Official living room!

So, first things first: the houselet and I are moving at the end of the month! I got a (very awesome) job ~500 miles away, and so the Tiny House is about to show off the biggest benefit of Tiny House-ing: it is portable, and can come with me when I go places. So now I have shifted from ‘make everything perfect’ mode to ‘get things workable’ mode, since time is getting limited.  My new priorities are 1) make sure I have enough places to put things (namely bookshelves and closet space) and 2) make sure that things are workable for the pets.  If that means I have to take off with the trim still half-painted, well, so be it (though I REALLY REALLY need to finish that.) Anyway, here’s the current state of things!

The thing that is kind of amazing is that everything is mostly done, so the stuff I am doing now is basically about convenience, aesthetics, or both. I know! Doesn’t it seem like we were just trying to build a roof yesterday? Anyway, my major project of the week has been building in stuff that is supposed to store other stuff. The first thing was to get those bookshelves I made last week up and working. First thing I did was paint them all the same white as the walls, using a spare sample can of flat paint that I had around (because even though I knew I needed to paint them with a semi-gloss, I just could not bring myself to buy more paint). I painted them, started putting them up and lo and behold, they immediately started looking smudgy and dingy and terrible. So now that they’re (mostly) up, I am beginning to slowly repaint them in place with a semi-gloss. Live and learn: I was feeling a little desperate when I painted them initially. But just FYI, in the pictures, the paint looks weird: it’s getting better.

Remember, these are designed to be half catwalk, half bookshelves. Over here is the most cat-friendly section (hence the cat bed I was trying out when I took the picture). After I got the bookshelves in,  I put an extendable Stolmen post from Ikea behind the shelves and wrapped it in sisal rope. That way, the cats will be able to both scratch it and use it to climb up and access the bookshelves. The bookshelves run all around the room everywhere else, but they look a little less jangly and more streamlined: in this corner, they’re designed partially as cat stairs.
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With the post up:
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I also glued a little bit of carpet runner to the top of the shelves: you can’t see it from below, but it’ll give the catzors something to grip onto so they don’t plummet.

I’m going to build a small thin open shelf between these two box shelves, just for symmetry’s sake.
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Next: bedroom closet. The closet was facilitated by the fact that I bought a ridiculously huge amount of wire shelving from a dude on craigslist this weekend. It is significantly more than I need or can use in the house, but the whole lot was about as much as it would have cost me to buy two small shelves, so I figured I’d just get the whole shebang and then just cut whatever I needed to size and give the rest to my mom. Protip: if you ever get wire shelving (of the Closetmaid/Rubbermaid variety, it’s super easy to cut to size with bolt cutters, which you can usually rent from the hardware store for cheap).

My initial idea for the layout of loft was this (note: WILDLY not to scale)
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That would have been very neat and pretty, except way too late, I got a measuring tape up there and realized that oops! If I laid it out this way, the bed would actually be covering the opening for the stairs, as it was quite a lot longer than I’d been thinking. So then I started thinking about this:
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This seemed OK as well, though I don’t love having beds up against a wall and this eliminated the possibility of nightstands. But then, again, I measured, and because see above (wildly not to scale), I realized that if I did it this way, the closet would have been like 22 inches long. I am not particularly a clotheshorse, but I had to admit that that seemed really small for a solo clothes storage space. So then I started thinking about this:
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The perk of this was that it allowed me 8 feet of closet space (short closet space, but still!). The downside, of course, was that since I was not going to be able to build in any kind of wall or door, my bed was just going to be kind of floating there in the middle of the room without a headboard or anything to keep all the pillows from disappearing in the middle of the night. I kind of bounced this around in my head for a few days and tried to come up with some DIY solutions, and then I finally just decided that I was tired of thinking about it: my new plan is just float the bed and deal with it until I get really rich and can afford a Case Study bed. Problem solved! (I mean, in the future. When I am really rich.)

In the meantime, I built myself a closet! It does not look like much right now, but look at this and then I will tell you my Grand Plan.

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It’s utilitarian, and please ignore the part where I started to spray paint everything aluminum and then ran out of spray paint, and the other part where I had to awkwardly join two shelves together at the end (a new support is going there tomorrow.) Upper shelf: camping gear, spare sheets, boxes for out of season clothes. Short shelves on far left: shoes. On the short wall perpendicular to the short shelves: hanging shoe bag that I’m going to use for scarves and stuff (forthcoming). On the short wall perpendicular to the right side: pegboard for jewelry and the like. Bar below long shelf: all hanging clothes. Between that and the little dresser my mom made me, I think I’m all set.

Now: the Grand Plan. I had a pretty clear idea for how I wanted stuff downstairs to look, but I was a lot less clear about the design for the loft, mostly because it was hard to really visualize it without furniture, and the short ceiling throws me a bit. But when I was walking around Lowe’s trying to think through a way to cover up the not-that-pretty closet, I happened by some canvas dropcloths, and then it hit me:

The Ace Hotel.

Back when I was living in Los Angeles, I took a couple of short vacations to the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs. The Ace is this great hotel that was converted from an old 50s Howard Johnsons: it is just a fantastic example of midcentury hotel design (very The Future!-looking), and the conversion is about half modernist, half minimalst and a little rustic. Record players and National Geographics from the 40s in the bedrooms, lots of canvas and kilim rugs and raw-edge wood, vintage photos held to the wall with binder clips, big beehive fireplace and knockoff Bertoia chairs on the patios. It is definitely not a look that appeals to everyone, but I really love it. Here’s an example:

So I was in Lowe’s, looking at these drop cloths, and then the following things occurred to me in quick succession:
1) Run a nice ceiling mounted curtain rod all the way across the room in front of the closet: hem the edge of a canvas dropcloth and attach it to the curtain rod so it covers the closet.
2) Put thin white slats around the edge of the far left wall (if you’re looking at the back of the loft)
3) Possibly extend slats out perpendicularly from the wall right in front of the left side of the closet: make this into a headboard
4) Get a cool kilim rug on ebay
5) Possibly make a huge stuffed headboard out of, say, foam and old fire tarp like they had at Ace. Mount it [somehow!]
6) Put up these lights
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that I made for the guest room at my old apartment. Man, I loved that apartment.
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7) Attach hairpin legs to the old filing drawers I found at the Habitat store, make them into nightstands.
8) Something with burlap, something probably with the old mounted ram’s horn I have, some kind of cool old clock.

