Blog change and some updates

Well here I am again! You probably thought I was gone for good! hahaha no, but I have been busy and need to update the blog.

First, I’m changing the blog name to my own domain: FrontPorchCozy which was a plan of mine about 2 years ago. The new blog has NO ADS. Yep, there will NEVER BE ADS HERE. So you don’t have to wade through a bunch of damn popups and crap that you see on these other decorating and remodeling blogs. Can’t stand ads and at this point this blog remains a PERSONAL project.

As the work on our Tulsa House slows down (as we will be selling in 2-3 years), we are moving our lives into a new direction which I think will interest you as it is related to this blog but different:

A. Downsizing. We, like many in the U.S. are trying to live within a limited budget especially as we are looking at retirement in about 15 years. We have a bigger goal of saving money by cutting expenses and improving our quality of life. This means reducing the big house with the big mortgage to reduce stress.

B. Travel. We are going to be looking at a lot of travel models that would fit what we want to do in order to increase our income: buying property that we will sublet out for vacationers. With that in mind, you’ll be seeing some videos and thoughts on different places we have visited and what worked for us and what didn’t as a traveler. Most, if not all, of this will be focused on small homes, cabins, and unique getaways such as glampers or alternative built homes.

C. Building and Remodeling. We will continue to wrap up work on the Tulsa House with the goal to sell it, while we explore other ways to build a new home with methods like Cob or Cordwood, using alternative energy like Solar.

I have a lot of projects I need to catch you up on in terms of photos and descriptions, which I’ll be getting too over the next month as I have time. So while this blog will probably never be a daily blog or maybe not even weekly, I will be posting some neat stuff that I hope you enjoy.

Meanwhile, you can catch more action over at our Facebook page Front Porch Cozy and at our Pinterest page.

Playing catch up with lots of house projects

Wow! It’s been a year since I posted! So I need to play catch up with what we got done on the house. One reason I haven’t been posting here is that lack of money kept us from getting much done on the house. Combine that with lack of time and you get a whole lot of lack of motivation.

However, come December, husband took time off of work so we got a lot of the little jobs that had been sitting around done and we are back to moving forward again.

1.) The Termite team came and sprayed. We had some damage on the front porch from these bugs and that needed to be treated. Once that got done, the wood siding came off, the plywood backing behind got replaced and new exterior boards put back on. We got a quote for $600 to do this; husband got it done for less then $40. Woohoo!

2.) We had two windows giving us troubles. One had a crack and the other had lost the seal so was getting moisture between the panes. This we did contract out for to have the glass replaced. Good as new. About $400 which was cheaper then I expected. If we could afford it, I’d replace all the windows with new but that isn’t happening.

3.) Front door latch which was brass was being cranky due to being worn out; I mean it was 20+ years old! That got replaced with a brush nickel pewter colored latch which looks a lot better with the black door and gray house paint. I’ll be repainting the door a fresh coat of black come summer.

4.) The front exterior wall lamps all got taken down and repainted. $16

5.) The Garage Door got some magnet faux hinges on it as an upgrade. $45.

6.) Our walk in pantry got a fresh facelift. Everything was dragged out, the ceiling repainted, the walls repainted, the shelving repainted and a couple of the shelves up high got cut back in depth (these were installed over 2 decades ago by us when we had specialty items that needed a deep shelf but the deep shelf cut back some of the light).

Because food items in the pantry can stain the shelves (an onion had really done a number on one shelf!), those shelves are now lined with clear, ribbed shelf liner from Bed, Bath and Beyond – so no I’m not repainting these again! Ha!

I’m still working on that pantry (buying more food containers, putting in a built in bin etc..) but I’ll do a reveal when we are done.

7.) The single large recessed light in the hallway to the laundry room also got replaced with two halogen recessed lights, the short ceiling replastered and repainted.

8.) Most of the winter centered around the Kitchen. Originally, the house had 7 recessed lights that were the old style, large recessed can. They never provided enough even light in the kitchen and especially in winter, gave a lot of shadows and were constantly burning out.

Husband replaced and rewired for 16 new recessed Halogen lights so they now match in style with the lights he put into the adjoining family room. They provide a lot of lovely light and give far more illumination to the kitchen area.

