Moulding and Living Room Progress

One of my big goals for 2018 was to finish replacing all of the first floor moulding, and I am stoked to report that it is all done. A previous owner replaced the original millwork with trim that wasn’t as appropriate for the house, and I undid his work. I’m generally not a sentimental or nostalgic person, but I do feel sincerely bummed (and a little angry) when I think about the historical elements that have been stripped from this house over the decades. I’m grateful some remain (like our staircase) and I’m pleased to be able to restore other details to make the house feel more cohesive.

Here’s when we bought the house, looking from the kitchen into the entryway and living room:First Floor Before 2.JPG

And here’s that view today:Kitchen Moulding After.jpg

The headers (AKA architrave) throughout the first floor are now this Interior Primed MDF Window and Door Casing from Lowe’s – it’s a Metrie product.

Kitchen Moulding.jpg

Here’s the reverse view, from the living room into the kitchen:First Floor Before.JPG

And now – it will look even better once I get around to finishing the staircase (my one 2018 goal that I did not a single minute of work on in 2018):Living Room Moulding.jpg

The biggest change is to the west wall of the living room – we went from this:Living Room Wall Before.JPG

To this, thanks to our contractor:Living Room Arches During

And now finally to this:Living Room Wall Moulding.jpg

I found matching baseboard at Evanston Lumberyard (it’s from Metrie) and I made the window stool myself using a router for the first time. Very pleased with how the corners turned out.

Window Trim.jpg

The living room is coming together nicely. It’s not 100% ~finished~ yet: I’m still fussing around with the decoration. The rug is from Rejuvenation; they don’t cary it anymore. The chairs and coffee table are Craigslist finds from 10+ years ago.

Living Room with Fireplace Mantle.jpg
When we bought the house, the mantle was in a state of disrepair: the wood was parched, one of the shelves was missing, and the brick was painted red with gray paint mortar lines.

Fireplace Before.JPG

Back in 2016, I painted the fireplace brick white:Fireplace Painting First Coat.jpg

When we did our basement cleanup, my friend Kimberly spotted the missing shelf in a trash pile (good eyes, Priebe!). I sanded, stained, and rebuilt the bookcases.

Bookcase Front Sanded.jpg

Bookcase Front Stained.jpg

Before:Fireplace Before 2.JPG

Today:Bungalow Fireplace Mantle with Garland.jpg

The lamp is vintage, the arched mirror is from CB2, and the garland is a Black Friday splurge from Balsam Hill.

Bungalow Fireplace Mantle.jpg

Did you know that people use the term “shelfie” for bookcase photos? I’m not going to do that.

Bookshelf Brass Bird.jpg

Left Bookcase Vase Post.jpg

My teammate Grace (1310 Studios on IG) made this drawing, which I love, of Lola and Doozy at our desk. We put Doozy to sleep this past spring – it was very sad (sadder than I even expected it to be), but Lola is feeling better now and we’ve all adjusted to being a one-cat household.

Frame 3.jpg

Here’s the desk area that inspired the drawing. All the details on our two-person desk setup are in this post.

Two Person Desk in Living Room.jpg

Living Room Office.jpg

We’ve had this Room & Board sofa for 10+ years as well. I had it reupholstered last year in indestructible Sunbrella fabric.

Couch Cat 2.jpg

Lately I’ve been daydreaming about adding a pair of windows above the bookcases: it’s a very common detail in bungalows, but our house seemingly never had them (the exterior brick doesn’t appear to be patched).

Bungalow Living Room.jpg

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays! I’ll be back in 2019 with more – evermore – house goals.

Couch Cat.jpg

Kitchen Makeover Details Roundup 1 of 2

As I mentioned in my Kitchen and Dining Room Before and After post, I wanted to share some details and call out a few decisions I made throughout this makeover project. Turns out there was a lot I wanted to share, so I’m breaking it into two roundups. I know grand before-and-afters are fun, but I find the small changes really gratifying and important as well. So, here goes!

Cutting Board and Knife Block

To add some warmth and cohesiveness to the all-white kitchen, I DIYed three wood elements: the butcher block shelf was the biggest component, but I also worked on the cutting board and knife block. Our Wüsthof knife block was a light maple color. The cutting board’s original finish was closer to gray than it was to brown.

Knife Block Before

Sanding Cutting Board

I sanded both items and stained them using the same mid-tone walnut stain color that I used on the shelf.

Kitchen Counter with Slide-in Range

Counter Tray

This isn’t a DIY; it’s just something I like. I corralled our most frequently used kitchen items with a Cuatro Platter from CB2:

That brass bird back on the left is a vintage clip – we use it to leave notes on the counter (my notes always say “Went to Home Depot”).

