I’m already regretful for posting less since the baby has been born; I have almost no record of what we’ve been doing. I got into the rhythm of blogging as a way of journaling our home activities in both DIY and lifestyle categories, and I know I’m going to notice the gaps when I look back in the future. Time to (try to) change that.
We’re 15 weeks strong on our mission to take a weekly photo with this new girl. I’ve been taking concerted efforts to choose a spot that helps to represent what area of the house we’ve been improving. Saturday’s photo definitely required a fireplace shot (I also took a photo in this same position a few weeks ago so we could compare the dramatic B&A when we look back through these family photos someday):
Earlier this month, we transitioned Hattie from the cradle beside our bed to her own crib. It’s a transition that I expected to be painful, not because I felt an overwhelming emotional need to have her sleeping directly beside me, but because she isn’t sleeping straight through the night at only 3-months old. It was in anticipation of these long nights that I expected that I would need a chair of some kind, some place to make myself comfortable at 3am. I surveyed friends prior to Hattie’s arrival about what items you really need when a baby is born (most of those magazine lists are pure marketing ploys, btw), and one of the biggest purchases that everyone recommended was something I heavily contested: Buying a glider.
I tested all kinds of gliders, and it’s true, they are an amazingly comfortable seating solution, especially the ones that slide and swivel and come with the footrests that slide too, but the thing is, I don’t really get gliders. The more attractive of the gliders are ridiculously expensive, our parents and grandparents didn’t need to rely on them for getting us to sleep, I find them a little hard to get in and out of when you’re holding a sleeping sack of potatoes, and lastly, I couldn’t really envision keeping an expensive glider post-infant stage and be able to transition it into the living room someday because, well, in my mind, gliders are seats for rocking babies, not for watching TV. Furthermore, some mamas suggested that it wasn’t as comfortable to breastfeed when you’re gliding all over the place, that a static or more controllable station was a better fit for them – and this, I can officially agree with.
After a lot of thought and a bit of polling, we decided to buy the Nursery Works Sleepytime Rocker. It has ash rocking legs–beautiful, practical, and most importantly, not a glider–so even when we’re done with it in the nursery in a few years, the mission will be to find a way to incorporate it into our actual home.
I bought it from mystrollers.com after shopping all around the internets, using a discount coupon code and a free shipping promo to max out my savings. I also picked up the matching footrest which also has beautiful wooden legs and no inclination to glide around underfoot, though it does slide on the hardwoods only reminding us daily that we really need to agree upon an area rug for Hattie’s room.
I’m only introducing you to the product now that I’ve had a chance to be using it a little more – still not a lot, all in all only for about 10 minutes each night, and not at all during the day. For those looking for a review of the product, I’ll be real about a few things:
We still have a lot to do in order to get her bedroom “finished” but I’m slowly chipping away at it by finding places for exceptionally cute dinosaur decor, and slowly assembling that gallery frame wall that you saw in the above photos (I get to about 2/week, no more, no less).
Meet our new fireplace.
It’s a perfect example of how less can be more. Can’t recall what’s missing? Hint: Shiny gold.
That particular gold fireplace front looked out of place against the flagstone wall, and we’ve been thinking a lot about replacement options. We received concessions at closing to take care of chimney damage, and we deeply regret not getting around to making those improvements in the fall since it’s the coldest winter we can remember. The main holdup in planning repairs relates to whether we should keep it wood burning, or convert it to gas. We’re not 100% decided on this yet, though we agree that having a high-efficiency woodburning insert would be great considering we have a nearly infinite supply of wood from our own property.
In removing the insert, I was actually setting out to paint the heck out of the gold, even bought two cans of high-heat black matte spray paint with the intention of making due with the fireplace cover that we have until we’re ready to make a more permanent upgrade. It wasn’t until I had it off, that I realized that the new, fully revealed fireplace looked totally kick ass, so there’s no way it’s going back on now, even if it is upgraded to a pretty black finish.
Removing a fireplace cover like ours was actually a lot easier than I expected. Ours attached from within using a series of 4 clamps to lock it in place (one in each corner), and there were no unsightly screw holes or damage to the stone to speak of. Who knew? Not me. Obviously, or else I might have taken this gold feature to the curb last June.
Short of making sure that the sliding doors worked during our inspection, we haven’t spent any time playing with the fireplace. In fact, it was loaded with spiderwebs and pieces of insulation, a joyous adventure in dodging wispy webs.
After the clamps are loosened from within, the cover slides right off, like removing the picture frame from a beautiful painting.
It’s currently living in the basement; maybe there’s some demand on Craigslist for like-new fireplace covers in this large size. I’ll be exploring that, and maybe redeeming a little more $$$ to put towards the fireplace upgrades.
The fireplace, as it sat untouched by us for the last 8+ months, really just needed a good cleaning.
We scooped out some residual ash, used the Shop Vac to suck up the micro-debris, and loosened grime on the iron grill with an old toothbrush.
We also upgraded the shiny gold log holder we had on the hearth; that thing is though, what we “upgraded” to is actually much older, possibly the original set that was used with the house. We found it in the basement, and its clean lines are decidedly perfect for (the future display of) wood in the main living space. It’s cool shape has a mid-century flair, and it looks a little bit like antlers, which may or may not be ironic since I picked up that cool metal deer on Fab.com in December. (Side note: Little deer friend was sold as an umbrella holder, but we like it as everyday decor. And we even popped a red nose on it around the holidays for Rudolph-effect.)
Now that I look back, the unobstructed stonework is a bit reminiscent of the fireplace shown in our virtual tear sheet. Time to start thinking about adding a beautiful wooden mantle.
