Category Archives: Remodeling

A Site I Love – And a DIY Chandelier Upgrade

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One of my favorite places to visit for DIY inspiration is Remodelaholic.  It’s always interesting to see what Cass and Justin are working on in their project houses.  I love that they are all about the “re” – repurposing, reusing, reclaiming.  I especially enjoy their retro remodels.  And their contributors and guest bloggers bring so much variety and creativity to the table.

So of course I was thrilled when Remodelaholic invited me to be a guest blogger and talk about our master bathroom remodel.  If you get a chance, hop over to Remodelaholic and check out my post.

Writing a new post for Remodelaholic about my master bathroom meant looking at it with fresh eyes.  When I step into my master bathroom, I tend to see the big picture: The natural light, the airiness,

Master Bath remodel

and the sweet little black cat who is drawn to the room’s heated floor.

Master bath remodel
Priscilla ignoring her human while soaking up the heat

But in writing the post, I focused on the details again.  And one tiny detail still bothered me.

Plain Chain

I love our beautiful Spanish chandelier.  But I was recently in an antique store where all of their chandeliers had silk sleeves covering their chains.  They made the chandeliers look so elegant and substantial.

So then the chain on our chandelier started to bug me.  Some chandelier chains are ornate, but this one is nothing special.

chandelier before
Yes, I really climbed a ladder with my nice camera to get this photo.

A Budget Fix

A chandelier chain sleeve can cost upwards of $25.  But yesterday I made my own for 80 cents.  Here is how I did it.


  • A piece of fabric that is 7 inches wide and twice the length of the chain to be covered
  • Matching thread
  • Thin twine or yarn
  • Scissors/sewing machine/tape measure/pins and a needle

The How-To

My method is an adaptation of a method I found here.  The chain has an electrical cord running through it, which I made sure was in good condition before covering it with fabric.

  • I chose a silver fabric with an elegant, silky texture.  My chain was 17 inches long, so I needed fabric with at least a 34-inch width, which was easy to find.  I had the fabric store cut me just a quarter yard of the fabric.  It was on sale – which is why I only paid 80 cents.  All other materials I had on hand.
  • I cut the fabric to size – 7 inches wide and 34 inches long.
  • I machine hemmed each short end of the fabric.
  • Then I cut two 40-inch pieces of twine.  I wanted the pieces of twine to be longer than the length of the fabric.
  • Then I made a half-inch fold on each long side of the fabric, placed the twine inside the fold, and pinned it, creating a pocket for the twine.  The photo below better explains it.

DIy chandelier chain sleeve - materials

  • Then I sewed the pockets closed with a sewing machine, making sure not to sew over the twine.

DIy chandelier chain sleeve -

I made sure that a little bit of twine was extending past the ends of the fabric at all times.  It’s no fun at all if the twine gets lost inside the pocket of the fabric.

  • Then I held the ends of the twine and scrunched the fabric together until it was 17 inches – the length of the chain.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

  • Then the fun really started. I climbed up on a ladder with this scrunched piece of fabric and, using the twine, tied one end to the top of the chain and the other end to the bottom.  Then as best I could, I scrunched the fabric around the chain.  It took a little tweaking to get it just right, but it really wasn’t difficult.
  • I cut away the excess twine.
  • Then I repositioned the ladder so I could put in some hand stitches to bring the seams together.  I made stitches in about five places along the length of the sleeve to close it up.
DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve
I stitched in about five places to hold the two seams together in the back of this chandelier sleeve.
  • I made sure the stitched seams faced the back of the room so they aren’t easily seen.  But even so, it does’t really look that bad – certainly better than the chain.


Here is how it looks from the front.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Just the little finishing touch the room needed.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Hmm, now the light bulbs are starting to bug me.  But that is for another day.

DIY Chandelier Chain Sleeve

Now remember, this post is for entertainment purposes only.  I try some stupid stunts sometimes, so any attempts at overhead stitching while teetering on a ladder are at your own peril.

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The Inspired Room Tour – Our Master Bath Remodel

Everyone takes a different approach to remodeling and decorating.  Some people jump right in.  But Chris and I waited a couple of years before making any big changes to our 1927 cottage-style house.  We kind of loved it the way it was, quirks and all, and we wanted to get to really know the house first.

When we did start, the first project we undertook was unlike anything either of us had tried before:  We turned our small half-bath into a large master bathroom by adding a roof dormer.  Which basically means we gained much of the needed space from that underrated commodity:  Thin air.

So when I was recently given the opportunity to participate in The Inspired Room Tour, choosing a room that inspired me was easy.  Because standing at the window of our master bathroom, I always marvel that, before the remodel, I would have actually been standing outside on the roof!

