Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Another Light Busts the Dust

May 2014
It's official, I have replaced, added, changed or removed every single light fixture in our home.  That's four years and sixteen light fixtures.  This was not a planned thing, I don't remember buying the house and thinking "goodness these lights are horrible."  But room by room, as we updated the spaces we found ourselves taking down 1970's brass fixtures, 1980's ceiling fans, and sad bare bulbs.  In some cases, like our kitchen sconce, we still had the original fixture but the glass shade was missing and had to be replaced. 

With all this time and money going out to lighting, imagine my frustration when I painted the kitchen gray in January and ran into an issue.  The new reproduction schoolhouse light we installed in 2010 was casting a weird light on the space.  The shade was hand painted lime green, which worked great with our old color, but now gave the nook an odd yellow dirty tone.  One day when I was trolling the internets I discovered they made a larger version of the glass shade we already had for our kitchen sconce. This shade happened to be 50% off.  So, for less than $40 I would be able to fix my dirty light issue without having to feel horrible about wasting money on another whole fixture. 
As I thought about it more,  I still really loved the shade in the kitchen, it just couldn't live there.  This brought me to the office overhead light, which is our last untouched fixture in the house.  Or actually I should say it brought me to our lack of light.  In our upstairs office (the room we have done NOTHING to).  There is a switch on the wall which powers a mini ceiling fan.  What's a mini ceiling? Let me show you. 

It's roughly 3' across, white with gold flourishes and sits about 2 inches above Josh's head when he stands in the space. Avert your eyes from the garish green ceiling to also notice the old owner graced the fan with some paint as well.  Given that the only light in the room came from our two dim desk lamps, it was time to kick that fan to the curb (we actually donated  it to the Rebuilding Center for someone who has been dying for a mini ceiling fan).

So I ordered not only a new shade for the kitchen, but a new metal ceiling fixture for the space.  I choose the same fixture that we had out in the upstairs hallway which has a thin profile (added height space) and a more clean industrial look. Since the office has  no clear vibe (except the existing barney colors) I figured the lime green shade would work perfectly.  


Bye sad clown fan.... hello new light.  Now if only I could muster up the courage to paint this room...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

I Can't Stop Painting...

April 2014

This year seems to be the year of painting everything.  This time I decided to paint the guest room.  Back in the winter,  I painted the panelling in the room white.  Since there was only panelling on two walls, this left two walls unpainted.  These walls were plaster and had several damaged areas that we had not fixed.  One location was the area around the new wall light the other area was some existing  damage below the South window that we had avoided for three years.  Not having the money or energy to do a full skim coat of the the walls,  I decided to try and fix these areas as best I could.  I chipped away any plaster that was loose and then over the course of several days patched and sanded the areas back.  

I think I did a pretty good job, although as I worked I kept noticing more areas with cracks, dents, and dimples. If we stay in the house long term we will probably have to have the plaster professionally repaired, but since this is our guest room I patched what I could and primed the areas.  As you will noticed the room was a light butternut squash color.  Our roommate picked out the color and we liked it, however, we never kept the swatch and had no idea what it was.  We either had to try and color match the existing color or paint it an entirely new color.
The decision to go with a new color hinged on a gift. For our wedding, a family friend of Josh's gave us a large beautiful watercolor they had painted.  We loved the painting but walking through our house we were having a hard time finding a wall that was big enough to work with the painting.  Honestly, there was only one wall in the house where it would truly work and it was in the guest room above the dresser.   We decided to take down our current piece of art (which we like, but holds no sentimental value).  The only issue was the watercolor really didn't work with the rooms orange color.
We decided to try and pull out the muted colors in the watercolor by painting the wall a dark color.  We felt the room could handle going dark given the amount of white trim, panelling on two walls, and the large window and closet to break up the space.  We tried several dark blue grays from Benjamin Moore.  In the end, we choose Lead Gray. I went out and bought a gallon and set about painting the space.

Once again, our lighting caused the color to come out way more blue then we were expecting.  It reads a deep navy and not so much gray.  But when we put the watercolor up against it- we were completely sold. 

