Monday, December 24, 2007

    Cooking In Our Kitchen

    I just wanted to try out a post using while I make a lasagna for Christmas Eve dinner in our new kitchen and listen to In Rainbows.

    We'll post more about how we got here as soon as we decompress a little.

    posted from

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007


    As Kersten said in an earlier post, I chickened out on the concrete countertops. Time was running short, and trying to learn a new technique on such a tight schedule was giving me panic attacks. Instead we opted for the Numerar countertops from Ikea (pronounced "eee-kay-ah" in our house because it's more fun that way).

    Because the walls are as far away from being square as you can imagine, I had to scribe the ends and cut them at strange angles so there wouldn't be any gigantic gaps between the countertop and the wall.

    Once the cuts had been made I dry-fit the countertops in place to make sure that everything fit right before moving on.

    Now it was time to cut a gaping hole in the countertop for our sink. We had originally intended on doing an undermount sink, but with the change in countertop and the nearly impossible task of finding an undermount that would fit our 30" sink base cabinet, we ended up with a top mount also from Ikea.

    Making that many cuts to the countertop made a big mess.

    Final step was to fasten the countertop to the cabinets and call it a day (except I probably kept working until really late)

    Monday, December 17, 2007

    We are in

    But so far from unpacked.

    More later (including pictures).

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Concrete confession

    We're not doing a concrete countertop.


    Now that I've got that out there, this is what happened — we ran out of time. Making our own concrete countertop would have taken the better part of two weeks. We were ready for a countertop about a week ago, concrete would have taken longer, and I wasn't about to delay our move-in date of TOMORROW — GASP! — because we really need our own space during the holidays. I hope you all still love us.

    Some day — some day soon, we hope — when we are running on more than a few hours of sleep and when Tai hasn't been up the night before until 4 a.m. installing a tile backsplash, and when I'm out from under a bit of stress from quitting one job and starting another and selling a car and packing up our life in the middle of it all, we will show you pictures of this place. If I don't say so myself, it's looking mighty fine. Even without a concrete countertop.

    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Suck it, electricity

    I put up the bedroom ceiling fan ALL BY MYSELF the other night, and I didn't shock myself once.

    It went from this....

    To this (if you can even tell what it looks like from this picture)

    Tuesday, December 11, 2007

    Your call

    I wonder if I look as tired as I feel.

    Remodeling elves

    We couldn't have done this process without all the help from our families. We've mentioned Tai's rock-star dad on this blog many times before (see subfloor 1, subfloor 2, tile) with even a picture of the fine gent here. We interrupted his Saturday night with a desperate call for help wiring our dishwasher and garbage disposal. He graciously responded by crawling around on our floor for several hours:

    My mother bravely trekked downtown in the middle of the season's first blizzard to help us paint some closet interiors. The hall linen closet and the living room coat closet both now have paint thanks to her.

    The brothers-in-law helped put down the bamboo, and my grandfather spent two back-breaking days under our kitchen sink trying to figure out our antiquated plumbing. Bless his heart — he is SO tired of doing our plumbing. He's also been housing us since mid-August, so I'm pretty sure he's sick of that, too!

    My dad and little sister even got in the action by priming on our kitchen walls and front door. My dad made an encore appearance to prime the bathroom baseboard (ah, our lives are so glamorous!). My mother and grandfather made a much-needed dump run for us, which is why you haven't been treated to a final photo of the old toilet in an odd setting — they got the honor of throwing it into the dump pit. I got word this morning from my mother that she ironed and hemmed our bedroom and office curtains for us ("It's curtains for you..." was her exact phrase). And Daniel and Lacy gave us a jump start on our kitchen cabinets one very cold night just before Thanksgiving.

    So, this is great. When I grumble about living in Utah (see: the last three years), it's usually because I've forgotten what a benefit it is to live near family. Help with our remodeling project is just a small reason why I'm constantly reminding myself that we are indeed lucky to have all trillion of them nearby!

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    The Great Salt Lake

    We've been able to see this city's titular lake from both condos, and this is a high-energy song from one of our favorite bands (I gifted myself their new album for early Christmas). We're short on high energy these days (so. so. tired.), so pick-me-ups like this have been priceless. As we get down to the little details that will really make this place feel liveable, it's been hard to keep up enthusiasm. We are so close.

    The window coverings have been a tricky part of the remodeling process for us. We have four floor-to-ceiling windows, one each in the kitchen, living, bedroom and office — Wendover residents could tell what we're eating for dinner. We hadn't bothered with blinds during the bulk of the remodel because if you're interested enough in us stripping wallpaper, painting, laying bamboo and cutting baseboard, knock yourself out.

    Since this is a short-term place for us, we weren't willing to drop too much green on blinds. Enter Ikea (you knew that was coming, didn't you?).

