Lots of effort, and minimal return

That’s the kind of day that I’m having.

I spent hours this morning, in the dining room, cleaning walls, scraping at damaged plaster, mudding holes and it still looks terrible. And green.

I guess that’s the thing about the first coat, lots of effort and minimal visual return.

Progress! I mean, if you consider making work for yourself as progress

This weekend, I got the sudden urge to tear down drywall, while I was drinking coffee.

So, I did.

I removed all the drywall in the dining room. It was at about this point that I was all “Ahhhh! What did I do?!”

See - dust and debris everywhere!
See – dust and debris everywhere!


I make poor decisions.

Then, I spent several hours with a drill, removing hundreds of screws. And I have concluded that I am worse at screw removal than the average person.

Action shot, courtesy of my 3 year old daughter
Action shot, courtesy of my 3 year old daughter

The walls are not in terrible shape, actually. They need a very, very thorough cleaning. Most of the damage is from the screw holes from the drywall.

Now, I’m trying to convince myself to not just embrace the green, and to prep the walls for new paint.

As of right this moment, green is in the winning. Retro dining room

I did get the second coat of Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor (25% darker) on part of the kitchen wall. The color is so amazing. I’m glad that I discontinued the hunt for the perfect gray and went the opposite direction. I found the color accidentally, by googling Benjamin Moore colors – and this picture popped up:

untitled (1 of 1)From http://design-crisis.com/tag/dark-harbor/

I just knew that I had to get that color in my life.

Here’s how it looks with the brick, and walnut floor:

Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor
Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor and walnut floor
Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor and Sherwin Williams Snowbound
Benjamin Moore Dark Harbor and Sherwin Williams Snowbound


Craigslist, you’re a cruel mistress

Am I the only one who takes craig’s list posts and interactions so personally? I have only had a couple of purchases with it, but, they were fairly easy and successful. I caught the bug.


Yesterday, I hopped on Craig’s list to search for a mid-century modern credenza, just to see what was available.


I saw this one:





$125? A steal, compared to the other $500+ ones. I immediately emailed the seller, then, received a work Out Of Office reply. They wouldn’t be in until the next day. Ok, no problem. The listing was pretty old, so I assumed it would not be available, and I prepped myself for it. Instead of actually doing that, I refinished it in my head, I picked out the perfect color of paint in my head, I styled it in my head. It. HAD. to. be. mine.


I didn’t even KNOW that I wanted a mid-century modern credenza. I mean, I knew, but, I didn’t KNOW. You know?


No? I understand. That makes two (at the very least) of us.


Anyways. I waited until 10 am, without a response, to kindly send a polite follow up email. I did not receive an Out Of Office reply, so I know that the seller did receive the email. It’s like the purest form of rejection. I might possibly be a tad on the dramatic side. Maybe.


While I was waiting, I searched for dressers. This one popped up:



$50.00?! That’s even cheaper. I don’t like it AS much as the other one, but I could still spruce it up. I now envisioned this one – repainted/refinished and happy in our house.


I emailed the seller.


2 hours later, a response that it was sold. Still nothing on the other one. Like, not even to say it was sold? THEN TAKE DOWN THE LISTING. YOU LEAVE NOTHING BUT PAIN AND DESPAIR.

Now, I am obsessed, and this has to happen. I informed my husband of this, after about 434543631 text messages to him about these two pieces of furniture, and he incredulously asked “NOW you’re obsessed?” – to which I let him know that I was blasé before, obvs. Now, the real crazy is going to start.

Kitchen plans – loose ends

On some level, I know that a lot has happened in the kitchen. It still feels so unfinished, probably because it really is. This whole thing has been a multi phase process. We only got the first couple of cabinets, because we weren’t planning on removing the wall yet, and wouldn’t know exact measurements until we did. We were trying to be responsible and save and pay with cash for the work and materials. We did a pretty good job, for awhile. Well, after the floor, jacking up the house, and removing the wall and all the miscellaneous (omg. so many random expenses) – way over budget. As I’m sure most people can relate to.

The credit cards are cut up, and the next year is dedicated to paying off all debt and saving, again. So the remaining cabinets are going to remain a fantasy, for awhile.

But! That’s ok. It gives me an opportunity to wrap up loose ends. And work more on DIY.


  • 3rd skim coat
  • drywall seams
  • sand, sand, sand
  • prime
  • paint walls and trim
  • chair rail
  • base shoe
  • hack ikea cabinet (another post, when I finish)

So. The list will continue, but it will be more helpful with a visual. The wall that was drywalled and will have tile backsplash – needs to be drywalled. again. Yes. I guess our cabinet was 1/8″ too wide or something, so the contractor decided to just remove the drywall there. Yeah, thanks for that, guy.


1 step forward, 1346564 steps back
1 step forward, 1346564 steps back

I have a panel of 1/4″ drywall in the garage for this. The other issue is that the space between the outside walls is only about 2″. The light switch box is too deep, and sticks out too far. I ordered a shallow one, and will switch it out when I re-drywall it.

