Archive for the ‘The House’ Category

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What we’ve been doing all this time…

March 28, 2013

I think it’s safe to say this blog is dead. Sadly (or happily?) I have been busy with far too many other projects to maintain it regularly (read: at all), but on the off chance that any of those 50 daily hits that it’s still getting (still? seriously?!?) are live readers and not spambots, here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to. Moving forward, I plan to use this space for occasional updates on specific projects, happenings, or other things I want to write about that maybe someone somewhere wants to read about, but don’t look for a return to regular posting any time soon (in case the two-year hiatus didn’t clue you in on that front).

Here are a few posts about what’s been keeping us busy, though.

First up: The kitchen!

1. We finished the kitchen! Huzzah! And it only took 29 months. (Okay, in fairness, it was functional far sooner than that, but the last few bits and pieces have dragged on and on, so we finally gave up and sought some help to push it over the finish  line.)

Here it is, in all its glory (albeit with some wonky lighting):

Remember what that used to look like? (Yeah, I know, I’m cheating because these are the night-before-demo photos so there’s no sunshine or accessories to spruce it up…but it really wasn’t so hot.)

I’m quite pleased with the first-time tile and flooring jobs we (by which I mostly mean D.) pulled off! The walls are actually a soft lime green; for some reason they look accurate on one computer screen and day-glo green on another, but rest assured that we did not save money by coloring them with highlighters. Someone described the color to me as looking like a lime daquiri, and that’s a pretty good approximation. (It’s Benjamin Moore Wales Green, for those who care about such things. The trim is Acadia White and the cabinets are Sea Haze.)

That was great before too:

I love love love my cookbook shelf! And didn’t D. do a nice job with the wood counter? Someday we’ll also get a new refrigerator so that’s why this one looks a little lost in the space, but for now it’s chugging along so we’ll see how many more years we can eke out of it first, especially since it (very surprisingly) turned out to be as energy-efficient as the new (but, granted, bigger) one will be when we cracked out the Kill-o-Watt. Ignore the undersized IKEA cart in the foreground; that’s one of the last few things we have to replace with an appropriately-sized kitchen work table. This photo was also taken before the shelving and shoe bench were in, so you’ll have to scroll down to get a glimpse of those.

I’m personally a big fan of the new-and-improved kitchen entry.

Here’s what we used to walk in to see:

And here’s what we see now. One of my silly goals of this project was to restore the through-the-house view of the gardens that was part of the original house plan, and I’m ecstatic that I can now sit in our living room and see our beautiful fruit trees! When we eventually get a new refrigerator, it will sit flush with the cabinets, so we’ll have an even better view.

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D. also tuned up the swinging door with a new hinge once we discovered the original one had been sawed and hammered beyond repair in an unsuccessful attempt to remove the door at some point. Turns out the hinge was bolted to the subfloor, so that’s why that didn’t pan out for whichever past owner was trying to get it loose… Note that it now opens into the kitchen, as it was intended to. (Pre-renovation, it only opened out into the dining room because that ceramic tile was too high for it to clear, which meant it blocked the door to the hallway that leads to the bathroom and bedrooms. Good thinking, past owners!)

The breakfast nook, still with its garden view, but with newly restored and trimmed windows. (Don’t look now, but this photo was taken before we installed the door thresholds! So pretend you don’t see the left corner.)

We restored the California cooler!

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We got a new-old back door from Ohmega Salvage that was a perfect fit for the opening, a new Douglas fir screen door, and I finally got my shoe bench and coat rack. (All that junk in the photo is not, in fact, what is supposed to go on these shelves, but right now we can’t store anything heavy down low.)

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We still have a little painting left to do here and there, but it’s pretty much a wrap. It was a long time coming—we demoed the old kitchen the first week of November 2010—but I’m loving the wonderful new space, and we even finished it on budget! Everybody around here loves it.

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Next up: other things that have been keeping us busy (Hint: we are rocking that 2011 resolutions list!!)