    We're quite pleased with our system. Show's over, neighbors!

    Wednesday, December 5, 2007

    From the "what Lowe's had" category



    Tuesday, December 4, 2007

    It took a few minutes to sink in

    We're adding quite a bit of storage to this kitchen by ripping out a pantry closet and adding space where a pass-through between the living room and kitchen used to be. When Tai and his father worked on framing and adding drywall to that corner of the kitchen, they specifically measured out a spot for a tall Ikea cabinet that we knew would add a lot of space to a tight room.

    Fast forward a month. As Tai tries to muscle the cabinet into the cubby hole, it's apparent that something is horribly, horribly wrong. The space was built to be 30" wide and the cabinet is 29 7/8" wide, so it was too tight and the old wall on the right not being square made for an impossible fit.

    The sad solution was to pull off the new drywall freeing up about 1/2", shove the cabinet in there and hope that we'll have time to repair the damage before moving in.

    Lesson learned? Always leave a little room to maneuver.

    Monday, December 3, 2007

    An angel named Becky

    We hit a snag in our enthusiasm last week and decided to spend a couple of nights shopping for stuff for the condo instead of killing our knees with more baseboard work. After we hit up a few places (I can offer solid recommendations for inexpensive Salt Lake-area appliance shopping now, fyi), we ended up at Lowe's in Murray on a lark. We never go there; we try to avoid shopping in suburbia in general.

    We are reformed. Because of this woman:

    ...who is the friendliest, kindest appliance saleswoman we have met. Such a joy. Also? She sold us a kitchen oven/stove combo for one-third of its retail price, meaning that we got a stove worth three times our budget.

    We bought a microwave-hood and a dishwasher from her, too. The microwave-hood combination came with a little snack:

    It's all beginning to come together quite nicely.

    As you can see, part of what we worked on this weekend was putting doors on the cabinets. The color is off in these pictures because the doors come with a protective layer of plastic. Once you remove the plastic, you have to immediately wash the doors and then let them "cure" for 24 hours without touching them. That will be the last thing we do before putting on the handles.

    But the kitchen is really starting to look like a real kitchen.

    Friday, November 30, 2007


    I'm putting this out there to hold myself to it: we want to move in on Dec. 15. That's two weeks from tomorrow.

    In those two weeks, we need to do the following:

    Install and paint baseboards, paint door trim, install kitchen cabinet doors, install kitchen trim pieces to match cabinet doors, build and install a concrete kitchen countertop, install a kitchen sink, install a kitchen sink disposal, install a kitchen tile backsplash, reseal the tile, build living room bookshelves and fireplace cover, install window coverings, find a plumber and get a washer drain line hooked up to finish the washer-dryer nook, purchase and install a refrigerator, install a bathroom sink and cabinet, install a bathroom mirror, find and install a bathroom light, paint interior of hall linen closet, install hall linen closet doors, install closet shelving systems in two rooms, touch up living room paint, paint inside of living room coat closet, rehang remaining doors, install new doorknobs, find and install kitchen lights, put up a shower rod, install a bathroom fan cover, saw off and cover the toilet floor bolts, caulk baseboard, install threshold pieces between bamboo and tile flooring, replace the bedroom ceiling fan with something better looking, and clean everything.

    Oh my.

    Wednesday, November 28, 2007

    Cabinets the Ikea way

    Now that the flooring is in, our attention has turned to the kitchen. The Monday before Thanksgiving we spent the evening in the deep recesses of a gigantic blue building in Draper where we picked out the different cabinet pieces we needed to make our kitchen. About 3 hours later, the Element was absolutely loaded to the hilt with flat-packed cabinets and we were on our way to having a kitchen.

    Tuesday evening Kersten's brother Daniel and his wife Lacy were kind enough to come up from Provo and help us assemble the cabinets.

    After an entire evening, and a trip back to Ikea to replace a tall cabinet that came pre-shattered, we had our cabinets assembled.

    Wednesday evening after work I set out to install the cabinets, starting with the upper cabinets. Given the fact that there are no right angles in the kitchen, it took some time and a lot of fine tuning to get them installed just right and leveled.

    Thursday we took the day off to consume the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes but we were back at it Friday and Saturday.

    After the upper cabinets were installed it was time to get going on the base cabinets.

    The sink base cabinet was especially fun because the plumbing comes out of the wall in exactly the wrong place, so I had to do a bit of work with the jig saw and then reinforcing everything.

    We picked up the cabinet doors last night and this weekend I am going to start working on the counter top (more to come on that later). Things are starting to feel like this could be a home someday.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007


    Well, we are at the point where we need to think of what to do with the fireplace. We didn't want to just do the standard tile or marble surround as it had previous to our ownership.