For now, I have a canvas drop cloth, no way to mount it, and some wire shelves. I think I have an actual feel for the space now, though, so we’ll see!

More stuff (quickly):
Dear fridge: You are in! Marry me! [please ignore all the stuff on the counter; I was painting]
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This is what I did with the stair cubbies. For now, at least
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This is the upper cabinet on the right of the microwave (the one on the left is Bar Cabinet). The left side of this cabinet (with no door) is going to have cookbooks in it: the right side (with the door) is going to have glasses in it. The door is partially there to protect glasses from cats: however, in a fit of Crafty!, I realized that with a little chalkboard paint, the front of the door could be a chalkboard for writing notes, etc.
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…and on the inside, it could be a corkboard! (cork tiles from Target, cut to size.)
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I actually got super into the chalkboard idea and ended up painting the inside of the doors on the lower cabinets with chalkboard paint too (these are the cabinet doors that my mom is painting the dandelions on.) My thought is that I can write a list of what pots/pans are in which cabinet on the chalkboards, so if I’m hunting for, say, my wok, I can just check and see which cabinet it’s in rather than digging around and displacing all the other pots and pans. And I can write myself a note reminding myself of when trash day is on the trash cabinet. Brilliant! No pictures of these yet, but I’ll get some when they’re actually done.

Grouted the backsplash tiles. Grouting, fyi, is terrifying, and you’re sure you’ve destroyed all the cool tiles you put in, and then you wipe it all off and it’s magically done!
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Contemplated buying a kit to make a tip out drawer under the sink (formerly a fake, looks-like-a-drawer-but-isn’t, attached panel). Decided not to spend the forty bucks for the kit, DIYed my own. I just detached the fake-drawer panel, put a hinge along the bottom of it, put a little magnet clasp in the center and attached some small lengths of chain to each side to stop it from opening up completely. I’m going to get a couple of cheap plastic suction cup sponge holders and screw them into the back of the fake-drawer panel on the left and right sides to hold sponges and scrubbies and stuff. Total cost: about eight bucks.

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In the full upright and locked position
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Cleaned the egg chair within an inch of its life, using soapy water and Murphy’s oil, and then went over the whole thing with some Howard’s Feed & Wax. Shiny!
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Then I got some of the Dwell Studios fabric I got for six bucks at Goodwill and handsewed a little envelope-back pillow case for a $1 floor pillow that happened to fit Eggy really well. I am the worst sewer in the known universe, but even I can sew a square. I am really pleased with how it turned out!
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I made a cushion for the fauxlarium bench out of three-inch foam and am going to make a cover for it out of the same fabric (though I may need an assist from my mom, who can use an actual sewing machine.) And then, maybe a table runner? Some placemats? Napkins? All I know is that I want to use every damn bit of that fabric for something, because I loooooove it.

And while I was handsewing, I also cut up an old shower curtain (a buck, thrifted, and waterproof!) and used it to cover another floor pillow (another buck, thrifted) to make a nicer dog bed then the ones I’ve currently got. Since the shower curtain had grommets in it, I think I’m going to get some actual closures and have the grommets be makeshift button holes; that’s why it’s flapping open like that. I’m currently hunting for more cheapy floor pillows so each of the dogs can have their own New! Bed!, since I have lots o’ shower curtain left over.
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Anyway, here’s the current incarnation of the living room, which I am PRETTY EXCITED ABOUT.
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It needs a nice plant, and books on the bookshelves, and some art on the walls, and for the fireplace to go in (wall next to the couch) and I need to paint the damn baseboards, and I just threw those throw pillows on the fauxlarium bench to put something there (my actual seat cushion isn’t done being covered yet), but still, pretty good, right?

From loft, with Lucyfeet. I got those folding chairs from the music department at Dalhousie (they were getting rid of them.) The metal backs are stamped with the words MUSIC DEPT, and I love them. I wish I could figure out how to pop the bases off so I could recover them (they are currently off-white dingy vinyl.)  That ottoman came from the awesome thrift store, is covered in something that looks suspiciously like crocodile, and has a tag on it dating it to 1923. Awesome!
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With three sleepy dogs who would like me to bring their beds down to the house please:
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The fauxlarium is an excellent place for the dogs to stand and yell at invisible dragons.
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It’s lookin’ like a house!

So I have three things that can be classified as Big Projects left to do in the houselet [1. waiting for my fridge and heater and then installing them; 2. finishing painting the trim, which is only classifiable as a Big Project because I haaaaaate it; 3. building in some closets upstairs, probably with a combination of wire shelving and artfully arranged curtains]. Once those are done, it is pretty much a done deal, which is kind of mindblowing to think about!

1) Final countertop; or, my mom is a genius.

So when we last discussed the riveting subject of countertops, I had a. abandoned my dreams of Paperstone, b. gotten a cheap piece of butcher block from the as-is section at Ikea, c. got Jeff to fabricate a complete countertop for the sink side and half of the counter for the stove side from said cheap piece of butcher block and d. had a big uncovered space remaining and no countertop to put on it. I did a little poking around looking for more butcher block and found out that my options were all pretty grim (too big, too expensive, too heavy to ship and often a combination of all three.) I wasn’t devoted to making the last section match the others: it’s on the section nearest to the living room, right under my Bar Cabinet, so I assumed it could be a little different without feeling totally bizarre.

And then–and let me say that I am not proud of this–I was looking at pictures of kitchens online at 2 AM and came across a photo spread of Martha Stewart’s kitchen. Mostly, I was just kind of gobsmacked at how many whisks she had, but one thing that caught my eye was a section of marble countertop that she had by her ‘pastry station’ (which, PS, is approximately the size of my whole house). I am not really a stone countertop kind of lady–a thing that irrationally annoys me on HGTV is people screaming about how they Must! Have! Granite! in their kitchen–but then Martha reminded me that actually, one of the nice things about stone is that the surface temp is cooler than other materials, which makes it nice for, say, rolling out pie crusts. I care not at all about having an HGTVish kitchen, but I care a hell of a lot about baked goods, so all of the sudden, throwing a little stone in the mix started to seem kind of cool. I called up the hippie store where I got my tung oil to see if I could score a nice remnant of something moderately eco-friendly, maybe some nice recycled glass or something, and I sure could….for the low, low price of $450. Nope! Then, one day when I was driving to Gersons, I happened by this weird store that didn’t actually have a name but DID have a bunch of rock slabs in their yard and a sign that just said GRANITE QUARTZ MARBLE CORIAN OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. I went in, and lo, it turned out to be a place that fabricated counters (and other stone things), and they DID have remnants, and the guy told me he’d cut something to size for me and could do the whole thing for $150 (which is what I’d told him my max budget was.) I was pretty stoked about the awesomeness of that deal (their posted price list made it sound like basically everything was out of range), so the next day, I brought Mom there to help me pick one out.

