Fireplace…

Chris - January 9, 2008

With some rare company due this weekend, I convinced myself to scramble and get fireplace (mostly) finished.  The previous owner of the house had some sponge-painting tendencies, and they had the misfortune of being applied to what was once a simple brick fireplace.  After a layer of thick and impenetrable stucco and a combination of yellow, pink and green painting, however, I decided it was best to just cover it up and start anew.  My first reaction was to install a tile surround directly over the stucco.  But, inspired by an image I had seen in a west elm catalogue, I ultimately decided on a different route.

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the fireplace pre-renovation

The concept for the fireplace surround is a sort of mosaic of 4×4 blocks cut at different depths and arranged in a random pattern to give some depth and interest to the facade of the fireplace, with solid (and un-sanded) cedar posts and beams to provide the structure.  Each of the 4×4 blocks is glued to hardiboard to provide support and a consistent vertical surface.  The surround actually sits about 2″ in front of the original fireplace, and can be easily removed if the style doesn’t suit the tastes of someone down the line.

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the surround, pre-stain

After installing the surround and returning it to the wall using cedar 2×6s and cedar fence posts, I stained the entire unit.  I used Watco oil (providing more moisture to the wood than actual stain would) in a dark walnut color to reflect the color of the new wood floors.  Because the camera flash washes out some of the shadowing and grain detail, the pictures,don’t do a great deal of justice to the fireplace.  But I’m very pleased with the way it turned out.  The last piece to complete is a mantle, and I’m considering going with concrete to match the kitchen countertops.

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stained and waiting for a mantle

I’ll clearly never be burning any open fires in this fireplace - but I may one day get a gas insert for it (better for the air anyway).  At any rate, it’s a piece that brings some interest to the living room - and will surely provoke plenty of conversation…

No recent activity…

Chris - December 21, 2007

The updates have kind of fallen off the map here in Denver.  As we were entering the holiday season, I told myself that the Christmas tree wouldn’t go up until the trim and baseboards were completed - so as to not have the tree in the way of that effort.  As it turned out, though, a series of events and decisions led to no trim installation and Christmas tree decorating two weeks ago (you can’t keep a 4-year old from his Christmas tree).  So December has been a very slow month in terms of progress around the house - but at least it’s been a festive house…

The plans for the coming months include new windows for the entire house, followed by the infamous trim.  Also, I owe updates on the status of the fireplace - which will no longer be the ugly stucco’ed and sponge-painted mess it is currently.  Plenty of work to stay busy once the focus on the season has passed us by.

 Happy holidays to all.  Here’s looking forward to a productive 2008…

Kitchen, part 3…

Chris - December 7, 2007

As I said in the last post, because the kitchen is pretty small I wanted the materials in the kitchen to have a clean, modern character - and thus the unadorned cabinets and the beautifully-simple concrete countertops. But in order to give some life to the space, I wanted to do something special with the backsplash.

After looking at plenty of stone and porcelein tile - none of which really had the character of what I was looking for - I ended up on glass tile by Daltile. I love the reflective quality of glass tile, which in a small room adds an element of light without being ostentatious. I chose a combination of blue colors - 3″ x 6″ field tiles as the primary component of the backsplash, with 1″ x 1″ tiles as an accent above the sink. And, like with the countertops, I got a discount on the expensive glass tile which brought the cost down to nearly-reasonable levels.

The following photos show the tile installed, along with the painted walls and light fixtures from West Elm. Also, I splurged a bit on the faucet - opting for a restaurant-style combination faucet and sprayer. The appliances are all new, and from the same Frigidaire Professional Series. And the lights are pendant fixtures from west elm. And with the exception of trim and a couple outlets, the kitchen is complete. So nice to have a place to cook again…

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Kitchen, part 2…

Chris - December 6, 2007

I had decided early-on, after I’d planned to buy this house, that I’d like to check into concrete countertops.  The kitchen is a pretty small space, and I wanted clean lines and a finish to the counters that was undistracting yet distinctive - and that meant no granite.  I went so far as to get a quote from a local fabricator - but when it came back at $120 a square foot, I revised my focus.  I just wasn’t interested in paying that much for countertops, no matter how great they were…

Just when it was time to get an order in for Silestone or some other product, my uncle approached me.  This uncle does high-end home renovations for a living, and he and a friend of his had decided to start a concrete countertop fabricating business.  They’d done a ton of homework and had made many samples, but hadn’t yet made a full countertop.  And while they originally thought that cast-in-place counters were going to be their focus, they were considering the option of precast.  It was perfect timing for me, as the cabinets were just about ready to go in - and because it was a test job for them in a way, I got a really great discount.  So I dove in…

The process was surprisingly quick for the fabrication, and I’m very happy that we went with precast - it meant no mess for me, and I didn’t have to deal with the unusability of the kitchen during the fabrication (not that I was using it, though).  And I am absolutely thrilled with the way thay turned out…

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The sink is a black granite sink from Home Depot and does a really nice job (I think) of not distracting from the clean lines of the countertop and cabinets.  Again, because the space is small, I wanted the the quality of the materials and surfaces to be relatively subdued - with one exception.  I wanted to the backsplash to sparkle.  And that’s the subject of the next post…

Kitchen, part 1…

Chris - December 5, 2007

By the time the floors were complete, it had been eight solid weeks that we’d been without an operable kitchen. Dishes were washed in the small bathroom sink, meals were eaten in restaurants, ordered as take-out, grilled on the grill, or microwaved in my bedroom. Needless to say, I was chomping at the bit to get to the kitchen…

