36. Befores and afters

We’ve been working nonstop here at the cottage, but sometimes, like life, the actual progress goes in fits and starts. Working on the windows is slow going; we are 3/4 of the way finished, and it seems we’ve been scraping/sanding/repairing/priming/painting them forever. And we’ve been working on the outside of the house (it is a Whole House after all, not just a kitchen…) to protect it from winter. So the BIG kitchen stuff — like walls and floors and doors — has been proceeding on hold. (I had to say that; it’s one of Mr. H.C.’s favorite sayings.) Hence this post is more for me than you. It’s to reassure me

    that work IS being done;
    that we ARE progressing;
    and that we WILL get to the end of this kitchen project.

To that end, here are some before and after pictures:


The front entrance Before — one of 5 pairs of sliding glass doors…(We’re down to 3!


The front entrance After — at the end of the weekend and the sun is setting, but it’s in place!

It took weeks, but those cabinets did get sanded, and their hardware put in place:


One of a whole pile of UGLY kitchen cabinets Before


…and the same cabinet After

Very few doors in the cottage are staying the same:

This was the old door going down to the pantry. This photo doesn’t show that it was actually sawed in half! A homemade Dutch door…

And this is the new door After. It cost $30 at the Restore in Washington. It is primed, but still awaiting the right color of green. (Then the yellow tape will come off as well.)

This cupboard was the one item in the kitchen that I could easily picture as beautiful before it was redone:


The built-in cupboard Before…

And my favorite, the cupboard After with its beautiful paint, new hardware, and new-old wooden top.

And if you squint your eyes just right, you can almost picture the kitchen as it will be someday:

I titled this photo Lovely Kitchen 2 B. (If you look closely, you’ll see the After result of the orange schoolhouse light in one of the earlier photos. We kept the pull chain, though)

Well, I don’t know about you, but after seeing these photos, I feel better! Onward…

26. Tying Up Loose Ends

There are a lot of loose ends lying around this blog and this post aims to tie some of them up into bows.
Back in July I posted eight kitschy items of Clara’s for readers to pick their favorites. The results are in, and except for the orange telephone, which was the clear favorite with eight votes, the rest of the results are inconclusive.  (There were  two suggestions to put it in the bathroom by the toilet!)

I don’t know…the bathroom was going to be the most elegant room in the cottage…

Does anyone know of a way to retrofit an old phone to be a cell phone? Wouldn’t it be cool if we could actually get it to work?
Five items tied with six votes each: The wooden butterflies, the owl switch plate, the orange metal shelf, the pantry sign, and the old California license plate.  I don’t see any recourse but to keep them all (which is what sister Diane told me to do anyway.)

The only item that no one liked — correction: it did get one vote — was the plaque with the dorky poem.
I hate to admit this because I know it is stupidly banal, but I like it. I didn’t at first. When I was taking down all the junk by the front door, it was supposed to be the first thing to go. But I couldn’t take it down; I like its sentiment and its sentimentality. Maybe it could go by the toilet too.

For six weeks now the cat, Henry, has been traveling back and forth with us. He has adapted to life in the city as a house cat fairly well. He has discovered the joys of playing with the bedspread fringe; tearing through the hall and sliding on the wood floor; canned cat food (he only gets this as a treat in Pittsburgh); and sitting on the stool looking out the window.
He has not adapted to the drive back and forth. He has now ridden up and back with us six times, which actually totals twelve different rides. Each time we think, ‘This is the time he’s going to remember’ and each time we are wrong.
He does seem to do better on the rides back to Pittsburgh, and tonight’s ride was the best yet. He actually curled up in my lap for ten minutes. Maybe he’s figured it out!
Yes, Charlotte was gone when we came back the next weekend. We both miss watching her and then feel a bit silly —
How can you miss a spider?
We are actually hoping we get to see all Charlotte’s children fly off in their parachutes this spring.
The Smell is Gone
Every time we opened the doors to the kitchen for the first time after the house had been closed up for a few days there was an unpleasant smell. Mustiness? Mildew? Cat pee? (Not Henry!) Mouse droppings? We couldn’t be sure. Oh, people were nice about it. Sisters said, “I don’t smell anything.” But we could smell something rotten in that kitchen… There were varying theories. Michael said it was the carpet. Carol said it was the cabinets. Michael said it was the floor. Carol said it was the walls. Etc.
Remember a few posts ago when I told you about taking down the wall cabinet and how delighted we were because it lightened up the kitchen so much?  Well we are doubly delighted because it has eliminated the smell!  No one is sure how or why, but we aren’t going to analyze it too much. We are just happy to stop using the Febreze!
Of course, part of the reason the smell may be disappearing is:
In addition to adding several new finish coats of paint, Michael also put up two lights. So, of course, there have to be some new pictures.

New painted ceiling and two of the four schoolhouse light fixtures. Notice the one by the door has a pull chain! Cool, huh? And very 40s!

