Friday, August 31, 2012

Master Bedroom: Paint & Curtains a-go-go

The biggest projects I have personally completed thus far have been painting the master bedroom and hanging new curtains. You saw a little peek at the curtain hanging work in this post, and you might even have noticed the new curtains if you were especially eagle-eyed reading the last post, but let's get some beauty shots up here so we can see the changes in full.

Caveats: a) I still need to paint the HVAC registers. I discovered during this project that the supply registers are somehow impossible to remove from the wall, so those will get painted in place, obviously with care taken to not let paint drip into our ducts. The registers are covered in a thick layer of the previous paint, as are all of the outlets- sockets and all. So, big thanks to whoever did that. Your taste in paint is weird. I'm just going to use white to cover the registers.

b) The drapes look rumply. My mom helped us get them really nice looking on the day we hung them with her patented damp-towel-in-the-dryer trick, but then we took them down to paint and they got all wrinkled. Don't ask me why I haven't just repeated the dryer thing. I'll get to it.

To review: Here's before. Blech. 
Behr Valley Mist

But here's after, prettyyyyyyy. This paint color is Behr Valley Mist, which can look blue or green or gray depending on the light. Mostly blue. And the curtains are these ones from Target, which I'd actually been eyeing and were then miraculously on sale the day we needed them. They only had the 84" length in the store but if I were doing it over I'd order the 95" ones and hang them higher, 'cause that's one of those tricks they tell you. Also, they only make them in 54" widths. I'd read that you're supposed to get a total drapery width of two to two and a half times the width of the window so they don't look too weird when you pull them shut, and initially I was searching everywhere for extra wide curtains, until it occurred to me that I could just hang two panels on each side of this window. So that's what we did. They're not seamed together or anything, and it's working just fine. But four panels for this window, plus two for the other corner = still not cheap. Glad they were on sale. 

Here's before from another angle. 

And after, aaahhh betterrrrr. My mom and I also lucked out by finding curtain rods on super sale at JoAnn when we weren't even looking for them there. 

One last big shot. 
Here's a close-up of the texture of the curtains. This is where the rumply-ness really shows. Sorry, Mom! I'll fix it!
One last note: Eric's not the type who likes to wake with the sun, so it was important to him that the new drapes do a pretty decent job of blocking out light. Anything would have been an improvement over the original sheers, but these make it really dark, for reals. And the grommet tops also make it easier to yank them open and closed haphazardly, so hopefully we won't have any repeats of the original incident which led us to need new curtains in the first place. Not that it was a bad thing. Those sheers were fug. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Electric Kool Aid

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we were having an electrician come to change our fuse box to circuit breakers. We also knew when we bought the place that it would be a good idea to install vent fans in the bathrooms. This was our initial to-do list for the electrician, but somewhere between the time we booked him and the day we actually reached the appointment, the list grew a little longer. But now that we've made all the changes, we definitely think it was money well spent. Here's what we did. (Or rather, here's what we had him do. No way am I ever getting up in our attic.)

Here's the fuse box before. As I mentioned in the first post, some of these fuses were 25 amps when they should have only been 15. Livin' on the edge!
This is the diagram inside the door of the fuse box that shows where the fuses correspond to in the house. I stared at it for a long time when I thought I blew a fuse with my blow dryer, and never did make any sense of it.

Now I don't need to! The new circuit breakers have labels directly next to them! Technological breakthrough!

Not the most riveting photo ever taken. This is one of the new vent fans in the bathroom.

And this is a blurry shot of the new timer switch that goes with it. The electrician we hired was the only one we talked to who suggested using a timer switch, and I was like "Duh, why didn't I think of that? Yes, I would like fans on timer switches!" Also, let me acknowledge that this wall is gross. I think there used to be wallpaper in this room and someone ripped it down and just left things grody. I plan on painting soon.

The rectangle on the left side of the door is where the light switch in this bathroom used to be. So you'd have to walk in the door and close it most of the way to reach the switch in the corner. The switch on the right is our spankin' new one, relocated to a more logical place.
This shot of the drape-hanging project is the only one I have of our old ceiling fan in the bedroom. The problem was that there was no overhead light in this room. We could have just bought a light kit for this ceiling fan, but we decided a new fan with a light would step up the esthetics.