    We closed off the pass through to the kitchen that was left of the fireplace so that we could add room for a washer/dryer in the kitchen. In doing this we decided to put some built-in shelves on the living room side.

    We thought that it would be nice to incorporate the new fireplace mantle with the built in shelves. This is a potential design for the mantle and shelves.

    Imagine the yellow is a nice piece of Baltic birch with a mantle that runs into a shelf in the built in shelves on the left. A thought is to do it with an exposed plywood edge.

    Tell us what you think. We would love some input.

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Fiat lux

    We are so pleased to have new lights up in the place — the early 1990s, French-country vibe from our all-white ceiling fan in the living room wasn't working for us any more:

    Also not working for us? The slasher-hotel, bare bulb look in the entryway and kitchen:

    And, who loves a nipple light? Not I, especially not in the kitchen. (Please excuse the horrendous metering and light level editing.)

    We replaced the living room and entryway lights with this fixture, which puts off plenty of light through its three compact fluorescent bulbs, looks decent and ties together the front rooms with the same look:

    We have a technical problem that prevented us from using this light in the kitchen — we're now in the market for something that will make the clearance from a cabinet door. Flat, modernish and not too expensive...

    But our hall light went from this...

    to this:

    And the office light used to look like this...

    but now it looks like this:

    Wednesday, November 21, 2007

    Tell me about it

    I like a lot of what I read in the Los Angeles Times. They tend to carry trend stories that resonate more with me in Salt Lake City than the New York Times can offer me from 2,000 miles away. Particularly, this.

    Don't these people look angry? It seems that in California, as in Utah, you just can't mess with the bungalow without making enemies.

    The story is more than a week old, but somehow I fear that it's timeless: modern aficionado picks a neighborhood based on its charm and liveability (translation: established, mature homes in an older style) and wants to update his property with a contemporary structure. Neighbors burst into flames.

    Other than the details specific to this situation, the article does a good job summing up what Tai and I fear would happen when we try to pull a building permit anywhere near downtown Salt Lake City. Many of the city's best neighborhoods are that way because a developer bought large tracts of land decades ago and built hundreds of houses all in one or two styles. (Sidenote: wouldn't it be hilarious if 50 years from now new Draper was considered historically charming??) There are plenty of great reasons to preserve and restore significant historical buildings; there also are plenty of great reasons to allow a blend of new and old in established neighborhoods.

    What's evolved in Salt Lake City since that developer of yore are historic landmark districts in many parts of the city. I cannot talk about these districts without first bursting into flames — or at least getting an expression not unlike the man's above — not because their stated purpose is to retain the historical charm of these neighborhoods, but rather because that purpose is often translated to and enacted as "No. New. Anything." sans discussion about compatibility, building for your era, etc.

    This, and the monster home ordinance of early 2006, are two of a few very large reasons that we've been eying Summit Park more and more these days, despite all the other very large reasons not to (including our genuine love for Salt Lake City proper).

    Chew it over while you enjoy your turkey. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007


    While all the gentlemen worked hard Saturday on making our place more liveable via the wonder of bamboo flooring, I dinked around with several small tasks, including zapping myself on live outlets several times and emitting a few choice "$%^@!!!!!"s. After my arm stopped tingling for the third time, I shifted my attention to the window caulk. I stripped off the old caulk with a razor blade and then re-did it in white.

    There are some spots where I'm not sure I did much better than the old version, though...progress? Who can tell any more?

    Monday, November 19, 2007

    Welcome, voyeurs

    Most of you probably know that we started another blogging endeavor at Renovation Voyeur, an aptly named site for the more prurient among us. We'd like to issue a hearty welcome to those finding us via that route, and we'd also like to send all our regulars over to check out the site if you haven't gotten there already.


    On Monday of last week I went over to Lumber Liquidators and picked up about 570 square feet of bamboo flooring. I had previously purchased from, but because I listen to NPR I had heard about Lumber Liquidators a lot since they sponsor a lot of programs. I price checked them against iFloor and they were less expensive and I could just go to the warehouse and pick it up. So Monday I loaded 24 boxes of bamboo into the Element and let them acclimate to the condo for the week.

    On Friday morning I rented a floor nailer from Diamond Rentals and and went to the condo and got started. I started in the front living room and started to work my way back.

    I worked non stop by myself on Friday for about 11 hours and was able to get all of the living room done.

    Earlier in the week I had put a call out to my two brothers-in-law Bricky and Luke. As a family, we have all done projects like this multiple times, so we were all experienced. They came over and working as a team, we were able to knock out the rest of the condo in about 6 hours. Twice as much in about half the time. It was great. Many thanks to Bricky and Luke. Hopefully they aren't still really sore.

    Eventually it would be a continuous run of bamboo from the living room running back through the two bedrooms.