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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…

we have a new pantry…oh, and a new baby

Posted on

Yes, it’s been quiet for a while on the blogging front.  Surprisingly, having a newborn is not really conducive to spending hours naval gazing about your renovation. I know – shocking!

Some people manage it, but I have no idea how (see Young House Love for folks we love to hate – their weekly photo project of their daughter is damn cute, but as I could barely dress myself during my first month of motherhood, such things were beyond me).  I had to wait a while as this blog was in grave danger of becoming about parenting as looking after a newborn actually does take up EVERY minute of your day, and thus is pretty much all you think about.  But frankly, I spend enough time now obsessing about being  a mom on Facebook, email and in ‘real’ life, that I don’t need to write about it here too.  Plus, the hilarious Amy Morrison at Pregnant Chicken has that shit covered.

But without further ado, here’s what we made:

Ok, she’s not always so red and angry (not always…), but she does have, let’s call it ‘personality’.  Here she is looking more angelic:

Her name is Finley Rose, though we usually just call her Fin (or the monster/poo machine/peanut, depending on the day).  Yep, she came out with a shock of red hair, and without much drama (though she does drama quite well now thank you).  But she’s pretty much amazing and awesome.
We did good.

So…back to the house.  It’s been easy to forget sometimes that we live in a glorified crack house, but there’s nothing like family visiting to remind you of all the projects that are still ‘in progress’.  I feel like I spent weeks constantly apologizing and explaining – ‘oh right, that shouldn’t really be there’ and ‘yes, that’s supposed to be painted/fixed/less dangerous/not a hole’.  It’s amazing what you learn to live with and then just forget about.  Whoops.  My mom and my two sisters were here (My dad declined: ‘why would I want to go to Halifax in February?’  Why indeed.  And my brother also stayed home, ’cause brothers are like that.), and as Fin was almost 2 weeks late – cue feeling unbelievably sorry for myself and other pregnant dramatics (idiot, someone should have told me it only gets harder) – my family and I had a lot of time to discuss what still needs to be done to the house.

My mom, always one for a project, took on the pantry at my request.  She has a thing for pantries (we’ve never had a house without one, which in North America, is something of an accomplishment), and ours didn’t really look much better than when we first moved in:

Ok, it looked a bit better, but I don’t have any photos.  The walls had been painted, but not the ceiling, and the floor was still the same, as were the gross shelves.

Cue supermom.  She’ll hate me for doing this, but here she is installing floor tiles to match the rest of the kitchen (I think she looks cute, but she’ll be horrified she’s ‘on the internet’):

She painted the ceiling, put up new shelves, reorganized everything (or I should say organized – there was no ‘re’ about it as it had just been a dumping ground), and even bought me a new broom and hooks to hang it on.  Actually, they all made me buy a new broom as mine was deemed ‘dickish’ – though I had bought it at a home show from a guy giving a demo with a headset (when are they ever wrong?) and thought it was the bee’s knees…

So here’s the pantry progression:

Before

During

After!

Hurray!  It’s not gross anymore, and now there’s actually room to put stuff.  Even the random crate of tools we’re too lazy to keep in the basement has a place (though why we need a saw in there I’m not quite sure).  I even have somewhere to put non-kitchen stuff, like rolled paper and canvas, bottles, and diapers, which is great, as there is only one closet in this entire apartment, which, as you might expect, is full.

There’s also room for the vacuum that I desperately need.  I know, I know, I don’t own a vacuum. Don’t judge – it’s a long story involving wet dog smell and carpet that I SWEAR crept into the vacuum I had so I had to get rid of it, even though, yes, no one but me could smell it.  Anyway, now I live in a house that smells like dirty diapers so I guess the last laugh’s on me.

So it’s not quite finished – my mom will kill me for posting photos without the final shelf up (there’s a small one for spices and it still bugs her that she left without having time to put it up – hmm, guess where I get my obsessive personality?), and she wants us to round the edge of that wooden counter top as she says it looks ‘stupid’ as it is beside the window –  but really, if I waited to post this until it was totally finished we might be waiting another 4 months…

It may not be a design marvel (despite the poster of cheese varieties I recently re-discovered and put up – I know, check me out!), but it works.  There’s even some lovely mom touches that I only noticed after she’d gone:

Labelled!
Thanks mom, you’re the best.  I should have a kid every year – just imagine how much you could accomplish!
Ok…no.

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…

14.

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.

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…

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