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2011 House Resolutions

February 15, 2011

A little late, but hey. Setting the bar a bit lower on these this year given the total lack of progress on the 2010 list…so this one is short ‘n’ sweet.

1. FINISH THE KITCHEN.
This will actually get done, for no better reason than that is has to or we will go nuts! Still to do as of February 2011: painting, range hood vent, shelves, breakfast table and benches, shoe bench, backsplash tiles, butcher block counter, and rehanging the doors. Really not so bad considering where we started!

2. MEDICINE CABINET & BATHROOM PAINT.
Leftover from 2010.
We will install the medicine cabinet and paint the bathroom. No, really.

(I’m not getting too overly optimistic on the “To Do” list, though, so I’ll leave re-plastering the bathroom ceiling, which is currently threatening to come tumbling down, for 2012 or until it actually falls, whichever comes first.)

3. GARAGE SHELVES AND BIKE RACKS.
Leftover from 2010. Yeah. We will also do this in 2011, I swear!

4. CHICKENS FOR THE ‘HOOD.
Leftover from 2010. We’ll keep trying to get this together! Ever hopeful.

5. FRENCH DRAINS IN OUR FRONT YARD.
Because we need something new to do. The previous owner of our house did a lot of drainage work before selling it, but we still have one little section of the basement that gets water in heavy downpours. Unfortunately, this is also where we put the new furnace (there were good reasons for moving it and also some miscommunication on exactly where the designated spot would be, but it is what it is). So now we really need to fix the drainage. D. has been running test pumps this winter to try to pinpoint where we need to dig to get at the major problem sources, and I think he’s finally found it, or at least found a magic spot that seems to help a lot. So this spring, we need to get digging and route that water back down the hill and out of the basement. If we really get on a roll, this might expand to include tearing up the path in the backyard, digging french drains there too, and putting the path back. But really? That’s more likely to be 2013 or so…

6. ORGANIZE THE OFFICE (AKA THE SPARE BEDROOM)
We got really lazy about this one, and never got shelves for the second bedroom, so for the last few years everything’s been all over the floor in boxes. Which is kind of ridiculous given that we’re coming up on four years in this house in 2011! So sometime this year, we (by which I mostly mean D., since he uses this room as his office) will actually get some shelves and put some stuff on them.

…and that should keep us busy for most of the year, at least at the rate we’ve been going for the last year or so!

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Floored!

February 10, 2011

For a while now, actually, but I’m doing an extraordinarily bad job of keeping this blog updated…so I’ll play catch-up with some kitchen photos as we inch closer to finally wrapping this thing up! Here’s what we accomplished in December (along with some other fun but less photogenic things like electrical and plumbing work).

This is our shiny new Marmoleum Click tile from Anderson Carpet & Linoleum on Broadway, installed in December by D. (with a little bit of help from me!) The Labradane is a fan, or at least he became one once he got used to slip-sliding on it! He’s perfected the art of stopping mid-kitchen and sliding the rest of the way to the back door—but remarkably, two months later this stuff has yet to show many scratches to speak of. So that gets it a thumbs up from me!

Next up: What we did in January

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2010 House Resolutions Check-in: Jul…no, wait, December!

December 6, 2010

Whoops! In the chaos of the wedding, I somehow missed the June mid-year check-in on our house resolutions….which is just as well, since we are making very slow progress on them. But here’s a quick run-down of where we are with just days left to go:

1. A DISHWASHER.
Getting delivered this week! Actually, we’ve made lots of progress on this one, and with a little bit of luck, we will squeak in under the wire, with a working dishwasher (and kitchen!) in time for New Year’s Eve. !!!

2. HONEYBEES.
Done…for now. Hmm. So I took a great class at Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in San Francisco to learn a little bit more about beekeeping…and I have to say that I’m not so sure it’s the right thing to add to to the mix right now. I did get a book that D.’s been reading, though, so if he gets excited enough about it to compensate for my trepidation, we might still give it a spin. But right now I’m thinking that (in the words of the class instructor!) I’m more interested in being a “bee haver” than a “bee keeper.” Time to plant some bee balm!