Now, I may have mentioned this about my mom before, but a) she thinks there is no problem that can’t be solved by either her chiropractor, Jeff or her old stand partner in the Symphony, Pat, and b) she thinks that everything on earth needs to cost less than $50. So on the way there, I was explaining the $150 thing to her, and she was saying confidently, “Oh, we’ll just go in there and find some little scrap that they don’t want and it’ll cost $20” and internally, I was rolling my eyes, but to keep the peace, I was just like, “Hey, you never know, we’ll just see what we see, etcetera!”, all the while being certain that this was just classic Moms Being Ridiculous. So….you probably can see where this story’s going, right? We get there, I go over to the actual remnants and start to poke through them; my mom, meanwhile, disappears behind the facility, where her spider sense has led her to a pile of actual scraps, not just the off-cuts I was looking at. She calls me over, and I very quickly find a cool rectangular piece of quartz, just about the right size for the counter: we take it in, ask the only guy left in the store what it would cost, and after ascertaining that he didn’t have to cut it or do anything else to it, he was like, “I dunno, twenty bucks?”

SCORE ONE FOR MOM! This happened several days ago, and I am still a little gobsmacked. We brought it home, and it turned out that Jeff had some spare maple in his garage, so he made a little surround for it, and now, $45 later (stone plus an hour of Jefflabor), I have a quartz countertop.

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In context:
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This joins the ranks of great houselet steals, which include my $248 floors: all of the countertops ended up costing $166, including labor, and they are solid 1.5 inch maple butcher block and quartz. WOO!

2) Book & cat shelves: I did some measuring at the house and bought some wood at Home Depot (which the people there cut for me) last week. It sat around in the garage for a week, and then yesterday, I decided the time had come and put together my catwalk-slash-horizontal bookshelves (they’re primarily for books, but I’m going to set them up so the cats can hang out and walk along on the top: I think I’m also going to build in some cubbies in them for up-high cat beds. They don’t have the actual shelf dividers in yet (this entails renting/learning how to use a router), but I put the boxes together, anyway! Right now, I am writing this entry instead of priming them, because I am SO TIRED of painting.

These are as simple as can be: I just screwed some poplar ply to some 1x12s and built little frames, like so:
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This is what they looked like when they were done (ish). Just imagine them the same white as the walls with some dividers in them.
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When I paint them and get the dividers in, I’ll mount them to the studs in the walls about six feet up pretty much all the way around the house.

3) Stair cubby update

So you guys appeared to be evenly split on whether to just tung oil these or stain them gray, and what I ended up doing was just splitting the difference: I did the sides in gray and kept the doors natural. I was convinced that I had taken a picture of this, but apparently I didn’t, so TBA there. Anyway, I am liking it pretty well: I may just have to live with it for a while and see how I feel about things.

4) Magnetic knife holder is up. No big deal: I just wanted to put it on my list of Done! Things!

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5) More trim was painted (aided in part by Mom, who came down one day and helped). Boy, this is a tedious project. Progress is being made, though!

See? Everywhere there is painter’s tape, there is progress.
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6) I set up my awesome couch today! It is great! Even though I cannot figure out how to get the slipcover less lumpy! Nellie insists on posing with it in all shots.

Pre-build
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In chaise mode (one arm down). Even when both arms are down (bed mode), it fits in the little space next to the door just fine: this is a great tiny house couch!
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Nellie is stoked to have something other than the floor to lay on
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7) More on How My Mom Is Awesome

So I am hoping to do this stencil-with-wood-glue thing on the front of my cabinets, right? Except because I am fundamentally a cheapo, I just could not to bring myself to pay twenty bucks for a stencil, so OBVIOUSLY it was better to spend a full day trying fruitlessly to cut a stencil out of a cardboard box with a paring knife.

[spoiler: it was not better]
[this picture was taken after I finally sucked it up and bought a craft knife. Paring knife? Doesn’t work]
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So after watching me futz around all day, my mom (who, among her many talents, is also a talented–and published!–illustrator), offered to freehand something. Obviously I took her up on it! We’re going to need a few more coats before we stain, but here’s Mom doing the first step:
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That’s it for now! It’s coming along, no?

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I have spent the last two days Cabineting over at the houselet, and progress has been made!

1) Those upper cabinets

OK, these have been an absolute PITA to deal with, but the good news is that they seem to be turning out as I’d hoped! So that thing where I said that one should probably use a deglosser and sand melamine cabinets before painting them? Holy crap, yes, learn from my mistakes, you guys. This is what they looked like after a coat of primer and two coats of my super hard-core enamel paint:

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The worst! See how the paint is pulling away from the melamine? Melamine does not want to be painted! This next picture is after FIVE coats of paint. Five! And they still need touching up, especially on the bottom! But I am feeling much better about the way they’re looking. I do think they’re retreating into the wall a little bit and I think the beams pop nicely next to them (or maybe I just have Stockholm Syndrome)

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And then, just because I was feeling impatient, I decided to hang some stuff to help turn the leftmost upper cabinet into a bar (which is part of my ten step plan to actually like the upper cabs).
First: a wine rack that’ll hold four bottles of wine on the side of the cabinet (just to announce myself if I move to Utah: you’ll walk in the door, look to the right, and Thar Be Wine!)
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And here’s everything from the side:
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Second, a little rack to hang my wine glasses under the cabinet: the glasses will go in by their stems and hang upside down.
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2) Hanging weird Ikea raily-things

So I bought one of these dealies with the intent to hang my dish drainer on it over the sink. It turned out to be a little long for the space, so I just decided to hang it over the stove instead.
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I still needed a rail for the dish drainer, so I decided to do my favorite thing ever and build one out of plumbing parts (I know this look is not for everyone, but I looooove the kind of industrial nature of using plumbing parts. I built a bed out of plumbing pipe in my old place, and it was one of my favorite things ever.)
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With dish drainer, which will drain right into the sink!
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And the awesome part about the dish drainer is it folds up to get out of the way. God bless Ikea.
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(see also the cutting board that fits snugly on top of the bowl of the sink, giving me an extra chopping surface).