However, this was a massive job. Not only were the new lights an investment ($265 from Home Depot which had a better price then Lowes), but the ceiling had to have drywall patches put in, then the entire surface was replastered, and all of it repainted. Instead of using flat white wall paint which didn’t look so great against the creamy white cabinetry, we went with the wall color at 50% lighter which worked great as we have 10′ tall ceilings in there.

Working above your head is no fun! However, we are very lucky husband knows electrical because to have contracted this job out would have been well over $1,500 I’m sure as wiring for one outlet in the garage for husband’s pottery kiln was $300!

10.) The Kitchen Shelf unit FINALLY got painted. After debating again and again what I was going to do with the colors in the kitchen, I found a $5 gallon of paint at Lowes at closeout. I thought it would just be the undercolor (with a topcoat of cranberry red) but once it went on we both loved it so much we decided to go with it. It got a glaze of black on top but is not distressed.

I’ll be doing a reveal of that soon too but I’m waiting on the countertop.

11.) We first painted the Island with the same color as the Kitchen Shelf as a test. But once again, when it went on we really loved it as it provided a beautiful contrast against the cream white cabinetry.

It made us completely rethink our plans which was to rebuild the island from the ground up. Rebuilding the entire island would take quite a chunk of change, and we now know that in 3 years or less the house will be on the market – so was it worth it? Nope!

We will be redoing the island instead with different types of drawers. I’ll be posting about that in the near future too.

12.) Which brings us back to the Kitchen cabinetry that I did in Ce Ce Caldwell’s Chalk paint (the same problem would have happened with Annie Sloan) and topped with wax. A BIG reason I haven’t posted in this house blog is that project was a disaster I was not happy about at ALL.

Wax in no way will protect kitchen cabinets. And what to do about a protective coat when everything I know yellows when it is on top of white paint? I felt like house designer failure and it took me a long time (as you can tell from my blog posts) to feel like I wanted to tackle this problem again.

I even debated about repainting all the cabinetry AGAIN or calling in an expert to fix the problem. However, after doing a lot of research I’ve decided to go with Protect by Velvet Finishes. I’ll be cleaning up the chalk paint on there now, removing the wax that remains and going with Protect over the cabinet surfaces. Hopefully, this will fix the problem that I’ve been wrestling with for two years!

If I have a recommendation for you is don’t go with Chalk Paint in the Kitchen and if you do, use a medium to dark color so you can glaze and protect it with a top coat that won’t yellow over white.

So while yes, I’ll be posting again, it will not be on a very regular basis – only as projects get wrapped up or if there is one that I think is interesting enough you might want to know the process. See you soon!

Using curtain rods in tight places

Curtains are making a design comeback. I love them! Not only are they a great way to keep the heat in during the winter, and the heat of the sun out during the summer, but they are a great design element! They come in so many colors and variations. You can change them when you grow tired and want something different!

These curtains were original to my previous design and were bought at Lowes so its great to recycle and safe money. They are unlined (I prefer lined) but the color worked with what I found in my other furniture – creams, golds, burgundy and green.

We have windows on either side of our fireplace. The problem is when the house was built, the designer made the windows too large for the space (we have a sofit that holds the AC/HVAC that runs along the perimeter of the ceiling) so the edge of wall-to-window space does not allow any room for a traditional curtain rod with a finial.

I went with hangers that attach to the ceiling. This helped me save space because I wanted the curtains to slide over and hide the left and right vertical lines of the window.

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On the tightest corner, I mounted a bracket, from the closet section of the hardware store, on the wall to fit the rod into. There would not have been room to have a finial here with a all mounted bracket and have the curtain actually cover the edge of the window frame.

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Because of the color palette in this room, I wanted a rubbed bronze (brown) look and the finial will eventually match in design with the ceiling fan I’ve selected for this room.

Mounting the curtain rod itself is a little tricky – I needed to make sure that it would hang my curtains to cover the edge of the window but the finials and rod had to be mounted away from the wall to allow the projection of the stone on the fireplace space.

Here you can see how the finials overlap the fireplace – again, there is not enough room with how the original structure was built to allow a traditional curtain hanging. However, I love how this turned out – gives a very nice cottage, homey feel to the room!

