When working on a house this old, it’s so easy to get distracted and want to do all the things!, and it’s equally easy to question the order in which to do so. You all know that our lack of baseboards in the entryway (and living room and studio) are driving this girl right up a wall, and while we keep saying, it’s next on our list!, it’s totally not. We don’t think.
This is partially due to funds (each room will be upwards of $200+ on the low side due to the much larger trim we chose) and partially because there are other items that are more important. (Oh, studio, studio. I’m looking at you.) There’s also the need for much needed down time (as we recently discovered during life’s messy moments), and we’re also at a point where we need to pick and choose how we spend our money. In between the more costly projects, we also need to do things that’ll make an impact on us now without requiring too much receipt tracking and account draining.
So! Over the weekend, I finally took care of something I had meant to do before we painted the studio pink. Again, sometimes the order gets fuzzy when you have tunnel vision – and in that case, family in town meant painted walls were way, way more important than this nagging to-do: Cleaning that chimney!
The chimney in the studio was uncovered when we tore down the crooked wall that divided the room in half, and at this point, it’s purely for aesthetic purposes. (You might remember that our contractors added support into our first floor ceiling to handle the weight.) It’s not gorgeous by any means – tuck pointing, anyone? – but we love the added element in the big, open floor plan. It’s charming. It has imperfections and flaws, and it’s well over 100-years-old, still standing, and we love it.
The one thing we could easily fix though? The black soot that trailed down the front. It never once crossed our minds to paint the brick (a few of our friends asked if we would do so, but we love the look in its natural state), so it would need a good scrub down. My first round of internet searching for what to do, what to do? brought up a whole lot of nothing (mostly a good power washing – um, no!), but I eventually stumbled upon this forum thread suggesting Greased Lightning, which by the way, can do about a hundred things – laundry, household cleaning, wine spills! We’re not affiliated with them in any way, just genuinely impressed! Here’s what we did to get our perfectly imperfect brick chimney looking its best:
Spray bottle with water
Handle bristle brush (soft-medium)
Coarse bristle brush
Protective respirator mask
WHAT WE DID: The process was really simple, although it did require some muscle and a couple of hours. Before doing anything, I wrapped a few old towels around the base of the chimney to catch all the gunk. I then worked in small sections down the front (and a little bit around the sides where the soot had trailed over), starting at the top and working my way down. Over and over (and over again), I did this: Saturate with Greased Lightning, scrub, rinse with water, repeat. I did each section 2-3 times, allowing my softer bristle brush to do most of the legwork and switching over to the course brush for really tough spots. I also found that if I sprayed some water after the Greased Lightning, it would suds up more, which I liked. Note: This stuff smells pretty strong, so I’d recommend a respirator mask!
After completing each section, I did a final rinse with a lot of water, pointing the nozzle at a downward angle to direct the grimy water towards the base of the chimney. Every 15-20 minutes, I’d rinse my scrub brushes and wipe down the surrounding walls of any splatter.
Two hours later, I was done! I’ll admit that it was a little bit of a guessing game since the brick was so wet; right after completion, everything looked pretty dark:
But the next morning, we had a clean chimney! There’s a small section down the front left side at the top that’s a teeny bit darker than the rest of the bricks, which might maybe mean it’s still wet – even now (is that possible?). Or are the bricks just a bit discolored after decades of soot filth? Overall, the Greased Lightning really did the trick, and now that it’s clean, I can’t believe we let it go for this long. (But isn’t that always the case? I’ll be saying the same thing about those f@!*ing baseboards.)
One last step that we’ve considered is sealing everything in, either with a low sheen Polycrylic or a made-just-for-this brick sealer. We don’t have any issues with the chimney being dusty or crumbly, so it might not matter at all – but perhaps it’ll be just what it needs. Have any of you sealed your interior chimney/fireplace surrounds, and if so, did it make a difference?
Now, just imagine the studio with baseboards! (Okay, I’ll stop with that. For now.)
The purpose for our nook: Sit. Relax. Enjoy music. We knew this would be our funny little room to play our records (man, we‘ve really been missing our records!), read a good book and hang with the pets. A few readers mentioned here that they could totally see our girls sneaking into this room, baking in the sun and leaving only in the evenings to fill up on tuna. These comments were so endearing to me, that my only hopes for this room is to make that true.
To make this happen, we’ll still need to find the perfect body-hugging chair, and we’re working on piecing together our former living room’s Flor tiles (although we’re thinking those will be for the interim). We also needed a place to stash our vinyl collection, and as we mentioned after painting the room green, we finally assembled an Ikea Vittsjo unit that was originally intended for the kitchen – which, by the way, will mean we’ll need to get another one for the kitchen. They’re inexpensive, well made (for Ikea), and the perfect alternative to, say, the much-loved Expedit or Billy bookcases. But because records are heavy, we needed to reinforce the glass shelves they come with for something that can bear the weight:
Like most Ikea pieces, there are many, many ways to hack an item – so many! Kate at Centsational Girl has a great write-up on nothing but Vittsjo ideas, and while we toyed with the idea of a different color altogether, we actually really liked the matte black finish for this room (the kitchen, however, may get a whole different treatment!). Our plan? We wanted to add wood shelving not only for the warm look it would provide, but again, to give us enough support for all of our records.
The original glass shelves actually sit on small tabs inside the steel frame, and we would need to fit shelves to sit on top of the steel frame. (Support, support, support!) The measurement needed for each shelf was 14 1/4″d X 39 3/8″w, which meant that our (more affordable) options were mostly limited to 4×8 sheets, as common board planks only have a depth of 11 1/2.” This, of course, turned into quite the debate at the store, as we couldn’t bring ourselves to purchase the smaller laminated pine sheets that would allow for only one shelf per board. That would’ve added a cost of $80 to a $70 shelf, which felt silly.
After walking up and down the aisles for a ridiculous amount of time (and considering buying MDF and just painting the shelves), we finally decided to buy a 4′x8′ sheet of birch plywood for $40. We chose a sheet with a nice grain, and we had the sheet cut down in the store for all of our shelves! After ripping the whole board down to 39 3/8″, a friendly sales associate continued to cut that down to 14 1/4″ planks, which gave us enough for 6 shelves – leaving us with 1 extra (always good to have in case of a mistake!).
Now that we had our shelves, we would need to notch out the room needed for the vertical supports, so I made a paper template. For anyone wanting to do the same, these were the measurements needed on our 14 1/4″d X 39 3/8″w stencil:
We laid our template on each shelf, I traced the notches with pencil, and Scott used a jigsaw to cut out the little squares needed for the vertical supports.
Each shelf got a good sanding, then I spent the next couple of days staining and applying Polycrylic to each one. For the color, I used two coats of Minwax Special Walnut, which is a shade we’ve come to love for a true medium brown (no reddish tint!). I followed the stain with two coats of Polycrylic, giving it a light sanding with 220 grit sandpaper between coats one and two. We allowed the shelves to dry for a week before putting our heavy records on them – although to be honest, it was simply because life got busy (and an extended dry time never hurt, right?)
With our shelves ready to go, we would need to add horizontal supports on the sides of the bookcase if we wanted our records to have a place to lean. The negative space between the front and back vertical supports is almost 13,” and with a record being 12,” well, we would need to remedy that. Scott suggested we use these 3/4″w aluminum flat bars (so smart!), cut them down to size and screw them directly into the bookcase…
Like this! We sprayed them with matte black paint (using a spray primer first), and touched up the screw heads with a cotton swab. One of our favorite tricks for spray paint touch up? Spray the paint directly in the lid, then use the little pool of paint with a small brush or cotton swab to cover up what you need:
After I loaded our records on the bottom two shelves, I very excitedly went through each of our still packed (!) boxes labeled decor. Oh, I was so happy to see our old vases, cameras and mini Polaroids. I scattered a few favorite pieces around the house (including my hot pink Sexy Rexy, which I couldn’t run up to the studio fast enough!), but finally settled on this still in-progress shelving set up.
Our main hesitation in choosing plywood for the shelves was knowing that we’d be able to see the edges (which is not plywood’s finest point), and you know what? We kind of love them. The birch plywood we chose has a beautiful grain on the surface, and seeing those laminated edges really – like, really, really – doesn’t bother us like we thought they might.
As much as I love a good photo of Jack (I mean, you know we’re obsessed with him), he would not move out of this shot. He does this funny side smile and won’t make eye contact when he’s being stubborn, which is exactly what he’s doing here. In any case, I’m taking the photo below while being tucked way back in the corner – eventually, this will be where the turntable will sit on a little bureau of some sort – to give you an idea of just how adorably small this nook is. Our giclée print mimics the colors in our records on the opposite side of the room, which makes us happy.
Our chair, ottoman and Flor-tiles-to-be are still in flux (especially the chair), not because we don’t like the way it looks, but because we definitely imagine something cozier. Warmer. The girls – and me, too! – need a good napping chair.
We’re almost positive we’ll be putting another Vittsjo in the kitchen for open storage, and we’ve been tossing around ideas for how we’ll handle that one. A bright color? Blue? Pink? White? Wood shelves again? We love a good Ikea makeover, and we’re sure you’ve got some up your sleeves, too! Can we see?
PS… Better Homes & Garden has nominated these two kids as the top 5 in the Decorating category of their Blogger Awards! We’re still speechless that we’ve made it to this point (we’re in pretty fantastic company; we urge you to check out all the finalists), and we’d love a vote from you! Voting can be done once an hour and runs through March 5th. Winners in each category will be mentioned in an upcoming issue of BHG – crazy! Click here to vote. Thank you; we love you. XO.
As some of you had gathered from this seemingly unassuming post on baseboards, the last handful of weeks for this little family has seen some rocky patches. We don’t tend to air our grievances here on the blog (unless it’s the ups and downs of DIY), simply because we see this virtual home of ours as a happy place. Yes, we’ve been known to get off topic and freely share the insurmountable stresses involved with living in a dust bowl for months (and months), but the reason we come back here week after week (and year after year!) is probably for the same reasons you do – to share how this home is, and will constantly be, unfolding. To be inspired by you, have conversations with you, and as we often do, ask you to chime in with your ideas and help us cultivate the swirling thoughts in our heads.
Lately, it felt as though Scott and I had been handed over a big bowl of lemons, so to speak, and that bowl was getting bigger and bigger and bigger. (If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.) We were starting to get crabby with each other (which is just a terrible feeling), and our normal DIY-tasks for the weeknights and ends felt like mountains we didn’t want to climb. It wasn’t that we were angry to be installing baseboards, no, but a cloud had settled over us and things were feeling… foggy? Despite our best attempts to calmly talk to each other, our recent bout of stressors created hasty judgement and irrational thinking. We were having trouble seeing through the haze, and one day last week, we hit our breaking point.
We said, this has got to stop. We no longer wanted to be upset doing the things that we love to do! We hated that we were being so short with each other! We were tired of feeling exhausted by the idea of projects X, Y and Z – projects we would normally be thrilled to do. It wasn’t our to-do lists making us mad; it wasn’t even this never ending winter. A small dinner gathering with friends had us realizing that hey, listen up! It was up to us to turn those frowns upside down. It’s us – and only us – that can control how we respond during these times that aren’t complete sunshine. So, we did two things.
For starters, we accepted that we were ready to get back to our old selves. (Do you know how hard that is when you’re feeling so down?) And second, we tried something that I had been curious about for years (after first seeing Kathleen do the same). We burned sage.
Sage is known to cleanse, purify and bless, and in practice, it’s commonly done inside a home. (We are by no means experts, and we have the utmost respect for those that are.) This isn’t something we’d typically do, but the negative energy in our home had to go, and to be quite honest, we were feeling that we had been hitting nothing but dead ends. We were open to try something new. We not only needed to clear our minds and give ourselves a mental fresh start, but we no longer wanted this house to be a trigger for our underlying stress – especially when it was never this house’s fault in the first place. And so, we burned sage. After the initial lighting, we blew out the flame and allowed it to smolder, carrying it throughout the house. We held it up to doorways and corners of the rooms, and yes, we even held it up to us and our pets. We said, good riddance, bad vibes!
It has been cathartic in a way that we never thought possible, and whether or not the effects are placebo-esque or tried and true practice, we feel better. Our home feels better. We did the same a few more times throughout the course of this week, and we’re ready to think clearly again; we’re ready to be our best selves. And while this is so far out of our realm of normalcy (add to that our blog-writing-comfort-zone), we’d love to know more from those of you who have banished the bad. Or, maybe, you’ve considered this cleansing, too?
PS… Yeah, that photo totally looks like something else. We picked up our white sage ‘smudge’ at Whole Foods, and there’s a good bit left for many, many cleansings.
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