Tile Away, Tile Away…

you put me up, and I won’t fall…I am gla-a-a-ss… okay, no one wants to hear me sing, but I bet you do want photos of gorgeous green subway tile on my kitchen walls.

BAM! Here you go:

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Of course, the magic of the internet makes this look SO much easier than it actually was, but I am absolutely loving how much it changes the kitchen already and we haven’t even grouted it yet!

The first wall, on the sink side, took a LOT longer than the second wall, since we were trying to get a feel for how much thinset to use, how to cut the tiles around the outlets (YUCK!) and making sure we had all of the spacing correct. But since it turned out pretty darn well, the second wall seemed to take much less time.

Hopefully the grouting will go smoothly and then we’re down to just a few final finishing touches!! Can you hear the fat lady warming up??? Oh wait, that was just me singing that Titanium song again. 😉


The Secret to Kitchen Makeovers

Bet you thought we were wrapping up our kitchen makeover and just not telling you about it, didn’t you? Well, you’re wrong – we haven’t done much of anything since my last update. The secret to kitchen makeovers in our household is seeing how long we can go without one… until we finally crack and push stuff along because we just can’t take it any longer.

Or at least, that’s how I feel we’ve decided to handle it. Since my last post, we have finally gotten our contractor to come back out and look at some of the areas around the pantry door that need to be fixed (but they haven’t come out to actually fix them yet – hopefully this week). We also made the trek out to Ikea to buy our cabinets.

Both the husband and I had visions of going through the aisles in the self pick-up area trying to track down all the components of the kitchen cabinets one by one, but Ikea makes the process really easy and kitchen cabinets are part of the assisted pick-up! Which is a good thing, because there were more than 130 separate pieces and parts that we purchased to make our kitchen beautiful – toekicks, cabinets, shelves, the wonderful drawer and door closers that keep things from slamming and all of the other little pieces and parts.

We just double checked everything on our pre-designed online kitchen:

Printed out the full list, which an IKEA kitchen specialist triple-checked:
And then paid up in the kitchen area and waited for the IKEA folks to pull all of the items on the list. (We admit, we bought little tarts and had a glass of wine up in the kitchen area for part of that time). After about 30-40 minutes of exploring and dining, we headed to the assisted pick-up area, where they had everything waiting for us on four carts. (I wish I had thought to take a picture of them!)

We loaded everything up into the car we had rented and our own car (it would not have all fit in just one trip in our car), and then made the trek back into the city.

All-in-all, it took us several hours to get everything done, but since the prices of some of the more custom cabinets from the local hardware stores were nearly twice as much, and we liked the look of the IKEA cabinets, we were okay with putting in a little extra time and driving.

But those several hours were about all the progress we’ve made in the past month. Ridiculous. But hopefully the contractor will wrap up his part of the work this week, and we’ll get to laying the flooring this weekend so that we can finally get this moving along. One can only hope that we’ll finally have a kitchen again before our fourth anniversary at the end of August…please!?!

What a Little Paint Can Do

After all the madness from Memorial Day weekend over, we thought for sure we’d be able to paint the walls over the week- and get everything squared away for laying the floor. But with Dan working 60 hours in four days, and a bit of exhaustion from our first bout, it was the following weekend before we got everything taped and ready for painting the walls.

But we did get it painted. every square inch of the kitchen was covered first with the spray painter, then the spots that needed a little more work (divots, bumps, etc.) were sanded, mudded or patched, and we did another coat on the problem areas. It was all looking gorgeous:

Ignore the shiny spots, they’re just reflections in the semigloss from the window and my iPhone camera wasn’t the best for these photos.

Except for when the tape came off:

I’ve read every contradicting opinion about peeling tape while the paint is wet, dry, semi-dry, etc. The truth is, I think I’ve tried to do it in every stage, and somehow, it just never works out for me. This time, anywhere that was taped and only sprayed, peeled perfectly – with a beautiful edge and no problems whatsoever – but near the ceiling, where I had to go over it with a brush to get a clean edge due to the angle of the sprayer, the paint stuck together in peel-able layers and caused problems like the one above.

So, the following week, I had to go back around and freehand the edge with a brush, and I was pretty successful in not painting green on the ceiling, much better with the Purdy brush than I’d done the first few times around ceilings in my condo (which is another reason why we really want to do crown molding!)

So now, we’re painted, spent a weekend last weekend relaxing, and our next steps are doing a bit of clean up with the contractor and then FLOORING!

I can’t wait to actually start putting things back INTO the kitchen!

