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Category Archives: Upstairs

paint it black (well, some of it) – a finally functional upstairs kitchen

So I finally got the balls to paint a wall in the kitchen with black chalkboard paint…against the advice of mostly everyone.

I had a slight wobble half way through when it looked like crap and I thought ‘what the fuck am I doing?’ (is there anything worse than a wishy washy ‘not quite’ black when decorating?  It’s like when you try and match black clothing and discover you’re wearing about 4 different shades of dark grey) – but I loved it when it was finished and had the second coat.

black wall

We’re not finished here (hopefully somewhat obviously), as we’re planning a cabinet above the range hood and few decorative tweaks (so ignore the wire ok?) – but now I realize that for blogging purposes this is all a big ‘so what?’ as I haven’t even properly documented the upstairs kitchen at all.  And of course I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo of the white wall in my haste to get started; my excuse being that with an infant, when the planets align and you get time to actually accomplish something not mom-related, your brain is just saying ‘GO GO GO!!!’ and you don’t want to dick around composing blog photos.

Just imagine a very blah expanse of white.

So my big moment (well, in my world) was a bit anticlimactic for ‘reveal’  purposes – except, I suppose, if we go right back to the beginning (like we should have in the first place).


kitchen in progress   new island close up

Ta Da!

Can you even believe the stove used to be there?  It was just all freestanding crazily against the chimney brest sticking out from the wall like it might start to walk across the room.  Insane.

The above is actually also a recent development as we only just got the kitchen island seen above – an amazing $80 auction score (it’s the Ikea Varde unit).  Before this completely serendipitous purchase a few weeks ago, we were still using the blue drawers our former tenant left behind that Sam had raised up on a base:

sam making cabinet basenew:old cabinet

It looked kind of fun, and served us well for the past year, but it wasn’t particularly functional.  The drawers didn’t really open or close properly, and having the table so close (I don’t think the above photo is representative of the table/drawer proximity) meant it was pretty much unusable as a surface when anyone was over – plus, who wants to face the wall when working?

We were actually planning on putting the Ikea unit right where the blue drawers were, but something clicked when it was delivered and placed in the middle of the room, as in: ‘why not just leave it here?’.

A revelation.

new island

I then decided to use my leftover chalkboard paint to cover the disgusting sink cabinet doors (chalk artwork thanks to 4 year old Georgia who was visiting), and the whole kitchen was completely transformed.  Here’s a tip though: if you, like me, pretty much only ever wear black, having white chalk on cabinets that you work in front of is not the smartest idea.  Duh.

We tried to use the old kitchen table (another parting ‘gift’ from our tenant), but it was too squished between the wall and fridge (or we were too fat to squeeze into the chairs), so we dusted off our old teak dining table from the basement (you might remember it downstairs here).

new kitchen table

Much better.  Plus I missed it.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much more functional this layout it.  It’s changed the way we use the kitchen (as in, now we hang out there), and actually makes me want to cook a lot more.  People aren’t constantly underfoot as we’re preparing food but can hang out and enjoy our scintillating conversation!  Everybody wins, right?  Amazing what just having a work surface can do (especially one with a view out the window).

So finally, just because they are so gross, and thus make me feel better about life (well, my life NOW), here’s photos of the kitchen as it looked when we first viewed the house:

kitchen first viewingkitchen first viewing 2kitchen first viewing 3

The photos are a little weird and fuzzy as we felt a bit awkward taking them.  It’s not the most comfortable thing to photograph someone’s place as they’re living there – well, if the place looks like a shit hole (we’re not talking about shooting an Architectural Digest feature which would possibly be uplifting, and use better lighting).  So the pics are a bit ‘stealth’ – but I think you get the idea of what we started with.

And here is what we were left with when we moved in (you might recall, or want to review how the whole place looked here  ):

kitchen in progress 2 kitchen in progress 3 kitchen in progress 4

It’s always reassuring to look back on these when I feel like nothing is progressing around here.  I look at these and think, damn – we’re doing ok…

table from windowblack wall  view to pantry  new island

…but note to my mom friends coming over this week: it’s definitely not going to look this clean by tomorrow…


’tis the season for getting sh*t done…

…or, ‘in awe of the male nesting instinct…’

So…wow.  You ever live with someone for nearly 10 years and then they go and do something – or a series of things – that totally blows your mind?  Yeah, well, turns out I’ve been living with a secret carpentry/renovating genius all these years and had NO IDEA.  Until now.  Not that he didn’t do a lot before, but nothing like this (and with remarkably little swearing).

To re-cap, in the past 3 days, Sam has:

1. built shelves in the living room for the record collection

2. built a desk in the study/nursery

3. added two new storage shelves in the study/nursery (- what the hell are we going to call this room?)

