KaZoo 2016 Year in Preview

Mista Lista is back, baby! Since the entirety of the ‘Zoo has been a construction zone for awhile, Mista Lista took a long vacation. A sabbatical, if you will. Now refreshed and ready for the new year, Mista Lista is back on the blog to share a sneak peek of what’s on the schedule for 2016 in the ‘Zoo.

Mista Lista has noticed the KaZoos aren’t the best at finishing projects on schedule (Can I get an amen?), or remotely close to schedule, for that matter.  I call it Creative Minds Meets If You Give a Mouse a Cookie Complex.

Creatives aren’t always known for progressing sequentially and logically along the shortest possible path to the endzone. They zig. They zag. They occasionally throw a series of backward passes. Wait a sec, that’s football. My bad.

Creative types often start a number of projects that sit in various stages of semi-completion as their enthusiasm for one idea is soon overtaken by inspiration for another. Their creative energy is diverted again, and again, and again, leaving them with a garage full of tools/supplies and a house full of construction projects hazards.

And of course, this haphazard completion is helped (?) along when the beginning of Project A leads to the beginning of another related Project B. For example, when the KaZoos wanted to install their range hood vent, it meant tearing down the upper kitchen cabinets first to make room for said hood vent. But cutting holes in the roof for exterior ventilation meant getting someone to cut the hole in the roof and seal the opening (that would guarantee the work). And given the existing roof was nearing the its end of life, shouldn’t they just go ahead and replace it while the guy was coming out to look at the roof? And on the story goes. Anyone else need a cookie and milk after that? I thought so. 

Therefore, without further ado, I give you the KaZoos’ 2016 resolution:

Finish what you started.

Startling, I know.

So what’s on the docket? Here goes, in no particular order:

Mrs. KaZoo’s Dissertation
We’ll start with the most depressing and boring project, Mrs. KaZoo’s dissertation. Yup, this project is getting knocked out in 2016. I realize this probably doesn’t interest (m)any of you, so enough about that.

King Quilt
Mrs. KaZoo plans to finish the king quilt she started two (three?) years ago so that the KaZoos have cooler covers for the warm summer weather.

IMG_2154

Backyard Fence
The KaZoos have had a partially fenced backyard for months now-the result of working steadily but slowly to replace fence panels as time and money allowed. As the KaZoos near the year anniversary of starting their fence job (March), they plan to have this baby complete and inspected before winter is over, or February. They actually tackled the back gate the previous weekend, so here’s hoping they can get a few more panels and the last two gates done in the next couple of weekends.

IMG_4309

Fireplace Wall
It’s time for the fireplace to get some more love, just in time for Valentine’s Day, perhaps? The KaZoos built footings for the mantel last weekend, so all that’s left is to reinstall the mantel, caulk, paint, and tile the fireplace surround. And calling a chimney sweep to clean things up from the renters who tried to burn wood in a fireplace designed for gas logs. I know, right?! 

IMG_3845

Floors
The longest project in the history of the ‘Zoo. Seriously. What’s left, you ask? Laying underlayment in the guest wing, tiling and grouting the guest wing, and tiling and grouting the master wing. Oh, and the kitchen and master bath after those get demolished. 

IMG_5008

Baseboards
Once they get the floors finished, the KaZoos plan to install new, chunkier baseboards.

IMG_5063-1

Paint Touchups
The Kazoos need to touchup the paint in a few areas around the house. Seriously, people. A finished paint job makes everything look more polished.

IMG_5503

Kitchen Renovation
The KaZoos also have a BIG kitchen reno in the works. Design, demo of existing pantry, relocation of refrigerator and waterline, new drywall and paint, purchase and installation of new cabinets and countertops, you know. All in a day’s work, right? Smirk.

IMG_3095

The fools KaZoos intend to complete all of these projects in the first half of 2016, but I’m not going to hold them to any promises. {Wink.}

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Gray Skies Outside, Gray Walls Inside

Last weekend, outdoor progress was put on hold, thanks to the on/off rain on Saturday and being gone until late Sunday.  Dreary weather didn’t stop us from making tracks on some indoor projects, though!  #operationpaintbrush is back!

The last time you saw our living room, it looked meh:

IMG_3209

In January, we did a test paint of an accent wall in the living room.  We painted it Sherwin Williams Retreat and loved it…IMG_4579until we painted the accent wall in the kitchen/dining area Drizzle. We also played with swapping some furniture around in the living room, foyer, and master bedroom, resulting in the antique buffet landing here for awhile.  It looked great on this wall and especially nice with the Retreat color. Originally, the kitchen/dining accent wall was going to be a color from the same swatch as Retreat, Comfort Gray, and Sea Salt (all colors in the main living space) so that everything would coordinate nicely.  Except it didn’t.  Oyster Bay, the color that henceforth shall be The-Color-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named, was a no go for us.  As we said here, we could see it being pretty in someone’s home–just not ours [It also clashed horribly with Retreat, in case you were wondering]. We loved both the Drizzle and Retreat walls, just not in the same visual area.

This led to the decision that the moody green-blueness of the Retreat was going to be a keeper in our house but not in the living room.  We ultimately decided to paint our master bedroom Retreat and move the buffet to the bedroom with it (haven’t painted the master yet, so we’ll see how this goes!) and to choose a different paint color for the living room.  We love gray and intended for the main living spaces of our home to be gray, but the pale blue-green grays we selected (Sea Salt and Comfort Gray) look like blue-green with a gray undertone, rather than gray with a blue-green undertone that you see elsewhere on the Interwebs.  We like it, but it definitely took our house in a decidedly more coastal direction, which we are trying not to overdo.

