Row House = one part home + one part construction zone
Yesterday I mentioned how we "found" a piece of sheetrock in our downstairs living room, so today I thought it only appropriate to show a sneak peek of what that room currently looks like. Pictured: the King of Comfort looking incredibly uncomfortable. Also: several layers of contractor's paper to cover the floors we've already refinished, my vintage sofa covered in plastic (Pete jokes that it will always stay this way because of my Italian heritage), and piles of wood scrap and sheetrock. Buried somewhere in the mess is 12 feet of butcher block that we need to cut down for the kitchen counter tops. What's not pictured: stacks of cardboard boxes from our appliances, foam packing supplies, an overturned Tupperware container that was filled with miscellaneous screws, and a random scattering of power tools.
Row House = one part home + one part construction zone
"We're not using the toilet valve to fill up our cooking pots," Pete stated as we stood in the middle of the kitchen trying to figure out the best way to cook our first meal in the house. It might have been a little early to attempt such an undertaking -- being that we didn't have counter tops or running water (let alone a sink) -- but we were determined. And Determined is a close cousin to Crazy.
So now that my downstairs bathroom siphoning idea was shot down (with good reason) we were back to where we started. We had (some) cabinets and all of our appliances. We were missing counter tops, a sink, running water, a hood over the stove, and most of our kitchen utensils were still packed away like a Hoarders episode in what would one day be the study.
I came up with a plan: we were going to prepare a meal that required little to no washing with minimal prep work. Pete tossed in the brilliant idea that everything could go into the dishwasher afterward so we didn't have to wash pots in the bath tub (or leave anything exposed -- we were still scared of bugs, even though we hadn't see any Teddy Roosevelts in awhile). Although a little rusty after not planning and cooking a meal in over two months, Team Scalia-Murphy was still able to pull through for a win. We were pretty pumped.
Pete and I chat on and off throughout the day on Facebook or via text. Lately, though, are communications have taken on the distressed nonsensical ramblings of people stranded on an island. Except that we don't have the luxury of sand beaches or sunshine. Instead we're stuck in New Jersey in the winter.
To illustrate my point, here's a snippet of our conversation from the other day:
PETE: I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about light switches in the kitchen
KRISTEN: I've never wanted to do laundry so badly in my entire life
PETE: Right? What is this?
KRISTEN: I'm going to wash all of my underwear
PETE: I'm going to watch them spin around and drink a beer
PETE: Me and Ernie ... just watching the spinning
Sexy, right? There's also drawn out discussions about skimming walls and -- my personal favorite -- antique door options. But, as you can imagine from yesterday's cabinet post, the next step in our kitchen process is the appliances. We are currently waiting for a few more cabinet pieces to arrive (including 12 feet of butcher block that we're making into counter tops) and finishing some minor plumbing and electrical work. I can not stress how done we are with waiting. So you can imagine our excitement when we finished the cabinets this weekend and were anxiously waiting (there's that word again) for the appliances to arrive Monday morning between 8:00AM and 12:00PM. Except instead of being our rescue boat off the island of kitchen insanity, the appliance people decided to test our mental fortitude.
Here's the rundown:
This weekend we're finishing up the appliance installation and hopefully cutting up the one piece of 12' butcher block we have to make the sink counter top that runs along the back wall. While the boys discuss the best way to undermount a sink and cut holes (jigsaw? router?) I'm going to gather every piece of plaster-coated fabric in the house, grab a cold beer from our new refrigerator and sit in the newly sheetrocked laundry room and watch the spinning. Happy weekend, folks.
