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Friday, November 12, 2010


As you may have guessed, nothing much is happening around here, house-wise. Don is in the final throes of a semester of taking three graduate courses at once (he's nuts), which leaves little time for renovation when combined with his recent promotion to team lead at work.

We had hoped to get the banister finished by Thanksgiving - it is, in fact, dismantled and parts strewn all over the guest room. But it is clearly not to be. Happily, we realized that since we hung the office doors, we finally have a space for overnight guests. And just in time, too. Both of my parents will be visiting (separately) around Thanksgiving, and finally they'll be able to stay with us, which makes a visit much more, shall we say, economically feasible. We'll set up the trusty aerobed in the office, shut the doors, and show them where the towels are kept.

In the meantime, we're taking a bit of a hiatus from working on the house. The pressure to have things done before the holidays has been lifted, giving us a chance to actually enjoy the holidays - we're finally going to have a Christmas tree this year! We're going to relax, enjoy our friends and family (and maybe the new Warcraft expansion) and pick back up in 2011. Don will be taking three classes again - ouch - but we have some relatively practical plans and we think we'll be able to get the last few glaring omissions in the house finished (bathrooms, anyone?).

So, you won't see me much in this space until January. I hope all of my readers have a great holiday season, and please - take some time out to enjoy your home!

Monday, September 13, 2010

worldly goods

I finally brought the rest of my books back from Washington. For the first time in ten years, all my books are in the same place! Looking forward to shelving the last of them as soon as the office is put back together from window trim work.

Friday, September 10, 2010

pocket doors redux

We've been working on these doors for months. They still aren't done. But, in a fit of realism, we decided that we needed to shift our priorities a bit. Finishing the antique doors we're retrofitting into pocket doors from the dining room into the office isn't the most urgent thing on our plate. Right now it's far more important that we get the stairwell banister refinished and rehung, so that the people who come to our house are safe and so that we can have overnight guests. So we elected to get the doors out of our work space (i.e. the guest room) and store them out of the way until we can get back to them to finally sand and paint them.

And where better to store them than in the 'pockets' they are intended for?

Yes, we hung the doors! Aren't they fantastic? They're really old, and really heavy, but we got hardware rated for doors even heavier, so it all works incredibly smoothly. Just imagine that the glass is clean and they're painted white!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

personal triumph

I've stopped biting my fingernails. It's kind of a big deal. I've been biting them pretty much my entire life, to the degree that the nail tip was generally over half an inch below the tip of my finger. Now they look like this.

Monday, September 06, 2010

finishing touches

Little bits and pieces of the house are starting to really look finished, like normal people live here who don't rip down walls and have dumpsters in the driveway for months on end.

Don's parents have been breathlessly awaiting the chance to give us The Plant, which has been residing in their dining room for several years. The Plant originally belonged to Don's older brother, who is in the Navy and away from home for long periods of time. After one such stint, he came home to see that The Plant had gotten rather dusty. Being a logical sort of fellow, he did what he did with most things that got dusty in his home: he vacuumed it. It didn't work out so well. Eventually he asked my mother-in-law if she could resuscitate it, and the somewhat worse for wear plant relocated to my in-laws' house.

When Don and I moved in together, into a small apartment with a friend of ours, we took The Plant. Don liked it, it seemed decorative and homey, and it looked lovely in our living room. Then we got a cat. The cat was convinced that The Plant was eminently scratchable, and we came home eventually to discover that a large percentage of its leaves had been turned into fringe. The cat stayed - even though she also ate a bamboo plant down to the roots and had many other misadventures, some chronicled right here in this blog - and The Plant went back to my mother-in-law, to nurse its wounds. In the seven years since, the cat has become a little more sedate (not much), but more importantly, The Plant has grown at least a foot, putting even its bottom leaves out of reach of certain members of this household. So it has finally moved to its new home:

Welcome home, Plant. Thanks for making our house feel a little more finished.

Friday, September 03, 2010

new furniture

It's very strange to not feel guilty about walking into a furniture store or art gallery, knowing that there's no way you can buy anything because you haven't got any place to put it. We're still getting used to not walking straight past places full of beautiful things, somehow unable to shake the feeling that this whole 'finished house' thing is just temporary, and soon enough we'll be back to no walls, no floors, and certainly no furniture.

Our most recent purchase is a set of living room accessory tables. We ordered the Madison set from Costco.com (whose customer service, by the way, is excellent - I like the website as much as I like the warehouse store). They are assembled and in place - the sofa table and one end table in the appropriate places by the couch in the living room, and the other end table put to use as a phone-holding station tucked into a corner of the office. I'm very happy with them.