Then I built a toilet paper roll holder out of pipe fittings too, just because
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3) Lower cabinets

So I spent a long time staring at various incarnations of gray and green paint swatches on the cabinets
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….and decided that staining them gray was the way to go. I took all the doors off and haven’t stained the drawer fronts yet, because I think I am going to steal this idea whole cloth and dandelion up the front of the cabs and drawers. I have to track down a stencil before I do that, though, so they remain unstained for the moment.
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(this is the first coat of stain, so forgive the blotchy bits)

There’s a slight blue undertone in the gray (which is a pretty dark charcoal color otherwise), and I am liking that with the blue-gray bathroom ceiling and the blue door (and eventually, the dark blue couch). It’s a little more pronounced here because of the light: 90% of the time it doesn’t look like that.
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4) Stair cubbies!

Jeff built them and put them in! Total surprise! I love them. They open from the sink side, and as soon as I can cut some holes in the stair risers, they’ll open from the stair side as well.
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5) Faux-larium bench

For the dark tung oil fans: this will probably have a cushion on it, and I am probably going to build out the front a bit for another shelf and extend the top, but for now, I figured it would look pretty oiled. This is with two coats: I’m slowly building it up so it’ll eventually be as dark as the beams.

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6) Folding table
This is the Norbo folding table, another Ikea special: you’ll see it in a lot of tiny houses, and I initially flirted with trying out something else for that reason, but after going to Ikea and poking around, I decided that it’s probably a classic for a reason and picked it up. I’m glad I did: it juts out just the right amount, which means you can fit a small crowd around it (OK, three!) but it also doesn’t feel like it takes up all the floor space in the living room. And when it folds down, it’s only a couple of inches out of the wall and so it feels like it pretty much disappears. Good job, table!
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And finally: three dogs in a houselet! Lucy is much happier to be down hanging out at the build site now that there are, you know, walls.
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Interior mega-update: Part Two

Mega-post, continued!

1) Counters

So Jeff cut my new Ikea countertop for me, which I appreciated: my skills with the band saw are still a little rudimentary. When I got it down to the house, it looked like this:
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While it was outside, I tried out the two colors of tung oil on it to see what looked better. I was Team Dark before I started, but once I put the dark oil on, I realized it was absorbing differently into the different woods used in the butcher block and coming out all splotchy.
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A similar thing happened on the loft in the upstairs window frame: I did the trim in dark tung and the oil absorbed differently all over the wood (I think because the trim wood is compressed): it still looks kind of splotchy, even after a bunch of coats. So, lesson learned: I think the dark tung works better when you’ve got a single piece of wood, like my beams and stair treads. I am going to use it on the window seat today though, so more dark tung is happening, I promise.

So I ran a line of silicone over the top of the cabinets (to help adhere the countertop), hoisted the countertop up on top of the cabinets, and…

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Oops.

It turned out that there was a little tiny bit of stair runner wood that wasn’t perfectly flush with the rest of the runner, and that 1/8″ was enough to keep the counter from going in smoothly.
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I tried my tried-and-true trick of “when in doubt, put a towel on it and bash it with a hammer”, which mostly works, but in this case just left me with a hole in the wall.
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Double oops. And I cannot lie: there were definitely a few minutes where I was jabbing at the hole with a screwdriver hoping that if I made it bigger, the counter would slide down. Nope! So instead, I pulled the countertop off, put some wood filler in the hole in the wall and gave the countertop its first coat of tung oil.

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Pretty! I have noticed that the lighter tung needs a bunch of coats to really sink in: you’ll see in the Day Two pictures that it looks lighter (because the first layer has soaked in). But ultimately, when it’s all saturated, it’ll look like it does here.

2) Fan, redux

Fan blades are up!
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[Don’t tell anyone, but I am starting to dig this fan. It is so squatty and adorable!]

Also, I got some Howard’s Feed & Wax and went over the stair runners and beams, since I wanted a slightly shinier finish on them and they were getting pretty matte as they dried. I loooooove that Howard’s: I use it on furniture all the time, and I’m going to use it on the counters once they are all oiled up.

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[ignore That Light]

Day Two! Jeff came down and helped me with Countergate. He ended up just cutting into the corner of the countertop, and once he did that, it fit perfectly. I sanded and painted the hole in the wall, we got the countertop on, and then, since he was there, we hooked up the sink and the faucet and got the plumbing all set. Hurrah! Here’s the finished product:
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Gratuitous picture of my new on-demand hot water heater, which Jeff installed while I was gone. So tiny! So not an enormous tank!
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Jeff also had a surprise for me: the countertop I bought was too wide for the cabinets (which I knew: it was in the Ikea as-is for half price, so I bought it), so Jeff cut it down, but then he used the scraps to make a little countertop for the other side (he just cut them down and glued/clamped them together). And it is gorgeous and perfect, and now I only have to buy one more 31″x25″ piece of countertop, so that saved me a hundred bucks. Doesn’t this look good? You would have no idea that it was made from scraps.
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4) Then, we talked through the stair cubbies and horizontal bookshelves. Jeff took some measurements and is going to build the boxes for the cubbies while he’s recuperating: we’re making with doors on both sides so they’re accessible from under the stairs and also from the uprights of the stairs themselves (this will let me enclose that area if I want). I am going to build the bookshelves all by my lonesome, but I feel better about doing that now than I did before (today I have to measure and buy LOTS of lumber).

When Jeff left, I primed the uprights then painted them with a really heavy duty enamel paint (for ease of cleanup): it’s Benjamin Moore Advance, in the same color as the walls. It was super thick, almost ganache-like in texture, and it promises a very hard, durable surface, so I will let you know how it wears.

