Do you know how hard it is to juggle two kids, a full time job, and house projects? We’re still getting things done around here, just… slowly.
One of the projects we were DIYing for the kitchen was a built-in bench for the mudroom. Minnesota went into lockdown just as I was starting it, but thankfully we had already purchased most of the supplies.
The bench plan is pretty simple. We already had existing shoe racks that we decided to reuse, especially since they fit the space almost perfectly. To encase the shoe racks I just had to add a top, support legs, and some finishing details..
The top was built out of 2 1×8’s joined with pocket holes, giving us a depth of about 15″. I used 2x4s for the support legs and connected them to the top with pocket holes as well. Why pocket holes? They allow for the strength of screws without any fasteners being seen. I officially love my Kreg jig!
Our shoe racks fit perfectly between the legs and once some trim is added it will look like a perfect built in while still utilizing some existing pieces.
The top, however, is deeper than the shoe racks since people’s butts are usually bigger than their feet. I don’t want the shoe racks to get pushed back so I needed a spacer between them and the wall. Enter the 2×4….which I don’t have and which probably isn’t considered an essential item at this point in time.
I did have a small scrap of 2×4 though, just not enough for my ideal solution but needs must when the devil drives… so I sliced it into thin bits and glued it to the back the shoe racks.
Elegant? No, but it should do the job at least and allow me to get on with this project.
With the structure in place and everything lined up it still needed some finishing work. We cut and painted some scrap MDF to hide the 2×4 legs on the inside then ripped down a 1×4 to hide the supports on the outside. These pieces just got brad nailed into place.
While I was working on the bench I was waiting for my wallpaper to arrive. Oh yeah, that’s right, MORE wallpaper. People still think I’m completely nuts, but that’s ok!* Matt even helped me hang it on his birthday while the kids were sleeping since it goes much more easily with two people.
I think it look fabulous! We don’t have much wall space for art in the kitchen so it also adds a much needed pop of interest. Once I’m free to go to the hardware store again I still have a few more details to add. I want to paint the inside of the back door a brighter blue and add a little more trim to bench to camouflage the fact that the walls are not at all square. This room was even more modern addition and it’s STILL not remotely square. Or level.
With Wesley graduating out of his toddler bed and Elsie about to need the crib I’ve been brainstorming shared room ideas. We’re still attached to our study/guest room so the plan is to have the kiddos share as long as possible.
The trickiest thing for me has been the ceiling color. I don’t want to change it because 1) I really like it and 2) painting ceilings is one giant PITA. This has been problematic because that minty color is apparently a “girl” color. Insert all the eye rolls here.
This wouldn’t be a huge problem except that Welsey is really into more stereo-typically “boy” things (mainly cars, cars, and more cars). Since he starting to show a distinct preference for certain things I want to respect that, but I also want to create a room that looks put together.
After a LOT of searching I stumbled across these really cute (cotton!*) polka dot sheets at Target that work with the ceiling color and give me lots of other colors to work with. I’m going to pair them with a solid navy duvet which will hopefully continue to grow with him. I also plan to let him pick out his own sheet set too to get him exited about changing to a new bed. I may have to give up a little control, but hey, compromise.
Eventually we’ll need to swap out our heirloom chifforobe for a dresser since a dresser has more practical storage for our needs. I’m hoping I’ll be able to re-purpose the chifforobe for a dress up closet later on though. I’m planning on getting a smallish dresser for now since it will be easier to use for an individual room later on and I plan to continue the polka dot theme with some colorful knobs. I may also switch out his current curtains for white with rainbow pom pom trim.
To play to his love of cars, I found this cute bus pillow from IKEA and a cute print from Society 6. Hopefully the bus pillow will stop him from bringing all his toy cars and trucks into bed with him. I can dream, right? The small car touches should also make him really happy without making the room too boyish…although Elsie’s too little to have opinions on decor just yet.
Now I just have to wait for quarantine to end so I can do some more shopping. His mattress is currently on the floor (which isn’t a bad idea for a toddler anyway) and Elsie’s crib is in our room since she isn’t sleeping through the night yet and I’d rather not have both kids awake and crabby in the middle of night. I wanted the IKEA Kura reversible bed, but I wasn’t able to order it so I got one of their simple pine frames instead. Based on my estimated delivery date though I may not get it until the stores are back open anyway.
