Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Very Last Kitchen Makeover - Part Two: Testing

I wasn't kidding myself. I knew this was a tremendous undertaking, being undertook by a crazy woman with little to no free time and a 1-year-old, stage 5 clinger on her hip at every waking moment. The only way I thought I had hope of completing this in the calendar year would be with very careful planning, and that meant minimizing potential for nasty surprises. So before the official official kickoff, I would spend time testing all of my ideas to find out the best way to pull this off.

First, the paint. Before I decided on General Finishes Milk Paint, I was actually planning to use Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, mostly because people seem to go gaga bananas for it. But I ruled it out for two reasons:
1. They only offer one shade of gray and it's too pale for this project.  Custom mixing is an option but you basically have to do it all at once and if you go back for seconds you can't guarantee the same results. And I've learned I am terrible at estimating how much paint I'll need. 
2. The stores that sell it, or "stockists" (eye roll), are inconveniently dotted around the city and I don't have the time or inclination to spend a half day picking it up.

The milk paint line, on the other hand, had three choices for Gray.

You'd think I'd want more options but sometimes limitations can be freeing. Driftwood it is.

And it can be ordered on my beloved Amazon Prime. So, suck it, local businesses.

Testing out the paint, I brushed a little of it onto the inside of a cabinet door. It was basically the shade of gray I'd been picturing for this.
The paint splotch dried within minutes, and didn't scratch or smudge. And there were no noticeable brush strokes. So far, it seemed to be living up to its reputation. Although if it wasn't I probably would've stuck with it anyway because it was $22 just for this first tester pint. That's the part I may have neglected to mention. This paint is expensive as hell.

Because of the price tag and the plenitude of surfaces I had to cover, I thought it might be smart to opt for a lesser paint for the inside of the cabinets. 

Then I had the brilliant idea to buy spray paint to do this part of the job. With all those hard to reach angles, up high, down low, in deep dark corners of the cabinets, perhaps this would be a way to simplify. I picked up a can of the closest spray paint color I could find, and tried it out on one of the shelves.

As I sprayed into the cabinet, my head was instantly enveloped in a visible cloud, my throat started burning and I felt sick. I'm not sure why I thought blasting paint into an enclosed space was going to result in any other outcome, but suffice to say this was not going to be a workable plan. See why I wanted a testing phase?

Back at Home Depot the next day, I picked up a gallon of flat latex paint, custom color mixed to my Driftwood milk paint.
For those of you who don't know, you can bring basically anything-- a fabric, some object -- to the paint counter and they'll zap it with lasers, take a reading, and use it to make a color match. In my case, I blobbed some of the milk paint onto a paper plate and used that.

Testing it out at home, it revealed itself to be a perfect match. I was back on track.

Next up, I had to find the best way to clean these bad boys. They were covered in spots, spills and sludge. And it was important to get them as clean as possible because deeply embedded grease can slowly rise to the surface over time, staining nice new paint.

Pinterest provided a bevy of suggestions and recipes for the best cleaning solution. Many contained the usual suspects: baking soda, dish soap, vinegar. New to the mix was 20 Mule Team Borax which has an amazing name that sounds like it is going to clean through sheer determination.

I tried out many different combinations. Baking soda didn't seem to do anything. Dish soap was a pain to rinse off. Vinegar smelled, of course, but wasn't making a noticeable dent in the solid grime. The Borax was really gritty, which was great for scrubbing, but then the grit wouldn't go away. I'd rinse an area clean, then glance back at it only to find it repopulated with more little grits. After ONE FULL HOUR I'd managed to clean 2 shelves. These home cooked recipes were adorable Pinterest fodder, but they weren't going to cut it.

Bring in the toxic chemicals!

Introducing Trisodium Phosphate, or TSP.  I'd never used this before but the warnings on the packaging were intense.

Testing it out on the cabinets, I was expecting it to fizz or emit orange smoke or something satisfying like that. It did no such thing, but it did clean things up significantly in minutes, proving that it's not about the product with the best name. It's about the product that is so badass its name is just a chemical compound.

