renovations

Crazy lamp lady

I’ve always had a fascination with light fixtures that I can’t explain. I love them. Probably more than I love paint or even most furniture. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than changing the way light passes through a room. When we moved in, each room had uninspiring, bland light fixtures, which we started switching out in the last post. But instead of shopping online for the office fixture, this one kind of found me. We had just closed on the house about a week earlier and were browsing one of my favorite salvage stores in Exeter for pulls, knobs, faucets, or anything else that could fit with the vintage-yet-streamlined style of the brand new (to us) place. We popped in next door to Cam’s, a kind of hit-or-miss dusty costume/secondhand/mishmash shop where I’ve found some good deals on vintage art in the past. One of the things I remembered them for was tying old light fixtures up on the ceiling beams, and since I knew we’d need a bunch of them, I wanted to check out my options.

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This fixture was right above the door when we walked in. It was covered in dust and contained a junky plastic candelabra insert. But it was also in perfect condition, solid as a rock, and probably 30lbs. I didn’t know how to re-wire anything, but for this guy I could figure it out. We haggled a price, and then haggled a cash discount (which is funny because I think they’re cash only, but whatever) and the entire purchase came out to $200. Not cheap, but for such a unique fixture, I’ll take it.

From the first time I saw it, I wanted it for the office. I assume that it originally hung in an entryway, but ours isn’t large or grand enough for a hanging pendant like this. M wasn’t so convinced, but I dug up some photos of similar pendants in offices, and he let me be a little insane and go with it. Both of the following images are by Emily Henderson, of course. This whole project screams “what would EH do?”


I actually can’t find any info about this particular pendant online anywhere, so if you have any ideas about where it came from or even when it was made, please let me know.IMG_9107

So I got it home, wiped it down, and totally took it apart. The whole thing needed to be rewired no matter what, so I just took the candelabra piece out and studied how the whole thing pieced together.

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I drew out a diagram, measured, browsed youtube for too many hours, and ordered parts.

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For anyone attempting something similar, I got the canopy set and keyless socket from Antique Lamp Supply, the cloth wire from Snake Head Vintage, and the edison bulb and wire nuts from Amazon. Everything else was salvaged from the original pieces.

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And then I realized the cloth wire I ordered was too large to fit through the rest of the pieces, and re-ordered another gauge. So yeah, this part took a while.

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I got it to about 90%– everything was connected and in order, but I didn’t really have a plan for how the bulb would hang inside the shade. My idea was a figure-8 knot, which would have looked cool, but I left it partially in pieces so that if I was totally wrong, the electrician who was hanging our other fixtures could have saved us from setting the house on fire.

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This guy is amazing and actually used to rewire lamps as a kid, so he saw it and instantly knew exactly what he was doing. He didn’t like my figure-8 knot idea… apparently the screws on the socket itself aren’t supposed to hold *any* weight, not even the weight of the bulb. He said the socket had to be connected to the canopy by a threaded rod, which he happened to have in his van. So where you see “cut piece of theaded rod” and “gold cloth covered wire” above in the diagram, he has actually just put a new threaded rod (I thought I could use my dremel to salvage this piece from the candelabra insert, but it was too short– the threaded rod actually goes all the way up into the canopy on the other side of the glass and connects to the loop which holds the chain… super sturdy)

 

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So he finished assembling it his (official) way and hung it for me, and dear god it looks AHMAZING.

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Oooo, aah…

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I don’t even really mind the look of the threaded rod, although the knot would have looked way cooler. I think I might wrap some washi tape around it just for a pop of color, but I’m not 100% on that yet.

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This light turned out better than I imagined. This thing went from a total mess to a stunner, and was a quarter the price of anything similar I can find online. Sometimes instead of working I just sit here and stare at it. Maybe that explains the migraines.

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What do you think?

❤ v

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Let there be light!

