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?

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!

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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Build: Day 19

I have to admit that a lot of the actual building today was done by Jeff: I came down late in the day and pounded some nails into some pre-cut wallboards, but I spent most of the day out playing hunter-gatherer.

Biggest news: Interior wallboard is all up! It looks unfinished, since there is no molding on the floor, filler between the sheets of ply or quarter round at the seams, but it is U-P-up! I can now officially say that the house has walls, which is always the first question I am asked by jovial senior citizens. Here’s proof!
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Here’s the view from the loft.
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Also, the shower is all the way up now. I may just have to accept that the layout of the bathroom means I will never get a good picture of the shower. Just use your imagination, though: it is a shower enclosure, and an especially boring one at that. Right now it is being used as extra insulation/sink storage.
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The fauxlarium is looking good now that it’s insulated and has walls! Now that that’s happened, I need to figure out precisely what I’m going to do with it. Drawers? Bookshelf? Cute window seat? Some combination of those things? Here’s Nellie standing in it, to give you a sense of the dimensions (though if I do bookshelves or something it’ll obviously be built out a bit.
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Here’s the exterior of the house + the super-blue sky today. The chile ristra is a present from my mom: it’s too early to be in the ‘decorate the exterior of the house’ stage, but I loved it so much I wanted it to be in its place of honor (though I will be replacing the random offset nail I hammered in with an Actual Hook at some point soon.)
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So that’s what happened while I was gone. When I got to the site today, I swept up a ton of sawdust (learning in the process that I need a different set of tools for sweeping the loft, since the big broom is too tall), pounded in some wallboard, and played around in the house with the dogs.

The dogs are pro-houselet.
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Gratuitous Widget picture.
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For those of you who know my dogs and are wondering where Lucy is, I will tell you: she’s been down a few times, but the build site is located next to a major highway, and big loud trucks give her the vapors. She’s an anxious kiddo, and the build site is just too much for her right now (she also hates the generator), so I usually just bring Nellie and/or Widget along with me. She just started Prozac a few weeks ago, though, so I have high hopes she’ll be able to manage it before we actually move the houselet to its new home.

Now, onto the day’s hunter-gathering:
1) I bought me a water heater, my water heater pleased me, I fed my water heater under yonder tree (the water heater says fiddle-eye-fee). It’s going to be mounted under the main sink in the kitchen (we hope)

2) I went back to the floor remnants store and bought the flooring for the loft. They ended up selling the bamboo I was hoping for to the original builder, so I bought the cheap laminate instead. I know the laminate was controversial in the last poll and I don’t disagree: it looks OK, but I feel very dubious about its longterm potential. What really pushed me over the edge with it was that they sold it to me for fifty cents a foot, for a total of $53. That makes the grand total for flooring the entire house $237.66 ($60 for the random lot of bamboo at Gerson’s [4 boxes], $88.66 for two more boxes of the same bamboo from Home Depot that I needed to finish out the main floor [that’s all I bought full price], $36 for the awesome hippie fiberfloor from the remnants place, $53 for the loft laminate). Considering that I’m flooring right around 300 sq ft, that is pretty darn good: if I’d gotten the cheapest stuff that I was looking at at Lumber Liquidators ($2.99/ft.2), it would have cost more than three times that much to do the whole house (let’s not even discuss what it would have been from a full-price, non-Lumber Liquidators source!) I’m getting a little closer than I’d like to the edge of my 18K initial budget (my stretch budget is 20K, and I think we’ll make that comfortably, but still), so I was OK going with the less spendy option.

This is the Tiny House Corner in my sainted mother’s garage. You can see all three floors in it: the fiberfloor is the roll, the bamboo is the first six boxes in the stack, and the top four are laminate. Behind all that is my craigslist convection microwave, my free mini-fridge that I’m going to turn into a tiny freezer and a bunch of my Ikea stuff.
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The pile of scrapwood to the left is the beginning of a potentially crazy project. I’ve been thinking about porches lately: after considering it a bit, I think the fold-up porch idea is not going to fly, since we’re skirting pretty close to the max road legal width (8’6″). I really dig how Chris and Malissa of the Tiny Tack House (one of my favorite Internet Tiny Houses) did their porch: it’s substantial, but you can still bring it in when you need to, and it reminds me a bit of pallets (and I loooooove pallet furniture, though I think actual pallets wouldn’t work for a porch).