Worth noting: the dish on the table is a piece by Charlton Glassworks in Washington, fused glass with a copper penguin inside. It was a gift to us years ago when you could only find Charlton's work at shows and galleries in Washington State - these days you can find it all over the country!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

a new hobby

Don has picked up an awesome new hobby - he is turning into a serious breakfast chef.

Every weekend morning lately I've been treated to something delicious. Pictured above is a tomato and goat cheese omelet (with herbs from our overgrown garden). Since then he's moved on to more complex things - this most recent weekend I got crepes with fresh strawberries and nutella.

This is his best hobby yet.

Monday, August 30, 2010

welcome home indeed

I went out to Washington for a week, to help my mom out while she had eye surgery. I thought that while I was gone, Don would eat fast food, go to baseball games, and play Starcraft 2 (PS: Starcraft LAN party, our house, later this year. It's happening!).

Instead, I came home to a total surprise: he had spent the entire week working on window trim, even going so far as to get his dad to come over on the weekend and help him. The result: every single downstairs window has trim!

As it turns out, it's really hard to get pictures of window trim in daylight. At some point I'll remember to get out the camera at night and take some pictures.

As of this writing, the two windows in the living room are completely finished except for a second coat of paint. The dining room bay window needs a final sanding and its two coats of paint, and the window in the office is missing one piece of trim, then needs to be puttied, sanded, and painted.

We are well on our way to the next step, which is getting blinds - something anybody who has sat at our dining room table at four in the afternoon will deeply, deeply appreciate.

Friday, July 30, 2010

window trim

Only one window has trim. But it's pretty! And I have high hopes that the rest of the windows might get trim, like, by the end of the summer maybe! Cross your fingers.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

last of the appliances

Our dishwasher finally lingered its last a couple of weeks ago. It was the last appliance left in the kitchen from when we moved in - the last appliance to die. We have been replacing appliances as they die with the high end appliances that will eventually look snazzy in our new, updated kitchen. Right now, surrounded by ancient cabinets and filthy linoleum, the sparkling stainless steel looks a little out of place.

But appliances are one of the huge, huge costs of renovating a kitchen, and by replacing them ahead of time as they've died, at the approximate rate of one a year, we've managed to spread out that cost so that it won't actually impact the payment we'll have to make when we finally get around to renovating the kitchen. They'll get used in the old kitchen for now, and when the kitchen is gutted and replaced they'll be moved into their new places of honor, and we'll be spared an even bigger bill.

The new dishwasher is a delight. We elected to go high-end but not super-super high-end -- we decided we didn't want to pay hundreds of dollars more just so that the buttons would be hidden, for instance. It's the same philosophy we went with on the other appliances, so everything matches nicely. And best of all, I only have to wash things once now, because it actually works, and we can have a conversation while it's running and actually hear each other, which is a new and different thing.

As for the rest of the kitchen, we're tentatively planning on next year, but as usual it depends on finances. If anybody has a large chunk of money they want to give us, I'll totally cook you dinner in the new kitchen.

Monday, July 26, 2010

the garden has gotten a little out of hand

This cucumber weighs three and a quarter pounds.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Sorry I haven't posted. We're in the dead of summer here - literally, as fifteen people have died this summer of heat-related causes in Baltimore - and it's hard to do anything but sit around appreciating the air conditioning. What little energy I have goes to work, as we are swamped and understaffed. Scheduling issues have meant that not a lot has gotten done on the house, anyway. But frankly, as long as the air conditioning keeps working, I don't really care.

Friday, July 02, 2010

for the nerds

Remember the big pile of dirt left in the driveway from filling the garden? The other day, Don announced that he'd finally figured out what to do with it:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

doors, continued

The door refinishing operations have been moved from under a tent in the backyard into the now-painted guest room, as the weather here in Baltimore has been horrifically humid for the last week or two - not the best conditions to leave untreated wood out in.

Once we scraped off all of the paint stripper and let everything dry out for a day or two, we borrowed a couple of power sanders from my father-in-law and Don went to work on the doors. At this writing, he has finished the first sanding, with 80-grit sandpaper, on the wide areas of the doors. The beveled edges of the inside molding are going to have to be done by hand - I think the best we can hope for is to take the top layer of varnish off and rough them up enough that primer and paint will stick well.

I think when we're done these doors will be beautiful, but they are a lot more work than I anticipated! I shudder to think that we still have to strip and refinish the stairway banister, as well as the (fortunately plainer) doors for all of the upstairs rooms.

Monday, June 28, 2010

meet the project killer

Hard to work on the house when you could be playing with this thing, let me tell you.

