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Repairs, Painting, and Tree Day!

doorwithsidelights

After we dealt with the necessary structural repairs, work on the exterior of the cottage kept moving right along! The weather has been cooperating beautifully, so there’ve been very few delays in work the past couple of weeks. If all of my projects moved at this pace, I wager I could renovate the state of New York by the time I’m 50? Sounds reasonable.

staples

As with any paint project, prep is 90% of the work. Not only was the entire house pretty filthy, but the whole thing hadn’t been painted in probably 20 years. The yellow paint on almost all of the clapboard was peeling off, meaning that the entire house had to be scraped of loose paint and sanded to prepare for the new paint job. If this were my own house, I’d probably take it slower and try to paint the whole thing myself, but with winter around the corner and an exterior to hopefully finish by then, it only really made sense to hire it out.

Another reason to hand the job over to the pros is the whole issue of lead. The outer layer of paint is too new to contain lead, but I’m sure layers underneath do. Restrictions (and enforcement) of this kind of stuff vary by place, but technically this isn’t the kind of work somebody who isn’t certified in lead abatement should be dealing with. My contractor had the necessary equipment, experience, and training to handle the job, so I let him do the honors.

I pitched in a little bit by helping pull a bunch of the billion staples stuck everywhere! Everything in my house was fixed with masking tape and caulk, but I think everything in this house was fixed with staples. I’m guessing all these staples are remnants of efforts to weatherproof the windows with plastic in the winter, and the cumulative effect of doing this over many years lead to the major staple build-up. They are EVERYWHERE, inside and out. It’s sort of astounding. Hello, blisters!

paintsample

Prepping everything took several days. First all of the clapboard around the entire house was hand-scraped (the chips fell onto 6 mil plastic that we laid around the perimeter of the house, which was then disposed of). Then all of it was sanded with a special sander attached to a special vacuum with a special filter to contain any particles, just to smooth everything out and rough up the surface of the remaining old paint.

People go to various degrees of insanity when they prep old clapboard to paint. Some people who have lots of time and lots of energy go as far as stripping all of the paint down to the bare wood either with chemical strippers, ultraviolet strippers, heat guns, or some combination. Unless, of course, you’re Martha Stewart, in which case you have the entire house sandblasted, just to make the mortals feel inferior. But the level of prep done here is more typical when you hire it out to a normal painter—scrape what’s loose, paint over what isn’t. Sure, the clapboard doesn’t look perfect—even after sanding, you can still see layers of paint below the new paint—but I don’t mind it. Just like with the inside of these houses, sometimes old stuff is allowed to look old. I’ll take the texture of this over vinyl or aluminum siding any day.

ANYWAY. I considered a lot of different paint schemes for the house, trying to take into consideration what’s happening with the neighboring properties and the unique nature of this tiny house set way far back on this tiny lot. I felt like maybe I could get away with doing something a little off-the-wall and considered painting the whole thing some bright, exciting color, but ultimately I felt like that wasn’t the right move. For starters, I’ve never painted the exterior of a house, and part of me felt like I had to crawl before I could walk here. I also just felt like I want the house to be cute and sweet and classic, and some bolder choice might not accomplish that.

So I went with grey. I KNOW, I’M SO BORING. Sorry to the color-lovers. I’ll try to make it up to you. I have ideas and stuff.

(maybe. no promises.)

Specifically, I went with Martha Stewart’s Bedford Grey, which is a color I’ve used a couple of times as an accent color in my house. It’s my favorite mid-tone grey paint color: warm undertones, so it never goes blue, but it’s also never taupe or beige. It’s basically perfect, much like Lady Stewart herself.

paintingbegins

For the entire exterior, we used Valspar Reserve paint from Lowe’s! I used the interior version of Valspar Reserve paint in my dining room (and will probably continue using it throughout the house—it’s amazing paint), and the exterior version did not disappoint. My contractor, Edwin, typically uses Benjamin Moore when he paints exteriors and gave me major side-eye when I came to site toting my gallons of Valspar, but every single person who had a hand in the painting (including Edwin!) ended up commenting on the quality and coverage of the Valspar Reserve. We did two coats on the entire house, but look how well it covers up that intense green with just one! It really is great stuff. And at $40/gallon less then Benjamin Moore Aura, the savings is insane. Sorry, Ben. We used 17 gallons of paint on the whole house (with a little to spare on touch-ups), which worked out to a little over $750 in paint. Not bad!

I’ll stop gushing about paint. For now.

For some reason, one of the major challenges I’ve had here is figuring out exactly how to paint this house. Is it because the green trim and windows everywhere is so distracting? Is it because I’m just bad at this? I don’t know. It seems like there’s opportunity for a few different paint treatments here, and figuring out what should go where proved weirdly complicated. I’ll try to break it down.

1. The clapboard. All one color, obviously.

2. The window trim. Different color? White? But it’s so simple, and there’s something strange about how the trim around the casement windows in the front meets the trim around the sidelights, and…I don’t know.

3. If the window trim goes white, then what else qualifies as trim? Everything that’s currently green? What about the corner boards? What about the eaves overhang, which is currently the siding color? What about the fascia?

4. The window sashes. Should they be the trim color? Or a different color? Will it be too busy if they’re a different color? My head is spinning.

5. The sidelights. Do those qualify as windows? So they should be the window color? Or should they just be the same color as the door? Or should they be the color of the trim? I feel dizzy.

6. The door! Should the door be the same color as the window sashes? Or the trim? Should the door and the sidelights be the same color? Should the door be some other fun color? And then what to do about the sidelights?

7. What about that sunburst detail thing (does anyone know exactly what to call that?) over the door? I sort of want to accentuate it in some way, but I don’t really want to introduce another paint color, especially if the clapboard is different than the trim is different than the window sashes is different than the door…yikes. I just threw up.

marthas-house

How many times can I mention Martha in one post? Let’s find out. The color Bedford Grey was originally formulated for Martha’s home, Cantitoe Corners, in Bedford, New York, so I decided to re-familiarize myself with how it was used there and maybe get some answers to my paint problems.

Monochrome. Huh. I mean, how perfect is that house? Very perfect. Somehow it looks really classic and modern at the same time, and the monochrome scheme is just the right solution for disguising the asymmetry of those second floor windows, which would otherwise be kind of glaring if the trim color offset too much with the house.

