Catio Cleanup

Enclosed back porches are pretty standard on Chicago apartments.  They’re handy for storage and it’s nice that you don’t have to go outside to get down to the basement laundry room, but they can also be shoddily constructed heat traps.  Ours slopes down dramatically and is painted a gross fleshy color our landlords must have thought was a nice neutral.

Back Porch Before

We use the back porch as an entryway and, most importantly, a cat cave.  Our two cats, Lola & Doozy, spend most of their day out there, chattering at birds in the backyard and shedding fur – so much fur – in the summer heat.

Lola Tunnel

When the back door is shut, the cats enter and leave through the cat door in the window (you can see details of the catio portal here).

Back Porch Before

We have an abundance of storage elsewhere in the apartment (a luxury, I know), so my only goal was to make the porch as un-gross as possible, with as little stuff on the ground as possible so that it will be easier to sweep.  Also, it’s to our benefit to make it cat-friendly because it means less time they’re inside yowling at us.

Back Porch Before

I cleared out the junk, painted the three walls white (I chose not to hassle with the brick just in case our landlords cared), and patched the hole in the wall left by our landlords (evidence that they really don’t care).  The after pictures don’t look too dramatic, but the space feels much, much better.  Cleaner, spacious, less fleshy.

Back Porch After

Back Porch After

Back Porch After

Other than bringing up the storage trunk and the rug from our basement, the biggest change I made was some cat… furniture? fittings?  I have no idea what to call it.  Cat stuff.

Catio Portal

I added shelves for Doozy, as he likes to perch gargoyle-style, lording over us.  I cut sisal rug remnants (leftover from the cat tree I built) to fit the shelves and glued them in place.

Cat Ledge

Doozy Ledge

Lola’s favorite perch is the tunnel of the cat tree, so I dismantled that piece (made from a section of Quikrete Quik-Tube) and repurposed it.  Lola resented my meddling.

Lola Perch

I reupholstered the fabric lining and mounted the tunnel to a shelf where he can look out the window.

Tunnel Fabric

Lola Tunnel

The cats seem to enjoy with the improvements – as much as cats ever demonstrate emotions, of course.  Gratuitous cat collage!

Cat Collage

This is How My Garden Fails

I’m very sorry to make this blog an all-garden all-the-time affair, but nature is really working against me here.

Witness: HAIL.

Backyard Hail

Let’s zoom in.

Hail Spinach

To add insult to injury, I looked out the window this morning at the precise moment a stray cat dumped out and covered its tracks by digging in the square of just-emerged lettuce seedlings.

I captured its exit.

Cat in Middle Garden Bed

And its insolent stare.

Cat Staredown

I Built a House!

And by ‘house’ I mean ‘tent.’

My niece Cora turned one this August and I built her an a-frame tent using this post as my guide.  I tell you what: it was not sturdy.  Legs all akimbo, no means to control the width of its stance – there was definitely room for improvement, which I finally got around to this past weekend.  I added dowel rods to connect the legs at the bottom and ribbons to control how far it would open.  I also added a pocket, because what kid doesn’t love pockets?  (Or, even better, books about teddy bears with pockets.)

It’s still probably not the most durable thing in the world, but it should last a year or two, provided Cora doesn’t turn into a real bruiser.  (And if she does, well, all the better.)

Speaking of kids (smooth segue, right?): children have ruined the ENJE.  These awesome, easily-customizable roller shades disappeared from IKEA’s shelves right before we moved into our new place.  I have had my fingers crossed they would come back so that I can replace the miniblinds on our living room windows . . . and they did!  In the United Kingdom.  And the United Arab Emirates.  And Taiwan.  And Slovakia.  And everywhere all over the world, really, except for the United States of America, because American babies can’t be trusted with cords.  During a recent trip to the IKEA in Schaumburg, I checked out the new US ENJE, which has a flimsy spring-roller and cheap-looking plastic pull-down tabs:

These shades aren’t even pictured on IKEA’s US website because if they were American babies would start doing research on how to get entangled in them and then IKEA would have to recall them all over again.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!  If I continue the trend of posting only on federal holidays, you can expect my next installment around December 25th.


The pictures I included in the last post had me thinking that two big flat-weave rugs looked too, well, flat and what I needed instead was a low pile rug for under the dining table and a plush rug for under the coffee table.  I picked up the VITTEN at IKEA this past weekend.

The rug pile is smushed down from being rolled up – I need to rake it.  Did anyone else have to rake their grandparents’ shag carpet?  (My cousins will know what I’m talking about!)  It was a satisfying chore: the carpet looked so groomed when you were finished.

I think it’s a nice rug, but in the context of this apartment, with our mostly vintage furniture, it looks way too retro.  Like we’re two steps away from setting up a tiki bar and tossing our keys into a bowl.  It’s shagadelic, and the fact that this rug brings to mind Austin Powers catchphrases makes it pretty clear that it’s not a keeper.  I don’t want anything in my home that reminds me of Mike Myers. (That said, I might make an exception for Wayne’s World.)

Doozy likes it, though.  It makes him feel like a jungle cat.

Another rug up for consideration is the Arrah Dhurry Wool Rug from (or as they’re trying to sell us on these days).

(Never mind the brown around the edges: I just rolled it out on top of our current rug.)

Two people have already compared it to a barcode, which certainly isn’t working in its favor.  It doesn’t look quite as stark in person: the lighter stripes are a very light tan, not white, as Doozy helpfully demonstrates.

I’m very “eh” about this rug.  One thing I’m not “eh” about, however, is our new Ekornes Stressless recliner.  Craigslist has bestowed upon me two great finds since we moved into our new place: 1) the previously mentioned STENSTORP island, and 2) this totally awesome recliner.  I had an alert set up for “recliner” on CL and had seen at least 700 (easily) before this chair popped up.  The photo was so dark and the item was so buried amongst everything else he was selling that I almost missed it.  I clicked past and then realized “hey… that one might be good.”  It’s so hard to find a chair that meets Jarrod’s need for comfort and my need for stuff to not be ugly (and, as we’ve seen before, nearly all recliners are hideous).  These chairs are $2,000+ new, but I scored this one for $50.

The leather was in poor shape: very worn and sun-faded, with lots of oil in the headrest and pounds of food in the seat crack.  Here are a few Before pics:

I found a woman who reconditions leather (on Craigslist, of course), who made our chair good as new and even swapped out – for free(!) – the undesirable mahogany wood base for a medium brown base.

(It doesn’t dwarf our sofa as much in real life as it does in these photos.)

And there you see yet another rug option: the JORUN from IKEA (no longer available).  I love it, but it shows cat hair like crazy despite our very regular vacuuming and furminating.

Got any rug suggestions for me?  I’m starting to go insane.