Category Archives: interior

New Sputnik and Interior Ceiling Repair

Once we completed putting on our new roof, I was able to move back inside to fix some water damage to our living room ceiling as well add a new sputnik light in the foyer. I was a bit under the gun – the new roof was done in mid April, and I only have about three weeks to get everything else taken care of so that Mary could host a bridal shower for one of her good friends at the house in early May.

Fortunately, repairing the ceiling is a straightforward process – the tile was replaced by my Grandparents in 1995 with Armstrong Grenoble 12×12 tiles. Armstrong still makes that tile, so I picked up a fresh box to have enough to replace the tiles I wanted as well as have some extra on hand for the future. The tile along the chimney had separated from the furring strips over the years from getting wet a few times as well, which is why I decided it was best to replace all of the tile down the line. Here’s what the water leak from the roof did to the ceiling (this was just the worst – there were spots in a few other places but they just got painted over):

The first step is take down the existing tile, which is mostly just carefully tearing them out so as not to damage adjacent tiles. I opened up the top two rows nearest the chimney, then worked backwards to install the replacement tiles and staple them into place. I did have to make a minor adjust to one tile on each row to shorten it just slightly – probably a slight width difference between the 1990s version tiles and the new ones, even though “technically” they are the same:

One installed, they got primed and painted and you wouldn’t know there was ever an issue:

In addition, I took this chance to install a brand new sputnik light fixture. When you walk into the house, there is a small entry vestibule that then opens into the foyer. The foyer has our 18 arm sputnik chandelier, but the vestibule was always a bit dark. I decided to fix this by adding a small 5-arm Sputnik fixture from Practical Props – specifically the CF11-CH model, using starlite bulbs. A few years ago when we moved in, I sent photos of the original 6-light Sputnik fixtures that were in the house to Ian, the owner, to see if he could replicate something similar. It took him awhile, but this was the result. Because I wanted to have it function in conjunction with the foyer light, when the roof was off I ran a new wire from the ceiling box of the chandelier to this new fixture box. It took a few days to get used to it, but the light looks like it always should have been there, and the vestibule is now well lit.


Before and After: Kitchen

We’ve done a lot of work on the kitchen since we’ve moved in. But, almost all of it was “small stuff” – weekend projects and small changes or additions – because the big stuff such as cabinets (Oak Wood-Mode) and countertops (Corian) had previously been done by my grandparents. The real problem with the kitchen was that while all of these things had been done, each had been done at different times and over the years the cohesiveness of the kitchen was missing. It just didn’t look like everything fit together.

So, we set out to change that. The first steps were very basic – changing out the light switches and outlets (along with the rest of the house) to match, and swapping out lights. Originally there was a ceiling fan light in the kitchen area and a single light above the kitchen table. In it’s place went a simple very bright fluorescent fixture and a dual pendant light from Rejuventation. At this time we had the banquette reupholstered, painted the walls and ceiling, swapped the cabinet hardware for chrome, and I rebuilt the cabinets above the cooktop to make them higher and hold a microwave.

Next, I tackled the flooring. This was quite a project – so much that I talked about it extensively in a post back in 2013 (a post that is among the most popular on this blog.) That flooring was Armstrong Striations flooring in Twilight color.

The final parts came earlier this year, when I tackled another fairly large small project – adding under-cabinet lighting – as well as having the table legs chromed.

With all of these projects together, I felt it was time to take it all together and present a before-and-after set of photos of the kitchen. While the projects have been relatively small, the transformation is large.


Patent Prints

This is one of those stories I’ve kept saying “oh, I’ll share that one next,” but kept putting it off in favor of other stories here on the blog for the last several months. So – now I’m making sure to share it.

A little over a year ago, I came across a website that advertised selling large-scale prints of cool and interesting patents. The concept isn’t very sophisticated – the patents themselves are available free of charge from Google Patents, where you can find high resolution scans of most (maybe all) patents ever issued – but the fun part is someone got the idea that they could use these drawings, printed nicely on large-format paper, and make a business on a place like Etsy. You choose details such as the size, and type of paper stock and color you want to see them printed on. They have their large-format printers do the work and ship you the finished product. I’m a sucker – I thought it was cool, so I ordered a set of ones that I liked.

Ultimately though, I wanted more than just a paper poster to hang on the wall. This house isn’t a college dorm room, after all. So I thought about the best way to take those posters and make them into something more sophisticated. The simplest path would be to stick them into a frame, but I felt they wouldn’t look quite as interesting if that was all I did. So I looked into a more complex process in which I would plaque mount the posters on wood.

With a little bit of Internet research I came up with a plan: pick up some 3/8 inch MDF (medium density fiberboard), cut them to the site of the posters, bevel the edges of the board with a router and paint the edges black to prep the plaque itself. Then glue the poster to the board using spray adhesive and as a final step, coat the finished product with a matte finish spray to protect the paper.

