Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Problem with Paint Colors That Look Like Baby Poop

The problem with paint colors that look like baby poop, is well, self-evident: 

Prunes? Or roast beef dinner, do you think? 

I can't tell either, which should give you the idea that this particular shade of mauve is about as unidentifiable as the contents of a soiled diaper. Is that brown? Purple? Who knows?

I'm not a fan of mauve on the principle that it's an indecisive color. It's not gray, pink, purple, lavender, tan, or taupe, so I just want to slap it around and tell it to make up its mind already. But this particular mauve seems even more sunk than usual into mauvian identity crisis. I don't know what this paint chip was named. I don't want to know.

When we first moved in, there was carpet in this main floor full bath, which covered up a layer of mauve (ack!) broken tiles (see the floor along the edge of the room in the photo below). Hours of scraping later, we ended up with this dried glue over plywood subfloor, which we lived with for longer than I care to admit. But even that was better than the carpet with years of other people's dirt (shudder) ground into it.

In the meantime a friend replaced the leaky toilet with a new one, and a plumber neighbor has been over to fix the leaky shower twice, the slow moving sink drain once. At one point I tried to make myself like the bathroom color by buying a shower curtain that coordinates with it (see photo again, above). And I like the shower curtain just fine, but the color purple in the shower curtain was actually a rich, vibrant plum, and instead of perking up the wall color, it just showed it up, showed it how feeble it really was. And so I hated the paint color even more.

The neighbor installed a vinyl peel-and-stick tile floor for me last May. It's intended to last a few years until I can decide what I really want to do with this bathroom and have the money to invest in some tile.

I left the bathroom alone while I fell down the rabbit hole of kitchen painting, and now that I'm pretty well done with that project (except for one stupid curtain), I'm ready to tackle this room again.

I have a lot of ill will for this room. Things I hate:

The toilet paper holder. It was installed on the wall crooked (though admittedly this photo makes it look  more crooked than it is, based on the angle of the camera), and was loose. After having the roll fall out on the floor more times than I could stand, I had a wee temper tantrum and yanked the whole thing off the wall. So. This photo is where that matter stands.

The ugly light fixture. This is an airport landing strip in a bathroom that is barely 7 feet across. Turning it on transforms my bathroom into a lavender-roasted Easy Bake Oven hell. I took out a row of lights just to make the amount of light and heat manageable. Yes, I know they sell smaller, lower wattage, frosted bulbs. But that would be spending money on this thing, and my entire being rebels against it. No.

This photo shows two of my biggest peeves with this bathroom. First, the monstrously big mirror. It goes right down to the backsplash. There is no way not to get the mirror dirty washing hands or brushing teeth, even if you're a tidy adult, and I've got four not-so-tidy boys. The mirror is always gooey and disgusting.

The second is the sink itself. Because of the bathroom's narrow footprint, the counter space front to back is just a little over 16 inches. Obviously a petite-scale sink is the only thing that's going to work in that space. Whoever did this little downgrade chose a fiberglass bar sink, of the type you'd find in an RV camper. It's impossible to keep clean, and looks as cheap and tacky as you imagine that it does. The faucet has a chemical mar or etching in the finish that looks like it might be from some kind of plumbing adhesive.

The shower rod is also on its last legs. The original ceiling chain broke and I rescued it with a length of lamp chain (while running around the house wrapped in a towel with shampoo in my hair, and cussing. I'm nothing if not classy). And it also needs a wall repair. It looks like there have been several:

Readers might notice I changed the shower curtain out for a white one. It didn't really help, but whatever. 

Now that I've had my rant, I need to take stock of the things that are okay about my bathroom. I won't say like, exactly, but it does have a few points to give hope. 

The window: 

The original sash window still has its original frosted glass panes. I think they are cool. 

The overhead light fixture is also original, a ribbed glass globe shade, and I think with a good cleaning it will be just fine. 

The cabinets look to be made custom to fit the space, and the person who made them did good work (yes, I'm missing a knob). While I'm debating painting them, they are oak and not too fatally "orangey." Replacing bathroom cabinetry is an expensive proposition, and in an area where you'd need custom fitting, even more so. I consider this my greatest plus. 

It's not really a plus right now, but I think the tub will be. It is the original cast-iron tub, and I really love the art deco design on the outside. I'm not showing you the inside of the tub, because really, I think showing readers the baby poop paint was enough unpleasantness for one post. Trust me that the enamel finish is long gone. Even when I've scrubbed it with bleach and determination it doesn't look clean. In the distant future I'd like to have it re-enameled to it's former glory, probably in aqua. But it's going to have to wait. 

