1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Sunday, January 30, 2005

Compartmentalize Me

The "open plan" built into all the new McMansions has its benefits, but I'm finding more and more reasons to love our compartmentalized old house.

  • When Darwin wants to watch TV in the living room, and I want to listen to the radio in the dining room, we can close the pocket doors and both be happy.
  • We can close off the kitchen while we're painting it, so we don't have white cat footprints all over the house.
  • When we wanted to see our Christmas tree without our feline companions having access to it, we put it in the foyer and closed the French doors. Voila!
  • We can paint each room a different color. No confusion over where to divide up the living-dining-kitchen combo (a frequent issue on Trading Spaces).

    There are also benefits to the one center hallway and the rooms opening into each other.

  • The front bedroom opens into the master bedroom, so it's the perfect spot for a nursery one day.
  • There are so many options for entering and exiting a room. It's nice to have such a flexible home.

  • Labels:

    Saturday, January 29, 2005

    Cabinets: The Ongoing Saga

    This trimming-the-doors thing is turning out to be a fiasco. One issue is that each hinge is slightly different, so you have to make sure you put the right hinges back on the side you measured them for. Also, the doors only needed to be shaved a total of 1/8 inch. Darwin shaved off the smallest amount he could with the table saw, and it was still too much.

    Now he'll have to move the hinges in a little to make the doors meet in the middle. Oh, the drama.

    And there are 10 more sets of doors to go after this! Surely there's an easier way. We'll gladly entertain suggestions.

    Wait! I just went to re-examine the hinges and take a photo from the inside, and I think I found something useful. The inside of the hinges don't appear to actually touch the edge of the door frame when the door is shut, so there's room to scoot them over a little without having to cut the doors. I think. Darwin's gone for the day, so I'll have to run this by him when he gets home.

    Anyway, while Darwin worked on the doors, I painted. It's kind of a haphazard process. Some things have been primed, some have been primed and painted with two coats, some have been wood-filled and sanded but not primed, and some haven't even made it to the hole-filling stage.

    Most of the inside faces of the cabinet doors have been painted now, so when Darwin installs the hinges, he won't have to take them back off again.

    As much as I hated painting with oil in the past, I'm really loving it for this application. The foam roller recommended by the paint store guy is the perfect tool for applying it on cabinets. It goes on fairly smoothly, and then - because it's oil paint and has a little "give" - runs together or sinks together just a bit. The result is an amazingly unblemished finish. And the roller is much faster than a brush and sort of fun.

    Mmm, I love it.

    Thursday, January 27, 2005

    And Now for this Announcement

    I was hoping to have some more information on wood countertops by now. I called a custom cabinets shop in Eutaw, and they do make wood countertops. So that's good to know. But the dude who knows about them hasn't called me back yet, so I don't know anything about types of wood, price, waiting time, etc.

    In my quest for information, I did find a cool site called HomePortfolio. It offers a place to store a portfolio of the things you like on the site. Kinda like the Amazon Wish List, except this site doesn't sell anything. You search for a product - say, wood countertops - and it pops up a list. On each item, you can click "love it," "like it," or "not my style." You can also click "Where to Buy" and put in your zip code to find a store near you.

    For example, John Boos maple countertops are sold at two stores in the next city.

    The site also has photos of inspirational rooms and houses, the Top 10 items chosen for portfolios, editor's picks, educational articles and other fun stuff.

    It sounds like they're paying me to say this, like those radio DJs who suddenly start enthusing about how they lost weight on CortiSlim. But I promise they're not. I just love finding new resources!

    Darwin bought some more hinges today and will be cutting the cabinet doors down to the right size tonight. Yay, progress!


    Tuesday, January 25, 2005

    Finally on the Same Page

    Last night we sat down and came up with a plan for the kitchen. Now, you might be thinking, "Hmmm, wouldn't it have been better to make a plan BEFORE starting the work?"

    Maybe you would be right, but that's not the way I do things. I get impatient and charge forward, only to get bogged down midway. Usually this haphazard non-plan leads to us undoing and/or redoing some of the work. But at least this way, the work has begun.

    Darwin is the opposite from me (in this and many other ways). He will think about the project and plan out every detail and hesitate to buy or do anything until all the details are worked out. Which means he never starts the project because - to some degree - you can't find out how things will work until you jump in.

    So I get frustrated and step in with my bull-in-a-china-shop mentality. Darwin joins me because he is afraid I won't do it perfectly.

    In this way, we balance each other out, and together we make one almost-normal person.

    We have reached the point in the kitchen renovation that we can no longer flail around in my preferred fashion. Last night, the issue of the countertops and backsplash were looming large.

