Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hungarian Bookshelves & Subway Tile Fireplace

The Hungarian shelves and the white subway tile in the fireplace are finally in. The fireplace was non-operating, thus tiling it over wasn't an issue. We thought we were going to paint the mantle white, but after looking at it with the white tile in we decided it was too cold looking. We'll just refinish it, with the wood adding a bit of warmth to the otherwise white and silver palette.


The shelves were much easier to do than standard bookshelves and we like the modern look. All the online materials I saw had them unpainted, but after a few coats of white semi-gloss they look like a million bucks. We used sanded plywood instead of MDF, as the ends are free hanging so we needed the extra strength. The front edge of the wood is covered with a strip of melamine. I'd never thought of an iron as a device used in shelf building, but indeed it is.

Over the fire place is the electrical and cable line. When we order the TV I'll know exactly where to place the outlets in relation to the wall bracket, so for now the locations are notional.

I'd say it looks better than it was before, especially with the ceiling fan gone too.



I love living in renovation dust as much as the next guy, but the Queen decided we need a break. We fly into Las Vegas tomorrow morning and then have a few hour drive to Zion National Park in Southern Utah. I've never been to the SW (SoCal doesn't count), so this will be a cool trip. We have one night in Vegas, and we'll be making stops at Bryce Canyon, the Grand Staircase and Antelope Canyon.

In preparation I've purchased some camera geekery for the trip: a new uberlight & small tripod, a new ballhead and filters. Along with my trusty 5D, wide angle lens and telephoto strapped to my back it should be a good trip. The Queen says she wants pictures blown up for hanging around the house upon our return, so I'll do my best to please her.

I can't wait to photograph Antelope Canyon - here is a sample of what it looks like.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Courtyard Design

I have zero experience landscaping cement pads behind row houses, but figured I'd give it a whirl. I used ghetto AutoCAD; hopefully it gets the point across.


I think the entire slab needs to be replaced, so while doing this why not upgrade things a bit. Right? This includes adding a decent planter bed, a place for my garbage cans, a grill, and a 6' block wall all around the space to stop the Baltimore City rats from invading my zen garden and keep the local yokels out of my view.

With the slabtacular boringness of concrete, I'm thinking about a few slate tiles or shapes cut into the concrete (shown in cyan) to help spice up the floor.


I also want to hide my A/C unit. Using all cinder blocks is a bit cold, so I'm thinking about a wood fence around the A/C unit, on the gate, and for a neato bench in front of the japanese maple. I'm hoping to use cedar, but I'm only at Phase 1 so there is plenty of time to reduce cost and scope as I head forward. I will do the woodwork myself, and par for the course, I have zero experience building these aforementioned items. I'm not sure if the plants will survive in the places I've put them, so a bit more research is required. I'm worried about the roots going through the temperature extremes of an elevated planting bed. Also, lights hanging over the courtyard would be hot, so I threw a few in.


I need some height on the left side of my boring left wall, so why not add some bamboo. Not sure how it will hold up there, but I like the concept of it. The planting benches could hold herbs, a small fountain, some bonsai trees, and serve as a lovely bar in a pinch. Some planter boxes with sweet potato vine could help brighten up the place in the summer. I would think about painting the courtyard too, but I am at a loss for what color would look good. I have a general hatred toward beige/taupe, so that is out of the question.

If I have someone just do the concrete and block work, I think I can fill in the rest of the blanks. If the quotes come in too expensive for this work, the yard will stay an ugly broken up slab. All or nothing baby!

Blame the Accountant

Yesterday I landed on the Community Chest square of life. Let me explain.

The (Beancounting) Queen is an accountant. She trusts me (wrongly) with all things enginerding, and I trust her on all things accounting. So the Queen did my taxes, and I got a little refund back. Nothing too much, but this was my first year of paying a full mortgage so I wasn't quite sure how big of a rebate check Uncle Sam owed me. It turns out that my employer made a boo boo on my W2's, and that I SHOULD BE GETTING ANOTHER $3,400 DOLLARS. Booyah!

Of course now that money is coming in I think for 5 seconds about how this can help me pay off debt, and 5 hours about all the cool stuff I can do with this money. While the bathroom upstairs requires some major love, I'm thinking maybe the backyard could be redone too? It is currently a 34'x13' slab of concrete, just waiting to be turned into a zen garden paradise. It just doesn't know it yet. I'm going to meet with some concrete guys to go over my fancy pants plan, and see how much they want to gouge me for. :)

While dreaming of a back yard I'm also hunting for houses with yards - I just can't give up on the idea of moving to a place with a pretty green yard. We have a conundrum of whether it's smarter to buy a house with a yard, or throw money at what I've got. Since we have to redo the upstairs bathroom before selling anyways, we potentially have time to redo the yard. It's just a matter of figuring out if this is worth throwing money and time at.

You know the hardest part about redoing a house? Knowing when to stop. Apparently I haven't learned yet.


Also, this last weekend the Queen had a meltdown. After saying things like, "we'll never finish" and "I'm glad we didn't get the cottage" she pulled herself back together and got to work. She later rescinded both comments. Things get a bit overwhelming at times, but we're slowly making progress... I was proud of her for getting back in the saddle quickly.

Friday, April 18, 2008

On a Mission from God

After slacking for weeks, making time for purchases rather than work, planning a vacation, and a weekend off-site for work there has been little accomplished on the house. It is consumed with drywall dust, and Cat is not happy about it.

This weekend it's time to finish up the main work on the downstairs and make sure the place is ready for paint and trim. Once the paint is down I can order the new 50 inch TV, and the furniture is starting to show up next week. Time to get to work!

And in case we didn't have enough furniture, we also purchased a nice mid-century chair and ottoman. We needed a chair, so figured it was worth it to get antique chair, as opposed to a new one that is boring and is devalued as soon as it shows up on the doorstep. In about three weeks, expect pictures of a swanky looking downstairs. The hardwood floors won't be in until after the upstairs is at least demo'd, but other than that the downstairs will be almost complete.

P.S. The cottage sold, so no more dreaming about it. :(

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Swathchy McSwatcherson

Wanderluster inspired me with her swatches. To show off the main living space downstairs I threw together some pictures of the things we've purchased (though most haven't been delivered.


  • Top-Right. Hungarian shelves - since the Lack hack didn't work so well, and the walls are a bit out of plumb I figured these would work. And they are less work than other shelves. They will be painted white.

  • Bottom-Right. Arielle cocktail ottoman from Macy's. We special ordered one in white, which takes 26 weeks (woah!) to get here. We liked this ottoman better than the Corona ottoman, as it's aspect ratio will fit the rowhouse better.

  • Bottom-Left. Corona sofa in pear color from Macy's. We loved the mid-century modern look, it was comfy, and most importantly was on sale for $650. Score!

  • Top-Left. Captiva Mango Table from Arhaus. I know I've mentioned it before, but since we haven't had it delivered yet I wanted to drool at more pictures of it.

  • Middle. While the chairs that are shown w/ the mango table are nice, we thought some white chairs would make it look ever better. That and the chairs are Ikea and don't break the bank too badly.

  • We are currently on the hunt for another mid-century modern chair w/ ottoman - hopefully one shows up on craigslist or ebay.

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Baltimore Landmark - Domino Sugar Mill

    The Inner Harbor of Baltimore offers a great view of the Domino Sugar Mill. On a cold night a few months back I went out on a pier for some night shots. Looking back at pictures makes me think I should pick up the camera more often.


    It looks better larger.