Thursday, January 31, 2013

don't cry, Tim Gunn

I have made LOTS of progress in the kitchen. 

(It was very gracious of you not to point out there that I didn't say, "The kitchen is done!"  But it will be done soon.  As demonstrated by the fact that tonight I am going to start tearing up the floor in the sun porch.) 

And, more importantly, my faith in my shopping ability has been restored.  (I pause here to note that I have been appropriately shamed by JBTC's St. Francis post, in that I should not rely on my natural gifts [although I would like to think that shopping may be a gift of the Holy Spirit, and thus a supernatural gift, but the epistles are curiously silent on this point], nor on my own labors to see my life through, but on the mercy of God, and maybe stop white-knuckling every day of my life as if it all depended on me.  But that only means that I am contrite.  Not reformed.) 

You may recall this item, a recent purchase I mentioned in my previous post:

It is an antique jelly cupboard.  As I said, I bought it on craigslist for $50.  I went to see it thinking it had a wood inlay.  I decided to take it home with me realizing that the darker wood grain was a faux finish, but also (after peeking inside) that the cabinet was at least 100 years old and possibly quite a bit more.  After it got to my house (still sitting in the car), I suddenly remembered that I wanted a 36" high cabinet, not a 47" high cabinet.  So the cabinet was on probation.  My husband thought it overly large in the space.  (It also bothered him that it leaned forward - because the floor is uneven.  I fixed this by doubling up on the felt slide-y feet in the front.)  I began contemplating a replacement - which meant selling the cabinet, which is a pain. 

But I started to realize a funny thing.  I'm not a decorator and I don't have design training, so I don't have that trained-in sense about what things will look like.  I try to set good parameters (size, color, age, general design style) and then buy things that meet those requirements and also strike me as beautiful.  Usually these standards are enough for a win, but sometimes something that is perfect on paper is person.  Often I realize this is true when I walk by it, not really paying attention, see it out of the corner of my eye, feel very displeased, and suddenly realize that what I am looking at is Not Working.  (Such has been true with the coffee cabinet wall.  But I think it may be almost fixed.) 

With respect to the jelly cupboard - I kept walking into the kitchen from the laundry room (thus, walking straight toward the cupboard) and noticing something stunning out of the corner of my eye, and realizing that it was - that cupboard!  It occurred to me that its wood tones go almost perfectly with the door and the spice rack on its wall:

I disliked the faux graining when I first saw it, but the longer the cupboard stayed in the room, the more I realized I liked it.  But it was still taking up too much visual space.  So I sat down to commune with the cupboard and determine its age before I made a decision.  I took out one of the screws to see whether it was machined.  (Yes.)  Then I looked up when machined screws first became widely available.  Before 1800.  Okay.  I hadn't narrowed it down yet.  Then I started to look at some of the other hardware.  There's an original lock made out of wood (probably no longer working, but I don't have the key) and an additional lock you can see was added.  Even the later lock is clearly very old - I think from the nineteenth century (I am not an expert, but it seems to line up with other pieces I have seen).  The drawers have dovetailed joints, but those were used well into the twentieth century.  They use small, apparently hand-cut blocks of wood as sliders rather than hardware; that makes it seem a bit older. 

Then I looked at the back of the cupboard.  I had planned to put a hole in it through which I could feed an extension cord.  The back is made of wide slabs of 3/4" thick pine.  I would about tear my arm off with a hole saw trying to go through that.  More interestingly, nobody makes furniture backs that way now.  I also have a late-nineteenth-century armoire - solid oak with nice carving, much fancier than the jelly cupboard.  Its back wasn't made that way, either - it's 1/4" thick oak.  I started to suspect my cupboard was made in the first half of the eighteenth century.  The chances of my DH winning the battle to get rid of it were dropping. 

It was looking like the cupboard was about to be painted - I figured white to match the beadboard behind it would make it less obtrusive.  I know some jelly cupboards were painted white.  I kind of wanted to paint the drawers and door insets yellow, but first I wanted to check whether that was an original color scheme for jelly cupboards.  I also wanted to find out how valuable they were.  I was pretty sure that faux graining treatment wasn't original, but it wasn't that recent, either.  If the cupboards regularly sold for $100 or so, painting it for my own convenience seemed perfectly reasonable, even if it might diminish the value somewhat.  But first - to the internet! 

