Monday, October 19, 2009

Works in Progress

The last time I mentioned the formal living room and dining room was almost a year ago. Jeez. Now I feel guilty.

Anyway, to help alleviate all this blog guilt, I thought I'd share some current pics of the formal living/dining area to keep you updated. Sorry these pics are so dark, I'm not sure why they came out like that...

One of my favorite things about the living room is my little craigslist-dresser-that-could. I talked about it when I bought it, here. So what if I started this project in '07? Heh heh. I finally got the dresser painted (BM Monterey White) and added the new hardware from Quality Bath.

After lusting over the botanical prints from Restoration Hardware, which are like, $2700 apiece (okay, I'm exaggerating), I decided to make my own - and so I did. I picked the ferns myself during one of our impromptu family hikes and bought some nice, coordinating card stock at Michael's. The little decorative labels came from Michael's as well. I looked up the names of the different ferns online. Some of them might even be correctly identified! The frames came from Christmas Tree Shop - I swear the have the cheapest frames anywhere! Their frames are all over my house. The total cost of the project was about $45 for all nine botanicals. Not bad, eh? Much better than that $1800 it would've cost at RH, anyway.

We also (finally!) hung the window treatments. These are some of the very first items I bought for the house back in '06. We stored them for years until we were ready for them. I fell in love with the drapes the moment I laid eyes on them in the Pottery Barn catalog. I patiently (or not so patiently, depending on who you ask) waited for them to go on sale, and the rest is history. And you know what? I still love them. Every day I look at them and think, "I love these drapes! I love these shades!" I do have to admit that I was a little worried about becoming yet another PB carbon-copy-house. But they ARE only window treatments and I DID see the roman shades in the Kate Townsend-Simpson house on (which, in my mind, gives them serious street cred). Moving on...

When the island became usable, we were finally able to move the round table from the kitchen into the dining room. We bought this table specifically for the dining room, and I think it looks really great in there. The table came with four leaves that extend the table to a huge 81" diameter - all while remaining round in shape. The pictures show the table with the leaves on. If you look closely, you can see the seam where the leaves meet the actual table. For the record, all those extra chairs in the room were placed there for a party and aren't normally there...

I love love LOVE the idea of having a fireplace in the dining room. I picture everyone gathered around the table at a big Christmas Eve party, with a fire warming the room while it snows outside. Hopefully, this will come true and I'll have the pics to prove it!

The only snag we hit with the fireplace was that we had to place the table so as to ensure that even at 81", somebody's seat (literal and figurative) wouldn't end up getting scorched. So, we had to set the table slightly off center. For a while, I had a hard time getting past it, but as the room gets filled in, it looks better and less noticeable.

Mike and I recently found some chandeliers that we actually agreed on (oh happy day!) online at Golden Lighting. I bought the rugs for these rooms online at Typically, I don't like buying certain things sight unseen, but I was getting desperate. At the time, I was dying for seagrass, but we were on a strict budget, and these 8x 10 rugs were something like $140 a piece, with free shipping. Hello! Mike HATES them - but I love them and he loves me. So for now, they stay. Still, I'd love to have seagrass someday...

The living room still needs lots of work and lots of new furniture, as discussed in my recent sofa post. Almost everything in these rooms came from craigslist. Literally. Some of it will stay, but some of it has got. to. go.

So, I guess that's it for now. Hopefully the rooms will be a bit more pulled together at the next update. Maybe I'll even have a new sofa!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Seamingly Obvious

So, the island is finally DONE! We have a working dishwasher! And a working convection oven! I cooked a pork roast in ten minutes flat. Not bad, eh?

Of course, I don't have any pictures of the finished island - that would be too easy. What I DO have however, is a mini-tutorial on how to seam Ikea butcher block together.

From day one of island planning, Mike and I knew that if we wanted to save money by going the Ikea route, we'd have to seam together two pieces of their butcher block to get the proper size. When we looked into doing this online, we could not find ANYTHING on seaming Ikea butcher block. Sure, plenty of people were seaming end-to-end to use for counter tops, but we needed to seam it horizontally - the long way. After searching for instructions and coming up empty, Mike decided to bite the bullet and go for it. I don't know if it was sheer luck or sheer genius or both, but the end result looks damn near perfect. Can you find the seam in this picture? Yeah, me neither - but it's there somewhere:

If you are interested in doing this, here's the play by play:

We started with two pieces of 73 1/4 x 39 3/8" birch butcher block (which you can find here: To create our 48 x 65" island, we could have bought the smaller, cheaper 73 1/4 x 25 5/8" pieces of butcher block, but decided to use the remnant we'd be creating for our future laundry room project. Two birds, one stone and all. So anyway, we used almost the entire first piece of butcher block and added about 10" from the second piece - creating a nice, big remnant for the laundry room.