Staging the fireplace with several white birch logs is all I have in me right now, but I do love the simplicity of the look. We had another large white birch branch go down this winter, so I’ll be able to add a few heavier pieces when we chop it up this spring.
How many of you have let your fireplaces go au natural? Any positive or negative experiences with regards to having active fires and only a screen (not glass doors)?
You know, most of the time I feel pretty good about the progress we make around our house. I went into writing this post (last Tuesday) doing little fist pumps in glee, happy to be able to say that we finished installing all of the baseboard trim in the house…. until I realized that we started re-installing it around New Year’s Eve. And now it’s the middle of February. So… crap, we move slow. Maybe it’s because we let an eager 7-year old help along the way.
In any case, the trim is in and looking fine; if you’ve never had the firsthand experience of installing baseboard, you should know that it has an addictive way of taking a home from looking like a construction zone to a beautiful space that looks like it was built that way. Trim is so addictive that ordinarily I’d have stayed up all night to finish installing it, instead of doing it piecemeal over the course of 6 weeks (the reasons I’ve been up all night are solely baby-related). Trim is sweet, and I am forgiving of myself for taking my sweet time.
When I last updated you, we were on the brink of purchasing a carload of conventional quarter round to cover the wide expansion gap (our existing trim wasn’t quite deep enough to cover the space left between the drywall and the edges of the floorboard, so basically we had to add on a bit). We sampled a few different scrap pieces of quarter round in various sizes, and then looked into the base shoe finishing options as well. I think I best explained base shoe photographically in this post – its shape is a unlike quarter round in the sense that it has one longer side that is a little flat.
I could go into how much time we spent comparing the options, it probably ate a week of our time because neither of us can make snappy decisions when our days start at 4am, but base shoe just looked better. It’s taller stance felt in better proportion to the existing trim that we were reinstalling, so that was that. We bought a whole bunch of wooden pre-primed product at the local big box, which is what you see above. Everything still needs to be painted, but it definitely saved us the extra step of priming the new base shoe.
Trim installation is made easy by a number of products, including a compound miter saw, nail gun, and caulk. I installed enough trim in our last house to realize that a regular hammer and nails are just a waste of time (harder to manage with accuracy, demands more patching and touchups), and would recommend anyone borrow/buy/rent an air compressor and a finishing nail gun to get the job done quickly and easily, bang bang. Instead of using the 5/8″ to 1-5/8″ finishing nail gun that we’ve used in the past (and love), we decided to buy a smaller pin nailer that shoots out, you guessed it, tiny nails, or, pins. And because this is the type of specialty tool that neither of us would be using very often (can also be said for our roofing nailer and the flooring nailer), I saved myself a bunch of loot and bought the new tool from Harbor Freight instead of a going with a bigger name brand product (paid just $25 after using a coupon, I love using coupons to buy tools).
It has worked phenomenally, and hooks right up to the hose of our existing pancake compressor. The best $25 we ever spent. One big difference between this and the other finishing nail gun that we own is that the pressure created by the tool isn’t enough to create a divot in the wood surface; with the pin nailer, the holes that it left are small enough to not even be filled at all. They’re barely visible to the naked eye, and we suspect that they’ll be filled and hidden completely when we paint.
The stairs themselves, as I’ve alluded to in previous posts, were a really complicated component to the entire hardwood installation. So hard, in fact, that I’ve decided there is no way I could create a tutorial to show you how exactly Pete was able to get them finished. I have a lot of photos that I took with intent of trying to explain the process we went through, but in hindsight, if you were to be in a similar situation, it’s probably worth the several thousand dollars that the flooring company quotes you for a stair installation, so you can sit back with your feet up and a cup of hot coffee and watch them do it in a few hours, versus you trying to spend a week getting the cuts right and stressing out about them in general. If we have to do it again (as if), I’m paying out.
The house is still far from being in a “normal” state, when you consider that there is 400 sq. ft. of flooring in the background of that above photo, but still, it’s hard to believe that just a few months ago was this:
Our finished stairs do look good, so short of the major time investment that we endured, we’re really happy with where we landed.
We used maple bullnose boards that we bought at Lumber Liquidators, though we did spend one long evening trying to figure out if we could self-manufacture something sexier, something that maybe had a little chunkier, something contemporary and stair porn-worthy. If we were hiring out, maybe we would have found someone who could grant us this look and ensure that it would look great, but being our first stair project, we decided to follow through with what we knew our maple flooring product would vibe with, both in finish, and in the way the tongue and groove was made to work.
One thing I will note is that the bullnose from Lumber Liquidators is about 1/32″ shorter in height than the floorboards that it aligns with. It’s a small difference, not enough to cause you to trip, but something you notice when you walk up the stairs with bare feet. You can sort of see the variance in this photo, even though at the time I was taking a detail shot to show off the attention Pete paid to cutting and sanding boards to sit around our uneven flagstones in the planter. If, or when, the floors are sanded and refinished, this is something that will be leveled out.
Finishing the trim will require new paint throughout. Prior to getting to that, we’ve been spending time getting the new gaps properly caulked. Because we weren’t left with very many wide expanses to have to fill in, we decided to try a DAP indoor/outdoor sealant product sold in a toothpaste tube package. Instead of using the caulking gun which can inevitably be hard to control the pressure of (and be a little gloppy when you’re working in small, fine spaces), we were able to make a really, really tiny hole in the tip of the DAP tube and apply the product in a very fine stream with awesome precision.
The painting will be a quick and easy finishing step at this point. Our house is finally back to looking like normal, for the first time since last October when we set out to install the hardwood floors. Hurrah!
I owe you a serious before and after now that we are at this point–many of you have been asking for it–so I’ll get on it. Stay tuned.