Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Basement Apartment: A Kitchen One Could Actually Use

Happy Friday!

In the excitement of the leaps of progress we’ve made in the main floor of our bungalow, did you think I had forgotten about the tour of our basement apartment, complete with before and after pictures? Sometimes I worry that this blog suffers from an attention disorder since posts about our projects can end up so scattered as we move through them.

Last night, I remembered and forced myself to take the time to snap a couple pictures of the apartment’s kitchen. After all, while our new tenants are very blog friendly people, and may make an appearance or two here should they wish to, we will not be bursting in on them because I forgot to get a particularly important shot for the blog. What kind of terrible landlords would we be then? So, these may be the last shots you get to see of the below-ground portion of our house.

To refresh, this is what the apartment’s kitchen looked like when we moved it.

Believe it or not, we were pleased to be faced with such a situation, a blank slate of endless possibilities. Well, not entirely endless… we didn’t want to move the plumbing or the gas line. But, with no base cabinets in place we didn’t have to face the extra expense of ripping any out. During our house search, we didn’t see any basement apartment kitchens with salvageable kitchens. Why is it that, so often, basement apartments seem to fall quite into neglect?

We lucked out and found a great deal on cabinets at Home Depot, a great deal that is, once again, available at our local HD. To solve a bit of a conundrum with oddly shaped walls requiring oddly shaped counter tops, we made our own with plywood and a sheet of laminate. We found a great stove on Kijiji for cheap, but after spending close to $100 on a truck rental in order to get it home and then struggling it down the stairs (this may have involved some bloodshed), we decided the convenience was worth it and sprung for a new fridge. In all, I estimate that this kitchen cost us around $2000 to put in. Total. And, it was probably one of the easiest of the renovations we’ve done in this house.

And, once again, I show you how good we are at getting things almost done, but not quite… Yes, the step still needs to be painted. And oh, look! There’s an outlet without a cover! Hopefully, this will be done before the tenants arrive. Fortunately, we have one more weekend of help on all the little things from my wonderful father-in-law!

In hind sight, we could have made it even larger. I wish we’d made the space for a dishwasher beside the sink, or even turned the counter to create a peninsula like we did upstairs. But this works perfectly well and I’m pleased with it.

I hope they will be too.


Filed under basement apartment, kitchen

I have the best husband ever

This morning, his alarm goes off before mine and I, groggily, confused, grab for it. My alarm is set for 6, his for 6:30. What happened to my alarm? I tossed his beeping phone to him. “It’s 6:30.” And then flop back down.

(My alarm might be set for 6. I didn’t say I get up at 6.)

He rolls over me and out of bed. A couple seconds later, my alarm goes off. I squint at it. It’s 6. This is not that unusual. Every so often, he has to get to work early and, since we’d both been out at different places until late last night (in the lightning show! Did you see it?), we hadn’t had much of a chance to talk and debrief.

But I don’t hear the shower. Or the running up and down the stairs to grab clothes. I hear almost nothing.

I go back to sleep, hit snooze a few more times. Finally struggle out of bed at 6:40 and head into my morning routine. And stop. There, in our empty bedroom, still in his pjs is the Husband, paintbrush in hand, carefully cutting around our glistening white trim.

Tonight, our bed moves for the last time. To celebrate, I created a mood board!

(Curtains: Ikea)
(Bedside table: Ikea)
(Walls: Heathered Moor [Martha Stewart]/Blackberry Mocha [Behr])
(Random bed: not the one we have)
(Random Etsy artwork which I fell in love with the minute I saw it and might purchase because I think it’s perfect. Here.)


Filed under bedroom, mood board

How To Fix Yer Grout

Remember the problem we had with the grout in the basement bathroom? We thought they had used yellow grout with white tiles, a case of slacker DIY-ers spending the least amount of money possible on a building they were renting out anyway. What did they care?

A little investigation and scratching at the grout and we learned something else: more likely, one, or many, of the previous users of the bathroom were smokers and, due to their habit, the unsealed grout had become discoloured and yellow. Thankfully, this is the only sign of this possibility we’ve found. But, none-the-less, it needed to be rectified.

This is how:

 1. Get your ipod, phone, mp3 player, stereo, surround sound, laptop, ghetto blaster, or whatever else you listen to music with. Put your favourites and and turn it up loud.

2.  Sing along. Loudly. This is the most important step.

3.  Collect your materials.

Grout colorant in the colour of your choice
At least 2 rags

4.  Wipe your tile down with bleach, focusing your scrubbing on the grout.

5.  Take your toothbrush and dip it into the colorant. A small bowl makes this easier.

6.  Scrub the colorant into the grout. Work in chunks at a pace you feel comfortable with. The bigger the chunk, the longer the colorant will sit on the tile, the harder it will be to wipe off, but the better the results will be.

7.  Using your second rag, wipe the colorant off the tile. It will be left behind in the grout.

8.  Don’t be discouraged if you do one square or one line, step back, and don’t see enough of a difference. Do the whole wall or floor or whatever you are colouring. You will be amazed.

