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IBB Myth Busters Edition

23 May

I finished off the floors a few weeks ago and I ‘m happy with the way that the project turned out. During the process I was pleasantly surprised to find out a few of the things I thought were not true.

Myth one: Its expensive
It was really not that expensive and not as difficult as I thought it might be. The biggest expense in the whole project were the sanding pads and the polyurethane. I think I spent $400 total.

Myth Two: Its labor intensive:
I rented an orbital floor sander from Lowe’s and was able to do all four rooms and the hallway in one day. Most of the time I was just standing around holding the sander. As for the staining and poly. It was even easier.

Myth Three: Its dusty:
True, there was dust; but not nearly as much as I thought there would be. The sander really helped out a lot in this regard as it had a built in vacuum which sucked almost everything up. Including every elusive pine needle form the Christmas Trees of the last 75 years. 

Myth Four: Its stinky:
Ok, that one is true.

While doing the sanding I came to the conclusion that this is the first time my floors have ever been refinished. The boards were extremely uneven. It took a while to get every part of each board sanded down when some boards were lower than others. The floorboards are narrow and very thin, almost like yardsticks, and they are face nailed down to the subfloor.  I don’t think the floors were ever sanded down as a whole together. If they were there would be no way that they could have been so irregular. Is it possible that these were prefinished and then installed?

Once the finish was all off and I used all three grits of sandpaper, I stained the floors with a 50/50 mix of English Chestnut and Provincial stains. I did this because I wanted to go darker and I though that this mix looked best with the Gumwood baseboards. Speaking of the baseboards I also sanded the toe kick (because they were really beat up) on all of them and then applied a mix of Gunstock with a touch of Chestnut which matched the color of the rest of the Gumwood right on. 

Finally, I used three coats of water based poly to protect the floors. I suppose oil might have been better but the water based dries much faster and frankly, I needed my house back.





PS. Guess who’s getting a new driveway today?

Mantle Completion

2 Mar

Fireplace After

I finished off the mantle recently and I am going to be getting help hooking up the gas line tomorrow. As you can see, adding the trim to the plywood base did a great deal in dressing it up. Additionally, spray-painting the brass louvers helps the insert to look more authentic. I had a hard time getting the stain color just right, it’s a little bit darker than I would have liked but I think it is close enough. In order to get this color I had to make a mixture of stains to get the color close. I;m not really sure that I could have ever matched it perfectly anyways, since the trim is Gumwood and the mantle is a combination of Oak and clear Pine. So the closest stain combination wound up to be 3 parts Gunstock- a reddish stain to 1 part Walnut – a dark stain. I then shellacked it instead of using polyurethane in order to match the existing woodwork. I’ve also determined I prefer shellac as it protects the wood and gives it a slight sheen but keeps it from looking like it has been dipped in plastic. 

Once it was all done, the only realistic option for the television set was over the top so… hesitantly I obliged. Once it was up, I still thought it looked stupid, so I built a simple frame from some old bed rails, stained it with the walnut Minwax and used it to help the TV fall away from view a bit. I must say that I am much happier with it having the frame around it. My only complaint being that the TV sticks out from the wall about four inches. I measured carefully and it leaves about a 1/4 reveal around the screen and is sure to leave the speakers exposed. I then added two eyes to the back and used picture wire to hang it over the wall mount. There are also two small wood blocks that rest on the top of the to to keep it secure. Once hung, I put all my crap back on the mantle and hid the cords. Under the red book laying on its side is a tiny little DVD player/Internet Streaming device which I have been using after I cancelled cable last month (and  I am having no regrets, except Downton Abby is not on Hulu Plus and I’m never home when it airs on PBS).

Moving forward… the new mantle is much deeper, and the afore mentioned crap I used before is not working as well so I’m going to be looking for other crap to take its place and in the longer run I might also look for a slimmer TV with a built in DVD player and streaming device but for now I’m happy. I’m also very excited not to have to sit in the living room and feel chilly anymore.

Gel Fireplace

11 Feb

The last time I posted about this issue. People mentioned the lack of a real flame being a major drawback to the electric fireplace models. I have to say I agree, as a result I kept searching Craigslist for a deal on a gas insert. While I do think that I will eventually find something, I wanted to gather some opinions on another option. While perusing the vast and boundless interwebs I happened to come across these gel fireplace inserts. They provide both a real flame in addition to a reasonable amount of heat.


Real Flame Ashley Gel Fireplace

Impressive right?

