Dining Room

I’ve been digging the secondhand shopping here in Oz. A few tricks of the trade I’ve learned: The thift stores aren’t that cheap, Gumtree (Craigslist) is just as good as it is back home, and Ikea is still a good standby if you can’t find anything else.

Here are some chairs I found and fixed up from the local Salvos (Salvation Army):

They were 20 bucks each, which I didn’t think was too bad. I figured I could give ’em a coat of paint and they’d be as good as new. Upon further  inspection (as always) I realized they were going to be more work than I thought.

I love natural wood, and at first I thought I would refinish them. But the veneer was chipped and generally in bad shape and it would have taken hours of patience to patch them with new veneer pieces. Since they’re not antiques or anything, I decided to introduce them to my friend, spray paint.

First, I squished some wood glue in between the peeling veneer and the chair and clamped it:

Then I went back and, using wood patch, filled in the nicks and dings as well as I could:

Sneak peak to this same angle all patched and painted:

Then I gave them an allover sand so my primer would stick better.

They each took a whole can of $16 Zinsser stain-blocking primer, at which point I realized this “cheap little makeover” might not be as cheap as I thought.

After a couple coats of paint, I realized my patch job still left something to be desired in some places, so I went ahead and patched over the paint. It turned out fine, but next time I’ll know that if I’m dealing with super old dried-out veneer that looks like it was painstakingly peeled off by a bored kid in time out, I need to patch it better. They ended up requiring three cans of Circus Yellow Dulux spray paint at $11 each. So the total for these chairs was over $100. This fact is a bit painful considering you can easily find chairs for $50 apiece, but these are unique and they’re mine so I love them.

Here they are again, my sunny little beauties!

For now, I kind of like the brown leather cushions, so they’ll stay. Now what is this scene missing… oh yeah, a table! It’s hard to find a teensy table that’s small enough for a 2-person breakfast nook, so the search continues, as do our meals at the coffee table.

There ya have it! My first project down under.

Yesterday was our six-month wedding anniversary. Sweet huh? Also, where does the time go??

I never did share these little cuties that we got on our honeymoon in Mexico- one of our only souvenirs. These were the perfect blend of sentimental and functional, since we needed S&P shakers anyway.

It seems obvious to me that red is for pepper (spicy) and blue is for salt (like the sea) but no one else seems to get that! Ah well.

Our souvenirs tend to be somewhat functional/something we needed anyway, like our Canadian pillows. But I want to hear about your honeymoon/special trip souvenirs!

Stan is slowly starting to get his stuff moved into my (almost our) house. Not that he has a ton of stuff… the man is practically a snail. (Get it? Because he could carry his home on his back. That metaphor was totally sub-par.)

But still, a stack of books here, a bike  there, it’s nice to get a head-start. Especially since his lease is up two days after our wedding, at which time we’ll be sunning ourselves in Mexico. And no, he can’t move in beforehand. 😀

We found a little nook for his bookshelf and filled it with our most interesting books, since it’s out in the living room and we want people to be impressed by our unique and though-provoking reading selection.

You’ll also notice that Stan swapped out the prints in those frames for some instant DIY pressed flower art with flowers from our yard (snow in summer). They haven’t molded yet, and they’re a nice change for spring.

Anecdote: See that ceramic pot? That appeared on my porch one day, out of nowhere. Inside was a paper booklet of the Gospel of John. It’s definitely a hand-thrown pot. Any ideas? Is there a Christian group out there that gives away handmade pots with various Gospels inside? It’s a cool pot and a handy way to take some Biblical reading on the go, so I’m not complaining- just curious.

In another corner, I sold the cute little desk that was here.

(See what it looked like here.)

I loved that desk, but all it did was acquire crap and was never used as an actual desk. It went to a little girl who will hopefully do lots of homework and art projects on it. What we really need is something we can put Stan’s sweet 70’s stereo and speaker on. He’s not convinced this is the best spot for a stereo, but I am. 🙂 Maybe a credenza? A sideboard? Another piece of furniture that no one besides house bloggers knows about?

It’s exciting to see my house start to fill up with his stuff, and to know I don’t need to return anything to his house (Staaaan that cookbook has been sitting here waiting for you to take it home for weeks!). Plus now I can really start to hold him accountable for not putting stuff away.

