Sunday, December 1, 2013

house tour: the kitchen

I spend a lot of my free time in the kitchen.  Most weeknights I make dinner for the family after I get home from work and, whenever I am able, I am in the kitchen during the weekend baking up something sweet.  The kitchen in the rental house we had been living in over the last year made doing all that fairly difficult and not all the enjoyable.  It was tiny, which is not a huge deal, but no matter how much we cleaned it always felt dirty.  It was just gross.  Most importantly there was no dishwasher.  With as much as I cooked (and as many cups as Clio insisted on drinking milk from on a daily basis) there were always dishes in the sink.  We felt like we were spending so much of our time washing dishes.  I know, a first world problem if ever there was one.  Still, I kind of resented the fact that after working ten hours a day and making dinner, after we finally got to spend time with Clio we had to end the evening washing the dishes.

Over the years when I have fantasized about owning a home most of the time my thoughts were centered around having a functional and clean kitchen.  This past year they have centered around having a dishwasher.  Just the thought of owning a dishwasher would make me giddy.  I know folks, I am easy to please.  After our offer on this house was accepted, Leif and I laid in bed on many different nights and talked about how excited we were to be getting a dishwasher.  The free time we would have just by having a dishwasher was going to change our lives.  We would learn a new language!  We would start our business (finally)!  We would be able to renovate the house!  Here we are, dishwasher running, me writing this post and Leif dozing on the couch.  Yep, lots more free time to do all those things that we want to get done.  Right...

The kitchen, as it is currently, is fairly functional.  There is abundant storage, it's clean, and there is plenty of countertop space.  But, the oven is a downdraft Jennair which is 32 years old and there are some other weird quirks that need to change.  Upper cabinets above the peninsula that houses the oven block the view from the kitchen to the family room, the overhead lighting is terrible fluorescence and makes me feel like I am in a department store, and there is an odd cabinet that was built to house a monstrously sized microwave from the 1980s.  So that is all going to change, eventually.

First step, other than to remove the upper cabinets and get a range hood, is going to be painting the cabinets.  The cabinets are in really good shape despite their age and the truth is that even if Leif and I were to gut the entire thing I doubt we'd be able to afford new cabinets made from the same quality wood as these custom ones are.  They are actually quite pretty in their own way and I would probably consider keeping them as they are in the right setting but in this house there is just too much wood everywhere.  Wood paneling, wood flooring, and wood trim that along with the wood cabinets the whole thing feels a little too cabin-in-the-woods for me.  So they are getting painted.  White uppers and gray lowers.  I know it is a bit on trend right now, which I always tend to avoid, but I figure in five years we may end up renovating and so it won't matter much.

These kitchens are my inspiration.  I know mine won't turn out quite so beautiful but I think I can get a similar feel without spending an ungodly amount of money doing so.

The countertops are laminate and therefore you can safely assume they are butt-ugly.  My consolation is that they are clean and a fairly neutral color.  I was going to live with them until I could afford to spend some real money on replacing them but then I came across a tutorial online for using a material called Ardex Feather Finish that would transform them into basically concrete countertops.  Little Green Notebook used it on her laundry room and was happy with the result so I figured that I'll give it a try.  It can't be any worse than what is there now and the bag of mix only costs about $15, which totally appeals to my bank account.

This will be the first big project we tackle around here.  It will probably take a couple of weeks and there will be some late nights given that we both work full time.  But it will be a fairly cheap renovation and I think will make a large impact to the overall look of the house.  We are going to be living here for many, many years to come so I look at it as an investment in my future happiness.

Monday, November 11, 2013

our new home

I've dreamed about owning my own home for the last seven years.  At first it was an impossible dream because of where we lived (Los Angeles = $$$) and then it was impossible for other reasons after we moved to Portland.  I don't know what it is about the desire to own a home that has been such a constant theme in my life for these many years.  I know that with home ownership comes a myriad of issues and stresses that renting does not but it has not deterred me from fantasizing about the day when I no longer am paying someone else's mortgage.

In the eight years that Leif and I have lived together we have lived in five different houses/apartments.   The longest we've ever lived in one place was about 2 1/2 years while I was in grad school.  It is hard to feel at home in rentals when you are moving so much.  I've also refused to make improvements in any of the rentals we've lived in because I just could never stomach the idea of using my money to increase the value of someone else's property.  Yes, that may sound a tad selfish but I don't care.  When you've had the doozies of landlords we've had you'd feel the same way.

For instance let me tell you a funny little story about when we lived in Koreatown in Los Angeles (my favorite part of LA, by the way).  We lived on the same property as our landlord and she would often corner us to ask us to help her out with some task.  One time she was trying to get an umbrella into a stand but the pole was a tiny bit too big and hence she was having difficulty getting it to fit.  So she asked Leif to come and help her, which being the sweet guy that he is, he acquiesced.  Twenty minutes later he came to the conclusion that it wasn't going to work until they could get something like WD40.  At that point she stood up, went into her house, then reemerged 60 seconds later, handing Leif a bottle of cherry-flavored lube.  As in, sexy time cherry-flavored lube.

I'm going to give you a second to let that sink in.  Our landlord asked Leif to use her personal sex lubricant to get an umbrella into an umbrella stand*.  Did I mention that it was flavored?  That's my favorite part of the story.

Yeah, so landlords.  Don't particularly care to deal with them anymore.

Alright so let me get back on track.  House-buying and stuff.  When this house buying experience began Leif and I were looking for a place that we could live in for a few years, build some equity, and then sell so we could buy something that we would be able to live in for the rest of our days. But as we looked at house after house we both started to realize how much we really did not want to have to repeat the process in a few years.  Between our budget and the housing market here we felt like we would be looking forever.  But then, on a whim, I asked to see a place that was both over our budget and, from the photos, a bit of a stinker.

From the moment I walked into the house I was smitten.  For the first time since I started looking at houses I was able to easily picture myself living there.  It was a fixer but not like the gut jobs that we had previously been looking at and all the work that needed to be done was just cosmetic. I could not believe how little the photos online actually captured all the unique and beautiful aspects of the house.  It was lucky that they didn't too because I am certain that had there been better photos there would have been quite a bit more interest in the house.

In two days the house will officially be ours.  We gave notice to the rental agency two weeks ago and now we are in the midst of packing and arranging for all the things that need to be completed to the house before we move in.  We have so many plans for the house and I am excited to get things started.  It will be a slow process though because we are not going to have as much disposable income as we had wanted but that's ok because this is the house we will be living in for many, many years to come.

I'm so ready to make it into my new home.

*For all the inquiring minds out there who want to know the final outcome of this story; the lube worked.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

the internet is full of awesome things: mr. printables

Mr. Printables is my new favorite place on the internet.  Have you been?  If you like paper and crafts and beautiful, imaginative artwork then you should probably speed on over there.  Then spend the next couple of hours there, browsing all the free and awesome printables.  Like I did.