Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Laundry Room, featuring Doki

The laundry room is my favorite room. One of our top priorities was a house with a good place to put the cat litter (as opposed to a carpeted guest bedroom, our previous arrangement, and having to move it into our room any time we had guests). This room is huge and also has a cat flap cut into the door that leads into the kitchen. FATE.

Here's what it looked like before. *SHIVERS* Old linoleum, an uneven green paint job, filthy curtains, a weird shelf blocking one of the outlets, and poorly assembled floor to ceiling cabinet.

The cabinet on the left reeked of urine. I thought Harriet might have kept a litter box in there but then discovered it was also full of mouse droppings. Apparently a family of mice lived in there at some point for quite a period of time. I debated whether or not I should make Ben rip the cabinet out - I bleached it four or five times and the odor wasn't going away. Fortunately, when the tile man came to get started, he took both cabinets out and we immediately told him not to put them back when he was done. Problem solved! 

We chose slate tile for the floors because it was inexpensive and everything else at Home Depot was ugly. It turned out to be a great choice - I love it. It also matches perfectly with the paint we used in the kitchen, which was fortunate as we had a massive amount of this color left over.

I love the little old fashioned curlicue thing above the windows.

I got a little shelf for our car keys and found this old collage with pictures of Owen and Bouley, cats from days of yore. This hung by my side of the bed in our first apartment in St. Louis and has been in a box somewhere since then.

We also got a thing for the wall to hang up the brooms and mops.

I love my laundry room! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Story of a Kitchen

Obviously, the kitchen was the most, shall we say, distinctive room in the house.

I took this picture at the open house. It's the only one to preserve the memory of Harriet's custom curtains.

It's hard to tell, really, with everything else that's going on here, but this room was also filthy. The cabinets and the molding around the floors were not good. Still, I stood in the kitchen talking to a realtor who clearly was trying zero percent to sell this house - I guess realizing that anyone who wasn't already all in could not be persuaded - and I thought, "this won't be so hard to fix."

It's also worth noting that many weeks later, at the post-offer inspection, I noticed these walls were painted wallpaper. Maybe a little harder than anticipated.

Right after we signed the paperwork, I went to the house and started cleaning. I wiped down all the cabinets inside and out, scrubbed the refrigerator, etc. There was probably not much point to this given that all of the surfaces were going to be replaced, but it made me feel better.

The kitchen was sort of the nerve center for the whole renovation.

At the end of a long day of painting, we decided to see how much trouble it was going to be to pull off the wallpaper. It turned out to be much easier than we anticipated - for the most part, anyway.

Here you see what Harriet was dealing with when she decided a nice pink-orange was the perfect shade for her kitchen.

So, after we got all that wallpaper off, they also came and ripped out the floors, and the whole scene was feeling pretty grim. I had a hard time on this day, having to look at and spend time in this room.

Finally we got the walls in decent enough shape to start painting - and the difference was huge and immediate. It was shocking, actually, to see how suddenly it began to look like a normal place.

And then we started covering up the green and I almost cried with joy.

When you are renovating a house with Ben you don't take shortcuts, so he took all the doors off so we could paint everything properly. I don't even know how many coats were required to cover up the green. At least four, I'm guessing.

Then everything had to be reassembled, which took seven full hours. There are a lot of cabinets in this kitchen.

The range head had been ancient and filthy, and replacing this was also a huge easy way to improve the situation. You can see here how nothing quite lines up properly. This is what we call Character.

I spent a long time scrubbing the kitchen and the appliances once we were done with the paint. I discovered almost everything was in pristine condition - even the cooktop, which is clearly very old, cleaned up to look great.

This was the very first light fixture we replaced in the house.

We ordered new stone countertops from Home Depot, and had to go to a warehouse on the outskirts of town to pick the slab. This was starting to seem real!

Ben also took out the filthy, broken, humongous ceiling fan in favor of a regular boring light fixture.

On moving day, this place was seeming pretty much like a normal room.

Even with the old counters and faucets, I was feeling like I could stand to live here.

A couple weeks after we moved in, it was finally time to have the countertops installed. When we took the old cooktop out, it became apparent why that corner of the kitchen always vaguely smelled like burnt wood. I'm not sure how she would have managed this with an electric stove.

Farewell, ugly thing!

The installation of counters went smoothly, which was somewhat of a shock. When Home Depot came out to do the templating, the guy mentioned that our cabinets were not exactly level, and if the installers deemed the slope too much, we would have to get them leveled (?) and then make another installation appointment. I think we both assumed it was a foregone conclusion that of course it wouldn't work out, but it did.

