Hi internet! Kelsey’s killer here. I got to murdering Kelsey a few weeks back and realized I should probably write a blog post or two to keep the fuzz off my tracks. So, here it is.
DIY, something, something, doodles, puns, something, something, before and after picture, some lazy adverbs, something about design, jokes, and cute ending.
Just kidding. But I bet I totally had you going there. I’m so funny…
My mom sent me an email recently saying she missed my blog posts, and when friends started giving me the third degree about my lack of web presence, I figured it was probably time to get on the ball. Plus, Heath said if I didn’t start posting soon, the internet rumors would start flying. I don’t flatter myself to think anyone would start internet rumors about the Doodle House, but I was almost tempted not to blog ever again just to see what the old blogosphere would come up with. But I actually think I’ve got some semi-decent reasons for laying low online as of late. Commence defense mode now.
For starters, I recently started an amazing new job, and I’ve been pouring a lot of my creative energy into that. I mean, it takes a lot of hard work to be head writer at SNL while moonlighting as Beyonce’s personal stylist/lifecoach/bff. But I digress.
Secondly our home improvement binge had been placed on the backburner as of late because we’re were saving up for a big, big, big project this summer–one that was going to change our lives. Were, being the operative word there. I say “were” because we’ve recently hit a road block, one that I like to call Shower Under Construction Kind-of-Stuff, or SUCKS for short. (Note: I may also refer to it as a “Loo-ming” Situation or John Gone because, hey, we’re trying to have fun over here.)
Here’s the play-by-play of SUCKS:
- We noticed running water coming from the faucet in our shower every time we turned it on.
- We called the plumber because that’s what decent humans do when things leak.
- He knocked a gaping hole in our shower and discovered a broken pipe that spewed water into our walls and onto the floor.
- Now we need a bathroom.
This all started last weekend, and since Monday we’ve been living not only without a working shower but also in a wind tunnel. A restoration company brought in some heavy duty industrial fans and dehumidifiers that have been running around the clock in an effort to dry everything out and mitigate some of the water damage before any kind of actual repair starts. It’s been a week with no shower access and no clear timeline given for when we will have a working bathroom again. Obviously, having a broken bathroom isn’t great, but it’s especially not great for us because we’re some of those people who fall in the one-bathroom category. And since we’ve taken on a roommate (Monte, I’ll get to him later) it’s especially inconvenient.
But I’m a glass half full kind-of gal, and I concede that while saying this SUCKS, it also provides us with a lot of opportunity. For one, I’ve got some good, GOOD fodder for the blog now: Five ways to politely ask your friends if it’s cool for you to shower at their house for an indefinite amount of time, and Dirty is the new Black: why daily showering is totally overrated, and my doodle house expose, Tile and Error–What the ceramics industry doesn’t want you to know. What I’m trying to say is, where I lacked in blog posts in February, I will definitely make up for in March. And while these next few weeks (God, I hope it’s only weeks) will be a bit uncomfortable what with no working bathroom at all, I’m at least recognizing the silver lining of having my homeowners insurance pick up (some of) the tab for a much-needed renovation.
For the next little while, I’ll be burying myself with bathroom renovation research, contractor estimates, Google image searches of “modern eclectic” bathrooms, and a nice layer of grease and grime. I can’t wait to share.
I don’t feel great about the nearly one month that has passed since my last post, especially since I have, in this blogger’s opinion, actually accomplished some pretty magnificent things… I made some cool bathroom art, learned to cook Pad Thai, and downloaded the new Beyonce album… you know, the stuff Hollywood movies are made of. But in all seriousness, I’m painfully aware that I’ve let the blog kind of fall by the wayside over the past couple of months. Because of the holidays, maybe? Or lack of inspiration? Busy schedule? I can’t pin down the precise reason, but dang if I’m not going to do better in ’14, starting now with the obligatory look back at the best and worst of our escapades in the past year.
Proudest Accomplishment: Kitchen Overhaul
In April, we put the finishing touches on our once beige and boring kitchen.
