Creating a Happy, Colorful, Handmade Home & life on the shores of lake superior

April 29, 2014

Old New House: Rug Envy

I am still on the hunt for a pretty, cheery, washable rug for the laundry room.  Between my life-long struggle with allergies, and now Szuka, I've always been a bit resistant to rugs, although I do admire their beauty.  Actually shopping for a rug has me appreciating the selection from Old New House even more.  How I wish that I could toss one of these beauties into the laundry room to add some vibrancy (hopefully these curtains will do the trick!) . . .

This antique Tekke rug has an unusual pattern and a warm, inviting colour palette.  


This vintage Turkish rug has a glimmer of turquoise that caught my eye and made me pine for it:


This primitive antique braided rug would lend a homespun vibe to any space:


This antique Beshir runner has a striking pattern and rich colours:


This blanched Turkish runner is a refreshing antithesis to the on-trend over-dyed rugs:


If you're in the market for something more elegant than the washable version I'm after, take a peek at Old New House and their ever-changing inventory of antique and vintage rugs.  And, if you missed it, click here for my interview with Melissa and Dave about shopping and caring for antique rugs. 



This post was sponsored by Old New House but all opinions and words (and editorial decisions) are my own, as always.
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April 28, 2014

Eames Dreams Realized

When I opened my Instagram account a week ago, I decided that it would be a fun place to share thrifted treasures and vintage finds.  But my most recent find is too juicy not to share here as well! 


I was trolling kijiji last week and spotted a pair of chairs described as "retro-style plastic chairs".  From the picture they looked just like Herman Miller Eames DAX fibreglass chairs, but there had been 98 views and the ad had been up for 16 hours.  I thought it unlikely that they were the real deal but, if they were, I figured they had been snapped up already (especially for $15 each).  Just in case, I sent the seller a message saying I'd love to buy them and could pick them up at her convenience.  Surprisingly, they hadn't sold.  


When I arrived at the seller's house, it was apparent the chairs were fibreglass, not plastic.  So, yay! 


They were in excellent condition (just dirty and smudgy), except some of the plastic feet were missing and mismatched.  I handed over the cash and we scurried off with them.  She told me 10 other people had expressed interest, but no one else had been willing to drive through the snowstorm to pick them up.  As we loaded the chairs into my truck, the Herman Miller embossed logo (along with paper labels) were abundantly clear - along with the distinctive shock mounts and H-base!

This is ALL dirt . . . blech.  Cleaned up nicely now!
This might be my best find to date (although the velvet chair and krenit bowl are close contenders).



I've done a little sleuthing but I still know so little about these.  The one on the left has the Herman Miller embossed logo, a double triangle (not pictured), as well as an embossed flame.  I haven't been able to figure out what the flame means (others also seem stumped).  I believe the triangle signifies the manufacturer - Summit Plastics.  The paper label has patents, with the last one issued in 1958.  It's translucent, but the one on the right is not.  The right one also has the Herman Miller embossed logo, the double triangle (not pictured), and an S inside a circle.  It has a stamp that reads, "Summit, 3, Prime".  So they both seem to be manufactured by Summit.  The paper label has a piece missing, so I can't see the last patent to Google what year it was issued. 


My uneducated guess is that these are from the (late?) 1960s, most likely the 1970s - they look a lot like these and a little like these these on Ebay.  I read on a forum that Zenith Plastics was the first manufacturer (which I knew), that Cincinnati Milicron was the second, and Summit Plastics the third (before Vitra), but I haven't been able to find info on when each company produced these chairs.  What I do know is that this pair came from a hospital that closed down awhile ago.  My heart hurts thinking about how many others there might have been, just waiting to get taken home (for free, or next to nothing, I imagine).  I wonder how many ended up at the dump . . . try not to think about it.  At least these ones have a good home (and by "good," I mean mine).  They've been given a preliminary cleaning, but they need a good clean, the metal needs a little polishing, and I need to order new feet.

