The Tub Lady

The other day I got a text from my brother which contained a screenshot of a text he had recently received from a friend of his, asking him to ask me to write a Fawn Log post. Never before has a text screenshot so delighted me!

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This post is for Charlie’s friend Anna. (Sorry it’s about our bathroom, Anna).

Back in the heady months after we bought the house but had still not moved in, I wrote several posts about our bathroom progress. You can refresh your memory here, here, and here.

To recap, this room was a disaster. The wallpaper was water damaged and falling off the walls, the wood floor was rotting through in several places, and the entire room just felt super dirty and disgusting. Oh, and also the entire plumbing system for the house was in terrible shape and turning on the water main caused the bathroom sink to leak copious amounts of water into a handy bucket that the former owner had left behind.

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note red bucket in lower right

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Our first step was getting all the plumbing for the entire house replaced. This seems like a really big deal, doesn’t it? Fortunately this is one of those home renovation things that sounds scarier than it was. If I’m remembering right, it took the plumber just a day, maybe two. I don’t remember the exact cost but I know it was less than $1,000. (Tony wants me to say that he thinks it was closer to $1,500.) Now our plumbing works great! And if we ever sell this place, we’ll put on the listing, “ALL NEW PLUMBING” and buyers will be lining up around the block, right?

While he was here, we also had the plumber run a line for the shower up the wall of the bathroom, so that we wouldn’t need to use a rickety free-standing shower attachment with our clawfoot tub. I talked about how we repaired the wall after that plumbing job here.

Because the wood floor was in such crummy shape here in the bathroom, we decided to tile over it. We chose hexagonal tile because it could have been used at the time period when this house was built. Also we love how it looks.  We priced a bunch of hex tile and found American Olean at Lowe’s to be the cheapest. It was still a splurge at roughly $300 for the room, but as a permanent fixture in the bathroom, it seemed like a worthwhile expense. (One note: we had to special order this tile, and Lowe’s didn’t have any samples for us to look at. The tile color is called “Ice White” which scared us. Ice White sounds like it would be a very cool blue-ish white, right? When I think of hex tile at old drugstores, I don’t think of blue-ish white at all. We eventually ended up ordering it anyway despite our misgivings about the name. It was totally perfect when it arrived, exactly how I picture old hex tile: true white with just a hint of warmth. If you’re reading this, American Olean, I would highly recommend changing your tile name to Drugstore White or Classic White or any name that does not evoke the icy tundra.)

The wall mount sink was pretty amazing, and there’s a part of me that still regrets not trying to save it. The porcelain had chipped in many areas and it leaked profusely. Also, it was an old style sink with hot and cold handles, which seemed like something that would be fun and whimsical in a bathroom we didn’t plan to use every day, but a real pain in the ass otherwise. Furthermore, since it was a wall-mount, there was no storage underneath. For a small bathroom, in a small house, this seemed almost criminal. We decided to donate it to Home Restore, and I sincerely hope that someone with a little-used but impeccably decorated half bathroom is now its proud owner

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To replace it, we got this sink and cabinet from Ikea:

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I liked the bead board look on the cabinet door a lot, because I think it has a slight vintage feel. We enhanced that by replacing the original cabinet knob with a bigger wooden knob that we took off an old dresser. I really like this cabinet.

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I’m also super proud of the fact that I assembled it and mounted it to the wall by myself. That was actually the first time I ever found a wall stud. What business did I have buying an inhabitable house, having never once found a wall stud on my own? None at all, I tell you!

We didn’t use the feet because they’re not necessary and we didn’t like how they looked. Also, there’s something about a floating cabinet with vintage elements that seems especially cool to me.

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The tub is Tony’s masterpiece. It was his idea to paint the outside black, which I thought was crazy at first. But he was so right. Look at it! Look at it! It is probably my favorite part of the whole house, and maybe also my life. I love baths and fancy bath salts now!

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The bathtub was in great shape for being over 100 years old. It’s made of cast iron and is incredibly heavy (Tony and I moved it into the bathroom together after we tiled and I have no idea how we both avoided hernias). It did have a chip in the porcelain that was probably 2.5″ in diameter. We could have used it with the chip, but it wouldn’t have been good for the cast iron over the long term. We found a guy here in town who makes tub repairs and he patched the spot for us for around $100. It’s not a permanent fix– it will likely need to be repaired again in 5-10 years– but we’re happy to have extended the life of this amazing tub.