8 Trips to the Hardware Stores (and other tales from Memorial Day weekend)

Why is it that, no matter how simple you think a project is, you always end up going to the hardware store 2, 3, even 6 more times than you ever thought you’d need? Well, this weekend was no different for us. Psyched for a productive long weekend, we thought we’d try to tackle a big chunk of the next kitchen steps. The project: paint the kitchen walls and ceiling… maybe start laying the flooring vapor barrier and even start the flooring. The anticipated list of supplies:

  • ceiling paint
  • wall paint
  • paint sprayer
  • masks and goggles

The plan:

  • Pick the wall paint color
  • Prep the room
  • Purchase a paint sprayer
  • Paint the ceiling
  • Paint the walls
  • Start on other steps

You know what they say about best laid plans… It all started on Saturday afternoon after a long day of relaxing (let’s just say that part wasn’t exactly in the plan, but after some friends came in from out of town, we enjoyed our Friday evening a bit more than anticipated and needed some recovery time). So Saturday afternoon, we looked at the paint swatches that I’d pulled weeks (likely months) ago, and we narrowed it down to four by comparing them to the countertop sample and the tile that we’re planning to order. The four final choices were:

  • Behr Mystical Sea (430E-2)
  • Behr Herbal Mist (440E-2)
  • Behr April Mist (450E-2)
  • Martha Stewart Living Spring Melt (MSL114)

As you can see, we had a bit of a theme going. So we went to the store that evening (Count=1) and got the little sample sizes for all four colors so we could see what the colors actually looked like on the wall. Can you guess which is which? Here’s another picture of the samples in different light: The next morning, when the paint patches were dry, we took another look. After debating for a few minutes, we unanimously decided to go with option number 2, which was… Spring Melt by Martha Stewart Living.We picked this color because it seemed to blend nicely with the countertop samples and tile, without going too yellow or blue and not too bright to overwhelm the space. Since the first Home Depot we went to for paint samples didn’t sell paint sprayers (the store is a smaller urban store), we went to another location here in the city to buy the actual paint and the sprayer (Count=2). Unfortunately, not only did they not have the paint sprayer that we wanted, (I should have done more research on where to buy it), but the location we went to also didn’t have enough of the Glidden Duo paint that we were hoping to color match to the Spring Melt. Not to be discouraged, we simply drove up the road and went to the other Home Depot for the paint (Count=3, a trifecta of Home Depot visits in less than 24 hours). Since they still didn’t have the paint sprayer we wanted, I ordered it from the Lowe’s store while I was standing in the Home Depot – I have to say, I loved technology at that moment. Since we were headed out to the burbs that afternoon for a family graduation party, and could pick the sprayer up on our way, we decided to go back to the kitchen and begin all the prep work, so that we could come back that evening and paint after the party. We taped all the outlets and switches, covered the doors and windows in plastic and suddenly remembered that we needed to move one of the alarm pieces over to the left about 6 inches to allow room for our cabinets. Wah-wah… Figuring we could tackle that project Monday morning, and then paint the walls later that night, we headed out to pick up the paint sprayer (Count=4) and enjoy the graduation party. The next morning, we realized that our contractors had managed to walk off with our drywall knife, so another trip the hardware store (Count=5) made sure we had the right tools to cut a hole in the wall, move the alarm, and cut a new piece of leftover drywall to fit. Then it was time to mud the patch into place – fortunately we had some leftover joint compound mixture that our contractor had left; unfortunately, we mixed it before watching the video online and made it a bit too watery by the directions on the back of the bag. Wah-wah… so off I went to the Crafty Beaver (Count-6) for some joint compound, and a larger putty knife while I was at it. After all of that, we got the patch mudded and were ready to paint the ceiling… and wouldn’t you guess it, the sprayer we bought didn’t work. So off I went back to Lowe’s (Count=7) to return the first sprayer and pick up a new one (the Graco Truecoat Plus). Once I returned, the new sprayer was up and running within minutes and we got started spraying away on the ceiling. About halfway through the room, we realized that one can of ceiling paint just wasn’t going to do it (paint sprayers definitely use a lot of paint!), so I got back in the car and headed to the Home Depot again (Count=8) to pick up another can or two of ceiling paint and another can of wall paint. After a few more passes with the sprayer, the ceiling was painted and the room already looked just a little bit better.

Tonight, I sanded down the patch around the drywall and reapplied the joint compound as a skim layer, and it should be ready to be sanded again tomorrow.