And it does! I know a lot of designers hate ceiling fans in bedrooms, but we're really liking it on those in-between nights when you're not sure if you can turn the AC off or not. Our old condo was on such a noisy street that we never slept with our windows open, but with this guy we've been doing it a lot. Cricket sounds plus a cool breeze makes for a great night of sleep. (If you're interested, this is the fan. We bought it at the Fan Man in Burnsville, where the lady actually gave us a very informative lesson about ceiling fans. You know I love me a very informative lesson.)

Not pictured: We added a new outlet on one side of our bathroom vanity because it didn't have one. It looks like an outlet.

So that's the whole package. The electrician was here for about a day and a half, and we've actually had to call him back a few times because the vent fan in the master bath keeps tripping the GFCI. Apparently they've installed these fans all over the Twin Cities area and our house is an anomaly in having this problem. On his last visit here he siliconed around all the areas that might cause that, and so far so good. Yeah, that was a minor annoyance but everything is under warranty so it's no additional money out of our pockets. And this electrician is still riding a tide of goodwill in my book, because timer switches! I guess I'm easy to please.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Basement... Not as bad as it looks.

I promised "before" photos of the basement, and here you have them. For some reason when I look at these on the computer everything comes off a little more scary than it actually is. The truth is that the rec room area is actually pretty okay and we spend lots of time there comfortably. Of course, we have plans to make it more comfortable, but it's nice that we have an acceptable hangout place for the time being.

It was reallyyyy important to me when we were house hunting that we find a place that had a distinct "den" area that wasn't too open to the rest of the house, where we could put the TV. I guess that kind of feature isn't all that hard to find, but some newer style homes are a little too open-plan for my liking. The isolation of the TV is important to me not because I'm one of those people who's all "Oh, I don't watch TV. Blar blar blar, downfall of society," but rather, if the TV is too close and visible, it sings its siren song to me and four hours later I've watched a Lifetime rerun of Mother May I Sleep with Danger? and the whole night has slipped away.

So now I'm super happy that our upstairs is quiet, with a few great places to read, and downstairs is its own separate TV zone. It actually makes for better TV viewing too, since one of us doesn't have to turn up the volume if the other is banging around in the kitchen (which actually happened a lot in our condo).

But enough blathering. Here's the goods:

The den. Someone along the line one of the previous owners did us a favor and pulled up the old-school asbestos tiles. The lines you see on the floor are just imprints of what used to be, but this is actually an unfinished floor. For now. We've got an area rug in front of the TV and it's working.

Basement fireplace! La di da.

The rest of the basement is utility space. Here's an old laundry sink that I'd be totally into without the rust. The washer and dryer are to the left of this but I'm not posting a picture of them because they look like... a washer and dryer. Trust your imagination.

This soap dispenser would also be really awesome if it were not a tetanus shot waiting to happen. I looked these up on eBay and they go for around $20- $30 in good condition. Would it be really weird to buy one on eBay and swap it out? I guess I have better uses for $20 right now.

Broken water softener. Soon to be replaced.

This fridge actually works, but... no. Don't want to touch it. Xcel is actually doing a program right now where they'll give you $50 for these old beasts, so I have to call to see if we're eligible. I'm going to theorize that our seller's son was the one responsible for the embellishments. Or she herself was just really into Deftones.

This storage area is actually separate from the laundry room, but there's a little walkthrough that connects them. It used to be blocked with a sheet of pegboard but I tore it down last night with my lady muscles. There is a laundry chute! I know it is a fire hazard. However, counterargument: Laundry chutes are friggin' awesome.

The pièce de résistance of many a basement... the toilet with no walls. I have not used this. But I did stock it with a toilet brush, plunger, and antibacterial hand-wipes because Eric and his friends use it once in a while. To those friends I say: You are always welcome to come upstairs and use a normal bathroom. 

