Kitchen Update, continued

Install day!

With both stainless backsplashes and faucet removed, we moved into install day in good shape. The team at Stone City Chicago did a nice job removing the existing granite counter while preserving our cabinets and was able to install 2 out of 4 total pieces.

Stone City fabricated and installed the calacatta violette / prunella keystone from Marmi Natural Stone

Remaining are the counter under the window and the backsplash behind the sink.

Halfway there! Window counter, backsplash and kitchen faucet remain to be installed

The counter under the window had a larger than expected gap that we will need to level with a piece of half inch plywood (Home Depot, here we come!). The backsplash was staged to install after the counters to get the measurements correct.

The depth of the gap behind the cabinets leaves too much hollow space for the thinner marble stone and needs to be reinforced with plywood

In the meantime, I am searching for tile to install behind the stove. I thought I would easily be able to find the perfect tile, but my first attempts were false starts – too white, too yellow, etc.

The splash behind the stove will be tiled. I am searching for the perfect cream that doesn’t detract from the counters

The first tiles I pulled were from Walker Zanger. They were an awesome handmade glossy subway less than $14 / sq ft. The tiles are beautiful but the milky color was too white and the latte was too yellow.

Walker Zanger cafe tiles in Milk Gloss (left) and Latte (right) were too white and too yellow

I have 10 new samples to try from Ann Sacks, Waterworks and Virginia Tile, so will be reviewing those colors shortly. All tiles are various sizes of glossy subway with a couple of matte finish tiles just to see. I’m leaning towards glossy to contrast with the honed marble.

Kitchen Update, continued

Removing stainless backsplash

We are working on a very minimum (read: less expensive) “renovation” of our kitchen. To save money we are keeping all appliances, all cabinets and only replacing the granite countertops, faucet, and stainless backsplash. We will have a professional cabinet maker (thanks, dad!) repaint/repair only the cabinet doors that have water damage and otherwise we aren’t making any other changes to the space. That is the plan. Our budget was <$15,000 for this entire project including labor, freight shipping on stone, materials, fabrication and new fixtures, but as of now I’m tracking to $13,500 total and that is my expected total cost (or less).

I found the stone at Marmi Natural Stone channeling Waterworks Prunella Keystone. The stone that I selected is called Calacatta Violette and is the same material as the Waterworks Prunella. We were able to make two, 2 cm, honed and cracked (yes, cracked) pieces work for our kitchen to save a bit of money. The slabs were shipped from Marmi and arrived at our fabricator Stone City (Chicago) last week.

Stone City just taped up the slabs for approval.

Slab from Marmi taped up by Stone City Chicago

I have done this entire project remotely and have seen nothing in person yet, only online pictures.

I have yet to see these slabs in person!

This weekend we attempted to DIY the removal of our stainless backsplash. It was honestly really tough! We got 50% of the way through which is great, but we had to call in some help for the second half. It is still not complete.

The stainless backsplash is in process of being removed

The stainless backsplash was glued to the wall and behind the stove it was loose. This wall is now completely removed. We used an industrial suction cup (for removing glass) to pull the stainless out. We also used a heat gun, but unclear how much that helped us. The wall behind the sink is not done. We couldn’t get that off.

It took 2-days to take off this backsplash and we did minor damage

Wow. My husband did a lot of work here. It was hard and time-consuming. But – it was “FREE”! Only one more piece of stainless left to remove. Theoretically, it should be easier because it is smaller and a simple rectangle shape, but it is glued down more, behind the faucet, and it’s currently not lifting up for us.

Paint scratch from removal that we will repair

It was frustrating to scrape the paint on the cabinets, but my dad assured me that this wasn’t such a big deal (we can fix it). We will have a professional tile this wall. I have not selected tiles yet! Please send ideas! The wall behind the sink will be a slab of the Prunella / Calacatta Violette marble. I’m leaning towards cream fired square tiles for behind the stove.

Kitchen Update

Slowly renovating our kitchen on a budget

One of our first projects after we moved into our apartment was opening up our kitchen by removing the overhead cabinets. The cabinets were wired for lighting and were heavy, but otherwise the removal was relatively straightforward. (That being said, my dad and husband did the heavy lifting so I was merely watching!)

