Monthly Archives: September 2011

A Break

Throughout the summer, when someone asked when I was free, it almost became my mantra to respond with, “This month is crazy, but next is wide open!” Invariably, the next month, I’d be saying the exact some thing. 

And now? I’ve been grateful for the busyness of my life, the wonderful people who want to spend time with me, the tasks that require my attention. But one of the leaders at my church gently reminded me a couple weeks ago that I’m allowed to say no to things, that it’s better to say no than to burn out.
Which is why, two weeks ago, I entered an event into my calendar for this Saturday, even though no one had asked me to do anything, even though I had no meetings, and no coffee dates lined up. I scheduled myself a ‘Me’ Day, a day in which I answer to no one but myself, a day in which I do what I want to do, a day to put my feet up, read a book, have a cup of tea, take an afternoon nap, paint an Ikea dresser, bake something tasty, and go to bed early. 
So, what are my plans?
I’m going to sleep in, likely until around 8:00 or so.
I’m going to go thrifting. With a budget of $100, I have a whole list of things I’m looking for.
  • Counter stools
  • A kitchen table set
  • A hutch or a pretty dresser of a suitable height
  • Baskets for the bathroom
  • Canisters for compost, flour, sugar, coffee, tea, etc.
I’m going to bake these Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars because they just look so tasty.
I might paint, whether it be a canvas or the previously-mentioned Ikea dresser.
I might watch a silly chick flick.
I will enjoy a quiet, relaxed day to myself.
When you need a rest, what do you do? How do you make sure you don’t burn out?


Filed under Pekoe

When Convention Doesn’t Work

We’ve talked a lot about our kitchen by now. (It was, after all, a huge chunk of our renovations up to this point.) And yet, I feel like we forgot to talk about one of the most important things about this room: the layout.

Did you notice? We don’t have any uppers. Need a refresher?

Oh, we tried to make a traditional combination of upper cabinets and lower cabinets work for us. Can you imagine the extra 4 feet of counter top we could have had? But also imagine this: one upper, a corner cabinet, and narrow 12 inch cabinets on each side of the stove with a range in between. It could have worked and it still would have been beautiful and functional. But we wanted more.

This is what we did: there was no way out-of-the-box pantry cupboards would work. Instead, we bought 4 extra 24 inch base cabinets. After we had put down the base cabinets and leveled them perfectly, we built up the cabinets along the wall with plywood to accommodate the counter top (no, we haven’t gotten around to trimming this and painting it white. Is it really that noticeable?), then stacked the four base cabinets against the back wall.

This made the mounting track that Ikea gives you for uppers useless. We anchored the ‘pantry’ to the wall just like we did the base cabinets, and then anchored them to each other as well, from the bottom and the sides.

Of course, above the fridge, we put a proper fridge upper.

Some unfortunate disadvantages of this choice? You can really see the lack of squareness in our house. See the gap in the ceiling? Our cabinets are level, but the ceiling definitely isn’t and, since the cabinets go right to the ceiling (it was a little nerve-wracking for a while, seeing if they would even fit at all), there isn’t even space for a piece of quarter-round to help hide the gap. We haven’t decided how we’re going solve this one yet.

Also, I really need a stool for this design. I don’t have one yet. As it is, the cabinet in the top right corner is almost completely inaccessible to me. And I have to keep the counter top in front of the bottom right cabinet pretty clear if I want to open the door.

But the advantages win, I think. These cabinets are huge, of course, so they hold a lot. I need to get organized, but that’s not the fault of the cabinets, right? And, eventually, we’ll buy a pretty hood for our range that would’ve be hidden in between a couple cabinets. It feels open and spacious and functional.

What do you think? Would you have gone for traditional uppers or do you like this idea? I hope in any future home we may have, we can properly make use of both styles.


Filed under kitchen, kitchen cabinets

A Counter Conundrum

Like Jessica at Decor Adventures, the two members of the household of This Dusty House have been doing their very best to avoid spending money as much as they possibly can. It’s actually not that hard for us. Since I grew up in the country at least 1 hour from the nearest decent shopping mall, I’ve never developed a shopping habit and the Husband is so money conscious, excessive use of the credit card is not a problem. Our challenge for the month lay instead in avoiding restaurants and Home Depot. 
For the most part, we’ve been successful. A few things came up that we couldn’t avoid, but I think our credit card appreciated the break. Come October, on the other hand, I have some plans for one of our first fall purchases. 
We incorporated a counter level bar in our kitchen design. We had one in our apartment and I hated it as a replacement for a table, but loved it for the extra counter top space and the informal nature of it. Unfortunately, when we moved, we decided we didn’t want to hold on to the cheap Ikea counter-level stools that had been left behind by the previous tenants so we left them behind, passing the convenience on to whoever moved in. 
For a couple weeks after our counter top arrived, we had nothing and continued to live with no sit-at-able surface. A visit to my parents fixed that temporarily. Their borrowed bar stools are currently tucked under our bar, about 5 inches too high. Something like these:

At least they’re something, right?