Where I found this article.  It starts with this picture:

No, that is not my cupboard.  That is the cupboard from the article.  (I thought this quite an auspicious start.) 

The article explains, "Patina and normal hard wear add to the value of these pieces."  Plenty of hard wear here.  Moving on: "The sought out cupboards and pie safes are either grain painted or have their original painted surface."  It has a picture of grain painting:

So...I guess I was wrong about how old that graining treatment was.  The article also helpfully provided some market values for jelly cupboards.  One was walnut, obviously more valuable than my pine cupboard, and had tin-punched panels.  Another also had tin-punching, but some of the original panels were missing and had been reproduced; not sure how that shakes out.  The values of those items were, respectively, $5000-$7000 (estimated on Antiques Road Show) and $3,819 (sold at auction).  I don't imagine my cupboard is worth that much, and I am only assuming that it is original, rather than a fake.  (I am 99% sure it is a real antique, but again - not an expert.) 

However, I am not painting my cupboard.  And it is not going anywhere. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

making Tim Gunn sad

This man may be my favorite person I don't know (not counting bloggers):

He only asks one thing.  And I have to confess that I am not making it work. 

I have taken a lot of design risks in my kitchen - not so much in the sense of using chartreuse (I haven't) or doing things that other people don't do (definitely have) but of executing ideas before I can fully predict the outcome.  And I don't have a team of professionals or a massive budget to magic everything away and redo it instantly if it doesn't look the way it should.  I just have to use my bestest imagination to project how it will look.  I have gotten incredibly lucky, far more times than I deserve.  (Some of that is not luck but using sensibly-chosen parameters about how things should be done.  Good planning makes you luckier.) 

But when a great heavy object goes into place and it isn't working, that's when the real adventure starts.  Will it be perfect if I move it six inches to the left?  What about switching it with the thing on the adjacent wall?  If I painted it white?  Added trim?  Then would it be beautiful?  Or would it still just be weird, for some reason I can't articulate?  Of course, somewhere in the process of making these adjustments, my ability to see the thing objectively is worn down so badly that I cannot even evaluate the success of the changes.  At this point, I either give up and get rid of it or (if it's really securely attached) give up and leave it there, but look at it askance forever after. 

This wall is getting the looked-at-askance treatment:

I can tell it's not really working.  (Either that, or I can tell that I can no longer tell whether it's really working, and I am pretty sure that it isn't.)  I think that the shallow countertop/shelf I made is really lovely wood.  And it was a brilliant fit for the space.  I think the cabinet is attractive.  I think the molding is attractive, too.  But something is wrong about the whole grouping.  I think - if I can still see straight - the chair rail, beadboard, and baseboard are not only doing well themselves, but bringing the look of the whole wall up.  They're not part of the problem.  (Do you agree?) 

By the way, yes, I finished putting up the baseboard.  Yes, I know it needs a touch-up over the caulk and the scuffs from the saw. 

The upper cabinet may be part of the problem, but I can't tell.  And I certainly can't tell whether the problem is that it's hung crooked (it is, but other people say they can't tell.  I can tell.  Are they just being nice?), or that it doesn't entirely go with the rest of the cabinetry in the kitchen (true, but why does it look wrong if I just look at that wall?), or whether it's just funny-looking (I think it's attractive, but on the wall, somehow...?):

And I'm fairly sure that that shelf thing is a problem.  It shouldn't be - it's very simple.  I have been planning to add decorative corbels to cover the industrial-sized metal shelf supports:

Would just a few pieces of molding make the whole wall work?  That seems unlikely, but I do intend to try.  What if it's the color?  The shelf coordinates well with other things near it, but would it suddenly look better if it were blue?  Or what if I removed it and instead used a piece of marble as a shelf instead?  Then it would coordinate with the marble-topped work table to its left.  But right now it coordinates with other stained wood, and that's not helping.  Maybe the problem is the squareness of its sides?  They could be...a different shape?

It's not that I think anything on this wall is so hideous that people need to shade their eyes.  It's just that that wall is not contributing to an attractive whole.  And it needs to. 

I know (in theory) there are several ways to make elements work together.  Obviously, you could make them all the same:

Nothing sticks out there.  On the other hand, nothing really pops.  I like this kitchen (and yes, I have noticed that there are four different countertop materials - I respect that), but honestly, I think it would be more beautiful if it were just a little more interesting. 

