Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tile sources

Someone asked where we got the accent tiles, and I should have known to post that after the pain in the *** it was to round everything up.
The small 3/4" accent tiles are glass, and they came from Hakatai. Check out their gallery - it makes me swoon! They will send you a sample board for a few $$ (which was really helpful) and then they sell the tiles in loose bags by the pound for only about $5 or so per bag, which was all we needed.
The 6 Art Nouveau tubelined tiles are from New England Art Tile Co. You can get them on Ebay but they're in Maine so we went down to pick them up. I think they are building a new showroom? Great price & great style.
The subways are Daltile, we got them from someone else who didn't need them, otherwise it would've been out of our price range. But they're not that expensive, really. We also checked out Subway Ceramics, they are the Mac Daddy of subway tiles and if we could've afforded it, they would have been the #1 choice!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

We're calling it: Kitchen DONE!

Okay, so the kitchen is not quite, quite done, but we decided to call it after the tile backsplash went in. Crummy little teeny tiles - why do I insist on torturing myself with difficult, ridiculous 'touches'? Every other remaining task is about an hour or less, the list could be written on a post-it, and nobody who comes over thinks it's not done. Those seem to be the conditions for done-ness. Ken will be grouting the backsplash in the next few days, and the door for over the stove is just waitin' for the last coat of finish to dry.

So, I don't remember if we posted this, but when we started the kitchen, we wanted something food-y to mark when we started and when we finished. We took 2 identical boxes of cornbread mix & ate one when we started, then wrote on the other box "FINISHED __________". We filled in the date the other day, and ate the bread! (We also needed a quick dinner after a long day shoveling, etc - Dinty Moore & Jiffy cornbread - it's America's Favorite - yum. What is more Maine Winter Post-Shoveling than that?)

Favorite part of the kitchen: I think it's a tie between the CLEAN, FLAT floor and the open shelves. Eddy's favorite part is the empty peanut butter jar.

So, Happy Holidays, and now that we have a teeny speck of time off, we might just get some real work done soon!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Back (almost) splash!

Alright, time for a less-embarrasing title than the previous post, especially for any folks who've opened the blog at work (sorry!).

So this weekend we started the rest of the backsplash tile, with the goal of putting in the bottom row. We're trying not to overdo it right now - it was pretty intensive kitchen work for a while, and we need a slow-down before the next project kicks in. However, it was going so well that we put in all the subway tile, and now just have to fill in with the multi-color strip (maybe next weekend?). But it looks so much cleaner now that the amazing technicolor wall isn't flaking off all over the place! Ahhh, the satisfying glossiness of new tile.

In our old apartment, our knife rack used to be right next to the bathroom, and it was kind of an interesting placement. This spot is much more sensible (as is the whole new kitchen in this house), but just a tiny bit, I miss the cheesy-horror-movie, Psycho-esque implications of gigantic knives next to the shower. Not that Psycho was cheesy, that was a quality classic film for sure. But Vertigo was better, no? Any votes for The Birds? ...anyways, yahoo for tile...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

We got boobs!

I bet we get a lot of hits off that title! It's really quite inocuous (mom!).

Ken's parents found a very interesting vintage salt & pepper shaker when they got their lakeside camp - it is in the shape of a woman lying down, and the salt is one of her (ahem) breasts, while the pepper is the other. Well, needless to say, the set (literally and figuratively) has become one of the family prized possessions, and much coveted by all. I mean, how campy can you get?

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw the very same set in an antique store here in town for a meager $10? Of course it had to come home with me. I'm not certain what the man minding the shop thought of me (these? he asked, pointing at the cute house-shaped ones right next to Miss February), but I didn't care. Ken absolutely flipped out and made me immediately agree that they are to be prominently displayed in the kitschen - I mean, kitchen. Well, duh. They're vintage after all. And yellow is one of our kitchen accent colors. No brainah.

Anyone know the history of these? I'm sure they have a cult following, and we'd love to hear more.

Sunday, December 2, 2007


All we've been doing lately is creating oddball bits of trim to finish all the weird last pieces of things. So here's where we are:

Done 1: The wine rack*. This was a teeny bit of space behind the antique base cabinet we reclaimed. Apparently older cabinets were not as deep as newer ones, so we had ~4.5" of dead space behind the unit. Can't waste space now, can we? So we planned to put in a winerack thingy. Trouble was, we couldn't wait to do it and we installed the cabinets and countertops first, then had to engineer a way to cram a skinny thing into a skinnier spot. Solution: attach narrow cleats to 2 pieces of plywood, nail/screw to both sides, then jam a 1x3 (trimmed to correct width) in between them in back to hold them apart at the proper width. Screw through that too. Luckily the drawers of the cabinet come out & leave an OK work space. Then set shelves on the cleats and finish out from the front. Note to self: do things in order next time. Works great, though! Today we added the last 2 teeny-tiny bits of trim (top and bottom, to hide some cabinet bracing ugliness) and filled nail holes. Touch up paint and it's officially done!

