Accent walls all over the place!

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I’ve learned that painting is one of the easiest ways to improve a room. And since our entire house–including the gorgeous original hardwood trim (let us never speak of it… the pain is still too near)–was painted with cheap matte off-white paint when we moved in, I’m systematically painting everything.

I couldn’t quite decide on what neutral colors I wanted to do for the majority of the rooms, so I decided to start bold… with accent walls! Two of them: one in the kitchen, one in the guest room/office. You’ve already seen the kitchen accent wall.

Pot rack, knife rack, bar cart, accent wall... no big deal!

Pot rack, knife rack, bar cart, accent wall… no big deal!

 

I banged that thing out in an hour with a quart of paint and I love everything about it.

The guest room/office I decided to do purple. Dark, striking, awesome purple. Here’s how it looks:

The guestroom accent wall and overflow library.

The guestroom accent wall and overflow library.

 

The color is Ralph Lauren Fin de Siecle in eggshell. It took about a half gallon. I was worried that it would look black in low lighting, but so far so good! There’s still a lot to do with the office. For one thing, we’re going to replace that light sconce with something more consistent with the house’s time period. Or, y’know, something that’s just Not Ugly. We also still need to find an antique doorknob plate for one of the doors leading into the office so it can, y’know, close. But as this room is probably the least important in the house, don’t expect to see a ton of progress for awhile.

The kitchen… so far!

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You don’t know how long I tried to brainstorm a kitchen-related pun for the title of this post, to no avail.

I was going to split the various kitchen projects up into multiple blog entries, but there’s nothing like an extreme before-and-after story, so here I’m going to introduce you to all the awesome kitchen projects all at once. You might want to sit down. Ready? Here goes.

Before:

Breakfast... nook?

Breakfast… nook?

After:

First wave of kitchen renovations.

First wave of kitchen renovations.

I KNOW RIGHT?! I owe a huge thank-you to Ben, Craig, Jamie, and Zach for helping to make it so awesome. I’m so lucky to have such amazing, talented, knowledgeable, and strong friends in my life (though I suppose Ben doesn’t really deserve extra credit since he, y’know, lives here). Here’s the break-down of all the projects so far.

1. Dishwasher, garbage disposal, and butcher block. There was no dishwasher and no garbage disposal when we moved in and no existing electrical outlet or plumbing for the dishwasher (sensing a pattern here?). Plus, we were a little slim on counter space. So I hired my friend Zach Ervin the professional contractor to install the appliances and build us a food-grade butcher block on top of the dishwasher cabinet. Why not do it myself? Because as we learned from installing the washer and dryer, sometimes it’s absolutely worth it to have a professional do the work. In a day and a half, Zach accomplished what would’ve taken Ben a week, with zero leaks, and it looks ten times as nice. Check out that butcher block!

Gorgeous maple butcher block by Zach.

Gorgeous maple butcher block by Zach.

2. Accent wall. This was all me–because let’s face it, painting is about the extent of my home improvement skills so far. I used Behr paint color Falling Leaves in semi-gloss. Only took a quart of paint and about an hour of my time. In that time I decided I hated textured walls, though.

3. Hanging pot rack. This would be my third favorite Craigslist find, since it cost me a fraction of what this bamboo pot rack cost new. Our friend Craig installed it under the light in the weird breakfast nook area. Apparently it will withstand a couple pull-ups, but I’m not going to test that theory.

Pot rack, knife rack, bar cart, accent wall... no big deal!

Pot rack, knife rack, bar cart, accent wall… no big deal!

4. Magnetic knife rack. We got this as a Christmas gift from Ben’s folks a few years ago, and it seemed a natural fit for the accent wall. I installed it myself (so I guess that means drilling holes is also in my home improvement repertoire).

5. Wooden window blinds. At long last, we have succeeded in installing window treatments on every bare window in the house! These windows face the street corner, and at night with the kitchen light on you can pretty much see straight into the kitchen from a block away, so the blinds were necessary. This was mostly me… with a big assist from Ben who is both stronger and more sensible than me (one of these days I’ll learn to use properly sized drill bits). We used faux wood blinds from Home Depot because they were about half the cost of real wooden blinds and I dunno ’bout you, but can’t tell the difference.

Blinds! In the kitchen!

Blinds! In the kitchen!

6. Electrical outlet. When we moved in there were approximately 0.3 outlets in the entire house. So our friend Jamie the electrician installed a few more. One in the bathroom (I was getting pretty desperate to straighten my hair for a few weeks) and one under the sink so we can plug in the garbage disposal and dishwasher.

7. Cabinet knobs. Yeah yeah, I know I already wrote a whole blog post dedicated to my cabinet hardware, but I’m just so proud of it that I wanted to give it another shout-out. I mean, look at these knobs!

Kitchen knobs!

Kitchen knobs!

There’s still a lot of work to be done in the kitchen, but we’re done with it until probably after the holidays. Next step: painting the cabinets. That should lighten the room up a little bit, considering it’s pretty full of dark hardwood right now. Also we need to replace the pantry door. And paint the walls. And figure out what to do about the weird gap between the oven and the pantry. And replace the ancient refrigerator. Listen, there’s just a lot to do in the kitchen, ok?!

