Bathroom Makeover: Finished!

Hey, our bathroom is finished! As I mentioned when I first shared my bathroom makeover plans, my goal was to replace the glaring features that made the bathroom look really dated/cheap: most notably, the paint, mirror, and sink. Eventually we’ll do a full bathroom renovation (that granite tile is not part of my forever plan), but making some changes now will keep me happy with this space for several years to come.

The upstairs landing is looking much better since you last saw it, with a rug, snake plant, and framed photo. I’ve had the IKEA VITTEN shag rug for a long time now, and it’s held up surprisingly well. Snake plants are unkillable – this one gets indirect light from the stairwell window, and that’s keeping it alive just fine.

Before:
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After:
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And here’s what the bathroom looks like now:

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Before:
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After:
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Before:
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After:
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Obviously, erasing that red was an easy win! (The walls are now Behr’s Irish Mist.) Less easy: replacing the sink. Installing the IKEA HEMNES vanity was difficult for a variety of reasons, which I’ll detail in another post. But it was ultimately worth it: it’s the perfect size, I love the storage drawers, and good riddance to that terrible pedestal sink.

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To be honest, I’m not totally in love with the eucalyptus wall hanging I made. I preserved the eucalyptus with vegetable glycerine (following this blog post’s helpful instruction), which has kept it flexible and intact, but it’s become less green and more reddish brown over the past couple of months. I do like it for bringing some different texture and shape into the bathroom, though. And, if nothing else, it was fun to braid string and embroidery floss.

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Preserved plants are no match for live, verdant ones. The window ledge is a great spot for plants that I’m starting from clippings.

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I swapped the existing light fixture for a mini-sputnik style chandelier from West Elm.

Before:
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After:
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Aside from the vanity, my favorite change is the mirror. The Linfield pivoting mirror from Rejuvenation is perfect: beveled edge, rounded corners, and remarkably well-made. I hope to use it for decades.

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The abutting doors were a hassle, so I replaced the closet door with a curtain. And, I swapped the door’s hinges and knob for black metal ones: small changes that made a big difference.

Before:
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After:
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More details about the bathroom closet changes can be found in my previous post.

Before:
Bathroom Closet Before

After:
Bathroom Closet After 2

 

The Relax sign was replaced by a photo my brother took of my aunt and uncle’s pecan grove in southwest Missouri.

Before: 
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After:
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That’s all I got for now! I’ll close with the product sources; you can also see them gathered together in my previous post.

Basement Laundry Room Before and After

When we bought our house, the basement laundry room area was thoroughly gross and rather dangerous. It is significantly less gross and dangerous now! Here’s all the unglamorous work that went into that.

First step: making sure the water heater doesn’t kill us.

During our home inspection, our inspector pointed out that the melted plastic on the top of our water heater indicated our flue was blocked. This meant dangerous fumes were not venting out of the basement like they should. He suggested we remove the vent to see if we could find the cause.

Such a happy new homeowner! About to find something awesomely morbid.

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Yep: that’s a fully cooked bird. Poor little guy. We removed his bones, which solved the problem.

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Up next: so much cleaning.

Our house was purchased as-is, which meant that the previous owners were not legally obligated to clean it out before closing day. They took full advantage of that fact and left a lot of crap in the basement.

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We’re lucky to have helpful friends. Thanks, friends!

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Our favorite feature in the basement was this open drain.

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That paint tray kept the flow of water from the kitchen sink and the laundry tub directed into the hole. (We had this fixed shortly thereafter.)

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The sign next to the open drain reminded you of your manners: it says “Do not pee pee in here.” Our friend Kimberly said we should assume that any area without a sign had been peed on. She’s probably right.

Once all the junk was gone, Jarrod and I started cleaning. I scraped flaking paint off the walls. There was several rounds of wall and floor washing with bleach, TSP, and Simple Green. It took weeks. It was equal parts loathsome and satisfying. I cannot overstate just how gross this basement was. I’m going to make you look at several photos so you’ll believe me.

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Yep, that’s mold. The bleach killed it, and a dehumidifier has stopped it from returning. Initially alarming but ultimately not a big deal!

Another thing: making sure the dryer doesn’t kill us.

Lint is super flammable, which is why you’re supposed to keep your dryer vent clean and unobstructed. Our dryer vent set up was remarkably terrible. (The previous owners wrote on that board, by the way, not me.)

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They had the dryer venting into an old window, which would have been fine except 1) they didn’t remove the window screen, and 2) that window is under our back porch/mudroom (outside our kitchen, glimpsed here, and one of my current big projects). So, they were pumping hot, damp air into a semi-enclosed space. This is what I discovered when I crawled back there:

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The window screen essentially served as a secondary dryer lint collector, which is far more gross than that dead bird and nearly as dangerous.

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I threw away the screen, put up a board, learned a lot of about dryer vents, and installed a new one that ran all the way to the exterior wall. Exciting times, guys.

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It would be nice if this duct were in a less visible place, but this is the best option for the current configuration.

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Finally: paint it white.

So much painting. Two coats of primer on the brick/concrete walls, one coat of primer on the rest of the walls, followed by two coats of paint.

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After:Basement Bikes.jpg

I realize my “after” photos could very well be someone else’s “before” photos (and they’ll eventually be our before photos when we do a full basement remodel), but I’m still proud of the progress I’ve made with not much money and one thousand hours of hard work. It went from feeling like a place where you might get killed to being a pleasant area to do laundry.

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I was so excited to buy a new utility sink to celebrate the culmination of this project.

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Isn’t that the the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? I bought the Mustee Utilatub (such a name!) at Home Depot, and the American Standard Colony Soft Double-Handle Laundry Faucet from Amazon. I removed the old sink and installed the new one myself. It was my very first plumbing project.

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After:Basement Sink After.jpg

I built a simple wood shelf to hide the crumbling concrete of the window ledge. That black hose is from our washer – not pretty, but necessary.

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To commemorate the previous owners, I framed the sign and a water color painting they left tacked to the bathroom wall. Don’t even think about peeing in here.

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Chicagoans: Sign Up for a Water Meter!

If you own a house in Chicago and don’t have a pool or an indoor water park: GET A METER. I am very grateful my coworker happened to mention MeterSave to me (thanks, Curt!), so now I am mentioning it here. If you don’t own a house in Chicago, tell your friends and loved ones who do.

When we bought our house, I had no idea how Chicago’s water service worked because I never had to deal with it as a renter. I was surprised to learn that the city estimates water usage based on the size of your house, or the number of faucets, or the cut of your jib. Chicago is moving to a metered system so that they can measure actual usage instead of guessing. Make sense. Having a meter installed will be a requirement in the future, but for now they’re trying to lure people to sign up via their fancy website (“Version 1.0 Copyright 2009”) and dreamy headshots.

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The meter and installation are free: absolutely no cost to you. The installers need access to your main water valve. That was easy for us, as we had recently gutted the basement. They installed the meter here:

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They also installed a small radio instrument to the front of our house. It’s currently the most attractive thing happening in that area.

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With only two people living in our house, I knew we’d use less water than the city’s estimate, but I was still surprised by just how dramatically cheaper our water bill is now. Without a water meter, the City of Chicago would have charged us $560 every six months — nearly $100/month, making it our most expensive utility on average. With the water meter, we’re averaging $18 a month. If the price and our usage remains about the same, the water meter will save us around $900 a year. 

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After:Chicago Water Bill After.jpg

If you know your water account number, proceed straight to www.metersave.org and sign up for an appointment. Note: the online form suggests that you’re scheduling an exact time, but when you get appointment reminder it’s revealed that you signed up for a two-hour window.

If you don’t know your water account number, call 312-744-4420 to ask for it! Don’t wait until you get your first six month bill to find out your number, or you’ll have wasted money. They prorate your bill from the time of installation, so the sooner the better. (That “CR” in the statement above is a credit — our non-metered water payment is paying it forward.)

April 22 is both Earth Day and my husband’s birthday. Jarrod is my most enthusiastic and supportive reader, and he’s a pretty great teammate for life. So, this proselytizing post is in his honor. HBD, JMR!

Living Room and Sunroom: Progress and Plans

I did a six-month check-in of the kitchen and bathroom, and now it’s time to share photos of the living room and sunroom. This space is the one that’s changed the most since we bought the house. I know these photos may look stark in comparison, but that’s because my grand plans have not yet been realized. GRAND PLANS, Y’ALL.

Before:downstairs1

Now:Window

Whoa.

The sunroom used to be an exterior front porch. It was enclosed decades ago. The pizzeria window arch crimes were committed in the 1970s or 1980s, I think. I would have totally kept them if they were in a basement rec room, but for our living room: nope. They also blocked a lot of precious light from reaching our living room.

What’s been done:

  • The plaster cake frosting ceiling was scraped, smoothed, and painted.
  • The ceiling beams were painted.
  • The plaster walls were covered with 1/4″ drywall and painted.
  • The window arches were made larger, squared off, and drywalled. The lattice, posts, and fluorescent lights were removed.
  • The panelling on the other side of the arches was removed and replaced with drywall.
  • The doorway to the sunroom was squared off.
  • The faux bricks were scraped off the wall.
  • Curtains were hung.

Other than curtains, I did none of that work. Our amazing painter did it, and he did it for less money than some contractors quoted me for the paint job alone. Eduardo wasn’t cheap because he did shoddy work, either. He was a total pro. I am very grateful that our first experience hiring a contractor was so successful!

I’ve got a lot of progress shots for you. Eduardo started by sawing into the wall to square off the windows.

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After removing the fluorescent lights, I asked him to cap off the electrical wires in the wall so that I can use them to install sconces. Don’t know if I will, but I like having the option.

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The walls were covered in a yellowed-with-age wallpaper that was bubbling in some areas, and melded with the plaster in others.

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I learned while gathering quotes that I had three options for the walls:

  1. Attempt to remove the wallpaper, which would damage the plaster and require laborious work from a skilled plaster contractor.
  2. Remove the plaster walls entirely and replace them with 1/2″ drywall.
  3. Cover the existing plaster walls with 1/4″ drywall.

Different people had different ideas about the best way to proceed. I chose #3 because it was Eduardo’s recommendation, and because it seemed like the correct middle-ground approach. My only regret with this option is that it may have been helpful or interesting to see what it looks like behind our walls. But it also may have been horrifying.

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After the drywall was up, Eduardo slayed the cake frosting plaster ceiling. This is what he used to scrape it off. I can’t even imagine the arm exhaustion.

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Bless this man.

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Ceiling smoothed, drywall hung, and beams primed:

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First coat of paint:Living Room Arches During.JPG

Now let’s step back in time for a proper Before:downstairs4

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Before:downstairs15

Now:Living Dining Room.JPG

Obviously this is not our permanent furniture arrangement! That’s a junk table left behind by the previous owners that I’ve been using as a desk. And nothing has really been decorated yet, though I did hang up the furoshiki scarf that I framed and my engineering prints.

Before:downstairs7

Now:Living Room Fireplace.JPG

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or two):

  • Figure out the living room furniture arrangement and start buying pieces as I find them/can afford them. It will be a mix of new and used things. I’ve got a lot of Craigslist alerts set up!
  • Create a desk area on the south side of the room.
  • Lamps and light fixtures and plants and art.
  • Tackle that terrible sunroom ceiling. Those tiles are glued to the original(?) beadboard ceiling. I’ll use that if it can be restored.
  • Tackle the sunroom floor. The peel-and-stick tiles are in bad shape. Not sure what I’ll do yet: hardwood, tile, linoleum (real linoleum, not vinyl), or I might try peel-and-stick tiles myself as a budget-friendly option. There will be a lot of rugs going on throughout the first floor, so I kinda like this floor space left bare. Especially since it will be filled with plants!
  • Paint the fireplace brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with gray paint mortar).
  • Rebuild the bookshelves and condition that wood – it looks parched.
  • Add trim to the windows and doorways.

