Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The $100 Craigslist Farmhouse Sink

Don't ask me to explain why I wanted a farmhouse apron-front sink.  I don't think anyone that has one knows why they want it - nostalgia?  Visually breaking up that line of cabinets?  ...something.

Before we even closed on the house, I was hunting Craigslist for old farmhouse sinks.  I found a lot of rusted-out scary ones in the $300 range, see standard specimen below.
Dream sink?  No...
In mid-March, I found a Kohler cast-iron farmhouse sink listed for $250.  That seemed too expensive, and we hadn't even closed on the house yet.  I left the listing alone.  In April, we closed on the house, the sink had gone down to $150.  We called, and Ben talked the seller down to $100.  After all, he was a contractor who had gotten the sink for free.  Some new homeowner in Park Ridge was replacing it with a stainless steel sink, because they like stainless steel better, and they gave him a sink worth $1000 for free.  So, he made $100 and he got to get a 200-pound sink out of his basement.

This sink is unbelievably heavy!  It's cast iron coated with porcelain, and it's also almost 3-feet wide.  So, we called our friend Jay over to help Ben carry it out of the basement, where it has been for the past 5 months.  

I should have taken pictures of Ben cutting the hole into the front of the cabinet with a jigsaw, but I was in the other room, covering my eyes and praying, while he sawed into the most expensive cabinet in the kitchen.  As usual, there were no mistakes, Ben did great.

We built some interior supports, just 2x4s attached to the side of the cabinet with liquid nails and deck screws.  I can say "we" because I did sit inside the giant cabinet, holding the 2x4 in place so Ben could screw it in.  

Then, no small effort, we lifted the sink and set it into the supports and slid it back.  Voila!

The countertop installer comes today to measure everything for the countertops to be made.  He will come back in 2 to 3 weeks with countertops that were measured to the thousandth of an inch, and for once we won't have to do anything other than watch while he installs them!

I'm choosing a slight "positive reveal" for the countertop on the undermount sink, meaning about 3/8" of the side of the sink will show. While I like the look of a negative reveal [see below], it's not as clean and it doesn't completely work with the style of my sink.  I like those little legs on the cabinet below though.... Hmmm...  Ben might be using his jigsaw again soon!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ordering Countertops, the abridged saga

With traveling to Europe, attending a wedding, and re-installing all the radiators, our cabinets had been installed for 3 weeks and still we hadn't ordered any countertops.  This is the most off-schedule I've felt.  It's really frustrating to have beautiful, installed, brand-new, perfect cabinets that are totally unusable as a cooking surface.  I'm absolutely ecstatic with the beautiful travels and events that are filling my weekends, but sometimes you just want to come home and cook in your kitchen!

Without countertops, we cannot install our sink.  Without a sink, we cannot install our dishwasher.  Without a kitchen sink or a dishwasher, we are washing the dishes in the bathroom sink, which just makes me feel like we are camping in our own house.

Now, in every house I've ever personally lived in, the kitchen has had laminate countertops.  I understand the care of laminate.  I understand the pricing of laminate.  There was a brief period, for maybe 5 minutes in March 2014, where I thought maybe I could afford quartz.  Google set me straight.

If I had been smarter and more well-versed in kitchen design, which admittedly I am not, I could have saved some money by making sure all my countertops were as unbroken as possible, all together in one straight, contiguous line.  Because the edges are where Formica hides all their upcharges.  My first Formica quote, from Lowe's, was triple my expected expenditure.  With 8 exposed edges, they were killing me with upcharges.  Plus, I learned that despite what Formica brags about on their website, an undermount sink with Formica looks really awful and isn't even expected to hold up.

Our 8 exposed countertop edges

It was pretty shattering to go in and try to make a really responsible decision with the low-budget Formica, and then be told that not only would the price be 3x higher, but I would also have to lower my expectations of what I would get for my money.  Enter in the PARADE OF MISFORTUNE: no undermount sink, a 45-degree seam in the top of the counter, black-lined edges on every side, potential for peeling...    "I really don't recommend Formica for your kitchen," I kept being told, but no other options were given.

