Category: House

  • Kitchen facelift with stickers

    Kitchen facelift with stickers

    There was one updated room when we bought our 1955 house: the kitchen, done in what was probably the early 90s. It’s pretty nice, all things considered – custom cabinets with pull outs, a Sub-Zero fridge with matching panels, gas range (I put in a new one), dishwasher, slate floors. But there is one thing I hate about it: the countertop and backsplash. It is this horribly ugly and dark laminate, and it really darkens the room. So on my last day of vacation, I gave our kitchen a quick facelift – check out the before and after:

    Kitchen before and after

    Having just done a whole bathroom, I ruh-heally did not want to deal with tile again so soon, and hated the idea of losing even just that much more counter space. I had considered putting up sheet metal (flashing apparently can be great for this) but my past experiences in cutting metal did not make me confident that I could do it without it looking sloppy. I also considered ripping out the counter entirely and replacing with butcher block, but time and practical considerations won out in the end.

    Then I came across these stick-on faux-tile sheets. This particular brand is Smart Tile – I think there are some others, but I liked their selection. I chose this look because it’s all light colors but doesn’t just make the whole kitchen a mush of browns and whites. All together, it took me a few hours to degrease the original backsplash with TSP, remove and clean the outlet covers, cut the sheets, and stick them up. I did not draw a level guideline – I just went with the level of the counter. There were some funny discoveries because of that (like the counter being a fair bit higher to the right of the stove), but it worked out fine. The flexible sheets are easy to dry fit and cut with a utility knife, and can even be trimmed in place if you need to. They are also very thin, so I don’t have to worry about the depth.

    Smart Tiles thinness

    The backsplash is pretty obviously fake when you touch it (it has that too-smooth, sticky plastic feel, due to the gel they use to create the 3D tile effect), and you can see the seams between sheets if you REALLY look hard, but from a normal viewing distance it looks great. The cost was comparable to glass tiles, perhaps a bit less if you consider other materials involved in putting up actual tile, but it took much less time and made far less mess. So far they seem to be staying up, and I am definitely feeling much happier in my kitchen. I might even be able to live with the countertop for some years yet, but who am I kidding: when the new IKEA cabinet line comes out next February, I will be playing with their kitchen planner tool again.

    In the meantime, here are some more pictures, and I’d definitely recommend these if you just need a quick change – they say you can even put the sheets up over old tile.

  • Can now proudly say we’ve done our own bathroom reno.

    Can now proudly say we’ve done our own bathroom reno.

    Master bathroom pano

    Okay, so there’s a piece of trim missing under the window, but close enough.

  • House project: laundry room (and table!)

    House project: laundry room (and table!)

    The house we bought back in June was an estate sale, meaning it was as-is (in good condition) and came with everything-I-mean-everything (fodder for another overdue post). The laundry room was a bit worse than some other rooms – older machines when we already owned nice ones, rotted out subfloor due to a window leak, disintegrating vinyl tiles, a random floating base cabinet, yellowed paint, boxes of cereal from who-knows-when – not the greatest. As usual, we didn’t get great before pictures, so you’ll just have to imagine it. Nothing tragic – just not a very happy place to do laundry.

    My dad took the existing machines to install in a rental unit of his and the contractor who did our basement floor+ceiling fixed up the floor and window leak and tossed the base cabinet for us. Since then, we’ve:

    • Made a room divider to hide the area with the furnace and hot water heater.
    • Painted the wall cabinet frames and doors to go with the room divider and give the area some nice bright color.
    • Painted the walls actual white (ceiling to be done another day when we tackle some other ceilings all together).
    • Kept the working vintage Hotpoint fridge and brought in our chest freezer and fancy washer and dryer.
    • Scrubbed the porcelain utility sink clean, only to ruin it again with paint, so it needs another round.
    • Sawed down part of the storage shelving so the area behind the bar could be neatly hidden behind a curtain.
    • Bought an adjustable and portable height clothes rack for items that need to be hung up directly after washing/drying and so it can pulled out to the main area for ironing-while-watching-TV.
    • Built a table of sorts to serve as an over-machine counter for folding clothes and preventing tiny baby socks and other small objects from falling between/behind them.

    I’m particularly proud of the table, not least because it cost me about $35 thanks to the glory that is IKEA desk tops, specifically the LINNMON series. Thought others might like the idea.

    I had originally measured the washer and dryer for other reasons, and while walking around IKEA one day noticed that there was a gray desk top (to match the machines) that was just the right depth and length, and another smaller desk top in white that was exactly the same length as the height of the machines, to an eighth of an inch. I figured with some feet to raise the height just a bit so it could clear the water valve on the wall and a couple L-brackets, I’d be in business. But every time we went for the next several months, something else took precedence, until they went on sale through the IKEA FAMILY thing for a total of $29 instead of the usual $38. So we hurried up and painted the room, and then went and picked up the lovely desk tops up.

    A lot of IKEA furniture is super lightweight because it uses corrugated cardboard between the exterior pieces, so I was a little worried about whether or not it would take drilling and screwing things in. However, upon inspection I realized that the corners are reinforced where you would screw legs in, and my plans for the legs and brackets would mostly be in those areas. I set up the pieces in their rough formation and determined that it was, well, perfect. I used the existing holes meant for legs as visual guides to get the brackets lined up evenly on both sides. The white side pieces are not as deep as the top, but it turned out to be exactly what we needed due to pipes running along the lower part of the wall and the dryer vent hose. I didn’t measure that part beforehand – I just got lucky. Recommend measuring first. 🙂

    We went to Home Depot and got L-brackets, along with those leveling feet (apparently called furniture glides) for a few bucks. I have to admit, I was pretty excited to find those feet. Some marking, drilling holes, and wretched awkward tightening of screws later, we have a table/counter over our washer and dryer! It matches (yay) and it’s convenient (double yay) and, best of all like the bathrooms: clean.

  • Tonight’s DIY project: room divider


    Wasn’t really any cheaper than buying a ready made one, but I got to use the fabric I fell in love with and will match the laundry room whenever we get around to painting the cabinets.


    – 3 20×70 IVAR side units from IKEA
    – 2 yards of 59 inch wide fabric, cut into 3 panels at 17? inches wide
    – 6 1½ inch brass hinges
    – Staple gun with 6mm staples

    I folded the fabric over on itself where I stapled it on the back to avoid unraveling. Hinges are mounted on alternating sides so the whole thing can fold.

  • Pink bathroom: before and after

    Our house was built in 1955 and, while it must have been completely state-of-the-art at the time, the bathrooms were ugly. Very clean and functional, but ugly. We didn’t think to take good before pictures, so this is all we have, from the original listing:


    We’ve prioritized things like a new roof and updating the basement, and because the bathroom tiles are in great shape and the layout is just fine, we decided to tone down that popular pink and blue by installing white toilets and vanities. We (or rather, Adrian) stripped the horrible wallpaper and painted the walls and ceiling bright white, and I installed new switches and plate covers along with a much brighter and safer light fixture. We got Kohler toilets through the contractor who’s working on the basement that look fantastic and are low-flow, and IKEA sinks and vanity cabinets. The plumbing for these sinks is extremely non-standard and the cabinets we decided on had drawers, meaning very little clearance in the back, so we had to hire a plumber to wire them up; he seems pretty frazzled by the experience. But it’s done, and we are very happy. The white balances the colored tiles well (the master bathroom is the blue one), we get way more sink and storage space, and best of all: it’s clean.


    If you’re wondering what those chrome plates in the wall behind the sink are, one is a tissue box (yeah, for real, like a hotel) and the other is this crazy thing: