Our kitchen reno, finally!

Little changes can make a big difference.

cropped-New-header-front-of-house-2.jpgWhen we moved into our house in January 2013, I was in love with my kitchen–more or less. It’s big and bright, has a perfect work triangle and tons of storage. I wasn’t crazy about the colour of the cabinets or counter tops, but I knew they could be changed. I really like to preserve and update what we have, rather than just tossing things into the landfill and the cabinets are solid maple and in excellent condition–all good reasons for keeping them. Also, it would have been very expensive and quite extravagant, really, to replace all the cabinets, so we decided to keep them and change the really ugly stuff. (I’m going to live with them for a while and perhaps one day I will have them painted white…although that is doubtful, given that the estimate to have them professionally refinished is about $5,000.  Hmmm…i’ll have to give this one a lot of thought).

Here are the photos of the kitchen as it looked when we bought the house. You can see it had great potential, but the dark gray counter tops were just so dreary.

BEFORE…dark gray counter tops, outdated back splash and hardware that did nothing to enhance the cabinets.

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AFTER…dscf2074

A CLOSER LOOK…quartz counter top, brick back splash and black handles that pop!
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We have so much counter space that we had to buy two slabs of granite…ykes! But, it is a beautiful piece of stone.

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I carried the brick right up over the windows to add interest and I added some pretty bar stools that I bought on sale when Target went out of business here in Ottawa. This photo captures a few of my favourite things: the gorgeous lamp I bought for a steal at Walmart (of all places) and filled it with wine corks; the pretty clock my mom gave me for Christmas last year; and the plaid curtains and valances I bought on Amazon for a fraction of the price I would have paid elsewhere. Our style could be described as casual/country/farmhouse chic…pretty much.

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Last year we had the dark and dreary gray ceramic tiles replaced with this beautiful wide plank laminate…I know, I know, everyone hates laminate. Well, not this girl! The new laminates have texture and look like real wood…and, five years from now they’ll look the same. (Left: on the day we moved in I was cleaning the grout…ugh…what a job. Right: my beautiful new laminate, heavy with texture and no grout to scrub. That makes me a happy girl!)

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We also replaced the old black energy-hog of a fridge with a sleek and shiny stainless steel model…with an ice-maker. We’re practically living on ice-water these days; it’s so refreshing!

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And, last but not least, my double under mount sinks. They are so deep I can put my soup pot right into one of them for scrubbing.

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While this reno was not on my usual shoestring budget, it was an excellent investment in our home and we get to enjoy it for years to come. My next project is tiny: add shelves to the “broom closet” to store cleaning products. Now that’s something I CAN do on a shoestring budget!

Thanks for dropping in. I hope you will visit again, soon. Until next time, happy renos, happy everything!

Gloria

Baa-bye, Monstrosity…Hello, Beautiful!

Our brand new, hand-crafted railing is here!! But, read the story, first…I’ve saved the best for the last!

We just celebrated our first year in our new (1972) house. It took us a year, but we finally said, “so long,” to the horrible-terrible monstrosity that took up prime real estate in our front entrance. It was supposed to be a railing or a half wall or something…we just called it, “U.G.L.Y.”

Here’s how the formerly dark brown entrance, with a darker brown front door and the giant monstrosity staring your right in the face, looked (the monstrosity and surrounding walls were covered in tongue-and-groove pine boards coated in high-gloss Varathane.

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Then we painted…and it definitely helped…

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But, the MONSTROSITY just had to go. Remember these photos? Can you believe how U.G.L.Y. that is? And, it was worse before I painted it!

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And, the matching bench…gag…

2013-11-05 17.01.04Finally, we said, “ENOUGH!” Then we rolled up our sleeves, got out our sledge hammers and worked with a vengeance. (It was, actually, quite therapeutic).