The strangest part of the whole deal was that the name of the repair guy’s business is Tub Lady. After booking an appointment with Tub Lady, we were surprised when a middle-aged man dressed according to expected gender norms arrived at our door. I guess he started the business with his wife and she answers the phones, but he does all of the repair work and is the public face of the business. If Tony and I ever start a home renovation business, I will make sure that we name it Home Renovation Lady. I never would have realized that was an option until our encounter with Tub Lady!

We got our shower head and arm off Amazon. Again, I like that they have a more modern feel that I hope mixes in an interesting way with the historical elements of the bathroom.

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When we take a shower, we pull the curtain all the way around so that our tub looks like this:

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Moving on to the shelves above the toilet.

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Kate gave us one of those cute bathroom baskets for our wedding (thanks Kate!) and we ended up liking it so much we bought a second one. They’re from Target, but I don’t see them on the website anymore, bummer. They’ve been a super useful way to add a bit more storage to the bathroom.

I’ll admit that we went a little crazy on the towel rack and toilet paper holder. We used these curtain rods from Ikea throughout the house, and we thought they would be cool to tweak for towel and toilet paper use:

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The crazy part came when someone (Tony) got a little obsessive (Tony) and decided that the little strip of white plastic that holds the short part of the rod to the wall was unsightly (Tony). We fixed this by actually removing part of the plaster wall, affixing the plastic piece to the lath behind the plaster, and then repairing the wall around it. This makes it look like the towel rack and toilet paper holder are just coming straight out of the wall. I can admit now that this is cool and looks great (it may or may not have have taken me several months of patient reflection to reach this level of maturity about this issue).

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Grace and Phil gave us that photograph of the now-demolished Cat & Fiddle a long time ago. Thanks Grace and Phil!

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Look ma, no plastic!

For the window, Tony got this pebbled glass cut to the right size and then we installed it. We don’t need curtains for the top of the window (it’s too tall for anyone outside to see anything exciting through there) but sometimes I think we should install some. What do you think?

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As I’ve bragged about on this blog before, this amazing ceiling light fixture came with the house.

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Before

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After

I don’t think it’s original to the house, but it is very old. Based on my google image searching of other light fixture with crystal like that, I would guess that it’s from the 1920’s.

We got this cool light fixture above the mirror at a creepy junk shop in town. I think it matches really well with the other fixture.

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It was $5! It’s from the 1930’s. We want to get Edison bulbs for it someday, but we haven’t yet.

In other things still left to do: the mirror is just a cheap generic one from Ikea. We want to find a cool vintage one, but vintage mirrors are expensive and hard to come by. We’re keeping our eye out.

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We also need to install the last bit of trim around the perimeter of the room. Here’s what our trim looks like in other finished rooms:

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Note that teeny piece around the bottom.

Adding this in the bathroom will hide some of our sloppy tile work around the edges of the room.

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We also need to finish stripping our bathroom door.

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Before

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In the middle

This door is so cool and old, and we’d love to be able to strip it down to the original wood and then stain and polyurethane it. You can see how amazing the original wood looks on the bottom half. Can you imagine how cool that would look if stained a medium dark tone? The problem is twofold: one, stripping paint is incredibly tedious and two, guests expect a bathroom door when they come over to our house (so high maintenance!). We’ve taken this door off and put it back on so many times. We’re either going to finish stripping it soon or we’re going to give up and repaint the whole thing.

I’m impressed that I’ve kept this post to just over 1,800 words, because I really could talk about our bathroom forever. I never thought I’d get to live in a house with a bathroom this cool, and it’s still amazing to me that we basically made it into what it is by ourselves.

I’ll leave you with one last before and after. Love you, bathroom! Love you, Anna!

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Before

 

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After

Posted in Bathroom | 5 Comments

The Redwood Forest

One home renovation truism you often hear is that it takes longer than you expect. This has been true for Tony and I in very concrete ways. For example, we planned to be able to be able to move into our house in July and didn’t actually move in until October. But it’s also been true in a way that I didn’t anticipate, which has more to do with emotion than the well-meaning Lowe’s people will ever admit.