This time we decided to get as close to a true gray as we could.  Enter Attitude Gray. A dark, modern gray with undertones that are truly undertones.  In the day it looks like a green undertone, at night a blue undertone. Sherwin Williams recent had a 40% off sale, so we grabbed up one of those $ off paint coupons that comes in the Pottery Barn catalog and headed to the sale for more paint.  For most of our house, we have bought the Harmony line to help get rid of the funky smell we mentioned here, but this time we chose the Emerald line for the paint-and-primer combo that would hopefully cover the Retreat (a dark base) more readily than just another regular coat of paint.IMG_4587

When we started painting, we were a tad concerned about the coverage.  I was using the brush and Chris the roller, and both of us could see streaks where we were cutting in or blending roller passes and it was actually taking paint off where we had just put paint down.  Talk about frustration.  We did not have this issue with the Harmony line and have never had this issue with any Sherwin Williams product before.  It also went on very light green-looking, and the Retreat was showing through, making it look like a camouflage wall. Chris was quite dubious at this point, but we pressed forward.  I had painted my mom’s kitchen and den with the Emerald paint line (a different color, though) and although it looked like a very thin coat going on, the coverage was great, even with just a single coat…so I remained cautiously hopeful that the same phenomenon would magically happen for us.

IMG_4582

As it turned out, the Retreat wall only needed one coat, but the remaining walls that were sprayed renter-white at some point prior to our purchase of the ‘Zoo, needed a second coat.  We did a second coat on the Retreat wall just for good measure. Chris thinks that the quality of the Sherwin Williams paint on the Retreat wall made it easier to paint, compared to the cheapo stuff on the other walls from who knows where.IMG_4583

The Attitude Gray looks much better with the Drizzle wall–you can see a bit of the Drizzle in the background in the above picture.

We also did some furniture rearrangement, resulting in a new TV placement on an espresso stained media stand my parents gave us, flanked by the two legs of the Pottery Barn project desk that function like regular bookcases when not holding the removable desk top (currently stored under our master bed).  We’ve struggled to find space for this desk monster in this house that doesn’t break up sight lines/walkways and finally gave up hope (until we add square footage down the road). If you are doubting the smallness of our living room, it’s a 12′ x 14′ space with a fireplace on the angle that juts out into the room, making it more of a 10′ x 10′ space, which is quite small, compared to the living rooms of most 3 BR/2BA homes with only one main living space.IMG_4589

We are in the process of Craigslisting most, if not all, of the upholstered furniture in here, as we really need smaller pieces to fit the room, but right now, we have surprisingly plenty of seating yet room enough for Kinect gaming and workouts. Not bad. The ‘comfy chair’ on the smallest wall has already sold since I took this picture yesterday, and we have someone coming to see our sofa Saturday {fingers crossed}!

IMG_4592If you’ve seen some of our previous whole-house posts in the past, you may have noticed that our area rug has been taken up; it is headed to the master bedroom, as it barely fit this space anyway. Of course, now this means you can see the dingy carpet, but not for long!  Part of the rush to get the rest of the house painted is because we are going to be doing an entire-house flooring project in June that we talked about here.

Now, all that’s left to be painted is the guest hallway, the laundry room, and the master bedroom.  #operationpaintbrush soon to be complete!

Chalk Paint Possibilities and Questions

We have quite a few paint projects planned for the next few months so that we can finally kiss our brushes goodbye.  Of course, as DIYers know, painting is a never ending activity. Just as you ‘finish’ painting, inspiration strikes somewhere else, and you find yourself standing in the checkout line for paint and rollers again. One of the projects that we need to tackle in the very near future before work travel and summer fun take precedence is this bookcase:

IMG_4428

My parents gave us this bookcase because we are book hoarders avid readers and they no longer had need/room for it.  We read widely, so the set of books in this bookcase is not representative of our taste.   The children’s and adolescent literature collections fill the guest bedrooms on Target bookcases (not our best investment) and Cubeicals (surprising longevity), my professional literature sits on other shelves in the living room,and our classics collection is our bedroom. This bookcase is actually more representative of the need to part with some books, like outdated college texts.  Getting there. Slowly.

This bookcase has a history.  My dad used to work as the managing engineer for a plant owned by a company headquartered in Austria, and he acquired this bookcase when the plant closed its doors and liquidated its assets.  It used to sit in his office, so I suppose he was a bit attached to it.  The bookcase is solid mahogany, but you wouldn’t know because it was lacquered black to hide its beauty from the pilfering Nazis during the war, according to the story passed down through the company.  The bookcase was later brought to the states from the original factory in Austria.

