Grandma’s Table and Other Hand-me-downs

Despite the cold, snowy weather we’ve been getting this past week, I have reason to be in high spirits.  I acquired some new, very special furniture pieces!  The most important being the one for our dining area in our new kitchen.  It’s the only dining area in our home, since we erased the dining room from the original floor plan of the house.  So this table (sitting at it now…) had to fit a myriad of needs.  It had to seat our family of six on a daily basis, as well as a few more for special occasions.  It had to “fill” the space purposed for dining, but not block two doors and the traffic patterns in and out of them.  It had to be of a style that complements the modern vibe we have going in the kitchen.  And last, but not least, it had to be inexpensive.  Tough parameters (especially the inexpensive one)!  And somehow, someway, the stars aligned, and my Grandma’s table needed a new home about the same time we needed a new table.

Last summer, when Grandma moved to a smaller place, it was determined by my aunts and uncles that I should have the table.   Usually, when one thinks about a “Grandma Table,” it conjures fond memories of  family gatherings and large meals shared.  This table does all that for me, for sure.  I can still see and hear my grandfather next to me at the head of the table, “Allison, you’re such a good eater!”  (I still am.  Good thing I like to run too!)    But style-wise, “Grandma Tables” can fall a bit short.   Not MY Grandma’s!!  Her table is just the style I needed, without me knowing it.   Not only is it super-dooper special, it’s actually really cool!  It also comes with the flexibility of two leaves to adjust the size.  One leaf works for everyday, and we will add the second to seat 10 comfortably.  Love!  Thanks to my family for this amazing gift!  When are you all available to come for dinner?


Grandma’s table’s new home.


Had to buy me some tulips to remember it’s spring-time. No, the photo is not over-exposed….That’s real snow outside!

The architect of our project stopped by this week and thought the table was beautiful.  “So much better than I had imagined!”  I told you people have problems visualizing something design-savvy when you tell them you are furnishing the house with Grandma’s stuff!  Whew!  Glad he likes it too… Together, we decided on some weathered white wood and chrome chairs to lighten things up a bit.  Yeah!

And there was another piece to get his opinion on.  Yes, Grandma also had the matching buffet to donate.   I agreed to try it out.


The matching buffet is in my living room. Jury is out about its future location and purpose in my home. Surface for decor? Entertainment/media stand/storage?


When I open the doors, it smells like Grandma’s house, and that’s a good thing.

…John also liked Grandma’s buffet!  I even think the word “beautiful” was used (again!).  THAT surprised me.  He is a really nice guy, so there’s a chance he was just saying that, but I think he really meant it. This piece has a little more detail going on, which makes it feel slightly….you know!  Anyway, he explained that the modern architecture of our home demands some counterbalance.  He loves a few older “off” pieces to create interest.  Grandma’s buffet stays for now!  Maybe some new pulls will be enough to up its appeal.  I do definitely like that I can tie the kitchen and living room together with Grandma’s two pieces.

There you have it!  I have a start at furnishing my new spaces.  FYI:  My last house took me about 2 years to furnish, as I am a total craigslist junkie, and absolutely hate to pay retail prices.  It was a process, and an exercise in patience.  In the end, I thought that house turned out pretty nice.  And I had a little story behind each and every item.  That was as important to me as the money I was saving.  A double win.  Grandma’s table and buffet, with their familiar shapes and smells and the memories they inspire, will provide that same satisfaction, only so much greater!


Just Like Home

It’s been nearly 3 weeks since our move to our new place, and I am happy to say it is starting to feel like home.  Things are still getting put away, and there’s plenty of loose ends to tie up in terms of the interior renovation, but I have found a routine (kind of) that feels good here.  My new range was hooked up yesterday (needed the gas line moved first), so we are back boiling water for pasta.  Just feeding the kids tonight, so the official first meal made with my fancy-shmancy range was mac-n-cheese.  (At least it was homemade!)


The first of many mac-n-cheese meals….

With a working range, no more excuses not to prepare home-cooked meals!  I guess that’s a good thing….But, actually, the range is still not in its correct position (plumbing pipe in the way) and would not pass inspection, due to its proximity to the upper cabinets.


We will be losing the hortizontal false cabinet directly above the range. It was to house the vent, but is too low.