And they are beautiful.

We still had no gas line so the cooktop wasn't hooked up. But: progress.

A plumber came out and installed the faucet. At this point we were growing tired of doing everything ourselves.  Papaya is a big fan of these countertops.

We got a rug (and some roses from the yard).

And then at long last, after hiring a gas person and also an electrician to get the stovetop set up, we were good to go.

I agonized over curtains for days until I found these. The rod over the window needs to be moved up a few inches, but we'll deal with that some other time.


Papaya approves.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

"The Yellow One" No More

We moved into the Cantaloupe House on June 15. All the major stuff was done - but there were a million more little items to go, such as:

  • Installation of new kitchen counter tops. This occurred a couple weeks after we moved in but seems like a lifetime ago. Ben had to unexpectedly go out of town the day after this occurred, so I had to live without a kitchen sink for several days until a plumber could come to install the faucet.
  • Replacing doorknobs and hinges (Ben is particularly obsessed with this because they are cheap, ugly 1970s brass. It's a fair point. Also, we only had working keys to one of the exterior doors, the sun room, which for some reason Harriet had 8-10 copies of. But none of the other keys to the house worked. Somehow I managed to get the door from the garage unlocked right after we bought it, but I never figured that out again. To date, Ben has replaced two of the exterior doorknobs and locks, including the front door, which has two deadbolts and was a multi-day undertaking.)
  • Replacing all switches and sockets with white ones. This required turning off the electricity and rewiring each individual item. It was an annoying few days, but Ben managed to finish it mostly in one weekend.
  • Putting another coat on trim and doors (Still in progress, but I would say mostly done.)
  • Repainting the entire ceiling in the living room and our bedroom. (Done!)
  • Putting all the folding closet doors back on and painting them. (Not yet.)
  • Finding hinges that will actually fit the vanity in the hall bathroom and putting those doors back on. 
  • So much caulking. 
  • Removal of yellowed 40 year old smoke detectors installed precisely in the middle of the ceiling in each bedroom.
  • Et cetera.

We also bought and hung up curtains in all the rooms, hung all artwork, bought rugs, and have begun ripping out massive quantities of plant life from Harriet's overgardened lawn. Sorry, Harriet.

Other things that have happened:

  • The gas line for our cooktop couldn't be installed because the crawl space underneath the kitchen was too narrow for the guy to fit into. After weeks of delay our contractor found "a skinny guy" who was willing to do the work. He came over on a Saturday and brought his friend, and they ended up running the line alongside the exterior of the house instead. This cost us nearly twice as much as the initial gas line quote.
  • Ben passed me a note while I was on the phone that said, "Kitchen sink pouring directly into crawlspace." It was a Sunday afternoon, naturally. We called a plumber and while he was fixing it, I discovered the garbage disposal was also leaking, so he fixed that too. By some miracle this only cost a few hundred bucks. Our best guess is that someone kicked and dislodged the pipe underneath the house while they were crawling around trying to figure out how to run the gas line, because it didn't appear to have been leaking for very long.
  • We've had slight cupping of the sun room floors essentially since they were installed - just enough to notice, or if you are me, to obsess over for 78% of your life. This means there is moisture below. I had the crawl space guy come back out to look at it. He said someone had boarded that part of the crawl space up so the dehumidifier couldn't reach that area. We have had so many people working on this house that I can't figure out who might have done this, or when, or why. Anyway, Ben went down there and opened it back up, and also discovered there is an open vent that for some reason they built the brick patio over without sealing up, so water pours in when it rains. This is actually a huge relief, because there was clearly something going on and this will be an easy one to fix. There don't seem to be any other noticeable moisture sources. Ben has been wanting an excuse to mix up some concrete for years now, so here we go. Perfect solution.
  • The air conditioning quit working right before bed on a Thursday night when it was 92 degrees. Fortunately I remembered we have a home warranty (!!) so I called and someone was able to come the next day. UNfortunately, the first three times they tried various fixes, the fixes quit working immediately after the techs left. The following day, the owner of the company came out and "rebuilt the inside of the machine" with all new parts. This cost us $100. The home warranty, man. I also discovered during this incident that the AC unit was installed in 2001, not 2011 as the realtor had mentioned to me during the open house. SIGH. This is clearly stated in the inspection report but neither of us noticed. So far it's still functioning. The guy said it could last ten years or quit tomorrow, so we have that to look forward to.

