Friday, October 23, 2015

Kitchen Cabinets From...Ikea!?

I have been investigating different sources for kitchen cabinetry over the past few months.  My main challenge is that I have champagne taste on a beer budget... and I'm not talking about fancy, craft beer.  I want quality and durability, but I don't want to pay for it.  I'm being totally reasonable here right?

My top two contenders right now are Cliq Studios and Ikea (what!?).  Yup, that's right my friends, I said Ikea. Let's start with Cliq Studios.  They area semi-custom cabinetry provider based out of Indiana (though I understand there is some question if the cabinets are truly made in America).  They have a wide range of cabinetry options and the cabinets come factory finished and assembled.  They are extra unique, in my opinion, because they offer an inset cabinet option - their Austin style.  My quote through Cliq Studios, including toe kicks, crown, etc. was about $4,500.  Not bad...especially for inset!  I ordered a sample door and I noticed that there was a finger print in the paint finish.  Now, look, I know it's just a sample door.  BUT - if you have quality control issues in your promotional products that are designed to get you sales, what happens to the quality after the sale is already made?

The other issue here is that I want to run my uppers to the ceiling and top them with crown that runs around the cabinets and the ceiling continuously.  Like this:


Monday, September 28, 2015

Kitchen Nightmares

No I am not talking about the TV show with the angry, British chef.  I am talking about my kitchen.  It's BAD and it's on my radar for our next major project in the house.  Before I can get some serious quotes for cabinets and countertops, I need to nail down the layout. This is easier said than done because I am working with a space that is just shy of 12' x 12' with two doorways, a 3 ft radiator and a 5 ft wide window.  The typical solution when you've got a kitchen like this is to knock out a wall an expand.  Not an option here - I've got a stairwell on one side, a bedroom on another, the porch, and then one exterior wall (which, even if cost was a factor, we couldn't push back because the neighbor's house is too close).  I've made peace with the fact that I am not going to have an 8' island in the kitchen or a 36" professional range; I can live without those things no problem.  The question still remains - how the heck can you fit a functional, upscale kitchen in less than 144 sq ft!?  Oh yeah, and keep the budget around $10k?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Workin' on the Entryway

We have a small entryway off of the front porch entrance.  Its nothing grand, but it's a nice space to welcome guests with a rather generous coat closet.  For some reason, I failed to take a true before photo, so blogger fail on that...  Anyway, it had the same floral motif ceiling tile that we have/had throughout the main floor, along with the original crown and mouldings.  Man, what I thought would be a 2 weekend project is turning out to be much more of a pain in the rear!  It's just been nothing but little, time consuming complications.

First step, plaster repair.  While the side walls were in good shape with very little repair required, the arches were another story - they were a cracked and crumbling mess!  When we renovated the living room (check out more of that here) we discovered that the arches that flank the entry were not original.  They had plaster over metal lath, so my guess is that the arches were install sometime in the 30's when the upstairs was completed or in 60's when the rest of the "improvements" - a la ceiling tile, paneling and the kitchen remodel - were completed.  But really, who knows.  In any event, who ever installed the arches did not do a very good job tying the new plaster into the original walls and plaster, so it was crack city.  I chipped it all away and was left with this loveliness...  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Contrasting Ceiling Color

I am having a serious crush on ceilings that are painted a bold or contrasting color. I think it's a great and inexpensive way to add some drama and color.

I think that this design choice works better in a smaller room, such as a bathroom or a laundry room. I am working on our entryway ceiling right now, and I am toying with the idea of painting it a color instead of white.  Hmmm....


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Farmhouse And Other Misc. Stuff...

During our mini-vacation in Michigan, we had a chance to look at the farmhouse I blogged about last week.  After mulling it over all weekend, it is with mix feelings that we decided we had to pass.  The house was built in the late 1800's with an addition that was put in in the back somewhere between the 40s-60's I would guess (exterior looks more 40's but interior looks more 60's). Because the house was so old, it was built before indoor plumbing.  The main house had a large living room, dining room and kitchen, with 4 equally sized bedrooms upstairs.  The addition was off of the back of the house, and it had a vestibule area just as you came in from the side door with a powder room, and then it connect back to the main house through the kitchen. There was a bedroom/den/office situation, and then a full bath and large closet type room which were accessible from the main house only.  The original house was actually in really good shape.  It was straight and square with tons of original details intact. The ceilings were 10' tall on the main floor and at least 8'6" if not 9' on the second floors.  I will share a few close up pictures of the details, but since I don't own the house, I don't feel comfortable sharing more.