Regardless of whether or not the story is true, it has character. And it is indeed solid. And industrial, but not in the expected way.  As shown above, the glass panels slide to allow access to the shelves and also reveal drawers at the bottom.  The glass panels are fitted so precisely that they only fit in one order of installation, and no hardware was used to hang them.  This is the same way with the drawers–these drawers use ZERO hardware for mounting/sliding; instead they have an interesting wood sliding puzzle configuration allowing you to open them and take them out. We aren’t jumping on the brass bandwagon throughout our house like some people are, but the brass hardware on this bookcase looks so perfect with the glossy black coat. The brass plates on the sliding doors (differentiate left and right from center panels) have a bit of a patina, whereas the brass hardware on the drawers has been relatively well protected despite having lived in factories for generations.  #brassisback

We aren’t sure if the paint contains lead or not. I read somewhere that furniture painted in the early 1900s to 1950 is at risk for lead despite evidence that lead paint risks were known by this time, but the only way to know for sure is a test (you can buy lead paint test kits from your local hardware store supposedly).  If we find that the furniture was painting with lead paint, we would need to encapsulate it with a paint product designed to bond to the lead paint, which is likely the most viable abatement method for us. We always err on the side of caution when it comes to health hazards since we have furry family members, hopes for wee children, and allergies. #operationrespirationpurification

On a more fun note, we thought we would like to try using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint for the first time to paint the bookcase (either as the top coat(s) over the encapsulating product or, if no lead hazard exists, just as the paint of choice).  We are debating different color choices, and having never used ASCP before, we are having a tough time deciding what to do.  A conservative Graphite or Old White? A bold Antibes Green or Emperor’s Silk with clear and dark wax? Or a layering of different colors…or a custom mix of different colors? Oh, the possibilities.  The bookcase sits along the long wall we recently painted in our living room between our baby grand piano (also a high gloss black lacquer) and our new dining table.

IMG_3897

We like having neutral pieces along with fun, bright colors (note the bright paint above!), so we aren’t sure which direction to go.  Normally we would use bright colors on smaller pieces and neutrals on larger pieces, but we don’t want all of our larger painted furniture to end up white (and the lack of a true black in the ASCP collection has given us pause for this guy).  Then there’s the possibility of foregoing ASCP and just refreshing its black lacquer to maintain the look it has had for 65+ years (at least).  If it isn’t painted with lead paint, we might even consider the tedious process of stripping it down to the wood and restoring its original beauty.   If you have any experience with painting furniture, especially with chalk paint, what would you try? What about stripping and restoring pieces? De-lacquering? Lead paint nightmares? Any ideas or tips would be appreciated!

Shake, Splatter, and Roll

While we were on the KaZoo blog hiatus, we didn’t totally stop doing things around the house. In fact, the big project we talked about here, we actually did tackle over the winter–Valentine’s Day/Presidents’ Day weekend, to be exact.  We are obviously romantics (see message in paint below).

We have 4 foot scaffolding that Chris’s mom got us when we bought our first home with Cathedral ceilings, but this time it was too short for the job.  We rented scaffolding from Coastal Equipment Rental over the weekend (you get a better deal that way), and Chris painted while I worked on school stuff.  Call me crazy, but I’d much rather be painting than writing a paper.  Talk about torture–hearing the sounds of rollers against a wall and the creak of scaffolding when you’re in the next room staring at a blinking cursor. The creak of scaffolding made Chris a bit shaky, but it sounded positively delightful to me. Pure madness.  Anyway,  Chris spent Saturday morning prepping the walls for paint and that afternoon painting the west wall of the living/dining area Sherwin Williams Sea Salt, followed by the south kitchen/dining wall in Sherwin Williams Drizzle.   IMG_4209

While he took a break, I studied the paint and came to a disappointing conclusion.  Sea Salt just did not look good on that huge wall.  Sea Salt and Comfort Gray are both considered chameleon colors, which can be good but also tricky.  Unfortunately, the way light hits that big ugly wall, Sea Salt looked good in small test patches but not on such a large scale, and especially bad compared to how awesome the Drizzle looked.  Although Chris wasn’t thrilled that he had spent an entire afternoon painting a wall that would have to be repainted, the paint handwriting was on the wall.

Saturday night/Sunday afternoon Chris put a second coat on the Drizzle accent wall and repainted the west and north living room wall in Comfort Gray, which was a huge improvement over the Sea Salt.  Is it a perfect color combo? No, but it is so. much. better. than the Sea Salt.  In the long run, we plan to shiplap this entire wall, so this is a temporary fix to tide us over.  Yes, I just used shiplap as a verb. #shiplap 

IMG_4366-1

While taking a dinner break from screen-staring, I quickly slapped some Sherwin Williams Light French Gray I had from years ago on this small, yellowy-beige table we use to store the cat food.

Before:

IMG_4207

After:

IMG_4395

I still need to scrape the paint off the glass panes, though.

After the wall paint dried, I hung 4 Pottery Barn chalkboards in the kitchen that we bought five years ago with a coupon from our sofa purchase (making them half price) and my favorite vintage travel poster art print in the dining area.  It is difficult to photograph this area because of the southern exposure and the dimness of the living room. Apologies.

FullSizeRender-3

The font color of the poster is almost a perfect match to the Drizzle!  Interestingly enough, Drizzle is also a color that changes dramatically with light.  Note how blue-green it looks in some picture, compared to how green-blue it looks in others.

IMG_4393

As our mini-command center in the kitchen, the chalkboards have proven extremely useful, and we get lots of compliments on them.

IMG_4392

Now, those blah renter white walls are gone.  It’s amazing how just a little paint (or in this case, a lot) can make such a dramatic difference.  Yay paint!

