We last left you (hopefully) in suspense of what happens next in our kitchen! But man what a crazy busy summer we’ve had (hence the 6 month fall-out on the blog). Between house projects, visiting friends and family in Iowa, selling baked goods at the NE farmer’s market and both acquiring new jobs, we just couldn’t find time to make our blog a priority.
But we’re BACK!!! And I really want to kick things off right where we left last time.
Kitchen work in progress part two!
After we got that wall down, we decided we needed to do something with the back doorway trim. With layers and layers of paint we had two options. 1. Take it down and start over, or 2. strip it. At this point in the project, we were a little limited by the amount of tools we had on hand. Plus, we figured because the house was old and had settled it’d be easier to just strip the paint and work with what we had. So we opted for stripping it.
Stripping paint is overrated. Seriously, it’s shitty work that always takes longer than you’d expect. Not only were we dealing with some pretty dangerous chemicals, we found ourselves repeating the process at least 4 times from so much paint build up. By the time we bought a gallon of stripper and put all the labor into it, it would have been cheaper just to start from scratch. Lesson learned.
After the woodwork was finished, we pulled everything behind the cabinets down to studs and painted the upper cabinets white. If you’ve ever done a kitchen remodel before you know at this point it’s HUSTLE MODE. So, we both took a few days off work and spent the next 5 days getting everything ready for our plumber and electrician.
The black lower cabinets we talked about in our last post would go back exactly where they were. First we needed to rehang the uppers to their proper height from the lower cabinets. We also built a little bulkhead above the uppers. This would create a seamless transition between the white cabinets and the ceiling. Now that the wall was down, we decided to utilize the extra space and wrap the countertops to create a little seating area. This also gave us an extra cabinet for storage space!
After hanging drywall and getting the cabinets back in place the next step was to finish mudding in preparation for tile and countertops. Things were going so smoothly at this point we’d projected to have our kitchen finished in less than a few weeks. All that was left were countertops, plumbing, electrical and some flooring. Easy right?
In our next post we’ll share one of our first big mistakes! Stay tuned.
We had some big dreams for the kitchen remodel, and we went into this project with one major goal: to do as much of the work ourselves as possible. We knew going into it that we didn’t have the tools or know-how to pull it all off, but we also didn’t wanna just hire someone to transform our home while we were at the office, then crack a beer after all their hard work at the end of the day. That process tends to be a lot more expensive, and when you have personalities like ours, a lot less satisfying too. Plus, cracking a beer after you bust your ass all day feels pretty damn good. Lindsey and I really wanted to be as involved as possible, and for the things we didn’t yet know how to do, we had amazing backup in these guys:
That’s Lindsey’s brother Matt and her dad John. John’s a lifelong contractor who’s been doing some of Central Iowa’s best remodeling since he settled down there in the 80’s, and Matt’s fixing to follow in those footsteps, with some great work of his own already under his belt. We definitely owe these two a lot for their help on several parts of this job, so thanks again guys! Not only were they willing to drive four hours north to help out, but they brought some tools that we didn’t have and taught us a lot along the way. Next time we lay floor tile (hopefully those rad concrete ones Lindsey talked about here), it’s all ours to tackle. 🙂
One of the first things we wanted to get underway in the remodel was the cabinets. I wanted to paint the lower cabinets while they were in place, and it made sense for me to do so way early on in the process for a few reasons. First, the lowers are quite a bit larger than the upper ones are, so maneuvering them around onto sawhorses while uninstalled would have been pretty cumbersome. Plus, we had junk flooring that we were gonna pull up later, junk countertops that were gonna come out, so on the off chance that I made a mistake spraying, I likely wasn’t going to mess up anything that mattered. Finally, we wanted to use the partially completed job as motivation to keep things going!
To get a really true black color, we used a primer that was tinted down to a dark gray which would allow the black to deepen, rather than having a bright white primer underneath it. For the finish coat, we diverged from paint that I’m familiar with (Sherwin Williams ProClassic) and went with a Benjamin Moore product (Aura). I’ve always been a little hesitant to change from a brand that I’m super familiar with and confident in, but we didn’t have a choice in this case. ProClassic isn’t made with a tint base that allows for super dark colors to be made, so we picked up the Aura. At the end of the day, I’m happy to say that I really couldn’t tell a difference when spraying, or with the results. Yay, Benjamin Moore!
Just because we were going to be taking out the floor and countertops didn’t mean I wanted to jack them up and get paint all over them. We still wanted to live in as clean of a house as possible for the next several months. After some painstakingly detailed prep with tape, plastic and paper, we had the whole kitchen looking like a scene from Dexter and ready for primer. Around this time we also wiped all of the surfaces down with a TSP substitute to clean them, then took an 80 grit orbital sander over everything to rough up the surface so paint would stick. For really visible surfaces like the drawer fronts and doors, we made sure the sanding pad on the orbital was really well worn down when we hit those, to help avoid swirl marks in the finish that a fresh 80 grit pad can give you.
We got the primer on with little fanfare, and we were super excited to get all the doors and drawers painted with finish coat and see how the black looked. Initially we’d chosen Black Knight as the color they’d tint that Aura product to, and if you’re like me you think when you see it that it looks damn near pure black. Maybe not quite, but close. We found out after painting all eight doors and six drawers that that definitely wasn’t true. It looked like a weird blue-green-black that was not at all what we were going for. Thankfully the folks at the paint store were super gracious when we brought in the swatch and one of the doors, showing that the door looked way different from the swatch, and they replaced our gallon with another, this time in true solid black.
Pretty spiffy, eh? Once we had these lower cabinets all black, we were even able to tolerate the boring, bowed formica countertops a little more easily. They still didn’t look good, but they looked better than they did against the light oak from before.
We found that kicking off the remodel by tackling the lower cabinets first really motivated us to keep it all rolling. We were so motivated, in fact, that we took hammers to the wall separating the kitchen and dining room a few days later…
Wall Demo, Part 1
There wasn’t a lot of planning that went into us starting this part of the project off. We still weren’t certain whether or not the wall was load-bearing, but we knew that we couldn’t hack the dungeon-y dark dining room any longer. So on a random afternoon we hauled out a couple of pry bars, pulled off the trim on both sides, and went to town.
A few hundred pounds of plaster lighter, with kitchen light streaming in between the lath, we let the dust settle and realized we were definitely at the point of no return. And thank god. Even with limited view between the studs and lath, we could tell how much of a difference the change was going to make in the space. The dining room was twice as bright, which made that room feel way bigger. We could also envision ourselves entertaining friends, with all of us able to see each other and chat, instead of Lindsey and I hidden away in the kitchen like The Help.
Once we were all cleaned up from knocking out the plaster, we coordinated a time when Lindsey’s dad could come have a look-see and find out what our next steps needed to be going forward, and took a step back to have a breather.
Good news of the non-load-bearing variety, plus electrical rough-in and maybe even the upper cabinets & backsplash, next time! 🙂
Last fall Josh and I tackled probably the biggest project yet – the kitchen. I’ve been dying to share the process and results with you since we started this blog. Before diving into the details, take a look at what we were working with:
Honestly, things could have been WAY worse. The prior homeowners updated the kitchen probably back in the early 2000’s which was a win/lose for us. The big win was that the cabinets were in pretty good shape, minus some burn marks from improperly installed lights, so we decided to reuse them (Yay, environment!) and paint them to our taste. We were also really happy with the can lighting and ceiling wallpaper, which sort of looks like those vintage ceiling tiles. Literally everything else had to go – beige leaf tiles, laminate flooring/countertops, peach paint…see yah later! The wall dividing the dining room and kitchen also made the space feel really cramped. Opening it up would allow us to wrap the countertop, providing more seating with a couple of bar stools. Thankfully another HUGE win for us was discovering the wall between the dining room and kitchen wasn’t load bearing (initially we thought it was).
As we started making plans for the kitchen, we knew whatever we’d do needed to fit our home. One underlying goal we’ve had all along is to stay true to our house’s history. As a craftsman style built in 1917, our house came with some pretty great features. For example, all of the windows in the living room have original leaded glass, our dining room has a beautiful built-in hutch and the main level has original maple flooring throughout. The way we use our house today differs greatly from a family back in the early 1900’s but we want to honor the work that went into this house. What does that mean exactly? Well for instance, we’ve decided not to paint our hutch. We also restored the maple flooring. And even though we’ve had some issues with our boiler and radiator heat, we really love the charm those big radiators have.
