Oh man do i wish we were heading into spring instead of winter right now but at least the front of our yard is. a few weekends ago we started on the next faze of turning what was a weedy wasteland and some poorly planned beds into a perennial garden. just as a refresher, when we moved in the front of our house “featured” two bricked in beds that were set in concrete and partly filled with bearded irises (great!) a half empty area (blah) and an ugly bush with a case of bagworms (gross!). soon after we moved in the bush was dug out and the now two empty spots were filled with annuals just to make it look a little less sad.
but now that the annuals were done for it was time to start digging and planning. we ordered a whole mess of bulbs (blues allium, white fringed tulips, and pink daffodils) and a few roots (pink peony, and oriental poppies) and got started. first i began digging up the irises which had become way too over crowded in the current beds and saved some of them to replant. then nick got the pleasure of pulling out the brick and concrete border which was as heavy and awkward to remove as it sounds. after that was done nick got to move on to the always thrilling task of using a tiller to break up all the weeds and soil that was left behind. then we raked and spread some topsoil to even things out.
we ran of daylight (and energy) so i had to wait a couple of days before I could get to work replanting the irises and planting the new bulbs . man, i did not realize that planting 75 bulbs at once would be so taxing. but we’re glad to have made some more progress in this area and can’t wait to get this coming winter over with so we can enjoy all of the new flowers. we still have a ways to go before this part of the landscaping becomes the wild yet elegant flower garden in our minds but here’s to baby steps!
do not trust those little wheels on the front. they are not there for anything more than moving a piano around a room and are not suitable for moving over uneven terrain. this is what nick, his dad, and i learned while moving an upright piano out of his grandfather’s house and into a truck to be moved to our house when the left leg broke off. oh, and pianos are really heavy.
nick’s dad felt confident that we could fix the leg once we got the piano to DC and sent us home with some bar clamps to help with the mending. but before we could begin that process we still had to get the damn thing up our front steps. did i mention that pianos are really heavy. nick lined up the truck so that the uhaul ramp would at least clear the first few steps, we recruited a few strapping friends (thank you greg and michael) and then just had to pull thing up step by step (i pushed from the front, i’m not sure if that did anything but at least i got to feel like i was helping). side note- the next time this piano moves it will be by a professional.
the next day we got to work on the repair. thankfully the worst part of the break faces the back of the piano but that also made it tricky to to figure out how to get the leg properly in place quickly once the epoxy was applied. we practiced a few times because the process required nick to lift that corner of the piano up while i put the leg in place and used a rubber mallet to position it properly. once we had it a figured out we taped around the exposed areas incase any epoxy leaked out and we got the clamps ready to be put in place. we used a 6 minute epoxy and the whole operation went very smoothly. we left the clamps on over night and viola!
the piano needs to be tuned and nick is a little rusty but it is already filling our home with music.
it all started so innocently, we just wanted a small chest or such to put in our bathroom to provide us some much needed storage. then i suggested that maybe we should just get rid of the dumb pedestal sink and replace it with a sink cabinet to achieve more storage and then that means a new faucet and it would really be silly to stop there and not replace the sconces… and so our bathroom got a makeover. but first a quick refresher on what we started with, a functional bathroom that we would love to gut someday.
the first thing we needed to do was repaint the trim. in all honestly i didn’t really hate the original color all that much, it just wasn’t doing the floor any favors. we needed a color that would help the floor blend better with the rest of the bathroom so we brought home a bunch of samples to figure out which stone like color would work best. Ultimately we choose Ralph Lauren’s Elgin Gray and it has worked wonders. i now find the floor tolerable. next up was replacing the the sconces. the originals are by a company called porcelier and will likely be coming to Craigslist soon. the new sconces are from West Elm. the installation went pretty smoothly with my dad’s advice to “try not to disturb the wires too much”. i’m not sure how much is too much but no one was shocked so i am calling it a success.
