Since Matt has a huge hand in our home projects, I thought I would give him a voice (whether he wanted one or not) to talk about our house and life in general. I did this as an interview, as there is no way he would just ramble on the way I do about stuff. So one New Year's Eve day while he watched a hockey game, I asked him questions on commercials and intermissions about our home.
Matt last June
1. How do you feel about being interviewed for the blog? Be honest.
Ummmm, it’s not how I intended to spend my morning (he’s watching the world junior game versus Russia). You have 20 minutes for intermission time.
2. What was the first home project you remember? Doesn’t have to be for our house. *Reminder that my husband has a bad memory so this may not actually be the first one*
I did the bunkie at the cottage when I graduated university.
What did you do?
That one was pretty easy – everything was pre-bought – the carpet was torn out of another room, the plumbing was done, and the fixtures for the bathroom were already bought, so for that was mostly just tearing out an old laminate floor, putting down a new subfloor (I didn’t know you did that much), painting – painted over the wood panel walls, tore out the wood covered doors, and replaced the trim. Painted all the windows (old fashioned window panes – ranch style), and then it was all the finishes – put in the padding and the carpet, put in new baseboards, new light fixtures, and blinds.
How did you know how to do all that?
Ummmmmmm….most of it was just instructions, my dad told me what he wanted done and I went and did it.
Yeah but how did you tear it out without damaging?
Ohhh I damaged a lot. The floor needed to be chiselled out, and it was rotted so I had to replace some of the subfloor. There’s probably a bit still there…but it’s all finished over…so you can’t tell, haha.
Any more recent projects in your own place?
Trying to hang a shelf in my first condo. Unlike the bunkie, I had access to very little in the way of tools and had no idea the difference between drilling into drywall versus the concrete fire walls in a condo. So I started by using the drill that I had (probably from 1960 given to me by my dad and shocked you every 30 seconds or so), but it only made it about a ¼ inch through the plaster before it stopped and started smoking. So my first idea was trying to hang it with short screws into the plaster, and after the shelf fell down once I learned you can buy special drill bits and screws that go into concrete. Problem solved!
Bunkie on the outside
Bunkie on the inside from the bed- the only picture I have of the inside when I was trying to take pictures with my phone for the first time last summer...it didn't turn out so well.
3. You moved around a lot as a kid, and your mom is very crafty and your dad is pretty handy too – do you think you get all this home project desire from them?
Maybe, my dad was a lot like me in that he has no real experience in any of this, just figured it out as he went. He did work a few odd jobs in landscaping and contracting stuff when he was in high school, so probably knew more than I do. He’s also a better electrician because my grandfather was one.
So what do you get from your mom?
I believe the phrase “queer eye” comes up. I think just a sense of style, and knowing what I like in a house.
4. We lived in a condo before we bought our first house – did you know that you wanted to buy a fixer-upper then?
I think this place is pretty live-in ready – we just had to do little things. Remember that one place on Coxwell I wanted? That one was detached, triplex, that could have easily been opened up but would have required some professionals to remove 2 of the 3 kitchens and the place needed a complete gut from top to bottom.
And the basement was scary.
Then there was that other place that had the cheap kitchen reno.
The one that smelled like mothballs?
But it had a lot of potential – it was pretty big for a semi, but needed a lot of work.
Our first condo together
5. What made you want to buy our current house?
The more we thought about it, the idea of a COMPLETE reno seemed a bit daunting, so we wanted something not necessarily finished, but liveable. This one had a finished bathroom, the kitchen worked (although tiny). It had a lot of character – the original wood floors, the beautiful backyard, and it was a good size (3 bedrooms, in the city, finished basement).
Our current house on the left way back in November 2010
6. What are some challenges with working in an older home (90 years this year!)
Lath and plaster walls – it pre-dates drywall – it’s hard to drill into and secure things too. You have to be careful not to crack them – one crack and there goes a big chunk of your wall. Almost every fastener at Home Depot is for drywall, so you have to get special hollow wall plugs that aren’t exactly easy to work with.
Nothing is square. It looks it, but there are no 90 degree angles anywhere – either on the floor or the walls or anything.
So what do you do?
Most cuts are trial and error with wood – to get the right fit. Filler and shims to fill gaps - you just have to work with it.
Troubles with lath and plaster walls...
7. We’ve done a lot of projects over the past few years – which one was your favourite and why?
I think the guest bedroom.
Yeah, getting that rounded moulding around the corner was a lot of work and I like the way it turned out.
I also like stair guard, because it was the most structural work I’ve ever done. It went from a rickety not-to-code post to a strong solid rail. (Pause) Oh wait, I forgot about the side board (in the dining room). I really like the way that turned out.
Do you want to develop on that at all?
Oh, well, even though most of it was from Ikea, finding a good solid piece of wood that big, and staining it and polishing it to what it looks like now really makes the room come together – it looks good. Wiring the light into the staircase was good – I don’t know about electrical work, and it hasn’t burnt down the house yet, so it’s pretty good.