Friday, June 25, 2010

father's day brunch

Last weekend we hosted a Father's Day brunch for Don's family (my dad, alas, lives in Seattle, which is a little far to travel for brunch). We had eight people total, adults and children, which was down some from the numbers we hosted on Mother's Day, which required an additional table to be set out.

All this entertaining is really emphasizing our need for more permanent dining room furniture. (The need to remodel the kitchen is already a given!)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


One of the 'small' projects I'm really excited about is finally refinishing all of our doors. When we gutted the house, we saved all of the original doors and put them in storage (okay, our garage) until we were ready to start finishing the house. When we cleared out the attic, we were excited to find two more doors up there, that Don's dad told us had been original to the house but removed during one of the family's extensive renovations. They were french doors, solid wood with squares of beveled glass inset. They were painted a hideous shade of teal, but seemed to be in good condition.

The discovery of these doors actually changed our structural plan mid-construction. We had originally planned for the transition from the dining room to the office to simply be a large opening, like the one that goes from dining room to living room. When we found the doors, though, we decided instead to install them as pocket doors dividing the dining room from the office. A header and doorframe had to be built where there had been nothing before. Fortunately nobody grumbled too much.

So now here we are, with a mostly finished house, and it's finally door time! We decided to start with the office doors, both because they're the most complicated and because we'd like to get the main level finished as fast as we can, since it's more 'public' space.

We set up a tent in the backyard, got some sawhorses, and got to work.

The citrus-based nontoxic stripper we used worked wonders! Hardly a hint of the teal remains - or the other three shades we discovered under it. Next up we'll sand the doors down with increasingly fine grits of sandpaper (80, 100, and finally 120) and then prime and paint them to match the rest of the trim in the house. They'll also have to get squared up and have pocket door hardware installed - but after all that effort they are going to look amazing!

Monday, June 21, 2010


Lots of little projects going on around here - to the point, in fact, where we decided we needed to take a step back and do things one at a time instead of flailing around trying to get them all done.

In the meantime, here's a picture of the raised bed Don built me earlier this year. I'm not a very good gardener without some technological help - I am just awful at remembering to water. So we've put in a soaker hose, and it's working really well - this picture was taken about a week and a half ago and everything is a LOT bigger now. Er, except for the cherry tomato plant, which is mostly dead. I'm clearly better at growing herbs than actual vegetables.

In case you're curious, what I've got in this bed is:

-flat-leaf parsley
-three kinds of bell pepper
-two kinds of cucumber
-two kinds of tomato

The bed itself is about five feet by eight feet, and it's constructed of pressure-treated 2x12s, which are offset top and bottom and bolted into upright 2x4s in the corners. We dug out the edges of the ground in the spot we planned to place it in so that it would be level. Once we put the frame in place we did a little more digging and filling to get it as level as we could, then lined it with landscape cloth. We had some high-quality fill dirt delivered (too much, in fact, which is why there is still a pile of dirt in my driveway...) and lo! garden.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

because you need to know about her sleeping habits

The cat has finally deigned to sleep in the cat bed I bought her. After she ignored it for months, it had been tossed in a corner of an empty bedroom currently used as storage. Once I discovered she was actually sleeping in it, I moved it into our bedroom. She's very smug about it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

it's balticon weekend

This weekend I'll be selling Anapurna jewelry in the dealers' room at Balticon. If you're local, stop by! Balticon is geeky bliss.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

why they make warranties

The window in our master bedroom is cracked. It appears to be some kind of stress fracture, probably from the house settling.

It's being replaced next week, no issues, no charges. A man from the window manufacturing company came out to measure the opening, and a new piece of glass was ordered and is ready to be installed. Always, always get a warranty.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Putting primer up on the walls of the guest room this weekend:

Him, muttering as he rolls: "1... 3... 5... 7..."

Me, baffled: "What are you doing?"

Him, as if it should be obvious: "Priming!"


Monday, May 24, 2010

a little break

We went to the beach for Don's birthday, a little mini-getaway that we both needed. I found a great hotel deal in Ocean City, and we lucked into amazing weather all weekend. We came back tanned and refreshed (the cat was delighted to see us), and we're looking forward to trying to fit in a few more weekend getaways this summer on the few weekends we're not working on the house.

The above photo was the view from our room on the first day, complete with surfers.

Friday, May 21, 2010

more projects

We keep saying to each other, "Look! We just have normal homeowner projects to do now!"

And it's mostly true. We walk into Home Depot like regular people now, buy the materials for one small project, go home and do it. It's still weird. That said, our house is far from done. We've been so busy enjoying the finished feeling of the downstairs that it's been easy to ignore that the upstairs doesn't really look like Joe and Suzy Homeowners' house yet.

That's our guest bathroom. It's full of stuff. People keep mistaking it for a storage closet.

