You know what’s kind of annoying, in both renovating and in wedding planning? Everyone loves to tell you that “______ is the single most important part of your reno/wedding.” (I think I may have ranted about this before, so sorry if I did.)

Planning a wedding, I’ve heard and read all of the following:

  • “Oh- the flowers are by far the most important part of your wedding. Your guests will definitely remember them!”
  • “Your invitations are critical. They set the tone for the entire event.”
  • “The bride’s dress is the ONLY thing people will remember.”
  • “The cake is the focal point and centerpiece of your wedding. Do not scrimp!”
  • “The favors are the ONE thing your guests will take home with them, so make them count!”

During the kitchen reno, I heard (both directly and indirectly):

  • “Don’t scrimp on the appliances- stainless steel is the FIRST thing people see when they enter a kitchen.”
  • “You’ll want to splurge on the cabinets- they are the very backbone of your kitchen!”
  • “You HAVE to get a nice sink and faucet. They are the focal point of a kitchen.”
  • “Don’t even THINK about not doing granite. Your counter tops are something you’ll have to look at forever.”
  • ETC.

Now, I happen to agree with some of those statements- or at least I think that some of those items are extremely important. But it really tees me off when people try to tell me what I should be placing at the top of my priority list. Suggestions are great. You guys know I’m needy and I love input. I guess it just really bugs me when people cross over from suggesting something to telling me what I HAVE to do. (And lest anyone get offended and wonder if you’re one of those people, rest assured that most of the bullet points are things I’ve read online from people trying to sell flowers/cabinets/wedding dresses/granite counter tops.)

Whew. Now that that’s over, I’ll get to something that I did in fact splurge on- custom kitchen cabinets.

I’m not above buying Home Depot stock cabinets. I’ve lived with them in apartments past and they’re great (and about half the cost of custom). And I’ll admit that the main reason I chose custom cabinets is because my kitchen’s layout presented a number of challenges that I think would have just been too hard to get around using standard stock cabinets.

There’s the exposed brick chimney that juts out into the room (requiring a shallower cabinet there), and there’s the weird fridguation (fridge situation). I also wanted some custom open shelving, and a bar with open compartments that could fit cute baskets. To truly make the best use of the 7’x9′ space with all its weird little annoyances, I think custom cabinets were necessary.

So splurge I did! (Although I saved a lot on the installation because my family is awesome and installed them for me.) But I don’t regret it, because for one thing the guy really helped me with some of my dilemmas, and since he sees lots of kitchens he helped me to know what most homeowners prefer- things like a nice pantry, even if it means a levitating fridge. Plus, he just did darn good work. He did a fantastic job of building everything exactly the way I needed it, and the quality of materials is wonderful.

I chose a clear alder with this kind of warm stain and I love it. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I splurged on cabinets. There, I said it.

Embarrassingly enough, I’d never cleaned the fronts of my cabinets because I wasn’t sure what to use. So I was pretty excited when the people at Scott’s Liquid Gold asked me if I wanted to try their wood wash concentrate. I said yep and they sent me some. Check out this nasty!

I diluted it according to directions and just sprayed it on and wiped it off with a dry rag. No streaks at all! And a pleasant smell, not chemical-y. My only quibble is that I may add more of the concentrate, because I had to scrub a little harder than I think I probably should. I’m not normally one to buy a different cleaner for every different surface in my house, but these cabinets were expensive, baby, and I’m not going to use just anything to clean them. I really trust that Scott’s isn’t going to gradually strip the finish or be too harsh. In short- I’m sold.

I don’t have an “after” photo because I’m still learning the art of taking pictures with no flash that don’t come out blurry (the tripod is at Stan’s house), but just imagine the above picture sans grossness.

Thank you Scott’s!

We did lots of stuff this weekend. Lots! Like, a few blog posts worth (don’t worry- I think it’s stuff you’ll actually care about).

But first, humor me by looking at this cute family photo taken on Antelope Island.

And look! We saw a coyote.

I promise, he’s in there.

But we didn’t just galavant all over the island this weekend. No siree. The biggest thing we did was turn the guest bedroom from a storage unit (nope, no before pics- even I am too ashamed) into a functional room. Stan had to go all Niecy Nash on my A, but it was worth it. However, I’ll post about that later.