Something happens when you spend a lot of late nights in a room peeling wallpaper, or patching old plaster walls, or installing trim. Invest that much time and energy in a place, and a room becomes an old but fickle friend.  It’s not annoyance you feel when you find mold beneath the window, it’s empathy. When the top layer of plaster crumbles away from the wall with the wallpaper, it’s hard not to take it personally. You catch yourself thinking: “Why is the foyer acting this way?”

When you get that close to a room, you understand that there isn’t an end point. You and the room may achieve some sort of evolution together, but you’ll know that the effect is transitory. The ten layers of wallpaper you’ve removed speak to that: this room was here long before you and it will be here after you. You bear only temporary witness to these four walls. The room is the Redwood Forest, and you are the awe-struck tourist coming to terms with your own insignificance.

This is a lovely realization. When you come to it, you understand that you will never “finish” a room.

Having found myself in that place recently, I didn’t know what to do with Fawn Log. I wanted to show before and afters, but how could I when I’d decided  that “after” is a false narrative? My temporary solution was just to not write anything, but I’m starting to miss showing off our beautiful house to the internet. My new solution is to screw the after, and instead aim to show you some things in between as I feel like it.

Without further ado, here are some pictures of my Redwood Forest, the foyer.

The foyer on the day we closed on the house, May 15, 2015:

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The foyer on the day we found the brick wallpaper under the floral wallpaper on the west wall (a few days before our wedding on June 6, 2015):

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The foyer on the day after we found the actual brick under the brick wallpaper, September 6, 2015:

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The foyer on the first of several days we spent sanding all the wood floors, September 13th, 2015:

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The foyer with finished floor, October 11, 2015:

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The foyer on the day we sanded all the walls because of the aforementioned top-layer-of-plaster-crumbling-off-with-wallpaper problem, the day before my 28th birthday, December 5th, 2015:

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Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 9.08.12 PMThe foyer on the day I wrote this blog post, January 20, 2016:

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It’s not finished by a long shot, but we like where it’s going.

 

Posted in foyer | 5 Comments

Scenes from the kitchen

We moved into our new house and it’s everything I hoped it would be and more. In news that will shock no one, we’re extremely proud of this place. Like, I don’t think we would be any prouder if we lived in a legit castle, unless maybe we had renovated the castle painstakingly over the last five months or something. And even then, a castle really seems like it would be too big for two people, right? And a little bit showy, eh? Okay then, it’s settled: we prefer our current house to a castle.

We’ve still got many things to unpack, and lots of renovation still to tackle, and a crazy back porch nightmare I will continue only alluding to on this blog, for fear of scaring off my many hordes of readers. But we’re in! We’re here! All is right with the world!

What I’d really like to do with this post is show you photos of the several rooms that are closest to being done: the bathroom, the bedroom, and the closet. But I won’t do that because isn’t it more exciting to see a final reveal when we’re actually done with those rooms, rather than see a nearly finished series of photos and then the final reveal? I’ve recently considered getting a Fawn Log instagram for this very reason: I could post more in-between photos without the weight of a full blog post reveal. Do people reading this use instagram? Do you want to hear from me more or less? Let me know what you think in the comments, if you want.

I’m hoping that we’ll have finished some/most of those rooms within a few weeks, and then I can post a final reveal of the bathroom, for instance, and you all will just type-scream with enthusiasm for our refinished clawfoot tub. I took a bath in it for real last night and just about died from happiness.

In lieu of that fun stuff, though, let’s talk about our half-finished kitchen. Given my last several posts, I understand if you’re completely sick of hearing about our floors. But bear with me for the next few boring paragraphs, because I must share.

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But first! Floor plan.

As I mentioned last time, we made the bold decision to paint our kitchen floor white. We used flat finish Oxford White (the same paint we’ve used on all the walls) and applied three coats. Then, we used a water based polyurethane in a satin finish to seal it. We also applied three coats of the poly, sanding lightly between each to remove any specks of dust or hair. This “poly then sand” process was much easier on the regular wood floors, because minuscule bits of dust aren’t visible and therefore kind of NBD on bare wood floors. But on a white floor, every little non-white molecule stands out in full relief. It was easy to get a little obsessive about it, not that Tony and I ever obsess about house projects /sarcasm. Ultimately we finished with a final poly coat and, after a day of dry time, the floor was ready to go.