I still liked the idea of doing something different with the window sashes and the door color, but painting everything else out monochrome seemed like maybe just the right solution to freshening up the house and solving the never-ending what is trim and what is not-trim debates I was mentally wrestling with.

crownmolding

While the painting proceeded, we continued to make a few repairs to the exterior, including replacing the crown molding around the overhang on the front of the house. Parts of the existing crown were missing and other parts were completely rotted, but luckily the molding wasn’t really anything super special and I was able to find a near-exact match at Lowe’s. Cutting all of the angles correctly was horrible and trying and I think Edwin wanted to slaughter me throughout the ordeal, but it looks great so I’m glad we threw a little money and time at that detail.

newclapboard

I also decided to replace the back door after all, which turned into ripping out the door, the old (very broken, messed up) jamb, the rotted trim around the old door, and some of the clapboard to the right of the door, which was just very messed up and better to replace than try to repair or just paint over. For the entire exterior, we used about 3 packs of new wood siding from Lowe’s where the clapboard needed to be replaced. It added a little over $200 to the materials cost, but matches the old stuff perfectly and looks great. Edwin used 2″ finish nails to attach the new clapboard—I didn’t know at the time, but larger nails with larger heads (7d nails) are recommended for clapboard, so I plan to go back and add those the old-fashioned way. Ah well.

backdoor

Here’s the new back door! So nice! It’s almost exactly the same as the original door (it has three panels on the bottom half instead of two), except it’s not completely broken, rotted, missing mullions, etc. I saved the old door and may try to use it inside or just hoard it in my basement for some other project someday. Like the front door, this new door came from The Door Jamb—the local discount window and door place up here. It’s a little nicer than the front door—stain-grade fir instead of paint-grade pine—so it was $125. Still a great price for such a nice door, I’d say! We had to cut 1.5″ off the top and bottom to make it fit the existing opening, but that was easy.

For the trim surrounding the door, we ripped down 5/4 x 6″ lumber to match the thickness and width of the original trim that we couldn’t salvage. The new sill and piece below it are 2×8 pressure-treated wood we had leftover from the sill replacement in the front.

caulk

After the first coat of paint was on the house, latex caulk was applied where necessary, which gets painted over during the second coat. I think we used somewhere around 20 tubes of caulk for the whole house. Vertical surfaces like where clapboard meets corner boards and trim gets caulked, but you don’t want to caulk between the clapboards themselves—this is what allows the house to “breath.”

treeremoval2

Tree day happened over the weekend!! HOORAY! I took care of removing all of the insane weeds and vines and stuff myself, but I hired out removing the large Catalpa tree in the front, the three overgrown shrubs up by the sidewalk, and a few other trees growing too close to the foundation in the back and the side. It took two guys an hour or two (and a really awesome chainsaw) to take care of everything and cost $750, which included hauling everything away, grinding the stumps, and removing the enormous pile of brush I’d made of all the weeds and vines. I was planning to haul the smaller stuff to the dump myself (and save $150), but the convenience of just having these guys take care of all of it won out.

before progress

Helloooo, little house! You can be seen from the street now!!

Now you can really get a sense of how tiny this house is in comparison to its neighbors, and how far back it is from the street. It’s such a bizarre little place! I’m almost positive that this house started out as a carriage house (or some kind of secondary structure) for one of the houses adjacent to it, and then became its own house after 3 or 4 major additions. I’ll get into that more in a future post—it’s kind of interesting! At least to me.

I’d already decided at this point that I really didn’t like the monochrome paint scheme (the house just isn’t interesting enough to pull it off!), so plans switched to paint the trim white—which, spoiler, looks way better. Switching gears partway through painting ended up tacking $550 onto the initial quote of $4,500 for painting the whole house. It kind of sucked to eat that cost since it was my mistake, but it’s worth it in the long run to get it right. Oh well.

The yard still has a LONG way to go, but getting the trees and shrubs out of there was an enormous first step! Now that the yard is more of a blank slate, it’s time to really get going on the landscaping! There’s a whole lot of grading that needs to be taken care of to get the yard sloping out toward the street instead of back toward the house, that fence situation needs to go, and a lot of general clean-up and stuff needs to take place, but this is huge. I can’t even count the number of people who walked by that day who were either shocked to find out there was a house lurking back there, or had to check that they were even on the right block. It feels good.

Diary time!

9/25: Went to Lowe’s to buy some lumber and other small supplies. Worked on landscaping scheme, began building planters. More yard clean-up. Decided what parts of house to paint white versus grey.

9/26: Went to Lowe’s to buy more paint and a few supplies. Went back to site to deliver everything. Edwin had trimmed out front door and replaced most of missing siding on front. Went back to Lowe’s for more lumber for planters and crown molding for front. Ran to Door Jamb in Edwin’s truck to purchase door that has been on hold for the back entrance. Edwin and Edgar installed it in 45 minutes—still remaining is installing lock and knob set. Did not want to cut 3″ off one end, so cut 1.5″ off top and bottom to make it fit.

9/27: My birthday. Oversaw tree removal starting at 8:30 AM. Worked on building planters briefly with Max. Left earlier than I wanted to so we could get to Garlic Festival in Saugerties.

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

Starting Work on the Exterior

You know that feeling you get, like if you oversleep by accident or get stuck in terrible traffic, and then you spend the rest of the day chasing that time you missed out on?

Yeah. That’s pretty much how the cottage renovation started out.

I woke up the morning of the closing with a fever and popped some Tylenol. I’d been in this pattern for about four days, and I guess I might have been more concerned about it if I wasn’t also in the thick of buying a condemned house, helping renovate a friend’s bathroom, trying to work on my own dining room, trying to procure an insurance policy for the cottage before closing, wondering why my Check Engine Coolant light never turns off, wishing I had a bagel…you get the idea. Generally feeling a little bit crazed, which is more or less how I (dys)function always and forever. Works great.

Admittedly, feeling this way before embarking on another major renovation probably should have served as some kind of warning, but whatever. I signed all the papers and handed over all the money and bought that house! And then the next day I found out my mysterious fever was actually Mono.

I turned to my primary care physician, WebMD, which informed me that everything was about to get worse, maybe for weeks, maybe for months. Then I mentioned having it on this blog, and among the well-wishes and get-betters were horrific stories of 6, 8, 10, 20 months-long ordeals with the affliction of which I had recently been diagnosed.

This was such bad news. Buying this little condemned house sort of felt like buying, I don’t know, a baby. Like I bought a helpless, defenseless little thing with the promise and understanding that I’d take care of it, and then my body was basically like “NOPE. You will go to sleep indefinitely instead!” So that’s what I did, more or less, and it super sucked, except for the part where I watched all the TV.

Luckily the worst of it was over within about two weeks, which brought us to mid-September, when I declared that the first day of work would officially begin on the cottage. I’d been up on my feet a few days and it seemed like it would be OK to, you know, ease back into things. Just get my feet wet a little bit.

Then I proceeded to pull weeds and vines and pick up trash for eleven hours straight. Why? Because I am dumb. And I really wanted the painters to be able to access the house to start prepping. Mostly because I’m dumb.

Anyway, hopefully this is the last you’ll hear me complaining about mono because it won’t come back and everything will be terrific forever. Fingers crossed. I’m trying to be good about not pushing too hard. It’s going moderately OK.

yardbefore

Lest we forget, here was the state of the front yard before (standing at the house, looking toward the street). It’s sort of crazy seeing this kind of thing in a fairly densely populated urban area…I’ve noticed that even empty lots don’t look like this in Kingston, let alone ones with houses on them! Bananas.