The Inspired Room Tour

I am very excited to be participating in The Inspired Room Tour, which is taking place in conjunction with the release of Melissa Michaels’s wonderful new book, The Inspired Room: Simple Ideas to Love the Home You Have

The Inspired Room

Melissa is a New York Times best-selling author and also has a blog, The Inspired Room, where the tour will be featured.  For some real eye candy, check out this link to all the other beautiful rooms on the tour.  The link  will be updated as more room tours are submitted.

As for my own room tour, we start with . . .

The Hole Where the Rain Comes In

By cutting a big hole in our roof  . . .

hole in roof

And adding a dormer, we went from this cramped half bath . . .

Master half bath before remodel
Half bath before remodel
Master half bath during demolition.
Half bath during demolition




To this full master bathroom.

What We Learned Along the Way

I learned that Chris is more creative than I knew.  It was his idea to go with a cathedral ceiling, which adds such a spacious feel to the room and is probably the best feature.  Once again, thin air wins!

Bathroom with cathedral ceiling

And I learned that I have a knack for finding the best uses for odd-shaped nooks and crannies, like this makeup desk under the south roof slope.

makeup desk

And this built-in linen closet under the north roof slope.

linen closet

We both learned a lot from touring remodeled homes and sifting through books and magazines.  We found that Carrara marble and nickel plating had the timeless look we wanted.

And we learned that what we loved was not necessarily more expensive than other options.

nickel pated faucet

Which leads me to . . .

Working Within Our Budget

My dream bathroom would have had porcelain subway tile wainscoting.  But in reality, that was not even close to being within our budget.  So we chose bead board.

Toilet alcove

We found a vintage claw foot tub at a salvage shop for a great price.


But some things could not be compromised, such as Chris’s wish to have a separate walk-in shower.

shower and vanity

The Personal Touches

The cute washstand, which houses my vintage linen collection, comes from Chris’s mother, Betty.  She meticulously refinished this piece years ago.

wash stand

And the stained glass windows above it are windows I found in a salvage shop over 20 years ago and had framed.

The pitcher and washbowl belonged to Chris’s grandmother.

antique pitcher and washbowl

The Aesthetic

With a 1927 house, it was a no-brainer to make the master bathroom look as original to the house as possible. Windows, moldings, and built-in cabinets all had to match the original features of the house.

Our hope is that the remodel will never look dated.  Instead, it will always be an integral, seamless part of our old house.  This remodel is now ten years old, and I like to think it’s worked so far.

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A DIY Barn Light for a Vintage Garage

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that my brother, Dan, made some gorgeous rustic hanging lights for my new greenhouse.

Rustic DIY Hanging Lights

My greenhouse, with its curved walls, really had the potential to be so much more than a utilitarian workspace – more interesting and more charming.  It just needed the right accessories, lighting being high on the list.  And these lights really delivered.

Now Dan is at it again.  Only this time, he’s bringing old-world charm to another workspace with loads of potential:  His 1908 garage.  And he’s doing it with a vintage-inspired barn light that he made himself.

Today, he has graciously agreed to be my guest writer and share how he did it.  Here is his story:

The Problem

A boring plastic light socket and curly CFL bulb mounted to a plastic electrical box in an otherwise vintage 1908 garage. Sure it’s just a garage, but there’s no reason it has to look bad.

old light

The Solution

I saw a vintage-looking barn light in a lighting catalog, but I wasn’t too fond of the nearly $300 price tag.

So, figuring I could do better, I picked up an aluminum work light at a local hardware store for $12. It had a high-quality thick electrical cord and porcelain socket.

aluminum light03

I also picked up some high-temperature spray paint in white and black, and an outlet and faceplate in brown.

spray paintswitch plate cover and plug


After taking the light apart, I gave the inside of the aluminum shade a coat of the white spray paint, and it turned out looking like antique white enamel. Just the look I was hoping for.

shade after painting
Aluminum shade after applying off-white paint.

Once that dried I gave the outside of the shade and the socket a coat of the black paint. The black paint would be a base coat for the Modern Masters Metal Effects iron paint I planned to use.

Fun Fact: Paint fumes can cause brain damage and death.

I like my brain cells and plan to keep them.  When undertaking a project like this, I am always careful to read, understand and follow all safety precautions.

So back to the project:  When the black base coat dried, I painted the outside of the shade and socket with the Metal Effect iron paint. It goes on pretty thick, so just one coat was enough.

light after iron paint

After that dried, I sprayed on the rust activator. The iron paint has real iron in it and the rust activator causes the iron to rust, so I watched the overspray when applying the activator and made sure not to get it on anything else that could rust, like any tools I had laying nearby.

light with rust activator

After a few days, the final result turned out looking more authentic than the patina on the fixture I saw in the catalog.

