Monthly Archives: April 2011

Bathroom: The Reality

I have put far too many pretty pictures up here lately. I think I need to bring myself and all of you back to reality. The dusty, grey, non-functioning reality. This is the bathroom as it currently exists:

On the left is the drain for the toilet. Beside it, out of site, stands a narrow radiator. On the right, the plumbing hookups for our vanity. It’s a small bathroom, but I’m certain it will be functional. And oh, how I am loving the invention of a pocket door right now…
Right now, it seems to be nothing but a construction zone. But, if you look up just a little, there’s one already chosen, already placed detail:
Our light fixture — dusty, incomplete, but beautiful.
How symbolic.

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Filed under bathroom, renovations

Thinking Bathroom: Vanity, Vanity

Bathroom vanities are expensive. At Home Depot, we’d likely be dropping at good $500 to get something we want. And then we’d still have to buy a sink. Boo.

Ikea’s cheap. And we like their stuff. But none of their vanities come in the 20′ depth that we need. Boo.

But wait… in passing, on the weekend, my MIL mentioned that she had once wanted to convert a dresser into a vanity to put in their bathroom. When she said it, I don’t think the option fully sunk into my head. Two days later, it finds itself fully lodged in my thoughts.

How beautiful would something like this be?

I know: in this, my tastes tend towards traditional. Beautiful curvy lines, crisp white paint. Actually, my tastes lean towards traditional with a splash of contemporary. More like this.
The modern sink balances the traditional dresser beautifully, I think. I won’t go so far as the distressed look though. Honestly, I just don’t get that. 
I even found the perfect vessel sink:
The black marble would perfectly combine with our marble tile, adding even more depth and beautifulness to the whole thing. 
So now I just have to find a really awesome dresser that is no more than approximately 30” high, 20” deep, and 34” wide. Value Village, Craigslist, Kijiji… here I come!

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Filed under bathroom, vanity

Progress! Weekend 4

Our 4th weekend in the house led to one of the most exciting bit of progress yet: walls!

We’re mudding and sanding, so everything is especially dusty now. And, we’re noticing it even more now that we have fully moved in. We’re settling in the basement for now, but we don’t get to escape the dust. It gets everywhere. 
The list is getting smaller and the end seems to be getting surprisingly closer. I mean, after this, what do we have? Painting, flooring, toilet and vanity, kitchen cabinets, backsplash, countertops, appliances. I didn’t say the list was short. But it’s a lot shorter than when we started the project. 
Painting and flooring this weekend!

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Being Bold and Making Choices

Soon, I’ll get around to taking a picture in proper lighting of our progress so you can see the walls that we finally have up, drywalled, and mudded. That’s right: the end is in sight!
This progress means I suddenly have to make some design choices. And I’ve learned something: I’m really terrible at making design choices. Layout, I can handle. Tile? Not so much. Especially when, since we left our decisions to the last minute, we don’t have much choice outside of the tile in stock at all our favourite home improvement stores.
Home Depot failed us this time around. Standing in their tile aisle sent me into a spiral of tile despair, not fully liking any of the available choices, completely unable to envision it, completely unable to match a floor to a tub tile surround. 
So, we trotted down the road to Rona — Canadian! — and my spirits lifted enormously. We found this tile:
And I loved it. But I hemmed and hawed a bit. Dark floors? Really? Is that such a good idea? It’s so bold, makes such a statement… what if I hate it when it gets laid? And what if it’s too slippery? It is polished marble, after all.
Let’s be brave: stack 6 boxes in our plastic cart. And to match, 6 boxes of this beautiful metro tile in beige — just a touch off white:
We’ve found a beautiful mosaic to add for an accent stripe on the wall, a tile that include black marble, very similar to our floors. 
Every time I think about it, I worry just a little. This could have been a terrible choice. But then, I see pictures like this:
And I think, if they can do it, why can’t we? I need to take a couple deep breaths, remind myself that this is our first house — it doesn’t have to be perfect — and learn to be bold.

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Filed under bathroom, marble, tile

This Is Community

In the process of this move, I’ve been thinking a lot about community, what it means, and how we fit into it all. We’ve moved into a ridiculously friendly neighbourhood, a neighbourhood in which people recognize each other as they walk down the street, a neighbourhood that greets newcomers, and looks out for each other and their dogs. (Well, mostly.)

But, it’s not the only community of which we’re a part. And it’s not the most important, or the one for which I am the most grateful.