I really, really want to get the upstairs bathrooms done - or even just one of them - before the end of the summer. In order to do that, we've got to get the stuff out of the guest bath. Which means we need to complete the projects that the stuff is there for - i.e., get the three upstairs bedrooms primed and painted. Once that's done, the painting stuff will get put away - at least for a while - and we can clear out our "storage closet" and start tiling.

This would be a lot easier if I didn't hate painting. And tiling.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

how to make me happy

I would much rather be given bookshelves than jewelry. We've been planning to make one whole wall of our office into a giant wall of bookshelves for a long time, and I'm incredibly excited that we've finally gotten started. Originally, we had planned for floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves. We had hoped that Don and his dad could build them together. But we soon realized that if we waited for that to happen, our books would stay in boxes for a long, long time - and when I said we should move in to our house and start living in it, I definitely intended including the books. So we looked at other options. There are a couple of companies that custom build home libraries and bookshelf walls, but they are crazy expensive. So we downgraded our plan; we would get off-the-shelf (ha!) shelves, and just line the wall with them.

We discovered that IKEA's 'Billy' bookshelf system was the perfect solution. The system offers shelves in two widths, and has corner adapters to make the shelves fit into corners and continue along the wall. The shelves are seven feet tall, but they also sell extenders to make them taller. The system also has cute accessories, including various doors, lights, and even a ladder.

We bought our shelving system in two batches, to spread out the cost between paychecks (it wound up being about $650 total, if you're curious). The first batch was bought and assembled shortly after we moved in, and I gleefully unpacked all of our books, games, and little tchotchkes. Half is decidedly not enough - as you can see in the picture below, the books are stacked haphazardly wherever I could find room once I ran out of shelves. And there are still more books at my mom's house that belong here.

Fortunately, the second batch has been bought, and is awaiting assembly. Once all of the shelves have been assembled (the boxes below include a second corner set, another wide shelf to go along the main wall, and extender shelves for everything), Don's going to bolt the whole thing to the wall and to each other so that it's really secure and effectively built in.

And then I'll finally get to organize my books. I'm torn between organizing by genre, by fiction vs. non-fiction, or simply alphabetically. It's a good problem to have.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

living room detail

The throw blanket on the couch was a wedding gift. It's beautiful. We were almost as excited to get it out of storage as we were the couch itself.

Monday, May 17, 2010

childhood memories, and making more of them

A couple of weeks ago, we finally got what Don has been waiting for: a piano.

Specifically, the piano of his childhood. It's been sitting in his parents' dining room, unused except for whenever one of the grandchildren comes over and plunks around on it noisily. We knew from the start that when we finished the house it would come to live with us - and his parents were eager to have more space in their dining room.

Don and his dad made one futile effort to move it themselves - it didn't work. At all. So we hired piano movers, and for a very reasonable price they hup-hup-hup'd it out of Don's parents' house and into their truck, drove it ten blocks over and brought it right in our front door and over to its new home tucked next to the stairs.

Don says he'll have learned how to play it by Christmas. He has visions of himself playing while we all sing carols. I have a deep suspicion that in his vision, he's wearing a sweater. With red knitted reindeer on it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

it's don's birthday today

I'm getting him golf lessons.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

pride and joy

We spend virtually all of our time in the living room now. It's amazingly comfortable. That couch? My new best friend. It was worth every second of the rain-soaked nighttime frenzy that was moving it (for which my father-in-law is officially a hero - not that he wasn't before).

The couch was a miraculous buy at Costco. I'd fallen in love with a couch from Restoration Hardware that cost five thousand dollars. Don never had any intention of letting me buy it, sensible man. But one day at Costco (where I do a lot of my shopping - did you know you can get a pound of goat cheese there for five dollars?), I happened upon a couch that was nearly an exact duplicate of the one I loved. And it cost $700. I snapped a picture of it on my phone and sent it to Don, with many exclamation points. There were only three left. We bought it that day, and it sat in my (very generous) in-laws' basement for months and months, as our house was still gutted at the time.

It emerged unscathed from its tenure as a basement dweller, and now we love it. The cat likes the ottoman - otherwise known as Kitty Sofa Adventure Island.

The image above is the living room from the front door. You can see Don's pride and joy, our gigantic new TV. The only reason it looks a little small in the picture is because the room - and the couch - is huge. It's 55 inches. The room is actually so big that we elected to install two ceiling fans, which have already been put to very good use in the warm spells we've been having. The couch seats seven or eight people, which means that when it's just the two of us we can comfortably stretch out and enjoy the gentle breeze from the fans as we watch Mythbusters in high definition.

