Category Archives: thrifty

Upcycling the Original Kitchen Cabinets
Or, Making Lemons into Lemonade

We’ve been thinking about what to do with the original kitchen cabinets since we first discovered them in the garage back in the spring of 2014. Back then, the cabinets were sitting in a corner of the garage covered in layers of dust and grime. The base unit, facing backwards, was resting on the concrete floor and the upper cabinet was mounted on the wall above. The doors, drawers and shelves were stacked on the top and inside the base unit. We turned the base unit around and tested to see if the drawers and doors fit it and the upper cabinet. We were delighted not only to see that everything fit but that none of the glass in the doors had been broken over the years.

Satisfied that we had the complete cabinetry, we start mulling how we would reuse them in the house. In those early days of house ownership, when we were wide eyed and filled with outrageous ambition, we dreamed of retrofitting the kitchen and re-placing the original cabinets back in their rightful spot. But to make the footprint of the kitchen look as it would have back in 1917, we would need to completely reconfigure the kitchen. We would need to relocate the refrigerator and dishwasher as part of a complete kitchen remodel. Ambitious, right? Well when we decided to give the kitchen a facelift instead of an overhaul, that nixed that idea.

And so we left the cabinets sitting there in the garage. For. Five. Years.

Now that we had jettisoned the plan to move the cabinets back into the kitchen, I started thinking about another way that I could upcycle them. About a year ago I hit on the idea of dismantling the top cabinets to reuse them elsewhere in the house. I think I was sweeping the garage when I ran excitedly into the house and beckoned The Mister to share my new plan with him. Picture it, I said as I stood with him in front of the cabinets in the garage, I’ll cut the upper cabinetry apart to create two built-in cabinets for the fireplace. There had once been shelving flanking the fireplace but that had been removed years ago. So let’s take something that had been removed from the elsewhere in the house, I explained, to create something new for it. What a great idea! we both agreed.

And then I choked. I could hear the purists in the back of my wind. “Why would you ever cut those cabinets apart! They’re one of the only remaining original features of your home! You should preserve them!”

But today I’m here to tell you that I’ve decided to let the purists squawk all they want; we still think this is a good idea.

Because, you see, here’s the thing: the Delbert Meier House is not a museum. And we have not set out to turn back the hands of time and recreate the home that the Meier family first inhabited in 1917. This house is an ever-evolving family home in a small rural town. Over the years it has been owned by woodworkers, DIYers and co-creators who have made changes to the house that they deemed appropriate at the time. We’re following the example set by those previous owners and creating something that will be useful, beautiful and enhance the livability of the house for future owners.

We don’t know exactly how long the original kitchen cabinets have been stored in the garage. Judging by the layers of dirt and dust on them, I’d say at least a couple of decades. Some of the shelves were imprinted with what looked like oil can rings and other automotive stains so we suspect that the cabinets were used for storage in the garage at some point. The cabinets have been enduring the damage of temperature change and wear and tear of being in the garage for decades. By repurposing one of the cabinets for a new use, we’re saving them from further neglect.

And so it’s official. The upper cabinetry will be cut down to size and repurposed as built-in cabinets on either side of the fireplace. Stay tuned to see the progress of this project!

How to Install a Tile Backsplash
(Good News: It’s Easier Than You Might Think!)

Before installing the backsplash in our kitchen I had never in my life tiled a single thing. But how hard can it be? I reasoned. I mean, people have been tiling for thousands of years! And all of those people couldn’t have been geniuses. But then as I watched YouTube videos and read how-to posts with all their steps and warnings of pitfalls, I grew increasingly worried that tiling was a job best left to professionals. No! my inner adventurer called out. And so my can-do, DIY spirit kicked in and I decided to tackle the job on my own. And you know what? It’s not as hard as you might think! Now that I’ve mastered the art of tiling (because, you know, I’ve done it once so now I’m an expert), I’m going to share the process with you. Continue reading

DIY Tip: Always Buy the Cheap Wrapping Paper

What’s going on here? Why are we wrapping the kitchen cabinet in Christmas paper in April? Did someone dip into the absinthe again? Nope! This is just my way of using the cheap Christmas wrap that I bought on sale after the holiday to protect the painted cabinets while I strip the adjacent window.

And this is why we always buy the cheap Christmas paper! The big rolls of paper come in handy for all kinds of DIY projects. From protecting surfaces to creating paper patterns, rolls of wrapping paper are an essential part of a DIYer’s toolbox. Of course, you can always use it to wrap gifts next Christmas too!

A Final Tour: Saying Goodbye to the City Condo

Rogers Park Chicago Condo

On February 20, 2007, The Mister and I signed the closing documents for our first home together – a modest vintage condo on the far north side of the city. It was the Mister’s big birthday (I won’t say which but it ended in a zero) and we were confident that by purchasing property we were taking our first big step toward financial security. The housing market had been going gangbusters for the first few years of the early 2000’s and this small, rehabbed condo in an up-and-coming neighborhood was what we could comfortably afford. We reasoned that with the strong housing market we’d be able to trade up to a larger condo within a few years. Continue reading

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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