I have some more stuff to say about how excited I am to marry this man and start the next chapter of our lives together, and how I’m excited to get to do his laundry (NOT! lol) but my brain is drained. But for serious, I love this guy. He makes the stress of the wedding worth it.

…and by “new”, I mean “was built or updated after electricity became a standard feature”… then you probably take certain things for granted. Like for instance, you come home with your arms full of groceries, you unlock the door, and you switch on a light that illuminates your path safely to the kitchen. You do not come home with your arms full of groceries, unlock the door, and trip over your cat and kick several pairs of shoes across the room because you can’t see anything until you reach a switch halfway across the house.

If you can’t tell, I get the latter experience. But this weekend, that all began to change.

See, the only switch by the front door was for the porch light.

But just like Ariel, I wanted more.

I wanted to be able to switch on a light inside my house the instant I walked in the door. Is that so much to ask? This would normally be a piece of cake to take care of, but my house is a double brick walled beauty. Brick is hard. Brick must be dealt with using big, powerful tools, like angle grinders and frightening looking drills.

Not my piddly $30 Harbor Fart drill. After considering our options (one being a low-voltage impulse relay system- basically running teeny wires discreetly next to the trim, that when switched, tell the bigger wires to turn on the lights) we (and I use the term “we” loosely) decided to dig a trench in the plaster and brick, lay some conduit in there, and thread solid wires through there (not romex, because romex is big and our conduit was only like an inch around or something).

is bigger than

Since I wanted four switches- one for the dining room chandelier, one for the living room, one for the porch light, and one for a switched exterior outlet (for Christmas lights, hence the switch, but also for other yard tools) there was just not enough space to run all that romex. I do not really understand how it works, but somehow, you can get away with using the little single wires rather than the triple-wired romex for each switch. I just nod my head.

Manly Stanley used a turquoise colored pencil to draw where we should dig the trench. He’s so artistic.

Then, we trenched that SOB. We trenched it good.

The jolt at :06 was when a large number of sparks flew onto my hand. Ouchie. You can see that we’d do some grinding, then some chiseling. Not the first time I’ve chiseled some stuff.

Here it is, ready for conduit:

Side note: Did you spot the conduit that’s already there? (If not, are you blind?) We had a brief moment of excitement that we could possibly use that instead of trenching for some new stuff, but alas we could not get the old wires out. Ah well.

Here’s Stan’s dad, feeding the pretty blue new conduit up into the attic:

We color-coded the wires before fishing them up through the conduit.

It’s… beautiful!

Next up was hiding the conduit, using some Fix-All and some plain ol’ brick mortar, since we’d knocked about one too many bricks loose and wanted to provide a little more structural support.

Here’s Stan hiding the evidence:

And here’s how it looks right at this very moment:

That’s some intense mortar, huh? Hey, we didn’t want the wall to collapse. And no one should be needing to fuss around with the 4-gang box anytime soon- the conduit offers the flexibility to fish wires in and out if need be.

All that’s left to do now is patch and finish the mess, hook up the switches, and do some more stuff in the attic (I am usually not very involved in that part, so I’m not sure exactly what.) Then, my friends, I can walk in the house and flip on a switch to illuminate my way straight to the fridge. Mmm… leftover Indian food.

Once we had all the conduit buried and the wires run, I turned to Stan and said “It’s sick to think how easy this would have been if we were dealing with sheetrock, isn’t it?” Seriously, the three of us spent about 4 hours on this. If it were a sheetrock wall, it would have taken… oh, ten minutes? But ah, the joys of living in an old house.

Not to hype it up, but I can’t resist an opportunity for a good (or not so good) pun.

This is how my living room looked before. I know the wood floors look ok here, maybe even charming, but that’s because I don’t know how to take a decent photo and the bad photography covers up the worst parts.

I didn’t just apologize to my readers for not saving these old cheap hardwoods- I also felt it necessary to apologize to any future laminate-haters that might one day own my house:

I have no regrets.