Anyway, we have all this scrap wood kicking around and I got the idea that I could stain different pieces different colors and put them all together parquet-style, kind of like a patchwork quilt made of wood. After I got the main deck together, I could edge it with 1x2a, put some little legs on it, then I could duplicate the Tiny Tack House porch’s stairsteppy design. It might not work, but I got some construction adhesive and some stain tonight, so if worse comes to worse, I’m just out eight bucks.

A couple more cool scores, thrift and otherwise:
3) I got three bits of this cool natural stone/glass tile at Gerson’s the other day with the intent of turning it into a small backsplash in the kitchen.
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Here’s what I was thinking, using my mom’s sink as an example.
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4) Today I went into the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store with an eye out for exterior lights/floor underlay. They didn’t have either of those things, but they did have these for $3 apiece.
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They are little library card/index card holders, so the drawers are really deep, good for storage of stuff like utensils. They’ll need some love, primarily in the form of paint, but I can do that (oil rubbed bronze? pewter?) I’m thinking about mounting them under the counter in the kitchen, just to have some nice, waist-high drawers to grab things from. I’m also thinking about buying some hairpin legs, putting them on the bottom of two of the card holders and using them as nightstands. In any case, they are awesome and I was pleased.

5) Besides the ristra from my mom, I got two great little houselet-adjacent presents this week. My mom’s friend Jen (my friend too!) sent me this fabulous little mini grater/microplaner, which is adorable and totally houselet scale.
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Also, my Aunt Karen, who’s an incredibly talented and well-known quilter, sent me two tiny quilted squares, complete with tiny easels to display them [PS: the color looks washed out because I had to use a flash, but in person, they’re really beautiful.) I am toying with the idea of making a little mantel for my fireplace out of a little mesquite burl with a live edge, and now that I have some tiny art to display on it, I am even more excited about the idea. I am so happy to have a piece of my aunt’s work to put in the house: stuff like that makes it feel really special and uniquely my own.
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Now, onto the most boring possible subject: white paint! As I promised, I did some test patches of different whites on a scrap piece of the wall ply, and exactly as I feared, it is basically impossible to tell one from the other in pictures. See?
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In the interest of Science!, I decided to try to gauge what my skin tone looked like next to the different whites, because why not, right? My weird Sicilian/Cherokee skin is olive with, no kidding, a purple-y undertone, which means that a. I can wear jewel tones and b. I always look a little bit sickly, so I decided to try just photographing my thumb next to each white to see which made me look the least Zombie Apocalypse. I also tried it out with clear poly, just for kicks. It’s still kind of hard to say, but I ended up deciding that the Benjamin Moore Atrium White was the way to go, probably not least because I am charmed that the White House is the same color. I also really like the Benjamin Moore White Dove (Atrium’s a little pinker, Dove is a little grayer), so I guess my plan is to show up at the paint store and just buy whatever I feel the best about that morning.
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PS: if you are bored by the idea of all white, you might check out the ProtoHaus, which is maybe my most favorite preexisting tiny house (Tack House: close second). They go all white, but because they have nice colorful possessions, the house doesn’t seem boring or sterile at all. The white actually kind of reigns in any visual chaos, and I think it really makes the space open up: that’s why all white is the way I’m doing it.

Painting is happening….really soon, though I don’t know HOW soon, since I am slated to work for the next five days straight. Possibly tomorrow afternoon? We shall see.

Build: Day Fifteen & Sixteen

Progress update!

1) Painting! I finished painting the exterior finally, even the super annoying stuff way up high (my mom came the last day and helped with some of the extra-extra annoying stuff, which was a lifesaver). Verdict on the color now that it’s all on? Pretty good, especially with the white trim and the…..

