Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

A little time-traveling reference in the title there to get you in the mood.

Matt has updated our Before the Blog section! So now you can travel back in time a little bit and check out some of the very first things we did to the house – tearing down a wall and making the floors look nicer.

Tear down this wall!

A facelift for the hardwoods


Just dropped in to see what condition our kitchen was in

One of the things we’ve crossed off our kitchen to-do list that has made a huge difference is painting the walls. After the walls were sanded, we primed the walls and let them dry for 24 hours. The next day we painted three of the walls white and one of the walls the same color blue as the living room. The reason we had to paint one of the wall blue is because the way the header in the living room connects to the kitchen wall, there’s mo logical place to stop the blue color and start another. So instead of trying to figure something out, we were perfectly fine painting one wall blue and calling it an accent wall. We love that color anyway.

But we are very excited to see the other walls nice and bright white and clean. If you recall the kitchen used to be a dark hunter green, and the white walls and white cabinets are going to be a nice change of pace when the kitchen comes together.

Oh, and Matt also did what has to be his least favorite activity of all time – painting the ceiling.

And somewhere in the middle of all the painting I was apparently feeling goofy:

We’ve also started construction on the kitchen cabinets and it is definitely exciting to see them start to come together. We’re assembling the upper cabinets first since those will be installed first. We also called in some reinforcements for cabinet assembly and it seems to have made the job a little more enjoyable.

Maybe too enjoyable…

The Ikea cabinets came together like any other piece of Ikea furniture.

Step 1: Unpack the piece of furniture with a wealth of confidence.
Step 2: Locate the directions and start to feel your confidence wane.
Step 3: Position all the pieces exactly as they are laid out in the directions and try to figure out which holes you’re supposed to be putting dowels and where you’re supposed to be attaching hardware. (You are encouraged to flip the pieces and the directions around several times during this step while trying to figure out what to do.)
Step 4: Curse the Swedes.
Step 5: Finally figure out the directions and how to assemble the furniture and proceed to do so in about 2.76 minutes.
Step 6: Fly through the rest of the pieces wondering why you were ever so confused by this intuitive furniture. At this point you may also feel confident that you will never again have trouble putting together another piece of Ikea furniture.

After we were finished with the 6 Ikea steps, our basement looked something like this:

Over the weekend Matt, his Uncle Boob (which by the way is actual nickname and not an unfortunate typo like some of you thought after our last post) and his dad also spent time finishing up the work on the outlets and installing the face plates. They also screwed down the subfloor to help eliminate squeaking and then nailed down the luon flooring to help level the floor and provide a surface for the Pergo flooring to later be installed on.

Having the luon flooring installed and covering up the subfloor has already made a huge improvement in the room.

But perhaps one of the most exciting events of the weekend was the beginning of the installation of the cabinets! We have cabinets on the walls people!

The first step to installing the cabinets was to screw the J-track to the wall.

Once the J-track is installed all you have to do is lift the assembled cabinet up to the track and bolt it on. (These explanations were given to me by Matt and while they sound fairly easy, I’m certain it was more work than he’s giving himself – and his uncle and dad – credit for.)

So those cabinets went up on Saturday, and then today Matt’s uncle took a well-deserved break, giving Matt and I the day to ourselves. Buuuut, we still spent the time working on the kitchen. In true Central New York fashion Saturday was cold and windy, and today was bright and sunny and even warm. It was at least nice to keep the windows and doors open while we worked and get some fresh air into the house.

When we moved into the house the light fixture in the kitchen looked as if it had been in there since the day the house was built, and for me it was love at first sight. But the light fixture had definitely seen better days. While it had a great vintage look, it looked like it was on its way out. But Matt spent a little time and used a little elbow grease and got the fixture looking like new! We both love the idea of keeping an original piece in the house. Matt keeps calling it an “homage to the house.” I just think it looks cool. Either way, we’re both happy.

Don’t worry, this is not the entire fixture. I just neglected to take a better picture of it. We’ll save some things for the kitchen reveal though. 😉 While Matt was doing that, and some other little things around the house, I touched up some of the painting in the kitchen.

Someone else also enjoyed the nice weather today. Since Cormac has recently completed his training and we have an electric fence installed in the backyard, we’re looking forward to just leaving the back door open and letting him go in and out as he pleases. So today while we worked inside, he worked on his yoga skills outside. This is probably the best downward facing dog pose I’ve ever seen:

But apparently it’s also very tiring:

And just to round out this post, a few bonus pictures of things I will definitely not miss when this is all over. Since work on the floor began yesterday the refrigerator also had to be moved into the living room. At least it was reunited with the stove.

