Wednesday, April 9, 2014


I'm knee deep in a huge project at work that involves some
late nights and weekends and keeps me on call 'round the clock.
Fortunately I'm able to work remotely so I'm not stuck at the office
for so long but it's left me kind of floundering, not wanting to start
any projects.  So I move around from a little unpacking, a little
cleaning up in the garden, and a little organizing

I put three boxes of stuff over on the neighborhood "free" table
this weekend and it all went like hotcakes, including a new griddle, the hot
plate from my temporary kitchen, a half dozen Cafe Fanny cafe au lait bowls,
cookie cutters, some old mixing bowls and a few small pots and pans.
An elderly woman scored a brand-new aubergine Staub kettle.  Seeing her
makes me feel guilty I ever spent so much hard-earned money on something
to heat water...and then never used it.   I hope she loves it. 

I've also been tinkering with what goes on the kitchen counters and
shelves.  I'm back and forth over having them be spare and decorative or
completely utilitarian.  A little mix of both is how I'm liking them right now.

A little shelf above the dishwasher was to be for a few drinking glasses
and/or mugs but I love playing with little vignettes so this what's going
on here right now.  I still can't decide what to do with the shelves:  paint
them white, light gray or stain them to match the unpainted bin drawers?

So maybe I'm also procrastinating a little bit.

My little garden was trashed by the porch project and after seeing
Loi's garden on his blog, I want to start from scratch.  I was out raking
over the weekend and rediscovered this in the corner of the gardne
 that I don't believe I've ever shown you.  Any idea what it is?  

I'll reply in the comments to the first person that gets it right.

This work project continues through May 1st so please don't expect a
lot from me for a little bit.  I'll be back soon.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

European Country Antiques

Let's take a tour of European Country Antiques in the Huron Village
area on Cambridge's west side.

The store is at 146 Huron Avenue near the corner of Concord Avenue.
Huron Village is primarily a residential area but within a few blocks of this
intersection are some of Cambridge's finest independently owned shops.

But once you step through the door, you're in a different place and time...
a place that embraces you with its warm honey-toned woods, beautiful
painted antiques just waiting to tell you their personal stories.

The shop's website says the shop captures the authenticity of
true European countryside shops, the ones stacked to the limit with
furniture, where every time you move one piece you discover another.

Many of the antiques are in their original form.  Oh, how I wish I
had a place for this large cabinet!

Other pieces, such as this kitchen island, have been built from
reclaimed antique furniture pieces into modern forms.  There is storage
on one side, room to tuck a few bar stools on the other, all capped
off with a butcher block top with tons of patina.

There a lots of great lamps, these made from old balusters...

...urns and other architectural fragments...

...lots of great vintage and antique accessories...

...wonderful rustic tables....

...and unique case pieces to display your finest wares...

...all with incredible details.

This is another favorite piece.

A great Scottish chest of drawers.

And a nice selection of mirrors.

This trestle table is from one  of the store's custom lines.
Their tables come in two different woods, three different leg styles
and in a variety of finishes.

If you've been searching for that one special piece to finish of a room and you
don't find it here, talk to store manager Angela, or owner Ed Stuart, about the
possibility of making a custom piece designed just for you.

European Country Antiques is about a mile from Harvard Square.  On a nice day,
I would walk down Brattle Street to see all the old mansions, particularly the Longfellow
House where George Washington lived for a short time during the Revolutionary war.
Take a right on Sparks Street and walk to the end which is Huron Avenue.  ECA is on the
right just past Concord Avenue.

But I would drive so you can visit all the great shops along Huron Avenue.  There were
several that were now to me so I can't wait to get over there and explore again.

Be sure to tell them I sent you!

European Country Antiques
146 Huron Avenue
Cambridge, MA  02138

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Kitchen Armoire

My armoire was delivered a few days ago so I've been busy
unpacking more boxes and moving dishes from the dining room
that served as my temporary kitchen during the renovation.

If I widen the view, you can see the armoire sits in the corner of the kitchen between the 
dining room and the French doors to the porch.  This makes it convenient both to get dishes to
the dining room table and to put them away when they're unloaded from the dishwasher.

Let me show you some of the details on this beautiful piece.

All of the original hardware is in working condition.

The armoire, I believe, is French and is a "knockdown" or "breakdown"
armoire meaning it breaks down into pieces so it can easily be moved up
the tiny staircase to your pied-a-terre.  The block of wood above the raised
panel slides back and forth and actually locks the top and side together.
I love the oyster color of the interior.