Exciting stuff has been going on here for the past few days. We were both hesitant to bring in any contractors for at least the first few months, just so I could get everything kind of situated and then figure out exactly what needed to be changed and in what order. And I’ve been tackling some quicker projects myself, like painting bathrooms and dining rooms, fixing up the bedroom, and planning some landscaping. But last week we finally brought in two trusted contractors– a carpenter and an electrician. The carpenter, a friend, will be helping out with some more complex projects in a few months, but we put the electrician right to work, changing out four ceiling fixtures throughout the house.

All of the light fixtures that came in the house are OK… most I recognized from the Hampton Bay aisle of Home Depot. Yawn! But some online shopping and three hours later, we’re making progress to eliminate the boring, snooze-worthy fixtures from the house. Obviously nothing in the house was even close to original. I could have gone with reproductions but decided to go with something a little more fun.

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Let’s start in the entryway, which is a really small area with a cluttered coat rack and the smallest bathroom of all time. I would have loved to do an entry chandelier here, but the house honestly probably never had anything grander than a single bulb flush mount. So I grabbed a Restoration Hardware farmhouse light when they were on sale a while back. I wasn’t positive if it would go in the living room, entry, or the top of the stairs, but once we held it up it seemed to be a pretty good fit here. And please excuse the mess, etc… this area still needs a LOT of help.

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The farmhouse looks great, I think… but we also discovered that we’re going to do a lot of paint patching. Why people don’t remove light fixtures when they paint a ceiling, I will never understand. The entryway will all be painted soon, so we’ll just leave it like this for a little while.

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This was also when we discovered that we do indeed have the original 1928 wiring throughout the house (I knew we had it in the bathroom from when I replaced the sconces but wasn’t sure exactly how old it was or if it was safe). The electrician assured me that it was perfectly safe as long as it was in good condition, which it was. He also noticed that the lights all had grounding wires running from the switches, which means someone was paying attention when they started making improvements.

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The next light was the bathroom. I had already switched out the sconces and painted, so as a reminder here was the lower part of the room:

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You can’t even tell in the photos how bad this light is. But finding a replacement wasn’t easy– the switch in the bathroom only controls the sconces, so the new fixture had to have a pull cord that reached from the ceiling without knocking into/damaging the shade.

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I wanted to get a matching porcelain one to the sconces but couldn’t find one with a pull cord, and those can’t be custom ordered. My alternate idea was to get a vintage cut crystal pendant, but again the Etsy shopowner said he couldn’t add the cord. I had to custom order this one in oil rubbed bronze from Rejuvenation, but they kind of screwed it up and without our wonderful electrician would have never been able to get it working ourselves. And honestly, now that it’s up, I’m not so sure about it. I think I need to spraypaint the inside of the shade white to make it look more like the porcelain sconces– it’s just super harsh and bright right now. I also might just order a new shade… we’ll see. At least it’s better than it was.

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And finally… the super fun one! When we first saw the house, it had a decent looking pendant in the dining room. Not my style but kinda cute. During negotiations, the seller asked if he could take this light with him, and since we had planned on probably replacing it anyway, just let him have it. He ended up installing another light when he moved out– I guess this was what was there when he bought the house a year earlier. And while it was nice having some type of light in the dining room (as opposed to him just leaving a hole in the ceiling), there is NO way this one was going to stay. Is it the worst thing ever? No. But for such a central room, I knew we needed to do something special in here.

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I came across Stimulight on Etsy and held out for a few months before finally biting the bullet and ordering one. And then it sat in the box for a few months because I knew I couldn’t do it myself. I actually probably would have attempted the other fixtures on my own if I hadn’t known I’d had to call an electrician for this one, but that turned out to be a blessing because I would have been on the floor, crying, wrapped in electrical tape and bruises if I’d tried to do any of this myself. Even the electrician left the house punctured and bleeding. This is a tough fixture to hang! It looks AMAZING though, and even though we knew we would have a dining table under it (and could therefore hang it a little lower than usual since nobody can walk into it), we decided to hang it a little on the high side so that it wouldn’t compete with the french doors  and built-in for visual interest. I think it’s absolutely perfect for this room– I can’t imagine anything better.

