Category Archives: Renovation

The Bathroom Saga: The Reveal!

Hers.

So for those of you the suspense didn’t kill waiting to finally see our master bathroom reveal, fear not, the wait is over.  The mess, the time, the expense, the drama; it was all worth it in the end because we ended up with some fine piece of bath.

So, to recap (or for the longer story, read up on part 1, part 2, and part 3), we wanted to go from this cramped, outdated, non-functioning mess of a bathroom:

To something more open and, oh yeah, in working order:

It looked easy enough when we drew it out but, it took three long weeks of contractors and Chris working around the clock to bibbidi-bobbidi-boo it into a bathroom fit for a princess… err.. I mean me.  I could also make a really lame throne joke here but I’ll spare you this time.

Enough talk.  Let’s do this already.

Welcome to our master headache bathroom.

Entrance: Before

Entrance: After

Sink Area: Before

Sink Area: After

Cramped Shower Space: Before

Cramped Shower Space: Be Gone! aka After

Tub Area: Before

Tub Area: After… aka the new shower area

Shower: Before

Shower: After

View (or lack thereof) Back to the Sink: Before

View Back to the Sink: After

And let’s end with a view of that gorgeous wood floor.  Ha, gotcha!  It’s tile!

My favorite part post-renovation: It’s hard for me to pick a favorite.  Probably the shower.  In the planning stages, we were determined to open up the bathroom as much as possible without increasing square footage.  The best way to do this was switch from a shower and a tub concept to just a shower.  We were a little hesitant to lose the tub because a) I so desperately wanted a claw foot tub (which sadly wouldn’t fit through the bathroom door) and b) we worried about resale.  So, I called up the realtor who sold us the home to get her take on the dilemma- do we keep the cramped space and go with the shower and tub or do we create a master bath retreat with a humongous shower?  Shockingly, she gave us her realtor blessing for the huge shower without hesitation.  According to her, more often that not, buyers prefer that luxurious, large shower instead of the standard tub/shower combo.  Plus, she pointed out, we still had a tub in the guest bathroom.  If not for that, she said she’d probably recommend keeping the tub in the master.  And with that, we added the obscenely large shower to our house and I. Love. It.  And how cute is our little bench and shampoo/soap niche?  The niche was one of the most clever ideas.  I love being able to stow all my bottles in the shower in a hidden place.  The tile guy recommended using the small-sized shower floor tile for the niche backer for a little pizzazz.  Genius!

Weirdest moment of the renovation: when the contractor walked in on me measuring my shampoo bottles to be sure we built the niche tall and wide enough to accommodate all my girly items.  The best part was after I gave him the measurements I wanted and specified that I wanted two shelves in the niche, he tried convincing me that it was too big and that I didn’t need all that space.  Ha!  You know a guy’s a single bachelor when….

Biggest surprise of the renovation: the color of the cabinets.  I was all set to pick-up my paintbrush and recover the cabinets with my typical white cabinet paint but my mom suggested stepping outside the box and going beige.  I was hesitant but vowed to give it a try.  I could always paint over it if I didn’t like it.  A few strokes later and I was sold.  The color really compliments the granite well and ties back to the stone-look of the shower.  Nice call, Mom!

Biggest stress of the renovation: locking Chloe up everyday.  It broke my heart confining her.  I mean, she had her food/water/litter box plus two nice big windows for bird/squirrel creeping so she was fine.  Or so Chris said.  At least the renovated bathroom gave her a new hobby: watching water drops fall down the frameless glass shower door.  And it only took her a few weeks to figure out the shower is blocked by a solid wall and has finally stopped pouncing headfirst into the glass.  Ah, Chloe, all cuteness, no brains.

His.

Well, it’s over… FINALLY. Seriously, this entire project was a nightmare- we had no bathroom, a bedroom that was being used for equipment storage, a living room that was a dusty path between the front door and the bedroom, and a backyard that was mostly trash. Needless to say, we were pretty glad to see it all go, but all the frustration was totally worth it. Below, I’ve chronicled some of our best moments.

My favorite part post-renovation: the shower. When you use a typical shower/tub combo or standard-size standalone shower, you don’t realize just how cramped it is. In fact, it felt a little weird the first few times I used the new warehouse-sized shower, but now that I’m used to it I’m not sure I could ever go back to one of those wimpy showers again. I mean, seriously- I could probably park my car in there.

Weirdest discovery: At some point, someone attempted to take down the wallpaper, only to realize it wasn’t wallpaper- it was the paper covering of the gypsum panel that make up the drywall. That’s right- no texture, no plaster, no wallpaper… just paint over bare drywall. What’s really weird, though, is that someone tried to texture it with… sand. Like, the kind you’d find at the beach. Sand. I think the most reasonable conclusion in that an old Navy vet had a flashback and got the bathroom wall confused with the floor of an aircraft carrier, and mixed sand into the paint for traction. Or something like that.

