Notice that I said “rethinking countertops?” and not “rethinking countertops!” That question marks means I am in the thinking stage. Not in the doing or acting stage or I-have-definitely-made-up-my-mind stage.
Here’s the deal.
When we bought the house, one of the first things we thought HAD TO GO was the kitchen countertops. First off, they are hideously ugly. They aren’t even ugly in the sense that the style is dated because the tile isn’t even original ’50s tile. It was installed before we moved in by whatever out-of-touch realtor told the homeowners that people like beige and want to live in a neutral beige universe. The entire house was redone in beige. The carpets, the walls, the floors, the countertops. It was a beige nightmare. Secondly, they are poorly installed beige tiles, with uneven corners and unfinished sections. It’s bad. Real bad.
I think if you told someone to imagine a bland kitchen, they could not have come up with something this drab. Fortunately, we have picked things up a little since this photo was taken: refinished the cabinets, painted the walls and created some open shelving. Still left untouched, however, are the countertops.
The original scheme was to put in some pearly white quarts countertops (to match our Big Chill fridge) and pair it with some teal or turquoise subway tile for the backsplash. That scheme, I felt, would give the kitchen a look that’s classic (the cabinets), yet modern (the countertops) and fun (the backsplash) while still being cohesive.
The problem with this little operation, like with most things, is the price. To get ‘er done we’re gonna drop probably around $3,000, and that doesn’t even include the actual necessary must-have upgrades like a dishwasher and garbage disposal (we need a new electric box for that, which is a whole other blog post). So I’m starting to think that I need to either be really, really, really patient (which I am really bad at being) and wait a few years until I can do my upscale remodel, or I can start thinking of more affordable alternatives. (Before you tell me to be patient, I will once again refer you to photo one and ask how long you could exist comfortably in that kitchen.*)
*Note to self: you are so lucky to have the kitchen and house you have and you should probably stop complaining about it on the internet. You’ve been to India. You know what “existing comfortably” truly means, so buck up.
One alternative is to replace the existing tile with tile that’s a bit more colorful and perhaps more professionally installed. Where, say, the tilers (Heath and me) opt to actually attempt to finish placing tiles around those “hard-to-get-to” spaces like electrical outlets.
And I feel like we can’t talk about ’50s kitchen remodels without considering Formica. Come on. That’s classic ’50s business.
From what I see, it looks like (while perhaps not as crisp and upscale as my original vision) Formica or tile counters can be a really good option for homeowners on a budget. And since I’m not willing to forgo our annual anniversary vacations (to places like San Francisco, Mexico City, and this year Seattle and Portland), a budget kitchen reno may very well be in the cards. So, rethinking countertops? Or rethinking countertops!
Great news! I made good on my promise (to myself) to stencil an accent wall in my living room. (Bless Heath for going along willingly with my wacky, wacky ideas for designing the house.) I started the project Dec. 15 and finished about a week later, just before the fam came down for Christmas. What timing!
Thus far I’m really loving our dizzying scalloped wall. I’ve always been a fan of bright and bold patterns on my blankets and pillows, so an entire wall of a retro and repetitious pattern is right up my alley. Since it has been up, I find myself zoning out on the couch, getting lost in the sequence of scallops.
The stencil pattern was ordered from Cutting Edge Stencils and set me back about $40. I already had the paint and rollers, so the cost of the stencil and my time was all I ended up investing on the project. So, I’d say it’s worth it to give stenciling a shot if it’s a look you’re keen on, though, admittedly it’s not for everyone. Should you give it a go, I’d recommend the following:
- Keep a level handy. I eyeballed everything, which works OK with the guide of a stencil, but as I was finishing the project, I noticed a slight upward movement of the pattern as I went along. It’s not something that’s really visible when you’re just glancing at it, but during my long stare-down sessions with the wall, I can notice the slight slope of the pattern. It’s minimal, but were I to do it over, I’d definitely recruit the aid of a ruler.
- Start at the very edge of the wall and work your way over. When I got going, i didn’t exactly start at the very edge of the wall, leaving instead a small gap between where my pattern started and where the wall started. It ultimately affected the all-over, saturating effect of the pattern I was going for, and I had to go in with my individual stencil to fill in the gaps. Start the stencil so that parts of the pattern flow off the edge of the wall so you don’t have to go back and fill in the holes when it’s done.
