Mantel Mirror Madness

This is a project that has been in the making for six years. Yes, that’s right. Six years. Six years ago I came up with a vague plan for what I wanted to do with this stupid, giant unfinished mirror that was hanging above the mantel when we moved in. Giant mirrors are heavy. Giant mirrors aren’t cheap. Giant mirrors are really, really hard to dispose of. Giant mirrors are useful in the bedroom when you’re getting dressed.Original Mantel Mirror

Hence, we keep the mirror in the bedroom. Taped to the floor with painters tape so it doesn’t slip and kill us all. We kep it there for 6 years. SIX YEARS. Every time I go to Ikea, I think, “maybe I should just buy this mirror instead and throw out the stupid giant unfinished mirror.” I went to Ikea many times in this six year period. But, how the hell do you throw out a giant mirror?

Two weeks ago while my mom was visiting, we were brainstorming projects to work on before our adoption home study. While framing a mirror to make things a little prettier in the bedroom was not one of our top priority projects in the general house renovation category, it became a high priority when we realized this mirror posed a danger to a potential child, and we should fix it before the home study.

So we debated what to do for about a day.

  • A. Throw out the mirror with big trash and hope someone will pick it up and find it useful? Pros: free. Cons:  a waste if no one takes it, and a potential liability if someone hurts themselves on our property with our giant, deadly mirror.
  • B. Buy the mirror from Ikea? Pros: only $99 bucks, don’t have to build anything. Cons: still have to get rid of the other mirror, and it turned out the ikea mirror wouldn’t fit in either of our cars so we’d have to pay for a delivery service or rent a truck.
  • C. Build a decorative frame for the mirror and hang it on the wall. Pros: we make use of this giant mirror. Cons: it will take days, it will cost more than $99 dollars, we might break the mirror in the process and have to dispose of it anyway.

I think maybe you can guess which option we chose…

Location or Mirror for 6 years

Step 1 (not shown). Gaja devises a schematic for the frame involving four strips of wood secured around the mirror to the wall (of equal width to the mirror itself), and four baseboard strips mitered into a giant frame for the giant mirror to go on top and matching in width and height to the outer dimensions of the strips of wood underneath. The three of us go to home depot and buy all the parts (around $80), cutting all the wood with a hand saw.

Step 2 (below). drill holes and put in anchors into the wall behind the  wood strip that will be underneath the mirror. The strip will bear some of the mirror’s significant weight, especially while we are securing the mirror to the wall. We also measure and prepare anchors behind the mirror (two of which you can see below) to screw in the mirror into the wall. This was a three person job (two people hold the mirror up on the wall and the third marks and measures the holes).

Step 1&2

Step 3 (below). Tape the mirror in case it breaks while we are screwing it into the wall, and screw it into the wall into the pre-measured anchors. This was a three person job (two people hold the mirror onto the wall, and the third screws it in).

Step 3

Step 4 (below). Nail in the remaining three wood strips around the mirror. The wood frame will go over these strips and was measured so that it would cover the strips as well as the holes that the mirror is attached to the wall with.

Step 4

Step 5 (below). We bought a new sharp hand saw ($15?), and Gaja measured and marked the angles using a speed square, and came up with a way to create a guide for sawing with a 2×4 and some vice grips. Matt did all the sawing.

Step 5

Steps 6 (not shown). Gaja and mom sanded and aligned the corners of the frame so they would fit neatly together.

Step 7 (below). Gaja and mom stapled the corners of the frame together.

Step 6 & 7 Step 6 & 7

Step 8 (below). Gaja painted the first coat with some chocolate colored paint we already had for some reason. It really looked like milk chocolate and made me want to eat some.

Step 8

Step 9 (below). The milk chocolate looked fake and too light for the color palette so Gaja used the (outdoor) espresso paint we had left over from painting the back porch as the second coat.

Step 9

Step 10 (below). Mom and Gaja nailed the frame into place very, very carefully with tiny nails that went through the wood strips on the outside of the mirror and are barely detectable.

Step 10

So, there you have it. $95 plus 2-3 days labor for 2-3 people a giant mirror frame makes. And see, we didn’t even have to spend that $99 to buy a brand new, slightly smaller ikea mirror! (yes, I am saying this ironically, even though I am very happy with this project).