Curved chair rail on the left
Stair guard project
Wiring this little light to turn on with the regular basement lighting
8. Which project drove you crazy the most and why?
Stripping the stairs was a terrible task. It was monotonous, physically exhausting, and very dirty. Plus, after about an hour of those fumes you developed a pretty bad headache. (Pause) The shelving unit in the basement made out of plywood was pretty difficult – it had to be built into a wall where nothing was square, so every cut was custom, and made it very difficult. In hindsight, I would have purchased a unit that was close to the size, and made it look like it was built into the wall. Live and learn. But we did do it for a quarter of the cost if we had bought one, so there was one benefit to it!
Refinishing the stairs
Working on the office shelving unit
9. There are never any pictures of me doing things. Can you please explain how I contribute to home renos around here?
You…..ummmmmm….what do you do? You paint. Because I hate it. You are generally the chief designer….and you’re also the, haha, chief photographer and documentarian, hence you are always behind the camera and not in front of it. Documentarian’s a word right?
I don’t know. You’re generally opposed to anything Ikea or anything that involves an allen key. Seems to get the better of you.
I helped with the Pax wardrobe.
You did, you assembled two drawers, one of which was backwards, so you had to do that again.
I’m trying to think of other things I did.
You’re a level when I’m trying to hold things – like hanging a painting or mirror.
So you don’t really need me?
No, I need you. (Pause) Yeah you do a lot of the painting. I don’t know if you’ve ever picked up a power tool.
I stripped the first stairs.
You did – you stripped the first four stairs. You came up with this wall thing (points).
That would be called a gallery wall.
Yes, that thing. You’ve selected all the paints and painted most of the rooms.
I did the entire basement without you at all.
How would you want me to help in the house?
That’s a good question. I actually prefer doing a lot of these things. Because I typically learn by doing, it’s hard to give instructions. I’m also…selfish, and I don’t like giving up control on projects.
That’s funny, most people would say that about me.
The little evidence I have of me doing work...
10. What are some projects that you are looking forward to for 2013 (short-term)?
What’s on the list?
No, I have my own post for that. What do you want to do?
This summer I want to build a big table and bench for the backyard to custom fit the deck. I’ll purchase chairs – I won’t try to build those, haha. With my new compound mitre saw!!! And a big chunk of cedar.
Anything in the house you want done?
I want to sand down the floors in the middle (unmentionable name - *cough* - baby) room.
Well right now it is a construction area and it needs to be well cleaned up. I may have also put a hole in wall when I was doing the railing.
Yeah…there’s a hole. When the saw piece broke it shot a piece of wood next to the dresser right into the wall. A perfect little square. Haha.
It’s also parquet flooring.
Yeah, but I still think I can strip/sand it down. Rent a big floor sander for that. Make it a lighter colour to match the floors. Won’t change the floor completely. I still don’t know why it’s parquet though. So do you think it’s worth redoing it with hardwood?
I’m more worried about how it will be to pull out the parquet.
It’s glued down – you’ll have to chisel it down piece by piece.
Something to think about.
Current backyard furniture
The "baby" room
11. What are some longer-term projects you want to tackle?
I think we eventually want to do the kitchen. Knock out the wall between the living room and kitchen to open it up a bit.
My mom’s worried that we’re going to put a lot of money and time into the kitchen and then move.
That’s something to consider, although they say that the kitchen is the place where you get your money back on the investment, if we do sell. You always have to consider in any project if you’re doing it for yourself or for resale. I don’t know about you, but I’m not planning to pack up and leave in the next year or so.
Yes, but we won’t get around in the kitchen in the next year either. Any other projects?
There’s talk about expanding the bathroom downstairs and refinishing the wood floors throughout the house.
How long do you think we’ll be in this house before you get the itch to move again and start all over?
I don’t know, haha. It’s hard to put a date on that. 5 years maybe? 10?
Well you’d be surprised at how quickly 5 years will go by!
Current tiny kitchen
Basement bathroom (well before we moved in)
12. What things would you be looking for in our next house that you may not have considered in this one?
A bigger kitchen for sure – this one is quite small. Less creaky floors? One of the things I love about this house is the character of the old floors, but one thing I hate is how creaky they are. I don’t think there’s a way to fix that, though, without tearing them up.
I can think of a million things I would change.
Really? I don’t know. A fireplace – preferably wood, but gas would be okay too.
I want a mantle – so many décor magazines decorate mantles.
Does the fireplace matter at all?
I can put in a mantle for you if you really want.
What about detached?
Ummm, I don’t mind the semi-detached because we’ve always had quiet neighbours. But detached would be better for more natural light in the house.
Agreed. Would you consider getting a house that needs more work next time?
You mean, like, gut the main floor?
I don’t know.
I don’t know if I’d want to do something with more work, I think we would need help – hire someone to tear out walls and major structural stuff requiring a contractor.
You don’t think you could tear a wall out on your own?
I think I could tear out a wall on my own, I don’t know if I could put back a wall on my own. There’s very little room for trial and error – it’s not something you want to get wrong.
My brother has a mantle...
