Springtree House


Built-in, Part 2

You would think having a little wood shop just in the basement would make it really easy to get stuff made, but sadly, this is not the case.  I don’t get down there nearly as much as I’d like and it’s my own fault entirely.  

That said, I did make the top piece to the built-in bookcase between the great room and the kitchen last summer and got it up the same time D&D were doing the moulding.  Basically, I needed extra hands to get it up there, and I’m glad I had them, because it turns out the walls don’t really line up on either side and I had to unscrew the sides and get them lined up.  Of course, it’s always more of an ordeal than you think it’s going to be.  But it got up there!  I still need to make the corners, eventually . . .

Making the piece in the basement

Making the piece in the basement

I had to take all the books out of the sides to move them

I had to take all the books out of the sides to move them

And they're up!

And they’re up!


This was always one of my favorite comments on real estate listings.  I think real estate agents are possibly the worst spellers I have encountered and apparently don’t know about the existence of spell check either.  I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be “remodeled”.  In our case, though, we actually replaced the moulding, so I guess it would be remoulded.  

This was a pretty big job and I couldn’t do it, because of lack of time and tools and know how.  So, I brought back Dan and Dave of D&D to do it and it took a little over a week last October.  We went really simple, in keeping with the style of the house and it’s more or less what was in the house originally before they glued vinyl “marble” to all of it.  

We painted it Benjamin Moore “Calm” in satin, which is a slightly greyed out white that gives a nice depth next to the matte Decorator’s White of the walls.  It’s kinda the reverse of our bedroom that has Wrought Iron trim on Deep Space walls.


I debated doing dark grey trim in the entry, but decided to keep it the same as the rest of downstairs and let the front door pop a bit.



The stairs were a little tricky, but I think we found an attractive solution.

The stairs were a little tricky, but I think we found an attractive solution.


Still in progress


Did I mention it was Octover?

Did I mention it was October?

Even got a sleek switch plate on

Even got a sleek switch plate on

I really have been working . . .

Between going back to school for Interior Design (yay!) and Addy starting kindergarten this year and all the activities of two kids, life has been pretty busy, but we still got a lot of projects done, little by little.  I think of this stage as being the detailing.  It’s, like, 10% of the work, but takes 90% more time.  So, I’ve just been chipping away.  The one thing I haven’t been chipping away at is this blog.  Sorry.  That’s going to change.  Get ready for the blog binge!IMG_0727


*an example of the totally undramatic, but useful improvements I’ve done: replacing the knob on the crappy back door.  It now locks from the outside (bonus!) and sticks less.  It’s the little things . . . now I just need to paint that door.

The Dressing Room


I am so happy with this project and it is really making my life so much nicer! Remember back in the bedroom post, I showed you the little area with carpet and the two dressers?  Well, I finally made a clothes rack to turn the space into a kinda walk in closet.  It was a pretty big DIY project, and there were a few hang ups, but it came out great in the end.

I decided to make the rack out of black pipe since it’s structurally strong, comes in standard lengths, and screws together with standard fittings.  I also like the industrial look and have seen a lot of great projects on the blogs using it.  I came up with a little more complex design than I had seen, and that caused some problems.  I’ll show some pictures and walk you through where things went wrong.

Being spray painted

Being spray painted

I wanted two different hanging areas, one full length for dresses and long skirts, and a larger double level one for shirt, pants, and skirts.  I divided it into 1/3 full length, 2/3 double.  The space is 6 feet deep, so the rack is 6″ long.

The lower level was easy to put together.  The feet went on super easily, everything was building up great until I got to the middle span.  The trouble was that to screw it into the fitting on one side unscrewed it on the other side.  I struggled and struggled with it.  I finally figured out that it was easier to take out the vertical on one side below it, screw in the cross bar, then fit the vertical back in.  It had the same problem with the direction of threading, but at least it didn’t keep falling.

Next, I had a problem with the double level side not lining up with the full height side because there was an extra fitting in the double side and the pipes don’t screw in all the way, so there’s always some threading showing and that adds height.  So, I had to go back to the store to buy two shorter pipes that added up to the height I wanted plus one fitting to add equivalent height.  It still ended up being a little shorter because the fitting was smaller than the T-fittings, but it was workable.

