Our Memorial Day weekend was pretty excellent on all counts and though not quintessentially American, at least was quintessentially us. There wasn’t hamburger grilling or lake going, but there was Broken Spoke dancing, Grandfather visiting, Greenbelt hiking and—perhaps most excitingly—thrift store shopping. What started as a What-Else-Do-We-Have-To-Do rainy Saturday quickly turned into an OMG-I-Can’t-Believe-We-Found-All-Of-This-Affordable-Second-Hand-Stuff-That-Is-Precisely-Exactly-What-We-Have-Been-Looking-For awesome Saturday. We found stuff like…
…these two framed and matted Craig Holmes prints of the Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges. We picked them up on the cheap from Corner Collectors Market, one of my favorite Austin junk stores. Heath is planning to hang them in his classroom as a classy and educational addition to his U.S. history curriculum. Pay attention kids, that’s what you call [hashtag] wining.
Another treat for Heath was getting his hands on some old books from Recycled Reads, the Austin Public Library’s used bookstore where they sell all the titles they no longer want in circulation for dirt cheap. Hardcovers: $2. Paperbacks: $1. Watching Heath make a pallet on the office floor so he can lay in a sea of his newly acquired library: priceless.
But the real “HOLY MACARONI” moment (For me at least. Let’s be real, Heath was checked out by this point, he had books to read and posters to hang.) was finding this midcentury dresser from Room Service Vintage. It was in great condition, it cost less than humdrum Ikea furniture and it matched our other bedroom dresser like its long lost twin sister. Or actually, a taller, skinnier, prettier sister. Those were great perks, but most importantly, it met the must-have criteria I was looking for in a new dresser. Namely, it fits perfectly against this awkward, small bit of wall in our bedroom and it’s stupid cute.
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!
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.
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.
I’ve made three visits to the paint section of Home Depot over the last week, and I can’t imagine how the clerks there must picture my house, what with me walking out with colors like Riesling Grape, Peacock Blue and Intense Teal. I admit, it’s quite the vivid assortment. But man alive do I love what it has done for some of the surfaces in the DH.
Remember not so long ago when I posted about my lackluster front door? Now she is dreary no more.
I’ve only got to install windows (ordered, not yet arrived) before it really starts to come together and look a bit more like my dream mid-century entryway (see below).
Then there is my armoire–the 1930s piece my mom had painted for me during my Paisley stage, but which needed a little updating to keep up with the fun-house color scheme currently dominating the home. The idea was to create a piece that looked a little something like this…
A few coats of Peacock Blue later and I wasn’t far off.
We think it looks great next to my beloved map wall.
And finally, because I’m obsessed with the vivid combo of lime green and turquoise, I decided to paint yet another accent wall in the living/dining room. Although, to be honest, my “accent walls” are slowly but surely becoming just “walls”. My white-to-color ratio is decreasing significantly, but I can’t say it bothers me much. The inspiration…
And the actualization…
Ok. I think that’s enough painting for now, as I probably need to stop before things get out of hand. The only question remaining is which project I should turn my attention to next.
We have a front door. I think it’s been used 3 times. Not because we don’t have any friends or family and no one ever comes over, but because it’s perhaps the most oddly placed front door in the world.
It’s easy to miss, seeing as how it’s really more of a side door. And it’s not even the first door you see from the direction most folk enter the neighborhood. The first door you typically see is the “back door,” which is technically a side door. We have no actual back door. Understanding the architect’s (though I doubt there was one) rationale related to door placement is a head scratcher. Come to think of it, my house might be a portal to another dimension. I just have to get the door system worked out correctly before I can access Narnia or wherever. Regardless, no one uses the front door. I would like to change that.
I’ve tried a few things to encourage use of the front door.
1) Telling people. This was my first approach. Though all the conversations generally wound up going something like this…
Me: Hey guys. You know how when you come over, the first room you walk into is the kitchen? That’s weird, huh? You should try using the front door!
Other people: You have a front door?
Me: Yeah, it’s right there.
Other people: Oh. I thought that was a closet.
2) Building a path leading directly to said front door. Mom helped with this one. The thinking was that maybe if people had an easy and pleasant way to get to this mysterious threshold, they would be more inclined to use it. I think we’ve had one taker so far.
That about brings us up to speed as far as my efforts go to encourage front door use. Clearly more diabolical measures are in order.
Of course, my first instinct is to paint. Maybe part of the reason people can’t see the front door is because it blends too well with the rest of the house? Same color. Same texture. Same everything. I think a coat of lime paint would look stinkin’ good with our existing grey.
But why stop there? Painting alone would be too pedestrian for the likes of us. We’ve got this mid century house, I’d like to spruce ‘er up with some mid century doors–the type that have the dainty little windows that both let in light and look unbelievably trendy. Surely if there windows no one would confuse it for a closet!
At this rate. People would be fools, FOOLS I say, not to want to enter through this heavenly little nook we have created on our minuscule portion of the planet. Until recently, I thought a front door makeover would be further down the renovation line, as we don’t really want to shell out up to $1,000 for a door we still aren’t completely sure people will use. Thank heavens I was turned on to Crestview Doors, which is an amazing company that not only sells custom mid century doors, but also has “doorlite kits” for as little as $59 which enables thrifty homeowners such as ourselves to do the dirty window installation on our own. And, if you can believe it, the company is based out of Austin. Oh dear fate, what have we done to fall into your good graces?
We have found our weekend project.
And while I am dreaming big. Allow me to share my final scheme for encouraging use of our front door. Drum roll please….
I am going to eliminate all other options. You can’t learn to use the front door? You lose side door privileges all together. Somewhere down the line I want to put in a glass paneled garage door and turn our carport into a patio/greenhouse/sunroom.
It’s a lofty goal indeed. And one that might be coming later rather than sooner. But as the poster above the chair at my orthodontist’s office said, “even if you shoot for the moon, you’ll land among the stars.” So, inspirational children’s poster, I’m shooting for sun room.
Thanks for visiting. Now, kindly exit through the front door.