Just like in the dining room, we still need a few pieces of furniture and decor - a new sofa table, a storage bench at the far end of the room, picture frames and art for the empty walls - not to mention some sort of window treatment. But it's an awesome place to relax, and we're really happy with it so far.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

dining room detail

I don't think I can possibly relate in coherent words the amount of marital discord caused by choosing a chandelier for the dining room.

PS - all of the arguing was totally Don's fault. And I still wish there were a few crystals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

dining room

The plan for this summer is to try to finish off the house one room at a time, one weekend at a time. We'll start our downstairs projects in the dining room: it needs crown molding, window trim, and the pocket doors into the office to be installed (this involves stripping and refinishing the cool old doors we found in the attic, which are what will be hung as pocket doors).

We also really need a new dining room table and chairs. Right now we've got our old table from our first house, which was a tiny townhouse. We've got both of its extender leaves in it and it's still dwarfed by the size of the room. The folding chairs don't help, either.

But at least it's a table - shown here with the pink and white Mother's Day flowers from brunch on it. The huge bay window, even without trim and finishing, is just as nice as I imagined it would be when they were installing it. We've had several family events as well as our gaming group in the new dining room, and it's great. Dinner parties to come! (Also, curtains.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

let's pretend i was here all along

Oh, hello, dwindling blog readership. Is that you? I've been gone so long I hardly remember what you look like. Here's the thing. Lately, instead of working on our house, we have been living in it. It is AWESOME.

When last I wrote (in, uh, March, sorry about that), the floors were being finished up. After the flooring people cleaned up and left, we sat down and tried to make a cohesive plan to get the rest of the smaller tasks done so that we could finally move in. Things like crown molding, window trim, replacing the front door, etc. We just couldn't figure out a way to do it quickly while Don's graduate school classes were still in session. Turns out grad school is a lot of work, who knew? At the thought of waiting until his classes were over (last week, actually) to sit on my beloved still-in-storage couch, I may or may not have thrown a tantrum. Once I allegedly calmed down, we realized that there was, in fact, another solution: throw up our hands and just give up!

Okay, not really. What we decided to do was to move in with the house as it was - finished floors and walls, no window trim, no crown molding, unpainted upstairs, unfinished upstairs bathrooms, front door still unreplaced. We elected to just stop working on the house for the rest of the semester, to just move in and enjoy having a house that looked mostly finished even if we knew it really wasn't. We would pick back up as soon as classes were over, and hope to get the rest of the finishing stuff done this summer so that we could focus on the next big project we'd like to start (which involves filling the nursery upstairs). This way, we can finally actually live like normal people in this lovely house we happen to own.

So. We've been doing just that - living. And in the process, the house got really messy, because we are huge slobs, and then I was too embarrassed about the mess to take pictures of it for you all but also far too lazy to do more than cursory cleaning. We're, uh, looking into a cleaning service.

But! We cleaned the house up this weekend in order to host a Mother's Day brunch (a raring success, incidentally), and I took the opportunity while it was still clean this morning to snap a bunch of pictures. So I'm writing up a bunch of posts so you can see the house as it now is, and what there still is left to do. Don's classes are over, and we've got big plans.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

almost there

The baseboards are fixed. They look lovely. In addition to fixing the baseboards that needed fixing and installing the ones they hadn't gotten to yet, yesterday the flooring people installed the flooring and baseboards in the master bedroom. It is very, very strange to wake up and swing my feet over to a real floor.

We're moving our office tonight, and they're coming back tomorrow to do the very last bits - the guest room and finishing off the stairs. And they're going to clear up some of the dust, which is why I'm going to wait to take a picture until then, so you can all see the floors in a relatively clean state. Much prettier that way.

The need to replace the front door has moved to the top of our list of priorities, as the old one is set very low - so low, in fact, that right now we can't use it, as it would scrape the new floor. It's also practically falling apart, so we knew we needed to replace it anyway. But the giant piece of cardboard protecting the floor in front of it is pretty unsightly, and we need to be able to use it at least once in a while even if we do normally use the back, so we're bumping it up to the top of the to-do list. Don has to write a paper for one of his graduate school classes this weekend, but I'm hoping that next weekend he and his dad might be able to replace the door. We went to the store last night and picked out a lovely door, so the decision-making part is done.

Other things to do as soon as we can: window trim and crown molding. More on those later, I think.

Monday, March 08, 2010

one step forward...

I don't have any pictures today. Hopefully I will a little later in the week, but I was too busy to take any this weekend. We suffered a little bit of a setback on Friday, when we came home from dinner to discover that the baseboards had been installed in a hurry and had some pretty major issues - issues enough, in fact, to prevent us from moving our office downstairs as planned.

