ORC Week 4: Door Trim, Window Shade, and Plant Shelf

Just 2 weeks left in the One Room Challenge! Participating has definitely been fun and motivating for me – I have to plan out my projects to both get sh*t done and to ensure I have something worth reporting each week. Today, I’m focusing on the south wall of the mudroom.

Mudroom South Wall Before

The original door trim was in need of improvement. For this corner piece, someone used a piece of plinth block…? It was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

Door Trim Before

I removed the moulding around the door. Here’s me pulling out nails – I feel like I need to occasionally show pics of me working to prove it’s not, like, house elves doing everything around here. It’s me, wearing hideous sneakers (which are somehow even worse from the back – this may be the saddest thing you’ve ever seen).

House Elf

I installed new trim and new black hinges as well. Replacing crummy hinges with nice ones is so easy, and it makes a bigger difference than you’d expect.

Door Hinge Before.JPG

Door Hinge After

I stacked pieces of pine and trim to make a simple craftsman header for the top of the door. I also did many hours of work to improve the water-tightness of the sill below the door, but it’s far too boring to get into.

Door Header After

You probably noticed the new shade in the photos above – it’s a Hampton Bay Caramel Simple Weave Flatstick Bamboo Roman Shade. I bought two of these shades at our last apartment: I never got around to installing them there (oh well) and then I never got around to returning them (oops). But it all worked out because they’re great in here! I totally lucked out on the width being the perfect size. And, Home Depot still carries them, so I was able to order matching ones for the remaining window and sliding door (you’ll see that in future posts).

caramel-hampton-bay-bamboo-shades-natural-shades-0212030-d4_1000

Here’s Lola, helping me out.

Lola Loves String

So helpful! Lola’s one true love is string. We’ll give him a piece of twine to play with sometimes, and he’ll carry it around the house, yowling with emotion. He will even put it in his water bowl, which is some weird-ass possessive feline behavior. Jarrod and I call it String Madness.

String Madness

The shades are purely decorative – we could raiser/lower them, of course, but we never do. Form over function isn’t my usual M.O., but this room needed them. As I mentioned in a previous post, the scale of the mudroom windows doesn’t make any sense. They’re far too tall. These shades visually shorten the window height, the wood adds warmth, and they make the otherwise rough windows look more finished.

Below the window, I DIYed a plant shelf with a $3.50 metal bracket and a $12 pine round. This Everbilt bracket is heavy-duty (it holds up to 150 lbs), which is needed because soil – especially wet soil – is super heavy.

Floating Shelf and Bracket Supplies

I stained and sealed the pine wood using the same materials I used on our kitchen butcher block shelf.

Mounted Shelf

I cut the back couple of inches off the circle using my table saw, so the shelf sits flush against the wall. There isn’t a stud centered below the window, so I installed it with some serious toggle bolts.

Before:Mudroom Wall Before.JPG

After! (Or perhaps I should say “Progress!” – I may install a baseboard after I finalize the rug situation.)Mudroom Wall After

The size of the shelf is the perfect radius for a 10″ pot, but not a 10 lb cat. Lola can’t fit up here, which keeps the plant safe from his omnivorousness. I picked up the planter for $12 from the Habitat ReStore on Pulaski. If you’re local, I enthusiastically recommend this place. They usually have a nice selection of cheap planters.

Plant Shelf in Front of Window

The plant is a philodendron of some sort – the label said it’s a split-leaf, but the leaves don’t look at all like the leaves of the other split-leaf philodendron I have. It won’t be able to stay out here all winter because it gets too cold, but so far it’s been chill-hardy.

Two more posts to go! I’m excited to wrap up this space and share the whole room with you.

Previous ORC posts:

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.
New posts go up every Thursday.

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ORC Week 3: Doorway Broom Closet

Welcome to Week 3 of the One Room Challenge, in which I’m trying to make our shoddy mudroom look and function better on the cheap. My previous two posts (Week 1 and Week 2) documented work done in 2016. This post is about a project I started and finished within the past week: a simple doorway storage area.

Mudroom Before 3

As I mentioned in my first ORC post, the door on the right (above) was the original back door to our house. When a previous owner renovated, they installed a new door and drywalled over the old door on the kitchen side. The original doorway is where my brass frames are now, and I replaced the other door as part of my kitchen remodel.

Kitchen and Dining Room After

On the mudroom side, they left the old door exposed. We only have one closet on our first floor – a coat closet in our entryway – so I decided to turn this doorwell* area into a broom closet nook.

