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Monthly Archives: June 2011

hammock post – epic fail

As most of you will have gathered by now, this is not a ‘how to’ kind of blog.  If anything, it’s a ‘how not to’ or ‘oh look, we messed up but it turned out ok anyway’ kind of an adventure.

Which brings us to our latest project: hanging the hammock.

Without trees in your backyard it’s kind of difficult to find an appropriate spot.  We have a very sturdy fence, but it was put in by the neighbour before we moved in, and as he yelled at me for leaning an old door against it last summer, I somehow doubt hanging a hammock would go over well.

So, hanging it from a post seemed to be the answer.

We dug a hole:

We (well, Sam) took out the nails from an old wooden post leftover from our demo:

We poured concrete:

How do you choose the right concrete?

Well, I was won over by the lovely gender-neutral dude/ette on the bag looking super happy and content with their concreting efforts (remember, this is not a ‘how to’ blog).

We even, like the dorks we are, put our initials in the wet concrete:

The next day, we hung hammock…

and the post fell over.

Epic. and total failure.

So – after some swearing and a few beers –  we dug further.

We found coal…

…and we bought a bigger, better post:

Fingers crossed…


stop press – new renovation starting july 1st!

I know, I haven’t even finished down here yet (or finished even updating this blog with our progress thus far), but sometimes life just happens this way.

Yes, our tenant upstairs is officially moving out!  Being on a fixed income it’s been difficult for her to find a place, but social housing has stepped in and – voila, a place has been found.  She’s happy, we’re happy, it’s all good.

So now  – more renovating!  I barely even remember what it looks like up there, but it is bigger, so we’re pretty excited to move.  I’m especially excited about getting my hands on the kitchen as there’s actually room for a table.  Imagine – a table!

Of course I’ve already been thinking about what we might do up there, but I didn’t want to get too carried away as I wasn’t convinced she was really going to leave (she’s been there over 30 years, so legally, and ethically, there wasn’t a lot we could do).  But now – all bets are off.

So, in the spirit of getting carried away, let me share my latest obsession, the most amazing decorating books we recently found at auction: House & Garden’s Complete Guide to Interior Decoration from 1970, and The Doubleday Book of Interior Decorating and Encyclopedia of Styles from 1965.

Holy crap were people more adventurous about decorating back then!  The colours, the patterns, the sheer BALLS of some of the design decisions will completely blow your mind.  We are so incredibly boring now in comparison.  What happened?  Did people live in their houses longer back then and were less concerned with re-sale than today?  Or were bright colours simply the trend?

I’m planning an entire blog post (or two) about them when I can access a good scanner (there are so many images there that need to be shared), but throwing photo quality to the wind, given today’s developments, here’s two kitchens from the House & Garden book that have rocked my world:

The colours are even more lurid in the book (really), but I think you get the idea.  I love the caption in particular.  Who wouldn’t want ‘vertical reaches of uncompromising orange and yellow’?  I also enjoy that fact that ‘efficiency loses nothing by wearing a vivid face.’  Too true.  But my most favourite part is where they refer to the Andy Warhol  as ‘a naïve flower picture’.  Awesome.

Then there’s this one:

Admittedly, it’s a little scary when all the cupboards are closed, but you’ve got to admire anyone who paints the inside of their cupboards blue, yellow AND red.  I also thought the layout of stove facing sink was pretty inefficient (though cool looking), but I notice they do have a tap beside the stove, which does seem a little ahead of its time – unless this was common then and is only recently making a comeback.

This section on kitchens was also entitled ‘Centers That Cater to Creativity’.  Nice.

Now obviously, these aren’t for the faint-hearted, but when one already has a lime green kitchen, where does one go from there?  Luckily the 70’s seem to have the answer…

goodbye edmonton – my work here is done

Yes – finished!

That would be the ‘after’ photo on the right.

So, you might notice that we haven’t got the closet doors back on exactly (we lost some screws somewhere, though now we’re thinking maybe they only had a few in before anyway – well, that’s our story), but I’m still really happy with how they turned out.  It’s a little bit Mexican, but not in an ‘Arriba!’ kind of way.

