New House Tour: Main Floor

Thanks for dining at Palermo’s Pizzeria! Jarrod’s your waiter and he’ll be taking care of you this evening while we tour the first floor of our new house.


Let’s start in the kitchen. It’s the best room of the house right out of the box, which isn’t to say it’s perfect, but it’s functional and is the closest to being pretty decent!

In case it’s not obvious, that’s not our table nor our curtains. The house had been vacant since October 2014 and was mostly empty except for a lot of junk in the garage and basement. I think this table was an attempt at staging, to make the place seem homier. It disappeared the day before we closed; the junk unfortunately stayed put. (The house was sold as-is, so they didn’t have to clean it.)


We’re not going to talk about that enclosed back porch right now: please pretend that moldy mess doesn’t exist. That’s what we do every day.


The kitchen cabinets are kinda nice: the drawers are full-extension and everything’s sturdy, but they were also put together poorly and some weird choices were made. That upper cabinet to the right of the sink, for example, is a base cabinet: it’s way too deep to be up top and Jarrod is definitely going to ram his head into it while loading the dishwasher.


That island is gigantic. I’m excited to have so much counter space on either side of the stove and four matching stools lined up at the bar.


Another “Good ’nuff!” paint job from the previous occupant. That door on the right leads to the basement.


Past the kitchen is the staircase I love, terrible beast of a project that it is. Looks like someone started stripping that sixth baluster and then said “Fuck this!” A few months from now, I’ll probably do the same. My only saving grace is that I don’t want to strip to the point of re-staining (that would kill me and/or I’d set my house on fire), just to the point that it can be a clean paint job. I want the risers and balusters to be white, with the handrail and stair treads stained brown.


There’s a half-bath next to the stairs. The toilet flushes and the sink drains water, and that’s about all it has going for it currently.


I’ll make it as nice as possible with a minimal amount of money, and then do a full renovation down the road. This bathroom renovation will take priority over the upstairs one because more people will use it and it currently feels crummier.


downstairs11Moving on to the living room. I love this view.


Blogging is weird: it’s hard to know what balance to strike between “We’re excited about this house we bought!” and “Look at this messed up thing! Here’s another bad choice! And why in the hell would someone do this?” Just know that while I point out all the flaws, I’m excited about the overall promise of the house and still think (85% of the time) that we got a good place! Like George Harrison said in that weird music video that creeped you out as a child: It’s gonna take time, a whole of precious time, it’s going to take patience and time, to do it right and undo all the things some idiot did before you.


This decorative fireplace will be nice eventually. I’ll paint the brick (it’s already painted – that’s red paint with hand-drawn gray “mortar” lines) and rebuild the shelves. Art — not a TV — will go over the mantle. Nothing against TVs, I just don’t like them up high.


I’m a little overwhelmed by how to arrange furniture in the living room. There’s a lot of room to work with, but the space is divided visually by the entryways. Neither half is big enough to contain an entire seating area, so whatever couch + chair arrangement we come up with will have spill into the middle of the room. My friend’s mom (hi, Mrs. Priebe!) is an interior decorator and I’m roping her in for advice.


The front sunroom used to be an exterior porch. It was enclosed a few decades ago, with cheap linoleum on the floor and cheap acoustic tiles on the ceiling. All of it will get changed in time. It’s a sunny bonus room and I look forward to having some comfortable chairs out there for reading and coffee. And lots of plants!



The brick on the original exterior wall is real. The “brick” on the interior side is not.


Those are plastic bricks, glued to a thin layer of concrete, which was applied to a piece of wall panelling, which was stuck to the plaster wall. Yeesh. This was one of things we were able to tackle prior to moving in, so it looks quite different now. Pics to come!


The next post will tour the basement and outside, where we’ve already done a lot of work, so there will be before & after photos of some unglamorous but very necessary changes.

Yard Sale Finds and DIY Cocktails

(Sorry for the delayed bathroom update! I had to finish making the shower curtain, and then we were out of town, and then there was a SNAFU with some hinges… The cursing has subsided and I expect things to finally come together this weekend. I’ll return soon with bathroom photos because, trust me, we’re all in need of some closure there. Literally. I need a bathroom door that closes.)

A few weeks ago our neighborhood hosted a community yard sale. I invited some friends over to have afternoon snacks and drinks before wandering the alleys of the Greater Rockwell area. Two problems with this plan:

1) The cocktail I wanted to make called for fancy little champagne coupe-style glasses.

2) My competitive deal-hunting nature is at odds with leisurely, social yard salin’.

Conveniently, the need for #1 gave me an excuse for #2. I had to get up early and do a quick survey of the sales in order to find glasses for the cocktails I would make later that afternoon. And if I happened to stumble upon a find in pursuit of getting my friends day-drunk, who could blame me?


I saw these prints leaning up against a chain-link fence. They were priced at $20 each. I thought “Those are either somewhat cool or really ugly.” Then I thought “If nothing else, that’s a good price for a large, professional frame.” I asked how much for the pair, she said $30, I said done.


Then I asked if she knew anything about the artist – she didn’t, but said that the law firm where her father had worked dissolved and unloaded their art collection. That’s when I started to get excited – some law firms own Real Art.