This project is/was the most time and energy intensive DIY renovation we’ve sunk our teeth into, but it has also been the most gratifying. It started before we officially moved in when I painted the walls a nearly day-glow shade of green called “Spritz of Lime” which just seemed an appropriate if not nauseating color choice for a kitchen. From there, we—to be read in one breath now—replaced the florescent lighting, striped and restained the cabinets and added new hardware, removed the wood paneling from the wall and added custom shelving, replaced the faucet and added water cut offs, demolished the countertops, replaced the countertops, and…gasp…retiled the backsplash. A project more than a year in the making, it felt indecently good to marvel at the successful culmination of a lot of hard work.
Biggest Transformation: Hardwoods in the Living Room
Thanks to a ridiculous sale on laminate flooring at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore, what started as a routine Saturday errand resulted in Heath and I throwing caution to the wind and just doing it already—”it” being ripping out the carpet in our living room and replacing it with some sweet, sweet laminate wood flooring. Oooh. That is fresh.
Biggest headache: Rebuilding the chicken coop
After finding a possum in the chicken coop one evening, we knew we had to prioritize a task we had long been delaying—rebuilding the chicken coop, a project that literally stinks, is labor intensive and painful. We finished it in a day, and the coop is certainly in better shape now than it was before, but it didn’t go down, or rather up , smoothly. We endured cuts, scrapes, mosquito bites, sun burns and blows to our egos along the way, but at day’s end, a bigger, brighter, possum-free coup stood triumphantly in the dh backyard.
Riskiest project: The stencil wall
It was nearly a year ago exactly that I finished totally weirding out our living room by painting an accent wall with a scallop stencil. It was kind of a gamble as a floor-to-ceiling geometric pattern could potentially be overwhelming, but there is something hypnotic and appealing about the repetitive nature of geometric prints. Since geometric scribbles practically dominate all of my handouts of staff meeting agendas, I thought I should take the concept that had been gnawing away at my subconscious to heart and put that idea on the wall. A year later, I still get lost in the rhythm of the green scallops and love it as much as the day I started painting.
Biggest fail: the garden
2013 was not the year of the garden for House Doodle. Because of the heat and other various preoccupations, we slowly stopped tending to our veggies and other flora. Next we knew, a once lush and sustainable backyard paradise transformed to a desolate and pathetic excuse for a garden. As it turns out, plants don’t respond well to gross neglect. It is was not our finest hour.
Greatest discovery: Homebrew
At the recommendation of some dear friends, Heath picked up brewing beer at home as a new hobby, and boy have we enjoyed it. We cooked up our first batch in February, and by June we committed to going full throttle when we installed kegerator in our kitchen so we could enjoy draft homebrew at our leisure. Yes, we’ve officially crossed the beer snob threshold, and it’s delicious.
We saw triumphs and tribulations in our home projects this year, but 2013 was also a year of significant personal achievement, loss and transition: Heath conquered a mountain when he hiked 26 miles through the Weminuche Wilderness, we bid farewell to a beloved home from my childhood, my always bro/sometime roommate joined the navy, and I left my communications job with the school district. Good/bad/ugly/beautiful….2013 was peppered with experiences that will stick with us for awhile.
Lots of design-oriented DIY blogs (this one included) will have you believe that choosing to makeover/renovate/repair/assemble/disassemble a home improvement project yourself rather than enlist the help of the pros is the usually the only acceptable way to function. Successfully do/make something on your own and you will have a free pass to walk around with an entitled sense of superiority, like ordering a salad at a restaurant when everyone else gets the steak. Yes, do it yourself and you shall be handsomely rewarded. Not so, says I.
The pride I feel about my recent bathroom cabinet makeover is about on par with what I imagine it feels like to discover you’ve made the 7th grade C team in volleyball. (I say “imagine” because I definitely don’t know what it feels like to practice so hard to prove yourself to the volleyball coach at Calhoun Middle School that you throw up in the locker room trash can, subsequently “earn” a spot on the bench with the other athletically challenged girls and then, humiliated, quit and pretend like you never cared about volleyball in the first place and would rather, of course, focus on your dancing. No, I don’t know what that is like.) What I’m trying to say is, I wish I had just dropped the dollars to buy a cabinet with some actual gusto than try to refurbish a cabinet that would end up only being slightly better in quality than child’s macaroni art.
