Friday, January 30, 2015

kitchen counters and cabinets (so clean and so fresh)

We have tons of work done on the house this month, to prepare it for selling.  None of it is terribly exciting blog fodder.  In fact, most of it has been repairing things to look exactly the same but not gross or broken.  Case in point, our kitchen counters.

Remember I discussed cleaning the latex paint off the counters myself, as it would have been a very cheap but interminably long and extensive DIY fix?  The material cost of doing this myself would have been less than $20 for paint stripper and new grout paint.  The time suck, however, would have been substantial.

I am SO GLAD I paid someone else to do this.  It took the contractor two full nine hour days to get all the paint off and re-stain the grout. He went at it with a razor, with a gas mask and powerful paint stripper, with some grinding thingy tool, and it generally seemed like a giant pain.  In fact, at 2 pm on the second day of a projected two day job, he said "I'm probably going to have to be here tomorrow too."  But he called his boss to tell him that, and the company sent two other people over to help him finish the job that day.

I considered 8 different colors of grout stain, and went with Antique White.

The grays and brown seemed too dark and grid-like.  The Bright White seemed like it would be dirty quickly.  The Antique White was almost exactly the color of the unstained grout, so we went with that (in the above picture the counter is unstained except for the  row of samples, so you can see that the unstained grout is pretty neutral.)

I'm sure it would have taken me months of weekends to do it myself, so I consider it money well spent. If you're wondering, we had a little less than 70 sq ft of counter and backsplash, and it cost $1250 to have the paint scraped off and the grout restained.  Our grout was actually in good shape--only two spots needed new grout--so they were simply cleaning and putting new color on, not digging out the grout and putting in new grout (that would have been more expensive).

We got estimates for putting in new granite counters, but even the cheapest, ugliest granite was over $8,000 for 70 sq ft.  Not only was the cost prohibitive, but I hate the idea of putting $8g of granite I don't like on top of kitchen cabinets that are not in the best of shape.  It seemed like a horrendous waste of resources.

This is the one job I wish we had done two years ago.  It looks so much better and now there isn't peeling paint in my food prep area.

I also spent a weekend painting the kitchen cabinets.  I sanded down the chipped spots, scrubbed everything down with TSP, cleaned them with q-tips (all those ridges and detail on the cabinets collect dust on an hourly basis), and slapped on a coat of primer.  I finished up with a coat of semi-gloss Dunn Edwards Whisper, which is the white paint used in every white surface in the house.

This is one of those jobs that took an entire weekend, and in pictures, looks exactly the same.

They look clean in person.

I'm getting close to done with repair projects.  I have a few painting projects left, a shower door to replace, carpeting to install, and two window treatments.  The one thing I am having difficulty getting done is repairing a 2x3 spot of our brick front walkway.  All the masonry/landscaping guys I have consulted have given estimates of about $1000, which I am willing to pay, and all of them have told me that they don't have time for such a small job.

I would like to live in this Naomi Campbell-esque world where I can turn down $1000 for a day's work.  Note to self, encourage my children to become bricklayers, as they apparently make a ton of money.  

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

cobalt blue ginger jar lamps

Last week I was putting some lamps up for sale on craigslist, and did a search to see what a pair of lamps is going for these days.  I had zero intention of buying lamps--I was intending to sell lamps! But I came across these beautiful cobalt ginger jar lamps and had to have them, as they are exactly the color lamps I wanted to buy last year for the dining room but couldn't find.

I rationalized this purchase by thinking that I haaaate the lamp shades on the white lamps they would be replacing, and I have been unable (for three years!) to find new 19 inch shades for less than a million dollars, so by getting slightly smaller lamps I could buy a regular 16 inch shade at Target.  And I love the color of these lamps.  Done!

Dimensions were included in the ad, but...I seem to have not paid close attention to them.

I get to the house where the lamps are, the garage doors go up, and GASP! They are such a beautiful color love love love and, those are some mighty big lamps.  That don't have ANY lampshades.  I will take them anyways!

And beautiful new lamps are wearing those lampshades I hate.  I like to think the beautiful blue elevates the shades to new heights of sophistication.  Or something.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Powder room reveal

When we moved in, the powder room originally looked like this:

In the interim it was painted a bit to look like this:

It was dated and not to my taste, but it was perfectly functional.  We planned on redoing it completely a few years down the road, but for now it was fine.  Then we did the floors in the master bathroom, and while he was here the installer gave us a quote for doing the downstairs powder room floor.  It was inexpensive, and it would look so great for selling the house!

And thus the "if you give a mouse a cookie" bathroom was born.  If I had a time machine I'd probably go back and tell myself to just leave the bathroom alone.

In order to do the tile floor, the vanity would have to be removed, in order to tile under it.  The vanity was not in the best of shape and the veneer was peeling.  There are plenty of new vanities at Home Depot for about $150, what could go wrong?

Except the placement of the plumbing meant that none of the cheap vanities would fit.  And the space from the wall to the door jamb is 36.5 inches, thus rendering every 36 inch vanity with a 37 inch counter top unusable.  (Suddenly, the off-center placement and weird box thingy of the previous vanity are miraculously making sense.)(I'm glossing over two full weeks of desperate hunting for a vanity that was not One Million Dollars.)

The current shower stall, light fixture and toilet paper holder are all very good quality (if ugly) 80s brass in good condition.  The realtor recommended that we change it all to silver.  I'm sort of fine with light and toilet paper holder and sink faucet can be had for under $150.

The shower enclosure, on the other a cheapest quote of $, no.