We could chop the legs off a bit to make them the right height. But in truth, they’re not what we want. (And besides that, my parents want them back.) I’d rather something bright, something cushioned, something with a back for support, something with a swivel, perhaps. Something like this, maybe.

available on Etsy
Or, even better, these:

 Something wood and simple gives me the opportunity to colourize it with a bright cushion. And, you might not have noticed, but I think my kitchen needs some colour.

I’ve also considered going with a very vintage look and sacrificing the back for something like these:

available on Etsy

This is supposed to be fun, right? Maybe I’m a miser, but when we’re looking at $100-$300 a chair, I’m not sure how much fun I find the decision. Perhaps it’s time to start stopping at the thrift store on my way home from work every single day until I find something I can make work?

Do you have bar stools? Do you love them? Where did you find them? Please share!

Images: a) here b) here c) here d) here


Filed under bar stools, kitchen

Don’t Try This One At Home

Today, I’m going to share a little trick with you. However, I would never ever recommend actually using this technique. It’s probably one of the most dangerous home renovation techniques you could ever allow yourself to use.

(And by dangerous, I don’t actually mean physically dangerous. You’ll understand in a moment.)

You may have noticed all the unfinished details in our kitchen as I’ve shared it over the past few days. The unfinished details are there, a few too many for comfort, in fact. Our kitchen isn’t finished, but we have no one else to blame but ourselves.

And my mother.

Because she taught us this trick.

Yes, that’s painter’s tape.

Painter’s tape doubled over.

And stuck to the inside of the cupboard door.

Painter’s tape allows us to open our kitchen cabinets without using a fork or breaking any fingernails, or driving ourselves insane.

Painter’s tape allows us to live in a kitchen with no cabinet door handles in perfect contentment.

Painter’s tape will kill the progress of your renovation.

You have been warned.

(In all seriousness, it works great if, for some reason, you have to pause your progress right at the point at which you could be adding pulls and knobs to your cabinet doors.)

(We don’t really have a good reason.)


Filed under kitchen, kitchen cabinets

A Kitchen Overview: Costs, Compromises, and Absolute Contentment

Happy Monday my darling readers! I hope your weekends were all relaxing, energizing and productive! We spent the weekend with a great group of kids at a camp 3 hours north of here, climbing high ropes, shooting rifles, eating candy, and talking about prayer. This is a retreat that the youth group at my church organizes every year. I’m already looking forward to taking over full organizing responsibility next year.

Because of a somewhat hasty departure last Friday, we came home to a kitchen mess made all the more unpleasant by the 72 hours for which it sat. And yet, looking at my kitchen still makes me squeal with delight inside.

(True, I don’t generally see it from this angle…)
Because one of our goals with this blog is to be as transparent as we can be about what a renovation like ours costs, I’m going to go step by step through our choices in this particular kitchen and some of the costs connected to it. Don’t forget what this place looked like when we started: this was not a cheap renovation, not one of those admirable, under-$200, work-with-what-you-have renovations. This was more like a spend-until-the-money-runs-out-because-we-have-to-start-from-scratch kind of renovation.
Our Costs:
  • Gas line: $200
    • The location of the gas line was about 3 feet to the left of where the stove now is. This is the one bit of the reno we let someone else do. Seriously, if you’re not familiar with the inner workings of gas systems, leave this one to the pros.
  • Plumbing and Electrical: $1000
    • We did a bunch. This stuff is part of the not-so-glamourous guts that adds up to a lot of money. We’re not exactly sure how much. I’ll admit, we have not been the best at keeping track of every single receipt.
  • Flooring: $1500
    • This one is hard to separate from the rest of the house renovation. We spent about $3000 on the bamboo and put it throughout the upstairs (except in the bathroom). It’s gorgeous and a much more economical choice than hardwood. However, I still drool over the thought of the hardwood we had picked out, a beautiful wire brushed dark wood with a strong grain throughout.
  • Cabinets: $2000
    • Of course, they’re Ikea! And I love them. I was a little hesitant about Ikea, considering the dressers, currently being stored in our garage, that started to fall apart after 6 months of owning them. These, on the other hand, see to be great quality and went together so easily. Everything you’ve heard about them is true. 
  • Appliances: $2500
  • Counter top: $2700
    • Silver Silk by Sensa Granite. I think this might be my favourite feature of the kitchen. I have been known to stand in the kitchen and stroke my counter top. Yes, it might be a little embarrassing to admit that.
  • Sink and faucet: $1000
    • Would you believe how difficult it was to find a sink and a half? For some reason, the three Big Boxes didn’t have any and even Ikea was lacking. Have they become so unpopular, such an unusual item? I refused to compromise on this one: I hate single sinks and full double sinks were much too large for our 30′ sink cabinet. So, we ended up splurging here, especially after our sink hunt forced us to visit Taps and we discovered the true extent of our options for a faucet.
  • Lighting: $250
    • We didn’t go crazy here. I love our pendant lights. Each was about $60, and the big central one was probably $70. Or something like that. The pendants are beautiful crackled glass that is so hard to take a proper photo of. 

