“Finishing” the kitchen

The kitchen is finally together! Everything that I hated about it when I moved in is now gone forever, and I’m very happy about that. The appliances older than me, the laminate counters, the blue floral wallpaper, the dark wood, the sun bleached and peeling linoleum floor. Let’s take a moment of silence to remember the past.






The counter tops and replacing the tile backsplash were the last two major hurdles in the kitchen. Through the whole process, as soon as one project would be finished, everything else would look even shittier by comparison. It was finally time to get it all “done” once and for all. This kitchen gets a lot of action, and it’s really hard to cook in a construction zone. Now that there are no more big projects to get done in here, I no longer have to stress about making coffee in the laundry room, or going to the diner for every meal.


The reason I’m calling this “finished” instead of finished is that the backsplash behind the stove and hood is still not done yet. For now it just has a piece of cement backer board up to cover the damaged wall from the tile demo. I actually don’t mind how it looks as-is. It kinda goes with the countertops. Obviously it will be tiled over and finished off, but I’m in no rush, and am still debating over tile choices. There’s also some little touch up paint spots to be done, but nothing that would really disrupt use of the kitchen, and nothing that’s crying out as hideous anymore.10389679_10205279438254601_3495290950865964672_n10624695_10205279439654636_3412310410330428571_n

So there it is, in all it’s glory. Now on to the next major project…..


I’ve got wood!

Well, the kitchen’s got some wood. After doing the countertops, the next project to be done was the backsplash and tiled wall. It was a horrible tan floor tile and was long over due to be ripped down. The tiles came of relatively easily, but a few spots ripped up the drywall behind. leaving it patchy and large areas of thinset still on the wall. They weren’t in horrible shape, but not good either. To get the walls to the point of taking a new tile evenly would definitely be a project in itself.


Originally, I had planned on doing all subway tiles for the backsplash with a dark grout. Classic and clean, much like the kitchens below, which had always been the inspiration for mine, with the dark lower cabinets and the concrete countertop.tumblr_mv4rcwhtKR1qf82imo1_500

tumblr_mtoxkrsqtM1qf82imo1_500 tumblr_n2n5oyQUNF1qf82imo1_500 Since my concrete counters didn’t quiiiiiiiite turn out looking like these, and the whole kitchen was starting to feel a little industrial, which is not really the best fit for a cabin in the woods. The combo of the condition of the walls, and the industrial vibe made me think I needed to go a different direction, which is where the wood idea came in. I figured it would warm things up a bit and it would be easy to install. After some googling for inspiration, I found a few options that I thought would look good.

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My initial thought was salvaged wood. I figured it would be cheap, a bit grayed out to go with the rest of the kitchen, and I liked the varying lengths and widths. The trouble was, where to find all this. I know in upstate NY, there’s a ton of places to get old wood, but the trouble is taking the time to find and clean up enough of it to do the whole backsplash and wall, in total, about 40 sq feet. There’s actually a company called Excelsior just down the road from the Hill House that specializes in reclaimed wood, so I figured this would be perfect. They’re only open monday-friday, which is a bit of a bummer for a weekender, but it just happened to work out that I had a monday off, so I made an appointment to check out the wear house. I found tons of great options, and got an emailed quote the next day. Perhaps I’m totally naive, but I was kind of shocked at the quote I got, which was about $7.50 per square foot. It still would have been only about $300-350 to do the backsplash, but this seemed like a lot of money for what was basically trash. There are literally hundreds of falling down houses, barns, chicken coops, in the area that have tons of exactly what I needed, but again time = money, so I guess that’s why this would have cost that much. The people at Excelsior were super helpful and great to work with, but I’m too stubborn (cheap) to pay that rate for what I could have ripped off of my friends dilapidated garage.

BUT, I’m also lazy and was tired of having the kitchen in shambles and didn’t want to wait until I could source all this shit, so it was time to consider other approaches. I had read on other blogs that people did horizontal paneling, or floors with ripped down sheets of plywood just face nailed to the surface, and thought that this could look okay, it would be much more basic looking but would be easy to install and would add some textural interest at least. A quick trip to Home Depot later, I had my solution, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. In their lumber aisle, I found some really nice pieces of cedar. This cedar wasn’t red like most I had seen before and they all had a really nice grain pattern. They were less than $6 per 8′ 4″x2″ board, which meant it would be less than $90 to do the whole kitchen. I figured that even if I dint end up liking it, I could always paint it white like I had planned, or I could stain it darker or a different brown.