I wanted these posters to go on the walls in the Family Room downstairs, which overall has a blue tone (bluestone fireplace, bluish-gray carpet, and bluish-gray shades), so I picked the posters to be printed in an off-white ink on a blue paper background, and on a relatively large size (20×30.) I chose four patents: a Polaroid close-up lens add-on (for my camera work), a Lego brick (for the large Lego collection I possess), the original Macintosh case design (I am a Mac guy), and the Hollerith tabulating patent (what, essentially, started it all for IBM in 1888.) It took about a week to do all four of them start to finish, but I am very happy with the results, and they really fit into the room well, completing the look on the walls. I also feel they follow my motto of being Mid-Century Compatible.

Here are the progress and finish shots:

There Are Still Surprises (Kitchen Task Lighting)

This spring I decided I wanted to tackle a project I had my eye on from when we moved in, but hadn’t quite gotten to yet: adding under cabinet lighting in the kitchen. I was having the kitchen table legs chromed around the same time, and figured this was a great time to finally finish all of the projects in the kitchen so it can be considered “complete.”

While there were many lighting options, ultimately Mary and I decided that doing LED “puck” lights would give the look we preferred. I purchased a few sets of line voltage lights from Home Depot and set about planning how to install them. I wanted all the wiring to be reasonably hidden, and wanted all of the lights to be controlled by the same switch that controls the light above the kitchen sink. To do this it required drilling into the cabinets and, more importantly, poking into the soffits above and clamoring around the attic to tie everything together. After a few days of looking over how to arrange lights, etc, I began mounting the lights under the cabinets, tacking the wires up nicely, and drilling appropriate holes to run wiring discreetly inside of them to the ceiling.

This part went smoothly. To tie the wires together in the attic, I needed to extend the leads from the puck lights, and did this using romex cable. I fed the various wires up to the attic, then went and crawled around in the blown cellulouse insulation (wearing a mask.) Above the kitchen is a hip roof – that is, the roof slopes downward on all sides, meaning the space at the edges is very small. It turns out I can’t easily wedge myself in far enough to find the leads for the wires. So, after some debate, I decided my only real option is to take a hole saw and drill into the face of the soffit so that I can pull wires into bundles and ensure they are far enough into the attic to be reachable. And that’s where things went off the rails.

Drilling into the first soffit, this is what I find:

Surprise! There is another piece of sheetrock back there. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but then it dawned on me what I was seeing: In 1986, when the kitchen was redone with the fancy Wood-Mode cabinetry, the new cabinets were both taller and deeper than the existing cabinets. The fix? They built the soffits above the cabinets out by 2 inches or so by adding onto the existing soffit and blending it together. Upon closer inspection, you can tell that the soffits in the rest of the kitchen (with no cabinets below them) are 2 inches thinner than the cabinet soffits. Never even noticed. It’s been that way for 30 years.

I had to drill a few holes in the soffit in order to reach where wires were in different places. Ultimately, though, two of the holes I drilled (in the angled portions) – were backed by 2×8 boards. Surprise! So there was no way to easily drill through them, either. Ultimately I ended up knocking a total of six different holes in the soffit, three of which were unneeded, to get the wiring run correctly.

With the surprises out of the way, I set about finishing the lighting. In the attic I brought the wiring together and created a junction box tying it back to the switched light fixture, and on each light I purchased a special wire splice kit and tucked it into the top of each cabinet – the splice box meets code and allows the light to be disconnected without cutting the wires in the future.

When all was said and done, the results were awesome. Here are some shots:


With this project done, now I can finally produce the “Before and After” for the kitchen.


Nice Legs

I like chrome. Shiny, silverly chrome. My motorcycle has a lot of chrome on it, for one. When we moved into the house, the house was generally accented (door knobs, hinges, fixtures) with brass or brushed bronze finish on most things. Early on we replaced the door knobs, hinges, and had light fixtures chromed or (if needed) replaced with chrome versions – as such, the house now has a chrome silver accent color on the interior, instead of brass and bronze.

A lot of projects have been done in the kitchen, such as a new kitchen floor, painting, etc. In the kitchen we have a large, built-in banquette (in place since 1962ish), with a kitchen table. The legs of the table are original – heavy duty steel legs, they were originally powder coated enamel, but after 50 years that enamel was pretty worn and needed to be addressed. After giving it some thought, I came to one conclusion: chrome them.

The nearest place that does this type of work is up in Syracuse (a little over an hour away), called Sandy’s Bumper Mart. They had done a few smaller projects previously for us, cleaning and chroming some light fixtures in the living room. For about $400 and a few hours of my time to haul them back and forth, off they went to be refinished. I built some temporary legs from extra wood I had around to tide us over so we could still use the table in the meantime. A few weeks later we got them back, and the results were spectacular. Here are some pictures showing the change (I will point out it is difficult to get a good picture of table legs):