Done 2: The microwave cabinet (all but the door). We built this handy-dandy cabinet/pipe chase for the ductwork above the microwave, to hold uglier or bigger cookbooks and tall skinny things. It's all painted, cased, and trimmed out, just waiting for the door (which we successfully cut the pebble glass for ourselves today). By the way, even though 3 different glass shops wouldn't cut it for us ("Old glass always shatters", they'd say), we did it our damn selves with no problem. Just had to use a lot of 1 bys for support and clamping. Ha-ha.

Done 3: The WINDOWS, yes, that's right, the windows. All 3 of them. The most difficult, tedious, and rewarding part of every project - the windows. They look mighty fine too. We saw a window in the "Bungalow Kitchens" book that had a wood sash and painted trim, and that was the inspiration. These are stripped, re-glazed, repaired, re-painted/stained/finished, and have the sills and storms all stripped & caulked. We also had rounded up the couple of bits of missing hardware (shade brackets, a couple of the brass stop adjusters, and locks) and cleaned those brass beauties up too. And a shout out to JC Penney, who still will let you order custom sized, old-fashioned roller shades for a decent price. Yes, they're vinyl, but it's a kitchen. Needs to be easy to clean! You can order them online & pick up in a store, which is awesome.

What's left: we have touch up painting, cap for wainscoting (all painted & ready to install), tile to set, and thresholds to sand & finish & re-install. Next spring I'll strip the cellar door and then the kitchen is 100% done. Excluding the door stripping, we will indeed be totally done by X-Mas. Yes, there's a little tear in my eye as I write this - only a few kitchen posts left.
* we never have much wine, therefore it's a wine/saran wrap/water bottle rack. Anything long & skinny! It would look best with someone else's lovely wine collection in it, though.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Things not on our X-Mas list

I finally spent a second catching up on a couple of blogs, and found this great post on one of my favorite blogs: 15 Stocking Stuffers for DIY'ers.

Wow, we ARE house freaks, because: a) we already have ALL if the things on the list (except the nail nippers, which look AWESOME, FYI, and the sticky zippers, because we've been lucky to have doors where we need to shut things off), and b) I immediately recognized the utility of the headlamps - we've used them many times this way. No explanation needed.

Sadly, for our families, our holiday lists are full of incredibly specific items like: a 3/8 x 3/8 mortising bit to build rail & stile panels for the mud room seat; an assortment of antique-looking brass slotted screws, oval head and flat head (can never have enough); about 20 feet of a particular gauge of new, vintage style lighting wire from Sundial Wire....

Aw, heck, just get Lee Valley or Home Depot gift cards. Who wants to go searching for that crazy crap?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mission (somewhat) accomplished

The plan was to get the kitchen tile backsplash in this weekend. Well, the windows still needed a bit of glazing, so they're not entirely in, so we weren't ready to affix the windowsill, so we had to wait to tile all the way around.

NEVETHELESS, we got way ahead on many other jobs.

  • Microwave cabinet casing is in, most of the trim is up, and it looks awesome!

  • Bought and cut chair rail for top of wainscoting (painting & installing: next weekend?)

  • Wine rack area installed, 2 tiny trim pieces to go, but it's successfully holding the leftover thanksgiving wine right now. (Yes, there was leftover wine).

  • Backsplash is indeed tiled behind the stove! Successful test of the tile fit & installation. Phew!

Please excuse the crooked picture. As you can see, it was early & the coffee was still being made. No straight pictures till 10 am.

So the kitchen will absolutely be done by X-Mas. Wahoo!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, BT! (and a brick story)

Today is a faithful reader (and all around fabulous woman)'s birthday, so in honor of this auspicious day, a story I think she'll find funny.

So, we've been hunting for free, old bricks for our patio project next summer. (Note: My best friend: "Where the hell do you find old bricks?"; Me: "People just have them lying around their yards".) So every time I go anywhere, I'm scanning for bricks.

A few months ago, we noticed that a new Chinese Restaurant in our old neighborhood had a pile of bricks by the side of the building. Two side notes: (1) this place is called "No. 1 Restaurant", so of course the running joke is that we're thrilled it's not the unfortunate "No. 2 Restaurant", and (2) this used to be a slightly creepy video store we used to walk to. Eew.

The other day I found myself early for an appointment and in that neighborhood, so I figured, what the heck, I'll just go ask if I can have those bricks. They were sitting there for a long time, apparently useless.

Curtains rise. Girl walks into Chinese restaurant. Woman on phone, talking in Chinese, motions to paper menus on counter. Girl looks at menu briefly (knowing she won't order from the former video store), and goes to the drink fridge, pulling out a water and pretending not to wait for the woman to get off the phone.

Woman [in Chinese, asks person on line to hold on a moment], juts chin toward girl as if to ask - what do you want?

