Beyond the Laundry Room: Where do we go from here?

OK, NEW RULES. I AM DECLARING THEM:

1. No more tearing things apart.*

2. No more starting another major project until the other major projects are wrapped up.**

*Unless I really want to.

**Unless it seems like maybe it won’t be a major project but instead something quick and easy. I can’t control where it goes from there.

Now that the laundry room is this close to being done, we’re starting to decide which thing(s?) we’re going to focus our energies on now.

If you have followed this blog for a while and paid some attention, it might occur to you that there are a literal wealth of options.

1. The dining room, last seen with a gaping hole in the wall where a door used to be, no ceiling, old electrical, and crazy patterned walls. Doesn’t make sense to do much about this until the electrical is done.

2. The front parlor room adjacent to the dining room, last seen with a gaping hole in the wall from an old stove vent, no ceiling, old electrical, and the coolest corner radiator. It has since become my workshop because I choose to live like an animal and need somewhere to do my crafts. And by crafts, I mean making piles of sawdust bigger than Linus. It doesn’t make much sense to do anything about this until electrical is done. It’ll be so weird to use this room as a proper room someday instead of the place I make baseboards and stuff.

3. The entire entryway/hallway/staircase situation. It’s a huge amount of space but not really a room, but it is the heart of the house and it looks like crap. All the walls are bare plaster now, but they do need significant repair in places and a nice skim coat in others before paint can happen. Since there are already so many holes from electrical being added/removed, I’m requesting that any holes the electrician needs to make for adjacent rooms and spaces come through these walls, where possible. I’d rather have one wall that looks like swiss cheese to repair than a dozen that all need a few patches here and there. ANYWAY. It’s a huge job. I can’t wrap my mind around the amount of joint compound I will use.

4. The mudroom? Which I (mostly) gutted in a fit of crazy? (Did I even mention that??). I don’t even know what to do about this mess. I want to torch it.

5. The downstairs bathroom? Gutted down to the studs. The contents are now sitting in the living room.

6. Our bedroom, where the bare plaster walls are pretty much ready for skim coat and paint…except for waiting on the electrical to be installed.

7. Oh god, don’t even TALK to me about the yard. Someone casually and politely told me yesterday that they do ticket here if you let your lawn get too long. I don’t think we’re at the point where it’s breaking any laws, but it is breaking all laws of taste and decency and looks like an overgrown weed patch. The lawn is one of the few things that is 100% Max’s domain, so if it isn’t mowed this weekend, I guess I’ll be single and ready to mingle on Monday.

There’s more, but I’ll stop there, since I’m going to have a panic attack if I keep going.

Basically, the house is a whole lot of chaos, but it also maybe looks worse than it is.

The electrical I can’t do legally in our county. We have a great electrician who I love and is super affordable, BUT he is impossible to nail down. I can usually get him for like most of a day, and then he’ll come back two weeks later but only if I call him every other day and sound really sad about my ceiling-less rooms and under-electrified second floor. It’s annoying, though, because updating/adding electrical is a big hang-up for getting this stuff done. We can’t close in ceilings or even really repair walls until it’s complete, not only because it’s MUCH easier to run this stuff with open framing but also because I don’t want to make holes in already repaired walls. Let’s just get it done and get on with things!

SO!

I think we’re going to make a pantry.

A quick n dirty, no-major-frills, simple, semi-temporary pantry. It’ll hold lots of stuff, and right now another place to stash things is nice. One of the things about living in a major renovation is that even though you have all this newfound space, there’s comparatively little space to actually put anything where it’ll be safe and clean and hidden away.

pantry pantry2

Here are some fun and attractive pictures of the the outside of the pantry when we bought the house. That door on the left in the first picture of the kitchen when it still looked so scary is the door to the pantry. It used to be the door to a back staircase, which was removed a long time ago. I have zero interest in restoring the old staircase. As cool as it would be, this house just isn’t that big and having two staircases in the year 2014 just seems silly, and it’s already gone.