Most satisfying moment: sorting out the plate of spaghetti someone once called a wiring job in the attic above the bathroom. I detailed it in an earlier post, but basically I combined circuits so that every stupid light in the room didn’t have to have it’s own switch, eliminated a fair number of redundant circuits, and relocated the switches to a wall that would still exist by the end of the project. The reason it was so satisfying, though, was getting to see the look on the contractor’s faces when I demanded to do my own electrical: it was clearly the kind of job they planned on making the most money on, presumably by taking advantage of people that think it’s too complicated and/or dangerous to DIY.

Most frustrating moment: the shower door. Again, this was detailed in a previous post, but the jist of it is that our original contract clearly stated a frameless shower door, but what showed up was something with a horrendous chrome frame. During the transition from bid to contract, we did a bit of haggling and some items got cut or changed. Apparently, one of those items was the frameless shower glass, but the actual contract didn’t specify one way or the other. We assumed we were getting the previously discussed frameless shower glass, they assumed a framed shower was acceptable. Moral of this story: if it’s a “must have,” make sure it’s specified in black-and-white!

Overall, this project was worth every minute and every penny. We transformed an area of the house we were once afraid to enter into a completely custom bathroom. I think we had some great work done at a fair price, and at minimum will break even in terms of the value it adds to the house. And we only had to paint it twice!

Materials Breakdown:

  • Wall Paint Color: Behr, Pewter Tray, Satin
  • Cabinet Paint Color: Behr, Wheat Bread, High-Gloss
  • Cabinet Hardware: Lowe’s, $3.12 each
  • Sink Faucets: We reused the existing faucets which are Pegasus brand and are discontinued.  This one from Home Depot is a close match and a good deal at $88.
  • Sinks: Our sinks were included in the cost of our granite installation but here are similar white undermount sinks from Home Depot for $78.
  • Granite: The type of granite we used is called Delicatus
  • Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft
  • Shower Faucet: Home Depot, we got it on special for $70 but now the price is up to $169.
  • Shower Tile: Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft
  • Shower Accent Tile: Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft
  • Shower Pencil Bullnose: Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each
  • Shower Floor Tile: Floor and Decor, $12.99 each
  • Wall Hooks: DIY project, details to come soon
  • Wall Shelves: DIY project, details here
  • Pot Lights: Home Depot, $18.76 each
  • Vanity Light: Lowe’s, $99
  • Mirror: DIY project, details here
  • Towel Rings: Bed Bath and Beyond, $19.99
  • Toilet Paper Holder: Bed Bath and Beyond, $29.99

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The Bathroom Saga: Part 2

Hers.

And thus continues our epic journey into renovating our master bathroom.  If you missed the walk-thru of our outdated, non-functioning, mess of a bathroom, you can catch up on it here.

In short, we wanted to go from this:

To this:

And from this:

   

To pretty much anything else.

We had work to do!  First, we had to settle on our overall look.  We thought back to the most relaxing, serene place we’d been to and our honeymoon resort, Excellence Playa Mujeres (we highly recommend it!), immediately came to mind.  Join me in drooling over this little slice of paradise.

Nothing like a winding river and bed of hammocks overlooking the Caribbean.

And did we mention having a private, rooftop pool above our room?

And now for the bathroom.  We loved the rich, earthy tones and the glamour that the hint of bronze brought.  We also loved how large the bathroom felt with a frameless glass shower door and open concept.  We knew this should be the inspiration for our own master retreat.

We wanted to go for something a little lighter in tile color, bring some color to the walls (rather than beige), and go with brushed nickel (instead of bronze) but we’d keep the incorporation of the natural stone look and the openness of the layout.

We also needed something that would look great without breaking the bank so we scored some awesome deals at Floor and Decor and Seconds and Surplus.

Here’s what we ended up with:

Shower Tile: Antique White Porcelain Tile 13″ x 13″, Floor and Decor, $2.19/sq ft

Shower Accent Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $8.49/sq ft

Shower Accent Pencil Bullnose: Bottocino Marble Bullnose, Seconds and Surplus, $6.99 each

Shower Floor Tile: Cappucino Beige Mosaic Marble Tile, Floor and Decor, $12.99 each

Bathroom Floor Tile: Exotica Walnut Porcelain Tile, Floor and Decor, $3.79/sq ft

Granite for Sink Counter

Now it was time for the fun part- knocking down some walls!  It’s funny how swinging a hammer into a wall can bring out the inner-bulldozer in you.  Chris had to hold me back from taking out the rest of the walls in the house.  Apparently we needed those.
His.

I don’t know if it’s because I was raised cheap or because I am cheap, but I can’t stand paying someone else to do something I can do myself. In the case of this bathroom, it was strictly a lack of equipment and time that led me to hire a professional. Naturally, though, I couldn’t give in entirely- I wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and I insisted on doing at least a few things myself. The most obvious to me was electrical.

Now, please don’t let me lead you to believe that electrical work is easy. You can get killed, burn your house down, or both. That said, I was going to need a hammer.