ANYWAY. The name of the game with this yard is pretty much to start over. There isn’t really anything except the bluestone hardscaping that can be salvaged, and I guess the fence posts are in OK shape. The super overgrown shrubs along the front and the large (but poorly located and very ugly due to some old aggressive pruning over the years) Catalpa tree will have to get removed professionally, but I figured I could save a little money by handling pretty much anything that didn’t require a chainsaw by myself. People have suggested keeping the huge evergreen shrubs in the front for privacy, but I sort of feel like it’s important for the street for this house to be seen, since it’s going to look all spiffy and whatnot. Removing the shrubs should also bring more light into the main floor, which would be nice!

I’m really, really excited to say that I’m teaming up with my friends at Lowe’s again (they also worked with me on our laundry room) to get this exterior into shape! The team at Lowe’s was as excited about the project as I am, and have been completely dreamy to work with. I pretty much do all of my shopping at Lowe’s in general (I love the employees at our local store! So much!), so I’m all-around super thrilled to be doing this with them by my side! They’ve given me complete creative freedom with this, by the way, and—as always—all opinions are my own.

My basic strategy was to start at the perimeter of the house and work my way out, clearing space for the painters first (who, achem, didn’t end up coming that day) and then worrying about everything else. I essentially just threw everything in a large pile…it’s really too much to be wrangling into individual yard bags. Kingston’s Department of Public Works has a program where yard waste can be brought to a place nearby, where they chip it into mulch, so the plan is to borrow my friend’s pick-up and do that. You can actually rent a dump truck for a weekend for $50 for this very thing, which I guess they drop off on a Friday and pick up on a Monday, but my understanding is that the entire city basically shares one and so that option only really works if you’re not on a deadline. The other cool thing I learned is that once everything is chipped into mulch, any Kingston resident can take it! As much mulch as you want for free. So cool! I only mention this stuff because it all seemed to novel to me and maybe other people are missing out on similar fun and exciting municipal services.

Okey-dokey.

So part of the trouble with the yard being SO overgrown and unruly was that it was a little hard to even tell what was going on with the exterior of the house. Everything looked more or less OK, but so much of it was obscured by plants that me, the inspector, and everyone else may have missed a few little details.

Like, oh, the front of the house sitting below grade. Nice.

As I went about my weed-pulling, I started to notice that under all the overgrowth was a massive amount of dirt. There’s something around 30 feet of front yard between the house and the sidewalk, and the whole thing is graded super wonky, like there’s a big hill in the middle and about 3-4 feet of soil build-up behind the fence that’s pretty much just being held in by a couple of horizontal 4×4 posts and the root system of those evergreens. It’s really strange. As it stands, the whole thing basically needs a retaining wall. It looks like I have a lot of dirt-moving in my future. Maybe it can come to my backyard? Somehow? Hmmmmm.

ANYWAY, a consequence of the crazy dirt situation and the crazy grading is that the bottom course of clapboard was basically completely buried, meaning the bottom part of the exterior sheathing and the sill plate (that thing between the studs and the foundation, which holds up the house) was also sitting below grade. YIKES.

rotted-sill-plate

I mean, HOLY SHIT. The entire front of the house is resting on that rotted out disaster. To me it kind of looked like termite damage more than regular wood rot, but there weren’t any signs of an active termite infestation, so at least that’s good. Anyway, a little quick evaluation told me (and then, later, my go-to contractor Edwin told me) that the whole thing needed to be replaced.

Ouch. Ouch Ouch Ouch. This is not the kind of information you want to get on DAY 1, FYI. Basically we’d have to figure out a way to support the whole front of the house from collapsing (easier said than done without a basement under this section) while we took out what was left of the existing sill plate and replaced it with new pressure-treated lumber. The whole thing sounded horrible and potentially astronomically expensive and I basically could just picture that emoji I’ve grown so fond of using—that one with the wad of money flying away with its set of wings.

BUT. It wasn’t that bad. Really. The house sat like this for a few days, which made me crazy anxious for some reason, but then we got to work. There was also a section of sill plate that was rotted out at the back of the house near the kitchen (due to a damaged gutter…gutter maintenance is important, people!), that needed replacement, and Edwin quoted $800 + materials (which ended up costing about $200) for the repair of both. So…not cheap, but not totally decimating the budget either. OK. Deep breaths and stuff. We’re still good. Luckily the rot hadn’t extended up into the studs or past the sill plate into the joists, so that was good news. I was a little worried the whole house was like this.

rotted-sill

This is what the entire front of the house was resting on! It’s sort of a wonder the whole thing hadn’t collapsed? I mean, damn. It’s basically a toothpick!

replaced-sill-plate

But, we fixed it up! The process involved supporting the front of the house very temporarily (like 10 minutes) with 2x4s and sliding two new 2 x 8 pressure-treated boards into place, which were sistered together with a framing nailer. So fresh and so clean! Then the front wall was shockingly easy to move back into the correct position, and the studs were re-attached to the sill plate with the framing nailer at a few different angles, inside and out. Solid as a rock. This isn’t how houses are built today, but it’s worked here for many decades and now can continue to work for many more! HOORAY.

shimming-sill-plate

After the new sill plate was in place and secured, we shimmed the whole thing out another inch to match the thickness of the original sill.

sheathing

Then all we had to do was cut a piece of 3/4″ pressure-treated plywood to create the sheathing. I had the plywood leftover from my failed attempt at fixing my own box gutter, so the material for this part at least was free.

flashing

After the sill plate was replaced and the new sheathing was installed, we opted to add 14″ high aluminum flashing to help keep water away from the new sill plate and foundation. A few courses of new clapboard will be installed over top of this (the old stuff wasn’t salvageable), and everything will be OK. The house will be solid and more equipped to handle water and stuff than it was before. Excellent.

reframingdoor

Throughout this ordeal, we realized that the existing sidelights and door were framed in COMPLETELY incorrectly…no header, no real support…the whole thing was a mess! Rather than trying to work with the existing crappy job as we were installing a new front door and jamb, we made the quick decision to rip it all out and re-frame the entire thing. It cost me a couple hundred bucks in extra labor hours and materials, but it was entirely worth it. The front of this house is not going ANYWHERE.

sidelightmod

The new header meant that the old sidelights had to be cut down a bit to compensate. I’m seriously debating these sidelights. They’re REALLY not very old and REALLY not very nice, and a ton of the panes are broken, and I think I could just replace them with something nicer and new for about $200. I’m really tempted…I have so much window restoration on this house already, and this is one of those things that I can make a little bit easier and a little bit nicer for a little extra money, and it kind of seems worth it. I don’t know! For now, the old ones went back in place (with temporary stops, so I can easily remove them for restoration and paint), but we’ll see. I’m not married to them. They’re really pretty bad, believe me.

reframeddoor

Anyway, look at that fancy framing and that fancy new door!! AHHHH! Finally the house has an actual LOCK, and I can stop being super paranoid about people coming in and stealing my tools. Obviously in this picture we still have to add back the sidelights and trim everything out, but it’s already and improvement. I changed the direction that the door swings, and I think it makes a lot more sense this way.