List continued:

  • switch light switch box
  • drywall
  • tile the backsplash and up the side wall
  • grout
  • get grout and cap pieces (side note: decide on cap pieces)

Someday list:

  • More cabinets (new sink/dishwasher cabinet and cabinets depicted in below illustration)
  • A ceiling – now I just sound spoiled
  • crown moulding
  • door frame moulding
  • Pantry
  • ugly radiator pipes (I don’t want ugly radiator pipes, but I don’t judge you if that’s your thing)
You like my mad paint skills?
You like my mad paint skills?


I have been working on the new drywall, so things are making progress, maybe?

I forgot how to kitchen

I lived with a partial kitchen, no sink – but a stove, or no stove – but a sink, for a long time (about a year). It seems like every couple of weeks I was disassembling it more, and removing more (all) wall cabinets. Why? Because I am a glutton for punishment.

Here was the kitchen on a GOOD day:

Terrible befores, make for Good afters.
Terrible befores, make for Good afters.

Yup. No prep space, no landing spot next to the stove.

It was very stressful planning out a new layout for my kitchen. I am not a designer, I didn’t want to PAY for a designer. I am talking about a lot of sleepless nights, before I paid for our custom cabinets, and a whole lot of sleepless nights afterwards. The people over at gardenweb would probably tear my layout apart.

But, you know what? My kitchen.

And also. Can I remind everyone, 1 huge window and 4 doorways, a radiator?

I did keep in mind adequate space for walkways around our peninsula (42″+), and so far it’s worked really well.

The biggest change that we made was moving the cooking to the center, in the peninsula (it’s connected to the wall on one side – semantics). It. Is. Awesome. It’s the little cooking epicenter, it has the Induction cooktop, oven, butcher block for prep work, the trash can, and spice pull out. There’s enough room behind the cooktop that my soon-to-be-4-year-old can sit back a safe distance, but also lean forward to help me stir (while supervised).

Moving the fridge into the kitchen was pretty good, too.

The drawers across from the peninsula have the pots and pans/Tupperware.

Soft close. Holla.

Here’s what the cabinets look like as of today:067085 070 068

Can we just talk about the behemoth of a fridge surround? It’s 107″ tall, 31 3/8″ deep and 36″ wide. My outside doors are not that wide. I carefully measured my INTERIOR doors, and they were wide enough, so I ordered the cabinet. Only days before the cabinets were to be delivered, did it occur to me to measure the exterior door. Oh. Em. Gee. Too small. How am I going to get the cabinet IN the house? It’s ok, if I remove part of the doorway jamb, it will squeak through.

Yeah, turns out that I was not familiar with pre-hung doors? I guess it’s all one solid piece. I have lived in 100+ year old houses for the past 20 years, and door frames were put together of individual pieces of molding. In a fit of frustration and panic, I beat the hell out of the door frame with a hammer and a crow bar. I did this:

There's supposed to be another strip of wood and about 1/2" thicker
There’s supposed to be another strip of wood and about 1/2″ thicker

The cabinets show up. There’s a brace on the back of the fridge surround to keep it stable. It doesn’t fit. Tears were shed. Curse words hurled. Luckily, it could be stored in our garage.

For install, our contractor was able to remove the whole frame, so that it could fit through the door. I was the only one home when that happened. It was me, and him, and we had to get that thing from the garage, through the back yard and through the door, and lifted up into position. I am tiny, 5’2″ and rail-thin-kind-of-tiny. Boy, was my body sore the next day.

Turns out that it was good that our ceiling was torn out, otherwise, the geography of getting the cabinet up, would not have worked. Small victories.


There’s still so much to dooooooooooooooooo. At least it feels like progress.

The wall came down, but in a good way

And what a change it made!

So, I showed the wall before, but a reminder:001











Then, the rest of it was demo’ed out.

Two temporary walls were put in place:

To keep my second story from falling down
To keep my second story from falling down

Studs removed

The beam and posts:beam and posts

Then framed (to make it similar to the existing large doorways between living room/front room/dining room):

What, doesn't everyone have an oven in their dining room?
What, doesn’t everyone have an oven in their dining room?

Finally, drywall!:

It needs some paint
It needs some paint

I have to fill the holes/seams, then primer and paint. So. Exciting.

A bonus (for me) – Here’s what we were doing when the wall was being removed, a dance recital.

Rylan - 3 years old
Rylan – 3 years old

Yellow walls and plaster showers

Before we had the new floors installed, we did some more gutting of the kitchen.

I tore off the wall drywall, to expose gross, yellow walls. Like, nastayyyyy walls. Like, painted-in-the-50’s-and-never-washed-and-used-for-wiping-grease-off-of-your-hands.

There was drywall on top of the plaster, on top of the lath – on the ceiling. That’s essentially 1 1/2″ thick of ceiling. After pulling down the drywall, it was apparent that there had been some severe water damage (I can assume from the bathroom), and the ceiling wasn’t in the best shape. Down came the plaster. And indeed, it did.

Luckily, I was in the pantry tearing up tile (that’s a pretty good excuse, right?) and was not the one with rocks crashing down on my head. My sweet husband got that honor. Then, down with the lath.

We had the janky wall, that used to have the doorway in it, re-framed and dry walled.

