I was recently tickled to run across a Lane coffee table that was being given away. It was included in a long list of items, and was offered with the stipulation that the person had to take everything. I’ve always been of the mindset that you don’t get what you don’t ask for, so I contacted the guy and asked if I could just grab the table, and he said ok. I have to admit that my heart sunk a bit when I first saw it. Besides the great boat-shaped top, it looked kind of ordinary. You just never know what’s going to be under the varnish, so I packed it up and headed home.

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The inlay on the edge is interesting, and the top is the same cool shape as our dining table. Let’s get that puppy stripped and see what’s under the varnish.


The varnish on the top was super-tenacious. After running the Jasco stripper over it, and getting nothing, I gave it a light roughing-up with sandpaper and took another go. The top had been refinished with some kind of gnarly polyurethane, but I got it off. The drips on the underside of the top were sanded into oblivion.


It took a LOT of elbow grease to get this table stripped. I ended up removing the apron and legs to get everything immaculate. This is the process I used: Apply stripper, let sit 15-20 minutes. Scrape off as much as possible with a plastic scraper, and then scrub with a green scrubbie and lacquer thinner, using a stiff plastic brush to get all the bits out of the cracks. Wipe everything off with rags, and then go over the surface with mineral spirits. This cleans the surfaces without raising the grain, and helps you to see if any little spots of varnish are lingering. I finished the stripping process by sanding every surface with 320-grit sandpaper.

I was nicely rewarded for my hard work.


Here’s the top completely stripped. That’s some fine maple, people. After a consult with my antiques guy, Jeremy Schneyer at Revolver Vintage in Georgetown, I decided to stain the base and the upturned ends of the table to black (which were a different, unknown kind of wood) in order to frame the beautiful top. The top got three coats of Watco Danish Oil, followed by a slathering of Howard’s Feed and Wax. It was pretty tacky for a day or so, but it’s dry now and it looks pretty darn good. What do you think?



The cabinets have been in for a couple of weeks. Due to a snafu in the countertop templating, the install of the counters was delayed a week. For any future kitchen remodelers, here’s the story. Slide-in ranges have some trim on them to make them look built-in. All that fancy trim needs to clear any drawers adjacent, so make sure your cabinet/counter people, and your carpenter, check all of that. Our carpenter and GC, Justin Busch, caught the clearance issue after templating, fortunately before the counters were CNC-machine cut. It was as simple as adding 3/4” spacers on both sides of the stove, and having that part of the kitchen re-templated. Here’s the stove (and hood) in place for measuring.

stove mockup

There was some work done while we then waited endlessly for countertops.

The back door went in:

back door

This is one of Frank Lumber’s stock, made-to-order Douglas Fir doors. We opted for a slightly oversized back door to accommodate my brother Torre’s wheelchair, a glass pane to let light in (since we lose a lot with the removal of the addition), and an extra-wide bottom for the cat door. At about $600 prehung, this is one of the things that seemed shockingly expensive to me. The view is looking back into the kitchen from the addition.

unpainted beam

Before we closed on the house, we had an inspection. While our inspector, Devin Lehrmann, was in the attic, Ken and I had an idea: Could we blow out the wall between the dining room and kitchen? We hollered up through the attic hole and asked him if he could take a look. Devin had great news when he came down: that wall is not load-bearing! When we started our kitchen reno, we knew that was Priority Number One. Ken, Justin, and I spent quite a bit of time with the problem of how to move from one room to the other. The kitchen has a smooth ceiling and walls, and the dining room has a popcorn ceiling and textured walls. We all thought a fake beam was the right fix for the transition. The house has beige bullnose tile window sills, and Ken and I plan to replace them all with some kind of stained hardwood. The beam could be tied into this look. The plan was to use poplar, dirt cheap well known for its chameleon-like ability to look like a more-exotic wood. After running a bunch of stain tests, we came to a conclusion: Either we don’t know anything about wood, or these poplar-promoters are part of the PoplarCo PR Department. The decision was made to go to oak, which is pretty, and very easy to work with.

fast-forward a couple of weeks…the fake beam is looming on the construction calendar

Ken I both realized that the fake beam was about to be installed in a couple of days. We frantically started searching online for the wood, and we found nothing available in the sizes we needed. We then came around to the idea that this might be really expensive, requiring custom planing and we didn’t know what else. We then checked in with Justin and found out he’d already figured out where to get the materials and that the planing would not be all that much money.The result of this is seen above. Justin did a beautiful job, and once we took down the plastic between the two rooms, we realized how much bigger the house felt.. The beam will be stained black to match the cabinet trim and the windowsills throughout the main level of the house.

The next step was the flooring. After a very long discussion about tile that never went anywhere, we sort of randomly talked about some kind of linoleum (at that point, I learned about the difference between vinyl and linoleum—holy smokes, I was missing out!) and then before we knew it, the three of us were skipping holding hands into the sunset: Me, Ken, and Marmoleum Green Melody 3413, which in the last two weeks is mysteriously discontinued from Forbo. I guess we got the last of it.

