Archive for the ‘home improvement’ Category

One Piece Away

29 June 2011

The kitchen is one piece away from being finished.  Today I went to Home Depot to send back the piece they’d sent, which was wrong, and had them order the correct piece, which will take who knows how long to come in.  But the kitchen is FUNCTIONAL!

The key thing making the kitchen finally functional is the sink.  I picked out a stainless steel double-bowl sink with a lower-than usual center divider.  When I washed the dishes tonight I was thrilled that our largest skillet fits entirely inside the sink!  The handle of the skillet would have stuck out if the center divider went all the way up.

Check out the spiffy faucet!

Anyway, the end bit of the faucet, where the water comes out, pulls out to be used as a flexible sprayer, and can be used for spraying or streaming water, and you can pause the water with the upper black button.

But I am getting ahead of myself.  If you come to visit us, your first view of the kitchen will be as you enter the dining room from the living room, and as you turn you will see the wide opening into the kitchen like this:

What you see first

Open and inviting, I think!  We will probably get some sort of curtain thing to go on the window in the back door, but we need to think about what we want.

Ok, so in the sink photo, you can just see the edge of my tea kettle.  Here is the full view of the “sink wall” with the tea kettle, since I made my tea IN THE KITCHEN this morning instead of in the dining room!

At the lower right corner you can see where the missing piece will go.

I imagine that Greg’s coffee maker will go on the right like it was before.  I think I will get some shelves to go on the left, under the cabinet, for my tea tins and infusers and stuff.  Hmm, IKEA?  Also, we will probably put a curtain on this window to match the one on the door window.  And Greg suggested some sort of stencil or mural across the soffit, which could continue onto the stove wall.  Well, we will see.

So as you look around to the right, you will see the “stove wall”:

I've closed the basement door for the photo

We plan to put pots and pans in the drawers to the right of the stove.  To the left of the stove, as you may recall, is where the garbage and recycling go.  Somewhere along here we will put the spices, and the utensil bin on the counter, and you may notice that the under-counter lighting has been turned on.  When I cooked dinner tonight, I used the vent and light on the microwave oven!  It was so nice!  But again, I am getting ahead.

Continuing around to the right…


I took this photo kind of high so I could show the mini-fan again (see previous post) and our LED lights.  We’ll eventually put magnets back on our fridge, but for now we have only a timer and a beer-opener.

OK, so the final view is this:

Looking into the dining room and living room

Here you can see the back of the peninsula, and the phone, which we plan to replace.  The dining room table has been temporarily squished into a corner but will be moved back to the center of the room soon.  Where you see blank wall in the dining room, we’ll put the chest of drawers that contains the table linens and the wine opener, and we’ll hang the large Chinese painting.  We definitely have to do some thinking about where things will go, and maybe also about what things we don’t actually need.

The cutlery drawer!

I have already decided that our flatware goes in the top drawer nearest the dining room.  Greg hasn’t disagreed (yet) so maybe it will stay there!  I got one of those “expands-to-fit-the-space” organizer things from Bed Bath & Beyond.   But I didn’t stop there, I made dinner!  I made tofu and vegetable stir-fry, with the first of Greg’s beans from the garden!  Which reminds me I have to do a blog post on this year’s garden.  Greg has done a lot of planning and a lot of work on it.


Oh yeah, the other thing that happened today was I got a haircut.  The stylist blow-dried it straight, but once I wash it again it will be wavy again.  I like it, and I hope I like the salon enough I can keep going back there.  It made a good first impression, and was very inexpensive, so that’s a good sign!

As I was saying, however, here I am cooking, with a handful of beans that Greg just brought in from the garden.  And wearing an apron my mom made, and drinking red wine, of course. I am really happy now!

Nearly Finished

19 June 2011

Well, I AM finished with school for the summer, but the kitchen is only nearly finished. Check it out!

First, some details:

New ball valves

The kitchen sink now has new ball valves instead of the kind with the round knob that you have to turn a bunch of times to open or close all the way.  Of course, I had to test these out when they were first put in, so I leaned over to get a good close view and I turned the knob…and immediately sprayed myself, the ceiling, the inside of the cabinet, and the window with water. DUH!  If anyone else had been there they would have gotten a very good laugh, but I was alone so I had to laugh at myself.

Hidden trash receptacle

Next to the stove is where we will keep the trash.  There really isn’t a place to put a trash bin in the kitchen, so this is a good compromise.  It is near enough to the peninsula where we will be doing food prep, and we can put recycling into the second bin.