In the toilet/shower area, we had five switches (three lights, one fan, and one heat lamp), which means we had five circuits. I wanted two circuits: one for all the lights, one for the fan. This meant that in addition to installing new lights, I’d have to completely change the wiring for them as well. Since I’d be eliminating circuits, I’d also be eliminating switches, but here’s the kicker: all the switches were located on walls that would not exist in the new plan. So I was basically starting from scratch, starting from the power source all the way to the wall switch.

Here’s what the shower area looked like after I started ripping out wiring. Both of these walls were going to be completely torn down, so I relocated the switches to the wall adjacent to the closet.

The trick to electricity is to remember that it only flows one way through a circuit, so you have to be absolutely sure you’ve got your wiring put together in the proper order or you might get some interesting results when you flip the switch. If you don’t know the difference between a parallel circuit and a series circuit, your DIY wiring probably shouldn’t go beyond plugging something in.  Hire outside help!

Anyway, I removed the spaghetti-plate of wiring in the attic and replaced it with one clean, simple circuit for all the lights, and spliced in one more for the fan. Builders, if you’re reading this, note: bathroom lights don’t all need their own switches. With all the lighting done, the contractors could finally see to complete their work, which will be unveiled soon.  *Cue the suspense.

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The Bathroom Saga: Part 1

Hers. 

Chris and I love watching HGTV bathroom makeover shows for the sole reason of comparing our hideous master bath to the ones the shows always dub as the “worst bathroom they’ve ever seen.”  Sadly, ours usually wins.  Mostly because, the bathroom featured on the show is either ugly or it looks decent but nothing works.  Well, we managed to hit the jackpot with ours.  Not only is ours ugly enough to be a suitable throne for the ugliest dog of the year (like this champ from 2005… shudders)…

it also has it’s fair share of broken items… like the toilet.

And the shower.

And the tub.

Um, yeah, pretty much everything.  The toilet was cracked at the base, the tub first wouldn’t stop dripping and then when Chris fixed the leak (or thought he did), only cold water would come out (brr), and the shower turned into a smelly beast whenever the water was run for more than a minute… which prompted us to wonder if we needed a bathroom overhaul or a call into Ghostbusters to relinquish some poor, trapped, toxic creature.

Yes, even Jay Z would say our bathroom had 99 problems…

As if this wasn’t enough, it wasn’t too good looking on the eyes either.

Upon approaching the bathroom from our bedroom, it doesn’t look so bad.  Don’t be fooled.  Let’s keep going.

As much as I love feeling like a movie star when applying my make-up in the morning, the builder-grade brass Hollywood Lights weren’t exactly my thing.   Neither were the depressing dark blue walls (which is the same color our bedroom ceiling was when we moved in, more on that here) or the yellow/beige-ish shell sinks (some of you may recall what happened to our other shell sink, seen here).

Our bathroom was built in an L-shape so at the furthest sink from the bedroom door, you rounded a corner to access the smelly dungeon of doom shower and then the tub.

Sorry for the terrible pictures, these were taken pre-blog when I’d literally rather be anywhere else in the world than our bathroom so, needless to say, only quick snaps were taken.

I can’t even describe the feeling of claustrophobia you experienced in our shower.  There was an overhang above the shower door so you were fully encased.  No room for more than a spin, no storage, and you never quite felt clean afterwards.  Yuck.

And now for the tub which seemed like a spa retreat after viewing the shower’s condition.  Oh yeah, but it didn’t work… so we never actually tried it out.

A little yellow tile to coordinate with the yellow shell sink.  Yummy.

And now for the throne.

And we’ve turned around and are now fleeing exiting the bathroom.  On your left, just before the door, you’ll notice our closet.  It’s probably the only thing going for our bathroom… mostly because all my clothes actually fit and after living in a 600 square foot apartment, that was the best news in the world.

Confused yet?  It’s quite the maze of a room.  This layout should help put it in perspective.

Because of everything that didn’t work and how stressed this room made us, we refused to even use it, instead trekking all the way to the guest bathroom for daily showers.

We spent the first few months in the house being perplexed by how to fix it.  We knew we wanted to update everything but we needed to address the layout as well, which was quite the mess.  We wanted our bathroom to be more open and not feel so cramped at every turn.  We also had a very tight budget so knocking down walls and expanding weren’t really options on the table.

Something had to be done though.

His.

I like puzzles. I like finding solutions to complex situations and constantly striving to come up with a better idea. Exercising my problem-solving abilities does for my brain what a good run does for my body, plus I usually get something accomplished in doing so. This bathroom, however, was not a puzzle I was interested in solving.

I also love the outdoors. Distance running, mountain biking, camping- you name it. When taking the “paths least traveled,” you’re likely to come across some really nasty bathrooms. I spent the night on a WWII aircraft carrier where the bathrooms were designed for high-seas and torpedo attacks. I once stayed in a village in the Dominican Republic where the toilet was a hole in the ground and the shower was a bucket of cold water. I even used the bathroom in my brother-in-law’s frat house where I didn’t wash my hands because I decided it would be worse to touch the sink. And all of these places were better than our master bathroom.