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version. I don’t really like our bathroom layout, as it is very small and boring. But then I saw a photo of similarly designed room and thought, Hey, I can do that.
I liked how it felt modern but also cozy with the wooden accent on the shelves. I knew, however, that I needed more storage than what shelves as dinky as those would provide. I wanted something with some girth, like the Akurum wall cabinet from IKEA.
I liked that it kept the wood accents, but didn’t shriek of woodsy charm. Because our bathroom is small I liked the idea of being able to see inside the cabinet, which may keep that omg-the-walls-are-closing-in-on-me feeling at bay. Yes Kelsey, this will do nicely. Flash to price tag: $207. Pfffftttt. Come on Ikea, be real. I can make a badass cabinet myself for half that. Well, yes and no. I didn’t think I would actually be making any cabinet, per se, but I know my way around the Restore and was sure I could modify something to resemble as much. That, I did do, and $15 got us a cream colored cabinet in decent shape that would fit the space over the toilet poifectly.
Alright, OK, good. I could do this. But what first? After removing the hardware I figured I should start this weekend renovation by removing the panels in the doors. I still wanted a cabinet with translucent doors, so that interior panel would have to go. I watched more Youtube videos than I would have ever hoped to on the subject of removing interior cabinet paneling. I’ll tell you, there are a lot of schools of thought on the best way to do this. Some people say you need a jigsaw, others say not. Honestly I can’t even remember what all of the methods were but they were all time intensive and required tools that we didn’t have, so I got creative. This is code for abandoning all reason and just going for it. I used Heath’s whatchawhosit tool (he says its a dremel but I am not fooled) to try and trace the paneling and create a perforated edge around the interior of the cabinet that I could then gently push outward.
This maybe would have worked if it weren’t for two things: one, this was also a timely process and the vibration of the whatchawhosit was making my hand feel very funny; I did not like this, and secondly, the heat generated from trying to cut through wood was creating a burning smell which I also did not like. So I decided to abandon all reason a second time and just go to town on the panel with a hammer. Believe it or not, this is not where my refurbishment experiment went astray. In fact, forget what everyone else tells you about removing panels from cabinet doors and just beat the crap out of it with a hammer. THIS ACTUALLY WORKS. And, bonus points, it’s also kind of cathartic.
Then I spent a a good 3-4 hours stripping, sanding and staining/painting the doors and cabinet base and then letting it all dry. So far, still on course.
When I woke up the next morning to check everything out, I was really disappointed to find that I hated how the stain looked with the wood grain of the cabinet doors. It was not modern and glamorous but instead the grain was very 1990s country kitchen. Nothing against a good country kitchen, (my teenage gal pals who remember the critical role Linda Tonn’s kitchen played during our formative years will vouch for it) but it’s not the look I was after. Expletive. I thought on it for a minute and then, in the interest of my impatience, decided to just paint the doors white to match the rest of the cabinet. I would find another way to bring in my beloved wood accents. This could have been a successful recovery tactic except that the paint didn’t take to the stain, and I had to strip, sand and paint the cabinets all over again. This is a bigger downer than pouring a bowl of cereal only to find you are out of milk. The worst. Not only was this taking FOREVER but my hands were sore from contact with the chemical in the stripping agent (I know, I know mom, I should wear gloves) and I was also all shaky from hours spent holding an electric sander. I was beginning to hate my bathroom, the Restore, IKEA, paint, stain, design blogs and DIY books, everything. How dare you give me confidence, world?
Once the paint dried, on DAY 3 (ideally, the cabinet would have been hanging from my wall like a prized elk’s head by the end of Day 2) we started the process of inserting the glass panels. We bought a large piece of glass ($20) from Home Depot and this glass cutting kit because, hell yeah, we are DIYers and no project is too difficult for us to master. Let me say, this glass cutting kit was a piece of shite. We followed directions to a T and it flat out didn’t work. The glass broke, the kit was crummy, we were out $32 and had bloody fingers. On trip two to Home Depot we got plastic instead (~$15), which was easier to cut than the glass and didn’t result in blood droplets on our driveway.
