Archive for the ‘projects’ Category

The garden room

July 21, 2013

Behold a painting miracle:


I totally LOVE the paint color, it looks even better than I expected.  It is Sherwin Williams Independent Gold in a flat finish.   We primed the walls first in white, then painted the green.  We painted the trim in West Highland White, after priming first with pigmented shellac, then 2 coats of primer.  Unfortunately, the floor has some water damage; we know what our next floor refinishing project will be, but in the meantime, we’ll add an area rug.


The chair is slipcovered with a sheet that picks up a color from the simple curtains I made.  When I met him, Dan had that little green lamp on the marble-topped commode, and the barely discernible turquoise blue dishes are a gift from the room’s frequent occupant, my twin-sister-of-another-mother (mothers who are distantly related but don’t know it), Holly.


We still need to paint the door, but it will do for now.  The ceiling is a simple white and we replaced the light with the fixture we swapped for an LED light at the entrance to the dining room.


I sewed a curtain for the closet, I’d like to add a door, but the futon makes that challenging.


Finally, today I added the purrfect touch.

Updating plank ceilings

July 20, 2013

IMG_3285We had one bedroom in our house we had never painted.  Yep, sadly, it was still as it was on the day we closed in December, 2000.  The room, directly above the living room, overlooks the backyard and features the exposed brick chimney for the woodstove.  Leaving the chimney exposed adds a rustic touch, but more importantly, when the woodstove is burning, the chimney throws a little heat, adding some extra warmth to our cold New England house.  There was a problem, though.  The chimney had a leak, and the leak damaged, and continued to damage, the drywall ceiling.

We’d tried several different ways to address the leak.  New flashing, our roofer added more asphalt sealer around the chimney roof joint, a mason came and replaced the first course of bricks, all to no avail.  Finally, in spring 2011, we had Supaflu come and retrofit a new chimney liner, and that stopped the leak.  At last we could IMG_3289paint.  Someday.

Fast forward to the present, and taa daa, we are finally painting.  First, we had to come to some agreement about what to do about the plank ceilings.  The bedrooms in our 1 1/2 story Cape are all tucked under the eaves of the house, with cozy sloped ceilings.  The two bedrooms in the main part of the house had knotty pine tongue and groove planking on the slopped portion of the ceilings, which had been left unfinished since installation.  Over the years, it had darkened IMG_3293considerably, and on one wall, we had some water stains from the chimney leak.  I felt like it made the rooms dark and cramped, but Dan liked the natural wood.  We hemmed and hawed, and finally Dan agreed to try whitewashing the planking with white stain.  For the paint, we picked out a lighter shade of yellowy-green called Independent Gold.

Wow, what a difference.  A simple coat of white oil-based stain lifted the ceilings and made the room appear significantly larger and brighter.  First we treated the water stains with Oxyclean, which lightened the stains considerably, then sanded using our random orbital sander attached to the shop vacuum, to remove dust and dirt and open the pores of the wood.  Finally, we gave the planks a thorough vacuuming to remove any residual dust.  Then, fans in the window for ventilation, we stained.  The old wood just drank up the stain, we did not even have to wipe it off.  The stain needed a couple of days to thoroughly dry, then we finished with 1 coat of polyurethane in a satin finish.  IMG_3322

It should have a second coat, but I moved on to other tasks, namely, removing the hideous wall paper and border.  Ugh.  I understand at some levels the desire to wallpaper rooms, but after removing it from walls over a number of years, I can’t foresee a day when I will decide to add wallpaper.  But I digress.  Once the wallpaper was off, we got to the fun part, painting.  More on that in part deux.  In the meantime, I’ll leave you a sneak peak of the new color.

Retrofitting lighting — adding LEDs

July 19, 2013

IMG_3282We have had some seriously ugly and dated lighting in our dining room.  It was so ugly, that two of the lamps tried to run away to hide.  One got as far as the laundry room, but the other only made it a few feet away from the mother fixture.  Operated by a different switch.  On another circuit.  Why?  I don’t know.

With a new paint job, and reconfiguring this room a little (more on that later) the time had IMG_3318come to replace the lighting.  Which is harder than it should be — lighting seems to fall into 2 categories, inexpensive and unattractive, or beautiful and wildly expensive.  Naturally, I have an eye for the wildly expensive.

