Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Breakfast at Ashley's

In our massive dining room, we currently have the 40"x40" table that I've dragged back and forth across the country with me sitting sadly in the corner. 

It's a far cry from what it used to be, but it still needs work...

It was good to see the proportions of this table in the room, because it made us decide that we need a massive dining room table - and big dining room tables are great for dinner parties! Dining room furniture is high on our priority list, because it means we can finally have everyone over - family and friends!

The combined living/dining room has caused quite a problem in terms of design, and I'm sure it will be an ever-evolving struggle to find the perfect balance between living space and dining space. The "dining dilemma" is due to the fact that the fire place isn't half way across the living room wall. That's going to make it hard to put functional seating in an arrangement that doesn't look ridiculous. Although living room furniture is a far day away, it's an important consideration in deciding what kind and size of dining room furniture we need. 

My mom suggested that we switch the living room and dining room. The problems I see with this layout are that it seems strange to walk into a house straight into the dining space, and that the dining space would then be divided between the breakfast bar (near the living room) and the dining room (not near the kitchen).

So, we went back to the drawing board.

I like the idea of having a long upholstered bench or ottoman dividing the space, because it will define the area without obstructing the sight line. I also like the idea of having separate seating - although I love a comfy sectional as much as the next girl, it's always awkward at parties when you have to cuddle up on a couch with someone you're not particularly close to. We'll save the comfy sectional for the basement, where we're planning on putting the TV. With the bench, 2 separate chairs and a 3-seater-couch-that's-meant-for-2, we'll have enough room for 6 people to sit comfortably around the fire.

The other option would be to do something along these lines, where the bench/ottoman is placed in front of the fire, with a seating area tucked along the window. Picture the dining room table to the right.


We've also decided that the dining room chairs must be upholstered. That way, people can sit and talk for hours without their backsides falling asleep, and the chairs can double as extra living room seating in case we need it. I love the shape of this one and this one:

My vision for the dining room furniture includes off-white upholstered wing backed seats (in a washable fabric of course), a huge rustic farm table in a grey stain, and a small sideboard that doesn't necessarily have to have storage (because the kitchen is so close and so huge).

Wouldn't it be amazing to have a whole set of wing backed chairs, like this?

I think those particular chairs would be over-kill for our space, but I love the concept.

We started shopping for the table as well, but found that everything we liked was cheaply made, or was too small for the space. We need a table that's at least 100" long (9 feet would be ideal). So, I enlisted the help of my dad, and together, we're going to make something beautiful. My dad is an amazing wood worker - it's a hobby that he's developed over a lifetime. He's made countless pieces of furniture and other items, from armoires to cribs to row boats. My entire bedroom set growing up was made by him! I know I'll be in good hands learning from him. I've begun collecting inspiration pictures, and from there, we'll make a trip to our favourite lumber yard to grab the reclaimed wood and get going!

Some tables that I love:

Farmhouse Salvaged Wood Rectangular Extension Tables


The colour family we're going for (but with slightly more wood peeking through):

We'll be using MinWax water based wood stain in "Slate" or "River Stone." (The colour chart can be found here).

More to come on the design process of the farm table in the near future!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

START THE CAR!!! (or "4 ways to save big on your reno projects")

I just finished writing all about the updates that we've done to the bathroom. Then I realized that you may have been wondering (or not?) how I managed to swing a new faucet and drain for less than $35.

I actually picked up a brand new silver faucet for $20 at Rona, in the clearance section, and then had to purchase a drain to go with it for $11.99 at Home Depot (pictures to come as soon as it's installed). When I bought the faucet, I left Rona laughing and screaming START THE CAR a la this Ikea commercial that I can't watch without laughing so hard I cry. Yes, I was alone. Good thing the store was closing and I was the only one in the parking lot. Good, so now we've established I'm crazy.

The reason I'm sharing this is because you never know what you'll find in the clearance section of your home renovation store (or any store!). Although I had to purchase a drain to match as the one currently in the sink is the same hideous brass colour as in the pictures in my last post, the cheapest faucet at Home Depot is still $29.99 (and is a whole mountain of ugly)!

Here are my tips and tricks for saving a bundle that I've picked up along the way:

1. When we purchased our kitchen cabinets (more on that to come), we asked if the cabinets were going to go on sale at any point in the near future. Although the salesperson repeatedly assured us that kitchen cabinets never go on sale, we weren't convinced. We needed to order the cabinets that day in order to keep the house progress on track, but we asked him to write a guarantee on our order that if the cabinets went on sale within the next 30 days, we would get a full refund of the difference. Sure enough, 29 days later, there was a huge sale where the sink base cabinet was free with purchase, and if you spent over $10,000 (writing that number is physically painful for me), you would get $1500 off your purchase. So, we hauled ourselves back there and got $500 for the sink base, the $1500 rebate, and the tax refunded. Total? $2300!!! Back in our pockets! (Many thanks to my super negotiator mother for teaching me this valuable lesson).