They open ALL THE WAY!

Apparently, this is how they make drawers these days.  They open all the way so you can see what is in the back instead of having to feel around for items.  What you can’t see here is that you can’t slam the drawers shut.  Old drawers wouldn’t have that problem because they are too high-friction (I’m thinking of the ones in my parents’ kitchen) but modern drawers have bearings and tracks and slide super-easily.  So when the drawer is almost all the way in, a mechanism engages that slows the drawer and closes it gently and quietly.  I have stood in the kitchen and opened and closed the drawers multiple times because I find this fascinating.


To me, a pantry will always be the pantry in my parents’ house, which has tall glass-fronted cabinets where all the plates, glasses, bowls, stemware, fancy china, etcetera are stored.  There is a giant flour bin that tilts out from under the counter, cabinets and drawers full of linens, paper plates, candles, plastic wrap, cereal, liquor, and sometimes cookies, and it provides passage between the dining room and the kitchen.  However, our new “pantry” is a tall and deep cabinet with these handy pull-out shelves (which also pull out all the way) where we will keep our rice and flour and sugar and other supplies.

Under the sink

Under the sink we have a place to put sponges and dish soap, and shelves for more cleaning supplies. It looks so nice!

Also in the sink photo you get a good glimpse of the new flooring.  It is environmentally-friendly “marmoleum” from Forbo which is basically linoleum (linseed oil and pine sawdust from renewable forests) on MDF HDF and with a cork backing.  It will gradually get less yellow over the next few weeks as it is exposed to light, and will finally settle on a color that Will selected for us (the Footprint Architecture guy) which is called “Carribbean.” It is mostly kindof sand-colored with swirls of darker sand and also blue that matches the trim color.  We like it!

So anyway, the kitchen now has all the appliances back in and we are waiting on a few pieces to be delivered:

  • A replacement filler strip to go over the fridge-and-pantry, since the original strip was the wrong color
  • A wider filler for between the dishwasher and the wall, since that space is too large for a regular filler strip and too small to put anything useful into
  • The butcher block slab for the peninsula
  • The manufactured quartz counters for everywhere else

However, here are several views of the nearly finished kitchen:

The "sink" wall, with dishwasher in place

The "stove" wall

Over the peninsula, into the dining room

One of two cute mini-fans, and two of four LED ceiling lights

We have not made any decisions about window treatments for the window or the door to the deck, but that may happen later this summer.

Some progress

13 June 2011

This is the last week of school so I am feeling a little under pressure here, but I wanted to at least post this photo:

so you can see the paint job and the handles on the drawers.

The flooring was put in today and the microwave oven is in place, and the counter top people came and took all the appropriate measurements, but it will be another two weeks for the counters to be done.  I think the electrician is coming this week to put in the fans and the LED lights and I have no idea when the plumbing will be done and the stove hooked up again.

I’d go into more detail but this is the last week of school, as I said.  I have work to do!

A Little Progress

1 June 2011

We love coming home each day to see what has been done to our kitchen.  First, the new wall got its studs, and the ceiling came off.  This was a little surprising, since we thought just the icky part of the ceiling where the leak had been was going to be patched, but the decision was made to take down the whole ceiling.  This makes it easier for the electrical work, which includes 4 recessed lighting fixtures, two mini fans (24″ span) and a pendant light.

Oh look, it's the bathtub drain!

Then some cabinetry was placed, and today the electricians were here all day installing outlets, moving outlets, moving the phone, moving light switches, and making sure there was wiring for the under-cabinet lighting.  They were here longer than expected and didn’t quite finish.  They’ll be back–particularly since they are also upgrading our service to the level of “most modern homes,” or 200-Amp service.  This raises the total cost, of course.

Drawer unit with flooring sample

Cabinets on the "stove" wall, with space for microwave

Cabinets on "sink" wall

New phone location: next to pass-through

Meanwhile, we have acquired the new microwave, the counters have been ordered (though we haven’t go all the cabinets in yet so they are not templated or anything like that), the natural linoleum-on-cork flooring should be in early next week, the new sink has been delivered, we’ve been to Ikea once, Sears twice, and Home Depot over and over again.

Dinner has been a daily adventure as well.  We’ve discovered a Mexican restaurant we really like, we’ve been to the local diner, we’ve been to our local Bertucci’s, we’ve had several nights of sandwiches, and we attended a potluck Memorial Day picnic which we contributed snacks and veggie burgers to.