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Eventually, I will be layering blinds behind these to provide even better insulation. This room windows face west so we get some hot sun and we also get some north wind, so windows really help me in providing physical comfort in this most used room in the house – the family room/den.

Altogether this room is coming together so well! It’s very cozy and comfortable! For this room we have finished:

  • Years ago we had extended one wall between kitchen and living room, and never got the plaster texture right. In this remodel, we replastered all the room walls with texture (took about three boxes, $100).
  • The ceiling and walls are painted in the Rock color that I am using throughout the downstairs of the house which stylistically makes the different rooms feel united and bigger (it used about 4 gallons of paint if you include the ceiling, sofit and walls, approximately $200).
  • Installed ceiling molding (I’ll show an update later; around $300),
  • Decorative curtains with rods are mounted (some pieces from Lowes; others from Bed Bath and Beyond; approximately $100 for hardware),
  • stone fireplace (about $400) with new rustic mantle (from a Craiglist wood supplier, $60),
  • lighting redone (we put in recessed lighting in the ceiling and sconces on the fireplace mantle for about $225),
  • Floor rug from Craigslist ($75); this was a great find and fits with the color,
  • Used 3 seat cushion sofa from a Consignment store ($250),
  • Used upper-end upholstered chair from Craiglist ($200),
  • Moved down two bookshelves from another room,
  • Redid the floorplan layout so the television is hidden from view when you enter the room.

I will be repainting our television dresser to a distressed black (bought via CL and was previously in this room), still need a new hardwood floor/baseboard, roman shades is what I’d like to find to finish off the windows, and a ceiling fan (I have one selected at about $175; just need the cash 🙂

I wish I could take photos of the entire room but I don’t have a wide angle lens for my camera 😦 Also with winter light things are hard to get the best photos so my photos may be coming a little later. 🙂

Sconces for my updated Farmhouse rustic fireplace

I ordered two sconces (with coupon and discount $179.08) for the fireplace and they are now installed! We wanted a more contemporary look even though the fireplace stone is rustic; this continues my idea of “updated farmhouse.” These glass cylinders are reminiscent of hurricane glass although without the bell bottom it has a modern flair.

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Love the shadows and warmth the sconce light gives to the stonework we recently finished up.

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Houses for Sale: Common search phrases

Just looked on Zillow, and these came up as common search terms for the someone looking for a house in my zipcode:

COMMON PHRASES:

Energy efficient windows
(we have solar screens, but might want to add in the listing the additional blown in insulation)
Fridge stay homes**
Large bonus room homes
Exercise room homes
Updated HVAC homes**
Two car garage homes**
Wood floor homes**
Covered back porch homes**
Huge pantry homes**
Hardwood entry homes**

** these features are in our home!

Links to inspiring kitchen images on Zillow:

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7261969707/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-5567683432/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7323365383/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/traditional-kitchens-7439587386/

http://www.zillow.com/digs/contemporary-kitchens-5124113387/

 

Fireplace renovation – laying stone

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As I mentioned before we went with a faux-stone made of concrete produced by a local company (using their Ledgestone and Hackett patterns in the Fireside color) . It is patterned and colored to look like real stone and I chose this product as it allowed me more customization then the Airstone that is so popular right now.

Like I wrote before, this isn’t rocket science, but it does take time and patience in laying out the tile, as stone or faux stone, varies in color and texture. If you like putting together puzzle pieces, you’ll love this project.

The mantel beam was first sanded with 80 grit with a hand sander. Then stained with General Finishes, Java gel stain. Then sanded with 120 grit with an electric hand sander for some minor distressing. A top coat of General Finishes polyurethane was applied three times. I really liked the texture and distressing effect that came out!

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The two side pillars gave enough support underneath the mantel for support there, but we also added metal brackets attached to the back of the mantel and then screwed into studs in the wall.

Before going gungho on putting up your stone, WAIT and lay it out on the floor first (if over a finished floor put down a drop cloth; this stuff leaves everything dusty and dirty). That way you have time to rearrange the pattern to exactly what you like. If you only just apply-as-you-go, your pattern will probably not be as nicely proportioned.fireplace_settingup

I didn’t get photos of how you put the screen on and the layer process so here I’m showing the work in the area above the mantel. Drywall or plywood has to provide a support for the screen and mortar.

