Kitchen Demo – Day Two

IMG_8666 (600x800)IMG_8643 (600x800)Here’s what it looked like at the end of Day Two. Bottom photo is Day One, top photo taken of the same space, Day Two.

IMG_8670 (600x800) Another view looking into the kitchen from the family room. And a “surprise” – a waterline in the middle of the wall we’re taking down. It needs to be moved, obviously, which they say shouldn’t be too difficult.

IMG_8669 (600x800)PreLooking into the family room from the kitchen. Top shot Day Three, bottom shot pre-demolition.

IMG_8673 (600x800)Look guys, original wallpaper! Which, okay, our house was built in 1960, but it was still a cool find. It looks very cheery. And very Grosse Pointe. IMG_8676 (600x800)IMG_8622 (600x800)The garage closet is down. We saved a row of kitchen cabinets to install in its place. Although I think we’re doing the install, not the builders. And by we, of course I mean my husband.

My husband’s office is in the basement. On Day Two, a bunch of plaster came falling down through the laundry chute. Lots of dust flying around and both of our throats were chalky and sore. The dog, not having his usual leather chair to sleep in, slept on our new floral couch (which now has dirt stains and hair all over). I bought paper plates and bowls. And did the Neti-Pot before bed. It’s going to be a long 6 – 8 weeks.

Kitchen Demo – Day One

IMG_8664 (450x800)At 7:30 in the morning on Day One of the kitchen demo, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the hauling service with our dumpster. “Where do you want it?” What, seriously? I’m in my bathrobe. Do I look like the Project Manager? Anyway, we figured it out and the dumpster gets dragged on our driveway. At this point I’m thinking to myself, wow, that’s one big dumpster. I guess they don’t mess around.

In the light of day (it was still dark when they came), there is a huge (I mean huge! Look at it!) scrape up our driveway. Turns out, it was in fact the wrong dumpster. We were supposed to get a smaller one with rubber tires (shown  ). The demolition hasn’t even started and we already have collateral damage.

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IMG_8641 (600x800)There was just one guy here (I met him, but am blanking on his name), taping off the doors (two doors, one leading from the family room to the entryway and the other between the kitchen and dining room), putting down cardboard and pulling the cabinets off the walls. This is what it looked like around lunch time (above).

IMG_8643 (600x800)And at the end of the day.

IMG_8646 (600x800)A patch of linoleum under the cabinet that was closest to the dining room.

IMG_8661 (675x800)Our Habitat for Humanity donation stacked neatly in the garage.

A few days before the demo, I posted on Facebook, asking for crock pot recipes. Maybe I didn’t have a kitchen, but I still had electricity, right? After just one day of demolition, I put the crock pot in the basement. It is not seeing the light of day until that kitchen is done.


And We’re Off!….The Day Before Demolition

PreAfter weeks of planning and designing, the kitchen remodel (and when I say kitchen, I mean kitchen and family room) is finally underway. The day before demolition, we let the girls draw on the walls (I had already defaced them with my paint samples), which they were super excited about. Of course I had to join in with my own drawing. It was really fun.

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It’s hard to see the crayon in the photo, but they colored quite a bit!

IMG_8623 (600x800)That afternoon (a Sunday), my husband also re-wired the thermostat in the garage, as it was located in the closet that was going to get torn down. He crawled up into the roof and did whatever one has to do to re-wire these things (I’m so glad I married a handy man because I am extremely unhandy).

As he was walking around up there, he punctured his head with a nail (“Hey, remember when I went to the doctor and she gave me a tetanus shot?” he yells down).

IMG_8622 (600x800)New thermostat location where wire is coming out of the wall. And a drill. So a drill was involved.

IMG_8625 (600x800)We also had to move the fridge in order to get the couch down to the basement. Which meant disconnecting the water line. Or something. Not to mention move everything out of the kitchen cabinets and pantry closet (I am so done moving!!).

IMG_8626 (600x800)One last shot of the family room before the demo. And Sam, once again, getting in the shot.