So what's the plan? 
A facelift that gets me to the point I can live with this bathroom until bigger investments (tile, tub enameling) can be made. It'll include a list of 10 mini-projects: 

1. Upgrade the cabinet hardware. I've never cared for wood knobs in kitchens and bathrooms, and I think something sparkly and chrome would light the place up a little. 

2. Grout the floor. You can actually grout vinyl floor tile, and I think it will give the flooring a more finished and less temporary feel. 

3. Paint. Oh, for the love of strained prunes, paint. Something clean, airy, and bright.

4. Replace the light fixture. 

5. Replace the mirror. 

6. Replace the toilet paper holder. 

7. Replace the shower curtain rod. 

8. Add art and decorative items. 

9. Replace the counter top (with the square footage being very small, this shouldn't be a top dollar expense).

10. Replace sink and faucet. 

I'm not setting a deadline for any of these, but will simply see how many I can get done this year. If I get even half way down my list, I'll be happy. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Spring Break: From Midwest to Pacific Northwest

Years ago, I lived in Seattle for five years. One of the best things to happen during my time there was the birth of my oldest son, Grant. But we left when he was six weeks old, and never returned. He's 18 this year, and a senior. I told him I'd take him anywhere in the continental U.S. for a graduation present-- and he chose the city of his birth:

Grant on a boat tour of Elliott Bay, Seattle skyline in the background

The trip ended up being not only a gift to him, but to myself as well. Salt air and gulls and bookstores and coffee--I didn't realize how much I missed my beautiful city until I walked through it again on the first day there. Am I silly that I cried a little, just from the familiar smell? 

Me 'n' Rachel, the Pike Place Market mascot. She looks like she's giving me a stinkeye sideways look for leaning on her.  But from where I come from, people are comfortable with livestock. Even bronze ones. 

We had great conversations over great food: 

I think I walked about four miles a day every day we were there. It still probably wasn't enough to work off the pastry, and the lattes, and the seafood, and......

I found out what I'd suspected all along: I really enjoy the company of my oldest son. And I'm not just saying that because I'm his mother. 

As landlocked as we are where we live now, it was refreshing to see the water in a big, big way: 

This is the USCGC Healy, a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker, Port of Seattle.

It was fun showing Grant my old favorites: 

They don't do fish and chips quite right anywhere else. Eighteen years was a long time to wait for a fix!

Being a tourist in a town you used to live in is a blessing mostly. You're familiar with the landscape. But it can also be frustrating. Grant and I both were tempted by all the market produce:

Fresh artichokes! 
And felt sad not to have a kitchen to cook in. Pike Place Market vendors still have personality to spare: 

I wanted to load my arms with bunches of flowers, too. The flower stalls were a sight for winter weary eyes. 

Seattle in March is still rainy, cloudy, and chill, and mountain hiking not really accessible without a lot of equipment we didn't have and couldn't pack on an airplane without a huge hassle, so it was strictly urban tourism "this time." I say "this time" because we were talking about "next time" on the plane ride back, so maybe next time we'll plan for a time of year when Mt. Rainier and the Cascades will be "out." 

Instead we found ourselves some culture. This famed self-portrait was visiting the Seattle Art Museum on loan from the Kenwood House collection in London: 

A Wikimedia commons public domain image.

We found that independent bookstores still thrive in Seattle (thank goodness): 

The Globe Bookstore in Pioneer Square

We dug the nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture: 

And discovered some new things, like this gated private park on 2nd Avenue, east of Occidental Park:

I should say "new to us" in this case. The garden has been there since 1978. I never knew it was there when I lived here! 

We also loved the Chihuly Glass and Garden museum at the Seattle Center, a new attraction: 

And we did what all "must" do here, a trip to the top of the Space Needle: 

The views are spectacular. 

We spent the last morning on the University of Washington campus. We were a little too early to catch the Japanese cherry trees blooming on the Quad, but I found myself just as fascinated by their twisted, mossy forms. 

We also ate lunch with a friend and former co-worker of mine. It is very reassuring to find that despite nearly full grown babies, a (few) gray hairs, and eighteen years gone by, we still laugh together at just the right moments in conversation. 

The trip gave Grant a first adult look at the place he was born, something I still, at 45, don't have (I was born in San Antonio and left as a baby, never to return). He left here a newborn and returned a young man. I'm glad to have this time to spend with him, and glad to give him the experience. He's off to Europe on a school trip in June; I hope this trip with Mom serves as a good training course. I know the time left to parent him is dwindling as he goes off to college next fall. I'll cherish this trip the rest of my life. 