IMG_5017I borrowed a friend’s nail gun (best invention ever!) and used a circular saw to cut the boards into random lengths for a staggered pattern. They all look a bit rough and rustic, with holes from the finishing nails and some gaps where the boards or wall weren’t quite straight, but I don’t mind, it’s a little more like the reclaimed look than a polished finish. They totally give the kitchen a warmer feeling and add a bit of an organic element back in so it’s not industrial feeling. They even some how make the concrete counters look much better to the point where I’m not ready to rip them out and put in some kind of expensive marble. YAY!


For now, the wood is unfinished and I really like the color and matte finish on it. It being a kitchen and messes happening, I’ll probably need to put some kind of finish or sealant on it for protection, but I don’t want the wood turning reddish or going yellow like with a poly. So for now, here’s my naked wood. IMG_5031

Spring and Curb Appeal

All the snow has finally melted and I can finally see what the property actually looks like again! I closed on the house in October, so I’ve really barely seen the property when everything was green and blooming. Besides removing all the silk flowers that were shoved in the ground around the house, and removing all the plastic yard ornaments and tchotchkes, I’ve done absolutely nothing to improve the outside of the house.

This past weekend we finally got to start to clean up the yard and break out some new patio furniture. The astro-turf that was covering the front and back decks has been ripped out and the decking seems to be in pretty great shape. Picked up some of my favorite outdoor chairs from Ikea and a few large planters that will soon have something amazing and interesting in them to frame the porch. There’s now a few bushes in the front planters as well. Some Blue Junipers in the front for some low coverage and some Yellow Euonymus in the back for a bit of height and year round color. I wanted shrubs in the front so when it’s winter 6 months out of the year, the front of the house won’t look so barren and dead like it did this winter.

*Side-note the bottom step is not as fucked up as it looks in this picturefront20140425-172951.jpgI bought these house numbers before I even closed on the house. It only took me 5 1/2 months to put them up. At least now people will be able to find the house without driving past and circling back.


This little door to the garage hadn’t been opened in about 30 years and was half buried and blocked by some sort of wild shrub. It’s far to cool to be non-functional, so I dug it out, removed the shrub and made this mini blue stone entranceway so it stays functional. 20140425-172627.jpg


With the yard clear of snow and leaves, you can actually see what’s growing. There’s a flower bed in the back by the porch that has a variety of little things popping up.20140425-172642.jpg


New fire pit in the backyard, just doin it’s thang.


Tony planted a little herb garden off the back and edged it with stone from the yard. Let’s hope it doesn’t get eaten by deer and bunnies.20140425-172730.jpg

Hung the new hammock too. There are two trees in the backyard that are perfectly spaced for a hammock, it’s like they were asking for it. hammock deck

Even managed to squeeze a mini hike into the weekend. There’s miles and miles of empty forrest behind the house. I love that I can hike out of my back yard for hours and never see anyone.

Hopefully within the next few weeks all the trees will have popped and everything will be green again. I can’t wait until it’s warm enough to get my feet in the creek without losing them to frostbite.  Spring is here goddammit even if it’s still 40 degrees out.

Progress and Questionable Decisions

Lots of progress happening at The Hill House. Few project’s are “done” but lots are started and it feels good that the house is getting there. I feel like there will always be 100,000 projects, but chipping away at things feels good and feel like small victories. Basically the way I’m looking at home repair is that anything is better than what was there before. Baby steps.