As you can see, we also switched the bed around.  I like that you can get in (or out) on both sides now, but the primary benefit is that your head is no longer right against the wall with the toilet on the other side.  You now avoid what used to be known as ‘the poo vent’:

Obviously, the room still needs a few things like blinds, and maybe a rug. Tiff found the blue fabric in the basement and we got the pillow at Ikea, but that was essentially all we purchased apart from paint, baseboards and 3 frames.  Tiff’s also currently trying to find the perfect white dresser after one those ‘one that got away’ kijiji moments.

(Oh, and please ignore the stain/wet area we cannily folded on the white bedspread thinking it wouldn’t be visible in a photo.  I managed to place something down on the bed that left a mark, Tiff got out the stain remover, the clock hit midnight, my flight was in the morning – we took the photo anyway.)

So it’s all pretty much finished, except for some art on the walls.  We bought some Ikea frames but didn’t have a chance to put anything in them (the ‘Ikea 1985’ you see sideways was a bargain ‘as is’ find – LOVE that section).  I hung them anyway as Tiff and Manny are of the ‘hang art wherever there’s a pre-existing hole’ school of decorating so I was a little afraid of what might happen in my absence.

Given that their wedding was over a year ago and they haven’t even had a single photo printed yet, I thought it was high time they did, so that’s what we’ve planned to fill the frames.  The fact that the wedding was in Mexico, and on the beach, meant that their awesome wedding photos (taken by the very talented Ricardo Bencomo Renedo) have some of the same colours as the room: yellow sand, blue sky and red bridesmaid’s dresses.  I think they’ll be perfect.

Here’s a few we’re considering:

But Tiff will have to figure out that part on her own, as, yes, I am now back in Halifax.

I hung the frames late into the night before I left, but essentially my work here is done (for now – my brother did end up buying a condo, so if someone wants to buy me a plane ticket…).

the home stretch

Tilly says - 'red is best'

With a brief break in the weather (from rain and an actual tornado warning – seriously), we managed to get the closet doors outside and bust out the red paint (Behr – ‘Brick Red’).

Is there really anything better than that first brush of rich colour on a plain white surface?  Delicious.

And thank god we actually found the energy to prime them earlier in the week or there’s no way we would have had the time, or the weather, to finish them.

The weather still wasn’t great, and the wind blew a variety of foliage on the wet surfaces, which was totally annoying, but luckily nothing stuck too much.

So with that out the way, we were ready to commence with:

Learning to Cut Baseboards.

As previously noted, Tiff didn’t even own a level, much less a saw (or workhorses, hence being weather/picnic table dependent), so she called up her amazing friend Dave and asked to borrow his table saw as we were going to try and install baseboards.  Well, luckily Dave both a) knows we’re kind of idiots and b) ignored our saw request, and brought over his chop saw instead.  Oh, riiiiight…no one ever said this wasn’t all a little bit technical.

After asking us how we planned on nailing them to the wall (um, a hammer?), he just laughed and then went to get his air compressor and nail gun.  Oh wow.  So here we were with two pieces of scary equipment (well, to us) that we had no idea how to use.  I thought Tiff was savvy with a chop saw, and she thought I was.  Wrong on both counts.

But we also had other more immediate things to worry about.  We had decided to try and replace the light switch and the electrical outlets. They worked, but frankly, they were gross.

The light switch was pretty straightforward (I just had one panic call to Sam in Halifax to double check – well, more like ‘hey, miss you, love you…by the way, if you were going to change a light switch…’), but the electrical outlets looked crazy wrong, even to our amateur eyes:

Ignoring the spray foam fiesta (also wrong, being highly flammable), there was a proliferation of wires, the silver ones just didn’t look right, and the whole thing was basically just very confusing.  Unfortunately, as we had disconnected almost all the power in the house – being ultra respectful/afraid of electricity generally – we couldn’t even google the problem, which is our usual source for answers of the  ‘how to’ and ‘what the f is this?’ variety.  We were too afraid to turn the power back on, as who knew what might happen?  Well, probably nothing, but we weren’t 100% sure.

So, Dave’s arrival with saw and nail gun was ultra fortuitous as we could actually ask someone who knows things (Dave is a professional renovator/house flipper).  The metal wires (Dave informed us) are aluminum (though a lot of you probably already knew that), which are bad news (and a lot of you probably knew that too), though not on an epic scale.  As Dave talked, the hamster in the back of my brain (where all my inaccessible and incomprehensible knowledge is stored, like math and french, and how to fix a car or play piano), started to whirl around the wheel, and I remembered our home inspection and the existence of one aluminum wire in our fuse box.

