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.
Today I write the blog entry I’ve (embarrassingly) been fantasizing about for awhile, the post on our newly renovated midcentury kitchen. We have been planning and slowly chipping away at our kitchen renovation practically from the first moment we moved in.
She was relatively functional, sure, but it wasn’t a place I wanted to spend much time in. And like others, as I grow older and try to become a culinary savant, having a comfortable cooking area has become more and more important to me. To make the space work for us, I spent months flipping through tons of magazines, pinterest boards and blog posts to figure out what would fit our space and our budget. We took it on bit-by-bit, first painting the walls and replacing the light fixtures. Then Heath spent his Christmas vacation sanding down and restaining the original knotty pine cabinets and adding new hardware, and we worked together the following spring break to remove the wood wall paneling and add more shelving and storage. About a month ago we tackled the most costly upgrade, replacing the countertops and redoing the plumbing. And to wrap it all up, last week we put in the tile backsplash, resulting in the nearly finished product we have today, 18 months after moving in.
The original tile work was not a professionally executed job. There were broken pieces around the electrical outlets and jaggedly cut tiles around the sink. So when it came time replace it, we went back and forth on whether we should do it ourselves or have it professionally installed to avoid a debacle like what we began with. In the end, we decided to take it on ourselves, a decision I’m happy with, not only for the financial implications but for the sense of accomplishment and ownership we felt when it was all said and done.
We started as all young 21st century DIYers do, watching a YouTube video on the process. We found this one to be the most helpful.
Contrary to our initial beliefs, installing the backsplash was relatively straight forward.
- If you have uneven drywall like we did, use an all purpose joint compound on the wall to smooth out uneven areas before beginning.
- Butter the walls with adhesive.
- Lay the tile and wait 24 hours.
The tiling was a lot like putting together a puzzle, frustrating at times, but marvelously gratifying when you find the right piece to complete the sequence. The corners and edges were predictably the most challenging areas to finish off, but we had a tile cutter that proved most helpful to create tiny pieces to finish off our pattern.
And installing the tile was a true team effort. We started in the middle and worked our way out to either side. Then I did the grouting and Heath did the caulking. It was couple’s team building through and through.
The tile backsplash was the cherry on top of the renovation sundae, leaving only the dishwasher and garbage disposal installation to be desired. It’s fantastic to be able to stand in our doorway today and take in the finished product that was more than a year in the making. While it’s not completely perfect, I can’t help but beam with pride at the first major renovation we conquered on our own, from the design to the execution (with a little help and support from loving family and friends). It was a long process to be certain and sometimes tested our patience, but it was also an experience we will carry with us as we continue to develop our skills and take on new challenges in the future.
Thanks to the great, great folks at Austin Countertops, the doodle house is now equipped with wonderful white solid surface countertops. It took us 17 months to make a decision and execute, but they are finally here! I never in my life could have imagined being so thrilled about 20+ square feet of acrylic slab, but boy am I.
This update and upgrade is a huge breath of fresh air in that weird little kitchen. I knew taking out the tile would make a difference, but I never could have estimated just how much until we officially made the switch. I’m confident that after all the deliberating we made the right choice for us. The new surfaces are easy to clean, beautiful to look at and fit in seamlessly with everything else in the kitchen– a little bit modern and streamlined, but still fairly timeless and adaptable.
Even though it took a while, in the end I’m really happy we took our time with this kitchen renovation (and it’s not even done yet). If I rushed into it, changing everything up before I got to really know the house and the cooking space, I would have made monumentally different decisions which I think, in the end, I would end up regretting.
So cheers to another project crossed off the very long and never ending to-do list. The cosmetic parts of this kitchen makeover are nearly complete, with only the back splash left to tackle. I guess we will be spending the next week or so on Youtube getting a crash course in tile installation. DIY or DIE!
I’m not what they would say considered “crafty.” My graphic design skills are adequate. My interior design notions are amateur. And my crafty skills hover somewhere between “Did your child make that?” and “I’ve seen worse.” (Good thing my try-hardiness levels are through the roof.) There is a noticeable absence of posts related to all things hand-crafted or sewn on this blog, and that is because I am not crafty. I am trying though, darn it. Just recently I learned to use my sewing machine without supervision. And the result is this ill-fated account about my attempt at making a Roman shade.
I really wanted a Roman shade for our kitchen window because they just look so flippin’ fantastic and minimalistic, which is perfect for our mid century modern abode.
Photos from Houzz.com
So I briefly (and I cannot stress how briefly) began to peruse websites for how to make one of these little items at home. I found two sources that seemed manageable:
Martha, helpful as she may be, did not include pictures on her how-to (shame on you, Martha), and Scoutie Girl had a great tutorial, but I lacked the fabric glue needed to complete the task according to her instructions. However, I did have a yard of fabric from Hobby Lobby I purchased for a whopping $6 that matched our kitchen perfectly. So I ventured out on my own, trying to create a hybrid of the two, without referring back to their directions. Perhaps this is where I went wrong.
- First, I hemmed the entire piece so it wouldn’t fray. (This was a big deal for me, as I am new to the exciting world of sewing machines.) That part was a success. So, go me!