We successfully glued the plastic panels into the cabinets, but it just looked bad because, when you get down to the science of it all, cheap plastic does not equal glass in quality or shine. I decided to frost the clear inserts ($3) because I thought it would be a classy move and perhaps make up for the downgraded quality of the plastic, but in the end the doors didn’t beam of frosty elegance. Instead it was like someone sprayed cheap frost-in-a-can unevenly over a scratchy surface, because that is precisely what we did. Once we screwed in some modern handles ($6) and hung it up on the wall, I officially knew then what I suspected all along. This project was more disappointing than Star Wars Episode I, though admittedly a cheaper mistake to make.
It might be the most unimpressive, least dramatic transformation in Doodle House history. Not only did the cabinet makeover itself turn out pretty sub standard and arguably worse off than the original cabinet was, but it makes such an uninspired difference in the room it may as well be invisible.
Once upon a time, our fiddle leaf fig was a contained, petite and well-groomed specimen. But these days, the branches of my beloved ficus are pretty sprawled out, each one is in business for itself. Not that I mind that, necessarily. For a while, I thought this particular plant had gone rogue, or at the very least was in a rebellious state against its doting caretakers based on how it looked when we initially brought ‘er home (unfortunately, no pictures exist of that banner moment).
But this perceived independent streak is not quite as it seems; in fact, after some research I have found that it is my preconceived notion of what this popular house plant ought to look like that is at fault. As it happens, fiddle leafs come in all shapes and sizes, depending on how they are groomed and cared for, which means there’s pretty much a style to fit anyone’s idea of beauty. That’s a pretty swell shrub if I have anything to say about it.
Long and leggy
I’m digging the different looks the Ficus lyrata can pull off, it’s essentially the Carrie Bradshaw of house plants. I’m gonna go ahead and go out on a limb here (eh, eh?) and say, fiddle leaf fig, you’re my ideal house plant. You’re pretty easy going (Or should I say growing?!), you’re nice to look at and I doubt I’ll ever be bored of you.
FACT: It took longer to prepare this post than it did to achieve my latest home update—painting and recovering a forgotten chair.
Many, many moons ago, when I was just a lass, good old mum picked up this little number from Denton’s own Downtown Mini Mall for a sweet $20.
That was more than 15 years ago, but we’ve gotten a lot of bang for our buck. I’ve modified this chair at least three times over the past few years as my style changed from juvenile bright, to bohemian cool, to modern eclectic. But ye old chair has endured each look with gusto. She’s taken on the challenge of being painted both cyan blue and dusty red, and her cushion has been covered in everything from kitchen placemats to old scarves—looking surprisingly appropriate with each passing style. Good job, chair. So why not take 15 minutes this weekend to update the familiar beauty once more? After all, it’s easy as 1…2…8.
No kidding, without factoring in the time it takes the paint to dry, this project was completed in 15 minutes. How’s that for instant gratification? And in addition to being crazy easy, it’s also cheap to pull off. I had the chair and the fabric (leftover from another project), so the only cost was the spray paint…bringing the cost to complete the project to a sweet $3.75. If only all projects could be that easy on the watch and the wallet.
What what?! It just came to my attention that The Doodle House was featured in Apartment Therapy‘s Room for Color contest! Unfortunately, I didn’t know my pad was featured until today, so I couldn’t get the word out to have folks vote for my “retro bright” color pallet before the contest voting closed, but it’s still pretty cool to be featured on such a prominent platform. I’m weirdly gratified by this.
From where I’m standing, there are two schools of thought on what to do with a place, a home, when one of the people who loved it and lived within its walls perishes. It’s inevitable, I suppose, that part of what you once loved about the home would leave along with the departed, causing the remaining inhabitant(s) to become prisoners of their own surroundings. But it’s also true that you might love the place all the more for the memories it stirs, deriving comfort and familiarity. Such is the paradox of a home in mourning. It remains partly a tribute to the person who loved it and partly haunted by their absence. How much of one or the other tugs at the subconscious is what inevitably drives us to either stay submerged in the memory or move forward its shadow.