OK, so it wasn’t that bad- at the very least it was sanitary and the tap water wasn’t laced with dysentery- but it was the grossest bathroom I’d ever seen in a house that met modern American building standards. I made a list of things that needed to be fixed, assessed the repairs, and came to an unusual conclusion: a renovation would cost about the same as the repairs. Unfortunately, though, the type and extent of the repairs required something I loathe, something that brings shame to the generations of stubborn, penny-pinching men of my family: professionals.

“Just call someone” were fighting words in my parents’ house, so I definitely had some reservations. But, the shower smell was going to require jackhammering the foundation to repair bad pipe joints, and while I can’t picture someone using a jackhammer without thinking of Wile. E. Coyote and snickering, I decided that might be something to leave to the professionals. So I asked around and got some names.

The first guy we talked to seemed like he really knew his stuff, but he was definitely bent on upselling. His first idea was to basically rotate the layout 90* and reduce the size of the closet, which basically seemed like a great way to waste money, and also made steam come out of Julie’s ears (don’t touch her closet). His estimate was about three times what we were willing to spend and after convincing him that his 90* plan wasn’t worth the scrap paper he drew it on, we got the cost down to about twice what we were willing to spend. I also started mentioning that there was a lot of stuff I wanted to do myself and I could almost hear him get annoyed with me, so he left and never called us back.

The second guy was actually recommended by our realtor and seemed much more accepting of the DIY/professional mix, but after coming over and taking some measurements, he apparently went on vacation and didn’t call us back with an estimate until the work had actually been started. Do contractors hate making money?

Anyway, third time’s a charm: we found a family friend of Julie’s that has a painting business, and he recommended some guys who were basically a loosely-associated group of skilled laborers rather than a contractor with sub-contractors, so they were very accepting of my DIY attitude (I gave them a list of what I wanted to do and they just estimated for the remaining work). They even let us buy our own materials.

Finally, I decide on a layout. We would tear down the shower and put the toilet where it was, and we’d eliminate the bathtub and instead build one large shower. We’d transform the linen closet into more of a large cabinet, and just get new counter tops and sinks. We wrote up a contract, bought a truckload of materials, and within a few days were were literally smashing that nasty bathroom to pieces.

To remind you, here’s the layout before:

And here’s our new proposed layout:

To be continued…

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Doorbuster of a Deal

Hers.

As our realtor walked us through what would soon be our first official house, only one thing made us stop dead in our tracks… and not in a good way.  We had just wrapped up looking at the backyard, turned back towards the house, began walking to the patio door and stopped.  The patio door looked like it had been attacked by gremlins trying to claw their way into the house.  What sort of beast would do such a thing to an innocent door??  Well, you can rest easy.  The world isn’t overrun with gremlins.  Just misbehaved dogs.  The owner’s dog had chewed halfway through the door over the years.  Good thing they moved out when they did because that door didn’t have much of a chance left.

Upon placing our offer on the house, we were told that the owners acknowledged the door had to be replaced and would take care of it before we moved in.  Being the penny-pinchers we were, we saw an opportunity to knock off some of the price.  We negotiated back saying- no worries, take another $1000 off the asking price and we’ll replace it ourselves.  No biggie.*

What’s the asterisk for you may be wondering?  Because, as this point, I would like to note that it seemed like a lot of work to replace an exterior door but Chris reassured me a zillion times saying he could fix it in less than a day.  It was nothing they couldn’t handle.  Nothing to worry about.  So I didn’t.  The sellers were happy.  We were happy.  Alls well that ends well.  Right?  Wrong.

I figured I’d only have to wait a month or two to rid myself of the hideous near-death door.  Chris kept saying, all I need is another set of hands and I can take care of it.  So, in enters my family.  That’s an extra FOUR sets of hands of help.  That Saturday, while Chris is at work, I excitedly venture off to a builders surplus hardware store with my dad for a heck of a door deal.  With two doorknobs, one door, and several minutes of convincing the cashier that I am NOT my Dad’s trophy wife but his daughter, we happily returned home to present our treasures to the rest of the group.

Now, my husband doesn’t anger easily.  It’s why we work so well together.  He’s the Type B to my Type A.  It takes a lot to get him riled up… like when his wife goes out and buys a door without him.  Oh, and she’s already started painting it so he can’t return it.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

Well, he got over it… eventually.  Until an hour later he figured out that the door frame wasn’t exactly a perfect rectangle and that I had purchased a steel door instead of a wood door.  I thought I had been smart with this purchase decision since steel would better insulate the house and be a studier door… it also is impossible to mold into a different shape meaning our un-rectangular door frame would make the project un-doable.  Yikes.  Not a fun day to be Julie.

