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

January 22, 2016

Bathroom Update: Quartzite Counters + Aqua Sinks!

Nothing has been easy about this bathroom renovation but I've decided that all of the setbacks and problems are going to make me appreciate the finished room that much moreGratitude is my word for 2016.  In other news, instead of renovating the kitchen (because who wants to go through this again, on a larger scale?), we're buying a boat.

Before I explain the problems with the new counter - and what stone I almost impulse bought instead - here's a look at the quartzite counter and those aqua sinks from Kohler.  I've been teasing you with these things for about a year, so it's not fair to make you wait any longer...

Gorgeous, right?  I can't get anything done these days because I spend all my time leaning against the bathroom door frame, staring into the bathroom all googley-eyed.  Hopefully the new replacement drawer fronts will arrive soon because that's where my eye wants to wander.

After the tile and granite shop bunged up the bathtub (among other things), I canceled my order for stone counters from them, which means that this slab is not the slab I put a deposit on, way back when.  Here's a look at the new slab:

Wandering the stone lot, on our way to pick out which corner of the slab we wanted, I fell in love with a different slab, another type of quartzite:

Isn't it pretty?  It's so light and airy.  I almost changed my mind but this slab was 50% more expensive, plus it didn't go with the aqua sinks.  As well, I picked very plain tile because the white fantasy quartzite I wanted is so busy.  With this stone, I would have chosen completely different tile.  So I stayed the course, but spent a few nights pining.  When we eventually renovate the kitchen (100 years from now - I'm really not kidding about the boat), I think I want this stone instead of the white quartz I'd decided on.  Now that I have natural stone, I don't think I could ever be happy with a man-made material.  Picture the slab above with all white cabinetry (or even walnut lowers and white, glass-fronted uppers), paired with some Fireclay tile.  So dreamy...

Anyway - back to reality!

The quartzite counter was originally delivered Monday morning but the second it was set in place, I noticed a problem: the front right corner was really rounded.  I had ordered as tight a corner as possible (in other words, as small a radius as possible) and, while the left corner was done correctly, the right hand corner was not.  It bothered me so much that they were done differently!

I was so disappointed and wasn't sure if it could even be fixed.  Luckily the installers were awesome and so helpful.  I couldn't reach anyone at the store who could help, so they made some calls to figure out my options and encouraged me to send it back.  I wasn't sure if the shop would re-cut an entire slab or if they could shave off the edge but I was hoping I could keep my slab because it was cut so beautifully.  They had positioned the sinks so that a really prominent vein ran diagonally through the sink holes and it was just balanced so beautifully.  I had been worried about half being really patterned and busy and the other half looking completely plain, but my worries were unfounded:

Once the slab was back in the shop someone looked up my file and, sure enough, I had requested a 10mm corner but had been given something different (we guess a 20, maybe 25?).  I was asked to double check the length of my cabinet and they shaved off some stone from the right side to re-shape the corner (there was a bit of an extra overhang, so they re-cut the corner).  Now both corners matched and are as blocky and squared off as possible.  We drove into town before they delivered it to double check (something we should have done before delivery the first time).

Now the corner is perfect - as sharp as can be before it becomes slicey - but the right side overhang is 1/2 cm shorter than the front and left (which are the same).  But the left butts up against the linen tower, so I haven't yet decided if the difference is noticeable. 

I'm SUPER irritated that it couldn't be done right the first time because I spent an embarrassingly long time explaining what kind of corner I wanted and pointing to what I did and didn't want in the showroom - the corner shape was a big issue for me.  I'm not always super particular, but that was something I was very specific about.  It's fixed, but the solution isn't ideal.

Plus, there might be another problem: we have yet to install the faucets but I'm 99.9% sure that the faucet hole above the right hand sink is off centre by about 1/2".  I'm waiting until we put on the faucets before ringing any alarm bells - it might look fine once the faucet is installed.  Fingers crossed!

Despite these problems, I love the stone itself and am really happy with my choice.  There are so many beautiful pockets of gleaming blue flecks in this slab and the veining is gorgeous.  I can't capture in photos just how luminescent and light reflecting the stone is.  It really looks like a frozen lake.