NOTE: If this was an outside project you would also need a vapor barrier to prevent the water in the mortar from seeping into the supporting wall facade.

cement_screen

The screen (see “metal lathe” used to reinforce stucco) was bought at Home Depot; Lowes no longer carries it at our location. It is stapled down using a staple gun (ours is powered by a compressor).

The mortar used is “blended mortar.” When using, just mix as much mortar for wall application as you will be using within the next 30 minutes.

Here the wall has mortar applied over the screen. We let it dry for 24-48 hours before proceeding with the stone layer.

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When you start putting mortar on the stone itself (not the wall) it will stiffen and harden very, very quickly! The concrete stone “sucks” it up and makes is harden quickly so have your stone cut and ready to apply before coating it with mortar due to the short working time.

When working from bottom up, you might want to cover the work you’ve already done with a protective plastic sheet to prevent clumps of mortar from falling onto your finished work.

A soft brush is used to clean off the dust and bits from the facade. This is really dusty work!

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TIPS:

  • Set up the circular saw near where you are setting up the stone. The fewer steps you have to take the better.
  • You will get better at laying the stone as you go, so start your line someplace that is less obvious/noticeable.
  • Use a hammer to knock of any flairs on the back of your stone if need be.
  • Don’t be afraid of shaping the sides or ends of your stone to fit better; adapt the stone to your needs and look.
  • This is DUSTY work! Cut the stone outside or if you must do it inside, then cover everything and seal off the room from other areas.
  • Your body will be sore afterwards, especially your hands! It’s harder work then it appears so take breaks when needed and be sure to have some bath salts on hand for long, rewarding bath afterwards.

Yay! Finished except for putting on the sconces which are on order!

Fireplace renovation: beginning the build

We started the build of the fireplace right before Christmas, which is okay for us but of course for you – be aware that this is dusty work and takes some time! Your fireplace area will be down for a few days to a week, depending on your ability to devote time to the project.

Living Room Wall with fireplace
Fireplace before

Prep work was removing our original builder mantel and breaking off all the tile. This is dirty work – have your floor covered, wear junk clothes, and eye protection for those pieces that might shatter.

The mantel I sold in 24 hour for a very low price on Craigslist as I just didn’t want to junk it. Another option would be to donate to Habitat for Humanity, which we have done with other items.

The first part of the building stage was to lay the hearth stones. We are replacing the floor in this room with wood and opted to go with the stone down first, with the wood floor being added later. This is on a ground floor, family room with a cement floor.

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Next we built out two columns from the fireplace wall. This are equal in size and frame the bottom part of the fireplace (below the mantel). These were built like a stand up box using 2×4’s at the corners and plywood as the face using a nail gun. Over this a wire mesh was applied and fastened using a staple gun.

fireplace_build4

Then a skim coat of mortar was applied over the wire and let to dry for 48 hours. A coat of mortar has to be applied in order for the next coat of mortar to stick.

While the bottom was drying, we made two other structural changes:

Part of the electrical change we made was we moving down the overhead light originally in the sofit. The future lights will be two sconces that are mounted above the wood mantel beam and are centered vertically over the stone pillars.

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The recessed light was always a pain. I guess the original builder put it there so you could hang artwork and let it be illuminated; the only thing it really did was provide a harsh, unflattering light to a short wall, as well as getting into your eyes while you watched television!

Another change, was the lowering of the mantel. The original mantel was too high and anything placed on it could not be admired if you were sitting in the room. The new mantel height is also in better proportion with the wall height.

Another part of the prep was getting the mantel into shape. We did darken the wood using the Java gel stain color from American General because the wood we chose was lighter then we wanted. This ties it into the future floor and the staircase molding at the front entrance hall of the house.

The mantel weight will be supported by the two columns so no additional supports are needed.DSC_0089

At this point we are about Day 3 into the project and decided to take a day or two off so we could get holiday stuff done 🙂 Next post will be the wrap up of the stone and mounting the mantel.