P A I N T E D D O O R!
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I am so pleased with the former Sadness Door! There was much talk of red in the comments, I know, and that was what I was considering for a long time, but when push came to shove,
a. I was still missing the blues, and
b. more practically, I had a lot of blue paint that I’d already paid for left over from when I was trying out samples.

Sadness Door is now painted Sherwin Williams ‘Rainstorm’, one of the colors I was considering for a whole-house color. In person, it is a really gorgeous Prussian blue and I am totally enamored with it. Mom painted the door: it needs another coat yet, but I’m nuts about the way it looks. Same color is going under the eaves: I am told by my Sicilian father that blue under the eaves is Italian Good Luck, and who am I to argue with that?

2) Got the rest of the trim up around the windows. Yay! Trim needs a little going-over in spots: there were some places that accidentally got hit with the house paint color, and some raw ends I apparently didn’t do, but it’s looking pretty good! Here it is on the boring side of the house (just imagine it with a slat screen someday.)
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…and in the back, where I never take pictures.
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The flashing has a ton of paint on it–I couldn’t really get it successfully taped off–and at some point, I’m going to need to get back up on the ladder with a wire brush and get it off so I have nice neat, shiny, galvanized lines. But, you know, just imagine that part.

3) Plumbing! On Monday, Jeff ran the plumbing. But I have no in-progress pictures of that, because I was in Phoenix. I had a couple of good reasons for abandoning my happy little build site and a fun day of learning about plumbing, though, the biggest being:

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I unashamedly love Ikea. I love basically everything about it. I love convertible furniture, I love their cool kitchen stuff, I love wandering around in their “Here is how you can comfortably fit a family of four in 468 sq. ft!” displays. I love the little Scandinavian food area and I love eavesdropping on couples getting in relationship-ending fights over which finish they want for their Snedlar. Love it!  My Ikea mission this time included sinks (bathroom and kitchen), fun kitchen organizationy things and a foldup table. And indeed, I got all those things! But the other reason I had to brave Phoenix was to pick up my denim! insulation! The story of why I had to brave Phoenix for insulation is long and boring and I promise you that you don’t need a rundown of what quantities Lowe’s does and does not carry and how they will order it: suffice to say, if you want a small amount of denim insulation, you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for it, and you live near a recalcitrant Lowe’s, you might find yourself driving to the surprisingly small factory where Bonded Logic (the company) makes all the denim insulation (aka Ultratouch) in America. The good news for me is that that happened to be within driving distance (I won’t go over the bad news, but suffice to say, it rhymes with ‘Screenix’). This company, PS: is kind of amazing–they pulled two bags, which is a smaller quantity than they normally sell but all I need for the houselet, off the production line for me, and then they gave me the wholesale price since I drove up there. Their product is great, but they also were pretty terrific.

Educational segment! Would you like to see what a denim-insulation-making factory looks like? It looks like this!
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Educational question: is it possible to get two enormous bags (measuring 236 linear feet) of denim insulation into the back of a 2006 Scion xa? Yes, you say? Well, what if you have a pit bull in the front seat? The answer, surprisingly, is yes again, though barely!
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[
My car is the greatest. There is basically nothing you can’t fit in it. I bet you could get like six dozen clowns in there.]

Once I got that, there was a brief lacuna when I attempted to buy a compact dishwasher from a crazy hoarder on Craigslist (verrrrry narrow paths through house, towering inferno of madness everywhere else). The dishwasher turned out to be not compact enough for me (or my very-stuffed car), but I say again: Craigslist is an amazing introduction to a vibrant crossection of humanity that you might not otherwise get to witness.