Primer: When You Want Things to Look Just a Little Bit Horrible
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Paint!
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These guys will eventually be front doors for the stair cubbies. One of my projects for today is to measure and cut some of the leftover bamboo for the floor: that’s going to be the stair treads.

5) Upper cabinets!
OK, so here’s the thing: because the upper cabinets (which, if you recall, I felt pretty ‘meh’ about) are some kind of melamine/MDF inside,the holes from when they got screwed to the wall are pretty big and obvious (if you’ve ever tried to nail or screw a piece of Ikea furniture, you know what I mean.) This makes the cabinets functionally unreturnable, so now my options are a) move them to a different part of the house or b) work with them where they are. Right now I am going to give b) a shot, since no matter where I put them, I think I’ll want to paint them. So my plan now is to take the doors off, prime and paint them (I’m going to use the same white enamel I used for the stair uprights) and use them as open shelving: I think I am going to turn the one closest to the living room into a little bar shelf, which might actually be cool (I hope?) So I started by priming them. The primer is having a hard time adhering to the weird melamine, even though it’s all-surface primer, so I put one coat on and today I’m going to try another coat and see if that first coat helps the adhesion. They look bad now! Hopefully they will look better? We will see.

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6) Backsplash!

So a few weeks ago when I was at Gersons, I saw a couple of packs of mosaic tiles (pretty cool ones: they’re natural stone and glass) for two bucks apiece. I didn’t know if I’d be able to use them or not, but I picked up six packs anyway since they were so cheap.

Cheap! Proof!
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Once I got the counter on, I realized they’d fit almost perfectly between the countertop and the window frame. Yay! So I got some ceramic tile adhesive and glopped it on the back:
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And started sticking them up! You’ll notice a little gap between the top of the tile and the window frame: that’s the almost perfect part. I might get some horizontal stone tiles to fill it in: I might also just decide not to worry about it, which seems easier 🙂
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You will also notice that that gap seems to disappear as I put more tiles on. That….is true! And I don’t know why, except maybe something somewhere is crooked? Regardless, not worrying about it (maybe I will just fill that in with grout.)
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When I got to the end part under the stairs, I had a little bit of room to fill in, but the tiles themselves were too big. However, I did have those little rows of glass tiles, and upon closer examination, they were all separate from each other and just held together with a little cloth backing. So I just got some scissors and cut them apart from the other stones:
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And made a little triangle at the end! I AM BASICALLY EXACTLY LIKE MCGYVER, YOU GUYS.
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I have to grout them still (I have never grouted anything before: it sounds…exciting?) and seal them, because they’re natural stone, but I am pretty pleased with it, and the whole thing, including the glue, cost $16.
And now I am heading back to do more projects. Think good thoughts in the direction of those cabinets!

Interior mega-update: Part One

Oh, friends, I am OVERDUE for an update! Quick recap: I recently got back from a two-week long job interview in Utah (verdict: we shall see) (also, hi Ashley!) and got home to discover that my mom and Jeff had been super-industrious while I was away. So first, let me show you all of the things they did, and then in the next post, I will show you the tweaks I have made since.  Because there’s a lot going on, let’s just jump right in, shall we?

Floors!

My bamboo floors, which I got for cheap and have been so excited about, are all installed. Look how pretty, even under a thick layer of construction dust!
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The color of the living room floor up close, which I looooove [Oh, PS, here’s another thing that got done: all of the molding is in! No complaints there: I love it, though I dread having to paint it]
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The batches I got appeared to be from pretty different dye lots, and the living room bamboo is darker than the kitchen bamboo. Had I been here, I probably would have just mixed it up and had alternating light-dark pieces all the way across the floor. Left to his own devices, Jeff decided to make the living room all dark and the kitchen lighter (Jeff: “Well, I wasn’t about to make it tiger striped!“. Fair enough!) I actually don’t mind the two different colors: I just decided to think of it as ombre and that was that.

I would like to find an alternative for that gold-colored metal threshold Jeff put in between the living room and kitchen floors: I understand the efficacy, but do not love the gold stripe down the middle of the floor, so if any of you brilliant DIYers have an idea about that, please do share!

Fan

The fan is up. Er, ish.  Jeff was having some trouble finding the right bolts for the blades: I got the fan from Gerson’s, and it apparently came sans bolts (spoiler: I called the company and found the right bolts and it’s now all A-OK.)

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I need to start hunting for a better light fixture shade: that one is unobjectionable, but I would love to find a cooler shade (since I am still a touch averse to the fan-light combo).

The stove

The eagle-eyed among you will look at the picture below and note that the stove in the picture is not the awesome little boat stove I got for free from my boss and talked about on my very first day of the build. While I was in Utah, my mom called me and said, basically verbatim, “The boat stove isn’t going to work because it is the wrong size at least I think it is the wrong size, Jeff explained it to me and it made sense then but it was very confusing, but anyway, it is not going to work and it is probably going to explode anyway, so I think I am just going to get a regular stove and I need you to just agree because I am way too busy and I just need to be able to make a decision, OK?” So I, in the middle of working on a presentation for my job interview, and exhausted from all the Utah-ing, just said, “Mom, do whatever you think is best”. And that is how I ended up with the stove before.

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I actually kind of love it, honestly.  A sweet, Energy Star gas stove (which can be hooked up to either propane or natural gas, depending on what I have access to) with four burners that is narrow but will fit an actual sheet tray and comes with a broiler and a warming drawer? Yes please.

Also it probably is not going to explode.

I was a little leery about the stove being right under the loft–the initial plan was to have it be on the end of the counters, clear of the loft–but Jeff pointed out that since you REALLY don’t want a stove under the electrical panel, the only alternative would be to have it sitting in the middle of the living room, which, no. He is very certain it’s not going to be an issue, and in any case, I can run the vent fan on the micro, so I have decided to feel OK about it.  My biggest worry now is that I have to explain to my boss why the boat stove that he drove all the way home for me from his boat in Mexico is not in the house.

The kitchen light

Before I left, I bought a small, low-key kitchen light (which will ultimately contain a Happy Light). While I was gone, Jeff decided the light I bought was way too small and that I would go blind with such a tiny light and told Mom she had to go pick out a bigger fixture from Lowes. Mom looked at everything Lowes had, ruled out 98% of the lights there for being hideous, and decided that the following was the best one there.