Essentially, the drywall in the office didn't go all the way to the floor. The drywallers assured us that it wouldn't be a problem, as the gap would be covered by the baseboards. While this is in theory true, the problem is that since there wasn't any drywall there, there wasn't anything to support the bottom half of the baseboard, and when the installers tried to nail them up, they wound up slanting inward at the bottom and looking all kinds of messed up. That was the major issue - there were a few other trouble spots that I think came from the installers doing the baseboards last, late in the evening and kind of in a hurry to finish.

So we called the flooring guy, who promised that a) he'd come out today and inspect and b) they would fix everything. He's not here yet, but his crew is, and they're already taking off the slanty baseboards in order to put some support behind them. They're also working on the master bedroom - they're perfectly willing to move the furniture in there around while they work, so we don't even have to move it ourselves. We do still have to move the office ourselves - they don't want the responsibility of moving our computers and all of the jewelry supplies - but it's a relief not to have to move the bedroom back and forth.

We plan on moving the office on Tuesday night (Don has class tonight until late, alas) and hopefully we'll still be completely done with the floors and baseboards this week. And I have to say - the baseboards might have been a minor issue, but the floors themselves look amazing. We were able to have our gaming group over on Sunday! It's an auspicious start.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

straight from the cameraphone

New stairs. (Cat installation priced separately.)

Friday, March 05, 2010

color choices

We went to Home Depot last weekend to pick up a few things and also get paint swatches to choose colors for the upstairs rooms. I told Don that it felt very strange to be looking at paint colors "for real" - rather than me just dragging him to go poke at them, when he isn't even close to ready to think about them yet because paint is such a long way off. He laughed at me and reminded me that we'd already chosen - and painted! - the downstairs colors, so I should be over it. I'm not.

Even more surreal - and this one is from both of us - is going to Home Depot and not having to park near the contractor entrance, or get a gigantic cart. We're not used to just walking in the doors like normal people yet.

Here's the color palette upstairs, minus the color on the landing (which is the same light brown/beige as in the living and dining rooms):

From left to right: Yellow for the middle bedroom, hopefully to be a nursery very soon; a warm gray with hints of plum for the guest bathroom; a purple-plum color called "Gypsy Magic" for the guest room; a deep greenish blue called "Nature Retreat" for the master bedroom, and a lighter shade from the same swatch for the master bath.

I hope they all look good on the walls!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

naming names

I was going to write a romantic paean to my electrician, but then I realized that it might be creepy.

Instead, I'll just note that I don't recommend contractors by name on this site until a) they've completed their work here and received their money and b) they have done such a good job that I have absolutely no hesitation in naming them. You'll note that up until now the only such name I've posted was the dumpster company.

That said, my electrician is Vince Madden from Madden Electric, and he is absolutely fantastic. Baltimore Magazine feels the same way. He (and his crew - ask for Miguel!) did an amazing job here, and we couldn't be happier. Call him. Use him. Feel free to tell him we sent you.

As noted by my plumber raptures in a previous post, there will be at least one more named recommendation to come here - but he's not done yet, so I won't publish his name publicly until our contract is complete. If you're looking for a plumber in the Baltimore area, I'm happy to recommend him privately - drop me an email at jamailac at gmail dot com and I'll give you his contact information. If you want to know which contractors I am NOT recommending, and why, I will also provide that information by email.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Once we'd painted the office, we realized (somewhat belatedly) that there was something else we should take care of before the floors came. When we ran the plumbing for the new bathrooms, we left the original stack in place. It was cast iron, and very large. So large, in fact, that for some strange reason it stuck out of the base of the office wall. We'd notched around in when we installed the subfloors, and told the drywallers to just cut around it if they couldn't get it flush. They did so, and we realized that it really looked much worse than we thought it would:

The original plan was to just leave it, since we intended to put bookshelves in front of that area anyway. But we've been revising our bookshelf plans now that the end is in sight, and there may not be one at that exact spot. And besides, what about when we go to sell the house? Savvy buyers won't be fooled by a strategically-placed potted plant - even if I was capable of keeping one alive long enough to get the house on the market. And, more immediately, we both hated it. And we live here, and will be doing so for a while. So we called our fantastic plumber, and asked him to come out and take a look. He gave us a huge break on pricing, and replaced not only the bit in the picture, but all of the ancient cast iron pipe in the basement below for several feet straight down and an extra branch out for a price that was seriously, amazingly low. And he did it the day after I called him. (Okay, it was the day after that, but he could have done it the next day if I hadn't had to go to the office.) We had to get it done really fast because the flooring was due to be delivered, and it was no problem. He and his crew are the absolute best.