13. So you also have a pretty good eye for décor. How does it make you feel when I call you Martha Stewart?
Laughs. I think I get a little smug satisfaction because I know you’re just saying it because you’re jealous.
Why am I jealous?
You wish you had the same eye.
Matt painted that...
14. You’re also a really good cook – what’s your favourite thing to make?
I really like doing pulled pork or slow-cooked lamb. The dutch oven makes cooking easy and delicious. Add beer/wine/some sort of alcoholic beverage to meat, and cook for hours.
What’s for dinner tonight (New Year’s Eve)?
It will be a beer-braised duck, pulled, served over homemade duck-fat fries with cheese. A pulled-duck poutine if you will. Not exactly healthy, but New Year’s Resolutions start tomorrow.
We’re having salad too.
Although the salad contains goat cheese – pomegranate and apple and goat cheese baby arugula salad.
Frozen chocolate mousse trifle.
Which I made.
There you go.
Lamb + veggies + wine = awesome
15. Are you sick of answering questions yet?
I was sick about 20 minutes ago.
16. How do you feel about the blog? About being on the blog?
It’s always weird when friends and family are so familiar with stuff I’ve done around the house, even if I haven’t talked to them in months.
How do you feel about me writing a blog?
It’s kind of like your diary – I don’t have a problem with you writing it, but publishing it is odd.
I don’t put anything too personal on it.
No you don’t. I find the whole blogging, facebook, and everything else - the whole concept, way too much information about people.
17. Do you love me?
Of course. Always.
I have to quantify this? Like on a scale from 1-10? I feel it's unquantifiable.
18. Anything else you want to say to our 10 readers out there (9 of them being my family)?
Laughs. Whose the 1 who’s not your family? Some lonely guy in Russia?
My coworker, Mike. Tell him you’re not a slave in your own house.
Can I go back to watching the hockey game now?
So well over a month ago my friend Jessica and I both instantly saw that our favourite home reno bloggers, John and Sherry Petersik from Young House Love
, were doing a book tour and stopping in Toronto. Specifically at West Elm, which is one of my favourite stores in the city! So we planned to go down, get our books signed, and bathe in the geeky awkwardness of meeting pseudo-celebs. I have mentioned and linked to them numerous times already on this blog, so I was so excited to see them FOR REAL! We know so much about them that it felt like we knew them already, and they completely lived up to my expectations.
I picked Jess up after work and we headed into the city in the rain and traffic, and got there about an hour before they were due to arrive, planning to grab a coffee, wander around, and be close to the front of the line. We walked in and saw the line...that kept going...and going...until we were at the back of the store. So it seemed like it would be a long night, but shortly after we got there we were served hot cocoa and cookies and it was lovely. They arrived at 6pm right on time and started the signing. They were planning to stay until everyone got their chance to talk to them - they were only supposed to be there 6-8pm, but were planning on letting anyone through that was in line by 8 (which probably meant they were going to be there until closer to 10pm).
When we finally got to see them, they were just like they are on their videos - sweet, chatty, and very friendly. From listening to the people in front of me, they honestly tried to talk to everyone about something. I just stood there dumbly smiling while they signed my book, saying that John's mom's name is Kathleen, and Jessica chatted a bit with them...I just kept smiling. Haha...so awkward. Anyway, we were happy to have our signatures and went to dinner across the way at Mildred's Temple Kitchen
(which was so yummy - gnocchi poutine - delish).
Look! There they are in the distance!
Oooooh shiny gold table decor...
I want that orange elephant beside Sherry - someone brought it for them as a gift!
There we are!!!!!!!!!!!
Blurry instagrammed smiles!!!
Some bedtime reading
My sister in law's birthday is on October 30th, so every year they have a Halloween-themed birthday celebration, and this is the second year they have done the party at their house. She is so crafty and I was blown away by all the decor and planning that went into this party - she went Pinterest crazy! It was such a fun night!
I helped a bit - owl peanut butter cup/oreo/pieces treats
These two Devil's food chocolate bundts turned into...
...this! Complete with orange buttercream icing and chocolate spider webs and a read pumpkin stem
I was going to be Alice, so decided to use the hair extensions from my wedding
Here they are after washing, drying overnight, and styling with a curling iron the next day
And it begins!
My brother surprised me with his costume - haha. It was great.
The birthday was Katy Perry - she made the top herself!
My cousin was Venom...complete with dyed morph suit (meaning he could not sit on the furniture...)
His friend Christian was Dexter - a great likeness!
Here we are - Mad Hatter and Alice
Plus I got to live out my dream of putting makeup on my husband...although he was NOT pretty...
Cute orange ghost Jello shots
She bloodied the tablecloth and candles herself
Haha, this supposedly freaked her out every time she came downstairs
More Dexter decor
Those are doll heads in that green liquid...creepy...
I like these skulls...next year I will spray paint some silver...
Some not so scary fall decor - we have the same owl!
He eventually took the stuffing out and became "skinny penguin"
Tablescape...taken by either Andrew or Christian (both far better photographers than I...)