To summarize my metaphorical ramblings, I’m grieving the loss of my grandparents’ house. Since my grandmother, Oma, died in 2009, my grandfather, Papa, has been diligently keeping the house they shared together in working order. I wouldn’t say he’s been struggling with the upkeep, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A few days ago, he finally moved out—putting the only house I’ve known he and Oma to call home, on the market for the highest bidder.
It’s a beauty of a house, a grand old thing they built together in the Texas hill country before I was born. Allegedly they traveled the country in an RV for some undetermined but lengthy amount of time before deciding there was no better place on this planet to retire than the outskirts of New Braunfels, Texas. They bought two adjacent lots and planted their house in the middle of a grove of native trees. As a kid, it was an epic destination, as every proper grandparent house ought to be. To begin with, the house served as the setting in which I was permitted to inhale more homemade cookies than I was ever allowed at home. Then there was the hearth, which instead of a traditional fireplace, was actually an elevated stone platform that played host to a shiny blue franklin stove. But this unconventional setup turned out to be the ideal location for after dinner “talent” shows where I forced my doting family to sit through dramatic readings of my favorite children’s books or bizarre musical numbers I had written 15 minutes prior to showtime. Bro’s and my original performance of Mexican Date, I’m told was a big hit. But cookies and attention-seeking behavior aside, the house is where I did my bonding with Oma. That’s where we cooked together and picked peaches. We rocked back and forth on the porch together, admiring the rolling grass like you’d admire waves from the deck of a ship. She told me stories and in turn I’m sure I provided an endless supply of laughter and general adorableness. It’s where I had the privilege to truly know my only living biological grandparent. After Oma died, the house is where I took Heath to engage in philosophical debates with Papa that would start around 5, cocktail hour, and carry on well into the night. The routine was fairly standard—cocktails at 5, dinner around 6:30, mind-spinning conversation until 9 and then sherry on the porch; but while predictable, dinners at Papa’s house were nonetheless looked forward to with monumental anticipation. Two weeks ago, Heath and I had our last-ever cocktail hour in the most consistent house of my childhood, and it’s not an easy experience to swallow.
The reasons for Papa relinquishing control of the house are fairly practical. It’s a lot of upkeep for one person, and while New Braunfels has grown exponentially from the time he and Oma first settled in, it’s a bit of a drive from the town center. And he’s lonely, I would be too. And living that far, that isolated from human interaction was wearing on him. He traded drinking sherry alone for the opportunity to dine with friends in a growing retirement community. I’m glad he knows what he wants, and that at 88 he doesn’t think he’s too old to go after it. I admire that. And if I chose that path for myself, I would want my grandkids, hell, everyone, to be happy for me.
But I’m still a little heartbroken. Damn those childhood houses and their emotional hooks.
The philosophical debates on exestentialism and excessive wine drinking will continue, however; even if the venue has changed. And that is something I can cheers to.
I was going through my flickr account recently, which I hate to admit is sorely outdated, and I came across a handful of pictures of the original Doodle House. We lived there a year and a half before moving to our current pad, doing what we could to make it feel like home given our limited capabilities as renters. We painted. We updated some hardware here and there. We got our start raising chickens. It was the house we lived in as newly weds and we did what we could with what we had to make it ours. I don’t have any negative feelings or weird associations with our old place, none at all. But looking back, I realize now, even with all its quirks, how much more our current house feels like home than did this little eclectic cottage. It’s kind of funny how much can change in just a couple of years.
OK. I’m just going to get right in to it. Because I know there are hundreds, nay thousands, of people out there who are hungry for extremely detailed and helpful step-by-step instructions on installing flooring—the right way—in their homes*. So here it is, in a nutshell. You’re welcome.
