Author Archives: Jason

Before & After: A Mini Makeover for the Kitchen

Kitchen upgrade at the Delbert Meier House

While most people spend the week before Thanksgiving finalizing menus and trying to think of conversation starters for certain relatives with opposing political views, we spent last week overhauling half of our kitchen. Oh, we still found the time to roast a bird and whip up a pan of homemade macaroni and cheese, but we prepared our feast in a kitchen that was getting a mini-makeover.

After: Refreshed Kitchen at This American House

It’s fitting that we should finally tackle the kitchen mini-renovation the week before Thanksgiving. It was during the same week in 2013 that we became the owners of the house and stood in the kitchen making our plans. As I looked around at the thirtysomething-year-old dark cabinets and the countertops that the previous owners had painted silver (and quite sloppily, I might add) I declared that the kitchen would need a slight facelift. We’ll just paint the cabinets, I said, and switch out the countertops.

So why did it take us three years to finally follow through? Well along the way we’ve vacillated between moving forward with the mini reno and committing to a full rehab. I’ve always wanted to design to my own kitchen and we had plans to reclaim some of the kitchen’s vintage elements. So we stalled on the kitchen decision while we dreamed of all the things we could do.

And then the refrigerator started leaking. Then the oven died. We couldn’t keep holding out on buying new appliances but we’re still not ready to completely renovate. A facelift it is!

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I basically stuck with the vision that had come to me during that first weekend of ownership back in 2013 – white cabinets with a butcher block countertop. I knew that I wanted to replace the existing black appliances with new white ones so that helped confirm the design choices for the kitchen. So, here’s how we did it.

First, we removed all the doors and drawers from the cabinets. I then lightly sanded the cabinet frames. Honestly, I probably could have sanded the frames a little better. But good God the dust! In my kitchen! A light sanding was all I could muster. Since I was able to take the doors and drawers to the garage, I did sand them more meticulously.

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After the cabinets were lightly sanded and then washed, I applied a coat of fast drying primer using a small foam roller and small paintbrush. I let the primer dry for a few hours and then applied the first coat of white satin finish paint.

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Again, I used a roller as much as as I could on the frames, supplementing with a brush when I couldn’t get the roller into tighter spaces. After two coats of paint and allowing plenty of drying time, I applied a top coat of polyurethane (also in a satin finish). This poly will help protect the paint, make it easier to clean (this is a kitchen after all) and help prevent chips.

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You’ll note that I left the old countertop in place while I painted the frames, doors and drawers. It’s a small kitchen and I needed that countertop as a work surface. Also, I wanted to get the new fridge in place before I made the final cut on the new countertop.

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Removing the old countertop was easy. Since we’re replacing the old formica with a butcher block top that doesn’t have a backsplash, we did have to do a bit of patching to the wall, which we were planning on painting anyway.

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The old formica extended about two inches beyond the cabinetry, creating a space between the fridge and the cabinets. I was hoping to achieve a tighter look (and prevent repeating the little dust tunnel that drives me crazy). So once the new fridge was in place (ain’t it a beaut?!) I made the final measurements and cut the butcher block to size.

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Once the countertop was in and the doors and drawers were re-installed, the only thing left was the hardware. I actually ended up finding new drawer pulls that mimic the design of the fridge handles on Amazon. I also picked up some coordinating satin nickel knobs and hinges.

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The painted cabinets and white refrigerator definitely brighten up the kitchen. And I’m so happy to be rid of that painted countertop.

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While we’d still like to completely renovate the kitchen, this mini makeover makes it a more livable space. And I’m definitely in love with the new refrigerator! So clean and new and stylish!

So now that we have this half of the kitchen finished, we’ll have to tackle the rest of the room. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take us three years to get to that, too.