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Doors and Windows and More

Around a year ago we bit the bullet and finally paid to redo all of our windows and the front and back doors of the house.   There were a number of reasons to do the replacement: to reduce noise from the outside (mostly people doing yard work in the early hours of the morning), to save energy and to reduce uv damage on our furniture.  But the most important reason was that the windows were falling apart.  The paint was coming off of most of them, some of them had cracked window panels, and some were damaged from many years of having the air conditioners in the windows year round (before we bought the house).  We talked to a few contractors before finally choosing DiMartino.  We’ve had bad luck with most contractors before (electricians and plumbers who did bad work and caused as much damage as they fixed), but these guys were friendly, did a good job and didn’t make us regret choosing them.  We actually went back to them recently to redo our gutters.  We need to find a way to get other good contractors in the future — this was first major work we’ve had done on the house since we bought it (we had the floors redone when we bought the house).  In the end, all of the windows, the front and back door, and the shutters (since they are purely decorative, maybe they should be faux shutters) were replaced.

As a reminder, here is what the front of the house used to look like.  Note the horrible ‘screen’ door.

old-front-of-house

You can see the new windows and the new backdoor in the photo below.  No shutters in the back of the house though.  The gutters in this photo are the old gutters (a story for another time).

backdoor

A lot of window and door related work was left to be done after this though and we just got around to starting on those projects.  The trim around all of the doors and windows was so old that it had be repainted.  I don’t have the steady hands and meticulous care needed for detailed painting so Gaja has been painting the trims while I chip off paint and sand.  We aren’t using any chemical paint strippers.  Slowly, room by room, we are fixing the trims of the windows – motivated by our recent adoption decision.  We’ll show photos of these rooms later.

The trim around the front door was really problematic though — all of the paint was cracking and falling off as you can see in the next photo.

old-front-zoom

We tried to hire some help for the project, a local man, we’ll call him “C”,  who went door to door looking for work.  We’ve hired him to do raking, washing the house siding, some yard work and some easy painting before.  This task was beyond him though — he didn’t have the care and attention to small detail that we needed.  He stripped off a lot of the paint from the trim and doing a layer of paint.  He also, inadvertently, ruined/broke the doorbell and the light fixture.

Gaja and I decided to redo most of C’s work.  We had to do a lot of sanding on the trim and then used a lot of joint compound to fix the damage to the trim, followed by painting.  We went through many iterations over several days before deciding it was good enough.  The alternative was ripping the whole thing out and replacing it, which we weren’t too fond of.  I rewired in a new doorbell and a new light fixture, and we replaced the house numbers.

You can see all of the fixes except for the new porch light and doorbell in this photo:

outside-frontdoor

Here what it looks like with the porch light and doorbell replaced.

new-frontdoor

And here is a closeup of the new doorbell.  When you look at this closeup you can also see the imperfections in the trim and some damage that was caused to the door frame by the sanding.

doorbellWhile I was doing the electrical work on the outside, Gaja repainted the trim on the inside.

inside-frontdoor

Finally the front entrance is done.

finished-front-with-gingerAnd back to the screen door; we had it replaced with a clear new screen door to let in more light and update the look.  The real reason we chose it, though, was so that Ginger could enjoy the world better. From her new vantage point she can watch all the people and other dogs walk by.  Its one of her favorite spots.

ginger-looking-out

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An In-between Room

We are behind on a lot of updates, and while we’re waiting to fill you in on those, I thought we could ask for some input on an in-between room. The in-between room has been variously called “the guest room” and “the craft room”, and briefly “Matt’s office”, but now that we are planning to move ahead with adoption, I have been letting myself start thinking of it as a baby’s room and allowing myself to think about decorating it as such.

We are busily finishing all the things we actually need to finish before the home study (like finishing painting unpainted things, repainting peeling paint on ceilings, finishing up electrical work, and making sure doors can actually hang on hinges and stuff like that; you know, boring stuff). The room doesn’t need to be decorated for a baby by the time of the home study; we just need to be able to explain how it will be safely furnished for a future baby. So actually decorating it is not the highest priority thing to work on right now. But it is probably the most fun one! So I have been thinking a bit about it, and thought it would be fun to get some input on some essential decisions about the space.