Once they'd replaced the pipe with one that would fit inside the wall all the way down, I patched the hole in the drywall. You can see the patch in the picture below - it isn't repainted yet, but you can see that not only is there no gaping hole in the wall anymore, but the flooring installers will be able to install all the way to the wall. Everybody's happy.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

a studious color

Before the flooring was delivered, we made an effort to get the downstairs painted. As I mentioned before, we paid a painter to paint everything that is the same color, but the office gets its own color, so I painted it myself.

We chose an absolutely gorgeous olive green called "Carriage House" by Behr, and I think it's the perfect color for an office/library. It's going to look amazing with the brown floors and a big wall of brown bookshelves (can I tell you how excited I am about the prospect of unpacking my books?)

Monday, March 01, 2010

exciting things afoot

No pun intended in the title, but guess what's sitting in my dining room right now?


Hardwood flooring, baby! A lot's been going on here lately, and I've been really, really bad at keeping up. I'm getting some pictures uploaded and some posts written up right now, but I had to share this immediately. These boxes - and another pile the same size in the office, and a smaller one in the living room - were delivered this morning by our flooring guys. Installation starts Thursday morning. I snuck a sample out of one of the boxes so that you could all get a glimpse of the flooring we chose:

It's prefinished hardwood, three-quarter inch red oak in a color called 'gunstock'. Don tells me it's called that because it is in fact the color used for those wood bits on guns (clearly I am out of my depth in this discussion).

Things we looked for when we were choosing wood and color:

-Hardness. Not only am I the clumsiest person on earth, we plan on having children and dogs both in this house, so the floors have to stand up well. Don originally wanted pine, which is what his parents have, but for this quality oak was the way to go for us (we never had any interest in any of the exotic hardwoods, for what it's worth - they're not suited to the house or the neighborhood).

-Grain. We both wanted a strong grain - we saw a lot of wood with only a very light grain pattern, and it frustrated us because we want our wood to scream "Hey! I'm wood!" and not look like laminate.

-Brown but not red. I can't tell you how many times I've pointed at a wood sample and Don has wrinkled his nose and shaken his head, saying "Too red!" I love cherry wood and mahogany tones but I can see his point. The floors should be relatively neutral and go with whatever we choose to accent them with, and red tones don't always go with everything (ask my mother the redhead). If you ask me, the wood we wound up with still has a little hint of red (as you can see in the poorly-lit picture above), but it's brown enough to suit him finally and I love it, so we're happy.

-Prefinished. We're living here and don't plan on moving out - there's no way we'd be able to deal with having the floors finished here. There is nothing anybody could say to me that would outweigh the huge pro of ease of installation with prefinished wood. And the finish is guaranteed for far longer than we plan to be in this house - if the next owner wants to refinish them, fine.

A few other things swayed our decision on which supplier/installer to use, like warranty, wood grade, and of course price, but they weren't things that we went into the process determined about.

I'm looking forward to seeing this stuff installed! The plan is to complete the downstairs, stairs, and landing on Thursday and Friday, then have us move our office downstairs. That'll empty out two of the three upstairs bedrooms, which can then have their floors installed on Monday, whereupon we'll move our bedroom into one of them and the master suite will be finished off. Given our scheduling luck, I make no promises that it will actually happen that way, but that's the plan!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

oh, did i mention?

We have color.

We did something that we both thought we'd never do, and actually paid somebody to paint. A friend of our drywaller gave us a ridiculously good price to bring in his paint sprayer and spray all of the public areas (dining room, office, living room, stairwell, landing, and all the ceilings thereof) with primer and then roll on paint. Since the dining room, living room, stairwell, and upstairs landing all flow into each other with no breaks, we elected to paint them all the same color, and were able to take advantage of the deal.

We'll paint everything else ourselves, but I can tell you straight up that it was worth EVERY PENNY to have somebody else paint the two-story stairwell, which involved precariously balancing on a plank stretched from a ladder to the top of the stairs. Not my thing.

End result? It looks great, and has saved us a ton of time. Even better, we were able to get this huge amount of space painted before the hardwood floors are in, which makes everything easier. I plan on painting the last of the downstairs spaces - the office - this weekend. It's closed off from the open area, so it'll be a different color, which is why it wasn't included in the deal. It is primed and the ceiling has been finished, though, so it won't take much work.

PS - If you're wondering, the color we chose is Behr's Pecan Sandie, in eggshell. I'm very happy with it - it looks even better in person than it does in pictures, and picks up the natural sunlight we get an abundance of very nicely.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

not managerial material

Here's something I didn't think I'd be saying several months ago: I'll be really glad to get back to doing things ourselves.