Another way to bring things together is to unite visually different items with the same color:

I'm pretty sure the kitchen cart, high shelves, casement windows, and cabinets all hail from different installations.  (Despite what houzz says, by the way, I do not believe an architect was involved.  This looks like the effort of an actual human being.)  The fact that they're all white creates needed harmony.  If the room only contained matching stock cabinets, I think the monochromatic palette would be a cure for insomnia, but as it is, there's a lot of visually interesting stuff going on.  Win. 

On the other hand, you don't have to quiet down disparate elements.  You can encourage riot:

I see five different cabinet colors, and at least three cabinet door styles, just on this side of the kitchen.  (By the way, it's my understanding that this kitchen was professionally designed.  It looks like the cabinets were accumulated over time - a look I like - but that is not what happened.)  It does have a cohesive look (controlled chaos, if you will), which I think comes from similar finishes, similar trim, a narrow color palette, and matching hardware. 

I love this kitchen, too:

I think the unifying principle here is "stuff everywhere that I like."  If I set out to achieve this look, I don't even know whether I could do it and make it look intentional and not just disorganized.  But I think the results here are amazing.  Maybe it's just a matter of naturally good aesthetic sensibilities.  I hope I have those...

Another of my favorite kitchens:

This one really has the unfitted look.  The island on the left clearly had a sink and countertop made for the kitchen installation, but the base is apparently antique.  The table and chairs on the right are antique.  The wardrobe with the horse on it is an antique.  There's a set of shelves in the corner and around the corner is what looks like some sort of Hoosier cabinet.  It continues around the corner:

To the left of the Hoosier cabinet is some sort of lower cabinet with an angled top and a completely unrelated upper cabinet above it (complete with rooster silhouette), then a reproduction vintage refrigerator, then another huge wardrobe, then an electric stove from the 1920s or 1930s, then a work bench.  Not one of these pieces was manufactured for this project; most weren't even intended for a kitchen.  While the palette is fairly narrow, no two of these things are even the same color.  I'm not sure the homeowner even repainted or refinished - those finishes might be original.  I love this kitchen and I really think it works, but I think this pushes the "unfitted" (i.e., freestanding cabinets gathered from multiple sources) look as far as it will go.  (And yes, I would consider this for my kitchen, if it were a lot bigger!) 

So other than painting everything the same color (obviously not required), how to make disparate parts into a coherent whole, rather than just having them fight with each other? 

I know that giving a contrasting element some room to "breathe" helps.  You put enough visual space around it that it can just be itself - like this island:

I think that's worked really well with the wardrobe here, too:

On the flip side, physically attaching stuff to other stuff also works.  There's something about pieces that are perfectly physically fitted to one another that tells the viewer, "these things belong together."  (Kind of like how a black sweater doesn't really go with brown pants, but a black and brown sweater might work fine.)  Like so:

The stained cabinets are a different finish, slightly different molding style, and even a different height from the painted cabinets next to them (which are also two different colors).  But since they're physically attached and the uppers and lowers line up, of course they're meant to be together.  (The tiles do a nice job of tying the colors together, too.)  Likewise:

That wee-Palladian-window-ed cabinet in the corner has nothing in common in design or style with any other cabinet in the kitchen.  It's the same color and it has the same knob - that's it.  "Silly misfit," you say.  "It's obviously an intentional accent piece.  Clearly they bought a different one and attached it to those other two for some contrast."  Yes.  But what if it were sitting on its own, two feet from the other cabinets?  Might not look so intentional. 

You can slap together a whole kitchen's worth of totally different cabinetry.  Just bolt it all together:

I think I used the bolt-it-together principle fairly successfully with my cabinets 2 and 3.  They don't have exactly the same door style, and one has all-contemporary molding and one is more than a century old.  I just painted them the same color and attached them to each other:

I think that worked. 

The key to getting it not to look like a grievous error, to my mind, is to make it look like you mean it.  Offsetting a piece so it has the visual room to be a statement piece makes clear that you meant it.  Attaching them all together makes your intentions quite clear, too.  But those principles don't explain all the stuff I see working.  Like this:

Not attached.  Nor standing way out there on its own.  Clearly the top and bottom pieces are arranged so that they're meant to be associated - the top is centered over the bottom - but they're not even the same width!  And the countertop and upper cabinet have two different stain colors.  Nevertheless, I see perfection here.  Why? 