In January, we (loosely speaking) made the final decision on a church home. Since then, we’ve been slowly drawn in to the embrace of a very different kind of community than the one we have moved into. We’ve met new people, learned some new names, and began to share our lives with them and they with us.

A few weeks ago, as we left a dinner with a couple from the church and a group of chatty youth, the host presented us with an extra lasagna, carefully wrapped up and waiting for the oven. When we got our new stove, it was one of the first things we baked up in excited anticipation. It’s the perfect thing. An easy dinner when I’m tired after packing and unpacking. An easy lunch for days when I have no time to brown bag anything. (Oh, right. That’s every day.)

With each bite, I am grateful.

The more community I experience from all places — our neighbourhood, our church, even at work — the more I appreciate it and the more I understand how important it is. One day, I’d like to be able to extend the same thoughtfulness to someone else. Could we do this without them? Probably.

But why bother?

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Filed under church, community, food, help

The Hack Job, AKA, Our House

The more we delve into this house, the more we can see the years of neglect it’s gone through, the lack of care and attention to detail. According to our neighbour, contractor after shady contractor has been hired to fix things as mandated by the city. At one time, he says, the front door was plastered in notices from the city about the state of disrepair the house was falling into.

And yet, the whole thing is just a little rough around the edges. I’m not saying that we bought the house version of a lemon: the opposite actually. Our renos that have involved demolition of what is existing have gone surprisingly well. There have been very few of those unexpected problems that people so often find beneath the surface of the house, very few problems that have added hours or days onto our renovation timeline.

But, there have been other things, things we’re not quite so sure how to deal with, things that just don’t look right.

Case number 1: The Basement Bathroom

I won’t bother talking about the upstairs bathroom. It was much worse. But the basement has its own special challenges, more difficult to deal with because they’re not so bad to warrant a complete gutting.

Like the toilet, for example.

Here, we have a toilet that does not fit in the space. The rough in allowed them to put in this toilet, but didn’t allow them to put the lid on properly. Instead of taking it back to wherever they got it, they just balanced it on top and said “Meh. Oh well. Who cares.”
So, now we have to buy a new toilet.
And then, there’s this:
Can you see it? I know, nice light, huh? I picked it out myself. But look a little further, a little past that. Yup. That’s grout. Smeared all over the tile and dried solid. I’m not sure how we’re going to deal with this yet. It’s likely going to mean a lot of painstaking scraping and wiping and scrubbing. And, in the end, we’ll likely paint the tile in order to hide the terrible yellow grout lines. Problem solved!
Case number 2: The Stairs
I don’t have a complaint with the stairs moulded out of concrete. Actually, once I get a new coat of paint on them, they’ll look quite nice. It’s when you get to the bottom of the stairs that you can see the terrible work that was put into the house.
They’re almost wobbly, but certainly crooked and poorly built. I’m certain that one of these days, they’re going to crack as someone scurries up the stairs and the creation of a new set will become absolutely imperative. 
Case number 3: The Front Porch
The front porch is a nice wide thing, perfect for sitting on and watching the neighbourhood pass. Not that we plan on doing it that much. But there’s a few things wrong with it. Like the tile they decided lay instead of deck boards or something that isn’t so slippery when wet.
And then, there’s the way they poured the porch: they left an ugly, jagged overhang. What are you supposed to do with this?
And, of course, there’s the exhaust that they decided to send out the front of the house: a nice, shiny, brand new exhaust pipe sticks out from one of the windows in the basement just beneath the porch. What were they thinking?
We’ve been fortunate with the bones of this house, so in many ways, we’re grateful that these hack jobs are all on the surface and can, thankfully, be low priority. But someday, I’d like all these things fixed.
And my most important goal? To not leave any hack jobs behind when we sell the place — whenever that may be.

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The Basement Kitchen Progress: It’s a Stove!

A kitchen is not a kitchen without a stove. It’s not a house if there is no kitchen.


Our house is a house! Because we found a stove!

After our unsuccessful experience with Kijiji, I was very tempted to walk into Home Depot and put in an order for the cheapest GE they had available. For a brief while, we had even considered dropping the money necessary to get a nice stainless steel stove, one we’d be happy with upstairs. That way, we could move in, have a stove, and keep watching for a great deal on a used one. When the day comes, we move the stove up into our kitchen and voila: two stoves for two kitchens.
But then, I looked one last time at Kijiji and there it was: black, gas, and priced perfectly. I emailed, got the Husband to book a U-Haul, and that night, we picked up our used gas stove for a measly $270 (after some stellar haggling on my part)! We brought it to the house, wrestled it down into the basement and stepped back to admire our finally functional kitchen.
(Actually, it wasn’t at all that easy. The wrestling really did feel like wrestling. And we had some issues with hookup. But we’re all good now, so those things hardly matter.)
It’s a beaut. I’ve never cooked with gas before, so I’m kind of excited to try it out. Any suggestions of what I should make first?

