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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).

Drumroll…

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…

teaching an old door some new tricks

So, to recap (as I realize it’s been over two months since I’ve posted anything, or  done anything – let’s be honest), this is what we were dealing with:

x 2 don’t forget.

Are you excited yet?  Yeah well, I was tired just looking at it.  So I tried not to.

I got around 4 quotes to replace the doors – hoping, as you do, that someone will give you the answer you want, but it was no good.  I didn’t realize that it’s not the doors themselves that are that expensive, it’s the installation that costs a fortune.  Given our neighbourhood, and the weather, it’s not something you want to dick around with.  We did install new back doors ourselves…actually, not really as we had our friend Matt (of downstairs kitchen-reno fame) who helped us.  Ok, he really installed them while we ‘helped’, but even he had trouble and he’s amazing.  Old houses and new doors are not always the most compatible.

In any case, when the energy audit happened, the guy told me that the doors were fine, and actually the least of our problems (you might recall we scored a spectacular 14 out of 100).  To be honest, I was a little bummed by this, as I was hoping for a good excuse to replace them.  Sigh.

So here we are.

It only took two and half months, (actually, I’m not even being grumpy about that – sometimes time stands still when you have a newborn), but we finally did it.  Newly painted doors!!!!

Horray! Take that crack house!

(…and for those who care about these things, the colour is Origins Staffordshire Blue: http://www.originspaint.ca/colour/)

And I almost forgot, a big thank you shout out to www.prettyhandygirl.com for the tutorial on how to paint doors.  I’ve been winging it for so long, I thought it was probably time to look up the professional way to do it!

no one puts baby in a crack house

– except us apparently.

Given we have a child, it’s probably time to address the indisputable fact that, from the front at least, our place looks like a crack house.  I don’t know why having a baby means you feel the need to have a cuter house, but you do.  Call it a strange hormonal side-effect, or just feeling weird entering what looks like a former drug den (because uh, it is) with our new million dollar Bugaboo yuppie stroller (I joke, but that thing rocks – thanks Geoff and Powell , best gift EVER), but the exterior of my house is depressing me.

Truth be told, Sam actually likes it this way as he sees it as a free security system.  He’s right, I suppose, but we (ok, I) can only live like this for so long.  I want a pretty house!  Well, at least not a crack house.

Up to this point I have avoided posting any photos of the front of house as I’ve just been plain embarrassed.

But ok, deep breath…
here you go:

Pretty bad right?

‘Curb Appeal’ is still a mystical notion we have yet to get a handle on.

Making it worse, we live in a neighbourhood and city of very cute wood shingled, brightly coloured homes.

via Property Guys (was going to take my own photo, but that would mean leaving the house – not that easy these days, plus it’s raining)

Yes, many of them used to be derelict and as sketchy as ours, but we’re rapidly becoming the worst house on the street.  Yikes.

So, ideally, we would like to pull off this god-awful vinyl siding and replace it with cedar shingles.  Unfortunately, we really should replace the windows first, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon, so we’re pretty much stuck with the siding for a while. Plus, there’s nothing actually wrong with it, unless you count the level of embarrassment I feel every time I have  to explain to people that we live in the ‘mint green’ house.

At least I no longer have to say ‘the house with the mailbox falling off’ as my sisters finally replaced the mailboxes for me when they came to visit.  But I do come from a long line of embarrassing house monikers, as my childhood home used to be identified as ‘the house with the Christmas lights up all year round’.  Ah yes, procrastination, you are genetic…

Obviously, paint seemed like the solution.  I got beyond excited picking a colour scheme and settled on grey with yellow doors and white trim.  No one was that enthused, but yellow is what the doors should be according to feng shui (yeah I know, but it narrowed the choices), and grey seemed like a good choice for a house that is not, and never will be ‘cute’, but could be what you might call ‘handsome’.  And imagine a window box with some red flowers.  You with me?

Sam was a hard sell until we started watching Casino, and Robert DeNiro was sporting the same colour scheme:

house colour inspiration? why not!

This is when you press pause and go ‘SEE? It can work!’  And voila, Sam was on side.

Here’s a few other better (but less fun) examples:

via Holly Smith Interiors

via fric and frac

via PeaHen Pad

Now, ideally I wanted the dark grey as above, but with a slightly softer, less acid yellow.  I got totally carried away and collected about a million colour cards (it’s like my new hobby) until I finally talked to someone at Benjamin Moore who told me that, actually, you can’t paint vinyl siding a darker shade than it already is as it will absorb more heat from the sun and then warp.  Shit.  Cue deflating balloon.

So I could go white, or really pale grey, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as merely getting dressed and having a shower is a challenge these days, painting the front of the house is just not going to happen.  And it’s definitely not going to happen if the colour is a boring compromise.  Let’s be realistic (for once).