Humouring Andrew by posing - look how much more hair I have!!!
Alice and Venom - what a pair!
The birthday girl cutting her cake
Belated Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th of July to all the Americans. I have so few Canadian home decor blogs I follow and so many American, so I've seen a lot of fun festive stuff today.
Stay tuned for post on our Canada Day party at the cottage later this week!
So last week I looked back on "THE LIST
" of house projects, and the post I did just before 2012 for the upcoming year - check that out here
. I have not done a single one of them...although I knew a lot of them would happen in the summer when I was off. There is also an issue of budget - we are really trying to save as much money as possible so we can up our mortgage payments and have more of a nest egg, so the spending we did in 2011 for the house will not be happening in 2012. So after considering all of that, painting is the most realistic goal for the spring/summer, as it will really freshen up the house, and is always a good investment if you choose the right colours.
The hallways of our house are beige. I want them not
to be beige. Specifically, I want they grey - I have considered Benjamin Moore's "Moonshine" which is what is in our basement, but now I think I might want something slightly more grey (it can look almost white in some lights - specifically unnatural light). The next darker on that same colour palette is "Gray Horse". I have also re-considered using "Revere Pewter", which Sabrina recommended last year as an alternative to Moonshine, as a friend of mine just painted her house in this colour, and it looks great. You can check out her house here
. Our hallways do not get a lot of natural light, so I'll have to test a few colours to make sure none of them look to white or blue or beige. I love our bedroom colour, but it is just too dark for the hallways.
Our current hallways (this is both up and downstairs)
BM's MoonshineVia Young House Love BM's Gray Horsevia Pinterest BM's Revere Pewtervia Veronika's Blushing
Guest Bedroom: I'm not loving the sea-foam green it is right now, but surprisingly enough, a lot of people that see this room say they like the colour. Perhaps they really mean it or are just being nice, but I can't stand it. I wasn't really sure WHAT to do with this room, and I don't want to spend a lot money on it since it is really only used for me doing my makeup and getting ready in the morning and the very occasional overnight guest. There is wainscoting in this room that I am going to do in Cloud White, as the rest of our house is in terms of trim, and then I was considering either matching the red or brown in the bedding. I decided the brown would be better in terms of resale, and I think I would get sick of the red really quickly. Now there are lighter shades of brown in the bedding that are hard to see, which is what I would use to match. Anyone have any great brown paint recommendations? I also may paint or stain the dressers if I can find a good way to do it - Ikea furniture is tricky.
The sea-foam green guest bedroom
Brown wall inspiration
Probably closer to the colour I want, with wainscotting too
Kitchen: The colour actually goes pretty well in the kitchen right now, but it has a lot of holes to be filled from the last owner, and it really just needs to be freshened up. I think we will probably paint it the same colour as whatever we choose the hallway to be, because eventually in a perfect world the kitchen would be completely redone, so no point choosing the perfect colour as I want all the backsplash, counters, appliances and cupboards to be changed. A grey colour will go with the flecks of grey in the counter top anyway. Ohhhh if only I could win the lottery and have a beautiful tiny perfect kitchen.
Current kitchen - a dark greige colour
So I read some of my January and February Home Decor magazines yesterday, and took some photos of things I liked or inspired me in kitchens - I have been dreaming of a new kitchen since I did my house resolutions, but I know it is a long way off. Oh well, one can still dream! I subscribe Style at Home Canada, Canadian House and Home, and House Beautiful. I sometimes buy Elle Decor as well.
Banquette seating and black and white and wallpaper = LOVE
The built-in office within the kitchen is a great idea for small spaces
This moveable Ikea kitchen cart would be great for our current tiny kitchen under the window
Very traditional, but the backsplash is actually a pale green, and I like the nailhead stools and overhead lighting
More cozy banquette seating in the kitchen - PLUS storage
Although the picture is small, this is the perfect kitchen for Matt and I - poured concrete countertops, stainless steel appliances and range, but with a pretty backsplash and cabinetry to balance it out
The stools reminded me of the decor in our living room, and I like the sunburst mirror in an unexpected spot
Slightly more industrial, but still simple
I like the different textures and colours in this bright kitchen
Black and white with a splash of red - this kitchen would be perfect for Joni
Beautiful mix of blank and white fixtures with gold finishings
Modern, but suprisingly, I like it! More black and white love
Compact like ours, but a little updating would go a long way!
This kitchen is beautiful - so much light and greenery and amazing food!
Airy but rustic with leather-worn benches
So I've looked back at the past year...technically we've only been in our house just over 10 months, but it's almost a year, and so I've compiled a list of the top 11 house projects of 2011. Actually, I did ask Matt for his input too, and our lists were quite similar. I'll mention the variations as I go.