It’s “in-between” because it is technically a finished space now: we have painted the walls (a color Matt chose for his office), the trim, the doors, and the windows. And the windows are replaced. So we could stop if we had to sell it for example. But it’s not finished because it’s not decorated. And it’s also not finished because I had always planned to paint the built-in cabinet and the desk since I hate those colors, but then I had realized that the curtains I had at the apartment actually have all the colors of the room in them, and they look pretty good (they would need to actually be hung, obviously):

IMG_0459

 

IMG_0489So the big decisions are:

– do we do the minimal thing, and try to find baby design scheme that will work with the existing palette? (e.g. maybe something inspired by the foxes in this design, but a little more interesting; or building on the elements in this adorable quilt, but maybe that’s too much color with the blue and the orange. or by adding design elements with a lot of yellow and white like this)

– do we do the next most minimal thing, and keep the wall color, but paint the built-ins and the desk? (this would allow us more freedom with the ‘neutrals’ of the design, so that for example, we could paint the built-in a light grey or white and build on the colors in this adorable design, which otherwise would clash with the beige built-in and radiator)

– or, do we just say, screw these colors, they’re way too serious and dark for a baby, and they’re too constraining, and repaint everything? So we could totally change the palette and start from scratch with a different color palette which would work with any design (such as this one)

Some things to consider:

– The bed probably won’t be there (there will need to be a crib and chair of some kind, and maybe a dresser)

– I probably will want to paint a tree or find a tree decal to put on the wall, could be espresso, could be white, could be anything. (maybe like this or this but more dramatic)

– I will probably want there to be an animal theme involving foxes, owls, elephants, and/or birds.

 

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Boy, it’s been a while!

Oh yes, it has been a while! Three years to this month. Wow. A lot has happened in three years, and not much of it has involved improvements to the house. We also have fallen way behind on posting updates of the few improvements that actually have happened. Well, it so happens that I have a little bit a time now and a little bit of excitement I want to share about a new space. But a little bit of background first…

There are many reasons for our hiatus, a major one is that Matt now works in the Boston area (for three years now – coincidence? probably not!). Much of the time we had for home improvements and blogging went to commuting and other life situations we won’t get into here. Anyway, the exciting news is the new apartment we have just moved into and decorated in Cambridge. For the past 15 months I’ve been on sabbatical and we’ve been living in a crappy little apartment near Harvard Square which was conveniently located, allowed dogs, and was not exorbitantly priced, but had pretty much nothing else going for it. It was an experiment to see a) how we liked city living, and b) how well Gaja could handle constant traffic and people noise. The results are in, and they are a) we have still not decided if we prefer city or country living (we like short commutes, public transit, walking around the city, proximity to stores and restaurants, and city culture, but we missed nature, quiet, private spaces, and hiking), and b) Gaja does not handle constant traffic and people noises in her private space.

Anyway, I’m getting side-tracked. For maximum effect I had envisioned that I would first post photos of our crappy Harvard apartment, and then post photos from the amazing new apartment so you could relive for yourselves the great contrast that we experienced. But, my photos of the old apartment are in CT and I’ve lost my patience waiting till I am there and have time to deal with them so I’ve decided to post photos of the new apartment anyway! The photos were produced without access to my usual processing tools so please pardon their lackluster appearance – hopefully they are adequate to convey the space.

The new place is a studio apartment on the 5th floor of a brand new building literally across the street from Matt’s office. This is our first time living in a building with this many amenities so this year will be yet another experiment to see how we like simple, condo-like living where everything is clean, new and taken care of for us, and we have access to great communal spaces like a gym, a pool, yoga classes, and a concierge etc. Obviously, we’re contrasting that with living in a 1940s-era fixer-upper house which seems to have more and more projects that have to be dealt with by the day. We are still kind of in shock that our current apartment does not cost that much more than the previous one after we factor in the various advantages (free parking, free pets, no realtor fee, some other discounts – do not get me started on the ridiculous realtor fees in Boston!). We are very excited about keeping everything really simple and minimal. I systematically went through every category of things and kept only those that we really wanted/needed at the new place – everything else went back to CT. Anyways, on to the photos!