To begin, Mike made horizontal cuts on both pieces of butcher block, at the first possible seam (about 1.5 inches in), using a circular saw with a fine blade (the higher number of teeth, the better). He had made a guide for the circular saw, to ensure a straight, clean edge on both pieces. These cuts were very important, as these were the ends that would be seamed together and therefore, the cuts had to be as close to perfect as possible. An added bonus to having extra butcher block to work with was the option to re-do a cut if we weren't happy with the result - we'd simply move to the next seam and try again.

Once we had two cuts we were happy with, Mike used a router with a straight tip router bit to fix any inconsistencies caused by the circular saw. He ended up taking about 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch off each edge, again using the homemade guide for accuracy. He then used a biscuit joiner, roughly every six inches and a Kreg Tool (found here: to put screws in between every biscuit. This was definitely overkill, but as we have an overhang portion on our island, where part of the heavy butcher block top is supported only by turned legs rather than a base, we decided to err on the side of caution.

Then, Mike applied wood glue at the new seam and used four HUGE four foot clamps to hold the pieces together. We spread the four clamps out over the 73" length of the island and they worked fine. We then let the glue dry for 24 hours. A tip: do NOT wipe glue residue while it is still wet. This will only cause it to spread thin and it will become even more difficult to remove when it dries.

After the glue had set for 24+ hours, Mike lightly scraped and sanded all glue residue from the top. He then made the vertical cuts needed to take the 73" length to 65". Once the top was properly sized, Mike again used the router, this time with a Roman ogee bit, to put a nice custom edge on it:

At the end of the day, this is what the island looked like (before dishwasher and convection oven were installed):
We still have to treat the top with mineral oil, but we are very happy with the results so far. Not bad for $400 worth of Ikea butcher block, especially considering the laundry room table we'll get out of it. Quite a difference between $400 and the $1000-$2000 we were quoted for finished pieces of butcher block this size.

Gotta love money-saving DIY goodness.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Have a Seat?

Sofas. Couches. Settees. Divans. Divans?

Call them what you will, we need one. If I have to look at the what-was-supposed-to-be-a temporary-craigslist-sofa-that-has-somehow-stuck-
sofa in my beautiful, formal living room for one more day, I am going to become suicidal. Or, sofacidal. Heh. I just made that up.

I've seen some incredible prices on furniture lately. I don't know if it's the economy, or the fact that Ikea has recently graced us Bostonians with its presence, but prices seem to be falling. Which is a good thing.

I have been looking for a nice, sturdy (preferably slipcovered) sofa for forever. Well, it seems like forever. I've ordered fabric swatches from half the furniture companies in North America. I have my heart set on a light colored sofa, so feel free to snicker behind my back. I *think* I've narrowed it down to three options. Of course my husband, ever the opinionated decorator, will have to have a say in all of this. But, for now, here are the three I'm considering (all are under $1500):

1. The Eaton Sofa from Nantuckit Furniture. Oh, how I would love to own the two-over-two model with a beautiful natural linen slipcover on it. At $1339, this one wouldn't totally break the bank. Plus, it IS slipcovered, which ranks high on my wish list as we have small children and "machine washable" is pretty much a prerequisite for anything in our house.

2. The Brooke Sofa, which I found at Boston Interiors. Not sure if I'd be able to find it elsewhere, but at $1299, the price isn't bad. It's not slipcovered, but I do like it. I don't know much about their quality, though. Or even where their sofas come from for that matter.3. The Loring Sofa from Room and Board. I realize this one isn't slipcovered either, but look at it! So beautiful. I love the tight back and the two (instead of three) seat cushions. And of course, I could always get a slipcover made some time down the road. At $1199, it's actually the cheapest of the three and currently in the lead in the Sofa Race in My Head.

I've also always loved the Seabury Sofa from Pottery Barn, but at $2000+, it's a long shot. I might be able to track down a similar model through Rowe, as I believe they make some of the PB furniture, but we'll see.

As much as I'd LOVE to see a new sofa in my living room, I'm not 100% sure we should be looking into buying furniture right now, for three reasons...