Kitchen Counter Tray

Hidden Microwave

Everyone always asks “Where’s your microwave?” Just kidding – no one has ever asked that. But I’m going to tell you anyway: it’s in the cabinet above the dishwasher.

This cabinet is actually a base cabinet: it’s far too deep to be hanging over a counter. (It’s a miracle Jarrod hasn’t rammed his head into yet.) The upside of this cabinetry oddity is that it’s big enough to hold the giant microwave I bought off Craigslist 8 years ago.

Microwave Cabinet Before

There was a center piece of wood that came out easily by unscrewing it. That piece is what bridges the space between the cabinet doors – you may notice a small gap between the doors, but it doesn’t bother me.

Tray Divider

I installed this sturdy tray divider from The Container Store to keep our cutting boards corralled and standing proud. It also ensures there’s plenty of ventilation around the microwave, which is something people like to get preachy about online.

Microwave Cabient and Wood Filler

The power cord runs discretely from the outlet below through a small hole I drilled in the bottom of the cabinet.

Fridge Cabinet After

Cabinet Filler Piece

If you scroll back two photos, you’ll see a piece of non-matching wood next to the dishwasher. Previously, there was a several inch gap between the dishwasher and the cabinet, which made the dishwasher insulation and counter support really visible. Oddly, there were two filler pieces there (installed side-by-side), but they didn’t bridge the gap.

Dishwasher Gap

I removed those pieces and replaced them with one larger piece of wood. Once painted, it looks seamless.

Dishwasher Filler Piece Painted

Towel Hook

No detail is too small for this post! This cabinet door is the ideal place for a hanging towel: it’s accessible from the sink and the stove, and the towel doesn’t get closed in a door/drawer like it would elsewhere. I wanted a very small hook that coordinated with but wasn’t identical to our knobs – I didn’t want it to look like this door had two knobs installed in it.

Solution: this Forged-Iron Colonial Heart Hook from House of Antique Hardware. Love it.

Kitchen Dishwasher Cabinet After

That brass bunny is our “dishwasher is clean” reminder – I set it on the counter after I start the dishwasher.

Slide-in Range Cut-out

The counter cut-out for a slide-in range was very shallow. The previous range wasn’t flush with drawers, and the new one protruded even more. This wasn’t a surprise or an accident – I had planned to get the hole enlarged after the range was delivered, so it could be cut to size.

Protruding Range

I hired Perfect Granite and Marble to do the cut – it was a high-stakes 5 minutes, and it turned out perfectly indeed.

Counter Cutting

Kitchen Island Cabinet After

Appliance Decals

Did anyone notice a small change in the two range photos above? I removed the Whirlpool decal from the range and the fridge.

Whirlpool Decal on Range

Why do appliances have to come with big logo decals on them? I know they’re Whirlpool – I don’t need corporate branding to remind me. If anyone visiting our house wants to know what brand they are, they can ask me or visit projectpalermo.com on the world wide web.

How to Remove Appliance Logos

I used a hair dryer to warm up and loosen the adhesive, and then ran a piece of floss behind the decal to remove it.

Goodbye Whirlpool

They both came off easily, leaving only a small amount of residue, which I scrubbed off. Byeee, Whirlpool!

Kitchen with White Cabinets

I’ll return by the end of the week with the second roundup.

Kitchen and Dining Room Before and After

My make-it-work kitchen makeover is finished! I have a slew of before and after photos for you. Some of the befores are from when I started this recent decorating wave and some are from when we first bought the house, to show how far this space has come. I try to capture the same angle whenever possible. Let’s dive in…

Kitchen and Dining Room After.jpg

So much better than where we started…

Kitchen and Dining Room Before.jpg

The kitchen cabinets were professionally painted Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White. They turned out exactly as I hoped. There’s plenty of color and pattern elsewhere throughout the first floor, so I’m happy to have this space simply feel clean, bright, and cohesive. An added bonus is that paint, wood filler, and caulk conceal the previous owner’s DIY installation flaws.

Before:Kitchen Island Vertical Before.jpg

After:Kitchen Island Vertical After.jpg

Now that the cabinets are white, I considered replacing the counter stools with something wood and/or woven (like these gorgeous leather ones from CB2), but we really like these metal ones. They’re indestructible: our cat can’t claw them, I use them as stepstools all the time, and the handle cutout on top is really nice for moving them around. They’re from Overstock; all of the sources are linked at the bottom of this post.

Before:Kitchen Before.jpg

After:Kitchen After.jpg

Sorry, it looks washed out here – it was a sunny day and I’m not a great photographer. I trust you come here for realness and not professional-grade photography!