Did you "spring break?" Where, and what did you do? 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kitchen Revamp: Part IV

I'm not sure this post should be titled "Part IV." It feels more like 3.5, since it's not a very large or significant post. But here's the last of the kitchen revamp photos, until I get the small window curtain (off camera in this photo stage right) figured out. It's just got me stumped, because no matter how I make it, it looks, for lack of a better word, "stupid." That's just me and sewing. Things go that way.

This is the wall of the kitchen opposite the sink area. My brother-in-law Rusty installed my microwave above the range, for which I am eternally grateful. A countertop microwave would have hogged up way to much work space.

I love the trivets above the stove, which were from my Great Aunt Elizabeth's kitchen. The smallest one is only 2 1/2 inches across, so it's very cute. Not very practical, but cute.

You've already met these guys, to the point I was too lazy to take fresh close-ups of them. My Czech ceramic oatmeal container and cream pitcher. I love the art deco style:

I know silk flowers are about as out as shiny brass light fixtures, but I couldn't help myself, and the top of the fridge needed something:

A final kitchen roundup is in the near future, but I'll be scarce on the blog this week. Then I'll be back with some new projects to tackle. I'll see everybody soon!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Kitchen Revamp: Part III

This end of the kitchen, the eat-in area, has been done for awhile. It's been a lack of sunshine and good interior lighting that's held off this post, and at this point I'm ceding defeat, trying to take photos facing into a window. I wish I could have all my bloggy-babes in for a glass of wine and personal tour, because it's so much warmer, cheerful, and oh, so......1968 in this room. I guess in that case it would need to be chablis and a cheese ball with ritz crackers, right? 

Here's a tiny glimpse of before-ish (I'd already primed the muddy dark blue window wall):

Are here's another view slightly to the right of the first, below. 

The louvered double doors on the left lead down to the basement (or, as I like to think of it, ground zero of the worst craft supply and tool explosion ever.) That's a future post. The skinny door on the right is the Pantry Closet of Weird Smells. Yes, capitalization. That is also a future post. The dark edge of the far left of the picture is the doorway into the "formal" dining room, if "formal" is a word that can be used in any house that I live in. 

Our family dinners are lovely here. A round table is a democratic arrangement, a circle of family members rather than the more formal arrangement with the hierarchical head of a rectangular table. I'm a little sensitive to the ways in which we occupy our space, and this just feels right for this kitchen and for our family. I'm glad I took this table and chairs home with me. 

The one thing that doesn't really "fit" the 1960s vibe in here is the cupboard in the corner. I cherish it because it's from a family member, and they purchased it in 1949. It doesn't really "show" in the photos, but the red and black design painted on the glass are really drawn out by the bittersweet reds and dark outlines of the floral designs in the curtains. The cupboard also holds my chicken collection; I keep ceramic ones because I'm a frustrated chicken farmer. We'll take a tour of them in a future post too. (Notice how I've promised three future posts in this one? Sheesh, girl. Hush up already.)

The original lighting in this part of the kitchen is anybody's guess. When we moved in there was a gigantic, builder's grade white ceiling fan with big canister downlights. It was spectacularly ugly, and layered with dust and grime.

I found this light fixture with the lovely folks at OrWa Designs. Their Etsy site not only sells some pretty awesome interpretations of Midcentury Modern furniture, they also have an excellent eye for vintage light fixtures.

You'll notice in some of these shots it's hanging a bit higher than the conventionally advised 36 inches above the table top. That's because the work area of the kitchen is one step up from the eat in area, and hanging it that low meant standing in the other side of the kitchen and being able to peer down into the inside of the fixture, glaring bare light bulbs and all. So I decided that higher was better in this case.

There is not much wall space for art in this room, and really, the curtain fabric is so graphically strong it doesn't need much anyway. But in a sliver of space between the end of the cupboard run and the sliding glass door (which doesn't make much of an appearance in these photos because I don't want the yucky mauve screen porch paint to be spoiling my kitchen party) I tucked a couple of items:

My sister's little oil painting of a nuthatch seemed like just the thing. I'd been looking for a place to hang it where it wouldn't get lost on a huge wall, and where I would see it every day. The key hanger (wonky hooks and all) was originally hanging in the that spot when I moved in, but it was so grimy and tarnished it was green. I kinda think of it as so tacky it's cute, so I took Brasso and old rags to it, and found its shine again.

In one of the photos above you'll notice some botanical prints of apples hung to the right of the pantry door. They are special to me because they were literally the very first vintage thing I ever bought, with my own money, when I was just seventeen. They're chromolithographed pages from a U.S. Department of Agriculture reference book from the 1900s.

I hauled them around for years before I was old enough to hang them in my own home, and at that time I invested quite a bit in having them framed professionally. While the gilded wood frames seem a little 1990s to my 2013 eyes, at least I chose a relatively simple frame style, and I'm not going to mess with trying to update them.