Girl: I noticed you have a pile of old bricks outside, and I'm collecting old bricks for a project. If you want to get rid of those bricks, I'd like to take them.

Woman: [strange look], What? [Tells person on phone to hold on, in Chinese]

Girl: [motioning wildly, to act out a brick pile around the building], loudly, Sometimes people want to get rid of old bricks. You have a pile of bricks. Do you want them or can I take them?

Woman: [in poor English] Is that your car there? What's wrong?

...this goes on, until woman motions to young man in restaurant to watch the counter [spoken in Chinese] and follows girl out to brick pile. Girl explains again about bricks. Woman shakes head in dismay, goes back inside, girl follows. Woman sends young man out to figure out the situation. Girl follows young man to brick pile, explains. Young man furrows brow, goes back inside.

Woman goes back outside, followed by girl and young man, listens to question about bricks again (heavily aided by charade-like gesticulations), and finally woman says, "I used to think, 'keep', but now you take".

Girl: (motioning) Me take? OK? [OK signal with hand]

Woman: Yes [goes inside]

Girl pulls car around & loads bricks.

It was a great moment when (I think) the woman was admitting that she, too, was some sort of a pack rat, saving the bricks for something, but ready to let them go when a crazy girl asked for them.

So far, we have 36 more bricks but it's a big pile so we'll go get more now that we have permission. The next place we've found with a brick pile is in a pretty trashy neighborhood, so there ought to be a good story when we screw up the nerve to ask there, too.

Moral of story: was there one? Maybe it's 'hell, might as well ask'. We gets lots of stuff that way.

So on your birthday, BT, ask for the moon! And we hope you get it.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who's lazy and who's NOT lazy

This is Henry. This is what Henry does about 90% of the time. Oh, sorry, in winter this is what he does. Normally he hugs the radiator, but it wasn't quite cold enough yet, so he had to dangle his feet off to regulate his temperature. Nice. In summer, he stares at us from his chosen chair on the porch, as if to say, what are you people still doing here? This is my porch! Amazingly, he's not particularly overweight or unhealthy. Everyone caters to his every need. He is unfazed by anything, including the visiting dog who was at this very moment trying to stare him down from just off-camera. Henry is lazy. Perhaps he's the definition of lazy.

Despite the lack of blogging over the past week AND the fact that everytime anyone asks how the kitchen is going, we say, "Going well. Putting up trim & finish work", we are NOT lazy. Our window glazing party is tonight and we've got all but 4 little strips of beadboard in. All of the trim is up and after touchups on that and finishing the windows, all we really have left is building the microwave cabinet, sanding and refinishing thresholds, putting on the chair rail, and tiling the backsplash, for which I've been reserving Thanksgiving vacation days. Wow, we're really almost done. I know you're all relieved, and probably as sick as we are of talking kitchen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Our southern doppelgangers

We got a comment on our pictures of the full moon, and found that some other housebloggers got even better pictures: . Nice!

Also check out their before pictures and commentary - although every stitch of our house was pink at some point, someone at least had the sense to paint it white. Wait - I hate that white paint! Wait - maybe it is better than white.

At least the squatter in our house left within a few hours of closing - reason number 52 to get a lawyer! But they appear to have hex tile in the bathroom. Now that's a close call - creepy squatter...hex tile??? Hmmm...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Window sashes: paint stripping 101

It's fall, and in the North, all thoughts turn to winterizing. That means windows: getting them all back in! (See also related series of posts at House in Progress). This weekend I broke the record for number of windows sashes stripped in a single weekend: 6 (3 windows worth). Whereas it used to take me about 8 hours per sash, I'm down to about 2 (excluding the time that I leave sashes with stripper on to soak in).

It struck me that although I responded to a question by a reader a while back about paint stripping, I've never put it on the blog. So as I stripped those sashes, I did the play-by-play photos. (Yes, I got a new camera charger). Following is the procedure we use, pasted from my response to the comment, and with window-specific details added. Note that I ALWAYS use citristrip on sashes - it works well, doesn't damage the glass, and it's my old standby. Other methods are better for other house parts (heat gun for trim, peel away when I'm tired of stripping, etc.) Also note that you should ALWAYS test what you're doing on a piece that will be hidden or that is not your favorite window - all the old materials and types of paint have their own personality & you need to first make sure that what you're using won't cause damage.

We use a variety of paint stripping methods, depending on the job and sometimes the mood! We assume everything is lead paint, so we never ever sand anything. We use a heat gun for starters, to get the big stuff off. This works really well in our house, because they painted right over the old shellac/varnish, and the heat gun basically heats up that shellac layer, and it slides right off with the paint. You can see the varnish on the back of a heat-gunned piece of paint, below.