So, I gave Chris a few months to figure it out.  He came to the conclusion that he couldn’t do it himself.  So, I did what every wife would do.  I called a professional.  Perhaps another error in my ways was scheduling the handyman to come while Chris was at work.  All I knew to do was to show him the door I bought then show him the door frame.  I prayed that would be enough.  It wasn’t.  He scratched his head for a full 45 minutes then told me I had two options.  Option 1) Pay him $900 and give him a full weekend and he could replace it for me using the door I purchased.  Umm no thanks.  Option 2) Buy a different door, this time made out of wood.  Definitely not… that would mean fessing my mistake to Chris.  Fat chance.  So I went with Option 3.  Told him thanks but no thanks, we’d figure it out ourselves.

Several months later, Chris convinces his dad to help him finally take on the door project.  Chris reassured me that with his dad’s help and Uncle Tom’s advice, they’d knock it out in no time.

2 DAYS later, and several pounds of dog hair vacuumed from the perimeter of the door frame (gross!), we had a shiny, new, partly-painted door installed.  Chris and I still fondly look over at our patio door and wonder if the $1000 knocked off the purchase price was really worth all that… and then remember the Gremlin-like markings and decide yes, indeed it was.

His.

Let me clear a few things up. When we were negotiating the details when buying the house, I said I could replace the door… I never said anything about how long it would take me. To be honest, I didn’t want to do it- I had attempted to install a door once before, and it was such a beating that we gave up. Doors are surprisingly tricky to install, and I wanted no part of it. Oh, and I definitely did NOT tell Julie it was OK to buy a door.

Doors are a finicky beast, and just about the most frustrating thing to install. Everything has to be exact… and when I say exact, I mean within 2-3 millimeters, or else the door won’t close. The more exact you are, the better your door will open and close. That said, I knew the exact dimensions the door needed to be, so when Julie announced she and her parents were going to the builder’s supply store I reiterated that I wanted to see the doors for myself so I can make sure they fit. So imagine my surprise when I got home from work on day to find Julie painting away on a now un-returnable door… that wasn’t the dimensions I gave her. I had heard it hundreds of times growing up but somehow I just couldn’t resist saying it: “That’s exactly what I told you not to do.”

As always, Julie tried to reason her mistake under the rug. She had to get the door because it was “super on-sale” and she had to paint it right away because it was a “yucky color.” She also seemed to think that there was no cause for alarm because, don’t worry, her parents were here to help us install it. Now, I like my in-laws, but they’re not DIYers, and this wasn’t a job for beginners. And let’s not forget that it was over 100* outside at the time.

I reluctantly propped our shiny new door against the wall in the garage and waited for cooler weather, and for my parents to come visit. Finally, February rolled around and we caught a break- my parents were in town and we had two days of absolutely beautiful weather, so my dad and I got to work. If you’ve never seen how a door is mounted, it’s really not much more than a few nails. We pried off the trim and I showed my dad how much fun a sawzall is, buzzing through the nails like butter. Within minutes, the old door was off, and now the fun could begin.

The new door went up, and of course didn’t fit. The problem was that there was too much space between the house and the door frame, so it would be almost impossible to mount the door in a way that the trim would cover the gaps. We shimmed and adjusted, and reshimmed and readjusted, and repeated… a lot. First, the door wouldn’t open, then it wouldn’t close, then it wouldn’t sit right, etc. The worst part is that the whole time you’re doing this, the door has to stay closed, so we had to go in and out through a window… because that doesn’t make me feel like white trash or anything.

We must have made a few million tiny adjustments all around that door before finally making desperate phone calls to anyone we knew who owned a hammer. Finally, a fellow family DIYer came through (good ole Uncle Tom) and told us the trick is to mount the hinged side on the door and frame to the house, and then shim the other side. A few hours later (time mostly spent vacuuming dog hair out of the crevices), we had a door that closes so effortlessly the cat can do it… but usually she just sits behind it and waits to get whacked when it opens.

And now for the photographic evidence.

       

  

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Rack Em Up

Hers.

Everything’s bigger in Texas: the weather (from snow storms to hurricanes and tornadoes to triple digit heat), the geography (it takes 12 hours to cross from one side to the other), the food (ever heard of the Big Texan’s infamous 72 oz steak?) and, most especially, people’s affinities towards their guns.  (If that doesn’t make you want to come visit our state, I’m not sure what will.) Chris and I aren’t exactly the guns a-blazing type so imagine our surprise when the house we fell in love with came equipt with a custom-built gun rack.  Oh goody!

What was most frightening about this little gem was the fact that there wasn’t a lock or even a place for a lock on the entire thing, even the cabinet for the ammo.  Nice.

So, you may be wondering what we decided to do with this monument to the ultimate Texan hobby.  Well, conveniently it had a sink attached so, in the beginning, we mostly used it for cleaning our paint brushes since we didn’t really care for keeping it in fine form.  Then the plumbing sprung a leak so we had to move our paintbrush cleaning elsewhere.  For the next year, it became junk limbo.  Anything we didn’t have a place for was stored in the gun rack.

The rack is in the back room which connects the garage and the kitchen so Chris and I pass through it everyday.  Finally, we decided we had had enough of being greeted with a messy pile of junk everytime we came home.  We were determined to make use of the gun rack, without actually having to fill it with guns.