Before: Our kitchen

The kitchen is relatively small so the overhead cabinets took up a lot of space and closed off the kitchen even more than it already was.

After: We think this made a huge difference in opening up the space!

The peninsula granite has a hole in it from where electrical was previously installed in the breadbox – slightly annoying, but certainly not unlivable. We’ve gotten great use out of this kitchen for just over a year, and I’m ready to upgrade within budget. I have had the hardest time justifying an upgrade in this kitchen given how timeless it already is, but with a tight budget we were comfortable moving forward.
Our current Rohl faucet is badly leaking, so we removed the regulator to allow the water to flow more freely (vs. spray in all directions) and found a replacement faucet from Devol Kitchens. I wrote about our new faucet here. It was much cheaper than alternative options in the U.S. by Rohl on build.com and we saved a material amount of money importing this faucet from the UK, including duty and shipping. We went with with a similar Rohl faucet in unfinished brass with a separate spray. We will DIY remove and install to save $450 (the quote we received from our fabricator).

Our new faucet from Devol Kitchens, by Rohl, in un-lacquered brass

We are planning to keep our current Shaw’s farmhouse sink and all of our appliances, replacing only the counters and backsplash with honed marble. When we were working on our bathrooms, I found a material at Waterworks that I really loved. The material has become relatively “trendy” now, but I really like it and generally my philosophy is that everything including gray / white eventually looks dated so I’d prefer to just do what I want today and “use it up”.

Inspiration counter from Waterworks Chicago and a slab from Marmi Natural Stone

After some google image searching, I found two slabs at Marmi Natural Stone that matched my vision and I’ve worked with them to procure our materials. We are working with Stone City in Chicago on the fabrication and installation. Stay tuned!

Guest bedroom, flipped

Into a baby room!

MyChicagoHouse is expecting! We are in the process of flipping our guest bedroom into a baby room for our first child (a boy!) due in August. Thankfully we didn’t spend too much on the furniture in the guest room – only the Ikea bed, a needlepoint rug from Ebay and a side table from Chairish, and I’ve already sold the needlepoint rug (yay!).
I knew for this baby room I was going to need a crib AND a place for guests to sleep, but we weren’t going to be able to fit both the queen and the crib, so we had to get creative. First I plotted my floor plan in excel to get a sense of the space.

Original floor plan left with rug (green) and bed

The bottom right door is our bathroom and top left is a hallway. The closet door is not pictured but it is on the bottom right wall adjacent to the bathroom door. The old rug (that I have since sold) was too small for the changes. It was always a bit small but it worked better with the bed.

I mocked up a new larger rug. Generally, my rule of thumb on rugs is bigger is better. You want to fill up the whole room. If measuring I do 3-4” away from the walls and get as close as I can with a standard size.

New floor plan on right with bigger rug, crib and daybed

After I was happy with the floor plan, we found the Asmara rug of my dreams at http://www.rugsource.com (10′ x 12′) for <$450 and scooped that up with a rug pad, then purchased the Elsie Daybed from Pottery Barn on sale, with the trundle and matching crib.

Pottery Barn Elsie daybed with trundle and Target pillows

PB oddly has two beds called “Elsie” but this one has the spindle sides. It is amazing how much more space we have! It will still do-able for two people to sleep in this room comfortably on Tuft & Needle mattresses (the top fits this mattress, but the trundle will need to be thinner from Amazon). While I did buy new twin sheets, I kept all of our queen bedding, folded it to fit the twins, and added some throw pillows from Creative Co-op at Target.

These Target Creative Co-op pillows are lovely and <$45, pillow incl!
New rug, daybed and crib in place!

Our bookcase has always been a bit of a challenge because we were short on books and long on shelving. Now, we need to free up shelves for baby books, so I moved all of the books up and closed the gaps. This freed up nine shelves! The boxes that remain are empty, and I will leave them there until we have filled the space with books for the baby.

Lower shelves are filled with empty boxes, to be replaced with baby books soon

For now, you will probably notice that we do not have a changing table or chair in this room. I was planning to sit on the daybed and use that as a space to change the baby. We have all of our supplies on the back of the closet door that I customized. I know this isn’t ideal but the room is small and from the floor plans above you can see the door on the right-hand side is actually the guest bathroom, so 3/4 walls have a door on them.

