Oven BackSplash Fancying.

I loved looking at pictures at fun backsplashes behind ovens.  Something beautiful to stare at while cooking.  I wanted that.  I didn’t want to rip out my backsplash though and spend money on a non-essential on a kitchen reno that has gone on months longer than expected.

So I came up with my own clever idea… or well I think it’s clever.  Toot toot on that own horn.

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(I wish I could figure out how to make that slideshow go faster… but I can’t I am sorry.  BOO ME)


For those interested, thats a photo I found online of where my husband proposed.  So it’s both a really beautiful photo and a really great memory all in one.



The Sink Tumor that Killed the Concrete Countertops

Sink Tumor

Sink Tumor

That is probably the grossest picture ever posted on a half-assed blog ever.

(Side note.. google chrome suggested I change grossest to greatest.. so at least I have that going for me)

That’s the picture of the sink tumor that we came home to late one Sunday night in June.

We had both been gone for the weekend on different work trips.  I swung by the airport and grabbed Hubs and we arrived back home around 11pm.  He spotted that 3D swell area behind the sink while getting a drink right before bed.

It almost caused a huge fight.

It was so big you could see it from the front (may be the first time that phrase was used not in reference to a large butt).

I know that the brown is gross behind that faucet.. The main part of it is putty from putting the sink back in that hadn’t got cleaned off yet.. because the countertops weren’t done for that long.  Then some of it is just gross dirt around a gross kitchen faucet.  That thing was so filthy (spoiler alert we’ve since replaced it) that every time I’d clean it more dirt would seep out of it and take the old dirt’s place.  Marinara monster – I swear it.

Anyhow, Hubs touched the sink tumor and it was soft to the touch and then chipped right off.

We resolved right then and there to rip them off and replace the concrete with laminate.

(I have other pics of other holes that developed.  For instance, we had a run of the mill knife block sitting to the left of the oven.  When we picked it up to move it, it ripped a bunch of the concrete off with it?  Don’t know why.  I can post these pics if people like, but it’s truly overkill in my head.  If you don’t get the idea by now, I am sure its just because you are blaming us for it not working haha)


Stay tuned.


The First Sign of Failure

The First Sign of Failure

The First Sign of Failure

There it is.  The first sign of failure in the beautiful ardex countertops.

(Click that image and it’ll enlarge, by the way)

The criminal?  The George Foreman drip tray.  It got sat there and forgot about for a day or so.  When I finally realized it and picked it up , it left behind that huge stain and those holes.

I know its gross that a drip pan of grease sat there for any amount of time and that plenty of people will judge us for being disgusting, but I am just keeping it real.  I am sure there are plenty of people out there that wish they were more OCD about picking things up and are in the same boat as we are.  If thats you and you are reading this and still thinking, but I’ll just BE super cautious about these because I want them so badly.  Stop.  I did that.  I was super cautious.  I was constantly wiping things up as soon as they touched the concrete.  It still happened.  The good thing is I now wipe countertops constantly even though I ripped the concrete out.  So maybe if you want to train yourself that way, you SHOULD do this, but expect to be redoing it in two months.

That hole and stain up there was within 2 weeks.  We hadn’t even gotten around to doing the rest of the countertops yet and that one already had to be chipped and patched and resealed.


Moral of the Story.

Not worth it.


7 Months Ago We Replaced A Light

Seriously, alert the local media.  This is a very interesting post.


So interesting that the only ‘before’ picture I have is of our first visit and you can only see what I am talking about in the background..

Hall Light "Before"

Hall Light “Before”

Through the miracles of crop, I present that incredibly high quality before shot.

Replacing these ugly random light fixtures have never been a huge priority (except for that chandelier..which spoiler alert is still hanging there this day).   Well, we were randomly at Lowe’s and I found a beautiful fixture marked down from over $100 to $19.  Sold.

New Hallway Light Closeup

New Hallway Light Closeup

Bright & Shiny

Bright & Shiny


I am back at blogging at the first thing I post is about a light replacement and not even at how we did it.  There are plenty of how tos on switching lights out there tho.  Do you really want to learn how we did it?