Here is the kitchen and part of the front door:

Apartment Kitchen

If you come in through the front door, you will see the view in the opposite direction:

DSCF4947

If you came farther into the livingroom space a week ago, you would have seen this:

DSCF4952

But now you would see this:

DSCF4959

And if you turn to the right, you will see the sleeping space:

DSCF4960

And if you face the bed altogether, you will see the door to the walk-in closet on the far right and the laundry on the near right:

DSCF4941

Here’s a closer look at the walk-in closet, whose size was hard to capture in the photo:

DSCF4949

And here’s the super convenient laundry:

DSCF4948

If you turn right immediately after walking through the front door, you will be in the bathroom (the space as a whole is nearly a square):

DSCF4950

DSCF4951

And in case you didn’t notice it in the pictures before, here is our adorable ‘kitchen’ table:

DSCF4939

And in case you didn’t notice them in the preceding picture, here are the adorable succulents and air plants that I haven’t killed yet:

DSCF4940

Oh, and in fact I lied a little before: if you came into the living area today, you would actually see this new sitting chair for Matt:

DSCF4961

If you have ideas on how to incorporate the chair more into the design, let me know. The feet match really well with the other wood furniture, but there is no warm grey elsewhere in the space and it stands out weirdly (but it makes Matt happy so that’s what matters). I’m thinking of getting grey pillows for the sofa or a navy or green pillow or throw for the chair.

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Inbetween Rooms

At the top of our stairs, on the second floor, we have a small hallway linking all of the actual rooms. For a long time it was a neglected area, since the only time we spent in it was passing through to get somewhere else. It has finally been done though although we still don’t spend too much time there.

Here is what the hallway looked like when we first moved in.

Upstairs Hallway - Original State

Note the nice window seat (that opens to be a storage area) with an old fashioned phone. I can just imagine the woman who lived in the house before us sitting there on the bench, looking into the backyard while chatting on the phone.

Upstairs hallway - Original State

We quickly ripped up the carpet (like every other room in the house), had the floors done, and tore down the wallpaper. Then, for a long time, we did nothing. For over a year the room looked like this: (note the walls are covered in old wallpaper glue — gross!)

Upstairs Hallway - Transitional State

We finally removed the wall phone (which was attached directly to the wall), and I inserted a phone wall mount and also updated the outlet there. I spent a weekend scrubbing and cleaning the walls. We then took our perpetual Gobi Desert paint color (which Gaja tinted slightly since she was getting bored of it) and finally turned our dingy gross hallway into something usable.

Upstairs Hallway, Current State

You might be wondering about that cushion on the window seat — I was when Gaja first showed it to me. It is not what it appears however. Gaja had a piece of foam leftover from another project (coming soon) and wrapped it in an old green rug we had. She then put pillows around and voila we had a comfy new window seat.

We swapped out the mirror on the closet door and hung some art, which you can see in the next photo. We’re still debating a new light fixture.

Upstairs Hallway, New Mirror

The hallway also goes back into our office (turning 180 degrees from the other photos). Along this wall, we found space to hang four pictures done by Gaja’s great aunt Zofia (depicting four seasons in Warsaw). This last photo also gives a bit of a sneak peek into some other projects we did. Stay tuned to learn more about the hint of green in the corner!

Upstairs Hallway, Zofia's Seasons

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Kitchen Updates

In the past year, we’ve done a few updates to our kitchen.

Last time we posted, here’s how our kitchen looked:

Getting a new range makes a big difference!

We don’t have gas in the house so when we decided to update our stove and keep the existing layout, we actually only had two ranges to choose from! There only exist 2 stainless steel 48″ electric ranges so our decision was fairly simple (albeit a bit expensive, as far as ranges go), and we’ve been very happy with the result.

Below you can see the range in place. In this shot you can spot a few other random updates: 1) a new light fixture, 2) a new trashcan with a sensor so it opens when you wave your hand above it without having to touch it (as a side note, I am *kinda* OCD about washing my hands; if I touch anything dirty, including trashcans or even cabinet doors leading to trashcans, I have to wash my hands before I touch anything else. So this trashcan has helped dramatically reduced the number of times I wash my hands each day, which should really help my hands when the cold, dry weather comes in the winter), 3) you can see on the far wall several updates.

Here’s a closer view of what I’m referring to:

The black board with circles on it was actually a not-so-minor project – it houses pretty much all of our spices! I bought the black metal board at ikea and separately bought 5 packs of magnetic spice containers to go on it. I also bought a label maker so that we knew what the heck was in each container! (I’ve wanted an excuse to get a label maker for a while, and as you’ll see below, this was not the only opportunity to use it). It’s really convenient being able to see all your spices at once, and it’s kind of pretty too!