4. finished the trim in the bathroom

5. installed all the quarter round and moldings for the hallway baseboards

6. installed new light fixtures

7. replaced all the thresholds on all the doorways

8. cut all the doors to fit the thresholds

…and a million other small things that have been bugging the shit out of me since the summer.

Here’s the pile of records you might remember:

And, voila (which is what it felt like – I think I maybe had time to go to the corner store and they were done)
– here’s the new shelves:


Bathroom trim and other improvements:

– which might not look like the biggest deal, but remember what we had to cover up here after the tiling was ‘done’:

It required either an entire new row of tiles to cover all that crap at the top, or a very WIDE piece of trim.  We chose trim – and I no longer feel I need to pee with my eyes closed.

And really, how did I live with that light fixture for so long?  Gross.  We’ve had this $5 bargain from Walmart ready to install for about 4 months now…

New medicine cabinet is on hold (oh, and Sam built new shelves for that too – I’m telling you, he is on FIRE).

But why are there not pictures of everything Sam accomplished?  Because he’s too damn fast, that’s why.  By the time I get my lazy ass in gear and waddle over to take a ‘before’ picture, it’s already been transformed into an ‘after’.  Oh, and in the case of the study/nursery I still need to organize things so the photos do the new desk justice – we are almost there (as in the room no longer looks like a craptastic dumping ground), and I have recovered from my nursery panic/frenzy – hence building of desk and not change table, though it could be both.

Sam is like a man possessed.  Let no one tell you it is just women who get the nesting instinct.  Oh no…I’m too busy feeling fat and eating candy on the couch for that (especially now the gestational diabetes test came back negative – horray!  candy for everyone!).

Give a man about to be a dad a saw and a nail gun and magical things can happen…

slow progress, but some progress…

So, we’re still here, though the renovating has slowed to fits and bursts – largely dependent on a) if anyone is coming to visit and b) if something just drives us crazy enough so we finally fix it.  I’m becoming surprisingly tolerant though.

Actually being back in school (or college for you guys in the UK – they think ‘school’ is for kids) is taking over all my spare time, and I actually want it that way.  When the view from your studio looks like this:

is it any wonder you want to spend all your time there?

When the baby comes I’m going to be stuck with the house (and in it I guess), but I only have less than 2 months (2 months!!!) to finish my fine art degree.  It feels like a race against time to empty everything creative in my head into amazing art projects before Christmas while I still have the chance.  I’ve actually had profs say ‘you won’t make any art once the baby comes’ and similar scary prophecies on a ‘children will ruin your life plans (oh, but they’re great too)’ theme and it’s stressing the beejezus out of me.

The fact that most of our light fixtures are mere dangling wires no longer seems to concern me (well, not as much).

The house is basically functional, though we still have no shower (all baths, all the time – it’s like living in England again), and until a week or so ago we had no heat.  Or, more accurately, we either had full blast heat, or none at all (which explains our crippling heating bills last year thanks to our last tenant obviously thinking extreme heat 24/7 was perfectly normal).   Turns out, the thermostat was actually connected to – nothing.

Crazy.  Nothing as pedestrian as actual wires, just stuck there like an ornamental relic.  For show, I guess.  Though nothing much surprises me about this house anymore.

So that was more money (as we are, as I might have mentioned, electrically challenged), though I’m trying not to think about it.  Finances are dire, and the only job I’ve been able to find is one hour a day at minimum wage in the Craft and Design office at the University.  So I might be able to spring for a new pair of socks to at least keep my feet warm.

But doom and gloom and dashed dreams of art careers aside…let’s see some before and after pics of the living room:

Yes, that would be the entire record collection piled precariously in the corner.  We’ve bought some shelves, now we just need to actually put them up.

Oh, and the wicker chair (scammed for free, left out in the rain, and not exactly ideal but nevermind) now replaces the matching green chair some of you might remember when we were downstairs.  Unfortunately, the crack it always had in the leg finally gave out and it’s been regulated to the nursery/office (which, frankly, is just a fancy name for ‘room of crap where Sam tries to study’).  The sofa is also making suspicious and very worrying creaking noises so we finally broke down and bought a new sofa this summer, which will arrive in about a year – or so it seems.  We were told 6 weeks, put down our (non-refundable) deposit, and then were called the next day and told it was actually going to be 16 weeks.  Nice.  So I keep forgetting we bought it at all.  I’ll update you all around Christmas time.

