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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Kitchen Island

Hi everyone,

I hope your holidays were filled with food, fun, and family.  We hosted the in-laws for a weekend in the new townhouse.  It was a packed house with 14 people (we rented a nearby Air BnB for some extra sleeping room).  The large eat in kitchen was the key to hosting successfully as we have added a few things since moving in to increase storage and seating options there.  Today I want to highlight one of the projects from the kitchen, our new kitchen island.
The house came with a large butcher block island but it was simply not enough storage for all of our kitchen things, particularly gifts from our wedding last year.  I knew we would have to add an island and wanted something that looked more like a piece of furniture, similar to the island in our old house.  I did my usual perusals of Craigslist and Nextdoor and stumbled upon this beauty.  I was able to meet the seller close to the new house and then manuevered it into the new place all by myself.  Well ok, I manuevered it into the new house just enough to close the door and then waited for the hubs to help me get it up the steps and into the kitchen.
This island sells on Amazon for around $400 but I got it used for $100.  We did not need the wine storage but the cubbies were still useful as well as the drawers.  It wasn't the right color so...I painted it.  Several times actually.  I started with Heirloom White Rust-Oleum spray paint but it wasn't providing enough coverage, so I matched the spray paint to traditional paint and at Home Depot and went after it again.  Every single nook and cranny.  I am really considering hiring out furniture painting in the future to have it professionally sprayed and finished, at least for heavy use furniture.  It was exhausting and I already need to do some touch up paint and another finish coat.  Still, it looks good.

See the splotchy coverage of the spray paint.  I thought it would go away after a few more coats, but it just got worse.

After one coat of traditional paint, the island looked...almost finished.  I still did two more coats to be safe, but...much better.

Next it was time to source a countertop.  I thought a wood top would be best in the kitchen, but the new large thick butcher block tops were just a little too expensive.  Cue $20 Craigslist find - large solid wood coffee table with thick wood top.  A whole lot of sanding later (which the hubs helped with), we had our island countertop.
First we had to sand off the shiny finish.

Then we had to sand off the stain.

We did a quick dry fit and the wood top was ALMOST perfect.  The size was exactly right, but it had a little bowing so we put it under a makeshift tent with the humidifier which flattened it out a little.  It's still not exact, has character.

On to staining.  I tested out a bunch of stains on the bottom of the island and was unhappy with most of the options.  I tried my usual go to Miniwax dark walnut stain.  The wood has some reddish parts to it which did not look good with the first coat of walnut stain.  The second coat was more even but it was so dark it obscured the grain and really made the top look similar to its original coffee table finish.  Back to the drawing board.

Next, I decided to try to even out the reddish tones using a Miniwax white stain, a new option I picked up on sale at Home Depot.  I started out with some very light coats and it seemed to be work.  The below pictures show the change over time as the white stain evens out the color variation in the different wood tones in the island, giving it a nice even look.

BEAUTIFUL.  We attached it with clear gorilla glue and put some heavy items on it to weight down during the drying process.  On to sealing.

I read a LOT of blogs about sealing options before making a decision.  I had originally wanted something food safe but tung oil was changing the color of my stain in an unappealing way and the smell was horrendous.  After reading more blogs and web posts, I decide to try some wipe on poly.  Three layers later, it really wasn't enough to hold up to day to day use of the island.  Wet dishes put on the island to dry left rings.  Sigh.  After a light sanding, I put on three coats of polycrylic while the hubs watched.  This stuff had only a slight smell, went on super easy, and really finished off the island perfectly. 

After a brief break to let it cure, we had a fully functioning kitchen island with storage and a thick wood top.  The cabinets hold our bowls and trashbags, the cubbies hold foils, plastic bags, tupperware, and the drawers hold our oven mitts, appliance manuals, and bottle openers.  On top is my red bowl and the fancy cheese board my bosses got us as a wedding gift.  This project was finished in August 2018, right before my father and brother came to visit.   It has held up nicely over the last few months - like I said, we use it pretty much daily so there's some slight wear on the edges of the door and island and it will need to be sanded and resealed again due to the early mistakes with the finish, but oooooohh!

Look how good the wood grain looks under than white stain!  Look how thick it is!  Look how it looks under the light from the skylight!  I think for the first month, the hubs and I would just touch it and let out little sighs of satisfaction.

I want you to ignore all the sneak peeks of the kitchen you're getting.  Wait for my kitchen post.  WAIT.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Suburban House Dining Room update

Hi everyone,

So now that you're all caught up, I want to show you what we've done so far to some of the spaces in the house.  We are renting the house, so there are some things we cannot change or will have to change back when we move out.  Still, I wanted to make the house work as much as possible for us and feel like our home while we were there.