As I have eluded to it in a previous post, the whole range/vent issue is really getting old.  With the first range not fitting, I was disappointed.  And now, the upper cabinet design is getting reconfigured (to pass inspection), so we won’t be able to use the vent liner I bought.  I just ordered another vent that we hope will work when it is installed higher.  And I actually thought locating the range on the wall instead of in the island was going to make things easier/less expensive.  Oh, well!  So, I have a working range, but I have to be very, very careful not to burn the house down.  No stir-fry for now.

Good news!  My extra dishwasher is finally out of the kitchen corner (where my extra vent now rests).  So happy to recoup some of the money, after the appliance shop wouldn’t let me return it.  Thank goodness for Craigslist!

And speaking of clearing things out, I can see the back of the living room again!


You couldn’t see the floor two weeks ago!


View of the living room with our furniture from our old house. I think this space may be difficult to decorate, but I will take my time, hoping it will evolve into something special. Trial and error.

It is fitting we moved in on a Sunday.  Hands down, the natural light is the best thing about our house.  Almost every space has a big window that lets the sun shine in.  It’s motivating.  It’s relaxing.  My feelings may also have to do with the fact that we live in Minnesota, and sunshine keeps the winter chill at bay.  Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at all of the snow left in the yard, it is now spring!


It’s April, and there’s still ice in the rink!


Sunset from the master bedroom. Mr. Golden Sun, see you tomorrow.

This Mod Move-in


It’s been two weeks since you have heard from me, and you might be wondering if I am still going to blog about our house project.  There’s too much fun stuff happening to stop now! (We’ve only really just begun…)  I pledge to get back to weekly updates, now that we have officially, albeit unceremoniously, 

MOVED-IN!!!  We finally made the move.  It had been 7 months (to the day) since we moved from our previous home to the apartment.  Those months were spent waiting to close on the new house (the first two), and then planning (the middle two) and beginning the renovation (the past three).  The week before we moved was busy with wrapping up the things that were most important for habitation:



The much-awaited countertops!


The counter installation took 3+ hours…..


There was sealing, clamping, shaving, cleaning…


And after all of that, I was left with one unfortunate, completely noticeable problem.

Yes, we have countertops, but my island top is really not okay.  The middle piece was chipped in fabrication, and I was not made aware until it was installed.  There was a two-hour attempt to make it better the next day, but it just doesn’t look right.  They are making another top to replace it.  Just a bit disappointed about all the wasted effort made to install a defective piece.  But very happy the company is going to make this right in the end!  

So, with the counter in, the plumber came to put in our kitchen faucet, and hook up the washing machine, a very necessary appliance for our family of 6.  Laundry is the bane of my existence!  At least I get a shiny newer front-loader to play with!  That’s the good news.  Unfortunately, like the counter-top install, all-is-not-well on the appliance front.  Here’s the story behind that:

Back in November, John (the architect) and I went appliance shopping.  We thought the Frigidaire Pro line of appliances had the right features and price-point for our project.  Done!  That was easy!  Well, flash-forward a few months, and the range didn’t fit my 30″ opening, as planned.  The Frigidaire range has a 31.5″ control panel that doesn’t allow it to be properly pushed back and blocks my drawers from opening.  An important detail missed by all.  Ugh. ugh. Ugh!  This detail led to a hefty restock fee, and another shopping trip.  In the end, I splurged on a Jenn-Air range that I love, and more important, it fits.  It came with a free matching dishwasher, which left me with an extra that the appliance shop would not take back.  So, if you or someone you know needs a dishwasher, it’s currently posted on craigslist!  As we speak, the new range is in it’s spot but not connected, and my new dishwasher is to be hooked up tomorrow.

This past week, our house was a workman-free zone, but Oh! was there work to do!  This is what the entry looked like the day after move-in:


O. M. G.

Two days in the house…


Still tripping over our stuff.


A welcome view out the window inspires, despite the sea of clutter. Click on this image to see the waving flag. It’s in the neighbor’s yard, but it seems this window was made to frame it.  Reminds me of my dad.

It has been an incredible week in our new home.  Love it to pieces. The windows allow light to saturate the spaces all day long!  There is a really relaxing vibe here, but there’s still lots left to do.  I will keep you posted!  Off to paint the master bathroom walls… 


Renovation Month #3 Begins


The work-zone.