Spoiler Alert..It was magic.

Before, During, Progress, Kitchen, etc.

As I gather up my half-assed pictures of the kitchen reno at every step I have realized a few things. They all boil down to one thing: I need to take better pictures.  For starters, I am not the best photographer.  But there’s also the fact that I never bothered to clean off the countertop for any of the pics.  It’s always full of chaos.  In fact, I don’t even have a picture of the full kitchen post painting the countertops.  God only knows why.  So, to the best that I’ve equipped myself, here’s three pictures of our kitchen along the way, with a quick cap of what changed in between.

Progress Shots

Progress Shots

I seriously need to work on my photography skillz.

Our kitchen to do list looks like this now with this update–

  • Prime, paint, and seal the cabinets. (we opted to not seal)
  • Buy new hardware and add it to the cabinets (duh)
  • Paint the walls and ceiling
  • Re-do the countertop (either paint or re-laminate)
  • Re-redo the countertop again (surprise surprise!)
  • Finally finish installing the big light (it needs a sealing gasket thing installed, but we couldn’t find it for awhile lol)
  • Replace the under cabinet light
  • Find a permanent solution for the trash and recycle bins (on our way!)
  • Make the upper corner shelf open shelving (just have to add the shelves back in – more on that later)
  • Paint the new open shelving in the corner (still have to paint the actual shelves + maybe a pattern in the background + hang the shelves)
  • Possibly replace the above-window light
  • Add some sort of curtains to the window and the door
  • Strip and repair the doors to the outside and to the basement
  • Paint the doors to the outside and the basement
  • Bright gloss white paint on the trim and doors
  • Create a family command center on the big open wall that includes a calendar, mail center, meal planner, and anything else we may find useful.
  • Add a light in the little nook where the doors are?
  • Decorate.
  • Enjoy.

So here’s where we are now…

Completed Kitchen Floor

Completed Kitchen Floor

So happy with this finished step!

Laying VCT Tiles

In our last post, we discussed how to get old tiles up before laying new tiles.  Today, we’ll talk about the incredibly scientific process we used to lay the new basketweave patterned vct tiles that we decided upon for kitchen.

Once your floor has dried from the soap and water bath, you are ready to move to the next step.  Leveling.  With VCT tile, we read that any variation in the floor may lead to the tile cracking or shifting, so its very important to start with a nice flat surface.  What this amounts to is that basically you fill in any nail holes, cracks between subfloor boards, etc.

Once we removed our old tile, we were greeted by a huge rotted space of subfloor where the refrigerator sits.  When we first moved in, there was a gigantic fridge that leaked and smelled & we got rid it of within our first week.  We figure that was the likely culprit of the damage.

Instead of replacing all of the subfloor, Kevin took out his circular saw, set it for a very limited depth cut and cut as straight as possible around the damaged area.  He then just cut a fresh piece of luan and fit it down into the hole.   Then everything was ready to be leveled.

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As far as leveling goes, we used Ardex Feather Finish cement compound.  We mixed up a very small amount to where it was slightly thicker than recommended and filled in all of the holes, divets, ridges, cracks, etc.  For example, between the fresh luan and the old subfloor, there was a small gap.  I filled the entire gap in with feather finish and then feathered it out so there wasn’t a noticeable ridge.  It then just had a small very low-grade ridge.  For good measure, we covered all of the old nails and any place where the subfloor had any sort of texture with the feather finish.  This whole process took maybe all of 15 minutes and was well worth it.

Once the feather finish dried completely, we laid out a chalk line as our “starting line.”   I decided where I wanted our basketweave “to intersect” in relation to the door and then Kevin did whatever magical math he needed to do to decide how that meant the tile needed to be laid.  We wanted to lay them at an angle, so we placed our chalk line the longest diagonal point our kitchen had.  Once that chalk line was down, we laid out our tile pattern along it and covered the entire kitchen floor. (NO ADHESIVE AT THIS POINT).