Before:Kitchen Island Before 2.jpg

After:Kitchen Island After 2.jpg

Speaking of photography: do you know what’s impossible to photograph? A freaking window. But I love the way this area turned out. It feels so much more intentional now that there’s a bit of decoration and proper moulding (for details, see Kitchen Progress: Faucet, Hardware, and Window Trim).

Before:Kitchen Window Before.jpg

After:Kitchen Window Clock and Hanging Cutting Board.jpg

This is a north-facing window, which I covered in frosted film (the view isn’t great) – it’s relatively low-light, but it’s enough for a potted pothos and an assortment of plant cuttings that I’m rooting in water.

Kitchen Window Hanging Planter.jpg

Kitchen Window Sill.jpg

Speaking of plant cuttings: my mother always has plant starts on her kitchen window sill as well. She’s been reusing an old Eggling shell my brother gave her 20 years ago. So, in honor of my mom, I asked my friend Jenni to include a few eggshells when I commissioned these plant drawings from her.

Framed Plant Drawings.jpg

I know you’re supposed to remove the glass for better photographs, but it took a thousand hours to get this grid perfectly aligned and there was no way in hell I was going to take them down to do that.

Moving along, I bought a new dishwasher, refrigerator, and slide-in gas range from Abt. We love having the fridge on top, and we have an ice maker for the very first time! What luxury.

Kitchen with White Cabinets.jpg

Before:Kitchen Range Black.jpg

After:Kitchen Range White.jpg

You may remember that I debated getting a white vs. black vs. stainless range (see Kitchen Decision Making). Obviously, I landed on white, and I’m happy with it. The grate helps it blend in with the existing countertop. The control console looks a little like it belongs in a hospital surgical suite, but it’s fine. I do like that the knobs are on top, and I really like the way it looks from the front.

Before:Kitchen Island Cabinet Before.jpg

After:Kitchen Island Cabinet After.jpg

You already saw this coffee + toaster nook in a previous post: Kitchen Progress: Butcher Block Shelf.

Before:Kitchen Cart Before 2

After:Kitchen Butcher Block Shelf over Trashcans

And this door makeover was documented here: Kitchen Progress: New Door, Trim, and Threshold Tile.

Before:Kitchen Door Before.jpg

After:Glass Door with Ceramic Tile Transom

Moving on to the dining area, which is adjacent to the kitchen. I’m using the same rug, chairs, and table from our last place (seen in our Apartment Therapy tour). The light fixture is the same as the apartment as well – that’s one thing still on my to do list. I need to have the junction box relocated above the table before I buy and install a permanent fixture.

Before:Dining Room Corner Before.jpg

After:Dining Room Corner After.jpg

I found the landscape lithograph prints for $5 each at an antique store in my hometown (Jefferson City, Missouri). The moulding around the dining room was installed by a previous owner.

Landscape Prints.jpg

The big splurge in this room is the Danish corner cabinet, purchased from SharkGravy.

Danish Corner Cabinet.jpg

That ZZ plant is turning into a beast – it’s almost overgrown this space. To the right, you can see a wall-mounted bottle opener and cap collector, which I installed at our last place as well (see Wall-Mounted Bottle Opener).

A couple more shots of the cabinet, because I love it so much.

Danish Corner Cabinet 2.jpg

Danish Corner Cabinet Key.jpg

We keep bottles on top – shout out to my sister-in-law Kateri for this vintage Kentucky Tavern decanter. No one needs to know there’s Fireball in there.

Danish Cabinet Bar.jpg

Dining Room After.jpg

One parting shot. I’ll do a follow-up post to share some details and decisions I want to call out. Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try to address them in that post!

Dining Room with Midcentury Table.jpg

Sources:

For more information about this project, check out these related posts:

Kitchen Decision Making

I am planning a make-it-work makeover of our kitchen. As a reminder, it looked like this when we bought the house:

downstairs18

And it looks like this now (“now” = when it’s spotless and I’ve cleared all the crap off the counter):

Current Kitchen

Why not a full remodel?

If I were to totally renovate this kitchen, it would lead to gutting the entire space: tearing up the floor, pulling down the ceiling, moving gas and plumbing lines, etc.

I think renovation money should be spent on major pain points (either structural or emotional), and this kitchen isn’t one for us. I’m sure there’s some ideal layout that would maximize the space and make us marginally happier, but eh. We’re not Dream Kitchen people. We’re Trader Joe’s Orange Chicken Kitchen people.