DIY Barn Light
After the iron paint and rust activator were applied, this aluminum utility light looked like a salvage yard find.

After painting the blue plastic electrical box with a textured black paint I had left over from another project, I swapped out the CFL and socket with the brown outlet and cover plate.

finished outlet
Plastic electrical box after getting a spray paint makeover.

Now my garage looks less utilitarian and more vintage. So the hunt begins for some antique tools to hang on the walls to complete the look!

The finished product!
The finished product!

A pretty imaginative project, and  I thank Dan for sharing it with us.  This ruggedly handsome light looks like it’s been around for years, and it really adds to the magic of his old-world garage.

Let’s have another look at the before and after.

Aluminum light

Finished DIY Barn Light
Barn light illuminated.

Now remember, this post is for entertainment only.  I call my brother “The Mad Scientist” for a reason, and any attempts to copy his work are at your own peril.


Handmade barn lights come in so many fun variations.  The possibilities are endless.  Check out these and many others on Etsy.


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Bringing the Arched Doorways Back

I just love houses that were built in the 1920s.  Architects from that era seemed to be in a kind of fantasy state and really had some fun when they designed  them.

Even the more ordinary homes, like our 1927 cottage, seemed to shun straight lines wherever possible in favor of curves, coves, and arches.

Something Was Off

When my husband Chris and I bought our house, it had a coved ceiling in the living room.  Most 1920s houses with coved ceilings also have some arched doorways.  But the doorways between the living room, dining room, and kitchen were squared off and plain.

Squared off doorways before remodel
Squared-off entry to kitchen before our remodel

Eventually we learned that the doorways in question were originally arched but had been squared off as part of a 1950s kitchen remodel.

Bringing Back the Arched Doorways

We remodeled the kitchen and, while we were at it, we decided to do a few things to bring back the original charm of the house, including restoring the arches.

Arched doorways
Arched entry to kitchen after our remodel


Arched doorways
The two arched doorways after our remodel: One between the living room and the dining room, and one between the dining room and the kitchen.

We knew bringing back the arched doorways would be tricky since if the pitch of the arch was wrong, it still wouldn’t look original.  In fact, if done wrong, it could wind up looking pretty silly.

Finding the Right Pitch

Chris made arrangements to look at several 1920s houses that still had their arched doorways.

He needed two good examples:  An arch for a wider (almost six-foot) expanse, for our living room-dining room transition, and a narrower arch (three and a half feet) for our dining room-kitchen doorway.

When he found examples of arches that would work, he traced them onto large sheets of masking paper to serve as templates.

Adding the Curves

Our carpenter, Bruce, who was working on our kitchen remodel, built wooden arch frames to fit the existing doorways using the templates that Chris had traced.

Framing in the arches
Framing in the arches

The kitchen was already torn down to the studs for the remodel, so this was the perfect time to frame in the arches.

Lots of Plaster

Our drywaller then worked his magic blending the arches seamlessly into the new kitchen drywall, as well as into the existing plaster in the dining room.

Drywall almost done
Kitchen remodel drywall


Sheetrock and plaster
Living room-dining room arch plastered and ready for paint


Since we added the arches, we needed to paint not only the new kitchen remodel, but also the living room and dining room.  For our kitchen, we used Valspar Butter and for the dining room, Valspar Honey Pot.

kitchen remodel 025
Chris painting the dining room.

White walls are so popular now, especially in rooms that get little natural light.  But with all the light our living room gets, it can take a strong color.  It took me a while to sell Chris on this murky, tarnished gold but now he loves it too.


kitchen remodel 024b
Chris working on the living room paint

It is an Olympic color called Earthy Ocher.

It looks elegant with art work and gold frames.

Paint closeup

The ocher color pops against the soft white trim color.

Wall and trim paint.

It’s surprisingly neutral and works with many other colors.

Ocher wall paint and cream curtains.

New Old Lights

Now we needed the finishing touches: 1920s light fixtures in the dining room and living room.

Vintage lighting can be pretty spendy, but we trolled eBay until we found some little gems that fit our budget.

We got this light for the dining room.

dining room light
Vintage chandelier


Dining room light detail
Chandelier base

And this one for the living room.

living room light
Vintage living room light

There was no overhead light fixture in the living room before we installed this one.  Chris climbed into the attic space above the living room and measured to exactly where the middle of the living room would be to install the electrical box for the light.

