Kitchen Living Room

Monday, April 30, 2012

April Recap

I feel like I got a lot done this month. I decided to check to see if my feeling was accurate by going through all of April's posts and seeing what exactly I did finish.

(Items without a link are things I actually completed in April but I haven't written about yet.)

Not bad! I think I got more stuff done this month than I've done in the past. Hopefully May will have even more fully completed projects than April. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Coffee Tables

Let's talk coffee tables. I want one because my living room is actually pretty big and no other piece of furniture makes better sense for the middle of the room. This is the spot it will go, right in front of the couch:

Here's the cheapest option I've found at $105 from Walmart. I love the style and it's a great deal. I asked a question about it to see if the wood was solid, but it's not (duh). I also wonder if it would roll around a lot since I don't have a living room rug yet.

Better Homes and Gardens Rustic Country Coffee Table, Antiqued Black/Pine Finish

Right now I'm using two nailhead upholstered storage ottomans from Target pushed together with a blanket & tray on top. They basically look like this except a bit darker (I'll add a picture later):

Nailhead Storage Ottoman

West Elm always has super large trays that are perfect for setting on top of ottomans/coffee tables if need be:

West Elm Large Rectangular Lacquer Tray
And here's the blanket (now sold out at Pier 1):

Blue Floral Appliqué Throw from Pier 1

So while that setup works for now, it doesn't provide a very big space and it doesn't fill up the large living room very well. So I'm looking for something larger. The coffee table from Walmart is definitely a bit bigger, but it doesn't provide a place to sit down. I'd like a coffee table that will be the best of both worlds - it will provide a place to sit as well as a stable place to set drinks and food.

So I'm seriously looking at this upholstered ottoman from Target:

Button Tufted Upholstered Ottoman - Sandstone

It comes in many colors (see more here), but I think I like the neutral Sandstone the best. That way I can always add accent colors in less expensive mediums (like pillows) that can be changed on a whim. The upholstered ottoman is much bigger than the Walmart coffee table and it would provide enough room for extra seating as well as room for food & drinks with my large tray set on top of it. 

It costs $329.99 and is on sale for $263.99. With my Target card's free shipping and 5% discount plus a $5 discount from the internet, I can get the ottoman for $265.72 shipped. Here's how that breaks down:

For a total savings of $47.94. It doesn't seem like a terrible price. The ottoman also gets good reviews (you can look at colors other than sandstone in the same style to see more reviews). 

Do any of you have coffee table solutions for your own homes? How did you decide?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Stick 'Em Up!

Another title for this article could very well be, "How Grouting Actually Can Help a Bad Tile Job." 

I actually finished grouting one of the kitchen backsplash walls! (I haven't even started on the other wall. But let's not concentrate on that!) Here's the wall with all of the tiles finally in place. 

It took me a loooong time to get all of the tiles cut. That was partially my fault for measuring incorrectly (or at least writing down my measurements improperly) and partially the fault of a poor tile cutter at Lowe's. I ended up taking the tiles back to the guy in my boyfriend's city who knows how to cut tile. 

This project has been dragging on since the beginning of December. I am not exactly speedy at this home renovations stuff. That's right - almost five months. Ha ha!

Here's the grout on the float ready to go. I figured out that the reason this part took me so long (besides having to go back and forth from Lowe's over the course of months to get the tiles cut) was because I was really nervous to do this part. I didn't realize it until I was about to start. 

Eventually I started to get the hang of it. I would smoosh the grout into the tile with the grout float, then I would drag it around at a 40 degree angle, and then I would scrape it off at a 90 degree angle. Not too bad. I wasn't very good at getting the majority of the grout scraped off. This is where my less than perfect tile job came into play. It is difficult to scrape off the grout at a 90 degree angle and not remove grout from uneven tiles. That's probably why you hear people say there's no cure to a bad tile job. But! I wouldn't buy it. I am just scrappy like that. So I did my best and the rest I buffed off with a sponge and paper towels. 

TEC Invision 6.5 Lbs. White Sanded Premixed Grout

I used white grout to match the white tiles. I debated using a dark grout, but I decided that white on white would hide my mistakes better. I was right. I used a premixed grout for convenience since I live in a condo building and it's such a small space. I don't exactly keep a bucket on hand for mixing up grout. It was more expensive, but I think it was worth it. Plus, I didn't have much space to tile, so I only had to buy one bucket. The grout I used actually gets terrible reviews online. But heck, what do I know? It seems fine to me. The grout looks almost gray but it dries pretty white.

