Dining room – good lord, it’s all coming together

At long, long last – I am happy to report that we have a real dining room, with a ceiling and everything. Here’s the story in pictures (because who wants to read?):

First there was priming and ceiling painting. Dave was not amused.



Doesn’t it look so fresh and clean?


So 2 coats of primer and a freshly painted ceiling later, this happened. It’s sort of a greenish-gray-beigey color. It’s a weird color. But it works. And look! A lighting fixture!

dr_process_almost2 dr_prep_almostdone

So finally, we got to take the furniture out of the library and put it where it belonged…


Even Spike approved.


And we got it all done in time for a dinner party the first weekend in December, when it looked like we lived in a real house and not a construction site:

dr_dinnerpty1214_2 dr_dinnerpty1214_3

(Do you like the very sophisticated trash barricade system in the kitchen, next to the fridge? Beagle + trash = creative if not the prettiest solution. We used to have a stainless steel pedal trash bin, but he figured out how to open it. Despite his best efforts to play dumb, we are on to him.)


So that puts the dining room at about 85% done. We still want to refinish and hang a shelf under the glass block window, and of course there is nothing hanging on the walls anywhere in the house, which should probably be addressed at some point. But it’s a nice change to have a room that feels pretty finished for once.


What we did on our summer vacation, part 3

So. June/July. Not a lot happened, housewise. We were busy having fun. Thanks to anniversary presents, we bought some outdoor furniture, and subsequently spent a lot of time outdoors.

We did a little improvement out front, taking out the weird, giant root that was right in front of the house, with a little impromptu help from the neighbors:


Turns out it was a giant hunk of cedar root. That must have been some tree.

I took off on a solo trip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, to take a class in letterpress printing at the Hamilton Type Museum. I stayed at a B&B that’s about the same vintage as our house, so I spent some time inspecting their plaster and woodwork. (verdict: their woodwork was in better shape, but the plaster was comparably cracked.)


From my class – playing with wood type and experimenting with gradient ink


When I got home, Karl came to visit. He and Dave fenced in the garden (not that it helped. Total harvest: 3 zucchini, 0 tomatoes. I officially hate squirrels.)


And Spike and I spent lots of weekend mornings sipping coffee and enjoying a little early morning sun on the deck.


We had a brunch with friends on a perfect sunny day:


And Tony and I took a day off to go to Milwaukee and see a Kandinsky exhibition up there. (Although this is actually a (fuzzy) Calder mobile.)


And all summer long we were surprised at what came out of the ground, like these grand purple irises:


You can see why we didn’t get much done inside.

What we did on our summer vacation, part 2

We did have some fun. For example, we purchased about 1/3 of a pig, and together with friends, got to watch it be butchered to our specifications.  (Shout out to Paulie’s Pasture and Butcher and Larder for raising and butchering some seriously delicious pig.)

(Vegetarians, avert your eyes)


So this brings us to late May/early June, when we started working on the downstairs bathroom. We’d been going back and forth forever trying to decide on what color to paint the walls. We had been thinking a light green, to match some of the detail in the decorative border tiles, but it’s a really tricky color and nothing we could find was quite right. We probably could have had something mixed at Sherwin Williams based on a Pantone swatch, but honestly, we finally admitted that it actually looked pretty good with white. Aaaaaand we happen to have a *lot* of white paint. Like 4+ gallons. So white it would be.

First, we had to do some destruction. Because: florescent light over the sink. WHO DOES THAT?


The window and woodwork around it were trashed, too, so those would at the very least need to be sanded and painted to prevent further damage. At this point, we’re going for cosmetic updates in here, because down the line most of this will have to be ripped out and replaced (sob). (Well, not sob about the sink. That thing’s ugly. We call it the pregnant sink, because in profile it looks like the bottom half of a pregnant belly with legs.)

First order of business was to patch the holes left by the electrician, make some new exciting holes where that fixture over the sink is, and rip out the caulk (because it was GROSS. And it didn’t seal anymore, but mostly it was gross).

Caulk removal still life:


And here’s the sink area without the stupid light fixture, after Dave patched the original location and moved the wiring up and  centered over the medicine cabinet:


We wanted something simple and inexpensive to replace the light fixture over the sink, but after weeks of searching, we still hadn’t found anything that we both liked. So when we stumbled on this at the Habitat ReStore, I thought I could make it work:


Do you see the price tag? $3. Seriously. At that price, I was willing to experiment. So we picked up a couple of globes that were kind of cool looking and figured if nothing else, this $5 placeholder (well, $15 if you count the paint) would tide us over until we found something we liked better.

Here’s how the whole thing came out:


The globes look really brown here, for some reason. But they’re actually just a little creamier than the rest of the fixture.