Oh, about the door! I’m super happy with it. I went to a place called The Door Jamb nearby, which basically sells overstocked or slightly damaged doors and windows at great discounts. This door is solid wood (not stain grade, though, so I’m planning to paint it), really nice, and only $95! That’s super cheap for an exterior door. I wasn’t really planning to find anything I liked that was new production, but I think this door suits the house super well, especially when I put the first floor casement windows back in place (I took them down for repair/painting…the windows in the picture are just the storms).

newbeadboard

One of the things about there only being one of me is that I can’t be in multiple places at once! I’ve spent a lot of time running back and forth to Lowe’s to pick up more supplies—more lumber here, more paint there…I’m typically there like 1-3 times a day, which means sometimes I miss things back at the ranch! I casually mentioned to my contractor that I was planning to put new beadboard up in the arched area above the door (which was totally rotted/eaten by animals), but I never planned for him to do it for me! I guess the installation must have been easy since he banged it out in about 20 minutes, but I missed the whole thing! This is just tongue-and-groove breadboard wainscoting that comes in a pack (I bought 4 foot lengths, and I think this took a little more than 1 pack), attached with 2″ finish nail. It looks so good. I thought for a second about trying to stain it, but I think it’s getting painted like everything else. I don’t want it to look glaringly new, you know?

Is that enough progress for one post? It’s hard to know when to stop! Even though a lot of this stuff was a little bit unexpected, I’m really glad that we got it resolved quickly and properly (and relatively inexpensively) and can move forward with the beautification process and start seeing some non-invisible changes around here!

By the way, I’m sorry about the (in)frequency of posts in the last couple of weeks! I promised more and then you did not get more! Obviously this is a big project, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t going through some growing pains right about now…trying to manage all the work and keep everything moving and also have time to blog about it and eat and sometimes sleep and pay my bills and all of that is proving a little tough. We’re only a couple weeks in, though…I’m trying really hard to strike a balance and figure out how to make this work a little better. Just FYI.

Totally unrelated, but I had this kooky idea…continuing in the grand tradition Martha Stewart’s New Old House, I thought maybe it would be fun to maybe end these posts diary-style. It’s all well and good to see a bunch of progress in one post, but I always sort of wonder what the day-to-day looks like. I skipped over those sections the first time I read Martha’s book (which is amazing and totally insane—I love it), but reading through it the second time was sort of amazing…the entries are informative but also reveal her neuroses and anal-retentiveness in a really adorable Martha-y way. So why not? Fun? Let’s find out.

9/10: Bought new front door.

9/15: Yard clearing. Took a break to purchase some supplies. Uncovered structural issue on exterior and worked on solution with Edwin. Used Edwin’s truck to buy pressure-treated lumber to replace sill plate.

9/16: Rain. No work.

9/17-19: Edwin unavailable. No work at cottage. Worked on dining room instead.

9/20: Cleaned up around yard and interior of cottage while Edwin started prepping clapboard for paint.

9/21: Edwin continued to prep exterior for paint. Painted sample of siding color on clapboard for review and approval. Debating how to paint trim, window sashes, and doors.

9/22: Went to Building Department to apply for building permit while Edwin and crew continued to prep for paint. Edwin and I brainstormed exactly how to replace sill plate. Lack of basement makes things complicated.

9/23: Bough caulk for painters. Went to Lowe’s for 2×4 lumber to reframe door and sidelights, aluminum flashing, and Sawzall blades. Edwin and Edgar worked on replacing sill plate—almost complete by the time I got back. Edwin and Edgar moved on to removing old door and sidelights. Painting began on underside of rafters and trim. After workers left, cleaned up site and met with tree service professional, Armin, about removing larger trees and grinding stumps. Quote seemed reasonable, nobody else has returned my calls—hired!

9/24: Went to Lowe’s to buy plants (before they are out of stock), new cedar siding, more flashing, and exterior paint. Changed painting plan slightly—$550 mistake on my part. Edwin and Edgar re-framed doorway and put back old sidelights. Edwin installed beadboard wainscoting over entryway. Edwin installed door, threshold, weather-stripping, and new locks.  Ran back to Lowe’s to buy 2×6 pressure-treated wood to replace upper portion of trim and 5/4″ x  6″ for trim pieces around door to match original 1″ thickness, which will be installed next working day. Rain in forecast tomorrow.

newsill

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

The Laundry Room is Done!

I’m sure if you had asked me about the laundry room after we first looked at our house, I wouldn’t have really remembered anything about it beyond that it was disgusting. Little details like the lack of a dryer seemed insignificant (and I didn’t really think about the fact that dryers need their own electrical supply and vent and stuff…which they do, FYI). This was still in the rose-colored glasses days, when all I saw were all the amazing original details I wanted the opportunity to save, and all the potential the house had. Even when thinking seriously about all the work we had ahead of us, the tiny little laundry room off the kitchen was so overshadowed in scale and biohazard-ness that I really don’t recall considering it at all. It’s just a laundry room, right? The idea that we might someday even have a washer and dryer in our place of residence seemed more than posh enough for us, so I really didn’t even think about how it would look or what form a renovation of the space might take.

But then things changed. Demo and dust and debris and general filth became a huge part of our lives, which meant that laundry became a huge part of our lives. And when you’re in Obsessive Renovation Mode, as I am between 99-100% of the time, having to stop everything for a few hours on a Saturday to get your tushy to the laundromat carting so much gross laundry really kind of sucks. I’m well aware that this is the reality for plenty of people for whom having their own laundry isn’t an option, but for us it was an option. All of a sudden, having a working laundry room couldn’t come soon enough. Added to this is that Max—while hardly involved in the nuts-n-bolts of renovation at all—loves to do laundry. All I had to do was renovate a room, and then I could pass the torch to my boo to actually use it. So, since I like to think of myself as both romantic and stylish, I decided to build that boy the best damn laundry room this little space could handle. The room had to be utilitarian, yes, but it could also stand to be beautiful and fancy-feeling, so that Max could really commit himself to removing the frequent blood/grease/filth stains from my clothing with panache and style.

You guys. I totally did it. My semi-evil semi-romantic plan is working.

1beforefromkitchen

Let’s take a horrifying look back, shall we? Way back. Here’s a picture of the kitchen looking into the laundry room after about a week in the house. The funny thing about this room that separates it from basically all the other spaces in our house is that pretty much any nice architectural detail that perhaps once existed had been stripped from it years ago. On the kitchen side, 1×6 pieces of lumber had been cut to various thicknesses (why? Who knows! But each side was different!) to frame out the doorway. Inside the laundry room, the same 1×6 lumber had been used for baseboards, and dinky 1×3’s surrounded the super crooked window in a super crooked way. The window itself is old, which is kind of nice, but that’s about it. The original plaster had been covered over with drywall, and anything that may have been nice about the room way back when had just been lost in the process. So unlike in other spaces, where I want to highlight all the original architectural details, the task here ended up being to basically recreate them to give this room back some old-fashioned charm.

1afterfromkitchen

Ohhhh yeahhhhh. That looks a whole lot better, can we agree? I hope we can agree.