Aaaandd... a fourth bedroom! Someday! (Just like the toilet will be a third bath, someday.) The walls are framed and partially insulated, so this would just be a matter of a little electrical work, walls, closet, ceiling and flooring. You know, your basic afternoon project. I guess we'll keep it as our box storage room for now.
Ta-da, the basement.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The "Before" Post

My family visited a few weeks ago and my dad was nice enough to take a bunch of photos, as I still couldn't locate my camera. Now I've found it, but why duplicate the work? You'll see that I've made no effort in these photos to conceal the messes. That's right, we're all about transparency here. I should point out, because my dad would be offended if I didn't, that he sent me very high quality images but I've made them crappy quality for fast blog posting purposes. (This will also have the side effect of making our "after" shots look better!) So without further ado, the photo tour:

Here's the front entry. When we came for our first viewing, these vintage tiles had me at hello.   

Opposite view of the entry. The paneling stays. I'm serious. Also note the groovy light fixture. 

The master bedroom. On the morning of my parents' visit, Eric woke up and tried to pull the window sheers open a little too enthusiastically, which semi-broke the rod. Which was actually fine, because my mom wanted to help us with a project that weekend. So we made a project of installing new drapes.

Here's Eric, me, and a sliver of my mom working on the drapes. Also, my heinie. 

Here's the guest bedroom, which we made all presentable for my brother and his girlfriend to stay in. Like in the master bedroom, the window treatments in this room came with the house. That stupid roller shade fell down later in the day. It was a bad day for window treatments. 
The hallway bath. I have plans for this room that involve ironic wallpaper. Just trust me.
The master bath. It's pretty little and not in great condition, but hey! An en suite in a 1960s home? We'll take it.
Here's the littlest bedroom, i.e., where all of our art is hanging out with assorted unpacked boxes. Fun fact: Not one, but two of these boxes are labeled "Bobbleheads."
The living room. This rattan furniture set is a hand-me-down from Eric's mom. Someday it will go on the screen porch, but for now it's just setting a nice tropical tone with the big palm that the seller left (before plant life and maintenance became a bone of contention between us). 
Opposite view of the living room. That fireplace surround is this crazy textured coppery thing, and was another of the original features that had me saying "where do we sign?"
On the other hand, this is the kitchen. To summarize, the oven, hood, half the stove, dishwasher and garbage disposal are broken. Also everything you see here, including the backsplash, is wood-grain laminate. Sooo... yeah. 

But! Redeeming feature: the kitchen opens onto this little casual dining room. The stools and steamer trunk are arranged in this grouping because I hit my head on that chandelier one too many times when nothing was underneath it.

And, double redeeming feature: There's a fireplace! In the kitchen! 

So this is just a partial tour and I still need to post on the basement and outside, but there you have it. Enough of a project to occupy me for a decade or two.

Takin' Care of Business

... and we're back! I know there was a little gap in posting there, but that's okay because I have zero readers at this point. By design! I need better content on here before the big public launch, duh. To that end, it's now been five and half weeks since we moved in, and here is a big old list of PROJECTS that have been ACCOMPLISHED:

1. Got the locks changed.
2. Got a big old package of electrical work done. This included: a) changing the fuse box to circuit breakers, b) installing fans in two bathrooms, c) swapping the ceiling fan in the master bedroom for a better one, d) relocating a weirdly placed light switch in the hallway bath, e) installing a new outlet in the hallway bath so we'd have one on both sides of the vanity, and f) installing a doorbell. (There was kinda sorta an existing doorbell but it was part of the broken retro intercom in the house and we were told it would be trouble and pain to fix. That was a bummer, because how awesome would it be to have a functioning retro intercom?)
3. Got the irrigation system diagnosed. Can you diagnose something that's dead? I guess we got it autopsied.
4. Got the chimneys swept and a chimney cap installed.
5. Got our ducts cleaned. That. Was. Disgusting.

We called in the big guns and hired professionals for all of the projects above, but lest you think we are hopelessly unhandy, I would like you to know that...