then it was time for the centerpiece of the project, the new sink cabinet and faucet. we ordered the sink from Wayfair and the faucet from Home Depot. removing the old pedestal sink was pretty easy (once we borrowed a bigger wrench from our neighbor) but putting in the new sink required some tinkering. first the back of the cabinet did not clear the pipe so we had to cut a notch in the bottom. then the faucet did not have enough room to screw in properly so we had to cut a section out in the back to accommodate it. with our custom cabinet now complete we then realized that the pipe from the sink did not line up with the one from the wall so we had to get a flexible pipe thingy to connect the two.
we have not yet caulked around the sink yet because unfortunately we now have to repaint the walls. (when we pulled off the tape from around the trim it pulled off of some sections of the cheap ass paint on the walls). this way we can take out sink cabinet briefly to paint behind it when we are ready. other little touches included and towel ring from Ikea and new knob for the medicine cabinet from Anthropologie and a shelf from the Container Store. all of these changes have added up to what feels like a completely different bathroom (and for less than $500) we’ll update the after shots once we repaint the walls.
what’s coming next? thoughts on repairing piano legs! (i’m not kidding)
sumer is coming to a close (the solstice is on saturday) and the more hectic pace of fall is settling in here for Nick and myself. we are trying to keep a steady flow of progress going on in the house though while our work schedules become more demanding. notably we are making some excellent progress on our september project, the bathroom. we are not ready to reveal the dets on that just yet but we thought we would update you on some progress elsewhere.
the main goal we had for the end of summer was to finish painting the dining room and to remove the carpet in that room by the end of august. we happily accomplished that goal and are so thrilled that our house is officially rid purple carpet. also the floors look pretty great! sure they could use a little work (we’re going to try buffing first) but they really are in good condition as is.
for another month or so the dining room will be empty (i have been joking that it is our ballroom) and we still have some additional furnishings coming for the living room too but its pretty amazing the difference that paint and carpet removal have made in the front half of the house. so that’s all for now. we are looking forward to when the bathroom is ready to share and soon, we swear!
it all seemed so simple. we thought we would just remove the crappy added on trim running through the middle of the wall, slap on a fresh coat of paint, rip up the carpets and presto- the hallway is done! we were wrong. first we realized that the top half of our 10ft tall hallway had been wallpapered, and then painted over (grrr!) but fine at least it is not the whole length of the wall. then there was the areas that we discovered that had some sort of plastic-y covering which has left sections that will need sanding to remove the residual adhesive and smooth out. but then we found out that there are parts of the walls with large cracks that had been patched OVER the wallpaper and then painted. i mean you expect to find cracks in an old house but patching over the wallpaper, such a dick move! the rest of the project seemed pretty straight forward though, it required us to scrape off the painted paper layer and then steam off the backing. that part really isn’t that terrible once you get a rhythm going but it does create a huge mess and as i learned the hard way during the first go round you need to protect your eyes, your hair, and your cleavage (if choosing to remove wallpaper while wearing a sundress). see outfit photo.
but then the wallpaper steamer we got from Nick’s mom died and it was like a month until we got the time to rent one from the home depot for what we thought would be for that one time and it was on that fateful day that we realized that ceiling is also wallpapered. like i said, hallway from hell. so that folks is where we stand, the hallway still has green carpet, the walls are still unpainted and filled with cracks, and the ceiling is still wallpapered. we will get there eventually (hopefully before the end of 2014). on the upside i think that i have decided on wall color for the fateful day that we can finally paint the dang hallway. i look forward to having that update for everyone.
if there was ever a bete noire in our house it is the “fireplace” and we are not quite sure what we will do with it. you see there is not a chimney so no crackling wood fires for us and that gas radiator thing (original to our 1920’s house) is no longer safe to use. there is a gas line but we are not exactly sold on the look of the ventless gas logs. maybe we will remove the whole thing and gain the wall space… you see we have some to decisions to make. we will likely not reach a conclusion soon but while we think it through the one thing that we know is that we HATE the look of the wood grain of the mantle. its an odd looking grain and clashes with the many other wood grains in the room and we have no shortage of unpainted wood in our house (also the mantle piece is not original to the house so i don’t want to hear any crap about painting it!!)