Very similar:

Granted, the colors don't clash, but the cabinetry pieces are three different colors (and finishes, actually - one painted, one stained, one painted and glazed), the painted pieces have different door styles and hardware, and the items aren't attached - they're just set next to each other.  Lower cabinets don't usually have gaps, and these do.  But they work. 

What about this? 

Completely different idea than the previous two.  But, like those two, we have several different colors, cabinets with different heights and depths, stained finishes with painted, and at least one antique piece from a different era than the rest of the items.  Some of it's attached.  Nothing is really offset.  The colors may or may not be to your taste, but it doesn't look like a tragic accident.  It's coordinated.  Why? 
So...this past weekend, I picked up this great craigslist find:

When I met it in person, I realized that the darker-stained "inlays" are a faux-finish treatment - that's not wood grain, it's swirly paint.  (I could've figured that out if I'd looked more closely at the picture.)  I don't like that.  But I also realized that the cabinet was way older than I thought.  It appears to be a real antique jelly cupboard.  That, I like.  And I think I got a good price!  However. 
It is not working in situ:

It's just a smidge deeper than the microwave I need to sit on it - so, correct depth.  It's narrower than the wall, so that part is OK.  (A little narrower would be fine, too.)  But I think it's too tall.  I originally meant to find a cabinet 36" high - the height of a standard countertop.  This one is 47" (which means I forgot my essential criteria as I was making a purchase.  The shopping is the part of this where I typically excel.  What is wrong with me?).  With the microwave on it, the cupboard does not work.  The microwave crosses the chair rail - I think it should be entirely below:

And I think both pieces are crowding the spice cabinet, which is definitely a disparate element, and needs more room to breathe, I believe. 

There are other problems.  It's not blocking or even really constricting the path around the work table or the path into the kitchen, but it is visually looming into the kitchen:

(I overheard my DH telling someone over the phone that "the kitchen just got a lot smaller." He has not tripped over the cabinet, but he perceives that it makes the kitchen claustrophobic. Since he makes no effort to over-analyze these matters, I think his impression is probably objective. I need to do something about that.  The kitchen, I mean, not his opinions.)  Even though the faux finish irks me a bit, I think it is actually really nice-looking on its own.  I wasn't planning to paint it white, because it would blend into the beadboard behind it.  But if I painted it white, would it visually recede, and stop attacking the visual space in the room? 
Or maybe there's no color that would keep it from looming.  Maybe a piece 36" tall would take up less visual space, and solve my microwave and spice rack problems.  Or, maybe I would get a piece in that size and found I had bought two cabinets in a row that did not work.  (Sure, I could sell this one for more than $50, but I am not in the business of selling antiques; as I have discovered with the stove, it is a pain.)  I need the under-cabinet area to store wine bottles and cookbooks, so I can't use a table instead, but maybe I could find something leggier, to make a bit of floor visible and create the impression of more space.  Like so:
OK, fine, that's much too big for the space, and also way too expensive.  But if someone wanted to sell me a little one for $50, I wouldn't turn it down.  I promise I wouldn't paint it :). 
I just can't get my head around the fact that I bought something wrong.  And it wasn't even a bad something - it's a really nice antique jelly cupboard, and I got it for a great price.  And yet it is undermining the harmony of my kitchen. 
I'm sorry, Tim Gunn.  I will do better. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

the floor

Most of the sawdust is gone.

This process has been physically arduous, and it may also be taking a toll on my mind.  I have to go back and remind myself what the floor looked like when we bought the place:

Pink-tinted sheet vinyl, printed to look like...travertine?  Or some sort of tile.  New, resilient, and in good condition.  Not attractive.  (Sorry I don't have a close-up.  I really should.)

Vinyl is supposed to be glued down, but as I believe we've discussed, this wasn't (except for a very small spot right in front of the sink.  Your guess is as good as mine).  It was held down, effectively, by the metal thresholds across the doorways - there are four doorways into the kitchen, so this is marginally more thorough than it sounds.