I’m not quite done yet — I have one more wall and the ceiling (oh, the ceiling…) to do — but once I got the hang of it, it went pretty quick. Hopefully, I’ll find the time before our tenants arrive. The clock is ticking… eek!

Don’t use your shower or make the bathroom steamy for 72 hours after you’ve finished. It needs to dry. I’m sure bad things will happen if you do — or, so the colorant bottle says.


Filed under basement apartment, bathroom, tile

What you’ve all been waiting for

The newspapers this week have thrown me off. Jack Layton’s death filled my Metro, but the story on page 3 hit me even harder. On Sunday, one of the towns near which I grew up was hit with an F3 tornado. Century homes and 100 year old churches didn’t make it. The old trees around the octagonal shaped square came down and the self-proclaimed prettiest town in Ontario isn’t even close anymore.

But, these things happen. The reason it has thrown me off is this: sitting on the subway, watching my fellow Torontonians read the short article, I realized hardly any of these people even know where Goderich is. They don’t know about the beautiful beach, about the town square that’s actually on octagon, a round-about with no lanes. They don’t know about the big old homes, the Livery, the courthouse, the old jail. It’s just another place where something else bad happened.

With all this, the progress in our house couldn’t have come at a better time. Here is a space I can control, a space that has stopped spirally and started putting itself back together. And, since I know you’ve all been waiting patiently since I announced the installation last Friday, I present to you a kitchen of calm and functionality. Yes: it’s mostly done!

I am so pleased with how it has turned out. I have hardly wanted to leave the kitchen since Friday. Unfortunately, there are other pressing matters to get to, so I wasn’t able to spend my weekend baking and cooking.

As I get organized and move all my last bits of dishes and food into the cupboards, I’ll have more to talk about. For now, what do you think? Do you have any initial questions about the decisions we made?


Filed under kitchen, silver silk granite

Granite Day!

When 4:30 comes, I will pack up with dizzying excitement, hop a bus, and hope for the fastest commute I’ve ever had. I will race up our street on my sparkly heels and burst through the door with a squeel of delight.
Boyd Kitchen traditional
Capoferro Design Build Kitchens contemporary kitchen
Can you?
Garrett Park contemporary kitchen
It’s Granite Day!
Let the celebration (and the bread making) commence!

(All photos from Houzz)


Filed under granite, kitchen

Another Bathroom: Before and After

This bathroom renovation was not nearly as extensive as the one upstairs. Someday, I might do a thorough comparison of the two, but not today. Today is a thorough comparison of a before and an after, as I’m sure you’ve all been waiting for with bated breath since yesterday.

The bones of this bathroom were fine. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the layout. The tub was in OK shape, an expense we could easily avoid. The wall and floor tile was in OK shape. Everything was OK.

But, of course, there were things that were definitely not OK. The pedestal sink was shoved right up against the corner, leaving a huge gap between it and the toilet. It was awkward. And besides, I have never found pedestal sinks particularly attractive or, more importantly, useful. The existing toilet was installed weirdly to lean back against the wall which meant the tank lid didn’t even come close to fitting. And worst of all, the grout in the glossy white wall tile was yellow, yellow yellow. The whole place felt… yellow.

So, what did we do? We ripped out the pedestal sink and toilet and added brand new fixtures. We replaced the shower curtain and rod. We bought a pretty new light fixture and a large flat mirror. And then, we contemplated the walls. We were planning on painting the tile until one of you readers piped up. (Pitofrepair, thank you, thank you, thank you!) We hopped on over to our favourite big orange box and picked up a bottle of grout colourant and sealer in snow white. I’m not finished with this job yet, but the wall I’ve done looks 100% better.

It’s amazing how a few new fixtures brighten up the space so beautifully.

See? You don’t need to knock down walls, move plumbing, and do over your tile in order to have a beautiful bathroom.


Filed under basement apartment, bathroom

Before We Conquered

I love our before pictures. In fact, I’ll go this far: I love our before pictures more than I love after pictures. I know. That seems weird and backwards. Does that mean I think we’ve messed up? That in fact, we’ve made our house worse, rather than better? Certainly not.

I believe before pictures are more important than after pictures. Before pictures are what make it all worth it.
They clarify just how far we’ve come.  They’re what remind you about what you’re doing. They’re what points out that the mess you’re living in now is far better than the mess you were living in before.

Now, I realize I have never shared these before pictures with you. I’m not sure why. I think I was always meaning to take better before pictures, pictures with my DSLR instead of my crummy camera phone. But I never got around to it. And then we started moving things in and ripping things out, but we didn’t actually change to much, and I kept thinking I would get to it. And never did, and never did. And then the whole place changed and now here we are at After and all I’ve got are crummy camera phone Before pictures.

But, it’s time to share. It’s time to share because it’s Basement Apartment month and how can I properly talk about our basement apartment without showing you where we started?