*Am I the only person who really dislikes microfiber?
Some of ya’ll have never watched a zombie apocalypse movie and it shows. Seriously, what’s the deal with the toilet paper??? Even my baby wipes were back-ordered!
Seriously though, these are stressful times and I don’t know about you but the informational posts I’m getting bombarded with on social media are just too much. The information is changing constantly and most of these posts don’t have a verifiable source anyway. I just can’t with them anymore.
The one thing I am enjoying on social media? The humour. This whole situation is so incredibly surreal that’s it’s nice to be able to laugh. I know I’m not alone in this either, so here are some of my favorites for you to enjoy:
And Some videos:
Or if you’re not from Wisconsin and brandy’s not your thing:
You may not be able to go out to a bar, so here’s some tunes to pair with your drink.
And just remember: Time has no meaning anymore so it’s OK to day drink.
All hell started breaking loose in Minnesota with COVID-19 last week but thankfully our contractors kept on trucking! None of them seemed terribly phased, but then we also try to stay out of their way and were already pretty much social distancing for the past two months (because new baby + winter).
One of the electricians came back on Monday to finally finish up the kitchen electrical. We have outlets! We have a light fixture!
The light fixture was interesting since it apparently had multiple wiring options but didn’t come with instructions. One of the down-rods also didn’t seem threaded correctly and we discovered a little too late that the fixture was designed for the electrical box to be oriented a very specific way. Thankfully the electrician was able to come up with solutions for both these issues and still get the fixture up!
Unfortunately he also discovered that a hole had never been cut in the back of the sink base cabinet for the outlet for the dishwasher and when he tried to cut a hole it didn’t go so well.
He was also short one breaker for the electrical box and Menards was out* so only half our kitchen had power by the end of the day.
On Tuesday the plumber came back to hook up our dishwasher and stove. Do you have any idea how happy I am to have a dishwasher again?! The stove, however, was still part of the half of the kitchen that didn’t have power so we had our eleventy-billionth instant pot meal.
Wednesday seem to be the big day around here. The electrician came back and got ALL the outlets working! They moved our fridge out of our dining room! They patched the hole under the sink! And do you know what that means?
At least with the big stuff anyway… Matt and I still have a bunch of small(ish) stuff left to do:
Hold onto your hats folks, last week was quite a ride even without the COVID-19 uproar.
Do you want to know how to give a perfectionist an aneurysm? Use non-paintable caulk on painted trim pieces.
Not only was this a Shit My Husband Broke situation, it was also a Stupid Shit My Contractors Did situation. I can forgive Matt* because he’s not a professional, but it was a majorly rookie mistake for the contractors so I was pretty miffed. There’s something incredibly disheartening about going to paint your trim** and watching the paint just bead up over every spot that was caulked.
I had Matt be the one to contact our project manager because I was pretty pissed/ready to cry and figured he would be much more polite about it. I think I was even more offended by the whole situation because I thought I had finally freed myself of all the old un-paintable caulk that had been in the mudroom from the beginning.
I pried off all the bad caulk that Matt had put around the window (which thankfully came off very easily) and on Tuesday our Project Manager and another worker spent several hours scraping off and redoing all the caulk that they had done. I did not envy their job since the offending caulk was not just in long beads along the edges but had also been used to fill all the nail holes left from putting the trim up.
The electricians also came back on Tuesday afternoon to figure out what the heck was going on with our living room light. Turns out something had happened to the (very old) neutral wire during the breaker box work so they were going to have to run a new one. By the time they left the living room light had been removed and the hallway light was mostly detached, but there was at least a plan.
Finally we reached Wednesday. WEDNESDAY! Countertop day. It seriously felt like Christmas. The countertop guys got here bright and early…. and then things started going downhill.
The contractors had had to cut out a chunk of the casing between the kitchen and dining to be able to slide the slab under it, but it was still a little to low on one side. Ok, problem solved with a multi-tool…whose battery died almost instantly. Luckily they had a spare. Then there was concern about the stove opening not being wide enough to fit the stove back in. Cabinet got shifted a bit, problem solved again.