IMG_3897

Because I’ve seen so many people Pinning Sea Salt and Comfort Gray as colors, here are my two cents on these colors and other members of their family we’ve tried (Oyster Bay, Retreat): Comfort Gray dries with more green-gray undertones, Sea Salt dries to a paler blue, which is pretty, but I’m not one for ‘pretty’ colors.  I want colors that are clean, crisp, moody, or dramatic, and it is none of the above.  I would describe its gray undertones as dishwater gray–perfect for the rustic, shabby chic, cottage look, but we prefer a more industrial farmhouse look. Our kitchen is currently Sea Salt, but you won’t see any of it when we do our big kitchen reno, and right now, its dinginess makes our truly dingy cabinets look crisper.  We’re also using the rest of the Sea Salt we bought in hallways because it is light and airy, helping the tiny hallways out.  In larger rooms, we like a little more color.  Oyster Bay dries to a dusty blue-gray color (again, not what we wanted in our main area), and Retreat dries to a deep, moody, marine green.  Interesting how they seem to alternate which undertone is more pronounced as you move down the swatch. We love Comfort Gray and Retreat best.  Of course, the light in your home plays with all of these colors in different ways, and the light in our house is arguably the weirdest we’ve ever experienced…making for tricky business indeed. Live and learn, right?

Mista Lista: September Aha’s and Ta Da’s

Now that the KaZoos have made almost all of the small and affordable repairs and improvements they can at this juncture (except for a few things needing to wait until cooler weather later this fall), Mista Lista will only be sharing seasonal updates on their home improvement progress.  These home improvement to do/ta da posts will come at the end of November, February, May, and August.  Not to worry, though: Mista Lista will be sharing other to do and ta da posts that focus specifically on certain projects that are receiving some KaZoo love in the interim months.  Let’s get this party started!

September Aha’s and Ta Da’s:

Receding Yard Uglies
Our neighborhood HOA has a policy (not always well-enforced) that air conditioning units and trash cans should not be seen from the road, and while some people may not follow this policy, we happen to like hiding the yard uglies.  My parents gave us a leftover lattice screen to hide our trashcan, and we bought another lattice screen to hide our AC for $17.13 (on sale at Lowe’s end of summer clearance sale).  We also put down 9 red square patio stones ($7.83 also on summer clearance) underneath our trashcan, since the grass underneath it was dying from lack of sunlight anyway.  We dug down the area so that the patio stones would be level with the ground for easily rolling the trashcan into place behind the lattice. Now if we could just hide the ugly meter in a way that would still allow it to be read….

IMG_3215

Reorganized Garage
Once the KaZoos started some of the more involved projects like installing the range hood, they realized that they needed a location to organize everything for their current and upcoming projects.  After putting away some clutter that had accumulated on various shelves in the garage, they designated one shelf as their DIY project shelf.  This shelf holds all the smaller items they are/will be using for projects, grouped by project, and sequenced by order of project.  Although one shelf may not seem like very much room for all of their DIY needs, this is one way the KaZoos are keeping their to do list manageable for the future.  Plus, now Mr. KaZoo can fit his car in the garage where all of those things were taking up valuable car real estate. Mista Lista applauds the KaZoo family’s efforts to minimize clutter and maximize efficiency.

IMG_3208

Remixed Office/Living Room
When Mrs. KaZoo first arrived from the big city, her home office was set up in the front bedroom where she would be encouraged to work by the abundant natural light.  Mrs. KaZoo knows she works best in natural light in an open, minimalist space free of distractions, and the front bedroom offered a nice picture window on the north side of the house.  Plus, this would make the front bedroom seem like less of a space-waster if it could double as an office.  Unfortunately, the cramped space in the front bedroom was cramping her thinking.  Keeping the draperies open on the picture window allowed plenty of light but also plenty of heat,  not to mention the constant distraction of neighbors passing by the window while she was working.

At the same time, the KaZoos were feeling frustrated with their living room arrangement because they could not sit on their favorite couch to watch TV, due to the size limitations of the room rendering it impossible to have the media stand opposite the sofa.  Plus, the living room was feeling very crowded with its oversized furniture awaiting a neighborhood garage sale in October.

Mrs. KaZoo had an “aha” moment when she realized that the KaZoos could swap out some furniture with existing pieces in other rooms to solve both the living room and office dilemmas.  When Mr. KaZoo came home from work one evening, they shifted the TV to a smaller TV stand, relegating the larger media stand to the front bedroom for media storage.   The smaller TV stand fit on a smaller wall in the living room, allowing the sofa to occupy the longest wall opposite the TV.

 IMG_3209

By putting the TV on the smallest living room wall instead of a bulky loveseat and moving a French chest to a different wall beside the piano, the angled wall was freed up for Mrs. KaZoo’s displaced desk.

 IMG_3214-2

Now, both desks are in the living room area (making for a more functional office space), the KaZoos can watch TV from their comfy couch, and the front bedroom still serves a valuable double purpose as book and media storage in addition to a guest room.  Having a media stand in that bedroom also provides a flat surface for guests’ suitcases, and we can eventually put a TV in that room if we so choose.  Three birds with one stone, fools.  That’s what Mista Lista calls efficiency.

Re-Mastered Closet
For under $100, the KaZoos completely redid their master bedroom closet, maximizing storage by reusing existing shelving from the garage.  See these posts for other details: Part I, Part II, & Part III.

IMG_3203Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • 1 can Sherwin Williams Harmony paint in Sea Salt = $31.79 (on sale)
  • 4 packs of Rubbermaid fastset back clamps = $7.24 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid 12 inch support brackets = $7.62 (on sale)
  • 1 pack of Rubbermaid c-clamps = $6.20 (on sale)
  • 3 Rubbermaid wall end brackets = $3.28 (on sale)

TOTAL PROJECT COST: $56.13

Not too shabby, eh?

You may have noticed that there are only ta da’s here and no to do’s.  Say what?! Mista Lista and the KaZoo family have decided to set monthly project goals, so tomorrow Mista Lista will be back sharing the KaZoo To Do list for October.

