Operation Obscurement: DIY Window Film

Getting to the point: our kitchen window view isn’t great.

Kitchen Window View

I wanted to obscure this view – especially because we can see straight into our neighbor’s kitchen and they into ours – without sacrificing the small amount of light we get through the window.

After initially considering Gila window film, I balked when I saw that it was 20 bucks plus the cost of the application kit.  I decided instead to try making some free, homemade window film using the same technique I employed to cover the mirror on our bathroom medicine cabinet.

Fabric Covered Window

I used a mixture of starch and water to adhere thin white fabric to the bottom window.  I chose not to do the top window because I wanted to let in as much light as possible.  Just as I did for the bathroom project, I cut the fabric a little bigger than needed and applied it to the glass, using a defunct debit card to push it tightly into the edges. The next day, after it had dried, I used my X-Acto knife to cut off the excess fabric.  It was very easy and much more precise than if I had measured it.

Kitchen Window

I completed this a while back and the fabric has held up really well.  It lets in a soft light while nicely obscuring the view and providing privacy.

Window Ledge

Kitchen Ceiling Fan: Victorious / Victory-ish

I’m sorry to report that I have no fan-related witticisms, so let’s dive right in. Here’s what the fan looked like before:

Gold scrollwork on the blades. Floral, fluted shades.  Let’s look at those with the camera flash on and the corners rounded:

Downright seedy. Who knew blue roses could look so prurient?

I started by removing the light bulbs and shades, and then the fan blades.

Next up was removing the light kit, which was super easy – just two wires to unscrew – and I then took off the motor cover.

Which left me with this:

At this stage, I no longer felt fully confident that anything I took down could be easily put back up. Some of the things in this apartment feel tenuously held together; this fan is one of those things, and I didn’t want to push my luck. (Not to say it’s an unsafe fan, but rather I wouldn’t be surprised if I removed a screw and the roof slid off the building.) So, I decided to paint the remaining fixture in place. I had seen several other posts in which people spray painted fans in place and I thought it seemed like a bad idea… and, guess what, it is! I prepped the kitchen carefully, covering the surfaces below with old sheets, and then used painters tape and trashbags to create a canopy, which I moved around as needed to help contain the drift of paint.

Looks kind of like a dementor, right? It worked, but I wouldn’t recommend this approach. Spray painting indoors = bad idea.

Expecto Patronum! Or, Harry Potter + IKEA = PATRONÜM

The back of the fan blades were filthy: so coated in grease and dirt that they appeared to be a different color than the front.

After scouring them in our bathtub, I let them dry over night and quickly sanded them with fine grade sandpaper. I taped up the electrical bits I didn’t want painted, stuck the screws in a box lid to secure them, and then went at the whole lot with white spray paint.

By the way, I didn’t use primer because I didn’t have any on hand and I didn’t want to venture out to the ‘burbs to buy some. You see, the sale of spray paint has been banned within the city of Chicago since 1995. It went all the way to the Supreme Court. It’s been a curse on Chicago DIYers ever since, and on this particular DIYer since 2003. I’m surprised it hasn’t led to drive-through spray paint joints along the Chicago city limit borders, like fireworks stands along state lines. Maybe this is an untapped franchise opportunity. DIBS!

Moving along: things went quickly once all of the tedious-but-necessary prep work was finished.

Several coats of spray paint later, I put everything back together again along with some cheap new shades (purchased at The Home Depot for $4 each). Brace yourself for some rather anticlimatic After pictures:

It’s a white fan! Hurrah! Really, though, I don’t want a decorative, bedazzled fan. I want a fan that blends in. Done and done. Now I’m eying the guest room fan. I’m also eying The Home Depot’s selection of ready-to-go no-defense-against-the-dark-arts-training-required fans. Did you know you can buy a ceiling fan for $24?! I sure didn’t.

Kitchen Progress: Part 2 of 2

As seen in the previous post, nearly all of the kitchen stuff is located along one wall, making the room sort of anchorless and not very user-friendly. I was won over by the STENSTORP island at IKEA: huge real wood top, stainless steel shelves, space for bar stools.

I thought it would be awesome in our kitchen but $400+ (including tax) was too steep; plus, I prefer to buy furniture second-hand for a variety of reasons. So, I set up a Craigslist alert for “STENSTORP” and one popped up a few weeks later. $175 – maybe not a steal, but definitely a good deal for such a major piece of furniture.

The island’s top had a big gouge that the previous owner had patched with wood filler. I decided to flip the top and sand the bottom to use instead.

By the way, it’s incredibly awesome to have project space in the basement.

I read online that mineral oil is good, cheap, food-safe protectant for butcher block counters. Jarrod was a good sport and bought it at Walgreen’s for me.

It was fun to apply and the wood drank it right up, so I thought we were good to go. Setting a warm pizza box on it, however, raised the grain of the wood, indicating that the mineral oil did not provide adequate protection against steam/water. I don’t want to have to treat the island delicately, so I upped the ante and applied tung oil finish, which is supposed to provide more water resistence.

If this doesn’t work, I’ll cave and use water-based wipe-on poly.  We won’t actually be cutting food directly on the island’s surface so the poly would be fine, but I’d rather use a product that absorbs into the wood rather than sitting on top of it.

Here’s what our kitchen looks like now.  (At this point it might be helpful to point out, in case you haven’t already noticed, that clicking on an image enlarges it.)

Cat food on the bottom shelf keeps it out of sight and out from underfoot.  Win-win.

Still need to acquire bar stools.

Not finished yet, but definitely some big steps in the right direction.  I still need to figure out replacements for the mini-blinds.  The trim hasn’t been repainted yet.  The space will be warmed up with more art, better dish towels, etc.  Most importantly, this ceiling fan needs help.

“Ugly as a mud fence,” as my grandma once said to me about David Letterman. “He sure is funny, but he’s ugly as a mud fence.”

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!