It’s the little things

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Our kitchen cabinets are plain, wooden, and completely unobjectionable.

I despise them.

Kitchen!

Kitchen!

Fortunately, solid wood kitchen cabinets are pretty easy to change. So the long-term plan is to paint them a creamy white with a brown glaze to make them fit with my overall vision for the kitchen. But in the short term, they needed knobs. Badly. Every time I went to open a drawer or a cabinet I would break a nail or reach for the wrong side and it was just annoying.

We got two packs of a dozen matching knobs at Home Depot. Installing them took a little trial and error… by which I mean two broken drill bits, two broken screws, and a burned finger. I know what you’re thinking: “But Jess! Installing knobs is as easy as drilling a hole, sliding a screw through the hole, and screwing the knob on the end of the screw!” Technically, you’d be correct. But in practice…

I started out with too small of a drill bit, which meant that the holes for the screws were way too tight. I also didn’t have the drill on its hardwood setting, so it wasn’t getting enough power to go through the drawers quickly. By the time I realized that I was an idiot and needed to just grab a larger drill bit, I’d broken two cheap bits and two screws… all in the same drawer (drawer not pictured to hide my shame).

Anyway, after that debacle it was smooth sailing! I measured, drilled, and screwed in rapid succession. One thing I do recommend is to label all drawers and cabinets with post-it notes so you know where they go before pulling them all off the hinges. The whole process took maybe two hours, including the drill bit mishap.

Kitchen knobs!

Kitchen knobs!

The result: lovely and user-friendly knobs. No more broken nails in the kitchen!

Perfectly measured knob placement. PERFECT.

Perfectly measured knob placement. PERFECT.

Our best Craigslist finds so far

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With all the work that needs to be done to the new house, our budget for new furniture to fill it is basically… hugs and smiles. And this is a slight problem, because we’ve been living on secondhand furniture in tiny rental properties for five years so nothing really matches or fits the space exactly.

Enter Craigslist! Here are our two favorite Craigslist finds so far.

1. The record player.

Everything old is new again! Like our amazing vintage record player.

Everything old is new again! Like our amazing vintage record player.

This bad boy is a vintage record player/speaker cabinet thing. We’re choosing to use it as a liquor cabinet and radio.

Functional record player and radio! With a bluetooth adaptor, we can play music from our iPhones on this baby.

Functional record player and radio! With a bluetooth adaptor, we can play music from our iPhones on this baby.

So we don't actually own any records. This is where we keep the booze instead.

So we don’t actually own any records. This is where we keep the booze instead.

It’s in perfect condition and the speakers are remarkably clear considering they’re older than both of us combined. I’m considering re-finishing it, but I kind of love the natural wood and vintage style of the speaker fronts. What do you think?

2. The ugliest chair in the world.

It's so magnificent...

It’s so magnificent…

Our living room is kind of small and cramped and at the moment there’s no clear layout for optimizing use of both the TV and fireplace. So the two ginormous recliners we inherited from my folks when we moved out West are just too big and awkward to really work in there. So we needed smaller chairs. I found this beauty on Craigslist and decided that yes, yes I definitely needed a vintage gold velour Queen Ann chair for my living room.

Because I really, really needed a gold velour chair in my life. Really.

Because I really, really needed a gold velour chair in my life. Really.

I mean look at it! It’s perfect…ly ridiculous! My sister-in-law Amy has already said that she plans to sit in it and drink martinis all day while gesturing wildly with an olive-laden toothpick. Which is of course the purpose for which it was born.

I feel like the trick to Craigslist is to know what you’re looking for (no seriously–I was specifically looking for a ridiculous velvet chair) and to wait patiently for it to pop up. Living in a major city means there are enough people craigslisting that whatever you need is bound to pop up sooner or later.

It’s curtains for you!

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Admit it: I’m hilarious.

You might have noticed that our living room/dining room combo (greatroom?) has three enormous picture windows. Like… enormous:

You guys. We can actually fit a dining room table in here.

You guys. We can actually fit a dining room table in here.

They’re gorgeous and original to the house, but when we moved in they didn’t have any blinds or curtains of any kind. At night the room looked like a fish bowl from the street (and oh how I wish I had bothered to take a picture at the time). So we knew we needed some curtains STAT. Can’t have the neighbors watching us play video games at night to belie the illusion of adulthood we’ve taken such care to create, now can we?

This is where Pinterest comes in super handy. Here’s my Pinterest board for curtain fabric inspiration. I knew the basic color scheme I wanted based on the color of our existing furniture and decorations, but I had no idea where to go from there.

Fortunately, we have a secret weapon: my mom Arlene the professional seamstress. So I knew I wasn’t beholden to whatever affordable drapes I found in Target or Bed, Bath, & Beyond. She helped me pick out an awesome print from Joann Fabrics: Lovely Lattice Aqua. We needed enough (14 yards) that I had to order it online. Then we bought another 14 yards of light-blocking liner fabric, three dark bronze double curtain rods from BB&B, and sheer crushed voile under-curtains in ivory from BB&B (they were inexpensive enough that it would’ve cost just as much for mom to make them from scratch).