In the picture below you can see where I actually missed a few spots around the outlet. I went back and filled those in (whoops). Yea, I'm just a professional through and through.

Here's the whole wall for a better look.

Here's another spot where the tile wasn't cut perfectly.

See how the gap underneath the outlet between the two tiles is wider than in other places? That's because I probably didn't measure accurately, or the tile wasn't cut perfectly (it's difficult to cut tile perfectly, so I've seen). The grout really seemed to clean up spots like this. They just weren't as noticeable as they were pre-grouting. Also, the overall unevenness of my relatively cruddy tile job wasn't as noticeable once the grout was in place. Win for team lazy tile! Next I have to finish buffing the tiles and then seal them. And of course do the other wall. But here's a quick "before" and "during" shot just for fun (even though I'm not completely "after" yet!).




Hold your horses!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Loui in Pari

The other day I was returning something at Target, and it was under $5, so I just got cash back. Later that day I was digging around for some quarters and I realized that the cashier had given me one US quarter and one franc. I know francs aren't used anymore, but I think this might be a sign.

I have to go to France.

I have wanted to go since, well, forever. In college I became particularly interested while studying the Lascaux caves. I like to call them the Louscaux caves. Just kidding!

I also want to visit Versailles and eat as many chocolate+bread items as possible. I'm excited at the prospect of listening to French people talk all around me. France! France! I have to go.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wrapping Up the Semester

Last night I presented my final project for an operations class. Next Monday night I have my final final - in accounting. After that I have exactly two weeks off from school, the first two weeks of May. I am hoping to take at least one trip during that time, but I'll probably only take one day off of work and make it a weekend thing.

This week I continued my gluten free (just for fun, I like a challenge) baking adventures. I tried making oat flour blueberry muffins. They were good, if a bit gummy. the recipe was either from or inspired by the documentary Forks Over Knives. I didn't have any baking soda so that probably contributed to their strange consistency.

Next I'd like to try these chocolate chip cookies: They're also made with oat flour. I prefer oat flour to wheat flour (recent social trends aside) because it makes me feel more full earlier on so I end up eating less. Overeating is one of the worst feelings in my opinion.

Given that I'll have some time off from school, I'd like to finish some things around the house. I'm interested in:

- Scrubbing/sealing/caulking the grouted tile backsplash in the kitchen
- Grouting/scrubbing/sealing/caulking the other less finished side in the kitchen
- Hanging the remaining curtain rods in the bedroom and dining room (I bought special plaster screws as opposed to drywall screws for this purpose last weekend)
- Sewing the dining room curtains out of the Ikea bedspread I purchased a few weekends back

This is not a very ambitious list so I hope to finish everything. No excuses!

Here's a picture of the blueberry muffin batter! I've been attracted to recipes that use maple syrup (the real kind) versus refined sugar because the sweetness is more subtle. And supposedly it's better for you.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Broken is Still Broken

Broken, my washer/dryer unit, isn't going to be applying for a name change anytime soon. This weekend my boyfriend installed the new lid switch assembly, but now the washer seems to be broken for some other reason. It just makes a faint electrical noise when I turn it on. The dryer works fine. I would rather have the opposite situation on my hands. I could always hang my clothes over the bathtub, European style!

I would consider myself pretty resourceful, but I'm not sure what to do now. So I will continue washerless until I figure something out.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sir Cartwright

Since I've had bathrooms on the brain, I found this great medicine cabinet by Restoration Hardware:

Cartwright Medicine Cabinet in White

It comes in four colors including my pick for my light and airy dream bathroom - white. There are two sizes, small and large, as well as the option to have the cabinet inset into the wall or not. The option I would choose for my dream bathroom would be small, white in color, and inset.

Cartwright (the medicine cabinet) costs $189 on sale and $229 full price at And that doesn't include tax or shipping, of course.

So I figured I would work really hard to find a copy-cat for less. But I couldn't find one. No big deal though, because I have a perfectly working medicine cabinet.

So I didn't think much else about it. Then, this weekend on a whim, my boyfriend and I decided to drive to the outlet mall. They have a Restoration Hardware outlet at this particular mall. I'd never been to a retail Restoration Hardware let alone an outlet version, so I was excited to check it out. But I wasn't too hopeful since their prices are really out of my reach, and I figured their outlet prices wouldn't be much better.

Then, to my surprise, I found Cartwright himself standing proudly in a row of medicine cabinets up on a shelf. My boyfriend and I found the exact version I was looking for - white, inset, and small, and we picked out the best one. Each one had a few (tiny) dings or dents, but the one we nabbed was in great shape.