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The final light was for the office, and I didn’t know if we would actually get around to ever doing this one. I’m going to write a full post about it, so I’ll save the photos for next time.

That’s all for now! I’m super excited to have broken the barrier of welcoming in a professional… maybe this renovation will be easier than the last one after all.

Cheers,

❤ v

Master Bedroom Progress… for the love of Ranarp

Weirdly enough, the tiny master bedroom of this house is probably the reason we ended up buying it. Not because of the super bland color palate, normal-sized windows, or annoying sloped ceiling, but because of the closet. We had given up the house hunt for the winter (our lease had a clause that we couldn’t move out from Nov-Mar) but I was still curiously opening my Zillow emails, just to see what was out there. Most of the photos of this house made it seem modest and quaint, but not super special.

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But a photo of the corner of the gorgeously done master closet really made me take notice that someone had truly put some effort in, so I dragged M to the open house (even though he wasn’t interested when I showed him the listing). Sure enough, we left in silent agreement that it was the one. Not because of the closet, but because of all the other little touches, the layout, the neighborhood, and the feeling of relaxation we got while inside.

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(For the record, that’s a sliding barn door… the top bar pulls down to eye-level, and there are 12 drawers and another cabinet on the left side that you can’t really see in this picture. All the drawers quiet close. All extremely unusual for a 1928 Sears kit house that is otherwise mostly well-maintained yet original.)

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If this closet hadn’t been there, or even if it hadn’t made it into the top 10 photos, we probably never would have ever stepped foot here, and yet here we are.

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Anyways, ramblings aside, I didn’t expect to do much in here. The closet is great, even though I would like to take all the pulls off and spray paint them to look enameled… but that’s it. We just moved in our furniture and ignored it.

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Then while M was out one evening, I made a snap decision and broke out the primer. Our headboard is kind of sage-grey-beige and I hated how it clashed with the lavender-gray-blah walls.

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I had already grabbed a paint chip of Behr’s #HDC-AC-23 Provence Blue and knew it was the way to go. It’s a little on the dark side, but it’s still coastal looking and light, and it made the white trim pop. Two days later, I had primed and painted two coats. We put the bed back where it belongs and, once again, I thought it was done.

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And then a few weeks later we brought home a Ranarp floor lamp from Ikea for the living room. It’s really perfect for a house like this– visually light yet not bland, a little unusual, and with antique touches like the black and white braided cord. When I saw that there was a sconce in the collection too (and that it was $20!), I added it to the ever-growing list and eventually picked up two while we were visiting M’s parents in Virginia a few weeks ago. I also ordered this “No Sleep ‘Til Breuckelen” print which combines M’s love of weird maps and the history of New York with our house’s Dutch roots. I think the wall needs two other pieces to flank the print… it’s a bit too small right now.

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The Ranarp sconces were ridiculously easy to install, even though everyone’s favorite blue-and-yellow store fails to package them with screws or anchors. Luckily I had some extras and the whole project only took about an hour.

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I absolutely love the detail in these sconces! Good job Ikea!

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The only thing that’s left in here is to spray paint those cabinet pulls a black gloss and order the curtains. I’m waiting for West Elm to run a sale…. pretty please?

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Anyways, I love the room and the journey it’s taken so far. What do you think?

Cheers,

❤ v

Bathroom Progress!

We’ve been in the house for about two months and the first room I’ve really tackled (aside from a quick paint job) is the bathroom. I outlined in this post some of the issues and inspiration, and I mostly kept to what I’ve posted so far.

Here is what the bathroom looked like during our initial walkthrough:

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And right after move-in:

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And here is what it looks like today:

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Obviously the biggest change is the paint color. It took a coat of Kilz Low-VOC primer and two coats of Behr “Watery” (#HDC-CT-26) on the walls, and a coat of Behr “Snowfall” (#W-F-600) on the wainscoting. The color is lovely and really removed a lot of the caveyness from the room.