Someone once told me it's disturbing that I call my father "Big Poppa." People, don't be gross. My father is a large man who is also my poppa. And, it's not that I want to go drawing parallels between my father and the Notorious B.I.G., buuuuuuuuuut here are the facts:
1. Like Biggie, he enjoys a good party, throwing his hands in the air, and -- with three marriages under his belt -- he is a true player
2. Also like Biggie, he enjoys empowering women to make their own money, even if it is at the expense of dummies
3. And finally, like Biggie, he's seen a lot of ladies who he wanted to have his baby because, let's be real, I'm the oldest of five kids and he probably would have kept going if he hadn't gotten neutered when I was in my teens
So let's just leave it there. That said, Big Poppa came over on Sunday to help us install the kitchen cabinets. I know you must be thinking, "Whoa! Kitchen cabinets! High-five!" But not quite. It has been a NIGHTMARE getting cabinets. The beginning was easy: we picked them out and ordered them. Now, you must be thinking, just wait for them to arrive, right? Wrong again. I won't name the company we're working with yet because they are still holding some of our cabinets hostage, but I have never been more frustrated dealing with any vendor in my entire life. And my day job is retail. I work with vendors for a living. From lying to losing information to downright being rude ... this company has taken the HR manual and set it on fire. In the beginning Pete and I were all understanding and patient but as the weeks went by we began to get suspicious that something was amiss. Let's just say that after many angry phone calls we finally received the first part of our order ... except that more than half of the items were damaged. Or missing parts. Or ordered completely incorrectly.
But we persevered and tried to be positive. There WOULD be a kitchen in our future. And that kitchen would be filled with love and home-cooked meals and maybe a voodoo doll emblazoned with the cabinet company's logo. Who knows! The ideas were as endless as the cabinet company's excuses.
So when things were finally semi-sorted we called in our secret weapon. And this is where Big Poppa makes his appearance. I knew we were off to a strong start when he arrived in his favorite sweat pants (with pockets) and immediately told me he had eaten a corn muffin in the car but was still curious about what I planned to get for lunch. It was 9:30 AM. So, while I went to procure food, together Big Poppa and Pete made a plan and got to work putting together the pieces of our kitchen.
You want to know the scary truth about renovating a new home? Things get out of hand incredibly quick. Projects that weren't even projects become priority. Mole hills become mountains. Timelines get extended and then extended again. Budgets skyrocket. And it all starts to feel a bit claustrophobic.
But, to an extent, the chaos is a necessary reality.
So with everything on our list to get completed (cough, cough: the entire ground floor) it may seem silly that the backyard was one of our biggest woes, but it was. From day one, actually.
Since we started with a sprint we quickly ran out of spots to store all of the demo materials. I listed the wood floors, a door, a toilet and additional wood scraps on Craigslist. Someone from Craigslist also came to salvage metal and the old appliances. But we STILL had to call 1-800-JUNK by the second week we were in the house. And at $300 a visit that was the only call we could make even if it was a huge help. So, as you can see from the above, the backyard became our dump.
Until we couldn't take it any more.
Then Pete had the great idea to load up my car and visit a dump out near where his mom lives. So on Saturday we piled old lathe, cement board from the kitchen, broken tiles, metal pipes and bags of garbage into my Element and drove 45 minutes into the country.
You may be thinking: "Hey, Kristen, you can reuse that wood! Why throw it away?" Well that was my thought as well. I actually have a little remorse at tossing that lathe. But do you know what convinced me to just get rid of the entire lot? I was walking up the back steps to put a load of garbage in the back of my car and I tripped on a wire or metal rod and almost went face first into the business end of a board with nails sticking out of it. Right there and then I was over the backyard being a dump. I didn't want to die by impalement before I even made the first mortgage payment.
As I awkwardly hunched over the steps staring at the gleaming nails inches from my face a million thoughts raced through my mind, like:
So to avoid all that crazy from escaping my brain we just threw everything out. I picked myself up off the stairs and assured Pete that I was all right. We finished stacking what we could in the car and we drove it all out to the country. Like a bad dog in the 1950's, we left that garbage without a backward glance and drove home.
And that was the story of how we spent our Saturday.
It's a sort of Butterfly Effect. Instead of working on one project and seeing it through to completion I kind of flutter about the house starting projects and then starting other projects and then going back to -- Oh hey! Something shiny!
