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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Schrankwerk

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]