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The most important room in real estate

This past weekend, I attended a party at the condo of one of The Beard’s work colleagues. Said condo was utterly fantastic — the owner bought the building with her downstairs neighbor and between the two of them, a lot of work was done. So much work, in fact, that her mortgage consultant did not even recognize the building when she drove past.

The condo itself is spacious even if the individual rooms are a tad small, and it’s painted in lovely bright colors that (along with some big windows) keep everything beautifully bright. The highlight of the entire pre-party mini-tour was the kitchen, which The Beard’s colleague designed with functionality (sweet stove, lots of prep space) and looks (rad tile backsplash, chic steel island) in mind. She is an accomplished chef — seriously, in addition to 10+ dishes, she whipped up homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream with mint from her own garden — with a keen eye for design, so I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Gotta love that backsplash!

That’s not a photo of the actual kitchen, but it does give you an idea of how fabulous it was. I was later inspired to look up kitchens in general to see what I could learn. What I did learn was that kitchens can be the most important room in the house if you happen to be selling yours. According to Kansas City Realtor Sarah Snodgrass, a good kitchen can redeem an otherwise not-so-good home.

People will by a house based on the kitchen – even if the rest of the house is painfully outdated.

I think I understand why. Besides the fact that a quality kitchen will add value to your home, people just plain congregate in the kitchen! I know from personal experience that guests end up spending a lot more time sitting around my cheap-o Ikea Jokkmokk than they do sitting on the living room couch or the loveseat in the den, even if I’m not cooking and necessity forces some people to stand.

If we’re all going to spend so much time in there, it better darned well look cute…and if you can cook in it, all the better!

Going Dutch

It’s official — we’ll be spending half of the money we recently received on a patio set big enough (as y’all so rightly suggested) to accommodate guests and putting the other half toward a proper Dutch door.

Enjoy it three ways?

For the curious among you, Dutch doors were originally used — and still are used — to keep farm animals in farmhouses while keeping wild animals out of farmhouses. They originated in the Netherlands, but it’s not hard to see why they became popular elsewhere! With a Dutch door, you can let light and air in, but toddlers and pets cannot escape.

Plus, they’re tremendously inviting. I’m imagining myself chatting with a neighbor or the mailman over the bottom half of my pretty new door. In this fantasy, I’m also wearing one of my aprons and the ::incredibly clean:: kitchen smells of freshly baked pie, but I’m no domestic goddess, so make of it what you will.

Before/After: The mini-mudroom edition

I could have bought an old, old, old home fraught with problems. When The Beard and I were house shopping, we saw one place we absolutely loved — it had three full floors with lots of rooms on each, high ceilings, wood floors, huge windows, and plenty of old school curb appeal. It also had a foundation so warped that the house itself was starting to lean to the left. Not good. We could afford the asking price, but not the necessary renovations.

So instead of buying an old, old, old home fraught with problems, we bought a fairly new cottage (circa 1950 or so) fraught with…well, ugliness. For example, we’ve been exploring the lovely wood shingles underneath the horrid off-yellow siding in preparation for the day we’ll tear it all off and paint. Then there is the vinyl flooring in the kitchen — it doesn’t quite reach the baseboards, leaving gaps where dust and dirt congregate.

The front door is actually quite new but, as it turns out, we are side door people. Growing up, I always wondered why some families used the front door exclusively while others gravitated toward the side door. We were driven to become the latter sort by practical concerns. Screen doors in the mud room effectively keep indoor cats from escaping, while it’s much easier for them to slip out the front. Plus, it’s nice to be sheltered when holding groceries in one hand while turning a key with the other during a rainstorm. It’s a place for dirty shoes, somewhere to stash a muddy trowel when one is too lazy to walk to the shed, and yet another way to let fresh spring breezes in.

The only problem? Said mud room was ugly, ugly, ugly.

Why do people let things get so old and ugly?So much wasted space!Not just white…bright!