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After the first coat of primer, it wasn’t looking too pretty (sorry for color balance… removing the two sconces left me with only one (very warm) bulb in the whole room, and I’m not smart enough to take pictures during daylight hours). You can also see in the photo below that the door frame was actually never painted, just either stained white or covered with a very thin coat of cheap paint. It bugged me from the moment we moved in, so getting to the point where I was painting it was such a relief.

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Anyways, primer. I should have used a second coat, but I was scraping the bottom of this can (literally) and, being the great planner that I am, had no way to get more for at least a week. So I just let it dry overnight and went ahead with paint.
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I also removed every single piece of hardware– towel bars, hooks, ring, pulls, hinges, latches, etc– and patched those holes. None of the (ugly) nickel stuff was in a good spot, so the replacement pieces will all be in different locations. Might as well start off with a clean slate, right?

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The rusty, paint-covered old hardware was another fun project.

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I don’t want to say that I’m channeling Nicole Curtis, but I do believe that if the hardware has lasted in this house for 90 years, there is no reason it isn’t good enough to stay for another 90. I soaked everything in baking soda and hot water, but what resulted was not what I’d hoped. Instead of being a beautiful polished brass like the hinges in the dining room, the hardware was all rusted out and appeared to have been chrome plated at some point, but now was just a rusty mess.

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I sanded them all the way down and found something I’ve never seen before– the latch part was solid brass while the base was steel. Nifty! And even though part of me just wanted to leave it there, the other part really wanted a matching bathroom, so I covered the brass parts with painters tape and sprayed the rest oil rubbed bronze. The hinges were in various amounts of disrepair and were mixed… some nickel, some brass. So I sprayed them all to match. I didn’t really want to alter anything original, but considering half of this stuff definitely isn’t (one of them is broken, two are stainless, two are brass), the least I could do is make it all match and move on (reproduction or even salvaged replacement stuff is expensive!). Meanwhile, I ordered some bronze and ceramic pulls from Restoration Hardware for the bottom half of the linen closet to match.

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Once the old hardware was removed and the necessary holes were patched, I went around all the wainscoting with a sharp blade to cut away the dried, torn old caulk. I don’t know what happened in this room or when the wainscoting was installed (definitely not original) but I was just happy to see no visible water damage or mold when I peeled back the boards, and so I cleaned it up, tacked it down with a few extra nails, and recaulked. A few days later, I added a new coat of paint, and now it looks so fresh and clean.

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The tub is still a work in progress. We haven’t had any contractors at all in the house yet, so I have no idea what we will eventually do here or really what our options are. So in the meantime I replaced the plastic tension rod with an ORB curved one (to match and give us more space) and ordered a tension caddy for storage. If and when we tile, we’ll replace the tension caddy with wall mounted shelving and maybe replace the shower curtain with a glass door.

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The bath cart is Ikea’s Raskog, and the new sconces are from Rejuvenation. New overhead light is coming from them as well– it needed to be custom made because of the pull cord. The ceramic plate cover is from them too– I bought one for the light switch below the right sconce but of course it doesn’t fit so I need to cut down the wainscoting (or just spraypaint the existing plastic one… we’ll see).

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And of course the new furniture, which was restored from it’s previous home in a washed up doily B&B

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The total cost of everything so far is around $500. Not bad, eh? Most of that is light fixtures… those things are pricey! There is still plenty to do (like re-hanging the towel rods, changing out the pocket door hardware, installing the ceiling light…) but it’s progress at least!

Cheers,

❤ v

New Old Furniture

One of my initial conundrums was filling the awkward spot next to the bathtub with something other than an Expedit (photo of previous owner’s set-up)

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I briefly looked around at hook/shelf combinations but really thought we needed closed storage space for things like toilet paper and extra tissues, candles, shampoo, etc. But I didn’t want to spend much since the humidity in the bathroom is usually bad news for furniture. I couldn’t believe when I had the opportunity to walk through an old hotel that had closed and buy a few pieces at bargain-basement prices from the new owner. One piece was actually a TV stand, but it had the right dimensions and closed shelving, so I offered $30 and was accepted!