And then: Ikea, where I found everything I was looking for: kitchen sink, which comes with an awesome strainer basket that goes over the small bowl and a cutting board that fits snugly into the larger bowl, adding significantly to my kitchen prep space (and you all know I’m a sucker for robot furniture). Dish drainer that can hang over my sink, harmlessly letting dishes drip into the sink itself, and then can be folded up when not in use. Bathroom sink, which I think is going to sit parallel with the giant window in the bathroom (solving my picturesque toilet problem). Magnetic knife rack. Folding table, which looks better in person, and hey, it’s a tiny house classic for a reason. Then I ate mushroom crepes and strange, delicious Swedish sparkling elderberry cider and felt happy, even though I was still in Phoenix.

And did it all fit in my magical car, even with the denim insulation and the pit bull? Well, obviously!

W. kitchen sink and table
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W. bathroom sink + pit bull
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When I got home, I quietly chucked the insulation in Jeff’s car (it pays to have your contractor live nearby) and went to bed.

Today I was also largely away from the build site: I went to Gersons with my mom to get faucets, and it turned into kind of an epic trip. But I did go down and take pictures, and as always, Jeff has been hoppin’.

Walls mostly insulated
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Insulated ceiling
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Here’s Nellie sitting on a pile of denim insulation, neatly illustrating why I wanted it in the house in the first place.
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Plumbing! (hole there=toilet pipe opening)
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Tomorrow was supposed to be Interior Walls Day, but when I got home, I realized that one bag of my insulation is actually the wrong size (which I should have caught yesterday but didn’t, due to the fact that my car was one big blue mass after the insulation guys loaded it up). So Plan of the Day is to figure that out so we can finish insulating the last of the walls. I assume that while I’m doing that, Jeff’s going to start putting the wallboard up on the walls that have already been insulated. I forsee more painting in my immediate future, though hopefully not another drive to Phoenix.

*ETA: I just talked to the awesome lady at Bonded Logic, the insulation place, who apologized for the mistake about 75 times and told me that they’re going to send a courier (!!) from Phoenix to my town with my new insulation today. That is going to cost them an arm and a leg, and it puts them into my current Hall of Customer Service Champions. Seriously, these guys are just terrific. If you build a tiny house, may I suggest Bonded Logic’s Denim Ultratouch Insulation? It is more expensive then fiberglass, but a million times better on basically every metric, plus it is not going to poison you, plus the company is delightful. Talk to Elizabeth, she is the greatest.

Build: Day Fourteen

I got to the build site at about noon today because I spent the morning trying to track down more flooring and denim insulation that will fit my weird 24″ wall spacing (more on that insulation thing in a sec.) Jeff had been there since 9, and when I got there, I found that he had

1) Built a bathroom wall, including space for the bathroom pocket door, and put in the shower pan for my new shower enclosure (which I hate, but was one of the Compromises of Yesterday: there just isn’t anything else that is going to fit the space without being too heavy/too expensive. But I am already planning how I am going to rip it all out someday soon and put in something a little more custom.) Tiny bathroom is tiiiiiiiiny, and minimizing claustrophobia is going to be my great decorating challenge in there: wee baby pit bull is in there for scale.
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2) Drilled out the hole for the drain (which is no minor thing, as it involves drilling through the subfloor and trailer decking).
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3) Finished a whole lot of the electrical work. Here is the home of my future badass chandelier (I am considering making this and/or a teeny tiny non-obtrusive ceiling fan).

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[I feel like Jeff has to be a) Amish, b) on speed all the time or c) employing a secret band of minions he dismisses the minute he senses I’m going to show up, because otherwise I cannot fathom how he gets things done as quickly and as well as he does.]

Anyway, I had plans to paint more, but instead I spent an hour watching Jeff finish the electrical work: electricity is something where I have ZERO practical knowledge, outside the realm of like, a potato clock, and I really wanted to get a sense of how it all fit together. It turns out it’s not that terrible! The outlets are placed every six feet, and you run regular plastic-coated wire (the kind you see in spools at the hardware store) through the top and out the bottom. Then you just connect it through to the next outlet. If you’ve ever connected a stereo to speakers using speaker wire, it is weirdly quite a lot like that. Much more mundane, much less FLOWING RIVERS OF CURRENT-BASED DEATH.