# 11: So Many Acorns...My attempt at gardening, better known as weeding and raking and talking to squirrels
I only really put this in at # 11 to showcase what a little TLC in a garden can do. I am in no way a professional gardener...actually I am not a gardener at all. What little knowledge
I gathered was from my mom, my grandma, and a coworker, Sonia, from whom I plan on seeking much more future advice. Anyway, this year we decided to see what would pop up in the garden and go from there. "Go from there" meant staring at our crazy garden and not knowing what to do with it once it exploded into life. I decided to start small - weeding our back stone, raking years of leaves from between the budding flowers, and constantly sweeping away acorn pieces that littered the backyard. My friends Jess and Carolyn contributed with a pretty little purple plant which I potted, only to have it torn apart by a squirrel the following day. So....house project fail? Perhaps, but at least we'll be aware for next year, and have a head start on what to do then.
That's our house on the left, when we first saw it in November
A close up of the front garden in November
The backyard was in better shape than the front, even in the fall
With a little weeding and TLC, the front garden was very green and lush, if not a bit wild for my taste...
I have since removed some of the old wood chips and done a lot of soil turning
Stole our house light, but added some colour to the drab backyard
Oh yeah, and amidst my outdoor adventures, I made a friend that loved me enough to do this when I went inside
...and George is still here today, sometimes with his lady friend Georgia, and although looking chilly in the snow,
he is happily taking shelter in the neighbours' shed when he's not visiting me
# 10: Ahead of the TrendPainting the Dining Room Navy
For once I had an idea that came to be before I saw it in the multiple house magazines I read. I wanted to paint the dining room a dark blue, and we ended up choosing Newburyport Blue by Benjamin Moore. My first idea was actually to use navy Phillip Jefferies grasscloth, but the amount of work wallpaper adds and large increase in price all lead to paint being the better choice! It is dark and rich, and adds some drama to our main floor. It was a drastic change from the seafoam green that was left behind, but it was a fun change
Here it is shortly after we moved in
Moment of truth - first cutting in!
Of course it wouldn't be painting without me getting it in my hair...
After two coats, it was done!
Looks darker in the evening, and more blue in the natural light, but I like it either way
# 9: Musical ChairsRearranging the Living Room
Defining the space wasn't a major project, and involved more purchases than anything, but figuring out what to do with our dining room turned living room space was a first step in creating a welcoming environment in our house. I just did a post like this
recently for the living room, so I'll keep it short.
Living room our first day in the house, although you'd be surprised how often your house looks like this during renovations and painting and pretty much always when you don't have people over or aren't staging pictures!
After some chair and accessory purchases, we played musical chairs with the layout
More furniture purchases,displaying some art work, and mounting the TV, the room is much more complete!
*Note - Matt put the TV mount in his Top 11 list - I wanted to get a smaller TV and get much smaller speakers instead so I did not add this to the list of major jobs, but I will admit it looks better now!
Once we get rid of the tree, I will post pictures that do not have a holiday theme!
# 8: We're Definitely Not in the Suburbs AnymoreFront Hallway Storage without a Closet
When you are looking at a house for the first time, you miss many things, like the fact that there is no hallway closet. That isn't surprising in Toronto, but in the suburbs, it's a staple....so is a grand foyer (pronounced FOY-AY and not FOY-ERR like in US), but at least we anticipated it being missing. So when it came to organizing our coats and shoes and everything else, we were at a loss. We have some closet space in the basement, which is where the majority of our coats and winter gear and some shoes live, but our day to day stuff needed a space that wasn't on the back of chairs or scattered throughout the hallway. So when I saw this post
on Young House Love, I headed straight to Ikea to get a storage unit of my own. It was perfect for our narrow front hall, but we still needed coat storage. Home Depot had some hooks that Matt installed and we were set after a bit of decor.
State of the hallway on our first house tour post-purchase
Super-skinny shoe storage!
Hello, shoes! Goodbye clutter!
Coat racks pre-hooks
Coat racks post-hooks - much better. Oh yeah, and the mirror helps a bit too with decorating the space
A little front curb appeal always helps the hallway too!
# 7: An Indoor Fence...Another Reason to Hate Home DepotThe Master Bedroom Lattice Headboard
This project started when Matt decided he wanted a headboard. He wanted to make it out of distressed wood, but with our fancy wardrobe and more modern finishings, I didn't think it would go. Then during a trip to Home Depot to pick out trim for the basement, Matt sees lattice fencing, and gets all creative and wants to build the headboard from it. I can't see it, refuse to buy it, and that's that. But with constant lattice obsession, I cave and he goes back to get it for our room. Ohhhhh Home Depot...the bane of my existence. Yes, it helps us on projects, but it seems like we live there sometimes, and creates new projects that were never meant to be. Again I end up liking the end result
, so I can't complain too much I suppose.
Before the headboard and other decor
Lattice headboard done - painted and mounted to the wayy
Other view, with some furniture upgrades thrown in too
# 6: Grade 10 Optics Lesson in PracticeThe Dining Room Mirror Construction
Again I did a recent post
on the mirror, so this won't take long. The mirror was on the ground since we moved, because I wanted a nice frame around it so the screws into the wall wouldn't be seen. This project was put on hold for a while, but eventually we got some wood to back it, and Matt took over, building the frame, spray painting it black and then silver (the original idea was the sand some of the silver back to give it a tarnished look, but we only did this a bit because it looked better all silver), and then mounting it to the wall. I used this application on my grade ten optics test about adding light to a room without buying more lights - most of my students got it right - add a mirror, which also makes the room appear larger. Teacher WIN!