There is so much variation in the greys and I love how perfectly the organic quality of the stone pairs with the walnut wood grain (that's no accident!).  I kept the floor tile really simple to highlight these two elements - and, of course, my dreamy aqua sinks.  This is the only splash of colour so far and it's perfect, just a little peek of turquoise.  It's the Serif undermount sink from Kohler, who partnered with me for this bathroom renovation.   The colour is "Vapour Green".

In other news, we finally installed the Persuade Circ skirted toilet (also from Kohler) after sweating over drilling holes in the tile for it.  Plus we're all done installing and painting the trim - which is one of those jobs we usually tend to drag out!

We still have some work to do, but we're getting there!  Our bathroom to-do list has shrunk by leaps and bounds and all that is left is to:
  • Finally acquire drawer fronts and put them on (soon, I hope)
  • Install cabinet pulls
  • Plop in the faucets and hook up (hope that hole looks more centered!)
  • Hook up plumbing for the sinks
  • Measure for sheet mirror and order it
  • Get mirror installed 
  • Install sconces (SO excited for them)
  • Install the new toilet paper holder (from Kohler - it's a thing of beauty)
  • Get a replacement valence for our new blind
  • Put up a shower curtain (I have an unusual plan)
  • Sew a fun little shower curtain hack
  • Get the tub fixed and finally deal with tile shop (uuuuggghhh, don't wanna)
  • Try to get the permanent marker off the tile (sigh)
  • Figure out why the tile creaks and squeaks (ditto)
  • Make/find some art
  • Accessorize! (Yay!!)
I'll keep you posted on progress, here and on Instagram (where I've been sharing sneak peeks). 

January 20, 2016

A Makeover For a Sentimental, Retro Doorbell Cover

Projects that use acrylic sheets

Remember how I said the platform we made for Szuka (so she can ride around in the truck more comfortably) was the weirdest idea you'd see all day?  This is weirder...

retro doorbell cover

My grandparents have had this doorbell cover in their house for as long as I can remember - I think my Papa made it.  Originally it was black, but somewhere along the way it got a coat of cream spray paint.  It kind of cracks me up that the windows look very 1970s, because it demonstrates that no house is safe from the trends - not even a fake one.


I can't actually fit this over my doorbell but my Papa was adamant that I have it because I always loved it as a little girl.  I'm touched that he remembered, so I think it will find a spot in the studio space I'm dreaming up (currently "the fishroom" in our house tour).  But first it needed a whole home renovation: new exterior paint, new windows, and lighting ;)

Before painting, I gave it a good scrub with a toothbrush and some dish detergent, then rinsed it off and let it dry in the sunlight.  Once dry, I gave it a few good coats of Rust-Oleum gloss white (the same paint I used for the painted terracotta planters).  The paint job refreshed it beautifully, but the windows had to go so I ordered an acrylic sheet from Inventables.  They have a great selection of acrylic for various projects, but I fell for this soft blue ("pacific blue").

Cutting acrylic sheets

We cut the acrylic sheet with a jigsaw and then used our favorite 5-minute epoxy to affix the new "windows" in place.

For fun, I bought battery powered LED lights from Michael's to slip inside (these ones are similar).

Submersible battery LED lights for crafts
mini battery operated lights
diy nightlight

Now this little house perfectly matches my aqua and white colour palette and lights up, so it makes me smile.  I just need a little Komondor pup figurine for the balcony and some doll-sized Pyrex and I'm all set!

If I needed one, this would be a pretty awesome night light...

unusual nightlight ideas

Thanks to Inventables for collaborating with me on this project - and for being so enthusiastic about my super weird idea!  They have some seriously cool project supplies.
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January 18, 2016

How to Drill a Hole in Ceramic Tile

Hubby and I recently conquered a major DIY phobia: drilling holes in tile.  In the townhouse bathroom we skipped it altogether by purchasing a tension shower curtain rod and suction-fit soap dish for our freshly tile tub surround.  With the lakehouse bath reno, we asked the tilers to drill the holes for the handheld shower bar and wriggled out of that task.  We were two for two!  You can imagine our dismay when we opened the box for our new toilet, only to realize that it required drilling THREE holes into our brand new tile floor.

Womp womp woooomp.  (Also, why?)