3. MEDICINE CABINET.
Halfway there. Well, so I have the medicine cabinet at long last…but it’s not installed yet. Also, painting the bathroom? Not done either. Argh. However, I think this one is getting close, since we now own the saw(s) needed to hack through the wall, and I now know how to drywall. Kind of. Bumping this to early 2011 at this point, since I don’t want to tear up the bathroom before we’re back in the kitchen.

4. LAWN LANDSCAPING.
Done! The grass is in! Still growing a bit slowly in spots, but it’s definitely grassy now.

Grass growing (a little!)

Grass growing (a little!) It's grown much more since this was taken.

5. HEAT REGISTERS.
Almost done! We ended up stripping and powdercoating the original registers (or rather, having someone else do this) after replacing them turned out to be trickier than I imagined. Now, to find the right size screws to put them back in the wall, since it turns out these aren’t readily available, and I should have kept track of the rusty stripped ones. D’oh.

6. GARAGE SHELVES AND BIKE RACKS.
No progress. Boo. This should be an easy one, too…bumping to next year, but inspired to get rolling on this as soon as the kitchen is done! On the upside, we got a new furnace as part of the kitchen remodel (yeah, don’t even ask…) and took the opportunity to move it to a side room in the basement, which means we now have a huge open space to play with in the main basement. Bike racks, here we come!

7. CHICKENS FOR THE ‘HOOD.
More talking, but still no action. We got as far as walking the space where the coops will go in our neighbor’s yard, but then the project stalled again. A friend of our neighbor’s is on board to help design it, though, so it’s looking promising for 2011. We’ll get there one of these years!

So, yes, it’s been an appallingly pathetic year for any project or activity not related to a) the wedding, b) work, or c) the kitchen. *sigh* There’s always next year…

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Our bungalow in a BOOK!

March 16, 2010

Or, to be a bit more accurate, on a book. Jane Smiley’s new novel Private Life, to be exact.

Yep, that's our house there at the bottom! (Image from Faber & Faber)

This is a story of amazing discoveries:

First, a great-grandaughter of Walter and Mabel Kiedaisch, the couple who owned our home from 1921 to 1927, stumbled upon this blog last year after I posted a little history of our house. (Side note: We have now been in contact with five of the nine families who have lived here over the last century, including the family who built the home in 1915….that’s pretty amazing!) We’d known that Walter Kiedaisch was a photographer—and as it turns out, his great-granddaughter has his photograph archives. Lo and behold, she hunted down a snapshot of our house! (This is especially impressive given that she did this in part by looking at the little chopped-and-shopped graphic of our house in the corner of the homepage, which—though it is in fact adapted from a real photograph—takes a lot of artistic liberties…)

Then, even more astoundingly, Faber and Faber, a British publishing house, found the photograph on this blog while searching for pictures of Bay Area bungalows to use on the cover of the British edition of Private Life. (The moral of the story is: tag, and tag well!) They were good enough to write and ask for formal permission to use the image, and have included a photography credit for Walter Kiedaisch, fifty years after his death. And the icing on the cake: this gig even came with an honorarium for use of the photograph that, with the blessing of the Kiedaisch family, we asked the publisher to donate to the Oakland Heritage Alliance (OHA), where it will go to work preserving Oakland’s history (not to mention helping to fund the cool history lecture series and walking tours that OHA offers).

This experience was also a good lesson for me in learning to be less paranoid—my initial reaction to the email that showed up from the publishing house was “what kind of a scam could this be??” But a little digging on the interweb revealed that everyone was indeed who they said they were, and it was all real. So, working with three women I’ve never met on two different continents, we coordinated all of the logistics—and here it is!