I had actually ordered the cabinets prior to closing on the house, taking into consideration the delivery time and as an impetus to really get to work right away (weaving through over a dozen large cabinet-boxes is plenty of motivation to begin work!). This was a tricky proposition because, while the kitchen grew in size by a foot, the remodel actually eliminated some storage in the space - in order to bring the refrigerator into the kitchen, the pantry had to go. And I knew that I wanted to open up the kitchen more to the dining room to make the space feel larger, which meant losing yet more wall space. I toyed with the idea of eliminating the wall between the kitchen and dining room completely and doing more of an island - but this would have left me very short of cabinet space. So ultimately, I decided to open up the entrance to the kitchen by providing a 30″ “window” adjacent to the former narrow doorway entry.  (In the photos below, the first picture is essentially taken through the opening, and you can catch a glimpse of the opening on the left of the second picture.)

The cabinets went in fairly easily, considering the majority of them were connecting to a plaster-over-brick wall. The cabinets are a simple, clean design from Home Depot - maple with a spice finish. For food storage, I bought a full-height pantry cabinet with pull-out shelves which actually functions better than the old closet pantry. And while I accidentally ordered a cabinet to hold a microwave (rather than hang the microwave from), I decided to keep it and use the intended microwave space as storage for cookbooks and such. As it turns out, I actually have a bit more cabinet space than I actually need (although I’m sure I’ll end up filling it up)…

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Next: concrete countertops!

Working from the ground up…

Chris - December 3, 2007

Once the contractor cleared out with the framing, drywall and texture complete, the first project was the installation of new wood floors. The existing floors in the house are original pine and not in horrible shape. But I was looking for a more modern look, and got a good deal on some wide-plank black walnut hardwoods… so I decided to cover up the existing. I love the impact of the wide planks and the absence of nails and nail holes that the originals were laden with.

The picture below shows the new floor and the re-framed arch between the living and dining room. Beyond, you can get a glimpse of the solution for opening up the kitchen a bit while still maintaining adequate storage space. Full details of the kitchen coming in the next post…

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Demolition days…

Chris - November 27, 2007

A couple weeks after moving into the house, the demolition started in earnest.  The first project was the kitchen, with it’s door-less cupboards, vinyl flooring as wall treatment, and antiquated everything.  Because the kitchen was so small, and we had six hands to help in the effort, the demo project went pretty quickly… and left us without a very important room.

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In order to increase the size of the kitchen and find a place for the refrigerator, two walls needed to move - which impacted both the dining room and the second bedroom, or the entire middle of the house.  I hired a contractor to do the dirty dirty job of demo-ing the lathe and plaster in both rooms, and in turn hang new drywall.  The project continued into the living room, as I wanted to re-imagine the stylistic archway separating it from the dining room and open the space up a bit.

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During the demolition process, we were relegated to three unconnected rooms in the house, which meant that my bedroom served also as living room and kitchen, while the bathroom sink doubled as dishwashing station.  The only benefit of doing this with a 4-year old is that they’re so resilient at that age - I think it felt more like a camping trip to my son than a disruption.  However, I don’t recommend living through significant demolition of lathe and plaster to anyone.  By the time we had our house back we’d lived through 6-weeks of never-ending dust, wearing shoes everywhere, and cramped quarters.  Lesson learned!

Here to there…

Chris - November 20, 2007

To give an idea of where this renovation is going, here are before and after floor plans for the house - representing about 950 sf.  While I’m not making wholesale renovations to the organization of the space, the need to increase the size of the kitchen impacts a number of other rooms - meaning the initial work in the kitchen impacts a much larger portion of the house.  These changes appear as subtle in the plan - but in real life, not so subtle…

\chris g files\3449kitchen.dwg Model (1)

Happy to have you here…

Chris -

Welcome to my little Denver bungalow transformation…

In August of 2007, I purchased a home in the Highlands neighborhood of northwest Denver. The organization of the house, built in 1911, is typical to the neighborhood - with two bedrooms, a small bathroom, living and dining rooms and kitchen upstairs, and a full (but low-ceilinged) basement. One great bonus to the house is a circa-1930s sunroom addition to the back of the house. And then there are the challenges…

The kitchen: Oh, the kitchen. It was a very narrow galley-kitchen at the rear of the house, one so space-deprived that the previous owner kept the refrigerator in the mud room beyond the kitchen. Because of the size and generally poor space planning, there was very little storage space. In order to live happily in this house, the kitchen was priority number one in this renovation.

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A disparity in taste: Over time, the interior style of the house went from (assumingly) traditional - if understated - Craftsman detailing to an art deco flavor. Not that there’s anything wrong with art deco, but it doesn’t really match the style of this home. There is something wrong, however, with some particularly garish sponge-painting that left the fireplace and the bathroom almost unbearable to look at. Lots of changes coming to trim, lighting, and other details to bring some design context back to the house.

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The garden: The majority of my previous renovation experience is actually with the outdoors - I work in a landscape architecture office, and the design and organization of outdoor spaces is a passion of mine. While a first glance at the garden impressed with some fun details, room for a vegetable garden, and plenty of flowering plants - it became clear that the maintenance of the garden had fallen on hard times. Some initial projects to reveal the front of the house have begun, and the transformation of the outdoors will be on-going.

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Through this renovation, I’m trying to create a home for myself and my 4-year old son - all while we live in the house through all the work. The challenges are numerous, but it’s fun to watch (and be responsible) for the transformation. I hope you enjoy following along as I guide you through the changes. Thanks for visiting my renovation…