I replaced the light outside the back door, which is the door we use most often. The new one isn’t exactly what I had in mind for the house, but it was $14 at Wal-Mart and it’s a hug improvement over the light that was there before. This one has a dusk-to-dawn sensor as well, so no more stumbling with a flashlight when I get to the house late on friday nights. The woods are fucking DARK at night. 20131219-211352.jpgThe horrible blue, metallic, floral wall paper is gone in the kitchen. The cabinets were all custom built red oak, which was a bit of a shame to paint over, but with such low ceilings and dark wood, the already tiny kitchen felt like you were cooking in the back of a closet. The upper cabinets will be “Swiss Coffee” by Behr, the same color the walls will be. Having the cabinets and walls above them the same color all the way to the ceiling should help make space feel taller. Lots of other work will be done in the kitchen, I’ll do a full post on that later.

This is the other side of the kitchen, where the table will go. Bigger and brighter already.20131219-211309.jpg

You can’t tell, but there’s a toilet under there. This is the small half bath. I thought this would be a good “test drive” for renovating the main bathroom. Last weekend I stripped the wallpaper. It came off easily and in full sheets, but left a rough glue all over the walls. I scrubbed them with hot water and they’re perfect and ready to be painted now.

Part 2 of this post is about some of the questionable purchases that have made their way into the house. Some were impulse buys, some were meant to serve an immediate function, but they’ve all left me unsure of if I love these things, or hate them with all my guts.  The first one is this weird old lady rocking chair. I sort of hated it at first, but I think this one is growing on me. It’s the perfect size for the space, and the orange fabric goes well with the living room. Plus it was cheap!


I got this painting in the basement of a bookstore in Kingston. It’s huge (36×48) and it was $12, so I figured I’m not losing much if it ends up in the trash. It’s very kitschy, but I’m not sure if it’s in a good way, or a horrible way. The frame is awful, I think I’m going to spray paint it gloss black and see if that takes this painting from something that would be in the lobby of a library to something kitschy-cool. This might end up in the trash, or at least the garage sooner rather than later.

This side table is from Ikea. It was supposed to be a plant stand, but for $6, I couldn’t pass them up. I got two of them before I even had the house, knowing I’d need stuff to fill the space. I originally thought it was really cool and medical looking. Now I think I hate it and it looks like something an old person would put by their bed to poop in. For now, at least one of the tables is serving the purpose as a night stand, but I now can’t wait to replace it. I’m sure it’ll stick around and be useful as an actual plant stand, or something. But I’m pretty sure that I think it’s fucking ugly. 20131219-211709.jpg

Not So Ugly


The Ugly House is now mine. With some hard, fast work, it’s not looking so ugly anymore. Within the first 2 hours after getting the keys at closing, I had ripped out all of the carpet in the house, with the exception of the master bedroom. My real estate agent knew how much I hated those carpets and gave me a carpet cutter as a gift at closing.

The floors under the carpets were about 100 times better than I had hoped for. They’re not perfect by any means, but they look pretty damn good. (This picture makes them look super nice, they aren’t)


The next piece of annoying bullshit was that there were no less than 100,000 staples in the floor that held the carpet pad down. And by in the floor, I mean, balls deep in the floor. Tiny, little, rusty, staples, like an inch deep into the hardwood, and they snapped off into tiny needles if you tried to grab them with needle nose pliers. I had a bit of a panic moment when I was looking at how many rusty needles were sticking out of the floor. I envisioned what an impossible task it would be to get them all out and be able to get the floor to a point where it wouldn’t cause you to bleed out immediately if you stepped foot on it. Not to mention the two rows of tack strips surrounding every room that would shatter and splinter when you tried to rip them up, causing me to only be able to tear them out in 4 inch segments. Fun.


I took a deep breath, and did what I do best. Google things until I find a solution. A few DIY blogs later, I discovered a suggestion that I use locking vise grips (which I have!)… For the staples that snapped off, I bought a tiny little tool, like an awl to sink the pointy ends of the staples down into the floor so they’re less stabby. I have no idea what this tool is called, but it looks like a pencil, with a long, thick lead. These things, along with a pry bar with rubber mallet, CHANGED MY FUCKING LIFE. Lesson learned: the right tool for the right job… That’s an incomplete thought, sounds like there should be more to that saying, but whatev.

After about 12 hours total of pulling staples and tack strips, the floors are finally done. Maybe some day I’ll sand and strip them, but they’re fine for now. After moving two car loads of stuff, and spending hundreds of dollars at Wal Mart and Ikea, the house is pretty much outfitted with the essentials, and ready for me to move the rest of the furniture in. It’s starting to look like a house and is no longer so ugly. Just getting rid of the old lady shit and the rug has made such a difference.


