Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sheer Madness

When B and I first set foot in this house one of the things that I fell in love with was how much natural light was brought in. There are five large windows that face the west and five windows that face the east so really at any given time there is an abundance of light being brought in to help liven things up. However, when the sun goes down, there isn't light being brought in but rather wandering eyes from passerbys. 

So before we even moved in we stopped by the house and measured all of the windows that faced the west (aka the front of the house facing the street) so we could find some shades that could give us some privacy. We weren't worried about the five windows facing the east because those windows face our backyard and well, I guess we don't mind if anyone from that angle can see in. So off to my favorite home improvement stores I went and surprisingly I came up with nothing. Apparently the measurements of our windows aren't that common so there wasn't a lot of options for us in the store unless we wanted to do paper shades (B was totally okay with this, for the record) or do custom shades (our wallets were totally not okay with this). We don't really like the look of blinds and we wanted something hung inside our windows so we could keep the nice white trim visible. 

So, at Home Depot, I was finally able to track down the only budget reasonable shade which I had to order online. We went with a Bamboo Roman shade in Dark Cocoa. So $250 and about a week later our blinds came in and we were able to hang them (with the help of B's parents) the day after we moved in. They were beautiful hung up, they fit nice and snug inside the frame and we really loved the color, and we liked how they still brought in a lot of light (something I didn't want to lose). 

Unfortunately, once nighttime hits, every passerby can see right on through our living room. Here is a shot with the far right shade pulled up and the center shade all the way down. If we had our TV on you could probably tell what we were watching. It was a little disturbing but also a little bit of a downer. I wanted the best of both worlds - lotta light, lotta privacy. 

So we brainstormed for a bit and left the shades as they were for a couple of days. We thought about returning them and finding something better, but that would mean a lot more money on our part or settling for standard white blinds (ick). I thought about getting fabric and somehow adhering it on to the back of the shade, but I wasn't confident this would go as planned and didn't want to risk ruining a shade. So then I thought, how about hanging a tension rod behind the shade (underneath the bracket) and hang sheers from behind? Sheers, when bunched together, are surprisingly private and pretty inexpensive. I stopped by Walmart and picked up a handful of sheers in Clay Beige for about $8 each. We didn't know how many we would need because we didn't know how bunched up they would need to be to get the privacy we were after. I also got a tension rod for each window ranging from $2-$5 each. 

The sheers (not surprisingly) didn't come in the length we needed them. So thankfully Nana offered to stop by and hem them up for us. Here we are with the sheer laid out ready to be cut - (notice the subtle striping in the sheer, we liked). 

Then it was only trusty Nana hands that handled the sheers after they were cut. I have never sewed in my life and I wasn't about to begin learning with fabric that liked to slide all over the place. In order to get to this point we measured from where we were hanging the tension rod (51 inches) then while leaving room to have a hem we cut the sheers off at 55 inches. Then Nana pinned and sewed the hem up to three inches. We decided we would use the Nana hem at the top and the factory hem at the bottom where we can see it. She took no offense to this decision, it actually helped her be less stressed about making it super perfect. 

yes, this photo is instagramed. 

Then it was my job to hang and bunch up the sheer fabric. Oh, I forgot, we ended up needing a total of 13 sheers, so we added about $100 more dollars to our initial shade budget. Which still falls a lot lower then custom shades, but definitely higher then we would have liked to spend. But shades aren't something we will be redoing frequently so I feel in the long run we made the right decision. Anyways, here is a shot with a shade up with the sheer behind. 

Here is a shot with a sheer behind both shades with both shades down. It's kind of hard to tell but see that orb of light in the left sheer? It's the light coming from our yard lamp (still not sure if that's the technical term, but whatevs). See how it's less bright in the bottom picture? The sheers are working!

Here is a shot from outside with the sheers up and the shades halfway up. Even with the shades up it gives really good coverage. Also nighttime pictures are super icky looking, sorries. 

Here's a shot with the sheers on the three left windows and the large shade down without a sheer and the far right shade all the way up. Just to show you the before, the during and the after. 