Project ‘I don’t want to live in a crack house’ take two…

Stuck with the mint green siding, and feeling that I might actually find the time to paint the doors, I started thinking differently  – what about blue?  This image was the inspiration that pulled me from my despair:

via design-vox

Back for more colour samples:

We’re deciding between Benjamin Moore’s Staffordshire Blue and CIL’s Arctic Night – neither of which I can find on-line.  Annoying.  And they look completely different in the photo above than they do beside me here on the couch.  Imagine them darker like in the ‘inspiration’ image above.

Anyway, this is all the fun part.  First I have to actually tackle the door trim which is, oh boy, a little desperate, and more than a little overwhelming:

Fun times ahead…

’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…

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.

end of an era, but ready for tenants…finally!

A HUGE sigh of relief as downstairs is finally ready for our new tenants.  And not a moment too soon – they arrive in about 2 hours.

So strange to see it empty of all our stuff.  It’s like going back to the beginning before we moved in and pretending it always looked this way.

We finally did all the little things we’d been meaning to do for ages: re-caulk the tub, paint the baseboards, put the heating covers back on the heaters (I know, ridiculous).

But it’s the end of an era…

This was just heartbreaking to erase.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, however, our ‘new’ place upstairs looks like an episode of hoarders:

Don’t even ask how we’re able to manage actually living here.  I’m not sure myself.

Updates (embarrassing as they are) to follow shortly.  You probably won’t be surprised to learn that in the cyclone that seems to have erupted, I temporarily ‘lost’ the camera.  I took photos with my phone for a bit, but now that cable seems to have been swallowed – somewhere.

Anyway – oh crap, tenants are here – early!

Onwards…

final photos of downstairs

– well, until we do something drastic down there, like in 5 years.

So, I never posted any photos of the living and dining room as it never really felt finished.  It still doesn’t.  But now we’re about to move upstairs (in 2 weeks – god help us), so as much as it bugs the hell out me, this room just has to be documented as is.

So here goes…

First of all, that light fixture is not supposed to be there.  It was (was) a three pendant thingy that hung over the dining table before we decided to swap the living and dining rooms.  Then, being too lazy to switch the light fixtures, we left it, where it hung, precariously low.  You might guess what happened next.  Yes, Sam banged his head into it, and now we have two pendants, twisted together to move the whole thing out of the way.  Classy.

But here’s the same view before we took the wall down:

So crazy. I can barely believe it used to look like that.  We pulled up all that lino and the plywood underneath it, sanded and stained the floors, and replaced the window.

This is how it looked when we just finished (though still with the old window) and were so excited to finally have a place to sit (at this point we were living in the bedroom all the time – I don’t even think the kitchen was finished):

The floors looked ok when we were done, but they were freezing.  There were gaps in the floorboards pretty much straight down to the basement.  I started to realize why they covered the bare floorboards with layers of plywood and lino in the first place.  Stupid modern folks like us trying to have trendy bare floorboards and then freezing our asses off.  Serves us right really.

As usual, I went to the internet for some solutions.  This Old House had a video tutorial for filling the gaps with rope. Apparently it’s an old shipbuilding technique.

So, I tried it.

I kind of like how it looks, but it’s definitely not as easy as whatshisname makes it look on the video (welcome to my world), though granted, it’s not rocket science.  But as a solution for cracks and heat loss, it is, as my sisters and I would say, a bit dickish.  We’re going to have to insulate from below anyway and probably lay down new floor – eventually.  The areas where we had to fill in with new pine floorboards where the wall came down (see first photo above) also really bug me, though Sam likes how it looks, for reasons unknown.  ‘Rustic’ maybe.

Here’s the view from the other side:

So, imagine that the proper low dining room light fixture is actually hanging over the dining table, there’s not a huge hole in the chimney, and that the art is hung and centered properly (it was, but we didn’t move it either after we re-arranged the room – hence the lack of anything above the sofa).  The strip of wallpaper you see is what we found when we removed the strange half wall that divided that room:

Now THAT looks like a crack house.  I’ve probably said this before, but sometimes I look at these old photos and am still amazed that we so nonchalantly took all this on.  Sometimes I still think we must have been out of our minds.

But you know, there isn’t much that white paint can’t fix.  Or at least make tolerable.

I can’t wait to move upstairs though.  The dining table currently doubles as our desk and work space, so actually never looks like it does above (as in, empty).  I confess – there was a pile of crap on the floor behind me when I took the photo.  I’m not a huge fan of ‘staging’ photos of your home as it often just looks staged, and thus ridiculous, but in this case it was just too awful and embarrassing to leave as is.  I’m so looking forward to having the extra room upstairs for a proper office.  We will lose a dining room, but as this room was pretty much not functional as a dining room anyway, it’s not really a loss.

Sam’s record collection is going to be a problem though.  You can’t see it, but that Ikea shelving unit is currently held together by a wing and a prayer (also known as plywood and glue).  It barely made the move across the room so I don’t fancy its chances going upstairs.  Apparently you shouldn’t store crappy pressboard shelving in a damp barn for five years and expect it to be ok.  Live and learn.

So that is it for downstairs.  We have tenants moving in on September 1st and we’ll be going upstairs – where the chaos continues…

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