- Keep a blow dryer handy. When stenciling, you don’t load up the roller with paint, so the wall itself drys fairly quickly. However, when you’re layering the plastic stencil with paint, it takes a little longer to dry. So moving the stencil pattern over the wall can result in wet splotches of paint where you don’t want it. I got in the habit of using a blow dryer on the stencil so I could move through the project more quickly.
- Use a small brush for touch ups. Careful as I may be, it seemed inevitable that there would be drips and smudges as I went along. A tiny paint brush was crucial to cleaning up the oops-ies.
The whole thing took a few days to complete, but I wasn’t the most committed of painters. I stopped to bake, attend holiday parties and watch Christmas clay-mation movies…leaving only a couple hours a day devoted to stenciling. Should you choose to get your stencil on, I’d say it’s a project that could easily be knocked out in a day if you were truly diligent.
In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll offer a peek at the good, bad and ugly of the project.
Everyone here, dogs included, agrees the end result is bad ass.
A little more than a year ago, we were making our way toward the 2011 ACL music festival when our realtor called to tell us the sellers of a little house on Corona Drive had accepted our offer to buy their place; a month later they handed us the key. Even though the process of buying our first home happened fairly quickly, in many ways this one year anniversary of life in our first home seems like it took a lifetime to reach–especially when I think about all the projects I wanted to accomplish in the first year.
I had a lofty checklist of things to add, modify and remove in the new house. Admittedly, I was a little too ambitious. I wanted wood floors within the first month and new counter tops within the first two weeks. Fast forward 365 days and the original counters and carpets are still here. I still don’t have a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we still let the dogs out into the backyard through a window and not a proper backdoor. But while there are many, many, many improvements I still haven’t found the time or money to make, I’m careful to remember and be proud of all that we have accomplished in one year together in our first place.
We put in a path that leads to the front door.
We painted and added windows to our front door for much needed character.
So we added a shed and built a new and improved chicken coop for our feathered friends.
We put in raised beds for veggies…
…and a rain garden to help with drainage.
We built a fence to help with privacy.
And we added some spunk to the patio with a pallet planter, and dining area.
Inside, we got things done too…like painting more walls than we can count.
We put up invisible book shelves in the office.
And I finally found the perfect way to incorporate a map wall into the house.
In the kitchen we refinished the cabinets and added new hardware, bringing some much needed shine to a kitchen that was in the running to be named one of the country’s ugliest.
We also stripped the knotty pine paneling to make room for more shelving and storage.
On top of the big projects, there were dozens of weekends and evenings spent painting furniture, framing artwork, hanging curtains and performing the many other tiny tasks that culminate in having a happy house that feels like home. I didn’t get to a lot of the big projects, but I’m learning to cope with our revised timeline. As my older and wiser home-owning cohorts have told me, the list of home improvement projects never goes away, it just changes over time, and that’s part of the fun. So on our one year anniversary, I’m opting not to lament the projects we have not yet gotten to and instead will celebrate what we have accomplished. Plus, we still need things to keep us busy as we head in to year two.
The little-known mid century Karlstad couch makeover would win a doodle award for excellence in ikea furniture customization if there were such a thing. There’s not, but there is my complete copying of it here on this blog.
Allow me to recap. Here’s the couch before…
And here she is after…
It’s like a brand new(er) couch! To review, here’s what we did to make it 50s-friendly:
- Tufted the back cushions-$50 (Should you choose to take this on yourself, take note that ikea is not liberal with their fabric swatch disbursement. To get matching fabric we had to buy a $20 cushion in the same fabric to cover the buttons).
- Added modern legs from tablelegs.com-$8.95 each (Make sure to request the correct hardware to be included with the legs on your order.)
It’s not much, but it makes a huge difference. Our grand total came in around $700, which is pretty great when you consider couches of a similar style usually range from $1000-$2500.
Putting the finishing touches on my modern eclectic living room is a small victory in the grand scheme of things, but it feels good to write about it and see a project come together, especially on a day like today, where Heath and I celebrate the one year anniversary of signing on our first house (more on that to come). Until then, we’ll continue cruising the internets for more intriguing inspirations from the comfort of our new couch.