Master Closet Part III: Remix

In last week’s great purge of our master bedroom closet, we cleared out our closet in order to scrape ceilings, paint walls, rip out carpet, and add more racks for storage, using leftover wire shelving from our garage that we took down to make room for paddle board racks.  Chris also attempted to put on pants from high school. Spoiler alert: They didn’t fit.

We painted the walls before doing anything else (usually we wouldn’t), primarily because the taller KaZoo was on work-related travel, and the shorter KaZoo couldn’t reach the ceiling well enough to handle the scrape, patch, sand, prime, and paint all by herself. When Mr. KaZoo left, the closet looked like this:

MasterCloset

When he returned, he found the closet looking like this:

 IMG_3197

Then we combined forces to tackle the ceiling.  Our usual prepwork involves removing the carpet, tarping off things we don’t want covered in dust, and then scraping the ceiling, but this time, we used the carpet as a floor tarp to catch all of the popcorn debris raining down since the carpet was going to be leaving anyway.  I don’t recommend this unless you like slogging through a sea of popcorn ceiling and shag carpet while covered in drywall dust.    We first tried the dry-method of popcorn removal–simply scraping away at it.  Although this method resulted in fewer scratches and fuzzy places in the drywall, it was also considerably more tedious than the wet method we have used in the past.  We normally use one of those garden sprayers, but ours had recently been used for weed killer, so we just used a regular spray bottle filled with water to mist the ceiling, rather than gassing ourselves in the closet.  After waiting a few minutes for the water to saturate the popcorn, it came off in nice, soggy strips, rather than little chippy dry sections.2014-09-25 14.42.49

We brushed everything down to get rid of residual dust on the ceiling surface, applied joint compound to areas needing to be smoother, and let that dry overnight.  The next day, we sanded, brushed, and sponged everything down (again), after which we ripped out the carpet.
2014-09-26 12.38.48

After vacuuming up the residual dust and debris, we were ready to paint the ceiling.  We decided to paint the ceiling the same color as the walls (Sherwin Williams Sea Salt) for three reasons (a) We have plenty of it. (b) It is not the typical white. (c) It is light enough to not make the closet feel like it is caving in on us while trying to find clothes in the morning.


2014-09-26 19.08.53

While waiting for the painted ceiling to dry, we measured and cut the extra wire racks we removed from the garage to be the sizes we needed for the closet.  Then we forged ahead to installing the racks.  This was a tedious process that took the form of this cycle:

  1. Chris holds rack while Amy marks one spot for height and width of crevice between wires for wall bracket.
  2. Amy uses level to measure and mark all spots for back wall brackets and side brackets.
  3. Chris drills holes for all back and side brackets.
  4. Amy and Chris hammer in the anchors and nail-ish things (we like to use the technical language for things around here, in case you haven’t noticed).  The instructions said to tap gently, but the long wall had extra plywood backing that meant we had to break out our steel-driving John Henry skills.  We’re fairly certain we woke up the neighbor’s baby doing this, which means our neighbors probably had a great Friday night. Except not at all.  
  5. Amy and Chris snap wire rack into place and set into side wall bracket.
  6. Chris adds C-clamps for maximum support, using a manual screwdriver.  The directions said to use 1 1/2 inch screws.  This was a total impossibility, and we ended up using 1 1/4 inch screws instead, with much more success.
  7. Amy holds support arm brackets in place while Chris drills holes, taps in anchor, and hammers in the nail-ish things.
  8. Repeat four times.

After installation of all the racks, I sponge-washed the walls to get rid of residual dust from the drilling and vacuumed the baseboards and floor.  Once we installed the racks in their new location, the closet started looking less like a secret safe room and more like an actual closet.  Of course, adding clothes back in the closet helped with that, too.

To plan the new location of our racks (and determine the measurements for our cuts), we inventoried how many categories of clothing items we had (i.e., how many skirts, pants, shirts, dresses, etc.) and decided where it would be best to hang the respective categories.   We decided to do two long racks (keeping the existing long rack plus a new long rack cut from the garage shelving), one for each of us to hang our shirts and pants.

IMG_3198

With the residual section of the garage rack, we made another short shelf/rack for my shorts and knee length skirts to hang opposite the long wall.  We trimmed an existing closet rack to fit the same wall for my long skirts and capri pants.
IMG_3201

We decided that a galley-like closet arrangement was more functional than the previous corner system that rendered part of each shelf useless for hanging items where they t-boned into each other.  Plus, this provides easier access to the outlet and gives us a nice path for a runner rug.  Not that room for a rug was a major part of our planning and decision making, but having a rug over the concrete floors (until we get our wood-look porcelain tile) definitely softens things up a bit underfoot.

IMG_3204

The mid-sized existing rack we raised a few inches to allow for long dress and suit storage for both of us, storage for my purses, and room for Chris’s shoes.
IMG_3200

While cutting the shelving, Chris noticed that the garage wire racks weren’t the same kind of rack as the ones already in our closet: They didn’t have the clothing “bar” at the bottom.  Aesthetically, we thought it may not look the best, but after install, it is barely noticeable and is actually a functional improvement in some ways because the divided sections keep you from cramming too many clothes in one location..  Plus, if we upgrade to a real closet system down the road, we only have to live with the mismatch for awhile. Given my perfectionistic, OCD tendencies, I really thought it would bother me more than it does.  Maybe I’m too short to really see the top rack, so I don’t notice the difference.IMG_3198

 

I hung my flip-flop shoe organizer back over the door, and we mounted our coat rack behind the door to hold hats and scarves.
IMG_3199

On the left wall (as you enter the closet), we brought the 3 x 3 Cherry Cubeical back, which is currently holding my swimsuits, swimsuit cover ups, board shorts, work shorts, and work pants.

