Kitchen Remodel – Week Three: Inspections, Insulation, Drywall

Week three of the kitchen remodel consisted of electrical and plumbing inspections, insulation, relocating the laundry chute and installing drywall.

IMG_8874 (600x800)IMG_8897 (588x800)IMG_8875 (593x800)The insulation was done by this guy (dang, I wish I could remember his name – Dale?), who also handled our demolition the first week. He’s a really nice guy and very fond of Sam the Labrador.

Sam, by the way, is so used to people coming in and out of the house, he barely gets up anymore to greet anyone. And he’s the only one who can sleep through the noise. His new hangout spot is none other than the floral couch (his old spot was the leather armchair in the family room, which is now in the basement and only accessible via the back of the house).

IMG_8912I covered the couch so he wouldn’t dirty it all up and am hoping that once the remodel is done, he’ll go back to his old spot (and if he doesn’t, he’ll be forced to. sorry, buddy). Yep, the zebra rug is still there (if you haven’t figured it out by now, remodel = expensive). But look – we got a coffee table! It belonged to my mother-in-law’s parents and  it was hanging out in her garage, waiting for a home. It’s a little wobbly, but usable and we love it.

The electricians were here early in the week, finishing up with socket placement and all the other wires for the fridge, and lighting. The outdoor sconce placement was discussed, decided on and marked.

IMG_8876 (600x800)The inspections went well (to my knowledge), but they did insist that we install new smoke detectors throughout the house. We had battery operated ones, so the guys took those out on Wednesday and put in new ones upstairs and downstairs that are hardwired throughout the house. We also had to purchase a carbon monoxide plug-in.

IMG_8895 (600x800)The laundry chute was relocated. Old location is the lower rectangle, new location is the higher rectangle. It will still be accessible, but via a cupboard instead of on the backsplash, where it was before.

(Note: see the hollow area to the left of the laundry chute? That’s unused space under the stairs. Wish we could’ve figured out a way to use but…alas.)

IMG_8904 (600x800)

Standing in the family room looking at the kitchen.

IMG_8902 (600x800)

There will be built-in shelving on either side of the fireplace.

IMG_8901 (600x800)

Standing in the kitchen, looking at the family room. Fireplace on right.

Finally, some light! With the drywall up, the room is instantly brighter (and what the heck color to paint the walls?!? STILL trying to figure that one out. Any ideas?).

IMG_8906 (2) (600x800)Why use a ladder when you have stilts? Drywall was prepped today (I think they’re done? I’m not 100% sure).

Next week is going to be an exciting one….cabinets arrive! Also, I think they’re going to put in a zippered wall (vs. a cardboard and Visqueen wall that obviously we can’t walk through), which will be possibly even more exciting than the cabinets at this point because I am freezing from having to walk all the way around the house to get to the basement (laundry, filing cabinets, printer, random boxes – all of which I use often). It was 34 degrees this morning when we took the girls to school. Yikes.

Which reminds me of another thing I’m looking forward to when this project is done – getting to use our heated garage. My car has been parked outside during the remodel and it is cooooold in the mornings. So much to look forward to (and so thankful that these are my hardships at the moment).

 

 

Advertisements

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.

IMG_8136 (600x800)

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.)

house.living

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

living

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.

house.3rdbedroom (800x533)

Before.

lucy

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.

homes.wallpaper

IMG_8463 (653x800)

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

Rug.master

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.

rug.guest

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.

IMG_7876 (678x800)

Oak

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

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.

 

My Latest Obsession: Grosse Pointe Estate Sales

shoes

Jimmy Choo ballet flats: $45.00 (new $395).

Estate sales don’t happen in San Francisco. Well, according to my husband they do and they did, only we never noticed signs or heard about them (but if a tree falls in the forest…?). There were countless garage sales back home, but whatever wasn’t junky was always priced way too high.

Here, estate sales are like garage sales with sprinkles on top. This summer, there was one, if not several, going on every weekend (I’m sure it slows down in colder months. Perhaps even comes to a full stop. I’ll let you know).

