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.
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.
In September, we were hosting a gathering of family and friends after Mary’s paternal grandmother’s funeral, and one of my mother-in-law’s good friends who was helping set up accidentally walloped the lamppost attempting to back up the driveway. It’s a bit of a feat in itself – the post isn’t exactly right next to the driveway (it’s 3 feet off and down a hill) – but it took a shot and down it went. Fortunately, while it looks pretty bad here in this picture, it’s a tough-as-nails vintage Progress Lighting fixture and post made of cast aluminum and extra thick glass. Bruised and battered? Yes. Ready for the trash heap? We’ll see. So off to work I went.
Outside the house are a nice matched (or at least close) exterior lights – three at the doors, and two lampposts on the driveway. Before moving in I was sure we were going to replace them. I had even gone so far as to pick out what I thought we would get. But as we got into the interior renovations, we realized that one of the key colors of the house was black – black metal interior railings, black metal supports for the back patio, and black exterior lighting. Cleaning and repainting the railings really made me realize how good they look if you just clean and paint them. Most of these also have an accessory outlet in them, making them super convenient if you need electricity in the middle of the yard (for say, a weed whacker.) So off I went to try my hand at getting these looking awesome.
As you can see in the first couple of pictures, they were pretty whipped. I actually repainted these once back in the late 90’s. Somewhere in the interim, my Grandmother also asked my aunt’s husband to do it – he did it about as quick as you could with a can of spray paint, hence all the overspray on the glass. For this go-round, I took the lights completely apart and scrubbed them, giving everything a good steel wool (000 fine) wipe-down, including the glass. I then hit all the parts with the classic go-to: Rustoleum protective enamel in gloss black – the same stuff I use on everything. As a renovation note: I find you get far superior results brushing on the paint than using the spray paint version. The coverage is thicker and better, and the finish has a much better gloss qualities. Most of these old fixtures are also made of lightweight aluminum, which is easy to maintain and does not rust and therefore is good to keep.
I’m pleased with the results. Of course there are five lights…so I have a bit more work to do:
When it comes to the renovation work, I’m a stickler for the details – the little finishing components that help unify and bring together everything you see. They are what really completes a project and brings your original vision into focus. Here are some of the details around our house that you might not notice at first, but they were carefully considered:
Bench legs – We have a fabulous kitchen banquette. It sits on ten short legs. They were originally gold in color – and made in Yugoslavia. The caps were rusty and they were clearly well-used, since they were original from 1961 or so when the bench was built. As part of finishing the kitchen remodeling, we got the bench recovered but I knew I also needed to tackle the legs. I could have found some new ones, but decided to see what I could do with what we had. Using the bench grinder and wire brush set on the workbench in the basement (thanks Grandpa Rynkus!), I stripped the wood, cleaned the metal, and eventually stained and repainted them. They now look like this: