Sunday, December 18, 2016

Kitchen Update

Might as well start with an update that has nothing to do with the kitchen, as the title states. It is our new - old pocket doors. The house originally sported a set of glass pocket doors separating what was then, an interior bedroom and the dining room. Somewhere down the line, someone decided to take it upon themselves to remove and sheet rock over one of the doors, then added hinges to the other. 

We moved the wall further into the bedroom and combined our living and dining space into one, rather than having the "parlor" at the front and the dining at the rear of the house. And in doing this, we had some fresh new framing in which we created new pocket doors. They aren't quite finished, but it is good to see more sunlight making its way into the bedroom.

And now onto the kitchen update. As my 4th Ikea kitchen build, it seemed to go by much more quickly than the previous three. But perhaps it is simply the knowledge that it is the last big kitchen build. 

It all went fairly well, that is until I attempted to hang the cabinets by my self. I think I was in a low blood sugar fueled delusional haze when I hoisted my first cabinet up 9 feet into the air, rested it on top of the ladder and expected all to go smoothly. 

Needless to say, that cabinet spent the night on top of the ladder. And in the morning, I wrestled up some help from Christopher and together we managed to hang all the uppers. 

I was then able to continue on with the base cabinets while he was in rehearsal that evening. 

I built out the fridge cabinet with some 3/4" plywood I wheeled down the block. We are lucky enough to have a contractor's supply store up the street from us, and I was lucky enough for them to let me use their giant wheelie cart and sail two giant pieces of plywood home. 

When Chris got home he hung the doors while I finished installing the drawers. 

The next project was building the island. 

I attached a platform built with 2x6s to the floor, after many micro adjustments in placement. I added some panels, which will get painted, and built out a dishwasher enclosure. We are almost there. 

My mom was in town this week and we took a tour of various stone yards/fabricators. I've had several (ahem, 5) years to think about counter top material, so I was only moderately immobilized by the fear of making the wrong choice. 

Here's our piece of Danby Mountain White Marble. 

Up next, super ugly bookcase gets a budget (free) makeover. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More floors

Wednesday - All the wood flooring is laid and ready to finish. 

We have floors everywhere including inside our walk in closet. 

Friday - Minor setback: I received a tragic text while away for the week; a bleach bottle "exploded" on our new floors. I find it a little hard to believe that in a 60 degree room, a bottle of bleach spontaneously popped, but that was how it was presented to me. Regardless, whether it was an explosion or a pneumatic nail, there is a pile of sawdust on the spill and several extra hours of work. Oh well, nothing new. I am currently fighting the Expediter so a little bleach spill is small potatoes. 

Tuesday - Sanding has commenced upstairs and is finishing up in our unit tonight! Bye bye bleach spot! We love our floor installer. He is working hard tonight to finish all the sanding so that he can put our first coat of sealer down tomorrow! No stain for us, we're keeping it light and natural. 

Tuesday UPDATE - Whoa. First coat is going down tonight!! 8:30pm and he's still rocking!

Next Week - Build and install kitchen cabinets and then source our counter top. I can hardly wait. I got the building itch and already put together our bathroom linen cabinet. I just can't wait! Hopefully I will be an Ikea box building machine this weekend. Until then...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Flooring progress and 1st floor work

Busy, busy bees have been at work this past week. The flooring installers have made some major progress. It has been exciting for it to all come together and see how it changes day to day.

Day 1 - 2nd Floor Apartment livingroom, first pieces

2nd Floor Apartment progress looking from bedroom into living room

2nd Floor Apartment - living room installed
2nd Floor Apartment - bedroom finished

I experienced how much quieter it is underfoot while switching off all the lights upstairs after the craftsmen went home. I hadn't even thought about "quieter floors" as a perk! It is logical of course as a new secure layer has been installed on to what was a single layer of gaped flooring. We never had a squeaking issue per say, but it was a bit like my joints after a long run, softly creaky. But no more! The floors are on turmeric (happy hippie Advil)! It was a little eerie, I am sure to get over it quickly though. 

While the floors went in upstairs I was trying to finish patching up our window woodwork in our first floor living room. 

The wood paneling  below the windows were in better shape than upstairs, but still cracked and mottled with mystery holes. I swear, someone once upon a time, had a twitchy trigger finger and a power drill. The trim work however is new, as the old came off in order to insulate around the new windows, and was then salvaged to finish out the upstairs apartment in entirety with matching original trim. So much of it was already missing from our unit that it made the most sense to preserve it all in one unit, upstairs where it was needed. I am feeling pretty good about the results. I still have one final run before calling them FINISHED. 

It was pretty dreamy painting clean, new trim. Shhhh, don't tell. 