American System Built Homes: A Complete List of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Early Prefab Homes

Burnham Street Two Flats

When most people think of Frank Lloyd Wright they think of his impressive roster of spectacular custom designed homes. But Wright was also an early proponent of design for the masses. While his Usonian homes might be more commonly known, Wright was dabbling in prefab as early as the nineteen-teens. By 1915 Wright had partnered with Milwaukee builder Arthur Richards to create what would come to be known as American System Built Homes. The venture was interrupted by the United States’ entry to World War I (as well as infighting between Richards and Wright) but not before a number of ASB homes were built in the midwest. How many were built? We’re not sure, actually. There are a few ASB homes that have been demolished over the years and some others that are still being discovered.

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Before & After: Painting the Outside Trim & Windows

Delbert Meier House Before Painting

Painting the exterior trim and windows on the house is the biggest job we’ve undertaken so far. It was its daunting nature that led to us putting off the job a little longer that we should have. That, and we had a hard time selecting a color. Finally, we could put it off no longer. The paint on the trim on the south side of the house had worn away completely, leaving the wood exposed to the elements. So this summer we finally took the leap and painted the trim and windows. And now that it’s done, I can’t believe we waited so long! It looks like a whole new house!

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End of Summer Recipe: Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes

You know how it is. One day you have a plant full of green tomatoes and the next day you have a hard frost. And that means you’re about to become the proud owner of an army of green tomatoes. If you should find yourself in this pickle, here’s a suggestion: pickle ’em!

I picked up the spicy pickled green tomato recipe from Food.com. It’s an easy recipe that makes quick use of a crop of green tomatoes. And it’s really quite basic. Just chop up the green tomatoes and stuff them along with a couple cloves of garlic and jalapeno pepper slices into sterilized jars. Add some salt and a hot white vinegar/water mixture and then top with lids.

The only problem is, I won’t know how these pickled green tomatoes taste for another couple of months. According to the recipe the mixture has to cure for at least two months!

 

American Standard “Clean” Toilet: The Throne to Own

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You know you’ve reached middle age when you get excited about a toilet. Although, really, can you name another fixture in your home that you have such an intimate relationship with?

In the past six months we’ve purchased two toilets: one for the bathroom in the city apartment and one for the bathroom here at the house. The toilet for the city apartment was a total duress purchase. The toilet that had been installed during the building’s gut rehab in 2006 had been causing trouble for a few years. We really shouldn’t have been surprised when we learned that the cause of a leak into our downstairs neighbor’s bathroom was coming from the toilet. And I guess we weren’t really surprised … but we weren’t really prepared to buy a new toilet either.

I wasn’t completely uneducated about toilets, mind you. Over the years I’ve written about toilets here and there. In doing research for those posts I identified three things that I wanted in our new toilet: concealed trap way, easy flushing and comfort height.

The thing about a duress purchase is that you have to make your purchase quickly, which means you’re at the mercy of what’s in stock at hardware stores. That basically eliminated the toilets on my Which Throne Will We Own  list. But then in a moment of porcelain serendipity, Lowe’s came through with a toilet that fits all of my criteria – and also happened to be under $300.

American Standard Clean Toilet at Lowes

The American Standard “Clean” High Efficiency Elongated Toilet has styling that rivals the more expensive Toto toilets but at a fraction of the cost. As you can see in the photo above that I sent to The Mister when I bought the toilet, the Clean toilet came in well under $300. The concealed trapway and small tank look great in our small apartment bathroom. But perhaps even more importantly, this high efficiency toilet (1.28 gpf) packs a powerful flush! My experience with other high efficiency toilets has been that they require multiple flushes – thereby negating any water savings. The American Standard Clean toilet has a strong flushing system that rarely requires a second flush.New American Standard Clean Toilet

In fact, we’re so pleased with the toilet that we purchased for the apartment under duress that we bought the same toilet for the house.

DISCLOSURE: This is an honest review of our experience with the American Standard Clean Toilet. This American House was not compensation for this post. We may receive ad revenue from embedded Amazon clicks.