1. We are finishing up a major home renovation. Translation: We are tapped OUT.

2. We have a four-year old and a three-year old. Both boys. Translation: Anything we buy within the next ten years will undoubtedly end up looking like this:

3. I really, really like white furniture. Translation: See No. 2, above.

Sooo, I guess we have some things to think through. I really believe we'd do okay with a slipcovered sofa, even in white. And yes, even with two crazy little boys. After all, the sofa will be in the formal living room and the boys don't go in there for much other than nerf tag and fort building. Both of which are fairly sofa-friendly activities.

Then again, these are the same kids who drew "elephants" on their new wool rug. With Sharpies.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On an Island in the Sun

I wish. But, we do have an island! And, technically, it is in the sun.

Mike never ceases to amaze. He's about 2/3 done with our kitchen island. The pictures really don't do it justice. For one, those are just our old, beat up chairs in the pic - placed there so we could get a feel for the size of whatever stools we end up buying. And, the butcher block is just for temporary effect. It's not cut to it's proper size yet.

Now, for the specifics: Mike built the base, which will house our Asko dishwasher and GE Advantium convection oven, all by himself. What a man. I've been waiting about three years to test-drive these appliances. We snagged the Asko from the same place we bought our cabinets - a kitchen design center that was closing some of its showrooms. We got our shiny, Swedish dishwasher for about a third of the retail price.

Our Advantium convection oven was a craigslist find. No kidding. It was brand new, in the box - just happened to be a few years old. A contractor's client had decided not to use it, and we ended up buying it for almost a fifth less than what they're going for today. Sure, it is a few years old, but I'd call that a pretty decent trade-off.

Our butcher block countertops came from IKEA (best prices on butcher block e-v-e-r!). We will be joining two pieces of the butcher block together to get the size we need. Then, Mike will put a nice Roman ogee edge on it, using his new router bit. I've seen his practice pieces and they look really beautiful. Finally, we ordered four turned legs online to dress the island up a bit. Hopefully we'll have pics of the finished island soon. Mike is literally obsessed with this project, so I don't think that's a very long shot.

So far, the island project has been smooth sailing. There's only one little detail that's been worrying us (me): the trim work inside the panels. We're considering NOT staining the trim to match the rest of the island, but rather painting it to match the cabinet color. I was (am) worried it'll look too circus-y (that's a technical term, btw). At the moment, the wood trim is not painted at all, it's just wood color (another technical term). The wood color is pretty close to the color of our cabinetry, so it's not a stretch to envision the finished product this way. I'm sure the trim will look better once it's painted the actual cabinet color, with a nice brown-ish glaze to tone it down a bit. Mike is firmly in the circus camp. Me, I just don't know. Any thoughts, one way or the other?

As an aside, after repeatedly changing our minds as to the final shape and size of the island, it looks like we'll be taking down the two pendant lights that are currently hanging in the kitchen and replacing them with one pendant light similar in shape to this one:

We've given ourselves a deadline of October 10th for this project, as we're hosting a family party the next day. Fingers crossed.

P.S. We're in the market for four counter height stools if anyone has seen any good deals out there.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Cullen!

Ahh, my little guy - three years old. Time is beginning to fly. Too fast. And I don't like it.

Happy Birthday Cullen Eric!

We love you more than you'll ever know!!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Okay, let's just get this out of the way right now: To all three of my regular readers (two of whom I'm related to) I deeply, deeply apologize for leaving you hanging for so long. I was almost too guilt-ridden to come back at all. Alas, Mike has created yet another blog-worthy wonder structure, so here I am. And, here it is:

Can you tell what it is yet? No, it's not the world's least effective sun porch...

it's also not the world's least effective solar-powered house.

Ahh, we're getting closer...

What has six legs, three windows and a big yellow slide?

Finn and Cullen's new club house, of course!

And there's Mr. Cullen making a cameo in the doorway.

It's not finished yet, but we're almost there. We found the windows (which are nicer than my own) and the slide on craigslist and we splurged on the vinyl siding (also nicer than my own). Luckily, we had some Trex decking left over from our own deck, so Mr. Finn and Mr. Cullen ended up with one high-end club house!

Mike is really giving me a run for my money in the favorite parent category. Good thing I can still make a killer PB & J. I'm also slightly less prickly after a day of not shaving, so I have that going for me as well.

Stay tuned for interior pics. We're thinking granite and recessed lighting. I'm kidding.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Birthday Finn!