6. We hung new drapes in our bedroom, and
7. then I painted it.

AND, I've finally got a semi-functional camera so I can actually show you around this place. This calls for a new post.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breaking News re: Recycling

OMG, y'all, the city of St. Louis Park is taking bids for single-sort recycling. This is exciting in that just today, as I was taking our two full bins of paper and containers down to the curb I was thinking that it was annoying. My parents have single-sort in Sioux Falls and their system even has this electronic eye thingy that gives them tiny cash bonuses for the quantity they recycle. That is some Big Brotherism I can get behind.

Anyway, yes, someone submit a winning bid for single-sort and save me a WHOLE LABORIOUS TRIP up and down my driveway. But they're not going to figure this out for six months or so, and meanwhile we will be re-doing our kitchen, so the question IS, how many recycling bins do we design into the cabinetry, hmmmmmmm??? Crisis. Total crisis here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Chim Chiminee

There is currently, even as I type this, an older gentleman on the roof of the house. He is sweeping the chimneys. He seems a little stiff for his line of work. Hang on tight up there, sir.

I was afraid, knowing the state of disrepair of other things in the house, that he would come over and take a look and say that we need serious repairs before we can use the fireplaces. (There are three fireplaces, just another testament to the original builder's flair for classy livin'.) But so far the only bad news the guy has given me is that we need a chimney cap. He took me outside and pointed to all the neighbors' houses and said, "See that chimney cap? See that one? See that one? Now look at your chimney." So that lesson was $130, which I feel okay about relative to the other repairs we have to do around this place.

If he gives us the all clear then we get to order firewood and have classy fireside times all winter long. Probably wearing turtlenecks and listening to jazz music and sipping cognac.

UPDATE: Tom succeeded in not falling off the roof and has indeed given the okay to use the fireplaces. He even gave me a little report card with all the items they inspect and checked the "satisfactory" box all the way down. I'm so proud of our satisfactory chimney! Way to not be broken, thing on our house!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sprinkler Justice

Oh haha, universe. I have brought this on myself. In that last post when I was all, "Hey sprinkler guys, take my money!" the cosmos interpreted that very seriously. Jeff Spicoli finally came over and confirmed that the sprinklers are very, very broken. It's an old system that was not properly winterized at some point, and the PVC pipe in the ground is cracked beyond repair. So it cost us $250 for Jeff Spicoli to diagnose, and his recommended fix is a new system for $2700. Hahahaha, Jeff Spicoli, no, I'm sorry, that cannot happen this year.

The thing IS, though, that the seller should pay for this because she was a lying liar on her disclosure form, and also the one responsible for not winterizing them. We talked to our realtor about it and she said that we can get in touch with the seller and request/demand money for it. We can also take her to small claims court. Fun! Of course, even if you win in small claims court it can still be difficult to actually collect, but I am not ruling this option out, because JUSTICE.

The good news is that National Night Out is next week so I am looking forward to trash-talking her with everyone because that will be a really mature way to introduce myself to the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Jeff Spicoli, the sprinkler man, and also I'm a giant.

Well the sprinkler guy didn't come on Monday. I called him about an hour after he was supposed to have come over, and I will give him credit for not even trying to lie to me. He said, "Oh man... I forgot!" in a voice that was startlingly similar to Jeff Spicoli's. Are all sprinkler guys flakes? Because this guy was actually the second one I contacted; the first one never returned my message. Does no one want to take my money? Attention, sprinkler men: I am highly motivated to give you money for fixing my sprinklers. Please. Come get the money. This lawn is preparing its Last Will and Testament. The lawn is making amends with its estranged family members. It is preparing to shuffle off its mortal coil. Please come and intervene here.

In other news, I have arrived at a temporary solution to the blow dryer/disheveled hair issue: a low wattage travel blow dryer! Used it for the first time this morning and there was a nary a RRRRRrrrRRRR to be heard. At 1000 watts and 125 volts, this little honey only uses 8 amps, provided that I have a correct understanding of how these things are calculated. (Never guaranteed!) I could almost run two at once without blowing a fuse. Talk about luxury!

Also, as a bonus, it is so tiny I can pretend I'm a giant when I hold it. Pretending to be a giant: just another perfectly logical benefit of owning an old house.