Things around Idiot Central have been in flux lately. Several of the rooms in our house are stuck in transition between their old and future selves, so we’ve spent the last month or so stepping around displaced furniture, boxes of old items scheduled for disposal, and painting and cleaning supplies cached in strategic positions. The living room has been caught between two worlds since we got new furniture delivered, but we had a hiccup with the first new couch they brought us where I discovered the top of the backrest wasn’t connected properly. They sent us a new one pretty promptly, and we’re happy with it—but my old IKEA couch sat forlorn in the corner of the room, shoved against a cabinet.
Weekends have been busy so I haven’t had the time or the car to move it out of here, and Freecycle offered no takers. So Saturday morning I got out the screwgun and the deadblow hammer and we broke it down into manageable pieces that would fit into the Honda. It was bittersweet to see this couch go; I bought it with my ex in 1997 and it was the first piece of grown-up furniture I owned that didn’t come from a dumpster or someone else’s house. It served us faithfully for years and survived the wrath of eight different cats, not without battle scars. But it was old and smelled like dog and we’d had a slipcover on it for probably ten years, and it was time to move on. So Finn and I bashed it into six pieces, stuffed it into the CR-V, and I heaved it into the dumpster with a heavy heart.
Jen had spent Friday with a rented steam cleaner trying to blast all the dirt out of the carpets from our upstairs bedrooms, but we found it wasn’t up to the job. I think the professionals probably use stronger equipment and terrible chemicals to do the job properly.
She had an older Queen Anne-style coffee table when we merged houses, and we both agreed it didn’t fit our current living room vibe. She suggested we change out the legs to something more midcentury modern and found a set on Amazon that looked good. I bought some wood and built a shallow box on the underside, then sanded the dark cherry finish off the top. Finishing it with some 1800 grit paper, I taped the edges and shot it with five coats of polyurethane. What used to be a heavy, fussy slab is now a light table that goes perfectly with the leather chairs we bought and balances the sofa perfectly.
We’re nowhere near done, but progress is progressing, and I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.
About two years ago, we spent a considerable chunk of money on a FLOR tile system for our living room. And we were very happy with the results…for a while.
One thing we noticed, after about six months, was how much the low-pile carpet picked up dirt and stains. Now, we understood that buying a carpet with large areas of light color was a gamble, given that we were planning to have children at that point; what we didn’t figure on was how difficult it would be to get the stains out. They seem to sit in there forever, even after repeated steam cleanings. (One of the benefits of the FLOR system is that each tile can be popped out and hand-washed/steam cleaned, instead of moving all the furniture and humping the entire carpet outside). Our cats, while not the most scratchtacular of felines, still like to sharpen the claws every now and again, and when they do, they pull up small patches of dark fibers from the bottom of the carpet which look like stains but don’t ever come out.
In preparation for the holiday season, and to take advantage of a sale at FLOR, we decided to buy a bunch of replacement tiles to clean up the appearance of the room. Through my own stupidity, I ordered only the lighter blue of the two styles we’d chosen, but after we laid them out on the floor last night, I think it was a pretty fortuitous mistake, because the majority of tiles that need replacement are lighter.
My advice to anyone considering the FLOR system for themselves: pay close attention to the traffic recommendations and find a pattern that matches those requirements.
Remember those pizza boxes on the back porch? Here’s the result. This was the morning after a 1AM installation session, where we had to move all the furniture into the dining room and jockey the white couch (the 4-ton sleeper) around the tiles as we laid them down. The result is a warm, comfy floor that brings a new color into the neutral space, and lightens up the whole room
Now, to get rid of that hideous brass fireplace surround.
We moved furniture back into the living room on Saturday night after everything got final coats of paint. The area above the mantel is supposed to be darker than the wall, but it’s not dark enough for us yet. It’s great to have everything coming back to normal again, and even better to look at the base of the walls and see crisp white paint on clean new baseboard going around the length of the room. For your amusement (and my indulgence), here are some before and after shots. I don’t have any good shots of the room in original condition, unfortunately.
When last we left the fireplace mantel, I’d finished adding wings to the sides of the box on top to make the structure look proportionally correct. The next step was to find molding of some kind that would fit the top of the box, mimic the molding in the rest of the house, and have it be approximately the right size.
This is the basic crown molding sold at Lowe’s and Home Depot, clamped into place for test-fitting and basic aesthetic testing. At first I had it lined up with the top of the box, so it began about 4″ down the box and (to my mind) was squishing the top box too much proportionally. My initial plan was to tack it into place here, then see if I could have a 3/4″ plank planed down to 1/2″ at a lumberyard somewhere and basically just tack it on top of the molding. This would have left me with a thick lip at the top of the mantle though—the squared top of the molding is about 1/4″, plus a 1/2″ board == eccch.