Having the attached sink on the rack gave us the idea of turning it into a…. *drum roll please* butler’s pantry.  After several weeks of sketching, pondering, and resketching we determined that we could turn the two sides into a lattice for wine bottles and the middle section could have shelves for storing wine glasses, martini glasses, margarita glasses, and beer steins (yay for finally showing off our wedding presents!).  And with that, we had a plan!

The lattice turned out to be a little more complicated than we anticipated.  I originally hoped we could build a diamond shaped lattice for the sides… (much like this)

…but the space was too narrow to do this affectively.  So, onto plan two.  After a long week of persuasion, Chris talked me into replacing the diamond shape with triangles.  In the end, it worked but I was pretty nervous.  I like to see examples before I commit to a new idea but I couldn’t for the life of me find examples of wine triangles anywhere on the wide world of Google.  But, not having any other option, I decided to trust him.

We knew we also wanted to change the lovely burnt red and green cheap-y countertop but couldn’t decide what material to replace it with.  While shopping for our master bathroom tile (a story for another day), we stumbled upon the clearance section of the store.  We love finding a good deal so we sprinted towards the section like there was no tomorrow.  We were in luck!  4″ travertine tiles were on clearance for $1.50 a square foot (comparable travertine is usually $5 per square foot).  $8.25 later we had plans for a new countertop!

We decided to tie the cabinets into our kitchen cabinets so we painted them the same color.  Good ole Behr China Cup.  We also installed new brushed nickel cabinet hardware to replace the bronze hardware that reminded us too much of the 70s.

We were able to reuse the sink, faucet, and lighting.  There were some nicely placed can lights that cast flattering light on both sides of the cabinet and we loove saving money and time when possible.

There was also an interesting niche cut in the wall that looked like a medicine cabinet.  We still haven’t figured out what it was originally used for but it had holes in the sides that were fit for pegs.  We inserted pegs and cut down a piece of wood to create a shelf.  It’s the perfect place to store our liquor.

And voilah!  We now have a full fledged butler’s pantry.  Being a combination of German, Irish, and Italian blood, we get a lot more use out of our butler’s pantry than the gun cabinet.  We still have a ways to go in filling it in, but, by all means, feel free to send us a bottle. 🙂

His.

“I don’t even own a gun, much less many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do with a gun rack?”- Wayne’s World

It’s no secret that we Texans love our guns. I’m not a “gun person” by any means, but even I can’t help but get a little excited at the thought of firing off a few rounds from a Colt .45. Almost every Texas Tall Tale involves a gun in some way, shape, or form, and almost every Texan is packing some sort of heat. So I guess we shouldn’t have been surprised to find a gun rack in our new home, located in the Great State of Texas.

I seriously have no use for a gun rack. I don’t think it’s particularly wise to display your guns in the middle of the room, and it looks a little trashy. Oddly enough, this gun rack had a sink in front of it, which made me wonder if this had been some sort of gun rack/mini-bar combination. According to a neighbor, liquor and firearms were not an unusual combination for the gentleman that originally built this house, so I guess I was right.

Texas runs pretty deep in my soul, but nothing can outdo my German-Irish heritage. That said, I decided I needed a place to store my booze. Being the connoisseur that I am, I also have a different glass for every type of beer, wine, and mixed drink there is, and I needed a place to store those, too. I measured the bottles and glasses, measured the gun rack/cabinet thing, and an idea was born.

We initially wanted to do a traditional lattice with a single hole for each bottle. We went to Home Depot and the guy in the lumber department directed us towards garden lattices… uh, not quite. Julie then had the idea of building larger “boxes” that would hold several bottles each, like you find at a lot of restaurants. I really didn’t like this idea as it required a LOT of work, so I took it one step simpler: triangles. The idea sounds a little odd at first and Julie wasn’t quite on board with it, but if there’s one thing she’s learned it’s that if it works in my head, it will work in reality… I just can’t explain things to save my life. She reluctantly jumped on board and trusted that I knew what I was talking about.

Demolition was easy. It turns out that pretty much everything was barely nailed together, so it came down easily. Next, I cut up some 1×2 boards with opposing 45* ends and built two identical “zig-zag” patterns on each side, one against the back wall and one on the face of the cabinet. The two sides are composed of angles opposing each other, so the overall effect is that we cut a box in half and shoved some shelves between them:

This all sounds really complicated, but it was actually very easy and only took an hour or so. I sank all the screws into the wood and covered them with wood filler, so once everything was sanded and painted it had a really professional look.

Next up was the countertop. It was some sort of marble-look veneer, and it had to go. We had gotten lucky with the bathroom sinks in that they were standard sizes and pre-cut options were readily available, but this was something else. It  was custom made, so I had to get creative. While perusing the clearance section of the tile store, we found real travertine tiles for something like $1.50/sq. ft… jackpot. Julie had just been telling me about a secret love affair with travertine a few days before, so I took this as a sign.

