The Kitchen.

For reasons I  hope are obvious, I was very invested in changing the kitchen. And not just because I was worried that facing that yellow before I had any coffee in my system might induce some sort of color-related rage.  Also because the kitchen was really pretty grody. The cupboards and tile were sticky with grease, the sink worked on occasion, but not always, and the interiors of the cupboards had every square inch of horizontal space covered in contact paper. Even the undersides of the shelves.

So. My plan? Photoshop together what I had in mind, get Dave on board, and poof, new kitchen. HA.

For your amusement, here’s the Photoshopped kitchen, before and after:

kitchen3  Kitchen

It was a rough sketch. Obviously.

Happily, Sherwin Williams had a paint sale. So we went to the store with a guestimate (this was before we closed…) of  how much paint we’d need, and proceeded to buy 4 cans of paint. Then we took them back to our apartment. On the bus. The bus stop in front of our apartment was blocked off by road construction, so we ended up walking 2 and a half blocks with 4 cans of paint. Not recommended, in case anyone wondered.

Then we stuck the paint in our apartment and waited until August. Once we’d closed and done the stinky rooms, we decided it was time to start the kitchen. Should only take a few weeks, right? HA. Again.

We forged ahead. We had a Plan. The Plan was:

  1. Remove the doors/drawers/shelves
  2. Apply liquid sandpaper to everything
  3. Maybe do some sanding if needed
  4. Prime
  5. Paint
  6. Put it all together.
  7. Paint the walls and trim.
  8. Have the electrician install new fixtures
  9. Woot! Stage 1 Done!


Prep went well…


We even remembered to label all the drawers and cupboard doors so that we knew where they went.


First we realized that the cupboards were definitely not solid wood. They were veneered particle board except for the fronts of the bases. Doh. So we bought a hand sander and got the veneer good and roughed up. We also realized that the shelves were permanently adhered inside the cabinet bases. So we’ll be painting those in place, then.

The bases of some of the bottom cupboards did come out though, revealing that this is not the first time aqua and red would be used in this kitchen:


So we sanded. Outside. Spike “helped.”


Then we primed. And primed again. And primed all the scratches one more time. We bought a paint sprayer, since we figured with this much to cover, that would make our life easier. HA.

The paint sprayer was great at the interiors of the cabinets. Everything else, not so much… At one point we were using brushes to take paint off the doors.

But, after just 5 weeks, we had all the cupboards and drawers painted. The blue took 2 coats, the cream took about 4.

Meanwhile, we ordered lighting fixtures. We wanted to replace the very attractive industrial fluorescent light over the sink with pendants, and put 2 warehouse-style pendants in the center of the room. Then we got to thinking that that is a lot of pendants.

So we ordered these from Home Depot (thank you coworkers for the awesome gift card):


Brushed Nickel Warehouse Pendant light (image via

And then, we decided to do these on either side of the sink, between where the cupboards end and the windows begin:

I liked the milk glass globes, and Dave liked the vintage look. They’re technically bathroom fixtures, but I think they work just fine in the kitchen.

When we got the warehouse pendants, they were enormous. I was worried that two of them would look way out of scale in the kitchen, even though it’s a good-sized room. So we took them back and started searching for something similar, but smaller. We hit the jackpot on with these:

The wire grill thingy seemed to be removable without marring the fixture too much, and it was clearly adjustable as far as the height from ceiling went, so I ordered two. The grills weren’t even on the fixture for shipping, and there were no marks or holes where they were supposed to affix to the fixture – so we left them off. Next we went out and bought a whole bunch of red spray paint.

Then the electricians came… and put lots of holes in the walls. I did not take pictures of the holes. I probably should have, but at that point, I had lost my camera. Well. Not lost in the sense of gone forever, just lost in the sense of I packed it and forgot to label the box. To be fair, however, when I found it, it was inside a Rubbermaid storage tub (and I hadn’t put it in there… I think the movers had consolidated).

The plumber came. About 2 weeks after we moved in, we discovered a waterfall in the dining room, thanks to a leaky shower pipe. So when the plumber came, he fixed the pipe (which took no time at all, thanks to the exploratory holes we’d created in the wall of the office…. more on that one later), and had time to put in (with Dave’s help) the brand new faucet.

Dave worked for 2 weeks to get the holes left by the electrical work patched. It was pretty darned impressive. And once they were patched, we finally painted the walls, and pulled all the protective paper up. I spent a weekend in the garage with 6 cans of red spray paint. The result? This:


It’s not done yet – we still need to paint the trim, the ceiling and the doors; we’ll probably replace the tile sooner than we planned(unfortunately, it was damaged when they did the electrical work), I’d like to get some curtains in there, and we’ll start looking for a small table and chairs soon. But I think we’ve come a very long way from this, no?



…and then we begin the work.

First order of the day was the stinky rooms. The plan is:

  1. Wash down the walls and ceiling
  2. Tear out floor in the green room (old linoleum, which has probably absorbed a lot of the cigarette smell over the years)
  3. Paint walls, ceiling, trim and doors with Kilz to minimize the smell
  4. Paint walls and ceiling with matte white paint (so we don’t have to decide what color to paint right now)
  5. Paint the trim and doors with white gloss paint
  6. Scrub the wooden floor
  7. Put in some sort of flooring in the green back room

Here’s what washing the walls looked like:


That’s nicotine and tar and whatever else is a byproduct of cigarette smoke running down them as we washed. Blech.

Washing the walls and ceiling ended up taking 4 days. Seriously. 4.

Tearing out the flooring was relatively easy (except for that moment when the quarter round broke because the staple holding the floor down was under it… oops).

Painting? That took about 3 weeks. Shout outs to Tony and Sarah who helped.