Then I go back and clean up using a wet stripper - sometimes I use citristrip, sometimes peel away. If almost all of the paint is gone, I sometimes just scrub with a green scrubby pad (like scotch brite) and regular old rubbing alcohol - but you should test on a small section first because the alcohol can darken some woods, and if you have light wood, the green scrubby can stain it green! I would test everything, frankly. I always wear gloves and usually a respirator for fumes. You'll need lots of gloves - they get gross and splinters will puncture them, then you'll start leaking! Splinters are a serious issue - even with gloves I usually have lots that often don't come out for a while - I've had some real painful ones. I sometimes wear those rubber-dipped work gloves under my rubber stripping gloves if I'm getting a lot of stabs!
On windows, I always use citristrip. It's gloppy and gross, but it's my old standby and it works for our unique combo of old disgusting paints. I do them outside. We never take the chance of cracking window sashes with the heat gun, which is why I always strip those wet.
Step 1: apply the stripper. Let it sit. Often overnight. Just let it work, I'm telling you. Then gently scrape off the paint. Words to live by: just scrape off what slides off. Don't try to physically scrape. The wood gets soft with the stripper on and you will gouge it.
Step 2. Apply the stripper, again, if necessary. Often there is a particular layer of paint that is either on there really well or is a different type of paint than other layers, and it can act as a barrier. Get off what comes off the first time, then re-apply. After many times doing this, it is quicker and way easier than working really hard to get those last bits off with a scraper (and you damage the wood less). Then gently scrape that off. Either apply again or go to the next step.
Step 3: clean it up. However we get the majority of paint off, after that I clean up the little stubborn bits by scrubbing with wet stripper & green scrubby. Take your time here, scrape the little bits out of the corner now, because even though it's oh-so-tempting to say "I'll just sand them later", it's impossible to do that. Just get it all off while it's still goopy.
Step 4: really clean up. You can use alcohol & scrubby, or whatever the stripper manufacturer suggests. Your call. Get it clean, you'll probably have a bit of hazy residue but you want to get the stripper to stop working so things can dry out.
Step 5: Let it rest. I don't touch them again for a few days. The wood needs to dry our; it gets soft during the process. Plus you'll be sick of dealing with the windows. When you come back to them, they'll look pretty good. Then we do the world's quickest sanding with like 150-ish paper just to remove any stripper residue and smooth out if there were any splinters or raised grain (or wood filler for the millions of curtain rods they HAD to install), then tackcloth and finish. Woo hoo!
Oh, and in our case, now turn them over, fix all the exterior problems, reglaze, then re-finish all the rest of the window parts, THEN install. We're getting there, though.
Other tidbits of info: Peel away claims its ok for inside, so I use that on trim that isn't removed (if the heat gun wasn't appropriate for some reason, like carvings or places the heat gun won't go). You'll need a bunch of dental picks, scrapers, etc. to clean up some spots. A really dull chisel works well for a lot of things - it doesn't tend to accidentally gouge the wood. Wear clothes that you wouldn't mind throwing out. Sometimes it just gets too messy & gross, and if your paint is potentially lead, you'll want to kiss them goodbye. And - ventilation! This is all stinky and not the healthiest thing to do, so get yourself plenty of fresh air or do it outside.
Windows take PATIENCE. Repeat: PATIENCE. In fact it all does. When you first start you'll wonder how you'll ever finish, but you just have to keep plugging and take lots of breaks/come back to it later. I find that I actually kind of look forward to it now! The results are so satisfying, it is always worth it - we have beautiful flat-grain fir under there! If you can master pulling the trim out and working on it outside in a workshop/garage, it's much cleaner and easier that way. Disclaimer: I'm an amateur and I'm just telling you what we do, no implied warranties, etc. :)
There's nothing like a beautiful old wood window. They look and work great, you just have to get them cleaned up and tune them, and they're miles better than vinyl. But don't even get me started on that issue...
Sorry about the odd spacing on this post - I don't know what's up with it! Out of time to worry about it...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Sugar buzz

We've finally figured out the correct candy amount for our neighborhood: 300 pieces. Enough for the trick or treaters plus some for us & the friends who come over to have pizza & frosty beverages on the porch and help us make fun of the kids. And people getting busted by the cops for speeding.

Sugar buzz...wearing off. This calls for more coffee.

Oh, p.s., to the grouchy parent who said "They don't have railings", yes, we KNOW. We're building them next summer. We were a bit busy last year putting in 2 bathrooms and a kitchen. If you want to help, bring it on, b----. And if your kids don't know to stay inside the aisle of flaming pumpkins, well, you've got some parenting to do.

p.p.s. - Free candy = no complaints allowed.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Funky, spooky pix

Hey all - the other night was the closest the moon will be this year, it's the hunter's moon, and it was awesome here up north. After walking the dog, and fueled by a couple of beers, we decided it would be cool to take pictures of the moon and the house. So we got the camera and ran the battery out taking pix with every possible camera setting. Note: beers + manual settings on camera = not the least shaky camera-holding ability in the world. (Later found out that my camera charger is missing, so these will be the last pictures until I find it or get a new one. Which is sad because we just put up a bunch of kitchen trim. Oh well, you'll just have to use your imaginations.)