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One thing I didn’t check while measuring was the actual condition of the unit. The lighting was dark and I was rushing around from room to room. When I got it home, I left it in the garage for a few weeks before actually inspecting it.

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The condition was pretty appalling. Most of the other pieces from this trek are in wonderful condition considering their age and heavy use, but this one did not have that luck. Aside from being absolutely disgustingly filthy (below is the pile of paper towels used from just trying to clean it with oil soap), the large cabinet had been painted and other parts had been badly patched and stapled back together.

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The large cabinet had also been (badly) painted kelly green at some point in the distant past.

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But it was still a solid wood piece of furniture, and still a good price. It just meant I had to paint it– something I kind of hate doing to (mostly) unpainted antiques, but there was no way to clean this up.

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I sanded it down, removed all the hardware, and spray primed (I covered the cute wooden wheels in painters tape for this step). I used the leftover navy paint from the dining room built-in project (Behr Nocturne Blue #HDC-CL-28)– it took three good coats to be totally solid. I also painted the insides of the drawers…. figured the only way to get it really truly clean was to coat it in paint after drenching it in soap (and then adding liners for good measure).

So much better already!

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For the pulls, I wanted to match the style of the furniture, and the bathroom, but also be a little bit playful. Since the piece is so dark, I opted for brass instead of oil rubbed bronze (or cut glass, which was another option and already exists in other parts of the house). I wanted it to be a little bit regency, a little bit MCM, and a little bit deco/colonial. The pulls are from Lee Valley and the knobs from Anthropologie. I love them both.

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If you’re wondering about the original hardware, it was 100% crap. Two of the pieces broke as I was (gently) removing them. They are like aluminum foil thickness and also not very nice looking. Out you go! (intact ones will get donated to the ReStore in case someone else needs a replacement or something). The brass hinges and door catch are original, though… just cleaned with some sandpaper and steel wool.

And just for fun, here’s the final cost breakdown:

Vintage TV stand: $30
Two drawer pulls (Leather Hardware from Lee Valley): $21
Three knobs (Streamline Knob from Anthro): $18
Paint (Behr #HDC-CL-28 leftover from the Dining Room): $0
Total: $69.00

So there you have it! I love it, do you?

Full-room photos coming soon.

❤ v

Dining Room Progress

Although the dining room totally wasn’t at the top of my list of worries, it does happen to be an easy starting point. The whole room was just kind of boring. Dreary gray walls, a window facing into our neighbor’s kitchen, and a yawn-worthy (yet cute) built-in. Since I hadn’t painted anything in a while, I thought this would be a good place to dig in!

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First things first, the built-in (behind the open patio door in the above photo– I suck at “before” pictures…). Before I even unpacked, I was painting this guy. It is so adorable and I’ve always dreamt of having one! In order to make my mostly-light-colored ceramics pop, I chose a dark navy blue (Behr Nocturne Blue #HDC-CL-28)

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I didn’t prime, so it took about 4 coats, which was stupid. This is why we start on small projects :). I also removed all the doors, sanded, repainted, and cleaned the glass, which had so many layers of grime and paint, I needed acetone and a razor blade.

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I soaked the hardware overnight in baking soda and hot water, and the following morning the paint just fell right off and revealed gorgeous polished brass! Well that was easy!

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Probably the quickest and easiest improvement so far! I quickly polished them up with some Simichrome and they look killer. 

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I put everything back together and touched up the white trim with Behr Snow Fall (#W-F-600), and then filled ‘er up! The arrangement isn’t right yet… I need more storage in this room to hide some of the more boring pieces and accumulate some new white ceramic things (animals, hopefully!) that will pop.

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Next order of business was the dark walls. This room doesn’t get the best light in the house, which is pretty amazing considering the two large doors to the patio and the full-sized window. But it faces west directly into our fence and a neighboring house, and north into our yard. So the dark gray was a little… sad. I went with light, bright, BM Revere Pewter (#HC-172)… which I guess is what everyone is painting everything right now. Once it was on the walls I kind of hated it. It’s growing on me, so we’ll see if it stays or not. I wanted to keep the color neutral so we could do something fun with the art and lighting in here… but in this lighting, the greige is more beige than gray.