Probably when the stairs were removed, this closet in the dining room was added. It’s obviously a later addition because the door and trim don’t match even a little.

wallframing

SO, I knocked out the wall in the middle that separated the pantry from this closet, ripped out the door and frame, and framed in the opening.

cavernouspit

Then it looked like this, from the kitchen side. Like a shit-stained cavernous pit of despair and wreckage. There used to be a doorway into the kitchen at the back left corner (the exit of the stairs up from the basement!), which was framed in presumably when they renovated the kitchen last, but they never did anything more with the inside of the closet. So on the left we had about 2/3 of a wall (the plaster on the left is actually in fairly decent shape, wood-paneling-patterned wallpaper notwithstanding), no ceiling, and a wall on the right that was a TOTAL mess. The plaster was all failing and miserable and falling apart everywhere.

This was back in January. Nothing happened since then.

Stop judging me.

BUT! This week! Things occurred!

1. I put Max to work on gutting the right wall down to the studs, since this is the wall we’ll drywall and I wanted the electrician to have super easy access to make his whole job faster, in the hope that he could then dedicate himself to other things.

2. Max managed to remove most of the plaster and some of the lath, so roundabout 2 in the morning the night before the electrician showed up, I finished the job myself. What are you gonna do. (save me from this abusive relationship)

3. My friend John and John’s Truck and I went to Lowe’s and bought DRYWALL! This was incredibly exciting. I drive a ’02 VW Jetta that can fit in the trunk, at most, four salted almonds, so any time I get to haul something enormous or approaching me-sized, I get VERY jazzed. I feel really empowered with my drywall stock.

4. The electrician came and roughed in all the electrical in the pantry. HALLELUJAH.

SO. In order, a photo journal.

maxemo

This is, without question, the sexiest outfit Max has ever worn. He took off the Tyvek suit after about 4 seconds (too hot!), but it makes me happy when he takes on something renovation-related. He can totally handle demo.

drywall1

On the dining room side of things, I was itching to get the drywall up over the framed in doorway I’ve been staring at for 5 months. First, I had to clean up the edges of the plaster. To do this, I used a 4′ level and pencil to draw a clean, square line around the doorframe.

oscillating

Then I used my new VERY FAVORITE TOOL EVER, this oscillating tool I picked up from Lowe’s. Admittedly I cheaped out and got the most inexpensive one in the store, which I made a semi-serious resolution to stop doing, but I have to say…this thing is AMAZING. It comes in handy CONSTANTLY now that I have it. It has lots of different attachments (sanding pads, rounded blades like this one, straight blades of various sizes for wood and metal…), and it seems more than powerful enough for me.

ANYWAY, this thing is perfect for making clean cuts in plaster (or drywall) quickly. I’ve actually asked the electricians to start using it when they’re here and making new holes—they seem excited to have a tool that makes the job a little easier and less messy, and I’m excited to have less repair work to contend with afterward.

Anyway, for this wall, I pretty much just ran the blade up my pencil line until I hit the lath, and the unwanted plaster fell away and the remaining plaster stayed beautifully intact. Like so:

wallprep

I proceeded to use my nail gun to nail scrap pieces of lath to the new framing, like large shims, to bring everything out to the same level.

drywall

I marked all my studs on the wall above so I would know where I could safety screw the drywall into, cut the drywall to size, and screwed it up. Cleaning up the edges of the plaster really allowed for MUCH more precision, which should make the patch job much easier when I get to that!

The drywall is about 1/8″ below the surface of the plaster, which is perfect. After the seams are taped and mudded, I’ll skim coat the whole wall and it should be pretty much imperceptible once it’s all said and done. I’m sort of excited about it. For now, even just having the drywall up feels VERY WEIRD after looking at the gaping hole for so many months, and makes the dining room feel less janky. And to think, someday it’ll even have a ceiling!

Don’t ask me how I’m going to patch in that elaborate baseboard. Fuck if I know. It’ll be OK.