When he got to that location, he found the remnants of an old electrical box.  So originally there had been an overhead light in the living room, presumably another casualty of the 1950s remodel.

To learn more about out kitchen remodel, check out these posts:

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How to Survive A Kitchen Remodel

You might be wondering how we avoided starving during a major kitchen remodel that wound up growing and spilling into other parts of the house.

Options for Surviving a Kitchen Remodel

Everyone deals with a major remodel differently.  You can:

  1. Dine out every evening;
  2. Eat fast food and takeout for every meal;
  3. Move in with a relative or friend and hope they still love you afterwards; or
  4. Set up a makeshift kitchen.

Setting Up A Makeshift Kitchen

We opted for number 4.  Chris set up this little kitchen in our living room.  Not much counter space, and the dishes were being washed in the laundry room, but we coped.

Our makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

Note the stylish trouble light he clipped to the curtain rod over the range for task lighting.  He got the little second-hand range on Craigslist, and it was actually from a trailer.*  It kind of felt like we were camping in our living room, and I suspect Chris actually enjoyed this.

But he was pretty amazing.  The remodel was done around the holidays, so his workload was light and, most days, he was able to spend all day working with our carpenter, Bruce.  But Chris also made lunch for himself and Bruce in the little kitchen, and often he had dinner and a glass of wine ready for me when I got home from work.

Wine definitely helps when your olive oil and your wall paint wind up living side by side and you’ve completely given up on housekeeping.

Makeshift kitchen used during kitchen remodel

As the remodel encroached further and further into the rest of the house, we had to move the makeshift kitchen first to the office and later to the upstairs landing.  Each time, the kitchen got a little smaller.  Eventually we had to put the fridge on the front porch.

But by this time, I just happy to still have my morning coffee, even if I had to go outside for the milk.  Because by then, the end was in sight, and it was well worth it.

*Always consult a professional before installing or using a trailer range in your house.


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My Top 10 Posts for 2014 and a Look Ahead at 2015

This blog, My Sweet Cottage, which I started late last summer, actually made one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014 come true:  To find more things I enjoy doing.  I really love having this blog, and I have you to thank.  Your comments and encouragement keep me going and keep it fun.

A blog is a great way of documenting the year.  Here, in semi-chronological order, is a look back at my top 10 posts for 2014.

Things That Happened in 2014

1. We lost my dear mother-in-law in May, but we found a beautiful way of honoring her life.  Betty would have loved her celebration of life party.

picture string closeup

2.  I shared the colorful makeover of our little garden shed.

Potting shed with paint and new roof

3.  In a three-part series, I talked about our master bathroom remodel.

master bath looking south

4.  In another three-part series, I covered our kitchen remodel.

kitchen remodel - south wall after

5.  My mother brought me some beautiful hydrangeas for floral arrangements.

Decorating with Hydrangeas

6.  I cleaned out our basement and found all kinds of treasures to revamp or repurpose.  My husband, Chris, reupholstered the mid-century chair he remembers from his childhood.

Midcentury chair revamp

7.  My brother and his wife have been busy too with their 1908 house.  They did a stunning DIY dining room remodel.  If you haven’t already seen this post, don’t miss it!

dining room table and window2 jpg

8.  A major highlight of my year was when one of my long-held dreams came true:  We now have a greenhouse!


9. We reupholstered our old arts and crafts dining chairs with an unconventional fabric.Chair after with side table

10.  In my favorite post of 2014, my mother shared tips for setting a formal table – and some interesting stories from her experiences working in an English manor house in the 1950s.

formal place setting

The Year Ahead

I have several resolutions for 2015.  First, now that I have a greenhouse, I resolve to expand my horizons as a gardener by learning more about greenhouse gardening.

I resolve to make more time for sewing so I can do more fun projects like these gift bags.

I resolve to repurpose old items in fun ways, like these jewelry organizers and this porch bench makeover.

And finally, I resolve to be true to my own likes and dislikes.  I will look to new trends in décor and design for inspiration, but I won’t be swayed by their popularity alone.  I will stick with what speaks to me.  And I will share that with you.

Here’s to a fun and interesting 2015!

This post is part of a fun event called “Show and Tell Fridays” featuring the work of some very talented designers.  Click on the thumbnail below to check out their work.

Kitchen Remodel Part 3: Our New Original Kitchen

I call this post “Our New Original Kitchen” because when we remodeled the kitchen in our 1927 bungalow, we were actually bringing it back to its original size, reversing an unfortunate mid-century remodel that sliced it in half and lowered the ceiling.

