Friday, January 29, 2010

Another (lame) teaser post

So I'm not quite sure what happened to this week, but somehow it's the weekend again and I still haven't posted about what fun we had with the lights last weekend. This is partly because I need to get a cord to connect my fancy new camera (thanks, Ellen!) to my computer and partly because I didn't get much in the way of school work done last weekend, which meant that this week was catch-up time.

But to quickly re-cap and give another teaser for this weekend:

*Paul came last weekend and we installed five can lights in the front room and a fancy-dancy overhead light in my bedroom. They are beautiful, and make all the difference in the world. It's amazing what some proper lighting (read: more lighting than one ghastly ceiling fan) can do for a room.

*We discovered that whatever they paid the last electrician, it was too much. The old ceiling fan was wired with a cut-apart extension cord and a separate ground wire running haphazardly over the rafters in the attic, despite the fact that the junction box they were connected to wasn't properly grounded anyway. At least they tried?

*We also discovered that, although the insulation is probably older than my mom (which really doesn't make it that old - 30 years at most, right, Mom?), the attic isn't really in bad shape. I'm having visions of putting plywood down for some kind of floor after I replace the insulation and decorating the attic like Sara Crewe's attic in A Little Princess. How awesome would it be to have a secret playhouse accessible by a ladder through the closet ceiling? The 9-year-old in me is utterly enchanted by the prospect.

Teaser for this weekend:

*My mom, my best friend and I are priming my bedroom and bathroom tomorrow, the painting on Sunday or Monday. After that, the only things left to do will be to stain and seal the wood floors and to finish scraping the kitchen floor and slap some linoleum down. Hooray!

Also to come: a more philosophical post about my design philosophy including some pretty inspiration pictures. The plan is to pick up the requisite camera cord tomorrow, so pictures are forthcoming. :)

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quick update/ teaser for after the weekend

The sinus crap of doom seems to have subsided and left me with a bizarrely husky, lounge-singer-y voice but otherwise feeling ok. The downside of the past week has been that, aside from being sick myself, I found out that my car needs surgery to the tune of another $650 (this is a long and painful story, but suffice it to say that, had I not had my car worked on earlier this month, I don't think it would need to have the transmission replaced now). So money is even tighter around chez moi this month than it would have been otherwise. I have cried at least five or six times at the thought of losing this car, however, so I have decided the investment is merited. (I may eventually devote an entire post to my old, ugly, well-loved car. I've had it longer than any of my pets, have put well over 100,000 miles on it and can't quite imagine my life without it right now, pitiful as that may be).

The good news is that Paul's coming this weekend to help me work on the Box. He got a good deal on can lights for the front room, so we'll be putting those in, and taking out the horrible ceiling fan currently in place. I have my eye on a really pretty overhead light for the bedroom. We're also hoping to scrape up the rest of the (different from the front room) nasty foam stuff from the kitchen and get some reclaimed linoleum (read: left over from my aunt and uncle's bathroom project) laid in there. If we really get ambitious, we may get some paint on the walls in the bedroom and bathroom as well, although I'm not holding my breath on that. It's good to get some sleep, too.

I'll leave you with a taste of the fun we'll have this weekend in the kitchen:

It has progressed since this picture was taken because my sister came over and scraped her little heart out (bless her), but this ugly orange foam is still holding on under the fridge and stove, so we'll move those out and get the rest taken care of. Eww.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Saga of the Floors

I am a sucker for wood floors. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but there is nothing more beautiful to me than a well-put together room with a big, open expanse of wood flooring.

Which is why I'm driving myself a little crazy to rehabilitate the rather distressed original oak floors in the Box.

You see, the Box was built back in the days when "sub-flooring" meant "really thick tongue and groove hardwood," but sometime in its history some benighted soul put carpet (ugly, ugly puke green carpet) over the hardwood. The house has been a rental for at least the past 25 years, if not more (I'm still in the process of putting together more of the house's history - there was nothing enlightening on the title. Actually, more about the title later). In this case, being a rental meant not being taken particularly good care of for a number of years, unfortunately, and the owners let the roof go so long that it leaked all over the front room of the house. The standing water coupled with the carpet and foam from hell meant that a chemical reaction took place between the foam and the wood varnish, basically bonding the foam to the boards and petrifying the wood underneath. All of this combined to leave the floors looking like this when I bought the house:

And another for good measure:

The green stuff is the left over foam that stuck to the floor when they ripped out the old carpet. The people who were fixing up the house to sell it started sanding the foam off in parts because another prospective buyer wanted them to refinish the floor for him, but they gave it up as a bad job once the guy decided he didn't want the house. They were going to put carpet down through the whole house again, but when I signed the buyer contract I told them to leave it if they would knock a few thousand off their asking price. I've never liked carpet anyway, but I do love a challenge.

And it's been a challenge so far. We had to wipe down every bit of foam with a damp mop to saturate the foam to make it easier to scrape off, then we went over every, freaking inch of that floor with little plastic spatulas to scrape the gunk off. Here's an action shot:

Also, when they were painting the walls to get it ready to sell it they weren't particularly careful about the paint-drippage, so we (by "we" I mean my long-suffering boyfriend) had to get some paint off the floor without damaging the wood, too.

After getting all the foam and paint up, we rented a rotary sander and spent about 17 hours on the day after Christmas going over (and over, and over, and over) the floors, making sure we got as much of the varnish up as we possibly could. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this process, which is a shame because for at least a couple hours of that time I was "riding" the sander while Paul steered because we found that the extra weight helped on the damaged parts of the floor. I don't really recommend this because I had to be really careful not to stay on too long or the motor would start to overheat, and also because I almost got lobotomized by the ceiling fan, which hangs lower than I thought, but I'm sure it looked pretty comical.

