Finding Fabric (for Chairs)

I last left you by teasing a project I was working on in the dining room to take it from “for now” to “forever.” Well, that project is updating my grandparents’ dining room set chairs. Specifically, upholstering the seat cushions. They must have gotten the set in the 60’s, the green tweed-like fabric being very reminiscent of that era.

I loved the lines of the chairs, but I knew they needed a fabric facelift.

My, my, my – there are a TON of fabric options out there. I looked on pinterest and so many bloggers had lists of where they bought fabric, both in retail stores and online. Some bloggers used shower curtains or regular curtains in fabrics they loved for their projects. I must have looked at hundreds upon hundreds of fabrics to try to pick one for our dining room chairs. It’s overwhelming the number of choices!

If I felt this way, I’m sure there are others who do too. So, I’m going to try to  describe my decision making process, and enlist your help too. For me, step one was eliminating fabric you can only purchase online. I’m sure buying over the internet works for a lot of people, but I’m not one of them. I can’t tell true colors, I have no way of knowing how big/small the patterns are, and I have a really hard time visualizing how the fabric will look in the room with all the other furniture and decor. Online only fabrics – eliminated!

Next, I looked at JoAnn Fabrics. I’ll admit, I started looking at fabrics online, but knew I’d be paying a visit to the store to see the fabric in person before buying. I found a ton of options, and that’s where you, my loyal readers, come in. I’ve put together a little rendering of the CB2 rug we plan to keep,  the dining room set, and small swatches of all the fabrics I’m pondering. Warning: there are a lot.

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As you can tell, I’m having trouble even nailing down a color. Orange would tie the dining room in with the living room, which has subtle orange accents in the rug, a side table, and a tray on the coffee table. Greys, yellows, and blues are found throughout the house, so those are possible colors to use too. I think the hardest thing is picking a fabric that doesn’t clash with the bright, busy rug. I’ve also been considering using 60’s style fabric, like the sample in the bottom left of the graphic. Does it work? Is it too period specific? Because I had so many options to mull, I had to make another graphic to even more of my choices!

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I think I really like the orange options, but I’m worried they don’t work with the color of the table and chairs. The wood has underlying warm tones, so I’m wondering if I should pick a fabric that is more neutral or even cool toned.  I tried to stay away from fabrics that had too much white in them, for fear they would get dirty quickly, but other than that, it seems like I’m lost.

To make things more complicated, I’ve started looking at curtains from Target and Kohls. Believe it or not, I’m finding curtains to be quite a cost effective options. Two 84 inch panels come in around $25. Some of the fabrics I’ve been sifting through are $20ish per yard! I estimate needing about 3 yards of fabric for this project (about half a yard per chair), and will likely need extra for mistakes. So, panels may be the cheaper route. So far, I’ve order three different sets of curtains. Two were already vetoed, and one is still in the running.

With so many choices, I just can’t commit! Blog friends, I pose this question to you: Which fabric should we pick? Or, in the alternative, what do you think we should consider in our fabric choice?

Bringing Back the Formal Dining Room

I love me a formal dining room with a big table. I know many people repurpose their dining room into an office or a playroom these days, but not me. Long tables remind me of the large family dinner gatherings my Nonna would host for us twice a week (every Sunday and Wednesday!). And now, I love having dinner parties or even potlucks at our house for our friends. There’s just something about sharing food together in a warm and cozy space that makes me happy.

For as much love as I have for dining rooms in general, I never shared ours with you blog folks. I think it was because the space always felt like it was in a transition. We moved in to a drab, stained carpet-covered dining room that had old fashioned (not in a good way) iron scroll railings, heavy, overbearing curtains, and a dusty, never been cleaned chandelier that even the boldest color of spray paint couldn’t salvage.

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Pretty sad, huh?

As with the other rooms of the house, we tore down the curtains, pulled up all the carpet, sanded and stained the wood floor, gave the room a fresh coat of paint, and painted all the trim white. We also added a more modern banister to separate the living room and dining room. And, as you can probably guess, the old chandelier was taken down, which made way for an industrial-looking light fixture from Ikea.

We transferred our small, apartment-sized dining room table and chairs from the old place, and found a craigslisted CB2 rug we both loved to hang out underneath it. And that’s how the space has sat since move in day.

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I know, it looks fine, but to us, this was a temporary fix. I always wanted that big dining room table in my childhood memories, and this was just not going to do.