The flooring installers have since moved onto our unit and things are getting exciting!

Living Room sneak peak

Do you love the view of our storage room filled to the brim next to our living room? The fridge is indeed currently operational. Our bedroom however has been relocated completely into the basement as they started laying the floors in there today! 

Yes, that is early 1990s vinyl used as underlayment for the floors. It was already there, in good physical shape (mentally I can't comment), and a bit cushier than what is going in elsewhere. It is flat, even and tight, spandex for the floors. The floors are being nailed in so it didn't pose a problem to leave it, no more heat gun glue floor removal for this gal.

While the work continues upstairs, we are currently living a 6 year old's dream as our basement living pace became a giant pillow fort this week. Our mattress has become sleepover central as it is set up on the floor between the couch and floor. Sophie Dog is in Hog heaven. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Floors and More

Ding- dong! Who's there? Floors, wood, hard, awesome. Hi-lo.

We had a big delivery today! All the wood, underlayment, polyurethane, etc for our floors arrived. We've got two big glorious piles of wood just waiting to lay on down. The wood will acclimate to our house for a few days and work will start on Monday ( is Monday now, and spoiler, floors going in are glorious!). It is going to be a little tricky living at the house during the install. The second floor won't be any trouble, but we are still sleeping in the bedroom on the first floor and the only running water is on the first floor as well. 

Just look at all that glorious wood! 

We've tackled more difficult situations but the thought of moving completely into the basement isn't a favorite. We'll hold out until the bedroom is the last room left to install.  The second floor will also be the first sanded and sealed. Once it comes time to finish the first floor, we'll either clear out for several days, or in a dream world, we'd have a working toilet and sink upstairs and just camp out upstairs. 

But my joy can't be tampered by potentially tricky living situations (aka no toilet). We've lived through it all at this point anyhow. So, I am nearly bursting at the thought of our finished living room floors, I even giggled out loud when I saw the feature strip wood stacked into the space next to the oak. What is a feature strip? Oh man, only my favorite part about original old flooring. Here, for example:

image from Billy's Floors

The photo above is a bit wider than our feature strip, but the angles around our bayed window and the coloring is just about identical to what our finished floor will look like. We chose to go with a 3/4" Peruvian walnut for the single feature strip. Our white oak will be left natural and finished in a clear water based poly. I love the high contrast and think it will look perfect with the dark stain I have on our windows. 

This beauty below was featured on and has me more than a little envious. Look at all those beautiful details, the carved wood screen between the two parlors definitely does it for me. And yet, to me, the simple inlay around the edge of the floors seems just as thoughtful as all the other wood work.  

While we can't afford crazy detailed mill work and paneling, nor would it be entirely fitting of the home and its original middle class neighborhood construction, we can place a few details back into the property to bring it back to life. The living room is our modern day parlor, our public space, even though it has moved to the rear of the house and combined with the dining room. These public rooms are where the decorative elements make the most sense, and from a budgetary standpoint, will be worth the most. We have a few other small details that we'll add back in, but more on that later. 

Monday, October 31, 2016

While Waiting...and Waiting

The perpetual wait for our plumbing inspection leads me to believe we'll never be finished. However, things are looking up in terms of the inspection happening soon. For real this time. Probably. Maybe. 

I finally convinced our plumber to give me his expeditor's phone number so that I can stop playing a sad version of the kid's party game telephone; going from Expeditor #1 - Plumber - Contractor - Me - Expeditor #2 -  and back again. It was infinitely frustrating. Expeditor #1 needed some specific changes on a few of our documents filed with the Department of Buildings, but every time those specifics were relayed to me, they turned into, "the paperwork is incorrect, I can't tell you exactly why", which then was related to Expeditor #2 with his charming response of, "nothing is wrong". This went on for MONTHS and Expeditor #2 even made changes, but somehow managed to screw it up again. I wouldn't recommend him as a door stop let alone to file paperwork that needs to be free of errors. This man filed my parents' building plans with the wrong address, which has led to numerous delays for them as well. 

That trauma drama aside, I am trying to finish up all of the tasks on my to-do list. 

Final coat of paint went on the rear bay windows today. Still waiting to finish the front windows; I have an appointment with the Marvin Window tech for a few latch and lock issues. But here's the view from the back:

They turned out rather pretty, but what a nuisance it was to paint them. I would never order windows unprimed again.  Hopefully I won't be putting that hard lesson learned into practice, as we shouldn't have to install windows again.

I also finished painting all of the doors upstairs! Oh how they sparkle and shine. 

I also have begun the annoying task of installing our HVAC vent covers. Technically the HVAC contractor should be handling this, but they aren't allowed back in our house. It is a small price to pay to keep the ignoramus away. I'll paint them the ceiling color when I touch up the ceiling closer to completion. 