This was probably our most saturated color to date and no matter how good frog tape is, there was a fair amount of touch up.  The bold color against the white requires a perfect line, so I spent an afternoon with a mini brush touching up the wood work and ceiling.  

The room has a bit of a nautical feel with the blue and white, so I took the vibe and brought our large ship painting from the stairwell and put it in the room.  Perfect fit!  Josh hung the piece and I cleaned the room.  I think we can call this room almost complete.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Little Coat of Paint

August 2013

I am going to jump back in time to show you a quick update we made last summer. At the same time that we took on the our cinder block wall of death we also decided to paint our garage.   
I would like to take a moment to show you the before picture. The wonderful color scheme of baby blue and white, the decision to paint the beveled siding two toned.... the ghetto lean-to shed. It is a true masterpiece. Moving on, we took advantage of our friend contractor and had them paint the South and East facades.  They provided the labor and painting supplies and we supplied the actual paint. We already had left over paint for most of the project and only had to buy a gallon of white exterior paint and a gallon of primer.
The contractor power washed and scrapped our side wall and the front of the garage. Our neighbor had asked that we paint the front of the garage the same gray color as her house. We agreed it would be more cohesive for the entire facade to be painted one color.  We both felt our dark blue was a little too bold for the building.  We also matched her white trim color. To call out our side on the front we decided to paint the garage doors with our house's red color. She paid us for 1/3 of the cost to do the work and provided the gray paint.  Her portion helped off set the cost of the paint.  So in the end, the work cost us nothing. WIN.

 On the south side of the garage that can be seen only from our yard we decided to go all white and paint the small window the same red as our house doors and windows.

Note, the weirdly placed thermometer on the lean to wall, this is because it is hiding a hole in the plywood wall. Classy.

What a difference a coat of paint makes.  It's still a pretty ramshackle structure, but we have made the best of it without breaking our budget.  Long term I would love to restore these doors to their former glory.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Kitchen Updates Continue

January 2014
While we were waiting on the counter sealer to harden I had a few days off work for New Years.  I decided it was perfectly logical to repaint the kitchen.  Back in 2010, when we bought the house, the kitchen was the first room we started working on.  Together Josh and I chose to paint the space a bright green, Benjamin Moore Eccentric Lime to be exact.  Soon friends started affectionately calling it Shrek Green (maybe not affectionately behind our backs).  It was a little unorthodox and loud, but at the time it felt so nice to banish the sooty mustard walls with something bright and happy.

Over the last four years we have slowly painted other rooms in the house.  These rooms all were painted serene nature inspired colors: dark mossy greens, sunny yellows, rich earthy browns, and cool deep blues.  With each new paint color, the kitchen became more and more out of character with our home.  While we loved our Shrek green, it wasn't exactly fitting in the palette.  The clincher came when we got all new kitchen gear for our wedding.  For the most part we chose neutral white and black items, however most of serving pieces and smaller appliances were a bright cheery red. Since all of our upper cabinets are doorless, these new items started giving the room a bit of a year around christmas theme.

At first, I thought about painting the whole room white to match the trim and cabinets, but we decided a little definition would help call out some of the nice features of the room. We decided a nice neutral light gray would be perfect.  Since we already loved our bathroom color BM Stonington Gray, it made sense to get something similar.  We decided to go one lighter on the same paint strip which brought us to Wickham Gray. Having learned from our past mistakes we got the paint in our favorite Acrinamel Satin paint from Miller.  The enamel base will allow us to wipe the walls down much easier and will help us avoid greasy build up.  The existing green in our kitchen was Acro Pure satin from Miller (which is VOC free and good quality, but it took multiple coats and tended to smudge if you wiped it, long term we have been told it can go chalky as well).  