Another reason the smell might be lessening is because I have been scrubbing the kitchen walls. They were covered with dried wallpaper paste (and who knows what else?) so in preparation for repairing them, I’ve been doing serious scrubbing. It is very much like work. But the color of the walls is kind of a nice mint green… I haven’t ruled out that color yet; I think it is very 40s too. Any thoughts?

I titled this photo “Lovely kitchen to be…”

If one squints the eyes, one can almost imagine that this corner of the kitchen is finished. Yes, this is the “after photo burnt into my brain.” The paint sample on the door is the current favorite — Benjamin Moore Lime Twist. And you can also see in this photo how nicely the old wooden top fits on the built-in cupboard. It looks like it was always there.

Kitchen Cabinet Hardware

The cabinet hardware was expensive and not easily put on. The holes didn’t match, so I had to drill new holes. Then once the new holes were drilled, the nuts weren’t long enough to go through the thick doors. It’s always something… I don’t have them all on yet, because, as Michael pointed out, we will have to take the doors back off to install the cabinets anyway, so…here’s the picture of a cabinet with finishings.

This is the cabinet that will go above the stove and have a fan installed underneath.

It is officially fall; the light is fading and there is less and less time to work. We’ve got some outside painting that has to get done to protect the wood, so kitchen work will stop for a couple of weeks, while we tend to the outside. Even though the light is fading, it is beautiful light. I read once that photographers like the light in spring and autumn the best, because the sun hits the earth at an angle and makes shadows. Here is proof: this picture was taken on the first official day of fall. These shadows lasted for about a minute and a half and I just happened to be on the porch.

Happy fall!

19. Wood Makes Everything More Beautiful…

Hardwood Lumber Company is a great place to order butcher block counter tops. They ship products all across the country, but we’ve ordered twice from them and picked up the counters at their mill both times. Located in either Burton, Ohio or Springfield, Ohio, depending whether you’re using their mailing address or a GPS, the company is in Ohio Amish country.  Burton is a charming little Ohio town, but the GPS didn’t like that address at all. It’s very unnerving to put in what one KNOWS is the correct address and the Garmin responds with Address Not Found… After consulting two maps and an IPhone, the navigator (that would be me) decided to try Springfield, as it was the next town over. Thank goodness, the GPS found that one. This is the unmistakeable sign (after we finally found the correct road).

Amish people don’t like to have their pictures taken, so I asked the boy who was weeding around the sign if he minded if I took a picture of the sign. He didn’t mind; alas, you can hardly see him–maybe that’s what he was thinking…

In the same complex is a shop filled with every style of moulding imaginable, and an Amish broom company, as well as the mill.

It’s a good feeling to see the piles of lumber that your finished piece comes from…

We had ordered two countertops made from Sapele wood, which is not a local wood, so I’m sure that our wood is not pictured here. Sapele is a sustainable substitute for mahogany — grown in Africa — and it is a rich dark brown after finishing. I talked to the secretary in the office several times — the sapele wood was a bit difficult to get and the order was delayed a couple of weeks. It didn’t matter to us at all, and they were so nice about it. They even offered to ship the counters for free if they weren’t ready by when we arrived.

We were coming home from a visit with son, Casey, in Wisconsin, so we had to unload the car of all our suitcases and travel gear before we could load up the countertops. A young Amish man brought them out on a dolly and patiently waited for us to put our suitcases and cooler all over the parking lot. He and Michael loaded the countertops into the car, we signed the receipt, put back our suitcases, and we were off. It was quick and efficient, after the secretary finally located the paperwork, that is. I wasn’t worried; a nice man had called me the day before to tell me they were ready and to make sure we were picking them up.

Just a peek…

…and we’re loaded up and ready to head home.

Greeting me this weekend? A dead mouse lying in the middle of the living room floor! Readers, you will all be grateful to know that I did NOT take a picture of it. It didn’t smell very good and a fly buzzed around lazily. It’s a good thing my shovel had a long handle… But even dead mice can’t quell the enthusiasm that comes from a beautiful new piece of wood. It smelled like a woodshop in the kitchen as we took off the old piece of wood and put on the new.

The stained and gouged old top (or rather, wood with a rich, dark patina and character) will have its jagged ends cut off and be re-purposed as a top to the built-in cupboard. Pictures of it coming soon…

The next two pictures show the difference mineral oil makes on a butcher block countertop!

From the mill…

to this wonderful rich color!

This luxuriously rich-looking butcher block top is in our kitchen right in the middle of a construction zone! I felt the need to cover it with a sheet the next day; it IS an island — in the center of the kitchen — and everything from paint brushes to utility knives to glasses filled with iced tea will do their damage… We did cook on it though. For our first veggie chopping event, we chopped on an old cutting board we’d had for years!

But I believe in using what I have; maybe I should just gouge it with a knife and get it over with! That’s the best part about wood though–not only does it make everything more beautiful, it can be sanded, oiled, and made to look beautiful again!