IMG_3206

Note: The purple labels hanging on the blue handles differentiate my ocean swimsuits from my pool suits.  This may seem ridiculous to some of you, but if you have ever had a home with a pool, this may make some sense to you.  Basically, if you wear a swimsuit in the ocean and then wear it again to swim in a pool, you can introduce algae to that pool, and algae (especially some kinds) are hard to eliminate from a pool.  If you wash your swimsuit in hot water every time you swim in the ocean before swimming in a pool to “kill” living organisms, there still may be some algae stuck to it (especially if you have a lined swimsuit), and your swimsuit may now be faded and ill-fitting. A simple rinse of your suit between ocean and pool or showering in your swimsuit between venues does not suffice. Since I frequent both the pool and the ocean, I handwash my suits after wearing them and choose to keep two different sets of suits to avoid the risk of contamination.  

The middle sections of the Cubeical are currently empty (!), but I’m sure they’ll be filled soon, too.  We also added some interest to the wall in the form of a pinboard with a coral motif, a panoramic photograph of Neyland Stadium, and Chris’s diploma (because where do you hang those if you don’t have a dedicated home office or man cave)?  My diplomas aren’t framed, so they don’t get a place of honor in the closet like his does.  Maybe someday I’ll get around to framing my first two diplomas.  Probably about the time I frame my third and final one. Which could be never at the rate my dissertation is going.

Eventually we plan to upgrade the light fixture from its mushroom-like state, add the wood-look tile I mentioned earlier, and install a real closet system, perhaps with some additional shelf lighting to help with visibility.  For now, our under $100 fix will work just fine.

Organizing Clothing:

IMG_3202

For Chris’s clothes, organizing was simply a matter of hanging his shirts from dressy to casual, followed by his pants, also from dressy to casual. My clothes required a little more work, and I organized them in a slightly unconventional way.  I typically sort by kind of article and keep like with like: dresses with dresses, shorts with shorts, etc.  For shirts, I normally vacillate between organizing by color and by category (business casual, casual) as the primary category, followed by type (sleeveless, short sleeve, 3/4 sleeve, long sleeve).  On the one hand, I like organizing by color because there is just something harmonious about color continuity that I prefer, but I keep wearing the same tops over and over because I know how to pair them with other things to make outfits, rendering much of my wardrobe useless.  On the other hand, organizing by category shows me more options for particular occasions, thus increasing the likelihood I try wearing something different than usual, but walking into the closet is a visual jarring experience that makes selecting anything difficult.  When re-doing this closet, I decided to analyze my clothing pitfalls and use that to come up with a happy medium.

I frequently find myself stuck in three kinds of clothing ruts: (1) I wear the same tops/outfits over and over. (2) I prefer casual to dressy.  (3) I gravitate to neutrals. After having to conduct my dissertation research out of state and live in a hotel for six weeks, I re-learned the art of capsule wardrobes.  I used to be good at this when traveling internationally.  In high school, I took a small size carry-on for a month in Europe and laughed at all my friends lugging giant Samsonites up nine flights of stairs in Greece. I love the simplicity of capsule wardrobes.  I am a minimalist at heart, so having a closet full of clothes overwhelms me with too many possibilities.  Consequently, I’m planning to start cataloguing outfit ideas, beginning with my neutrals that I love.  Rather than fighting my preference for neutrals, I’m going to use that as the starting point for developing my outfit building skills, essentially building a capsule wardrobe with neutrals as the base.

My neutrals are sorted into three categories: up, up/down, and down, a.k.a. classy, convertible, and comfortable. Up clothes are dressier and more likely to be considered businesswear in a traditional workplace setting.  Items in this category are more likely to closely resemble menswear and/or have an element of elegance about them, such as being made of better material, adding a touch of lace or silk, or creating an interesting neckline or back.   Clothes in this category have a certain feature that makes them seem classy.

I love gray, but I hate gray areas.  The murky gray clothing area is what I call up/down wear, or clothing which can either dress up an outfit or dress it down.  Clothes that could be considered business casual in a less formal work environment or in a trendier/artsy environment fall in this category.  To qualify as an up/down top, the style and cut of shirt is likely based less on menswear and/or may be made of a material that makes it appear more casual.  For example, the blouse on the left is an “up” blouse, but the one on the right is an “up/down” blouse because of the material and style. Note the sleeves of the blouse on the left are nicely cuffed, whereas the sleeves on the right blouse aren’t.  I would wear up/down clothes when I’m wanting to appear put-together, but not necessarily needing to be “polished.” Here, the emphasis is on the versatility of the piece–can it be easily converted from work to play?

Down clothes are items like basic tees and polo shirts–anything that is decidedly more casual or sporty.  That’s not to say I wouldn’t throw a blazer over a tee and turn it into a work outfit (my default, in fact), but the tee itself has a dressed down, at home, casual feel, where comfort is king. This is literally my comfort zone when it comes to clothes.

The rest of my tops are organized by color.  Here at the coast, the weather is warm enough year round that having entire sections of my closet devoted to long sleeves is unnecessary, but because the air temperature can feel cool in the early mornings and evenings, even in summer, having access to all kinds of sleeves year round is essential.  Consequently, I elected not to do the secondary sort I typically do by sleeve length.