And I making lemonade out of all the punctures in our bedroom wall their reckless behavior created. This portion of the wall is next to the vestibule and gets chilly. So, I used their Swiss cheese to add insulation. 

In other news, Sophie is helping us pick out flooring. She votes white oak. I approve of her choice. We're going with a 3.25" wide plank to reflect what was originally in the house. Remember all those hours I spent scraping glued down laminate tiles off of the floor? (I still have flash backs to the gas mask, heat gun, and chisel.) Turns out I succeeded in creating a nice and even sub floor, but the floor itself, can't be salvaged. It will remain in place, acting as the base for our new wood. 

Oh and what glorious wood it will be. The upper right quadrant of the photo depicts the white oak going in on the first floor. We are going with the lower left quadrant, red oak, for the upstairs. It is slightly less expensive and very similar, just a bit more pink in the undertones. For now, I think we'll do a simple sand and seal, no stain.

I am going to purchase the wood tomorrow morning and couldn't be more excited.  WOOD WOOD WOOD WOOD! We had some help early in the week getting the house ready for the wood delivery and install. It is a bit of a tricky puzzle since we are still living on the premises and there are building supplies everywhere. We did manage to move everything either onto a tiled surface, into the basement, or onto a portion of oak flooring that exists in our unit that we will keep, and sand down at the end of the install. I hope to have photos of our house with real floors soon. Even more hopeful of a passed plumbing inspection. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Taking a Break

I discovered number one rule to home renovations these past few weeks. It isn't planning, budgeting, scheduling, etc. Nope. What is the number one rule you ask?

Take A Break.

Do it. Your body, mind and soul will thank you.

Step away from the full immersion in dust, debris and general upheaval.

It took traveling half way around the world to Botswana to realize I hadn't been sleeping. We went on a 10 day safari after spending a night in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Only when surrounded by wild animals in the pitch dark did I come to terms with the horrible lack of sleep I have experienced over the last two years.

Elephants fighting, not a problem. Territorial lion calls, no biggie. Chatty hippos, bring it on. Screaming prey and hungry predators, these were the lullaby I never knew I needed.

Granted, I am a light sleeper and towards the beginning of our adventure, woke up many times over the course of the night. However, I didn't lay awake spiraling into a tizzy of worry over finances, design errors, measurements, part ordering, etc. Nope. Those were things that had very little to do with the life and death struggle of the African landscape that I found myself thrust into. Best experience of my life.

Plus, we had hot water.

Oh heavens, and the lodgings were SO much fancier than I'd anticipated. We'd brought headlamps and snacks expecting to be camping. Instead we found running water, electricity, solid floors and in most places solid walls, windows, doors and the decks with the views! I've included a selection of photos from our safari lodgings, in chronological order,  while in Botswana. If you're interested in animals and nature photos, feel free to check out my instagram. Once I get the house under control again ... hahahahaha ... I'll put together a more comprehensive post on our full experience. Best. Trip. Ever.

Chobe Game Lodge 
1. Bedroom 2. Private Bath
3. Public open air lounge space 4. Plunge pool
Savute Safari Lodge
1. Viewing deck and plunge pool 2. Room
3. Dining
4. Private deck 5. Private bathroom
Moremi Wildlife Reserve
1. Bedroom 2. Private viewing deck
3. Private bathroom

Camp Okavango
1. View entering lodge via boat 2. Private Room
3. Bedroom 4. Private viewing deck
5. Bathroom 6. Public open area lounge

Leroo La Tau
1. Room 2. Bathroom
3. View from bathroom
4. Dining area 5. Bar

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Counter Top Kerfuffle

Dang it, dang it, double dog dang it. I just want one instance of this project to go smooth as country churned butter. Today has been a series of unfortunate events, the most frustrating of which was in counter top land.

Originally when I was contacted for the counter tops to be scheduled for install, they wanted to come today, Monday. At the time I told them it was a no go and asked if they had Tuesday available. Sure, they can work that out for me. Fast forward, or if looking at it from today, rewind; I received a call Friday with our install window, for MONDAY. Fine. I would work it out. I can manage to be home between 3-7pm, I just want them installed, and if they are coming Monday, let's get 'em in. They also informed me the dishwasher was out of level and thankfully I had a meeting set up with our general contractor. Turns out the cabinet run with the sink was a smidgen low so this morning, our contractor and I spent a little time rehanging and leveling the snot out of them. Wipe hands, walk away triumphant. Now. Today. Two o'clock, while AWAY from the house, I get calls and texts from Christopher who was supposed to be at work by 2. Guess who showed up? Come on, it is an easy one. That's correct, the counter top installers!! Sure, not a huge problem until I am told there is a nub on the back of one piece that was either measured incorrectly or something was different about the set up when it was measured. 