Meet John, the Painter

IMG_8134 (600x800) I’ve been delaying this post, because I’d hoped to show you some of the rooms. Before and after photos and all that. But all the rooms are still works in progress, and now I’m sitting in the dining room (my temporary office and kitchen), listening to ridiculously loud noises coming from what used to be our kitchen and family room. The demolition has started. But it is nevertheless time to introduce you to John, the painter.

John’s father Nick immigrated to Detroit from Greece in the late 1950s. Nick started the company in 1965 and fifteen years later, John and his brother took over the business. He says it’s the only job he’s ever had (working for the company in various capacities). And what do you like most about it?, I asked. He loves everything about it; he doesn’t feel the need or the want to do anything else. And he’s gotten to work for a lot of influential people.

IMG_8135 (600x800)You can tell John feels a lot of pride for his company. I asked what sets Nick Karoustos apart from other paining companies and John emphasized that it’s a family-owned and operated business, and that they do not sub-contract their workers (which is one of the reasons we hired). They provide healthcare and benefits to their employees, “which provides longevity and stability,” he added.

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The window coverings came down and stayed down (though we did keep one set for the guestroom).

And trends? People are going more neutral (see, we’re on trend. I knew it). He doesn’t see too many faux finishes anymore. And wallpaper is coming back (HA. You knew that one was coming, right?).

John declined a photo. (But if he comes back to paint the new kitchen, I’ll try again!).

The house looks great with the new paint. The color in the dining room is the perfect shade of green. And you’ve already seen the white living room (which again, is by no means finished. We need to decide which painting to put above the fireplace, for example. And you know all about that rug.)

I do like that they have plants. We need indoor plants.


From the photos, it doesn’t look like a huge color difference, but the lighter walls really brighten up the room (literally and figuratively).

The girls’ light grey rooms are great. Here’s one of the bedrooms.

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After. (And see, wouldn’t the zebra rug look great in here?)

But the entryway is very……blah. It’s my one paint regret. With some new decor (eventually a console table and a lamp instead of a bench), I think it will be a lot more exciting. Win some, lose some.


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BO-ring. Until we spruce it up.

The designer friend I hired did ask if I like wallpaper (DO I!) and suggested putting wallpaper in the entryway only (near the front door, where I’m standing to take the photo), which would make a statement and add some interest. I thought it was a great idea and as soon as we can make it happen (after Christmas?), you’ll be hearing about it.



In Pursuit of Paint

IMG_7871 (600x800)If you’ve been following the blog, you know that I’ve been obsessed with finding the perfect paint colors for the house. Now that the wallpaper was off and the hardwood floors uncovered and cleaned, it was time to paint. I’d already met with Tim over at Shelby Paint, but now I had to put our selections to the test.

I bought a bunch of samples and let the girls help me paint poster boards (as you can see, the above pic was taken a while ago – Lucy is still in diapers and we’re still at the Apartment), which they were thrilled about. Then I took the boards to the new house to check them out.

IMG_7882 (537x800)Color is a very tricky thing, as I have learned over the last couple months. I knew it already, but wow. Colors change from one room to the next, from one foot to the next even, sometimes. And of course they change drastically depending on how light or dark the room is.

Initially I’d picked Athena for the entryway (the largest of the samples above), but now it appeared too blue. We (meaning me, as my husband was rolling his eyes at this point) decided to go with Manchester Tan instead, the darkest color shown above.

IMG_7873 (601x800)Our dining room pick, Nantucket Grey, was perfect.

IMG_7875 (600x800)And for the living room, we were originally going to go with Athena as well, but again, it looked too bluish. I really wanted a light, airy feel to the living room, so I went with the controversial Navajo White (poster board is Athena). Before selecting a white, I went online and read various reviews from both experts and DIY folks. Many experts poo-pooed Navajo White, saying that it felt too “rental apartment” or boring. But that Linen White was a beautiful white.

Anyway, I looked up Linen White, and it is seriously almost exactly the same formula as Navajo White. So there. And I went with the old design rule (whose rule? I don’t know, but I’m sure it’s a rule), if you like it, then who cares what anyone else thinks?

