“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.

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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.

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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…..

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!

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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.
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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

Mini Update

I haven’t blogged in a while, had some set backs, missed out on a weekend of work, etc, and basically haven’t had time. This weekend I had my first real guest at the house, my college friend Leyla. This was the first weekend that practically no work was done on the house. It was kinda nice to be able to relax a bit and actually enjoy. 20131112-162302.jpg

The living room is pretty much all set up now. It’s bare-bones, but getting there. 20131112-162637.jpg

We made it down the hill behind the house to Sawkill Creek.20131112-162652.jpg

We got apple-drunk. Local hard cider that I picked up a few weeks back at an orchard in Stone Ridge, which was nice and not sweet and syrupy like other hard ciders. And we also cracked into a bottle of Applejack, that was a house warming gift from some lovely friends. 20131112-162705.jpg

This was the one project we did this weekend. I trash-picked this chair in Brooklyn, brought it upstate and recovered it in a maroon velvet. This is a horrible picture, but the chair actually looks pretty great. 20131112-163116.jpg

This was the first weekend that I had a “real” fire in the fireplace. I need to start stockpiling wood for winter!20131112-164330.jpg

The back yard is filled with bluestone. It’s just waiting to be turned into landscaping. I’m going to spend all spring hauling rocks up a hill by hand. I’m going to be fit-as-fuck.20131112-164344.jpg

The guest bedroom is furnished! (sparsely) but at least it’s functional. 20131112-164407.jpg

More info and updates to come, as soon as I have the time to wrap my brain around another post. Hopefully the next will be better composed.

Ugly House: UPDATE

So…. I’m buying the Ugly House. It’s been a few weeks of inspections, appraisals, lawyers, contracts, financing, begging etc. No one told me buying a house would be so annoying. I now feel like I’m finally at a point where this one won’t fall apart, so I feel safe to say that I’m getting this house and that I can start picking out paint colors and it’s not premature. If all goes well, I should be closing in about 2 weeks.

I’m starting to plan out how to turn the inside of this ugly house into something livable in the short-term and something amazing in the long term all while using the smallest budget possible.

In all actuality, the house isn’t THAT ugly inside. All of the owner’s possessions are what really makes the interior a hideous blur. The other big issue is the horrible carpet throughout the house. Step #1 GET RID OF THE HIDEOUS FUCKING CARPETS

IMG_2612Seriously, those carpets will be gone and in piles in the garage before I spend my first night in the house. I swear to the tiny baby Jesus. According to the homeowner, there’s parquet floors under the living room and plywood sub-floors under the rest of the house. I think this is LIES. When I did the inspection, down in the basement, you can see that there’s wide plank, probably pine, subfloors under the original part of the house. The kitchen and master bedroom are both converted porches, so God only knows what’s under there. The kitchen will be tiled at some point, and if I have to have carpet in the master bedroom, I can live with that, as long as it’s not this awful stuff.

I’m hoping that I can luck out and end up with floors that look something like these, or maybe even better.

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Once that carpet is gone, the living room, bedrooms, hallway, and nook behind the fireplace are all basically blank slates. A little paint and some non-oldlady furniture and it’ll be good to go. There’s no architectural interest to these rooms, so hopefully a nice, old wood floor will do it. Otherwise I might need to add some molding, or wainscoting or something. The kitchen and bathrooms will need to be tackled pretty quickly too, but I think some paint and a few new touches will be a big improvement on those areas too. More on those later.

The Ugliest House

House hunting this weekend was great. Ulster County is like 1000X prettier and classier than Sullivan County (suck it Sullivan County, you broke-down whore!) But with my budget, I fall more into the broke-down-whore category than the classy (especially after those last two sentences)

I did meet and fall in love with the UGLIEST house there ever was…. that might be an exaggeration, but it was pretty bad. The pics below prove my point. Yes, that’s a bug zapper…. in the living room*

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*there were no bugs anywhere to be seen

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Okay, okay, that gold sculpture in the corner is kinda fabulous, but look at that carpet. ImageSo, the inside looks pretty bad. Honestly it’s mostly because an 80 year old little jewish woman that my Dad was hitting on lives there and she has the most hideous possessions known to man, and that really sullied the spectacular vista that was this house.

But, I am Richard Gere, and I think I could Pretty Woman the shit out of this place. It’s got great property, great location, Sawkill Creek is behind the house (and how bad-ass is the name SawKill) and frankly, the house is adorable. Plus there’s a brick two car garage that’s just waiting to be converted to something awesome.

ImageImageSo, let’s see if this one works out, or ends in frustration and heartbreak.