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I really like the look of it. The lines between the boards are quite evident, as is the wood grain in certain light. It doesn’t look like a flat white surface, it look like badass wood floor painted white. This is exactly what we wanted, and I think it very much fits with the old farmhouse feel of the house. It also looks great against the medium tone wood of the rest of the house, in our opinion.

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The obvious downside is, of course, that it is a monstrous pain in the ass to keep clean. If you walk on it with shoes, for instance, it immediately looks dirty. Even if you walk on it with socks, as Tony and I try to do, it still gets pretty dang gross. This is not helped by the fact that the kitchen opens up into the crazy, aforementioned back porch where we currently keep many of our house tools. There’s a lot maddening back and forth from a place that is gross and weird (back porch) to a place with gleaming white floors. [Are you guys getting excited to see pictures of the back porch in a future post or what?!]

Sweeping helps to a certain extent, but doesn’t remove all visible dirt. I’ve so far addressed this with my new favorite cleaning tool, this mop from Target. It works a little like a Swiffer, except that the cleaning pad is microfiber and reusable (it can be removed, washed, and put back on). The squirt bottle is also removable and can be used to dispense any cleaning product you want. I filled it with a little bit of white vinegar and a lot of water. It’s easy to use, and the kitchen is tiny, so I’ve just been sweeping and mopping the dirty spots every night. Is that insane? I don’t mind it so far, but it’s only been four nights.

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Some parts of the internet say that a water and vinegar cleaning solution is bad for hardwood floors, so I feel somewhat conflicted by this cleaning method. Tony’s mom, Kathy, bought us Bona wood cleaner, which I’m excited to use on the rest of the floors. I’d prefer to save this fancy stuff for the floors I will mop significantly less obsessively, but maybe I should be using it on the kitchen, too. If there are any hardwood experts reading this, SOS I need you to tell me how I should be cleaning in the comments! [For all the non-hardwood floor cleaning experts, I’m so sorry for subjecting you to two paragraphs of information about floor cleaning].

Occupying the small fraction of my brain that is apparently capable of thinking about something beyond floors, I’m thoroughly enjoying our new gas stove. (gas stove! so fancy!) We price compared all over the place and found our favorite (/the cheapest) at Ikea. Ikea’s appliances are made by Whirlpool, and they get generally good reviews online, and like most of Ikea’s stuff they’re cute. I am thrilled to report that we broke it in classic Ruzicka style: heating up butter for our popcorn. We’ve since used it to make actual meals, too, and it’s working great so far.

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We’re planning to strip all the doors back to the original wood, hence the incongruous door. But don’t you kind of love the new vs. old that’s happening here? We do.

We considered buying a fridge from Ikea, but we ended up finding a better deal at Home Depot. It’s a fridge, it works, we like it.

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Our eventual plan is to make these appliance look and feel more built in. We hope to add two small cabinets on either side of the stove. One of those will be the designated pan spot, with an inside like this. I don’t know what the other side will store yet, but something good. It’s going to be really handy to have a couple places to set a pot or a cutting board. Also, Charlie and Matt got us this Ikea kitchen cart, which we still need to assemble and put in the middle of the room. Beautiful and handy wedding present!

For the fridge, we hope to add some type of pantry/food storage spot. Maybe we’ll scoot the fridge out from the wall a bit and add some sort of roll out pantry.

Please note that while I’m saying “we” here, the building will be up to carpenter Tony. I prefer to use the royal we when talking about the house, because it makes me feel much more accomplished.

This is all pie-in-the-sky stuff for now, because the kitchen is livable as it is. Next spring or summer, though, we want to install new countertop and paint (or maybe strip?) the existing, original cabinets.

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Despite the ugly paint, the cabinet hardware looks amazing.

It makes sense to add the cabinetry on the other side at the same time, because we could paint them to match and use the same countertop material (currently thinking butcher block). Until then, our kitchen is going to look a little crummy and insane. We’re satisfied that it is less insane now than how we inherited it. That’s what matters, right?

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May 15 (note that plywood floor!)

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August 20

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October 29

It’s been a while since I’ve expressed shock and gratitude that anyone reads this rambling crap, so I’ll close with that. Thanks, dudes, for reading this and caring about me and Tony  (side note: in case anyone has noticed that Tony hasn’t commented on this blog in literally months, I swear we are still married and living in this house together! He is alive and well. I believe he just likes being the world’s most mysterious main blog character).  Thanks for reading!

Posted in Kitchen | 6 Comments