Hopefully we can tape off the ceiling and get the walls painted Wed or Thursday evening, so we can prepare to lay the floor this weekend. Not exactly according to schedule, but really, at this point, who can say we’re on any true schedule?

A little bit worse, a little bit better (Kitchen Dishin’)

This weekend we took the next step in our kitchen remodel, after a break last weekend to attend a friend’s wedding in Virginia. We got the last remaining scraps of the old flooring up from under the walls, and laid the subfloor.

We needed to find 1/4″ plywood subfloor pieces, since we wanted to find the right depth between the joists and the top of the cork flooring to come up even with the rest of our hardwood flooring throughout the apartment. It’s fairly thin, and we couldn’t get it with tongue and groove because it was so thin, but it should work out well.

We did have a bit of an adventure getting the plywood, since we couldn’t fit it inside or tie it on top of our car – we had to rent a UHaul and drive it back and forth – it took forever. But we got it and got it all done working into the early hours of the morning.

And while it doesn’t look like much, it is actually a bit better:

But before we got to that point, we had to make it a little bit worse:

This week, the contractor is working on tearing up the rest of the old pantry and laundry room entrance, and building the new ones! SO EXCITED!

Oh, and because I haven’t shared the photo with everyone, I wanted to share the photo that inspired the pantry we’re developing, courtesy of Pinterest: (source: http://www.closet-shelf.com).

I love the french doors, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to do some cabinets on the far end, even though I won’t have enough room to do it on the long wall. Can’t wait to show you all the finished product… once it’s final, of course.


The Balcony Issue

We’ve been waiting and planning and waiting and planning for our balcony to be torn down and rebuilt. And the day is nearly upon us. The balcony issue has been looming on the horizon since we moved into our condo, but the contract is signed and the work is nearly ready to begin.

I’m hoping that it all goes smoothly once it finally gets started. We are in the process of deciding what light fixture to put on the balcony once it’s finished. I am thinking I’d like to put in an outdoor ceiling fan. I’ve heard they’re good for keeping bugs away, in addition to that nice little breeze when you’re sitting outside eating dinner.

I’ve been looking around and haven’t found the exact ceiling fan that I want yet, but I’m going to keep looking and I’ve enlisted my mom to help!

Update: I found a fan! My mom found a link and then I did a search for one of the fans that was on that link and ended up on a site named Bellacor. After taking a look around, I stumbled on this fan, and the site had one on clearance for $101 because it was a return, which has been double checked and confirmed that it’s in new condition, but is cheaper because it’s been opened. At a savings of more than $55, and right in my goal price range of around $100 for both the fan and the light, it’s perfect!

Our Little Condo Lemon

So, we love our condo. Don’t get us wrong. But we’re seriously tired of the millions of things that seem to manage to go wrong with our place. It’s not THAT big!

First there was the ice-maker debacle. The refrigerator won’t produce ice. There was chipping of ice at the bottom of the refrigerator, a replacement part installed, and still, no ice from the icemaker.
Then there was the cable box ice – which kept us from getting cable in January of this year, even though the next technician said it wasn’t even the issue.

And finally, there was another freezer/ice problem, which caused our freezer NOT to cool properly and we had to throw out thawed food and completely defrost our refrigerator (several times) in order to get it to work properly again.

But because of all that defrosting and moving the fridge around, we ended up breaking the water line that leads to the fridge, therefore causing a leak into the storage unit below ours and had to pay for a plumber to come out and look all around before discovering that simple problem. (and may have to pay for the drywall in the storage unit as well.)

We have a fireplace, which is a good thing – but the first time we tried to use it, we discovered the gas starter doesn’t work. (and the tile has always been hideous!)

Our unit is one of the farthest away from the boiler and our heating sensor was taken from us, so our unit is quite chilly in the winter time, particularly in our front room. We think it may partially be due to the cold air coming up from the storage units below, but mostly due to that radiator in the front not blowing out enough warm air. We need a rug and lots of blankets!

Our outdoor space is one of the prime reasons why we purchased our unit. Unfortunately, it’s also in a bit of disrepair. This has been a source of much drama (and legal review) since we moved in, but particularly since one of the beams on the other side of the building fell off our neighbor’s balcony. This one is still up in the air, but could end up being quite expensive for us, depending on how it ends up.

Upcoming Projects


We’ve got several projects in the burner and so many ideas!