COMING UP: In my next post, I’ll introduce you to John, our painter, and reveal my one color regret. Can you guess?



Meet Javier, Hardwood Floor Guy


Master Bedroom, before.

When we put a bid on our house, we weren’t thinking about the floors. Let me rephrase. We were trying not to think about the floors. I asked our realtor if she could find out what was underneath the upstairs carpeting. Without hesitation, she said there was no way there was hardwood. She was quite confident that when we lifted up the carpeting, we’d find  plywood, typical of homes built in the 1960s.

But our home wasn’t built in the 1960s, it was built in 1960. This is what the little voice inside my head said. So I held out hope. When the sale went through, we didn’t have possession of the house right away, as the owners requested a rent-back to give them time to solidify the purchase of their condo. About a month later, we finally had a chance to get inside and look around. And to put an end to the hardwood floor question.


Guest Bedroom, before.

If you’re anything like me, you love a good home renovation show (my personal favorite, Rehab Addict). Which means you’ve seen the episode where the camera follows the host to (insert room here), and zooms in on the filthy, stained and/or hideously dated carpeting. We then watch as the host reaches down to pull up the carpet and reveal what’s underneath and….oh my goodness, original hardwood floors, can you believe it!?

Yeah, it was kinda like that.

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So we had oak floors. Now what? Our first thought was to find someone to come out and sand and stain. Easy peasy. Or not. The one place that was recommended to me (by several professionals. All these home improvement guys know each other), would be happy to do the job. In November. For $7100. Seeing as we weren’t interested in waiting three months to move in, nor had we anticipated having to pay that much, we decided to go a different route.

I called pretty much all the hardwood floor people in Grosse Pointe Blue Book, requesting a quote for cleaning and sealing (no sanding, no staining) of our floors. Three people got back to me (seriously?) and one of them was Javier (pronounced Xavier. That’s what he said. I do what I’m told) of Exotic Floors & Designs.

IMG_7901 (708x800)Like I’ve done with my other trade interviews, I started by asking Javier how he got into the business. About 19 years ago, he was working for an environmental company (didn’t say what he did and of course me being the amateur interviewer that I am, failed to ask) and although it paid well, he was due for a raise and had a small baby at home. He asked for that raise, they said no, and he decided to look for work elsewhere.

Here’s where my facts get a little sketchy (see what happens when you wait too long to try to decipher your very scribbley notes!?).  I do know he is mostly self-taught. In order to learn the techniques of hardwood flooring trade, he bought a video and watched it about 1000 times (for real). He was honest with his first client about his inexperience, and said he would give them a great price if they gave him a chance.

Things obviously worked out (last year, Javier worked with that same client on another job). In 1997, he started Exotic Floors & Design, and at one point, even had a storefront on Mack (a main thoroughfare that separates Grosse Pointe from Detroit) before the building was sold.

IMG_7902 (600x800)As his company name implies, Javier specializes in exotic woods (he was approached by a client who owned a lumber company at some point in his career, and that’s how he got turned on to the exotics). What are examples of exotics? Bamboo and African woods, like the deep red padauk (which can be so poisonous that it can’t be sanded in the home).

What trends is he seeing? He still does a lot of designs – borders and inlays. And says the Grosse Pointe area continues to be traditional and clients here prefer an authentic and/or antique look, whereas newer more fast-paced communities like Birmingham (Detroit suburb) prefer flashier styles. Like what? Jet black floors. I’m sorry… black floors? Yep, finished to where they look like a lacquered piece of furniture. I get the impression he thinks the effect is kind of cool. Perhaps it is.


Javier and one of his designs (not our house).

Our floors look amazing, considering we didn’t have a huge budget. Javier’s guess is that they were never used, never walked on (can you believe it?). There are some bad scratch marks where razor blades were used to install carpet, and several water marks that won’t come out unless we sand and stain.

But that’s okay with us, we feel fortunate just to have them. They remind us a little of our old place (and I want to add “back home” but I’m trying to stop doing that) in San Francisco and I find myself wondering how long it will take for this place to feel like home. As always, I’ll keep you posted.