The bowl on the table is a vintage find. It's big, sparkly, and green, and I love it.

Sometimes there's fresh fruit in it. Other times it's empty, and I'm debating what should go in it. It should be fun to find various things to feature-- shiny gold Christmas ornaments from thrift stores is a good possibility for the holiday. My youngest, Joe, voted for keeping it filled with M&Ms.

I've got one or two more smaller posts to wrap up the kitchen revamp reveal, and then it will be time to move on to other things. The upcoming weeks will not be good for home improvement progress--we've got a trip, some entertaining obligations, and some planning to do before we take our next steps in April. What are next steps? Planning some outdoor projects, and beginning some smaller scale cosmetic upgrades to the main floor bathroom. The latter will involve ridding the universe of another bit of mauve paint, which is only for the good of humanity. I'm looking forward to it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Kitchen Revamp: Part II

In order to discuss the next few feet of counter space in my kitchen, I've really got to start, indirectly, with love and habitual routine. 

You'll remember, from my first Kitchen Revamp post, that Mr. Man had given me some yellow tulips to mark the post-Valentine's Day Day. 

Because he's carefully observed how tetchy I am about the horrible-ness of V-Day. 

Careful observation is part of his charm. When we first started spending time together, I noticed him watching me making coffee, and asking rather particular questions--why this coffee cup, how much cream is too much, how many scoops--while I made a pot of coffee. 

Scrutiny makes me nervous, and I am ashamed to say I got a little defensive. "Why are you asking me?" I felt a big "here-let-me-show-you-the-right-way-to-make-coffee" coming on, and it was going to make me mad. 

"I just want to know exactly how you like your coffee. So I can make it for you." 

It is routine, now, that when he is here at my house he makes me coffee, fixed exactly the way I like it, and brings me a cup. 

The only problem with our morning coffee and late night coffee and warming up a cold afternoon coffee was the coffee pot. It was an inexpensive model to begin with, and the wrong kind of "vintage"-- just plain old, stained, and worn out. To put it bluntly, in two years we've been together, we brewed the crap out of that old thing. 

So it seemed only natural that part of the kitchen revamp should include: 

I was surprised to find a green appliance that wasn't bright neon green or Jadeite mint green. It is perfect, not only for my kitchen, but also for the lovely habitual routines of Mr. Man. If he's going to bring me coffee, it's only fair I should bring him a coffee pot. 

The other thing sitting on this end of counter is the fruit. In previous incarnations of my kitchen life, I used a tiered plate stand that I bought at a Southern Living at Home (now called Willow House) sales party. 

I like it, but in this smaller house and smaller kitchen, it seemed huge. It felt like it was taking up the entire counter space. I still have it and it gets lots of use during the holidays and large gatherings, but I was looking for a vintage something more in scale with my kitchen. 

I found this: 

I love the browns and greens, the roosters, and the smaller size. 

Though it is more modestly proportioned, it still holds plenty: 

Here the two contestants are side-by-side:

Now the entire run of that side of the kitchen: 

Some little details: 

The counter ends in a curved extension that floats over the step-down into the eat-in area. That's the trash can underneath it, in the lower right hand corner. I'm not in love with the idea of the trash out in the open, but the area under the sink was completely unmanageable. 

I shortened the blinds for the window, but did not make curtains for it. At least not yet. I'm a bit puzzled about how to fit curtains to this window, boxed in as they are by the upper cabinets. I'm also thinking of replacing this window with a weather-tight, paned window, which might also mean refitting both the shades and any curtains. Anyhoo, curtains here when I get around to them will break up the brown/green baseline I've established with the paint, cabinets, and kitchenware. 

The floor is vinyl wood grain parquet, looking every day of its thirty-odd years, and the dishwasher is dinged up but still working okay. They are both on the replacement list for the near future (next two years). 

I'd love some plates hung on the soffit to add a little more color and pattern to this wall, but those will have to come to me when the time is right. I think forcing a room to "finished" ends up looking just that, forced; so I'd rather have it look a little spare to begin with. It's not like I have a problem collecting things, for crying out loud. 

IRL, the countertop directly above the dishwasher is usually stacked with plates and glasses, the yogurt cups and granola bar wrappers the kids didn't toss, and smeary peanut butter knives. I wouldn't want you to think I'm this clean all the time. In fact, this is a rare moment of blog fantasy. It lasted about five minutes after I put my camera down. 

We've been plagued with dark gray day after dark gray day here; it's made indoor photography difficult. Because of that and the fact that it is snowing madly here as I write this post, I won't make any promises for this week. Just know that I'll be back with another installment soon!