Monday, March 28, 2011

A Window Sill

Talked to the builders about getting a window sill and explained that I wanted to reuse some wooden brackets we had in storage. They were a bit surprised when I showed up with a board that was over 7 inches wide, but then made the window sill according to my instructions. To call this a window sill might be misleading. The more correct translation of the Swedish "fönster-bräda" or German "Fensterbrett" should be "window board".

A window sill can come in many styles and will of course give a different impression depending on window house style. However, after over 100 years, this is still considered being THE window sill engraved in the Swedish mind.
"Blomsterfönstret"  from 1894 by Swedish painter Carl Larsson.

A window sill with flower pots lives in the heart of many Swedes. 
Typical window sill in a Swedish apartment from the 40's and 50's.
Flooring works well for a window sill, here with wood from pear trees.
An Austrian window sill.  Otherwise hard sunlight, get softened by the plants. Imagine what the same kitchen would look like without the window sill and plants...

So how did my window sill turn out? Really well, I have to say. It was installed today and decorated before the builders even left the driveway. It still needs paint, though.

My window sill! It has been a long wait.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Not Without the Internet

Needed hardware for the sliding doors and levers for the other interior doors. Looked at Home Depot and Lowes and was not impressed with what was there.
Went home to do my homework and found everything I wanted on the Internet

Door hardware: Black has been on the wish list for a long time and I was not ready to give up. Found one model by Baldwin at that I think fit our style. I also got edge pull and flush pull in black for the sliding doors.
For an old door between the living room and the new porch, I got matching black hinges.
Baldwin 5445.PRIV
Lever for the interior doors from Baldwin.

Yesterday, I ordered floor registers for the three new vents from I hope these are as nice as they look on the photo.

Finally, I found my favorite paint! It is entirely based on flax oil and pigment. We used it (but another brand) for ALL woodwork in previous house, and it actually smells nice! The Allbäck paint comes from southern Sweden and the flax has grown not far from where I grew up. Neat!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Cleaning in the Basement

The work in the basement is completed for now and it is time to clean up. I think that some of the dirt and dust has been there since the house was built 60 years ago. Oh my, talk about spring cleaning!

For two days, I've scrubbed the outside walls, cleaned the outside of the ducts (yikes!, especially on top) vacuumed spider web between floor joists and cleaned dirt and mud off the floor. The old storage shelves went back up, but this time in a more organized way that makes it easier to navigate the basement. Long term storage in one corner and the more often used items and food in another.
The old freezer is not going back to duty, so I called ComEd for removal service. They will even give me $35 for that :)

While working down there, my brain is busy figuring out what to do with the area we want to use for the television, play area and craft table.

We have seen enough of the pastel mint green walls are and want more color but still keep it as bright as possible. After painting the bathroom walls, the paint tray still had some blue paint, so part of the basement wall is now blue. Nice, but a bit too dark for the entire basement. There is some leftover cream colored paint from an earlier project, but that would be too boring. How about some stripes - vertical ones? One row of cinder blocks white and the next blue or green...

The old sliding doors from the bedroom closets have been lurking in the basement for a long time. With some hardware, they could be turned into wall units to screen off the storage and laundry areas. Easier, faster, more flexible and cheaper than studs and dry wall! The medium brown wood color would give some warmth to the room.

This week started off wet and more rain has been falling every day. The sump pump is going off every few minutes and the basement floor is still dry. What a relief!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

IKEA Cabinet Hacker

Recently, I found a blog where people post creative use of IKEA furniture: IKEA Hackers. I was surprised to find so many fellow IKEA hackers out there. Obviously, I'm not the only one chopping up IKEA cabinets to get exactly what I want. We hacked quite a few closets in our previous house to make them look built in. Today, I introduced our builder to the art of hacking IKEA cabinets.

In the mud room, along the two long walls and just below the ceiling I've installed "above refrigerator" cabinets. The 15 inch tall ones fit precisely over doors and windows and gives not only lots of storage, but also a feeling of shelter when you are under them. I'm a big fan of the "Not So Big House" concept by Sarah Susanka. She talks a lot about ceiling height variety and a feeling of shelter.  Putting the cabinets along the ceiling gives all of that - plus storage. Last night, I worked on installing all eight upper cabinets. The deep ones are heavy and the not so straight old wall challenged us!

Once the cabinets were in place, we could glue and screw the cover panel (intended for the sides of cabinets) on the underside of the upper cabinets. While building my previous house, I learned that construction glue, or PL400 is incredibly strong stuff.

Tall cabinet is hacked to be narrow
enough to fit sideways under the
upper cabinets.
Tall cabinet is used to squeeze up the back
of the cover panel while the glue is drying. 

This morning, the top, bottom and back part of one of the tall cabinets was cut off to make the cabinet fit sideways under the upper cabinets. When you do that, the bottom and top loose their holes for IKEA hardware, so I just put in a few long regular screws from the side that now faces the wall. 

There is not enough space under the cabinet for legs or a plinth. When the builders showed up, they helped me with pieces of 2x4's and some shims to bring it up to the right height. It will all be covered with trim anyway. Tomorrow we'll put the other tall cabinet in place and prop it up the same way.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Today, the tile guys finally finished both the bathroom wall and the floor. I'm really happy with the result! You won't believe how hard it is to find blue floor tiles. Back in January, I found what I wanted at Lewis floors & homes. It was the same tile, but 12x12 inch.  That one was not in stock in the US, but had to be ordered from Italy. After I had looked in many other tile stores, I realized I had to go with the 18x18" of the same kind but put in in diagonally since the rooms are relatively small.
Fiddling with the layout before starting is well worth the time.