We have started to do some work in here to spruce things up. I already shared the update we did to my grandparents’ credenza, which lives on the near side of the room. We ordered a new light fixture, and Dan and my dad moved the dining room set that matches the credenza into the house. Right now, the dining room is in disarray, but I’m hoping we’ll finish up a big project in there this week and I can share a room reveal soon.

$22 New Address Plaque

As you may have guessed from the long kitchen remodel series I posted, when we first moved into our house, our attention was mainly focused on the inside. Tearing down wallpaper, painting, ripping up carpet, refinishing the floors, remodeling the kitchen, and updating a half bath all took priority over anything outside.

But, we did do one small project for the outside within just a couple months of moving into our home. I realized I never shared it. We updated our address plaque for only $22!

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The old plaques (yes, plural – there were two) we old and rather ugly looking. I tend to love cool MCM stuff, but these were MCM in a bad way. Still, we wanted to maintain some of the MCM vibe, so I started looking for numbers that fit the era of our home. I found these light up numbers that I loved, but I didn’t love the $57 per number price tag. These numbers from Design within Reach were better priced, but still a bit more than I wanted to pay at $27 a piece. I found some numbers on etsy at a more reasonable $10 per number, but they only came in white or black (I wanted silver), and they were plastic. It seemed like I’d never find what I needed at a reasonable price.

Enter Home Depot. Yes, Home Depot. I was really surprised to see a Home Depot link come up in my google search of “modern house numbers,” but I clicked anyways. The link brought me to exactly what I was looking for! And at only $5.47 a piece, the numbers were certainly budget friendly. I was in luck, they had all four numbers I needed in stock at my local Home Depot.

My wonderful husband, Dan, took time away from all the remodeling to make the new address plaque for me. He took a piece of pallet wood (I keep an old pallet behind our shed so the wood can weather and be used for projects), and cut it down to fit the space. He stained it (Jacobean by Minwax), sealed it, and then screwed in the numbers. He surprised me by finishing the plaque while I was out, and had it hanging on the house when I returned.

It’s a small outside update, but I’m glad we took the time to do it. The curb appeal definitely went up a notch or two with this project.

Backyard Fire Pit

With it being just the midpoint of unofficial summer (but only being about a week into the actual summer season), I thought I’d share the fire pit area we created.

When we moved in, our backyard consisted of a concrete patio, some bushes, and a fairly large (for the area) nondescript backyard.

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There was a lot of white rock and bushes which cut the patio off from the rest of the backyard. Add to that an unkempt,pretty random rosebush, and a built in non-working gas grill and you can see the previous owner must not have cared too much about her outdoor space.

I’ll cut to the chase – Dan pulled out the bushes, rose bush, and grill, got rid of all the white stones, and planted sod up to the patio.

The fire pit area planning had us leaning toward installing square pieces of concrete, with grass peaking through the squares, rather than pouring a new cement patio. We began looking for big concrete squares, but were surprised to have so much trouble finding any at a reasonable price. Eventually, we ended up going with these from Menard’s for about $10/square. I didn’t love the diamond non-skid pattern, but am actually really liking them now.

Putting them in wasn’t at all an easy or fun task. Full credit for installation goes to Dan. He dug down, removed grass, lined up the squares, and made it look beautiful. Here’s how the backyard looks now.

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I really like the two separate sitting areas. We do use the section with the table and chairs more often, but when we do use the fire pit, I love having the Adirondack chairs there (which Dan made from these plans and I painted) in their own space. Not too long ago, we had some friends over to roast s’mores. Dan got the fire going and I put out the cute outdoor pillows I bought from Target.

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It’s been super rainy this June, but I’m hoping for better, s’more making weather for the rest of summer.

 

What You Need to Know When Remodeling a Kitchen Yourself

This post isn’t meant to scare you off from a DIY kitchen remodel, it’s to prepare you for what’s in store if you do.

Remember, we were able to turn this kitchen

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into this.

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If we could do it, you can do it too. I’m hoping this post will give you the basics on how to go about planning a kitchen remodel, or at least, give you some good ideas on how to start your renovation.

Before we re-did our kitchen, I scoured pinterest and all the home decorating blogs I knew to see if there was some definitive list of what to do, in order, for a remodel. Most of what I found was something to the effect of: 1. Set a budget. 2. Hire a contractor. I knew we wouldn’t have a  general contractor to walk us through the process, but I needed the steps to do broken down for me.

I never really found a good list of to-do’s, so I thought I would help you guys out by making a list of my own, based on what worked and what didn’t in our own remodel.