The Story of the Wall

This is the photo that best slows the mid-century “slicing,” with the small kitchen on the right, the wall added in the 1950s in the middle, and an interior room that we called “the Weird Room” on the left.  This whole funny chopped-up space had once been the kitchen.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

The Planning

This post is Part 3 in a series about our kitchen remodel.  Part 1 covers the planning process and the ways we found to save money and stay within budget yet still get the kitchen we wanted.

The Demolition

Part 2 covers all the interesting things we learned about our old house during the demolition process – when we tore down that mid-century wall.

Ready to Start!

So now we had a big empty space and we were ready to get the remodel underway.

As one strategy to save money, my husband, Chris, decided to be his own general contractor and hire his own specialists, including, luckily for us, a crackerjack carpenter – our friend Bruce.  We first met Bruce when he was the project lead on our master bathroom remodel.

And not only would Chris be the general contractor, but he would also work with Bruce on the remodel.

Chaotic Progress

Needless to say, living with a kitchen remodel is chaotic.  But it’s also very exciting.  Almost every evening when I came home from work, something new had happened.  Which made up for the fact that I was washing our dishes in the laundry sink.

Here to show a little of the progress is our cat Lily on a stroll near the north wall, apparently oblivious to the fact that the kitchen is gutted down to the studs.

Kitchen remodel: Lily with Demo of North wall

Soon after, I came home to find that our drywall contractor was working his magic, and the north wall now looked like this.

Kitchen remodel: North wall after sheetrock

The space seemed huge until the cabinets started going in.  But it was wonderful to see the kitchen slowly take shape.

south wall mostly done

A Kitchen Tour

We wanted our kitchen to be updated, cheerful and inviting and to blend with the original style of our old house.

Here is a little tour of how it all turned out.

The Countertop

Choosing a granite countertop took us weeks.  We made several visits to a huge warehouse that probably stocked every type of granite known to man.

After taking home many samples, we chose a  granite that we loved called Verde Typhoon from India.

You can imagine my excitement on the day that the granite was installed.  I was at work and Chris emailed me this photo.

Beautiful Verde Typhoon Granite

The Gas Range

We kept the location of the gas range almost the same as in the old kitchen so that any re-plumbing of the gas lines would be minimal.

Here is the range before our remodel.

Kitchen remodel: oven and fridge before

And here is the new range after, with a lot more counter space around it, but in much the same location.

Lots of prep space

The Peninsula

Now there is a peninsula where the wall used to be and walking in the back door, instead of seeing this . . .

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

We now see this . . .

New rangehood & range

The Sink

We also kept the sink in the same location on the south wall under the window.

This is the south wall before.

Kitchen remodel_ Kitchen before
South wall of kitchen before remodel.

And this is after with the new farmhouse sink.

looking west now

Notice also how much higher the ceiling is after the remodel.

A Parrot Light

The light over the sink came out of my childhood home, which was built in 1901 – although the light itself is from the 1930s.  It had been in storage for years so I was happy to finally have the ideal place to hang it.

Vintage parrot light

The China Cabinet

Our dining room has a couple of original built-in hutches, but they are small and there is nowhere else in the dining room to have a china cabinet.

So I wanted something in our kitchen that functioned as a china cabinet.  We placed it on the north wall between the fridge and the pantry.

north wall now

To set it apart from the rest of the cabinets, we chose a wood countertop, which Chris stained and finished.  And it has a bead board backsplash instead of the subway tile that is on the south wall.

Leaded Glass Cabinet Doors

Since the built-ins in our dining room have leaded glass cabinet doors, we continued the look in the kitchen with leaded glass on the upper cabinets.

We ordered the cabinet doors with just frames, no glass, and had a glass artist create and inset the leaded glass.

Glass Cabinet Hardware

Everywhere in our 1920s house, we have glass cabinet hardware, so it was an easy decision to continue the look in the kitchen.

glass knobs

 The Planning Desk

The planning desk was unplanned.  During the demolition, the crew came across a small closet that had been walled off, adding a tiny bit of square footage to the kitchen that we hadn’t counted on.

Kitchen remodel: demolition of closet
The green paint shows the area where the little closet was found behind a wall.

The kitchen cabinets were already on order, so we ended up finding an after-market planning desk.   Chris had to cut a little trim off on one side to make it fit into the space.

planning desk


We refinished the fir floors, not just in the kitchen but throughout the house.  One thing leads to another in a remodel.

Speaking of which . . .


Bruce converted the kitchen and the dining room doorways back into arched doorways.  They had been shared off in the mid-century remodel.

Doorway square off from 1950s remodel
Doorway squared off in 1950s remodel

So as you can see, this kitchen remodel had legs and kept walking.  In a future post, I will be talking more about the arches and the other projects that were triggered by our kitchen remodel.