    I have all along been advocating wood countertops. Darwin has all along been strongly against them. He said a man he works with has wood countertops and told him they look horrible now, scratched and gouged and scuffed.

    I said that kind of damage is what gives the wood character and would make the countertops look like they belong in our old house. Our wood floors have withstood 103 years of being walked on and still look great and full of character. And it's not like we do a lot of cooking anyway.

    Then - nothing short of a miracle - Darwin changed his mind. Suddenly, he was all for wood countertops.

    So that's decided. Now we just need to find someone to make them for us. We also need to find out if wood countertops come with a built-in backsplash or not.

    We decided to use beadboard panels as the backsplash. Darwin suggested we paint it green, which I think is a good idea.

    I made up a list of the work and the order we should do it in. We're all set.

    Darwin is borrowing his dad's good table saw tonight to trim down the cabinet doors, and his dad is letting him keep a second table saw that needs a little work. Did I mention Darwin was a member of the national champion small engines team in middle school?

    If things go well, I think we can have the cabinets painted, molding installed, and doors rehung by Feb. 6.

    Monday, January 24, 2005


    I apologize to anyone who might've tried to read or comment on this site this weekend. I altered the template on Friday and was so thrilled with my new design. But apparently I got my source data from the wrong place (don't remember what I did or what I was thinking) and ended up turning every single page into the same thing. Every link linked back to the main page, and I didn't notice until I tried to publish a new post.

    After struggling with what on earth I had done wrong and reviewing the finally-helpful Blogger Help section, I think I've got the site fixed now. So read and comment away.

    Geez. I feel like an idiot. Feel free to point and laugh.

    Weekend in Review

    As you can imagine since we had guests this weekend, we didn't get any work done on the house. I did sew a tiger-print cavegirl outfit for my Magic Attic doll, though.

    Friday night I went to a scrapbooking party and finally got our honeymoon page finished. Hey, it's only been two years and seven months. But that was the only thing I got done that night other than catching up on the gossip with my one remaining friend from high school, Wendy.

    On Saturday, Mom and Dad brought us two white rocking chairs Mom bought for our front porch. Mom has been on a shopping-for-our-house spree lately. You can see where I get it from. I won't show you the scary picture from my birthday of us looking like identical twins, one of whom was frozen in a cryogenic chamber and awakened 30 years later, not aged one day past 23.

    After M & D left, we went on a frantic cleaning and de-cluttering spree to prepare for our guests. I put away all the Christmas decorations except the Christmas tree itself. I even allowed Darwin to throw out the now-crusty gingerbread house, though I couldn't do the trashing myself. Too many memories ... ;)

    Our guests arrived - one of Darwin's lifelong friends, J, and his wife, M, supercool folks - and we had an early dinner. Then we came home and I made Cosmopolitans for M and me with a makeshift shaker. I need a real one.

    We played Cranium, and hilarious good times ensued. I won't tell you about how Darwin got drunk (a rarity for him) and puked on the bathroom curtains and passed out at 9 p.m., mortifying me.

    Whoops, did that slip out?

    Our guests left since it was so early. On Sunday, we could've got some work done - especially since Darwin miraculously had no trace of a hangover - but instead we laid around the house watching TV.

    We even watched a Lifetime movie called Baby for Sale. I couldn't resist. I'm very attracted to adoption stories right now.

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    Friday, January 21, 2005

    Hingey Goodness

    Darwin found some more-attractive hinges at Lowe's that fit our home-made cabinets perfectly. We got them in a darker finish than this to somewhat match the pretty new knobs and bin pulls from Rejuvenation.

    We would've preferred the totally invisible hinges - the kind that go inside the doors - but those wouldn't work for our cabinets. So we're glad to get hinges that at least don't screw into the fronts of the cabinet doors. Another bonus is that these hinges help the doors snap closed tightly. The way they're configured now, the doors require magnets to stay shut.

    The only complication is the new hinges make the cabinet doors poke toward the middle more, so they'll overlap. Darwin is enlisting his dad's help - and table saw - to shave down all the doors. Goody, one more thing to slow down the process.

    Darwin also bought all the wood trim for the cabinet faces. So we're all set to finish the job.

    But this weekend - our prime working time - we're having overnight guests. We're glad to have them - always glad to show off our house - but I'm feeling impatient to get the cabinets finished. Guess I'll have to be a slave driver on the week nights next week, too.


    Wednesday, January 19, 2005

    I Wanna See the End

    If I wake up at 6:40, I have plenty of time to beat back the skankiness and get to work something resembling on time. If I'm jolted awake by cats sneaking into my bedroom through the living room door they have learned how to open - like this morning - I find it easy to get up and go about the business of getting ready.