Then the installers seemed surprised that our existing faucet did in fact require three holes (plus optional sprayer). Wait, what? We said we planned on keeping that faucet from the beginning, it shouldn’t have been a surprise! Turns out based on where the seams were on the counter slabs they would only be able to drill 3 holes at most and we needed a minimum of 4 for the dishwasher air gap.
I have no idea why they didn’t realize this was going to be a problem ahead of time…like, oh, when they came and measured. Even if they couldn’t have changed the seam placement, we could have at least had advance warning to find a new faucet. Thankfully Menards had a single-hole faucet in stock that 1) I liked and 2) was affordable.
While the installers were explaining the faucet situation, the electricians were on day number three of trying to sort out the living room ceiling light and running into new and exciting problems on their end. They had planned to run a neutral wire over to ceiling box in the hallway, but there were joists in the way so they would need to cut a hole in the ceiling which would need to be covered by a plate (I’m assuming there was going to be some sort of junction there which it why it couldn’t just be patched). No bueno. Well, would we be ok with installing different light fixture to hide it, like an elongated LED? Nope nope nope. Ultimately they did some more extensive rewiring in the living room, but still had to cut a hole in the wall. At least it was a patch-able hole.
After those issues got sorted out things went a little more smoothly. We hadn’t expected the plumber back until Friday, but he was able to swing by to hook up the sink. They also got all the backsplash tile set.
After people left for the day things went downhill again when Matt discovered we no longer had power to our bedroom. What in the hell is wrong with our house? It was annoying, but not a big enough problem to call the electricians back outside of their normal work hours.
So on Thursday the electricians came back bright an early for round #4. Luckily the bedroom issue was just a tripped breaker and the reason we didn’t figure it out ourselves was because it was on a 20 amp breaker*** and we assumed all those were related to the kitchen and therefore intentionally flipped off because the wiring wasn’t finished yet.**** They also got the ceiling light in the living room working again!
Also on Thursday the backsplash tile got grouted then they came back on Friday to seal it.
I didn’t have a chance for many pictures since I try to stay out of the contractors way and most things were already covered up/fixed by the time people left for the day. But hey, it will make for a more dramatic reveal, right?
*Well, I could have forgiven Matt… but then he dressed poor Elsie in a horrendously clashing outfit and decided to test all out smoke alarms while I was sitting with a previously-calm infant. I wasn’t that mad at about the caulk but he seemed bound and determined to piss me off that day.
**It was taken down then re-installed so all of it needed a touchup
***Long story short, the wiring is jacked up so it made it very confusing when the electricians were installing the new box.
****Matt would like to make it abundantly clear that he had thought about trying to flip the 20 amp breakers, but was told not to do it by our project manager (which was the right call to make given the knowledge at the time).
This was another week mostly dedicated to mudding and sanding the patches that got put in last week. Once the drywall was finished we got our toilet back!
Matt and I did some speedy priming and painting before the plumber got here so we could easily reach behind the toilet. We still have to touch up the trim that was covered by the vinyl and cut in all the edges, but it already looks so much better!
While we’re fine with painting walls and trim ourselves, I was adamantly against painting the ceiling so we included that in the work for the contractors. Not only did the kitchen ceiling need to be painted because of the patching, but it also had some weird splatters that needed to be covered up as well. With how tall the ceilings are I have no idea how gunk got splattered up there, but the good news is that it’s covered up now!
This may be one of the most boring photos in the history of blog posts, but seriously, do not underestimate the power of a freshly-painted ceiling.
Some mysterious purple paint, which I believe is a water-proofer, got put up where the backsplash tile will be.
On Wednesday they replaced our breaker box…which meant we were without power for most of the day. We dealt with the lack of power by leaving the house to run errands and bringing Elsie to visit Matt’s co-workers. By the time we got back they were just finishing up restoring power, except for the ceiling light in our living room which was mysteriously not turning on. And yes, we did try the obvious fix of trying a different bulb just in case there had been a freak timing incident. The electricians had originally hoped to do the breaker box and tackle all the kitchen work, but because of the mystery light incident they’ll need to come back another day.
Since it was a quieter week for the contractors, Matt and I started prepping some of the work that we’re going to be doing ourselves. We’re going to be re-painting the mudroom (same color, it just needs a refresh), replacing the baseboards, and adding a built-in bench so we’ve been priming, caulking, and buying wood.