After a horrid experience at Green Depot that included a fee for getting an estimate, paid, but never delivered, we went to Vogel’s Carpet to get some Marmoleum. We worked them once before when we carpeted the downstairs. Brad Vogel himself came out to measure, and the underlayment and flooring was done in a day. The colors are a lot more distinct in person. It’s gorgeous!


Today, finally, the countertops arrived. We were both at work when the quartz  slabs were installed, and it was pretty trippy to see that much change in our house all at once. (I still haven’t seen it all, Ken covered them with plastic so he could paint the ceiling.)

This is the main countertop looks like, This is immediately to the left of the stove, and it continues all down the east and south walls, and on the new peninsula to the west. This was Ken’s favorite countertop. Cambria Bellingham. What you can’t see is a little bit of sparkle, something I oddly wanted in our  countertops. I’m not sure if we verge on tacky here, but it sure is pretty in a 9 year old ballerina kind of way..

whitecounter Meanwhile, the north wall (aka the coffee side) got glass cabinet upper doors and black countertops. I was all for glass doors on the coffee side until they arrived. The glass openings have rounded corners, which match nothing and that Cabinetpak didn’t tell us about, and the  patterned glass is too busy with the print laminate cabinets. The countertops, however, were all me. Anyone who grinds coffee for a decent espresso machine knows that coffee dust gets EVERYWHERE, which is why Starbucks has black countertops. 8012’s coffee bar also has sleek as fuck black countertops.


A Rancilio Rocky Doserless Grinder will cuddle between my La Pavoni Europiccola and Ken’s #whateveritisconedripthingcoffeemaker, grinding perfectly to either specification.We (Ken, Mr. Research) have defined the fridge through diligent measuring to establish the proper clearance between the hall and the fridge, and opening a lot of fridges to see how the lighting works. We both really like good fridge lighting. Coming up next: the tile backsplash, and the final chapters of the kitchen reno story.


At last!

20130827_174907 It’s a little scary to see that laminate writ large, but the more you look at it, the more you realize it’s hella groovy.

20130827_174917  This is the new area in the north end of the kitchen where the coffee stuff and the countertop appliances will live.


Here’s a chip of the flooring with the cabinets. It’s not to everyone’s taste, for sure, but this kitchen is not going to be boring.

Ken did some work online with layout tools and figured out the new layout. We met with our carpenter, Justin Busch, and established a start date of 8/1, with Ken and I doing some demo prior to Justin starting. The project is somewhat ambitious: We’re lopping off a sunroom (demo will be in 2014), removing part of a wall, and converting a small dining area into new kitchen, essentially doubling the size. Blowing out the wall between the dining and kitchen rooms improves flow and gives us a chance to add a bar for hanging out or eating.

This what we’ve done so far, in order. Here’s our stove hood,  a great find from IKEA—we saw it in a number of renos and it seems to be a designer’s favorite. It will get a bigger fan inline for my coffee roasting as per Justin’s suggestion.



We’d been planning on refacing the existing cabinets and adding some new, but decided to just start over and have it all new and matching. We went to Cabinetpak, a local business that’s done a zillion kitchens in North Seattle. It turns out we can do all new with all the bells and whistles we want., like a spice pullout, and glass doors in on the “coffee side,” aka the new area that used to be the eating area. Tradeoff? Laminate.They are a lot nicer than they used to be however, and a lot nicer than what is at IKEA.  Ken and I played a game to figure out the best finish: We threw all the chips on the oak floor, so we could see how they looked on the wood. We kept taking one away in turn until there was one. Took all of ten seconds. In the world of neutrals, I have a strange weakness for taupe.


We have the sink, the faucet’s in the mail. Hoping it is nice as the sink, as the sink is sexy hotness. Found both on Houzz, an amazing resource for decorating and remodeling. Faucet is the Grohe “Minta.”



Our back door came from Frank Lumber, another excellent local shop. No pictures, but just imagine a big rectangle of Doug Fir with a window in it with enough room at the bottom for a cat door. Since we are putting in a new back door and we plan to get new interior doors,we’ve also picked out our door hardware for the whole house. When we get the new interior doors and moldings, the place will look fresh as hell. I saw this door in an open house that had been gorgeously flipped. From a crappy real estate listing picture, the guys at Frank figured out which door it is. These guys know their doors. The handle is Schlage ‘Latitude.’ The door is the Masonite Melrose, with a  similar handle on it.

Schlage-F10VLAT619-rw-264197-369259 bad door pic


Today we signed the contract on the cabinets, which involved selecting countertops (quartz), door/drawer pulls, and glass for some cabinets. 20 years of choices in a half hour. Main countertops above, coffee area below. Pulls are nice, but nothing you’ve not seen before.