Four quotes and three weeks later, I had gotten the price down by a significant number of hundred-dollar bills, but I was still extremely unhappy with the PARADE OF MISFORTUNE.  I had almost resigned myself, but hope springs eternal, and I finally asked, "What is the next level up from laminate and how much more will it cost?"

I was expecting another jaw-dropping figure, but, thank you Mike at Home Depot, the only straight-talking and knowledgeable big-box-store employee that I have ever dealt with, I heard the magic words, "Well, Corian would only be a couple hundred dollars more, probably".

I have never felt more backwoods than right then.  I didn't even know what Corian was.  I could identify it: it's that expensive-looking, luminous stuff that has little flecks of light-reflecting rocks in it.  Here's what it actually is: Acrylic with tiny aluminum flecks in it.  Which sounds very un-sexy, but then again, so does laminate, which is basically a plasticky printed sticker wrapped around a sheet of plywood with little pieces of sticker cut off and stuck to the ends.

Here's what you get with Corian.  First off, the PARADE OF MISFORTUNE is completely eliminated.  You will never see seams because Corian is solid-surface, so no side seams and no 45-degree angle seam.  You can also have the undermount sink of your dreams.  It will never peel like laminate can sometimes do if you're hard on it or it is installed improperly. Furthermore, it has a 15-year warranty: If you gouge it, it is the only repairable countertop, they just pour in more melted acrylic.  Or you can even sand it!  So, like many things of such nature, the durability seems to negate some of the negative environmental impacts of initially producing the acrylic.  And again, laminate isn't exactly the most eco-friendly thing either.  Neither is mining natural stone, for that matter.

We ran the quote, for our complicated kitchen, it really was only $200 more.  Corian is much more expensive for the material, but that is the only thing you pay for.  Formica was upcharging me for every endpiece, for the HD pattern I wanted, for the line-free front-edge style that I wanted.  With all of the Formica upcharges, I felt I would get much more for my money with Corian.  Now, again, I want to emphasize that if I had a more normal kitchen plan with a galley kitchen or a L-shape kitchen, Formica would have been much more cost-effective.  But that was water under the bridge for me at this point.  Learn from my mistakes, friends!

Home Depot was running 10% off that day, so I hunted around in the sample bin for all the white Corian colors, and pulled them all out.  I picked my favorite, and then took them all over to the cabinet door samples to see them next to my gray cabinets.  My early favorite looked the best with the cabinets, and so we ordered it and now we are DONE.

I feel so good about jumping this hurdle, and I'm so glad that I just admitted how clueless I was and asked about "the next step up".  The installer will be coming to measure soon, and then there is a 3-week lead time.  So they should be in by the end of October.  Yes, I've had to double my original countertop budget, but I would have had to for Formica anyway.

We chose "White Quartz" by LG.  It's a lovely, creamy luminescent white base with slight grey marbling and little specks like black pepper.  I just love it.  What these sample pictures don't really catch is the effect of light on Corian, which is really impressive.  It gets all glowy and translucent.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Sad Mistake and a Happy Mistake

Let me preface: Picking out paint is really difficult.  I had the best of luck in my last apartment, I loved every color I chose.  However, I only painted 3 rooms: the bedroom a restful light blue I had used before "Salt Glaze", the paneling in the dining room was "Sharkey Gray", and the entryway was the murkiest mid-tone green-blue "River Mist".  I worked with grays and blues, only one brand of paint, and always chose the "dirtiest" shade on the color chart.  The murky colors look best on walls, once they're reflecting off of each other.

I launched into paint selection with lots of confidence this time around, since I am apparently so good at it.  I chose this color with so much certainty.  I thought it would be a lovely, oatmealy warm white.  I even painted a little sample patch on the wall before buying the whole can.  And look what happened...

Ugh.  It's so yellow.  It's horrible.  I sat and overate pizza, waiting for it to dry.  I kept saying, "It will get less yellow, I know it."  It got slightly less yellow, what you're seeing in the picture is this morning, the least yellow it will be.  And it's still TOO YELLOW.

I hate it.

I started to think, "Maybe it wasn't mixed properly, after all, I liked the sample!"  So I went down to the basement, and sifted around in the dim light to find it in my bag of samples.