‘Pigtailing!’ I exclaimed like a crazy person.  Obviously I only remember technical electrical terms when they seem mildly cute and even somewhat silly.  Basically (and anyone with any electrical knowledge, please look away now while I make an ass of myself trying to explain things I don’t truly understand), pigtailing involves joining copper wire to aluminum as aluminum wire is BAD (could burn the house down) and copper wire is GOOD (will not burn the house down).  That’s the gist anyway.

Dave called his electrician to get the official low-down and sent us off with a list of what to buy.  We rambled idiotically in the electrical isle of Home Depot before being condescended to (probably quite rightly) by Bob, the resident Depot expert, who thankfully gave up trying to ask us what exactly we needed and eventually just took the list and tossed some things in the cart.  He then sent us on our merry way, but not before making us promise that it wasn’t actually going to be us who would be doing anything electrical.  Who us?  Don’t be silly Bob!

So back at the house we left the electrical stuff for Dave’s return and focused on finally getting the baseboards done.  We found an outlet that hadn’t been switched off by safety Tiff, and with a deep breath, started to cut baseboards…

And you know what?  It’s actually pretty easy.  Easier, certainly than painting f-ing stripes, though the chance of losing a finger is, obviously, higher.  But what a sucker I was all this time leaving the power tool stuff (well, most of it) to Sam thinking it was harder than painting or drywalling.  Ha!  No wonder most men are obsessed with power tools – they’re fun and they often get you out of doing the shitty jobs.  A revelation.

So here’s some proof:

Please ignore hair (couldn’t find elastic band) and sunglasses (ditto to finding safety goggles).

And a very satisfying before and after:

Well, ok, taken at different times of day on different walls (we were busy), but you get the point.

This was even more dramatic:

We removed the old, and were told, useless phone box.  We also ended up disconnecting the phone.  Whoops.

But apart from that little mishap, I have to say that there is nothing like cutting baseboards, solving electrical issues, using a nail gun, and then taking a quick break to change a diaper to make you feel like a superwoman…

An epic day all round.

the truth about painting stripes

Never let anyone tell you that painting stripes on a wall isn’t a gigantic pain in the ass.  They’re either lying, or they are perfect and therefore annoying and you should probably limit the time you spend with them anyway.

We measured.  We taped.  And then we looked at the tape and decided it was crooked.  And then we re-taped.  And it still looked crooked.  So we re-taped again.  And then made it worse.  And on and on, until Tilly decided to have a big poo and distract us (Tiff said I’m not allowed to post the photo but she was wearing striped pants in solidarity, and let’s just say, they weren’t striped anymore), and by the time we went back to it we just decided –  ‘f**k it’ – it’s done.

I should also mention here that we were working without a level (this is a house with Ikea tools), and most definitely without a ‘laser level’ (I always put in quotations things I think are over the top but I also secretly covet) as one internet hotpants assured us was vital for the process.  He probably created stripes with much less swearing though.

So, it’s done.  And they do look straight actually.  And the tip about painting the wall colour over the tape before your stripe colour is pretty genius.  A little of the paint bled through in some minor areas, but that’s mainly due to the fact that the walls are textured.

Measurement, however, was a different story, and I did screw up somewhat.  I thought I was being super awesome (particularly as math is not my strong suit) by picking a stripe width that would divide perfectly by the wall width.  That would seem smart right?  Right?  Well, it’s not.  Maybe, you, clever reader, have figured this out already, but what happens is you leave absolutely no room for error – which, as anyone knows when doing, well anything, is not a good thing.  So, by the time I got to the end of the wall I no longer had exactly 10.5 inches for the last stripe so had to fudge it a little.  But that will be our little secret…

cursin' and paintin'

So we’re calling it done.  Next up – we learn to cut baseboards.  And, surprisingly, it turned out to be easier than painting.  Who knew?

Canadian Honey Harbours

Phew.  So Honey Harbour by Benjamin Moore seems to have done the trick – not too pale, not too dark, not too yellow, avoiding peachy-ness and undertones of pink.  It had a lot to live up to.

Honey Harbour - only available in Canada

Unlike how it looks on-line and in the photos I’m about to insert, it’s a lot darker and richer in real life on the wall.  The white trim we’ve also painted really ‘pops’ – god I hate that term.  Ok, the white really contrasts, in a good way.