In this pic you can also see (part of) a much larger project we did in the kitchen. We modified the tall cabinet you see there in several ways. The doors used to go up to where the top of the (new) microwave is now, and the shelf the microwave is on was inside and lower. So we trimmed the top of the doors and raised the interior shelf to create a built-in look for our new microwave. Previously, inside the cabinet we had several stacked layers of plastic drawers with the microwave resting precariously on top. Now, it looks much nicer and is much more convenient than having to open a cabinet in order to get into our microwave.

And that’s just the outside. On the inside, instead of the ill-fitting plastic drawers, we installed a mail-ordered 5 tier lazy susan! This cabinet is our only pantry area so we wanted to make it as organized and accessible as possible. For a long time I tried to figure out how to make some kind of drawers work in this cabinet, but it was just not workable due to the odd size and the fact that the opening of the doors is much narrower than the interior dimensions. So a lazy susan was the runner up – and here’s how it looks:

As you can see, we kept some of the original shelves, where we store less frequently accessed goods and, conveniently, all our cutting boards. It’s a little bit fuller now (this picture was taken right after the project was completed), and we also have labels (using the label maker!) on each of the tiers to help us remember where things go.  Matt still makes fun of me, perhaps rightfully so, for some of my category choices: in addition to the fairly clear and reasonable labels of ‘snacks’, ‘pasta & grains’, and ‘soups & sauces’, we have the somewhat ambiguous categories of ‘jars’, ‘jars & spices’, and ‘canned goods’. All I can say is that these made sense to me at the time; and in my defense, it’s not so easy to come up with exactly the right categories that fit into the number of spaces there are without wasting space! I think I was employing some version of the ‘Elsewhere Principle’. This is a principle from linguistics that says if there are multiple rules/choices that are applicable, select the most specific one. So this means, for example, that a jar of soup would go into the ‘soups & sauces’ category rather than the ‘jars’ category. (this makes for more efficient labeling since we don’t have to call the ‘jars’ category the ‘jars but not soups’ category). Who knew that linguistic principles were relevant to pantry organization! Or maybe not so much…

Another small change is that we have a counter composter now, and a very futuristic-looking composter in the back yard, both of which you can sort of see in the picture below. We’ve been asked by several neighbors what that alien looking sphere in our backyard is. It is a green sphere, 3-4 feet in diameter, which rests in the back of our backyard. The sphere shape is helpful for mixing the compost around (by rolling it around), which should be done regularly, and for rolling the compost to wherever it’s going to be used. By the way, it’s also good for making your dog think that he/she is about to play with a really, really, … really large ball.

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What’s Changed in 2 Years?

Hi everyone!

We haven’t posted in so long that I’m not sure where to begin! So much has changed since our last post, pretty much in every room, so it will take a few posts to bring you up to date.

So here is a list of things that you will hopefully see some posts about soon.

  1. Big landscaping changes in the front of the house… and not just plants
  2. A number of improvements in the kitchen, including carpentry and sewing
  3. Renovated dining room
  4. Updated living room
  5. A small, but dramatic update to the basement
  6. Upstairs hallway improvements
  7. A total transformation of the den
  8. A new bachelor pad in the city

Maybe we’ll start with a room that has been totally ignored until this point – one we hardly dared step into.

The old sunroom.

The Sun Room!

As you can see it was pretty bad before. Prior to the update I had trouble imagining why anyone would want a room like this. But it’s lookin’ pretty spiffy since its update about a year ago, when it got a complete overhaul. Everything got painted with a new color palette, and we even installed a new floor all on our own! The decorating has a way to go still, but the renovations are mostly finished, and it’s pretty pleasant to be in there (when it’s not too hot… or cold!). I even spent a couple of days painstakingly washing all those individual window panels on both sides (that was a pain in the @#$@#%!).

So here’s what it looks like now. I decided on a nature-inspired color palette, and very dark espresso trim paint. I thought it would cause the columns around the windows to recede and highlight what was outside the windows. I think it worked!