A few years ago when Josh and I were out in LA visiting his brother Sam, we fell in love with the tile at Intelligentsia Coffee Shop. I instantly wanted to use the same tile in our kitchen, and after a little digging, I found that the manufacturer was Granada Tile. Here’s the original inspiration from Intelligentsia in LA:
With that in mind, I made a SUPER quick before & after mock-up to visualize the tiles and color palette.
If you check out the Granada site, make sure to play around with their custom tile tool. It gives you a live preview of the pattern as you select colors. Pretty neat!
Unfortunately, the concrete tile turned out to be too thick to allow for a smooth transition from hardwood to tile. Plus we wanted to put in a heated floor, which added another layer of complexity. These concrete beauties ended up not being the right ones for this kitchen job, but we’re hoping they’ll find a home somewhere in our house in the future.
Once I convinced myself life could still go on without those tiles, I pulled together some inspiration and we plowed ahead. In addition to finding the right flooring, another high priority on our list was Carrara marble countertops. And our passion for marble grew stronger and stronger as literally EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. told us not to get them. But one thing you should know about Josh and I is that we’re neat freaks. The kind of neat freaks that hang out on a Friday night to reorganize the tupperware cabinet or label our tool bins. So, we were totally up for the challenge of babying our light, porous, and precious countertops.
As you can see from the inspiration board, we really wanted a timeless, vintage kitchen — something that felt era appropriate but still had a clean, modern feel. To ground the room we chose to do dark lowers and white uppers. And as stated earlier, marble was in the plan all along. Subway tile was also kind of a no-brainer for budget reasons, and with this being our first time laying tile, we wanted to lay something simple that wouldn’t leave us pulling our hair out. So really, the only undecided detail was the floors. Untillllll we found this kitchen. We loved these floors so much we decided to use the same hex pattern, but we wanted to center it between our cabinets and act like a decorative runner. Early on we found knobs and pulls from Restoration Hardware that we just couldn’t resist. These pulls are legit and totally worth the investment. So much so that the knobs might actually weigh more than the cabinet door (which is a strange feeling). To break up the black and white we decided natural wooden accents like a fruit bowl or utensil holder would do the trick.
Okay, so I promise within the next few posts we’ll reveal the final result. But, we have some interesting challenges and mistakes we think you’ll enjoy hearing about first, so stay tuned. Josh is gonna talk next about the process and a couple of the mistakes we made, including setting all the final cabinets in place, only to learn we had an illegal plumbing set up that required us to take some of them back out and knock open a wall again. Fun times, and lesson learned: Always call the plumber FIRST.
Now that I’m not painting as a career anymore, I really enjoy the chances I get at home to get back into it. You may think I’m crazy, as I always hear people moan and groan whenever they have to tackle a painting project. I really do love it though. Painting caps off projects nicely, since it’s usually one of the last things to get done, and it’s when you finally start to see all the hard work paying off. This refresh of the bedroom was no different, and I found myself having a ball during the whole process!
As Lindsey mentioned before, there are a couple of things with this bedroom project we’d have done differently if we were gonna do it all over again (which some crazy, perfectionist part of me is actually tempted to do). The big thing we’d do differently is choose to use an oil-based primer on the trim. In my previous life as a painter, I used exclusively Sherwin Williams and came to have a lot of faith in their products. However, I was always working in new construction, which is a really different application than a 100 year-old craftsman with original woodwork. We opted for Sherwin Williams Multi Purpose and Pro Classic for our primer and finish coats, respectively. Right at the start, the finish looked just great. The bright white contrasted well with both of the blues we chose for the walls, and the finish coat has a really durable, clean look. My gripe, though, is with my choice to use latex primer. And I feel a bit like a newbie, but I totally should have known better.
See how the trim around the door is a brighter white? Consequence of not using an oil-based primer to seal the yellow woodwork stains away.