I noticed the sidewalk signs when we first moved and didn’t really think anything of them because for one thing, there are so many freaking signs here that one tends to stop looking at them all together. Anyway, I don’t normally waste my time digging through bins of other people’s unwanteds. But I’d see cars lining the block and people walking with a purpose and one day I got curious enough (and brave enough) to park the car and check it out for myself.

IMG_7666 (601x800)In Grosse Pointe, most estate sales are run by professionals who have been in the business for years. From what I’ve gathered, there are two main companies: Marcia Wilk and Stefek’s (the other companies appear less frequently and are almost impossible to find online).

They announce sales at the beginning of the week, with the actual sale starting on a Friday and ending Saturday. I’ve never gone to one right when it opened, but apparently it can get crazy. Numbers are handed out 30 minutes prior to start time and customers are asked to be “organized and orderly” (as one website states). On Saturday afternoons, prices get dropped considerably, the catch being that the good stuff is usually gone by then.

IMG_7612 (600x800)IMG_7613 (600x800)The first sale I went to was a hot mess. There were holiday decorations galore, plates, pots and dishes for days, books, records, clothes, odds and ends and a handful of furniture. In addition to displaying the estate’s offerings, estate sale companies also bring in their own stuff (items from past sales, consignment items). There were a lot of folks at this one and they were riffling through things like rats in a garbage bin.

IMG_7669 (800x800)Amidst the chaos, I did manage to find something I liked. An Italian Mottahedeh ceramic bowl for $25.00. I did some research when I got home and couldn’t find the exact bowl, but based on similar items (same design, different shape), the actual value is somewhere in the neighborhood of $125-$150.

Since I had a babysitter on Friday afternoons (had, because the school year has started, so I no longer have a sitter), I’d make sure to check out a sale or two if I had time between my frantic errand-running. The signs I followed one day led me to one of the properties that had been on our new home shortlist. Remember the Canadian consulate on Stephens Road? (FYI – It was weird to be wandering around a home that only weeks prior we’d been considering living in. I can’t explain why it was weird, it just was). Anyhow, there I was.

photo-1 (800x800)First I spotted a great collection of matches. As I walked to the counter to pay for my $5.00 bowl of assorted matchbooks, I eyed two sets of chairs:  a pair of wingbacks with matching ottoman and a pair of tub chairs. All in excellent condition. And all pink. I stared. I paced. I sat. I consulted my husband (who was back in San Francisco for work and who told me to use my best judgement, as he was swamped and couldn’t help me make a decision). So I did use my better judgement, and made the decision to buy the whole lot.

The tub chairs were $350 each. The tag on the chairs said William Switzer, a Canadian company (naturally) based out of Vancouver. I called the company, emailed them a photo of the chairs and they confirmed the chairs were authentic. They also told me the retail value for each is about $3000. Score.

homes.stephenslivingI bought the wingbacks and ottoman for $1200 (Would they throw in the matches for free? They would). I couldn’t find the manufacturer for those, but no matter. I love the chairs and for sure would not have been able to get them for that price at a retail store.

homes.cloverlylivingIMG_7642A couple weeks later (on our way to a walk-through of our now home), we drove by  the Cloverly place we fell in love with (but whose layout and space would never work for us). We had ten minutes to stop before our appointment. And did I find something there? Of course I did. The yellow floral couch is the perfect size for our living room. It actually looks lovely (so happy, so bright) in there now with our other estate sale finds, but it will eventually need to get a facelift, as it does not go well with the zebra-print rug.

We even went to our new home’s estate sale (the people we bought it from were downsizing to a smaller place). Talk about weird. My husband could barely take it – strangers touching our walls, opening our cupboards, walking around in our bedrooms. I bought a Pottery Barn faux throw for $15 (retail $149) and a shoe rack for $8.00 (my only bad estate sale purchase. Turns out, it doesn’t hold shoes).