Spoiler alert: we did it, without cracking or damaging the tile!  Here's what we used + instructions for how to safely drill into ceramic tile, plus a couple of tips we learned the hard way (is there another way?)

How to Drill into Ceramic Tile


*Purchase a brand new drill bit because the sharpness will reduce the risk of chipping or cracking the tile.  Because these bits are drilling into such a hard material, they do wear out quickly.  Ours was purchased from The Home Depot and was labelled clearly for ceramic tile.  Porcelain tile requires a different bit - ideally a diamond-tipped bit.  Again, at the hardware store these bits should be labelled clearly so you can find the right one for the job.

Step One:
If you're drilling into a wall, you'll want to protect the surface below - just in case you drop a drill bit (or the drill, thanks to a serious hand cramp).  We drilled into our floor tile, but we still put down an old towel to kneel on (knee pads would have been awesome) and kept another towel nearby to wipe up water and gunk.

Step Two:
We marked where we needed the holes and then applied a piece of painter's tape, marking again (measure twice!) where the holes should go on the tape.

Step Three (Optional):
We didn't do this but wish we had: apply a tiny bit of grease to your drill tip before using, because the water will cause some rust spots to form.  You need a brand new drill bit for drilling tile, so it's likely we won't use this much anyway.

What Kind of Bit do I Need for Drilling Tile?

Step Four:
We filled a spray bottle from the buck store with cool water and sprayed the end of the bit with a couple blasts of water.

Step Five:
Applying constant pressure and using a low speed (we did about 400rpm, you can even start at 100 or 200 rpm), we started drilling with the smaller carbide-tipped bit.  The tape helped keep the drill from skipping - and protected the floor in case it did.  With the hole started, we removed the tape and kept drilling.

You might be wondering why we did this miserable job twice?  Drilling a pilot hole helps guide the bigger bit.  The bigger bit on its own would probably run away more easily - you can see in the photo above its tip isn't as sharp.  Drilling a pilot hole also reduces the amount of work the larger bit has to do, which reduces heat and stress in the bit.  Ultimately, we wanted to avoid the bit breaking and applied the same practice from metal and wood working to our tile drilling job: start with a smaller bit to create a pilot hole.

Step Six:
This was a two person job: Hubby drilled and I continually sprayed the tip of the drill bit/hole (not the drill).  The water helps remove some of the dust and debris as well as keep the tile and bit cool, which prevents the bit from overheating and breaking.  Every now and then we'd pause, and I'd wipe up the water and mortar that oozed out, and then give it a fresh blast of water before we started drilling again.

Drilling hole in tile

Steps Seven (to a Million):
Drill, drill, drill.  Drilling into ceramic tile requires persistence because you have to work very slowly, being careful not to apply too much pressure on the drill.  We really had to clear our schedules for drilling these holes because the low speed meant this task took a long time, with a few breaks in between.  On one break, we quite literally watched an episode of 2 Broke Girls, on another, we made dinner.  I'm certain we were too cautious, because when the tilers drilled the holes they certainly didn't fanny about with them for an entire weekend (on the other hand, they probably had a better, more expensive drill bit).  Hubby says this really created some major pain in his hands from holding the drill for so long - just a head's up!

Tips for Drilling Hole in Tile

Step Eight:
More drilling!  When we were through with the smaller bit and had successfully drilled a hole, we switched to the larger bit and repeated the process to actually make the hole size we needed to install the toilet.

And, voila, a hole in our brand new tile floor (weep).  Please take some time to marvel at it, because a lot of energy went into making this one hole:

How to Drill a Hole in Ceramic Tile - Photos

Rockwell Tools generously offered to send us a tool to get projects done around the lakehouse faster, and although I wanted a mini table saw, Hubby was pumped for this cordless drill and driver (our other drill is corded).

Rockwell Tools 20V MaxLithium Brushless Drill & Driver

It was a good choice because we gave our new drill a spin during this project and there were some great features that helped make the task easier, like a comfier rubber grip (major plus) and a light, which helped us a lot because we were working in a dark corner of the bathroom. 