My second thought was to mill the sides of a plank down to fit the bevel of the molding (tip: all crown molding is essentially a thin board turned on its side so that it doesn’t create a 45° wedge at the back, which makes it undesirable for finishing the top of, say, a mantle) and fit it to the mantle, then tack the molding onto it and into the side of the box. This would be considerably more difficult but the end product would be much more pleasing.
Another thing to note is that with this particular crown molding, the angle at the back is not a perfect 45°; it’s somewhere around 32°, which makes fitting the bevel that much trickier. I cut the molding according to the measurements and test-fit it, then measured both the box and the outline of the molding to find the final edge size. (Sure, your fancy “New math” might have helped here, but remember, this house is out of square in five dimensions.)
Cutting the long edge of the plank was easy on the table saw, but cutting the short edges was tricky because my compound miter saw only has a reach of about 7″, and this board is 8 1/4″ wide. So I had to revert to the circular saw, adjusting the blade by guesswork and praying for good results.
And luckily, it seemed to work. I got true 32° cuts from the circular saw in a straight line, and fit the plank into place. Next, I had to jigsaw out the odd scalloped shape of the bumpout above the fireplace into the back of the plank—both edges come out about 1/8″ further than the center— and plane out any inconsistency left so that it fit as flush as possible.
The end result has a few very minor hiccups here and there, but overall looks very good, and turned out better than I’d dreamed it might. I have to cut and fit shims on the top to support the plank, and then the whole thing gets permanently fastened to the frame.
The next step is to cut down those small planks on the right side and fit them around the sides so that they meet the kickplates on the wall, covering up the lousy edging job the floor guy did around the fireplace and the lousy brickwork we inherited. Then, putty and caulk go in to fill any rough edges, a final sanding, and finish paint goes on.
Here’s the fireplace with added wings on the edges, sanded and primed. If I can clear the decks this weekend I’m hoping to finish this project off and move back in before next Monday. Cross your fingers.
This took a little longer than I thought because I built the boxes with 45° angles to avoid having the edge of the woodgrain to deal with when I finish. Clamps are a wonderful invention, and I need to buy more of them.
This is the other side. Under this section we’ll put the rounded bead, and above it will go a milled edge finished off with a 1/2″ flat cap.
I spent the three-day weekend nesting, which felt good after two weeks of upheaval and chaos. Nesting for me generally means power tools and some kind of mess will be involved, and this weekend was no different.
(Here’s more information and pictures.) Sorry about the yellow cast to the picture; I forgot to change the white balance setting.
Every year at about this time, when the leaves begin to fall and the storm windows start coming down, Jen and I get the irresistable urge to start changing stuff around. This is in part due to the proximity of Thanksgiving, when the Dugan clan makes its pilgrimage south for the Eating Of The Bird, and our own natural nesting instincts kicking into gear.
In general, this year has been different than the last, because we’ve ignored our house for eight months while our businesses have been getting traction. Sure, I was able to get the living room windows scraped, cleaned, and painted, and Jen made good headway on the garden, but that was in the spring, centuries ago, when it was warm.
Last week, after a few checks came in, we decided to call in some pros and finally get our living room wired. Up until now, it’s been incomplete, with a coat of paint on the walls, no baseboards, and a cardboard facade over the nasty fireplace brick.
Our electrician recommended recessed lighting for the ceiling as a way to warm up the space evenly and add some variation to the lighting zones. The living room at one time had a central chandelier which was taken down and capped over, so there was no light switch in the whole room.
The blue tape in this shot is the outline of what will soon be the pass-through French door into the doctor’s office. To the left of the door on the other side is a half-bath.
The hole in the center is the location of the old chandelier box, which is now gone. The little holes behind that are from the wire hopping the joists. They will be covered by drywall at the end of the job.
The housings are HALO brand 6″ fittings; I think in hindsight I’d choose the 4″, and that’s what I’m going to specify for the kitchen. Overall, the light they throw is warm and full. We put the two over the fireplace on their own dimmer, and the other eight are ganged on a 600w dimmer of their own.
This is step one; The next phase is to wire the baseboards and get the room on its own circuit. We’ll be putting two plugs in on each baseboard as well as cable, phone and ethernet jacks. Phase three is to have professional drywallers come in and put 1/2″ sheetrock up on the ceiling over the plaster and around the lights so that the ripples and patches in the ceiling are covered for a smooth appearance.