Tuesday, January 22, 2008

And on the 1,127th day ....


After weeks and weeks of endless searching, and armed with our home depot gift cards from Christmas (our families ROCK), Jay and I finally found lighting fixtures we could agree on. From Hampton Bay's Rock Creek Collection, may I present the most well-lit kitchen this side of the Mississippi!

Mark and Jason went on an installation binge the other day with these babies, as well as one light we discovered in our garage we only vaguely remembered buying a few years ago (sidebar: while we both recall it was for our dining room and it was stained glass, jason thought it was square-shaped and I seemed to recall it being green). This light actually turned out to really rock in the space we'd now deemed it for (the nook). YAY!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Subzero Winter Temps are no match for Foam

Despite the blustery winter chill gripping Chicago this weekend, our kitchen has been remarkably cozy and warm. It turns out our foam insulation installer was right - Harsh winds are stopped outside our home from coming in while we merrily continued to finish the cabinet installation and hook up some of our lighting fixtures. Jen is really excited about the lights, so I'll let her post about it along with some photos soon.

But, i just wanted to let everyone know that if you're considering different types of insulation and live in a place with harsh climates, I encourage you to consider foam insulation (or in our case, soy foam).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Now we're cookin with gas ....

A few months back I began scouring craigslist every night, keeping my fingers crossed for a deal on some stainless steel appliances. Armed with a max budget of $1600 for all the appliances (yes, that's total for fridge, dishwasher, microwave, and stove), I insisted on setting the bar high. time was one thing I had - after all, this was Humphrey House.

It took time, but eventually we amassed an amazing collection, if I do say so myself. Jason found our frigidaire gallery professional dishwasher, and I found our kenmore coldspot fridge, but what took the longest was the search for a stovetop.

Originally our design called for a cooktop, and i found a gorgeous stainless steel kitchenaid cooktop for less than $100 that wasn't too badly scratched. However, my hunt for wall ovens in our price range was fruitless - plus everyone (including our kitchen designer david) was advising that our layout just wouldn't accommodate appliances all over the place. So it was back to the posting boards.

And then after a few more weeks of searching, I happened upon a Dacor PGR30 gas & convection range that actually was priced so we could afford it. A Dacor! Something I never thought we could afford. It was no small miracle, and we've been singing the praises of craigslist nonstop ever since.

As you may have admired on the previous blog, we were able to install the Dacor this past weekend. There was a slight planning snafu - we didn't relocate the gas line to accommodate the fact that our version of the PGR30 is a convection/gas combo that relies on a circulatory fan in the back - thus eliminating any indentation for the gas line - so we have to relocate the gas line.
But it works just fine. Well, at least, pretty much.

The woman I bought the oven from cautioned me that the reason she was getting rid of it was that it took a really, really long time to preheat. She had just moved into the house and it wasn't working out for her, as she was into baking. I figured, hey, I never bake, no biggee for me. And how long could it really take? Surely it wouldn't be THAT bad.

For the record? I turned it on at 7:49pm, set it for 400 degrees and set the pizza on the counter. the temp read 135.

At 8:00, it read 155.
At 8:05, it read 180.
At 8:07, Jason opened it up to confirm there was heat.
At 8:12, it read 270.

At 8:30, the oven beeped to let me know it had reached 400 degrees, and it was time to put our hawaiian pizza in the oven.

I gotta say, it was still one of the best slices ever. :)

p.s. sorry, the cooktop is spoken for.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cinnamon Spice Makes EVERYTHING Nice

It's FINALLY really coming together. The cabinets were hung with care on Saturday by Jason, Kenny (aka Dadoo), Jen's brother Matthew and our dear friend Mark. They look incredible. Jennifer & Amy assisted by being bossy and rather uncharacteristically laid back (truth be told they worked on wedding plans most of the day for the upcoming Jackson-Zientarski nuptials). But who, you ask, is the adorable (albeit short) red-headed fellow peeking out from the sink cabinet depths? It's Daniel, our nephew (Matt's 18 month old son), who made sure to test the durability of our cabinets (and his own as well - we need kid-sized hard hats in this house). Check our photos from the weekend below! They look amazing, I can't believe how happy I am!

Leaving our Presents for the Future

As people have done in the past, we at HH like to leave little surprises for future remodelers. Whether it's something simple as our initials or a date, layers of drywall castoffs buried in the walls (hey, it's good sound insulation), beer bottles walled up, or even a poetic note. We love it all.