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I may still have to tweak this, because it is…..kind of hideous? I believe my mom that it was the best one there, but it is still godawful.  Also, it is so big that the cabinet door hits the shade when you open it.

The bathroom!

Supertoilet is in, and the way-better-than-you’d-think fiberfloor is now adhered to the subfloor.
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Shower is all done. Look! A shower rod (which will soon contain a cute Ikea shower curtain) and a showerhead! Also some tung-oiled walls that look great, if I may say so.
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And look! My extra handheld showerhead that I installed at dog-washing height!
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And my pretty little sink, which is technically not a new thing, but which I continue to love.
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For a bathroom the size of a coffin, it is about as awesome as it can possibly be. I mean, in Phase Two I want to figure out a way to tile the shower, but no big deal otherwise.

The cabinets

Cabinets happened! This is a place where the budget, which is getting very narrow, came into play: I wanted Jeff to make me cabinets, because his cabinetry work is incredibly beautiful. While I was gone, we decided that we could not afford to have him do that, which was a bummer. This meant stock cabinets, which meant Lowes, because Mom and Jeff were doing the picking and were not going to go out and look in all the crazy stores like I would have done.  I sent Mom in with instructions to find the absolute plainest, least decorative ones they had (I am kind of into cabinets that look like this: not necessarily the color, but the geometric/unadorned-ness)

Here’s what I ended up with:
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(sink side)
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They are not the pretty handmade cabinets I was imagining, but they are fine, and they are what they are.  There is a lot of storage, and they are big enough that I can put in drawers and lazy susans and get them really optimized for what I need. And I love that cute little triangle shelf Jeff built in under the stairs.  I am not crazy about the upper cabs, and if I had been here I would have opted not to get those and build open shelves in instead.  However, because they were there and un-returnable (because they’d been installed), I decided to take the doors off, paint them the same white as the walls and use them as quasi-open shelving anyway. In Phase Two, they will probably go, but for now, I am going to Tim Gunn them and make them as cool as I can.  And the lower cabs are getting stained gray, and I think I am going to do a cool-looking thing on the doors, which I will tell you about as soon as I figure out if it’s going to work.

In the next installment:

1) Countertops
So remember how I was all excited to get those Paperstone counters, and how I was going to get those cheap remnants? I was trying to arrange them while I was in Utah, and got them all in my online shopping cart, and then when I went to check out, found out that the shipping cost was more than twice the cost of the actual material, resulting in a cost of about $600. As budget’s a consideration right now, I just couldn’t justify it, though it was very sad because I love that stuff. So I started thinking about Richlite (another recycled paper composite) and started trying to track down local non-remnant Paperstone, and then I started thinking about stainless steel (like a restaurant) and started looking into restaurant supply stores, and then on Sunday, Jeff told me that he had to go in for surgery on Tuesday, so if I wanted him to miter out the corners for the sink, he needed that countertop on Monday morning”. So I stopped thinking about all of the products that I loved that needed a week for shipping, and then I started thinking about what was immediately available, and then I got in my car and drove back to Horrible Phoenix, went to Ikea and got an enormous piece of solid wood butcher block. Butcher block was actually my first countertop idea, so even though I don’t like it as much as Paperstone, I still felt pretty good about it. I got it to Jeff, he cut it and mitered the sink hole, and tomorrow I get to learn how to install it.

I had initially thought I was going to go with gray countertops and wood cabinets, but now that I am going to have wood countertops, I am thinking of maybe gray cabinets. Or green. Or blue. Who knows. I am going to tung oil the butcher block, so tomorrow’s decision is a) dark tung oil (like the beams) or b) light tung oil, like the bathroom walls. Feel free to weigh in!

2) Bedroom closets. If I can find some stock closet/dresser/bookshelves that are the right height, I’m going to try to do what Young House Love did here. You like?

Phase Two is, of course, this.

3) Floating bookshelves, which I have only just begun to think about.

[Thank you for reading that mega-post! Comment away if you have suggestions]

Tiny house: floors, more painting, el bano and the return of Jeff!

(it feels dumb to keep titling these with build dates, since we are not, strictly, building anymore. I mean, I guess Jeff will be building cabinets, but the build, she is done.)

First off, shout-out to the fine people of the Abrego South GVR hot tub! My mom, a regular at the pool, reports that the denizens of the hot tub read the blog and are always asking her how the “Little House on the Prairie” is going. Hi, guys! It’s going great!

Second off, big thanks to my friends Glen and Suzy, who are big builders and DIYers themselves: they just sent me this awesome little hand-crank weather radio/flashlight/phone charger that looks like the absolute perfect thing to have in a tiny house! a) Excellent for safety! and b) Totally useful for the building phase, as the houselet is not yet hooked up to electricity. Thanks so much, guys!

Now, onto the details! So once again, this is another compressed post, since the individual days haven’t been hugely exciting (read: they have involved a lot of painting of trim. Yawn.)

1) Jeff came back! Yay Jeff! It is so good to have him there, and he swears he’s not lifting anything excessive. Anyway, he came back with a bang by putting up all the rest of the trim
DSC00633…which I then started priming and painting (dooooooom!)
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2) The floor in the loft is all done, and it looks super. Nellie and Widget hung out up there with me and played wrestlemania while I was painting the windowsills, and there are no visible scratches, so my fingers are crossed that it goes will. But so far, I am unexpectedly digging the laminate!

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When the quarter round in the loft gets finished being painted, the loft will be 100% done, making it the first complete space in the house!

3) I bought an itty bitty ceiling fan for my coffered ceiling at Gersons for $39 (on sale even from the marked price, which was already low)
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[Since I have been programmed to hate ceiling fans, overhead lights and especially ceiling fan/overhead light combos by too many hours of Trading Spaces as a youth, I felt woobly about doing this instead of some kind of cool light fixture. But it seems really really practical: among other things, it’s got a reverse setting so I can draw hot air up to the loft when it’s cold out. And it’s teeny, so I hope it will be unobtrusive. Also, I will be on the lookout for a better shade for the light: I am thinking about getting a cool Moravian star glass shade the next time I’m in Mexico and just affixing it with caulk and magic or something like that]

4) Also I bought some lights…
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…and started putting them up!
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The kitchen was a tough call: the ceiling is too low to do a pendant light, and I didn’t have the wiring for sconces. What I ended up doing was getting a flush-mounted flourescent—I know, I know, hear me out–because I decided I wanted to put a Happy Light in there. Happy Lights are full-spectrum lights that contain the qualities of natural light–I’m a touch prone to SAD, and I thought the light would be a really good way to help combat that. This was my mom’s genius idea: she taught for years and years in a bunch of different and occasionally horrible situations, and she once successfully persuaded her principal to put Happy Lights in the windowless room they’d stuck her in (she said it made a huge difference).