And that is about it. Of course, there were a few more expenses, like building the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom, fixing the joists under the floor and all the ‘guts’ things. And the paint. But all of those expenses, like the bamboo flooring, are difficult to confine to just the kitchen. Were they kitchen fixes? Bathroom fixes? Living room fixes?

Ignoring the guts, this is our approximate total: $11150.  

Ridiculous? I don’t think so. Considering what we started with, I think we did pretty well.


Filed under kitchen, money

A Pre-Introduction Introduction

Happy Friday everyone! Who’s glad it’s almost the weekend?

(I’m glad it’s almost the weekend.)

Before we dive too deeply into a recap of our kitchen renovation, I want to talk about something else.

About a month ago, we were showing you lots and lots of photos of our basement and the basement apartment we added. There may have been a few allusions to tenants that we may or may not have found. We were trying to be sneaky and private on a blog that is all about sharing everything. I’m sure we didn’t do a particularly good job, especially when said tenants started leaving happy-excited comments whenever they saw a post about something basement related.

So, today, friends, I want to introduce you to our new tenant-friends and gush just a little bit about how grateful we are for the way things have gone.

See, back when we started looking for a house, a basement apartment just made sense. After all, a little extra money to help with our mortgage could go a long way to ensuring financial stability even in unlikely, unexpected and expensive situations. The more we talked about it, the more we researched, the more I came across horror stories, the more I got nervous.

But then, when we actually found J and D, all our fears and worries were immediately put to rest. The lease was signed at the beginning of August (no, we didn’t have the basement finished yet…) and for a month, J and I kept up a regular correspondence through email, Google chat, and Facebook. Was it possible that, in finding tenants, we’d also found friends?

From barbecues, to dinners at their table, to lunch at our counter top bar when I’m working from home, it seems we most certainly have.

Occasionally, when we’ve settled in for an evening, one of them comes up the stairs carrying a plate of goodies. Heavenly goodies. Goodies that make me want to gobble up all at once. (I practice restraint. Sometimes.)
The relationship between our tenants and this blog is up in the air right now. It makes me happy to know that at least one of the two reads it on a regular basis. But we are very aware that, while we’ve opened up our home and our lives to you, our readers, they haven’t. It is our goal to respect their privacy at all times.
All that said, you may not have seen the last of that basement apartment after all….


Filed under basement apartment, landlords

Join us on Facebook!

Just a quick post to point out a brand new button on our side bar. This Dusty House has a Facebook page! Come visit, watch a cute video of the pets playing, and click the Like button to keep up with each and every one of our updates!

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Filed under Uncategorized

A Belated Before and After: The Kitchen

About a month ago, I threw up some quick pictures of our kitchen just after our granite had come and the sink had been installed. I was just so excited, I forgot to actually share with all of you what our kitchen used to look like. Sure, you could go visit the In the Beginning tab at the top of the page, but really? I’m sure you’d much rather see the change side-by-side. So, here we go!

When we got possession of our house, the kitchen was terrible. Keeping a single case of Canada Dry Gingerale cold, a case that had expired in 2008 and had probably been there since well before that, the fridge roared. (Or at least, that’s what it seemed like that first night when we blew up and air mattress on the floor of the bedroom that was, at the time, just off the kitchen.) The stove no longer had any numbers anywhere on it to let you know temperatures, not to mention a thick coat of grime. It did work, but we never used it. We never used any of it.

It was a single line, tiny, terribly designed, useless. But, believe it or not, at first, we talked about working with the room as it was by bending the counter around the wall, potentially in both directions if we could figure out ways around the low window and the large radiator beside it.

Of course, that’s not what we did. At the same time, we were struggling with the design of the narrow bathroom. Working with the existing rooms was just not working for either crucially important element of our house. So, instead, we ripped everything out including the walls, closed up the window, ran plumbing along the exterior wall and built a 6 by 6 foot bathroom in the back corner of the house.