The joy of finding hidden treasures in our walls help us ensure that future owners (FO's) won't miss out on the excitement either. With that in mind, we left a calling card on the walls behind our cabinets, wrapped up for a Humphrey House FO.

Sorry you didn't like our cabinets.
We did. We loved 'em.
Oh well. Jason and I (and our friends and families) worked very hard on this house.
We've practically rebuilt the whole thing.
We were even on NBC's "Today Show" on 11/02/2007.
Go look it up.
Okay, I have the flu and must get back in bed.
Good luck with Humphrey House, and I hope you like your new cabinets.
Jennifer La Fleur

PS. Good luck trying to put anything inside the walls.
This is Solid Foam Insulation, Baby! :-)

Friday, January 11, 2008

In Living Color

Jason's sister Jennifer and her boyfriend Bill offered us a fabulous gift for our 31st birthdays in 2007 - their time and energy to paint a room in our house (they run a small faux/mural/painting biz out of Aurora). So we went to work Friday morning with white primed walls and came home to lemon drop ceilings, svelte green walls and an empire gold nook! The colors look really fabulous together - I don't think it could be more perfect. Jenny and Bill did an amazing job - and they did all the cut-in by hand - no tape! Looks fantastic. They really did a lovely job.

There were some issues with the paint product we used for the empire gold nook - we had gotten dutch boy for that area and after three coats there is still some bleed through and the paint doesn't seem to stick to the walls. Bill said it's not unheard of to get a bad batch of paint, one that simply didn't get enough glue in the mixing process. Jay is going to go to Menard's to see if we can get a refund, and Bill offered to come back once we get different paint.

But in the meantime, it still really does look great. The colors blend so well, and you can tell it was done professionally versus me doing it. :) We plan on having Jenny & Bill back to do the hallway in a faux - should be a great cover for the several coats of painted-over wallpaper that's left the wall texture pretty rough, seamed and cracked. But with their able hands, I'm sure it will look awesome ...

I really am falling in love with this kitchen ... makes up for all the frustration I've been all stressed about lately with dear old Humphrey House. Feeling very ... attached.

:) Now we get ready for CABINETS!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Color Me Svelte ...

Well, our kitchen, anyway. We finally settled on paint colors AND countertop choice - YAY! David Gulyas (see post below) brought over the complete Sherwin Williams collection for us to go through with large swatches for each, which was overwhelming but ultimately fun. David coached us through some good color selections. We went back and forth quite a bit, whittling it down to our final choices, but finally have a full palette for the kitchen. Check it out!

We ended up getting the paint matched elsewhere - SW is a little pricey for our dear little pocketbook. (Jay, wanna post about the horrors and the goods?) We're finishing priming this evening, and then Jason's sister graciously offered up her mad skills (and that of her beau) to paint on Friday, which means we'll be ready for hanging the cabinets this weekend! Things are finally coming together, and I just can't tell you how excited I am!!!!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Using a Water Level to Overcome Uneven Floors

One of the challenges fun things about living in a 100-year old home is trying to make something level on the original floors. This is no easy task when you sometimes feel as though, while standing in place, one foot is cooler than the other due to its higher altitude. If this sounds scary, just imagine trying to install a 10-foot run of cabinets across these peaks and valleys so that the faces of the cabinets all line up cleanly, and don't resemble something that belongs on the Earthquake ride at Universal Studios.

I have honestly been struggling with approaching this for awhile, but now that we've removed the old vinyl flooring (and its excessively fastened underlayment), we have to confront the issue. To my initial shock, our kitchen designer, David, had a simple solution: water. Even more elegantly, water: in a long tube. The concept is similar to the familiar bubble seen on most carpenter's levels, but works even better for multiple data points. There are ways to do this by yourself that involve a bucket, but it's even quicker (and simpler) with two people. In between playing gigs at CBGB years ago, David spent his days as a carpenter remodeling apartments in New York, and had worked on many floors in much worse shape than ours.