Besides, Before pictures are fun.

All of these shots were taken during our first tour of the place. We had toured three or four other houses with basement apartments by that point and were constantly disappointed with the height of the ceilings and lack of windows in the basement unit. I couldn’t bear the thought of renting out such a place because I couldn’t bear the thought of living in such a place. We stepped into this basement and, despite the grime everywhere, breathed a sigh of relief. What we were looking for actually existed. In rough form, perhaps, but still, there it was. 
I think about what we did down here and, in reality, it wasn’t that much when you compare what we’ve been doing upstairs. But I am so glad with how everything is turning out. 

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Filed under basement apartment, before

The Generosity of Neighbours

Sunday is our lazy day. After a long Saturday of scrubbing and patching and painting and smearing colorant into yellowed grout lines, we were grateful for a day of nothing. Through this renovation, we have made certain that Sunday is our day, the day to ignore the dust and the tools every where and do nothing or something, just, not house related. Yesterday, we slipped the leash on the pooch and took her to the dog park.

Mocha is a huge wimp at the dog park. She’s the shy kid standing on the edge of the foursquare court, hoping someone will ask her to play. But, she loves it. Loves it. Wiggles her bum and her stumpy tail at the owners, frolics over wood chips when she finally gets past her reservations, runs back to us when everything gets to be just a bit much for her.
But this post is not about that.
This post is about the box of free zucchini. 
We have a neighbour, a neighbour we’ve never actually met, who grows zucchinis. Too many of them, it seems. This is the second time we’ve seen the box, but this time, I actually remembered to stop and pick one out on our way home.
They’re huge. Gorgeous green. They taste like cucumber with the texture of an almost ripe pear, just past its crunchy stage.
The problem? I have no idea what to do with it.
Yes, I could make zucchini bread and even throw some delicious cocoa powder in. But other than that? I added it to our pad thai last night and the strips of zucchini were perfect. But what else?
So, friends, please help! How do you use zucchini? Do you have a favourite recipe? A conventional or unconventional use for the stuff? 
I am grateful to our neighbour down the road. How else could I learn to use this weird veggie? Perhaps next year, I’ll even grow a couple myself.


Filed under food, neighbourhood, neighbours, zucchini

More Limbo

(Wow! Our 100th post! Should we be celebrating this with some sort of pomp? How about a bedroom?)

I wish I could say that we’re all settled in upstairs, in the above ground unit in our little bungalow. I wish I could say everything was done, that the only thing we’re waiting on is the counter top. I wish I could say we weren’t using a combination of our bathtub and bathroom sink as a kitchen sink. I wish I could say that our new bedroom closet is gorgeous and perfectly organized. I wish I could say that we’ve finally started hanging pictures on the walls.

I can’t say any of that. In fact, we’re still very much in limbo, using half a kitchen, ignoring one room in our house as if it didn’t even exist, sleeping in a temporary bedroom, storing our clothes in laundry baskets. (Not that that is necessarily much different from the norm around here…)

Our temporary bedroom is not an inspiring space. If you were hoping for something beautiful that you could add to your pin boards on Pinterest, I’d suggest trying here instead.

This is the second bedroom in the house, the room at the front. Once the back bedroom is finished — the ‘master’, though it’s only a few inches larger and has, in fact, been made a few inches smaller with the addition of a closet — this room will become a dining room, laundry room, and music room all in one. For a while, it will continue to sport the original floors and trim of the house until will find the time (and money) to finish the attic, install a set of stairs and knock out a wall. 
Oh yes. Our house is going to look nothing at all like it did when we started.
The worst thing about this bedroom?

The boxes of flooring still waiting to be installed, another temporary dresser. It is surprising how easily little inconveniences like this can become part of every day life and simply tolerated. Indefinitely.


Filed under bedroom

Sometimes, progress doesn’t look like progress

A couple weeks ago now, we moved our furniture and ourselves out of the basement apartment and into the main floor of our little bungalow. From there, we went full force into getting the below ground unit ready for tenants for September. The whole moving thing was a little disorganized, especially since one of our bedrooms still lies unfinished and, therefore, unusable. Half of our belongings remained in the basement and we worked around them. Finally, last night, with most of the improvements completed, we began the arduous task of sorting through unopened boxes and milk crates of junk before finding a proper place for them.

To refresh, this is the basement apartment:

Now, it looks something more like this:
Boxes, tools, chairs, dishes, junk everywhere. Oh, it’s a mess. 
But, believe me when I say, this is progress. The two bedrooms are empty except for the big things: the dressers and bookshelves. The bathroom is ready to go. The wall separating the laundry from the rest of the room is up and painted and just one patch remains to be covered with an access panel. We have lots of sorting to do, lots of struggling with our storage options, but nothing a couple dedicated evenings can’t take care of. 
And then comes the scrubbing and the de-dusting and the grout recolouring and all the fun.
No, I’m not being sarcastic at all.


Filed under basement apartment, progress