By moving the bathroom to the back of the house, we got it out of the way to rebuild our kitchen and living room as a single entity. Open concept is actually crucially important to me. I spend plenty of time in the kitchen. The Husband spends plenty of time in the living room. Having these two rooms separate did not work for our life-style. So, here we are today, open concept, updated, useful, beautiful.

Of course, there’s a few things that still need to be done. We need a hood for the stove and a backsplash for the wall. We need cabinet door handles or knobs. We need to replace the old bathroom window with a new kitchen window that doesn’t include frosted panes. I wouldn’t mind adding a piece of trim to the cabinet above the fridge to close the awkward gap, as useful a space for cereal boxes as it might be. We need to add a piece of trim to the pantry cupboard. We need to replace the erroneously added outlet cover by the stove.
And then we need to make something delicious. Something like cream of broccoli soup. Yes, I think that’s what I’ll do.


Filed under before and after, kitchen

On Rods and Shelves and Hangers: A Closet Wishlist

Yesterday, you saw our big empty, wasting-space closet. I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of organization we’d like to have one day, preferably soon. Unfortunately, I can’t have this:

Pacific Heights Residence traditional closet
That’s for the next house, once we’ve struck it big and won the 50 million Lotto 649. Right? (Better start playing…)
I could, however, have this:
Or this:
Or, perhaps, this:
Minus the lime green and the colour coordinated clothes. 
In all my research, this is what I have learned:
  • The world of closet inspiration on the blogosphere expects you to have a walk-in closet. At the moment, I have a walk-in closet. However, said walk-in closet is supposed to be another room of living space for us. I need inspiration for the non-walk-in closet! 
  • In order to have an organized closet, the more designated areas in the closet the better. The key to closets is compartmentalization. The more cubbies or designated rods, the better. 
So, what exactly do we need?
  • Three rods for me: one for tops, one for bottoms, one for dresses.
  • Two rods for the Husband: one for tops, one for bottoms.
  • Shelves for me for jeans, underwear and sock baskets, my jewellry box, bags, and, if possible, shoes.
  • Shelves for the Husband for jeans, underwear and sock baskets.
  • High shelves for extra linens, towels, and blankets — things we don’t use often.
So, friends, want to help me out? What do you love about you closet? What do you hate? Any words of closet wisdom?

Images: a) here b) here c) here d) here


Filed under closets, master bedroom

What’s in your closet?

Last week, Kerry from First Time Fancy commented on our bedroom:

Great work you guys! Must feel fantastic to have a finished bedroom with a proper closet! 🙂

It does feel fantastic. Having a proper bedroom is amazing. It’s small, but comfortable and, for once, I’m pleased with the colour we chose for the walls. What’s more, it feels good knowing that we don’t have to move our bed yet again and, yet again, get used to sleeping in another room. And besides all that, we put our winter duvet back on the bed which means it is, once again, a cloud of warmth and comfort.

No, I’m not a morning person. What tipped you off?

And this is where Kerry leads me nicely into my next topic: despite having built a closet into the bedroom, despite the fact that, on the outside, it looks like we have a proper closet, and a nice spacious one in fact, that particular matter has not yet been resolved.

As with many many old homes, our house was not built with closets in the bedroom. In fact, there was a grand total of one closet, a nearly useless thing in the back mudroom.

Note: I took these photos at 6:45 in the morning. No staging was done to make these rough spaces look their best. They are what they are.

Believe it or not, it’s deep enough to be a walk-in, and narrow enough to be awkward. This closet situation needed to be rectified and neither of us were big fans of wardrobes. We would have been content with free standing wardrobes had this been just another rental, but, since it’s not, we didn’t have to be content. Oh, what freedom. So, we built one!

Unfortunately, while that closet looks great on the outside, on the inside…

There’s a bit of leftover door trim and that’s about it. This closet is empty. We haven’t even fixed up the drywall and added the base board in here yet.

Oh, what a waste of space.

See, this past month, we’ve been taking it easy, recouping our resources and allowing our social lives to take over a little bit. Closet organizing systems are expensive and besides that, we want to get it right. We thought about throwing up a simple rod to get us started and allow us to use it in the meantime, but we are very aware that, should we take that step, we might never move past the simple rod. Six months down the road, we might not have our perfectly organized closet.

September’s not over yet, but I’m starting to worry we still won’t have a closet at all in six months…

Wait a minute — I’m sure you’re asking — where are you keeping all your clothes? Surely you have clothes…


Room Number 4, closet extraordinaire!

Any favourite blogosphere closets out there to give us a little push? We could definitely use some inspiration…

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Filed under closets, master bedroom, mudroom, Room Number 4