Under the vinyl was the 1/4" fiberboard stuff (basically glorified cardboard).  In the picture below, the white at the top is the underside of the vinyl, which I cut loose with a razor and just rolled back.  The brown stuff from which the handle of the garden shovel is protruding is the fiberboard.  (I had a veritable arsenal of tools and materials for this job, and I defy anyone to find me something that would have worked better than the shovel for this particular purpose.)  See:

(By the way, some of these image files are large, and if you click on them, the pictures will get bigger.)  The above shot looks into the kitchen from the dining room.  The dining room has a wood floor that has already been refinished.  The elephant in the room is that green stuff.  It was under the fiberboard.  It's Armstrong-brand sheet linoleum, from (I estimate) the '50s.  It's extremely ugly:

(It has stray splotches of red paint, apparently left over from a misbegotten seafoam-and-red color scheme some decades ago.)  I understand why the previous owners didn't want it.  I just don't understand why they wanted that vinyl instead.  But to return to our adventure: under the linoleum was the garbage that adhered it - a layer of tar, a layer of paper-ish stuff, and another layer of tar.  The first layer of tar peeled off obligingly.  The layer of paper sometimes peeled off and sometimes not (it scraped off if I was really patient with it).  The second layer of tar sometimes did not want to come off at all.  This shot shows some of all three of those layers:

By the way, although they are present in all of these photos, the thousands of brad nails don't really show up.  They were, as I have noted, by far the worst part of this project.  My right hand is still stiff and sore when I flex my fingers, and I haven't pulled out a nail in weeks.  I am only 30 and I better not have arthritis.  I will not be happy. 

These are brad nails:


The thing is, the tar layers peeled off relatively easily for the first few inches (in this doorway ONLY - nowhere else).  That allowed me to see the original flooring underneath, and motivated me to restore it.  But it belied the difficulty of the project that was to come.  In fact, it was a slow process of ripping off sheets of vinyl (fast), prying off a big piece of fiberboard (moderately fast - but once that's off, I have exposed hundreds of nasty brad nails, and I will have to pull every one of them out before I can leave the house, or someone will puncture a foot), then the linoleum (a little slow), then whatever layers of tar paper I can easily remove (about the same), then the nails (AGONIZINGLY slow), and then the remaining tar (requires special methods).  By the middle of this process, the floor was basically a collage of its own progress:

In the foreground, the fiberboard is on the right, and linoleum is on the left.  They are surrounded by tar and paper that refused to come up.  That was hideous:

And you may not be able to see, but at the left side of the photo, under a yellow level and a steel ruler, there's a section of floor that's missing the original boards.  It was patched with three extra-wide planks that looked like they belonged on a picnic table.  Obviously, these would have to be replaced.  Maybe you can see them better here:

On the left.  Oh, and another thing!  See the pipe from the radiator that feeds into the floor?  Not the long skinny one on the far left; the one attached to the radiator proper, that has an elbow joint.  If you zoom in, you can see that part of the floorboard that hits that pipe is just missing.  That board and the one next to it had several inches of dry rot.  So, I had to cut pieces out and replace them, too.

I may not have mentioned this, but I was fortunate enough to have the last two weeks of December off.  I planned to spend them finishing up whatever wee little bit of the kitchen was undone (HA!) and baking cookies.  And maybe watching some nice movies over a mug of hot cocoa.

That is not what happened.  Instead, I had a Friday off - I spent all day removing brad nails.  Ditto Saturday.  Sunday morning I woke up with the flu.  I had been exercising more, eating better, and getting a lot of sleep.  I hadn't even been around anyone who seemed sick.  I considered it a grave injustice. Sunday I basically slept.  But after that, I decided I couldn't waste my precious leave days.  I returned to the floor.  I was too weak and pathetic to put in six or eight straight hours as I had been doing, so I worked until I was totally exhausted (an hour or two) and then retired to the couch for a DIY show.  Then back to the kitchen.

A few days into that week I had finally removed all the brad nails.  While that was grueling work, it was strictly anaerobic exercise - hand muscles only.  The next part was removing the filthy tar.  That required vigorous scraping - which is upper-body exercise.  A good workout.