Lesson learned: never trust a kitchen cabinet salesperson. if you have to buy something right away, try to ensure you'll get the difference back when it comes on sale.

2. Use your contacts. When you're planning a big project, make it known to the world! If you casually slip it in to a conversation that you're thinking about upgrading to granite, your boss might refer you to her husband who happens to own a granite store. Be careful with this though, because it's much harder to yell at your boss' husband than some random guy who put a hole in your wall.

3. Pick up a drill and at least try to DIY. Installing your own quarter-round is a pain, but it saves a whole truckload of money. All you need is a nail gun! I promise! Start with small projects to work up some confidence. The other night, we installed a new lock set on the front door, and although it took close to 8 hours (yes, 8), we got it done, and it gave me the confidence to install new hardware on the bathroom cabinets the next night. We've saved thousands and thousands by doing things around the house ourselves.

4. Use stock sizes where possible. This is actually a lesson learned from the condo that we owned before the house. T and my Dad renovated our bathroom a few years ago and had a little mis-hap which ended up requiring the drywall to be installed 2 inches further into the bathroom than it had been before. You wouldn't think that this would be such an issue, but standard toilets measure 12" from the bolts on the floor to the back of the tank, and without those 2 inches behind the toilet, our old one wouldn't fit! We had to find a 10" toilet, and we were pretty sure we would have to pay a pretty penny for it. Luckily, we ended up finding one randomly at a Home Hardware in Cobden, Ontario (look it up on a map - it's in the middle of nowhere) for only $100. However, the lesson learned was that size does matter. At least when it comes to toilets.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


Today I feel inspired by beautiful bold colours...

Judy Kaufmann's gorgeous prints:

This gorgeous home:

LeBlahg's free download of this hilarious poster available here in my favourite, dijon:


Anna Spiro's gorgeous tutu desk (I spy a D-I-Y!):

Bathroom Progress

Remember this little treat?

I've been working on whipping this puppy into (a more aesthetically-pleasing) shape. When we bought the house, we knew that the bathroom was one of the rooms that would have to wait to be completely renovated. There's only so much money to go around, and we saw potential in the charming 50's tile work.

First thing to go - the nasty pink seashell toilet seat and matching frilly shower curtain and valance. Why on earth would anybody put a valance on a frosted glass window in a shower? Gross. It was even made of the same swishy water resistant material as the shower curtain. I found a gorgeous black shower curtain with a stitched-on design - it still needs to be ironed, but it's up and looking fab for now.

Getting the wallpaper down was quite the challenge. The bathroom thankfully only had one layer - more on the process for the rest of the house later. The process that I found that worked best for this space was to 'brush' the paper with a steel wire brush in order to rough it up a bit. Then I soaked the paper in water with a sponge mop and let it seep into the holes made by the steel brush. About 20 minutes later, I used a spackle tool/putty knife (like the one below) to scrape it off. Rinse and repeat.

Once that was all cleared up, I tackled the vanity. Friends, let me tell you, the picture does not do this horrifying piece justice. It had yellowed over time, and the intricate designs on the front had accumulated 60 years worth of bathroom debris. After setting it on fire to rid ourselves of the nastiness scrubbing it down with bleachy goodness and then burning the gloves I used, I gave it 3 coats of black latex paint (Martha Stewart's 'Francesca', available at Home Depot) and brushed on 2 coats of high gloss poly (I like Varathane Diamond Wood Finish in 'Gloss').

Notably missing from the first picture is the gold and red mirror/medicine cabinet. At least I saved you some pain today. I gave the mirror 3 coats of the same black paint, and sprayed on a coat of high gloss poly.

Next up was the lighting dilemma. After removing the chandelier-like fixture that reminded me of a scary lantern fish, we lived with a bare bulb hanging above the mirror for a couple of months while I pondered over what to do. Lighting options were limited, as the fixture had to be installed mere inches above the top of the mirror (silly us for not thinking about this when we were painting/patching/doing electrical work!). This fact combined with the already slim pickings available in stores led me to search for alternative solutions. Long story short, we ended up with a DIY fixture that I absolutely adore. Pictures and full how-to instructions to follow!

Now all that's left is for me to install the new faucet and drain, and come up with some fancy art to hang on the walls. I think that on a slim budget, we did a bang-up job of making this bathroom liveable while we save up to do it right. What do you think?

And, because I can't resist an adorable picture of the puglet...meet Steve, His hobbies include jumping in front of the camera, and cuddling. True love.

In this picture you can also see that the door trim needs to be finished...details...

By the numbers:

Budget: $200

Shower curtain: $33.89
Shower liner and hooks: free (had them already)
Toilet seat: $11.29
Wall and ceiling paint: $41.77
Black vanity and mirror paint: $5.63
Spray-on poly: $10.16
Paint-on poly: $10.16
Lighting: $66.17 for parts + already had the bulbs
Faucet and drain: $36.15
Total: $215.22

Linking to: http://betweennapsontheporch.blogspot.com/ and