At first I thought it was incredibly clever and thrifty of Heath and I to use a homemade bench as a tv stand/entertainment console. But after a year of looking at the most uninspired entertainment setup ever, I decided I should probably invest in something a little more substantial. Since we live in a 50s-era house and I have an unhealthy obsession with midcentury design, I thought a modern looking credenza would be a good solution for hosting our media center.
I spent the last month scouring Craigslist for pieces under $200 I could use, but after getting stiffed twice (Craigslist sellers telling me the items were available but then selling them out from under me before I could close the deal), I decided to hit up some of Austin’s many vintage furniture shops. The prices are usually higher than Craiglist, but the condition of the items are usually better and it’s a bit more stable. I guess the gods of vintage furniture took pity on my soul because Room Service Vintage was having a huge 20 percent off sale and I found an ideal piece in tip top condition for $180, enabling me to maneuver a pretty sweet room flip.
So far, I’m really liking the change. The credenza is perfect for storing our DVDs and I love not having exposed wires all over the place. I’m still playing with the photos behind the TV (I can’t decide if it’s too much or not), and hopefully at some point we can mount the TV on the wall like the folks at Our Mid Century did…then we’ll really be big time.
Still, for now I’m calling this one a victory. Point Doodle House. Now let’s watch some football.
We’ve been living together for 10 months now, this mid-century house and me. And I think we’re really starting to get to know one another on an intimate level. Of course, it’s not a perfect relationship, but we’ve done a lot of growing together, and I think we’re really getting to a point where we know how to live comfortably with one another.
You may wonder why I decided to enter into a relationship with an older gal. After all, she’s pushing 60, so allow me to provide a little background as to WHY Heath and I opted to move in with an old school casa versus something a little more modern and relate-able.
We always knew we wanted an older house. Maybe because we’re weird. Maybe because we like a challenge. Definitely because we value character–potentially to a fault. We gave up a lot when we decided to marry our current home: a dish washer, state-of-the-art energy efficiency, two bathrooms… But in the end, you’ve sometimes got to consider personality over perks, and we think we gained more than we lost. For one, the location (on our budget) is unrivaled. We also loved the idea of having a unique house that wasn’t one of four or five cookie cutter home plans repeated throughout a development. Sure, maybe our door dilemma is a head-scratcher, but it’s OUR head scratcher. We liked fantasizing about finding a house with good bones and then customizing it to make it fits our needs, something you can’t do with a ready-to-go home, equipped with counter tops, cabinets and floors pre-packaged by Joe Blow Developer for exclusive use by John Doe Homeowner. Sometimes you have to follow in the footsteps of Freddie Prinze Jr. and take a chance on the art student in overalls.
Hey girl, can I get your number?
Why the old house caught my eye in the first place.
- The picture windows. I adore them. They are single-paned but totally amazing because they crank with this quirky little lever that makes a task as mundane as opening a window seem sort of exciting and retro. “She’s fun!”
- The bathroom tile. It is original to the house and in amazing condition, but why blog worthy? Besides being pearly porcelain that feels clean and shiny and epitomizes a zen bathroom, it’s green—the best color of all the colors. It’s as if it was written in the stars! I’ve seen my fair share of pink and yellow tile bathrooms in houses from the same era, so I am ever grateful for finding a house with retro green tile in impeccable condition. “She’s pretty!”
- The built-in planter in the front. It’s functional, encourages landscaping and was built well. I filled it with succulents and pea gravel and it looks amazing. “She’s smart!”
Maybe we should go to couples counseling.
What I want to change.
- Popcorn ceilings. Why do that to a perfectly lovely home? They make rooms look smaller, they collect dust, they are super difficult to paint. “She’s irrational.”
- No backdoor. What genius thought skipping out on a back door was a good idea? We’ll put one in one day, but for now we let the dogs out through the window when they need to do their business. It’s one of the trashier truths about me. “She’s careless.”
- No electrical outlet in the bathroom. This is another one I just don’t get. How hard would it have been to put in one measly electrical outlet? I know they had electricity in the 1950s, so what gives? We didn’t discover this little nugget until after we moved in. No one dried their hair in the 50s? Come on architects, look alive. “She’s weird.”
You know me better than I know myself.
What I’ve learned to love.
- Knotty Pine. I’ve definitely come around on knotty pine, which I have been known to refer to as “naughty pine” on more than one occasion. When cleaned up and paired with appropriate fixtures, appliances and wall colors, knotty pine can be incredible and rich. I’m so glad we opted to refinish our cabinets in the same hue rather than go for a complete overhaul that would be out of style in another 10 years. “She’s classic.”
