Springtree House

Changing the meaning of "homemaker"

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
  • 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.
  • 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.















I should let you know that we are living downstairs now. It’s not all finished, there is still much to do, but it’s livable and we couldn’t stay cramped upstairs anymore. We moved everything in on Christmas Eve and it made for a great present to ourselves and allowed us to open presents in the new space.

The week before, the floors were refinished. They look pretty good. For the most part, they’re fir, so they’re not going to be perfect and even, not to mention they’ve had various materials laying in top if them for 100 years. Chan did a great job of patching the hikes and putting in a strip where the planks meet the threshold to the kitchen. The oak in the den looks fabulous as well. I was a little sad that we lost the painted red stripe by the front door, but you can’t keep everything.

Before (after putting in the new walls and mopping)




I’ll add detail photos tonight, these are just from my phone.

The Kitchen!

This is the one I have been asked about the most. Even my mom and sister haven’t seen pictures. Linda and Jack saw the cabinets without countertops when they were first installed. But now, I’ll show what we have of the kitchen so far.

The fridge still needs to be put in place, the backsplash and floor need to be installed. That won’t happen until January. I just got word the other day that the floor tiles are arriving at the Port of Long Beach next week (yay!) and I still need to choose the backsplash tile — you would not believe how many options there are for matte white subway tiles!

We’re using it now, so it’s already way messier. Once the tiles are in, I’ll clean it really well and do a good final photo shoot.

In the mean time, it’s the pictures you want, so here they are:

The upper cabinets where glass is going to go. Aren’t the curves pretty?







The old sink all cleaned up with new matte black fixtures.




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update the fridge is in place and I got word that the floor tiles are on their way, all 1150 lbs of them!

Also, I’ve decided on a backsplash tile: a basic Daltile matte white 3×6 that’s <$5/sq ft, made in the USA, and in stock. Can't really best that.

The Last Week (for a while)

but don’t worry, it’s not the last post. Last week was the last of having full-time childcare and having Daniel and Dave come work every day. I’m really going to miss it. This last week was a mad rush and there are still bits to tie up, but that last 5% of any project is always the hardest.

We didn’t get off to the best start. Dave emailed Sunday night to say that he messed up his back working over the weekend and wouldn’t be able to come in on Monday and wasn’t sure about Tuesday. We really needed him to bring the biscuit joiner and 9 ft clamps for the countertops and it would have been nice to have an extra set of hands throughout the week, but he was down for the count, so we had to make do.
We got the walls up in the guest room and started on the taping and mudding. I took ownership of that room to see if I learned anything about walls in all the other rooms. By the way, I’m still working on them, but that’s another story. Daniel went to work getting the skim coat on the great room and working out the bumps and irregularities. That pretty much took two days since it’s such a big room. He also got the radius curve for the countertop cut, but we needed to get a belt sander to finish it. Oh, and we got the outlets wired in the kitchen, but I still need to do the great room and guest.
Finally, Dave let us know Wednesday that he would be able to bring the clamps and biscuit joiner in and do the countertop. He also brought a yummy lunch. But then, trying to move the heavy oak countertop around, he tweaked his back again and had to go home. Luckily, I’ve used a biscuit joiner before in making my book case, so I could do that. We got them cut Wednesday afternoon, but then I had to run out early to take Addy to the doctor for her checkup, so we cut the day short and glued it up the next day.
Since we had been short handed earlier in the week, we really needed some help if we had any hope of being anywhere near a closing point by Friday. So, Daniel roped Ryan (remember him from the last post?) in to working with us the last two days. He took over finishing the walls in the great room, which consisted of a ton of sanding and wiping the whole thing down to get the dust off and then priming and painting. And yes, that took two days. It’s a big room. That freed up Daniel to mount the hood in the kitchen, hook the stove up to gas, plumb the sink, get the dishwasher hooked up, and I’m sure there was more. Thursday morning, we also glued up the countertops, which was a trial in itself. We almost lost them when we moved them from the floor back to the cabinets and had to do a little regluing, but it all worked out in the end. Especially after Daniel sanded out the bow.
Even with the extra help from Ryan, we were painting when I picked the kids up from the sitter at 5:00 and were still cleaning up when Tuck got home around 6:30. Gus was so interested in the plumbing that he climbed into Daniel’s lap to see what he was doing. Addy also had fun playing around while we cleaned.
Even with all that, Daniel still had to come back for a few hours the next week to tie up loose ends. Dickie came over Tuesday to connect the stove to the outlet and the HVAC guys came Wednesday to vent the hood. So, the kitchen is actually functional! And that’s my next post. But right now, I’ll show some pictures of the great room and what we did that week.

The walls got taped (one might say, “expressively”) in the guest bedroom



The great room getting more coats.




Daniel figuring out the radius curve






After it was primed and painted, I mopped the floor



and hung curtains.




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