I have yet to actually read the book—we haven’t received our copy yet as it doesn’t officially come out until May, so that’s a project for later this spring!—but I’m very curious, since the novel is about a young woman living in the Bay Area in the early 20th century with her naval officer/astronomer husband. I don’t think the book itself is set in Oakland—the few excerpts I’ve seen refer to a San Francisco naval base, which, in the 1920s, would likely have been Hunters Point in San Francisco, one of the first Pacific naval bases established. The Oakland Naval Reserve Air Base, located where the Oakland Airport is today, did not go into operation until 1928. Alameda Naval Air Station in West Alameda was acquired by the Navy in 1930, and Treasure Island, midway between San Francisco and Oakland, was the last to go to the Navy in 1940 as part of a land swap that got the City of San Francisco property near Millbrae to build the airport that is now SFO. But regardless of the setting, the novel should be an intriguing snapshot of Bay Area history. (Author Jane Smiley is a Northern Californian herself, so I imagine she had a chance to delve into all sorts of fun aspects of the history of this region.)

And speaking of Bay Area naval bases, here’s some fun trivia: in 1927, the Oakland City Council bought Bay Farm Island, now part of the city of Alameda except for OAK, to build the city an airport. A few months later, the Army got in touch to say they wanted to try the first flight from the mainland to Hawai’i, and wanted Oakland to build a runway for them. So, working 24 hours a day for three weeks (sound familiar, Caltrans??), Oakland crews built what was then the world’s longest runway, and on June 28, 1927, a flight from Oakland to O’ahu became the first successful flight to Hawai’i from the U.S. mainland. The Navy took over the next year, launching a long history of naval aviation in the East Bay.

Anyway, if for some reason you want to be the proud owner of a book with our house on the cover of it, you can get it here. (The photograph is only on the UK paperback edition of the book.) We’re picking up a few extra copies to pass along to any future owners of the house, too, since it’s such a fun story—and looks eerily the same as our house today. (And, of course, we’re ignoring the somewhat creepy sub-heading on the cover, given that we’re down to just a few months before our wedding….)

Turns out that a little history goes a long way!

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And the 2010 house resolutions!

January 4, 2010

Last week I gave the final rundown on the 2009 house resolutions, which means it’s time for (da-da-daaaa!) the 2010 list.

This year’s projects are mostly short and sweet, because we’re tackling one HUGE project and also getting married in June, so there will be more than enough things to occupy us. Still, there are some projects here I’m super excited about!

1. A DISHWASHER. Well, a whole new kitchen, actually. This a carryover from last year’s list. It’s our one huge gigantic project for this year after a year off from contractors—we did the electrical and seismic work back in 2008—and since we’re trying to do at least some of it ourselves, I’m expecting it to consume a lot of time.

2. HONEYBEES. Thanks to a little bit of a kick in the pants from my sister in the form of a gift certificate to Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in San Francisco (thanks B!!), this jumped up our list a bit, and I can’t wait to get started on it! But first, I need to learn a little bit more about what I’m doing here—so look for more in the months to come.

3. MEDICINE CABINET. I’ve been procrastinating on getting a recessed medicine cabinet for the bathroom for a while, but I’m hoping to actually get moving on that this year, and also repaint the bathroom while I’m at it. This project is a bit daunting because it involves knocking holes in plaster, and I’m still not quite sure what we’ll find in there. (You can still see the shadows of the framing of the original cabinet, but I have no idea how or when it was filled in, or whether the framing is still intact.) We’ll see…

4. LAWN LANDSCAPING. We successfully killed all of our grass* this past year, but we haven’t done much with the space yet. Now it’s time to have some fun with the landscaping, and figure out what interesting natives we can put in. (*Note that by “grass” I do not mean oxalis, which is having a field day with our bare lawn…ack!)

5. HEAT REGISTERS. I started replacing these with functional reproductions this year, but got sidetracked when I discovered the moulding around the registers needed to be replaced. Hopefully I can check this one off the list pretty early this year…

6. GARAGE SHELVES AND BIKE RACKS. We’ve needed these forever, but it’s just never a very high priority project…maybe putting it on the resolutions list will make it one!

7. CHICKENS. Finally, though this may be a long shot, I’m hoping by the year’s end we’ll be involved in a chicken project either at our house or at our neighbor’s house (since they had the great idea of setting up a block chicken coop to share the responsibility and, more importantly, to house the hens somewhere where there is no big black dog!)