Yeah, that doesn't look quite right. There seems to be a little somethin' somethin' extra up top.

Ok. Breathe. I ask, can't they just cut into the drywall and slip it into place? Nope. They won't touch it. Alright. So now I am racing back to the house so Christopher can get to work, hoping I can convince them to stick around while I cut the hole or convince them to cut the nub of shame off and install it. 

Update: After dashing home from Satan's sauna, aka the subway, I get some great news. Christopher, using his wiles and charms, convinced the installer to cut the nub off without pulling the middle men into the picture. Or perhaps he threatened them that I was on my way home and wouldn't let them leave until they fixed it or I cut it off myself. Snip, snip? He was probably just sweet.

Here's a peak at the pretty new counter tops, with sink and faucet. (Come on plumbing inspection!)

New dishwasher still under wraps, just waiting for everything to get hooked up.

This beauty of a faucet was originally intended for our apartment unit. I got it at a steep discount as it is an older model and the new design lacks a very faint shell imprint on the handles. It is Kohler and super sturdy and lovely. I couldn't find anything that cost less for the upstairs rental without getting into something with plastic valves. So, we decided to use this one upstairs and spend the extra on a faucet with a polished nickel finish to match the handles and knobs in our unit. I like it equally as much, I think. I'm now doubting my choice seeing this gorgeous large gooseneck installed. 

A parting shot of Sophie Dog checking it all out. Check, check, check. Approved. She tells me I need to get to work on the backsplash. She wouldn't be wrong.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

1st floor electric... Boogie, Woogie, Woogie

You can't do without it, It's electric!

But oh how we've tried. 

First off, let me say, even though we've been living in the middle of the renovation for months, OH THE MONTHS, nothing has been quite as disruptive as the hoards of electricians that descended upon the house last week. Christopher likened them to a swarm of ants. I total felt the same every day after resweeping and cleaning all the excavated dirt they removed from the mound drilling holes into the walls running our new wires. I am chalking it up to the sheer numbers of them that were working here at any one time. It's a cramped space for living and working and so far the crews have maxed out at 3, maybe 4 at a time. This past week I counted 6 guys crammed into our front hall on various ladders opening walls, threading electric and getting us set up for one big and beautiful addition; our new electric panel. TA-DA!

We've got our very own spaghetti monster. Aside from keeping the basement ceiling from looking like the rats nest of yore, this will beauty now gives us all the breakers we could ever dream of, will be super convenient to access if we need to reset something, without having to bother a future air-b-n-b tenant or potential voice lesson in the basement. 

And what do all these gloriously safe electrical wires go to, why all the lights and outlets of course! I'm so excited. We've been living with scary dangling bits of wire here and there, sparking lights that we've all together abandoned using, outlets that mostly don't work (but were still connected to power). For example, our refrigerator was connected to a surge strip, connected to an extension cord, plugged into the only good outlet in 500sq ft. Granted, we still have some hurdles to traverse, like our only functioning bathroom. Feast your eyes on this beauty. 

I know, I know. You're totally envious of the workers light attached to the shelving unit housing not only toiletries but water bottles, coffee paraphernalia and a dish drying rack. Not to mention the moldy tile in the shower and tremendously beautiful sink and medicine cabinet we are sporting. Did I mention you can make coffee while sitting on the toilet! Not that we do mind you, but you could...

Now to the real starts of the show, our new lighting layout. It may not seem like much, but after living with a total of 3 lights for the last few months (one of which was a motion sensor only that sort of turned on sometimes and mostly never turned off), we can see at night without tripping over the dog as she darts around her secret lair.

The kitchen ceiling prepped for a new center light and two pendant lights that will hang over the sink peninsula. 
The living room with it's new light holding place for our swanky ceiling fan, and a spot further towards the windows for a chandelier on a dimmer.
Hall lighting on a three way switch! We're movin' up.

We even have a light IN the closet. Oh yeah, our closet is big enough to need a light. What?!

Here's something completely alien to us; a light in the stairwell going into the basement. I think Sophie Dog enjoys this one most as she has started running up and down the stairs on her own. Probably should have been a clue to us how dangerous it was.
Now a parting shot of the new bathroom with pot light over the shower, ventilation fan and ceiling light. I feel

Did I mention the electrician even hooked up temporary bulbs for us so we don't have to wait until drywall is installed to have fixtures? We love our contractors. If I had been allowed to do the wiring here, I wouldn't have given us that little luxury. You're welcome Christopher.