Friday, September 20, 2013

New countertops

Unfortunately, our second house had blue countertops in the kitchen and imitation pink marble in the master bathroom.

We replaced both with the cheapest available laminate option from Home Depot.

We used a jig saw (which is probably not the right saw) to cut the holes for the kitchen and bathroom sinks.

We were able to use the scrap piece from the short side of the kitchen corner as the top for the bathroom. Because kitchen countertops are deeper than bathroom vanities (fun fact!) we cut a few inches off the back so it would fit on our existing vanity. Laminate countertops aren't exactly luxurious, but the are a perfectly acceptable option for a range of projects. Due to digital photography, the laminate images are better than ever, with less repetition. They are easy to cut and install, too.

Edges can be a bit tricky. Exposed edges must be finished by gluing on a strip of laminate, then filing it until flush with the countertop. You have to be careful not to damage the countertop as you file down the edge. It's not to difficult, but it took me a couple tries to feel competent. Luckily, the vanity top in the master bathroom sits between two walls.  

Assembling corners isn't exactly a walk in the park. You have to buy a joining kit, which comes with special glue and hardware that tightens to pull the two pieces together. The actual assembly isn't as difficult as trying to find a decent place to do the work. I cobbled together an appropriate workstation using sawhorses and random bits of wood.

If you need to cut down the countertops to the correct size, a table saw is the best choice. ...I take that back. The best choice is getting the countertops cut professionally. Depending on how much you are ordering, it is completely worth the extra money for laser straight, perfectly measured cuts. 

Refinishing Troubles

I had more trouble than I expected refinishing the cabinets in our second house. They all started the same wretched honey oak color, with the master bath and kitchen having the added bonus of weirdly colored countertops. I thought that I would try painting all the cabinets white this time, instead of dark brown like last time.

It didn't look too bad, but it did look clearly painted. I'm not sure if it was the oak color vaguely showing through, or if that was just because it was white and not brown. Additionally, to get it to this solid of a white took three coats. This was the first cabinet I tried, and I couldn't imagine painting all the cabinets in the kitchen three times. I had already bought the kit with white paint as well, and I had no way to buy the paint from the kit without buying a second kit. Therefore, I tried to find another suitable not-brown color.

I painted this cabinet with a $3 color sample (and even had some left over). I used the decorative glaze from the kit on top of the paint before applying the clear top coat. Though I like the color, I wasn't confident about using it in the kitchen. I bought a gallon of good, old, reliable brown for all the other cabinets. I thought of detailing the progress of refinishing the kitchen cabinets in a post, but I've already done that.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Quick and Easy Wall Art

If you looked closely at the after pictures from the family room post, you may have noticed that some wall art appeared above our TV from one after picture to the next. The family room was the last to get anything on the walls. The furniture in this room kept moving, so anything that was placed on the walls ended up getting moved too or put somewhere else entirely. I had lots of ideas for some wall art I could make, but my ideas were going to take a lot of time and probably create a mess in our newly cleaned home. I decided to bite the bullet and make some quick and easy art.

First, I picked up a 7 pack of cheap canvases on sale at Michaels. I think they are usually $20 and I got them for $11... If I find the receipt I'll check and see what I paid, but in any case it was not very much. Next, I used painter's tape to mask off simple designs.

If you get stuck trying to make each canvas unique, mimic the shapes of different letters. One of my canvasses looks sort of like an A, another like a W, another like a series of "T"s, and so on. You could even make words with your canvases, if you are so inclined.

After taping off all seven canvasses, I headed to the back yard with a can of spraypaint. I choose silver because there is a lot of silver in our kitchen and living room (in the appliances, , pillows, hardware, etc) and because I already had a can in the garage. I only used about half a can to do all seven canvasses. I pulled off the tape to reveal the designs.

You can't tell in this picture, but I wasn't completely satisfied with how blurry some of the lines looked. I thought about just pretending like this was part of the plan, but everything else in the room has such clean lines. Had I been more thorough when applying the tape, I wouldn't have had this problem. I chose to paint all the lines with white craft paint by hand, which straightened up the edges. This was the longest step. In an hour or so I was finished and started to decide how to hang them.

At first I thought I'd plan out a design on the floor, then transfer it to the wall. Then I realized I wasn't that patient. I just put six nails in the wall in random fashion around the TV, somewhat considering how big the canvases were and what direction they would hang. I shuffled them around on the wall until I landed on an order I liked. This picture is not the best, so I'll update it when I take a better one.

Before and After: Odds and Ends

These are just a couple after pictures that weren't really covered in the before stage. The top one shows the hallway leading from our kitchen to our front door. We had to replace the louvered doors for the utility room and took off the laundry room doors to move in the washer and dryer. Getting the doors back up took much longer than it should have, but the hallways looked so much neater once we did.

The second picture shows the wall at the top of the stairs, in between the game room and the linen closet. This wall is also what you see as you exit the hall bath. It was a boring nothing sort of wall, so we added a bunch of colorful pictures and frames.

The last photo is shows the other half of the dining room. It's the same bottlecap bar from our last house. We never know quite what to do with it. For a while, it served as the distinction between our kitchen and family room, but all it did was collect clutter. I like it better in the dining room. To be honest, we don't use it much. It seems like we should put food on it during our game nights, but that never happens.