So, over a few days I washed the walls, taped, and then painted the kitchen.  I split the room in two; doing the nook first and then the fridge side of the kitchen a few days later.  This is currently my new favorite way of painting a room.  It allows me to not empty the entire space and gives me the opportunity to get two coats done in one day.  This did mean I had to move everything off our pantry shelf AGAIN, which I really could have done without, but still, it was relatively easy.
The paint definitely reads more blue than gray in the space, I wish it was a little more gray.  There is something about the lighting in our house we cannot seem to get right, it feels like everything takes on a blue tone. However, it achieved the look I was overall going for.  The room is now bright without being loud, feels fresh and clean, and allows a few of our more colorful objects to shine.
By the time I was done painting the counters were ready to be used, Josh added quarter round edging and installed back the window trim.  Together we cleaned the kitchen and moved everything back. I think this can count as a mini-remodel and hopefully the last kitchen post I will do for a while.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Merry Christmas Counters to Us

December 2013

After the haze of the Thanksgiving cleared we went back to everyday cooking.  As December slipped away and we got closer to Christmas we spent more and more time in the nook. We soon learned the space had some problems. The worst offender was the existing wood counter.  First, it was too small, at only 18" deep it barely held anything, worse it left an awkward 6" gap between the range and the counter which was the perfect spot to drop just about everything on it's way to the pan. 

Second, the counter was disgusting.  I have this picture and I hesitate putting it on the internet for fear no one would ever eat at our house again.  The counter had split open in several places, the varnish had worn/chipped off in many other areas and the entire thing was just crying for something, anything. 

Not wanting to invest too much money or time Josh and I brainstormed solutions.  Completely remove the counter and buy a butcher block table or a credenza?  Have a professional build cabinets back there? Just replace the countertop?

Given some research and the thought in the back of our minds we might one day remodel the kitchen  we decided the cheapest solution would win out.  Our decision was to buy some IKEA butcher block counters.  These come highly lauded on the internet as cheap and good quality.  The problem?  After waiting a month our local IKEA never got the item in stock and had no estimated arrival date.  Frustrated, I priced other locations, but their butcher block was 4 times the cost.  Biting the bullet, I decided to buy it online and pay the crazy shipping price to have it sent.  In a last minute moment of insanity or clarity, I ordered two...  The shipping would be the same and if it was a good as everyone said we could always use it for something else, right?  A week later I was the owner and possessor of two countertops. 
We quickly removed the old counter and immediately banished it from the house. It became clear that the original supports were janky.  After a long conversation which included: how to make it right? did we want it right? How big is this project going to be? We decided to work with it rather then remove it and potentially add another weekend of work to our progress. I also took our moment of conversing to talk Josh into using the second countertop to add a shelf under the counter to allow us to have some additional storage.  Bonus!

So, we went to Lowes, picked up some 2x4's, some long lag screws, and some small quarter round and went about adding additional support to the upper counter (this new counter was much bigger and much heavier), and another set of supports for the lower shelf. After Josh cut and screwed them to wall I followed behind and painted them white in the hope this would help them fade away into the panelling.  If we had done this right, we would have removed the old, install a better ledger board and proper brackets, but honestly... this works and took one day.

Next, Josh cut the lower shelf and notched the ends to fit around the existing struts that came down. Now comes the part where we share the moment things stopped going our way. The counter weighed roughly 80 pounds and given the dimensions of our space and Josh's precise cuts you couldn't tip it into place.  You had to walk it directly in (without scratching the walls, without hitting our brand new range) and drop it down onto the struts.  I just about killed him when we put it in place only to decide the shelf should be narrower.  So it came out, went outside, was ripped down and had to be returned to the space.  Have I ever said how nice he is? The good news is we got better at the technique and the upper counter went in a lot easier.
We had decided that it would be best to stain and seal the lower shelf in place rather than somewhere else.  First, because moving it out and in again might be the end of us, and second because we were afraid of damaging the area.  This became my project so I stained the lower shelf  (both top and bottom, because I am perfectionist) and then stained the upper counter  in the basement.  This had me laying on the floor with stain dripping on me directly next to our radiator for 15 minutes, twice.  Christmas time in the Cabot house!  Cursing aside, it looked great.  We used two coats of Cabot Gunstock Stain (same as the floors) and then installed the upper counter and used 3 coats of Waterlox marine sealer on both (I only sealed the tops and edge). 
Each coat of sealer took 24 hours to dry so it was a week long process to apply the three coats. We then had another 7 days of hardening before we were allowed to put anything on it. So these pictures show it during the 7 day dry period.
Our last step would be to reinstall the window trim, install quarter round around the edges, caulk, silicone and do some touch up paint.  The process to date had taken about 10 days but we couldn't wait to start using our new HUGE counter and added storage. It was our little Christmas present to ourselves.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Installing a New Stove: Empty Entire Kitchen...