5) The bathroom nears completion!
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Floor is cut to size (though not actually attached to the ground, because Certain Kelseys bought the wrong kind of floor adhesive, roundly annoying Certain Jeffs.)
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Third coat of tung oil on the walls, which is really beginning to pay off: it’s very pretty in real life
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Gray ceiling, because…I am not totally sure why? Because I had a test pot of paint and thought the color was pretty, and happened to have run out of white paint? Also, shower hardware installed.
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The little hole below the knob is where I am going to mount this, which is my…
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…dedicated detachable shower head for washing the dogs! The dogs having their own personal (low-set) shower was a big item on my ‘living successfully with 5 animals in a small space’ list (they’re also getting built-in dividers in place of crates, there’s going to be a pull-out dog bed hidden in one of the kickplates below the cabinets in the kitchen, they’re going to have a built-in toy drawer they can open, etc. (the cats also have their own cool stuff)

My sink. I cannot stop staring at my pretty Ikea sink with its cheapo Gerson’s faucet. I LOVE it. I love how the fact that it’s mounted on brackets makes it feel incredibly light, I love the exposed copper pipes, I love everything about it.
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Jeff, predictably, hates it: he really just wanted me to get a nice normal pedestal sink like a normal person, and he is SURE it is going to fall apart once I move the house. I promised him I would take full responsibility if anything happened, and that I would do my best to provide the sink with extra support when I moved it (jack, maybe?) Normally, I would compromise, but in this case I just do not care, because I love that sink.

Toilet! Which is not going in the kitchen, obviously: it was just waiting there to be put in the bathroom.
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According to the box, it is some kind of supertoilet
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And that’s about it! I’m going out of town on an interview for a couple of weeks on Sunday, and while things will be happening, I think there will be a brief hiatus with the tiny house reportage, since I kind of need to be there for that. I cannot wait to see what it looks like when it’s done!

Paint & Stainathon, Time-Compressed

Jeff’s taking it easy this week–as he should!– and as my mom’s jetting off for a b-day trip soon and has a lot on her plate, the large bulk of the work this week has been done solo by yours truly (and of course, Nellie and Widget, General Contractors). Most of the stuff I’ve done has been related to turning things from one color into another, and that does not always make for scintillating reading, so I thought I’d compress all of my projects from the week into one post and show you the before/afters.

Project One: Finish the PaintDone and done! Two coats of Benjamin Moore Atrium White are up on the walls and the ceilings (and the ceiling paint means that I also have two coats of Benjamin Moore Atrium White on all of my clothes, my contacts, my dogs, etc.)

It looks really good. All of my fears about white on white have totally evaporated.
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One minor caveat follows my fondness for this paint: BOY, it is easy to scuff a whole lot of matte white paint! This is something I totally should have thought about before but did not something I definitely gave a lot of serious thought to beforehand, so why don’t you go look at the other pretty pictures while I emergency-buy a whole bunch of AFM Safecoat to slap on everything? I am for sure going to have to do a little touch-up coat, especially after the trim painting/wood staining I’ve been doing (more on that in a sec.)

Completion rate: 90% done. I’ve got to do touch ups, and somehow I totally forgot that I needed to paint the bathroom ceiling (since I’m not painting the bathroom walls), so I’ve got to do that probably tomorrow. Everything else is looking solid, though.

Project Two: Paint the Horrible, Horrible Trim

Note: the trim itself is just fine. I have discovered, however, that I totally hate painting trim: apparently my skills as a painter veer towards “get lots of paint on stuff quickly and efficiently with a roller” and not towards “do anything that requires a modicum of precision”. This is quadruply true of quarter round, which is SO ANNOYING to paint, because it is, as the name implies, ROUNDED. And that means no using the paint pad, no using the mini roller, no using any useful tool beyond a teeny tiny angle brush and a lot lot lot of painter’s tape. This is emphatically not my skill set, which I learned as I was putting a terrible, uneven, drippy layer all over the trim. Thankfully, my mom is totally that kind of detail-y painter that I am not, so she came over yesterday, scraped off all my drippy mistakes and made the trim look gooooooood. (Trim paint, PS, is Benjamin Moore semi-gloss Decorator’s White).

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Completion rate: About 10%, tragically. Mom came really close to finishing everything that was up already when she came over yesterday, but there is a ton of trim that isn’t even up yet (Jeff needs to come down and sit in a chair and tell us where to nail everything up: he precut it all.) See all those raw-looking edges with bits of vapor barrier poking out in the picture above? Yeah, that all needs to be trimmed, and those areas are basically everywhere (+ floor molding all around the house.)

Project Three: Stain the bathroom walls and beams somehow

This has been my favorite project of the week, and the way it worked out is what I would call an excellently happy accident. My working plan was to put some kind of poly or other sealant on the bathroom walls, which I am leaving unpainted (just to have a little change of pace and leave some of the super pretty plywood intact: I’d initially planned to put cedar closet lining all over the bathroom, but the ply accomplishes the same goal aesthetically). I also had planned to do some kind of darker stain on the beams. Well, in the course of looking into how precisely I was going to do that, I came across a couple facts:
a. nearly all wood stains are very drippy, and thus it can be really challenging to use them on an overhead application
b. Wood stains in general are about as chemically and VOC-laden as you can imagine, and even though there are a handful of low-VOC stains, they are a touch obscure and definitely not carried by any of my little town’s three hardware stores.

