Picking paint for the interior walls has been a challenge for us.  Em and I process these kinds of decisions in very different ways.  Here’s the system we’ve hit on that works:

1.  We pick a room we’re working on and go to home depot.  We then get any and all swatches that could possibly, even remotely make sense.

2.  We go home and cut the swatches apart so it’s one color per piece.

3.  I walk around with the pile staring at walls and doing first round cuts.  Discards are thrown gleefully to the floor.

4.  I had the pile to Em and she walks around making cuts in the same fashion.

5.  She hands the pile back to me.  If it’s sufficiently small (say 2-5), we’ll tape or hold those contenders up and decide between them.  Usually this is a bracket system where we say “I like this one better than this one”.  If there’s still too many, we repeat steps 3-4.


My personal process is to wander around and look at sight lines and think about how the pallet will match whatever we’re working on.  While I think globally about the house palette, I don’t feel particularly confined to sticking with 3 or 4 colors and repeating or varying on them.  For me, it’s more about mood setting and where I want to start with decorating.  So far I’m feeling pretty good about our choices even though I don’t think they’ll all look good until the room is cleaned and finished with window dressings and things hanging on the walls.  Though we still have a lot of rooms to go and most of the 2nd floor will just be primed white by the time we move in.

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Kitchen and Pantry are a grayish purply blue called Downpour.

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Back hallway is Mustard Seed.

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Interior of the coat closet is a saturated red/maroon that I can’t recall the name off. We also painted an accent wall in the pantry this color.

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The pantry is a robin’s egg blue.

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The doors are, of course, purple.

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The ceilings actually all got primed and painted white. The new ceilings we put in got textured to match the rest of the house. We thought about doing something crazy, but decided that’s a choice better left to fantasy right now.


Day 241: Moving Day!

Well, not quite.

Our lease agreement ends at the end of this month, but because of setbacks with Em’s injury, we won’t be ready to move into the house.  As of writing this post, there’s still construction to finish and inspections to get done.  We’re very close, but not there yet.  Still, the arrow of time points in one direction.  So our short term plan is to box everything up and store it at the new place.  Today we’re renting a Uhaul and moving all the furniture into the garage at the new place.  We’ve been carting over carloads of boxes all month and putting them in the finished bedrooms.  We’re also turning off most of our utilities today or in the next few days.  Our friends have graciously offered us their guest bedroom for the short term while we finish up work on the house.  June is going to be a whacky month for us!  Stay tuned.

Day 225: Upcycling

2014-05-03 15.44.09I think I mentioned in a previous post about refinishing the floors in the front of the house that we pulled off a lot of wood that was covering them.  On top of the original floors were a 1/2″ thick oak plank.  In the original rooms it had buckled and parts of it were ripped up.  Still, between the dining room and living room, I recovered probably 200 sq/ft of savable flooring.  It’s thin, but it’s solid, so it could be refinished.  Our plan was to lay it down in the back hallway.  We couldn’t decide on a flooring choice for that area.  It’s tricky because that’s going to be the main entry we’ll use for the house.  We deigned it so there’s the laundry, a bathroom, and big coat closet.  That means high traffic and potentially muddy, wet boots.  Due to ample Asian influences, I’m a stanch “no shoes” in the house person.  So there needs to be a shoe-safe zone somewhere.  In short, we needed something durable, but also something that looked nice for that area.  In the absence of being able to come up with a clever idea, we opted for the free one.  We had all this flooring I saved, why not lay it back down?  If it falls apart in a few months we can figure out some other option.

The project took about a weekend.  We had a huge boost in help from our friend Bess who dutifully pitched in on the cleaning and sanding 2014-05-03 15.43.58process.  We sorted through the pile of wood picking out the best looking boards.  I saved anything I thought looked okay.  It was originally nailed down, but most of the nails popped pretty easily when I was taking it up, so the tongues weren’t completely destroyed.  Wood flooring planks are milled into a shape such that two edges of the board have grooved slits cut in them down the length of the board.  The other two sides have a matching edge cut so when two boards fit together, the “outty” (called the tongue) fits into the “inny” (called the groove) like a key sliding into a lock.  Traditional flooring was all nailed down to the sub floor or joists.  This involves driving nails as an angle into the tongue so that when a new board is slotted in, it covers the nail.  You’re only nailing one side of the board, but because it’s “hooked” to the board behind it, it’s stable in place.  Tongue and groove provides for an exceptionally sturdy surface because wood will expand and contract significantly throughout it’s life.  This method of construction allows for that movement while still letting all the boards hold hands with their neighbors.  Even today, this construction is still the backbone of flooring installation.  Anywho, most of my boards had nail holes, but weren’t too torn up.

