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    The Impromptu Kitchen

    When we bought our 1770 Colonial, we knew we were immediately going to create new bathrooms. However, we were not planning on doing the kitchen right away because of our renovation budget. However, due to the need for the bathroom plumbing mechanics dropping the ceiling in the kitchen space became a must and would result in the loss of the upper cabinets. Once we got into the project, it just made sense to go ahead with a full remodel and get all the mess over at once. Upon first seeing the house, we planned on knocking down the wall down between the dining room and kitchen, so we just went for it. We enjoy an open floor plan and having the kitchen part of the living space.
    Here are pictures of the kitchen before.



    This is a view of the wall that was eventually removed. There was a swinging door between the kitchen and dining room. The dining room was beautiful, but as I mentioned, we prefer an open floor plan.


    This is the project mid construction. But, you can already see how open the space will be when completed.



    Once the wall was down and we were down to studs, it was time to figure out exactly how this was going to go. We kept the sink where it was, just replaced it with the concrete double sink and we kept the dishwasher where it was. By doing this, it kept the plumbing labor costs in the kitchen down.


    One of the very big splurges that we made was to get a professional line duel fuel range. Not only that, but we went up to the 48 inch range with the griddle. The sink was 48 inches and in order to balance out the space (or at least that is how I justified it), we decided on the larger Thermador range. The hood is a Proline hood and was purchased online at a discounted cost.


    In order to save some money, we opted out of doing upper cabinets and decided on open shelves. When this decision was made, a tile backsplash didn’t seem to fit into the style.



    We definitely had a more commercial feel going on, so a galvanized metal wall behind the range and sink seemed to pull the look together. A local company was able to come in, measure and install the wall.



    The island was fairly new in the house and was well made, so we kept that. We did replace the countertop which was formica with a birch countertop from Ikea. This wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it looks good and brings a warmth to the kitchen. Then, I painted the island red to have it “pop”. At first, we had it in the same configuration as it was originally (see picture prior to a party we were having), but then we realized more seating was needed. Jesse was able to cut the top and glue it to remaining countertop that was in the barn. I ordered turned legs from online, and Jesse constructed a counter height table. We can now sit 8 around the table when it is pulled away from the island.




    The floors in the kitchen were a linoleum which we replaced with the floor boards from the attic which were refinished like those in the bathrooms.
    As a reminder of how it looked, here is the dining room prior to renovation. The floors were already wood and finished, so they did not need to be replaced.



    Here is the living/kitchen space now, which fits into the family style living we enjoy.



    As I mentioned this wasn’t exactly planned but has definitely become the heart of the house in everyway.

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    Renovated Master Bath


    From the last post, you were able to see how by knocking down a few walls and putting up some new ones, we were able to create a more usable and efficient use of space. So now to the bathroom makeovers.

    First, I’ll start with the hall bath. It was definitely a step back in time and not a good one. As you can see below, it was very small, with dated fixtures, and not very welcoming.



    With the new configuration and a little imagination, we were able to create a bright bathroom. The refurbished clawfoot tub fit perfectly and the sink cabinet made for good use of space. The toilet has its own room, a toilet closet so to speak with tile flooring. We also added a linen closet. The floor in the rest of the bathroom is the refurbished floor boards from the attic that were salvaged when the attic space was demo in preparation for insulation.








    The master bath was a huge undertaking, and took us a while to plan out. Here are the pictures of the before. Please note you stepped up into the bathroom, which was due to the mechanicals/plumbing needed.



    In the master bath, we wanted 2 sinks and a separate tub and shower, but space was limited. We also didn’t want to step up, which meant reworking the plumbing. In the end, we dropped the kitchen ceiling to make it work (see next post), but it was all worth it. The actual tile came from Home Depot and was installed by a local tiling company. The tub was a wonderful find and was actually free. We used unfinished floorboards from the attic as the tub surround instead of tiling. The sink cabinets are Ikea brand and the fixtures are from Ferguson. In the master bath, the toilet was once again in it’s own “room” with a tile floor, as we did in the hall bath.