The cabinet guy was back on Monday to hang the last upper cabinet and do some finishing work. The crown molding, toe-kick, and glass panels also got added.
The crown molding really polishes things off nicely! If you look closely you can tell our ceiling is uneven, but that’s just par for the course in this house.
We got another break on Tuesday and Wednesday. The every-day work is slowing down just a bit because of the wait on the inspector. Pretty much all the “big” stuff can’t happen until the plumbing inspector gives the OK.
Which happened on Thursday! Huzzah! Now we can start putting everything back together!
The holes in the kitchen wall and ceiling got patched and mudded.
Since the bathroom was a little more complicated, just the framing went up on Thursday. It’s hard to tell from the angle of the picture, but there has to be a bump-out behind the toilet to fit the larger pipe.
We also had the door/drawer hardware installed on Thursday.
I love the shape of everything, but I’m tempted to take a little Rub-N-Buff to the cup pulls to lighten them just a bit.
Then the drywall got put up and mudded on Friday.
WE HAVE WALLS AGAIN!
Unfortunately we also found out that our countertops won’t be in until the 11th. Whomp whomp.
Running a little late on this since she’s currently rapidly approaching two months, but that’s how it goes with the second child, isn’t it? At least the picture is still her at 1 month.
Sleeping on people
Sleeping anywhere not on a person
Daddy’s obsession with having her dance the Macarena
We’ve had a lot of people asking how we chose her name and it wasn’t easy! I made Matt come up with at least 5 names that he would be ok with and I would do the same. His criteria was that the name couldn’t have been in the top 10 in the last 5 years. My criteria was actually liking the name. Unfortunately a lot of the names I liked were top 10 names.* Elsie was one of Matt’s picks and it was actually the only name from his list that I was ok with.**
As far as her middle name goes… we just found something that we thought sounded nice with Elsie so there’s no significance behind it. Like her brother she also has two middle names. However, because Matt and I are clearly batshit insane and want to confuse everyone, she is Elsie Harper [Matt’s last name] [my last name], so yes, these siblings have different last names. These are the fun choices you get to make if you don’t change your name when you get married. The good news is that when they’re both in school they’ll never have teachers comparing them for better or worse.
On Monday the fabricators came to measure for the countertops. The plumber also came back to keep troubleshooting. Unfortunately they exhausted all the less-invasive options they could think of and decided a hole really would need to be cut into the ceiling to find a place to tie the sink vent into to.
…which meant on Tuesday we had a hole cut into our ceiling.
Good news: that’s the extent of the damage to the kitchen ceiling. Bad news: they’ll need to cut into the upstairs bathroom wall instead. Good news: it’s an excuse to start removing the awful vinyl from the bathroom walls. Bad news: $$$
Turns out the pipe they were trying to connect to for venting is downright decaying near the top. It’s also full of vermiculite which is what has foiled any attempts to trace the path from the kitchen to the exterior. In order to replace the damaged pipe they need to cut open the wall behind the toilet in our upstairs bathroom… just as Matt’s sister is coming to visit us. Awesome timing.
On Tuesday they also sealed the mudroom tile and started re-attaching trim. Honestly, I’ll probably re-do the baseboards to match the dining room at some point (which is much closer to the house’s original trim) but it’s easy enough to DIY and given the extra unexpected expenses that have popped up during this, I don’t want to pay a premium for professionals to do it.
They also demoed the bathroom the bathroom wall.
On Thursday the plumbing FINALLY got sorted out. Matt’s sister arrived that morning and nothing says “Welcome Guest!” quite like being down to one (mini) bathroom and having your water turned off for a chunk of the day.
There’s also new PVC pipe in our basement and attic since they replaced pretty much everything that they could access. I suppose it could have been worse. My aunt and uncle used to have a 1850’s-ish farmhouse and a lot of the plumbing was put in just as plumbing fixtures were getting standardized. Whoever did the work chose to use the discount fixtures which meant that they weren’t compatible with today’s fixtures.
And on Friday we rested. And by “rested” I mean “waited for the contractors to schedule the inspector since the walls can’t be put back together until then.”