There is not much space for extra furniture so we are trying to be minimal

It is possible we squeeze in a chair next to the crib in front of the bookcase but it seems tight to me. We are also in the process of getting blackout curtains made in a fabric that matches the wallpaper which, believe it or not, was cheaper than restoration hardware!

Let me know what you think about this room and layout!

Traditional Brass Taps

Perrin & Rowe from DeVOL in the UK provides extra style for half the price

I have discovered an interesting arbitrage opportunity for those that like high end Rohl, Perrin & Rowe, brass taps. I have been poking around the internet for this particular tap because we inherited a nickel version in our kitchen and it is regrettably spraying water everywhere.
That is how I came to discover this odd price discrepancy.
In the US, the Rohl Perrin & Rowe Inca brass tap with spray is priced anywhere from $1,500 to $1,800+ and in the UK, from DeVOL, adjusting for shipping, currency conversion and tax, they are priced at $900 (or, £630 + shipping). So, if you want a Rohl Perrin & Rowe aged brass tap with spray, buy it from DeVOL Kitchens! DeVOL spent time with Perrin & Rowe to identify this specific brass finish, which looks better – less shiny, more aged, and they are half price compared to their US counterparts! All you need to do to order, is email DeVOL directly and they will take care of you. Don’t forget to ask for US configured if installing stateside!

BUY FOR MORE, $1,845: Rohl U.4719L-IB-2 Inca Brass Tap with Spray from Build.com

If you are looking for the tap only, and no spray, the price is less (and still cheaper from the UK).

DeVOL sink and kitchen and BUY FOR LESS, ~$900 (including shipping): Rohl Perrin & Rowe tap and spray, made for DeVOL
Another shot of the tap for DeVOL in a DeVOL kitchen

While we haven’t replaced ours yet, I love the look of these brass taps and the style, color and price of the DeVOL taps from Perrin & Rowe compared to their US counterparts.

Needlepoint rugs

Asmara Ferncroft a la Ebay

I’m a huge fan of needlepoint rugs and have written about them in a previous post. The needlepoint rug in our guest room is a gorgeous floral trellis design with beautiful colors but as of today I am trading it in and have posted in back for the world of Ebay to bid on.
The truth is, I have been quietly searching for the Asmara Ferncroft rug, a rug that I have admired since I first saw it in Tory Burch’s Hampton bedroom, and today I found it (for less).

Asmara Ferncroft needlepoint rug

Our guest room is papered in Bird and Thistle and I’ve always loved this rug pairing. I had pulled a sample from Asmara to see it in person and it was excellent, it was just out of budget.

Asmara rug sample in our guest bedroom

My grandmother is an excellent decorator and I remember asking her once how she did it, decorate so well, and she said that she just saved pictures from magazines and then copied her favorite ones! In this case, I’ll admit, I am stealing a page from my grandma’s book!

Bird and Thistle paired with Asmara Ferncroft for Tory Burch

I’m a huge fan of Ebay, Chairish and anywhere I can buy second hand or for less. I found both of our needlepoint rugs by scouring Ebay and couldn’t be happier with the price that we paid or the quality of the rugs. However, at the time, I couldn’t find the Asmara Ferncroft and assumed I never would, until today! I was searching for a 10′ x 12′ rug for a friend and right on page one of my search results was a picture of the Ferncroft listed for $750. Since I can’t accept paying full price, even on Ebay, I did a search for the vendor name and found their website, and the identical rug, listed for <$450, brand new, free shipping. In fact, they even have one more if you are so keen. 🙂 I’m super excited for it to arrive and to swap out our smaller rug for the pattern I’ve always loved.

Closet makeover

A guest closet makeover with Elfa, DIY

Our guest closet was not optimized for space and cluttered. We decided to take advantage of the Elfa 30% off sale at The Container Store and DIY a makeover. I didn’t spend a ton of time upfront on The Container Store website, but I did take a quick spin through and was confused about the exact components that we would need. Once in the store, the salespeople made it easy for us to choose only the needed items and nothing extra. In our case, the salesperson helped us save money as there were so many small components that we would have otherwise confused as required and inadvertently purchased.
We decided on a simple stack of drawers to upgrade our closet and it cost <$450 with the sale discount – (still pretty expensive, so need to take advantage of the 30% off!!).