So anyway, blah blah blah, I eventually found a couple of good products, and looking at their website’s Dealer Locators, I was led to an awesome hippie building store in the teeny, funny little warehousey Tucson arts district. Somehow I did not know about it previously, which was an oversight: they have been there for ten years, and they source all kinds of awesome hippie building material (denim insulation! All manner of expensive-yet-gorgeous recycled countertops! Wall paints made out of milk that you buy in powder form, tint with the addition of various dry clays and then just add water to yourself! Kelsey heaven, is what I’m saying.) Anyway, when I told the lady at the store my stain thoughts, she was like, “Well, we’ve got those, but they are about $40 a quart (!!!!!!) and if you’re doing an entire bathroom…..” She must have seen me going a little green, because she pulled me away to another side of the store and suggested that if she were going to do such a project, she would just use tung oil and forgo stain altogether. Tung oil, it transpires, penetrates just like stain, seals everything very well, is so water resistant that it’s often used as a boat finish and is totally nontoxic (downside: it takes a while to dry, but as I am not actually living in the house, I figured NBD). Plus, big 32 oz bottles were only $16 each. Normally I would have gone home and done some research and then come back, but I was still so dazed by the whole $40/quart stain that I was just like, “Yep, sure, tung oil, sounds awesome, sell me some of that” and bought two big bottles, one dark and one clear. It’s actually made by the company that makes dry paint out of milk, and the bottles it comes in are very reminiscent of Dr. Bronner’s.
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So I brought it back to the house, got some good brushes for putting it on and some disposable microfiber cloths for wiping off the excess, and started slapping it up places. And you know what, guys? Tung oil turns out to be AWESOME. First of all, it smells nutty and nice, and it wipes off your hands without any big deal (unlike tung oil-laced varnishes like the one Minwax makes, which are a bear on your hands). Second, it goes on really easy (very much like paint) with very little dripping; like stain, you put some on and then wipe off the excess with a cloth, so it’s not the fastest going, but it’s no more complex than stain. And third of all, it is gorgeous.

Here’s some of the bathroom ply once I’d put the first coat on:DSC00553

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The irregularities in the picture are partially the light reflecting on the walls, but partially because the wood just absorbs the stain in different ways and at different rates (makes sense: it’s ply). A second coat totally smoothed that out, though.
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[note: those gaps in the ply will also be trimmed]

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[took the picture while the oil was still drying; that’s why it’s shiny]

Then I got some of the darker stuff and tried it a few places: the edges of the staircase, the beams, and the frame around the loft window. And oh man, do I love the way the dark oil looks. To wit:

Hubba hubba
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Stairs (the uprights are going to be turned into drawers and I am probably going to put leftover flooring on the treads, so don’t worry about the bleedover)
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Loft window (one coat in the picture: I’ve put a second coat on since)
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Starting the beams
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First coat on
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Second coat on
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I LOVE the way this looks, especially against the white ceiling. I am a total tung oil convert now. One of the things I really love is that it’s not totally opaque, which means that in my case, you can see the stamping and other lettering on the wood through the oil.
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I know this is not for everyone, but I really really really like it. I am down with some touches of industrial scattered around (I’m making towel bars and such for the bathroom out of galvanized plumbing pipe, and if I can swing it, the stairs are going to have a bannister that includes some rebar). Also, my inner minimalist enjoys having the actual building materials be evident: if this house is made from trees, and those trees are processed in a semi-industrial way, I would like for that not to be obscured, at least to some extent. The other upside is that the tung oil DID cover the blackish discoloration on the beams, which I thought was a lot less cool looking.

(Messy) tools of the trade
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Completion rate: Depends: I think 100%, unless the oil soaks in all weird tonight and I need to do another coat at some point.

Project Four: Scrap porch!

Step one was locating some good scraps, which I did last week. Step two was figuring out how to arrange them into something porch-shaped. I already decided that for the bottom porch (the part that supports the second stairstep), I wanted to make some panels of the same size that I could connect with mending plates (which could come apart when I have to move the house.) So last night, I laid them out on the floor in my mom’s house and played around with them until I had some good panels (yay for a Lego-filled childhood!).

Not totally done, but you get the idea
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Currently, there are some little spaces in the panels, which I think are feature-not-bug, as they will let leaves and water and such fall through the porch. That said, I may end up having to put ply below the panels (just depending on how structurally sound they are when I’m done putting them together), in which case, that benefit is nullified and I end up filling in the holes with offcuts or shims.

Next step: glue the individual pieces together into panels with heavy duty construction adhesive. I did this today: here’s that process, with unfortunately the most boring and least patchwork-y panel showing.
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My thinking is that tomorrow, I’ll put some wood screws in them to bolster up the construction adhesive, then I will edge the whole thing in 2x2s and screw on some small legs. If it’s wobbly, though, I will do something else. This is a totally improvised (and totally free) project, so I will not be too stressed if it’s a disaster.

Completion rate: Maybe 40%? There are definitely some more steps, even if everything holds together perfectly.

Project Five: Lay floating floor in loft

OK, I could not believe how easy this was, even for a click-together floating floor. First, I put down some spacers over the ply underlay (the wrong way, it turns out: when Mom saw these pictures, she told me that the spacers needed to be upright so there’s only about a 1/4″ space between the floor and wall. Oops! Tomorrow I will go change those around and then slide the whole floor over, as it’s not attached to anything yet.)
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Then I laid the first row of boards down, putting the tongue of one board into the groove of the previous board and then folding them down. For the next row, I did the same thing, but when I got each board in place, I carefully pounded it in with a hammer and woodblock so it snapped into the groove of the corresponding plank in the first row.

The seam between the two rows of planks before I got the boards pounded in
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[PS: I have not, as of yet, staggered the planks: I just laid them out in even rows. This is maybe a stupid idea, structurally? It seems to be working OK for the moment, though: it’s a small space, there’s only going to be three rows of flooring, and it’ll be held in by molding. And seriously, this whole thing took me about 45 minutes, so if I need to redo it, it is no big loss.]

Finished for the day. Tomorrow, I need to bust out Ye Olde Chop Saw and cut some pieces to fit between row #2 and the back wall, plus the edge pieces (the third row is not going to be quite as long as the current planks)
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Yay! Tomorrow’s pre-dog class projects: finish the loft floor, start touch-up painting, paint the bathroom ceiling, maybe do a paper template for the bathroom floor so I know where to cut the vinyl.

Finally, one shot of the house exterior as of today. ❤ ❤ ❤
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…and one of a cool Cooper’s Hawk I saw on the way home, when I took the dogs to run in Elephant Head as a reward for being good patient contractors today.
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