I put the brakes on estate sale hunting when all the home renovation stuff came down the pike. I was just too darn busy. Plus, we don’t need anything else. Although… the little one could use a cool vintage bookshelf between the twin beds in her room. Hmmmm, better keep an eye out.

Our New Home!

house.backyardWe closed on our new home yesterday – what a relief. The whole mortgage process was complicated and stressful, but its over. We are now Michigan homeowners!

The house was built in 1960 and is 3248 square feet. Its exterior is traditional Midwestern brick, with painted shutters and a weathervane over the garage. It is located in the city of Grosse Pointe Farms and is walking distance to a small shopping district. It’s also super close to Lake St. Clair, a huge plus for us. We both love being near the water (in fact one of our criteria for moving out of San Francisco was that we had to move somewhere that was close to a large body of water).

housebath

First floor bathroom.

house.family

Family room

photo 1 (600x800)The first time we looked at the place, we crossed it off our list. We had just started looking, and everything was really dated and we thought it would be too much of a headache to redo. The kitchen window overlooked the backyard, but its appliances were over 20 years old (including the trash compactor, which I was baffled by. At first I thought it was a second dishwasher) and the cabinets? Formica. The sponge-effect painted walls, dark first floor bathroom and “heavy” decor (maroon leather couches, lots of flourishes) didn’t exactly help sell the place.

And then there was the wallpaper…

photo 2 (600x800)

In dining room, looking through hallway to the living room.

homes.wallpaper

photo 3 (600x800)

Looking down to the dining room.

The second time we looked at it, we were further into our house-hunt, and paid more attention to the flow, layout and general well-being of the house. We liked the big, private (fenced in on both sides of house) backyard and nice patio (although it had just been cleaned, so was very slippery that day). My husband loved the big and very clean heated garage. Even though we didn’t love the styling (gold fixtures, ’80s lighting, carpeting selection, etc.), the rooms were decent-sized and the second floor bathroom placement made sense, unlike many other places we’d seen.

house.masterbed2

Master

house.masterbath

house.guest

Guest room.

However, it was a four-bedroom. Which meant that either our guests would have to sleep in one of the girls’ rooms when they came to visit, or that the husband would have to stick his office in the basement (with low ceilings that barely cleared his head). We once again crossed it off the short list.

house.basement

Basement

house.basement2We knew we weren’t going to find the perfect home, but we kept hoping something new would come on the market that would have most of what we wanted. So we kept waiting. But both of us kept looking at the house online, and somewhere along the way, we decided to look at it one last time.

house.kitchen3house.family2house.dining house.living

On our third visit, we only saw good things about the house. Both the kitchen and family room (which were connected by an open doorway) had sliding doors to the backyard (which housed a hot tub, which we’re inheriting), the upstairs layout was perfect (master set off from the rest of the rooms, and none of the remaining bedrooms was too large or too small), there were hardwood floors throughout the first floor (except for the kooky family room) and the dining and living rooms had big windows that extended all the way to the floor. Why hadn’t anyone bought this place, it was awesome!!

We put in an offer right away and after a short negotiation, paid just a little under asking. The home inspector who came to look at the house told my husband it was the best house (condition-wise) he had seen in a long time. Two new furnaces, almost brand new roof (it was totally redone a couple years ago), new air conditioning units, a central vacuum and a generator, all in excellent condition.

house.front2We met the sellers at the closing. They were sweet and gracious, offering to give us a walk-through to show us the lay of the land (how to use the generator, for example) and making themselves available if we had any questions. We were thrilled when they told us they were closing on a condo in the next few days and if it all went as planned, they would be out of the house by August 4th, one month earlier than planned.

So we hate the decor. It can be changed. And after meeting the previous owners I realized, they loved the decor. They loved the house. And they took care of it for us for 23 years. And you want to know something funny?…..we have a very small budget for immediate home improvements (and a larger budget for a kitchen remodel, hallelujah). We’ll need to pick and choose which things to do this year and which things can wait. Well, I won’t be mad if the wallpaper isn’t the first thing to go.