- Detached laundry room. Basically, I like not hearing the washer and dryer running more than I dislike walking outside to the laundry room. “She gives me my space.”
It turns out, there’s a lot to appreciate about 1950s architecture–something I never expected to love. Growing up, I always envisioned myself settling in a 1920s craftsman bungalow. But instead of substantial window trimmings, and cozy niches, I got minimalist lines and and an open floor plan–definitely not the characteristics I would have checked off on a list of qualities describing my dream girl. If she were a contestant on The Bachelor, the house would have made the initial cut only as a wild card.
When we moved in last October, I had a huge list of things I wanted to immediately add, remove, change or update. I was sure we would have wood floors and a revamped kitchen within the first month and a lusciously landscaped yard within the first year. Some of that happened, some of it didn’t, but in retrospect I’m happy with our pace. If I had changed the kitchen on my original timeline, I wouldn’t have realized that I wanted to keep the original cabinets, and instead I would have likely ripped out or at least repainted something that is now one of my favorite elements. And if I dropped a chunk of change putting in wood floors up front, we probably wouldn’t have installed the gutters that let us recapture rain water. It’s amazing to discover how priorities change the more you get to know a place.
When I first moved in, I was warned against making any drastic changes too soon. My mother cautioned me against renovations the way friends might warn against getting that girl’s name tattooed on your back after the third date. I’m glad I’ve taken the time to get truly acquainted with the old girl, to know her quality quirks and her catastrophic catches. We’ve got many more months and years to take our relationship further, but as of now, I’m glad we’ve taken things slow. I think she’s into me, and I know, despite her weird habits, I’m into her. In our 10 month courtship, I’m grateful for learning to appreciate the house for what she is. She’s not a glamorous Hollywood type and she’s not a fashionable and modern mistress. She is what she is—a small, 1950s Delwood dynamo—and I’m loving her for it.
Finally! We can join our elite neighbors with membership in the exclusive Houses-With-Bright-Doors-And-Funny-Shaped-Windows club. You probably read about it in the national papers, but allow me to confirm that we finally finished our front door transformation.
We have Crestview Doors to thank for the finished product. The Austin-based company sells both the oddly shaped windows and charismatic midcentury style doors as a whole, but trendy DIY-ers (and cheapskates) we are, we opted to try our hand at installing the windows on our own in the existing door rather than going the route of a whole new threshold. Heath spent a morning putting in the new doorlite kit and it makes me feel pretty giddy about our newly configured front door. I’m thrilled to be falling in line with the rest of our spiffy neighbors.
Today marks two years of blogging from the doodle house!
Documenting our lives and sharing the things that have entertained and inspired us has been tremendously rewarding. The blog has been a place where I can be creative and goofy and honest, and I’m so happy to have found such joy in this little hobby.
Some highlights of what we’ve done and seen in the last two years…
It’s been a thoroughly eventful two years. There’s no telling what the next two will hold.
As kiddos, visits to the grandparents’ house were always looked forward to with great anticipation. Like most youngsters, I relished the time I had to spend with my grandparents because, of course as grand parents do, they doted on me incessantly and spoiled me rotten with baked goods and mouthwatering, artery clogging four course meals. Getting there was half the fun too. My Oma and Papa lived 5 hours South of us on the freeway–a trip that was actually more like 12 hours once you factor in a stop at the outlet mall for an obligatory road trip souvenir and a not-so-speedy run to the Czech Stop to purchase more fruit and cream cheese kolaches than should ever be consumed during a lifetime. But sweets and treats aside, I still loved visiting their home in the Texas Hill Country.
As a chubby tot I loved their home for very different reasons than I do now. A pier and beam craftsman with a giant wrap around porch, being on the deck at Oma and Papa’s felt like being a passenger on a cruise line sailing over a sea of wildflowers. Few sensations beat the one that came with dangling my little legs over the side of the porch while looking over blue bonnets and pear trees and making a mess of my mango juice and Sloppy Joe. Yes, as a kid (and maybe a little bit as an adult too), that was pretty much as good as it got.