- Second, I placed (I say place instead of lie/lay because I still don’t completely understand the difference) my fabric under the mini blinds (I think it’s layed) and determined which blinds I wanted to cut and which I wanted to keep as the support for my roman shade folds. Then I cut all the others away, per Scoutie Girl‘s instructions.
- Then, using the existing kitchen mini blinds as a frame, I haphazardly folded the fabric under about 1 inch around the blind slats to create my Roman shade folds, making what looked like a little pocket for the plastic blind. I made a couple of stitches on each end to hold the fabric pockets in place around the blind.
- Once the blind pockets were done, I hand stitched the fabric on either side of the draw string a couple times for added support.
- Then it was time to incorporate the draw string from the original blinds. Here’s where I started thinking outside of the box, perhaps to my own detriment. Martha Stewart said to buy brass rings for the drawstring to run through, but instead I made a small (very small) loop with some extra yarn I had around the house and sewed each of those loops onto every fold, in line with where the draw strings would run. I also tied a bead to the end of the draw string. This way, the drawstring would follow a straight path, but not slip through the yarn loop when drawing the shades.
Ultimately, the finished product looked like this when down.
It’s too short! To quote Liz Lemom, “Blarg!” This is why I studied journalism and not math. Granted, I chose to do this project on a whim and did not precisely measure before-hand, but let it be known that a yard of fabric is not enough to cover a kitchen window. I’m optimistic that I can tack on another length of fabric and fix this problem without it being too obvious, but geeeeeeez, I was so (well, not really) close!
And here’s how she looks pulled up.
It’s a little floppy on the edges. Bummer. Fortunately Home Depot has 48″ wooden dowels for $3 that I hope, hope, hope will fix the flop prob (new band name?). For now, I’m not calling the shades a victory, but for $6 I’m not willing to say I’ve been defeated either.
Let’s call it half time.
I suppose it’s time to make good on my promise to share all of the juicy (or rather saw dusty) details of our kitchen renovation. Honestly, nothing would give me greater pleasure.
Renovating the kitchen has been on our to-do list for quite a while—practically from the first moment we saw the old girl. It had good bones, but not a lot of personality, and we’re all about charisma in these parts.
It is spacious enough for what we need, and the cabinets weren’t in shabby condition, but overall it doesn’t inspire much creativity, a quality that should be mandatory in a space from which spectacular culinary masterpieces are expected to be born.
We had big, big plans for how to improve the looks and the functionality of this narrow knotty pine nook. We started small, first by painting the walls in a shade of green called spritz of lime…inspired by photos that brilliantly display the appealing divergence of the warm, honey-colored pine and the vibrant and verdant green.
But with only one window and unflattering florescent lighting, the new green needed a pick-me up, so we updated the, what I’m calling, vet-clinic light fixtures with something a little shinier and more modern.
And yet, still the kitchen felt a little…how to put it eloquently…blah. The cabinets, while in good shape, were a little worn down from so many years of use, and the black hammered metal H-style hinges and matching handles were a little dated on top of the fact that they darkened the kitchen even more. After a lot of debating and internet research, I opted to maintain the color and style of the naughty pine cabinets, which was a surprise even to me. At first, I jokingly referred to them as naughty pine, but that style is so indicative of the era the house was built in that I hesitated to change it. After all, if style is cyclical, it should only be a matter of time until they are all the rage again. Instead, I thought, better to find a way to update them so the kitchen can feel modern but still cohesive with the rest of the house. So over the Christmas holidays, we sanded and restained the cabinets and added updated nickel fixtures.
The update was much needed and greatly appreciated but still our cooking space was far from what we hoped for in our dream kitchen, so next we opted to tackle removing the wood paneling from the walls and add some open shelving for increased storage.
Still, what was and continues to be missing, is an update to the counters and back splash because poorly installed beige ceramic tiles just won’t do. This weekend, we took a sledge hammer to the terrible, TERRIBLE tile work and began the demolition, preparing for new shiny white counter tops.
We weren’t sure what would lie beneath the tile. The original laminate perhaps? Or rotted plywood? Your guess was as good as mine.
Pulling up the tile was easier than I thought it would be. Perhaps that is because it was rather cathartic to smash into the surface I had so long despised—making the project feel less like work and more like play. Before I knew it, after just a little sweat and chiseling we, with the help and expertise of Heath’s family, completely scraped the countertops and backsplash free of the tile I found so appalling. In just a few hours we were able to remove all the tile AND salvage our deep stainless steel sink. A big money saver for we thrifty folk.
What we found underneath the tile was dry plywood, which ended up being a lifesaver, enabling us to still be able to use the kitchen counter and sink for the next two weeks while we wait for our white solid-surface countertop to come in. Though it’s not much to look at, I’m grateful for the interim surface.
We also (drum roll please) had a plumber replace our kitchen faucet, both a cosmetic and functional improvement
And now that the tear-out is done and we have nothing to do but wait, we are busying ourselves with comparing our options for the backsplash. So far it’s between a light blue subway tile and mini rectangular tiles in varying shades of blue. While I wasn’t keen on mini tiles at first, as of now I think it’s our front runner.
The kitchen remodel has definitely been our longest-running home improvement project to-date, and it’s still a ways off from being complete, but I feel like we turned a corner with this week’s demolition. And I’m excited for how much it’s going to change for the better in the very near future.
It’s finally happening…
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!