IMG_3330We thought we’d replace the runaway light with a recessed can light, to minimize the appearance.  Either that, or make it go away all together.  Wandering the aisles of Home Depot, we came across a knowledgeable employee, who introduced us to what we eventually selected — a retrofit LED can light.  This light is an engineering marvel.  It is a shallow fixture, designed for supremely easy installation into a standard 4-inch junction box.  No cutting a bigger hole and all the rigmarole that comes with retrofitting a can light.  The light is generated by a computer chip via the four tiny yellow diodes seen on the open lamp in the photo on the right.  The computer chip is beneath, protected by the lamp housing.  The plastic light diffusing lens snaps back into place following installation.  It is amazingly bright.

Of course, in our situation it wasn’t quite that easy (because it never is).  The junction boxes in our dining room were 3-inch boxes, sigh.  This required IMG_3361swapping them out for modern 4-inch boxes, not difficult, just another step in what was supposed to be an easy task.  Ah well, that’s how it usually goes.  While Dan replaced the box, I painted the lights to match the new ceiling color.   Soon enough the runaway was replaced.  The IMG_3360other lamp, by the doors to the dining room/kitchen and the laundry room, is also in, but we still need to do a little ceiling repair to smooth out the ceiling where the old light fixture was. That fixture was not my favorite style, but OK, just a little big for the space, and several times suffered close calls with destruction when we were moving furniture, lumber, etc.  So that light moved upstairs to a bedroom which needed an update.

Finally, we replaced the main light fixture.  This was the difficult one, we looked and looked but could not find something we liked for less than $350, way over budget.  Finally, Dan had a brilliant idea.  We selected a basic boob light, and around it, we’ll stencil a subtle mariner’s compass.  The boob light will become the center of the compass and will look far less boobish.  We both love the idea.  So for now, the boob light is installed, sans stencil.  I hope we’ll get to it soon.

Overall, I’m really pleased.  The LED lights use far, far less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs.  The can lights really are not very noticeable in the ceiling, yet we have light when we need it.  The light quality is not the same, even with warm LED bulbs — it is a little too reminiscent of the dreadful compact fluorescent bulbs of a few years ago that made us all look ill, but for lights that are primarily used for a purpose rather than general lighting, they work.  I would highly recommend the LED fixture for anyone looking to replace traditional lighting with can lights, these are terrific.

Painted, polyed and waiting

July 5, 2013

We painted, (walls are Sherwin Williams Sassy Green, ceiling Jersey Cream) and we finished the floor with Bona Polyurethane in a Satin finish.  We took the radiator covers off, and while they were off decided to paint them.


In a happy accident, the green wall color is a perfect match to the color of the grape leaves on the arbor outside the big window when the sun is shining through them.


Now we wait for the floor to cure.  Saturday evening we can move furniture back into the room.  I can hardly wait.  In the meantime, we are sanding and painting the doors to the bathroom, basement and front entry.


It looks pretty good considering this is the first time we’ve ever done a floor.

Project creep

June 28, 2013

IMG_3157It all started with deciding to paint the living room and the remaining unpainted upstairs bedroom.  We also wanted to remove some built-in shelving, so of course, we would need IMG_3193quite a bit of drywall repair, including a pretty challenging repair by the chimney.  Dan and I are not skilled at drywall work, we even put a beadboard ceiling in our laundry room to avoid putting up a drywall ceiling.  We decided to seek professional help, and asked around and found a great contractor, Jamie, who amazingly could fit us in right away.

We’ve always disliked the textured ceiling in the living room, and it needed a lot of re-taping and repairing, so we opted to have Jamie put up a new drywall ceiling, and repair the many other little problem areas, like our half finished repair from a leak in our upstairs bath.  Jamie’s work was amazing, he could put joint compound up so smoothly it barely needed sanding.  IMG_3198

Once we dragged out all of the furniture from the living room, Dan commented that the floor looks awful, we should sand and refinish it while the room is empty.  Suddenly, the scope of the project expanded dramatically.  Dan was right, much IMG_3210easier to do it now while the house is a wreck, rather than make it a wreck next year and have to do all that dust containment again!  We rented a floor sander, and in one long, long day, sanded the entire floor.