And while it may be obvious, in case you were wondering how we were doing any dishes without a kitchen sink:

Bathtub dishes. The worst.

But I guess I really can’t complain, especially now since it’s getting easier and easier to actually see the kitchen coming together! What do you guys think? Should we start taking bets on how soon this will all be finished?

P.S. Bonus points for anyone who understands where the title for this post came from!


Matt here.  I thought I would finally contribute to the blog and write about a few projects that have been both ongoing and slightly out of sight. When we first walked through the house with the realtor we found out that it had quite a few issues with the basement and the electrical. After just a few months of renovations it has become even more clear that the electrical problems were a bit more of an issue than anyone had thought. Before moving into the house my Uncle had a friend of his come in a fix the main line in to the house from the outside lines and set us up with a new circuit board instead of the old fuse box. He was well worth the money and his work would prove to help us in the following months when we did repairs on our own.

One of the first things we did was try to get all of the electrical into some sort of pattern that made sense.  We found that one or two breakers were powering half of the house and they didn’t seem to be placed with any sort of planning.  Sometimes a light switch in the bedroom was on the same breaker as the toaster in the kitchen, or a motion sensor light that could have easily tied in at much closer locations was run down a wall, through the basement, and then back upstairs.  Initially, we just wanted to get the house to a point where the lightswitches and outlets all worked without tripping, which was achieved without opening up too many walls.

Now, with the addition upstairs and the walls all ripped out during the kitchen renovation, we took the opportunity to fix a lot of the previous issues we had. We were able to run new lines for areas that shouldn’t have been carrying such a large load and also shorten up a lot of all the redundant lines.  It also allowed us to run new lines for the kitchen as well as the bedroom/bathroom that will be going in upstairs (someday!).  After all that we are in prett-ay good shape.

Another issue that we found in the basement was that all of the old storm windows had either been kicked in, smashed, or were buckling after years of the house sagging.  Since the house was built in 1953 and the windows had probably never been changed out, I’d say they served their time.  This was one project that I was actually excited to take on even though it was going to have very little visual benefit to the house.

We took out the old windows, which was actually quite a bit of fun, and replaced them with these nice, fancy pre-fit glass blocks that my dad was able to get from a company he works with. They not only keep the cold damp air out but they keep the local cats and bugs out as well… something Kristen was very excited to learn (no more house centipedes!).  They are the first step in the face lift that I am trying to put on to the basement.

With the kitchen renovation coming up I knew we would need a place to assemble all of the cabinets going in, and also some of the work on the kitchen would have to be done from the basement, so I wanted to get some proper lighting in. If you look at the before picture you can see that the previous owners were using old junction boxes and light fixtures downstairs.

Here you can see just the bulb at the top of the picture. There were just a few of these lighting the entire basement.

For about 100$ my dad and I bought a bunch of new fluorescent shop lights and installed them.  Since then we’ve had a much easier time navigating down there and doing laundry. I also feel a bit better knowing that we fixed a lot of really questionable old junctions with old wire. My brother now refers to the basement as our baseball stadium because of how bright the basement is now.

The last notable thing we’ve done down there so far was this thing:

Meet Craptopus.  (Octopus + … well, you get it.) This is the new setup for all of the drainage in the house installed by my Uncle Boob, the family plumber/general handyman and myself. It took a couple days of planning and then finally cutting and installing this thing, but when all was said and done we had lines installed for the 1st floor bathroom and kitchen as well as the 2nd floor bathroom. That means when we do finish the upstairs we already have the electrical run, insulated, and plumbed! Feels good man. I should also give credit to my mom on the plumbing for swapping glue holding duty with me and sweeping like a crazy person.

Cooking without a kitchen

Matt and I usually eat pretty healthy. I don’t eat meat and since we’ve been living and cooking meals together Matt tends to eat vegetarian fairly often now too just out of convenience. (That’s not to say we don’t have days where one of us yells “I just want a burger!” Ok, maybe we both yell that at times…)

With the kitchen completely torn out and the stove sitting in the middle of the living room it’s become a little difficult to cook meals in the house. Our neighborhood also leads out to a main road with almost every fast food place we could desire. When those things combine it’s like the fast food perfect storm and we’ve been eating way more junk than we intended or wanted to this week.

So I had the idea to make some meals ahead of time, freeze them and then warm them up as we needed them, but with the stove sitting in the living room they would all have to be slow cooker meals. I spent some time searching for a handful of vegetarian slow cooker meals or meals that I could prepare as vegetarian by using imitation meat.