The subway tile was easy to find and not very costly. However the 3x6" tiles created quite a lot of work for the tile guys so in the end it maybe wasn't that much of a cost effective alternative. The only thing missing is a piece of stone or wood to put on top of the toilet tank. We thought we'd come across a scrap of something that we'd like, but that hasn't happened so far.


The siding guys did the entire the north side but ran out of material for west side

Half Swedish cottage, half non-descript ranch...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wallpaper on Back Order

Today, I parked myself in the wallpaper store and decided not to leave until I had found something I felt excited about. Believe it or not, but I was confident when I left that I will be able to give the rooms the character I want.

Last time, I looked I didn't find anything, so I didn't have much hope to find a light light beige delicate pattern, but did not have much hope of finding it. Had an enormous stack of wallpaper books on the floor with one or two bookmarks in each. There were several that I liked a lot, but they would not give the room the character I sought. All of a sudden, exactly what I was looking for popped out at me from one of the catalogues! Wow, that made it easy! All the others were put away.

For the mud room, I made up my mind on the yellow striped one. It's white and yellow irregular stripes that looks handpainted. That will look sunny and cheerful with the white cabinets and blue floor. Unfortunately it is on backorder until May 9th.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wallpaper Choices

Had planned to use the old paneling in the mud room (vertical and painted sunny yellow) but for several reasons we decided to go with wall paper instead. The space is pretty small. so loosing 1/2 on each side of the room would make a difference. The other reason is that we don't have time or energy to strip the varnish and paint them.

Visited a local wallpaper store, where I was lucky to find Linda, a decorator of Swedish decent. How nice not to have to explain the Swedish style I was after.

For the porch I wanted a very light colored with light light beige delicate flower pattern, but did not have much luck finding it. The sunny two-tone yellow striped wallpaper that we had in our previous house and I would like for our mudroom was also nowhere to be found. I decided to think beyond yellow stripes. I found some from from Norwall,  York - Three Sister Studio and St. James - Ready Set Grow:

Red and white stripes would look fresh with the blue floor and even bluer
back door. However,... I would love to see this in a decorating magazine or
in a friend's house, but red isn't really my color. 
Cute and certainly popular with some members of my family.
However, a warm color on the wall might be better and after
all, a ball park theme is really far away from the Swedish style.

I like this, no doubt about it. However... not in my house.
The colors are not crisp enough and a little too American
for me to be happy with for several years. 

The right colors and I love polka dots! However,...
I'd prefer the dots to be lined up along the diagonals
instead of vertical/horizontal.
It is a serious but fun and playful option, though.
This would give the right "feel" to the mud room, but I would like
something with more yellow. There will be lots of white cabinets,
so the visible walls are not that big. Hmmm...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday Blues

I have been procrastinating the blue paint colors for too long now. Here is my dilemma:
I like the blue tile floor which has all the shades of medium blue worn jeans. Lots of soft blue, but also some white-begie-light brown mixed in. However, I'd like to get the rooms a little bit more colorful and clean looking, so I'm trying to pull the blue a little bit towards red and decrease the grayness.

In our old house, we had a lot of blue shades R80B in the NCS system which means 80% blue and 20% red. There are of course a lots of variation depending on how much white-grey-black is mixed in. I would say, that blue is seen as quite "clean blue" - not much towards purple nor towards green. The floor certainly has more green in it than that, but if I could twist the paint a little bit, I would be much happier.

Finally, today, I decided on Behr's Premium Plus Ultra Hawaiian Blue, UL230-7 for the bathroom walls. Let's see how that turns out and then decide on the back door.

Taking photos of paint colors is tricky and then it depends on your computer screen what you'll actually see. This looks not so far off on my (MacBook) screen. As you can see, the electrician arrived as soon as the tile guys left. Soon we'll have light too!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Warm Floor

Now all dry walls are in place, so it is time for the floor to get some attention.

Everyone who has experienced heated floors knows how nice it is to walk barefoot on them on a cold winter day. My previous house was built on slab (well insulated towards the ground) with radiant heat  built in. Each room had its own thermostat so we kept the bathroom a little bit warmer and a porch like room a little bit cooler than the rest. If the sun was warming one room, the rooms on other side of the house were still comfortably warm. In a corner of the entry hallway, all the water tubes came together to a distributor system and the floor was always extra warm right there. That made a perfect place to just toss wet mittens and hats in the winter - a very popular solution with kids!

Radiant heating in the floor is very high on my wish list, but getting a new boiler just for the few square feet we now are remodeling did not make sense. For energy efficiency reasons, we did not want to install electrical heating either. However, plumbing and heating ducts are all low enough to make room for  a layer of cement with, for now, empty tubes under the tile floor. This will allow for a floor heating at a later stage.

Monday, the heating tubes were mounted, one loop for each room, thermostat tube in the floor and wire in the wall. So all options are available for when we upgrade our furnace/boiler later. It probably won't be before we have remodeled other areas where we want to put in floor heating as well.

Mud Room
 Documenting is crucial! There is a whole bunch of photos like these, but with much higher resolution filling up my hard disk. Everything will be covered up and if you desperately want to attach something to the floor, you need to know where the tubes are.
Everything will be covered up with floor, trim and wallpaper.
Documenting where the thermostat tubes and cables is very important!

The cable will be covered up with wallpaper until we
install the rest of the floor heating system. This is where
the wall thermostat for the mud room will be placed.
Tuesday, the bright orange hoses got smothered in a cement compound.

Yesterday (Wednesday,) the cement compound was finished and shower base and the toilet tank was installed. I was busy figuring our wall paper and paint and before I knew it, the toilet tank had been installed and covered with drywall. Sorry, no pictures.