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How’s this for dreaming? The attic!

Whenever we show people the house for the first time, it’s not unusual to get this question:

“So, is there a second storey?”

Sadly, we say no, no second storey.

See, our house has a gable roof with a dormer sticking out the front. It’s one of the few things that give our house any sort of curb appeal.

It also makes the house deceptively large, as if it’s touting a half story beneath it’s shingles. Not so much.
At least, not yet. 
During our home inspection, when the inspector flipped open the attic access in order to check out the roof rot on our roof boards, light streamed down from those dormer windows. As I peered up past him, I saw warm looking wood and a high ceiling. Space, perhaps, for a room? When we first climbed up there after taking possession of the house, our instincts were confirmed: this attic can be far more than an attic.
This is what we envision: a bed in the alcove around the dormer, two skylights on the opposite side of the roof, a small master bath and a good sized closet. Of course, it’s a pretty big job. There’s more than one brace that would have to be moved, full plumping and electrical, insulating, and drywall. And, then there’s the access: I refuse to climb a ladder in order to get to my bedroom. 
It’s very easy to look past all the work when you’re dreaming.

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A Skeleton In Our House

By the end of the day on Saturday, the Husband was frustrated with their progress upstairs, but I couldn’t be happier. The bones of our house have finally begun to reform, allowing me to envision exactly how everything is going to look. See? It’s the skeleton of our bathroom!

They spent two extra hours undoing the hookups for the tub and redoing them, which set them back further than they wanted. If the Husband had had his way, the bathroom studs would not be the only things up: the drywalling would also have been finished and the space prepped for the tile we plan to put in next week.

But I don’t care. I can see it now. It’s going to look something like this:

Just, flipped around with a little more space between the toilet and vanity. And I likely won’t tile the tub like that. Or have such a funny looking toilet. Or that particular sink. And my bathroom will have towels. And toothbrushes, contact lens solution, make up, and moisturizes scattered all over it. But you get the picture.
I spent the last half hour with our weekend help there explaining what it was all going to look like, pointing out the location of each feature: the toilet, the vanity, the fridge on the other side of the wall, the gas stove, the sink, the expanse of counter space in between, the breakfast bar. We could finally explain our vision for the kitchen with some success. 
Even if it wasn’t as much progress and the Husband wanted, it made me happy. It reassured me that we will get through this, that we will not lose steam, or at least not yet, that before too long, we will have a livable, comfortable, uniquely ours home.

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Filed under bathroom, progress, renovations, studs

Backyard Mud Pit!

On Saturday, we got great big hug. Or, at least that’s kind of what it felt like to me, especially after the frustrating week I’d had. At 10 am, a crew of young people from the church the Husband and I attend showed up at our front door decked out in warms clothes and rain boots. I had looked forward to today for a couple weeks, ever since the (interim) youth leaders and I sat down and made the plans for it. It was a chance to open up our (almost) house to them and get to know them. And, we got some much needed and much appreciated help in the bargain.

Keep in mind, this is what our backyard looked like at 10 am Saturday morning.

At 10:05, as if someone bigger and greater than us knew what was going on, the rain slowed to a drizzle. By 10:30, the garbage was gone. Completely. Three of the guys turned their attention to the bramble of vines choking out our (surprisingly healthy) elm.

Meanwhile, one of the leaders dug up our tiny flower bed by the garage and planted the flat of pansies we had picked up. She also found an iris (I think?) growing in an old, broken pot and transplanted them for us.

Inside, a couple of the youth – youth more interested in remaining warm and dry – caulked the trim and scrubbed the floors for us. The room gleamed when they had finished.

By noon, the backyard was cleaned up, the garage was emptied of the past owner’s and tenant’s left-behind garbage, and most of the bags we had collected were hauled off to the garbage dump by my very helpful dad. We dug into some pizza and I bid the work crew goodbye.

Not half an hour later, it started to pour again.

Thanks guys. You did an amazing job! In a month or so, once we get some grass back there in our mud pit, we’ll have you all over again to enjoy the space and a barbeque.

Maybe by then, I’ll have finally gotten all the mud out of Mocha’s fur.

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Filed under backyard, barbeque, help