Tag Archives: old house

Saved by my Own Hoarding: A Vanity Story

I love furniture with history, and we have been fortunate to inherit a house full of it. On the flip side, I have a very hard time parting with any of these sentimental pieces – even when they may be damaged beyond repair.

Take my great-grandmother’s buffet, for example. I acquired it around 2004, after the death of my mom’s first cousin Tommy. He had a storage unit filled with furniture from my great-grandmother Hazel’s house, and this buffet was one of the pieces I claimed. (I was pretty low on the totem pole when it came to choosing items. Obviously.) It was filled with mildewed linens, and only had 3.75 legs – and only two of those were attached.

I put it in my garage in Alabama, vowing to do “something” with it.

Fast forward 14 years and four moves.

Our master bathroom is a decent size but featured a small pedestal sink and almost no built-in storage. When we moved in, it looked like this:

35929985754_2c6762e2bd_z

Over the last year, we painted, removed the large wall mirror, and replaced the light fixture. We planned to replace the pedestal sink with a vanity, add shelving, and replace the tumbled tiles with something more historic-looking.

Then the pedestal sink top came dangerously loose from the base. That moved the pedestal replacement to the top of the priority list. And I thought about OG Hazel’s buffet, which was resting upside-down in the guest house closet.

When we pulled it out, it looked even more rickety than I remembered. But it was constructed of solid pieces of wood, and Jason stabilized it with some small angle brackets.

30004523278_3c0976b1d7_z

We decided to salvage the front legs and use wood blocks to mount the buffet to the wall.

44432007642_e9a5270fd8_z

We bought a basic vessel sink at Home Depot, a drain on Amazon, and splurged on a cool faucet from Wayfair. Including miscellaneous plumbing equipment, we probably spent $400, which seems like a lot until you look at the price for a new 48″ bathroom vanity. We would have spent at least twice that – maybe three times – for a similar piece.

Jason had to modify the drawers on the left side to make room for the plumbing, but that ended up being a lot simpler than I thought. We decreased the depth of the top drawer to about five inches, and cut a wedge out of the big bottom drawer. I used this article from This Old House as a guide.

After some trial and error in the plumbing department (and only a moderate amount of cursing), we were done.

43710382595_57dd7d731c_z

(This bathroom is particularly difficult to photograph, because the window and light fixture keep all the light at the top of the room. I apologize.)

30749121668_91f7e034a0_z

And just as a reminder…..

My Post (6)

Our next bathroom project will be installing some chunky shelves in that recess to the right of the vanity. We’ll get to it. Eventually.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Done and Done.

The kitchen is done! Like, done done. The last check has been written, the paint is dry, and I’m ready for some serious before-and-afters.

Set the way-back machine to way back, aka January 2018.

Before:

39622975051_52ec354b87_z

After:

26760126057_924a5b6eea_z

I wanted a kitchen that felt at home in our house, but which also worked hard to feed six people day in and day out. I wanted a space that was pleasant to work in, but not “decorated” or accessorized. I wanted clean lines but rich texture.

I got all that. And more!

The kitchen has always been my favorite room in the house, even when it was more boring. It has windows on three sides, so it gets beautiful natural light all day long.

Before:

38915085234_dfa0a6482e_z

After:

40917554964_da978e665b_z

I cannot believe I get to work here every day. Even if I’m just toasting an English muffin, it’s so pleasant.

Before:

38726813195_ef1d59897c_z

After:

41585445882_415b65cda1_z

Elements in the kitchen echo other parts of the house. For example, the entry area is now painted the same color as our living room. The floating shelves by the sink are stained to match the floors in the rest of the house. The upper cabinet knobs look like the doorknobs everywhere else. I wanted to be sure that the kitchen fit seamlessly into the house, and it does.

 

39820379220_7727b8e476_z

I could compose odes on the brick floor. It looks incredible, like it’s been there forever. It’s my favorite part of the kitchen.

40736516965_d9182e47d9_z

Happy 90th birthday, house!

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

How We Saved Money on our Giant Kitchen Renovation

A complete kitchen renovation is expensive. There’s no way around it. However, we worked hard to manage the cost of the project, and saved money in big and small ways. Every little bit helps!

There were some areas we actually put cash dollars back into our own pockets:

1. We paid cash. We’ve been saving for this renovation since we moved into the house, because we knew it was something we wanted to do. And some of the money came from my mom’s estate (thanks, mom!). By paying cash, we avoided the costs of taking out a renovation loan or other financing arrangement. Savings: Unknown, probably several thousand dollars.