    But most mornings, I prefer to slap the snooze over and over, each time diving back into my dream as if I've only run to the kitchen for a snack during a movie. No, "prefer" is not the right word. I have little control over this impulse. It's my subconscious id or something, telling the clock and the world to shove it - I wanna see the end of this movie.

    Last night Darwin had a headache, so I slaved alone in the kitchen taking off the rest of the cabinet knobs and drawer pulls, filling the holes, sanding and then priming.

    (That is, I slaved during the commercial breaks of American Idol. OK, I know I said I wouldn't get sucked in this season. I know it's a disaster of bubblegum proportions. OK. But it's just so ... so gruesome!)

    We are having friends over this weekend who'll be seeing the house for the first time, and I'm feeling the urge to get the ball rolling on this kitchen. For now, I'm conveniently ignoring the floors in desperate need of sweeping, the bathrooms in need of cleaning ... oh yeah, and *mumbles* thechristmastreethatneedstakingdown.

    After I do a little more priming/painting tonight, we'll be at a standstill until the hinges are fixed. That'll be quite a job.

    Darwin is on his way now to look at hinges again and maybe buy the wood trim for the cabinet faces. We'll see what we can do.


    Tuesday, January 18, 2005

    A Soffit by Any Other Name

    Is a soffit what I think it is?
    According to Merriam-Webster, sort of maybe:
    Main Entry: sof·fit
    Pronunciation: 'sä-f&t
    Function: noun
    Etymology: French soffite, from Italian soffitto, from (assumed) Vulgar Latin suffictus, past participle of Latin suffigere to fasten underneath -- more at SUFFIX
    : the underside of a part or member of a building (as of an overhang or staircase); especially : the intrados of an arch

    Dictionary.com says:
    The underside of a structural component, such as a beam, arch, staircase, or cornice.

    I really hate not knowing what to call something. Saying "those thingies made of drywall above the cabinets" is not very efficient.


    Saturday, January 15, 2005

    We've Become the Kravitzes

    The new neighbors have apparently closed on the house next door. As we peered surreptitiously out the kitchen window, the office window and over the hedge today, commenting on their comings and goings, wondering what the husband was doing kneeling on the ground in the backyard, etc., I began to feel like Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched. You know the one - always poking her nose into Samantha and Darrin's business.

    I definitely don't want to be that kind of neighbor, and I don't think we'll end up that way. We've just got a heapin' helpin' of curiosity about the new folks who'll be taking on similar challenges to us - the same commute, the same front porch needing repairs this spring, the same ... um, I'm sure there's something else the same.

    Speaking of our challenges, we worked on the kitchen again today.

    We're considering the cut-outs-in-the-soffits idea. Darwin measured and drew some squares on the soffits to help us picture what we want. The main issue is that none of our cabinets are the same size, so symmetry is out the window. I like symmetry.

    And the dumb old stove vent is in the way.

    We spent the morning filling the holes from the old hinges and drawer pulls and finishing up the priming on the stuff that's ready. Then we painted.

    The paint color turned out to be perfect (semi-gloss Floral White, by Benjamin Moore). We ended up going with oil paint, and it hasn't been as big of a pain in the you-know-where now that we know about the old aluminum foil/freezer trick.

    We're using a small foam roller because that's what the paint store guy recommended. I really like it so far. We've only had to use a brush for a teensy bit of cutting in, but the roller is small enough to handle most things. And the foam makes a nice, smooth finish. Even with only one coat, only on the top half, the kitchen looks brighter and fresher already.

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    Wednesday, January 12, 2005

    Open or Closed, Part II

    Now I understand why everyone makes such a big deal about NYC. The cultural diversity, the people everywhere, the traffic, the food, the architecture, the shopping - wow. Just wow. I love it.

    I'm already planning my next trip ... maybe a week next year with Darwin. He's pouting because I had so much fun while he was home pining away for me. Technically, it was a business trip, but I squeezed some sight seeing in, too. And I bought a snazzy pair of pointy-toed shoes (which I am now wearing on my aching, blistered feet).

    The weather was beautiful and not-too-cold. It started snowing big, amazing flakes while we were at the top of the Empire State Building. My first - and probably only - encounter with snow this year.

    OK, OK, I'll stop talking about New York now.

    Back to the house and the kitchen question: open or closed?

    I think what I like about the open design is that the kitchen looks instantly different and fresh. I'm a person who likes instant gratification - it's the Veruca Salt in me coming out - and this way would get me to an end result faster. Open shelves would eliminate the hinge-changing difficulties for those cabinets, and I'd have less to paint.

    But Darwin hates the idea of open shelves. And there are the cons listed by helpful commenters - that open cabinets would let dust and grease get on the dishes and would require us to keep the contents of the cabinets organized and presentable.