* I searched Google to see if door well/doorwell is a compound word or not and learned it isn’t really used very often in either form! I thought it was a common architectural term, but I guess not. A lot of the online references I found were about Meghan Markle closing her own car door, because this tweet contains “door well.” Anyway, we can move on from this word nerd digression…

Mudroom Brick Painted White

Someone taped over the door glass on the interior side, which… ugh. Why. It just looked gross.

Tape Over Glass.JPG

I cut a piece of mat board to fit, painted it, and used spray adhesive to adhere it to the glass. Next, I installed a line of hooks. I like the simplicity of these screw-in metal hooks – they’re formed from a continuous piece of steel wire.

Vintage Twisted Wire Hooks

I bought a set of antique ones on eBay for a few bucks. You can also buy them new (e.g. from House of Antique Hardware), but they’re plentiful used: search eBay for terms like vintage bent wire hook.

Row of Vintage Coat Hooks

I screwed them straight into the wood door, EZPZ.

To cover the storage area, I went with a curtain. I had two spare curtain panels on hand: one was the fabric I wanted to use, but the other had the IKEA Kronill pleating tape I prefer for tidy, consistent pleats. To avoid having to buy a new curtain, I decided to remove the pleating tape and sew it to the top of the other curtain panel. This meant I had to use the scariest power tool in my collection: the sewing machine. I am not a sewer. I usually pay to have things professionally altered, but the ORC time crunch and my desire to finish this mudroom as cheaply as possible spurred me to DIY this. So, I dusted off my hand-me-down vintage Singer and got it done.

Vintage Singer Sewing Machine

The curtain is hung on a black metal tension rod I bought on Amazon. I had planned to mount the curtain at the very top of the doorway. When I tried that, however, it looked too grand and it drew attention to itself in a “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” kinda way. (Also, please pay no attention to the rug below the curtain – I’m still figuring that out.)

Too Tall Curtain.JPG

I decided to lower the curtain to align it with the door header, which meant I had to hem the bottom. That’s right: I sewed again. It was actually pretty easy! I’m not saying I’m a hero, but I won’t stop you from drawing your own conclusions.

That’s it! The closed curtain easily hides all the stuff this doorway contains.

Curtain Over Doorway.jpg

And here’s the broom closet loaded up with our broom, mop, dustpan, vacuum, and Chicago Public Radio tote bag that holds all of our vacuum accessories because our dumb vacuum doesn’t offer very good built-in attachment storage.

Doorway Storage Nook

Doorway Broom Closet Nook

In the posts to come: more storage, more plants, shades, and cat amenities.

P.S. If you’re a new reader, welcome! Please check out the Bungalow Tour page for an introduction to our house.

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.
New posts go up every Thursday.

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ORC Week 2: Drywall Finishing and So Much Painting

Hello again! It’s Week 2 of the One Room Challenge – hop back to One Room Challenge Week 1: Mudroom Makeover for an introduction to this space.

Mudroom Before 4

Let’s cut to the chase on one issue I hesitate to even mention: there was lead paint on the ceiling and upper part of the brick wall. Two different contractors who passed through this space looked up and said “Lead.” I believe this distinctive cracking is a tell-tale sign of old lead paint.

Mudroom Ceiling Before.JPG

Sure enough, swab tests confirmed lead paint – I used these 3M LeadCheck swabs. Red means lead.

Red Means Lead.JPG

This wasn’t surprising because of how old our bungalow is and, to be honest, it’s not too disconcerting to me. If we had kids or planned to have kids, I would be more worried: lead is a very serious risk to children and pregnant women. Furthermore, the lead paint is on a stable surface that we don’t come in contact with – not, for example, on window trim that is subject to friction and heavy use.

I debated including this information in this post because people tend to be alarmists online. I could have simply said “I painted the room” and left it at that, but I prefer to be upfront about the issues I encounter when renovating. So, I’ll tell you what I did, but I’m definitely not saying it’s what you should do. You gotta follow your own arrow.

Mask

In short: I contained the work area, I wore a P100 filtration mask, I removed the paint that was loose, I scrubbed all surfaces thoroughly with TSP, I covered the ceiling and walls in 4 coats of paint (2 layers of primer and 2 layers of paint), and I disposed of all supplies once finished. I’ve also added lead testing to my annual physical checklist, so my doctor and I can monitor my lead levels over time and feel confident that my DIY hobby is not endangering my health. Cool? Cool.