The openings look starkly modern and characterless right now. They’ll fit the bungalow style better once I add substantial Craftsman trim, which I’ll be doing throughout the house — something like the trim in our previous apartment, or like this:

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I didn’t really hesitate to paint the beams white because the color was a gross reddish-brown and because this room doesn’t get much natural light. The only moment of regret I’ve had was upon seeing Jessica Helgerson’s amazing work in this house:

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Those awesome black beams had me second-guessing, but that ceiling is higher than ours and that space is one thousand times (and one million dollars) cooler than ours. More pics of this former library-turned-house are available in this NY Times feature.

Back to reality!

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Now:Living Room Window.JPG

As I mentioned previously, the brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “bricks” on the interior side was not. They were plastic!

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What I plan to do, longer term (within two to, I don’t know, seven years):

  • New windows! That huge plate glass picture window is a straight-up Don’t in the Design Guidelines for Historic Chicago Bungalows. I won’t follow those guidelines to the letter — for one thing, they’re overly preachy; for another, this house’s preservation levy was breached decades ago — but it’s a helpful resource for bungalow details.
  • Install a transom-height window in the south wall of our living room.

Adding a high, south-facing window would let in so much light that we’re not currently getting, while maintaining privacy. I actually hung a mirror (which you can see in the photo above) to help me visualize it. It will be approximately 6′ wide by 12″ or 16″ tall. Something kind of like this:

TransomWindow

Cutting a hole through a perfectly functional wall is incredibly daunting, but I think it’d be worth the nerves and the money. I need all the natural light I can get.

Speaking of more light: we removed the awning from the front of the house! I’ll include photos of that change when I do an exterior post. It made such a big difference.

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Now:Sunroom.JPG

I’m currently building a long console table so the cats can enjoy the window.

Painting original trim tends to bring out the DIY blog trolls. If you think I did something sacrilegious, please make any comments foul-mouthed and funny.

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Bathroom and Stairs: Progress and Plans

In my last post, I shared then-and-now photos of our kitchen and dining room. I’m continuing my six-months-later series with our stairs and half bathroom. These obviously aren’t After (TM) photos, just progress shots. Let’s dive in!

Before:downstairs14

Now:Stairs

What’s been done:

  • Not much!
  • Painted the bathroom walls and trim.
  • Took down the hardware.
  • Hung a new mirror.
  • Installed new black hinges and doorknob.
  • That’s it.

Before:downstairs9

Now:Stairs Bathroom

I told the painter he didn’t have to do anything with this staircase. I look forward to tackling it at some point, but it’s not pressing. I need to test it for lead and research the safest and most effective way to remove paint from spindles (e.g. chemical strippers, heat gun, raging fire…).

Before:downstairs10

Now:Bathroom.JPG

Because there are so many weird angles in the bathroom, I chose to use the same color of paint (Irish Mist) on the walls and the ceiling. It helps make it look a little less choppy.

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Not too huge a change, really! But it feels so much better, and “just paint” belies the amount of work a professional paint job entailed. Everything was filthy and uneven, and our painter scrubbed, sanded, patched, primed, and painted the trim, walls, and ceiling. And, new hinges have a surprisingly big impact!

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During:Bathroom Door During.JPG

Now:Bathroom Door.JPG

That dumb, crowded rosette on the top left kills me. I can’t wait to replace all of the trim in this house!

Jarrod declared that the half-bath would be my “stunt room” and I’m excited to make that happen. It’s actually something my mom would do, too, in the houses we worked on: be more daring in powder rooms because you can be. I think I’ll steal heavily from this inspiration:

BAMeganBrakefield.jpgPhoto from Design*Sponge

What I plan to do, short term (within a year or so):

  • Nothing. I don’t want to waste time or money on lipstick for a pig.
  • Well, okay, maybe some art and some plants.
  • Well, okay, maybe a new light fixture if I know that it will work with my future bathroom plans.

What I plan to do, longer term (within two to three years, maybe):

  • Full bathroom remodel: I hope this shouldn’t be overly expensive, because the room is so small (reducing the amount of materials and labor needed).
  • Remove the wall and floor tile.
  • New tile floor.
  • Install wainscoting.
  • Wallpaper!
  • New sink, toilet, light fixtures, door, and trim.
  • For the stairs: refinish the landing, treads, risers, stringers, balusters, newels, and handrail. I would have only known half those terms without the aid of Google.