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It’s so nice to be done with the whole house hunting and buying process. No one ever told me what an emotionally taxing pain in the fucking ass it would all be. But it’s done. I love the house, I love Kingston, and it couldn’t have worked out any better. I guess things really do happen for a reason. On top of all that, my monthly payments and closing costs all came in lower than expected, which removed a lot of my stress and anxieties about being house poor. There’s a lot of work left to do, and lots of projects that I’ve already started. I need to be better about taking pictures of the “before”. I usually end up starting a project and then kicking myself for not taking a before shot. I will also try to be better about blogging. Baby steps.

Being a Real Estate Voyeur

While house hunting, you get to peek inside people’s lives… and people are weirdos. I love going through random homes, and with a small budget, they’re rarely nice, clean, or well decorated. Looking through someone’s stuff brings up all kinds of questions about what kind of freaks live/lived there. Below are some examples of some of the spectacular and horrifying things I’ve seen.

The Brady bunch basement.

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HUGE cat glamour portrait
photo 1 100 years of wall paperphoto 2 A little friend in his natural environmentphoto 5Metallic flamingo wallpaper bathroom. The ceiling was wallpapered too.photo 3There were 50+ dead things in this small cabin, as well as the weapons used to kill them.


And let’s not forget the bug-zapper in the living room from the last post. Seriously, who are these people?? I have so many questions! Are they genius and it’s all a joke, or are they insane? Is this the home of a serial killer and the bodies of 10 women are buried in the crawl space? Would that give me some sort of tax discount? Have they never heard of staging their homes? I swear that I could become a home flipper in upstate NY just by painting and staging a home. I’m sure that most buyers can’t see past a poorly taxidermied coyote to see a home’s potential. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these trash piles and turn it into something great.


I read a ton of blogs. I’ve read the whole internet. I was devastated when Google Reader shut down (sorry, Feedly doesn’t cut it). There are a few blogs that stand out to me as total inspiration for starting this blog and for what I want it to become. They’re beautifully presented, well written, and have extremely creative content, hopefully this blog will develop into something of a similar caliber to these folks. Until then, it’s a work-in-progress as I commit more time to it and work on my wordpress skillz! This blog has a long way to go aesthetically before I’m happy with the layout.

Here are a few of my fave blogs, in no particular order.

Hommemaker: I want to rub this blog all over my face. It’s probably the best written, and funniest yet informative blog I read. I’ve even printed out a post and shared it with my therapist (true story). It also makes me think that I could possibly live in LA instead of NYC. I’d totally let this guy be my 1950’s housewife and live in a beautiful home that he decorated, but that I couldn’t afford to finance and would leave my clothes and shoes all over.


Smitten Studio: I read this blog 99% for the amazing do-it-yourself cabin renovation that this very stylish, pretty lady and her husband are doing. I’m planning on stealing every idea from their blog for when I eventually have a cabin of my own to renovate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Her style section is well done too, if you’re into that, which I’m not really because 1.) I work in fashion and get enough of that at work and 2.) I’m not a lady…. If #1 and #2 don’t apply to you, you’d be stupid not to like 100% of this blog.


The William Brown Project: What’s not to like? The photography is great (the author is Matthew Hranek) it’s upstate NY, exactly where I’ve been house hunting. There’s MEAT and cooking and food. There are guns, vintage stuff, a cabin, a mid-century design house. It’s everything I wish my life was.

ImageImageChris Loves Julia: I discovered this blog, like, uh….12 hours ago and I’ve read the whole thing. It’s proof that at least someone has good taste that doesn’t live in NYC or LA (who knew!?). They’ve transformed, an otherwise characterless, basic, neighborhood home into something chic. No easy task, and it’s been done on a budget! They also write about cooking, and buying/selling houses, obviously up my alley.


There are a bazillion other really great blogs out there, and maybe I’ll post about more of them. If you don’t know about these 4, look at them right now, obsessively read them start to finish until your eyes bleed from their glowing beauty, just like I’ve done.