My first morning of scraping, I was out of breath so fast that within five minutes I started to feel dizzy.  At that point I think I started crying.  It was pathetic.  I had two full days left before I had promised myself I would knock off for Christmas, and I was too physically weak to get the tar off.  I did as much as I could that day, but I made very little progress.  My DH was working fourteen-hour days and had no time to help.  That evening, I rallied myself for one last, tiny spot of progress.  My preparation consisted of taking an old towel, laying it over a section of floor, and soaking it with boiling water from an enormous pot I had going.  I would wait around an hour, go back and remove the towel, and scrape off what was under it.  With my DH already asleep, I got through half of my pre-treated spot and was totally worn out.  I went to bed.

The next morning I got up, had breakfast, gathered my courage, and checked under the towel.  I figured it would need to be re-soaked with boiling water and started over.  And I was supposed to finish that day and turn my attention to cleaning the whole house and baking cookies - Christmas was five days away, and I had no cookies to offer!  But when I pulled back the towel over the un-scraped section, I discovered a Christmas miracle.  The tar had loosened completely.  I could have removed it with a sponge.  A few tiny spots required scratching at with a scraper, but 95% just gave up the ghost.  Apparently, what it needed was about 12 hours of soaking.

I was feverish, but no fool.  I gathered every one of our older towels, put them all over the floor, and soaked the entire mess with boiling water.  (It was highly entertaining to walk on.)  I'm sure this is what all your floors looked like a few days before Christmas, too:

I only had enough towels to do half the floor at once, so I soaked half the floor all day and scraped in the evening.  The other half soaked overnight.  Miraculously, I woke up that Saturday feeling healthy and with a ton of energy.  I started out scraping the tar off and didn't stop moving all day.  Which was a good thing - I hadn't cleaned anything in my house probably the whole month of December, and my sister was arriving the next day.

After that round of scraping, all the tangible matter was off the floor, but it was by no means clean.  Oddly, I don't seem to have a picture of this, but the tar left behind a white slime and black staining.  When the slime dried it was powdery - so, harmless - but hideous.  And that is what my kitchen floor looked like for Christmas.

My brother came down later that week; he and my sister both left the Friday after Christmas.  Within an hour I was at the big orange store, renting a walk-behind random orbital sander.  The thing was a monster, somewhere in the 150-200 pound range, and was strong enough to drag me across the floor.  (It's supposed to work more the other way around.)  My DH's interest was suddenly piqued now that the project involved a large, very loud, apparently dangerous tool, and he knocked out half the sanding in about half an hour.  Then I took over and finished about two hours.  We spent the rest of the day cleaning sawdust, because the next morning a friend from out of town came to stay with us.  (We offer the very finest in hospitality.)  He left Sunday, and I immediately fetched out the hand sander to touch up all the spots the big sander missed.  Here is the floor post-sanding:

You will note that I did not bother to get all the black staining off.  (You can see several spots and one stripe in that picture - the floor really looked like that.)  I figured that if it really resisted coming off, it should be left alone.  The floor is 115 years old this year, and I actually wanted it to look its age - well-preserved, but decidedly not new.  I did, however, patch the missing spots:

It would be fair to ask at this point why I did not realize that I had picked the wrong species of wood with which to patch.  (That's select-grade white pine.)  The wood in the store really looked like the image of the flooring in my head.  But when I bought it, I had just started the demolition; I hadn't seen much of the real floor yet.  And when I laid it, I attributed the color difference to age and stains from the tar.  It did not dawn on me until I washed down the floor with water (to get rid of any stray sawdust right before I stained) that the grain in the new wood was different, and the color was really wrong.  White pine is white and yellow.  My floor was (in the wood's inherent tones) yellow and red.  I'm pretty sure pine does not come in red.

(I am still not sure what the floor is, by the way.  It doesn't look quite like oak to me, and everything else I can think of that comes in red is high-end hardwood, which would never have been used in a kitchen 115 years ago.) 

By the time I figured this out, I was about to open my can of stain, and had no interest in backtracking.  I figured I would replace the patches later if I could ever identify the wood.  I used Varathane's "American Walnut" (which I found at the local ReStore for $3 a quart!), and, per the directions, I did not pre-treat.  (I now think this was a mistake.)  The directions also say the stain dries in an hour, and it sure did.  But if I had read the directions on the varnish as well (I've used it lots of times, so who needs directions?), I would have realized that the stain should have dried for 72 more hours before adding water-based polyurethane.  My brush pulled up a lot of stain as I applied that first coat of varnish.