As you can see, there is a coaxial cable sticking out of the wall, as well as a space for a new receptacle next to it! YAYYYY! Right now our coaxial cable comes in through the basement, up a radiator pipe, and into the front room that way. My hope is that the credenza (or some piece of furniture, undecided) will sit on this wall and hold our modem and airport and crap, all concealed, and we can get it out of the front parlor room. We also plan to split the coaxial cable down in the basement so that we have cable hook-ups in a few rooms, just in case, but those cables need to be run another day.

It’s also exciting to have another outlet in the room! The dining room has ONE outlet currently, and I have a plan to add one more, so that’ll be three. I know that’s still less than modern standards, but I think that’s OK. I’m not sure how many we could possibly use!

ANYWAY, back to the pantry…brace yourselves…

pantry1

Ouch, so scary!! Someday it will be nice and bright and cute. Promise. Although the light really does make the condition extra apparent and extra horrifying…

newspaper

I did find this scrunched up piece of newspaper in the wall—the Kingston Daily Leader from July 8, 1936. Cool! I’m going to try some methods to flatten it out. No piles of money (yet), but plenty of old newspapers and masking tape in this house! The date is probably also a good indication of when the staircase was removed, and makes sense given the context of the Depression and the house being divided into multiple living units.

lights

We have LIGHTS! It’s so weird being able to really see this room without a flash light or work lamp. Clearly there’s been some water damage or something over the years to that top part of the back wall, but all of the framing looks great. The space is 8′ long and less than three feet white, so two lights seemed to make more sense.

outlets-pantry

We also have outlets! YAYYYY! The receptacles aren’t in place yet, obviously, but the wiring is. I had the electrician install them at countertop height as sort of a last-minute decision, just in case this room does eventually become part of the kitchen and somehow it isn’t necessary to demo it again? I know, I know… #wishfulthinking

floor

I gotta say, I’m super excited about the floor in here. It’s not original since it would have been open when the stairs were here (so probably installed in the 30s), but it is beautiful unfinished pine! I’d love to sand and seal it.

beadboard

Naturally, I seem to do nothing these days that does not involve messing with the kitchen again…and this time, I set my sights on the weird beadboard panel above the pantry door! I sort of love this thing, to be honest, just because it’s so strange and creative and weird, but I love the idea of restoring the transom window more. Soooo…

transom

BOOM. Sorry kitchen. (Again). But with a little extra work and a pretty piece of glass (I have a good idea!), there will be the prettiest little transom window over this weird little door. It’ll allow a little more natural light into the pantry while also providing a little ambient light in the kitchen when the pantry light is on. It’ll be nice!

So, yay pantry! We’re waiting until more of the electrical is done elsewhere, then getting it all inspected, and then we can start closing up the walls! This will be a good chance to try drywall for the first time and maybe test some techniques I’ve been pondering for the ceilings. It’s nice to start small like this and learn on the way before taking on the bigger jobs. At least that’s what I keep telling myself.

BUT THEN. CEILINGS. YOU’RE ON MY LIST.

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.

Replicating Millwork and Stuff in the Laundry Room

Things have been moving right along in the laundry room! So far, smooth sailing. Zero complaints. Looking good. PLUS I got to buy some new tools and try some new stuff and it was fun, which is mainly the subject of this post.

SO. MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS RECAP:

recap

1. The washer and dryer were delivered and they are WONDERFUL. Backing up a bit: we picked out our machines online and ordered them from a sales associate (Frank) at our local Lowe’s store. Frank was truly a delight. Since we’ve never bought a washer and dryer before, Frank really took us through everything we’d need to know about installing and using our new machines, anything additional we needed to buy (dryer vent parts, which dryer plug to use, stainless steel supply lines, that kind of thing), what kind of detergents to use, etc. Since we wanted our dryer to vent out the side instead of the back (so that the machines could sit as close to the wall as possible), Frank also helped us locate the exact part number we needed to order from Lowe’s separately (which, incredibly, was delivered the day after I ordered it over the phone). We scheduled our free home delivery in the store, which was also great. The guys who came to deliver the machines were super nice and very knowledgable. Since we weren’t ready to put the machines in place yet, we opted to leave the shipping bolts in, and the delivery dude showed me where they were and how to remove them and all that. He also advised us to run the dryer empty for an hour to burn off any lingering shipping oils. These guys were excellent is what I’m saying—the whole experience, really. FYI—Lowe’s has not asked me to talk at all about any part of the buying experience or anything like that—I was just legitimately very impressed. Customer service! AND the machines themselves? They work SO WELL. I’m thrilled with them in every way. In case you’re curious, this is the washer and this is the dryer.