November 2013
Our stove was delivered on a Thursday, my parents were arriving for Thanksgiving break on Tuesday and I had an entire Thanksgiving meal that needed to be prepared and cooked.  The question quickly became: would it be on the old stove or the new one?
As soon as we ordered the range we knew we would have to install a gas line in the kitchen.  For some unknown reason our old stove was electric even though all the other appliances/systems in the house ran on gas (boiler, water heater, dryer).  Since the house already had gas, the install only required a plumber to install a new gas line to the kitchen from the basement. Josh called our local plumbing company and explained what we needed to get done and asked if it was possible to get it done in the next week.  Turns out they had an opening on Monday morning and we grabbed it. Possibility for Thanksgiving on the new stove- high.
But, it wasn't quite that easy.... we have always hated the layout of our kitchen.  The combination of having the fridge and the stove next to each other with no counter top made cooking very difficult and tended to create a pinch point in the main area. The good news was our our new stove only need a 120v outlet to run the starter so the 220v outlet for the old stove could be removed and we were no longer tethered to it's existing location. The logical choice was to utilize the underused area we would call the nook. 
Originally, this was a built-in seating area with benches and a table (long gone by the time we bought the house).  Since then we have used a wire shelf to make the space into an ad hoc pantry space.  In a kitchen that is 12' x 7' the relatively little used 5' x 5' storage space was a huge waste.   We decided to swap the stove and the wire shelf, and then after more thought the shelf with the fridge.  This moved the fridge closer to the dining room and the middle of the room. Suddenly we created a bigger work triangle and gained counter space adjacent to the stove for prep. Win.
To start, we had to remove the wire rack from the nook.  So late on Sunday night I started removing all the food, pots and pans.  The default for all the items was our dining room which made me realize how much stuff we truly had back there.  Let's call it was a good chance to thow away, organize and clean everything.

Granted, we could have removed the existing stove, moved our fridge over and put the rack immediately into the new space. However, there was no way I was removing the existing working stove until I was 100% sure this new stove was working. Don't I sound like a jaded homeowner?  (Really it's just the sad truth after years of expecting a brand new nice thing to work and then being in a lurch when it didn't).
On Monday morning, our plumber arrived.  The entire job went well, the gas dryer sits directly below and so we only had to stub up through the floor from an existing T on the line.  In two hours he had plumbed the line, restarted all our pilot lights and tried the stove to make sure it worked right.  We were thrilled and that night we quickly broke in the range. I had exactly 3 days to learn all the tricks of gas cooking before I put it through the paces of an entire Thanksgiving dinner.

The new stove was an unrelegated success! Together Josh and I made our very first Thanksgiving dinner and every step of the way NXR was there. Here is some celebratory pictures of our bird, and spread!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Sexy.... Gas Range Time

November 2013
We did it, we bought a new range!

Background: in 2010, when we moved in we replaced all the appliances in the house except the range. It was newer, from 2006, and it seemed unnecessary to replace something that was four years old. However, as soon as we started using it we knew we wanted to change it out to a gas range.  Josh and I both enjoy cooking. Actually, the better description is Josh likes to cook and I like to drink wine and occasionally bake pies.  
A little scary reminder of it when we bought the house

Over time we began to hate our existing range and not just because it was electric.  True hate.  Reasons:
1. It took forever for things to heat up on it
2. It only had one heating element inside the stove (on the top) which meant you could never evenly bake anything
3. It had one of those smooth cook tops which had several dark burn marks from the day we got it and if you didn't clean it everyday you added more baked on stains 
4. The handle on the door like to detach at the worst times (like when you had a large burning hot meat dish in your hand). We did eventually fix this by using epoxy to glue it back on, but still
5. It was the only white appliance in the whole house, sitting right next to our stainless fridge.
6. It was the pits