Overall, we're happy with the results. Eddie can walk around without his sweater on and the neighbor dogs won't even know. Success. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

It Isn't Easy Being Green

So just the other day we ran out of everything. You know, the moment when you realize you need laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet bowl cleaner, bath tub cleaner, and all purpose cleaner? It sucks because you know you need it but it's going to break the bank. Then I got to thinking (watch out) and I asked myself, "why do we need so many different cleaners when they are all supposed to...wait for it...clean things?" And is it normal to want to fumigate the house after you clean the tub? I don't think so. So before we went out to go buy 5 or more different cleaners I did a little research and prioritizing. I've been wanting to simplify and downsize a lot of things in our life so I figured now would be a really great time to try and start the process.
First I made a sort of head count of what needs cleaned in our house and what we currently use to clean it and then decided what part of that I could/should/wanted to change.

Here is a small rundown:

Scrubbing Bubbles Bath and Tub Cleaner
Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Homemade mixture of Lavender Pledge + water in spray bottle for counters
Windex for mirrors

Homemade mixture of Lavender Pledge + water in spray bottle for counters/cabinets
Homemade mixture of vinegar + water in spray bottle for floors/appliances
Bar Keepers Friend for the sink

Living Room:
Homemade mixture of vinegar + water with reusable cloth to mop wood floors
Swiffer with scented Swiffer pads to sweep
Swiffer duster with spray 

Laundry Room:
Variety of detergents (usually whatever is on sale)
Dryer Sheets (usually walmart brand)

As you can tell we kind of sort of already started a little bit of homemade cleaning supplies with our spray bottle concoctions. But I still felt like we were getting cleaners that were too specialized, cleaning products that were redundant and plus we weren't really thinking eco-friendly thoughts when purchasing certain cleaners (whether it be the ingredients and/or the packaging). So finally, off to the store we went. I had this idea of starting off with using Seventh Generation products. I had read great things about them online and I was ready to justify a little pricier item for a safer environment for our house. Until I actually saw the price tags. Seriously a 50 oz bottle of laundry detergent (which is the same size we usually get on sale that typically runs around $5) was $16! That's crazy! Their handheld cleaners run anywhere from $4-$10 more than others. Now I'm not saying they aren't worth it and they aren't great for the environment and that if you can afford it then great go with eco-friendly convenience in a bottle. I will say that I think companies try and sucker some people in to the 'eco-friendly' phase we are all in and price things higher but sell it by pulling on our mother earth conscience. ANWAYS, that's my rant. 

We ended up picking up Mrs. Meyer's for our new bathroom cleaner to replace the scrubby bubbles and it's lavender scented so it will also replace the pledge + water concoction we were using for the counters. I'm going to start using the same vinegar + water mixture we use for the floors for our mirrors and cabinets because did you know you could use vinegar + water for almost anything? We also picked up Clorox 'green works' toilet bowl cleaner. Both of these items are 99% naturally derived   and both contain citric acid, water and essential oils - the toilet cleaner has a thickening agent which I'm sure is what helps it stick to the sides of the bowl longer in order to clean it better. This is why I don't think we could use all purpose cleaner to clean the inside of our toilets so that's why we will have two cleaners for the bathroom. Next item, laundry detergent. 

Instead of going broke trying to clean our house and our clothes I remembered a post I had seen a while ago about how to make your own laundry detergent that just so happened to also be eco-friendly.  It needed three ingredients (all of which we picked up for around $15) and would make 5 batches with 40+ loads per batch. We also needed to get a container to put the detergent in once we had it all mixed (we are now using powder detergent instead of liquid). 

Here is a shot of all of the ingredients plus the bottle of detergent we just finished up. 

All you have to do is grate one bar of soap per batch (these soaps were $1.07 and smell nice and lemony and say they are extra stain booster to laundry loads, but you can use any bar of soap). 

Then mix in one cup of Borax and one cup of the Super Washing Soda. This only requires one tablespoon per load so I dropped in an old measuring spoon so we wouldn't use too much. 

The photo above is with only one batch made up, I still have four bars that I can grate to add to it. But with all the batches combined that gets us 200+ loads. I did the math on our average loads and that will get us through an entire year. That not only saves us around .8 cents per load, but it also saves us 4 additional trips to the store, nice! These products are also super eco-friendly (without even trying) - their boxes are recycled paper and they only include one ingredient each. The box of Borax also has a huge list of other things you can use it for. I also did a small load of laundry just for you guys so I can see if only one tablespoon can do the trick (really, we were using a capful of the liquid, maybe a half cup, before). So the verdict is in and....

...the clothes are clean! The lemon scent is gone, but what's left is just a nice 'clean' smell. 