We officially have had people working in our house for a full two months.  As you know, we are not yet living there.  It’s an ideal situation, in some regards.  We don’t have to be without the ability to cook.  We don’t have to move our stuff out of the way.  And when we want to get away from the action, we can head back to the apartment.  There are definite advantages to not living in a remodel zone.  But!  There is a major disadvantage to living off-site:  The house becomes merely a work-zone.  Void of all possessions and other signs of people living there, it is treated with a sort of disrespect that isn’t intentional, but apparent.  In recent days, I have been frustrated by the mess upon more mess.  I was okay with it before the brand new things started to get installed.  But, now we have a new wood floor, fresh painted walls, cabinetry, and new carpeting upstairs.  I feel like no one has noticed, and the dust continues to fly!   Last night I was at the house shop-vacing like a maniac, a bit horrified to find vast amounts of wood scraps, sawdust, and an occasional screw under the paper and cardboard, which was originally laid to protect the floor.  All it did was serve to say “No need to clean up!  There’s cardboard to make it all disappear!”  I was freaking out about not having control over this issue…..And I have brought my concerns up… Me: “Maybe we should reschedule the carpeting, considering there is still concrete to be poured in the laundry upstairs, and closets to be trimmed?”  Them: “Ah, it will be fine!” but it hasn’t really made a difference.  Oh well.  It’s hard, because the guys working on our place are so nice, and, you know, it’s hard to keep complaining!  I was at the house “working” most of today, but the real reason I was there was to make darn sure no one was wearing their dirty work boots upstairs!  Yes, the carpet survived, but there sure are a lot of dirty finger prints on my fresh-painted doors!  It’s a battle I won’t win, and anyway, once my four kids arrive, the house will be anything but pristine!   Hand-wipe anyone??

Some of the highlights of the past week:

My father-in law Dale transformed our upstairs bath vanities with a bit of wood filler and paint.  I will most definitely post “before and after” photos, but I haven’t gotten to the wall paint yet….Look for these in next week’s post!

LOVE my new carpet upstairs!


The Berg brothers after laying the green carpet pad.


Here’s my carpet! It’s all wool, low-pile. Love it!

Meanwhile in the basement…..


Ceiling tile goes up!

Despite feeling a little “left in the dust”, I still think very highly of our builder/project manager.  He’s a hard-worker, and more importantly, he has remained calm, cool, and collected throughout this process. My hero!

Late in the day, this was going on:


Flooring guy to the rescue! Tom has cleaned the floor (hasta la vista, filthy cardboard!), and prepares for the final coat he will apply tomorrow.

It’s official!  The movers are scheduled for 9am, March 16.  Hope I have time to touch base with you all before then!

Interior Painting: The Amateurs vs. The Pros

Where did the week go?  I guess I have been so busy with house stuff, the days seem to sneak past me!  To be honest, it had been 4 days since I last washed my hair (clean tonight)….But, ya know, with all of the sanding dust that flies around lately, it didn’t even get greasy.  Drywall dust just happens to be a fantastic oil-absorbing hair product!  So, what’s been happening this week, you ask?  What has been taking up each and every moment of my free time?  Painting!  It started with a crew of 3 (plus me) last weekend.


The Amateurs: From left, my hubby (roller man), my aunt (prep and priming expert), and my mom (cutting perfectionist).  This will be our teenage daughter’s room.  She likes this dusty violet we are using to cover the old white and lipstick pink walls.

Mom and Aunt B. put in a 10-hour first day, and a long second day. Hubby likes to roll like a bat outta hell (so there were some touch-ups necessary), but he was also on kid-duty most of the weekend, so I could be free to paint.  Soooo nice!  Before we started, there was a wallpaper border to come down in the boys’ room, some sanding and cleaning.  Mom got very well-acquainted with the shop-vac those 2 days…(Sorry for your sore back, Mom!)  We got first-coats on the 3 upstairs bedrooms.  YAY!  We did a light gray-blue in the boys’ room, light gray-violet in daughter’s, and I chose a warm gray for the master (also fairly light).


Master bedroom, end of Day #2.

Most days this week, I toiled (happily) away at the second coats in the three bedrooms.  Time flies when your hand has a paintbrush in it!  Of course, there were other people in the house, and periodic distractions concerning the project (all good!), but mostly, my days were quiet and enjoyable.  My love of this house grows with every little improvement!

Yesterday, the last of the really messy stuff (more dust) was happening.


Jeremy and Joe were my compadres at the house yesterday.


This is Big Joe, completing some carpentry work.  I heard he worked a 12-hour day, to get all the little things (baseboards, door trims, etc.) done before the pro painters arrive.