Yes, that is the door to the room we took off still propped in between the windows.  We can’t seem to agree whether or not to put it back on or not, so it sits there in limbo.  And that isn’t a sculpture in the corner on top of the speaker, it’s actually a lamp (made by my great aunt in England and shipped over with us) – just with no wiring and no lampshade.  Add it to the list…

Finally, of course, let’s not forget the hole:

It might not be the most professional job in the world, but hey, at least I don’t have a hole in my ceiling anymore.  One day (!) we might take down the entire dropped ceiling in this room and repair the original ceiling, but that, my friends, is somewhere near the very bottom of a very large list.

Oh yes, and we will put a light fixture here eventually.

Back to the studio…

a holiday from renovating – but no renovation fairies when we got back

I know!  Unbelievable.  We opened the door from a weekend away…and…nothing.  Place looked exactly as much of a gong show as we left it.  Stupid lazy reno fairies.  They’re probably busy over at HGTV, or, more likely, at ABC on Extreme Makeover, renovating for people with real problems who save lives or have life threatening illnesses.  Jerks.  They should come here!  I once stopped Sam from crossing the road at a pretty dangerous time, and I am suffering from a really bad cold…

So, we went away on a mini holiday for the weekend as we didn’t really take a break all summer.  We’re now both back at school full-time, which, strangely, almost feels relaxing compared with the chaos of the past few months.

We went to explore the wonders of Cape Breton and the natural glory that is the Cabot Trail, which, when Carly and Sam go, inevitably, looks something like this:


But the house REALLY needs some attention, and just in case we weren’t feeling motivated, we have friends coming to stay next week.  Yikes.  Luckily they used to live on a boat, so I’m certain our shortcomings (no shower, limited space, no storage) can be overlooked.  It will mean getting some art up on the wall, however, as I am sick of a) not seeing it, and b) tripping over it.

I am promising myself that I will post some photos by the end of the week – if only to kick my ass in gear.  If I haven’t actually done anything (likely), then I will simply photograph what hasn’t been done.

And yes, all this is just a lame cover to hide the fact that again (again!) my camera battery is dead and I can’t photograph anything now.

(I have in fact bought a new ‘fancy’ camera for art purposes, but as it uses my old Nikon lenses – I was too cheap/poor to buy a digital lens as well – it still works as a fully manual camera.  Using a light meter to record the fact that you’re too lazy to have replaced baseboards anywhere in your house just seems like overkill.)

results are in! the energy audit, insulation, and some random updates

Ok, first off, can I just say how excruciatingly difficult it’s been to renovate without beer this summer?  Nightmare.  Just had to get that in there.

But moving on…or backwards I guess…the place still looks like a complete crap explosion so I’m not sharing any photos yet – well I might if I’m feeling especially sadistic – so for now I’m just going to catch up on what happened before we moved in.

You might remember my floor ‘experiments’ with white paint:

Well, basically I just ignored everyone’s advice and simply did another coat.  It turned out fine in the end, just a bit demoralizing when everyone stepped on it in their dirty work boots.

And that’s the carpet Sam bought at auction that he believes ‘fits’ the room.  Any excuse for a new rug…

But that room – which was the office and is now the ‘office/nursery’ (babies are small right, surely they don’t need a whole room?), is basically finished, which is why it’s now filled with everything we don’t yet have storage for.  (I posted a pic of that here, and it’s too depressing to repeat)

Our bedroom, however, is not finished.

Just to remind ourselves, here’s what the bedroom looked like when our tenant moved out:

We had to take down the plaster on the end wall as it was basically falling off anyway.

The rest of the plaster in the room was pretty grim too, but after dealing with it downstairs I was pretty confident that I could patch it to an acceptable level.  It’s called ‘character’ – just in case anyone was wondering…  And I’ll take some photos once I get off my lazy preggo ass and get round to it.  Yep, now I’m starting to show (had my first stranger ask when I was due – a bold move on his part to be sure), I’m using pregnancy as an excuse for Everything.  It’s awesome.

Obviously in an ideal world (which I sometimes fantasize involves buying a new house – I mean New), the plaster would be taken down and replaced with drywall and the walls would be insulated.

Oh!  Which reminds me – I never shared the results of our our energy audit!  You might remember we had the big fan thingy here so they could see how energy efficient, or not, our house is.

So, results are in, and out of a possible maximum score of 100 we scored…

drum roll please…


Yes, 14.  14!  Out of 100.  We may as well be living in a tent.

I think the scoring system goes something like this:

100 – You are a perfect person living in a perfect house (I hate you and want to move in)
60-100 – You are a normal person living in a normal house.  Good for you.
40-60 – You have insulation – congrats!
under 30 – Drafty shack.
under 20 – Bus.
14 – Tent.
under 14 – You live outside.  Let’s hang out.  We’ll build fires.