    Toilet room

    Finally the half bath downstairs is actually one of my favorites as it was mostly cosmetic. Here is a before, which actually doesn’t show much. I forgot to get some before shots, but to give you a visual, the toilet was dark brown, and yes you read that correctly, Dark Brown.


    We were able to find a sink at Architectural Salvage which worked great and was only $200. We replaced the toilet and pulled up the vinyl flooring. As luck would have it, underneath the flooring was a beautiful wood floor that we sanded and refinished. With a little paint and a decorative mirror we brought the downstairs bath into the 21st century.




    Next up, the kitchen renovation…

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    Wow…where did the time go! Finally getting back to blogging.

    If you recall, I was blogging about the renovations we were undertaking on our Colonial home. However, lesson learned…while you are renovating, working, and living your life, there isn’t a lot of time left to publish it as you go along. Now that we are done with most of the interior renovations, I’m ready to get back to the posting. So, it’s been over a year now and wow, did that go by fast. While doing renovating, time seems to be measured by counting one project to the next and little else. But, I will start again, where I left off. And now I have pictures of the completed projects as we go along! So back to the sinks and the tub.

    Here is the doublesink for the kitchen and it’s progression to the final product. If you recall it was found in the basement of the Futuro offices and purchased from the landlord. It is a concrete sink which Jesse was able to refurbish by filling in the existing drain holes and then drilling out the new spots for modern day drains.

    Sink being refinished to give a polished look

    Sink being refinished to give a polished look

    Finally the sink is in its final spot.

    Finally the sink is put in place.

    Finally the sink is put in place.

    The Final touch on the sink is the commercial pot filler faucet and spray unit from Chicago Faucet.


    The next refurbished plumbing fixture was the laundry sink, which was originally in the basement of the house. It is a matching single sink to the double sink in the kitchen.


    It too was refinished and put into place, this time in the laundry area.


    Finally, the clawfoot tub which was purchased at an architectural salvage store. I was able to sand it down, paint it and we were able to find fixtures which work with it.

    Tub in the process of being scraped and sanded.

    Tub in the process of being scraped and sanded.

    Here are pictures of the clawfoot legs before and after.

    These are the feet from the tub prior to sanding and painting.

    These are the feet from the tub prior to sanding and painting.


    Here is the tub put into place, awaiting the faucets and surround curtain.


    Next up tearing down walls!

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    Reclaiming Balance

    Budgets are a reality. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to spend unlimited dollars for our remodels and renovations and our family is no different.  So, the question that comes to mind is where can we save some money and where will we be able to spend the money to make a great space without putting ourselves in a financial hole. It’s all about reclaiming balance.


    An area where we are saving money is in bathroom.  We don’t need a top of the line toilet, we just want a low flush toilet that will save water and gets the job done.  What that means for us is spending about $250-$300 per toilet as opposed to $400-$500 for the higher end models.


    Fortunately for us, the house already had a laundry sink in the basement that we will be moving to the mudroom area for laundry. It is a concrete wash basin sink.




    An exciting find for us, was a 48inch double concrete sink with cast iron legs for a base, which was in the basement of our office building, which we were able to purchase from our landlord for $200. Both sinks need a little spiffing up, but will look great in the spaces.  We have been researching and reaching out to contacts, to make sure we refurbish them correctly, to fix any cracks, replace the drains, and avoid future leaks and issues. Where we decided to splurge was on the kitchen faucet and went with a commercial pot filler by Chicago Faucet.  It’s a big expense but it will complete the look we are going for.


    dsc_9095dsc_9047dsc_9054Note: If you decide to go this route, make sure you have plenty of help to move the sink or an amateur engineer in the family, who can rig up something like we did to unload it from the truck, (see pulley system in picture).







    We found a claw foot tub from the local architectural salvage shop.  It is in great shape and just needed some cleaning up and a couple of coats of paint on the outside. I was able to sand and scrape the exterior, as well as the claw feet, apply a good primer, then finish off with 2 coats of white paint. After priming the clawfeet, and using a spray paint to match the chrome fixtures, it makes for a great combination. We have purchased a shower kit for it with a curtain attachment to complete the look we are going for.  Not pictured, is an antique pedestal sink for the powder room that was purchased at the same time.