Our reasoning for laying out the pattern without adhesive one last time was to ensure we didn’t make any mistakes.  Once we had the pattern completely laid out and we were happy with it, we’d pick up one tile at a time and where that tile was Kevin would mark out which tile would go there.  It should be noted that the pattern in VCT, while subtle, is definitely directional.  The small dots of the pattern move from one side of the tile to the other and it is very noticeable (to me) if from one tile to the next, the pattern switches directions.  As a result, he also put an arrow on the floor, denoting which direction the pattern would go.  We used “D,” “M,” and “L” to denote dark, medium, and light, respectively.  This is a crucial step to the process.  Otherwise, you are left to not screw up the pattern once the adhesive is down.


Marking Out Tile Pattern

Marking Out Tile Pattern

Next it’s time to trowel out your tile adhesive.  Your local home improvement store will sell VCT tile adhesive.  Be sure that before you walk out of the store with your chosen adhesive, that you read the back of the bucket.  The back of the adhesive will also tell you what size trowel to buy.

Troweling on the adhesive is just what it sounds like. Put your trowel in the adhesive and scoop some out on the floor, then spread it out.  If you’ve ever laid any sort of towel before (say, ceramic tile for a backsplash or bathroom), its generally the same thing.  Here’s a picture after our floor was covered in adhesive.

Fresh Adhesive

In the pic, you can see the trowel marks of the spread adhesive, and also the marked out floor pattern.

The tile adhesive has a really long dry time, giving you plenty of time to lay your tiles correctly.  So don’t rush.  Carefully lay each tile, butting it up to the next tile and then pressing down hard on to the floor so it doesn’t shift.  Once you put it in the tile, you “can” pull it back up and adjust it, but more than likely it’s going to snap if you pressed it into the adhesive.  So do it right the first time!  Lay every tile carefully so as to avoid having to adjust it.

We started our pattern by just laying the first line of tiles along our chalk line.  Kevin went straight down that line, laying the first tiles, then standing on them to lay the next, until he had a straight line across the kitchen.  Then, he backtracked and laid down the next row to the side.  Eventually, he broke this straight line pattern and just laid full chunks at a time.

Laying the new floor

Laying the new floor (as you can see, we went with a 3 tone muted grey color palette) 

Laying the full tiles (ones that did not have to be cut) went down really quickly.  We had  nice system going on.  We started with Kevin going around the house to the outside door and starting the floor from that end, working towards the entryway from the dining room.  He took about 10 of each color tile with him.

As he ran out of tiles. I stood in the doorway of the kitchen and handed them to him – usually one at a time, sometimes a chunk of one color at a time.  Whatever he needed or preferred.  The main bulk of the floor (again, the ones that didn’t need to be cut), went down in about 20 minutes tops.  We were starting to think this was going to be an hour project and done.  We were grossly wrong.

It turns out, cutting tiles is time consuming.  The best advice I can give you on that is to start with the easy cuts first and again pay attention to the pattern.  A few times Kevin cut a tile and then realized he cut it with the pattern going the wrong way.

As for how he cut the tile, he consulted a youtube video.  This one to be exact.  I’ll let explaining how to cut be done by somebody who actually understands it.  As I do not.

We didn’t buy the tile cutting tool, mainly to keep costs down.  If we had to do it over again, we may have, but I believe it was somewhere between $30-50 at Home Depot.  So keep that in mind when decided whether or not you just want to use the razor blade and snap method that we employed.  I will say it seemed to work just fine, but it may have been more time consuming than the tool.  No way for me to really know about that now.

After you get all of your tiles laid and your floor is completely covered, I’d highly recommend using a floor roller over top of them.  We rented one from home depot for 24 hours and had plenty of time to spare.  Its basically just a giant weighted roller on a stick and you push it around in all directions.  It’s actually kind of fun.  You can hear the air bubbles in the adhesive beneath the tiles popping.  Kind of like a giant bubble wrap.  Don’t run over your toe.

Now stand back and admire your work.  Your/our new floor is beautiful.