So we got our skates on (and our line of credit) and got ourselves some blown-in insulation.  I really should have photographed the process as it was pretty epic, as were the fabulous grandpa-like guys in charge of it all (I got in trouble for flirting with them from Sam – I couldn’t help it!).  But I didn’t.  I generally suck at this ‘let’s photograph this for the blog’ thing – in case you haven’t noticed.  Again, let’s blame pregnancy.  I also regularly lose either the camera or the memory card, or the cable.  Sometimes all three.

So now the walls are actually insulated!  Very exciting.  But the bedroom wall still looks like this:

(Note carefully cropped photo so you don’t see the world of disaster I’m standing in to take the photo – the stereo speakers are still in here for goodness sake.)

And yes – that’s just wooden lathe behind the headboard.  The thin fabric-y cover was put there by the blown in insulation guys when the insulation they blew in started blowing right into the room.  Whoops – I may have forgotten to tell them we had a wall missing.

I guess we’ll probably have to do something about it by winter.

ready to move? hell no. but let’s do it anyway.

So let’s rewind a little bit and update on what happened (or didn’t) over the past few weeks.

The biggest debacle turned out to be the bathroom (no, it’s still not finished).

As we ran out of money to pay a handyman friend, we had no choice but to finish it ourselves and embarked on a romantic day of grouting.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of shit (I’m told the technical term is ‘adhesive’ or ‘mortar’) to scrape off first.

Two hours later (yes 2 – less said about this the better), we were finally ready to grout.

Now, I have since learned that grouting while pregnant is possibly one of the worst things you can do.  The instructions said to keep away from children, but that didn’t compute in my brain into keeping it away from unborn children.  Yikes.  I didn’t even wear a mask as it doesn’t smell toxic, or like anything really.  My friend told me her grout said it was only harmful to unborn children in California, so I’m hoping that means a fetus in Nova Scotia will be ok…

So yes, in a nutshell, the bathroom renovation has turned into a gong show with all sorts of frustrating, fetus-harming, and upsetting repercussions.  And we had no choice but to move in without it finished.

Luckily Sam was able to get the toilet in just before the big move,

with only one minor flooding crisis.  Impressive.  So we had a toilet, but no working sink or shower.  Which also meant that we weren’t able to re-tile or put new floor in the downstairs bathroom as we were still showering down there until the day before our tenants moved in.

But such is the fun of renovating.  Or so I’m told.

With only one weekend remaining before our tenants were moving in and Sam working almost every single day and night (someone has to pay for mom and baby’s growing addiction to KFC chicken burgers), we had one free Saturday to move so we put the call out to all our amazing friends.

Were we ready?  Hell no.  Were we even remotely packed and organized?  Don’t be ridiculous.

Our idea was that a handful of friends would sporadically show up, help move the large items of furniture, and then we would, somewhat leisurely, bring up the rest in a civilized manner over the course of the week.  Our friends, on the other hand, had very different ideas.  Arriving in droves starting at 9am they were like a military operation on steroids.  Random containers were used to ferry everything from books to that embarrassing crap you find lurking in drawers but can’t throw out, emptied upstairs and then filled again.

Unbelievable, wonderful, total chaos.  Everything got moved.  EVERYTHING.

And so – boom, we were moved.  We had no shower, no stove, no bathroom sink, no door on the bathroom, and no idea where any of our belongings had ended up.  But it was done.

Never underestimate the power of a keg of beer.

the real reason this reno is making me tired, grumpy, and generally nauseous…

Yep, that’s really a baby.  And yep,  it’s really ours.  And it’s also making everything reno-related very very difficult!

It’s the reason we had to hire painters.  It’s the reason we had to hire our friend Nick to tile the bathroom.  It seems that babies cost you a lot even before they’re out of the womb.

Apart from the whole ‘don’t inhale toxic chemicals’ thing, I’ve basically just been too exhausted to do anything, and avoiding dangerous toxins, heavy lifting and general precarious ladder acrobatics in order to ensure my unborn child doesn’t develop three heads has provided a handy excuse to just lay on the couch.  The guilt, however, is not so easily excused, so on top of being extra hormonal grumpy, I’ve also been extremely frustrated at not being able to do what I did last summer and it has been driving me a little crazy.

It’s been 12 weeks now of feeling like a nauseated angry zombie.

So that’s why this reno has been slow, and at times, very unenthusiastically attended by yours truly.

But I am, finally, starting to feel better as I head into lucky number week 13.  And just in time too – 9 days left before we have to move in.  9 days!

Time to suck it up and get cracking.  At least my reno shorts are elasticated.

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