NtB’s new favorite ebay store

I am in the process of redoing my house. As you might imagine, it’s a slow process for a variety of reasons. There is, of course, the money factor. I’d very much like to rip the roof off of my squat little cottage and have the whole thing lifted up. When it comes to the exterior structure of my home, I basically want to copy a picture I ripped out of Cottage Living. Being that I don’t want to take out a home equity loan, it’ll be a while before that happens.

Then there’s time and motivation. My approach to DIY is pretty frenetic — I spend a lot of time thinking about a project until I can see the final result in my head before I do anything. I’ll talk it over with The Beard until he gets my vision so I can be sure he’s on board. He doesn’t always appreciate what I’m picturing in my head until my projects are halfway finished, but he trusts me.

But once I start a project, just try to hold me back! Finishing what I’ve started becomes really important to me because I have trouble concentrating on other things when there’s a partially-done project staring me in the face. For example, when we moved into our house, I had to at least get the bedroom in order before I could go to sleep. It didn’t matter that I was utterly exhausted and midnight had come and gone.

My newest obsession revolves around my formerly nasty space that I call a vestibule and The Beard calls a mudroom. Picture peeling paint, shoddily applied paint, random nails being used as hooks, and a huge warped hook board. All in all, the space was BLEAH. Long story short, I wagered that the nice vertical wood I saw peeking out from under the hook board went all the way up, and my brain started envisioning a white country-style entryway with black cast iron hardware.

Luckily, I was right, because I went right ahead and pried the stupid hook board off the wall over The Beard’s gentle objections. Then I pried out all of the useless nails and filled them up with wood putty, scraped and sanded until I was practically falling over, primed every nook and cranny, and laid down one coat of lovely white paint. I will be laying down a second (and possibly a third coat) today. Boy, are my arms tired.

The only thing I’ve already done today is buy a bunch of cast iron hooks. While searching for said hooks, I found Stag Lane Primitives.

Scary! Or rustic, depending on your perspective.Sweet sweet cans
I love these…If it works, that’s a bonus

If you like old stuff — sometimes extremely pointless old stuff — you’ll probably like it as much as I do. I’ve found my source for the random assortment of antiques and faux antiques that will sit on the shelves of my vestibule/mudroom, and that makes me very, very happy.

The walls have eyes

Today’s bit of bizarre comes from Bridey, who sent me a link to a blog post describing Bocci 22 outlets.


Now is it just me, or do these outlets look…well…vaguely confused in a classic Nintendo-esque sort of way? Whatever stymied these poor givers of electricity did not make them happy. I mean, they’re frowning!

Frowning, tedious to install, and giving me a case of the screaming heebies. I’ll just stick to plain old ugly outlet covers for now until someone comes up with a sleeker option that has a bit less personality.

Wood vs. Vinyl: The great debate

How much vinyl siding can a sidingchuck chuck?

Can you increase your home’s value on the cheap?

A great feature recently up at brings together experts like award-winning landscape designer Bunny Guinness and interior-designer-slash-author Paula Robinson to compile a list of fifty ways to spruce up your house, inside and out.

For the most part, the improvements they suggest will cost you. Replace all your radiators with an underfloor heating system? Knock out tatty tiles and replace them with slabs of marble? Um, right. I’ll be sure to do that when the economy bounces back, but for now I’m married…and not willingly…to the DIY ideology.

That being the case, I pulled five of the less expensive tips out of the piece. If you’re in the same boat as me, they may help you freshen up your home without spending a bundle.

1. First impressions count, so update your front door with paint:

Glossy black looks great on grand, stucco buildings, but rather forbidding next to red-brick or on a smaller house or cottage where soft greys work well. Blue was voted most appealing in a survey of buyers, but whatever the colour, a trick used by high-end decorators to achieve the best finish is to use several coats of paint thinned with white spirit.

2. Give your kitchen a mini-facelift with new knobs:

Standard sized, plain round knobs emphasise the mass-produced look of cupboards. Replacing them with unusual handles will add interest and character. Aim for texture, and avoid bright lacquered brass; it looks tacky and wears badly.