2. Both plumbing and electric have been installed. SO EXCITING. This is another one of those things that feels like a really big improvement to our house, and that makes me happy. This house has NEVER had a dryer, and the old plumbing for the washer was tooootttalllly not to code and really old and just no good at all. This also means that the second half of demo-ing the downstairs bathroom went well. Post coming up soon.

3. I started tiling. Then I almost finished tiling. Spoiler: looks great; I’m very good at subway tiling now.

4. I installed the dryer vent. This involved cutting a 4-inch circular hole through the house, which was moderately stressful because I had to go through drywall, plaster, lath, brick, clapboard, styrofoam insulation stuff, and vinyl siding to reach the outdoors. But I did it and then I used some spray-foam insulation around it before closing it back up on the inside with a piece of drywall. Success!

SO. ALL THAT HAPPENED. And that’s not even what I want to talk about.

windowbefore

Remember that little window in the laundry room I talked about in my last post? Basically the deal is that the whole thing—window and surrounding casing—were installed very crooked and it drove me crazy. The rest of the room is surprisingly level, but this window sort of made everything look fun-house-y and sad and strange. The window is fairly small and doesn’t open, which is kind of a drag, but replacing it is just not at all in the budget, and trying to level the window itself seemed like potentially a HUGE project that would involve a lot of opening walls and causing general disaster and despair, and it really just didn’t seem worth it at all.

Back when we painted the room we also patched up and painted the casing, but now that we’re really renovating the room I started to have more ambitious ideas. The casing was obviously nothing special, so what about prying it off and trying to replicate the type of millwork that is original to this part of the house? And if I installed all of that level, maybe it would give the illusion of the window also being level.

Cool. Good Plan.

moldinginspiration

Here is the molding situation I wanted to try to copy. Fancy. From what I can tell, our house has three original different molding profiles, which are basically related to the fanciness of the room. This is the least fancy molding, used in the kitchen, the upstairs office, and adjacent original servant’s quarters which became the upstairs kitchen. It’s still pretty bulky and awesome, but the windows just have simple sills (instead of paneling detail to the floor) and the baseboards are this super simple shape.

Anyway. This door/window molding is basically 3 separate pieces: on the bottom there’s a 1×4 with that innermost detail routed out, then a fancy piece of trim molding, and the whole thing is encased in 1x2s. Seems simple enough.

The one complicating factor is that these moldings were made when lumber was still the actual listed dimensions (so a 1×2 is actually 1″ x 2″, not 3/4″ x 1.5″), so I had to get a little creative with my lumber selections. If I used the modern equivalents of the old lumber dimensions, things would looks sort of wimpy and wrong. Soooo…

1x2cutting

Luckily, Lowe’s sells a 5/4″ x 6″ board (actual dimensions = 1″ x 5.5″), which I could rip down to 2″ strips to make my dimensional 1 x 2. So that’s what I did.

stairtread

Luckily, Lowe’s also sells these long pine stair treads for about $10, which are the perfect thickness for old school window sills, AND have the necessary bullnose edge to match the original one upstairs. Dope. So far so good.

For the innermost piece, it wasn’t so hard to cut one of the 5/4″x6″ pieces of lumber down to an actual 1″ x 4″, but then there was the matter of the fancy routered detail on the inside edge.