Anyways, here are two of the better ones:

On this second one, note that all of the lights inside and outside the house are energy-efficient CFLs, which are really great for energy conservation. And cheap to run. And cool-burning, so you don't have to worry about the house burning down (as long as you have newer wiring, right?). May we point out that they do NOT give off a cold blue light if you pick your paint colors properly? Our house glows with a warm tone, and it looks fab. Just remember to RECYCLE your fluorescent bulbs properly - they contain mercury, which should NOT, repeat, should NOT be put in the trash.

Speaking of spooky, tomorrow is Halloween, which is amazingly huge in our neighborhood. The porch is great for distributing (and eating) candy, and we'll try to squeeze a photo or two out of the poor camera, and get you some details.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

New acquisitions

It's birthday season, which means new stuff. Plus we've had some successful trips to the antique store circuit. Here's an update on what's new, mostly kitchen but some elsewhere.

First, an unexpected purchase - we had wanted a proper arts & crafts style sideboard for the dining room, but it seemed a pipe dream because even the 'needing lots of work' ones were out of our miniscule price range. Then one day, at a local favorite shop - there it was. The perfect buffet. Good style, nice size, great finish, almost all original - so the price was right. Someone had already stripped the paint and re-finished it to the dark oak it probably was, so no paint stripping (always a plus). They also replace a small piece of the door that must have been damaged? Sadly also removing one of the old locks, but oh well. The worst thing they did was to put all new, totally inappropriate hardware on, including screwing new overlay hinges right to the faces of the doors. Argh - nasty! These little imperfections increased our bartering power, and we got it for a song. The mirror - all original to the piece - is stamped 1908 on the back, and beveled, and in great shape. It has a neat label on the back noting that they used some patented toilet hinges (!) to keep the top fastened to the base. Very cool. And we promptly ordered proper hardware from Lee Valley and an ebay seller making reproductions. What a difference hardware makes, once again. Love it!

Then as a gift we received the awesome 2007 edition Teco vase on top of the sideboard - they're making them again! Check it out at: Perfect on the buffet. I'm working on embroidering a runner, since I couldnt' find one I liked. Good winter project.

Then, on a birthday road trip, I headed out to our favorite salvage place, which we always seem to miss before they close for winter. Amazingly, they had oak cabinet doors in just the size we need for the over-microwave cabinet. We just needed one, and at $16, I didn't even haggle. They also had a vase for $2 that turns out to be a Jonathan Adler "Abacus" (in Jade), it has a chip but who cares - it looks great on our high kitchen shelf. Amazingly, I remembered the name from an American Bungalow article pointing out someone's interesting pottery grouping. Always a sucker for midcentury modern, I must have committed it to memory. Score!
(I love how the photo below says 'DONE' on the wall. I didn't even notice till I just downloaded the pictures. I don't remember what we were noting - maybe electrical? Now that wall is definitely NOT done and needs beadboard. Also, note to self, we realized NEVER EVER to use sharpie to write notes on walls. Silly us. Takes extra paint to cover sharpie.)

Our downtown antique shop (the one with coffee and pastries!) had their anniversary sale, so we took the easy road and bought (as opposed to built) a corner shelf for the desk area. Its victorian/possible Eastlake, but simple and handmade for those styles, and it looks fab.

And finally - poppies. Went to Mainely Pottery and browsed for a while, and found this great tile which pretty much finished out the desk area in the kitchen. Love it, and it's locally made.

That's it for acquisitions - the budget is gone and birthdays are over. Now we're back to painting trim and finishing out the kitchen details.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kitchen shelves: check!

We finished the kitchen shelves & put our dishes & other kitchen stuff away today. The dining room is officially free of kitchen stuff! Here's a shot of the shelf brackets (see post below about the shelf design):

... and here are the finished shelves, almost full of stuff. There's now an additional basket on the left, bottom to hold the travel mugs, which there's just no rational way to store. Basket seems to work great so far.

What a difference having everything back within arm's reach. And the dishes - oh, how we missed eating off real plates!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday find: the comforting sound of silence

OK, we're trying out two things here - first, this Friday Find thing that's a Houseblogger initiative. Read about it here.

Second, our first attempt to upload a video. You tube, here we come! (just kidding, we have our hands full as it is).

So, here's the story of this clock in the video.

We found it at a local antique store (I know, not in the house but we've blogged plenty about house finds). They were using it in the coffee shop part of the store, and I guess it was time to sell it. It was right up front, staring at us as if it needed a new home, and it was only $18 (that's oddly the price we've paid for a lot of items. Seems to be a lucky number). And they said it worked because they'd been using it. It had me at 'hello' anyways - it's red! Our kitchen remodel plans were just waiting for a cool clock like this to take center stage.