You get the point. So when I asked Pete if we could start stripping the banister the other day he just looked at me with the widest blue eyes and said, "How about we finish the living room first. Please?"
Technically we have two living rooms: one downstairs at the front door entrance and another on the second floor in what was once the parlor. We're making the parlor our main living / TV / entertaining room. From the moment we purchased the house I knew that I wanted this room to have some serious design cred. Like a teenager on summer break by the beach, I fell deeply and passionately in love with the idea of having peacock colored walls. And -- bless his little heart, open mind and patience -- Pete was completely on board with the idea.
Here were a few of the inspirations images we pulled:
(All inspiration images via Pinterest)
So after sweating at Home Depot for a few hours I pulled the trigger and bought Behr's Peacock Tail for the walls, Behr's Light French Grey for the ceiling, and Behr's Waterfall Mist for the trim. I went with a eggshell finish for the walls, a flat for the ceiling and a satin for the trim (the guy at Home Depot talked me into it).
Now we already did a little work in this room (hint: we found pocket doors hidden in the walls!) but otherwise we were just using it as a drop spot for things from our old apartment. We also ate on the floor in here on Valentine's Day. But, other than that, it was just a room we passed on the way from the upstairs to the ground floor.
So here's the real estate listing BEFORE of the room:
Now here's a few images from the painting party we had in the house:
After the room was finished being painted Pete and I took a break and ran to some of my favorite vintage haunts. At the first place we loved the furniture but not the prices. Womp. Feeling discouraged -- and with both of our phones dead -- I suggested that we visit our good friends over at LOVE Furniture in East Hanover. I knew it was close to their closing time, but we were feeling so bummed that it was worth a try.
I had seen a peacock chair there at one of my other visits and I couldn't get it off my mind, especially after pulling together Pete's "terrifying" inspiration board based on the Addams' Family. And it was still there! I snatched it up for a price that seemed like a dream.
Riding a buying high, I poked around a bit more. I couldn't stop coming back to this one couch. It wasn't necessarily my style ... but I was enamored. Pete watched me go back to it several times and finally asked me, "Do you want me to ask the price?" We'd looked at a couple couches already. They were all in the $1,000+ range and we'd agreed that with all the other renovating that still needed to be done ... well, maybe we needed to live without a couch for a bit. Still, Pete asked the price.
The owner (also named Peter) scratched his head and said, "How about $75?"
Before I could even open my mouth, Pete screamed, "We'll take it for $80!"
And that, my friends, is how we wound up with this couch:
Why just a sneak peek of the couch and not the Full Monty? Well, duh, I gotta save something for a proper Before + After post. These are just the big inspiration pieces that are going to shape the look and feel of the room.
Plus, I'm not going to give up the goods all at once. You know, I'm not that type of girl. You gotta wait for it. (Now, I just have to make sure the wait's worth it.)
When I initially posted about the guest room some of you weirdos automatically assumed this was the AFTER shot:
Why? Why in any world (that's not a 1990's sitcom or a sociopath's dungeon) would someone think this is the AFTER photo? We don't have kids. We don't particularly enjoy the combination of aqua and bubblegum. Why? That's so not cool, guys.
To recap the guest room renovation:
+ We broke through the plaster on what we hoped was a chimney (it was!) to expose brick
+ We invited over some friends for a painting party and used Behr's Porpoise to hide the teal walls
+ Painted the trim a brighter white
Still left to do:
+ Install drapes for privacy (and awesome-ness)
+ Carve out use for weird cubby to the left of the exposed brick
Here are some of the before and after shots:
"It looks like granny panties!" Michelle squealed as soggy latex paint oozed off our ground floor fireplace.
My friend G was helping out around the row house and started playing with a few stripping compounds when Michelle stopped by to say hello. We were transfixed by the array of chemicals he had splayed out like an alter to try and get through the painted fireplace.