I NEEDED NEW TOOLS. NEW TOOOOOLSSSSS!!!

router

BOOM hello router! You are lots and lots of fun and can do so many exciting things, like help me convincingly replicate old molding.

I’ve used a router maybe once or twice in my life, but its really a very easy tool to get the hang of. Along with my router (this one!), I also picked up a plethora of bits (these ones!). I basically just combined two bits to get the shape I needed. The first made the rounded edge, and the second cut a groove. Once it was all done and sanded, it looked pretty legit.

molding2

That little trim piece in the middle was just a stock piece I found at Lowe’s. I wish it was just a little more substantial and interesting, but it’s good enough. I can’t have EVERYTHING.

sillinstal

I’ll spare you all of the nitty gritty, but basically I wanted to install the sill first. This involved cutting down the stair tread, routing out part of the bottom, cutting away the sides, and using my router to chamfer the outer edges. Pretty fancy stuff. Then I installed it very level, using my handy level and lots of shimming magic. Then I installed everything else. It was relatively fun and relatively fast.

windowmolding

And there it is! I know it doesn’t look like much right now, but once it’s caulked up and painted, I think it’s going to be gooooood. I’m so happy with how it came out, and while the window itself is still crooked, the level casing really does completely distract from it in real life.

glamorshot

Glamor shot of the corner, just because it looks so damn profesh.

apron

If you’re very observant, you might note that the apron on this window is quite a bit longer than the one on the original window upstairs. I originally made an apron that small but it looked silly, so I pried it off and just eyeballed the proportions. I chamfered the outer edges with my router, like the original apron, and it looks…really good. It’s the little things!

So woodworking is fun and exciting and the window victory made me feel like I wanted to work more wood. I started to get all ambitious and stuff.

doormoldinginside

Part of the fun of this room is that at some point, the previous owner drywalled right over the original plaster and didn’t remove the door casing—meaning that the edge of this casing was basically flush with the drywall. It wasn’t a great look, but it would be an especially BAD look once I started tiling the walls. Additionally, I had ideas about the doorway. What if we added a door?

door

This door. I found it in the basement. It was covered in spiders. I braved spiders for this door.

I like this door because aside from being free, it has a big glass panel cut-out (no glass, though…so we’ll have to get something cut), which will still allow plenty of light to get through from the laundry room window into the kitchen but will still help the rooms feel like two separate places. The plan is to hang this door to swing in both directions (using this business from House of Antique Hardware).

This door is smaller than the opening between the kitchen and the laundry room. Rather than try to enlarge the door, I decided that the doorway between the two rooms was sort of big anyway and it made more sense to enclose it a little bit, thereby increasing the space for the machines.

Yeah. I made a doorway smaller. I’m so counterculture.

kitchenprogress

To do this, I had to pry off the molding on the inside of the laundry room (salvaged) and on the outside in the kitchen (plain new 1×6, not cute, not old). This was fun and exciting because the kitchen is basically renovated and nice and here I am destroying it again. WHY NOT, RIGHT?

doorwayshrinkage

Then I added some pieces of wood to the inside of the jamb to make it smaller, like so. The right side lost .75″, the top lost 1.5″, and the left side lost 1.75″. Nothing too drastic, but now the door should fit AND the slightly smaller proportions of the doorway fit the kitchen better. I’m happy with it.

Then I just milled myself a TON more wood, just like for the window but on a larger scale. I made door frames. I made baseboards. I made a LOT of sawdust.

doorframe

Here’s basically what the door frame looks like, but I still have to attach that middle piece of fancy trim molding to make it complete. Then patch, caulk, prime, and paint!

baseboards

Here’s the deal with the baseboards. It’s a subtle difference from plain 1×6 boards, but I really think it makes a big difference in this case. The gap between the tile and the baseboard will get caulked and everything will get patched and painted.

Here’s an idea of how it all kind of looks together! I think it was SO SO WORTH IT to take the extra time to really sort out the millwork situation in here before just slapping up the tile. Adding back some architectural detail to this space with moldings that look like part of the house is what’s going to really make it feel special and nice when it’s all done, and it makes me happy to make this room feel like it belongs.