I must confess at this point that I had never really tiled anything before. I helped my dad a little bit with a few tiling projects here and there, but he had always handled the major stuff like adhesive and grout. Furthermore, I was on a budget and didn’t own a tile saw, so I had to settle for this goofy little contraption that basically just breaks the tiles and if you’re lucky, it’s a straight line.

I cheated and bought pre-mixed adhesive, so I proceeded with my “learn-by-doing” experiment and basically just started sticking the whole tiles where I thought they should go. I then measured out the pieces I’d need to fill the gaps and went about using that stupid cutter, which was a really painstaking process. In the end I’d say I used at least a square foot more than I actually needed just because I had to scrap so many pieces.To be honest, the end result looked pretty amateur. Fortunately, though, I had some grout left over from a bathroom project, and a wise man once told me, “putty and paint makes a boat what it ain’t!”

Ultimately, I’m really proud of how everything turned out in the end. All my uneven cuts were hidden by grout, and the wine rack looks like it was built with the house. The only problem is that it’s a little empty… so send us some booze!

And now for the pictures.

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A “Screwy” Situation

Hers.

What does every school-aged kid and marketing professional look forward to every year?  Two magical words: holiday break.  Those two glorious weeks where you can go to bed as late as you want, sleep in as equally late, and spend the days doing whatever the heck you want.  Ahhh, perfection.

Last year’s holiday time rolled around.  Chris and I busily migrated from one family to another in the quick span of 3 days as Chris only had the weekend off.  As he went back to work, I soon found myself with a whole week’s worth of time to fill.  So, what did I decide to do?  Refinish our kitchen cabinets and install new knobs.  I was determined to show Chris that I could accomplish a handy task on my own, without complaint and without help.  No biggie.  I got this!

… not exactly.  Let me start by saying that I had never refinished a kitchen cabinet before (I actually had to Google it quite a bit before I even comprehended what I was saying by “refinishing”), I had just mastered the art of determining a Phillips head screwdriver from a flat head screwdriver, and the closest thing I had come to sanding was filing my nails.  Needless to say, I had quite the task in front of me but it needed to be done.

The cabinets had originally been painted a stark white but that white had now turned into a yellow-y cream over the years.  They were due for a refresh.  The last time the cabinets were painted, the hinges were painted over.  To help with the “refreshed look,” I knew that these cabinets would need a fresh, unpainted set of hinges thus I had to unscrew the hinges before painting then replace with new hinges.  Easier said than done.

During Chris’ first day back at work after the holidays, I set about attempting to unscrew the hinges.  Two hours, eight stripped screws, and one desperate phone call to my dad (who I can attribute my bountiful array of handiness to) later, I had successfully accomplished nothing.  Chris arrived home to a very sullen wife that night.  See the “during” picture below for a clear account of the state of the kitchen when Chris arrived home.  He couldn’t decide whether to be frustrated with me or prance around the house singing, “I told you so.”  But, as the dutiful husband (and after I put in several convincing pouts), he got to work and finally the cabinet doors came unscrewed.

“Ah!” I thought, “Now we’re on a roll.”  Wrong.  Cue the several hours worth of painting, repainting, drying, flipping the cabinet doors over, painting, repainting, drying.  Oh, and then we had to paint three coats on the interior of the cabinets as they were still the dark, original wood color.  Phew!  Before I knew it, it was Sunday night and work was calling my name the next morning.  But, we survived… after 9 days, 2 paint cans, 6 paint brushes, 44 hinges unscrewed (and rescrewed), and countless hours of 80s music (the only music Chris and I can agree on).

Was it worth it?  At the time, no.  Now that the memories have dulled?  Yes.  I love our new kitchen and am still amazed at how much a room can transform by a coat of paint, new hinges, and new knobs (and several hours slaving away).  God love my husband and his patience for my ambition.

Other things we did in the kitchen:

  • New curtains
  • Painted walls and ceiling
  • Installed new light fixture in kitchen nook
  • Repainted crown and baseboards
  • Installed new outlet and light plates

His.
I have a real job. That means I don’t get two weeks off at Christmas, so when Julie proposed that “we” refinish the kitchen over “Christmas break” it was abundantly clear that she meant she would refinish the kitchen. My only regret over agreeing to this was that I had to go to work the next day, meaning I couldn’t grab some popcorn and watch the hilarity ensue.

I refinished the cabinets in my parents’ house a few years ago, so I knew exactly what it entailed. Julie, on the other hand, had refinished… well, nothing. On top of that, she wanted to relocate the position of the cabinet pulls on the doors, which easily doubled the amount of work it would take to complete the project.