1. Look at A LOT of pictures of kitchens.

Go on pinterest. Read home magazines. Search real estate listings. You will want to know what you like and what you don’t. I’m a visual person, and have trouble imagining how something would look in my head. Seeing images of different kitchen options was crucial in deciding what I liked best.

2. Decide how big of a remodeling job you’re willing to take on.

Are you taking the walls down to studs or are you adding a backsplash? If your cabinets are in great shape, but you hate knotty pine, maybe you refinish the cabinets and get new countertops. Or, if you kitchen still has goldenrod appliances, like ours did, maybe it’s time to bring the kitchen into this decade.

3. Set a budget, knowing you will almost certainly go higher.

There’s your real budget, and what you will actually spend. The two are rarely the same. I would suggest being completely realistic about your budget, and allowing yourself an extra cushion at the top, once you’ve priced everything out. I debated whether #3 should be setting a budget or starting your research, but the two go hand in hand. How can you set a max budget without knowing how much new cabinets cost? Believe me, cabinets can wildly vary in price. My suggestion would be to set your budget for the whole kitchen, but understand that as you get more into the phase of picking out materials, that your budget may have to shift.

4. Research everything.

Visit at least three cabinet shops. Same goes for all of the big buys – countertops, flooring, even furniture. You want to have a good handle on what’s out there and what’s available to you. For me, this was one of the hardest steps because I’m the kind of person that wants to have all the information possible before making any decisions. A few times, I felt stunted from the sheer amount of options. That’s when you have to just stop your research and go with what you already know.

5. Decide on all the big items and where they will go before you even remove one old cabinet door.

This is completely where we went wrong. We destroyed the entire kitchen without having a game plan in place for the items we would need. All this does is leave you kitchen-less, and in our case, we were sans kitchen for close to four long months. Please, learn from my mistake and know what you need! This also includes any lighting you want to move. Don’t forget the lights!

6. Understand there is an order of how things are installed.

You can’t order the countertop if you haven’t decided where you appliances will go. There is a distinct order of how items are put in to a new kitchen. This part applied to us because we gutted the space, but if you’re ordering any new item, you will definitely want to see where in the installation order it goes. Here’s how it worked for us: Floors first. Then cabinets. Next, install the appliances. Finally, order your countertop (you’ll need to have a sink picked out before ordering). Everything else, in my opinion, is peripheral. You can use a kitchen if the backsplash isn’t up. You can switch out a pendant light later. Focus on the main items that will get you a working kitchen ASAP.

Make sure you have what’s needed for the next step. If you do, you won’t have a long gap in work, like we had.

7. Realize a remodel is a process.

Like I said at the beginning of the post, we’re STILL working on the kitchen. Not everyday and certainly not as difficult of projects, but we’re still working to customize the space, making it into a room we love for our home. I read somewhere that no room in a home is ever “finished,” it’s always evolving into an even greater space.

And there you have it – our kitchen renovation journey. I’ve tried to chronicle it all from demolition day to our current 95% finished kitchen. I hope that by the end of Kitchen-palozza 2015, you are convinced that you too can update the old kitchen you’ve been wanting to re-do for years.

 

I’ll end this kitchen series with a final thought. The kitchen is the heart of the home. Guests will congregate there to grab a tasty appetizer or to freshen up their glass of wine. I’ll make blueberry pancakes there while Dan gets the coffee going a few feet away. You will absolutely be using your kitchen every day. Make it into a space you love.

It’s the Little Things

You thought the kitchen posts were finished, didn’t you? Nope.

I wanted to share with you the easiest way to save money on your kitchen remodel – bargain shop the finishes!

We identified the areas of the remodel where we thought we could save some money, and looked for low-cost options.

1. Lighting.

Our industrial lighting, the three pendant lights, and the big drum light over the pedestal table (not shown) are all from Ikea. The little guys were $14.99 each and the large one was $19.99. The small fan with a light over the island is a Hunter Orb fan that retails for about $150, but we found it at a thrift store for about $10.

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So, for around $75 + the cost of retrofitting the fan to what we liked (new light), we lit our whole kitchen. Maybe down the line we’ll switch out the Ikea lights, but even if we do, I think we still came out ahead by choosing inexpensive lighting during the remodeling phase.

2. Kitchen furniture.

All the furniture we have in our kitchen is second hand. You saw how we acquired and re-did the pedestal table, got a great deal on tabouret chairs, and painted the island.

We even purchased an additional display cabinet via craigslist for $90 not too long ago.