I ended up slightly decreasing the size of the doorway (both width and height) to accommodate an old door I found in the basement. The plan was to erect this poor forlorn door as a swinging door between the two spaces, which I still intend to do, but it just hasn’t happened yet. But that’s OK! It will. Some other time. After some careful/creative drywall, tile, and baseboard patching, it really looks like this doorway has looked like this all along, which I’m so happy about. If we ever get to gut the kitchen, I think this doorway will be one of the few things that just stays put as it is.

existingmillworkinside

The molding on the outside of the doorway actually came from the only thing that was really worth salvaging from the inside of the laundry room, which was the original door casing! I carefully pried off the pieces (which, due to the later addition of the drywall over the original plaster, were basically sitting flush with the drywall—not cute), and then verrrry carefully cut them down to their new size to accommodate the smaller opening.

1progressfromkitchen

In the process, it looked kind of like this—which was a whole lot of sadness, considering the kitchen was looking pretty good before I had this bright idea to destroy it again. Whoops!

millworkprogressoutside

This is a truly horrendous picture, but after cutting the old pieces to their new sizes and nailing them up, I wrapped them in 1×2’s and then added this stock piece of pine base cap molding from Lowe’s. These added details do a nice job of matching the original 1850s moldings in the kitchen, and after it was all primed, caulked, and painted, it looks really authentic!

OK, enough dorky molding talk (jk, there will be more). Shall we go inside? WE SHALL.

before

Just look at this sad awful mess. It was sad and awful.

7afterfromkitchen

I don’t even know where to begin. I’m overwhelmed.

1. You can read all about how I replicated the original moldings for the window casing and baseboards here. I’m so proud of how this turned out! Even if they don’t look 100% original, they definitely tie the room together with the rest of the house and really make the space feel special. I obviously tell everyone that I made all the millwork, because I have zero shame and a developed need for praise, so for that reason alone they aren’t fooling anyone.

2. I am in LOVE (LOVE LOVE LOVE) with our machines. We wanted to get machines that were the largest capacity we could, while taking up the smallest footprint, and of course with good ratings. These LG models (washer & electric dryer) fit the bill perfectly—they’re slightly shallower than competitive brands, meaning they fit the space between the back wall and the doorway like a glove, they have amazing reviews, large capacity, fancy features, and even sing a very jolly jingle when they’re finished with their cycles. I could go on and on! I can’t imagine being any more satisfied with them. One thing of note is that we purchased them at full price, but a couple weeks later Lowe’s was running a promotion (10% off, I believe) on large appliances! We brought back our receipt, and Lowe’s was happy to honor the current promotion because it was happening within a month of our original purchase. We got about $300 back in store credit, which I immediately spent on…wait for it…A TABLE SAW. There may have been tears. Table saw = life-changing.

3. Since this room is attached to the kitchen, we wanted to tie it in visually with our earlier kitchen renovation—which meant subway tile, and lots of it! I’m so happy with how the tile came out—combined with the millwork, it really makes the space feel finished and fancy, not to mention how nice it is to clean and everything. Regular 3×6 subway tile is really inexpensive, too, so tiling the whole room was only a few hundred dollars. Can’t beat it! These are American Olean white subway tiles, and the grout is TEC unsanded grout in Raven.

4. Are you seeing that little cabinet next to the dyer? Are you seeing it? Well…

guts

There’s about 8 inches of space next to the dryer, which I didn’t want to go to waste. To keep the machines as close to the back wall as possible, I had the electrician install the dryer plug to the right of the dryer itself, and we chose to side-vent the dryer for the same reason (lots of dryers offer this option nowadays, and the conversion is easy with a couple special-order parts). This left an awkward little ugly space that I didn’t want to look at, and it seemed like letting it go to unused would be a wasted opportunity.

rollingcartout

So, out of some scrap plywood, I cobbled together this little rolling cabinet! It holds all kinds of stuff that we don’t really need for every single load of laundry, but do end up using frequently. As you can see, it isn’t even full, so we do have some room to expand where our laundry potions are concerned.

For the top, I just cut down a piece of our old fir countertops (gone, but not forgotten), gave it a good cleaning, and sealed it with three coats of water-based polyurethane. The polyurethane is a HUGE improvement over the original oil finish in terms of keeping it clean and wipe-able. I made it extra-long so that the back edge of the countertop hits the wall before the back of the cabinet can hit the plug or the dryer vent. Sneaky!

rollingcabinet2

I’m so happy with how it came out, and the wood top adds a nice natural element to the space to keep it from feeling too cold. The handle is just a cheap brass sash lift I had lying around for some reason. I painted it in Bedford Gray by Martha Stewart’s line for Glidden, color-matched in semi-gloss to Valspar paint from Lowe’s. I love this little thing! Even though the decorative paneling elements on the front are a little more traditional than my style tends to skew, I feel like it fits right in in this space.

outercorner

On top of the machines, I made a simple ironing board out of a piece of 3/4″ plywood cut to size, cotton batting, and a piece of a canvas drop cloth, which was inspired by a Martha Stewart project. The original concept was to make a removable cover that could be washed, but once I broke out the sewing machine, I quickly got overwhelmed and just stapled the fabric to the underside of the board. I still have plans to make a removable cover…if I can figure it out with my rudimentary sewing skills, I’ll do a whole DIY tutorial. For now, though, this is totally fine and a functional way to take advantage of the top of our front-loaders, and the natural cotton texture is really nice in the room.

Also, SHELF! The copper-coated brackets were a lucky find from a local coffee shop/vintage store in Kingston, Outdated (who also have an Etsy shop!). They were super rusty when I bought them, so I soaked them in CLR, scrubbed them with Barkeeper’s Friend, and spray-painted them with matte varnish to keep them from rusting. I love them. The enamel tray is vintage, and the stainless steel spray bottles and medicine droppers are from the Container store.

The shelf is a piece of super old salvaged wood from the attic, which I cut down to size, sanded, and coated with water-based poly. Really old far-gone-looking wood cleans up so well!

woodsealing

I figure it’s been like this for about 150 years, so I’m not too worried about it warping.

staintreatmentguide

One of my favorite things in the room is this ENORMOUS poster that Max designed—Martha Stewart’s Household Stain Treatment Guide! We defer to Martha for all things home-maintenance related, and homegirl knows a thing or two about doing laundry. I know the writing might look illegible, but that’s just the picture…it’s easy to read in real life and reference in a stain-fighting conundrum. We had it printed at Staples for a few bucks (it’s just one of their cheap 4’x3′ posters, cut down to size). I wish I could offer the image as a free download, but I fear it would violate all sorts of copyright laws and I can’t have Martha on my bad side.

Sorry.

stainguidecorner

I made the frame myself out of some scrap wood and a few inexpensive trim pieces from Lowe’s, and painted it the same Bedford Gray as the rolling cabinet. For the glass, I had a piece of plexiglass cut to size at Lowe’s, which was awesomely easy and cheap.