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Kitchen Remodel Part 2: Ghosts of Kitchens Past

Interest in mid-century homes is rising as a new generation is coming to appreciate their open, innovative floor plans and uncluttered charm.

Mid-Century Gone Bad

But there is also a dark side to mid-century carpentry:  During the Mad Men era, unfortunate things were happening to older homes in the name of “modernizing.”  They were being stripped of their original charm and left with little else.

One example is the elegant dining room in my brother and sister-in-law’s 1908 home.  It stood shrouded in mediocrity for over 50 years after a bland mid-century remodel.

Another example is our own kitchen.  As I mentioned in my post Kitchen Remodel Part 1, the original kitchen in our 1927 bungalow was sliced in half by a wall in the 1950s as part of an unfortunate remodel.

The purpose of the remodel:  To turn the space on one side of the wall into a cramped galley kitchen with a lowered ceiling.  And to turn the space on the other side of the wall into a confusing interior room, essentially a wide hallway, which Chris and I referred to as “the Weird Room.”

Why was this ever done?  The answer is lost to time.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividing wall
The wall in the middle with the Weird Room on the left and the kitchen on the right
Kitchen remodel: north side before
Small galley kitchen

After several years of living with the space and planning the remodel, it was finally time to tear down that wall and bring the kitchen back to its original size.

I could not wait for this wall to come down so we could see the whole space as one big room!

Stories from the Past

Chris enjoys a good demolition project, and he arranged to work with a demo crew to remove the wall and take the whole space down to the studs and ceiling joists.

Turns out you can learn a lot about a house by tearing out an old remodel.  As the wall came down, the stories unfolded.

The Hidden Closet

While tearing down the Weird Room wall, the crew came across a little broom closet had been walled over and forgotten.

Someone must have thought, “Who needs closet space anyway?”  And why make the space part of the room when you can just wall it over and not have to use that pesky square footage?

kitchen remodel closet found during demolition of old remodel
The greenish paint marks the closet area. You can see the little light fixture on the wall near the top.

When the crew uncovered the closet, the little light fixture in it still worked.

Unfortunately the closet was pretty damaged at this point so it had to be removed, but it did add some space for our new kitchen that we hadn’t counted on – just right for a planning desk.

A Coincidence . . . or Something Else?

When the demo crew brought down the part of the wall nearest the dining room, an old newspaper fell out.  The date: November 12, 1952.  Now we had an approximate date for the unfortunate remodel.

But that wasn’t the eerie part.  Can you guess?

Yes, the day that Chris and his crew tore down that wall was also November 12.

I decided to take that as a good sign.

Squaring Off the Past

Many houses from the 1920s have coved ceilings and arched doorways.  When we bought the house, it had a coved ceiling in the living room, but the entrances to the dining room and the kitchen were squared off, not arched.

We always thought that was weird since, as a design scheme, coved ceilings and arched doorways usually go hand in hand.  We suspected that the squared-off entrances were not original but part of the mid-century remodel.

The demo project proved our suspicions to be correct.  When the crew reached the wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room, they uncovered evidence that the doorway had once been arched.

We had already planned to change the squared entrances to arches as part of the kitchen remodel, but this at least confirmed that we were actually returning an original feature to the house.

Raising the Ceiling

Perhaps as important as tearing down the wall was tearing off the lowered ceiling in the galley kitchen and bringing the space back to its original height.

In this photo the original ceiling is exposed.  You can see the line where the greenish paint ends.  That is where the lowered ceiling was hung, almost down to the window frame.

kitchen remodel - original ceiling height exposed during demolition of old remodel
Original ceiling height exposed.

By the paint line we could also see that the original cabinets went all the way up to the ceiling – a feature that we later repeated with new cabinets.

Here is a full demo photo of the same area, taken to the studs and joists.  We were happy to see the framing was still in good shape.

kitchen remodel studs and joists exposed after demolition
Taken down to the studs.

Let There be Light

The dark and gloomy Weird Room was finally gone!  The former dividing wall would have been right about in the center of this photo.

Kitchen remodel - original chimney stack exposed after demolition of older remodel
The wall is gone!

You can also see the brick chimney stack and pipe vent for the original kitchen stove – located in the area of the former Weird Room.  This leaves no doubt that the entire space was once the kitchen.

Now that the wall was gone, the room looked so light and spacious.  Daylight was streaming in and this entire space would soon be one nice bright kitchen again.

Kitchen Remodel - demolition of older remodel complete - ready to rennovate!
Full demo. The two little vents to the left of the window were for the original cold pantry.

