Kitchen Progress: Part 1 of 2

Our new kitchen is large and, let’s face it, pretty ugly. Or maybe not ugly, but definitely not my style.

Oak kitchen cabinets with scalloped fronts and faux-wood-panelling wainscoting. There’s nothing I could do about the former, so the latter had to go.

Before: original off-white walls, original wainscoting:

In progress: original walls, white primer coat on wainscoting:

In progress: white walls, white primer:

In progress: white walls, black wainscoting (first coat):

My working plan was to go with white on the panelling, but the primer gave me an early indication of how that would look and I was displeased. Way too much white, especially butting up against our dirty white-gray floor. (Dirty-looking that is – not actually dirty, thanks to Jarrod.) So I went with black instead – Benjamin Moore Soot, specifically, which is a nice inky black. I really like it.

It should be obvious by now that I’m rather reckless when it comes to what I’m “allowed to do” in this apartment. The way I see it: 1) This apartment is going to look much better when I’m finished with it and landlords respond favorably to that, and 2) It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to get permission.

(Side note: I looked up that quotation to make sure I had it right and learned that it’s attributed to Grace Hopper, who was a bad-ass computer scientist Naval officer I’d come across previously when investigating (for whatever reason) the etymology of the term “bug.”  Good work, lady.)

I don’t think our landlords will care, but if they give me any shit about it, I have a two-pronged response planned: 1) Play dumb. They knew I was going to paint the kitchen (they paid for the paint) – how was I to know that “painting the kitchen” excluded the panelling? 2) Argue that ALL of the ORIGINAL 1916 millwork had already been painted (and repainted) by previous tenants and owners. Once 100-year old millwork has been descecrated, there’s not much of a point to preserving 20-year-old faux-wood wainscoting, now is there?  Case closed.

More pictures to come!

It’s Electric

One of the most frustrating things about moving into a new apartment is the time it takes to fix all of the mistakes made by all of the fools who came before you.  “Mistakes” probably isn’t the right word because it isn’t deliberate enough: these fools chose to paint over the outlets and wall plates again and again.  Who does that?  Every single wall plate in the apartment looked gross.





Replacements are only $0.19-$0.29 each at Home Depot (don’t get swindled by ACE’s $0.79 plates!), so it’s one of those cheap, satisfying fixes.  I cut around each with a box cutter to help free it, and then pried and pulled with screwdrivers, pliers, paint keys and hammers to get the damn things off the walls.  I also replaced a few outlets – another cheap and satisfying fix, though slightly more dangerous.  I’m always very safe about it, of course: I shut off the power via the main breaker and double-check with my voltage tester before proceeding.  And Jarrod was on hand with a fire extinguisher… in case I caught on fire, I suppose.

(Old picture: our bedroom has furniture in it now.  Thanks again to Kim and Kateri for helping me paint this room!)

Much better!

Let’s Hear It for the Boy

(Whoa, I remembered this being a Madonna song. That’s not right at all.)

Just so you know, I’m not the only one hard at work in Maplewood 2. The way I see it: I do the projects; Jarrod does the necessary.  He moves the dishes from one side of the sink to the other and, via some black magic, they turn clean in the process.  He transforms lettuce into salads and beans into coffee.  He does something that makes the trash and recycling receptacles become empty – it’s quite inscrutable.

Three of Jarrod’s other major contributions to Maplewood have been:

1) Painting the top edges of the walls that I can’t reach.

2) Shimming our leaning bookcases so that they work with our uneven floors/window moulding.

As a reward for wrestling with these bookcases, I devoted an entire shelf to nerdery.

3) Becoming The Keymaster.

Before we moved in, I was given a set of seven keys. Amazingly, this wasn’t enough to get into the apartment. Seven (7! se7en!) keys, but I was missing the keys necessary for various locks on the front, back and garage doors. One of our first mornings in the apartment, the only garage key accidentally went to work with Jarrod, leaving me unable to get to the car, unable to leave for work, crying in the backyard, drinking my breakfast smoothie. (This was probably the height of the “I’ve made a huge mistake” phase.) After that incident, Jarrod gathered all of the keys left for us (like, all 30) and painstakingly tested, labeled, and organized them. I got a bunch of copies made and now we each have a complete set and I haven’t cried since. Except for that one scene in Friday Night Lights when Becky talks to the strippers about Luke. So sad and sweet!

Good work, Keymaster.

Bathroom: That’ll Do

Fixing up the bathroom was at the top of my to-do list when we moved in. It’s small and, as I mentioned previously, it’s made even more cramped by the crazy angle of the door.  Here’s what it looked like with the previous tenants’ stuff.

There was a medicine cabinet above the sink, which I didn’t like because it protruded into the sink space and the mirror was too small, and there was a glass shelf above the toilet, which I didn’t like because those things are really only good for displaying your cologne collection and I stopped wearing Cool Water in seventh grade.

So, down came the medicine cabinet and the shelf along with the towel bar.

We painted the walls Benjamin Moore Decorators White (you might think the walls were already white, but you’d be wrong – note the swatches in the top left corner of the picture above). I shopped for a wall-mounted storage option before realizing that I could simply repurpose the cabinet I removed. I covered the mirror using the starch + fabric approach discussed on various blogs (e.g., here, here and here).  Measuring and cutting fabric super-precisely can be a drag, so I cut my material (a remnant I had on hand) a little bigger than needed and applied it to the mirror, using a defunct debit card* to push it tightly into the edges.

(I ironed after this step.)

* Defunct because Chase deactivated it to punish me for shopping at Michaels.

The next day, after it had dried, I used my X-Acto knife to cut off the extra fabric. Very easy and much more precise than if I had measured it. I’m pleased with the result, especially since it didn’t cost anything.

I cut a small hole in the back so that I could run a power cord from behind the mirror into the cabinet to plug in our electric toothbrush. I ran a second cord leading to my hairdryer, which I am far too lazy to unplug and put away each morning. Know thyself. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not a beautiful solution, but it works. I may use another cord cover to conceal the south-bound cord; I’ll also paint the existing cover to help it blend in a bit more.

Here’s a bunch more pictures – sorry, it’s hard to photograph such a small space.

All in all, I’m happy with the bathroom now. It came together pretty quickly and cheaply thanks to using supplies I had on hand. The landlords paid for the paint. The only thing I splurged on was the West Elm stripe shower curtain and some cheap IKEA FRAJEN towels (which are actually pretty nice – they have a sewn-in hanging loop and I like thinner towels for quick-dry purposes).

Look at that crazy angle! How did this floor plan happen?! (Sneak peak of the black wainscoting, by the way, and that’s the aforementioned cathole.)

CATHOLE: Litter Box Closet Cat Door

The cat’s bathroom got upgraded thanks to the CATHOLE. Easy to install, and it came in a sweet box.

I was happy this project gave me an excuse to acquire a cheap jigsaw. I’ve already used it for four different jobs; definitely worth the 30 bucks.

(My hair gets pretty scuzzy when I get into project mode.)

This closet is gigantic. I love it. We’re only buying toilet paper at Sam’s Club now.

I cut a rug the former tenants left in the basement to fit in the base of the closet.  For the short-term, I also used the rug from the old litter box trunk to help convince the cats to continue pooping in the designated area. (Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever posted a picture of our original set-up – maybe I’ll do that sometime.)

Good work, Doozy.

How am I going to restore the door to its original form when we move out of this apartment? Eh, I’ve got some ideas. I’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Update: Here’s a more recent picture, after I painted the wainscoting.