The rental place didn’t have an orbital sander, so we opted for a pad sander as the drum sanders were too scary.  We started with a 36 grit paper, but soon switched to 20 grit, or what felt like macadam.  It worked to sand off the remaining finish in the low traffic areas.  We then went to 36, then 60, 80, and finished with 100 grit. IMG_3203 If you can rent an orbital sander, that it the way to go, but we made the pad sander work, vacuuming frequently and changing the paper often.

It looks amazing.  It still has plenty of “patina” from years of living, which is OK with us.  There are some dents and scratches and dark spots from who knows what, but we love it.  If only we could leave it as us, it even feels good underfoot.  Alas, we need to protect it from daily living, so we will be re-finishing with a water-based low sheen polyurethane floor finish.

Unfortunately, we seem to have entered monsoon season here in Maine, and after a spectacular week last week, we have had humid, gray days since Monday, with rain, humidity and overcast skies predicted through Independence Day.   Yuk.  not great weather for polyurethane.  For now, we’ve covered the floor in plastic and have moved on to painting the ceiling and walls.  We’ll even (I hope) add polyurethane to the never-finished section of the wainscoting.  Maybe by the time we finish that, the sun will return?  I can hope.

Neverendingbathroomproject inches closer to completion

March 24, 2013

IMG_2814Today, we got the beadboard panel up on the back of the shower fixture wall, made baseboard and ceiling molding for it, painted them and will install by the end of the day.  Whew!  Dan cleverly marked the heights of IMG_2823all the interior framing in the wall, then took photos for future reference.  Then up went the beadboard and we closed it up.  I’m so happy to have that done.

Dan is working on adding an outlet in the beadboard cubby under the mirror.  No more plugging in the hair dryer next to the faucet.  GFCI outlet or not, that just gave me the heebie jeebies, especially after i saw the episode of Six Feet Under where the cat electrocuted her owner by knocking the hot rollers into the tubIMG_2834 while the owner is bathing.  Mercedes would do that, if she had the chance.  Anyway, I love this new feature, it might be my favorite part of the whole renovation deal.

We’re almost done.  What’s left, you ask?  Dan is working on re-fitting the door to the frame.  He had to make a new piece of molding and install the strike plate so the door would latch. IMG_2829 There’s a little more caulking to do, then I need finish painting the door frame and the back of the door.  And we need to pick a new color for the other side of the door, and all the doors on the first floor.  That’s got us both stymied.  It needs to be a shade that looks good with all the colors we’ve got going in the house.

When we moved in we both knew we wanted color.  Most of the walls in the house were an uninspiring off-white, which did nothing to enhance the warmth and charm of the pine wainscoting.  So we added color and lots of it.


We’ve got


The pine wainscot, very similar to this color, throughout the houseBehr Fox HollowThe living room color, Behr Fox Hollow green,  This image looks a but dusty to me, it is a piney green shade.

Behr Beaverwood

Then in the kitchen we have Behr Beaverwood, a nice taupe shade.

Maleya red

And finally in the dining room we have this great red, Ralph Lauren Maleya Red.   All these years later and I still love this shade.

Sherwin Williams Teal Stencil

We’ve got furniture painted in all the above shades plus this delicious greeney blue, Sherwin Williams Teal Stencil.

So, suggestions for the doors?  They are currently a muddy off white/tan/cream shade, blech.  I suppose one option would be to strip them, but… no.  If I had a handy staffer to tackle these jobs, maybe, but I think paint is the answer.  The question is the color.  I’d love to hear your suggestions!



The irony

March 3, 2013

The tiling is complete.  We’ve given the ceiling another coat to cover up some scrapes, and I touched up a few other dings on the beadboard.  We cleaned, cleaned and cleaned some more.  I’m giving the wood vanity top a few more coats of polyurethane since we removed the sink and faucet for the finish work.  We cleaned some more.

At last, time for the final cleaning of the shower and to — drum roll please — take showers ourselves –hooray  So why am I blogging and not showering, you ask?  Good question.  Our furnace is cranky and we have No. Hot. Water.  AAUUGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!

I’m having an out of body Alanis Morrisette experience.