This was in our dining room for a long time before it became part of a mirror...
Skipping a few steps gets us here - to a framed mirror in my basement
Spray painting outside - at this point I thought George got into the paint, but it was another squirrel altogether...
Spray paint takes a LONG time to dry when its zero degrees outside
End result? Pretty mirror and brighter dining room (with Christmas prep well underway)
# 5: Making Martha ProudOrganizing the Linen Closet
The linen closet upstairs was a disaster to start with - the "organizer" that was there was not a practical use of the long and narrow space, so I designed the way I wanted it to be
, and Matt built me some beautiful shelves, which I primed and painted, and then filled up the space. There's still space now to rearrange or add more storage which I like.
Original "organizing" system left by owners
Matt's shelves - cedar - it smelled like a beautiful sauna in here for weeks!
...until I painted them - primer and 2 coats later the paint stuck
...and more paint in the hair...
More space and organization!
Oh Martha Stewart would be proud...all that's missing is a tiny chandelier above (hmm, that's a good idea!)
# 4: Matt Plays CarpenterThe first house project: the built-in basement shelving
The first project we tackled in our house was the basement. I needed a workable office space and the couch wasn't cutting it. We were going to go Ikea crazy (which we sort of did anyway), but Matt wanted to do some built-ins of his own in a little corner nook. Along with that came filing cabinets and closed storage cupboards, which ended up looking great! To be honest I did not have any faith he could do it, since I've never seen him do anything like this besides painting and some light repair work around our old condo. Wow - did he ever show me
, and now he may do some more built-ins in the TV area on the other side of the chalkboard.
My "office" shortly after we moved in
The carpentry begins - not an easy feat with slanty walls and floors
Shelf faces on, doors made
Primed and painted
The colourful bookshelves were thanks to Ikea and my decor
More storage for all the binders
# 3: Long Live the Home, Short Live the MarriageThe PAX Wardrobe Assembly
So I will admit that Ikea products have come a long way, even in the past few years. We have a lot of stuff from there, but our first HUGE purchase was the PAX Wardrobe system for our bedroom. We have a tiny closet, and we really needed space for clothes. That closet now only holds my dresses and our laundry. Build this yourself at your own risk - it is heavy and big and frustrating to construct with an Allen key and I swear for a few hours I did not want to be married or live in a house with this wardrobe. Once it was all done and assembled
I calmed down and realized that I now had a closet and my husband back, and it was good. It fits perfectly in our bedroom and stores everything we need! It will be staying when we eventually move, and the new owners better appreciate our effort!
Old owners wardrobe system
Oh how I love organization!
Ooooh it lights up!
# 2: Copyright Infringement?: Our Hudson Bay Point Blanket Painting
So I wanted a sort of comfy rustic look to our living room, and I thought that maybe a great Canadian-themed painting would tie it all together. Matt's parents have an HBC Point Blanket at the cottage, and I love the Queen's colours simplicity, and Matt thought he could paint it. He did paint in high school, so we got a canvas and a laser level and took a shot at it
Laser level on coffee cup painting accuracy!
Frame was built and stained too, because having it framed was a ridiculous cost!
Done and goes perfectly in our living room
This was actually Matt's # 1, since it was his actual "Work of Art"
# 1: Wedding China Does Not Belong in the Basement: The Dining Room Sideboard
This was my # 1 project because I think it really pulls the dining room together, it gave me an appropriate space to put my wedding china, and it helped a lot on Christmas Eve when organizing and serving all of the food. It will add a lot of value when we sell, and it just looks so damn pretty!
Of course it starts off with the wine racks
Which becomes shelves
That get lifted off the ground and closed up with doors
Ohhh Royal Doulton - how pretty you are in your new home
I painted the baseboards to match the trim in our dining room
And a beautiful poplar stained top to finish it all off!
Add some new lights and decor and that's one great dining room piece!
Good job, us! What a great year!
Didn't Make the Cut: The Great FallStair Railings Project
Funny enough, I didn't even consider this project. Yep, in October I fell down the basement stairs. It was definitely more my general clumsiness than the lack of railings, but we figured it was just good sense to add them in
, so we did - to both staircases! Matt had this in his list instead of gardening at # 11 - because he obviously thought my gardening was less than stellar...
Odds are I will fall again, at least this time I will have something to grab onto!
So that's it - our 11 top house projects of 2011! I will let you know right now that this post took about 5 hours to complete, with breaks here and there. Figuring out what to put in, formatting, uploading, writing...wow it takes a long time. Up next? House Resolutions for 2012!