I'm so thrilled.  The snow that fell last week wasn't a dusting, it stuck around and I'm just so over winter.  It was funny after the fact, but when I first got my truck stuck in the snow I burst into tears of frustration (it took three hours of shoveling, I went through a lot of emotions).  Ridiculous, I know, but other people I've spoken to feel really beaten down by just how much snow Thunder Bay and area have gotten, and how it's still falling.  I really needed a silly little pick-me-up, and these fit the bill.  You know, I'll happily put up with copious amounts of springtime snow if it means I can scoop other treasure hunters. 

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April 25, 2014

Kitchen Progress: Our DIY Solid Wood Kitchen Counters

Ordinarily Hubby and I tackle projects together so I always say "we" did this, and "we" did that.  Concerning the construction of our beautiful new kitchen counters, however, Hubby and his woodworker Dad deserve all of the credit.  I only came into the picture to do the staining; it was Hubs and his Dad who did all of the hard work so today I'm handing over the blog to the Handiest Hubby out there, who is going to explain how he made our insanely gorgeous, solid maple kitchen counters:


I first measured the existing counters and drew up a fairly detailed plan in order to get the dimensions that we needed.  After my first draft it was noticed that the measurements did not add up.  I went over them again and they were closer, but still not exact.  There was no way that all the numbers were going to work.  This is because the house and existing counter was not perfectly square.  Of course.  I only have experience with two houses but have found that nothing is exactly square.  This is why I found it important to measure all sides of the installation, not just one side.

We chose to use solid maple for this project.  We purchased 2" rough planks in about 10 - 12" widths (which cost $611).  This wood was already dried and was ready to work with:


I didn't manage to get any pictures of this process (I was busy actually doing it), but here are the first steps.  We started with the largest section and cut the boards to length (about 2" longer than the finished length) with a radial arm saw.  We then ran one edge over a jointer to get one flat, straight edge.  Once that was done we were able to run the boards across a table saw and rip them into approximate widths of 5-6".  The one flat edge was necessary to be able to get a straight cut on the table saw.  The narrower widths will help ensure that the finished product will not warp as much when the humidity changes.

The boards were then run over the jointer again on one of the wider sides to get a flat surface.  Once this was achieved they were all put through a planer to get them to a uniform thickness.  The one flat side is necessary so you don't get a gradual curve over the length of the board.  A planer doesn't really make things flat, just thinner.


Here's what we ended up with (compared to the rougher wood underneath):


At this stage we laid out the boards to get the desired layout.  You may be wondering why we didn't keep the boards in the original widths instead of ripping them basically in half.  We did this so that when they change shape due to humidity the effect is not as great (you can see an example of a counter with wider boards which warped in this post Tanya wrote on wood movement).  If a narrow board curves one degree, it is harder to see than if a wide board curves one degree.  Also, when laying out the boards we do the "smiles and frowns" method.  If you look at the end grain of most boards (depending on how they were cut) the grain curves in a fairly obvious direction.  You lay the boards next to each other so that one curves upwards and the ones next to it curve downwards, alternating across the whole width.  This minimizes the overall warping of the counter as the moisture content of the board changes and they warp slightly.  Even if a slight wave develops, the overall levelness of the top remains decent.



Once the boards were placed in the correct order and orientation, we then fine tuned the edges that were to be joined.  Instead of making them perfectly flat we used the jointer and made them slightly concave, to the tune of about a half millimeter gap in the center, over the full length of about 77".  The reason for this is so that when it is glued and clamped, there is a bit more compressive force on the ends and it reduces the chances of gaps developing between the boards as they swell and shrink over time.


Next came the gluing.  The boards are simply butt jointed together with a strong wood glue.  There are no connectors of any kind.  We brushed the glue on to both surfaces and clamped it together.  The long pipe clamps are alternated along the top and bottom of the counter to ensure that the clamping pressure is even and doesn't curve the top.  The smaller clamps that are seen around the edges are holding a number of slats that are keeping the boards even with each other.  It is a good thing to be able to see a little bit of glue squish out, as this tells you that you have full coverage on the glued surface.