Updated sunroom

We moved our existing Ikea day bed into the room, and I found some outdoor furniture covers that pretty much fit a standard twin mattress at west elm. I hope to eventually stuff the bolster pillows with some appropriately shaped foam, but for now they are stuffed with extra pillows and bedding we have!

Here’s the view to the backyard to compare with the ‘before’ shot.

updated sunroom

Here’s the view toward the kitchen/house:

updated sunroom

And here’s a closer look at the new floor. We got this floor at ikea, originally thinking it might go in the kitchen, I believe, since it is a fairly moisture-resistant laminate of some sort. That idea got scrapped very quickly, and then we actually began trying to install it in the basement – that was a DISASTER. It was so discouraging that our basement floor stayed half-installed and half exposed tile glue for like half a year I think.

sunroom floor

The floor was a tongue and grove install so putting the boards in was not too bad. But first, we had to paint the concrete floor with several layers to water-proof it. Then we laid down a moisture barrier (plastic sheeting). Obviously, we had to custom cut a bunch of the laminate boards, and Matt did this using a circular saw he got as a gift from his brother, while Gaja measured and marked the boards. We also had to remove and reattach the base trim, which we painted the espresso color. Before re-attaching the trim, we sealed the floor edges using regular white caulk. The shiny white nicely matched the actual floor boards to create a finished look.

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The Bedroom Evolution

Hi folks! We’ve done some redesigning of our bedroom. This is largely in response to us getting a new king size bed and mattress combo. I don’t know how we survived before this – I actually almost like going to bed now. You may not realize how significant that is – I have hated going to bed all my life, even before I started having insomnia all the time. Since I was little, I’ve felt that going to bed is like a punishment, that it’s the end of the fun. Well, it’s not such a punishment anymore!

For comparison, here’s the room before:

And here it is now. The bed is much bigger so we’ve had to be more creative with figuring out the bedside lighting and bedside tables. I also recently completed a major framing and hanging project such that the ‘finished’ rooms also have finished wall decor.

We’ve also moved a good number of ‘leisure’ books into the bedroom which actually works really well and makes these ‘leisure’ books more accessible to Matthew, who does 99% of the leisure reading in the house.

The other backbreaking and stressful project was bringing up the giant mirror that used to be above the mantel in the living room up from the basement (where it’s been in storage for over a year) to the bedroom. This side of the room is still somewhat unfinished – the ultimate plan is to frame the mirror and hang it on the wall. (Right now it is carefully secured with painters tape)

We decided to move our inexpensive arc lamp from the living room into the bedroom where it can serve as our bedside lighting. Matt got the extension cord with dimmer switch 😉 shown here so we can actually turn it on and off (and dim it… ) without jumping behind the headboard. Since this picture was taken, Matt has attached the dimmer switch behind the headboard.

In case one of us (Matt) wants to read while the other (Gaja) tries to sleep, we also got this cute little directional light that we can twist behind the headboard when we’re not using it.

That’s all for now!

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Our First Plumbing Project

We’ve been working on a number of larger projects for the past few weeks somewhat simultaneously, or rather alternating between them, and we should have some updates to post about them soon. In the middle of these several projects, our toilets broke again. We’ve had problems with them from the start (they wouldn’t flush, or rather stop flushing), but after Matt tried to fix them again, we were reduced to manually raising and lowering the valves inside the tank. After about two weeks of this, I couldn’t take it anymore: I had literally started avoiding drinking.

Since the toilets were so old, we would’ve had to order custom pieces to repair them and they still would’ve been old and inefficient. Did you know toilets use more water than any appliances in your home? So I checked how much toilets cost (not much), and I learned that installing toilets is supposed to be really easy. So we decided to take the plunge with our main bath toilet.  Other than some trouble removing the old toilet and leveling the new toilet because it turned out our floor wasn’t quite so level, it was really easy! If it hadn’t been for the unlevel floor, it would’ve taken only an hour to install the toilet.

Here are some shots of the process, starting with the before version of course:

Here’s what it looked like after we removed the original toilet. It was actually pretty tough to remove it – we had to smash the base of it. Matt insisted on putting a rag into the opening (a sham wow! actually), but surprisingly there really was no smell…

Here’s Matt practicing with the new toilet bowl:

And here he is putting it in its place:

And finally!