Then mom sewed her heart out for a few days and here’s what we got:

Mom-made drapes!

Mom-made drapes!

Gorgeous, right? But still… missing something. The drapes were so heavy that that was literally as far apart as you could push them before they slid back together. So off to Target we went for some tie-backs to match the curtain rods. And now… behold!

DSC_0906  DSC_0899DSC_0910

Clearly my photography needs work, but check out them curtains! They’re perfect! We can open and close them easily using the tie-backs, and they provide privacy without blocking the (ample) sunlight we get in the room at all hours of the day.

Window treatments! The difference between barbarism and adulthood.

Installing the washer and dryer

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“Installing” is really too strong of a word. It implies that you have existing plumbing dedicated to the purpose of supplying water to a washing machine, or that there was maybe a washer and dryer previously installed that are no longer there.

It had never even occurred to me that in the year 2014 a house in the United State of America would never have contained a washer and dryer, and thus, never have contained the plumbing for same.

And yet.

Before we go on, I have to give a huge shout-out to my mother-in-law Pat, who took on the role of master plumber for this endeavor. Through much frustration, determination, and trial and error, she single-handedly built the plumbing for our washing machine… thrice. Because (as you’ll learn if you ever try DIY plumbing) there is always a leak.

Getting the washer and dryer was the easy part. My co-worker Dan had a washing machine that he wanted to get rid of, and my friend Bexa had a dryer that she needed hauled away. Considering the cost of brand new appliances, I was happy to oblige them.

Installing the dryer was actually the easy part. Once we got it into the basement, we hooked up a dryer duct to the dryer, ran it through the unfinished ceiling of the basement, and connected it to an existing dryer vent on the side of the house (don’t ask me why they had a dryer vent but no washing machine hook-up). Then Ben moved the dryer outlet by unscrewing it from the wall, running it up through the unfinished ceiling, and then screwing it back to the wall next to where the dryer needed to go. Super easy.

Meanwhile, Pat labored for a day and a half to create the hot and cold water valves that she ran off the main water line in the basement. I won’t pretend to understand half of how she did it. All I know is that you can never have enough of that sticky purple plumbing cement stuff. Also, buy at least twice as much PVC pipe and fittings as you think you’ll need for the job. Here’s her handiwork after all was said and done:

IMG_0210 IMG_0211 IMG_0212

And here’s the washer and dryer, happily chugging away in our unfinished basement:

Second -hand washer

Second -hand washer

The hot water valve still leaks very slowly, so to combat this problem we implemented the very technical solution of shutting the valve off when the washing machine is not in use. Genius, I tell you.

The ubiquitous shower window

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At the last house we rented, we had a window in the shower stall that looked directly into our neighbors’ backyard. Shower windows aren’t uncommon in old Denver bungalows, but when only the bottom half of the window is frosted, and the neighbors use your house as one side of their backyard fence, it can be… awkward. Ben was tall enough to literally wave at the neighbors when he showered. And they made no effort to hide the fact that they knew it was our shower window. Great fun.

So when we were house hunting, the ubiquitous shower window was definitely on our “hell no we won’t go” list.

But sure enough, our new house has a shower window. Here’s how it looked when we moved in:

The ubiquitous shower window. Kill me now.

The ubiquitous shower window. Kill me now.

The trim was painted dark brown and the window itself had a sheet of plexiglass over it, with a textured sheet of plastic stuck on top of that. It was ugly. And peeling at the edges. And clearly a cheap, short-term fix.

So while my amazing in-laws Jon and Pat were visiting, we set to work on the shower window. We pulled off the glued-on plexiglass and sanded the hell out of the window frame (to get all the ugly brown paint and glue off of it).

Then I pulled the outside storm window off (not as easy as it sounds) and sprayed Rust-Oleum Frosted Glass Spray Paint on the panes from the outside (so it wouldn’t get wet). It was super easy to apply, and worked beautifully to evenly frost the glass.

Meanwhile, Jon re-glazed the window panes from the inside, since most were barely hanging in there.

Then we used a sample size of Behr exterior paint in white to paint the window and frame. I only did two coats, but two months later it’s still holding up and remaining perfectly waterproof. With as many shower windows as I’ve seen, it baffles me as to why nobody ever bothers to paint them with exterior paint. Madness, I tell you.

At the end of the day, we have a perfectly frosted, water-tight, nicely-painted shower window. Voila!

Check out that frosted glass! The world beyond is but a hazy glow.

Check out that frosted glass! The world beyond is but a hazy glow.

The picture was taken before I took a razor to the extra paint around the edges, but I’m too lazy to go back and take another shot. DEAL WITH IT.

The white exterior paint made such a difference.

The white exterior paint made such a difference.

Obviously the window will need to be removed in the long term. There’s just no way the wood isn’t already rotted or compromised since before we moved in. But as a short-term, five-year fix for under $10, I’d say this is a success. Thanks to Jon and Pat for all their hard work!