First, some catch- up. Remember way back way back when when I made a Roman shade out of some $4 Target blinds? And then I never hung it up? And it hung around my house forever bouncing from the storage unit guest room to the living room to the desk to the dining room table and then back to the storage unit guest room? Were you there?

Oh. Well I was.

Anyway, one of the small annoying tasks we completed this weekend was hanging that sucker up. And even though it turned out rhombal (Stan says “rhombal” isn’t a word but that doesn’t stop me from using it- now that I think of it, the word is actually “rhomboidal”. Huh) I am NOT taking it down and fixing it. No siree no way. I’ll just leave it pulled up the majority of the time, and no one will ever know of it’s unsquare ways (except the interwebs that are reading this).

Whoops- we still have some touch-ups to do.

If you’d like to make your own Roman shade out of mini blinds, check out Little Green Notebook’s post for instructions.

Oh! And we also took some pictures to update the Tour, so check those out. We used Stan the Man’s fancy DSLR camera for your viewing pleasure.

Did everyone have a good weekend? Productive? Non-productive?

Remember when I posted this picture of my new workshop, and told you I would tell you more about the whole kitchen’s worth of cabinets I got for free? Well thank your lucky stars, today is your day.

These are the same cabinets before Kristin went a little overboard with the Mexican theme and painted them bright orange:

They were original to her 1985 townhouse, so when she had the opportunity to get all new cabinets, she took it. (And her kitchen looks awesome! If only she would update her blog…) In exchange for our labor of removing these old ones, she let Stan and I take them for free. Wahooo!! They’re nothing fancy, that’s for sure- and 25 years old, but they’re sturdy and solid and we have a few ideas for them.

Idea #1

Finish the basement into a little apartment to rent out and use these in the kitchen. I think I could add some trim just like Daniel did to his bathroom vanity, slap a couple coats of white paint on them, and these babies would be lookin’ mighty fine.

Idea #2

Build a new garage and use these in it. Old (free) cabinets are awesome as storage/workbenches in a garage and these ones are sturdy enough to do the trick.

The fate of the cabinets probably relies mostly on what we put at the top of our priority list. A basement apartment would be nice because that’s an income generator. (Both of my brothers have done this with their “starter” homes and it’s worked out well for them. And yes there would be a separate entrance. I put the laundry room in a spot where it could be shared with the basement and the upstairs. If we needed more space in a few years, it would be easy enough to take the cabinets out and convert the kitchen space back into a living space- same goes for future buyers.) But a new garage would be awesome as well- a place to park a car out of the snowy weather! An awesome workshop!

Both would add to the value of the home, but I’m thinking the basement may be the smarter financial move. I’ll just put this on the “dream” list, and meanwhile the cabinets have a good life hangin’ out in the basement.

I’m making a Roman shade (note to self: google “Why are Roman shades Roman”).

I started with some $3.99 mini blinds,

Gave them a slat-ectomy,

And glued (yes, glued) some fabric to them.

There is a problem though. Apparently someone slipped some drugs into my huevos rancheros, because I somehow glued the heavy bottom piece on all lopsided.

On this side, the fabric comes out farther than the plastic piece:

On this side, the plastic piece sticks out:

I don’t have any idea how such a tragedy happened, nor do I know if it’s worth my time to peel off the piece and do it again. Sigh… I probably will though. I got two opinions on the matter.


It's fine! no one will notice it.


Stink eye

Who’s right- Carrie or Wendy?

PS- I stole this idea from Little Green Notebook– and she has much better instructions than I do, if you were so inclined to make one of these yourself.

Today over at Yellow Brick Home, I am… wait for it… GUEST BLOGGING!! Sorry, but I was excited. Srsly guys, they have such an awesome colorful home and after (AFTER- ME FIRST) you read the post I wrote, you should check out their tour. F’rills, it’s one of my faves.

Ever wonder what happened to these?

Click here to find out!

After I excitedly told you about my new pot rack, I promised to “fill you in” (ahahaha) as to what we did to “fill in” (ahaha) the ugly hole.

This is what it looked like before:

And this is what it looks like now:

A close- up:

Quite a while ago, Stan found me this pretty old heat grate at a salvage shop. He spent hours stripping about 30 layers of gunky paint from it, then spray painted it. He also got a piece of thin plywood, cut it to size, and spray painted it silver to go behind the grate. Then he screwed both of them into the chimney with masonry screws while I took a nap. It was wonderful. I tried to paint the blue masonry screws, but it looks like they may need another coat. Oh and that yellow stuff in the “before” picture is Great Stuff- just a spray insulation foam, since the ugly hole pretty much opens to the outside.