So I think this is just the beginning and there might be some tweaking here and there with what we end up liking or what ends up not working well. We also still need to figure out our dusting/swiffer/sweeping issue...But I think this is a good start...I'll keep you updated. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Mail Time

While we had the fam down here helping out with some wooden door countertop renovations I figured I would add a couple of small projects to their lists so they could take a break from worrying about putting my kitchen back together. In all the excitement of trying to sneak in another project without anyone noticing I forgot to snap a before picture but you can kind of barely see in the picture below our previous arrangement. The light was a weird modern curved glass with etched lines over a black rectangle, the house numbers were faded black cursive that were hung diagonally, the mailbox had been painted black and was really goopey looking and finally the doorbell was black with a white center. We didn't really want to spend a lot of money sprucing up this part of the house since the arrangement isn't something we want to have permanently so we used left over oil rubbed bronze spray paint to do most of the work for us and we found a our new light at Lowe's for under $25 - including electrical tape and a new light bulb (we were able to use a 10% coupon we got in the mail from our MyLowe's card, Lowe's free rewards program).

So to begin we took everything down and gave the siding a much needed bath. Some of the dirt and grime we weren't able to get off, but unless you're here inspecting it then you can't really tell (and if you are here inspecting our 65 year-old house's outside cleanliness then you need to leave). So then we started with the easiest part - the doorbell. We taped off the surrounding area with painters tape, but then realized we might still get some spray overage. 

So we added some printer paper to cover a bigger area from my ORB spray and it worked great. 

Here's the area after we sprayed see how the ORB didn't even reach the edges of the printer paper - we are so innovative. 

Here is a closer shot of the doorbell all one color now and we think it looks great. 

Then we got to working on the mailbox. We used left over paint stripper that we used on our wooden doors. Both the lid and the base of the mailbox needed multiple coats and we found that these things had been painted multiple times (black, then blue, then white, then nautical red and white stripe) so needless to say there were years of coverage that needed to go. 

We also realized that what currently looked like to be a flat surface metal mailbox was actually a nice textured metal (it had just been painted so many times that the paint gooped up and filled in the texture). So with enough paint stripper we were able to get most of the colors off and most of the texture raised again. 

Then we brought out the left over ORB and gave both parts of the mailbox a good coat. 

Then we found some leftover paint in our garage that's this nice muted teal color (we still can't figure out what they used this color on though, we thought it was for our front door but our door is more grey then this color so who knows, thanks though!). The base of the mailbox has this nice detail in the center that gets lost when it's all one dark color so I wanted to bring in some color to highlight this area.

I took a Q-tip and dipped it in the can of teal paint and dabbed it over the area I wanted to accentuate. Then I took a rag and dabbed most of the access paint off. I wanted it to have an almost patina look so I didn't want this paint layer to be heavy. This photo also shows a nice view of the new texture we found.

And here it is all hung up and fancy looking. I love that we were able to bring out the old texture and of course of love the shade of kind-of-black-kind-of-broze the ORB gives it.

Here is a shot of our new light and numbers. We took the numbers down and also gave them a coat of ORB and rehung them straight. The light is kind of industrial looking and is rustic bronze metal so it fits in nicely with the mailbox. 

Here is an evening shot with all four areas redone and spruced up. We love the glow of our new light and the way it hangs down instead of resting against the house. We like that the numbers are straight now because it helps to keep everything uniform (no OCD in this house...). We are just dealing with the fact that the doorbell is positioned way too far left and falls in a weird spot beneath our giant mailbox.

We have debated for a future project of taking the mailbox off and taking out a brick to the right of the door and having a mail slot put in instead (the mail would then fall into our hall closet). We've also looked at new address displays at Lowe's, we really like the ones that are a plaque with the numbers and street name spelled out. But all of that will be down the road. I really appreciate the fact that we were able to change this area so much for under $25 by using materials we had on hand. Below you can see the brick wall where we would put the new slot. Check out those succulents on the steps, nice huh?

Here is a shot of our porch with another small addition. Nana and pops redid a four top patio table that we now have on our back porch so we moved our small two top to the front porch. I think it looks really cute and it gives us a better excuse to sit out here and spy on the neighbors drink coffee or wine.

