Posts from November 2010


Now that the dust has settled from the big 2010 project (so close to finishing the kitchen, really!), I’ve been cleaning up and updating things around the ol’ blog, focusing on the main links at the top of the page.


House Tour – We’ve been thinking about better ways to organize the various projects that we’ve tackled and it seemed logical to divide the content into rooms or different parts of the house. (We’d been in the house 3 years before I started this version of the blog, so lots of back-blogging was in order.) In addition to the “before” and “after”, we felt it was important to show the process as well. I’m still fussing around with the text and graphics, but it seems better organized than before.

Design – This page has been condensed and updated and shows the basic floor plan iterations (which are hopefully easier to read than the earlier versions).

Resources – This is a new page that lists all of the materials and products that we’ve used so far and where we got them. I opted not to include links, since products are constantly changing and any of the items could be quickly Googled (or just shoot us an e-mail and we’d be happy to point you in the right direction). 

Sustainability – This page has been revamped as well. It is now a more inclusive list of what we’ve done (and would like to do) and is organized by common environmental categories. Even though being green isn’t the main focus of this blog, it influences nearly every decision we make and so we thought it deserved its own page (even if there aren’t any pretty pictures). For us, good design is sustainable design.


If anything looks wonky or isn’t working, please let me know! The blog, like our house, is a continuous work in progress.


happy birthday bailey

Today is Bailey’s fifth birthday! (It is also my mom’s birthday – Happy Birthday Mom!) As per tradition, we’ll be giving Bailey his favorite treat – cheese melted on a slice of bacon. He might also get some of the pumpkin pie that I totally botched (let’s just say that since there is no sugar in it, I figure it’s ok for him).

In honor of Mr. Bails, I’ve culled through our collection and gathered some of my favorite pictures from the last five years. Ready, set, PUPPIES!

This photo was taken just last weekend. He’s still a puppy.


Most of the puppy pictures were taken by our friend Nguyen – who graciously offered to document how ridiculously cute our furball was.

floor plans

Construction on the main floor is more or less done, which means…time to update the floor plan! We made a few changes post-demo, mainly with the addition of the loft, the stair cabinet and tweaking the furniture layout. But just for fun, here’s a reminder of what it looked like circa 2008. [Click to enlarge.]

And here’s what it looks like now (the living room is still empty, but not for long). In an earlier plan we had a bench seat (with storage below) along the south side of the dining area. We ended up nixing the idea so we could have the flexibility to rotate the table either way depending on our mood or the amount of people over. (For Thanksgiving and other bigger events, we have a card table “extender” that can go on one end. With a tablecloth over the top, you can’t tell it’s two pieces.) We also opted to put the media cabinet along the west wall of the living area, instead of a low piece that separates the living and dining area.  The second bedroom/flex room is still a question mark. It seems silly to put an actual bed in there so we’re thinking of just leaving our current couch in the space and if we have 2+ guests we can bust out the plush Aerobed. It’s not fancy, but our remodel funds are super depleted so that space is going to stay flexible for a while. Eventually, we’d like to add another wardrobe and maybe one of those fancy couch-bed things. Ok, a futon. But not the kind you had in college. Anyhow, I love that we were able to add a bedroom and make it a million times more functional without adding any square footage (the main floor is about 800 SF including the mudroom). We went through tons of floor plan iterations (maybe we’ll show those someday – it might make for a good laugh), and ultimately landed on what you see above. Not only did we have to come up with something that worked, but also something that could be phased over time while we lived in the house. Sure, there are inherent challenges with reworking a small, 100 year-old house, but we’re pretty excited about living in this one.

unhappy retriever

After spending yet another precious weekend indoors, the canine had no choice but to stage a sit-in, protesting even the most basic of household chores. Clearly, the remodel had taken its toll on everyone.

Inspired by the always clever, Unhappy Hipsters.

custom kitchen shelves

During the design phase for this project, we thought about doing custom or semi-custom kitchen cabinets. After a lot of research and soul-searching, we decided on an IKEA/DIY (let’s call it IKEADIY) hybrid approach that would use IKEA base cabinets and wall cabinets with a few custom wood shelving units thrown into the mix.  