We’ll see how “the best of both worlds” turns out.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Hood Part I

Once we removed the old recirculating range hood and upper kitchen cabinets, we began the installation of our new hood. Based on the title, you can probably surmise that things didn’t go as smoothly as we hoped.  Everyone loves a tragic comedy, right?

Eckeltricity (For all you Arthur Weasley fans out there)
You may recall from our post about the old hood that we discovered someone mutilated our wall with a drywall saw and covered it up it was hardwired, rather than having an outlet.  Our new hood required an outlet, so a new outlet was in order.  IMG_3109

Since our range itself did not have a dedicated outlet either (not sure who did the electrical work for this home originally, but wow), my dad graciously offered to help us install two new outlets.  We purchased the necessary materials from Lowe’s (2 old work boxes with wings and 2 white outlets–we already had some white face plates on hand) and set to work.

IMG_0383

First, my dad did the outlet for the range.  Because a stud was between the existing outlet we had been using and where we would want to put an outlet (hidden from view behind the range), we elected to just mount the new outlet just to the left of the range, which actually doesn’t look bad and allows for easy disconnection, something that came in handy when we were doing the rest of the hood installation (and will again once we reno the kitchen later).  You can see the new and improved outlet location in the picture of the range hood install further down (no spoiling the surprise yet!).  Plus by making it readily accessible, we can use the other socket for another kitchen appliance, and who doesn’t want more useable outlets in the kitchen?

The outlet for the hood was a bit more tricky.  We had planned to put an outlet above and to the right of the great white shark attack existing hole along a stud, but the wire they had originally used to hardwire the old hood wasn’t long enough.  Upon exploration of the wall interior, we discovered that what had appeared to be a wire running from the ceiling down to the right of a stud was actually pulled through a stud from the left bottom. So after adding another unnecessary hole in the wall, we pulled the wire back through to its origin on the left bottom and ran it up into a newly cut hole on the upper left of the hood.  It helps to have wire coat hangers and people with small arms (me) to pull the wire through outlet-sized holes in the wall.  To make sure the outlet would be hidden by the chimney, we drew its exterior sides on the wall to make sure we stayed within the chimney’s perimeter.

photo 2

Patchwork Wall
We then applied some serious joint compound and patching tape to the wall where all the cuts in the drywall were. Not the prettiest, but a lot better than the holes.  After waiting for this to dry and sanding it down, we were ready to install the hood itself. There may have been painting, too.  You know I can’t resist a sterile wall when there’s cans of beautiful paint waiting to be used.

Hardware Hiccups
You may also remember that when we bought our range hood off Craigslist, we had to buy a separate mounting installation set.  When you buy the hood brand new, a template for drilling holes at the right locations is included for easy install.  Not so when you buy the replacement installation set. We used kraft paper to make our own template by laying the range hood down on its back on top of the kraft paper and tracing the holes with pencil.  We then taped the template to the wall over the stove at the right height and marked where the traced holes were.  So far, so good.

The directions said to hit a stud with just one of the screws for stability, but none of the hole locations lined up with a stud.  What?! To remedy this, my dad measured and drilled two additional holes in the back of the hood so that we could hit two different studs.  If you already have to drill new holes, why hit just one stud when you can hit two?  This meant we needed more hardware than the mounting set provided, but this turned out to be the least of our troubles.  Chris rounded up a few sturdy wood screws left over from a different project, and we were back in business.

Until we weren’t.  The mounting set of screws and anchors that Bosch provides are incompatible with each other.  Seriously.  We now needed either new screws to fit the anchors Bosch gave us, or new anchors to fit the screws they gave us.  Basically, the screws weren’t the right length to pop the teeth of the anchors at the right place for them to grab into the wall correctly. And for you skeptics, my dad actually convinced us to “sacrifice” one of their anchors just to prove he was right.  Yup, it didn’t work.  The screws stuck a mile out of the wall and wouldn’t go any further in.

photo 3

Chris ran to Lowe’s (we live five minutes from a Lowe’s, so it is our usual go-to store for last minute home improvement needs) for the right sized screws and grabbed some washers to go with the wood screws for the new holes my dad drilled, but the screws he bought didn’t fit the Bosch anchors either.  In fact, he couldn’t find a compatible size of screw for these miserable anchors at all–everything was either too short or too long.  No just-right Goldilocks solutions to be found.  Chris and my dad ended up sawing off the end of the stupid Bosch screws to be the right size.

IMG_3091

Now we were back on track.  Once we had engineered a solution to the hardware hiccup, we were able to mount the range with as much ease as you can mount a ginormous range hood.  In the next post, we’ll give all the ugly details about the ductwork.  In the meanwhile, we’ll leave you hanging with the hood and the new outlets.  IMG_3094

Decision Diaries: (Feeling) Painted into a Corner

Back in November when we first learned that the bank had accepted our offer and we had an official closing date for the new Florida house, I went crazy brainstorming furniture layouts, design schemes, and home improvement ideas. Over Thanksgiving, Chris’s mom, an architect, advised us to paint and then put in new floors before moving our furniture into the house, and she loaded us up with floor samples to take back with us.  Echoing my MIL’s advice, my mom kept asking what paint colors we were planning to use throughout December.

One thing led to another, and by closing day, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted instead of being blissfully excited.  When Chris said we needed to finalize the paint colors so that we could get our paint ordered before the sale at Sherwin Williams ended, I could feel myself beginning to hyperventilate like Julia Roberts’ character in Runaway Bride.  Paper bag. Now.  I realized I was feeling painted into a corner by paint I hadn’t even purchased yet.  We decided to put on the brakes and didn’t buy anything home-improvementish for the house in December or January (Chris did get a mower through Craigslist, though).