Got home, did some signature deciphering, did some Googling. Oh, hey, what’s up? A real museum owns them:

Tate Museum

Allan D’Arcangelo Constellation I and IV. My friend Jenni manages a gallery in New York, so I roped her in to search for comparables (thanks, Jenni!), and then I had a friendly exchange with Sotheby’s Print Department (I can’t believe they even responded): “I have determined that the value of your prints regrettably falls below Sotheby’s minimum consignment level of $5,000 for a single lot. Most prints by D’Arcangelo sell for several hundred dollars at auction, but not more than $1,000 each.” Oh, drat. Not a windfall, but still a solid return on investment for a Saturday morning’s work.

I also found an awesome vintage cocktail set (though not the coupes I set out in search of) that I put to use that afternoon. I made a modified version of this maple concord recipe and sawed some BBQ skewers to hold the garnish because everything is better if I get to use tools.

Cocktail Saw


The cocktails were delicious and fueled wise, necessary acquisitions of dresses, (more) glasses and toddler Timberlands.

Yard Sale Finds

I hope your weekend is full of cocktails, yard sale victories, or – even better – a combination of both.

Rug Shopping, Forever

Between the island, the clock, the trashcans and the rug, there is a lot of IKEA going on in this kitchen. And there isn’t a lot of color. I’m cool with both of those things, to a point, but the kitchen feels a bit sterile. The neon sign helped add some character. Now it needs an awesome rug.


I had hoped this rug would be The One. It’s the Dunham Kilim Recycled Yarn Indoor/Outdoor Rug from Pottery Barn.


But the orange was much stronger in person than it appeared on the website, and that orange really brought out the orange in our oak kitchen cabinets.


Looking at these pictures I actually like it but in person it was definitely a non-starter.


So the search continues. Probably forever. Forever? Forever ever.

Building a Picture Ledge for a Neon Sign

This right here is the kitschiest thing I’ve ever loved.


I found it in an antique mall in mid-Missouri (Apache Flats represent!) for $30. Something about it is hilarious to me. Neon seems appropriate for vices, like BEER or GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS. Not SALADS. It lived in the basement for a while, illuminating our ping-pong parties, but I decided I liked it enough to display in the kitchen.

West Elm, Pottery Barn, IKEA, etc. have lots of options for picture ledges, but 1) they’re expensive, 2) they weren’t the exact width and depth I wanted, and 3) they have a raised lip on the front, which I didn’t need. I wanted a floating shelf that would hold the sign and virtually disappear.


I bought some inexpensive wood and used glue and screws to join the two pieces. I put my new countersink drill bit to work so that the screws would sit below the surface of the wood, and I filled in the recesses with wood filler before painting.


I wanted the ledge to look like it was one single piece – not two connected pieces – so I waited to cut the ledge to the correct length until after I joined the two pieces.  This worked really well – my chop saw ensured the edges aligned perfectly and after smoothing the end grain with some wood filler and painting it, the ledge looks legit.




Similar to the oddly but perfectly placed outlet in our living room (for our leaning bookshelves), we have an oddly but perfectly placed outlet smack in the middle of our kitchen wall.




(The sign is discretely tethered to the wall at the top so there’s no danger of it toppling over.)

Just a couple of other changes to the kitchen since you saw it last back in summer of 2011 – as a reminder, it used to look like this before I painted the wainscoting, scored the STENSTORP island off Craiglist and painted the ceiling fan:



I bought the ubiquitous BONDIS wall clock and I ordered the Tabouret counter stools from after months of Craigslist searching didn’t turn up anything I liked as much.


I highly recommend these stools – they’re super sturdy and you can’t beat the price (under $80 with coupons for a pair).  They also come in fun colors, if you’re into that sort of thing.  I’m not, but it’s fine if you are. No judgement.


Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

Oh, hey there, blog: what’s up?  It’s been a long time (long time), we shouldn’t have left you (left you), without a dope beat to step to.

It’s not that I haven’t been busy around the apartment, it’s that I’ve been busy making changes that are perceptible only to myself.  Take, for example, our kitchen.  I had painted it Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White, which I used in the bathroom and in one of the spare bedrooms to my satisfaction.  In the kitchen, however, the paint color always appeared really cold and unfinished to me – like it was just a primer coat.  I think it’s because we get very little natural light in the room.

So I tried two different shades: Benjamin Moore’s Dove White (color-matched by Behr) and Behr’s Irish Mist, which is what I used in the living and dining rooms.



Don’t worry if you can’t see that.  Only crazy people can.  And tetrachromats.  (Did you hear Radiolab’s Colors episode? It was really awesome, especially the choir.)

Here: looking at it from the side makes the difference more visible.


I went with Irish Mist and am very happy with the change. The kitchen feels much less stark. And the cats always enjoy an opportunity to hang out on a ladder. (Looking back at my New Year’s photo suggests they have an agreed-upon positioning.)


I pried off that phone jack you see on the wall in the first photo and discovered this burst of color beneath.


I think it might be original? Or at least very old.


Come back tomorrow for a project I’m excited to share – something with a more noticeable impact. I’ll leave you with a sneak peek!