Before and After: Kitchen

The kitchen easily took the majority of our time and money, as it should: bathrooms and kitchens are always the biggest investments. Everything in the kitchen is new or has been refinished.
Here's the list of what we did:
  • Refinished the cabinets
  • Installed new cabinet hardware
  • New stainless steel appliances
  • Installed new kitchen countertops
  • Installed tile backsplash
  • New lighting 
  • New flooring
  • New steel sink
  • New faucet

Before and After: Family Room

The biggest change in this room was renovating the fireplace. After that, we took a while trying to figure out exactly where the furniture should go. We had a hard time deciding where the kitchen should end and where the family room should start. Also, we wanted the fireplace to remain a focal point of the room. Aaron was desperate to mount the TV over the fireplace, but after Dovahfest we decided to leave things mostly where they were.

Before and After: Master Closet

We did a few small things in the master closet that made a huge difference. We changed the light from a single bulb to a modern track light, raised the racks about eight inches, and put our existing dressers inside. These changes allowed us to store more and made the closet look bigger. The light was a miserable hassle to install. It runs on two tension wires, required huge anchors and lots of measuring. However, once we turned it on we were beyond impressed and felt like it was worth the trouble. There's no picture of the closet from when we first moved in because I didn't imagine we'd change anything. The before picture was taken when as we raised the closet rack.

I added a bonus picture of the light we installed. It's the greatest closet light ever. After installing this light, I will always choose similar ones for closets because they're bright, the tone of the bulbs is a mix of natural and artificial light, and it casts shadows like jewels on the wall. The amazingness of this light doesn't come across in pictures as well as it does in person. It's a random thing to gush over, but it is my favorite light in the house. 

Before and After: Stairs

I have much more to say about the stairs, but here's a quick before and after. Depending on the lighting, the carpeting on the steps was either a dingy blue-grey or an unsusally bright blue. I'm against carpeting on stairs anyway, regardless of color. It gets dingy, easily wears out, and it's hard to keep clean. I took off the carpet, knocked down the old bannister, and painted everything.

The stairs are positioned directly inside the front door, so I painted them a light grey and white so they wouldn't be too imposing. I also switched the handrail to the other side of the steps and did not replace the old bannister on the right.

Before and After: Master Bath

The master bath was a challenge. We thought of trying many different storage and renovation options, but in the end we decided to keep it simple. We still ended up replacing almost everything in this small bathroom:
  • New blinds
  • New faucet
  • New vanity light
  • New vanity top
  • New vanity hardware
  • New toilet
  • New sliding glass shower doors
  • New flooring
  • New mirror
  • New shelf
  • New vent fan and light

Before and After: Hall Bathroom

We rarely use this bathroom, but we did a lot to improve it. We painted the vanilty, added new hardware, replaced the faucet and most other bathroom hardware, replaced the light and laid new flooring.

Before and After: Game Room

This room was tricky. As I mentioned before, this home was smaller than the last, and trying to find a place for everything was a challenge. We didn't want to set up our former loft in the living room or family room, because we thought the love sac would look out of place. We combined our guest and office furniture from the last house into our second bedroom, and made the third bedroom into a dedicated gameroom.
It's a bit cluttered, but in a happy gaming cave kind of way. Though there is no curtain up in the picture, I usually have a blackout curtain over the window. We mounted the TV and hung lots of shelves to get as much space as possible. Our media shelves fit perfectly in the closet, so we were able to store almost all the games and accessories in this room.

Before and After: Office

The office was the last room to be finished. This room served as temporary storage (aka dumping ground) for everything that was still packed or unused. We got rid of a lot of stuff while living here, as this home was smaller with no storage room. After a few trips to Goodwill, this room was ready to go. (The closet is a different story.) As a side note, I started pulling up the carpet before I remembered to take pictures.

Before and After: Master Bedroom

Here's what we did:
  • New carpet
  • New paint
  • New ceiling light

Before and After: Dining Room

The dining room, like the living room, didn't need much work. Here's what we did:
  • New flooring
  • New paint

Before and After: Living Room

There's not much to say about the living room. All the furnishings and decorations came from our last house, so it was a simple room to complete. Unfortunately, we did have to pay someone for one fix. We took off a light switch but couldn't figure out how to reconnect it, because it was a three way switch with mysteriously colored wiring. After paying an electrician $125 to fix it, we vowed to learn more about home wiring. Here's what we did:
  • Painted the walls
  • Painted the trim
  • Laid new flooring
  • Replaced the light switch

Before and After: Exterior

This is the first of many "before and after" posts about our place. The outside of the house wasn't awful, but it was a little more work than we imagined.

The pictures are a bit deceptive, as they don't look that dissimilar. Here's what we did outside:
  • Trimmed the hedges
  • Trimmed the tree (twice!)
  • Painted the shutters
  • Painted the garage door
  • Painted the front door
  • Spread mulch 
  • Seeded, fertilized, and watered the lawn (a lot)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

It's Official

Our house is on the market! I'll be posting a ton soon. For now, I'm enjoying all our hard work and our clean, finished home.