Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Technical Difficulties

Just in case anyone thinks I might have fallen off the face of the earth I wanted to make a quick post: My computer is dying a very noisy and painful sounding death. I can use it for about 10 minutes before the fan starts making an awful racket and I have to shut it off. So for now I'm trying to save what little time it has left on this earth for important things like online bill payment.

On the home improvement front - my mission to Jersey was successful! My super handy youngest son came back to Pittsburgh with me for a week and we made up a deck plan, a materials list, priced it all out and are ready to go as soon as weather permits.

In the meantime he installed some much needed under-cabinet lighting in the kitchen and I hung the TV on the wall in the living room. What a good move that was! It helped immensely with our space issue and I'm now finally satisfied with the furniture layout. If I'd known what a difference it would make I'd have done it months ago.

Hope to be back soon with a new computer (oh, our poor practically non-existent "budget"...) and more updates on the progress we're making on our American Foursquare.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jersey Bound...

American Foursquare will continue to be MIA for a few more days. I hope to return early next week and if everything goes right I'll have a strapping young handy-man in tow. (My youngest son). Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

DIY Copper Vessel Sink

Taking a break from re-arranging furniture and thinking back to a fun project from our last house.

I mentioned before that our last house was new construction and boring. Re-doing the kitchen ate up the lions share of our budget and there was VERY little left over to change the builders grade fake oak and beige laminate vanity in the downstairs powder room. Oh how I hated that tiny featureless room. Oh how I longed for a copper vessel sink...

These photos were taken last year before we moved, but this project was actually completed in 2001. Back in 2001 I couldn't find a copper bowl sink for under $800.00. Definitely NOT in the budget.

So, I made one for about $25.00!

We found two old copper bowls at an auction and managed to snag them both - just in case the first try didn't work. It did - so the bowl itself cost about $17 and I still have the other one (with no hole in it!)

We tore out the original cabinet and replaced it with a small old washstand that I think we picked up at the same auction. It was in terrible condition so I didn't have any qualms about drilling holes in it.

What I did to make this sink was to cut a hole for the drain. You can buy a drill bit for this and probably make it an easy 2 minute job. I cut mine by perforating a circle using an awl and a hammer, snipping it out, then dremeling the edge smooth. About a 1 hour job.

I went with a larger kitchen sink drain assembly because it had more surface area and I thought added stability. (That and the silicone caulk between the bowl and the vanity top.) Plus - it looked kinda cool, imho.

copper bowl sink

Then there was the issue of getting a faucet tall enough to reach. I couldn't afford those either and wasn't up for running plumbing through the wall for a wall mount fixture - which also wasn't in the budget.

I remembered an old oak box I'd been carting around for years that had no particular purpose. Aha! I lucked out - it lifted a standard faucet fixture to just the right height. So, I attached it to the vanity top, drilled some holes, and used flexible plumbing hoses to hook it up.

The chrome and white porcelain faucet wasn't exactly what I wanted and I probably could have spent a few extra bucks for a rubbed bronze, but it was okay and kinda helped tie the white toilet with chrome handle back into the room.

This little "make do" setup turned out to be the most popular feature. My son's girlfriend used to say that it looked like our water was coming out of a box. Everyone who saw it had to "test it" by turning the water on watching with amazement. Our realtors took turns, turning it on and off and laughing like school kids.

The rim of the bowl wasn't thick or rolled - it had a kinda funny little crimped edge. Some glass mosaic tiles from Michael's Crafts finished it off nicely.

The towel hook was free - it's actually a broken candle sconce that I found in the parking lot of a T.J. Maxx.

On a scale of 1 to 10, for anyone with very basic plumbing skills, I'd rate this project about a 4 on a difficulty scale. The most time consuming part of the job was finding the bowls. Putting it together took probably a few hours.


Originally uploaded by gimbler
"Harmony, proportion, or uniformity between the parts of a building and its whole." - oxford university press - architecture and landscaping

It was chilly in Pittsburgh last April. In fact I remember that every day we spent in Pittsburgh from our arrival in late February through till April 20th something fell out of the sky every day. Rain, snow, little pelting pellets of ice... something.

It wasn't until we stepped into our current home for the first time that I realized I'd been sort of holding my breath since our first trek up Sycamore Street (which is really more of a treacherously steep goat path than a road) on the day we arrived.

We'd looked at probably a hundred houses by mid April, but knew in an instant that this was THE ONE. It needed more work than many we'd looked at and our realtor had forewarned us about the fiery HUD hoops, but damnit - for the first time in two months, as I stood in that entryway I felt like I could BREATHE. Not just shallow strained little survival breaths either. I'd never read "Waiting to Exhale" but I finally understood the concept.

When we took all of our measurements and went home to our rental I made little snippets of graph paper furniture to arrange on our graph paper room grid. Hmmmm... This was going to be a challenge.

And it is.

I've come to understand that one of the best features of our house, it's lovely soothing symmetry is also one of the biggest drawbacks when it comes to furnishing.

The wide doorway from the entry to the living room (that I'm measuring in the pic) is centered perfectly with the fireplace on the opposite wall. The front wall (with the radiator cover/bench) has a large bank of three windows - and they line up, again perfectly, with the wide doorway to the dining room, which in turn lines up with the dining room fireplace, flanked with built in cabinets on the back wall. If you're following this you can see what I'm saying right? It's a house of "focal walls" and doorways that can't be obstructed.

Two days ago I bought a set of two small chairs and a matching side table. I thought they were small enough to fit - (hell, they came in one box that I could lift by myself!) - and help with our lack of seating. Ummm... no.

After getting a little worn out shoving furniture around I googled up some online furniture arrangement sites. Value City Furniture has a pretty nice one. Unfortunately all it could really help me to do was confirm the futility of fitting what we have into our space. Maybe it could save someone else out there some grunt work.

Me, I'm not quitter so I think I'm off to play "ring-around-the-rosy" with the actual furniture once again - much to the cats chagrin. Surely there's some super secret creative solution to this puzzle.