Finished Floor

Finished Floor

If you are anything like me, you’re obsessed with it.  I am completely obsessed with it.  I think it makes the kitchen look so much bigger.  I’ll post more pictures of it soon.  Truth be told, I chose this picture because all of the pics of it from right when we were done that show the whole kitchen also show Kevin’s extensive empty beer bottle collection.  For Homebrewing.  But it makes us look like huge drunks.  Yikes.



Funny Flooring Pun.

As mentioned yesterday, it’s been a huge long while since I’ve updated this blog (sorry again), so I am way out of practice on my home reno related puns.  Let’s pretend this post is titled funny.

When we last addressed the kitchen floor (here) way back in September, I mentioned that our plan included the keyword of “cheap”  – and I’d say we nailed it.

First, lets look at what our kitchen came with in the way of flooring…

Our Original Kitchen Flooring

Our Original Kitchen Flooring

Who doesn’t love pink, filthy, chipping linoleum tile from however many decades ago?

Oh, me.

So in that post way back in September, I listed out about a dozen different ideas we had running through our minds, but we eventually settled on vct tile.  We had our reasons, but the real reason we just went for it was my stumbling upon this post at design*sponge that just had the most fabulous cheap floor ever.  I was immediately obsessed.  To me, it was just the perfect floor with huge visual impact and in our price range (Under $1.50/sq.ft).

So I started to research VCT Tiles and what I found out sealed the deal.  As it turns out, they were way under budget (Around 75cents/sq.ft).  Also, they came in a huge rainbow of colors and I could customize to exactly what I wanted.  Originally, my heart/head said I wanted grey (to match the cabinets and backsplash), white (the neutral), and a pretty blue (because, thats just where my head went).  I went to Home Depot and on about 10 different occasions asked somebody in the flooring department to help me with VCT tile ordering & nobody ever knew what I was talking about to help me.  I would literally be standing in front of the big poster they have at home depot telling you to “custom order VCT tile” and the worker would tell me that wasn’t possible. So I gave up on that and went home to order it online.  However, Home Depot’s website was even less helpful than their store workers.  As a result, for this project, I switched teams and ordered from Lowes.com.

If you search VCT on Lowes.com, you’ll come with about 300 (I don’t even think thats over-exaggerating) results.  Be cautious, some of them are ridiculously priced (I still haven’t figured out why, but I didn’t really look into it- I just didn’t order any of those ones).  I ended up ordering about 14 different colors – a few each of blue, grey, and white – because I couldn’t decide based on what my monitor was showing what would look right in the kitchen.  And it’s a good thing, too, because the ones I would’ve swore were perfect ended up being horribly horribly wrong.  The whole bill ended up being north of $450. I called Lowes and double checked that whatever tiles I decided I didn’t want, I could return & was triple-ensured that was the case.

About a month later, we got the call that our tile order was waiting for us at Lowes.  We headed down and loaded up our haul.  I never considered how heavy these tiles could be.  I actually didn’t think they would be heavy.  I was wrong.  I couldn’t lift a single box.  I won’t even try to wager how much they weighed, but our small Corolla was quite the low rider.

When we got them home, we quickly realized that the colors I had previously had my heart set on were wrong.  But first, we tried out a ton of different patterns to make sure it wasn’t the pattern’s fault it looked awful.  Spoiler alert: it was my color choice.

Here are some of the patterns we ran through, just in case you’ve stumbled upon this entry in hopes of finding VCT floor patterns.

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Eventually I realized it was the colors that were all wrong and switched them out to be something much more subtle and classy.   More on that, soon!


New Rug!

Our living room is coming along…  Here’s an update of how it looks as of today!

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All that junk on the sofa table?  Just keeping it real.

But the living room has made a lot of progress.  We’d like to thank Kev’s parents for the beautiful blue rug.  It was our Christmas gift.  If you’d like it, it is the moroccan trellis rug in Blue on Overstock.com.  We got it on a sweet Black Friday deal.