No more ugly hole!

Is a pot rack too weird of a thing to love? I really do love them. First of all, storing pots and pans in a cabinet is really annoying, and they all bang around when you try to get out the second-to-biggest one out. (Hey, sometimes really stupid things really get on my nerves.) I’ve always dreamed of the day when I could “fetch a pitcher (pot)” just like Wesley does for Buttercup in the best movie of all time.

I had the perfect spot to hang one- right on this gnarly brick chimney that I had painstakingly uncovered from underneath a bunch of plaster.

My dreams were about to come true when I spotted this beauty from Ikea for $15:

However, the thing is 31.5″ wide, and my brick chimney is only 30″ wide. I spent a lot of time holding the rack up to it anyway, trying to see if a genius plan would pop into my brain. I even considered taking a hacksaw to the metal rods, and I would have done it, but the threaded nuts are stuck into the ends of the rods, so I would have cut those off. Stan said that we could still hacksaw it and just epoxy in new nuts, but with my to-do list already a gazillion miles long I just didn’t see it actually happening.

Then I got a brilliant plan. A somewhat pricey plan, but one that would work.

See, Ikea also sells these single rails at a much more acceptable length of 20″.

And they have the exact same threaded nuts in the ends. So all I had to do was buy 6 of them! This is where the pricey part comes in. At $7 a pop I spent a total of $42 on these, plus $15 for the original, bringing the total to $57. That’s actually still a pretty good price for one of these babies compared to what I’ve seen elsewhere, but alas more than the $15 I thought I was originally going to get away with. Oh well. (I will still be able to use the six 31.5″ rods with the six pairs of single brackets elsewhere.)

I assembled the shelf, then Stan the man used his fancy masonry screws to bolt that sucker to the wall. Then we hung the pots.

Woo hoo! Someday I will have gorgeous heavy copper bottom stainless steel pots, but for now these remnants from roommates past will have to do. And yes, the range hood is still serving as a coffee table in the guest bedroom, and may still for a while now… there are too many other things to do that require good weather, and I think that will take an entire afternoon.

Stay tuned to see what we did with that ugly hole!

Update: I fixed the ugly hole!

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!

Mistakes- we’ve all made them. Whether it was dating the guy in 9th grade who wore the matching Adidas track suit to school every other day (and that was probably his least-bad quality), or just burning the toast, I know I’m not alone here. (Am I?)

Back when we were doing a major overhaul in the kitchen of all things electric (before the cabinets, floor, etc.) we measured where the new bar was going to go, and where these hanging bar lights should go. So just so we’re clear, when we were figuring this out, the bar didn’t actually exist yet.

So we drilled two holes in the ceiling based on our measurements, and put some of those blue round thingies in there for the time being.

Well I’ll be damned, but we were wrong! After the bar went in, I realized that somehow we had misjudged where these things should go. I hemmed and hawed about whether I could just get over it, but I knew that it would end up driving me nutzo having them be that close to the shelves and that far from the stools.

So we moved them, leaving two fabulous holes in the ceiling.

Holes in walls/ceilings ain’t no thing ordinarily. Check out some of these doozies from before I moved in.

But these are (cue serial killer music) ceiling tiles! Dum dum duuuuuum. First of all, I know, I hate them too. But not as much as I hate the thought of sheetrocking the ceiling, so stay they will for now.

I searched high and low for some matching ones, but would be believe these babies are pretty hard to find? True story. So we had to turn to our best friend joint compound to get the job done.

Looks great, eh? After several coats of that, it was time to work some magic with a sanding sponge. Holding it at an angle, I skillfully sanded lines out to try and blend it with the other lines.

Skillfully may be too strong a word.

The lines are crooked, but the ceiling tiles themselves aren’t the most perfect things either, so I’ll just say I did that on purpose.

Jonny came over to spray on some spray texture, and honestly I wouldn’t know about this little mishap unless I knew what to look for.

The texture needs a light sand and a quick coat of paint, and I also need to clean the texture off of those “medieval boob-looking things” as Jonny calls them.


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