Finn Michael - you are FOUR YEARS OLD today! We love you so much and are so proud of the "big boy" you are becoming.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Big Reveal

Okay, here it is...the moment you've all been waiting for.... (or, at least, the moment I've been waiting for):

The new second floor bathroom! Tadaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
(That fuzzy pink thing at the bottom of pic no. 4 is my knee - I'm wearing my bathrobe. Sexy, I know.)
I had a feeling that I wasn't gonna have enough time to get some pics this morning and I ended up taking them last night. So, I apologize for the glare and the color being off and the general crappiness of quality.
This remodel was 99% DIY. Mike did everything from gutting the room himself to building the beautiful mahogany decking around the air tub. This room in particular was a compromise for us, and I am really happy with the results. We wanted a spa-like feel, but had to keep it kid-friendly. And, for Mike's sake, I didn't want anything too feminine. I have to say, I think we did okay. I think we spent just over $6,000, all in all. Not too bad for a complete gut job. The room had been the smallest of four bedrooms on the second floor and while some would disagree with swapping out a bedroom for a bathroom, we ultimately decided it was the right thing to do for us. I'm working on a before and after post, to better illustrate the transformation. I'll also be including details for all of the products we used in the remodel.

There are many, many little things that still need to be dealt with* but for the most part, we're callin' it d-o-n-e!
*I suppose one of those things would be window treatments. I should probably try to get those up before Mike gives the old lady who works at the church next door a heart attack.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sneak Preview Time

Well, I may have stopped posting for a while, but we have NOT stopped working! There is much to be blogged!

So, I'll start with a little sneak preview of the finally-almost-done second floor bath. When we bought the house, we decided right away to turn the smallest second floor bedroom into a bathroom. I know, I know, probably not the smartest move resale-wise, but as of now we have no intention of moving and the existing second floor bathroom just wasn't cutting it (i.e., is that a hole in the floor?).

Mike has been hard at work on this project, as we have an appraisal coming up and apparently you really NEED a bathroom for a house to have maximum value. Again, this is only a sneak peek, but I should have the final, finished bathroom ready to post by next week. Here is our lovely new shower stall, sans glass door and shower heads:

Okay, the color is a little "off" due to the early morning light, but you get the picture. I swear this stall is bigger than the entire downstairs bathroom. I should have thrown the kids in there for a nice size comparison. Here, I'll do a mock-up instead:

See, I told you it was big. Finn's on the left and Cullen's the one with the big head.

And, a close-up of the tile and border:

I cannot WAIT for this room to be done. I expect it will be life-changing.
Mike and I are already fighting over who gets the first shower. I suppose he did do all of the grunt work. But, I suspect if I snuck in he wouldn't kick me out. Or, maybe he would - it's just that awesome.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

And We're Back

Well, I'm back from my self-imposed blog exile. Not really sure what brought it on - other than a complete lack of anything to write about (I'm pretty sure complete lack of ambition played a part as well). Anyway, I still don't have MUCH to write on the house kind of ceased for the holidays and you know how hard it can be to get back into the swing of things after a nice little hiatus! So, I don't have much to report on house-wise, but there are a few interesting things I want to bring up:

1. Target has begun carrying (mostly online) some really nice wallpaper. Not totally cheap, but not designer prices, either. Wallpaper is definitely making a comeback. Now, if you find a print you like, it doesn't necessarily have to go on the wall. A nice, bold wallpaper pattern looks great on the inside of a glass-doored bookcase. Or inside bureau drawers. Here are some pics from the Target website:

2. I know many people (myself included) are feeling the pinch right now. It can be very depressing when all you do is visualize your dream room(s), but don't have the extra cash to make the dream a reality. With the economy continuing to tank, now seems like a good time to explore alternative ways to get things done. Like craigslist. I've noticed that there's a real abundance of good, quality stuff on my local craigslist. Maybe people are downsizing. Maybe they're trying to make some extra money. I don't know, but for whatever reason, it sure seems like there's a lot to be had right now. I strongly urge everyone to take a look on craigslist before going out to purchase new. Now, I totally understand that there's quite a difference between buying a used side table and a used couch. It's not for everyone, and obviously you have to draw your own lines. But, as far as nice, solid, wood furniture goes, they don't make 'em like they used to (or, if they do, they're reeeeally expensive). There's plenty of stuff out there that would look brand new (not to mention unique) with a little paint and some elbow grease. As a matter of fact, I think I'll go check it out right now.

I'll try to get some new pics of the backyard skating rink up tomorrow. We have ice! Mike is in hockey heaven :)