More to Come

Check out Part 3, featuring before and after photos of our remodel.  I will also cover how not to starve during a major kitchen remodel.  So stay tuned!

Featured image courtesy of the Seattle Municipal Archives, Image #13672

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Greenhouse Sneak Peek

We have a new feature in our garden:  A portal to the tropics.  This morning the temperature outside was under 30 degrees, and when I walked through the portal it was 62 degrees, heated by the sun.  By noon it was over 70.

If you read my post Greenhouse on the Brain, you already know that I’m talking about the little Sunglo lean-to greenhouse that we bought used and disassembled on Craigslist.

My husband, Chris, and our talented friend, Bruce, who also worked on our master bathroom remodel and kitchen remodel, worked for over a week in rain and freezing temperatures to prepare the site and assemble the greenhouse.

It’s not quite finished, but I’m already so happy with it that I wanted to give you a sneak peek and show you the process.

Making it Fit

A lean-to greenhouse is basically one-half of a greenhouse that attaches to the side of a building.  Ours would be attached to the south side of our garage, where our vegetable garden was.

Site of future greenhouse
SIte of future greenhouse

The greenhouse we bought on Craigslist would measure about 5′ X 10′ when assembled.  But that wasn’t long enough to cover both of the windows on the south side of the garage, and the greenhouse would have to be placed off-center on the garage wall, which wouldn’t look right.

Going Shopping  at Sunglo

Luckily Sunglo is located in Kent, Washington – a short drive from our house.   So we arranged to pick up a 2.5 foot extension kit.  This would bring the length of the greenhouse to 12.5 feet, which would cover both garage windows.

I have to add here that Sunglo greenhouses are over 90% made in America and many of its components are actually manufactured right there in Kent.  So we felt pretty good about buying this product and supporting the local economy.

Of course while we were there we had to add a few upgrades to our greenhouse, like a nice little cedar shelf to replace a wire shelf.  We needed a few other parts, and most of them were machined while we waited.

Preparing the Site

Chris and I removed all the plants, part of the walkway, and much of the soil next to the garage to level the site.

Site prepared for Greenhouse
Space prepared for construction.

Next, Chris and Bruce measured out the foundation area of the greenhouse and sunk concrete pillars with brackets to hold the foundation.

For the foundation, they used pressure-treated 4X12 lumber.  The 12″ foundation would add the height needed so that the greenhouse would be tall enough to cover the top of the garage windows.


Greenhouse foundation
Chris and Bruce working on the foundation

Framing was added to the garage wall so the greenhouse could attach to it.  Attaching framing to an 80-plus year old stucco structure was tricky because nothing was level, so Bruce had to pull a few magic tricks out his hat to make this work.

Next they brought in lots of sand as the subfloor and placed concrete pavers over the side that would get foot traffic and gravel over the side where the potting bench would be located.

Flooring for greenhouse
Chris stops to take a break after installing pavers

They brought in two sources of water: a wall faucet for a small hose, and a stub for a future drip irrigation system.  They also  brought in electricity.

They even installed a small patio outside the greenhouse door.

Assembling the Greenhouse

Finally, they could start assembling the greenhouse and we could see it taking shape.  I just love the curved roof design.  It gives it so much character.

Greenhouse walls installed

Chris and Bruce got lots of advice and information about the assembly process from the helpful folks at Sunglo.  Things were getting very interesting as each panel was installed and the greenhouse came together.

Sunglo greenhouse being assembled

It still needs some work around the door frame and a few finishing touches.  It will have a built-in cedar potting bench with a soil basin and small cedar shelf above that.  But here is the interior at this point.

Sunglo greenhouse interior

It also has automatic heating and cooling.  If it gets too warm, a fan on the west side automatically comes on and a vent on the east side opens.  Pretty nifty!  There are also a couple of manual vents.

Sunglo greenhouse control panel
Command central

Chris couldn’t resist wrapping his creation in Christmas lights.

Sunglo greenhouse with Christmas lights

I just can’t wait to find the right interior lighting for this adorable little greenhouse, something industrial yet attractive.

In spring we will be carving out a new vegetable garden around the greenhouse to blend it into the landscaping.   We might also do some kind of façade over the wood foundation, or paint it.

Sunglo greenhouse

I have already put a few plants in there and they seem very happy.  But warm as it was in there on this cold day, I’m tempted to kick them out and put in a couple of comfy chairs, a coffee maker and a wine cooler.

Is that so wrong?

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Kitchen Remodel Part 1: Plan “B” for Better

The Weird Room

Our house used to have a Weird Room.  It was right behind the kitchen.

