Category Archives: renovation

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.

DIY + OCD = OMG

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Sometimes I think that projects would be so much easier if I wasn’t such a neatnik.

Take the task of stripping the fireplace brick, for instance. Not only have I created an ornate plastic bag and taping routine to keep the surfaces surrounding the fireplace protected, but I also clean and put away the entire operation at the end of every weekend.

I’d probably save a lot of time by leaving the ladder and plastic bags and other stripping supplies sitting in the living room even when I wasn’t working on the project. But, well, that just wouldn’t be me. I like a neat and clutter-free home – whether projects are finished or not.

And, hey, carrying that ladder up and down from the basement is a good workout!

Wright Colors: Cherokee Red
PAINTING THE DELBERT MEIER HOUSE

A sample of Frank Lloyd Wright's Cherokee Red

We’ve put it off for the past two years but this summer we finally had to face it. The exterior trim on the house MUST be painted. There are sections of trim – especially on the south side of the house – that are down to the bare wood. If we forego painting much longer we risk damaging the wood trim. And we definitely don’t want that to happen. There are far too few of these American System Built Homes that are in as good of shape as ours. We want to preserve that as much as we can. And leaving bare trim exposed to the elements is not helping.

We’ve known for the past two years that we would need to paint the trim on the house. And almost from the very beginning of our ownership we’ve been talking about repainting the trim in a deep red color. Through a little research we came across PPG Architectural Coatings’ Fallingwater paint collection. And there it was – the first little square on the inner leaf of the catalog: Cherokee Red.

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Before & (Almost) After: A Quick Basement Bathroom Refresh

Basement Bathroom Remodel

When our house was built in 1917 it was equipped with one bathroom on the second floor. Somewhere along the way – and judging by the Bathking shower I think it was post-WWII – a bathroom was added in the basement. This little bathroom has been great in a functional kind of way when we’ve had houseguests. Or even when it’s just the two of us and nature calls at the same time! Still, this little bathroom could use some refreshing. From the army green wall to the peel and stick floor, it was time to give this bathroom new life.

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Adventures in Stripping: Patience Is a Virtue … And I’ve Never Been Very Virtuous

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I think one of the hardest parts of even the lightest of renovations is sticking it out until the end. It takes patience to see a project from conception to completion. It takes little reminders that it will be done if you just keep chipping away at it. And that even though it may be in a state of semi-completion for a few months, one day it will be finished.

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I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with stripping the fireplace brick. After staring at the half-finished fireplace all winter long, silently cursing myself for not finishing it last summer, I’m excited to have gotten close to the end of the job. We finished the front last year but the sides have remained untouched. It was kind of neat to see the difference between the stripped bricks on the front and the side bricks that were still covered in dark gray paint. It made me really appreciate all the work that it took to strip the front.

I started the right side earlier this spring.The Citristrip is doing a great job at pulling off the old paint. It takes a couple of coats and a liberal amount of elbow grease applied to a steel brush, but it the paint does come off. I’ve developed a system with plastic bags and painters tape that make cleanup a little easier. That was important because I was able to work on a few rows of bricks at time. Well, I finally wrapped up the right side a couple of weeks ago. And over this past week I’ve managed to get most of the left side stripped as well.

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There are a couple of projects that have been on hold until we’ve finished stripping the brick. We want to grab a couple of cabinets to place on either side of the fireplace (giving up on our idea of having the original built-ins rebuilt) and then we’ll want to repaint the entire living room and all the trim. Little by little (brick by brick!) we’re making progress. All it takes is a little patience.