Now all I had to do was empty out all of the cabinets, spread their contents all over the entire house, inconvenience everyone indefinitely, and get to cleaning!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Very Last Kitchen Makeover- Part One: Research and Development

It began like many an overly ambitious DIY misadventure, with a trip and fall down a Pinterest rabbit hole. Back in January, I was attempting to pin my way out of the ModLodge wallpaper fiasco and before I knew what was happening, I was creating a "Kitchen" board and filling it with terrible ideas like "How to pour concrete countertops over existing tile." I mean... Could you even imagine?

Thankfully I could only wander so far because back in the real world, I had a living room to put back together. But without a doubt, there was a little spark, a precocious little voice saying, "Well, maybe, just maybe..."

The last work I'd done on the kitchen involved wallpaper removal and a fresh coat of paint on the woebegone walls and ceiling. Nothing revolutionary, but it went a long way. Or, as long of a way as I thought possible without calling in the contractors and tapping into the hefty nest egg we've set aside for home renovations and which doesn't exist.

Also,  I didn't hate the kitchen. Sure it had gross old cabinets, but as I've said before, so has practically every place I've ever lived, so I'd be lost without them. The countertop tiles wouldn't be my pick, but at least they were a pleasant shade of blue.

It may not have been the E.T kitchen of my dreams, but it was, I don't know... Home Alone? I could live with that. 

Then a funny thing happened. Our fridge died suddenly one day. The next day, so did our dishwasher. I was glad to see them go, happy to see them replaced by gleaming, silent, energy efficient, spacious, not-all-weird-smelling new ones. They were glorious. And wedged between the ancient artifacts we called cabinets, they looked tragically out of place.

Aaaaand now I hated the kitchen.

But what was I supposed to do? Since Pinterest got me into this mess, I returned to see if it could get me out of it. I set about free form pinning until a pattern emerged.

Gray cabinets.

Ok. Yes. I could do this. Painting cabinets wasn't new to me. It's time consuming, but the results are dramatic and (unless everything goes wrong) very satisfying.

I wanted to make sure this particular paint job would be durable, so I combed Pinterest, taking in every opinion and tutorial until I found one blog post by Designer Trapped In A Lawyer's Body that just made sense to me. You can read the full post here, but to summarize, this blogger painted her kitchen cabinets using Milk Paint from General Finishes.

I had never heard of Milk Paint and didn't know what makes it different from regular latex paint (I still don't, to be honest) nor had I heard of General Finishes, but I liked their branding. Or lackthereof. It was industrial, professional grade, no frills. As if their slogan would be "We make paint." If I'm being smart, that probably is their branding, to appeal to dumbies like me who think using a serious paint with an eagle on it is going to somehow reduce the likelihood of making silly mistakes. The realistic advantage of using this type of paint is that you don't need to sand or prime, it dries exponentially faster than latex paint, shows virtually no brush strokes, and is very resilient. Sure. Sold.

With the paint plan in place, I came back to the tougher question to answer. What was I going to do about these counters?
 If spending money wasn't an option, and it truly, almost hilariously wasn't, this left me with 3 ways out.

1. Some kind of cheap replacement like Ikea butcher block countertops. I found a few DIY bloggers who'd successfully installed these on their own, but it seemed like an awfully high risk undertaking. It was unlikely I'd be able to remove the existing counters without destroying the cabinet frames underneath. And even if I did, the idea of cutting out holes for the sink and faucet made me feel like I was going to pass out.
2. Learn to love the tiles as they were. But where's the fun in that?
3. Paint the tiles.

People say mixed things about painting tiles, so to try to learn more I poked around on YouTube, finding tutorials made almost exclusively by Australians (what's going on with the tiles down under?) and pinned a couple of blog posts about it. But I was still hesitant, until DIY Dave sent me a link to tile painting from This Old House. "Fine," I thought, "if This Old House would do it, then it must be legit." 