It was so easy, and the new toilet works and is super efficient, using less than a third of the water of the old one! So shortly afterwards we decided to replace the toilet in the half bath too. Actually, the night after we removed the old toilet and bought the new one, Matt couldn’t sleep and decided  to install the new toilet overnight to surprise me! What a nice surprise! I almost wish he had more trouble sleeping…

Here’s the before, which reminds me, the lid for the tank of the old one never fit correctly (how quickly we get used to improvements):

And here’s the new one:

Even Ginger was admiring it (not really, she heard something out the window):

We also changed the toilet-paper holder, which was too small to actually hold the toilet paper:

I can now honestly say that I am no longer avoiding fluids.

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Entryway Progress!

Hi everyone! Over the weekends of the past month and a half or so we’ve been busy working on our entryway. Having now at least partially set up  all the rooms we really use, we decided we should prioritize by prettifying the first thing people see when they come in.

I don’t have any images to show you what the area has looked like for the past year, but here’s what it looked like when we bought the house:

and here’s what it looked like after we ripped up the carpets (but before we had the floors done):

And here’s after the wallpaper came off. This is pretty close to what we’ve been living with for a year except for the floors. Yes, it’s quite a familiar view…

We’ve done a lot of stuff here (who knew you could spend so long on what is essentially a hallway?). We painted the walls. I got a little tired of the gobi desert in our living room and our bedroom so I convinced Matt to let me spice it up a bit (I’m not sure it’s legal to ever call beige ‘spicy’ but Matt put some tight reigns on me…) by mixing gobi desert half and half with white. It’s barely noticeable, but at least I got to do something a little more interesting. So here it is:

There are a number a changes you can see in this image. The first one you may notice is the light fixture. I’ve been seeing this Ikea light everywhere in recent designs (in particular on apartment therapy) and it’s been slowly growing on me. Finally, I decided we needed some ‘drama’ in the entryway – so here it is.  It actually came with a regular wall plug so Matt bought a cover plate, cut off the cord, and wired it into the ceiling. You can see the new painted walls and trim. You can also see the anti-slip protection we added to the stairs for Ginger (cork drawer-liner material), who had previously been falling down the stairs nearly every day. Finally, you can see some things that are still unfinished, the front door and the unpainted stair rail thingies, but just ignore them, ok? Painting the stair trim and rises was very time-consuming, but I am proud to say that I am now fairly competent at painting edges without any tape.

Here’s a better view of the light and Matt’s handywork:

Matt has also been working on wiring up a new doorbell, which is surprisingly large. It is nice being able to hear when people are at the door though.  He also replaced the old thermostat, which made weird cricket noises constantly that I thought I would never get used to (but I did).

You may have noticed the interesting collage on the stair wall.  This is something I started working on when we visited my parents in June. I scanned, processed, and printed some family photos. Here’s a better view:

I’m kind of disappointed in it, but I’ve spent so long on it that I’m fed up and it’s just going to have to be this way for a while. It’s a family tree, at least my half. You can see me, Matt, and Ginger on the lower right. Each row is a generation, including all direct ancestors and their siblings (up to my grandparents generation). Parents are positioned roughly above their children, which coincidentally come in pairs in my family as a rule. Buying 22 frames can get expensive. I couldn’t find any decent frames in appropriate colors for a reasonable price. I found these on sale at (where else) ikea, but they also didn’t have an appropriate color, at least in stock. So I thought, ‘oh, it’ll be really easy just to spray paint them white’ and ‘it’s such a good price!’. Uh uh, not so much. My efforts spray painting them were a disaster (not sure why, maybe that particular can was faulty). Anyway, to make a long story short, I’ve been painting them white. I got tired of the painting and thought maybe a mixture of white and the original silver would look cool. Well, it doesn’t. It looked cool before I put the pictures/backing/glass in them (like an abstract sculpture), but now it just looks crazy crowded and weird. I guess I will take them down at some point and maybe finish painting them white, but I’m sick of them right now.

Moving on to something more positive, here’s a different view:

and one more:

It’s our new shoe cabinet! I’m not sure it’s coming across in the photos, but we’re very exciting about how it fits in this spot, it looks like it’s meant to be there. It clears up much needed floor space in the entry closet, and gives a very useful surface. Yay.

Posted in Decorating, House, Renovations, Uncategorized | 2 Comments