Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Living Room Update

Hi, this is David, the first post I am making here!

We have made a number of purely cosmetic additions to the living room decor.

First we added a pair of curtains to the windows flanking the fireplace. We got them off of craigslist, from a couple who had just moved into a townhouse in Baltimore. It didn't match their style. We e-mailed back and forth to arrange a pickup time, and one day after work I drove down into Charles Village in Baltimore, armed with google maps directions. I ended up driving through one of the scariest looking neighborhoods I've ever been in. Blocks upon blocks of mostly empty boarded up row houses, mostly empty streets, and everyone who was around was looking at me, knowing I was not in my neighborhood. I came through that area into another street of row houses, this time clearly inhabited and maintained. I found the house I was looking for - after a typically short conversation where it was determined that I was there for the curtains, and not trying to sell a book of my own poetry (their last visitor) the transaction was made.

Our next find was a $20 rug and runner set, also on craigslist. Picking this up was a much less interesting experience, so I'll spare you the details.

Virginia unrolled the rug and hung the curtains at night, so I didn't really get to take in the full impact they would have on the living room. The next morning I was leaving the house just as the sun was rising and before coffee, so I probably wouldn't have noticed if gnomes had painted the walls red during the overnight. When I got home from work however, and walked in the front door, I was stuck by how much more adult the room looked. Like real people live in the house, not just squatters! (The living room looked like squatters lived in it for the first year we were here.)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Kitchen Update

This weekend I painted the kitchen walls Behr Coastal Mist. David thinks it is too light, but I think it's great - it makes the room look a million times bigger than it did with the red walls. (And less like a McDonald's!)





So far, we have done 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of color. We have another coat of color to go, then the ceilings and the trim. We removed the plastic trim that was put up as baseboards. We have to get new (wooden) baseboard trim and install it. We have to pull out the stove and the refrigerator to clean behind them and paint the half wall. The doorway trim next to the refrigerator was removed, we have to replace that. The ceiling fan is going, I want to replace it with a flush mount fixture, no fan, and no exposed bulb.

So far, the cost breakdown is this:
$14.94 (paintbrushes)
$23.47 (Behr paint)
-$5.00 (Behr paint rebate)

My goal is for the whole project (minus the dishwasher, which will clock in at around $750) to cost no more than $300. I am going to try and squeeze some vinyl tile flooring in there. (And remove the ones that are there now.) And the faux metal backsplash.

We had everything else (primer, ceiling paint, trim paint, primer brushes, painter's tape) left over from last year, when we painted the whole house.

I am thinking of painting the cabinets white/offwhite/cream/something else? because the wood is very overbearing and dated. Not that this kitchen will look super no matter what because I don't want to spend a ton until we can renovate it. Whenever that will be.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Kitchen: Before

I would really love to have a design consult with John and Sherry of This Young House, but I really can't afford their rates - something house related always crops up to spend money on instead. I really admire their style and advice, and I think the kitchen would make a very dramatic before/after. So this is what I would write them, if I was discussing a consult.

We have had our house for 1 year. We got it as an almost-foreclosure - the previous owners were days away from foreclosure. Last year, we focused on painting and fixing electricity, the water heater that exploded in the basement, etc.

This year, we are focusing on replacing the roof, carpentry repairs, and minor cosmetic improvements through the rest of the house.

We are looking to refresh our kitchen, at a low cost. In order to sell our house (eventually!) we will have to expand the kitchen, replace some wiring, and add a second bathroom off the kitchen. So we don't want anything we do now to cost too much, if we will be changing everything in a few years anyway. We would be doing this sooner, but for the economy, a new job that fell through, etc. However, I'm not sure if I can handle this color and style for much longer! I need at least a cosmetic update!

Our house was built in 1949 and has had several owners. The original owners took great care of the house. Improvements were made and new appliances installed before the house was sold to the previous owners in 2000. The previous owners did not maintain the house at all in their time there, and cut a lot of corners when they attempted do-it-yourself improvements, which are causing us many headaches.

The floors were originally hardwood. There was a swinging door between the kitchen and dining room, and a door on hinges between the kitchen and the living room. We still have these doors up in the attic, although they would require new hardware and repainting.

In 1969, the cabinets, backsplash and floor were replaced. A layer of linoleum (maybe asbestos? maybe not?) was added over the hardwood floors. The present cabinets were added. Aluminum wiring was installed.

Prior to 2000, new windows were put in and new appliances installed.

Between 2000 - 2008 the kitchen was painted red and the apple theme was added. The floor had some stick-on tiles installed sloppily over the (maybe asbestos? maybe not?) linoleum. The baseboards were ripped out and replaced with sheets of plastic. The back door was replaced along with a poorly installed doorframe, which cracked the window frame. The back door step and frame is rotting through due to the poor installation.

The cabinets are okay, but the way the doors overlap is very inconvenient for practical purposes. We looked into taking off the overlapping piece, but the doors would not close completely if it was removed. We put on the silver knobs.

Previous knobs vs new knobs

The counter is stained and faded. The stove was replaced poorly, the counter cut unevenly, and the wall next to it is in poor shape.

