Category Archives: Renovation

Baltimore Kitchen Remodel

Kitchen. With toe moulding! We never really completed it while we lived there. We should have.

Oh, the Baltimore kitchen. What a cluster. It’s difficult to adequately describe the entire thought process that went into building the kitchen, because we changed so many things repeatedly, but basically we wanted to take advantage of the large space and build a modern space that gave nods to the history of the house, and fit our needs. The color scheme ended up a bit more stark than we intended, but I still love the fact that we had opted out of upper cabinets and only went with the one shelf above the stove to hold pots and pans. But the cluster that is was is probably why I haven’t written about it until now. No clue how to start. But, as they say, I guess the best place to start is with the beginning.

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If you can imagine, that’s actually after we had done some work in the kitchen. I can’t find the original pictures, but imagine an 18×10 space (a great space for kitchen!) and an entire kitchen crammed into 8×10 of that space with 10×10 almost empty. What was there was old, busted and/or rotted and slightly moldy.

The first thing we did, essentially the second day we moved in, was rip out the worst of the cabinets. We also moved the fridge to where it is in that picture and added a few $15 Ikea shelves to store food. And that’s where we stopped for about 8 months, while we focused on the multitudes of other problems in the house and saved up for the big overhaul. Somewhere in there we sold the detachable dish washer that came with the property and added a few cheap ikea cabinets.

In January of 2012 we got sick of dealing with the kitchen as it was (the moldy smell from the sink may have been part of our motivation) and started ripping things out. This was perhaps the most frustrating but absolutely satisfying week of demo I’ve ever experienced. And yes. It took a week. Every day after work we were ripping off fake brick wood paneling, 1×1 studs, old wallpaper, struts to hold a suspended ceiling and patching plaster. If I remember correctly we waited like a month to finish ripping off the last panel because we just couldn’t deal with it anymore.

However, along the way we did find some cool stuff. Mostly, the original casings and mouldings. They covered them up. INCLUDING a window. A beautiful original transom window from the 1920s. Ugh.

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Of course, we also found wiring hanging lose and outlets that were never actually anchored and swung free as soon as we took the paneling out. We also found the original hardwood floors under approximately 18 layers of fake-brick linoleum, but we were afraid some of the tiles might contain asbestos so we didn’t risk removing them. Sigh. I wish we could have, because what we could see (the part that was under the original sink) was in perfect condition. Maybe one day sweet floors, you’ll be freed.

When we first started the renovation, we decided we would put a half bath in the space where the kitchen was and put the full kitchen in the 10×10 space. We moved the plumbing to accommodate this, removed a pony wall and rebuilt a full wall (poorly). And tiled it (that was pretty good).

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Then our (ex) plumber let us know that it would be several thousand dollars more than he had originally estimated to put in the half bath, because the vent would need to be replaced. That killed the whole half-bath dream. As we contemplated what to do with that empty space, we realized that while we would like a large pantry, a big open kitchen appealed to us more. We thought out what an island would/could look like and eventually came to the conclusion that that’s what we should go for. So down came that wall. And all that tile, sigh.

However, the more open plan was far, far better. The downside was that at this point Ikea stopped carrying the wooden countertops that had become so ubiquitous. We couldn’t afford replacing all the countertops, so we used a similar piece of wood from Ikea, cut down to size, but it wasn’t thick enough so it was held up by shims. This past February we finally replaced them all, and it was glorious.

We also tried out three different floors before finally going with the one pictured above and painted about 1000 times. One of our other failures was a large cabinet system around the fridge, to give that built-in look, but on the eve of Thanksgiving, before 10 people descended on our house, we took it out and put in a small bank of cabinets and countertop to give us more prep room and storage space. We kept the largest of the cabinets as a pantry, and It’s still in the kitchen now.

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That extra space changed our lives. Maybe not literally, but it made a huge difference to how we cooked and how much time we spent in the kitchen. It also started our love affair with those grey cabinets. While Ikea would of course discontinue that particular color, we ended up using the new version for the rest of the countertops.

When we finally got the bathroom remodeled, we had a lot of drywall work done throughout the house, and some of that was in the kitchen. On the wall, where the original kitchen sink was, we wallpapered it and made it a bar area.

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Lo and behold, that wallpaper is still there! Crazy, I know.

Basically, the entire process was one big learning experience. We know now to take our time, plan things out and source materials correctly. We had a pretty strict budget for the kitchen, and while we still managed to stay inside of it, we would have been well under had we done things right the first time. And if anyone reading this is looking to renovate something so large themselves, that’s the best advice I can give: take it slow and do it right. That and don’t try to install a sink and cut the water line cap at 10pm, after all the local hardware stores are closed. Or try to fit a sink into a not quite large enough hole.

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With that being said, the kitchen did also teach us that we are capable of many things, such as plumbing, electrical, woodwork, tiling, etc. It also taught us what we weren’t good at (See above for sink). But big projects don’t really scare us anymore, and our process ended up creating my favorite (And most missed) room in the Baltimore house.


Ahh, perfection in it’s imperfection.