I wrote out each of the recipes (BBQ “chicken” and vegetables, honey garlic “chicken,” ratatouille, mango “chicken” curry, no-noodle vegetable lasagna, quinoa corn chowder and a cheese tortellini dish) and then made my grocery list. I even separated my grocery list into sections, like produce, frozen foods, canned goods, etc. Yeah, I was not kidding around with this whole slow cooker thing. But actually I found that separating my list like that was really helpful and I might just do that from now on while shopping.

(As you can tell this post is a little lacking in pictures. I neglected to take any pictures yesterday, so sadly you don’t get to see what my super organized grocery list looked like. And yes, I most definitely would have taken a picture of it had I thought of it at the time.)

After I had stocked up on all the foods I needed I went to my brother’s apartment to prepare all the meals. I used 1-gallon freezer bags and labeled the outside with the type of meal, the cooking setting and time and any other directions. (Some meals were recommended to be thawed first and some recommended adding a certain ingredient toward the end.)

Then I just spent several hours chopping, dicing and mincing food until my hands were about to fall off. There were some other logistical things I decided on, like not adding sauces or liquids to the bags. Once all the vegetables and other foods were added the bags were almost full and I still had to transport them back to the house. The last thing I wanted was spaghetti sauce or vegetable stock all over my floor mats. Instead I just labeled the jars and cans with what recipe they correspond to and set them aside for now.

Not all of my cooking ventures are successful, but everything went according to plan yesterday and our freezer is now filled with at least a week of dinners, although I’m sure it will last us longer than that. So, if there’s anyone out there that needs some tips while renovating their kitchen (although I am pretty positive I know everyone who reads this blog) I would definitely suggest going the slow-cooker/frozen recipe route. Or actually, if you’re stove doesn’t end up in your living room you could also do casseroles and other dishes that can be heated up in the oven too.

Hopefully you guys made it all the way through a post without any pictures! Remember, I’m still new at this blogging thing, but I’ll try to remember to snap some pictures with whatever I’m doing from now on.

I wasn’t the only one busy yesterday, obviously. Matt and his uncle and his parents were here all day working on the electrical. They got a ton accomplished, including running a new line for the stove, figuring out and planning where all the switches are going to be, placing all the outlets, etc. They also decided to hire an electrician to take care of some things – like I said before, the electrical in the house makes no sense. They are still finishing some stuff up this morning and may be ready to start sheetrocking this afternoon! Very exciting!

Prepare to be floored

I’d like to start this post by apologizing for the title.

Anwyay, when I last left off we had one less kitchen than usual.

And now…?!

Well, same situation.
Come on, that would have been crazy quick.

So, when we actually last left off, the shelves, cupboards and sink had been ripped out of the kitchen. But don’t you worry, there was still some more to come out. And in addition to that, Matt and his uncle (who we would be completely lost without) have been working on the plumbing and electrical all week. (The electrical in this house apparently makes no sense at all.)

Back to demolition though. The next thing to come out was the flooring. Previously the kitchen had laminate flooring, which you can somewhat see here:

The old flooring wasn’t terrible, but it did sit higher than the flooring in the living room that it ran up against, creating a nice little spot to constantly trip and stub your toes on. So ripping out the kitchen was a good excuse to rip out the floor and install a new one that would be even with the rest of the floors in the house.

And what we did we find under that laminate flooring?

Lovely blue and white linoleum…

…which didn’t hang around for too long.

And pretty soon it was just down to the subfloor.

Luckily the mess from demolition is pretty easy to avoid. The kitchen leads out to the screen room, which we don’t use in the winter time. But the mess has made its way into other parts of the house now.

There is now a stove sitting in the middle of our living room.

And look, we also have our own Dexter kill room!

Now that the old kitchen is behind us, we’re excited to begin planning the new kitchen and start seeing it come together. Right now we’re deciding on what the new flooring will be, and we’re leaning toward white bamboo. For some reason I just really want to do something different than tile in there, and as far as color goes we both just really liked the idea of a white floor.

I also like the idea of a dark wood or bamboo floor, but because the space is so small and the rest of our house is light colors, I’m leaning more toward a white floor. (Not sure how the white will look up against the hardwood floor, but we’re crossing our fingers.) I’m also hoping the flooring will end up looking a little rustic, which is a look I love and something I would like to incorporate into the house more. Here’s an example of the type of flooring I’m talking about:

Now, I know you may be thinking white floors and white cabinets might be a bit much (and you’d probably roll your eyes if you know I’d also been thinking about white subway tile as a backsplash). But the way I see it is that we’re going to have a wooden countertop and we’re planning on having open shelving, which I would immediately fill with colorful objects, so I think by the time the kitchen all came together it wouldn’t be completely devoid of color. And if you read the previous post about the bookshelves, you know I’m already missing all the light colors and openness we used to have in the living room.