This area could use some more potted plants and maybe something on the blank wall behind the left chair, but it'll get there. We are really starting to feel like we live here now and are trying to just take things a day at a time instead of worrying about 'the list'. I kind of keep forgetting there's a wedding in 98 days that still needs my DIY attention and our wallet's attention.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Three Doors Down: The Countertop Remix 2

So we left off Friday evening with the peninsula side completely removed and a couple of doors stripped of their paint/varnish (more on that further down). You can catch up on the first Remix here

Bright and early Saturday morning we had our Lowe's list made and our coffee on order and another stop planned for the Habitat ReStore. We headed to Lowe's to pick out our stain finish, our polyurethane and all the necessary fixins' we needed in order to finish the job. It turns out when we were removing the peninsula that part of the column had to come with it so we needed to pick up some boards to patch up some areas as well as some stainable wood filler. We also needed to pick up some wood finishing veneer edging to go along the edges of our countertops. When 'solid oak doors' say they are 'solid' they really mean 'solid-oak-until-you-get-to-the-particle-board-part' so that meant the doors that we had to cut more than a quarter of an inch off (aka, all of them) needed to be finished with oak edging. 

Here is what we got and let me tell you it is the best thing since sliced bread. I might make things out of just veneer edging from now on. This stuff is magic. It's sandable, fillable, stainable, paintable, everythingable! And it irons cool is that? Needless to say we loved it and were more than pleased with the results when put so closely with our oak doors. 

So while J and I were sanding and stripping the paint off the last door the boys were inside removing the other side of the kitchen counters. Here is a shot of the sink side with the formica mostly off. They said this side was a lot easier to remove since it was all one chunk instead of two glued pieces like the peninsula. So they had this entire side off in about 45 minutes, including taking the sink out. 

In here we also had to remove the disposal and make sure the dishwashing hoses were still intact and that the sink hoses weren't falling over and leaking behind the cabinets. Fun times. 

See this is what a countertop should look like underneath. We could have almost sanded this baby down and stained it directly. If we had more time to try out things we might have experimented, but we knew the doors were a look we wanted so we kept with the original plan and yanked 'em out. 

Here is what the chicas were working with outside and in the garage. This paint stripper is literally thebombdotcom. This size jug was $15 and lasted us for three coats per door, plus stripping of our mailbox and there's even some left over! This brand doesn't smell as rancid as other stripper's (I really can't leave out the word 'paint' can I? It sounds too inapprops) paint stripper's that I've smelled (it had a nice orange-y scent). However, don't let that fool you, this stuff is powerful with a capital P so we brought out some attractive rubber gloves and went to town. The stuff is really easy to handle, we poured it on pretty thick over the surface of the door then brushed it on and let it sit for 10-15 minutes. Then with our putty knife we went over the door scraping of the gunk and residue to leave it nice and woody. 

See how awesome this stuff works? It's crazy, I tell ya!

And the final finish underneath all that yuck was just pure woody oak. B-A-utiful. We repeated this process with the two other doors then sanded it down with sanding pads meant specifically for paint stripping. They come in course and fine and we used one right after the other to prep them for the boys to install and for us to stain later on. 

Here is the counter top on the peninsula! In between the picture above and the picture below the boys meticulously measured and fit the door to fit around the two columns. An extra seam had to unfortunately be made but was completely unavoidable unless we wanted to take out either our upper or lower cabinets. The seam falls where Sir Mix-a-lot, my kitchen aid mixer, lives anyways so it's all good. 

And here is the door on the other side put in, with the sink just resting to make sure all the cuts were right. If you look at the edge of the counter you can see the particle board style that was hidden inside. 

But never fear, veneer oak edging is here! This is the kitchen side of the peninsula with the oak edging ironed on and doesn't it look fabulous? This is the point that we started having company show up for our grill out we had for my dad's b-day (yes he spent his birthday installing doors for a countertop, funny how dads are, huh?) 

This is about the point we took a break to hang out with some fam and finally get to use our grill that we got from Dad and J - well we technically didn't even grill because we couldn't peal ourselves away from our kitchen and the family got hungry so they took over and thank goodness they did because we were famished. We got about a two hour break and I snuck in a trip to Lowe's for more edging so we could get to staining once our company left. And since our Lowe's ran out of edging (because some girl had been buying rolls of it all day...) our lovely Aunt R ran out to another location for us and picked up another roll, so sweet. 