Lovely ornate grill cover.
Fantastic pocket doors - they were 8' tall!
The door hardware on the pocket doors.
The door hinges throughout... Can you imagine these with the paint removed?
The base boards on the main floor were nearly a foot tall!  And I am pretty sure all the wood was walnut...
The entry vestibule area.  The woodwork was in such great shape!
The beautiful exterior. 
The addition, however, was in horrible shape!  It stunk, was literally falling apart and for sure had to be taken down to the studs, if not portions of it completely rebuilt.  The plumbing was mostly copper, except the line to the kitchen, so that was a positive.  But the electricity wasn't functioning at the time we toured the house which was concerning.  The panel looked a little crazy with a mix of cloth covered and newer wiring.  I saw some porcelain knobs in the basement, so I am pretty sure most of the electrical in the walls was knob and tube.  This makes me nervous because that means there is nothing protecting the wiring (no conduit or metal sheathing) and I view that as a potential fire hazard.  The roof was also not in very good shape and there was evidence of a roof leak in the addition.  The clap board was actually in crazy good shape, but there was still some rot that would need to be addressed.  

Despite how wonderful this house could be, it needs more work right now than we can really handle. Had it just been updating the electrical, or just replacing the roof, or just dealing with the addition, it probably would have been a contender.  Or if I had oodles of money to throw at it and contract everything out...  Now I just pray that the house goes to someone who appreciates it and doesn't rip out everything that makes it so special!   

On a brighter note, I picked up this fantastic vintage oval pedestal sink with faucet for $200 from a salvage sale in Lakeview. Pretty sure it's worth $800-$1000 based on what I'm seeing online.  I would say that is one heck of a deal!  It was reglazed a light gray color at some point, but I plan on reglazing it white before using it in our main bath room (whenever we get around to that project...)

As you can see, my pedestal sink collection is  Oh and the dining room is ALMOST done.  Just have to swap a few outlets and install the wall plates.  Hope to post about that this week!


Thursday, August 20, 2015

I'm Considering Doing Something Stupid

Sooo... long term, we always planned to have a country house to get out of the city and relax on weekends and in the summer. While I love Chicago, I grew up in a more rural area and sometimes I just crave the open space, fresh air and nature.  This hypothetical country house would be an old farm house with loads of character that needed some TLC because...of course... it's us. We would have some land, but not too much - maybe a few acres?  And we would purchase it a few years down the road when we had kids and our current house was completely renovated.  Of course that doesn't stop me from scanning the MLS every few months to see if our perfect country house pops up.  It's all fun and games when faux-house hunting find this:

Um, what?  Are you KIDDING!  I just. can't. even.  The white clap board?  The gothic-esque style?  The transom window above the front door?  The stone porch!?  I die.

I saw it about 2 months ago when it came on the market.  It's a bank owned foreclosure (which is why I'm okay with showing a pic of the house - if someone was living there, that would be totally different).  It's in the middle of nowhere, but within 2 hours of the city which is the perfect distance.  The mortgage on this thing would be the equivalent of a car payment, and not even a luxury car payment.  I showed it to my husband and my mom and we all ooh'd and ahh'd over it and then kind of forgot about it.  Then I got an email alert this week (cause you know I saved it to my favorites) that they dropped the price - by $15k!  That's a HUGE reduction on an already inexpensive house.  Here are the stats:

Year Built: Pre-1900, with an addition that looks like it's from the 1920's.
Bedrooms: 5 bedrooms
Baths: 1 full bath, 1 powder room
Sq Ft: 2600
Lot: 1.6 acres

I need another project house like I need a freaking hole in the head, but I just can't help myself!  This the ongoing struggle in my head.

Me: This is something that you would keep forever, so if the renovation takes 10 years, that's totally fine.

Me:  Seriously, focus on one renovation at a time.

Me: When will you even come across another house like this which so many original details intact?

Me: Yes, you can afford to buy it, but where will you find the cash to renovate this when you are pouring money into your current project!?

Me: See point one, it's doesn't have to be fully renovated right away!

The struggle is real my friends, the struggle is real.  Well, in any event, we all set up for a showing on the 29th so I guess we will see what happens.  Who knows - it could be total falling apart crap and boom!  the conversation ends there. We will see...


Monday, August 17, 2015

More Dining Room Updates...

So I am not done with the dining room yet.  This is because I decided to devote 3 days of my life to skim coating the dining room walls.  Man, am I soooo glad I did. What a difference it made!