so it was sanded, and primed, and sanded, and primed, and sanded, and then two coats of semi-gloss paint. we choose Behr’s Clear Moon for the color and we are really, really happy with how the whole thing turned out. it looks clean and fresh but not at all put of place in our old home.
and if any of you out there have any suggestions for the future of our fireplace that we maybe haven’t thought of feel free to shout them out. maybe they will be the subject of vol.2!
so part of our backyard was this big ole swampy mess. the first part of the problem was that the downspout on that part of the house becomes a geyser during a big rain, the second is that the soil was so badly eroded in spots that all the excess water would pool and become a flooded mess. (see photo) nothing but weeds could survive.
so the last time Nick’s dad came to down we debated the options. we knew needed to till and add top soil to repair that section but what to do about the excess water from the down spout? clearly the area required some real drainage but did we really want to get into digging a drainage trench just yet? and if so which direction should it go? admittedly i thought we were jumping the gun a bit and that we needed to pump the brakes before making a decision on such a project. so i came up with a plan instead to simply divert the water while thinking through the next step. and then the home gods smiled on us. while cleaning debris out of where nick needed to till (we have found a crazy amount of broken glass in the yard) i tried to move what i thought was just a random piece of whatever but it was heavy, real heavy. i had called in nick and his dad to remove what turned out to be a cover to a DRAIN in our yard!!
we removed some leaves and such and then stuck a garden hose inside and sure enough the water came out of a pipe that leads out to the sidewalk. holy moly were we excited. this was the first was the first time that instead of a project taking 3 times longer than we thought it would it turned out that the work had already been done for us. so it was on to tilling, adding extra soil, and then some grass seed. we also added an extender to the downspout so that the water flows directly into the drain and so for, so good. we haven’t had anymore issues with flooding and the grass has begun to grow. we’re hopeful that by this time next summer the grass will be filled in completely and the swampy mess will be a distant memory. oh and the crape myrtle is finally in bloom!
PS- Adam Troy, i apologize for not getting a picture of Nick using the tiller. i know how you like that sort of thing.
ikea hands down has the most budget friendly curtains in town. however, a few years ago they decided to stop offering curtains varying lengths and switched to one size of extra long curtains under the guise of this making production more cost effective and passing that savings on to us and that the customer can customize the length to meet their needs. personally i think this mostly makes ikea’s job easier and creates more work for me but that’s just my opinion. this led to me having to choose between paying double for the size i needed at Target or busting out the hem tape for the Ikea ones. in the end i choose ikea largely because these curtains are just place holders and it seemed silly to pay $100 more curtains that i plan on trashing in the next year or two. (we also live only 10 miles from an ikea so it nots a pilgrimage for us, we pop in to buy one thing and are out in under 30 min on the reg) the basic white ones were out of stock for a little while so we had to continue to live with the horrible blinds for longer than we wanted, it was a glorious day when we finally got to take them down…
but then it was time to hem 20 curtains. the upside of having to do so many was that by the 5th one i had a pretty good system going. step one, ignore the ikea directions for using the hem tape. they are stupid. the process goes like this.
1-find something to binge watch (orange is the new black and designing women on youtube got me through this process)
2- fold the curtains with the front facing inside and pin at the top, this keeps the curtains from shifting while measuring.
3- measure from the top and place a pin through both layers to mark your desired length.
4-using another pin flip one side up and pin in place, flip the other side up and use the original pin to secure that side. now remove the very first pin from the top and the curtain should now be the same length on both ends with the flap facing the back.
5- iron the folded edge and and trim of the excess leaving about 3 inches.
6- line up the hem tape inside the fold and pin to secure it in place. iron along the mew using the hottest non steam setting. allow the hem to cool briefly before checking for any areas that did not adhere properly.