We allowed the glue to dry for awhile (follow manufacturer's directions) until the excess glue was not sticky to touch, but not completely dry and hard.  We then slowly removed the clamps while ensuring none of the joints moved.  The excess glue was then scraped off using a couple scrapers.  Then it was left overnight.


I don't have any pictures of this, but once the glue was completely dry I went over the seams with a cabinet scraper to remove all glue residue from the surface.  This not only increases the life of your sandpaper, but also speeds the sanding process.  You can also use a hand plane for this; just take very little off at a time.

We then put the pieces on a stroke sander (pictured below) to even out and smooth out the top.  The planer leaves slight marks on the surface.  A stroke sander is basically a large belt sander with a moving table under it.  You slide the table in and out while pressing the belt into the work piece.  You could also do this with a belt sander but a stroke sander is much faster and will give you a more even surface.

Once this was done we cut the pieces to their final length on the table saw.


In order to hold the counter pieces together there are a series of bolts on the underside that are basically clamping the sections together.  Below is a picture of the underside of the original counter joint where the bolts go.


We reused the original bolts and basically mimicked the original designed holes.  Using scrap plywood we made a template for the area to cut out and cut them using a plunge router.


The boards in our counters do not have any connectors between them but we did decide to use batons running across the grain.  These are there to help hold it flat as it shifts.  To make them invisible from the edges, we sunk them into the counter and set them back from the edges.  Using a template and plunge router again we cut them out.  To keep the template from moving we actually screwed it down.  It's the bottom of the counter and nobody will ever see the holes unless the counter is removed.


Below is a photo of the batons.  As you already know, you can't stop wood from expanding but you can control where it expands to.  We decided to have the counter expand towards the wall so that the edges that you see and touch do not move in relation to you or the cabinets.  This was more important for us because we have grain running 90 degrees to other pieces.  We didn't want to see an edge where one section slides against another.

To achieve this all of the holes in the batons are slotted except one.  This allows the counter top to slide on the baton as it expands and contracts.  We are not sure yet, but we will not be surprised if the largest section (facing the dining room) "grows" by half an inch in the warmer months.


Below are the counters, all ready for a final hand sand and finishing.  Once they were at this stage we had laid them out in their final orientation and ran a trim router with a 1/8 inch round over bit along all the edges that would be exposed.  We did not route any edges that joined with another section so that the seam was smooth and square.  But by routing the edges that we touch, they became smooth and not sharp.


After my father and I finished building them, Tanya stained them white (which you saw here) and then we left them with my father who applied the top coat.  He used Campbell brand Krystal high-solids conversion varnish in semi-gloss (pictured at the bottom of this post).  He applied it with a sprayer, sanding between coats.  The Saman stain and Krystal varnish wasn't the best combination, because the grain was raised a lot (we think from the water-based stain) and sanding to a smooth finish required a lot of extra effort, but in the end the finish looks great and is very durable - perfect for kitchen use.  The stain alone seemed chalky in my father's woodworking shop, but once varnished and in our kitchen, the finish is warmer and creamier.  Tanya wanted it whiter (and regrets not applying the fourth coat), but I think the colour is perfect and I like that the grain of the maple has not been hidden. 


Regarding installation [Tanya's making me write this: because my wife is so awesome and wanted to make things as straightforward as possible], we chose not to go with mitered corners.  Instead, we opted for 90 degree joints.  This is a lot easier to make; we did not have access to machinery that could accurately cut a 45 degree angle across a 39" piece.  It was a good decision, because I think 90 degree corners look better with the blocky 90 degree corners on the counter edges and sink.  Mitered corners would not have suited the style of the counters or sink as well, in my opinion.