The nice thing with the threading is that I could adjust the height to make things more or less level by just screwing things a little tighter or looser.

One other little thing that, thankfully, the super helpful guy at Discount Builder’s Supply mentioned, was that black pipe has a residue on it.  It’s black and oily and gets on everything.  But, you can clean it off with mineral spirits and then seal it with a clear sealant or spray paint the whole thing at the end.  I originally planned to just seal it, but because of some delays, it ended up hanging out on the porch half finished through all the rains we got and it started rusting in some spots.  So, when I went back to get the shorter pipes, I also got some matte black spray paint and I really think it takes it up a notch and covers many sins.





IMG_2294After I got it all set up and the clothes on it, Tuck come in and exclaims “You organized my shirts by color!”  Like he hasn’t lived with me for ten years.  Later that night he was a little frustrated because he had really think about his shirt he was hanging up to figure out where it belonged.  But it looks so much better when everything is one display.

I still need to run to Ikea to get more matching wooden hangers so they’re all uniform and we also need a new hamper.  Finally, I’m going to put a shelf on the floor flanges at the top for keeping shoe boxes or folded sweaters and stuff.  But if I waited for everything to be 100% I’d never show you anything!



Floors between floors

Floors between floors

By that, I mean the stairs. I’ve shown before how ratty they are, so I decided to carpet them using these great Ikea runners I got in the “As-Is” section for $19.99 a piece. I got two. I should have gotten three (or even four at that price) because I ran out in the middle and when I went back to get another runner, I found that they discontinued my rug! Ach!

So, I searched eBay for one of these stupid rugs, just to fill in the turn. But it was not to be. It looked so nice, but it didn’t come together. So, I searched for replacement rugs and ended up buying this rug from West Elm. I got four this time and used all four, cutting them up to deal with that turn. It came out okay. Not perfect, but it will do.




Obviously, we still need to deal with the trim going up the stairs (and everywhere else). That’s a big to do this year.

Other shots of the entryway:

The start of a family picture gallery wall

20140209-150233.jpgOur light fixture, also from West Elm.

I also painted e interior of the front door Benjamin Moore’s Wrought Iron that we also used on our bedroom trim. We’ll continue that on the moulding going up the stairs.

It’s so hard to get a decent shot in the tight quarters of the stairs.

Our awesome new bedroom

So, it’s not so new anymore, but when I took these pictures it was and we still totally love it.

Our bed

Our bed

These windows now has light grey linen curtains over them

These windows now has light grey linen curtains over them

Window over the bed

Window over the bed

The dressing room

The dressing room

My dresser (I don't think it's been this clean since)

My dresser (I don’t think it’s been this clean since)

This painting is now on the wall

This painting is now on the wall

My bedside table

My bedside table

We also have out charcoal grey blackout shades on all of the windows.  We had to get a new platform bed because our box spring wouldn’t fit up our tiny stairs, so our old configuration couldn’t work.  We went with Ikea Malm with the idea that I’ll upholster it when it starts looking a little beat up.  Also, the lamps are mounted on either side of the bed now.

I still need to make a clothes rack to turn the dressing niche into a closet and I’d like to make a screen as well. I also need to find a lamp I like for that area, something with a little personality. Finally, a throw rug and a small chair for the corner by the painting would be nice. Oh, and I’d like a little stump or something small for a bedside table to put a glass of water and my glasses on and a book etc…

So, what do you think?


Note: I wrote this post back in March of 2013 and then never got the pictures on the post. I’m cleaning it up a bit and putting in pics of the final results in the next post. Nevermind what Chinese Astrology says, 2013 is (was) the year of the floor at Springtree House. Once we […]

New Year, New To-Do list

I know I didn’t blog at all really last year. After the first six months where there was so much activity and change so fast, the work that happened in 2013 felt really slow. After Daniel and I did the floor in January, I was on my own on everything and for most of the year I only had one day to myself per week. In September, Gus started going to preschool three days and week and Addy goes five days, so that freed up more time. However, this summer, I also started the certificate program in interior design at UC Berkeley Extension. I took one class over the summer and two this fall and ill be taking another two this spring, so the homework gets a little in the way of work.