It’s so light and bright and finished in here, and the floor actually looks clean after I clean it. I have to thank Chelsea over at This Fresh Fossil, because I totally copied her floors. Yep- exact same brand and color. I scored them from Costco on sale, too- for over 25% off, bringing the total to $1.25 per square foot. Not too shabby, especially with pre-attached underlayment and easy-click and general high quality. (Note- it’s not a difficult installation per se, but they don’t just click together like legos, either. It takes some finagling.)

And yes, as you can tell, I spent a considerable amount of time sitting on the floor today enjoying/taking pictures of my new floors.

As you all know, this carpet transition has bugged me pretty much since day 1:

Well, look at me now!

Don’t mind the mess and unpainted cold air return grate.

And I’m not the only one who’s had an annoying thing that bugs the crap out of me. My friend Carrie has mentioned (multiple times- okay I get it Carrie!) that she wished I’d do something about the unfinished edge of the tile between the kitchen and dining room.

Carrie, this one’s for you!

I can’t figure out how to rotate this thing, so sorry. You get it though.

I swear the trim is taking almost as long as the flooring itself. Or maybe that’s just because I’m tackling it after work when my brain is already fried. The piece above was a real beyotch, especially for someone like me who’s rusty on their geometry. Yeah ok, Stan had to come take over, which made me cry. Ahh well. It’s coming, guys. I really really hope to get this project done this weekend!

This is all I have for you today. We got all of the flooring down, but we still have all the trim and molding to do.

Is it weird that one of the things I’m most excited about is that this is an opportunity to replace nasty things like this transition piece into the hallway?

Also note along the very bottom edge of the above photo, the deep gashes and gaps. I just didn’t want to deal with all of those (and there were many) even though I still feel slightly guilty for covering up real wood with laminate. To read more about me defending the laminate over the wood, you can read this post.

The molding will probably take at least a few more days, because I have this pesky thing called a day job. I’ll try to get it done asap though!

See, aren’t they beautiful?


No, of course they’re not installed yet. But could I resist telling you about them? Of course not.

I think the floors are the last big thing about my house that when you walk in you go “Oh, cute- oh nice, I like what you’ve done with the- oh wow, you could really use new floors.” Hopefully after they are installed, all you will see is “cute!” (Since I’m not a hoity toity designer, I don’t aim for words like “esquisitely designed” or “flawlessly executed” or “wow your house should be in Architectural Digest”. I’m thrilled when people say “cute”.)

Now listen, guys. I feel like a real jerk, because a few months ago I made a poll asking for your opinions on what to do with my floors (refinish, replace, cover up, etc). And I appreciated each and every one of your answers- I really did. Why then, am I doing the opposite and putting in all new laminate wood-look flooring?

Well, a few reasons.

  1. I want to get this done, and the thought of pulling everything out and hoping for good weather for 3-5 days while I refinish is just too daunting.
  2. The gaps. I have no doubt that these floors could be made to look really, really nice. But the gaps bug the crap out of me. Every time I sweep or mop, extra dirt gets pushed into the gaps and it’s really annoying to get out. Plus when I’m barefoot I’m always nervous I’m going to step on a gap. I thought about patching them, but most people I talked to said that the patches pop out and they’ve just resigned to having gaps. I don’t like gaps.
  3. The existing wood is no treasure. It’s thin and brittle and was low quality to begin with, so I don’t feel that bad for not rescuing it.
  4. Laminate is a good choice for my neighborhood. New real hardwood would definitely outprice the house for the ‘hood.
  5. A few friends of mine have wood-look laminate, and I really like it. To the untrained eye (ie. the eyes of people who don’t spend their days reading house blogs and visiting Home Depot every waking minute) it looks pretty real. And to the trained eye, it still looks pretty good.
  6. If I had wood floors, I’d be afraid to wear heels on it or let the dog go across it with her big ol claws or move the couch around. I know that laminate needs to be cared for as well, but it seems a little less scary than wood to me (especially since the price is so much lower).
  7. Since they click together and don’t require glue or nails, I don’t feel bad about putting them over the existing wood floors. Someday, a future owner can pull up my laminate and say “What were they thinking covering up these wood floors??” I like to think that someone after me will have that pleasure.

