sun room wall and the 18″ tall pantry for next to the refrigerator. The door style we chose is Martel in maple with a Dove White paint and no glaze.

Merillat Martel Door

The image above shows both a shaker profile for both cabinet and the drawer door.  We actually chose chose to do a “slab,” i.e. non-shaker profile, for the drawers. My kitchen designer told me that going with the slab profile would give the space a more traditional look, and I liked that it felt cleaner and not as busy.

For the hardware, I chose chrome cup pulls for the drawers and a fairly simple knob for the cabinets. The cup pulls are Schaub & Company Traditional Collection 3″ Cup Pull in Polished Chrome and the knobs are Schaub & Company Select 1 1/4″ Knob in Polished Chrome. I ordered them online from Knobs4Less.com.

Schaub Cup PullSchaub Knob

Both the cabinets and the hardware were fairly easy choices for me.  Where I started over-thinking was the countertop. Basing my choice purely on looks alone, I would choose marble. But budget and maintenance made this option not as attractive. Granite tends to be too “busy” for my taste and the only real granite option I liked was honed solid black. However, I decided that I didn’t want a dark counter surface so I searched for other, lighter options. I looked at several quartz options such as Silestone and Cambria as well as Corian, another man-made product. Then my mom told me about another stone option, Quartzite. Quartzite is not the same as quartz. Quartzite is a natural stone like granite or marble. It is an extremely hard rock that is not water or acid-soluble. On the Mohs test that measures how hard a material is, it has been given a hardness reading of 8/10.  No two slabs of quartzite are exactly alike but the color tones and wavy patterns look similar to marble.  The slab I chose is called Brazilian Calcutta and it looks like this.

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Last but not least we have the appliances, sink, and faucet. We are keeping our existing white GE counter-depth french door refrigerator and white LG dishwasher because they are both fairly new, work relatively well, and fit the space. What we will be saying goodbye to is our almost 20-year old range/oven and the essentially non-functioning range hood that are pictured here.

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We will be replacing these with new GE appliances.  We chose this microwave and this range.

Microwave Range

I am very excited about having double ovens again. I had a range with double ovens when we lived in Hawaii and I used the smaller one all the time. However, as I mentioned before, what I am most excited about is that the range will vent outside and not just circulate the air back into the room. My current recirculating hood does a terrible job and it makes both Mark and I crazy. Although combination microwave/vent hoods aren’t as powerful as other free-standing vent hoods, this one has 300 cfm, which should be enough for my small kitchen and gets good reviews for venting on Consumer Reports.  Anything will be better than our current situation, that’s for sure!

As is somewhat typical, we were able to get a “free” sink with our countertops.  The sink they offered us is a stainless steel, undermount variety and seemed to suit our needs just fine, so we went with that.  I actually like a stainless steel sink and my only other requirement, other than it being wide enough on the diagonal to fit my largest pan,  was that it be an undermount, so it seemed like a no brainer.

Sink selection for Bilger

The last thing that was left to decide at this point was the sink faucet.  I decided that I wanted a design that only had one hole, and I wanted the faucet itself to pull down, rather than having a separate sprayer.  It terms of looks, I didn’t want it to look too modern since the rest of the finishes were more traditional, but I also wanted something clean and sleek. Enter the Cassidy Single Handle Pull Down Faucet from Delta.  Isnt’ she pretty?

Faucet

So those are the choices we have made at this point.  We are going to paint and install a backsplash ourselves so we haven’t finalized those details yet, but we are thinking a dark, navy/sea blue on the small part of the walls that won’t be covered with cabinets or backsplash and likely a simple, white subway tile with a medium toned grey grout for said backsplash.  But those choices are still some time away, so maybe we’ll change our mind once the rest of the pieces are in place!

Our cabinets will be arriving Friday, May 1 and we are set to have them installed the following Monday.  The week before that we will have folks here doing the necessary electrical and HVAC work which means that we’ll need to demo the current kitchen the weekend of April 25-26.  I will be back then to share the details of that process.

Kitchen Layout Breakdown

I am excited to share with you how we are going to reconfigure the kitchen layout to better maximize space, storage, and efficiency. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but we are making some small changes that I hope will create some more storage and counter space and add up to a more organized kitchen.

To orient you, here’s a bird’s eye view of the first floor of the house so you can see where the kitchen is in relation to the rest of the floor.

First Floor Layout

Each of the appliances shown above are generally going to stay in the same place. We are moving the dishwasher over so that it’s right next to the sink and the sink is shifting just a bit so that the faucet will be centered on the window above it, but those are the only changes to the appliance layout.

The new layout adds some additional cabinets and counter space.  As you can see from this picture there is a tall pantry cabinet to the left of the range.