2014-05-03 15.44.39The next step was to sand the planks down.  Because we just wanted to take off any sealer and the top layer of dirt and paint splatter* we handed sanding the planks individually using a random orbital sander.  Bess and Em set about sanding boards while I worked on the install.  We dated the flooring to about 50 years ago so my goal was to install it the same way it was originally installed.  Em laid down asphalt paper for an underlayment and I cut and hand nailed the boards in place.  After the floor was completely installed, we stained it to match the wood in the front of the house.  A few coats of poly and we were in business.  The one miner change we went with was to finish with a semi-gloss rather than a satin sealer since the wood was in much better shape than the rest of the house.


2014-05-07 12.13.172014-05-04 19.21.39*I don’t know if I mentioned before, but this entire place was carpeted at some point, so the last round of painting everything off-white meant they didn’t bother to use drop clothes.  A lot of the refinishing work was about removing paint splatter.

Day 218: Emily’s Laundry

The laundry room was completely Em’s design.  She picked out the washer/dryer set  she wanted.  She picked out the tile, the wall paneling, and the paint.  She even picked out where she wanted the vent in the room to be.  She plumbed the washer box and painted the walls.  I just installed the stuff.  We now have a working washer and dryer and a very bright and fun laundry room.  As of writing this, I still need to finish caulking the trim, a second coat of paint, and putting in a door, but otherwise it’s pretty much a finished room.

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Countermove, pt. 2

2014-04-27 19.44.31Our new design involves a pass through bar area between the kitchen and the livingroom.  We got rid of the doorway in that wall, opened it up, and replaced it with a half wall.  The goal was to cut down on the walk through area in the kitchen workspace while still creating open sight lines.  You can cook while still socializing into other parts of the house.  This meant picking not only kitchen countertops but also a counter for the bar top separating the two rooms.  That choice proved to be difficult for us.  Pretty early on we knew we wanted butcher block in the kitchen.  One of the downsides about butcher block is that it’s soaked in oil.  That means any stacks of paper or fabric you leave on the counter over night can be stained.  We could have finished it with a sealant, but I was hesitant about that because it being so close to the kitchen.  Basically, you don’t want to have raw food interacting with polyurethane if you can help it.  We set about finding some other material for the bar top.  Emily doesn’t like most solid surface counters.  No granite, marble, no  stone, etc.  On the other hand, I don’t like formica or other laminates.  I’m also not so fond of ceramic tops.  All of which puts us in a pickle since we’ve now crossed off most options.

This conundrum led Em to investigate metal tops.  She looked at stainless steel, zinc, copper, and a few other options.  Some of these turned 2014-04-27 19.44.52out to be really cool, but really expensive.  Then Em hit on this idea she saw in a blog.  I believe this was the original entry she read about it in.  The basic idea is you take a two part epoxy, the kind used to seal traditional bar tops or those really shiny car showroom floors, and use it to immerse pretty much any cool array of objects.  For our project, I built a frame out of poplar and a double sheet of three quarter ply.  The trim I stained to match our kitchen counters.  The inside of the frame I painted black and then sealed with silicone.  The whole thing is set on some pretty beefy brackets and screwed into the pony wall between the kitchen and living room.  Next, Em took 35 bucks in pennies and laid them out in the frame in a pretty cool geometric pattern.  I got to cut a few bits of pennies using an angle grinder.  That was awesome.  Then we poured about a gallon of mixed epoxy over the whole thing and spread it out with a plastic spreader.  Some heat gunning and finishing nails took care of most of the bubbles and we left the thing to set up over night.  By the next day, the epoxy had hardened and the counter top was done.  It’s really neat.  I suspect we’ll add another layer of epoxy in a few months.  It doesn’t quite fill to the lip of the counter and a little bit ran out of an unsealed crack in one corner.  But on the whole it came out spectacularly.  Now we just need to finish up that wall area, paint the livingroom, and most of the 1st floor is on to little finishing work.


Claw Game

You know those claw games at the super market or highway rest stop?  I love playing those things.  As we’re cleaning out the rental as part of the move, we have been piling up trash and cardboard.  The city of Cleveland Heights allows just about anything to be put out on the curb.  I’ve always wondered exactly how they cart away those piles of couches, old construction supplies, and huge stacks of magazines.


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2014-04-27 20.02.37When we first designed the project, I kind of expected it to end with a big moving day.  I even fantasized about hiring movers for the first time in my life.  Unfortunately, with Em’s injury set back, our altered timeline means our lease is up at our current place before we can move into the new one.  The solution is to move all our stuff into storage at the new place and couch surf for a few weeks while we finish up the work.  That means I’ve been hauling boxes, one car load at a time and storing them in the finished bedrooms.  At the end of the month, we’ll uhaul all our furniture into the garage.  Towards that end, our new house now hosts our most important possessions: board games and yarn.