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Out with the old: Final 2009 house resolutions check-in

December 30, 2009

To wrap up 2009, here’s the status of this year’s resolutions. Look for the 2010 list next week!

Here’s the original list: My New Year’s House Resolutions

…and here’s where we are in the waning days of 2009:

1. BETTER WINDOW INSULATION.
Mostly done. In the end, I ordered 1 3/8″ spring bronze weatherstripping  from Kilian’s Hardware, since the stuff I got from our local Ace was too narrow. They shipped promptly and have everything under the sun on the old weatherstripping front. With instructions from Working Windows, a phenomenal guide, I’ll hopefully finish up the last of the weatherstripping soon. Pictures coming once I remember to take some. (I’m doing a modified version of it without removing the sashes—not the recommended way, but so far it seems to be working decently, and significantly reduces the likelihood that I’ll screw it up and need to call in the pros. But it also means I would be much happier with a staple gun, which the Tool Library has—except that they’re closed till after the new year with all the budget cuts…augh.) And the bedroom window issues will be resolved by early 2010—yay!

2. DROUGHT-TOLERANT LANDSCAPING.
Mostly done. We successfully killed the grass, but then went to war with the oxalis. This isn’t done yet, but it’s mostly because I’ve been lazy and preoccupied with other things. I think I can safely say it’s a weekend (and a few hundred dollars’ worth of DG, stones, mulch, and plants) away from being complete.

3. PRODUCTIVE VEGETABLE BED.
Done! The garden did quite respectably this year, though it’s definitely still a work in progress. I continue to be in awe of the huge yields from some friends’ gardens, so I’ll keep at it. I put cover crops in this winter, so hopefully that will help, too.

Lettuce bed

4. NEW POWER STRIPS.
Done! Pictures are not exciting here, so you don’t get any…

5. CLOTHES LINE.
Done! But no photos till we get the landscaping done, since right now the yard looks pretty icky.

6. NO MORE LEAKY TUB.
Umm, done? We got stuck on this one, so I’m not even sure it counts as done. Technically, it doesn’t leak anymore. But in the process of trying to fix it, we broke it more, had to hire a plumber to fix that, and then discovered that it had been fixed incorrectly. Fixing the new problem turned out to be an even bigger project that will entail retiling the bathroom, so for now we’re living with a slightly imperfect faucet setup. Moral of the story: hire people who know what they’re doing, especially when you don’t!

7. RAIN BARREL.
Mostly done. After trekking all over town looking for the specific parts D. had in mind for this, we finally found them at Grainger in West Berkeley. He’s off this week, so with luck this might be finished before the new year. Pictures and maybe an instructable to follow once it’s all installed and caulked in, but Gene over at DIY Insanity has some great photos up of the barrels pre-holes on the new platform he helped us build last month (and by “helped” I mean walked us through pretty much step-by-step—thanks again!!)

Gene's photo of the barrels on their brand new platform!

Gene's photo of the barrels on their brand new platform!

8. RETAINING WALL & FENCE.
Done!

Another view

9. DISHWASHER.
Not done. But…WE ARE GETTING OUR FIRST BIDS ON THE STRUCTURAL WORK IN THE KITCHEN! This is my most exciting news. It won’t make the 2009 list, but it’s within reach at long last. (And it better make the 2010 list…)

In fact, it might be fortuitous that it took so long—if Obama’s Cash for Caulkers program really gets rolling, we’re all set to buy both our dishwasher and new refrigerator under it! And we may apply to be guinea pigs in Oakland’s version of CaliforniaFIRST, which spreads the cost of energy efficiency improvements over a number of years by rolling the cost into property taxes. When we take out our furnace chimney, we’ll have to re-vent our furnace and water heater, and it might be the ideal time to replace both. (They still have a few years left in them, but both are aging, neither is high-efficiency, and D. is itching for a solar water heater.)

So we’re 8 for 9 for 2009—not too bad, actually!