Nonetheless, I did get quite a bit done considering the constraints and I will be putting up posts over the next few days. For a little preview, you will be seeing:

  • The master bedroom
  • The entryway and stairs
  • The den / guest room
  • The built in bookshelves, stage one
  • The playroom (formerly referred to as the guest bedroom)

That’s what got done last year, more or less.

And now for the grand to do list for 2014


  • moulding — 2 framed openings, 1 sliding door, 1 pocket door, 3 swing doors, 10 windows, and ? Sq ft baseboards. I just want very simple 6″ baseboards and similarly simple window and door frames true to the farmhouse like character and to keep the lines clean
  • dining lighting, Orbit 8 from Schoolhouse Electric
  • den lighting to replace the awful plastic fixture, Nelson’s Saucer pendant
  • paint bathroom cabinets, I’m thinking a bright navy blue (I ended up just painting them Benjamine Moore’s Wrought Iron, since I had it around)
  • move crappy laminate cabinet in the side porch to the basement, and bring up solid, old cabinet up from the basement, clean, and paint.
  • strip and paint doors 
  • send out cabinet door s to have glass put in them, finally.
  • finish painting the cabinet boxes


  • paint both kids’ rooms. The wall job is really bad in both rooms, like you can see every tape line, I don’t think they did any real mudding, and its cracking along a lot of the joints. So, though I prefer smooth walls, I think I’m going to get textured paint with the finest texture possible to paint their rooms and hopefully cover up the flaws. It’s better than taking it down and redoing it and they need to be painted anyway. Right now it’s a dingy rental white.  Spring 2015, Addy’s room is painted Benjamin Moore’s Sweet Sixteen 
  • buy duvet cover for Addy
  • I’d love to change out the lighting fixture in Addy’s room as well, but I haven’t found the right one yet. Her ceiling is lower than the others in the house, so a pendant won’t really do, but I’ll keep looking
  • bath lighting; we found out that the overhead fixture totally just doesn’t work, so I have to find a plug in wall sconce. Luckily,
  • Schoolhouse Electric came out with Isaac Sconce this year and it’s perfect.
  • shade to cover the bare bulb in our bedroom. The fixture is a weird size, and I never actually use the light, but I’d like to cover the bulb anyways.  ed. change of plans: I think I’m just going to get a basic paper lantern to go over the bulb and then also have a hanging paper lantern in the dressing room area.  Simple, inexpensive, and looks good.  Perfect!
  • buy pipes and build a clothes rack. I have a design all drawn out. I’ll keep you posted. If that goes well, I’d like to start on the kitchen island.

Okay, so lets get started!

The Saga of the Kitchen Floor, pt 2

So, Monday we started working on the floor.  Somewhere in there we had to cut part of the threshold between the two rooms to make a more square starting point.  So we started laying the border tiles, which had to be shaved some of them (made thinner) to keep an even transition from the wood to the tile because things were not only not square, but not level either. We found out pretty quickly that these tiles were pretty brittle and lost a couple early on.  Then we laid the first row and our guide line.  Then we filled it in.  We had to add mortar or shave tiles here and there when the floor was just not level and a couple tiles cracked or chipped on the edges, but we didn’t feel like it was too too bad.  Laying the tiles took 2.5 days.  And I learned how to use a tile saw.

Then it was time to grout.  We really felt a rush to grout because the edges were chipping and the tiles cracked so easily that we really felt they needed the stability of side support before we lost any more.  We started in a corner and immediately noticed staining, so Daniel wiped it off as quickly as he could and we checked the instructions and found this item:

M. If the tiles are not pre-sealed, apply the Grout Release following the manufacturer’s instructions. This will help to     protect the tiles from being stained by the grout.

So, Daniel ran out to get grout release, which they didn’t have, so he got a penetrating sealer instead that is supposed to keep out stains.  We applied that and left for the day.  The next day we started grouting (with a whole new batch of grout, mind you, since the first batch was wasted) behind the refrigerator in case there was more staining and immediately we saw there was.  Big grey stains on the white blocks of the tile.  So I called the company and they were totally unhelpful, saying only that since we hadn’t used the grout release, as stated in the instructions, there was nothing they could do (or apparently recommend).  So we turned to the internet and found some grout release that had only an hour’s setting time rather than 4 hours like Dupont, called around to find who had it, and out Daniel ran to get it, hoping that the grout we had mixed, if kept covered, would stay good.  It didn’t.