    Tile for the master bath shower and the toilet rooms in the bathrooms was another area we saved.  If you don’t have a certain color in mind and are willing to be flexible, you can find some great deals at Home Depot or in the clearance section at your local home improvement store. The bathroom floors will be salvaged wood floors from the attic that we have de-nailed, and will be sanding and finishing with a low VOC oil finish.

    Things are really moving along now, so more to follow soon.





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    Wallpaper…and more wallpaper.

    So, now that all but a small bit of demo is done, what else is going on?

    Well, one of the things that we knew had to happen as soon as we saw the house was wallpaper removal.  Now, I don’t know about you, but the couple of times I have taken on this task, I have ended up, well, GRUMPY!!! I really don’t like doing it. I love to paint, you know the whole instant gratification thing, but wallpaper removal, no thank you.  In some spots, there were 3 layers of wallpaper, (see picture).  So, knowing that 90% of the house was covered in wallpaper, we put it in the budget, to have all of the wallpaper removed and to have  2 coats of primer put on the walls.



    Upon removing the wall paper, there was horsehair plaster throughout the house, which was not a surprise, and it needed some repair before the coating of primer.

    My husband and I very wisely hired a painting crew to come in and take care of this.  Now, some of you may say, why would you spend money on that, when you can do it yourself?  Did I mention it makes me GRUMPY!




    DSC_8939Believe me the money spent on this is well worth it for this family.  Now, I get to go and do the fun stuff and paint colors for that instant gratification thing I had mentioned. Because of the order of renovations, I have been able to paint our son’s and daughter’s rooms.

    I prefer Benjamin Moore paint as I like the way it covers and rolls out, this is purely a personal preference.  Some colors used so far are: Lavender Secret, Ballet Slippers and Hancock Green, all in Eggshell finish. All of the trim throughout the house will be Simply White semigloss finish.  I am looking forward to figuring out the rest of the color scheme, but we need to have walls up in order to do that:)



    Next time, I will share some of our “finds” that we will use in the house.



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    Recycle, Reuse


    One of the things we did in the house was demo the attic space, (pictured above prior to demo).  At one point, it was finished living space, with small bedrooms and a hall, so we removed the walls and ceiling.  We had the demo crew vacuum out the old insulation, which will be replaced with cellulose R50. Then we will be air sealing the attic.   Next, we will put down Advantech flooring so that we have all of the storage space available.  But, before all of that, a key part of the demo was to have the crew pull up the floors a bit more carefully then  just hitting it with a sledge hammer.  There were many square feet of wide pine that appears to have been put in the house over many years at different times.  So, they pulled it up and stacked it.



    Now comes the job of removing the old nails.  If you look at the various nails that were used, it creates quite a history timeline. The photo below is, in what we believe, to be chronological order.  There were the original nails which were the extreme pointy ones. The square nails are ones that would have been used next and were most likely manufactured by the Tremont Nail Company in Massachusetts,  (When the time comes to install the boards, we will be ordering the nails from Tremont to match the rest of the flooring). And lastly, the modern wire nails, which are the ones most people are used to seeing.





    We are going to reuse the flooring in the kitchen, mudroom and master bath.  The process to make the floor ready again is to, patch the original subfloor, and screw down a layer of Advantech subfloor.  When the time comes to lay the floor, (most likely after framing, although we are thinking of laying the floor first, as this is how the rest of the house is),  the boards will be cut square, laid as is, then finished in place.

    I have grand ideas of using the wood for a sliding barn door from the master bedroom to bathroom, but I’m thinking that will be a later project say after we actually have a usable  kitchen, bath and bedrooms.

    Stay tuned for more updates…


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    No Water, Green Lawn

    As summer begins to take full effect, many homeowners start paying much more attention to their lawn.  Fertilizing, re-seeding, mowing, watering. Just thinking about it makes us tired, and when it comes to watering – it makes our wallets hurt!