To attach the counter to the cabinets, the tops are simply screwed to the cabinets from underneath.  I measured out where I wanted to put the screws and pre-drilled the holes into the tops of the cabinets before the counter sections were in place.  This stage of the process definitely requires a partner, as there is a lot of lifting and shifting of the pieces for correct placement.  We left about a 3/8 - 1/2 inch gap between the counter and the wall to allow for expansion (which will be covered by the wood paneling).  Before driving the screws we ran a very small amount of clear kitchen silicon along the seams between the sections.  We didn't want any to squish out (because when it did, it stained the wood!).  The sections (one at a time) were then bolted together (with the bolts you saw above), and screwed in by driving the screws from the bottom. 

The photo below shows the joint between two sections.  The round peg is at the front.  This places the section in relation to each other and does not allow one section to slide against the other.  The biscuits that you see in the other slots are there to prevent any relative vertical movement between the pieces while still allowing one to slide in relation to the other.  As the grains run 90 degrees to each other there will be relative movement.  This it just to direct it away from where we will see it.


It definitely wasn't a quick project, but that's how I took a pile of lumber and made kitchen counters!

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April 23, 2014

Kitchen Progress: Turquoise Cabinets? Check!



After spending the winter in our garage, the cabinet fronts Hubs painted with our sprayer needed a little touch up, but now they've been re-installed and all of a sudden the kitchen is looking so good.  Sadly, it looks a lot more denim-blue in my photos - I've been having a tough time lately, photographing teal and turquoise true to life, which is really problematic given my penchant for anything turquoise.  In that elusive third dimension, the colour (CIL Niagara Mist) is nearly identical to the turquoise Pyrex butterprint pattern, so if you've seen a piece of that, then you can better envision the colour.


Painting the cabinet boxes was straightforward: light sanding, coat of primer, and then three coats of semi-gloss Premier paint, courtesy of my paint partnership with Canadian Tire.  Just like when I painted the bathroom cabinetry, I used my small artist's brush for the narrow cabinet face frames, a two-inch angled brush for the toekick, and a roller for any larger areas, like the section that faces the dining room and the areas beside the stove.  The cabinetry wasn't in the best condition so when I zoom in with the camera some blemishes appear, but the semi-gloss finish, which reflects lights, does a good job of hiding imperfections when I'm not staring at it from three inches away.  People say sheen emphasizes flaws but I'm adamant it's the other way around: matte paint can really highlight flaws.    



Even though the turquoise cabinets have been giving me shivers, the real showstoppers are the solid maple counters.  Hubby is sharing the full tutorial on Friday (you already saw how I stained them).  Even if you don't plan on making your own wood counters, just seeing the transformation from pile of rough lumber to this gleaming gorgeousness is incredible - and we've got lots of photos!


You got a glimpse of the new sink and faucet last week.  If you have been following me on Instagram, you saw the new hardware as well.  I wanted something brushed silver (my favorite!) and simple, but not too stark and modern because the cabinet fronts have really busy profiles.  I wanted something to bridge the modern sink with the decidedly unmodern cabinetry.  I had a pretty meager budget (hardware adds up quickly!), so I headed to Lee Valley.  Their catalog is fun, but nothing beats spinning those turnstiles and seeing the different styles in person.  Hubs and I both liked the feel of these knobs, which were only $3.00 a piece. 


These knobs require two screws for installation and the old knobs only needed one, so we simply added a second screw hole.


Hubby measured, marked with a pencil, and drilled away (with a wood scrap underneath).  For the cabinet drawers, I had filled the hole with wood filler prior to priming and painting, so Hubs just drilled two new holes and centred the knobs.  Easy!


Such a pretty change, compared to the old brass knobs (which were the same in the bathroom, but because that room is a more temporary fix, I just painted them matte black):


We made one other inexpensive change: the floor grate.  What was previously there was white and rusted, so we bought a $13 replacement, in silver.  I'm only mentioning it because it's Made in Canada!  I love finding things made in Canada or the USA.   


The kitchen is really taking shape, but we still need to paint and install the paneling, add trim to the paneling, replace the window trim, paint and install open shelving, add some bar stools, unpack my Pyrex collection and our dishes, plus build a pantry beside the fridge.  But I'm feeling so motivated because it's already the happiest room in the lakehouse . . .

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