We have a 2x4 under the sink because a HVAC vent is located there. Some of the slats on the vent broke off, and the previous owners solved this problem by stapling brillo pads to the inside of the vent. We discovered this when our puppy pulled them out and ate them. (She stays in the kitchen during the day while we are at work.) The board is there so she can't put things in the vent. It would be difficult to replace the vent without ripping out some of the plastic baseboard and some of the stick-on tile floor.

I hate the ceiling fan. I would rather have a fixture that is more flush with the ceiling.

I think the corner sink is an interesting design feature, but it is very inconvenient to wash dishes in. The dishwasher is currently broken - if you attempt to run it, it gushes water into the basement due to a hole the previous owners melted through the plastic lining and then repaired using duct tape. We filled the hole with some extra silicone grout we had leftover from the bathroom, to prevent further leaks.

I hate the wall color. I hate the plastic baseboards. I hate how poorly the back door fits in. I hate the backsplash. I hate the stick-on tile floor. We cannot add another layer on top of the stick-on tiles, it would make the floor too high. I am not enamored of the cabinet color. I am investigating painting the cabinets. The room is very dark right now compared to the rest of the house, which is airy and bright, with many natural fabrics and textures.

The living room is Valspar Wicker (tan). The dining room is Valspar Forest 3 (green). The front hall is Valspar Jekyll Club Veranda Ivory. (There were a lot of rebates for Valspar last year.) I would like the kitchen to blend in with the flow, especially since there are no doors between rooms on the first floor.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Gardening

There are many pictures this time, as always!

Last time I posted, we had completed one side of the front garden. We finished the second side of the front:

And we lined both sides with bricks.

There were some HUGE rocks in the front yard (sleeping puppy for scale), which turned out to be a small hint at what was to come in the back yard.

We filled the front garden with herbs and marigolds. (Someone (bird? bunny? cat?) ate the marigolds this week.)
In this picture you can see our new neighbor planting her garden also - that house was on the market for over a year and we are very glad she bought it!

So then we were on to the back garden! This one is for vegetables. I made one last year, but had no fence, and it was very small. Bunnies & squirrels ate the entire thing.
We did most of the digging for this in the rain, so there aren't as many pictures. We also found some MONSTER rocks. I think when they built the house, they put all the extra quarried rocks in the backyard, and then dumped a thin layer of dirt over them. We found enough rocks in a 5'x10' plot to do a wall of a garage to match the house, if we build one.

Because the dirt was of such poor quality (clay) and we had to remove so many rocks, we had to buy lots of additional dirt. This is about half of what we put in there.

The biggest rock (they are sitting on it) was 3'x3'x1.5' We couldn't remove it. (Or even lift it to level it!)

Andy the Guinea Pig supervised operations:

Half done, with some dirt in:

Trying to pose with the dogs, who were being extremely uncooperative and loud.

Done! This includes tomatoes, green peppers, romaine lettuce, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beans, and eggplant. It is about half full. We have to buy one more bird netting to keep everything out.

Doing these gardens was a lot of fun - it also allowed us to ignore for a little while the things to deal with on the inside of the house. Like the handles on the shower in the bathroom. And the dishwasher. We did have to hire a guy to fix the dryer after it stopped drying things. We also have to replace the roof - we have been getting quotes, and encountering a lot of scumbags. All of that upcoming...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Front Garden

This weekend we ripped out the herb garden I planted out front last year. I didn't plan it really well - in New England, where I last grew herbs, they didn't get nearly as big. In Maryland? These were Monster Herbs, and they took over the front walkway.

So we started digging bigger beds for this year's herbs. (Also, on the right, helping, is new puppy Alice.)

We only got one side dug because we were surprised by a hailstorm.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Boring but Necessary: Tree Trimming

So when we got the house, last year, we signed up with Traveler's for homeowner's insurance, since that's who we have with our cars. I have no idea how they are as an insurance company - we've never had to file a claim with them for either the house or the cars. (If I were an insurance company, I would want me as a customer.)

They claimed they sent over a home inspector when we signed up with them to see what was up with the house, but the person never went inside the house, all they did was take pictures of the tree in the backyard, which was overhanging the roof. (We are insured for things like wall to wall carpet and an extra bathroom, which this house doesn't have.)
Then they sent us a letter saying:
* You need to get the tree cut back
* You need a new roof

We got very mad, because they did not look at the inside of the house, to see the things that were a little more pressing, like, oh, the water heater that had the bottom rust out of it and spew fetid water all over the basement. (On a Friday evening, of course.) We had to spend money on things like that rather than the trees and the roof, which is not leaking.
We we assigned to a rep who has never personally owned a home, and he thought the water heater took precedent over the roof and tree also. So he gave us an extension of a year on the original weeklong deadline to get these things done.

Brand Spanking new water heater, Corgi shown for scale:

The tree trimmers were a nightmare to deal with - we had to fire one company before they did the work because they were so inept and uncommunicative and rude. We got some other folks to come out and do it, but I still would not recommend them, they were not the best at communicating and wouldn't answer all the questions I had. But at least they weren't rude. And they knew how to trim trees. And I got a 10% discount from them.

Anyway, we got the tree trimmed:




Boring but necessary. I would rather have had a nice new camera, which is what Tree Trimming + Water Heater costs.

Lucy, sitting on the couch next to me while I write this: