Tag Archives: fixer-upper

TV Room Redo Part 1: Floors Refinished

It’s the law of the Universe that when you plan for a project way ahead of time and have a reasonable time frame and strategy set out, you will then randomly decide to do that project one Friday afternoon between about 5-5:30.

As of last Friday, we’d been planning to refinish the floors in our TV room for quite some time, for reasons that will be clear below. Since we weren’t sure we felt like taking on a big project this fall, we decided to wait until spring when the weather would be warm and the windows could be left open nice and wide. But, when we downsized our couch, the imperfections in the floor became more visible and more bothersome, so last Friday we took an innocent outing to Home Depot to “look into” the cost of renting a floor sander. About an hour later, we walked out of the store with supplies, the sander, and 24-hours to get the job done.

A word of advice to novices out there who might be thinking about refinishing your own floors: you may think you want to rent a drum sander, but you’re probably better off with a square buff floor sander. We went in asking for a drum sander ourselves, but luckily we were helped out by a cool cat named Michael in equipment rental who warned us that these machines are not meant for newbies. And I have to say, even though the buff sander took significantly longer to clear the floors, we were glad we went that route. As the stain came off, we realized that a lot of the problems in our own floor happened because someone incompetent previously refinished them with a drum sander. As a result there were scratches, gouges, and curly cue marks all over the floors that we then had to remove by hand with an orbital sander. So avoid the risk that you will fudge up your floors and piss off your home’s future owners: just SAY NO to the drum sander.

One of the biggest issues with our floor was that there was a floor to ceiling “art” installation in the room when we bought the house. As it turns out, the “art” was not only glued to the floor, which left some nasty residue, but the previous owners had also refinished around it. Plus, it was in a weird spot only a foot or two from the door, so regardless of what furniture or rug you had in there, it was very hard to cover up.

Before: Crazy Art
After: Crazy Mess!
Bad refinishing on a wood floorBad refinishing job in our tv room done by the previous owners
You can see some of the swirls and gouges from the drum sander in this picture. These were made when the previous owners tried to maneuver the sander around the art.
Floor damage caused by drum sander.

Now for the fix. First there was sanding.
Sanding floors with a square buff sander

Then staining.
Applying pre stain/wood conditioner and stain to wood floors

Then applying polyurethane–four coats!

IMG_3960Tip: If you use a sheep’s wool to apply poly, you can speed up the drying time significantly with a little grooming.
Drying a sheep's wool mop head with a hair dryer
The nice and shiny finished product!
Newly refinished wood floors in a bungalow

And heres the before again, just to refresh your memory.

In terms of supplies, this was the damage.

Supplies for refinishing wood floors

1. Half a quart of wood conditioner (pre-stain) – $8/qt
2. Half a quart of Rust-oleum American Walnut stain – $8/qt
3. A gallon of Min-Wax water-based oil-modified polyurethane – $50 (Water-based poly is significantly more expensive than oil-based, but it doesn’t smell and has a much faster drying time.)
4. Two staining pads and half a sponge for the pre-stain – $3
5. A wool mop-head for pushing poly (must be attached to a broom handle) – $8
6. 10 pieces of 80-grit round sand paper for the orbital hand sander – Already had
7. 11 pieces of sand paper for the square buff floor sander (six 36-grit, three 80-grit, and two 120-grit) – $6-7/ea
8. Sander rental – $55/day

Total cost – $200, give or take a few bucks. Compare this with the $3-4/sq ft you might expect to pay a professional, and your cost to DIY is just about half.

On the whole, this project was a little more time consuming and a lot dirtier than I was expecting (because sanding 120 sq ft of wood shouldn’t be dirty at all, right?), but the end result was totally worth it. The only problem now is that the TV room floors have gone from the worst in the house to practically the best!

Somebody hold us back. Home Depot has a floor sander, and we know how to use it.

Turning a Closet into…a Closet

One of the strangest things about becoming a homeowner is that you develop a sudden ability to care about really boring things. For example–closets. Who cares about closets?! Homeowners–that’s who, and they care a lot.

Which is why it’s kind of a cool deal that the previously useless storage space in my kitchen has finally been converted into a totally usable closet.

Also, my awesome husband did this for me. Or maybe it was already the next project on his list, and I happened to complain right at the time he was getting around to it, but I think it was the former. Several weeks ago, I brought up the tragedy of the underutilized storage space in our kitchen.
My dream, I said, was to have a stackable washer and dryer in that space. Well–that didn’t happen. But the closet is now way more functional, and once all the crap was out of it, I realized it probably wasn’t large enough for a washer/dryer anyway, and it cost about 3% of my proposed washer project, so I’m satisfied.

After removing the weird drawers, Justin leveled the wall with a piece of plywood and patched about a zillion holes from the weird shelving.
IMG_3209  IMG_3212
Then he painted the interior to match the kitchen and added a double rack for shelving and hanging.  IMG_3399
Finally, he finished the space with the same trim and shoe molding found in the rest of the house. No skimping on the details here.
Now, we have effectively concealed all evidence that we are hoarders and even–is it possible?–have a little room to spare.
closet before and after
Looks like I need a few more coats.

Room Tour: Kitchen


You may think on first glance that the old kitchen color here bears some resemblance to our current living room, but you’re going to have to trust me when I say all greens are not created equal. Our living room color is painted in “Extended Olive Branch,” making it the color of world peace and harmony. The kitchen color could better be described as “Aging Celery,” a light green with brown sponge painting that did not exactly whet the appetite:
Green kitchen with wood cabinets and stone tile
The kitchen also continued the trend of interesting lighting choices: on one side of the room, track lighting with bright blue shades and on the other a kind of sad-looking ceiling fan with a hummingbird pull, presumably to make it look less sad.
Green kitchen with sponge painting before pass through was installed


Despite some of the design choices, there were good things about our kitchen. It’s a nice size, the footprint works well, and it was recently updated, so we were able to achieve a big impact with pretty low-budget updates.

Changes included painting the walls, trim, and cabinets, replacing the cabinet hardware, installing new lighting and a new back splash, and of course the opening up the pass-through, which made an equally big difference in this space as it did in the living room.

The longest-lasting and most labor-intensive project in the kitchen was definitely the back splash. First the old tile got knocked out:
Knocking out back splash tile
During the course of the demo, we uncovered some of the kitchen’s past looks. Behind the tile there was wallpaper from two different eras. There was large area of yellow floral wallpaper over the stove:
Uncovered vintage wallpaper in kitchen
There were also a few other smaller areas that covered with this green geometric pattern. Here’s a close-up of both designs:
Vintage yellow and brown floral wallpaper Vintage green geometric wallpaper
There are lots of times I wish I could peek in on my house during different periods in time just to see what it looked like, so finding this wallpaper got my imagination going. After all the tile and plaster was removed, we were left with just the lath showing:
Bare lath after back splash was removed
And actually, we lived with it like this for a while. It wasn’t bad in a raw, industrial kind of way, though of course the new back splash tile is way better.


Gray and white cabinets with granite counter tops and glass mosaic back splash
The back splash came from Lowe’s, and I snagged the hardware on eBay.
Kitchen pass through, Sears and Roebuck vintage atomic barstools
Vintage atomic bar stools by Sears and Roebuck – Craigslist
Blue, gray and brown glass mosaic tile back splash
The tile kind of makes the whole room, in my opinion.
Neutral glass mosaic back splash tile from Lowe's

Planned updates:

One of our intentions when adding the pass-through was to create a breakfast bar that would allow for extra seating close to the table. That plan is still in place, but there are a few items in front of it in the reno queue, so it may be a year or more down the line.

Dream updates:

We bought our house with the short term in mind and promised ourselves not to made costly updates if they were unnecessary or purely for cosmetic reasons. That doesn’t mean a girl can’t or doesn’t dream about what she might do if a million dollars did casually fall out of the cushions of some couch. I’m a simple girl, though, and my kitchen wish list is pretty simple, too:

  • New flooring – I’m really not a fan of the the multi-color stone tile. It’s not that it’s that bad, but it’s just about the last thing I ever would have chosen. I would have opted for a cork that looks similar to wood, or maybe a rectangular tile in a nice herringbone pattern.
  • Stackable washer/dryer in the pantry – Our pantry has oddly configured storage that is really only being used to house tools, dog stuff, and other miscellaneous items that could easily be moved into the basement.
    Our current laundry set-up is a small washer and dryer in the basement–small because they are the only units that can fit down our 27″-wide staircase. I would LOVE to have plumbing run to the pantry and give myself a roomy main floor laundry space. Maybe it would even cut down on the size of my laundry piles? Indeed, a girl can dream.

Room Tour: Living/Dining Room

For whatever reason, we only took one before picture of our living room area:Green living room before updates
My guess is that compared to some of the other weird things going on around the house, there didn’t seem like a whole lot to see here. Just your basic grass green walls with gold sponge painting (it’s hard to see in the photo, but trust me–it was there). Then, of course, the table lamp in the middle of the floor completes the look. The only oddity in the room was a built-on shelf in the corner behind the front door, which you can see a little bit in this photo:
Arched door way in a bungalow
These were in several rooms, and we called them built-ons rather than built-ins for the simple reason that they were just kind of hanging off the walls.

The biggest change we made in this room was to add a pass-through to the kitchen. This really helps the space feel larger and brighter.
Kitchen pass through, stainless steel pendant light
Justin and his dad installed the pass-through (un-installed the wall?) in one of those quintessential men-bonding-with-powertools kind of situations. Our walls are plaster, which means the demo was a two-step process involving 1) knocking out the plaster and 2) cutting through the lath, a set of narrow wooden strips nailed horizontally behind the plaster. There was lots of dust and a few shallow flesh wounds, but in the end they did a great job, and the pass-through is one of my favorite changes in the whole house.

Other changes consisted of tearing down the built-on, painting the walls, sanding and painting all the trim, cutting out and patching bubbles in the plaster, and installing a new stainless steel pendant light over the dining area. All throughout this process, we failed to take a single picture. I recall a conversation taking place a few times that went something like:

“Wow, you should really be taking pictures of this.”
“Yeah, I know.”

And here we are today.

After + Furniture:

Green living room with platform couch, Noguchi style table
A white dog adds a touch of elegance to any room.
Green living room with platform couch, Noguchi style table, Buckstaff chairs

1960s platform couch reupholstered in brown tweed
1960s platform couch (reupholstered) – Craigslist
Red velvet mid century Buckstaff chairs, Noguchi style table, Broyhill Brasilia commode side table
Vintage Buckstaff chairs – yard sale
Broyhill Brasilia side table/commode – flea market
Reproduction Noguchi coffee table – Craigslist
Vintage rug – yard sale
Mid century credenza
1965 credenza – Craigslist
Bookcase – Ikea
Mid century chrome and glass dining table, stainless steel pendant light
Vintage glass and chrome dining table – flea market
Rug (not vintage but still fabulous) – yard sale
1964 RCA Victrola Record Player Console
1964 RCA Victrola stereo/record console (it works!) – yard sale
We actually found an advertisement from a March 1965 Minnesota newspaper showing what this particular console went for back in the day:

Planned updates:

No large-scale plans for the living room area. Until recently, I’d been on a mad hunt for a new set of rugs (the rug now in our bedroom was previously in front of the couch), but that ended about three weeks ago when I found both rugs pictured at the same yard sale. Now, my main goal is to finally get some stuff up on the walls. That, and throw more parties.

House Tour

The purpose of this house tour is just to give an general snapshot of what the house looked like when we bought it and what it looks like now. I’ll post separate room tours to talk about the updates in each space and where we got some of the stuff.

A few basic stats about the place:

Year: 1930
Style: American Craftsman Bungalow
Size: 3 bed, 1 bath in 1224 sq ft finished space and about 900 sq ft unfinished basement


Pre reno living room. Green paint with gold sponge painting.

1144 living1-2


Pre reno kitchen with lime green paint, crazy hummingbird fan pull

Two tone white and gray cabinets with glass mosaic tile

Bedroom 1/Office

Pre reno peach colored office

Gray paint, industrial desk, Ikea curtains


Pre reno yellow bathroom with pedestal sink and storage

Light blue bathroom with white cabinets and ceramic tile

Bedroom 2/TV Room

Pre reno lime green paint with orange stenciling and crazy art installation

Chevron rug and mid-century bench

Master Bedroom

Pre reno master bedroom with light turquoise paint

Elegant dark green paint and mid-century bedroom set

In the next set of posts I’ll go room by room with lots more pictures, reno details, and decor. Stay tuned!