So, at 4 in the afternoon, I ran out an got yet more grout, calling the babysitter watching Gus and Addy to see if they could stay later (thankfully they could and she was our savior and even fed the kids dinner) and we grouted the floor until 6:15 that night.

The next day, though it wasn’t as bad as before, there was still staining.  Some of it was from the grout, some was just from traffic during installation, but it wasn’t pretty.  We tried haze remover, I Bon Amied the whole floor, we mopped it with vinegar, nothing brought up the stains.  So, we decided we had to sand it out.  So we rented a big floor buffer and sanded it down past the stains.  But then, that left white crud along the grout lines.  Of course, we noticed that right before getting ready to seal when I had to leave to go to pick up the kids (Addy was at school, Gus at the sitter’s).  So, I left Daniel thinking there was maybe 15 min to half an our of work left.  When I texted him two hours later, he was still getting up the white crud from the grout and ended up working till 7, leaving maybe 10 min before we got home.

And that’s the epic saga of the kitchen floor.  There’s still a little staining that wouldn’t come up, but we were getting to the substrate of the tiles, but I’m hoping that over time it will all blend into the patina of the floor.  From far away, though, they look great and are everyone’s favorite part of the kitchen.

In case you were wondering, we went with Granada Tiles in the Toscano pattern in a custom colorway.  Again, Mapei grout, I think pearl gray again, but this time sanded.















Finally, tiling is very messy work. It took three days for the grout to wash off of my hands.




The Saga of the Kitchen Floor, pt 1

I’m just now finally getting around to posting about the kitchen floor.  For the most part, this renovation has gone remarkably smoothly, with very few hiccups, and petty swiftly considering we’re not just throwing a ton of money and contractors at it.  We’re only nine months in and already we’ve taken the downstairs down to the studs and built it back up to the point of living in it again.  We also have a whole new kitchen.  So, while I’m going to be complaining a bit, I realize that we’ve still been pretty lucky.

That said, these tiles were a pain in the a**.  It all started just fine.  Daniel started with me on the job on a Wednesday(? maybe Thursday, I’m forgetting already).  Our first day we spent entirely on planning and measuring and such.  This was especially tricky with the floor because the room itself is not square.  We fudged it a bit with the cabinetry so that the cabinets are square with the opposite wall, but the kitchen, because it was added on five years later, is not square to the great room.  That might not have mattered or been noticeable when there was a wall between the two, but now there’s not.  So, we needed to not only get the lines right in relation to the cabinets and walls, but also make sure that the sight lines were right, because it doesn’t matter if it is objectively square if it looks off because of the lines around it.

Then we decided to tile the wall first, since it would be easier and we could ease me into tiling.  (A funny little note — almost exactly one year before this, I decided to tile the tub/shower of one of the units in Oakland.  After demo and installing HardiBacker, I realized I was in over my head and contacted Dave to help.  He was busy, but referred his friend Dan, who was available.  And that’s how I met Daniel and we spent two great weekends tiling a tiny bathroom in Oakland where he graciously fixed my mistakes without ever making fun of me.  And he taught me how to tile.)  So, back to the wall.  We got all of that up before going into the weekend, and it was totally uneventful.  There was a little shimming of the countertops because the uppers and the lowers weren’t parallel, but that got sorted and we were able to grout and it looks great

In case you’re interested in this type of thing (I know I always am) we used

Daltile 3×6 matte white field tiles. I’m not even sure exactly which one if you look on the website.  It was        the one they had in stock at the Daltile showroom in South San Francisco (where everyone is very         nice, btw).  It’s really basic and totally does the trick.
Mapei Pearl Gray Unsanded grout on 1/8″ grout lines
Omnigrip.  You apply it the same way you do mortar, but it’s so much neater.  I also used it to do some        repairs at Addy’s preschool teacher’s house with the leftovers and it worked great sticking an old tile        towel bar back to the wall.















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