David offered to help us create a benchmark using a water level last weekend, and we started by taking about 20 feet of clear tubing and filled it most of the way with water. David went downstairs and capped the end of the tube with his thumb while I filled the tube most of the way with water (we left about 5 feet of air). Then we grabbed both ends and draped the middle off our balcony (so the tube was in a long U shape), to get rid of any air bubbles. As tiny air bubbles slowly rised (with help from us tapping the tube), the two water levels became closer together until they were finally level. Then we went back inside to our kitchen.

On the wall with the cabinets, we decided to arbitrarily make a benchmark measurement at a 40" height at what seemed like the highest point in the room. At this height, once we snap a chalkline for our benchmark all around the room, we can see where the peaks and valleys are on the floor. Additionally, we will be able to simply measure down from the benchmark line to mark the top of the base cabinets, and measure up to mark the bottom of our upper cabinets.We marked that first location's position at 40"with a pencil and I stayed at that initial point as David moved along the walls. At each corner, David would hold up his end of the tube and move it up or down as I kept my end of the tube stationary. The water line would move up and down at first, but once it stopped moving, David marked the water's level on the wall.
After the first line had two points, we both simply capped our ends of the tube to avoid spilling any water, and David moved along to another point along the wall. We did this along each wall with at least two points (sometimes more if an obstruction might get in the way of a straight line). Once we were done, we snapped a chalk line, and voila! Truly level benchmark!

Only one mishap occurred. As I was explaining this process to Jen, I realized that for a few of our marks, I had not taken my thumb off the tube to let the air escape and the water equalize! So we had to back and redo a few marks that were too high. Listen up kiddies and don't do what I'm doing in the photo here - air and water must mix for a level! It's a good thing we discovered that now instead of after lifting and mounting the cabinets.

Anyway, thanks to David, we now have a point of liftoff for the cabinets to be installed. And just in case we need it again in the near future, I capped both ends of the tube and hung it in the basement (perhaps a picture rail?). Hopefully we'll be trying for the cabinet install next weekend.

Friday, January 04, 2008

It shines in its sleep

I got a new camera for Christmas from my parents, and the timing couldn't have been better ... our floors are gorgeous!

Thanks, Mom & Dad & Elm Floor!

p.s. - they patched the boards that needed replacing with maple boards that were taken up from a local high school gym! Yay for recycled floors!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Countertops and Color Schemes

Let the kitchen decorating begin! Over the holidays we managed to get the walls up and prime them to be ready for decoration. We're currently having the original maple floors patched where the rooms were combined and refinished by the fine gents at Elm Floor from Elmwood Park who came highly recommended to us. That leaves us time to decide things that, in all honesty, should have probably been done a long time ago. Well, it was hard to visualize how the space and colors will be working together until we had a blank canvas.
While browsing many kitchen design photos, we noticed that light cabinetry generally is paired with dark countertops, and dark cabinetry generally has lighter countertops. Since we already have elected to go with dark cherry cabinets (currently taking up residence in our living room), we thought we were pretty well pigeoned into a light coutnertop. Besides, its a small space, and we didn't want too many dark colors to become overwhelming and claustrophobic. Another plus is that a lighter surface doesn't reveal how dirty they are as easily as dark surfaces (as we learned from having black appliances in our condo!), so we can wait longer before cleaning it!

We went to our local KDA and looked at some Zodiaq samples, and found a style called "Cappucino" that really was great against Cherry cabinets. I've succumbed to the fact that we simply don't have the budget to purchase IceStone counters, as much as I love the idea of having beer-bottle-based countertops. But Zodiaq is a great alternative that is still green, harder than granite, and requires almost no maintenance.

However, some darker (midtone?) counters, such as a rich green, end up looking really sharp with cherry cabinets. I mean REALLY sharp, as we found out by looking at the "Magellen Green" Zodiaq sample in the store. We didn't think much of this color by looking at the brochure (or web site for that matter), but this just proves that it is hard for the web or print to capture the look of these stone-ish counters, especially the abstract "sparkle factor" that Jen loves so much.

I think we've pretty much decided that it is down to these two counter colors. Kudos to Jen for the awesome mockups of our kitchen space with cabinet layouts with both counters done by hand in Adobe Illustrator. It's good to have a graphic designer in the family! Once we decide on the counters, we can figure out colors on the walls that will encapsulate them.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

ringing in 2008

I've been down for the count for almost a week with some lousy virus, so Jason was stuck with the chore of priming the kitchen walls all by his lonesome on new year's eve. he finished with fifteen minutes to go!!!!