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Monthly Archives: May 2011

tequila lime or english apple? major life questions.

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Colour obsession.  It’s a bitch.  I became overwhelmingly obsessed with finding the exact perfect green for the kitchen walls (not all of them – I didn’t totally lose my mind).  Yes, green.  Millions disagreed (well, most friends), but I stuck to my guns.  Green it was going to be.

Primarily I was inspired by this fabulous kitchen in Domino Magazine:

In fact, the above pic became pretty much the basis for the whole kitchen design (minus what appears to be a sink and stove top made for children).  White cabinets were a given and I have always wanted wooden butcher block counter tops, both because I love how they look and also because you can simply sand them down if/when they get stained (though having lived with them for nearly a year I can tell you that this whole ‘simply sanding’ thing is a bit a of myth – it’s much more effort than I would have thought).  I also started thinking about open shelving (thanks mom!), primarily because the kitchen opened up so much when we took down the upper cabinets that were blocking the light from the window.

Anyway…back to colour.

Kelly green, as above, was going to be a bit much in such a tiny space, but I was really loving the lime green from my set of Joseph Joseph bowls:

They still make me go a little weak in the knees when I look at them.  Really, I’m like a small child when it comes to brightly coloured stacking things.  Sigh.

So around this time I’m also taking summer courses as part of my fine art degree.  I was in ‘Open Studio’, which translates roughly to ‘do whatever you want’.  I was absolutely incapable of separating house from art and art from house – which is not really cool when everyone in class with you is around 10 years younger and looks at home renovation as something their parents do.  So I was questioning my reno obsessions as very unworthy in the context of 20-something art school angst about life and the universe.  Worrying over paint colour (and losing sleep over it – yes, really) seems very lame in the grand scheme of things.

The pivotal moment was when I had been staring at a test patch of Benjamin Moore’s ‘Tequila Lime’ for days and couldn’t decide if it was right.  Off I went to Home Depot to return with ‘English Apple’ from CIL.  I put up English Apple beside Tequila Lime and behold! – they were exactly the same.  I had finally lost my mind.

Of course, they weren’t exactly the same…

It seemed clear then that this was what my final art project would be based on – this moment when the absurdity and the obsession and the ridiculousness of the whole thing peaked at the point where I would choose the same colour twice.  The fact that I still felt torn between the two became an important part of illustrating how I am simultaneously repelled and seduced by home decor/renovation, as in, I know that more important things are happening in the world but I often spend more time worrying about flooring and paint colour than the national debt or world hunger.  I’m not proud of it, but there you go.

So I covered my studio space with alternating swatches of each colour – both a penance and an homage to my obsession:

And how did it end?  Tequila Lime baby…

But the panels I made in class now hang in the kitchen, a reminder not to take everything quite so seriously.

(one on the left is tequila lime!)

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how not to renovate – tip number 1

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1. Try not to spill an entire can of paint.

This may be followed closely by:

‘How not to renovate – Mom tip number 1’
(said in an English accent):

1. You must make sure the lid is on.  Why wasn’t the lid on?  Paint is expensive.
(And why were you shaking a can of paint?  That was rather stupid.  Don’t shake cans of paint.)

As illustrated above, yes, paint goes everywhere (thank god we hadn’t done the floors yet), and if you are unfortunate enough to have Sam nearby with a camera, he will feel that laughing hysterically and photographing your misfortune is far more fun than actually helping.

the kitchen in progress – learning, learning, and more learning…

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So here we are in mid-reno having taken down the upper cabinets and most of the plaster walls:

You’ll notice that we also removed all the plaster from around the chimney (actually, that area might have been drywall, though most of the house still had/has the original plaster from god knows when), thinking that some exposed brick might be nice.  Well, as you can see, the proliferation of disgusting pipes running down the side was a big middle finger from the house to us (there would be more): ‘Nice try aging hipsters! No trendy brick for you!’  So we boxed it all back in again.

I say ‘we’ but by this time we had roped in the first of what would be many amazing friends for help, advice, labour, and just to come and drink beer with us when it all got too much.

The wonderful Neal had almost singlehandedly demoed the whole interior while I was running around doing god knows what (Sam actually working to make money to afford all this insanity). In fact, so great was his enthusiasm that I did have to start writing messages on walls: ‘Leave me Neal – I’m ok!’

Here’s what the backyard was looking like by this point:

This is also when I learned to drywall, thanks to the exceptionally talented Matt, who is a professional, but also happens to be a friend.  He would come over and tell me what needed to be done, show me how to do it (having done the hard bits himself – usually by the time I had only managed to do something stupid like get the lid off a paint can), and then leave me to it.  Best teacher ever – not to oversell my rather limited drywalling skills.

But here’s the proof:

I can’t even tell you how proud I am that I learned to do this.  For an art girl with no useful or practical skills, this was a huge thing for me.  This is the point when I actually starting thinking ‘you know what? – we can do this!’

the kitchen: before

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Who doesn’t love a great before and after?  I live for them (don’t worry, pics coming soon).  I always knew our kitchen pics were going to be dramatic, basically because – well look, have you ever seen a worse ‘before’ kitchen?

It wasn’t even a question of not liking the kitchen beforehand – there simply wasn’t a kitchen.  God only knows what had happened to it, but someone, at some point had pulled out almost all the cabinets and removed/sold all the appliances, probably to buy crack or something (more on our neighbourhood later).  Well, that’s what it felt like standing in there – like bad shit had happened and everything of value had been pilfered a long time ago.  I’m assuming of course that there was something of value in there, once upon a time, long, long ago.

Anyway, we were left with some unreachable upper cabinets, a sink, and two cupboards of questionable origins.  Grossest of the gross was the interior of one with what looked like animal scratch marks.  Yes, really.

We wondered (not for too long obviously or we might never have returned) what could have got stuck in the cupboard.  A cat?  Too big.  A mouse?  Too small.  The R word was left unspoken (as in – AT).  Ugh.  I prefer not to speculate further.  In any case, that was the first thing in our newly hired dumpster (skip for my UK friends – I will outline later the trouble your language got me into when I would completely forget the North American word for renovation-specific terms – learned during my developing addiction to UK renovation programmes.  More on my TV renovation addiction later too…).  This is why there are no pics of the actual cabinet itself, just the disgusting interior – the cabinet itself didn’t last long enough!

The upside of all this was that of course, whatever we did was going to look better than before.  I could sponge paint the walls for Christ’s sake and it would still be an improvement (sponge painting makes me want to barf in case that’s unclear).  Really, the best part was that we could screw up however badly and it wouldn’t really matter – quite a relief when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

The biggest challenge was the size, and the second biggest challenge was not being able to really do anything about the size due to a) the bathroom being on the other side of one wall, b) the basement stairwell being behind the other wall, and c) the chimney – in use for the furnace – being in the middle of the wall and beside the plumbing.  So we were stuck with dimensions 12ft 9 in. long x 7ft 1in. wide.  Yes, TINY.  And of course some of the length is taken up with the hallway that runs through to the back door so isn’t usable in terms of workspace.

So what did we do?  Photos coming next post…

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