Truthfully, I’ve been a little nervous about the DIY part because we’ve never really built custom shelving before (and when I say we, I mean Kyle). But I should have known not to doubt Kyle’s skillz. I don’t have the patience for this type of project and so I am very grateful that he does. He’s built two of the four shelves (plus the cabinet wrap) and it’s gone rather smoothly with hardly any hiccups.

The first step was to cut the basic pieces from larger sheets of fir veneer plywood.

For Bailey’s custom dog bowl holder, we used the bottom of a tart pan as a template and a jigsaw to cut the holes. The diameter of the tart pan was just a tad bit smaller than the diameter of the bowl, but this ended up working nicely as the lip of the bowl is about 1/4″ above the shelf, making it easier to pull the bowls out.

All the joints are glued and biscuited, so there are no fasteners. 

We chose to apply a fir edge band to the exposed plywood edges. Normally, we like the striated edge of nice, cabinet grade plywood. But nice, cabinet grade plywood is expensive (and typically maple). So – edge band. The edge band comes in a roll and has an adhesive backing so you simply iron it on.


Here’s a close up look of the exposed plys compared to the (yet to be trimmed) edge band.

After the band was adhered, Kyle flipped the shelf over and trimmed any excess with a sharp Exacto knife.

Then he sanded it down which created a bit of a rounded corner where the two faces meet. This step was really effective in blending the two materials and giving the apperance of solid wood.

Before applying the finish, we dry fit the built unit to make sure everything was going according to plan.

Next, Kyle applied one coat of wood conditioner and two coats of polyurethane to all of the pieces.

Finally, it was time for installation. High gloss IKEA panel, meet DIY fir panel. You are now best friends. (The fir panel at the island was glued to the pony wall behind.)

For the open shelving that flanks the range hood, we’ll install small strips of LED lighting on the underside to provide additional task lighting. Routing our power supply required some creative problem solving though. We needed to connect the lighting strip to the transformer located in the cabinet above the range hood and the connector cord isn’t rated to go through the wall. So we recessed the back panel and notched the cabinet, allowing a chase for the cord to run. (The lights aren’t installed yet, but the connector cord had to go in before the shelf could be installed – you can see the end hanging down in the image below.)

Next, Kyle installed the shelf. We didn’t add extra blocking in the wall, so we decided to fasten the shelf to the IKEA one above. We used 15 screws. It’s solid. (I later installed some sticky-back cork shelf liner in this cabinet to hide the screw heads.) 

Finally, the fir panels went up. The one next to the pull-out pantry went up first and was fastened by installing a few screws from inside the pantry. The horizontal panel went up next. It’s times like these when I wish we had a third person to take photos, because I’m pretty sure the best photo ops are when we’re moving 11′ panels above our heads and through tight spaces. This panel is actually two pieces glued and biscuited together, so moving the piece from the basement was a delicate (but swift) operation.  The shorter end panel went up last and was adhered with good ol’ Liquid Nails and a few screws through the top.

There will be another open shelf to the left of the range hood and vertical wine storage between the end panel and wall cabinets. We also ordered a piece of blue-gray colored glass that will go at the range hood and extend up to the underside of the spice rack.

So in general, we would recommend this hybrid DIY approach. We don’t have any fancy cabinetry tools – in fact, Kyle built all of these pieces with only a hand-held circular saw, jigsaw, and biscuit joiner (plus biscuits and glue).  He would also like to stress that using a guide and clamps is key to cutting accurate and straight pieces. You could definitely go cheaper on the wood (especially if it is paint grade), but we wanted fir to match everything else. Finally, we carefully chose what pieces we would DIY and tried to make them as simple as possible (i.e. – no moving parts). For us, it was a reasonable amount of things to build without getting completely overwhelmed. Although it’s not terribly difficult, the process can be tedious in that there is a lot of planning, prepping and waiting. We did all of the construction during two weekends and then moved the finish work to the basement so it could be tackled on weeknights. We lose our sun around 4:30 now, so evening tasks are limited. In fact, I think it’s time to start watching TV again. What should we start with, True Blood or Mad Men?