The Redwood Forest

One home renovation truism you often hear is that it always 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?


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

The neverending floor-y

First of all, please enjoy this photo of mold-eliminating spray being covered in what certainly looks like mold.

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Tony and I initially thought this was clever packaging, but closer inspection revealed real, actual mold. This is just one example of the many small delights you too can find if you spend the equivalent of a part-time job at Lowe’s every week.

Since my last dispatch, much house renovating work has been done to only marginal effect. Part of that is the result of my and Tony’s perfectionist tendencies, but most of it is the hard reality of renovation. I go into nearly every project expecting that minimal effort will yield dramatic pay off. Despite my unending optimism, that has never once happened. Instead, more often than not, the opposite occurs: lots and lots of hard work will move the needle from unsightly to gorgeous only slightly, and at an achingly slow rate.

For instance, you may recall that in my last post I said that, in order to finish the floors, we needed to sand the edges of the floor and put down polyurethane. That sounds like two steps, right?

In reality, we realized after sanding the edges of the floors that there were some streaks in the centers of the floors caused by the big sanders. We felt these streaks could be ameliorated by another couple passes with the drum sander in the direction of the wood grain. For several days, we attempted to convince ourselves that it was fine as is. But that weekend we rented the drum sander again and sanded every floor again, twice, from medium grain to fine grain.

After that it seemed to us that the centers of the floors were fine, but now the edges were the trouble. Weren’t they a bit uneven? Weren’t they rougher now than the smooth and streak-free centers of the floor? We again told ourselves it was fine, but within two days we had gone over all the edges with our handheld power sander.

Now all of the floors were lovely, absolutely gorgeous, except for the one in the kitchen. The kitchen floor had an old water stain and some fire damage (exclusively cosmetic) from one of the old wood stoves. Worse, it seemed to us that the very shade of the bare kitchen wood was different than that of the rest of the house. We credited this to our belief that, unlike every other floor, the kitchen floor had always been covered. Over time, our theory went, the sun and air  exposure had changed the others floors in small but noticeable ways. Unlike the others floors, which had a golden hue, the kitchen wood was lighter and a bit grayer. It was beautiful, but different. Wasn’t the point of refinishing all of our floors at once to make them seamless throughout the house?


Kitchen floor with wood puttied nail holes

Meanwhile, throughout all of the inside floor hemming and hawing, we’d been working to refinish the porch. When the porch wood was uncovered, it was similar  to that of the kitchen. We decided to stain it, and it turned out beautifully.


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Wouldn’t it make sense, we asked ourselves, to stain the kitchen, too? We thought so, and we went ahead and stained. For some reason, though, the exact same stain took much faster and turned out much darker in the kitchen. Wood is a funny thing, we’ve found. We now had golden floors throughout the house, and medium-dark floors in the kitchen. Once again, we attempted to convince ourselves that this was fine. (Somehow we managed to not take any pictures of this step, but several Fawn Log readers saw it in this stage and can confirm it really happened).

Within 24 hours, though, we’d decided to take the kitchen floor in an entirely new and surprising direction. If the kitchen floors wanted to look different, they were going to be different goddamnit. White painted kitchen floor, here we come.

Inspiration 1

Inspiration 2

Even though the above examples looked great, I’d read about people painting their floors with diluted paint, to allow the wood grain to show through. I thought maybe we should do this kind of paint wash rather than a full-on paint. We attempted it and, once again, we spent 10 minutes attempting to convince ourselves it was fine. Then we brought out the full strength paint.

Meanwhile, we applied one coat of polyurethane to the other wood floors. This darkened them considerably. It darkened them enough, in fact, that we had a moment during which we wondered whether the stained kitchen floors we’d just painted over would have been a fine match. Then we put our heads down and kept poly-ing because, seriously, I was not going to sand the kitchen floor again if my life depended on it.

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After-ish. Clothes bar is finished; shoe shelf is in progress.

We’d read that, after one coat of poly, you should lightly sand out any imperfections and remove the fine sanding dust with mineral oil before applying the top coat. We started doing this in the back bedroom, but we quickly realized that there were many areas with a rough-ish texture. So many, in fact, that it seemed to make more sense to lightly sand the entire room rather than focus on any particular area. So we crawled around and lightly sanded every square inch of every room on our hands and knees then cleaned everything with mineral oil and a rag. After all that we’d been through with these floors, this seemed like a logical thing to do.

The insanity was worth it, or almost worth it, or pretty much worth it if I don’t think about it too hard; the second coat of poly went on extremely smoothly and our floors are beautiful. More beautiful than I ever could have imagined, more beautiful than any wood floors have any right to be. It’s not a trip to the house unless one of us says “Damn! These floors are gorgeous!” or some variant thereof.  I would almost be okay with stopping all renovating now and just leaving the house as a museum of/tribute to these wood floors.

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But back to the kitchen, because the insanity can’t stop, won’t stop. After our first coat of paint, we began to feel that the spaces between the boards looked odd. Some of the spaces had been filled with wood putty, but most were left empty. After discussing the merits of cleaning out the existing putty or filling in the holes, we bought more wood putty and I got to filling.

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I had to manage a couple of work events this weekend and today I was exhausted. I tapped out after my wood puttying, but Tony continued at it. He sanded the putty and put down another coat of paint. He just texted me this slightly blurry picture and I’m excited.

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In theory, we only have to do one more coat of paint and two coats of poly and we’re done with not just the kitchen floor, but every floor in our house! If history has taught me anything, though, it’s that a theoretical two step process can in reality entail 5,000 steps. We’ll see what happens.

At this point we have a tentative move-in date scheduled for next weekend. How many times have I written a tentative move-in date on this blog? Maybe Fawn Log is cursed.

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View from our roof of the sunset and the many bats that fly around near our house every night.


Posted in closet, foyer, Kitchen, scandi style | 4 Comments