Patching up the kitchen side of the doorway is a little more involved since I’m working around existing cabinets and tile and it entails some creative patchwork, but it’s going to look way better than it did before when it’s all finished.

It’s getting close! Next up is grout, caulk, paint, and some finishing details I’m pretty excited about, but right now we’re just THRILLED to have a working laundry set-up, even in a half-finished room. We’ve basically been washing things non-stop for days and it’s bliss.

This post is in partnership with Lowe’s!

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!

Sometimes I Wear Clothes, Too.

That’s right, folks. It’s time for Manhattan Nest: FASHION EDITION.

I always feel more than a little ridiculous talking with any level of authority about the stuff I drape over my body to cover my flesh, but in fact I do wear clothes (everyday, even!) and sometimes I even get a little bit excited about them. It’s taken me some time to feel this way, since I’m pretty short and slim and have a difficult time finding clothes that really fit me and I feel OK in, but I’m learning. I basically approach my wardrobe kind of like I approach my house…I guess I just want it to be clean, comfortable, simple, a little fun, with some decent items that will last for a long time.

Anyway, before get self-conscious and talk myself out of it…here are some of the things I’m wearing these days or thinking about wearing these days.

clothing

1. Slim Fit Smog Print Shirt, Club Monaco: You know when you were a little kid and you got a new piece of clothing and you wanted to wear it every single day? That’s exactly how I feel about this shirt. It’s a lightweight cotton, so it can kind of be dressed up or down, the fit is superb, and the pattern is perfection. I’m loving seeing so many small-scale patterns pop up in menswear these days, but I especially like this one because it’s more irregular and abstract than a traditional floral print or something. Club Monaco is my favorite source for shirts—the slimmer options fit super well and the quality is great (the oxfords, especially!), and you usually don’t get both at that price point. ANYWAY. I love this shirt a whole lot.

2. Men Sweat Long Sleeve Shirt, UNIQLO: Can I just say how much it pleases me that sweatshirts and sweatpants are acceptable articles of clothing to wear in public now? Greatly. I don’t think I can pull off a pair of fashion sweatpants, but I’m all about a well-fitting sweatshirt in lieu of a sweater or cardigan. This one from Uniqlo is everything I’ve ever wanted, basically—it fits so well, although be warned it does run on the small side. I’m usually an XS but the S is perfect for me. I might get a medium just to give myself a slouchier option…

3. ASOS Bomber Jacket with Contrast Leather Look Sleeves: OK, I don’t own this, but for YEARS I have been trying to find a decent spring/fall jacket (and a winter coat, for that matter…I’m bad at outerwear). I’ve been seeing new takes on classic bomber jackets popping up all over the place this spring, and I think I want in on that action. I also like this one from J. Crew and a few others from ASOS…which means I’ll probably just be indecisive until they’re all sold out. No. I am going to order something. I am going to find joy in clothing, goddamnit.

4. 510 Skinny Fit Jeans, Levi’s: I wholeheartedly recommend the 510 Skinny Jean. It’s hard to be a boy and find just the right amount of skinny…you don’t want a legging, you don’t want too baggy, you don’t want it to be too tight in the thigh and too loose in the ankle. ET CETERA. These (which are super cheap right now…) have been my standby for couple of years now. I like the way they contain my legs and buttocks.

5. Eastland Seneca Camp Moc Chukka Boot: I found these shoes a couple weeks ago marked down to $50 at a store in Brooklyn, and I’ve pretty much been wearing them non-stop since. I also have really small feet, so I actually bought the women’s version in a size 9, but the men’s version is exactly the same. The reviews on Zappos sort of make me worry about the quality, but we’ll see. It’s always been hard for me to find a casual everyday shoe that isn’t a unisex sneaker (although I’ll probably also make my yearly white Jack Purcell purchase this summer for good measure, too…), so I’m glad to have found something a little more grown-up.

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