Bellingham dark quartz pull


Next stop, our carpenter. Lots to discuss. Also, as you see, we’re lacking in color. We still have the backsplash and floor tile, and curtains to bring a little color. This is a theme in most of the house so far, we’re lacking color.

It’s been a month since our last post, and for that, I’m sorry. We’ve been pecking away at one little project after another. Here’s a brief update:



We went with a pretty gutsy color for the hallway. It took 3 coats, even using Benny Moore paint (color: Mustard Ga…I mean Field. FIELD.) Here’s the completed look:


Our main hall is narrow, and as you can see, doesn’t get a lot of light, so you will just have to take my word for it in the awesome department. Hey, see that big piece of textured glass? Want it? We keep meaning to take it to the dump and then forgetting. One of these days, one of us is going to trip over it in the middle of the night. That’s gonna make a hell of a mess.

Ken's office

Ken’s office is looking pretty sharp too. He has a normal desk, left, and then the Mack Daddy fly tying table that is the focus of the room. You will notice two vises, I get to tie in there too. Well, at least until the first time I make a huge mess, and then we’ll see. Let’s just say that Ken’s Felix to my Oscar.

The garage is getting some shelving, courtesy of Ken, our resident shelfologist:


My office is coming along, but it will be a bit still before it’s done enough to show off. The main living area is almost painted, though we don’t have much furniture yet. The Great Barcelona Chair Debacle will be the subject of another blog post, as will the chandelier and entertainment center upcycle projects.

After we had the floors refinished, the ceiling looked really dingy. Isn’t that the way house projects always work? The ceiling is popcorn, with asbestos, so it’s not coming down anytime soon. We approached it with the idea of quickly rolling on a coat of paint, but more research made us realize that spraying would be the best option. We’d already put down almost enough plastic to cover everything.


Ken got the wild idea to buy a sprayer, so now we have one.Priming the sprayer went fine (and apologies, from this point on, there are no images, time was of the essence and the space was too dirty for the camera) until it was time to make a spray. No go. Ken was about to throw the thing in the bin. I took a look in the instructions and he had missed a step. Game on.Took about 15 minutes to spray the whole area. Once the plastic started coming up, the whole ceiling project made a lot more sense. Look at those floors.

view from dining

I might have accidentally bumped that window that separated the entry from the living room, in any case, it’s not there any more. Better? Yes, we think so too. If that post is not load-bearing, the whole meathouse goes away. The beam will have to stay, but that post and pony wall can leave the house any time.


The wiring in this house deserves its own blog entry, if not its own blog. Titchy breakers that go without rhyme or reason, shared neutrals, random stuff wired in series….oy. I put the ugly chandy back up in the dining, and then we decided to nix it. There is no reinforcement in the ceiling for the weight of the beast.


We put up new lighting in the hall. No big change, just new fixtures.


We still need to paint the walls, How about those floors?


This is where we sleep now. It is modest, but we love it.


We want a lot of things, but hey, who doesn’t? What we really want is a nice place to live. No cinder block bookshelves, no milk crate anything, You know, decent, grown-up stuff. We both have furniture, but mine is either disposable stuff like futons and their frames, or good mid-century pieces that needs refinishing, rewiring, or maybe a place on the curb. A lot of Ken’s stuff is dated, or just not loved enough by either of us to make the move. To say our tastes are different is to be kind—Ken likes contemporary furniture with a pinch of tradition, and my taste veers between the uber-designed minimalist look and mid-century Danish. So…we’ve been shopping. Shopping for furniture, shopping at places like MOR (which made me weep, not in a good way) and places claiming to be mid-century “galleries” that have thousand-dollar wall units that are made of walnut laminate that really SHOULD be on the curb. Ugh.

We haven’t purchased much, but a few items have made it into our shopping basket. Wanna see?

I love me a good console table. We both liked this piece, and picked it up at consignment.


Powdercoated steel headboard/bed frame. The maker is in Canada, and builds to order. We will be sleeping on the floor for a couple of months. Simple, but great lines.


These simple brushed metal and pleather chairs are from Dania, and not expensive. We are still trying to find the right dining room table, but the chairs will go with anything.


The “Eliot’ series from Macy’s. We love this color (called ‘basil,’ though basil doesn’t actually come in this shade of minty green) and got a loveseat and couch, which we should have on Thursday. The 60-something stoner guy furniture salesman gave us a sale price from a couple of weeks ago on the set. Thanks dude!


I picked up this cool fiberglass clamshell shipping box at the UW surplus sale for $35. It is strong enough to sit or stand on. Ken was not with me when this piece was purchased, and he may have not had the same reaction as I did when I saw it. Love!


This is the couch for the living room. I think we both love it. Actually, Ken says he “doesn’t hate it,” which is sometimes the best we can hope for. I love it, and he loves me, so there you go. Everything is on order or not yet purchased except the fiberglass box and the console table. Should make for an interesting eating arrangement.