Admittedly, I did a horrible job documenting the skim coating, but I still thought I would skim (pun intended) over the the process.  Basically, skim coating is putting up a new, thin layer of joint compound over your walls.  This can be necessary in a few instances, like when you remove wall paper and it damages your walls, or if you have a texture to your walls that you wish to cover up.  Skim coating is typically quicker, easier, and cheaper than installing new sheetrock.  In my case, I have plaster walls that had a number of cracks that I patched.  The patched areas are smooth and they contrast with the texture of the walls.  My walls aren't purposely textured, but after 90+ years of paint jobs, there was a rather pronounced texture to them.  

When we renovated our bedroom and the living room, we did not skim coat.  Every time I turn on a lamp or the light casts in a certain way, it brings out the imperfections and textural inconsistencies in the walls.  Some old house flaws I find charming - lumpy walls is not one of them.  When I did the hallway, the walls were so damaged from plucking off pieces of painted over wall paper, that skim coating was a must.  And the walls came out gorgeously.  I seriously run my hand over the hallway walls to marvel at their smoothness multiple times a week - it's a problem.  Every room moving forward will be skim coated and I will be circling back to the bedroom and living room at some point to skim coat those walls as well.

Anyway, enough rambling. Let's talk about the actual process of skim coating.  I did the "easy" version (which spoiler alert - isn't all that easy).  There is a more "traditional" method using a hawk and trowel, but I am not skilled enough for that.  I used a tool called the Magic Trowel and I love it.  It really does lessen the amount of skill required but you still need to be patient as it does take a little experience to get the hang of it.  Here is the gist of the skim coating process!

Tools/Supplies Needed:
  • Joint Compound (I recommend the dust control version, unless you like to be surrounded by a cloud of drywall dust)
  • 3/8"-3/4" Nap Roller Cover (the more damaged the walls, the thicker the nap)
  • Paint Roller
  • Paint Tray
  • Mixing Paddle Attachment
  • Drill
  • Water
  • Magic Trowel (you can find it here, also is sold in select Sherwin Williams stores)
  • Sanding Sponges (Medium and Fine grit)
  • Pole Sander (with Fine grit paper)
  • Wet Rag(s)

Step One:

Add about 1 cup water to a 5 gallon bucket of joint compound of your choice and mix thoroughly with your drill and mixing paddle attachment.  You are looking for the consistency of melting ice cream.

Step Two:

Scoop a few scoops of the thinned mud into your paint tray and load up your roller.

Step Three:

Roll the mud onto the walls.  I have found it works best to apply the mud in 4'-6' wide areas, working across the bottom coming back to doing the top of the wall.  Once your mud is applied to your first section, take your Magic Trowel and wipe the blade with a damp towel and then start at the bottom edge of the wall and literally wipe the trowel upward maintaining a light pressure.  Repeat until the entire working section is smooth.  Then move on to the next section and repeat until all of your walls are covered.  Depending on how much texture you are trying to cover, it may take more than one skim coat to get the job done.

Step Four:

Wait for the mud to dry.  I use premixed compound and it was humid, so I waited a good 24-36 hours before sanding.  Once the mud is dry, take your pole sander and go to town sanding every inch of the walls.  After that, turn off the over head light and set up a lamp close to the wall so that it casts shadows on the wall.  Use that as your guide to find any areas that require more sanding.  Do not skip this step.  If you do, when the sun shines in just right or a lamp is put in a certain corner, you will find these imperfections and it will have defeated the purpose of the skim coating!

Step Five:

Wipe down the walls well to remove the dust and then apply primer and paint.

Now that my walls are ceiling is done, I am moving on to the trim.  After scraping away the varnish on all of the trim, I applied primer.  I always prime before I do any caulking or patching because the primer makes any imperfections more apparent - the natural wood finish tends to camouflage things in my opinion.  

After priming, I spackled the proverbial crap out of everything.  

The sun was shining in through the window so I wasn't able to get a shot of that trim, but it was just as pink and spotted as the baseboards.  THIS is why I can't leave my wood natural.  It has been so abused and damaged over the years that it takes this much spackle and patching to make it look good again...  Sigh - at least it's still there and (mostly) original.  I got the spackle sanded down last night, so on to reinstalling the crown moulding, caulking and then paint!  Wahoo!

In other exciting news - I got over my irrational fear of electrical work and installed the dining room chandelier!  It took me 10 minutes.  Not sure why I was so intimidated.  I love the light fixture though. I think it's just the right size for the space and it has just the right vintage look I was going for without being too formal.

Well that's all for now.  So close, but still a lot of work left.  I would LOVE to enjoy a completed dining room by the end of next weekend.  Let's see if that can happen!


Monday, August 3, 2015

Dining Room Progress

Progress is being made on the dining room!  I am please to say that I have finished the drywall and plaster repair in the dining room.  While I have done more plaster repair than I care to remember, this was my first stab at finishing drywall.  I have to say, I think it went pretty well.