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I’m loving the extra storage, and I finally found a home for all my cookbooks.

3.  Hardware.

We knew we wanted stainless steel bars as hardware, but quickly discovered how expensive it was. We went to Home Depot and purchased a few different cabinet pulls in different sizes. Our plan was to bring them home, hold them up to the cabinets, and decide what sizes we liked best. Well, for the cabinets, we liked the over 6 inch long pull, which cost almost $10 a piece!

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Yikes! I did some research, and was able to find a similar, slightly larger pull, for $2 a piece! Sure, you had to purchase 25, bringing the total price to $50, but since we needed 13 of the pulls, it was way cheaper buying in bulk. We do have some extras, and that came in handy when we bought the kitchen cabinet and changed out the hardware and used three of the extra pulls. Always shop around for hardware. Unless you’re obsessed with something that’s really, really unique, you can probably find it cheaper online, especially on Overstock.

4. Sinks and faucets.

Overstock and Amazon are your best bets here. I was fairly set on the kind of sink I wanted: stainless steel for easy cleaning, and as big as I could get for the space. I bake a lot, and I hate having my cookie sheets soaking on the counter. They get bumped, and water goes everywhere.

The sink we went with is a 32 inch undermount. We bought it on sale, had a coupon code, and got free shipping, so it came out to around $250 or so. When our counter guy was over measuring, he asked to see the sink. When I showed it to him, he commented that it was a great sink and asked where I got it. He said he sells the same one for about $500 at his store. I think he might be sourcing his sinks from Overstock now.

5. Accessories.

Definitely have fun, personal items in the kitchen, but don’t break the bank. The runner I use for a rug by the sink was $10 from Urban Outfitters. The old timey scale is a $12 thrift store find during a birthday road trip to Michigan and the pineapple on top is a spray painted candle holder from a thrift store near our old apartment.

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A yellow owl timer I keep on the stove is a birthday gift from a dear friend. The vintage cutting board I have displayed on the stand-alone cabinet was my grandmother’s. The accents are fun, some have sentimental value, and they all help make the kitchen more inviting, playful, and less like a sterile space solely for food prep.

 

Well guys, this kitchen remodel series has been a fun ride. I have some bad news though – there’s only one post left! Check back in for my last renovation post where I’ll take you through a timeline of how you can DIY your own remodel as quickly and as pain-free as possible.

Let There Be (Under Cabinet) Lights

I always thought under cabinet lights would be nice to have, but it wasn’t a “must” for me when we were designing our kitchen. My house growing up didn’t have under cabinet lights, and neither did our apartment. I mean, how dark could the counter really be? Well, usually, not too dark at all. But, there was one corner where the mixer lived that did get pretty dark. I think the light just didn’t have a great path to that one corner. It made late night cake baking (which oddly happens more than you would think) a bit of a challenge.

I mentioned this to Dan, and he immediately went into planning mode to install some lighting. Here’s the end result:

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To start, Dan did his research to figure out what he would need. He decided to order these supplies:

4 20 inch strips

1 12 inch strip

2 power supplies

2 3 foot connectors

Dan picked a plug in system that all linked together with mini USB connectors. We also had some outlets behind the cabinets already, which certainly made the job easier, but involved a lot of drilling. Plus, we had always planned for eventually adding the lights, so when we ordered the cabinets, we also ordered light rail. The light rail basically hides the lights from being seen, as they fall reach lower down than the lights. The rail had been sitting in our garage since the cabinets were delivered, just waiting until we finally got to this lighting project.

I’m glad I wasn’t home when Dan drilled into our new, all wood, expensive cabinets to connect the power cord to the lighting. I would have had a panic attack! What if the hole wasn’t drilled correctly? We couldn’t ruin our new kitchen already.

Luckily, Dan worked like an old pro getting the wiring figured out and attaching the lights and wire under the cabinet with some staples. He put in two light switches – each on the front rightmost side of two of the cabinets, which makes the switches really easy to reach.

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The only downside was the light rail makes the mixer fit pretty snuggly in its little corner there. I can’t just pull the mixer out to use it anymore; instead, I have to sort of tilt it to get it out from underneath the cabinets. We talked about installing some kind of mixer lift, but I’m not sold on that solution yet. I would have to give up a cabinet, and that may not be a sacrifice I’m willing to make just yet.

Even with the unforeseen mixer difficulties, I’m still extremely happy with our roughly $150 (not including light rail) under cabinet light upgrade.