Two cool things about the old clock (which appears to be from the 50s, and all original).

1. If the power goes out, it has a mechanical device in it that causes a red piece of paper (?) to spin around and so when you get home and think the times looks screwy, you know there was a power outage because there's a red dot at the top of the face. Way cool. Who needs little red light bulbs, anyways?

2. The clock makes an amazingly comforting chugging sound when it's plugged in. You can hear the gears working - nice, steady, and even. Sometimes it seems louder, sometimes softer, but if you get home from work early, all the windows are shut because it just got a bit of fall chill in the air, and it's dead silent at home, you can hear the comforting 'i think i can' of the clock from anywhere in the kitchen (or adjacent rooms). Also, when you first come downstairs for the weekend coffee and few minutes before you start doing things, there's the clock, chugging away in the silence, making just enough white noise to keep your brain quiet for a few minutes. We love this clock!

If you sit quietly, I hope you can hear it in the video.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Building open shelving for the kitchen

Long time, no blog. Suffice to say, we've been busy. But we're back in action & still plugging away at the kitchen shelves. Which led us to recall that when we started planning the shelves, we couldn't find any info telling us how to do it. I'm sure pro carpenters know, be we didn't. We deduced how it might be done from the many photos we have of open shelves in bungalows. A key component of our design is that we wanted the brackets to be spaced evenly, not at the sometimes random places where studs are. So the following illustration shows our design, that works with that constraint. Enjoy! Comments welcome...

1. After cutting and sanding everything, you need to notch the brackets to fit the cleat.

2. Pilot drill and screw the brackets onto the cleat. Note – things are upside down and backwards at this point.

3. At this point, we painted the bracket-cleat assemblies and the shelves.

4. Here’s where this starts making sense: because the brackets are acting as braces against the wall, they don’t necessarily have to be screwed to the wall. So you didn’t have to make sure you were spacing them out to match existing studs – you could space them evenly.

So now you need to attach the cleat part of the assembly to the studs at the height you want – you have to be sure to hit studs if you want the shelves to stay attached! You can also screw through the brackets into the wall if you think you need to.

5. Last step: screw the shelf down to the cleat-bracket assembly. Then just fill all your screw holes, touch up with paint, and you’re done.

Friday, September 21, 2007 all the wrong places

Who was it that said that patina is just dirt in all the right places? Well, we've got patina everywhere here. Yes, when you're working on one room and have limited time, you tend to forget about the rest of the house a bit. So when I had a few stolen hours the other day and decided it was time to pay attention to the whole house & give it a thorough cleaning, there were some shockers. I will say, a bungalow is great because the compact plan and linked rooms make cleaning pretty simple...but we have a dog and two cats, which make plenty of mess.

OK, mom, close your eyes a sec - I'd like to introduce to you all our new pet bunny. (Note: flip flop for scale). This was from the far corners of the living room, which we could now reach because the radiator is out of there - re-installed in the kitchen (awesomely re-done by Ken). Wow, that's all I'm sayin' about that.

Oh, and the shelves on the radiator wall are done! Just have to fill the attachment holes and touch up the paint, but we're calling them done! And they're looking fab with my collection of green pottery, an antique casserole dish my mom bought me at an antique store we visited in Arizona and then I gingerly hauled back on the plane (mission design, perfect colors, worth the pain in the butt that was), and Ken's woodturnings.

Now that we like the design of the shelves and have the attachments totally figured out, maybe we'll attack the rest of the shelving next. Then we can finally unpack the dishes! Our 'disposable' bamboo plates are starting to get pretty worn out, after all.

And finally, here's an interesting/creepy find: Ken found this guy stuck in the fins of the radiator when he was cleaning it. Eeew...

Friday, September 14, 2007

This kitchen is almost done (is there such a thing?)

I feel like there's not nearly enough on the blog to describe what's up in the kitchen. Let me just start by saying - for all those of you who keep asking - yes, the kitchen is fully functional. Houston, we have liftoff. We made these lovely little quiches a couple of weeks ago (thanks again to the neighbors for their excess tomatoes!) Prepped on our countertop - well, cutting board - and cooked in our oven. And eaten at the table, no less!

So what else is done? Well, the pantry went in a while ago. Basically, when we framed & walled in a closet for the fridge, there was a convenient little shallow closet just to the left, where the chimney bump-out was - and it just so happened that it was exactly the right width to accept some free oak doors the neighbor gave us (same neighbor with the tomatoes - they're so sweet!).

Rewind - did we blog about the doors? I love the doors. Ken loves the doors. We all love the doors. (and the Doors too). They were in the attic of her garage, and they were having a new garage put up, and cleaning out the old one. Ken was checking it out, and reported back - they have some doors they want us to look at. Doors? I said. We have all the original doors in the house, plus an extra. What the heck do we need more doors for? I don't need any stinking doors. No, he said, you should see these doors. Off to the icky old garage. They're cabinet doors, from a built-in something that I betcha was probably in between their dining and living room, in a classic bungalow colonnade-type thing, now long gone. Oh man, I bet whatever-it-was was awesome. Bummer it's gone, but at least we could rescue the doors. We don't have a before picture, but they just looked a bit bedraggled - not even that terrible!