The next step was to use a belt sander and palm sander to go around the edges of the room to get the places the rotary sander couldn't reach. I'm pretty much done with that stage at this point and now I'm using little metal hand scrapers to get the varnish out of the low-lying cracks between boards. I don't have pictures of that, either, but I'll take some next time I'm at it. In the meantime, here's a picture of the floors post-scraping the foam off, but pre-sanding. Much better than with all that nasty green stuff sticking around!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Meet the Box

So between winter quarter having started last week, putting an unexpected $630 into my car, and having developed some kind of obnoxious sinus crud, there hasn't been much additional progress made on my house in the past couple of weeks. That being the case, I thought I'd give a quick run-down of the basic stats on the CB (that's cardboard box - I'm not sure for how long I can keep coming up with different ways to say "my new house," so I think it's going to be the CB for short).

So, the house:

Square footage: 484 sq. feet, if you measure from the outside. Its footprint is a perfect square, 22'x22'.

Levels: 1, although it's built over a crawlspace, and there's access to the attic as well. Both are accessed through the front room closet.

Rooms: 4 (5, if you count the broom closet, which adds a not insignificant amount to the floor space). The house is divided down the middle length-wise, with the front being all one big (or "big," as my mother would have it) room and the back half being divided between the bedroom (so the bedroom is the size of 1/4 of the house) and a bathroom opening off the bedroom plus a wee little kitchen with a broom closet off it (so the broom closet shares walls with the bathroom and the kitchen). Actually, this will be easier:

The blank room between the kitchen and the bathroom is the broom closet - I couldn't get the label to fit without blocking out other stuff. Also, the blank spaces in the outside wall that aren't labeled "door to outside" are windows. I couldn't quite bring myself to label all of them. The Paint program is not quite as much fun as I remember it being from when I was a kid.

So anyway, that's my house. There's also an unattached garage, which is kind of a funny thing itself. It's not square, you see. I don't mean it's a one-car, rectangular garage, although it is. I mean if you look at it, it looks like it's leaning pretty significantly to the right. Here, let me demonstrate:

That's the reaction I get when I open my garage door. The even funnier thing is that the roof seems to be square - that is, it's parallel to the ground and doesn't seem to be in danger of going anywhere anytime soon. But the walls... the walls they are a leanin'. The garage has been this way for years, and it seems to be sturdy enough. The house is already showing itself to have a personality - I suppose it's only right that the garage should have one, too. And the garage seems to be channeling "Wino" as its persona of choice.

Projects to be done before I move in:

1. Finish scraping wood floors, stain and seal them
2. Paint the bedroom to counteract the "builder's beige" theme going on in the rest of the house
3. Possibly paint the bathroom as well (the front room is going to stay beige for the time being, both because it's actually a really nice paint job - better than I could do, if we're honest - and also because it's a huge room (relatively speaking) and the thought of painting that much square footage makes my shoulder hurt).

I'm hoping to get the painting done next weekend (not this weekend because I'm in the process of writing my master's thesis and I promised my advisor a solid chapter draft by early next week), and the staining done in early February (after I get paid again, since my car about wiped me out this month).

Still on track for moving in mid-February.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bringing spring home

When I stopped at the grocery today I saw that tulips were on sale for $2.99 a bunch, so I chose two gorgeous pink bunches to bring home with me. It reminded me of a book I had when I was little, Big Bird Brings Spring to Sesame Street. In it, Big Bird buys a pretty bouquet for himself, but he ends up giving a flower to everyone along Sesame Street. By the time he gets back to his nest his bouquet is pretty much gone, but he looks back down the street and sees flowers everywhere he looks. I've been a little blah for the past few days what with it being freezing, bloody cold and snowy, so the tulips felt like a little breath of spring. They made me smile while I was braving the gusts out to my car.

(Sorry about the sad picture quality - my camera broke, so I'm relying on the cell phone pictures for now. Hopefully the camera situation will be remedied sooner rather than later)

The dreary winter days really make me crave color. With that in mind, my best friend Amy and I painted my (itty-bitty) new kitchen green last weekend. When I say "green" I don't mean green-that-could-almost-be-neutral. I went for out and out green on this one. It's not subtle. But I love it, and it reminds me of spring every time I walk in my door.

I will post better pictures once I shanghai someone's proper camera instead of trying to use my cell phone's "camera". The ugly light will likely be going away sometime soonish, and the kitchen looks especially crowded in this pic because the stove and fridge are pulled out from the walls so I could paint behind them, but the kitchen is only about 5 feet wide by 7 or so feet, so it really is as cozy as it looks.

The color is Olympic Grassy Meadow, in case you're wishing your kitchen was GREEN, too.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Cardboard Box

I am the proud, new owner of a wee little house. Because I am a graduate student, my budget did not encompass anything bigger than 500 square feet, but I have had the itch to have my own little piece of heaven for a while now, so when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I will be using this space to chronicle my adventures in home-ownership, particularly in do-it-yourself-land (because who can afford to hire someone to do it for you? Not this girl). If we're honest, this blog will probably also turn into a cooking/ reading/ gardening/ generally commenting on the finer things in life sort of blog, but being a member of the propertied class - the landed aristocracy or ruling elite, as I like to think of it - is what I'm particularly exercised about these days.

The blog title is what my great-aunt Allie has taken to calling the new chez moi. There have been some jokes made about the size of my castle. Now, I will be the first to admit that it's small (22 feet square, to be exact), but it's mine, and it's just right for me. I am in the process of refinishing the (original, old-growth oak!) hardwood floors, then I'm hoping to move in by my birthday in mid-February. Come in, come in!