    What if you could plant a grass that, after it’s first growing season, didn’t need to be watered (except in extreme drought) and didn’t HAVE to be mowed? No twice a week, or weekly nights spent out mowing when you could be at the park or having fun with the family.  No daily waterings.

    Wildflower farms has a grass seed called “eco-lawn”, which has been in production and available for household use for the last 10+ years.  It is a blend of 7 fine fescue grasses that grow into a thick turf that can thrive in a variety of soil types, even dry or infertile soils.  The grasses are able to live in those conditions because of the deep roots inherent to their properties.  In hard clay the roots can grow up to 9″ deep, while in sandy soil that depth can reach 14″. This allows the grass to pull water and nutrients naturally from a much greater area of soil.


    Eco-lawn is quick to germinate, but slow-growing once solidified.  Over the course of a full growing season, if left unmowed the grass would be 9″ long, but because of the thinness of the blades it falls over the a carpet-like look at a height of 4″.  If you are still wanting the “classic cut lawn” look, however, it will only need to be mowed once a month to a height of 3-4″.

    From a sustainability standpoint, this is the first major incentive.  Lawn mowers drink gas like a child does koolaid.  The EPA states that “operating a typical gasoline-powered lawn mower for one hour produces the same amount of smog-forming hydrocarbons as driving an average care almost 200 miles under typical driving conditions.” Just think of all the places you could’ve visited, adding up all of those miles, instead of mowing the lawn!


    The second, and yet equally great, issue from a sustainability perspective is the lack of watering needed for the turf to continue growing.  While the seeding/germination process is similarly intensive to common grasses, once the turf has passed its first growing season successfully it only needs to be watered during times of extreme drought.  Think of all the money, and WATER, you will save by cutting out the 3+/wk waterings!  Wildflower Farms provides a chart, which can be seen here, of the cost effectiveness of eco-lawn compared to normal lawns.

    Northern USA should plant in the beginning of May or around Labor Day if considering switching to eco-lawn.  The seeds germinate best in cool temperatures (55-77), morning dew, and occasional rain.  Their planting chart based on location can be found here.


    If you decided that you would like to convert your lawn to an eco-lawn, the steps you take are similar to any other lawn conversion process.  You should first eliminate any weeds and remove debris.  If the home is new construction and grass has yet to be planted, then you should rototill the site at a dept of 3″, rake smooth, and then spread a weed-free organic compost 1/4″ deep.

    If converting a lawn from a different grass type, you can either kill the current grass (and then either plant over top of it or remove it and re plant like new construction), or you can overseed onto the current grass.  If killing you can use either organic or non-organic herbicides (the non-organic tend to take longer), mow the dead grass as short as possible and then rake hard before seeding.  Overseeding into existing lawns can be done, but it takes longer to fully switch, requiring yearly re-seedings for up to 4-5 yrs.  This time can be cut down, however, if you re-seed in both spring and fall.

    When you reach the seeding process, you want to achieve 15seeds/sq. inch or 25/sq. inch if wanting extra thick grass to help keep out weeds.  Gently rake the seed/soil mix so that they are just barely covered and then roll the lawn with a lawn roller.

    During the germination process you should water every day for 3wks for about 20-30 minutes, or the time needed to make the soil moist up to a depth of 1″.  After 3wks, cut the watering back to every two days for 2wks.  (only water if it’s not going to rain)  The germination process typically takes 7-14 days and will take 4-6wks before it arrives at a hight of 4-5″ and is in need of it’s first trim (if you prefer a manicured lawn).  Once the grass has solidified after its first growing season, as mentioned earlier, it need only be watered during extreme droughts.  If this case arises, remember that it is better to fully saturate the ground for this type of grass than to provide frequent light sprinkles.

    Below is a video of a customer installation and review of eco-lawn at their home (a redsox fan it seems!).  If you are interested in converting your lawn, eco-lawn can be purchased either online or at 8 retailers in Mass or 1 in NH.

    Eco-Lawn home review

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