We looked at the paint dollop on the top, and it looked so much less yellow!  I said, "Oh, they must have multiplied out the color ratios wrong! This is the color I wanted!"  So I started frantically painting over the yellow.

Completely different color, right?  Bad color on left, good color on right.

I was so excited that it was their mistake, and I was going to get a brand-new can of perfect, shady, oatmealy aged white with warm tones.  But then I caught a glimpse of the label, which read "Edgecomb Gray"...

Nope, no new can of paint for me.  It was a completely different color that I forgot I had even bought a sample of.  I believe I thought it would work for the hallway.  I still like it though.  I think it's actually a good choice for the living room.

So, here's where I left off this morning, with a cloud of foggy wonderfulness at least partially obscuring that awful yellow.  "Edgecomb Gray" it is, at least until I change my mind again.

And, while I floundered in a sea of all the paint colors, Ben and friends installed the radiators and turned the boiler on.  So we have heat!  It was a cold week.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Farrow + Ball Paint Inspiration at the Musée Rodin

One of the most relaxing places I visited in Paris was the Musée Rodin.  It is a former convent school that is surrounded by shady trees and overgrown rosebushes.  The sculptures are displayed both on the interior of the museum and in the gardens, which makes for a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

We ate a fine spinach and chevré quiche here, with Perrier and a tiny raspberry tart.  Then we wandered through the shade-dappled gardens and into the museum.

Now, I was a good museum-goer up until I entered the house.  I was reading all the signs and placards, and being contemplative, and looking at the sculptures from all angles etc.  But the first thing I noticed inside was that they have excellent taste in chandeliers!  
Does this look familiar?

Then I started noticing all of the similarities between this residence and my own...  OK, selective perception maybe, because I don't have 15-foot tall casement windows or a giant central curving staircase...  BUT I do have almost the same chandelier sconces, lots of light, rather high ceilings, a marble fireplace, and some pretty great Edwardian molding.  And I absolutely loved the paint colors.  
I started whisper-yelling to Ben about how this was definitely Farrow + Ball paint.  And then, because I am socially paralyzed and a menace to society, I pulled out my paint chips (which I carry with me all the time, don't you?) and started comparing them to the museum walls.  I thought about wrapping it in a museum brochure, but one shouldn't put maquillage on a cochon, and I just kept calm and carried on.

However, this was all for naught.  The museum is undergoing a renovation and Ben spotted (by the exit) a sign saying "The paint for this renovation was graciously provided by Farrow + Ball. Please visit our website for details."

So, on their website, is a full list of all the paint colors, so I made a fool of myself for nothing.  I could have spent more time admiring the contours of "A Call to Arms" instead of trying to decide whether the walls were "Blackened #2011" or "Skylight #205".  Oh well, c'est la vie!

Farrow + Ball "Biron Grey"

Farrow + Ball "Blue Grey"
Farrow + Ball "Slipper Satin"

Also, my favorite room was the room done in "Skylight".  This color is listed on the webpage, but neither I nor F+B took a picture of it!  It's lovely.

Inspiration in Our Paris Apartment

So, I just returned from a marvelous week in Paris.  Paris is such a beautiful city and even though everyone tells you the food is superb and your expectations are high, it beat all my expectations.  We had the most fantastic time.  I just keep flipping through all my pictures, reliving all the loveliness.

Most of Paris is not transposable.  Its 40-foot ceilings, elaborate paneled molding, ceiling murals, marble walls, and most of its luscious fineries belong just where they are.  However, there are some elegant things that are done differently in Paris that would fit well in a standard home.

Here is a quick little tour of the studio apartment we shared in Paris.  It was perfect for the two of us, with its little kitchenette and bathroom.  Paris isn't big on breakfast, so we made poached eggs with bread, butter, and jam in our little kitchenette before we headed out.  We saved quite a bit of money and time making our own iced coffee and breakfast. Then we could spend all that saved money on luscious dinners of foie gras, oysters, duck with raspberry reduction...

I loved this little wall of cabinets to no end.  This is just such a nice fix for lovely storage.  I also have a fondness for closets that go all the way to the ceiling. Put your out of season clothing up there and grab it in six months!  In the USA, people are always building bulkheads to shorten closets or kitchen cabinetry, just leave it alone and fill up the space with more storage!  There is no such thing as too much storage space.