7-trim the remaining excess and your done.
so was it worth the time spent? am i happy with the finished curtains? yes and mostly yes. the curtains have the clean and crisp look i was craving after removing so many dark and dingy window coverings and i know that almost no one would notice but they do lack the polish of curtains that come finished but at $100 vs $200 they will certainly do for now. (coming soon: a pintrest board featuring spendy curtains for the future)
ps- did i consider whipping out the old sewing machine? yes but in the end the amount time spent would have largely been the same and i don’t really have table space right now for sewing projects, but if i did i absolutely would have gone that route.
we hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend and enjoying the crazy beautiful weather (at least in DC). we’ve been taking it very easy this weekend i.e. sleeping late, watching soccer & tennis, riding bikes, swimming, eating (and drinking), and taking in the amazing fireworks that were set off in the neighborhood etc. even though things have been a little quiet here on the blog the last few weeks we have still been hard at it around the house, i blame the multiple 95+ degree days around here for making my brain too melty to type. so what has been happening? Nick’s dad made it back down to finish up a project out on our front porch. back in may Jim started the bear of a task that was stripping the multiple layers paint off of the railings on our porch. they’re not really railings though, they are more like built in benches and unfortunately for Jim we really liked the look of the exposed wood which created even more work than repainting them would have. Especially since one of them had a section of rotted wood that he painstaking repaired, the result though is really wonderful and we couldn’t be happier with how they turned out. (we’re coming for you soon porch floor…)
nick and i finally made some headway in the painting department. the previous owners decided to prime all of the walls in the house prior to us moving in which would have been great except that they made zero effort to avoid getting primer all over the wood trim so before we could really start to paint we needed to figure out the best way to remove the primer without damaging the finish to the wood too noticeably. after trying out a few different combinations we found that the mix of denatured alcohol and small pieces of scotch-brite worked out the best (be sure to wear gloves or your finger nails will start looking weird, trust me). with that job behind us we tackled the living room first and the color turned out great, its the exact gray/purple/blue that we were looking for and we will continue with the color (and the trim clean up) in the entryway and dining room too. the best part is that we were finally able to begin ripping out the lilac carpet!!! we left the carpet there in the interim so we wouldn’t have to worry about the floors while we painted so this was the main event as far as we were concerned. and the floors look awesome. they do need a little work but just minor sanding. i’ll save the big reveal for when the other rooms are finished but here is a peak!
last but not least my parents came back down last weekend so that they could deliver the new jewelry bench that my father handmade for me. the bench looks amazing and i now look like a professional, weird. he also squeezed some electrical work in too. we now have outdoor outlets which was something that we really wanted (and we are currently researching string lighting options for the side yard) my dad also installed 8 (eight!) outlets in the basement where my new bench is located (something he really wanted) apparently the use of multiple extension cords and power strips in my work space was really freaking the guy out. oh electricians. what did my mom do you ask? she broke the hand me down wallpaper steamer from nick’s parents while attempting to finish that chore off in the hallway. i just wanted to throw that in there because she felt really bad about it and i thought she would want me to share that (jk) R.I.P wallpaper steamer.
my dad (a retired electrician) came down last week to kick off round one of electrical fun around the house. on the top of our wish list was ceiling fans for the living room and our bedroom. our house won’t have air conditioning anytime soon (we have window units in the bedrooms) and so we wanted to get them in before the DC summer steam heat starts. we came to the conclusion that all of the ceiling fans in our budget are universally pretty ugly so we picked the least offensive ones we saw at home depot. they are brushed nickel and basic but they do the trick (until we get rich and buy some mega fancy fans, fingers crossed).
next up was dimmer switches in the dining room and breakfast nook. when my dad got to the one in the breakfast nook we realized that removing the switch that was there also meant removing the only outlet in the room, or so we thought. we discovered an ancient outlet hiding under the built in table that amazingly was still energized so my dad switched it out for a new one. while looking around the house my dad also came across two outlets that were even older than the one in the the nook that were original to the house. i was amazed to hear that he had never even seen these types of outlets in person before and had only read about them (he took them to home to show them off to the other electricians). we also got a new overhead light in the kitchen and he rerouted our dryer outlet to a better location. we have our dueling lists of things we would like to upgrade around the house in the future, dad’s list is safety oriented and ours is largely aesthetic, so we’ll tackle a little bit of both over time (until nick takes me me away to europe for two weeks and we leave dad with free reign of the house. wink-wink nudge-nudge to nick!)