Rockwell Tools 20V MaxLithium Brushless Drill & Driver Review

The shorter length made it easier to use in cramped quarters and the two-speed drive was just what we needed for drilling tile.  The handle is closer to the axis (the line of the drill bit), which makes it easier to put even, linear pressure on the drill when drilling - ie. downward pressure.  For future projects, like driving screws into drywall, the adjustable clutch is a plus (and something our corded drill didn't have), because an adjustable clutch stops the drill from over-driving screws.  The battery level indicator is nice so we don't run out of juice, mid-task. 

20V MaxLithium Brushless Drill & Driver

I'm so excited because the stone counter tops and aqua sinks are getting installed today!

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January 15, 2016

How to Clean Glass Fireplace Doors - Easily!

How to Clean Glass Fireplace Doors

Handy Hubby and I consider ourselves pretty lucky because both of the homes we've purchased have had wood burning fireplaces.  Hubby grew up in a cozy country home with a wood stove, while I grew up with a Mom who pined for a fireplace my entire life; we both had it hammered into our heads that a house is homier with a fireplace.

Masonry Fireplace with Modern Black Glass Doors

In the townhouse, the fireplace boasted an illegal insert (thanks, home inspector who "specializes in fireplaces") so we were forced to remove it and use it as a masonry fireplace.  When it was in use, the glass doors were open.  In the lakehouse we once again have a fireplace insert, which operates with the doors closed.  The noisiest fans in the world help push the warm air into the room, although even without them it gets so toasty that the furnace shuts off.

How to Easily Clean Fireplace Doors

It's much more efficient than the townhouse fireplace, but the downside is that the soot bakes onto the glass.  Cleaning the glass fireplace doors is a regular chore in the winter, but luckily I've picked up a trick to quickly and painlessly remove that baked on soot from the glass!

Cleaning Fireplace Doors

When we first moved here, I scrubbed the glass with Windex and a chore boy scrubbing cloth (love those things).  I'd have to let the Windex sit for awhile, trying to keep it from dripping everywhere, and then get the best core work out of my life, scrubbing.  (Cleaning this fireplace is clearing vexing, remember the shop vac mishap?)  One day we were at my father-in-law's place and he started cleaning the glass on his fancy new wood stove (so jealous).  He whipped out a can of Bon Ami foam glass cleaner and it cleaned the glass in seconds - NO scrubbing!  I immediately bought a can and tried it myself.  I just sprayed it on, let it sit a minute, and wiped it off with a paper towel.

Using Bon Ami to Clean Fireplace Doors

Blech.  But look, it's like magic!

Soot Build Up on Fireplace Doors

It was SO much easier to clean the glass fireplace doors this way.  I think either my Mom or Mummu used Bon Ami, because I have memories of cleaning glass with it as a kid, so I eschewed it when shopping for glass cleaner as an adult (weird, the things that motivate my consumer habits).  Well, I'm back in the Bon Ami Bandwagon, because look at my glass fireplace doors now!

Clean Glass Fireplace Doors

In case anyone has struggled to clean their glass fireplace doors, I wanted to share this as a PSA.  I like a clean home, but I want cleaning to be easy, so from time to time I share products that really knock my socks off (like that citru-shine stuff I'm still smitten with).

Looking for more cleaning tips? 

Here's my tip for how to make chrome and stainless look (and stay looking!) brand new and gleaming.

How to clean chrome and stainless and keep it looking new // Great cleaning tips

This is how I clean lampshades without a vacuum (it takes two seconds).

How to clean a lampshade without a vacuum // Great cleaning tips

My post on how to clean black marks from Pyrex - and bring back shine to Pyrex that's dishwasher dead - has been viewed 75,000 times!  In that post I've also got a tip for removing utensils marks from bowls and plates in seconds - I made a cereal bowl set look brand spanking new!

How to clean vintage pyrex

I did a follow up post about how to remove that really grimey, baked on grease from glass and Pyrex - you'll never guess what product under your sink did the trick!

How to clean grease from glass

And, if you're updating a space, find out how I turned worn our lacquered brass into bright, brushed gold with one magical ingredient and two easy step!

How to remove lacquer from brass // Great cleaning tips

Last but not least, here's how I wash ( and de-pill) dry clean only cashmere and wool at home - great for laundering delicate vintage woolens and even pretty wool rugs from the thrift store (because who wants to spend $30 dry cleaning  a $3 find?).

How to wash dry clean only cashmere and wool at home // great cleaning tips
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