Anyhoo, I had admired Chelsea over at This Fresh Fossil‘s floors before, and one day inquired what brand they were. She kindly responded that they were Harmonics Harvest Oak from Costco. Like the true copycat that I am, I went out and bought it. Plus, it was over 25% off, so it was only $1.25 per square foot. Not bad, my friends- not bad. Including tax and an extra box, it cost me $450.

I’ve been playing around with them a bit, and trying to decide whether to keep the direction the same as the current wood floors.

Option A- same direction

Option B- opposite direction

I’ve pretty much made up my mind to stick with Option A and keep it the same direction, but feel free to weigh in with your opinions anyway. 🙂

I periodically misplace my camera. It’s always somewhere in my house, or maybe my car, or maybe hanging from a fence post in the back yard. When that happens, you guys are stuck with “before” pictures taken with Photo Booth. Sorry about that.

Anyhow, here’s how the little corner office area has been looking. Not very organized, and not very office-y. (And yah, the pic is backwards because of the nature of Photo Booth, and because of the nature of me to not take the time to open it in Photoshop and flip it.)

My sweet parents had some extra shelves that they weren’t going to use (in Oklahoma!) so they sent them out here with some friends  who happened to be making the 1000+ mile drive. Their troubles were worth it in my opinion!

Where the red tree is, I was originally going to do something like this that I saw in (where else?) the Ikea catalog:

But I already had the tree from (where else?) a roommate past, and I figured that with clothespins it could make a cool little bulletin board of sorts. I already had all of the other crap too, and it was like Christmas going down in the basement and taking it out of boxes. Yeah, it’s all kind of a bizarre mish-mash of stuff that I’ve gotten from my grandma’s house and other relatives, but it was all free and has some degree of sentimental value.

Before I really start using it as an office area (or at least a mail sorting area and home base for my computer and shredder) it needs electricity. That’s on the to-do list! But it will probably have to wait until the weather turns cold, since the yard is being such an attention hog at the moment.

Also, I don’t really like all that black. What should I do, blog world? I think it’s a pretty cool little desk (although it’s not the most comfortable thing) but the black just sucks all the light out of that corner. Should I paint it white? White with blue handles? Should I paint the shelves? Here it is in context (an older pic):

I’m leaning towards painting it, but I’m just not sure what color.

Also, does anyone have a good mail sorting solution? Mine currently piles up on the table and pisses me off.

A house tour update has been a looooong time coming. There hasn’t been any significant progress in either of the bedrooms, but I looked at my Tour page the other day and was cringing at the pictures of the living room, kitchen, and bathroom. Though they are an improvement since the pictures from Day 1, those rooms are looking much better now. And let’s be honest- my house is never all camera-ready all at the same time, so I’ll just do it in increments. I have approximately one million billion finishing touches to complete, but I’m just going to look right into the face of fear and post the updated pics anyway in all their imperfect glory. You can find my updates below, but to find a couple more “along the way” photos, feel free to click “Tour” at the top of the page.

View from front door

Day 1

11 months later

Living room

Day 1

11 months later


Day 1

11 months later


Day 1

11 months later

Other side Day 1

11 months later

What a long, strange trip it’s been. I feel a little guilty for not being even further along (as I type the basement still reeks of crackheads and dogs, and the back yard makes me want to cry). And amazingly I’m not just fishing for compliments, although those never hurt anyone either. 🙂

I’ve learned a lot about myself through this process: I’ve learned that sometimes I have to depend on others, because they know more than I do (hard to believe, I know). But I’ve also learned that I am capable of more than I thought I was. Crazy Jonny’s “get shit done” attitude has been surprisingly enlightening, and Stan’s methodical thoroughness has driven me insane at times but also kept me grounded (and probably safe). I didn’t mean for this to turn into an emotional Miss America thank-you-speech style post, but damn it, it makes me want to cry thinking about all the help and encouragement I’ve gotten along the way. I’ve been pissed off enough to storm off and go trouncing through the neighborhood at 1am mid-kitchen-remodel, and I’ve shed more than a few tears on this ol’ dump of a house, but in the end I would reluctantly say that yes, it’s worth it. And thank you all so much for following me along while I blog about it. Every time I get a comment you’d think the Easter bunny visited, for crying out loud. So keep ’em coming, and let’s see what the next 11 months brings!

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