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In the new layout, the tall pantry cabinet will be replaced with a slanted upper and lower cabinet with a small triangle-shaped countertop. We are also adding an over-the-range microwave which will actually vent outside instead of simply recirculating, which is what our current hood does. I am so excited about this! The upper cabinets to the right of the range are just a standard 33″ cabinet. Here is a rendering of what that wall will look like.

Range View

Here is a what the sink wall currently looks like. Sorry the photo is so dark, the lighting in this room is tough to wrangle! We are going to try to salvage the gingerbread detail around the window and re-install it once the new cabinets are in. I have no idea if we will be able to do that or not, so stay tuned for that drama!

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As I mentioned above, the dishwasher will slide over and sit right next to the sink and the sink will slide to the right a little bit so that we can center the faucet on the window. This will also allow us to add a 18″ wastebasket pullout cabinet to the left of the sink. Yay, no more visible trash can! The upper cabinets on both sides of the sink are blind corner cabinets, which means that they don’t have angled shelves or a lazy susan layout, they simply go straight back towards the other wall. This is the same layout that my left upper cabinet on this wall has now, it’s not the most ideal cabinet configuration in my opinion, but the length of this wall combined with the size and placement of the window didn’t lend themselves well to the other upper cabinet options that this cabinet company offered, so we are going with blind corner uppers on both corners of the sink wall.

Sink View

And instead of a large, two-bowl sink, I am going to go with one smaller bowl. Currently the width of both bowls is a combined 29″ and the new sink will be 21″ but I think it will be more functional for me as the width of the individual bowls on my current sink are only 14″ so many of my pots and pans can’t be set easily in the sink, which is a major pet peeve of mine. Since I have such limited cabinet and counter space in a 10 x 10′ kitchen, I think a medium size single bowl sink that will fit with in a 30″ sink cabinet is the best choice.

Sink selection for Bilger

Swinging around to the sun room wall, here’s where things start to get exciting. As you can see in the photo below, and as you may remember from the mini-kitchen makeover of April 2013, there are a couple of narrow shelves that Mark and I installed for extra storage. These are going to be removed and we plan to eventually replace them, but we are going to tackle that part ourselves after the main job is done.

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What we are going to add to this wall is a 16″ deep lower cabinet and countertop.  We couldn’t add a full depth (24″) lower cabinet because it wouldn’t fit with the dishwasher, which we obviously didn’t want to give up, but we liked the idea of having the additional countertop space. This does mean we are losing a little bit of storage space in the corner of the sink wall, but I think we are gaining that back with the storage we will now have on this wall.

Sun Room View

And last but not least we have the fridge wall. This wall currently has no original cabinets or countertops. I don’t know what was originally on this wall, but it wasn’t the fridge. Originally, the refrigerator was were the range is now, which is explains why the outlet is so high on that wall. The original range/cooktop was on the sun room (formerly the back yard) wall.  You can tell because there is a patch in the brick where it used to vent outside. This wall may never have had cabinets and might have housed a small table or a desk. Either way, this wall currently houses some cheap IKEA upper cabinets, a shelve for the microwave that Mark and I made, and a portable IKEA kitchen cart.

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Obviously this wall is going to receive the biggest transformation because the cabinets are finally going to match the rest of the kitchen and will properly frame out the fridge. To accomplish this, we’re moving the fridge over about 5″ and adding full depth cabinets above. To the right of the fridge we’re including a 24″ wide tall pantry cabinet with both shelves and drawers. In order to not overly close off the entrance to the kitchen from the living/dining room, the depth of this cabinet will only 18″ deep, but I think it will provide a wealth of really usable storage for pantry items, linens, etc.

Fridge View

So that’s the wall-by-wall layout of the new kitchen. Here’s the bird’s eye rendering with dimensions in case that’s helpful to see as well.

Bird's Eye

Before I end this post, I would like to share a few last thoughts about the layout and the idea that renovating a space means you can get exactly what you want. First, although our options were limited given space restrictions, we did consider a couple of other layout options and ultimately decided that this one met our goals the best. It provides alot more counter space and a little bit more storage. However, we did not get everything we wanted. We had to go with those blind corner cabinets which are not as user-friendly as the lazy susan options, but work better for our space. Over-the-range microwaves aren’t my cup of tea, but it made the most sense for this kitchen both visually and function-wise, so we went with one. There’s also a little bit of “dead space” next to both the fridge and dishwasher, which were trade-offs for other features.

So in the end I am very happy with the new layout, but it didn’t come without some compromise. I wouldn’t say that I am getting my dream kitchen, but as I mentioned here, that’s not really the point. What I do think is dreamy is that this kitchen should add value to the house as a whole, as well as be more functional and better looking.

In my next post, which I hope to have up next weekend, I will share with you what cabinets, countertops, appliances, fixtures, etc. we chose along with more information on the storage solutions we are incorporating. We are ordering the cabinets first thing tomorrow morning and should have a delivery date by the end of the week, so I hope to also be able to also share the timeline for this project as well. We’ll see!