This wire, PS, is going to be on the outside of the shower enclosure. Just so you know.
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You do the same thing for the light switches and for the dedicated fridge outlet, and then all the coils of wire end up balled up together at the future site of a junction box/circuit breaker. They’ll all be connected in, and then voici: power! Also, here is a thing I didn’t know: you drill holes in your framing studs and run the wire through those holes so your wire isn’t randomly floating around in your walls and you’re not accidentally pounding nails into your electrical system when you hang up pictures. Fascinating! Sorry, people who are more seasoned with electrical work than I am (which is to say, at all). I know this is really elementary stuff: I just found it all totally weird and interesting.
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Then I went out and painted for a while. Bearing in mind that 1. this is not done yet and primed sections always look terrible on their own, 2. this is only a first coat in any case, 3. there is no trim on yet, which will make it look a lot more finished (all of the trim is sitting on the sawhorses in the front of the house, waiting to be painted high gloss white [which I also did today]) and 4. the color is actually a little darker than it shows up in the photos, here are some pictures of the houselet clad in Benjamin Moore Pewter

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I have been painting for like half my life and it still looks awful, but I think tomorrow’s going to be the day it comes together.

More pictures!
Here’s what it looks like when I climb up the ladder, raise the camera over my head, point it at the roof and click the button. The whiteish stuff is the roof composite. See, I told you it was not fascinating!
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What you see in this picture by the fauxlarium is a bale of fiberglass insulation, which is going back tomorrow (miscommunication!). I am feeling very intense about using denim, to the point where I am just past listening to other opinions, and I want it to the point where I am considering driving 300 miles round trip to source it tomorrow. Today made me have a weird amount of sympathy for the people who show up on “Bridezillas”: if you’re in the midst of a big project (especially if you’re not used to doing big projects), and the project feels momentous and like a one-time thing, and you’ve got a picture in your head of what you want and are finding out that reality sometimes requires things to be a little different, a point comes where you find yourself screaming at the camera that “THERE ARE GOING TO BE FREAKING DOVES AT THIS WEDDING IF IT KILLS ME!” and not even caring that America is laughing at you. And that was me with the insulation today.
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But fiberglass insulation can go to hell, honestly. That stuff is the worst.

For everyone who was concerned Nell would have trouble with the loft stairs, she says no worries.
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Tripod pittie is all over this
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From the living room
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My ceiling, let me show you it. [I am going to stain the rafters something dark, I think: you guys like that idea? Sort of mini-Hearst Castle-y?]
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Quick poll: that’s the ceiling looking back at the loft. If you’re in the house, the stairs are on your right. You see that little open space that allows you to look into the loft? [you can see it in the living room shot too] Jeff wants to enclose that: I want to leave it open.

Jeff’s argument: if it’s enclosed, it’ll be private space and there will be good separation from the rest of the house.

My argument: if it’s enclosed, it’ll suddenly go from feeling light and airy to feeling like a coffin. Plus, in my theoretical plannings, I am going to mount a projection screen over the fauxlarium (it’ll be able to roll up and down, obviously) so I can watch movies and Netflix and such on a big screen, and this way I’ll be able to watch it from bed (this is in lieu of having an actual TV box, which I do not have now [note: not for “oh, I don’t watch TV” reasons, just because I currently stream everything]). Also, privacy from who, precisely? Am I really going to be having an army of people over in my living room while I am sleeping? And if so, wouldn’t a roll up shade do the trick? Also, if it’s closed, where will the cats do their acrobatics?

Second question! Interior walls are going to be painted white for sure (maybe with natural cedar in the bathroom). Should they be made of:

Smooth plywood, to approximate kind of a drywall look without the drywall/moving issues

Beadboard siding, like so but all over

Tomorrow: plumbing! And more bathroom installation! And then maybe some hot denim action, depending on if I can get it in. Also, second coat of paint, installation of wall trim, painting the top section of the house, mom painting the door.