That’s some pretty yellow woodwork we were dealing with. Even though I applied a couple of good coats of primer, plus a contractor grade finish coat, as Lindsey mentioned before we’re having that yellow start to bleed through. The end result isn’t mortifying, it’s just not nearly as cool as it was right when it was all fresh. These days, it’s more looking like an off-white than bright white. Passable, but like I said, the perfectionist in me wants to go back and do it all over again using this as a primer. Problem solved, seriously. The stain blocking capability of oil based primer just can’t be matched by a latex product. I recently used that oil-based primer to cover some reeeeaaaaally bad nicotine stains on the walls and ceilings of a lifetime smoker’s house. In one coat it blocked all of the stains perfectly, and that house just sold, with the new buyer none the wiser that a smoker had ever lived there! I know, it sucks to clean up oil-based paint and it smells awful, especially when you spray it, but no joke this oil primer woulda saved me the embarrassment of admitting that I (the professional dingus painter) opted for the cheaper, easier option and ended up with less-than-stellar results. Lesson learned & ego taken down a peg. Onward!
Spraying paint – you can dooooo it!
One big thing to keep in mind when you’re spraying walls or trim with paint is good masking. These spray tips atomize the paint so small that it ends up on errything if you’re not careful. Cover the floor with a thick, durable rosin paper (taped neatly against the edge of the baseboard) and cover the glass on windows with tape & plastic. If you’re only painting a section of the house, find a doorway that you can close off tightly with masking tape & plastic to keep dust from floating all throughout the house. If you do leave any furniture in the room (like we did), make sure it’s covered tightly with plastic and that the plastic is taped down tight to the paper you covered the floor with.
Like Lindsey mentioned, we used an airless sprayer that I’d borrowed from my boss to get the trim painted. I have the benefit of having sprayed hundreds of gallons of paint back in that previous life, so for me it was a matter of muscle memory to get a glassy finish on the trim. For the ambitious DIY-er, it might be a slight challenge, but it’s still absolutely doable to use a sprayer if you’re a newbie. There are plenty of tips and video tutorials out there that show how to operate the sprayer and apply product. Plus, considering how much better sprayed trim looks vs. brushed, it’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. You will have to sacrifice a little bit of paint in the interest of practicing and getting a feel for the gun, but it’s still worth it for the look in the end. When you’re using an airless sprayer as a rookie, just remember two things: 1) When in doubt, go thin. You can always come back again with another thin coat to finish coverage, and two thin coats is better than one thick one that runs in spots. 2) Always have your arm in motion when the trigger is pulled on the gun.
We used a Graco pump and gun, with a fine finish tip. Everything you’d need should be relatively easily able to come by for rent at your local Sherwin Williams or equipment rental shop, though I would recommend purchasing a brand new spray tip for the gun, even if the rental joint offers you one. If not operated at the correct pressure and properly cared for/stored, the tiny hole that’s machined into the tip can get blown out too big, which can lead to wasted product and runs in the paint if you’re not familiar with the process. No one wants that. I’ve always used Graco spray tips as well, and a fresh 410 or 412 tip (fine finish variety, specifically for trim) will give you the best control possible. More on what the numbers mean here if you’re curious, I won’t bore you.
Once I had the sprayer all set up and had gotten a good solid coat of primer on, we let it dry fully (overnight). Once dry, we used some medium grit sanding blocks to gently sand the primed trim smooth. I say gently because if you have fresh primer over top of old, stained woodwork and you sand aggressively, you’re apt to burn right through the primer and expose the stained trim again, thereby defeating the purpose of priming that spot. This is especially prone to happen on edges & corners. All it really takes is a few gentle but firm swipes with a sanding block (check it with your bare hand for smoothness after you swipe it with the block a few times) to get your primed trim super smooth again.
After we sanded, we caulked every crack in the woodwork we could find (more pro tips on this process later – can’t share them all in one post!). Once the caulking had dried fully overnight, or whatever the tube said the dry time was, we switched over to the Pro Classic for finish coat. While I’m definitely unhappy with the performance of the latex primer we used, I’m super happy with how the Pro Classic looks. We opted for a semi-gloss to help the trim stand out a bit against the lower sheen walls, and semi-gloss also gives you a surface that you can clean more easily when you need to.
Using an airless sprayer can be a bit intimidating, but don’t let it stop you from trying. With all the tutorial resources out there, plus the comment section juuuuust down below (let us know if you’ve ever tried using one! ;), you have everything you need to tackle a job and have it look great. Now that spring is finally upon us, we’re gonna be pulling the sprayer out of storage soon and painting the exterior of our house, so stay tuned for that!