Here’s the primed room…



And, pure white and clean at last:



So much better. Even when it was 90 degrees and we were upstairs with no air conditioning, it was totally worth it.


Onward, and upward!

So. Heading back to the front of the house, let’s head upstairs. (oooh, look ANOTHER glass block window!)


Behold the peach-ness.


At the top of the stairs is the littlest bedroom, which we’ll probably use as a guest room (you know, once it has a heat source).


How do you like the indoor-outdoor carpeting over faux wood vinyl tiles? Don’t you want to come and stay in this gorgeous room?

Well, it’s better than this one:


Which doesn’t seem so bad, because you can’t smell it. Someone dedicated days of their life to smoking in this room. And it REEKS. As does this one, which adjoins it:


Luckly the stink is mostly contained in those two rooms. The bathroom is relatively new. Well. The tile is. The fixtures are probably from the 40’s; I think the toilet is draining Lake Michigan every time we flush. But everything is in working order, so we’re just going to go with it for now. A friend with a house of similar vintage mentioned that the diameter of the pipe under the toilet has changed since our homes were built, and when she went to have a plumber install a modern toilet, they couldn’t because it wouldn’t physically fit. So I think we’re going to stick with what we’ve got as long as it’s working, and in a few years, we’ll think about tearing up the bathroom and replacing plumbing and… ugh. Moving on.



And last but not least, the bedroom we’ll be sleeping in:




Which has some floor issues we plan to ignore as well…


See the phone line that they drilled through the floor to install? They are All. Over. The. House. I think they must have had a corded phone in every room, and some rooms had two or more. They also had cable lines coming through the walls all over the place. There’s  one in the dining room, 3 in the living room, and 1 that is in the front entry way. There are two in the yellow bedroom upstairs, too. We’re discovering more and more that makes us shake our heads in bewilderment.

Spike, however, seems to be totally fine with it all.


Closing day tour (just 3 months later…. oops.)

So the first order of business after we closed was to go to Home Depot and start spending scads of money… actually, not entirely true. We went to lunch and stared at each other in disbelief first.

We did to back to the house after lunch, keys in our hot little hands, and explored. We discovered some kinda funny things…

Like the rug left in the entry way. We’d seen the rug on the walk-through, and thought they’d just left it to be nice. Ha.
The rug pad was put down incorrectly, and was permanently stuck to the floor. So, upside: we gained a rug. Downside, we get to spend hours scraping the floor to get the rug pad up. Yay?

The chandelier in the dining room became a little nubbin of a globe light. Magic! Actually, it was fine… The fixture was brass and not so attractive, so I didn’t cry too hard.

We found a couple of exciting things in the basement. First, an electrical box hidden in the back of one of the built-ins. Ruh-roh, Shaggy. 


And in a different built-in, this 1964 Western Electric phone – sweet!


We did have one nice surprise when we got to the kitchen, too:


It almost makes up for the 6 weeks of intermittent scraping to get the rug pad up off the floor. Almost.

So, ready for the closing-day tour? First, the outside, since I didn’t have any pictures of that from the inspection. Oh, look! Homeowners!


The side yard, featuring the grapevine that ate northwest Chicago and what we later discovered was an apple tree (or a rare hybrid tree that only produces 1 apple… hard to tell at this point).


The veggie garden is behind the grapevine, featuring 3 beds of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, onions and celery.

garden1 garden2

The back of the house from the back yard (that’s the Dr. Suess tree on the right):


And here’s a couple of outdoor items on our To Do list:


The potting shed has to come down; it was badly built and has no foundation except a sheet of plywood. And then there’s this:


That’s the electrical meter, which is directly connected to the city electrical feed. If you are bored, or curious, or have a death wish, you can pry the front of the meter off with your fingers and electrocute yourself very nicely. You see why it made the list.

So. Back inside, to to the front door. This is what you see when you stand in the door way (nice rug, right?):


Note the top right corner… we’re calling it the Death Star. Want a closer look?


That sucker’s going on ebay – surely someone out there wants a mod 70’s string art light fixture.

Immediately to the right of the door is a big arch leading to the living room.


Where there’s a big bank of windows


And opposite those, another arch leading to the dining room (check out Dave’s stellar Chicago Cop Mustache… I know you’re jealous, girls):


Once in the dining room, there’s a bay with more glass block (someone *really* loved the glass block…) and the nubbin light.



Directly off the dining room is the first bedroom, which is pretty teeny. We’re planning to use it as a library rather than a bedroom, though.


From the dining room, a french door leads to the kitchen, which is eyeball-searing, screamin’ yellow.


Just inside the kitchen door, there’s a little baby hallway that leads to the pantry and the bathroom.


Behold, the coat closet. I mean pantry. (Why would you use a pantry as a coat closet??)


And the downstairs bath, which I just looooooooove. I should clarify. I love the tile. I do not love the toilet that must be cajoled into operation. Or the weird sink, which Dave calls “the pregnant woman sink” because it looks like a big belly and legs. (I didn’t ask for more insight on that, seemed best to just let it go.) I think down the road a bit we might replace it with a different sink; maybe a vintage one if we can find it.


Here’s a close up of the tile border. As you can see, the tile has been fairly abused; there’s something weird over the grout. It looks like caulk, but it’s not caulk… we can’t figure out what it is or why it was painted onto all the grout in the bathroom (and that is a LOT of grout). 


So, if you leave the little hallway and open the last door in the kitchen, you’ll find the mudroom:


And guess what’s under all that ugly tile? Kind of awesome original linoleum. Unfortunately, this was probably put down during the era of asbestos-filled floor coverings, so we’re going to have to leave it covered for now, and plan to have the professionals come and take it away.



Ok. Back to the front of the house and upstairs. But since this is getting long, I’m going to start that in another post…