Poor Jeremy got the short straw. He spent all morning removing staples from the back of the stair treads.


Not easy! These stairs better be worth it!

The professional painters started today.  I painted upstairs while they prepped everything.  We’re talking hours and hours of putting up plastic and taping.  The “Amateurs” did no such thing.  We were just careful….(And we didn’t use a sprayer.)


Greg covering the stairs (those stairs again!). All of the wood-work of the stairwell is getting painted white, but the treads, those frustrating treads, are getting sanded and stained dark, like a natural walnut color.


Danny starts priming some new closet doors. That’s when I left for the day.


Couldn’t resist sharing a pic of my kitchen so far.  Still missing a few things…okay, a lot of things, but hopefully this will all come together in the next two weeks!

More painting to come by another crew, this weekend.  My father-in-law just retired, selling his decorating company, last year.  So you know what that means!  He has time and talent, and he will be coming to spruce up the upstairs bathrooms with fresh coats on the vanities and walls.  I will be his assistant, and maybe work on other upstairs hall trim too.  Carpeting is scheduled for next Wednesday, so it would be super great to be done with all things needing paint before then!

Ikea Delivery Drama

Having chosen ikea cabinetry for our remodel has been, how can I say it… a learning experience.  It hasn’t been an easy, straight-forward process, and Monday morning, I was a serious doubter (for about 30 minutes).  An hour later than expected, the truck carrying the contents of our kitchen, couldn’t make it up the incline half-way up our driveway.  The driver made several attempts at a running start, with no luck.  I thought they were close to giving up, and then the truck veered off the cleared drive, and into the deep snow.  They were stuck.  Half-way up.  My heart sank.  I thought we were going to have a delivery truck blocking the driveway until the spring thaw!  Here’s a visual for you:


My kitchen project depends on getting this truck up the driveway. The tree miraculously was unharmed. That would have been a bummer!

Here’s another view of the truck’s location:


You can see headlights reflecting on the glare ice.  We can’t leave to get some sand, so we search the garage for something that could help provide some traction.

And one more photo for ya:


Yay! After about 30 minutes of shoveling, snow-blowing, and the traction from a large piece of plywood, the truck breaks free of the snow! Oh, yeah, we also sacrificed a West Elm jute rug, and here you see it on a second mission to cover the iciest portion. It was only a 5×8, and dirty anyway, so no tears involved. Just glad it got my kitchen to its destination!!

I applaud the delivery guys for never giving up.  I seriously thought they were just going to back up, and get the heck outta there, leaving me high and dry.  Had they not made it up the ice, it would have been a huge undertaking to cart the boxes the rest of the way on foot.  You could barely walk!  So, it all turned out okay, and my kitchen install commenced as soon as the truck pulled away!  Here’s what that looked like:


Ikea kitchen delivered. Whoo-hoo!

A little side note about the planned installation:

I was not satisfied with the Ikea installation company (out of Chicago) who bid the project over $5,000, and could not accommodate my requested dates.  So, I searched online, and found a guy who advertised installing ikea kitchens, and called him up.  He came the next day, and prepared a bid that night.  He appeared confident and said he had done something like 25 ikea kitchens, even having worked a stint with Ikea, until he started his own business.  And!  He could start work my preferred week.  Jay, our builder, just suggested I make sure he is insured, and he promptly provided that information.  Sweet!  His name is John J. and he and his partner have been doing a fantastic job!

Here’s how things were shaping up on the first day of the install:


John and Brendan at the end of Install Day #1. Great start!

Yesterday, John (architect) and Jay (builder), spent time addressing a few minor issues that came up during the install.


Install Day #2:  Sharing ideas…


Early afternoon of Day #3 (today). It’s really taking shape! I think it’s going to be awesome!

I know I have probably exhausted you with all these photos, but here’s just three more:


This is Brendan, working on the few base cabinets we are installing in the basement. (See that painted floor? I did that last week!)


And this has been my project this week. Removing staples left from the carpeting on the stairs is not a job for the faint-at-heart. About an hour per step, with a screwdriver and pliers. It basically sucks (as my 9-year-old would say).


Here’s the back side, where the tiny staples (a real bear to get out) were used on 2+ carpeting forays.

Thanks for taking a look at some of the highlights of the week.  So much is happening, and we have unofficially set a move-in date of March 8.  Yowza!  It’s going to be busy!