1. Rip up the old carpet as recklessly as possible. Don’t even think about the best method for removal or what you will do with the carpet once it’s gone. Just get equal parts frustrated with current carpet and excited about the prospect of new flooring and rip that old garbage up as fast as humanely possible. If you really want to go the way of the doodle, don’t even bother taking all the furniture out of the room first. Work around it. There is no time for that. Planet Earth is depending on you to install these floors and install them fast.
2. Watch a lot of YouTube videos. When you’re obnoxiously impatient and overly enthused about a lofty renovation project, it means you don’t need to consult an expert beforehand. Don’t talk to anyone at Home Depot or call up your contractor relatives. Mathematically it works out: eagerness + materials = perfect DIY project. That’s all you need. Just 20 minutes of YouTubing and you’re good to go.
3. Choose the right playlist. One DH reader suggested we get a good playlist going before installing the floors, as dance breaks can be a crucial component to a happy flooring project. Since Handyman Heath was going to be the one doing most of the dirty work (with me as his trusty sidekick), I suggested he be the driver of our audio experience—which meant we were in for about 12 straight hours of listening to The Ticket, a Dallas-based sports radio network. So much for dance breaks. At least now I know as much about the Dallas Cowboys and the Texas Rangers as I do about laminate flooring. I’ll miss seeing you on the field Nelly Cruz.
4. Seriously consider selling your soul for an “undo” button. About 18 hours into the project, when you’re about halfway through, think seriously about not finishing it. We were really good at this step. When Heath had just started transitioning from laying the planks out in the living room to the hallway, he looked up and me with the saddest, most pathetic puppy dog eyes, and said “I’m so over this.” Ah yes, we have arrived at that terrible, terrible moment in every major DIY project where you wish you never started it. The living room planks were all down, but the narrow hallway, which required way more meticulous measuring and cutting than the large living room did, was only just then getting underway. Even when that was finished, there would be many, many feet of trim to measure and cut and nail and paint. Damn. Was the carpet really so bad? Who said hallways need flooring anyway? Those aren’t even real rooms. No one will notice.
5. Blog about it. Much like that riddle about the tree that falls in a forest, did the project truly happen if you don’t blog about it? Probably not. So now, I submit my evidence. The best damned laminate flooring this house has ever seen.
Living room before…
The difference has been incalculable. It’s made the house feel bigger, cleaner and more vibrant.The doodles aren’t quite used to it yet. Their paws are still slippin’ and slidin’ more than they would like, but I’m acclimated.
In all seriousness, it feels really, really, really good to be rid of the carpet I’ve fantasized about losing since we moved in almost 2 years ago. I am so thankful for the ReStore for making it happen when it did and love, love, love my Handyman Heath for being so willing to jump into this endeavor head first.
The only thing I regret about this project is that I didn’t do it sooner. Obviously, you have to work within the constraints of your budget, but for whatever reason I didn’t consider the ReStore as a flooring source before we accidentally stumbled upon it when in search for something completely different (more on that later). It was a fluke, but I’m very grateful for it. I encourage any DIY home improvement junkie to go to their local Habitat for Humanity ReStore as soon as humanely possible to discover what amazing projects you can check off your list at a fraction of the cost. To break it down in real numbers, if we performed this same makeover with resources from our usual go-to, Home Depot, it would have cost us more than $1,000. But with the help of the ReStore, we did it for just a little more than $600. That’s a deal if I’ve ever heard one. Go to there. You must.
*If you’re in to doing floors yourself, I suggest looking at the following links which are actually much more instructional, eloquent and useful than anything I have ever produced. Especially this one. Though, full disclosure, we did not use the second, sound proof layer of padding when we did our floors, nor did we use painter’s tape to stick our spacers to the wall. I also suggest this post from Young House Love for a good recap on installing real wood floors.
Today Heath and I went to the Habitat for Humanity Restore to browse their cabinet selection, and I about fainted at what we saw inside…an epic sale on hardwood flooring. At $1.20 per square foot we LOADED DOWN on the stuff. Pretty soon our long awaited dream of a hardwood living room (ok, laminate) will be realized. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait.
More to come, sooner than you know.