    Then commenter Mindy (from Fixer Upper) pointed out that open shelves can make a small kitchen look bigger. Most any room can benefit from looking bigger, right?

    Another thing I've considered is cutting out the centers of the upper cabinets (within the new trim) and replacing the wood with something like chicken wire for a rustic look. That would give us the best of both worlds.

    Darwin says a jigsaw would be necessary for that job. In a quick scan of Home Depot's selection, I found them as cheap as $40. But what's the difference between the $200 one and the $40 one? Would the cheap-o be good enough to cut through our chintzy plywood cabinet doors?


    Saturday, January 08, 2005

    Open or Closed?

    We haven't done any real work on the kitchen in a while, but I felt the urge to get something accomplished today. (I call it "motivated", Darwin called me a "slave driver.")

    We washed the cabinets with TSP, which produced a bucket full of disgusting brown water. Who knew our cabinets were so gross?

    Then I primed what I could with some oil-based primer left over from my dollhouse construction, while Darwin took down the upper cabinet doors. We can't take off the lower cabinet doors indefinitely like this, because we'd have cats napping in our cookware.

    We still need to sand and fill holes where the old hinges went, which is why the primer appears so sporadically placed. Believe it or not, Darwin has figured out a way to let us escape from the '70s hinges!

    With the cabinet doors off, I started to think about the idea of open shelving. Darwin is not a fan of this idea. I played around in Photoshop and came up with two images: open and closed. I kinda messed up the closed-shelves one - it was a rush job - but you get the idea. Any opinions?

    I'm leaving for New York City in the morning for a three-day business trip. I've never been there before, so I'm pretty excited.

    More on the kitchen situation when I get back ...


    Friday, January 07, 2005

    O, Magnolia

    The ultimate symbol of Dixieland, the Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is an evergreen I'm oddly proud to have an abundance of on our property. The front yard is almost all magnolia. There's already a house museum called Magnolia Grove in the next town over, or I might be tempted to give the house that name.

    From what I've read, they'll bloom in late spring to summer. We haven't seen them in bloom yet, but I'm anticipating quite a show.

    The magnolia is the official tree/flower of Mississippi, where I lived for six years. It's even on the license plates and all the "Welcome to Mississippi" signs.

    In Alabama, we are less bold about our state flower, the also-evergreen camellia. Our state flower was the goldenrod until 1959, when it was changed to the camellia. I can't argue with that choice; the camellia is one of my all-time favorite plants. It beats roses any day and even - gasp - magnolias.

    I'm not overly interested in gardening and know even less about it than I do about fine wines and the proper usage techniques for Clorox bleach. All I know is I want some camellias. Also, some Confederate roses. Then I'll have a trifecta of Southern plants.

    All I'll need then is a big straw hat.

    Thursday, January 06, 2005

    '70s Blah

    Was there some kind of economic boom or great prices on home remodeling products during the '70s? Seems like every badly remuddled/redecorated old house had its last update in the decade of avacado and harvest gold.

    But wait - my economic boom theory is shot because all the '70s junk in our house is just that - the cheapest stuff money (very little money) can buy.

    Take our hideous cabinet hinges, for example.

    Surprisingly, you can still find the horrid things at Lowe's. Surely they're there just for people replacing the old stuff, right? Surely no one chooses these hinges anymore? Someone please reassure me that I'm not the only person who thinks these are monstrous.

    Yet I can't find a way to get rid of them. Our homemade cabinets are configured so strangely nothing else will work!

    Just as I was getting ready to say to hell with cabinets, hinges and everything involved with them, I saw these very hinges in the movie Meet the Fockers. The fictional Fockers (funny name aside) actually seem like really cool people. They live in a 100-year-old house, and I love their kitchen. It has yellow painted cabinets that look like dressed-up versions of my '70s cabinets. They (or the movie's designers, I should say) kept the ugly '70s hinges, and yet the room looks fabulous - quirky, warm, inviting.

    Best of all, the kitchen fits with the rest of the house. That's all I'm asking for here - for people to walk into my kitchen and not feel like they've stepped through a time warp to the disco era.

    Last night at Home Depot, I found the perfect molding for the cabinet faces. So that's one step in the right direction.


    Monday, January 03, 2005

    No More Walking Through the Kitchen in our Underwear

    We have new neighbors! A while back, I mentioned that the vacant 1840s house next door was up for sale. This weekend, Darwin (the only one who ventures outdoors, since I'm usually up to my ears in skankiness on the weekends) met our new neighbors-to-be, who were at the house getting a home inspection. Darwin says they're very nice, and they report that the house is structurally solid - just needs some cosmetic stuff. So that's good news. It's a lovely place.

    Hurray! More old-house-lover neighbors! And they're Tuscaloosa commuters, like us.