Here’s the room ready for painting:Mudroom Ready for Work

And here’s the room after the first coats of primer:Brick Painting Primer

Mudroom Ceiling Progress

This is an awful photo, but I wanted to share a tip: when you’re painting a ceiling, especially white on white, painting in a darkened room actually makes it a lot easier to see what’s already been painted and what’s left to do.

Mudroom Ceiling Painting Progress

There were some visible gaps in the beadboard ceiling after it had been painted, so I caulked those.

Painted Ceiling

Here’s me caulking while a contractor was painting the exterior – you can see more details about our exterior work in this post: Backyard Patio, Painting, and Landscaping.

Mudroom Work

As I previously mentioned, a prior owner had drywalled this space but did not finish the job. After the ceiling and brick wall were painted, I hired someone to tape and mud the drywall. This wasn’t a skill I was interested in learning myself, and I didn’t want to buy tools that I likely wouldn’t use again.

Mudroom Drywall Mudding Progress

I hired a contractor via the Albany Park Workers Center. They help day laborers find work and provide them with written contracts to reduce the risk of wage theft (a sad possibility for workers who are vulnerable due to reasons like immigration status). I wouldn’t go this route for bigger jobs, where I prefer to vet who I hire based on online reviews and/or personal referrals, but it was handy and affordable for a one-off low-stakes job like this.

Drywall Mudding

Once the mudding was dry and sanded, I painted the drywall – again, with 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint.

Mudroom Walls Painted White

Before:Mudroom Before 2

Progress:Mudroom Painted White

Before:Mudroom Wall Before

Progress:Mudroom Brick Painted White

So much better! In the posts to come: shades, storage, cat amenities, and more.

P.S. If you’re a new reader, welcome! Please check out the Bungalow Tour page for an introduction to our house.

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.
New posts go up every Thursday.

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One Room Challenge Week 1: Mudroom Makeover

I’m participating in the One Room Challenge for the first time! If you’re unfamiliar with the One Room Challenge (ORC): it’s a 6-week thing where bloggers tackle one space in their home and post about their progress. There are ORC “featured designers” who benefit from company sponsorship, and there are ORC “guest participants” – commoners like me who opt-in for fun. I’m tackling our back porch mudroom.

Most ORC rooms are beautiful*, which this room is not. And most ORC rooms are done in real time (as far as I know), which this room also is not. A real-time project is not a requirement for participation, and I want to be upfront about that. So, a very important disclaimer: most of the grunt work in this space has been done piecemeal since we bought the house.

(*For some beautiful ORC projects – which were impressively finished within 6 weeks – check out Stacy’s breakfast nook, Ashley’s master bedroom, and Emily’s guest bedroom.)

For me, the “challenge” will be posting once a week, which is something I’ve never done. I’m joining the ORC to spur me to blog more and to finish the room. You get regularly published posts, I get motivation to wrap up this space – it’s a win-win. But it won’t actually win: there’s an ORC prize, which this project is most definitely not even a remote contender for, which is why I don’t feel bad about not doing a real-time project. I didn’t come here to win; I came here to make friends.

Now, let me welcome you to our terrible mudroom, a space I’ve never shown on this blog. Here’s the view from the dining room when we bought the house – this dining room looks much better now (see Kitchen and Dining Room Before and After).

Door to Mudroom.JPG

And here’s what the mudroom looked like:

Mudroom Before 2.JPG

I know, right? (<– Imagine that said like the Jane the Virgin narrator.)

It used to be an outdoor porch. As I described when I tackled the exterior (see Backyard Patio, Painting, and Landscaping): at some point, the porch was enclosed very, very poorly. So poorly that they didn’t even finish the job. The drywall was never mudded. The proportions of the windows don’t make any sense. There’s no HVAC back here, so it’s cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It’s a cobbled-together garbage mess… but it’s sturdy, and it’s not unsafe.

Fixing it properly would require that we tear it down and rebuild it ($30k-ish at a minimum, probably way more than that), which isn’t in the budget and simply isn’t a priority. It functions fine for what it is, and my goal has been to make it look as decent as possible for as little money as possible.

It was gross:Mudroom Before 3.JPG

So gross:Mudroom Before 5.JPG

That’s the original back door: a previous owner drywalled over it on the other side. That brick bump-out is where ice was delivered to the kitchen! Our bungalow was built in 1913, and I love the remaining historical details.