The walls, by the way, are Benjamin Moore’s “Calm” color-matched to Valspar in matte. I’m really glad I tried out this Valspar paint—I went one level below the top-of-the-line option, and the paint is SO nice—especially for the price (like $34/gallon). I used the color recently in a client space and I love it—it’s such a nice super pale grey that contrasts nicely with white trim and doesn’t go purple or blue. It’s my new leading contender for the entryway!

innercorner

At the end of the shelf are a couple of enamel canisters from West Elm, which hold our powdered detergent and Borax, which Max uses as a laundry booster. We use these for pretty much every load, so it’s nice to have them accessible but also pretty and decanted into these containers. The labels are from the Martha Stewart collection at Staples. (are you sensing a theme? no? WE LOVE MARTHA THAT IS THE THEME.)

innercornermillwork

The shelf is hung just above the outlet for the iron. Check out how pretty the doorway molding is! I MADE THAT. Check out how cute that frame is! I MADE THAT TOO.

Other side of the room? Other side of the room.

2before4

Obviously, this was a bummer. I only include it for the DRAMA.

3afterfromkitchen

There’s only about 14″ of space between the doorway and the wall on the other side of the room, but I fell in love with the idea of installing a hanging rack for things that need to hang-dry. Enter the WOODi! It’s the same idea as the very pretty Sheila Maid that a bunch of readers suggested (thanks, guys!) but I found it at one of my favorite Brooklyn shops, Dry Goods, and I liked that it was a little more contemporary and American-made. It lifts up or down on a pulley system attached to the ceiling, which sounds intimidating but it was really simple to assemble and install. So cute, right? It fits the room perfectly, and I love the functionality.

WOODi2

The rope for the WOODi (which could be exchanged for a cotton rope or something else, but I used the stock nylon rope it came with) is held up by a little chrome cleat that comes with it, which I attached to the new doorway molding.

window+WOODi

window1

Can we just talk about the window some more? I think it’s my favorite part of the room. It’s the little things! This window was such an eyesore before since it was so small and crooked, but adding beefier moldings (and installing them LEVEL) changed EVERYTHING. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a new window, I spent maybe $50 on lumber and made this one work, and I’m SO glad I did. Now it feels like the perfect size for the space, and I even like the crookedness of the window itself in its own funny little way. The whole thing makes me happy every time I look at it.

millworkduring

I swear I’ll shut up about the moldings at some point, someday, but man—it just made all the difference. From this, up there…

millworkafter

To THIS. Worth every bit of time and effort and expense. I probably dropped about $300 on lumber for just this little room, but I can’t imagine it any other way. Trying to make all the tile work with the existing moldings would have been an ugly nightmare!

The trashcan is by Brendan Ravenhill for West Elm (and currently on sale!)—the top part lifts off to become a dust pan, and the little broom is held on by magnets! So smart. We originally bought it for the kitchen, but there isn’t really any space for it in there, so now it collects dryer lint and whatnot. I love this trashcan, so I’m glad we found the perfect place for it!

innercorner2

rollingcabinet3

washingmachineandpad

I’m so, so incredibly thrilled with how this room came out—and I can say, really and truly, that it’s changed our lives in such a great way. I so appreciate all of the input and encouragement from you guys along the way, and I’m so thankful to Lowe’s for helping us make it happen! Getting this little room checked off our incredibly long list is such a morale boost, and I’m so excited to start working on all the other spaces calling out for attention!

Yay, clean clothes!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Lowe’s has generously provided funding for this project, however all designs and opinions are my own.

lowes2

Grout! Caulk! Paint!

grout

A little while ago, Max and I were discussing the prospect of drywalling our own ceilings in the dining room and front parlor.

Me: “I don’t know, I think it would be kind of hard, but not that hard. I bet we could handle it.”
Max: *heavy sigh*
Me: “What?”
Max: “You’re already doing it.”
Me: “Doing what?”
Max: “This is just going to be another one of those things where when you write about it on your blog, you’ll be all like ‘I thought it would be so easy but it turned out to be really hard and everything is hard and woe is me.’ You really have to stop being so negative all the time. You’re such a Debbie Downer.”
Me: “OK, number one, I am not a Debbie Downer. Number two, I’m saying right now that I think it would be hard. I’m admitting up front that it will be hard and unpleasant, so it will come as no surprise when it is hard and unpleasant. And number three…yeah, I guess I do that sometimes.”
Max: “Like all the time. It’s your schtick. It’s your entire narrative. It’s boring.”
Me: “But that’s how things are most of the time. I want to be realistic.”
Max: “Well, I’m just saying.”

So clearly Max has a serious gripe with my blog, which in turn has inspired a mini existential crisis about why I am the way I am and why I am delusional at the start of projects and then, consequently, quickly overwhelmed, and why I subject myself to the same cycle over and over again and then additionally photograph, write, and broadcast it for the wilds of the Internet to observe and scrutinize. Have I no shame? Have I no dignity? I’ve been blogging for over four years, serious Old House Rehabbing for almost one, and evidently I am too thick of skull to have figured out much of anything in that time about the way I think and operate.

NEWS. FLASH.

I’M BREAKING THE CYCLE.

(at least for this post. I make no promises regarding the future.)

I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s the promise of spring/summer after this truly horrendous winter. I don’t know if it’s the promise of easily and accessibly washing our undies. I don’t know if I’m just getting used to this whole reno thing and therefore more realistic and therefore less convinced that I can renovate rooms in 2 days. I don’t know if it’s just because this room is really small. BUT what I do know is: the laundry room has really been a fun little renovation. There haven’t really been any major moments of agony and/or despair. I have no major regrets thus far. The pace seems reasonable. I am engrossed in the process and having fun.

IT’S LIKE A WHOLE NEW ME.

grout1

So, pretty much, here is a semi-lousy update with semi-lousy photos artfully shot with my iPhone of the progress in the laundry room. Things are really coming together! I think this will probably be my last update before the *big thrilling reveal*, since I don’t want to give it all away before it’s all done.

I grouted. Grouting is a mess. It’s really not very hard. You just read the instructions on the package.

You want to use non-sanded grout for grout lines this little. This is TEC Powder Grout (the color is Raven). It’s basically like smearing black peanut butter all over your walls and then wiping it off.

The thing I’ve learned about using black grout is that you really need to put a little extra effort into making those grout lines nice and crisp. The hardest part of the whole grouting process is getting the hang of rubbing the excess grout out of each individual grout line enough that they look uniform and clean. I learned this time around that getting the final grout haze off with a microfiber cloth (instead of a sponge) is much, much easier. After everything is dry, I like to go over all the grout lines one last time with my finger covered in a microfiber cloth, rubbing each line back and forth a couple times to get the edges of the grout extra-crisp. I think the trick to using subway tiles with black grout in old houses is really thin grout lines, since it more closely mimics old fancy subway tiles. It just looks more natural. Take it from me.

Or don’t. I don’t care. You do you.

caulk2

After the grouting was all done (and my unfinished wood moldings were sufficiently stained black…I told you, it’s messy!), I started priming the moldings! I used my favorite Zinsser BIN Shellac-based primer (two coats), which should block any oils from the wood from bleeding through the final coats of paint.