Chris would ask me if I’d seen his cell phone and I would say, “It’s in the Weird Room.”  Visitors who saw the Weird Room would always ask, “And what is this room for?”

The best way to describe it is that it was a wide hallway that led to another hallway.  It was a windowless, interior room that we used as a catch-all for furniture that had nowhere else to go.

Kitchen remodel before: The Weird Room
The Weird Room

Walking in from the back door and through the mud room, you would come across this mess – a wall.  On the left side of the wall was the Weird Room and on the right side was the kitchen.

Kitchen remodel: Before with two rooms and dividingwall
Wall with Weird Room on the left and kitchen on the right

From the first time I walked through the house, when we were looking at it as potential buyers, I knew that wall should be torn down and the whole space made into one nice big kitchen.

Sad Little Kitchen

The little galley kitchen had issues too.  Someone had lowered the ceiling by almost a foot.  Measuring only about 9′ X 11′, the space was cramped with hardly any counter space.

Kitchen remodel: kitchen before south side
South side of kitchen before model
Kitchen remodel: north side before
North side of kitchen before remodel

Having  a closer look at the wall between the kitchen and the Weird Room, we noticed it was not as thick as most walls and probably not load-bearing.

When Chris discovered the pipe vent for the original kitchen stove tucked back inside a cabinet in the Weird Room, it confirmed our suspicion that the Weird Room once was originally part of the kitchen, and someone, at some point, found it necessary to cut the kitchen in half.

The house had changed hands in the 1950s and a builder purchased it and subdivided the lot.  It was likely that this was when the unfortunate “remodel” occurred.

Tear Down That Wall

Tearing down the wall to get a bigger kitchen was just a no-brainer.  It was amazing to me that no one had done so in all those years.

But how to configure the space?  It was hard to imagine what the space would even look like without the wall.

For several years, our kitchen remodel was on hold while other projects took priority.  Still, sometimes I kicked kitchen ideas around.

Our dining room is small, so it would have been nice to factor in a kitchen eating space, maybe even an old fashioned farmhouse-style dining table.

I ended up ruling out the dining table idea.  Not quite enough space.  But once I gave up on that, it was easier to come up with ideas.  Soon I had a rough idea for a kitchen layout which I sketched for Chris.

But I am such a horrible artist that my sketch only confused him.  We realized we both needed a better visual.  Chris made a detailed scale drawing of the existing space, and I made arrangements for us to meet with an upscale kitchen designer.

I thought the designer might come up with some brilliant ideas of her own that would blow my plans out of the water.  But she just drew up what I had already sketched to use as a starting point.

She did find a good placement for the refrigerator, something that had been stumping me.

We also talked about cabinets and decided that a certain style of cabinets made by Medallion would be a nice fit for our kitchen.

The designer’s drawings were detailed and beautiful.  Finally we could see what our kitchen would look like!

Kitchen remodel drawing
Instead of seeing a wall from the mudroom, this is what you would see

Who Needs Reality?

At one of the many meetings we had with the designer, she asked us what our budget was.  She said we should meet with the contractor that she liked to work with.

In the meeting, we learned that our budget was not realistic.  In fact, the word “reality” was uttered several times during the meeting just to emphasize how out of touch Chris and I were with it.

But we were not going to let a small detail like reality come between us and our dream kitchen.  We needed a good Plan B.

Chris Assembles His Dream Team

Chris decided he would be his own general contractor.  Being in real estate, he had all kinds of contacts and go-to guys to get the job done:  plumbers, electricians, drywallers.

But he needed a really good carpenter, and those are hard to find.

We knew that the contractor we had used for our master bathroom remodel had retired.  But what happened to his great crew, especially Bruce, the project lead?

Chris managed to track Bruce down.  He was taking on his own jobs now and not working with a contractor.  But would Bruce work on our project? Could we be so lucky?

When Chris asked him if he would be interested in our project, Bruce declined.

Again Chris ignored reality.  He called Bruce back a little later and asked him a second time.  I suspect this call may have included some begging, and I know daily pastries were promised.

Bruce finally took pity on us and agreed to work on the project.  And he also had plenty of good contacts and go-to guys.  The tables were turning in our favor.

We took the designer’s drawings to Lowe’s and met with their kitchen designer, a nice man named George.  He helped us fine-tune our plans.

We learned that the Medallion cabinets we wanted were sold at Lowe’s under a different name, Schuler, at a significantly lower price.

Plus Lowe’s happened to be running a rebate program on kitchen cabinets.  This would save us a lot of money without having to compromise quality.

Now we had Plan B ready to set into motion.  B for better.

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