Our closet “before” was cluttered and not optimized for space

The drawers are affixed to two vertical metal strips that hang on one master horizontal bar that is mounted to the closet wall. The only component that is attached to the closet wall is this horizontal bar (with 4 anchors).

First I drilled the anchor holes to attach the horizontal bar

I measured and ensured that the holes were level BY MYSELF, so you do not need a buddy for this project (although it would be helpful…. hello out there!?). I decided to mount the drawer support beams above the baseboard, which lifted the design by about 12″.
If we later need to raise the closet bar, we have room to do so under the shelf, but for now will leave as is.

The vertical support beams freely hang from the horizontal attached bar

The drawers are affixed from bottom to top. We have room to add an additional drawer! I am planning to wait and see exactly what additional drawer I’d like. Our system includes 1 shelf, 1 large drawer, 2 medium drawers, 1 small drawer with 1 pack of drawer dividers. For mounting you need the shelf / drawer brackets, the horizontal mount and the vertical mounting strips. The shelf liners are sold separately from the wooden frames.

I had to fuss with the positioning of the drawers but it was relatively straightforward to reorganize as needed

The most challenging component of assembling the drawers was connecting the wooden frame to the brackets that hang from the vertical bars. I watched a youtube video to get the hang of it and it went smoothly from there.

We added a mount to the back of the door for more storage and even have room for one more drawer!

I’m excited about this close and the extra space we have. The hardest piece was purchasing the correct components, but once the horizontal beam is installed, the rest is relatively straightforward once you get the hang of it, and it is possible to do this alone. The drawers glide smoothly and I like that they are lifted from the floor so I can dust underneath.

Christmas Tree

Our first Christmas in our, My Chicago House

Our Christmas tree is from Balsam Hill. There were so many choices to sort through, but ultimately I decided on the Stratford Spruce Tree, 9′ tall with clear lights. I ended up calling customer service to help narrow down the selection and was guided towards this tree, which was less expensive than the other option I was considering, and, it is now on sale! So, even cheaper if you still need one. 
There is a mix of “filler branches” and natural looking branches that are arranged with filler towards the center and natural on the outer edges. The filler branches do not look real, but you cannot see them. The natural needles look nice. Here is the tree immediately after we set it up. I like it!

Balsam Hill tree, 9′ tall, immediately out of the box

It was easy to set it up and shape the branches, but we couldn’t have done it without the labels so we will keep them for next year so we don’t get stuck. Setting up the tree was fun. We put it together over the course of an afternoon. 
I wanted our tree to be different this year – “artsy” and organic. I wanted it to be monochromatic with a modern flair. I decided on purple because it is a nice contrast to the green walls in our dining room and a totally “new” color in our house. I bought 6″ thick painted burlap ribbon on Etsy and large glass ornaments from Michael’s to DIY. 

DIY ornaments painted purple in varying shades

I filled each ornament with water and paint (the paint is on the inside, not the outside) to varying degrees in order to get a full set of ornaments that start out light, and move darker, so that our tree ultimately has a subtle “ombre” ornament effect. For the very light ornaments at the top of the tree, I poured in water and shook it with a drop of paint I dripped inside. I wanted these light ornaments to look like a soap bubble. 

The violet burlap from Etsy arrived and is perfect. I loosely arranged it on the tree and clipped the ends in a “v”. 

Violet burlap from Etsy draped on the tree with ends clipped into a “v” 

The ornaments were arranged from light to dark, starting at the top.

Glass DIY ornaments arranged from light to dark, starting at the top of the tree

The presents will be wrapped in brown paper with burlap bows. We are separately going to buy a few wreaths to hang on the dining room shelves and I will decorate those wreaths with purple ribbon also. Very simple wreaths with one, wide, purple ribbon wrapped across each. 

The den, plaid makeover

Plaid carpet install

The den has been in process for quite some time and not including the kitchen, the last room to finish, but we have a great base with the walls painted Railings by Farrow & Ball to layer on mixed plaid and cozy this room up! As a reminder, this is what the room looked like before we got started. 

The den, from the listing photo

It is amazing to think that our cozy den was once a bedroom!