Really. After the months (years) of DIY work to do the demolition, the subfloors, and the framing (et al), I was more than ready to have some contractors come in and work. But last night I handed the drywaller the last two hundred dollars of his fee and waved him out the door with sheer glee. I'm so tired of dealing with other people! Scheduling them, supervising them, PAYING them, dealing with fallout when they don't show up, pointing out their mistakes, getting them to FIX their mistakes, getting them to show up at all... I'm so over it.

We have just one more contractor to decide on and deal with: hardwood flooring. We have two estimates in, and two to go - last week's snowstorm derailed us a bit, with two appointments rescheduled and us stuck at home for a full week. Fortunately - and I don't mind a bit of a plug here - we live in Baltimore County, not the city, and our snow removal was beyond excellent. Our street was plowed early on for both snowstorms - the only thing stopping us from getting out was our own effort in shoveling the driveway. And the taxes are lower in the county, too. I'm just saying.

Anyway, we've got appointments today and tomorrow with hardwood flooring estimators, and we're hoping to make a decision over the weekend and get started as soon as possible. Once the flooring's in, we'll finally be able to live in most of the house again, which will be a new and different thing. There's a comfy couch sitting in a box in my in-laws' basement, waiting for me to take it out and sit on it. I'm very excited by the prospect.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

downstairs drywall

After many snafus, most of which have been documented in hysterical detail on my Twitter feed, the downstairs drywall is done. Here, have some pictures.

Standing at the foot of the stairs, looking into the living room and dining room:

What's making that weird circle of sunlight on the floor, you ask? Why, it's the awesome round window we installed in the stairwell! (Which, I might add, the drywallers did a really good job dealing with - it was definitely a challenge the way the window people installed it.)

In the corner of the living room (opposite where I stood to take the first picture), looking at the dining room and the doorway into the office, as well as a glimpse of the stairs. See that corner under the stairs? Don's parents' standing piano is going there, as soon as we get moved in. I'm excited about it (so are they - they want it out of their dining room).

Today we've got somebody here spraying primer downstairs. I've got appointments with three flooring companies, and will be making two more. Moving forward!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


In what seems like a whirlwind compared to their previous effort, the drywallers have been here all three days this week and the downstairs drywall is practically done. Seriously. We took delivery of the materials on Monday, the hanging crew hung it all on Tuesday, and the taping crew just left after taping and mudding the whole thing today. All that's left is a day of drying time, skim-coating (probably Friday), and sanding (probably Monday).

And, of course, fixing the problems. You didn't think it was all smooth sailing, did you? Fortunately, there's nothing so egregious downstairs as the window issues upstairs (beautifully fixed, by the way, for more money, of course). The biggest issue is that in the half-wall that divides the kitchen from the dining room, there's a little plastic thingie that protects the gas line that goes to the stove. The hanging crew didn't notice it, and just slapped drywall up over the top of it without realizing that it makes the wall bend out - and, more drastically, back in. The result is a relatively drastic curve in the wall that's going to make hardwood flooring an issue. We're going to try to get the drywallers to fix it, either by taking down the sheet and re-hanging it or, I suppose, by using copious amounts of mud to sculpt it back into shape. Whatever. That's really the only issue I have, although Don is dubious about a couple of other things. We'll see how things go.

Depending on how all this problem-solving goes, we could potentially be putting primer up on the walls as soon as next weekend, which is shockingly fast. I mean, shockingly fast for around here. I hear there are other renovations that get done in LESS than four years, can you believe it?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

drywall pictures!

So the drywallers are, in theory, done upstairs. In practice, they're not - they still have to come back and re-hang those window walls, which should be happening today or tomorrow. Then they'll be done. In any case, they're done enough to take pictures, which is what I know you've all been waiting for.

Looking in to the master bedroom from the landing:

Standing just inside the master bedroom door - when I took this I was basically standing in the doorway to the master bathroom, which is directly opposite the master closet, which is the door you see in the picture below (yes, the closet has a window!):

The master bathroom - or at least some of it. The drywallers have to come back here, too, to finish the area around the tub. The master shower is to the left of the picture - it doesn't all fit in one frame. The drywall in here is greenboard, which is a specific kind of sheetrock used for rooms that can get wet, like bathrooms. It's not the same as durarock, which is the cement board used behind tile (that's what's in the shower):

The middle (and smallest) bedroom, which will be a nursery - hopefully by the end of this year! (No, Mom, no news):

The back bedroom, which will be the guest room. Hard to take pictures of - I stood in the doorway to get as much in as I could. There's a sizeable nook in front of the closet you can see on the left, and the window is centered in the room, so that should tell you how much room didn't fit in the picture on the right:

And finally, the guest bathroom. Small, but serviceable. The nook behind the bathtub will get some sort of shelving built in for towels and toiletries, as the sink that's going in here is a pedestal to save room.