So there you have it. Painting and lots of it. A game plan for what would be the last makeover this kitchen would ever, could ever, receive. I knew it would be a lot of work. But I had no idea just how much until I was in too deep.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Lost and Found

A new project is underway in the kitchen and boy is it a doozy! Plenty of coverage will be coming your way, but in the meantime I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some life changing wisdom: if you lose an object, don't worry because it'll turn up.

You've probably heard this on many occasions, offered by some well-meaning person in close proximity to you while you tear apart your house, car, or purse, practically foaming at the mouth as you look for whatever's slipped into that weird dimension where things go when they're missing. You'll hear that useless combination of words, "don't worry, it'll turn up," and answer with the only polite response there is: "Yeah, I know." But what you really mean is, "Shut up and help me!"

Because from the outside, you look like you just need to chill out, while inside you're struggling with the unfairness of it all. "It was right here a minute ago. Right fucking here. And now it's just gone!"

And while the other members of your search party will offer their time, energy, and helpful suggestions, you will resent them because you know there's no way they care about the misplaced object as much as you do.

You will say things like:

"Did you move it? Because I deliberately put it here so it didn't get lost and now it's gone and I didn't move it."

"Someone must've stolen it."

"Maybe it got thrown in the trash." (Always it comes to this, but when has this ever been the answer?)

And, when it comes to missing remote controls, "Stand up. You're probably sitting on it."

In short, when you lose something, you become this and you know it.

If you haven't caught on yet, I'm writing "you" while meaning "me." But also, you. We're in this together. So why am I attempting to placate you by telling you that in times like these you only need remember that things always turn up? Because lately I've discovered that it's completely, almost miraculously true.

These days, I've had a lot of practice misplacing things. Daily. Hourly. Everything. Always. I'm typically doing three things at once, while mentally preoccupied with a fourth or fifth task. But no one thing is being done well, least of all, holding onto something I've picked up. I set things down everywhere without realizing it. Or sometimes I put things in special places where they won't get lost but fail to note the location of that special place. And then there's the general messiness that surrounds me.

So when I'm rushing around, usually in the mornings before work, I will inevitably reach the point where I can't find my keys, my glasses, or one or both of Oscar's sneakers. I get riled up, grumpy, quicken my pace as I stomp through the house looking in all of the usual spots. Then I'll get distracted by some other pressing matter, put my search on hold to attend to it for a moment, and POOF the sneaker materializes on the arm of the chair. Like magic. I'll pick up Milo's lunch box and POOF my keys are underneath. I'll decide to put in my contacts instead of wearing my glasses, and POOF, the glasses show up in the bathroom drawer that I open to grab contacts.

The more I took note of this phenomenon, I started putting it to work, consciously telling myself the one thing that no one wants to hear when they are looking for a lost item, "Don't worry. It will turn up." And then always, it would. Often within minutes. Though sometimes it takes a little bit longer.

Months ago I somehow lost one earring from one of my favorite pairs. I loved them because they were the sort of pair you could combine with any old outfit to make a statement. That statement being something like, "See? I tried." And the only thing worse than having one of the earrings go missing is that I had no idea when or how the pair had been separated.  One morning, I could only find one in the bathroom drawer where I often threw them. I took everything out of that drawer and looked around. I went into the bedroom and searched on the dresser where I'm supposed to keep all of my jewelry and it didn't turn up there either. I felt myself getting riled up, but instead I told myself it will turn up.

But it didn't. A few weeks went by and I looked around in the usual places once again, this time also checking purse pockets and my underwear drawer, in case it had somehow fallen in there. More time passed. Then on Monday morning, I opened the drawer to my nightstand to see if I had any thank you cards left from an old box of stationary. As luck would have it, I had one card left, and stuck to that card... my missing earring. I literally said out loud, "My earring!"

And that did it for me, confirming what I'd come to believe is a law of physics, or nature or Murphy or whatever you want to call it. You don't find things, things find you. With all you have on your plate, with all of the lifehacks on your Pinterest that you'll never put to practice, with the Holidays approaching and ready to compromise your sanity, here's one simple thing you can do. Stop looking. I'm telling you this now because you need to hear it. And if I tried to tell you while you were looking for your iPhone you'd probably bite my head off.