A note on photos—I will be uploading a more complete set to flickr at some time in the near future.  Also, I will certainly continue keeping you updated here!

New Adventure

26 May 2011

We are having the kitchen redone.

Here is our old, horrible kitchen:

Pieces kept falling off!

The stove (Greg was making dinner)

The refrigerator and the basement door - awkward!

There were other problems as well, like a lack of storage space, the leak from the bathtub upstairs, and the not-very-helpful lighting, to name a few.  The bathtub leak was fixed, but it left an ugly legacy on the ceiling.

So we hired our friend Will of Footprint Architecture to draw us up a new plan.  The plan involves moving the door between the dining room and kitchen, adding a pass-through, moving the refrigerator to a different wall, moving the stove a little to the right and putting countertop on BOTH sides, adding a peninsula, and new, strong cabinetry with a lifetime guarantee!  It will make more sense once you see it.

Today, the contractors arrived after I left for work (Greg stayed home) and started demolition. This is what it looks like now:

No sink, no cabinets, part of the wall gone

No fridge or stove, and dangling wiring

Oh, THERE it is! How odd-looking.

So, we also have the microwave and toaster oven set up in the dining room, and the coffee maker and electric tea kettle.  But we will have to fill the coffee maker and the tea kettle from the bathroom, upstairs.  We have all the new cabinetry waiting in our garage, but we don’t have the new flooring yet.  We still need to get the sink, the countertops, the new lighting and fans, and the new, over-the-range microwave oven.  I am hoping for some Memorial Day sales this weekend!

Tonight, we are going out for dinner.  We do have a grill, but are reluctant to have to wash dishes (since that will also have to be done in the bathroom) so we probably won’t do a lot of cooking.  I have laid in a supply of paper plates and bowls and cups, for the interim.

Watch this space for more photos and updates as things progress!

Kitchen plans

27 June 2009

Last night we picked colors and materials for our kitchen re-do, and the next step is to schedule meetings with contractors for estimates.  We waffled on this project for a year, and it’s true that once my husband finishes his degree program in two years we may be moving to an entirely different city, but our cabinetry sucks (it’s el cheapo quality), the laminate is on the wrong kind of wood next to the sink so it’s swollen from moisture, the layout isn’t great and the lighting is awkward.  Also, we don’t have room to store things the way we want to.  So we are going ahead with a re-do.  If we do move, maybe it will raise the price we can get for the house when we sell it.

We’re moving the door from the dining room over a bit, which will allow some storage changes in both the kitchen and the dining room.  We’re adding a pass-through, putting a “peninsula” in, moving the fridge to a different wall, and adding more cabinetry.  We’re scootching the stove over a bit, so we can have countertop on both sides of the stove.  We’re adding manufactured quartz counters around the sink and stove, and butcher block on the peninsula.  We’re raising the microwave oven off the counter, putting cork-backed linoleum on the floor, and re-doing all the lighting with LED’s.  The door to the basement will be re-hung to open from the other side of the frame.  The walls will be painted my favorite color, yellow, with blue-gray baseboards and door trim.  The quartz counters have been chosen so they won’t show coffee splashes:


We’re keeping all our major appliances, since we have bought them all since we moved in.  The original stove had burners that didn’t light and seemed to take an hour to boil water for pasta, so we replaced that first, with almost the same model my parents have.  Then we replaced the aged dishwasher after the original kept getting “errors” and quitting mid-cycle.  Most recently we replaced the refrigerator, which failed to keep ice cream bars frozen, to my intense disappointment one day.  It is really hard to buy a decent-sized fridge without an automatic ice maker and water filter option, but we found one.

Yes, we know it will be a major pain to be without a kitchen from when we take the old stuff apart to when we get the new one completed.  But we are willing to go through the suffering.  Yes, we know these things typically take longer than planned.  We have a budget and we are willing to deal with the mess.  Still, wish us luck!  I’m sure we will need it!

The Reveal

28 March 2009

For a few years I watched a lot of TLC’s Trading Spaces, with host Paige Davis.  Each show featured neighbor couples trading houses for a couple of days, and with the aid of a designer and a carpenter (such as Ty Pennington) completely re-doing a room in their neighbors’ home.  At the end of the show, the homeowners would return to their own houses, and there would be a big moment when they had to uncover their eyes in the refinished room.  Eyes would bug out, some people cried, some were horrified but most were delighted.

A high point for me happened when one of my students was on Trading Spaces: Family (where families with kids are the participants, as opposed to couples) hosted by Joe Farrell.  I still have that episode on VHS, I believe.