3. Enjoy regular seasonal refreshment without breaking the bank:

Replace cosy throws on sofas with light-coloured linen or ticking (for a classic New England beach house look, you might even invest in fitted linen-mix loose covers that are put on just for the summer and can be thrown in the washing machine when dirty). Even cushion covers can change: find pretty faded linen floral ones or make your own.

4. Learn to use that old sewing machine collecting dust in your basement:

With a little imagination, you can transform antique linens into unusual curtains, blinds, sofa and armchair slipcovers, cushion covers, upholstered seats or linen bags. Vintage white and cream linen is perfect for spring and summer soft furnishings.

5. Check your gutters…seriously, yucky gutters make a house look bad:

Most gutter problems are not caused by leaves, however, but by leaking joints. Plastic guttering has a high coefficient of thermal movement, and this constant expansion and contraction can push adjacent sections apart. Maneuver them back into place, and check that the supporting brackets are lined up correctly so that it doesn’t happen again.

The $10 pot rack

It doesn’t get much simpler (or cheaper) than the DIY $10 hanging pot rack! I found this easy instructional on Wise Bread ages ago while searching for kitchen storage solutions. We weren’t sure how our landlord would take to us drilling onto the ceiling, so we planned to implement the idea in our home. Now that we have said home, we’ve discovered that our ceilings are just a tad short for hanging kitchen gear without risking black eyes and bumped heads

It’s not much to look at, but it’s customizable

Materials necessary include:

  • 1 piece of 4 foot re-bar
  • 1 package of black chair tips
  • 1 can of el cheapo black spray paint
  • 1 package of eye hooks
  • 2 packages of s-hooks
  • Spray paint in whatever color you fancy
  • A little bit of duct tape

Have you ever used surprising materials to create something fab in your home? Tell us about it in the comments!

Don’t call me a tomboy just because I’m a capable woman

But does it benefit breast cancer research?

You know I love color. I love bright playful colors enough to somehow overlook the fact that a purple toaster will run you a sick $300! So you’d think that I’m sitting here with credit card in hand ordering myself a pink tool belt, right? Wrong. The Beard will tell you that I am the DIY queen, whether you’re talking about epoxying the hell out of something wobbly or refinishing a cabinet I found in someone else’s trash. Sure, there are some things I won’t do–big appliance installations, for instance–but I’m competent when it comes to small home improvements.

I think that double X chromosome construction workers rock. More specifically, I think they rock because they have made a career for themselves in what is still considered a tremendously masculine profession. The construction trade has its own line of accessories…safety glasses, hard hats, work boots, and such. These typically come in shades of brown and black with the occasional bit of gray. They come in these colors for one simple reason: they are going to get very, very dirty.

How long will those Tomboy Trades pink boots stay pink? How long is a Tomboy Trades baby blue tool belt going to be baby blue? If they’re still pink and blue after a couple of weeks, you’re doing something wrong. Construction work is dusty…there are solvents and paints and oily liquids to contend with. Thus the brown! The lack! The gray! And how about that Charlie’s Angels-esque design on the hard hat…I’m sure that’s gonna command plenty of respect down at the construction site, right?

You could pair it with this for spectacular effect:

Something nice for the ladies?

Won’t someone think of the Slinkies?

Friends of mine bought a house with narrowest, scariest staircase I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s no handrail because there’s no room for a handrail — as soon as you installed one, there’d no longer be room for people! I’m not kidding you when I say it’s skinny, but that’s not all. Their staircase is also hecka steep. Woe unto those attempting to traverse its angle in the darkness!

Steep stairs in skinny spaces look cool but should be feared

If you’ve got no choice but to work with a skinny space (such as one formerly occupied by a ladder) you could do worse from an aesthetic point of view than to install stairs like these. Apparently the whole works was created out of stacked pine boxes — presumably they were anchored to the walls and to each other in some fashion. Or not…some folks do like to live dangerously. Me? I can hardly traverse my normal staircase without slipping and sliding into perilous territory so I think I’ll look into non-skid rugs instead of crates in bulk.

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