You can also see that the artwork above the fireplace is now mounted and the houseplants are gone…because we killed them.  Whoops.  We had no real great place we liked them in this house so I guess it doesn’t really matter.  Poor planties.  I also switched the position of the chair & tiny table & switched it out with another lamp we had in another room.  I like it better this way, but I have to shim up the other leg of the chair so its stop wobbling (only one leg is on the rug).

The Living Room POA-

Here’s the living room plans-

  • Paint fireplace grate
  • Buy new curtains
  • Possibly buy a new more fashionable blind
  • Buy an area rug
  • Box out the hidden windows
  • Probably buy a new couch
  • Build built-ins on each side of the fireplace that are mantel height & the TV can be hidden in
  • Paint the trim glossy white
  • Paint the front door
  • Mount the artwork (I made that) above the fireplace
  • Pare down on the houseplants.  (actually we accidentally killed them.. so that was an easy step…unfortunately)

I’ve actually bought a couple different pair of curtains to try out here and haven’t made a decision yet.  They’re probably all going back to the store.  We also picked out a huge (96in) bamboo shade on discount from Home Depot the other day as well.  I am hoping to get that hung up in the near future.  When I go into the living room now I feel really at home.  It’s starting to feel warm and inviting instead of just a mishmash of things thrown in there that we already owned.  We haven’t really bought a lot for it, but the little adjustments make it feel more intentional than its previously thrown together.  Happy home.


Back here, I remarked that a certain loved father-in-law of mine promised me he’d help us oust the blocked in windows that are to either side of our fireplace.

The man came through.

Way more beautifully than anybody could have hoped.  That’s not to say we had low expectations of him, that’s to say he does beautiful work.

In Laws revealing the windows

In Laws revealing the windows

Windows boxed up so we can paint the trim.

Windows boxed up so we can paint the trim.



So I know these have Christmas decorations in them so it sort of distorts it. BUT… Its tradition that I put my tree up on Black Friday while the rest of the Country is out pulling each other’s hair out and generally forgetting the values of the day before.  So I had to do it.  I hate breaking tradition.



Thanks again to my in laws… they are endless and incredible help!  Looks so amazing.




Then & Now – Living Room Edition

The end of November & beginning of December brought a lot of rapid fire changes to the living room area.  It was an area that basically remained stagnant from when we finished the painting and ripping up the floor.  We filled it with furniture we already owned and went on with life.

Here’s what it looked like at our first walk thru.  When we “fell in love” with our diamond in the rough.

Living room - February 2012 (before we bought our home)

Living room – February 2012 (before we bought our home)

Gross carpet, ugly blinds, brassy fireplace cover. But also- beautiful fireplace, huge window, great bones.

Now here it is on Thanksgiving Day 2012 (about 9 months later)

Living Room on Thanksgiving 2012

Living Room on Thanksgiving 2012

So what’s changed in the last 9 months?  Well the obvious – it’s been painted and the carpet was ripped out.  We put our own furniture in it.  But also, Kevin used high heat paint (its actually marketed for a grill – Rustoleum makes it) in flat black to paint the fireplace cover.  How much better is that?  Seriously amazing.

We have a lot of plans for this space.  All in all from the wall in the left of the photo to the window is about 12 feet.  From the fireplace to the wall that I am standing beside when I took this picture is either 19 or 20 feet.  I don’t remember exactly.  So with where the couch is the living room is about 12×10 roughly.

Here’s the living room plans-

  • Paint fireplace grate
  • Buy new curtains
  • Possibly buy a new more fashionable blind
  • Buy an area rug
  • Box out the windows hidden in this photo
  • Probably buy a new couch
  • Build built-ins on each side of the fireplace that are mantel height & the TV can be hidden in
  • Paint the trim glossy white
  • Paint the front door (can’t see it here)
  • Mount the artwork (I made that) above the fireplace (it’s just leaning in this picture)
  • Pare down on the houseplants.  (actually we accidentally killed them.. so that was an easy step…unfortunately)

It’s basically a whole whole bunch of buying.  So that’s why it’s coming along slowly.

Luckily though, a lot of this list was knocked off over Thanksgiving weekend… Thanks Billionaire (thats what I call my father-in-law, Bill)!