Dan giving the ceiling another coat of paint.


I love the color name, Pale Moon, as much as the color.


I still need to sand the drywall patch in one spot, then paint, then reinstall the sink and faucet.


The music cabinet is moved in, and already loaded with towels.  I’m happy for the most part with how this turned out.  The door rubs a bit since painting, sigh.


All this would look even better if I could take a nice hot shower, I’m sure.



Thanks to our service plan, Mike from Downeast Energy replaced the circulator pump last night at about 7:30.  I didn’t enjoy a shower last night, but I’m happy to report that this morning we had hot water and plenty of it.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Paint project: repurposed music cabinet

February 24, 2013

IMG_2435After boxing in the vent stack in the bathroom, we had a narrow little spot in the bathroom crying IMG_1586out to be used as storage.  At just 24 inches wide including the radiator running along part of the floor, I wanted to find an old bookcase or cabinet that would fit in that spot to store towels.  Ideally, it would be off the floor to improve heat circulation and to provide a place to store a bathroom scale that would be accessible enough to encourage regular use (hahaha).

While wandering around Brunswick, Maine one day, we found an old music cabinet that seemed to fit the bill.  It IMG_2694was just 20″ wide, 14″ deep, and 39″ high.  We took it home and it was just right the right size for the space, but was just too dark.  IMG_2710It had IMG_2708a pretty inlaid decorated door, but had big scratches on the top and sides.  I debated for a while, but ultimately decided to paint it yellow to fit with the room’s color scheme.

Dan and I cleared off the dining room table and turned it into my paint studio.  We covered the table with plastic, and I set to work.  First, we took the cabinet outside where I sanded it lightly, then cleaned the dust off.  We then carried it back into the dining room and I primed and used some BIN shellac sealer where the wood seemed to bleed through the primer.  I then used the same paint I used on the vanity, but added a bit of the white trim paint to make it a slightly softer shade, and avoid making it look deliberately matched, more in keeping with the overall “design” aesthetic at Henbogle House.

A couple of coats of paint later, it is ready to go as soon as the paint dries enough to re-hang the door and the bathroom is finished.  I even have a mirror I bought at a tag sale a few years ago which will fit on the wall behind the cabinet.




Tiling begins

February 23, 2013

IMG_2691Tile is now being installed.  Even with a pro at the wheel, things moved slowly as we discovered some plumbing IMG_2692problems, then a few more plumbing problems, and some framing problems which required all new framing of the fixture wall.  Our contractor, Nate, is a good problem solver and takes these old-houseIMG_2717 issues in stride, which helps keep me from freaking out over them.  Did I mention this is our only shower?  Fortunately, Dan’s mom is welcoming us to her home for showers, but it is a tad inconvenient at 17 miles away.  Dan and I go back to work on Monday so we are really hoping to get this wrapped us soon.  Showering at the campus gym lacks a certain any appeal.

After a traumatic day, when we realized we’d had some bad advice about the shower valve, I ordered a different valve online and shipped it overnight from California and IMG_2718moved on.  Who needs a rain shower, anyway, I can stand outside in the rain.  Nate installed the new plumbing, then the cement backer board, squaring up the previously precarious corners.  I’d ordered shower niche forms and Nate installed them and applied Mapei Aqua Defense roll on waterproofing.  Our spongy old shower now feels like a rock.

After all the trauma and delays, today the tiling really began.  So far, it looks great. More tiling, then grouting, then clean-up.  Then we can use the shower, hooray, and clean up all the construction dust, and then we can do some touch up painting, hang some towel hooks, and move in.  The end is in sight, if you squint.

Out, damned shower, out I say!

February 17, 2013

IMG_2661Vacation week has arrived at last, and as is our wont, it will include some DIY projects, namely finishing up the bathroom renovation!  We decided to recruit a trained professional IMG_2667to install the tile shower surround, but Dan and I spent today preparing for it by removing the last of the hideous blue shower.

We were both dreading this, recalling how painful the floor tile removal was, but it was not bad, actually.  It probably took about 3 hours to remove all the tile and clean up, and another hour and a half to remove all the nails, screws and old caulk and take the paneling off the fixtuIMG_2678re wall.

By the end of the week, the bathroom should be finished.