Now here’s a weird thing – the colour is only available in Canada.  Strange huh?  And the colour we originally went in to get – ‘Wood Ash’ – is only available in America.

Wood Ash - not available in Canada

Is it just the name ‘Wood Ash’ that market research has deemed wouldn’t go down well here? (too many forest fires?  – people saying ‘that’s not the colour of wood ash!’, getting angry, never shopping at Benjamin Moore again…)  Or do we just not like the colour? (except for me and Tiff who tried to get it)  What about ‘Honey Harbour’ not being available in the US?  Do they know more about harbours than us and thus will be skeptical about anything water-related labelled ‘honey’?  Are we so desperate for anything that sounds warm and sunny that we’ll happily suspend our disbelief about food products and sheltered coves and skip right ahead to thinking of sandy beaches and purchase anything that reminds us of hot climates?  Or is it simply that Benjamin Moore didn’t want to keep taking the ‘u’ out of harbour, and then putting it back in again for us up north?

Questions abound.  Someone fund me to do a PhD on this topic asap!  (‘Cultural Colour Preferences as Evidenced by the Benjamin Moore Paint Chip’ perhaps?)  The world needs to know.  Actually, I do think a book on cultural colour preferences would be fascinating, though someone’s probably already written one by now.

Ok – the room progress!  I know thousands of you (ok, maybe 6) are dying to know what’s been happening.  Well, you may find this shocking, but having a 2 month old does delay progress somewhat.

But the weather was good, so we removed both the main door and the closet doors and were able to sand and prime them before a major rainstorm hit.

Tiff primes while Tilly supervises

The bedroom door did get painted (white), but the closet doors still need to be done (it rained, and we had no red paint, just a test pot).

We also sprayed the hardware silver, as the brass colour was just not going to work with the red we’ve chosen for the closet.

These did get rained on later, but I think they’ll be ok.

So finally, we got the room painted (this took us 2 days instead of 1 – hence no post yesterday).

Got the door back on…

…though it was a bit more epic than anticipated.

Got distracted while waiting for paint to dry, and decided to do the hallway closet door as well:

This is ‘before’ – obviously I hope.  We’re planning on using the tester pots of Powell Buff and Cable Knit – mixing them together and adding in a little white to make it go further.  Crazy?  Maybe.  We’ll find out.

And then finally, FINALLY – we did a stripe:

It looks a little weird here, but I promise, it is straight!  And the colour isn’t accurate of course, but we are definitely in the Farrow & Ball ballpark (ha) when you have the computer in the room:

I’ll sort out proper lighting and photos when we’re done – no time to fart around in photoshop now.  Stripes and red doors wait for no one – onwards!

a stripe of inspiration

After a minor blip flirting with the colour ‘Cable Knit’ (too dark and also a little disturbingly band-aid like), finally – a breakthrough!

Taking my friend Brady’s advice (she is actually never wrong), I checked out Farrow & Ball’s website.  There isn’t a distributor in Edmonton (though there is one in Dartmouth, of all places, which I will be checking out when I get home), but the website was enough for inspiration to strike.

Thinking about the multitude of tester pots we have now acquired, the answer was obvious – stripes!

Here’s a gorgeous Farrow & Ball wallpaper that we’re hoping (hoping) to replicate, or at least draw inspiration from:

Pretty snazzy huh?  (Actually my new decorating word of the day is ‘sophisticated’ – said with sage like authority and associated head nod.)

At a hefty $175 (US) a roll, plus shipping etc., it definitely seems worth trying to give it a whirl with paint instead.

Trying is the operative word here however.  Luckily advice abounds on the ol’ interweb, and the wonderful Centsational Girl has gathered the best tips and tricks for painting stripes, which is good news for me as being both an anally retentive perfectionist, and prone to impatience and sloppiness, I may just lose my shit if this doesn’t turn out perfectly.

Speaking of, I better get to bed as tomorrow is a big day in the Butler sister’s decorating world.  We’ve even – in an attempt to stay on task (sorry, can’t even believe I just wrote that) and, well, motivated – avoided opening the can of our new, and now committed-to colour: Honey Harbour – purchased, I should add, without first trying a tester pot.

I know!  We’re totally wild.  But there’s only so much testing you can do before you have just bite the damn bullet and go for it.  Plus we don’t have the truck tomorrow.

So, off to bed with me, though I have actually painted myself out of a room to sleep in.

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