After I primed but before I painted, I caulked all of the places where the moldings meet the subway tile, so that everything will look fancy and finished. For caulking like this, where the entire surface won’t get painted over, it’s a good idea to use painter’s tape to get a really crisp line. All you do is run your tape (make sure it’s really stuck, just like you’re painting!), then apply caulk, then smooth it with your finger, and then immediately remove the tape. Do not wait until the caulk is dry because you will be so sad.

caulk1

I used paintable silicone caulk, which is great! With silicone caulk, you definitely want to wear latex gloves if you’re touching it with your fingers, like to smooth it. The silicone should hold up much better than latex, which I only like to use for caulking gaps in moldings and stuff before painting. Since this caulk will be partially but not fully painted, it’s better to use silicone because it’s cleanable and should stay looking good for years. I’ve learned that unpainted latex caulk usually catches dust and dirt and looks super crappy within a couple of months, and easily scrapes off unless it is sealed in with paint.

window

I had to basically work on the room in two halves since I had to push the washer and dryer back and forth, but so far I’ve gotten all of the moldings on the left side of the room painted…and they look SO GOOD. I’ll take better pictures later on, but seeing the moldings painted (especially the window and door frame!) makes me so, so happy. I kind of can’t believe that I made them and that they don’t look at all crappy. They aren’t a perfect match to the original moldings in the kitchen, which is just fine. The point isn’t really to fool anyone into thinking they’re original (although I doubt anyone would think otherwise unless they were looking really closely), but to make the room feel like it belongs in the house, and to give it back some character that has presumably been lost over the course of previous renovations. They really make the room, for me anyway.

doorframecorner

The moldings on the other half of the room are patched, caulked, and ready for paint! I used caulk (latex) rather liberally, which makes the moldings look like one piece and keeps everything from looking quite so brand new. I have a little drywall repair left to do around the door frame (I had to patch in some new drywall and tape/mud it after the doorway was made a bit smaller), but then I can paint the walls! We originally painted this room the same color as the kitchen (and the upstairs office…the only two rooms I’ve painted in the house…let’s not talk about that…), Casa Blanca by Clark + Kensington. As much as I really love the color, I do want to experiment with something just slightly more grey. I really do think I want to paint the majority of the house white, but finding the perfect white that won’t read too stark or two yellow or too something might make me lose my mind. I feel like a bit more contrast with the trim and the tile will go a long way in here, and it’s a good opportunity to see how another color looks as I consider the larger spaces like the dining room and foyer and stuff.

So! Here’s what’s left:

1. Finish priming and painting all moldings.
2. Finish repairing drywall.
3. Paint.
4. Create, print, and frame art.
5. Make oversized ironing board for top of machines with removable fabric cover.
6. Purchase pretty containers for detergents, powders, etc. Label said containers.
7. Hang hooks on walls.
8. Sand, repair, prime, paint door. Find glass for door. Install door on two-way swinging hinge.
9. Make and hang shelf.
10. Rolling storage cart?
11. Change light fixture? (maybe…maybe not…)

Is that it? I think that’s it?

EASY PEESY.

(maybe.)

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s! Lowe’s has generously provided funding for this project, however all designs and opinions are my own.

I Dream of Laundry

Coming from years of renting in New York, we’re pretty used to living without incredibly easy access to laundry machines. Almost nobody I know has a washer and dryer in their apartment—you’re lucky to have a set in the building, but most people live a laundromat existence. We go back and forth. Our building actually does have a washer and dryer in the basement, but one or both of them are usually broken, so we end up at the laundromat a few blocks away. Fun fact: this one time, there was an enormous dead rat right in front of our building’s washing machine for like a week. Nobody picked it up but people did continue washing their clothes.

All of this (except the dead rat part) is fine, and totally normal. It’s New York. I’m not complaining.

But at the house, it’s kind of a different story. We are renovating all the time and we’re making a big mess all the time. This mess gets EVERYWHERE—the clothes we’re working in, obviously, but also bathmats, towels, bed linens, clothes you’re just wearing while not renovating…we are filth, basically. We’re pretty much constantly trying to evaluate which of our clothes look the least soiled, and therefore the most acceptable to wear in public. Our laundry situation quickly gets out of control. We stockpile it for a week or two and then have to take several hours out of the day to get to the laundromat with our four packed IKEA bags and pay too much money to use the machines there. The whole affair slows everything down since Max doesn’t have a driver’s license, so it’s not like he can just go do the laundry while I continue working on renovating something. Everything must halt. It makes me bitter and cranky, like most everyday human tasks do.

I know. Cry me a river. Writing this out, it occurs to me that this probably sounds like senseless spoiled whining, and maybe it is, but the fact remains that I would basically give my left arm to have a functioning laundry room at this point. So we are MAKING. IT. HAPPEN.

More accurately, the kind blog-loving folks at Lowe’s have generously offered to help make our laundry dreams a reality, and I’m so excited to be working with them on this room! Just FYI—Lowe’s has given me total creative freedom both with the room and how I write about it, so as always all opinions and commentary are 100% my own here. And, as always, I have lots of opinions and commentary to share.

laundrybefore

Anyway—let’s get to know the space, shall we? As you can see, it’s on the very petite side—about 5.5′ x 7′. This is, apparently, the only photo I have of the laundry room in its true “before” state. Yikes! The room is continuous with the kitchen, so this was before I even removed the old vinyl tiles or anything. There was this retro metal cabinet in the room (which I had dreams about salvaging, but honestly…I don’t think it’s even worth it), and an old washing machine that was being held together with lots of different types of tape. It turned out that the washing machine did kind of work, except that we had no hot water on the main floor of the house until we got the boiler put in in November. As soon as we did get hot water, the washing machine broke entirely, and we were back to square one. So it goes.

I know people like to inspect my floor plan and tell me to move the laundry elsewhere, but I promise this is kind of the only spot for it! While having laundry on the second floor would be kind of a luxury, I guess, there’s just no good place for it—even leaving aside the hassle and expense of running all the plumbing and electric up to the second floor. The existing mudroom is basically a glorified shed attached to the back to the house, so that’s not going to work, and I’d rather keep it here than move it to the basement. It’s a good laundry room! It will be, anyway.

laundrybefore2

Since the laundry room is continuous with the kitchen and it’s so small, it wasn’t a big deal to just redo the floor and paint the walls back when we were renovating the kitchen over the summer. I removed the baseboards since they were super gross and not original anyway, and replacing them would allow me to install the VCT first and then the baseboard to cover the edges, so that base shoe wouldn’t be necessary.

laundrybefore3

The new floor immediately made the space feel a little less like a biohazard, which is nice. The black VCT isn’t exactly my dream flooring material for this house, but I have to say that it’s been GREAT for right now. I think it looks good in the kitchen, it was easy and very inexpensive to install, easy to clean, and it’s extremely durable. Since we frequently find ourselves carting wheelbarrows full of plaster and brick and stuff through the kitchen to the backyard, the floor has been terrific.