I'm looking for stemware racks that I can mount in this upper portion
of the armoire so I can really optimize the storage space in here.  

I love the alligatored finish.  And notice the mortise and tenon
joint and dovetails on the upper corner.  You just don't see these
details on new pieces anymore.

I've put all my dishes and serving pieces in here and still have about
half of the space open so I'm trying to figure out what else would make
sense to store in the lower shelves.  You'll notice in the upper photos I
put a few of my English fishing creels on one shelf that I can use for
some hidden storage.  I like the texture and color they add to the piece.

I mentioned in an earlier post the piece came from European Country Antiques
right here in Cambridge.  I was really impressed with the shop and the service
they provided so, next time, let's meet over there so I can show you around.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moving Back In

The grouting is done...and it's white.  I have no photos of the process
because it was tough.  It's been several years since I last grouted anything
and I've never done such a large area.  I wasn't sure how long I would have
the time I started grouting until it set up so I moved quickly.  It was difficult.
It was messy.  I broke out in a sweat.  And I might have cried a little bit.  

Once I had about one-third of it done, I stood back and was certain I
made a mistake using white.  It should have been gray, I thought.

But once it was all done and I'd wiped off the white haze, the subtle
color difference and texture looked beautiful and my attention went back
to the cabinets which is where I thought it should be.

(I should note I'm not done painting the cabinets.)

This was what the kitchen looked like on Monday night after I'd finished the
grouting and I started contemplating what I'm going to do with the window
casings and sashes.  I'm going to paint the French doors on the opposite wall
the same as the cabinets so I think I need to have some of that darker value
on the windows to balance them.  Having the dark gray above the white sink
will also make a nice composition I think.

Everything needed to be cleaned out of the kitchen for a final coat on the 
floors.  I understand that it makes a lot of sense to leave a final coat until
all the work is done--there were a few scratches that happened--but it was a
drag having to keep the cats barricaded from the room while the floors dried.

But all the workmen are out the house and I can start moving back in. I had
to wonder, after living with the bare essentials for the past seven months,
what was in all the boxes that were stacked in my front hallway. I'm taking
a critical look at everything and making tough choices about what I keep.
I'm a hunter and gatherer by nature and giving away doesn't come easily.

I recently discovered my neighborhood had a "free table."  Anyone can
drop off or pick up from the free table.  It's a great place to drop things off
that wouldn't really warrant to trip to Goodwill or selling at a yard sale.
People leave books, clothes, boots, housewares, artwork, all kinds of things.
Even the worst of things seems to find a new home.

I have some vintage stuff I can send off for sale but a good deal of this
stuff will be going to the free table.

I've never really been an organized person.  The house
might look presentable but I have screwdrivers in my sock drawer
and paint cans in the dining room cupboards.  I want that to change.

I gathered up all my gift cards and headed to The Container Store
where I got all kinds stuff to pimp out my cabinets.  I got several
of these pull out drawers so I can make better use of the space.

In some of the cabinets, I can fit two.  I thought
the lid racks would also be good for cookie sheets
and cutting boards. 

I wanted to have a pull-out trash and recycling combo 
but the bins were so small, the really didn't make sense.
So I got a trash bin and there will be room left over for
a paper grocery bag to sit next to it for recycling.

And I got a few of these dividers for the deep bins
to store smaller pans and cutting boards.

I'm kind of spring cleaning as things move around. After
several months of renovation, the house is just filthy and I
can't take it anymore.

My armoire will be delivered this week and I'm really looking
forward to getting all the dishes, serving pieces and glassware put away.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tiling, Vol. 2 and Cabinet Hardware

Last weekend, I conquered the tile cut around the outlets.

This past weekend, I had the supports for the floating shelves to deal with.

I wish I could say I planned it--(I'm just having good DIY
karma right now--but the support rods almost all fell perfectly
on the edges of tile so I could just cut around them.

You'll notice the little stripes on the ends
of the tile.  That's some kind of plastic or hot glue that gets
added to prevent the tile from scratching in shipping.
They pop off really easily with the putty knife.

These half circles were fairly easily to clean out with the wet saw.

Not perfect but the shelves will cover my errors.

There was only one place where the rod fell right in the
middle of a tile.  They do make diamond-edge hole cutters
that fit on your drill but for $27 I thought I'd try this.