Took 'em completely apart, stripped off the old badly deteriorated varnish, removed some giant non-appropriate hinges that were attached with a framing nail (what the hell were they doing there? Using the doors as a barricade or something? I have no clue). Glued them back up and refinished and then I designed the trim for the pantry closet to fit them perfectly, et voila! Fantabulous pantry. We outfitted it simply, with just wood cleats and woodgrain melamine shelves (yes, we cheated - it was just easy and they are so easy to clean.). And spice racks on the door, thanks to a Crate & Barrel sale. Do you see that grain on the oak? Geez...

There's so much storage we're gratuitously storing giant popcorn bowls in there, and cloth shopping bags. It's ridiculous.

Things we learned while doing the pantry:
1. You can hang doors with a nice even space around them if you use finish nails taped to the casing as spacers. Then there's no balancing, etc. while you try to adjust the spacing & shim casing. Hey, that rhymes!

2. There are not that many cool choices for cabinet catches. We found some that work great, are pretty forgiving, and not totally cheap looking from Lee Valley (of course) - they're ball catches. They are on every door in the kitchen now & working great.

3. Even cheapo-generic beans look good in a fancy new pantry!

Some of the best kitchen design tips come from the Susanka books - she's so good at thinking about design principles that work in small spaces, efficiently.

What's next? Tomorrow we're all set up to put in the trim around the cellar & living room doors, and start installing shelving, beadboard, and put the ol' radiator back in. It's getting cold, after all...

Saturday, September 8, 2007

This one's for Carrie Ann

Got your email today, and even though everyone thinks we have sooo much energy, I don't have enough energy to both write back AND blog, so here's a blog on a 90 degree day. It's a story that I know will make you laugh :)

We're at that stage with the kitchen remodel - you know, when the to-do list switches over from exciting, big items like "tear out cabinets" and "lay new floor" and "install countertops" to miniscule, picayune details like "don't forget to create a custom shim for the spot where we cut the kick too short" and "fill that last nail hole up under the right side of the green cabinet" and "make new bits of trim around the dining room door where someone cut them too short".
Basically, a bunch of annoying, endless tasks with very little reward - nobody will even notice these things, dammit!

So last weekend, we did the last 'big' thing for a while - put together and installed the last cabinet and shelves where the doggie and kitties will eat. Of course they still need umpteen little bits of trim and finish details (and some beadboard on one side), but the thing is functional!

So here's the story - we were working on the countertop, which we made from two scraps of the main countertop (not being near IKEA and having no cash anyways). We got it together OK, but since there is an unsupported overhang where you can pull up a stool, we wanted it to be a bit more substantial than our peg joint was, so I asked Ken to stop at the hardware store on his way home (from errands) and grab a few steel mending plates to install underneath. Soon after, he drove in the driveway and got out of the car with an odd look on his face. I responded with a probably equally odd look - and he said, "I totally forgot to stop...Foreigner was on and I was grooving in the car and I totally forgot". Of course the most important thing to find out was what song? Happily, it wasn't "Eye of the Tiger" (which would have been unforgivable), but it was "Dirty White Boy" (Maybe that's worse?). I was just bummed that it wasn't Journey. Don't stop believin', Care.

Friday, August 31, 2007

We got published!

Yes, even as I struggle to get my PhD work published, in just a mere couple of months we've managed to get a letter published in American Bungalow, in the fall 2007 issue (should be on newsstands soon).

We got the issue in the mail the other day, just as I was contemplating what to do after yet another discouraging round of reviews on my research paper. Ah well, what can you do?

Anyways, our letter publication was perfectly timed, as we asked what to do about the tricky tranisition between painted woodwork around doors in the kitchen and unpainted woodwork around the dining room side of the doors. The editors answered and we're ready to get going on our trim. After a couple of other projects...and a break, now that the sink is working!

Monday, August 27, 2007

And now the kitchen sink

The sink is in! We were invited to a lobster picnic yesterday, but finished the sink first and here's the promised after photo. Note that I managed to capture the first drop of water!

More later (I'm on coffee break and thus the super-quick post) - the pantry with vintage oak doors will get done tonight for sure.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Everything but the kitchen sink

We are almost done installing the countertops, cabinets, and kitchen sink, and we're not posting those pix until we're really done. However, we're definitely a few blogs behind - it's been an extremely busy (and productive) couple of weeks. We've tried to be on vacation and working on the kitchen with laser focus, but of course, have had some diversions. Anyways, before we share those final pictures (by the end of the weekend, dammit!) we realized we haven't told you about all the various kitchen parts we've been collecting over the past year and a half or so, so here goes.