SO gross:Mudroom Drywall Before.JPG

Mudroom Sliding Door Before.JPG

When we moved in, it quickly became a junk room. I put up a peg board because I thought about keeping my tools here, but I wound up preferring to have them in the basement, where I do a lot of work.

Mudroom Mess

Using this space made it immediately clear that we wanted to keep it – not just tear it off. It’s nice to have an area separate-but-accessible from our first floor living space. It’s a huge help for keeping our house clean – it’s an airlock, both literally and figuratively. I want it to look decent, but even more so, I want it to be functional, practical, and hardworking. (<– “Decent looking, but even more so, functional, practical, and hardworking” will be my Tinder bio if I’m ever back on the market.)

Mudroom Mess 2

In the coming weeks, I’ll document all the work I’ve done so far, and I’ll let you know when we’ve caught up to real time. And by Thursday, November 8, it will all be finished!

P.S. If you’re a new reader, welcome! Please check out the Bungalow Tour page for an introduction to our house.

You can check out all the other guest participants on the ORC website.
New posts go up every Thursday for 6 weeks.

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Kitchen Makeover Details Roundup 2 of 2

And we’re back, for the final roundup of kitchen details. You can check out my kitchen makeover here and the first roundup here.

Exhaust Fan

The fan installed in the ceiling over the range was a bathroom exhaust fan. The sticker on it literally said “Not for use in cooking area.” In terms of air movement, it did exactly nothing, so I removed it. It was unexpectedly difficult – it took some jaws-of-life style prying and cutting. Here’s an extremely flattering photo of me holding the extricated fan like a trophy bass.

Fan Removal

I mounted some wood scraps to the studs inside the hole so that I had something to affix a drywall patch to.

Ceiling Hole Patching

Home Depot sells small drywall “project panels,” which saves you from having to buy a full sheet – I cut one to fit.

Ceiling Hole Drywall Patching

Then I patched and painted the ceiling, and now it’s like it was never there.

Kitchen Island After 2

This means we don’t have an exhaust fan in the kitchen, of course, but I’ve never lived anywhere that had a functional one, so it’s not something I feel a strong need for.

Space Above the Fridge

How do you fill a gap between your fridge and cabinets? Short answer: baskets.

Long answer: Plan to build an open shelf. Mock it up with scrap wood. Decide it accentuates the gap to the right of the fridge. Pass.

Space Above Fridge Option

Consider a flush-mounted filler piece. See something very similar on a Menard’s demo kitchen. Decide it looks terrible and feel grateful Menard’s made that mistake so you don’t have to. Pass.

Fridge Filler Piece

Short answer: baskets! These Sedona Honey Low Open Totes from Crate & Barrel fit perfectly and coordinate with the color of the wood elements elsewhere in the room.

Baskets on Top of Fridge

Frame Grid

Here’s one mistake I made in decorating the kitchen: the frame grid was originally one size smaller. I bought and hung the 5×7 size because I thought the larger size would overwhelm the wall. The smaller size looked okay – I lived with it for a while but it never felt right.

Frame Grid with Too Small Frames

I finally pulled the trigger and ordered six of the larger size, hung them, stepped back, and said “Duh.” It was obviously the correct way to go. These are the 8×10 Brass Frames from Target (the outer dimension is 14.4″ x 18.4″).

Kitchen and Dining Room After

Getting these six frames perfectly aligned took some effort, so I wanted them to stay that way. The bottom row is particularly in danger of getting bumped by someone walking on that side of the island. The frame edge was too narrow to use 3M Command Strips, so I came up with a solution: I cut pieces of scrap wood to the perfect depth and hot glued them to the bottom of the frame backing. The frames hang on nails, with added support/stability from the Command strip.

How to Keep a Frame Grid Aligned

Brass Frame Grid

Kitchen Light Fixture

Here’s another mistake I made in the kitchen – four mistakes, in fact: I bought, installed, and returned four light fixtures over the island before I found The One. But I wouldn’t say they were real errors. Sometimes I can visualize what I want and get it right in one shot, but other projects require me to see the options in place before I can choose my choice. I didn’t document all of the rejects, but here are two examples:

This Minka Lavery Harbour Point Semi-Flushmount Ceiling Light seemed like a contender online.

Spaceship Light Fixture

Installed, however, it looked like a brass spaceship… and even more like a UFO when I turned on the light. Pass.