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A lot of stuff happened after we demolished that thing…like many chats with our local Home Depot guys and countless hours spent on YouTube trying to learn how to build a railing. What we learned was that there was no way in hell we could ever do this. Enter: Jasmin of Quality Stairs! Our savior and one of the finest craftsmen you’ll ever meet. Here’s what he created for us…

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So, all’s well that ends well! I still have some touch up painting to do and a couple of ugly brown doors to paint, but we’re almost there.

Hmmm…now, what to do about the ETCHINGS the previous owners did in the bathrooms…

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Ya gotta laugh!

Finally, down comes the monstrosity!!

The Wall–ugly wall. It’s finally coming down!

2013-11-05 17.01.11It’s been almost a year since the day we first laid eyes on…THE UGLY WALL. We have asked ourselves over and over who would build such a monstrosity and WHY. Although it’s white in the photo above, when we moved in (11 months ago) it was a knotty pine–with a super-duper high gloss top coat on it. In all our naivete, we thought that maybe painting it white would make it better. HAH! It actually made it look bigger and bolder. It just sat there, taunting and torturing us with its ugliness. Oh, and did I mention that attached to the ugly wall is an ugly bench, shown below with its upholstered seat removed.

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So, we stared at it (endlessly), whined, brainstormed and complained about it. We’ve challenged our visitors to come up with creative, DIY (read: cheap and easy) ideas on how to “fix it.”

Finally, I could stand it no longer. So, on this peaceful Saturday evening, with a light and fluffy snow floating down outside our window, I declared to no one in particular that I was “taking it down, folks!” With a hammer and a flat head screw driver, I began prying off the first layer of trim.

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Before I even had time to break into a good sweat, my totally awesome husband, Peter (who has become quite an amazing DIY-guy) quickly got into the act and before we could say, “ugly Swiss Family Robinson wall,” it was down. Ahhhhh….what a feeling!! Have a look at what we found under the layer of pine (which was over a layer of dry wall)…

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And this is just one side of the ugly wall. The other side is going to be even more difficult to tear apart because it’s over the stairs and harder to reach.

Well, the first step is sometimes the hardest. But, at least the next stage will be rebuilding and making it beautiful. So far, in our efforts to brighter and beautify, we have painted the previously dark brown walls a soft colour called Raffia Cream. I’ve also painted the front door and now just have the back door and adjacent closet to do. It really brightens up the entry ways. (By the way, our front door and back door face each other and form one large entry way. It’s pretty unusual, but our house is L-shaped and it really works).

I hope you will come back to see our progress. Tomorrow we’re off to see a play with my mom, so all tools are down for the next 36 hours. But, once Monday gets here…look out ugly walls!!!

Paint–you light up my life!

Frame_home-sweet-homeHere it is, November, and we’ve finally–after 10 months in our house–gotten around to painting the front entrance.

Our house has one large entrance, with the front door at one end and the back door at the other. When we moved in, It was painted a dreary brown colour that just sucked the light right out. And, to add insult to injury, it has pine wainscoting–lots and lots of pine wainscoting. Yep, straight out of the 19080’s. Sigh. After much thought, we left the wainscoting up for three reasons: first, we were afraid the walls underneath might be seriously damaged from all the nails; second, the amount of work involved in taking it all down was more than we were prepared to do; and, third, we are trying to do all of our home improvements on a shoestring budget. Enter: Behr Ultra Premium paint–white for the wainscoting and my favourite, Raffia Cream, for the walls! Here are the before and after photos.

Before…dark and dreary…

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Part way through–see how dark it is?

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And now…

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I still have to paint the back door and the closet door next to it, but for today, I’m putting down my roller and heading to my craft room!!

Out of Africa

Hi, this is me, Globug.

Hi, this is me, Globug.

Many years ago–41, to be exact, I was a “Brown Owl.” My daughter, Angie, was just seven years old and she was a Brownie. One of my other little Brownies, Tracey, was the daughter of a diplomatic courier. Her mom, Gail, volunteered to be my “Tawny Owl” and we quickly became good friends. She told me fascinating stories about her life and travels in places like Germany and Africa.