G tried Citristrip first and it worked liked a charm ... on the first layer. It instantly bubbled the latex paint, causing it to peel away in large gauzy sections (not unlike over-sized and over-used panties). However it didn't work as easily on the deeper layers. And there were many many many layers. It was a rainbow really. Why anyone would paint a slate fireplace beige, green, black, pink, purple, white is beyond my comprehension.
The photos make this look like a fairly fast process when it really took well over a week. To have the stripper work it had to sit for at least an hour. In some spots it was more like a day. And then we scraped and scooped. Scraped and scooped. Reapplied more stripper. Let it sit. Scraped and scooped. You get the idea. But once G cut through all the layers it was pretty exciting to see what was hidden behind all that sludge.
One down and now -- let's see -- only two more to go. Then we need to strip the entire banister. And the stairs. I wonder if they sell Citristrip in huge drums ...
Oh hey, welcome to our home! What's that giant hole at the threshold of the back door? Oh nothing. Ignore it. That's just where we toss our offal and sacrificial offerings.
It also happens to be the most terrifying (maybe Pete was on to something?) part of the entire house to the dog. I'm like, "Let's go outside, Ernie!" And he's all, "Hells yea!" while booking it down the stairs, And then he runs toward the back door, skids to a stop, squeaks in fear and runs full force in the opposite direction and back up the stairs. So now I precariously carry 50 pounds of squirming dog over an open threshold several times a day. What's that? Why don't I go out the front door? Well that's currently blockaded off as we poly coat the floors. So back door tightrope walk it is! Did I mention there's live electrical wires down there? I know, I know. I didn't think it could get any better either.
This year was a renaissance of sorts. In the shop I watched Jersey City -- my home for both my self and business -- blossom and change. Like a phoenix, buildings burned down and then got built up; stores shuttered and new ones scrambled to take their places; customers I loved moved away, but new ones quickly filled the void. It's brain whip lash.
Change is refreshing, though. I thought I left a lot behind in 2012, but it looks like 2013 is going to be an even bigger dump. But ... I'm moving on up. Literally and figuratively. The row house is slated to close on January 30th and it's up the hill from downtown. Pete and I are also upgrading from a one-bedroom apartment to a multi-floor residence. There's quite a bit that stills needs to happen before this deal is completely done (1. appraisal, 2. review and negotiate home inspection results, 3. finalize mortgage, 4. closing) but that doesn't stop me from obsessively visiting appliance stores for deals or creating crazy Pinterest boards. Curious? Feel free to peruse: http://www.pinterest.com/kanibalhome/project-row-house-renovation/
I think it will be interesting to see how many of these projects we actually tackle ourselves, both the necessary and the creative. The biggest initial renovation after we get the keys will be the kitchen makeover. I even started a separate board just for that: http://www.pinterest.com/kanibalhome/kitchen-renovation-ideas/
The dream is a dark and moody kitchen, like this:
But the reality is probably a light and airy kitchen like this:
Because currently the kitchen looks like this:
And let me tell you, this is a HIGHLY STAGED kitchen. The seller's real estate agent? That man is a miracle worker. From these pictures you may be even thinking to yourself "Okay, this is not the most beautiful kitchen, but it's inhabitable." WRONG! See that hutch next to the door? Well it's hiding a window to nowhere. It has illegal wiring snaking out of it into a storage area. See that door in the back right corner? It doesn't shut. Actually, the door is falling out of its own frame. Look down: see that tile? In most places it's cracked and in others it's just not even there at all. "Okay, okay," you may be thinking. "But the appliances and those cabinets aren't so bad! I watch those HGTV demo shows and you can just paint them, right?" WRONG AGAIN! You see, friends, all those cabinets are inhabited by cockroaches. Open a drawer and there they are. Lean on a cabinet and they mosey out all sleepy, wiping crust from their gross little eyes. They are EVERYWHERE. So you can understand how I will never ever in a million years be eating or cooking or inhabiting this kitchen until every cabinet is torn out, every bug is bombed, and every tile is thrown away. So that is my kitchen conundrum. (To be continued in 30 days at closing!)