Spaceship Light Fixture 2

I really liked the look of this West Elm Stem + Sphere Semi-Flushmount, but I decided not to keep it because it looked too new – with all the other newness in the room, I wanted something that looked more classic.

West Elm Light

Also: the brass finish isn’t as nice as the brass on the West Elm fixture in our entryway, and one of the globes had a glass inconsistency that created a dark spot like a moon crater. Pass.

West Elm Light Shadow

In the end, a classic schoolhouse light from Rejuvenation made the most sense here. It’s the Eastmoreland 8″ Semi-Flush Mount with 16″ Opal Shade. It’s big enough to hold its own, pretty enough to not be boring, and simple enough that I can install something more interesting over the dining table without it looking like a carnival in here.

Kitchen Island Vertical After

Outlets and Plate Covers

I replaced the beige outlets in our island with new white ones, and I swapped out the beige plate covers with nice metal ones.

Outlet Before

I like these pressed metal plates from House of Antique Hardware. Stacy over at Blake Hill House gave me the idea to use a USB outlet. We always have this multiple adapter plugged in here, so we are prepared for any charging emergency. You show up at our house with your iPod Classic at 4%? We got your back.

Outlet After

Seriously: even if you can’t update the outlets themselves, replacing the plates is such an easy, inexpensive upgrade. I always did this as a renter with plates that had been covered in years of paint (see this old post: It’s Electric).

Phone and Ethernet Jacks

Speaking of plate covers: virtually every room in our house has an ethernet jack. There’s a professional-grade routing hub in our basement – I have no idea why. There was also a phone jack on the wall.

Phone Jack Before

I removed both jacks and covered the holes with blank plates that I painted to match our walls. A small change that feels so much better. I could eventually patch these holes, but since I’m not finished renovating the house yet it seemed smart to keep them open in case it’s helpful to have an access point or something.

Danish Corner Cabinet

Blank Plate Cover

Dimmer Switches

I also installed dimmer switches for all of the kitchen and dining room lights. I like these Leviton Decora Rocker Slide Universal Dimmers from Home Depot.

Dimmer Switches

I did all of the aforementioned electrical work myself (light fixtures, outlets, jack removal, dimmers) except for one switch. It was my first time installing a dimmer on a three-way pole – meaning a single fixture controlled by switches on opposite sides of the room. I installed the dimmer, turned the power back on, and the fuse tripped. I figured I had done something wrong with the circuit loop and decided to play it safe and call an electrician.

Emilio the Electrician

Emilio got me squared away quickly, and even took the time (unprompted!) to thoughtfully explain what I had done wrong and to draw a diagram for future reference – all without a whiff of condescension. Emilio is my guy. If you need an electrician, I’d be happy to refer him.

Arbor Vitae Trees

Last year, I had three arbor vitae trees planted. Our dining room window is huge, which is great for natural light, but not so great for the view.

Window Pre-Trees

The bottom of this window is 7 feet above ground level, so most arbor vitae available from big box stores were too short to provide the privacy and greenery I wanted here. Knowing how slowly they grow, I splurged on more mature trees – I didn’t want to wait years and years for them to reach this window’s height. I never mind sharing numbers, so I’ll tell you that they were $800 total, including installation, which required some major digging.

Jarrod and Trees

Here’s Jarrod for scale – he’s 6’2″ (I just asked him – he said he’s shrinking in height but getting wider to make up for it). Seeing greenery instead of our neighbor’s vinyl siding was such a huge improvement for our view.

I made this GIF when they were being planted, thinking it would be a triumphant reveal… but they were planted crooked. The landscapers had to return, dig them up, and redo them.

Window Tree GIF

The trees should fill out and up in the coming years, providing increased privacy. I say should because arbor vitae are pretty finicky – they grow slowly and seem prone to dying. It was the only evergreen option for this narrow side lot, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Dining Room After

What’s Left

The kitchen and dining room are now 95% finished, which feels great. It joins the ranks of our half-bathroom and master bedroom (I owe you an update on this one) – rooms that are ~done~. The remaining tasks are:

  • Move the electrical box to be centered over the table
  • Install a permanent light fixture – I’m circling around this Conical Drum Pendant from Rejuvenation
  • Replace the window – this will happen along with all the other windows in 2019 or, more likely, 2020
  • Replace the window trim to match the rest of the room, after the window is replaced

But, next up: I’m moving on to a different room, which I’ll show you next week!