One day she showed me some of the beautiful artifacts she had collected from around the world. One of them was a beautiful chess set, hand-carved in Africa, which she had purchased for the ridiculously low price of one Canadian dollar (for a whole set!). I was very taken by the beauty and artistry of these unique chess pieces and, unbeknownst to me, Gail had another set tucked away, which she generously handed over to me as a gift.

I was very excited with my treasure, not because I was a chess player, but because I knew it would be a wonderful gift for my dad. Dad loved the chess set as much as I did, but my mom, in her usual fashion, wrapped it up a tucked it away so “nothing would happen to it.” And there it stayed, deep in the back of a drawer, until my father passed away in 1995. About a year later, I asked my mother if I could take it back. Today, my hand-carved African chess set lives in bamboo bowl on an antique table in my living room, right out in plain site, where it can be seen, touched, admired and enjoyed!

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During my big photography kick in the mid-nineties, I snapped this shot of the chess set and framed it. Here it is, as it hangs in my living room, today.

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Just for the sake of interest, the two photos below it are little home-made masterpieces, too. The one on the left is a close-up of a gorgeous iron gate that I took in Quebec City. The one on the right is a melted crayon project that I got to make in my granddaughter’s kindergarten class on Grandparents’ Day (17 years ago). I think her teacher gave me an A+ on it, so I framed it.

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I guess it’s safe to say that I’m sentimental. And, I LOVE things that are hand-made and/or have stories behind them. There’s lots more to come, so please come back for my next story, which will be about my fight with a shark while deep sea diving off the coast of Africa. Hah! Just kidding…my next post will be about the make-over I’m doing in my bathroom. Doesn’t get any more exciting than that around here, these days!! 🙂

The mantle…it’s crooked, but it’s up!

It’s been like a beehive at our house, lately, as we try to settle in and lead normal lives. Hah, like that’s actually happening!  But, we are making progress, even if it is a a snail’s pace.

The fireplace from HELL

This week’s project was to install a mantel on our 42-year-old-and-very-boring-brick-wall-fireplace. Weren’t we surprised to discover that the bricklayer must have forgotten his level at home the day he built our fireplace. The bricks are  very noticeably slanted to the right. Yikes! We didn’t see it until we tried to level the new mantel. When we would get the mantel straight with the bricks, it would be so slanted that we could imagine our candle sticks sliding right off and crashing to the floor. But, when we leveled the mantel to a perfect 180, the whole fireplace looked tilted. Quick, give me a couple of Aspirins–and some for Peter, too! But, we stay calm and carried on.

Here is the fireplace before the mantel. We find it hard to understand why, in 42 years, one of the previous owners didn’t install a mantel. Oh, well, whatever.

Here is the mantel, as we saw it when we first came to see the house. I could see it had potential…but I didn’t see how crooked the bricks had been laid! It looks straight to the eye, right? (This is before we moved in…not our furniture).

Frame_13_tripp_crescent_MLS_HID746807_ROOMlivingroom1This next photo shows the mantel installed, but not stained. This is when we could really see how that drunken bricklayer worked. Notice the mortar line under the mantel…see how it gets lower, and lower and lower as it moves to the right? It would be even more noticeable if we had installed the mantel at a perfect 180.

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We had only one choice: split the difference. So, we installed the mantel a little crooked, in the hope that we would minimize the discrepancy. It sort of worked. Here it is..I still can’t decide what to put on it (decor is an evolutionary process in this house). I expect one day I will come across the perfect picture or vintage something-or-other that will be the icing on my crooked cake.

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And one more, just for fun…

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Okay, so it’s a beginning. I guarantee you that, over the next few months, the mantel decorations will change as often as a teenage girl getting ready for a big date.

Stick around, if you have time…I’m working on a post that will showcase all the cheap…err…inexpensive and ever so creative stuff I’ve made for our home.

Thanks, for reading, and happy decorating!