And there’s the new fan in the ceiling, and freshly painted window which looks about 1000% better than it did. We took out the shower head, you’ll notice, since we don’t use the bath/shower down here. The fixtures for turning on the shower/bath water have seen better days, too, and we may replace those. It will have to wait until we hire the plumber to install this beauty, though, which we picked up at a demolition warehouse sale:


It’s a vintage Kohler sink, complete with original Delta faucet and spigots. We’re looking for some sink legs to make sure it will be totally stable (read: I can’t accidentally pull it off the wall while leaning on it). Sink legs are surprisingly expensive, though. (Seriously. Google chrome sink legs. It’s kinda nuts.) We might go a diy route with the legs, as well. Still considering our options, since we’ve slated the plumber/sink for after the new year, and we’ve got some time.

I still haven’t found the outlet cover for next to the sink. We might have to just go buy one of those, because it’s been MIA for a couple of months. How do you lose an outlet cover??

What we did on our summer vacation, part 1

We slowed our pace a little over the summer; after almost a year, we’re getting tired of the constant projects. (Not that the list of projects is getting any shorter, mind you…) But here’s a few shots of summer at Lelandhouse.

First up for summer was moving the master bedroom from the front of the house to the back room. We’ve been calling it the white bedroom, because once we scrubbed, primed, and painted the room white, nothing else happened in there. It’s much better situated for a window air conditioner than the front room (where it would be directly over our heads), so I wanted to be in there in plenty of time before the real heat of summer hit. Little did I know that this summer would be a surprisingly pleasant, cool one!

So, I was using the white bedroom as my sort-of office/storage room:


This was because it still had holes in the walls from both the plumbing incident that lead to the the dining room ceiling debacle and holes from the electrician (cleverly hidden from view by 50 tons of crap, above).

So first order of business was to move all that…. stuff. We’ll call it stuff… to the smallest bedroom, and set up my desk space in there. Because once the yellow bedroom was empty(ish), we would begin working on the plaster in that room. So, stage two:


This is just the beginning; the boxes now completely block the window, and I have about 6 square feet of space to get to the desk.

Once we got the boxes out, the white bedroom got much bigger. Or at least easier to work in:


It took about a month of plastering and sanding and plastering and sanding and plastering and sanding to get the room in shape. I have pictures of some of the process, but it mostly looks like you’re staring at a slightly lumpy white wall. Not so exciting. So let’s go to the exciting part: moving in the furniture and hanging the beside lights:


Much better, yes?

About a month after we moved ourselves into the white bedroom, we figured we should probably finish up the flooring in the dressing room, which is through the doorway at the far right of the above image. There had been a slight issue with math, as you may recall. (i.e. I do not excel at math, and had made a slight miscalculation in the number of carpet tiles we had on hand vs what we actually needed). Ebay to the rescue, with some Shaw carpet tiles that blend in with the ones we already had. So we went from this (please pardon fuzzy cell phone photo):


to this:


muuuuuch better. There’s more in there now, but I don’t think I’ve taken any pictures of it yet. This is where I do all the ironing and hang clothes to dry, ostensibly so it’s easy to put them away once ironed/dried. ha. Well, it’s a theory, anyway.


So, what else is new?

Not much, honestly. We’ve been flitting from one project to the next, without truly finishing anything. Which is starting to drive me quietly insane.

The insanity is mostly because the majority of our house looks like this:


That’s the library. You’ll notice the distinct lack of progress, primarily due to the dining room furniture living in there. Mostly, that is because the dining room now looks like this:


Which is in fact a slightly improved version of how it looked 3 weeks ago. Nothing else is different. When the drywall guys arrived to install the new drywall, they had some disappointing news. The cuts Dave and Tony made were not suitable. Nor was the drywall that we had on hand. So we went back to our friends at the Crafty Beaver (no, really, that’s the store name – and they are awesome.) and rented the Sawz-all yet again. Hopefully this will answer. Now we just have to go to Home Depot for thicker drywall sheets and a short-term truck rental and we should be ready for another go.

My office of shame looks something like this:


Isn’t that an inviting place to work? There’s more…


See that slightly off white part, the area that mostly looks like a gross water stain? It’s actually plaster that’s not quite dry. (The hole at the bottom, incidentally, is the plumbing access for the upstairs bathroom, on the other side of that wall. You can currently drop a parachute man into the dining room from here, should the need arise.)

I’ve been a plastering fool lately – between that wall, the downstairs bathroom (sooooo close to done with plaster in there), and the upstairs bath.

Here’s the downstairs –  it’s actually starting to look like a working bathroom again, instead of a construction zone. Well, until you turn your head/walk into the room, anyway.