Three coats of mud and some sanding later...

...and I had a giant mess!  In all seriousness though, sanding joint compound is one of the very least enjoyable activities.  I used dust control joint compound this time, which I have never used before.  It seemed to perform and apply very similarly to regular joint compound, except with the sanding.  I was able to get most of the drywall joints mudded pretty smoothly, so there wasn't a ton of sanding needed except for one or two spots.  I noticed that this joint compound gummed up my sanding block quite a bit so I had to shake/tap off the excess mud sticking to it pretty frequently.  The mud was definitely dry as I finished mudding last weekend and then sanded this weekend.  On the plus side, the dust falls straight to the floor so you don't have the typical drywall dust snowstorm that gets everywhere - it stays pretty contained.  So the question here is whether or not the annoyance factor of sanding the dust control joint compound is worth the more easily contained drywall dust?  In my opinion, absolutely.  Having the mess just stay in the area where I was working rather than flying all over the house saved me way more time in easier clean up than cleaning off my sanding block constantly.

So ceiling primed and ready for ceiling paint - check.  Plaster cracks repaired and walls primed - check.  It would be soooo easy to just get the crown put back up, trim painted and then paint the walls, but since I am a home improvement masochist, I am really thinking about possibly skim coating the walls.  I skim coated the walls in the hallway (I had to because they were damaged and uneven thanks to removing painted over wallpaper - read more about that good time here) but they are gloriously smooth and perfect.  We didn't skim coat in the living room and bedroom and when there is a lamp illuminating a wall or when you focus on a certain area, the texture imperfections bug me.  Like, a lot.  So, I can break out more mud and take another 3-4 days to skim coat a few layers and sand and have gloriously smooth walls.  Or I can stop being a crazy person and keep this project moving...  Hmm...

In other news, the radiator cover got a few coats of fresh white paint and is looking real pretty!

And I spend like 2 hours yesterday getting this baseboard and basecap installed around the bump out.

The baseboard was a breeze; it's just mitered cuts.  But the basecap?  Oh man... It's so challenging not just because of the angles, but also because I only have so much original basecap to work with from walls that were demoed.  I can't just go to Home Depot to buy this stuff, so I have to use the pieces that I have.  Which means, I am holding a 3 inch piece of wood while slicing it at a crazy angle and trying not to lose a finger.  

Well, that's where things stand for now.  Hopefully I will have some prettier updates to share in the next week or so!  I can't wait to get this dining room finished.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Staircase Progress & Picking a Stain Color

I am pleased to say that I am finally getting around to the finish work on the staircase.  It's amazing how with just a coat of primer, everything can start to come together!  I opted to install faux board and batten on two of the stair walls.


I was surprised at just how snazzy it is looking, especially for how cheap (less than $50!) and easy (less  than 2 hours of work!) it was.  I am working on a tutorial which I hope to post this week because I think I found some shortcuts that really simplify the installation process.  Also, since I was working with brand new drywall, I had the idea that if I brush the drywall like I would if it was actually board and batten, it might trick the eye into thinking that it was actually wood behind the battens, rather than rolling the drywall, leaving texture to the wall.  I gave it a shot, and I have to say that I think it worked!

This is just the primer coat and it only has a sheen because it was still wet.   However, I plan on painting the faux board and batten with the same paint as the rises, newels, balusters, etc.  so I am hoping that it will have a very convincing look to it when it's all done.  It took a few hours of painting on various contorted positions, but most of the staircase has been primed.  It's finally starting to look like what I had envisioned!

I am sure that I have at least 20+ hours of priming, sanding, filling, caulking and painting ahead of me, but I am already starting to think about the stain color for the treads, landing and handrail.  It's a big decision because this will also be the color that we use on the floors throughout the house when we refinish them.  Right now, I am torn between three very different directions:


Rich Chocolate

Weathered Oak
While I think that all three options could look great in this house, it's still a tough choice.  I love the espresso color, but I am worried that it might be too dark and also that it is an out-going trend that might look dated in 5 years.  The weathered oak look is definitely an emerging trend, but I think that it might lean too beachy and certainly would not be everyone's taste (which is an important consideration for resale).  A medium toned, rich chocolate color is certainly classic and universal, but I think it might be kind of boring?  Any thoughts or feedback would be appreciated!  Of course there is no stain color that will work for any of these wood tones straight out of the can.  So I bought about 7 different 4oz stain cans to mix and play around with.  I am going to see if I can come up with just the right stain color.  Wish me luck!