So what’s the takeaway here?  Any professional will tell you that painting before putting in new floors before moving your furniture into a house is a good idea.  We agree.  However, it is never sensible and smart to make hurried decisions that you may live to regret, especially ones that involve dropping a considerable chunk of change.  For some people, $1k to paint a whole house at one time is no big deal, but for us it is because we are currently funding two separate residences (one rent, one mortgage, two sets of bills) on one income + student stipend for a few more months.  Shelling out another $10k for floors made us positively queasy.  We also needed to build our savings back up after making our down payment in December at the same time as Christmas travel + presents for lots of people. We chose to save instead of splurge a la Dave Ramsey style.   

As soon as we decided not to buy paint and floors, I could feel my blood pressure dropping and the chest pains subsiding.  Plus, after a couple of months of saving, we were ready to consider less expensive purchases, such as a gas stove.  The house came with a functional electric stove in extremely good condition, so why replace it instead of buying paint? Look closely. Very closely.

 IMG_1423

I spy with my little eye…that’s right: more little eyes.  Three little eyes and only one big eye, to be exact.  While the electric range has been serving Chris’s needs quite well during the week, cooking on it during the holidays was frustrating for me when making meals to share with a large group, and I knew this would drive me nuts sooner or later.  Most likely sooner, given my proclivity to cooking large batches of food to make meal prep during the week faster. It also took the oven FOREVER to bake things. We’re talking 40 minutes for pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, folks.  Waiting the typical 25 minutes for their yummy deliciousness to be ready is already hard enough, but double the time?  Talk about delayed gratification.

When the gas company turned on our gas in December, they gave us a free installation coupon for any one appliance, good through March.  Since they also gave us the happy news that we have a ‘gas nub’ behind our oven, we knew we’d want to switch to gas at the earliest opportunity.  When we found out that it would be $140 regularly for them to install a gas range (and you have to pay $60 for installation if you get Sears to do it), we decided that purchasing our gas range during Sears’ Presidents’ Day sale (35% off Kenmore appliances + additional 10% online purchases + free delivery) and getting free installation would be a better idea than buying paint.

After doing some research, reading Consumer Reports (strongly recommend a subscription if you are making big $ purchases) and product reviews until our eyes rotted in their sockets (not really), and discussing our needs/wants, we narrowed our choices down to three Kenmore products.  We’ve had great experiences withKenmore appliances in the past, so we were comfortable/confident going with another Kenmore product.  After weighing features and prices, we selected the Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel top as our winning gas range.  We actually chose not to get a Kenmore Elite or Kenmore Pro, primarily due to price but also because the regular Kenmore met all of our needs/wants.  See it here: http://www.sears.com/kenmore-30inch-freestanding-gas-range-w-convection-oven/p-02274343000P?prdNo=3&blockNo=3&blockType=G3

Unfortunately, the range we selected wasn’t 35% off, presumably because of the beautiful stainless steel top. Womp, womp.  We decided to get the $350 cheaper-but-same-model Kenmore 5.6 cu ft. Gas Range with True Convection Stainless Steel with Black top that was discounted, and we’re more than happy to be saving even more money that can go towards other things.  

IMG_4766

In the end, we saved $500 on the range and got free delivery, thanks to the awesome sales and two coupons/promotions we were also able to use towards our purchase.  Major score for us. We also Craiglisted our electric range and recouped $150 for it.

The gas range installation went rather smoothly, with only one small hiccup: There isn’t a regular electrical outlet behind our stove, so we had to plug the range into a wall outlet on its left (I know you’re thinking: Wait? I thought the original range was electric, so how is there not an outlet behind it (or how did they not notice this before)?  Answer: There is a special outlet at the bottom of the wall that was perfect for the electric range but not for our new gas range.)

IMG_5744

It’s a bit awkward-looking to say the least, but that’s something we can remedy in the near future, thanks to my dad who happens to be an electrical engineer and rather handy with home repairs and fixes in general.IMG_0383

Best part? It looks more high end than it actually is and cooks like a dream.  The burners light instantly (no repetitive clicking and hoping, for those of you familiar with older gas ranges), and all the special burners (simmer, turbo boil, etc.) perform their respective functions exceptionally well.

IMG_1913

My husband inaugurated the oven by baking yummy cookies, but unfortunately (for me) I was in the city at the time so did not get to enjoy them.He used soy-filled chocolate chips, so none for me anyway.  After eating some of his cookies, he decided my soy-free chips taste better. #foodallergies #smartman

 IMG_6739IMG_8881 

On my ‘spring break’ this past week, I joined Chris in FL and baked some of those pumpkin chocolate chip muffins again.  They were easily done in 20 minutes and could have probably have been taken out earlier than that–faster than the time range given in the recipe!  As for all those people who say that gas ovens don’t bake well, think again.  Double-fisted muffin eating may have happened in our household. Evidence, you ask?  They were devoured so quickly I didn’t even have time to snap a good pic.  Next up? My favorite pound cake recipe that hasn’t ever worked in an electric oven yet turned out perfectly every time in a gas oven.  Pound cake + fresh berries = Supreme Deliciousness.

Overall, moving more slowly down the path of home improvement is allowing us to savor every minute instead of sweating every dime and decision.  We’re enjoying the calm and contentment of knowing we will get around to doing things when the time is right.  After all, we’re on island  beach time here, and we’re good with that.