Ok, this post has really just turned into me talking myself into a white kitchen, which I already wanted to begin with. This is the caliber of writing you guys get when I stay up and forego sleep for a blog post.

Goodbye Kitchen

Well, there’s no turning back now. The kitchen process has begun for real now, and as of a few days ago we no longer have a working kitchen. So far it hasn’t been as bad as we thought it would be, but talk to me in a few weeks and see how I feel about it.

The other night I left to run some errands and Matt’s brother came over to help rip out our cabinets. For a refresher, here’s what the kitchen looked like before:

Before the demolition began, Matt and I took the first step and emptied out all the cupboards and shelves and set up a makeshift kitchen in our dining room/front room (I still don’t know what to call that space).

Look, an action shot!

Here’s a shot of part of our makeshit kitchen. We set up a long folding table against one empty wall and we’re also using the kitchen table since we never actually eat at that table anyway.

We ended up setting up this table almost like a buffet of sorts. All of our smaller appliances are on the table and we use it mostly in the mornings so far. (We’ve already taken advantage of not having a kitchen and gotten fast food for dinner.) We’ve made it so all the utensils and paper plates and whatnot are all set up like a buffet. So I think for the duration of these renovations I’m just going to pretend like this is a nice continental breakfast buffet or something. Except we’re not on vacation, there’s no one to clean up after the mess I make, and still there are never enough bagels.

But anyway, the cupboards came down:

And the shelves:

Soon followed by the sink:

So this is the state of our kitchen right now. Like I said, we’re trying to stay positive about it though. So far it really hasn’t been a terrible inconvenience and has only resulted in one somewhat moody argument between Matt and I. Let’s cross our fingers that we keep this positivity throughout the next few weeks!

Cluttering it up

Not everything in our recent Ikea order was for the new kitchen. As long as we were having stuff delivered, we decided to add two bookcases that go with the rest of our living room furniture to the order. We chose to place the bookcases on either end of the console table to create the look of an actual entertainment center.


And after:

Admittedly, I’m already missing the open, empty feeling the room used to have. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted the room to look more finished but I guess I just got used to nothing on that wall for a long time. And my previous apartments were always sparse too. The bookcases also make it feel like we have more clutter in the room, but that’s just because we had practically nothing in there before. Or maybe it’s just because brown feels like the dominant color in here now. I know I’ll get used to the bookcases with time though. Especially since I’m pleased with anything that gives me a place to put all my books!

As far as arranging the shelves, I refrained from simply dumping all the books I own onto the shelves and tried to keep things a little more even and spaced out, choosing just a handful of books for now. I also scrounged around for any knick knacks or other interesting items we had that could be useful. 

I’m not completely in love with the way everything on the shelves looks at this point, but figuring out what to put up there and in what arrangement will definitely be an ongoing project. Which is nice because it gives us an easy way to somewhat change the look of the room from time to time.

After reviewing these pictures I’m starting to think my only talent is placing small ceramic decorations on small piles of books. Maybe I’ve found my new calling in life. Let’s hope there’s a big demand somewhere for this niche talent!

Picture Frame Collage

I have attempted frame collage walls in two of my past apartments. I guess I just like the grand look and the personalization of adding all your own photos or prints that mean something to you in those frames. And then, the way you can change out the pictures in the frames whenever you want a new look.

In the past I had never really been satisfied with the way the frame walls turned out. Both times I had used plain black frames in a few different sizes. Since Matt and I have been living together he tends to prefer – and tends to sway me to his side – light color schemes and accessories. I was all about black and white before we moved in together. Our living room/dining room/entrance area is painted a light blue color and we’ve started to use a lot of white accent pieces and accessories, so we decided that white frames would undoubtedly look best, and we decided to try and mix in different styles of frames.

Here’s another little secret: we love Young House Love and we’re often envious of (or obsessed with, tomato tomahto... ) John and Sherry’s design ideas, so when we saw that they did a frame collage wall too (albeit on a much bigger scale) we were excited to put ours together.

We knew we wanted the wall to be anchored by something in the middle. Over the summer I found an artist who made really neat typographical prints of Syracuse that we both loved. So I bought a large print in yellow because we thought it would look nice with the blue and white, and we centered it on the wall.