Project 1:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, our next major project is going to be installing wardrobes on either side of the bed. As part of that project, we may also end up building our storage bed to fit our specifications. We want something with a shelf for a headboard and drawers underneath. Since most of the bed will be covered by the pillows and comforter, we can stain it or paint it however we’d like. Plus, it gives us time to find a fun, unique piece for our chest of drawers on the other side of the room since it won’t need to match anything else in the room.

Project 2:

There are a lot of options for Project 2, but I think we may decide to try to get the office/guest bedroom figured out. Right now it’s our messiest room, as all of the boxes that have yet to be unpacked (with only a few exceptions) can be found sitting in that room. Previously, we had thought to try to squeeze two desks into the space, one each for Dan and I. After looking around for a corner desk that would fit in the space, we had come to the conclusion that we were likely going to need to custom build something for that room, as well. But dear hubby had a fantastic idea today and I think we may be able to make it work. He noted that we had some usable space in the kitchen nook that could go toward a desk space there for me, allowing the office to just hold one desk, instead of two. Then we’ll have a bit more space for the air mattress when we have guests since that room is just definitely not that big!

Project 3:

Which makes Project 3 the desk out in the kitchen nook for me. I think this could look really cute, with fun organizers and a white board plus a desk surface that I can fold out to create a better art/craft space, as well as a good place to fold laundry fresh out of the dryer. Plus, we can put bookshelves along the wall to hold our cookbooks and our household binders, etc. I think this will be a great idea, as long as I can keep some of my arts and craft supplies inside the office to keep the nook as neat as possible and just wheel stuff out to my desk area when I feel like taking on a project.

Project 4:

And speaking of projects, the living room will need to be our next project. Since we have to get our new big screen TV off the floor! I’ve got the idea to create an “old world meets new” look with a Moroccan flair. I know that sounds like just a bunch of words compiled into a sentence, but I promise that I really do have a vision for the space. (I’ll blog more about that room, specifically, in another post).

Project 5:

We also want to really spruce up our patio to make it a bit more fun and cheerful out there. As many of you know – living in Chicago means that you can only use your outdoor space for a few short months (which seem shorter every year) so really cleaning up the space and bringing some color and texture to it will be key to maximizing our enjoyment of the space.

Project 6:

Then there is the lighting. Ever since we moved in, and perhaps even before then, we’ve wanted to subject whomever installed the lighting in our condo to severe levels of lighting torture. [I’m imagining bright lights shined in his eyes and perhaps being chained to look up at the awful fixtures for hours on end.] We hate pretty much every fixture in the place including the:

  • the ugly ceiling fan/light fixtures in both bedrooms
  • the cheap-o fixtures in the entry, hallway, and kitchen nook
  • boob-like sconces in both the living room and the dining room- which were orange when we first moved in
  • ceiling fan [no light] in the dining room where there should be a chandelier (and matching fan in the living room)
  • the randomly placed ceiling fan (which looks as though it may have been a more recent addition) in the kitchen which can’t be on when you’re cooking or you’ll open the cabinet into the fan blades.
  • the cheap-as-possible outdoor light at the back door and the decrepit light on the patio

As you can see – there isn’t much to love and there is a lot to replace. Not to mention the fact that we seem to burn through light bulbs a lot faster in these outlets than we ever have in any other light fixture. We can’t wait to replace these!

Nikki’s Dishwasher Installation


Since we weren’t ready to re-do the entire kitchen, but needed to get a new dishwasher, we went ahead and got a white dishwasher that would blend in to our current kitchen. We will want stainless appliances when we revamp the space, but since you typically want stainless appliances to match, it’s better to buy them all at once to ensure the brush patterns, handles, etc. all go together.

So once the dishwasher arrived, I was eager to get it installed. So eager, in fact, that despite not feeling well, I decided to take advantage of a Saturday afternoon alone to install it myself.
Step 1: First, for safety, I turned off the electricity and the water to the dishwasher. I noticed later that there was also a light switch installed under the cabinets that would likely have been the power for the dishwasher, but just to be safe, it was probably best to turn the circuit off completely anyway.

Step 2: I grabbed my trusty tool kit to make sure I had everything handy and accessible to remove and install the dishwasher.

Step 3: Next, I unscrewed the screws that held the dishwasher to the bottom of the counter and ensure it doesn’t move around when you open the door of the dishwasher.

Step 4: Then I moved the dishwasher out as far as it could go. With my dishwasher I wasn’t able to get it all the way out without disconnecting the water and electrical from the bottom, first.