I still have my sights set on that awful fluorescent fixture over the mirror, and the sink. But at least the walls and ceiling no longer have holes. So that’s a bonus.

And here’s the upstairs bath:


It’s just a little patch; the big holes are still in there where the fan was installed and the electrical work was done above the toilet. But just getting that tiny bit done does make me feel a little better, since I stare at it every. single. time. that I get in the shower.


Finally. I was beginning to think we’d somehow landed in that Twilight Zone episode where the Earth is moving away from the sun.

But low and behold, green things are appearing in the yard:



Tulips! who knew?

There’s  random assortment of daffodils coming up, too, just to the right of the shot above.

I’m not convinced that the Dr. Seuss Tree is going to make it, though – it was a really hard winter, and it’s looking… less than lively, compared to the rest of the yard.



There is a random assortment of grasses, which is encouraging.


And more tulips popping up:


Plus we’ve cleared out all of the construction trash left when we took down the potting shed, so we are no longer bringing down the tone of the block. (Much to the relief of all the neighbors.) Now we just need to go over the yard with a fine-tooth comb to make sure we have all the glass picked up. That should be fun. (ha.)

But at least things are growing, and the weather’s getting better.

Plan of attack for this year is to put in a vegetable garden in the raised beds, and just watch the rest of the yard to see what comes up/survived the winter (and our total inattention for most of the fall last year). So far, we’ve got buds on both the lilac and the apple tree, and the holly seems to be coming back. There is some sort of voracious tree species that is determined to make ours a wooded lot, so we’ve been doing a lot of digging those up. (I like a tree, truly, but I don’t need 42 of them!)

Inside, I’ve started the tomatoes and the thyme, with surprising results:



They seem to be thriving – this image is actually from a couple of weeks ago – there are about 40+ tomato plants now, all about 3-4″ tall. Yay! The thyme is soooo tiny that I’m just hoping it will actually yield a useable amount by the end of summer. At this rate, we’ll be lucky to get a tablespoon out of them.

I’m tentatively planning to plant the seedlings and the rest of the veggie seeds in the 3rd week of May – we should be well past frost (knock on wood) at that point. We’ll see. You can’t really trust Chicago weather in the spring… or the fall. Or the summer…. oh, nevermind.


Some Minor Kitchen Updates

While the rest of the construction has been going on, we’ve been tending to some little things in the kitchen at the same time.

You may have noticed that our kitchen radiator cover changed color. Sort of drastically. Pre-painting, it was dingy white, with pieces of a Polish-language Yellow Pages ad permanently adhered to the top.


Dave suggested a new color: red. I wasn’t sold on the idea at first, but figured red had to be better than grungy white with chunks of cover stock… so off I went to the suburbs, where I proceeded to buy a large amount of red spray paint. (Can’t buy it in the city, but happily there is a Lowes about 3 feet from the city limits.)


There is some original info painted on the inside cover of the radiator cover, so I didn’t want to cover that with paint. Some sort of survivalist supply catalog had arrived that week, so it became my masking material.

radiator3 radiator2

I’m a little worried about the guy who used to live here… some of the selling points (ha) on those knives were a little scary.

You may also remember our giant random fridge, which lived in the corner of the kitchen:


I certainly do, because for 4 months we had wet food. That particular model apparently has a tendency to clog its own freezer drain with slime mold (ew ew ew), which then causes water to dump into the fridge. The space inside the fridge was also really inefficiently designed, so it didn’t hold very much but somehow always managed to be full. After finding our produce water-logged and rotting and pulling dripping milk cartons out of the fridge on a regular basis, we figured it might be cheaper in the long run to just replace the thing.

Behold, the stainless behemoth:


I’m not a huge fan of stainless, but I definitely didn’t want black, and the stove is a black/stainless combo… so here we are. After having it for a month or two now, I can say that keeping it clean is a giant pain in my butt. There are perpetually Spike nose prints all over the bottom, and suspiciously Dave-sized handprints all over the top.

We have also been on the hunt for a small table to put in the kitchen, and lo and behold, Craigslist turned up a doozy:


Complete with chrome hairpin legs. Like everything else in this house, it needs some work, but I love the red edges and the enameled top. (Notice that red radiator in the background? Not bad, eh?) The lady we bought it from was finishing clearing out her mother’s estate, and this was the table where she at all of her early childhood meals. It had lived in a basement for a couple of decades since then, so the chrome needs some love and it could stand a little work on the wooden base, which we will get to at some point. We just have to quit using it long enough to do that.

The chairs are temporary – they were left in the house when we closed, and they’ve come in handy. Once we figure out what kind of chairs we want, they may be relegated to the basement (or the alley…), but for now, they work just fine.