The first thing we did was paint the space and remove all traces of gray

It still makes me sad that the homeowner painted the entire home gray to sell it, just for me to immediately re-paint, but alas – the gray is gone, and so is the pink square that the mirror was hiding… 

The carpet selection for this room was simple. I knew I wanted a modern plaid rug in a navy tone and was immediately drawn to a carpet from Stark that could be custom cut to fit the room perfectly. 

From selection to installation, the Stark carpet was in place within one month

We had a couple of real-time decisions to make as the carpet was being installed. Namely, whether or not we left the “tail” of carpet alongside the fireplace and behind the door. While it is relatively “skinny” I decided to keep the tail as the door is often open and I wanted to see the carpet extend behind the door. I also did not want the door to get caught up on the edge of the carpet when opening and closing. After months of living with this carpet, I am happy we kept the tail. 

We debated keeping this “tail” or cutting it short and decided to keep it

The addition of the carpet made such a difference in this room and I am so happy with it. It is a perfect compliment to the Railings paint color. 

The carpet is a perfect match to the Railings paint from F&B

Still in process is a cornflower blue pull-out couch from Avery Boardman that will be delivered soon. Once the couch is in place I will select chairs from Chairish (or Ebay) to re-upholster.

Stark carpet in place, waiting for furniture

I’ve narrowed down the fabric to a selection of Colefax and Fowler plaids, pictured below. They all coordinate well with the couch fabric (below, bottom right), and the carpet. I’m debating introducing more than one plaid and am thinking about it all as a big mix and match project. It needs to coordinate, but it doesn’t need to match perfectly. 

Swatches from Colefax and Fowler and our chosen couch fabric from Manuel Canovas, bottom right

Keeping in mind the art that we selected for the room, I am leaning towards the plaid on the top right of the image above for side chairs. The fabric has a sense of plum which helps to pull in the tones of the artwork and it feels like a better coordinating fit, to me. 

Stephanie Hier artwork in the den, wall painted Railings by F&B

Once the couch is delivered and in place, I will make the final decision. I’m enjoying taking my time on this project! 

Halloween Chic

Simple Halloween decor that is classic and spooky

Our Halloween decorations were all sourced from Michael’s craft store. We spent less than $100 and will use all of the decorations again next year. I wanted to bring in the “spooky” and “freaky” without making the decor too dark or sensational, and on a white bookcase it was impossible to make the decor too dark anyway, so I worked with what we had and even incorporated some of our usual shelf decor, that with the black fabric looked spooky too!

The hand mannequin that is always on our shelf looks spookier with the Halloween colors

I flipped all of our books so that black, white and red bindings were the only visible colors facing out. I removed all items from our shelves that were out of the color scheme and hid them below. I layered a combination of black fabric, black stuffing and faux fall leaves across the shelves with a mix of styrofoam (read: cheap) skeleton heads, black crows and a “bag of bones” nestled in a chicken wire box.

All of the books turned out or face forward were red, white and black / B&W

The black stuffing went a long way to elevate basic shelves to Halloween chic with the mix of faux leaves. Be sure to stand the leaves up in the stuffing so that you can see them from afar vs. simply laying them down flat.

Leaves standing up in the black stuffing add more color and texture than leaves laying flat

The crows were a fun addition to the shelves and we were able to tuck a few away in some “surprise” places throughout the house.

A crow perched atop the Sapiens bookcase

Each fireplace mantle was decorated differently with a combination of small pumpkins, white and orange, and more faux fall leaves. In total, I used four bags of the faux leaves and they went a long way. I took all of the extra leaves and piled them at the edge of the fireplace on the ground.

Out of frame is a pile of faux leaves at the base of the den fireplace

The dining room fireplace was decorated with faux leaf branches from Michaels and a line of orange and white striped pumpkins from the patch!

The faux leaves look real against the [real] mini orange and white striped pumpkins on the dining room fireplace

The dark Calla Lillies that we always have in our living room in their bone vases look perfect for Halloween! The white pumpkins are simple and sweet. 

Friendly “Halloween” flowers in the kitchen

All of our mini pumpkins were purchased at the pumpkin patch. We bought 15 of these minis and scattered them through the house!

All of our pumpkins were cleaned before we placed them around the house. 

While we will have to toss the pumpkins at the end of the season, all of the other decor can be stored for next year. 

In our entry, we nested a bundle of dried corn against a cluster of larger pumpkins and more faux leaves

Happy Halloween!