Step 5: Here is where it got more complicated. Trying to disconnect the wire from the dishwasher took some finagling with the wrench since it’s an awkward angle and I didn’t have much room between the bolt and the edge of the cabinets. Looking back, I probably should have disconnected the other end of the water tubing from the water spout in the cabinet, therefore eliminating the need to disconnect it from the current dishwasher, since I had a new tube for the new dishwasher.

Step 6: But hindsight is 20×20, and I kept working on disconnecting the tube from the old dishwasher, eventually getting enough torque on the wrench to get the tube disconnected.

Step 6.5: I had plenty of towels on hand to sop up the draining water from the tube, as well as to help clean up the mess uncovered by removing the dishwasher from its home.

Step 7: Now I was halfway done disconnecting the dishwasher and just needed to disconnect the electricity before I was free of the old inefficient dishwasher forever! Now, I managed to break the electric box off of the old dishwasher, but you should definitely check and remove the cover before trying to pull any of the wires out of the box.

Step 8:
Once I disconnected the wires, I made sure to cap them while they were on the floor since the space was quite damp from the draining water. I pulled the old dishwasher the rest of the way out from the cabinet and out onto our deck for my husband to dispose of later.

Step 9: Now for some cleaning before getting ready to install the new dishwasher. As you can see, it definitely needed some TLC!

Step 10: Finally cleaned and ready for installation. 

Step 11: After removing the cardboard from the dishwasher, I removed the drainage tube and the directions, free rinse aid, etc. from the inside of the tub.

Step 12: Following the instructions, I next laid the dishwasher on its back near the opening so that I could connect the tubes and electric.

My picture taking slowed down at this stage to… none. So I will just walk through the installation in case you need any insights beyond the directions that come with your dishwasher.

Step 13: Using the installation kit, connect the new water tube and drainage tubes to the appropriate places inside the cabinet and thread them through to the front of the floor. My instructions suggested taping them before sliding the dishwasher, but I was able to get the dishwasher close enough to the opening to connect everything before sliding it in under the cabinet.

Step 14: I connected the copper elbow, properly wrapped with teflon tape to ensure it wouldn’t leak, to the appropriate location at the front of the dishwasher, making sure it faced toward the back to make it easier to connect to the water tube. I then used the wrench to make sure it was as tight as possible. Connecting the drainage tube was simple, just slid the rubber pieces over the appropriate plastic tubing. Then I connected the wires directly, black to black and white to white, using the caps to ensure the connections stay tight and safe.

Step 15: My unit fit perfectly under my cabinet so I didn’t need to adjust the height of my tub. Once everything was connected carefully and tightly, I simply slid it under the cabinet, screwed the attachments into the bottom of the cabinet and loaded it up! Oh! And don’t forget to turn the power and the water all the way back on!

Step 16: Sit back and relax while your new dishwasher does all the work of cleaning the dishes!


When we bought the unit, we certainly had every intention of re-doing the kitchen, just not quite yet. So when we discovered a few not-so-great features of our appliances, like:

  • a freezer with water that floods the floor, instead of the ice cube tray
  • a microwave without a turn table,
  • a dishwasher that only cleaned dishes on the bottom rack

The freezer I’ve already mentioned earlier. After my dad and I did some research, I ordered a pump that was supposed to fix the problem. After an hour of taking parts off the back of the fridge and installing the new part, it still didn’t work, making us think that it’s more likely to be a leak somewhere in the tube between the pump and the hose that distributes the water into the ice cube tray. Unfortunately, I haven’t had time to take the refrigerator apart to find the leak.

The microwave – we’re learning to live with. We don’t use it that often, so it doesn’t bother us as much as we thought it might originally. It still takes a bit longer to heat things and they’re often not heated evenly, but we’ll live.

The one appliance problem that really bothered us, however, was the dishwasher. At first, we were so thankful to have a dishwasher – we hadn’t had one in our old apartment – that we were willing to overlook the fact that our dishes didn’t get quite as sparkly as we were expecting. But over time, not quite as sparkly turned into not even clean – at least on the top rack. After a few weeks of putting glasses on the bottom, we decided that we just couldn’t wait until our kitchen overhaul to replace the dishwasher.

So, after some research, some shopping and a Best Buy Reward Zone Private Shopping Event, we found ourselves a new dishwasher richer for less than $300. So Nikki set about installing it in the kitchen. She had also recently installed under-cabinet lighting and we added additional Ikea bars across the back to help keep things off the precious counter top.

All in all – it’s a million percent better than before, despite the lack of an ice maker and the non-rotating microwave!

Remember what it looked like when we moved in?

Pasta Sauce Red Kitchen