Also, I need to be mindful of not putting too much money into this house. (See this post from Room for Tuesday for some good thoughts on home renovation and property value.) If Jarrod and I are still here in 15 years (“here” = in this house or, you know, on this planet in a functioning society) and our property value has appreciated significantly, then we can reevaluate.

So, just like I did with my half-bath renovation, here’s a round-up of the decisions I’m making.

Floors – Proceeding with Cautious Optimism

The previous owner installed Brazilian cherry in the kitchen, seemingly on top of the existing floor. No idea why they did this. During our home inspection, our inspector joked “You’re not allowed to ask why,” which is advice I’ve tried to bear in mind whenever reckoning with the previous owner’s decisions.

Cherry Floor.jpg

The floor is super red, clashing with the general aesthetic of the rest of the house. The internet gives me hope that sanding it down and applying dark stain will help kill the red (e.g. see this Houzz thread). It won’t match the oak, and it won’t be my ideal floor color, but it will be better than the red. Fingers crossed.

Cabinets – 100% Decided

They’ll get painted white by a professional. Painted because they’re otherwise fine – nice even, for the most part. White because I love white kitchens. A professional because I hate painting and I’m a perfectionist, which is a fatal combo when it comes to a job like this.

I’m hiring someone who specializes in cabinetry and has impeccable reviews. They spray the cabinets, so it looks (and lasts) like a factory finish. I’ll document this process when it happens, but here’s an example of their prep work:

CabinetPrep.jpg

Just thinking about doing that prep work makes me want to cry, so it is worth giving them a big chunk of my annual bonus to do it for me.

Hardware – Already Here!

I went with Amerock’s Blackrock line, which is what I’ve used elsewhere in the house (e.g. our entryway closet). It’s high quality metal, substantial, and affordable. $5/each for the pulls and $2/each for the knobs. Done.

amerock-blackrock-hardware.jpg

Brass would have been a nice contrast to the black counters, but I didn’t find any I loved enough to justify the significant increase in cost over the Blackrock. I’ve decided to bring brass in elsewhere in the kitchen, like the lighting.

Lighting – Working on It

There are several recessed lights in the ceiling. Their placement was determined by no perceptible rhyme or reason – they’re nominally over the island and sink, but not centered. (See previous “Don’t ask why” mantra.) They were worse when we bought the house:

Ceiling Before

I replaced the eyeballs with new LED fixtures and they’re okay now.

Ceiling After

I am considering a pair of hanging pendants over the island, but that would require moving electrical and I’m not sure I want the visual clutter. Though I am swayed by how much I like these Pottery Barn Milk Glass Pendants

pb-classic-pendant-milk-glass-o.jpg

I’ll probably just replace the existing fixture with a new flush or semi-flush light. This submarine-porthole-looking fixture arrived today, but I’m thinking it may be too low-profile.

Screen Shot 2018-02-07 at 9.09.55 PM.png

Good thing about lighting decision making is that there’s no shortage of options!

Decoration – Temporary Insanity

With nearly everything else being black or white, I’ll add some color and warmth with decor. I’ve picked out a new rug, have a plan for art, moulding, and shelving, and am shopping for a new clock. Last week I texted Jarrod: “Kitchen brainflash: CUCKOO CLOCK.”

Clock.jpg

I was really excited about this modern one until we watched the YouTube chimes video – does that clock chime 20 times for 7pm?! PASS.

Appliances – Feedback Welcome

I prefer appliances to blend in as much as possible, so I definitely want a white dishwasher and fridge. I’ve already picked those out.

white-appliances.jpg

The oven is where I’m unsure. We need a slide-in gas range with the control area on the front. There are very few options out there. Based on cost and our specs, I’m leaning toward this model. But should it be white or black? White would match the painted cabinets; black would match the counter.

Range Options.jpg

I’m leaning toward white because matching appliances seems like the obvious answer – and I vastly prefer the white one – but I’m worried about the stark contrast between the countertop and the range top.

Here’s the existing range:

Black Range.jpg

Here’s a very crudely done Photoshop job to help(?) show the range top with adjacent white cabinets and dishwasher (don’t worry, my cabinet pulls aren’t Duplo-sized like that):

Range in Island White Cabinets.png

So, imagine that but way, way better. Do you think a white range top would be an abomination?

Update: Thanks for the feedback so far! To clarify: the reason I would replace the existing range even if it’s with a different black range is because I hate the existing one. I want grates that cover the entire range top so you can slide pans around, and I want a broiler that it’s in the oven, not in the bottom drawer. Also, this oven’s temperature is 25 to 50 degrees off – I know that’s something I could fix if I liked the oven, but I don’t.

Half-Bathroom Before and After

I detailed the half-bathroom renovation drudgery in previous posts, so now it’s time for a whole bunch of before and after photos! All of the sources are linked at the end of this post.