Inside was great too. A Franklin stove in the living room set inside a special elevated stone nook proved to be a great stage on which to perform scenes from my favorite storybooks for the family after dinner. A house that features spectacular views of nature and spectacular views of me? Of course I loved it.
But today I love the house for more reasons than its potential to be a platform for post-dinner performances. It’s the house my grandparents built and lived in together for nearly 25 years, and where my grandmother said she was happiest. After touring the country for months in an RV, they reached the Texas Hill Country and could think of no better place to spend their retirement together than in the rolling green hills in the New Braunfels country side. They designed and built the home from the ground up, focusing incredible detail on every aspect from the gingerbread trim on the exterior to the stain on the kitchen cabinets. They did it together and ended up with a beautiful home that acted as the perfect setting to display their love of art, enable their love of food, drink and entertaining, and enjoy their love for each other for the last years of my grandmother’s life.
So while I’ll always love rocking on the porch and looking over wildlife–now with a glass of wine rather than a plate of sandwich–I think even more I’ll love the way the house makes me and anyone who enters it feel. It’s warm and stylish and loved to its bones. It smells like fresh bread and always sings of happiness.
Rainwater collecting is a good idea for 242835345234 reasons. I’m going to list two of them.
ONE: If you haven’t spent any time in Austin, you should know it doesn’t rain here in the summer. At all. At least not in the past two years. It gets so dry that the city must sometimes authorize water restrictions that are so harsh, restaurants have to stop serving water to customers unless requested. I’m not joking. It’s a real thing. So collecting precious rainwater while we have it is sort of like drilling for oil. It’s a valuable commodity that will soon be gone forever (or at least it feels like it during the middle of August).
TWO: After a big rain our yard is transformed into a swimming pool. It’s not as fun as it sounds because puddles = mud, and mud + labradoodles = disgusting carpet mess. So, it’s in our best interest to keep as much of that water off the ground and into buckets as possible.
In the end, all that water goes back to nourish the plants and the earth, helping us to be a little more sustainable and do our part to save the planet.
Sounds pretty good except for the part where most rain harvesting barrels are ugly as [expletive]. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
Not. Cool. We have four of these puppies that, once the gutters are installed, will have to live in some very prominent places in our backyard. Egh. At least if they were being ugly in the front yard, all of our neighbors could see how awesome and planet friendly we are.
“Oh look, those rain barrels aren’t very attractive but look at that young couple doing their part to help the earth. I want to be just like them…so earth conscious and attractive and thin!”
I am clearly taking liberties here, but the point is, the barrels are in the back yard, they are numerous, they are large and they are not good to look at. So, of course, I’ve been scouring the web to find some solutions.
OPTION ONE: Paint it.
I’ve seen a few folks adorn their barrels with picturesque scenes of the countryside or bright and charming flowers. It’s a big step up from white plastic construction site we’ve got going now.
It’s a pretty great alternative, but the problem is that I’m no artist, whatsoever. So if I tried my hand at painting the barrel, I imagine it would end up looking something like this.
That’s a rain barrel. It says, “I Heart Rain.” This is not an improvement over the current situation, so I think we will pass on option one.
OPTION TWO: Put a plant on it.
This is the not-so-distant cousin of Portlandia’s “Put a Bird On It” campaign, but it make a little more sense. The barrels are in the back yard, there are plants there already, why not throw one, or two, or ten on top of (or around) the barrels?
Ok. Option Two, you’re still in the cards, but surely there are other things to consider as well.
OPTION THREE: Use a whiskey barrel.
It’s a cute idea, whiskey barrels are rustic and vintage-looking. That totally fits in with our little hipster masterplan. Maybe a whiskey barrel could work.
I really REALLY love this idea, but Heath already purchased four rain barrels that did not at one point hold whiskey, and I’m pretty sure it’s counter productive to the whole “earth friendly” thing to throw out perfectly good rain barrels because they weren’t “cute” enough. Option three, I hate to see you go, but you just won’t work for us.
OPTION FOUR: Build around it.
As usual, Instructables had some neat ideas for using lattice to surround a water barrel set up that seem fairly doable.
And I saw some really neat ideas from Living Rainwater Tanks that I think we could emulate, and I do know a pretty handy fellow who could make it happen.
In the end I think it will be a combination of Option Two and Four that go down, a decorative structure of sorts, combined with a little greenery.
Yes, I think that will work nicely. I can’t wait to reveal the before and after photos…