After all this, we have a bit of the PTSD. We knew this would be a lot of work. We knew unexpected things would happen and unexpected expenses would arise. But I must say, this summer has been A Bit Much. The air conditioner really pushed us over the edge, I think.

Sometimes I get glimpses of how much I will love this house when I stop spending my life worrying it's going to disintegrate into the ground. This has been made a little easier with the events of the past week, when we have at last had someone repaint the exterior.

If you'll recall, it looked like this. While it was handy to be able to tell delivery people "it's the yellow one," it was also a lot to take. The day after we closed on sale of the townhouse, I started calling people to get quotes.

Two days before painting was to begin, we found out from our neighbors that Harriet painted the house these colors because she was given a bad breast cancer prognosis but she survived, and wanted her life to be as cheerful as possible. Unbelievable. I told this story to a friend and she got literal goosebumps! Alas, unexpectedly sharing life experiences with Harriet doesn't make me like this neon green trim.

It's safe to say we are the most popular people in our neighborhood right now.

Every time we're in the front yard, people walking by stop to talk to us about how great it looks. Someone even sent me a private message about it on NextDoor! This has also afforded us the opportunity to meet a lot of neighbors, all of whom have been great and seem to value the same things about the neighborhood that we do - the trees, the uniqueness of each house, the quiet, the proximity to the greenway. Everybody calls it a hidden gem! It honestly seems a bit too good to be true.

The difference seems most stark in the back yard, I think - I feel like somehow you couldn't even really see the house before. 

We still have a lot of work to do, but (and I am afraid to type this right now, knock on wood) we seem to be getting a handle on it. I'll be relieved when the summer is over and I can stop worrying about the air conditioner failing again - if the furnace goes out, after all, you can put on some extra clothes and it'll be fine.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Sixth Week: Move-In Ready

We were down to the nitty-gritty. It's pretty satisfying painting big rooms redoing cabinets and all that, but the detail work left at the end is not very fun. 

I spent one evening cleaning the kitchen - something I'd been itching to do for ages - and was surprised to find the stovetop is actually in pretty good shape. It's really old, but very clean. Again more evidence that Harriet was not much of a cooker.

I ripped out most of the shelf paper, but there are a few remnants.

Meanwhile, Ben went to work replacing the rest of the light fixtures, all 17 of them. This took pretty much an entire weekend.

The improvement with the ceiling fans gone was absolutely enormous. For the first time I felt like I could actually see in this room.

We ordered the countertops a couple weeks ago and also the new gas cooktop and faucet which will be installed in them. Home Depot went on and on about how we had to have these items on site before they could come to finalize the layout, but the people who showed up Friday night to measure didn't even look at them. OH WELL.

Saturday morning we went to the granite place to choose our slabs. This is going to look pret-ty awesome.

I was really determined this weekend to finish some rooms. I spent a lot of time cleaning and working on the final little details. I managed to replace this toilet seat all by myself! while watching Grace & Frankie.

We replaced the huge white ceiling fan in the kitchen with something very simple. It opens up the whole room.

My cookbooks are in the cantaloupe kitchen!

Meanwhile, outside: I own a mimosa tree!

And lots of hydrangeas.

Here's all the removed light fixtures. HIDEOUS.

Here's Ben putting the cover back on the underside of the dishwasher. I tried to do it myself but failed.

I painted two coats on the front doors with a small brush on Saturday, and then Sunday morning went to Home Depot for a little roller. It was a HUGE improvement. I spent hours Sunday morning painting doors and it went much faster and with a much better result. This front entryway is one of the most amazing contrasts overall. Remember: crystal glass chandelier, dirty beige walls and trim, carpet, weird railings all over the place. It's a huge, huge relief to see this.

There are still a lot of doors to go, but that's something we can easily do after we move in. The contrast is pretty terrible, though. 


And the sunroom is completely done. I put all the switchplates back on. DONE.

Sunday I started cleaning up. All the paint is put away. In a closet.

And then I spent a really long time scrubbing the fireplace. We have to paint around the edge at some point but that's not going to be for a while, because who cares right now.

I also painted the interior of this bathroom on Sunday - the last unpainted room. And it's good that I hadn't gotten around to it, because when I was on the floor I noticed the new toilet has a leak between the tank and the bowl. The contractor is coming back out to fix it properly.

This house is a REGULAR HOUSE. And it's a good thing because it's given me tennis elbow.

Ben has moved a bunch of his electronics stuff over.

We've moved about half the kitchen, too, and all the books and various other stuff from the living room and storage closets. The movers are coming on Friday but only for the furniture - by that point we'll already have mostly everything over there.

New house!