So next time we will cover staining and waiting and poly and waiting and crossing fingers and the big reveal! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Three Doors Down: The Countertop Remix 1

Before we bought The House on Darlington I became addicted to Pinterest. And without a home I became a crazy pinner on everything DIY for the home (obvi) so now that we actually have a home I have the perfect opportunity to get those pins into action. If you know me then you have to know that once I get an idea in my head there isn't much time before I actually get the idea started for real - even if it's something as crazy as redoing your counter tops when you've only been in the house for 18 days. And when the countertops are wood. And when they are wooden doors. And when we wanted to do all the work ourselves (with the help of more knowledgable family members and their tools of course). So when dad and company said they would come down with tools and a helping hand and wallet then the obvious question was, "what time will you be here?" Thus begins the countertop renovation. 

If you remember our counters before were a nice neutral, but almost peachy color. They were originally formica but had been painted with whatever stuff you can get from Lowe's that allows you to cover up ugly with a neutral-but-still-kind-of-ugly color. As you can see below we had neutral on neutral on neutral - there just wasn't a warm feeling coming from our kitchen. 

Oh and the chair rail extends all funky behind the stove. That will be fixed when we redo the backsplash next week eventually.

So I dug through my Pinterest boards and found this pin from The Mustard Ceiling's blog and figured, hey, why not? I love wood. I love doors. I love the idea of redoing counters for $100. I love repurposing. Let's do it! So first we measured the counters and its corners and nooks and drew a rough sketch to give us an idea of how many doors we would need. 

So our helpful company (dad, janet and adam) came in Friday afternoon, luckily they were ready to get started with my big idea. Then it was off to the ReStore. Have you ever been? I think they have them in most cities. But you should find one. And go. It will change you life. Ours had a whole buncha good stuff. Paint brushes, knobs, tile, windows, tables - all for super cheap! Anyways all we needed were good solid wooden doors preferably all the same wood grain. 

Here is one stack of many, many doors they had. This is the pile we picked our doors from. We ended up getting three doors down (the band? get it?) because we lucked out and found one door that ran the length of the counter by the sink and ended where there was already a natural seam. Then we just needed two other doors to do the peninsula and the side by the stove. 

Once we had the doors all loaded up we started demolition Friday afternoon. After examining our existing counters we saw that they must be screwed in from the top (probably underneath the layer of formica) and we would have to first get the formica off before we were able to get the actual counter off. Ideally we were wanting to save the existing counter to use as a template to make our life easier. So we started by scoring all the seams and edges to try and be able to pry up the formica. Here is one chunk being lifted off with a crow bar. 

Here is a bigger edge piece coming off. As you can see it's crap wood underneath. It splintered and split everywhere and the adhesive stunk like crazy.

Once we got some of the edging off we were finally able to see what we were actually working with. It  looks like they nailed two pieces of plywood together with the bottom being the one that was actually being secured into the cabinets and the top piece mainly giving it height and a surface for the formica to be laid. So now we had to work on getting the top piece un-nailed from the bottom piece without damaging the cabinets below. 

This meant a lot of hammering up from the bottom layer and shoving the crow bar down in between the layers to lift the top one off. Then we had to try and pry the nails out from in between the layers so they would separate. 

Finally we got the top layer off and moved out to the garage.

Then we had to start working on the bottom layer. We gave up the idea of using it as a template when we had to either sacrifice getting it out in one chunk or taking our underneath cabinets out. So we brought out the saw and started taking chunks out that could give us leverage to get out the other sides. I think we ended up taking the saw to a part of this layer about 3 or 4 times. It was tough around the two columns on the side because one is a house support column and one helps hold up the shelf that's above the bar on the nook side.

The column that helps hold up the shelf got a little remodel as well. We realized that the column facing was actually put on after the countertops were put on so in order to get the counter out of the nooks this column created we had to take the front and left side off. Underneath we found some lovely original plaster wall. Thank goodness the rest of our walls were redone to drywall before we moved in because hello, hammering into this wall would be impossible

Also, FYI, in case you are the type to just jump into the project without the proper prep like me then here is a tip: it is advisable to take out all of your food from your cabinets before you start to saw off anything or your box of Panko crumbs will be littered with countertop crumbs. 

Another, FYI: it is also advisable to take down artwork and picture frames from the wall behind that of which you are hammering. Or they fall down and do this to your base board.

So until next time, enjoy the last couple of days of spring before summer hits and come back and see The Countertop Remix 2 where we find out how many times we can lift a 96 inch solid wooden door in and out of a house before breaking something!