In the end, after much agonizing about whether we prefer to give the impression we only changed half the bathroom fixtures to silver because we ran out of money, or we kept them all brass because we are cheap bastards with dated taste, we stuck with dated taste brass. (Actually, I like the brass, but I am assured that the rest of the world who does not read design blogs don't know how cool it is.) The shower enclosure is so in-your-face the moment you open the door, there is really no hiding the fact that none of the metals would match or look cohesive.  (Yes, I know you people know that mixed metals are cool.  People buying a house in the OC do not know that fact, nor would they believe you if you told them.)

The gray tile is the same product as our master bathroom, but cut to half the size. The walls are painted Behr's Silver Drop (remember the dirty beige color from the master bathroom cabinet debacle? I just saved the gallon of paint and used it here.) The rug is from Target a few months ago (not available online), the roman shade was from Pottery Barn ten years ago, the light fixture is from Shades of Light, the faucet and vanity are from Lowes.  I'm not seeing it online, but the venetian glass style mirror is from Lowe's a few  years ago.

I can't really recommend the vanity.  Although the marble top looks lovely, the vanity itself is cheaply made; the doors and trim don't line up correctly, and it came out of the box with a chip in the door.  But we made it work. I spraypainted the silver handles to match all the brass fixtures.

All in all, I'm happy with how the room turned out.  It is delightfully boring and neutral, good for selling a house.  Its not the route I would have gone had I been staying here and renovating for myself, but as a relatively inexpensive refresh, it looks fine. (Damned with faint praise.)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

fixing stuff

We've had a flurry of home improvement activity here since the first of the year.  I plan on putting the house on the market in mid-February. Only about 10% of the work is fun blog fodder.  The rest is repairing and replacing stuff to look exactly the same as it was before.  This is not the fun kind of spending money.

We are getting a new garage door to replace the one that was rotting off the frame.  I didn't take a picture of the colony of mushrooms that were sprouting along the bottom panel.

It looks fresh and new, now, but....not noticeably different.

Lots of this is happening:

And the peeling paint on our countertop is finally getting fixed:

Painters and plumbers are coming tomorrow.  I have high hopes of having a bathroom reveal or two next week.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Minimalism: deprivation can be a state of mind

Welcome to the inaugural post for Lisa Moves.  I've been trying to get this blog up and running for weeks, and it still isn't done. The comments didn't make the import trip, and the header is...well, lets say it is a tongue-in-cheek minimalist joke.  But I am trying to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.  I'll get around to fixing this stuff eventually, if you bear with me.

And now, Deep Thoughts by Lisa. (And in case you are sick of Deep Thoughts, I have a ton of decor posts coming up soon, like renovating two bathrooms.)

For the past six months-ish, I have been working on paring back.  I've been trying to adopt minimalism in most of the major areas of my life.  I've gotten rid of tons of stuff in my house, I'm working on having a capsule wardrobe, I've added more healthy foods to our diets, I'm exercising more, I'm saving more money, I'm paying down debt.

Believe it or not, I'm enjoying this effort.  There are not that many people in my real life who are interested in minimalism, but there are plenty of minimalism blogs to read and people online to talk to. I generally am the recipient of the side-eye if I start talking about minimalism, so I don't.  But I feel like this is something I find incredibly interesting, and because I find it interesting, I'm finding it easy to do.  

Getting rid of all the stuff in the garage?  I can do it! I would love to be able to park my car in the garage for the first time ever. 

Getting rid of all the uncomfortable and unflattering clothing in my wardrobe? Yes! I want a wardrobe composed only of clothes that make me look and feel pretty!  

Eating more kale? I love kale! 

Saving more money? I love money in my bank account! 

Paying off our student loans in 3 years instead of 30? Yes! I want to be free of that debtload!

The point is, I WANT to do these things.  Getting rid of my stuff I don't need or use doesn't feel like I'm depriving myself, it feels liberating.  Getting rid of debt feels good.  Getting rid of the clothes that don't fit or flatter feels good--I'm still trying to find stuff that does work, but I've made room for them when I find them. (Actually, I will be writing a post soon entitled "How Not to Build A Capsule Wardrobe". I wouldn't describe it as a smooth or easy journey.)

All of these things are things that I used to feel were secondary to what I wanted.  I didn't care about paying off my student loans, because I had a really low interest rate, and I wanted to put my money towards buying a house.  Not that I wanted to be saddled with debt--but that I thought owning a house was more important than paying off my loans.  I liked buying stuff for the house, and that felt more fun than paying down debt or putting that money in a savings account.  

It is all a matter of choices, and what you consider important.  I used to think having a house was important.  Now I could care less and I'd rather spend my money on other things.  

I'm not saying that this way is better for everyone.  There are plenty of people who think that getting rid of stuff is weird and dumb and why on earth would I do that?  And that's fine, different people, different ways of doing things, yadda yadda.

I should also point out this has not been an overnight journey.  It has been more of a three or four year journey, my interest slowly piqued by slow living and slow food blogs, then William Morris-ing, and then reading up on minimalism.  The past six months has been the tipping point into applying this across a broad spectrum of my life.  

There have been some total failures on this minimalism/slow living trip.  One thing I really want to get rid of--or that I tell myself I want to get rid of--is sugar.  I eat a pretty healthy diet, except for sugar.  I am all kale and beans and quinoa up in here, and then 600 calories in cookies every night.  Every day I get up and think "today I will give up sugar."

One sad, lonely vanilla buttercream.   
Giving up sugar is not something I enjoy.  Despite reading multiple blogs and health food books and documentaries telling me that sugar is poison and its killing me, I can't seem to give it up.  Decluttering my garage feels good.  Decluttering sugar from my diet feels like DEPRIVATION AND MISERY.  I don't want to.  And I probably won't till I can change my mindset into yes, I want to.  

It is easy to give stuff up when it is what you want to do. If you don't want to give stuff up, you probably won't.