I loved the little tassels hanging from doorknobs.  Such a nice touch.  I had one tassel in my prior apartment, it broke during the move and I need to sew it up again, but once our house stops being dusty, I want more tassels!

I liked all the pretty thick linen curtains in the room.  I have a future guest bedroom happening soon where the former kitchen was, and the curtains might make a nice addition there.

Loved this so-French window!  While I can't have it at my own home, I loved the looped curtain tiebacks that looped over the right-angled wall tieback.

Also, the little kitchen held mother-of-pearl silverware and a little ceramic mustard jar with a matching ceramic spoon!  It was so cute!  I looked for my own mustard jar but couldn't find one.  Maybe at Zara Home or H&M Home.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ceiling Molding

So, out of curiosity, I decided to price-check some ceiling molding for the living room.  Ceiling molding is a delightful feature that looks something like this:

You can do clever things with paint, and it makes the ceiling of a large room much more interesting.

Now, I thought the price for the materials would be prohibitively high, but I remembered I was wrong about that when purchasing a ceiling medallion.  So I browsed around on Architectural Depot, did some geometry and multiplication, and was so, so pleased at the numbers.

$58 to make the ceiling of my 13' x 13' living room a focal point?  This will happen.

See the mock-up of the style I chose, with the ceiling medallion.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Cabinets Install: Part 1

It's like Christmas!  The cabinets have arrived and we opened all the boxes last night and put them in the proper place (ish).  We still have lots of leveling to do, filler pieces to put in, and the appliances won't get here until the 5th, but we had such fun unwrapping them last night!
Unwrapping my presents!

The butler's pantry cabinet area (missing some fluted filler pieces that make it fit just so, and the fridge goes to the right of the cabinets)

The stove will fit between the two cabinets on the left, and the dishwasher goes to the side of the farmhouse sink cabinet
They are Martha Stewart cabinets, Turkey Hill style, in Sharkey Gray.  Ben and I were laughing because the side of the box reads "Turkey Shark".

As I wrote before, we're doing bottom cabinets and countertops only for now.  With all the construction we've been doing, we're going to save up for a year to get the top ones.  I hope to get the countertop ordered as soon as we get these installed, so that we can use this kitchen as soon as possible!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Kitchen Cabinet Delivery

The kitchen cabinets were delivered this morning!  How very exciting!  I wish I could have been there, but Ben accepted the delivery and sent me this picture-- here they all are, lined up in their boxes.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Big Changes!

So much happened this weekend with the house!  We opened up the upstairs foyer, as you can see in the photo below.  

This was our last demolition project, so it's all clean work for now.  After we finished cleaning up the plaster dust, we were able to take the carpet off of the stair treads, to reveal some nice wood.

It's not perfect, but it's better than I expected - I'll see how far I can get with just polishing the wood, and I might stop there.

Also, the floor refinishers put on the middle coat of satin varnish.  The floors look great!  We also hired someone with a paint sprayer to come in and coat the entire downstairs in primer.  Besides the fact that we have fresh plaster (which absorbs a ton of paint), the prior occupants used some terrible grade of cheap paint on the original walls and trim.  The stuff was pretty bad- irregular coverage, thick rubbery texture - so we coated the entire downstairs with a paint sprayer and Benjamin Moore primer.  It looks so much better already!

The rooms look quite dark in these pictures, but if you notice, the windows have been painted.  It looks like a frosty Christmas display window, but I just have to nick the paint with a razor blade and then peel it off the window.

I think the pictures below look terrible.  In order to do the massive kitchen renovations, we had to rip out the molding.  I was going to save it but it wasn't original, and it was basically thin quarter round.  We did save the original molding in the living and dining rooms, of course.  Since these rooms have no molding right now, they actually look pretty terrible in my opinion, but I have big plans for them!

Here's a close-up of the lovely floor!

From this point, it's all expansion- we have moved all our of possessions into smaller and smaller rooms since we moved to this house on May 1 -- but now it's time to actually put our furniture into its proper rooms.  Just waiting for those floors to dry enough to set heavy things on them!