You can buy the entire operation for about $500.00 and they have a plethora of options to choose from in terms of mantle styles and finishes. But, If you know me well enough, by now, you’d know that I’d think that was too easy and still too expensive. You’d also know that the options they have are not Craftsman enough for me. So wait until you see this:



These are intended to be used in existing fireplaces and this one retails for around $180.00. With one of these I could modify my existing mantle to include a fire box with a top, sides and bottom made from a noncombustible material such as patio pavers or tile. I’d also add a tile hearth and screen for added protection and to complete a seamless illusion.

The flame burns from a small can of odorless alcohol gel fuel which is supposed to be environmentally friendly and clean burning. The cans are a little pricy, running about three dollars each. They claim to last about 3 hours each and you can use between one and two at a time. Each can of fuel burns at nearly 3,000 BTUs. So, if you burned two for three hours you’d gain 6,000 BTUs (comparable to many small space heaters) an hour for three hours setting you back about six dollars. looking at the reviews on Amazon it was very evident that people love these things. Many have five star reviews drawn from hundreds of commenters. The product is billed as being incredibly safe in terms of both fire safety and emissions.

If six dollars is too much, there are all kinds of videos on YouTube which outline simple ways to make your own gel at home inexpensively from isopropyl alcohol, vinegar and chalk dust or even hand sanitizer.

So now I leave my question to you. Should I persue the gas insert for the ease and convenience of instant on demand heat and flame? Or, do I look further into a gel fuel option for time to time ambiance and marginal heat benefits on chilly evenings or with company?

Fireplace Updates

4 Feb

In order to do my due diligence, I stopped by the fireplace store in my neighborhood and they gave me a lot of great information about gas inserts. I learned that the whole operation is really quite simple and could be done without hiring help. I also learned that they are expensive. For the basic model it was going to cost me around $1,400, add to that about $700 for a grill for the front, plus a $200.00 vent. All said and done, we are talking about two grand. While that’s certainly not extremely expensive, there are a lot of other places where two thousand dollars is more desperately needed at the bungalow (like the driveway).

They also had the same electric fireplace insert that was used in  the guest house at A Country Farmhouse on display; and I must say, it really doesn’t look too bad in action.

Next stop… Craigslist!

There is hope. I did find quite a few used options that were less than $500.00 however, there was an awful lot of ’90s bass on them. Granted, I think I could paint away any brass with the high heat spray paint,(like has been done here) but I was less than enthused about the style of the listings. But, I think with any Craigslist endeavor time and persistence will pay off. So for right now I’ll be putting the fireplace on the back burner until I find an appropriate option.

I am however inquiring about this one. Its not perfect but… It might just work.


Its honestly one of the better Craigslist options I have seen and if I can negotiate a little on the price it might be able to be jazzed up a little with nice mantle and some tile.

Speaking of tile…

Since this puppy is being built into the house I think its important to try to be as authentic as possible and I would like to use a little bit of Arts & Crafts style Art Tile like these from Duquella Tile & Clayworks to put into the surround. I must admit even though I like the Arts & Crafts style, I am not very much of an earth tones kinda guy. I like these because they subject matter seems very Arts & Crafts but the colors are not so dreary.



pine conesflower

As I research, I am also learning about something I believe is called Field Tile. It is usually green and has an uneven, but natural looking glaze. You can see an example of it here. I really the color and the subway tilesque used pattern in this application. That firebox also looks very similar to the one I enquired about on Craigslist.

field tile

Hopefully I hear back from the seller with some favorable news. In the meantime just keep you fingers crossed!

Living/Dining Daydreams

14 Aug

I’m having a rough time working out the details in between the living room and dining room. Adding the wallpaper is going to be a major change and I don’t want to start a domino effect of issues. I’ve decided to try my hand at making a mood board to see how things fit together before I start anything.

mood board

As of late, I’ve just got the impression that the blue walls are too “loud”. I’ve said before I’d like it to be more subtle, but on the other hand I don’t want everything to be beige either. With that in mind I’ve picked a deep color called Suede Gray for the walls in the living room and above the paper in the dinning room. Then I think I’ll add the batten paneling behind the mantle in the living room to the same height as the picture rail in the dining room or full length, I haven’t decided yet. I’ll paint that a lighter, creamy beige to keep the room from looking like a cave, and no – I’m not painting the woodwork (even though I think it would look best if it were).

I’ll also swap out the living room rug for something that will be better friends with the dining room paper and change the light fixture in the dining room to something like I have pictured (not that one, its way to expensive). Those chairs are very nice but are too dainty for the table and are frankly, not a possibility at their price point anyway. For the dining room walls I’d like to bring back the ironstone for the wall but I’m going to have to start collecting more pieces to fill it out properly. Or… If I were more daring I might  like to use a Jasper Johns print like this one from just to shake it up.  