First, you've already seen the cabinets (, but we thought we'd share them in 'diamond-in-the-rough' form - the photo we got from the folks who sold them to us for a mere $100 (thank you!!!) Not the prettiest things, and hardware - blech - from circa 1981, but they had the charm we wanted and the right sizes. You've already seen our 2 antique cabinets in the previous blog, they make the kitchen pop so these basic versions (repainted & with new hardware) can just look plain and functional.

Second, our kitchen island/tall table, which we love, love, love. Read all about the $2 island here (

Third, lighting. This part is in progress and slated for a later completion date (code: got no time now, we'll do it later). However, we bought the lights and got total steals on good ol' ebay. There are 2 transitional mission pendants with square loops (all brass) that looked like clown lights on ebay. Luckily I saw those square loops and we got 'em for like $20 (yes, for the pair!) Then the hunt for shades and fitters - I ended up with some goofy lots of lighting parts (a few bucks here & there) until I got a pair of lovely Hubbell fitters and in the meantime, we found the main fixture for the room - a hanging, dual pendant dealie with square loops and acorn pull chains (this is a very desirable thing, by the way). Oh my god, and check out this site if you ever need to know the history of light sockets( It was missing a canopy, and we got one from Rejuvenation, it's about all we could afford from them! Then we miraculously found 4 glass shades in the style we wanted (transitional, slightly curvy square shades, sorry no pic yet) and even though they were yet another ebay find, it turned out the guy selling them was about 3 miles away, so we drove over & got them all for under $20. So lighting: check! Under $150 for the whole setup. Which is actually expensive for us.

What else...switchplates, found a crazy sale at Lee Valley, and some were only like $3 each, then we needed just a couple at full price. They're great and perfect style.

Finally, yesterday's fab find - a lovely seafoam-blue-green vase (on the left) and my favorite antique store, while shopping with mom, here on a visit. It has cattail handles and the mark looks kind of like r-r (one r is backwards), and then c 5. Anyone know who this is? It's a very Roseville-esque glaze.

Let's see - that's it for now - we have the neighbor's oak doors which will be pantry doors, but not ready for primetime yet. Cost: zero dollars. Satisfaction of saving SOLID OAK DOORS: priceless.

See you on Sunday with the final countertop installation...

Saturday, August 11, 2007


We put in the cabinet carcasses today. By the way, Ken is writing today, Sarah is packing for our trip this week, I'm already done. There does not seem to be much to cabinets, not a lot of supports or bracing, but when they go in, they always surprise me how sturdy the structure becomes! We used old cabinets we got from Uncle Henry's (see old posts) after we primed and painted them. We also added some bracing for the sink and new hidden feet.

(Sarah here - Ken was waiting for me to finish the pre-vacation work marathon so I could download pix, so I'm adding photos & captions to his blog).

These photos: The before, mockup. In case you were wondering what cabinets we're using, we got them for $100 through Uncle Henry's here in Maine. I think the folks who took them out just didn't want to pay to have them hauled! They were pretty ugly (and yes, the hardware will end up in next year's yard sale pile), but I knew that painted, they would give us the right look. By the way, in case we haven't mentioned, our kitchen budget is a shoestring, although we've got a few nice extras. Lucked out with free sink & fridge! We only needed a couple because we're going to do upper shelves. There's an antique cabinet (far right, picture 2) that we want to make into the focal point for cabinets, it will be painted the accent (green trim) color and gives the kitchen some class. I haggled the folks at one of my fave antique stores down to $60 from $100 for that, the hardware is worth it (patented 1873, cool eastlake cast iron bin pulls). Plus we got a Napanee Hoosier Helper (little white cabinet, on left in first pic) in rough shape, I also haggled it down to about $60 because it needs a good bit of work (and had horrendous hardware!) That will be painted either the cabinet cream or green, jury's still out on that one). We love the porcelain top, it's great next to the stove & has a pull out cutting board which is great when you've got a hot pan & no countertops yet!

Most of the work involves hiding the attachments and shims you use to level the cabinets. We planned fascia boards and kickplates to hide the myriad of shims used to take up the 1/2 inch of drift in the floor. Not bad for an 80 year old house. And the only corner we put cabintes in turned out to be naturally square!

(Sarah again: these photos show the painted cabinets & the installation. Obviously they'll look better with doors & drawers, but we're thrilled with them as compared to the old cabinets, and the way these looked before painting!) Look at that sunlight streaming in! Now that's a kitchen!

OK, that's all for now. We're out of town, Ken's doing some work and I'm getting a pedi (a rare treat, but it's been a long trip to finishing the dissertation) at one of my favorite spas, the Common Man in NH. Kicking off the vacation right, and maybe a paraffin dip will get all the rest of the floor adhesive & alkyd primer off my feet! Poor pedicurist, she doesn't know what she's in for.