Well, now that we have our first guest staying in our new guest room, I am ready to reveal to you the redesigned room.  This is the room that used to be intensely blue, the one where I scraped the popcorn ceiling over the summer.

We planned the room around the quilt my grandmother quilted, so the color of the walls actually comes from a color in tiny details in the dark green bits in the quilt.  You can’t see that color in the quilt in these photos.  However, the color also provides a link to the bedding, which is from IKEA (as is the EXPEDIT room dividing bookcase.)  We moved the futon up from the basement, where it has been replaced by beanbags.

Here we go:





So, I still need to hem the curtains, and hang artwork (some of which still needs to be framed), but there you go!  Revealed!

PS: the things on the windowsill are veggie seeds being started indoors.

Curtains, DIY

5 August 2008

I spent last weekend sewing.  My sewing machine hasn’t seen this much use since the summer the National Constitution Center opened.  That year my dance group was performing as part of the opening festivities around July 4 and we needed to be in authentic colonial garb.  You can see another of our historical-interpretation performances here and here.  In a hurry, I made my own colonial-style ladies’ jacket (I already had a shift, skirt, and apron, but I’d been wearing them with a more modern lace-up vest with grommets—uncool for colonial re-enacting).  I’m wearing the colonial jacket in the second video linked above ,but I’m not in the first video.

Now my pins…they have NEVER seen so much use.  I spent way more time pinning than I did sewing, and I used a LOT of pins!

Anyway, the weekend’s first projects were hemming pants so I won’t step on and consequently wear out the ends of the legs, and hemming my colonial skirt so (a) I don’t trip on it in performances and (b) I don’t have to roll the waist into a big lump around my middle.  Perhaps you who haven’t met me are now figuring out that I am short.  Yep!  And while I know I won’t be one of the cool kids now that I won’t wear out the end of my pants legs, that is OK seeing as I am not a kid, and I am a science nerd, so I am not expected to look cool.  Professional, that’s the word the school administration and the union both use when talking about how teachers dress.  We don’t have to wear ties, but we have to look professional!

The much bigger (and more time-consuming) project was the curtains of the title above, which I started making a little under a year ago for my office.  I went curtain-shopping, and the curtains you can buy in Bed Bath and Beyond are generally ugly or in unsuitable colors to go in a yellow-painted room, and the ones you can buy at Target generally have only low odd numbers of curtains available.  You can buy one, or three, but not four (the right amount for two windows).  At least, this is true of the curtains available in the store.  Online, there may be more options, but you have to buy them without touching them or seeing the colors in person.  With two stores struck out, I didn’t have the enthusiasm to continue my search at K-Mart or WalMart.

So, my only option was to go the do-it-yourself route.  I measured my windows (happily, both are the same size even if they are at different heights), bought café rods and put them up, and planned my project.   I needed to allow a one-inch space for the curtain rod, I wanted some extra fabric at the top, I wanted the hems just above the stool (the part most people call the sill, but which our buyer’s agent explained to us isn’t when he was helping us buy our house), and I wanted the curtains to look full even when all the way closed.  I also wanted  reasonable light-blockage, just in case.

I chose two fabrics and bought enough of each for two curtains, so I could make them striped.  I bought enough of the lightest muslin I could find to make four curtains.  That would be the liner that would help block more light, or that I could close separately for privacy while still letting some light in.  First, I cut the front fabrics to the appropriate lengths, and sewed them together in four-stripe panels.  I decided which end was the top end and made sure I had two sets with the greenish fabric in the center of the window, and the blue and white print on the outside edges.

Then I waited about 10 or 11 months before doing anything more.  The panels were flung over the rods in the meantime, looking unfinished and tacky.

The next step was to attach the liner at the top (leaving it unattached at the bottom).  This would enable me to hang both the curtain and liner as one piece, but they would still hand as separate pieces.  I had a very long piece of muslin, so I attached the front panels one at a time onto ironed segments of my liner, cut it at the appropriate length, and then pinned the next one on.  I folded back and pinned the edges, for finishing in the next step.  Then, an easy straight seam on each.  Heck, all the seams in this project were easy, straight seams.  Yay!

Next, finishing the edges.  the liners got wide edge-hems, and the curtains got narrow ones.

Here is the double line of stitching to create the tube to stick the curtain rod through:

And then, hemming the curtain fronts with a 1.5-inch hem, and the liners with a 2-inch hem, so they wouldn’t show under the fronts.