It's been a few days and now I have time to recap on the few weeks surrounding Christmas. The weekend before Christmas we went to three Christmas gatherings in a row! On the Friday night, we went to our friend Adam and Emily's who had a housewarming and Christmas party together. They have such a nice house - I wish I took pictures! On Saturday night we went to my brother Adam and his fiancee Jessica's house, where they had a potluck Christmas party with a lot of their friends. I haven't seen many of them since they were in elementary school together, so it was nice to see what they were up to. We made pulled pork poutine and a caprese salad. On Sunday night, I went with my parents and Adam and Jessica to my aunt Andrea's house to have dinner together - she has a beautiful house at Avenue & Lawrence, and she made an incredible dinner!
I creeped on Facebook and found this cute picture of Adam and Emily from their Christmas Party on Friday
Adam & Jessica's Foyer
Red and Gold Christmas tree
Baby blue and white living room
The end tables were pine from my parent's houses - Jessica white-washed them and they look incredible!
Gave them two of the pearl wreaths from the wedding
Such a pretty mantle
Just what the holidays are about!
Cute chalkboard and frame that Jessica made
Andrea's beautiful house!
Ohhhhh love the baby grand!
Nice way to dress up a chandelier - Pottery Barn ornaments work everywhere!
Beautiful Christmas decor, and love the oversized stockings my cousins have had since they were babies!
Jessica, Mom, and Adam
Cousin was playing with my camera - B&W photo of yummy cheesecake!
This year I taught right up until the 23rd, so it was a hectic week of last-minute shopping, cleaning, cooking, and organizing! Somehow Matt and I got it all done and were able to host dinner for his family on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve morning, mid-cleaning
Lots of holiday cards, and an early gift from Matt in the little blue box!
Table cloth and napkins cleaned and ironed, and table reset!
Unwrapped candles and put the finishing touches on the table (after I broke one of the tapered candles...)
Organizing the snacks!
Of course had to write on the chalkboard!
Ready for guests!
Stockings hung on our "mantle"
Wrapped a scarf around the tree stand to hide it!
Christmas Eve was our first big hosting duties - I got to use the wedding china and lots of serving pieces for the first time, and it was nice to have people over to see all the work we've done in the past months. For appetizers, I coated some goat cheese in pecans and thyme, and I baked a brie with cherry shiraz jelly on top, both served with crackers. I also found a great recipe from the Barefoot Contessa for rosemary and chipotle roasted mixed nuts - it was such an easy recipe and they had a great kick to go with the sweetness. For dinner we made lamb, similar to the one we had about a month ago. It was cooked in root vegetables and red wine, and slow-cooked in a dutch oven for almost 7 hours. From there the juice was reduced to gravy, more red wine was added, and the entire house smelled delicious. With that we served fingerling potatoes, steamed baby squash, all on a bed of kale. We got fresh bread from Cobs to serve with dinner as well, and to sop up any excess delicious gravy. Matt's mom made a pomegranate salad (seeded by Jamie), and some cookies and treats for dessert. For dessert we did creme brulee, which turned out really well! I wish I had taken pictures of all the food!
Roasted chipotle rosemary mixed nuts
Lamb and baby squash from a few weeks ago, but we did potatoes instead of polenta
Christmas morning we have a tradition of making a great breakfast, relaxing with coffee and tea, and opening gifts, just the two of us. I know a lot of our friends stay at their parents' houses on Christmas Eve, but I really enjoy this time to create our own Christmas traditions. For breakfast, we made Rosti, had some bacon, and lots of fresh berries. We always have a bit of ice wine as well, usually purchased on a wine tour in the previous months. We actually got this bottle duty free before our cruise!
Good morning, sunshine!
Rosti (basically shredded potatoes and shallots)
Silver bead bracelet and pearl earrings from Matt
Year of bracelets - Tiffany from Matt, Links London from Matt's parents, and not shown is a Pandora bracelet from my mom - first charm was an apple with the little gold worm!
On back order - my mercury glass Owl from West Elm - can't WAIT to get it!
Best present EVER!!! Can't wait to do this puzzle and show my students my geeky chemistry-loving present!
Essie polishes from Matt in my stocking
Loving "cocktail bling"!!!
We spent Christmas with my family at my parents' house. My brother and Jessica and cousins came over in the early afternoon, but it was only my parents, us, my grandpa and uncle for dinner - a quiet year compared to some! We had the traditional turkey with great mashed potatoes and vegetables, and a yummy Pandoro cake for dessert - I want to try and make this myself - it is nice and light and delicious with berries and whipped cream. My contribution was a brie with cranberries, apples, and cinnamon.
Mom's Christmas tree
Christmas table, complete with hanging snowflakes
Crystal stemware even!
Mom with the Pandoro cake!
Boxing Day we spend with my dad's giant side of the family in Bowmanville. I made some Christmas cookies and brownies for the occasion, and caught up with everyone I hadn't seen in a while, since we didn't do our traditional Thanksgiving at the farm this year. Even my cousin Mischa was there, who has been in Australia and New Zealand for over two years! After all the family gatherings, it was time to relax, which is exactly what we have done for the past few days. We have gone to the gym as well, but the rest of the time is this:
Sweet dreams Matty!