Before:First Floor Bathroom.jpg

After:Half Bath Under Stairs.jpg

The moulding around the door was replaced with a simple Craftman style that is more appropriate for our 1913 bungalow. I used Metrie architrave (the part above the door) plus trim from Home Depot. The vintage five panel door is what would have been in the house originally – I picked it up for $20 at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore here in Chicago.

Before:Door Before.JPG

After:Five Panel Door.jpg

Five Panel Doorknob.jpg

The previous tile was overly high: it crowded the window and made the room feel short. I chose the beadboard height so that it was as tall as the faucet – that way when people turn off the handles, there’s little risk of water splashing on the wallpaper.

Before:Half Bath Monet.jpg

After:Powder Room After.jpg

Another choice that helps make the room feel taller is continuing the wallpaper up the sloped ceiling. The Cole & Sons wallpaper is so beautiful; it looks hand-stenciled.

Wallpaper on Sloped Wall.jpg

There’s an odd wood stump up there from a staircase beam, so I put a vintage brass duck on it because why not.

Brass Bird Flying in a Bathroom.jpg

I love the new matte white hex tile from EliteTile. Porcelain mosaic tile feels perfect for a bungalow bathroom, and the black grout will be easy to keep clean.

Before:Half Bath Toilet Before.jpg

After:Kohler Toilet.jpg

The support post bump-out fits in with the room a lot better now that the beadboard and baseboard wraps around and continues down the rest of the wall.

Before:Half Bath Tile Tower.jpg

After:Bathroom Bump Out.jpg

Another big change I’m very happy with is the window trim. The window previously looked really rough – you could see the brick around the edges. Now it looks like a feature of the room, not an afterthought.

Before:Window Before.jpg

After:Glass Block Window.jpg

Jarrod is a birder, and he’s always admiring the John James Audubon Birds of America book on display at Northwestern University, where he works. I sent him a link to Joel Oppenheimer’s Audubon listings sorted by ascending price, so we could find an entry-level piece. Jarrod selected boat-tailed grackles, and I picked up the print at Oppenheimer’s beautiful gallery in Chicago. It’s a 1856 hand-colored lithograph.

Tip: All of Audubon’s Birds of America illustrations are available for free download as very high-resolution files (10,000 pixels!) via the Audubon Society’s website.

Framed Audubon Print.jpg

This print is the only art I have in here; I may eventually hang something over the toilet, but for now I’m letting the wallpaper do the work. I’m keeping the windowsill simple as well with a woven tray, tissue box, and plant.

Bathroom Window Sill.jpg

One more photo just because I like this detail!

IMG_2100.JPG

The bathroom finishes are a mix of matte black and antique brass. The Tolson toilet paper holder from Rejuvenation matches the vanity knobs.

Brass Toilet Paper Holder.jpg

I reused the bathroom’s existing sink: there are very few sink options available with such a shallow depth (14″), and this one was in perfectly fine shape. It looks so much better with a new black faucet and a new vanity.

Before:Half Bath Sink.jpg

After:Bathroom Sink.jpg

I customized an IKEA SILVERAN vanity with paint, tapered legs, and brass knobs. I also reduced the depth of the vanity to fit the sink. This was one aspect of the powder room that I thought might be a total fail, but I ended up being 100% pleased with it. So, I am super glad I did not waste money on an expensive custom vanity (all of the quotes I got came in around $1k). I’ll share details of this IKEA hack in a follow-up post.

Before:Half Bath Vanity Before.jpg

After:IKEA SILVERAN vanity hack.jpg

I purchased the rug, tissue box cover, and antique brass bird hook when I redid our apartment bathroom. There’s actually an identical bird on eBay right now – but she’s $175 and has a candleholder on her head! Looks like my $14 bird “hook” used to be a sconce before her hat fell off.

Brass Bird Hook.jpg

Going back in time, here’s what the bathroom looked like when we bought the house.

Before:downstairs11

Interim:Half Bath Mirror Before.jpg

After:Dark Vanity with Brass Mirror.jpg

The light fixture was lowered and replaced with a Schoolhouse Electric sconce. I love those faceted shades. The switches and outlet were moved next to the door, which is the logical home for them.

When we bought the house:downstairs13

Interim:Bathroom Door

After:Bathroom Five Panel Door.jpg

When we bought the house:downstairs10

And now:Powder Room.jpg

I love this view:Round Brass Mirror in Bathroom.jpg

Portrait of a Lady who is Relieved this Bathroom Renovation Wasn’t a Huge Mistake:Round Brass Mirror.jpg

Sources

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