2. We sold the old appliances. On Craigslist, I sold the wall oven ($100), the dishwasher ($75), the range hood ($50) and the fridge ($75). That’s $300.

3. We got a deal on the new appliances. We are getting a $700 rebate from Kitchenaid because we purchased three new appliances from them. Additionally, we got $150 discount from the appliance store because we paid cash for the appliances.

4. We got rebates from the city. We got $115 electric rebate and $240 natural gas rebate, for a total of $355 in rebates.

That’s $1500 in hard savings, as well as an unknown-but-large amount saved by not financing the entire renovation. This is definitely not a project we could have done ourselves, especially the multiple floor/subfloor issues we encountered.

In other areas, we made choices that lowered the cost of materials or labor:

5. We tolerated eccentricity. Our cabinet makers are two grumpy brothers from Havana. They have a pre-paid phone, and when that runs out of minutes, you have to get creative to contact them. Our contractor had to resort to leaving notes on their windshield at one point. But their bid was several thousand dollars less than the competing bid, and their work was excellent.

6. We prioritized. The floor repairs were important, so we were willing to spend more money on them. Likewise, it was important to me to have the hardest-working countertops I could find, which was expensive. To offset those spendy items, we chose plain white subway tiles for the backsplash – it’s inexpensive and classic. We went middle-of-the road for appliances, sink, faucet, and hardware.

7. We were patient and flexible. Several times, it paid to wait. When the first flooring company said they couldn’t install the brick, we waited until we found a company that would do it, rather than choosing a different, more expensive, material. We got several quotes for the countertops, and took some time negotiating. In the end, we saved $1,600 by patiently going from vendor to vendor to work out the best deal. We ended up with a piece of quartz that the vendor had on-hand – it wasn’t exactly what I’d envisioned, but it was close enough (and now I love it).

Whether you’re gutting your kitchen or getting ready to DIY a bathroom, these are good tips to keep in mind.

And since you’ve made it this far, I’ll share the last two details that finished the kitchen remodel.

First, the cabinetmakers created some floating shelves for the wall beside the sink. They stained the shelves to match the wood floors in the rest of the house, and I bought the shelf brackets on Etsy.

40349376384_4cf1d364b3_z

Second, we left the original butler’s pantry area untouched, but wanted something to break up the whiteness of it all. I decided to wrap the countertop in a sheet of copper, to match the large light fixture (and our gas lamps, etc.).

40589983944_77ee890d1d_z

The kitchen continues to be a joy and a delight, and I spend most of my day in it. It’s even fun to clean.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Kitchen Reno Week 9: “Substantially Complete” is Music to my Ears

Welcome to week 9 of our kitchen renovation. This is the week we moved our stuff back in and I put my appliances through their paces – despite the fact we’re still not technically “done.”

Are you ready?

40809684981_f831f9e621_z

I wasn’t ready.

Everything is just so lovely. Jason remarked that this is the kitchen our house always wanted to have.

38998653720_90609dae7b_z

Cooking in the kitchen is a delight now. There is room on either side of the stove for bowls and utensils, and Jason and Hazel are frequently parked on those green stools, keeping me company while I make dinner. We have a speaker located near the fish tank, so I can listen to music or podcasts while I’m working. It’s just so pleasant to be in a space that functions so well.

25937161777_02144143ec_z

So what’s left? Painting, for one thing, and the cabinetmakers still have some adjustments to make (like installing the trash pull-out). The transitions from the kitchen to the rest of the house need thresholds, and the doors to the laundry closet and storage closet need to be trimmed down and re-hung.

In the words of the contractor, we are “substantially complete.”

I won’t post again until those items are done, when we can have a big before-and-after party. Huzzah!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Kitchen Reno Week 8: The Home Stretch

Most of the week was spent waiting for the counters to be fabricated and delivered. We even started leaving piles of mail and keys on the peninsula, since that’s an inevitability.

In the meantime, all the shiny knobs and pulls were installed on the cabinets.

38829963160_85fae1c9ce_z

It was like adding the right jewelry to a little black dress. Now the cabinets look finished.

On Monday morning the counter tops arrived. And there was even more rejoicing!

40597890552_8eba943823_z

They are glorious and I love them.