Of course the first thing I looked at was the price. I was shocked (we actually thought it was a mistake) to find that he was listed at $48. Everything in the store was 20% off, so we got him for just over $40.

Now Cartwright is in his new (temporary) home on top of my desk. Here's my proof of the awesomeness of the price in case you have to see it to believe it:

If I don't include tax + shipping and I calculate the savings based on the retail sale price, I got the medicine cabinet for about 80% off. I'm sure installing Cartwright won't be easy, but I can't wait to see how he looks in the bathroom!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Introducing...Broken and Shiny

A few weekends ago, my boyfriend, myself, and our friend Patrick borrowed a truck to bring the old combo washer/dryer unit from my boyfriend's storage unit to the condo. We'll call him Shiny. (The washer/dryer unit, that is.) This trip was about a one and a half hour drive. Plus gas.

Sort of long story short, no one measured. So Shiny didn't fit in his closet. But the old washer/dryer unit (let's call him Broken) with the broken latch was already in the living room. So for a little while, I had two combo washer/dryer units in my living room. Shiny and Broken. We ate dinner together, watched Gossip Girl, and they sat there quietly while I did my homework. While Broken and Shiny made pretty good company, I was ready to give them the boot.

So I sold Shiny on Craigslist since, even though he worked really, really well and was all pretty and shiny, he just wouldn't fit. As in about four inches wouldn't fit through the threshold of the closet/laundry room. Whoops.

Now I'm left with Broken which was wedged back into his dark, cozy closet.

In case you're curious, the exact measurement of the door opening is 23.5 inches. Broken is 23.75 inches across and Shiny is 27 inches across. So yes, even moving Broken out and then back in again was a struggle. With a lot of chipped paint and dents. Broken is a little bit more broken now.

So now that Broken is back, I can just go back to holding the latch. Except, um, wrong! Somehow during his very short journeys, the latch further broke to the point that I can no longer hold it in place to get it to work. Not even with duct tape. Something about the electrical bit got messed up. So I've ordered a new latch off eBay. It's supposed to arrive later this week. I've never tried to fix a washing machine "for real" (i.e. not using duct tape, erasers, and clear packing tape), so I'll share with you how it goes and provide basic instructions next week. By the way, that latch cost $60. I KNOW! For a ridiculously small, simple piece of plastic and wires. Yuck. And for Broken, who is a VERY OLD washing machine. Very old!

Sorry, Broken. You are officially renamed Super Broken!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bathroom Inspiration

I had a contractor come and look at my bathroom this week. I want to know how much it would cost a professional to complete the work. As much as I love to DIY, I know a lot of the bathroom-related stuff I don't want to try and tackle. Like moving the radiator. Or possibly installing an exhaust fan. I haven't exactly budgeted for a bathroom reno at this point, especially since I'm paying a mint for my MBA degree. But I want to know how much I need to save for. And heck, maybe it won't be as much as I'm thinking it will be.

But it's probably going to be a pretty high number! I just have a feeling. I mean the bathroom is decades and decades old!

As a result of all this bathroom attention, I've been searching the internet for inspiration. Here's what I've found.


Well, uh, this bathroom has a lot of extra room. 

I like the light fixtures on either side of the mirror. The sink is a bit too ... commercial for my taste. 

I love the class beadboard look. 

I liked the straight lines of the toilet in this picture. He just looks so prim and proper. 

Pink just cannot happen. But this is a fun bathroom all the same. 

I am going to avoid wallpaper. It's too expensive and too much trouble. 

Aaah console sink! My heart is melting...

Old fashioned penny tile! I actually can't decide if I love this or not. I could go either way. I have an impression of it that makes me think it would get really dirty. That's a lot of grout, and grout is difficult to clean. 

I'm not a huge fan of red, and I don't think I would ever do a red room because it's not really my style, but this is a niiiice bathroom all the same. 

I think maybe in this bathroom I just love the big window. I also love the faucet coming out of the wall, but that's not something I'm going to do in my bathroom. 

Awww, cute, right?

Ok, so I just had to include this guy because, I mean, WEIRD. This thing must be old. I couldn't find any information on it though.

This bathroom is a little bit whitey mc whiten stein for me. But I like the tile work all the same. 

You noticed a lot of claw foot bathtubs, right?? Well, I'm not going to go with one. Reason being that I don't think there's really enough room, and they're kind of gross to take a shower in. The shower curtain gets all over you and all that. (I used to live in a reallllly old carriage house (like, yea, for horses) that had been converted into a one bedroom home. It had a claw foot tub/shower combo.) But, I still grabbed a bunch of bathroom photos with the old claw feetsies in 'em because I like the old fashioned styles. You also saw a lot of console sinks. I LOVE the look of them, but they just won't fit in my bathroom. So old pedestal stays. Pedestally. Peds for short. 