The plaster/wire mesh was removed with an angle grinder
The plaster/wire mesh was removed with an angle grinder

Turns out, there used to be some wainscoting, or at the very least, chair rail in the kitchen. I wanted to honor that in the remodel, so I started to tile. And I will cap it off with some chair rail. The tile is just a standard 3×6 white subway tile from The Tile Shop – The Imperial Bianco Gloss  to be exact. I didn’t originally think that I was going to do subway tile, but, here we are. If only in part, so I could avoid skim coating that part of the wall. Skim coating is kind of the lamest. tile wainscotting

Since I am planning on using white grout, I didn’t stress being too perfect with my tile layout. I’m planning on doing the tile behind the little counter and up the rest of the wall, too. You know, some day.

Since we had the ceiling torn out, it was a good time to install some recessed can lighting, add another light and move the main light (since once the wall cabinets were installed, the center of the room was going to change). We also had another light switch added by the butler stairs doorway. No more walking through the whole kitchen when it was pitch black, to turn on the light. Although, it’s been a couple months with it there and I just realized that I still haven’t used it much. I need to get my life together.

I cannot believe how much of a difference that 4 can lights and a little wall sconce can make in my life. I lurveeeee bright rooms, and those are going to be so awesome in the gloomy Minnesota winters.

It should be noted, that I am comfortable swapping light fixtures or outlets, but I don’t mess with wiring. An electrician took care of that for us.

Soon, this blog will be up to date on what HAS happened, and I will have to actually finish things. What a novel concept.

Kitchen – Floor Saga

After living with white grout in the kitchen for 6 months, it. had. to. go.

A new tile floor was a going to happen.

The floor noticeably sloped, at least 1″ into the center of the house, I figured that I would fix that, when I retiled the floor. I read all about SLC (self leveling compound).

See slope, slope:slope


So, demo day came, and we (me, my husband, sister, and uncle) tore up the floor in a matter of hours.



The floor was REALLY slopped.

Like, 1 1/2″ of SLC in the corner AND still a 1″ slope.

I was tired. Now I didn’t have a floor, and I had a problem. We built up the low areas with 3/4″ tongue and groove subfloor, laid backer board down and then poured SLC on all of it. Don’t grow up to be like me, kids.

I tiled the floors. It was a 12″ x 24″ porcelain tile. I liked the tile.

While we were at it, we (crudely) closed up the 5th doorway (it went to the basement, and was added after the fact, the original basement door is only 24″ wide and was turned into a closet. I hope my washer and dryer never break. Ha.), and moved the dishwasher next to the sink.

But issues started, there was still a substantial slope, cracks started showing in the grout, and tiles were wobbling – all signs that the subfloor was failing.

6 months. It. had. to. go.

I had ordered these lovely custom cabinets. I didn’t want to put them on a heavily sloped floor and on a floor that I didn’t love.

I told my husband. He gave a deep, resigned sigh. Regretted his life. The ush.

I got in contact with a contractor about what to do about the joists, do we sister them? He suggested that we dig new footings (deep holes dug into the basement floor and cement poured), jack up the main beam, put new posts in on top of the footings to support the raised beam, as well as a new beam under the weak part around the chimney. Which had a 2×4 nailed into it – to support the basement stairs and part of the floor. Wat.

Great. A solution.

My heart was emotionally scarred, and my knees were literally scarred from my tile failure.

I knew what I wanted. Walnut. And I didn’t want to install it. We have yellow birch flooring in the rest of the house, which is original. It is blonde, but has a lot going on in the grain.

There aren’t very many local flooring installers that do site install/finishing walnut flooring in Minneapolis. I lucked out with the company that does, though.

Demo day. Deux. We got the floor up pretty quickly.

The work was done in the basement, but not without it’s set backs, naturally. Go figure that the water heater is exactly where it shouldn’t be and needs to be moved. Go figure I was told the first day that work was supposed to start, the old floor was out, and I already paid a cash deposit for the floor installation in just a week. Go figure it would just cost $500 to move it and reconnect it. Never mind hearing your whole house grumble and creak while it’s being jacked up. Talk about nerves.

Main beam, and new support beam in basement
Main beam, and new support beam in basement


Floors!walnutfloor walnutfloor2


Sure. I was without a kitchen for 2+ weeks. Worth it.

The Kitchen – Part I

This is the room that has changed the most in the past year, and caused the most anxiety and sleepless nights. Can you hate a room that you just put so much time and money into, if only because you put so much time and money into it? I am currently stuck on all the unfinished parts, or details that were done incorrectly. You know, forest through the trees, and all that.

Where it started:kitchenlisting

Oooooh. It looks so nice.

Then you live in it. And it’s like: what the crap. There’s 4 walls, 5 doorways, and a huge window  (which I LOVE). The fridge is in the walk in pantry. The dishwasher is 5 feet from the sink – across a doorway. There’s 9″ of counter next to the stove. My 5’2″ self can reach two shelves in the cabinets. THERE’S NO DRAWERS?!

So… a tiny remodel was going to happen. Only buy some more cabinets.. keep the same layout…..


Where it is, as of this week:

From a similar angle as the listing
From a similar angle as the listing