40597889902_221bef1933_z

On Tuesday the tile setters got to work on the backsplash. Because the rest of the room has so much texture, I chose a simple white subway tile. I was inspired in part by the “downstairs” tour we took at The Elms in Newport, Rhode Island a couple of years ago. Most of the behind-the-scenes spaces in that home were tiled floor-to-ceiling in white subway tiles, to reflect light and keep surfaces easy to clean. For example, here’s the kitchen at The Elms:

kitchen

Notice a few familiar elements? Black lower spaces, white upper spaces, touches of copper…. when it comes to kitchens, I definitely have a type.

Here’s the tile in progress:

38861039690_a15e42610b_z

It will be grouted on Thursday, with a medium-gray grout. The plumbers are scheduled to be here today, to install the sink and hook up the dishwasher, and then this battle station kitchen will be fully operational.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Kitchen Reno Week 7: Countertops

The Griner brothers tackled cabinet adjustments this week – one upper cabinet had to be re-hung, and one lower cabinet re-configured.

In the meantime, we moved on to selecting a counter top.

I will not bore you with the ins and outs of choosing a counter top material. Suffice it to say there are dozens of options and lots of price points. Lucky for me, I already knew what I wanted. When we involuntarily remodeled our kitchen after our last house caught on fire, we chose quartz counter tops (the existing counter tops were quartz, so it didn’t cost any more to replace with the same material). I LOVED those counters. They were beautiful, durable, and maintenance-free. And sparkly.

27551766306_92ba96b05b_z

(That’s Silestone Stellar Night, if you’re curious.)

As much as I loved my black sparkly counters, I knew I didn’t want to repeat the color if the lower cabinets were also going to be black. I went back to my original inspiration photo for, um, inspiration.

feature-1

I liked the idea of white counter tops with a little bit of “movement” (which is apparently the technical term for “fancy squiggles”). I finally selected this:

26553506688_d5974a58d7_z

The contractor installed temporary counter tops so we could get used to the width of the peninsula and adjust it if necessary.

40503217461_1583b133e4_z

The end of this week saw a dramatic increase in activity as we push for the finish line. On Tuesday, the electrician arrived and put in outlets, switches, and light fixtures, AND the appliances were delivered.

APPLIANCES. And LIGHTS. All the pretty things!

By the end of Tuesday, the kitchen was a giant beautiful mess:

39629492325_ccf954dee3_z

And now it’s time to introduce you to the very first thing we bought for our kitchen, the oh-gee-wow piece that is the literal center of the whole thing.

38714501210_2ff92ed717_z

It’s a giant old copper wash tub that some enterprising soul flipped upside down and turned into a light fixture. Jason and I bought it at the Westside Market, our favorite antique/vintage shop in Atlanta, on our way home from Thanksgiving weekend. I have been patiently waiting for it to be installed.

And now it has been. And there was much rejoicing.

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects

Kitchen Reno Week 6: Cabinets!

The cabinets began arriving Friday afternoon, and honestly I couldn’t have been more delighted if they had been delivered by a parliament of Hogwarts owls.

Here’s where we’ve been since last Wednesday:

26496382948_637c643cd0_z

Our cabinets were made by the Griner brothers of Havana, who are always slightly grumpy. They keep a pay-by-the-minute phone, and when it runs out of minutes, you are SOL if you need to contact them. Our contractor once drove to Havana and left a note on their car when he needed to talk to them.

They are national treasures. But they make nice cabinets at reasonable prices, so we’ll let it slide. They arrived with a trailer full of awesomeness.

40367655641_3f0419d0a8_z

They worked most of Saturday afternoon to install all the cabinets, and now the kitchen looks like a kitchen again.

39656535414_8312bd7566_z

I am so impressed by the work the Griners did. I love all the details – the side of the fridge enclosure, the back of the peninsula.

40321956932_69029a95c4_z

I am deeply relieved that I love (LOVE LOVE) the matte black finish we chose for the lower cabinets. It looks great with the floors.

But my favorite thing in the whole room is this beauty right here:

40367559521_e428faec7f_z

It’s a giant, floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet whose proportions match the original butler’s pantry you can see over in the back right corner. The Griners repeated this proportion on the panel that encloses the fridge, too.

The cabinet hardware arrived, as scheduled, on Valentine’s Day. This seemed like the logical next step:

26496389618_db427c189b_z

The next week will involve a few cabinet tweaks and then on to counter tops.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Home, Projects