And then it just stayed there for a few months. Matt had designated the frame wall as mine to conquer and gave me free reign over it, but I was hesitant to start hanging frames until I knew what I wanted to hang in those frames. But finally I got fed up with my own laziness and just decided to go for it.

We decided to use 3M adhesive strips to hang the frames instead of nailing them into the wall. It seemed a little more expensive to buy all the strips but we thought it was well worth it if it meant we didn’t have to repaint that wall someday if we decided to move the frames.

The first thing I did was gather all the frames I planned on using and traced templates of them using magazine pages. This way I would be able to move them around a lot easier than heavy frames and I would be able to tape them to the wall to get a clear idea of what the frames would look like once they were on the wall. I know maybe some people can just eyeball something like this, but I feel like I have to plan everything out first. So first I laid them out on the ground and played around with the arrangment until I got something I liked.

The next step was to tape the pages on the wall (and for a brief moment I pondered just leaving the pages up there to enjoy the bright colors):

If I had been nailing all the frames into the wall, the magazine pages would have been even more convenient because you can just measure where your nail should go on the magazine paper while it's still taped to the wall, hammer the nail into that spot, and then pull the paper away.

Then I slowly started replacing magazine pages with frames, making sure to keep the frames at least 1-1/2″ apart in order to achieve a little consistency. I knew if I tried to just throw them up there, it would look exactly like I just threw them up there and not like some effortless yet creative masterpiece. I also tweaked my design a little bit as I went just because I seemed to find arrangements I like better once I could see the frames on the walls.

And without further delay, the (almost) finished product:

The arrangement of knick knacks on that table drives me a little nuts, but for now we have no other shelves or surfaces really to decorate, so they’re just all hanging out together for the time being.

One of my favorite aspects of the collage wall is the texture from using frames with different depths and designs:

As you can see, I still have to choose pictures and prints to put in the frames. And I ran out of 3M strips and need to get another package before I can hang up the final frame at the top center. But overall, hanging the frames was a huge improvement and the room doesn’t look quite as empty anymore.

We have a kitchen!

In hundreds of pieces. But it’s here, so that’s a step in the right direction.

Yes, our huge Ikea order arrived yesterday and we came home from work at 5:30 to boxes galore in our living room:

(Apologies for the blurry cell phone pictures.)

And our front room:

And I even have a dishwasher in the kitchen now!

Yes, it’s in a cardboard box, but beggars can’t be choosers, I suppose.

So, the first thing we did when we got home was move the two (insanely heavy) boxes containing the counter tops down into the basement. They were bulky and in the way and most importantly they were blocking the entertainment center and we can’t have anything impeding our ability to veg out when we feel like it.

Matt had to work on his car for most of the night, so I took it upon myself to cross reference our order list with the boxes and try to make sure we got everything we ordered. It sounds like an easy enough job, but I’m not gonna lie, there were a lot of boxes.

So I gave up and baked cookies. True story. I told myself I was taking advantage of using a working kitchen while I still had the chance.

All in all, a pretty successful night I would say.

And we’re off…

…sort of.

It only took a few months of talking about it, but here it is – finally! A blog to record the progress on our house as we remodel (what feels like) every inch of the place.

(If you’re reading this soon after I posted it, you may be able to notice this blog is in the same condition as our house – unfinished. Hopefully within a few days I’ll have updated the House Tour page and Before the Blog page. I’m still figuring out WordPress and I may or may not get annoyed and give up every time I try to do something. But I’ll stick to it and hopefully you’ll stick around as we figure this whole crazy thing out.)

If you’re friends or family of ours you probably already know what’s up. If you’ve somehow gotten lost and found yourself on this page, go ahead and check out the About Us tab above and see what we’re all about.

We’ve been in our house for about 8 months now, and I’m probably crazy to finally start keeping a blog at this point. You see, as I speak (ok, type), our huge order from Ikea is being delivered to our house and pretty soon we’ll be tearing out every bit of the kitchen and replacing everything with nice, new, shiny Ikea stuff.  (If you don’t already know, you’ll soon realize we’re a little obsessed with Ikea, even though the closest store is 4+ hours away. First world problems, yo.)

So, if you plan on following this blog (which I hope you do, even though I’m not sure how much I can rely on myself to actually maintain it – fingers crossed everyone!) you’ll have to prepare yourself for plenty of kitchen posts in the near future. Or maybe they’ll just turn into grumpy posts of me complaining about life without a kitchen for a while… Guess you’ll have to stick around and see!

And I’ll also try to use less parentheses from now on.