These are merely notes for anyone else who might want to do this.  I have no complaints.  While I loved the tones in the American Walnut, I knew it was too dark and actually wanted to tone it down, so I wiped it off within 60 seconds of applying.  (Even though I know very well that most of the color goes in in about ten seconds, for some reason I thought this would help.)  But, probably because I started adding varnish within a few hours, the stain lightened considerably.  I applied five coats of satin-sheen varnish.  And now the floor looks like this:

No, for real.  That is THE SAME FLOOR as in the pictures at the beginning of this post.  I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't seen it.  Here it is again:

(These pictures also document the pressing necessity for me to add baseboard, which I am well aware of, thank you very much.  It has always been scheduled for after the floor.  I've pre-painted it, and it goes up tomorrow.)  You can also see the patches in the above picture - they're in front of the door and right in front of that radiator pipe.  The stain actually did an amazing amount to conceal the differences in the wood.  And here's a close-up:

The color and sheen in that are pretty accurate.  The stain took completely unevenly - the wood was naturally red in some places and yellow in others (and let's not forget the black stains), and the stain failed to take in some places and came up in others.  So it actually looks really, really old.  If you look closely at the new wood I used for patches, there's just no comparison.  You could never fake that look of age with new material - I don't know how, anyway.  If I had had to describe the effect I wanted, that's exactly what I would have said - but I couldn't actually picture the result in my head.  I just did the next best thing I could think of to do, and hoped for the best. 

I know it's tiresome, but I still can't believe that all that sawdust and hideous linoleum and disgusting tar and evil brad nails later, that's my kitchen floor.  And it has always been there, and this time, it's never getting covered up again. 

(I am sharing my great flooring adventures at Susan's Metamorphosis Monday.  And now at Victoria's "made with love" link-up, because I'm not about the love in the stuff I've made, but this was a labor of love if anything ever was.) 

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I was supposed to be done with the kitchen - the entire kitchen - by approximately December 15th.  Now I am saying January 15th.  But...

First of all, the last major project is/was supposed to be the floor.  It was going to be slate, as I mentioned.  Then I found the original wood floor.  About the same time I found the 2000-3000 brad nails.  It took me six and a half days of exhasting work to remove them all.  And only then could I start on the tar.  (As I expected, the tar was horrible, but it paled in comparison to the brad nails.)  After I had stripped the tar, the floor was still covered with a filthy muck. 

Enter the random orbital sander.  Not the little palm ones you can buy for $50 - the giant walk-behind one that you rent for about that much. 

I have never seen so much sawdust in my life. 

After that sanding, I was supposed to get out my palm sander, touch up the spots that remained, patch two spots on the floor with new floorboards, stain the floor, varnish it, and put up the baseboard.  Little of that has happened (I have patched the larger of the two spots.  And I bought the baseboard.  Does that count?).  Because I have spent most of the intervening time cleaning sawdust out of, and off of, everything in the kitchen.  It also escaped to other areas (despite a strategically hung drop-cloth), but my DH has done the most work on those.  I have literally washed every dish we own, and every piece of flatware.  The last of the pots and pans are in the dishwasher now.  I suspect that we will be finding little traces of sawdust months from now.  And it's not nice, clean sawdust from brand-new wood.  It's gross demolition sawdust. 

On the other hand:

On yet a third remaining to-do list:
  • remove rotten boards by radiator
  • fit and attach replacement boards
  • stain floor
  • varnish floor
  • install baseboard
  • finish painting beadboard
  • finish painting walls
  • finish staining stool tops
  • varnish stool tops
  • paint stool bases [yes, I'm using two finishes per stool.  Why make life easy?]
  • adjust pull-chain on light
  • paint window and door frames
  • fix filter on vent hood
  • find dry sink
  • paint dry sink
  • unpack vases
  • re-fit doors on cabinet #4
  • install final base cabinet
  • add hardware to final base cabinet
  • find seller for soapstone countertop for final base cabinet
  • build and paint face frame for sink cabinet
  • build and paint door for sink cabinet
  • attach sink cabinet door and hardware
  • adjust faucet
  • finish caulking around sink
  • adjust stove feet
  • find missing burner caps for stove
  • fix broiler??
  • find and add decorative corbels for small countertop
There's no reason to suppose I can't get that done in twelve days.  While I'm working.