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And an outtake… the puppy decided that she needed to go out at this exact moment. Or maybe she was trying to model for me?

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All this paint plus a new dining set… I think we’re really making progress. I got a shipping notification for our new chandelier yesterday and can’t wait to put it up and finish up the room! Eventually I’m planning on having a carpenter complete some woodwork so the built-in will go to the ceiling (which would mask our new amazing Sonos speaker) and we’ll add some crown molding throughout the whole house.

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Cheers,

❤ v

Sutton Renovation Close-up: My Little Office!

The first version of this post was originally posted in February 2012 on the giftable designs blog.


Because it isn’t just as easy as picking out a color and waiting for the “after” photos, I’m going to start outlining each room, the process of design and renovation, and finally what I would change (or wouldn’t) if given the chance. I’m going to upload a ton of pictures with little descriptions, but if you just want the final run-down (or the finished pictures!), scroll to the bottom.

This is kind of half-assed of me. I’m posting a close-up of a room that isn’t even a room. But it is a separate space, so it’s kind of like a room by NY standards. At least I’m not talking about the shower in my kitchen (I was actually over at a friend’s apartment recently who has a shower in her kitchen. If you’re reading this– sorry! No judgments 🙂 ).

Since M and I both work from home, we wanted to each have our own office space. Back in Toronto, we bought a big desk and shared it, but since my space is always messy from crafting and his is always covered in paperwork, we decided to split off our offices into two spaces. I got the window side of the living room and he got the window side of the bedroom.

This is kind of what it looked like on paper:

As you can see, we divided up the space with furniture. My office is separated from the “living room” space with a wood credenza (aka liquor cabinet) and his by a huge Ikea Expedit bookshelf. This leaves slightly-larger-than-doorway-sized open spaces for us to “enter” our offices. Without this, I would spend my work day trying to catch a glimpse of the TV and he would roll over into bed around lunchtime.

I’m not going to go into renovation details. New floors, new AC units, new windows, new electric. Here’s a quick refresher:

before!

before, clean-ish.

After.

6 months of work in 3 images– how about that? Anyways, once we got moved in an unpacked about 80% of the boxes, I was finally able to SEE my office space again.

^I probably shouldn’t tell you how long we lived like this^

I put together the Ikea desk and the small Ikea Expedit bookshelf. I constructed some curtains (Ikea fabric. Do you see a trend?) and realized I had no space whatsoever for my yarn and fabric. Back to– guess where??– Ikea! 3 Billy bookcases and one week of hex keys and particleboard later, I have this:

ImageIsn’t she a beaut? I love her. The tops still need to be filled with tsotchkes– I can’t reach them without standing on a chair, so I didn’t want to put anything functional in there. I was finally able to start unpacking the rest of my office supplies, and later that week I had this:

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There are still some blank spaces on the wall to fill in, and I want to do some fun crafty things with the desk. But overall, I’m happy with where I am right now. It’s a great space to work in. And hey– I’m not using the kitchen counter as a desk… anymore…

Details:

• Desk – Ikea… purchased years ago and no longer available.

• Bookshelf – Combination of Billy bookshelves from Ikea with glass doors and height extention ~$300ish

• Curtains – Ikea Monalis, $7/yd

• Flower Pots –Ikea Kardemumma, $4-6 each

• Egg chair – Ikea. Super old… they probably don’t make it anymore. And if they do, don’t buy it– least comfortable office chair ever.

• Chalkboard Window – from Building Character in Lancaster, PA

• Desk Lamp Bird Branch Task Light from Pottery Barn Kids.

• Art bulletin board and “Chinchilla Ranch” sign are handmade by yours truly. Bunny etching from Oldie’s Marketplace in Newburyport, MA (antique), $12. “Make Do and Mend” sign from Urban Outfitters, $20