Let's start with the dining room.  Here's what it previously looked like:

You know that red immediately had to go.  Luckily, our landlords approved my request for a color change.  The hubs and I had previously rented a house with a similar red wall in the living room and peach walls in the dining room.  We agreed that we would paint the walls grey, but he wanted to go with a much lighter almost white grey that did not appropriately show off the contrast between the wainscotting/trim and the wall color.  I reminded him of that issue when we were choosing a grey for the new house and we went with a light but warm grey for the walls this time.

We were able to paint the walls two weeks before moving in and did a pretty great job if I do say so myself.  We also had to do some catproofing of the kitchen pass through.  As you may remember, the hubs cats are NOTORIOUS for hanging out in the kitchen on the counters whenever we aren't around and then noisily scampering away as we come into the house or down the stairs.  The old Baltimore house had a door between the kitchen and the living room, so that wasn't as much of an issue, though Rey would try to jimmy the door open EVERY SINGLE DAY.  The kitchen in the suburban house has a skylight which brings a lot of light into the dining room space so I wanted a barricade that kept the cats out and let the light in.  Luckily, Amazon had some reasonably priced options to make this work.  It only took this screen and a few cat gates with nets on top to account for Bob's jumping abilities to make the kitchen cat free.  Sigh.

Next, we moved in and put our old dining room furniture in the space.  Luckily our refurbished china cabinet fit into the room and worked well with the new color scheme, as did the hubs old IKEA dining room table and chairs.  

Our refurbished console table (right side of picture above) did not fit in the entry hall as well as our smaller console table/buffet, so we changed their positions and put the refurbished one in the dining room this time.  It went GREAT with the wall color and the tile mirror was hung above it.  I think we hung it a little too high, but the next time we take it down, it's staying down.  This mirror was one of my first DIYs and its just showing its age in terms of wear and tear, so I've started looking for a replacement piece for the wall, but haven't found anything I've liked enough yet.

We did purchase some old IKEA bookshelves for the spaces next to the china cabinet and I spray painted them teal for a pop of color in a very neutral room.  I think they look blue in the pictures, but they're teal, I promise you.  Very inexpensive add that works well in the space.

So that's the dining room.  In preparation for the holidays (we're hosting the hubs extended family), I've added a neutral rug with some natural fibers for texture and I already have some chair covers.  The chairs are microfiber and have held up well to the cats over the years, but its their favorite place to sit in the house and the cushions are just no longer pristine.  I'll try to take some pictures of the space with those additions and our holiday decorations before the guests arrived.

More new spaces coming soon...

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A LOT of Changes

Hi everyone,

Remember that whole mysterious almost year long absence from the blog thing?  We've been busy.

So...we got married.  We had a mini-honeymoon in Jamaica after a work conference I had there.  We had a bigger honeymoon in Barcelona, the hubs dream trip. It was fantastic!

We also moved.  We moved to Silver Spring.  The hubs had been commuting for almost two years taking two buses and two trains for a 2.5 hour commute one way.  I always arrived home first no matter how late I worked.  I cooked dinner every night.  Something had to give.

We did not sell the 100 year old + Baltimore house.  We rented it.  To some very nice graduate students who love it.  It was very sad to move away from our gorgeous house.

Silver Spring is a lot more expensive than Baltimore.  We knew we couldn't afford a house with all the nice finishes our old house had.  So we decided to settle for something in a prime location (quieter than the Baltimore house), with an extra bathroom or two for guests (better layout than the Baltimore house), and maybe a larger kitchen since we've continued the Blue Apron thing for a while (bigger kitchen than the Baltimore house).  We looked for about two weeks, and found the suburban Silver Spring house.

So we've lived here now for about 8 months and it was time to tell you.  I wasn't keeping it a secret, I was just...busy.  I'm commuting now, since I'm still working in Baltimore.  I've adjusted my hours which makes things a little better.  And I'm back.

So...the rental house.

It's a townhouse in a community with both townhouses and houses.  There's a swimming pool and tennis court and basketball court.  And a creek in the back.  It's really peaceful and quiet.  No sirens.  No helicopters.  No theft (yet).  Really really nice.  Don't get me wrong, we do miss Baltimore.  But, it's nice to sleep peacefully.

Ready for some pictures?

 Living room - very cosy

Dining room - I always seem to find rental houses with a red wall that is angrily demanding to be painted.

Kitchen with eat in area and skylight - these walls are just as demanding regarding the paint, but a little quieter about it than the red.

Guest room.  You know the blue is going to go GREAT with our decor.

My office.  Where the magic will have to happen now.

Master Bedroom - it's HUGE.  Ridiculously so in comparison to the other rooms.

So that's the tour, folks.  I can't wait to show you some of the things we've been doing to cozy it up and make it our own. I think we'll start with the dining room.