Installation involved sticking the large end of the rod through both curtains, before inserting the smaller end into the larger end, putting up the rod, and re-distributing the fabric.

Extra muslin and some binder clips are acting as curtain ties until I decide curtain ties are a project worth working on!

How to remove “popcorn” ceiling

27 July 2008

When we first looked at the house we now live in, we looked up at the ceiling and were a little taken aback by the sparkles.  There are little flakes of glitter embedded in that popcorn-looking texture coating that can be blown onto ceilings to hide flaws.  And this stuff was in the living room, dining room, stairwell, upstairs hallway, and two of the upstairs bedrooms.  Happily, it was not in the master bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, or the basement.

Well, we don’t like the “popcorn” ceiling effect, nor are we fond of the sparkles.  So as we re-shape the rooms of the house (not literally re-shaping) to our liking, the ceiling texture is going.

Last summer my diligent and strong husband scraped the “popcorn” coating off the room that used to be our pink-painted guest bedroom, painted the ceiling white and the walls yellow, made the floor nicer, and then I moved all my office stuff into it.  Then we took all of his computer and game and stereo and TV equipment and paraphernalia from “the blue room” and moved it to the finished basement.

So this summer I am transforming “the blue room” into a new guest bedroom.

Step one: remove all the furniture.  Check.

Step two: put a tarp on the floor to catch most of the stuff I’ll be removing from the ceiling.  Check.

Step three: dress sensibly for the work at hand:  goggles, face mask to keep out particulates (no fumes or asbestos here, so a particulate mask is fine), hat, work shirt, bandanna so my hair is not really gross afterward.  Check.

Step four: start scraping.
ummm….OK, this was arduous, awkward, painful, and exhausting.  I managed to work for about 45 minutes, almost finishing the part where the ceiling is bent against the roof.  You can’t tell from the photo below, but in the right-hand corner I did not scrape all the way down to the underlying surface.  There is still a layer of plaster-like stuff that I just could not muster the energy to do.  I showered and fell asleep.  My arms were soooo tired!

Day 2:
Step five: go to Home Depot for a better scraper than my little flexible spatula.  This was the best move I made in this whole process.  I found a tool specifically made for scraping “popcorn” texture off ceilings.  It has a handle you can attach a pole to, and you can attach a bag to collect the scrapings.  On the box, the manufacturer recommended also buying a solution to spray on the ceiling before scraping, to make it easier.

Unfortunately, no solution was available for sale.  I asked one of the helpful Home Depot employees, and he said if it isn’t there, we don’t have any.  He also said his nephew just sprayed water on a “popcorn” ceiling before scraping it, while he personally had simply covered one up with eighth-inch wallboard.  Well, I am not about to try installing wallboard on a ceiling, so I bought the big scraper, an additional (stiffer) small scraper for the edges and a wire brush for intractable bits, and came home to scrape.

Here’s my stuff: on the far right is my little flexible scraper that I wasn’t having fun with on day one.

Step six: get the ceiling wet.  Check.
For this, I used a pressure-sprayer that I had originally gotten for garden use.  It’s useful for cleaning bugs and spiderwebs out of my potted plants before bringing them in for the winter.  And it is also useful for spraying water on a “popcorn” ceiling.  It worked great!

Step seven: install bag and pole on big scraper, and scrape.  Check.
The fun part of this is that even with the bag on, there is still a way for goopy plaster ceiling texture to fall on your head.  Or goggles.  Or arms.  Which it did.  Plus, that bag gets pretty heavy pretty quickly, so this is easier than day one, but still not a piece of cake.  And, due to the ceiling not being a planar surface and the saturation of the texture material being variable, there is still the necessity of getting up close and personal with the little scrapers.

Step eight: Get on the ladder, scrape by hand, get off the ladder and move it over half a meter, then repeat.  Check.
Steps seven and eight got repeated several times, as I didn’t know how much of the ceiling was reasonable to soak at once.  When there was about a quarter of the room still to go, I called it quits for the day.  I was messy (pardon the fuzzy photo, I was having some difficulty figuring out the auto-shoot) and tired.  But look how far I got!

So, today, Sunday, was day 3.  I repeated steps seven and eight three more times after moving my tarp (it is not quite the size of the room, just a little smaller), and finished!  Yay!

This week I’ll wipe down the ceiling with a wet sponge to get any dust I left behind, patch the holes and cracks in the ceiling, prepare the walls for painting, paint the ceiling, and put the light back up before finally painting the walls.  After that’s all done, I can think about the floor!  And after that, furniture!