Apparently I hated it so much I only accidentally took a picture of it from the mudroom
So why the wait?  The price tag. We got our dishwasher and fridge super cheap, as in the combined cost was less then most people spend on a standard fridge.  But ranges seem to never go on super sale, especially the stainless steel gas ones.  Also, all the fancy name stoves not only cost as much as a car, but had horrible reviews for quality and warranty issues.  After waiting and watching,  I got an issue of Consumer Reports that listed their top gas ranges.  I was excited to see a super affordable range made the top of the list.  It had the professional look we were going for and seemed to be the cost of some of the cheaper builder grade ranges. I did some research online and discovered that Cosco currently had the item on sale and would ship it for free.  It was too much to deny.
I called my parents and asked about an early Christmas present, as well as a Josh birthday present, as well as the next two holiday presents.  Seriously, I wanted this stove!  They agreed and gave us the go ahead (even better they were Cosco members, unlike us).  So, I ordered the stove and then heard back that day: it was coming the next week.  The week before Thanksgiving, when I was planning on cooking a huge meal. Holy cow.
I'll save you the long story but the way Cosco delivers items is 'curbside,' literally, on your curb from their truck  I was aware of this but when I saw the shipping weight: 500lbs I got worried.  Once the item was in the house I knew we could put it on our foam moving men pads and move it anywhere.  However we had 4 large concrete steps between our curb and our kitchen.  I made a plan, I would borrow a large dolly from work and take off the afternoon, then I would bribe the delivery guys to somehow get it into my house. Armed with my best smile and some twenty dollar bills I readied myself.  It kinda of worked.  The driver and his helper arrived, and were so nice.  The problem: he was in his 60's and his helper was shorter and thinner then I was.  Together the three of us manhandled 500lbs on to the dolly, rolled it to the stairs and then tried to pull it up the stairs.  We failed about half way up.

My neighbor, who happened to be washing his car across the way ran over and with his help we pulled it the last two steps. It was crazy scary!  I gave the driver and his helper a tip (which they tried to refuse?!?) and bought my neighbor some beer and then proceeded to dance around the huge paletted stove box in my living room!  I adore you gas range and you are shiny and I will love you forever!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1970's Called.... It Wants Your Paneling

November 2013

After the wedding, Josh and I took a much needed month vacation from any house or life projects.  It was glorious!  Then it happened, I started to feel the itch and needed to find a quick and easy house project that wouldn't cost me anything.  Just so you can understand how much I need house projects I started this on November 9, 40 days after we returned from our honeymoon. 40 days and 40 nights without house project, the longest I had gone in over 4 years. Impressive.
Ever since painting the windows in the guest room I had the urge to paint the dark wood panelling in the space.  Originally, I embraced it in all it's 1970's glory, but the fact was it was in pretty beat up shape.  There were several areas that needed patching and repair. So it started on a Saturday when I spent a few hours moving everything to one side of the room and patching and caulking a few holes, gouges, and cracks.  A quick sand and wipe down and I was ready to rumble. 
We only have panelling on two walls, so this was going to be a quick project. I decided to put the primer on Saturday night right after dinner so it had a good 10 hours to dry.  Very quickly I discovered our primer had gone off (apparently 3 years is all you get with Kilz). It was chunky and smelled horrible. After spending 30 minutes trying to salvage it by mixing and adding bleach I had to call it.  I managed to find another primer deep in the depths of our basement hoard.  By the time I restarted it was 8pm and suddenly my easy project had me painting late into the night in a grumpy mood. Sigh.
This photo was taken with my cell phone- not classy
Sunday ,I woke up early so I could get two coats of paint on the panels.  The primer had essentially absorbed into the wall so I knew multiple coats may be in my future.  I decided to paint the entire wall with a brush.  I figured I could get more paint on, get into the crevices of the panelling and wood grain and hopefully give the panelling a more wood work look.  I used a three inch brush and moved through the room painting our bone white acrinamel.  It definitely was slow in comparison to a roller, but it wasn't horrible.  It took me about 90 minutes to finish the first coat.  Later, around dinner time, I went back and did a second coat.  Luckily, that seemed to be all the room needed. 


I cleaned the floors and dusted the furniture and then put everything back into place on Monday.  This is now the brightest room in our house.  It gets both South and West light so with the new white panelling it practically glowed afterward.  A small mini update and the room was ready for my parents to visit for Thanksgiving.