I cut the tile horizontally and then cut the hole in the center
of the cut.  It's not pretty the shelf covers it so who will know?
And I saved $27!

Another thing I found really helpful was drawing two
vertical lines that marked the placement of my first
whole tile in each row.  Such a time saver.

I'm really loving the reflection of light off the tile.
It really makes the kitchen feel brighter and larger.

As I got close to the ceiling, I decided to put in another
row of the cigar/pencil tile almost like a picture rail.
It was a spur of the moment decision but I think it
makes everything look very well planned.

For those of you that said I should leave the shelves
unpainted, I also see that possibility...but not this wood.
If I wanted to go that route, I'd look for some boards that
were a little more rustic.  Maybe I can have two sets
of shelves:  Spring/summer and fall/winter shelves.


I can't remember if I showed you the hardware I picked
out for the cabinets.  It's all from Restoration Hardware.
The pulls on the left are the Bistro Pulls, the round knob
is the Season Knob and the bin pull is called the
Ornate Square Pull, all in oil rubbed bronze.

The Bistro Pulls are used on the top drawers above
cabinets, and the knobs are on the cabinet doors.

The bin pulls were added to the old bin drawers.

I haven't yet painted the old bin drawers.  Once the new
hardware was added, it transformed them.  I'm kind
of liking them unpainted.  It's a little quirkier which is very me.

I do wish the two sets of bin drawers were a little farther apart
so the unpainted wood was better distributed around the room.
But I have to live with them like this for now.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


When I'm not shoveling snow, I like to kick back and install some tile.

I had a three-day weekend so I thought it was the perfect opportunity
to devote the whole weekend to getting the backsplash tiled. 

I can't stress enough the importance of planning.  You never want
to end up at the end of a row with a tiny sliver of tile.  If you don't
trust your math, why not just lay them out along your counter?
(Of course, you should use your spacers.)

I thought I would add a short backsplash on the sink wall
 of the kitchen so I did this little mockup with two rows of subway.

The tile will meet up in one corner of the kitchen so I'm adding the
same bullnose to the stove wall so that detail carries through on both sides.

All fairly easy until I got to my first outlet.  

I held a tile in place and marked out the sides of the outlet
with a black china marker.  Of course, I turned off the power
to the outlets before unscrewing them from the box.  One
thing I don't mess with is electricity!

Then I marked the bottom edge of the outlet.

And then drew the outline of the cut I wanted to make.

I bought a wet saw when I was replacing a bathroom floor
in my first condo ten years ago.  I recall it was about $100
at Home Depot and it was money very well spent.

It has an adjustable guide that will ensure straight cuts.

I cut down one side and then the other.

But now what?

I decided to make a diagonal cut just to remove a 
good amount of the tile I wanted to remove.

Then I made another diagonal cut to remove more.

I didn't quite hit the bottom corner but when I went to
make a second cut, it broke cleanly at the bottom edge.

With the remaining triangle, I made a series of cuts stopping
each time at the bottom edge of the opening.  These break
off very easily when you press on them.

All seemed perfect until I dropped it on the counter when
I was setting it in to place.  I kind of panicked at this point because
you'll also notice that the tile got stained from the terracotta-dirtied
water from the wet saw.  See it in the cracks?  I thought I might
have to come up with some other method of cutting the
tile...until I thought of painter's tape.

I mean, this stuff's supposed to lock out paint so maybe its
edge-lock technology would be enough to keep the
terracotta juice from staining my tile.

I left the "cut line" exposed and covered the areas
on both sides that might have gotten wet.

This worked like a charm!

This is my second attempt at the outlet opening with a piece
of tape down each side of the cut and one across the bottom.

This is what the back looks like.

After the first one, they're really pretty easy.

Also note that I cut the tile close enough to the top
and bottom to catch the flange of the outlet but not
close enough to cover up the screw holes.  So no spacers
are needed to bring the outlet flush with the tile.  But
I did need to get longer screws on some of the outlets.

I stupidly thought I could get this done in one weekend.
But everything takes at least three times as long as you expect.
And I'm not in any rush.  So what if it takes three weekends?
Slow and steady wins the race.

I really love that cigar detail a few rows up from the counter.
It makes it look a little more special.

Someone pointed out on my grout post that the ungrouted tile
shows you what dark gray grout would look like.

I kind of like it.