I bring this up because even though we do plan to re-renovate the kitchen someday, I don’t really want to think about the laundry room in those terms. With the exception of replacing the floor (probably with whatever we do in the kitchen), I’m thinking about this much more as a pretty permanent renovation job. We could stick a couple machines in there and call it a day, sure, but that wouldn’t be any fun. I want the laundry room to be pretty and nice…so basically the opposite of how it looks in these pictures.

window

Can we just talk about this window for a second? Yeah, that is one incredibly sad-looking window. I know you might be thinking that this picture is crooked, but the window is actually incredibly crooked, along with the casing around it. As far as I can tell, that’s just how it was installed originally—badly, and without the aid of a level.

garagewindow

It took me a while to figure it out, but I’m fairly certain that the window was actually stolen from the garage whenever the laundry room was built! The photo above is of the garage from last summer (YES, the yard is/was VERY overgrown…), and you can kind of see (if that enormous weed/plant wasn’t in the way) where the window was removed from the left side of the existing one, and the clapboard patched in. House history!

ANYWAY, the window in the laundry room…not cute. I think this is pretty much the only window in the house that I’d actually like to replace (and maybe put back on the garage!), but it’s just not in the cards. New windows are crazzzzzyyyyy expensive, and dealing with trying to salvage something and install it is just a much bigger project than we need to be dealing with for this little space. Could the room handle a bigger, better-looking window? Yes. But! I have a couple ideas about dressing up the existing one, which I’m pretty excited about! I like a challenge.

maxpainting

As the kitchen renovation was coming to a close, Max put on his work clothes (pajamas) and painted the laundry room!! Max doesn’t tend to do very much stuff like this—at least not by himself, anyway—so it was exciting to see him take on a project that felt manageable for him and see it through. He did such a nice job! Go, Max! We painted the walls and ceiling with the same white paint we used in the kitchen—Casa Blanca by Clark + Kensington in Flat Enamel.

baseboards

Once the walls and ceiling were painted, I cut and installed some plain 1 x 6 baseboards. Patched, sanded, caulked, and painted, I tend to think plain 1 x 6 (or 8″, or 10″) pine boards work nicely as baseboards for old house/apartment renovations, generally…they’re inexpensive, and the size is much better suited than dinky new baseboard moldings. Of course, now that it’s months later and I have an actual plan for the room, I naturally want to tear out these baseboards and replace them with something a little more substantial and interesting and suited to the house. Oops! I don’t really like redoing stuff that I just did, but I kind of think I’ll regret it if I don’t.

laundryroomplab

SO. PLAN.

1. I want to remove the existing window casing and replace it with molding similar to what’s on the doorframes in the kitchen. This molding profile is basically what was used in the “un-fancy” spaces in the house—the kitchen and the upstairs office, for instance. Other moldings throughout the house are beefier and more complex, but I think with some basic lumber and moderate woodworking skill, I can create a pretty convincing replica. This not only gives me the opportunity to make the window look a bit bigger and more substantial, but I also want to install it all completely level. The mullions and the window itself will still be off-kilter, of course, but I think installing the moldings level will make the window appear level. Depending on how that goes, I might do the same for the moldings around the doorway (the molding on the kitchen side is just 1×6 boards, and the inside is remnants of older molding, partially covered over by sheetrock…), and make new baseboards matching those in the upstairs office. I never really thought this room would require so much new millwork, but the more I think about it the more it seems worth it! And kind of fun, to be honest.

2. Since this room is right off the kitchen, I do really want to tie it in visually with the kitchen. So…MORE SUBWAY TILE! I know people have mixed feelings about subway tile (and there are plenty of black grout haterz out there), but it’s really inexpensive and pretty appropriate to old houses. I like black grout from a graphic visual standpoint, but I also like that it mimics the look of older tiles: really fancy old subway tiles had no spacers and no easement, so the dark lines between the tiles are just the cement peaking through. I’m planning to tile all four walls up to the height of the tile behind the stove and surrounding the sink in the kitchen (about 5.5 feet from the floor). They’ll be easy to keep clean, they can get wet, and the reflective surface of the tiles should bring a little more light into the room.

3. I know lots of people have lots (and lots…and lots…) of opinions about washers and dryers (European readers seem particularly horrified that dryers are commonplace and considered necessary at all in the US!), BUT. We put a lot of work and thought into what would work best for us an in this space, and decided on a side-by-side front-loading arrangement. I like this arrangement because then the top can become a big folding/ironing surface. I like the idea of getting a big piece of plywood cut to fit and upholstering the whole thing like a big ironing board. Maybe with a classic ticking stripe? Something else? Hmmm…

4. Above the tile, I want to line much of the room with antique hooks! We’re lucky to be able to source these from existing hooks in our upstairs closets. I think they’ll be very handy for hanging hamper bags, clothes that need to air dry, that kind of thing.

5. I’m undecided about the light for the room, but I keep thinking about a classic globe. I don’t want anything too crazy or too faux-vintage, and it has to play well with the faux-PH lamp in the kitchen, and I don’t want exposed bulbs because I want to be able to use my favorite super-energy-efficient Cree bulbs I like so much. The Luna Cord pendant from Schoolhouse Electric might be a winner!

6. Obviously Max and I have spent significant portions of our lives ogling Martha Stewart’s beautiful laundry rooms, and I always love that she decants her products into much better-looking containers. I’m thinking a mix of enamelware, glass canisters, and plain spray bottles will hold all of our laundry potions, corralled onto a shelf above the machines. I like this Enameled Bread Bin from West Elm for holding powdered detergent.

7. Shout-out to my iron! I love the classic Black & Decker iron. It’s built so well and it’s even sort of cute in its own way, and it works REALLY well. I feel like I’ll have it forever.

8. THE MACHINES!!! OK, like I said, lots of thought and consideration went into buying these machines. We ended up going with the LG 4-cu ft High-Efficiency Front-Load Washer with Steam Cycle and the LG 7.3-cu ft Electric Dryer with Steam Cycles, both in white. Aside from the pretty much unanimously glowing reviews they receive on Lowe’s website, we also liked that they’re a tad more petite than machines with the same capacity from other brands (we really wanted large capacity machines so we could do tons of laundry and wash big things like drop cloths, etc.). We need these machines to sit as far back toward the back wall as they can to not partially block the doorway, so it was exciting to find that LG machines aren’t as deep and that the dryer offers a side-venting option, eliminating the number of inches the machine has to sit away from the wall at the back to accommodate a dryer vent house. ANYWAY. I don’t consider myself particularly tech-nerdy, but HOLY MOLY these machines have, like, a bazillion features and I’m legitimately excited to use them. I’ve never had something so high-tech washing my clothes!

Anyway, I know it might seem weird to be tackling another little room when, say, our dining room still doesn’t have a ceiling, but I’m so happy we’re setting aside some time to prioritize this! I’ve already been logging tons of hours in here, and naturally it’s already more complex than it seems like it should be, but I’m so excited to share the progress! It’s starting to look good!

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

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