We started the sideboard project a while ago - you can read about the progress here
...our dining room before we moved in looked like this:
This is after we moved in and painted it with Benjamin Moore's Newburyport Blue:
Then once it was built, it looked like this:
Now finally, it looks like this:
Finished Room - still decorated for Christmas...I really need to wash all that linen and clean the tableware...
The last phase of the project was adding a top to it. We originally were going to go with granite or quartz, but after I saw this post
from Jen Ramos' Made By Girl blog, I knew that I wanted to use wood. Here's her sideboard, and she used Ikea cabinetry too - this eerily came out less than a week after our cabinets were installed - it was clearly fate! Here's my inspiration picture:
Once wood was clearly the way to go, we had to decide on a wood and stain. We thought oak or maple would be good solid choices, but those come with a hefty pricetag. I went back to Jen's post and saw that she used poplar, which is a soft wood, but is still suitable for kitchen surfaces, as long as it is treated properly. We spent $70 on the wood, cut to our exact specifications at Home Hardware, instead of the $250+ we would have spent on oak or maple. Here it is when we got it last weekend:
Then we used Minwax's Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner, which supposedly allows it to soak in and prevent all of the stain from soaking into the soft wood and lessening the number of coats of stain required. You only had to leave this on about 20 minutes, then it was safe to stain. We used Minwax Stain in MIssion Oak Gloss, which is a medium-dark brown. It was actually a stain and polyurethane in one, since we needed to seal it too. It took two coats, each done a day apart and with a very fine steel wool sand between, and then we left it for a few days before attaching it to the cabinetry. We noticed it was a bit tacky, even after several days, so after a few quick Google searches, the answer was found. A very light sanding with oil (we specifically used baby oil, lol), and then finishing it all up with automotive rubbing and polishing compounds, back to back. Wow...it was a lot of layers of things, but the result is a healthy, shiny coat (geez, you'd think I was talking about a horse...) that looks great in the dining room!
Stain Coat # 1
Stain Coat # 2 - Much glossier!
Finished product, now glossy and smooth!
View from the hallwayOh yes - and you can see our two new sphere table lamps from West Elm we got last week to go on each end
A little sparse right now in terms of decor...but it's getting there!
At least it's done before Christmas!
So way back in July I posted this inspiration board on the blog:
I wanted to incorporate the Hudson's Bay (HBC) point blanket in the Queen's colours into our living room/dining room somehow. Matt decided to do a big canvas of the colours and we planned on putting it in our living room above the couch. Since then, the HBC pattern has exploded in popularity, and just in time for Christmas, The Bay is selling tons of this multi-coloured stuff, and although beautiful, it is quite expensive! We finally got around to this project a few weeks ago, and it took a bit of time to get it all done, but here are the photos that explain the process:
The first step was getting a big 3x5 canvas and acrylic paints from DeSerres near our house
Then it was painted in our living room wall colour - Benjamin Moore's Cloud White (Eggshell)
The stripes began - green first, and a laser level was used to keep the lines straight
Next was red - you can see we used old dollar store divided TupperWare containers to hold the paint
Next was yellow - we actually ended up painting this a slightly different yellow.
This one was more of a primary yellow, but we wanted a richer marigold colour in the end
Last was blue - indigo, specifically
We used the backing to our eventual dining room mirror from to paint on
**EDIT - I forgot about this the first time around...
All was almost lost when Matt's hand slipped...luckily water-based paints wipe away pretty well!
Last it was the points - this indicated how big the fur blanket was when it was traded - 2.5 looked good!
*Note - Matt told me that 2.5 points was inaccurate for our painting size (1-1.5 points would be closer)
Each colour took 2 coats and red took 3 - it took a few days since we only had 2 brushes
When it was dry it was taken outside and a varnish coat was added to make it glossy and even
Now that the painting was done, the frame was next
Matt wanted it to appear "floating", so a thin strip was glued to the larger frame pieces
*Note - that Elmer's Ultimate Glue is amazing - it stuck to Matt's hands days after washing!
Here is the frame - unstained and being held together with string for support until full assembled
The staining begins - using Minwax in Chestnut
We did two coats - I was worried the second coat would make it a lot darker, but it really just evened everything out
I really like how it turned out, and we are going to use it to stain our media hutch in the living room too!
Attaching the painting to the frame was pretty easy - 4 silver L-brackets
The frame was hung with two eyelets and picture-hanging wire
The finished product - now ready to hang!
Took quite a bit of muscle to drill this whole into a brick wall, but he did it!
Yes, he is wearing an "Evil Dead: The Musical" t-shirt...
Here it is! I like the sort of vintage look to it.
Before the painting picture...
...and now! Really brightens up the room!
View from a different angle...
Goes well with both the living room and dining room
*Oh yeah, and you can see I did a dry run of my Christmas table in the background...post on that soon!
So I can't take credit for this project - Matt did pretty much everything. I only contributed by making line width suggestions, making sure he signed it, complaining about the smell of the stain, holding the frame up while he attached the canvas to it, and taking a LOT of pictures...so pretty much being a nuisance while he worked. Good job, hubby - this was all you!