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Mt Rainier House Updates

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With all that’s going on with the Baltimore House, I’ve yet to really talk about the Mt. Rainier house. The picture of Neptune (above) probably sums up how I feel about everything regarding the Mt. Rainier house. It’s been a very nutty few months and not the most pleasant of experiences. Not long after we moved in, we had a house warming party. It was very well attended (thanks everyone who came!) but unfortunately our plumbing wasn’t up for the task of handling 50ish people and we had a major sewage back-up. We are STILL dealing with the aftermath (the back-up was at the end of May).

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We now have floors (mostly) in the one room, but we no longer have carpet in the upstairs hallway, still don’t have a half-bath and there’s a distinct lack of drywall in the bathroom. So much for a “move-in ready house”, huh Steven?

Before the great plumbing explosion of 2013, we had done a lot of work to the house, specifically to get it prepped for the party, but also because that’s just who we are.

We painted the bottom cabinets of the kitchen (I need to redo them, better and once I do, I’ll provide a tutorial) and wallpapered with this magnificent grasspaper floral wallpaper I had gotten from Graham & Brown for super cheap. Most people are probably cringing at the yellowy/green, but it’s so bright and happy and just perfect for that room.

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We did a lot of landscaping. We planted a garden in the front, added some flower boxes and hung some lights. We also planted a ton of fruit trees and built a better a chicken coop that hides them better.

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We hung art all throughout the house. Painted the hallway and dining room. And! We added this AMAZEBALLS mural from Anthropologie to the master:

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The master bedroom is looking a little little kiddish what with the bright florals everywhere and the light colors, so I’ll eventually be changing that a bit, but our bedside tables and the like are in Baltimore right now, so it’s kind of moot at this point.

And that’s where the house was when we were doing things like this:

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But of course not too long after the plumbing fiasco, we had to evict our renters and spend the next month working during the day and renovating during the night.

I think it’s safe to say that not only were we annoyed by this, but so were our animals.

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Neptune stared at me like this for 10 minutes after three days in a row of being gone from 8am-midnight. I wish I was joking.

Things have also gotten decidedly wild around the Mt. Rainier house.

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Very wild.

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A little too wild.

We’ve already mowed the lawn and tonight I plan on weeding the front garden. So now, we only need to get the rest of the floor installed, redo the hall bath and install the upstairs floor.


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Calling it

I am so tired. Folks, one thing you should never do is basically renovate your entire house in a month. It’s stupid and it sucks. But it is immensely satisfying. After you’ve slept for 1800 hours and recovered. Or when you see the for sale sign up and know that you did the best job you could. Whatever. Frak, I’m tired. Also, this post is more of a rambling of what we did/focused on, with some pictures and I’ll post the pretty room-by-room stuff as the week goes. If I’m not comatose.

When we took back the house from the renters it was a hot mess. It was smelly, the walls were dirty, the floors were dirty. Everything was dirty and they painted things the way wrong color for the house. It’s a row house, and it doesn’t get a ton of light in the living room, so one thing we learned was that dark colors just did not work in there. So of course, they painted it a dark color. Sigh.

We repainted the entire house. Top to bottom. Literally. From the basement floor to the upstairs ceilings, every. single. surface. was repainted. I am permanently stained with paint. I went through three paint sprayers (I’ll eventually review my favorite). We spent the bulk of our budget just in paint. I am now probably pro-level at painting. As I am typing, I’m in a nice business professional dress with paint on my feet, in my hair and on my glasses. I’m sure my coworkers think I’m totally normally.

We spent probably half the time bargain shopping for furniture, because staging was a must. Target and World Market are my new besties. I don’t know how much we spent in furniture but it was a lot, but not a ton. I mean, we were furnishing a nearly 1800 sq ft house almost from scratch. But I think we’d probably still win an award for being super frugal. Like most people’s one room decorating budget would be more than what we spent in the house total. Most of the tags are tapped/tugged into the furniture and will be returned when we sell it. Or we’ll sell it with the house. Whatevs.

We have a lot of rugs too. I need more house to use all these rugs. We bought rugs to hide how stupid the floors are in the house. We refinished the downstairs, but never did the upstairs, and really for what someone is buying the house for, they can replace their own damned floors. (Pro tip: In Baltimore, real estate is stupidly cheap — especially in comparison to where we live now). But in the meantime, we didn’t want it to be like a total “OH NO, I HAVE TO REPLACE THE FLOORS” and more like “oh well the rugs will hide it, we don’t need to do this immediately.”

So, enough rambling, here are some pictures.

First impression from the door when you walk in

First impression from the door when you walk in

The dining room. So lovely and huge.

The dining room. So lovely and huge.

More living room

More living room

Master. <3

Master. ❤

I love this part of the bathroom. So much.
Completely renovated bathroom.

Completely renovated bathroom.

More kitchen. Giant fridge. Original casing that the previous owner had covered up!

More kitchen. Giant fridge. Original casing that the previous owner had covered up!

Kitchen. With toe moulding! We never really completed it while we lived there. We should have.

Kitchen. With toe moulding! We never really completed it while we lived there. We should have.

Oh the office. My favorite room in the house

Oh the office. My favorite room in the house

Back Bedroom.

Back Bedroom. I love how Scandinavian this room looks. And the planets are fun.

Middle Bedroom. Ugh.

Middle Bedroom. Ugh.

We have to make a trip back up to the Baltimore house tonight to wrap things up. And do something more with that middle bedroom because in the worlds of Charles Barkley, It’s Turrible, but it goes up on MLS tonight! YAY!!!!

The end.

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