The old hinges had been painted over with oil-based paint, so paint literally had to be chiseled out of the screw heads. Because of this, I was very specific in my instructions to NOT attempt to remove the hinges. I love my wife, but I know that when she begins a sentence with “don’t get mad, but…”, it means I’m about to get mad. So when I walked through the door that afternoon and she greeted me with “don’t get mad, but something’s wrong with the cabinets,” I instantly knew what she had done- half the doors were gone, the other half were hanging by one hinge. That’s exactly what I told you NOT to do…

Anyway, I spent the next few hours painstakingly removing stripped out screws. Fortunately, I’ve always owned German cars, so busted hardware doesn’t phase me much. I should also thank my father-in-law, who had the presence of mind to tell Julie to just put the tools down and let me fix it before she made it worse after she called him panicking because the screwdriver “just kept jumping out of the screws.” Once everything was properly disassembled, the real work began- sanding, filling, stripping, priming, painting, etc. You’ve heard this story before.

The final task, though, was lining everything up. It drives me nuts when things aren’t properly aligned, so I had to fend off psychotic episodes every time I grabbed my cereal and saw how shoddy the alignment was on the old cabinets. I spent at least a day re-mounting all the doors, but my now cabinets are square, level, and evenly spaced. Of course, this is only half the battle, and I wouldn’t be able to stand uneven pulls. Another day later, I had even, straight, and level pulls. And now I can enjoy my Lucky Charms.

And here’s the evidence!
 

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Dare to Door

Hers.

It may seem a trite thing to say that you simply can’t stand the doors in your house but you really have no idea how outdated an old door can make your house look until, well, you’re living with outdated doors.  Our interior doors are original to the 70s and can’t look anymore archaic.  They’re hollow, flat doors.  Oh, and did I mention that what was once a white-painted surface in the 70s had become a 3 week old sour milk coloring? And what do we do with sour milk?  Throw it out!  At least, that’s the reasoning I used with Chris who complained that replacing doors was a waste of money.

I never really thought twice about doors until being given the task of picking one out to install throughout the house.  6-panel, 4-panel, 2-panel, OH MY!  Who knew there were so many variations of the interior door out there!  As much as Chris begged and pleaded to go with the least expensive option, I couldn’t resist my urge towards the 2 panel rounded-top.  What can I say?  It spoke sweet, sweet words to me.  Then came the next hurdle.  Not only were our existing doors ugly, they were also odd sizes, making it extremely difficult to find suitably-sized replacements.  We ended up driving from one home improvement store to the other and back again to find the first three doors that would work.  Along with the 32″ and 24″ doors (easier to find), we still need to find an 18″ (nearly impossible).  But, we decided to start small and work our way up to that gem.

We excitedly returned home, giddy with the anticipation of a shiny, new door to install… only to find that the doorway wasn’t square.  I would’ve loved to be there when the builder was originally installing these doors just to hear that conversation.  “Oops guys, we built this doorway crooked… oh well, let’s just go with it.”  Genius. So as Chris cursed and muttered and I crossed my fingers while doing a door dance (a slight variation of the rain dance), Chris began the tedious task of shaving off pieces of the door bit-by-bit.  I think he ended up installing it and taking it down to re-size three separate times.  But, boy, does that door fit like a glove now!  It feels like Christmas every time I slightly nudge the door closed and it shuts softly behind me.  Okay, I’ll stop door-geeking out on you!  But, really, a new door makes a world of difference.  Three down, nine more to go.

His.

I. Hate. Doors.

Actually, let me rephrase that. I hate installing doors. If you’ve ever installed a door, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I know exactly what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not simple.

First of all, if you’re installing a pre-hung door, there are four angles to worry about and the angles in the frame have a finite tolerance defined by the permanent angles in the door. What makes the job difficult is that any change in the orientation of the door frame will drastically affect the look, fit, and operation of the door. I did this on an exterior door and it took me two days, and that was with someone experienced helping me.

Now, if you’re installing a door in a pre-existing frame, you have a completely different set of problems, not the least of which is the awkwardness of trying to bolt a door onto a hinge… straight. The problem I had, though, is that sometimes you go through the trouble of mounting the door and when you go to close it… rejected! It’s clearly 1/8 inch wider than the frame. OK, this really baffled me, because the door was exactly 24″ wide, and the opening was exactly 24.5″ wide. I’m not a math whiz, but I am quite sure this means the door should’ve fit. As luck would have it, I now needed a circular saw, which was just the tool I’ve been wanting… so one trip to Home Depot later, I was ready to rip my door.

My first attempt at shaving some width off was a complete failure. I tried using to old door to make a guide, but ended up with a jagged new door, a shredded old door, and a really, REALLY, close call involving my fingers and a blade (about which I never told Julie… but I guess she knows now). Fortunately, I had the sense to start small, so I still had some width to work with. I measured how much I wanted to shave off and marked a line the entire length of the door. I then just took my time and cut it free-hand (you know… man-style) and cleaned it up with a wood plane and sander. Success!

Oh. Wait. I still need to drill out a hole for the door knob and chisel out the hinges. On two more doors. There’s no convenient way to make a door fit, but my inner German dances like it’s Oktoberfest every time a door I installed closes ever so effortlessly. But I still swear I never want to install another door ever again. Good thing there’s only nine left.

      

The process begins.                                          Good-bye bronze beast of a doorknob!

      

Attempt number two to fit the door.           Maybe not the best hiding spot.

Voilah!  The final product!

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