There was also a lot of beadboard in the pictures. I love that look. I think I want to do a beadboard/tile combo with beadboard behind the sink/toilet and tile in the shower. 

So many ideas, so little time (ahem, money). It's fun to dream and plan all the same though. 

What did you like or dislike? Did I miss anything?

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Never-Ending List

As recounted in this list, I had a lot of items I wanted to complete back in 2011. Here's a copy of that list with my current thoughts inserted.

  • Sell the washer/dryer that came with the condo and move in the better one from storage - I'm done with this because the new washer/dryer didn't fit so I'm stuck with the old one. I still have to fix the lid latch, however. 
  • Finish replacing the three windows that are left - I haven't finished this item due to money constraints.
  • Insulate the attic - See above.
  • Kitchen remodel including new sink, countertops, and tile backsplash - This is almost done, sans grout!
  • Install a garbage disposal (if the condo association allows it) - It's not allowed because the pipes are too old. 
  • Swap out a few upper kitchen cabinet doors with doors with glass panels - I may or may not do this, to be honest I forgot all about it. 
  • Paint the kitchen/dining rooms - Done, thank you to my boyfriend!
  • Bathroom remodel including new faucets, a new toilet, new tiling on the walls and floor, and potentially convert to a standing shower only - I still want to make some changes to the bathroom, but I am going to stick with a tub/shower combo. 
  • Find someway to seal up the front door better - This still sounds like a good idea. 
  • Sand and stain the hardwood floors - Sounds like a lot of work!

  • And here's the list I made without first looking at my old list above:

    • Purchase & install new pedestal sink faucet
    • Purchase & install new tub/shower faucets
    • Purchase & install medicine cabinet
    • Purchase fabric & sew new curtain for window
    • Purchase & install toilet/move toilet back
    • Purchase & install 2-3 towel rods on back of door
    • Have bathtub inspected (it was leaking out of the overflow)
    • Remove radiator
    Kitchen/Dining Room
    • Install curtain rod
    • Sew curtains from Ikea duvet/pillowcases
    • Purchase & install new light fixture over kitchen
    • Finish grouting the tile
    • Purchase magnetic hooks for oven mitts
    • Replace windows
    • Install curtain rod
    • Purchase rug
    • Build something to set mirror on top of
    • Organize items under bed
    • Finish painting canvas that my boyfriend gave me for my birthday
    • Replace old window
    Living Room
    • Purchase rug
    • Purchase ottoman
    • Recover or paint shoe tray
    • Fix my poor construction of bookshelf
    • Fix floor where someone in the past must have set a potted plant
    Closet/Laundry Room/Hallway
    • Purchase & fix washing machine lid latch
    • Purchase & install new light fixture
    The bolded items happened to be on the original list as well. Well, I still have a lot to do. 

    Thursday, April 19, 2012

    Dinner Bell!

    Some of my most magical childhood memories are from visiting my grandparents' cabin. They have a great place in Alaska complete with rowboat, swings, fire pit, trails, and more. Although all of those items involve fun activities, there are many little details that make it special as well like my grammie's flowers, little paths made of rocks, and a feature I've always especially liked - a dinner bell. In case you don't know what a dinner bell is, it's a bell that you ring so that everyone scattered around the area knows it's time for dinner! My grammie is a very good cook, so you better come running when you hear that bell.

    In honor of the cabin, I knew I wanted my own dinner bell. It doesn't have much practical use in 650 square feet of space, but I like it anyway.

    And if you've read this blog before, you know I love to share where I buy things so that you can buy the same items for your home. But this guy was from an antique store, so I don't have the foggiest as to where to find one like it. You might try or or maybe your own local antique store. The one I went to was the kind with many different vendors setup. The bell cost about $25, but I purchased it with the Shop Local American Express campaign for $20 so I got it for $5 + tax. Not a bad deal for a bell in good shape that still feels nice and old. Eventually I'd like to paint the screw head black to match the hardware finish. 

    I also added another little kitchen detail, this teacup hook from Urban Outfitters. Unfortunately I bought it awhile ago on clearance for just a few dollars, so it isn't available anymore.

    Urban Outfitters Teacup Hook

    Notice that the tiling is complete! All that's left is grouting. Stay tuned for that post soon.

    The good news is that my apron is still available at Anthropologie.

    Tea-and-Crumpets Apron in Gold