Whatever the case may be, I guess I have my work cut out for me once I get started later this fall. If any one wants to help, I’d be willing to take folks happy to be paid in pizza and Sierra Mist.

Summertime Shake Up

8 Aug

I know that I’ve mentioned that I’ve never been 100% thrilled with the color of the living room and dinning room. I like the idea of the blue but the look is just not quite as fresh as I’d like to feel. Over the past few months I’ve been toying with the idea of repainting it and using a more subtle color palate and the use of pattern or texture. There were thoughts about wallpaper, thoughts about grass cloth, thoughts about adding a wainscoting, but these were all big expensive commitments.

It wasn’t untill a few nights ago, catching up on some Downton Abby that I saw exactly what I wanted to do in Lady Sybil’s bedroom. (Which is also loved by the blogger over at The Handmade Home)

I really, really like the wallpaper. Don’t worry – I’m not going to be using it in those colors but I do really like the pattern, I’ve also decided that I can achieve the same effect using a wall stencil rather than a pricey wallpaper.

Next stop – Etsy.

I came up with a few options for the walls but settled on this design. Its clearly not the same as the print in the paper in Downton Abby but I think it’ll still be a great choice. I ordered the stencil yesterday and it only came out to about 20 dollars which is much, much less expensive than wallpaper would have been.

I’m going to be starting off in the dinning room placing the stencil underneath the picture rail and the moving to the living room and then creating the pattern only on the wall the television set its on. (Thats where the big red Xs are in the picture.)

As far as colors I’d like to do something along the lines of what was done here at House of 50.

Wish me luck!

Late Night Rearrange

14 Feb

Like I said before, I wasn’t thrilled with the placement of the pictures in the dinning room post two-tone paint. If you know me personally, you’d also know that I have the patience of a young child. So off to work I went.

I’m still feeling like I have a work in progress. I’ve spent quite a bit of time standing in front of these walls trying to decide if the placement is correct, if I painted the bottom half of the walls too dark, if I should have followed closer to Emily’s example and nixed the molding and even if I really like the prints of not.

So here’s what I’ve got:


The prints on the left were there all along I just moved them down. Then I removed the paint by numbers and added two more photos on the left and then I finally think I found a home for this antique clock I’ve had for awhile. All the pictures came from a coffee table book I found at Big Lots. It was called something like “Life Magazine’s 50 best Photos”. Whatever the title was it only cost about 8 dollars and I think I sure did get a good bang for my buck.

On the other wall I am less happy. Here’s what we’ve got:


The sailboat travel poster I had in the hallway and I moved it here because I wanted something to puncture that molding in order to keep your eye from stopping before reaching the ceiling. I also thought the colors worked very well with the walls and helped to bridge the two shades. However, it left me with a funky space to the left. So I added those two pictures there, one on top of the other with a wide white matting in order to balance out the heft of the sailboat print. But, I’m just fellin’ a little blah about them together.They are both family pictures, here are close ups:


This one here is of my great grandparents on my mother’s side, Ruth and George Thomson. When I came across this picture I just thought it was a real gem. I doubt they were even married yet when this picture was taken in 1926. Great Grandma Thomson must have been a real rebel wearing pants in those days. The little house in the background also reminds me of Ittybittybungalow.



And here’s another young couple. Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Carnevale on their honeymoon in Niagara Falls. That’s quite a hat if you ask me.


Turns out this has been an oddly appropriate post for Valentine’s Day.


Local Ideas

12 Feb

This week I was really excited to see a fellow Rochestarian featured as a House Tour on Apartment Therapy  (a secret dream of mine). Emily Winters also has her own blog called Merrypad  where you can see that she has done a lot of really great things at her place, but the thing that really stood out to me was the two tone walls that she painted in her living room which you can see here via the Apartment Therapy House Tour:


Taking a cue from Emily and her walls I decided to try this out in my own place. The only thing I wanted to do a bit differently was to add a molding ledge at the point where the colors would change at a plate rail height. The room is small so it only took four 8 foot lengths and they only cost about 5 dollars each. I had a much easier time mitering these corners than I had with the crown molding in the bathroom, in case you were wondering. Once I had the pieces cut I stained them with a mixture of Gunstock and Chestnut wood stain at a four two one ratio respectively  in order match the exiting trim. I knew I wanted to keep the original color (BM Nantucket Fog) on the top in order to keep it tied in with the living room, so I chose a color only a few shades darker for the base (Behr Stormy Blue) . Once I nailed the trim up I then painted the bottom and this is what I have now.I took these pictures at night so they happen to be a little dark (Maybe  someday Apartment Therapy will make a return trip to the ROC and take some superstar shots of Ittybittybungalow). 

I can see that the plates need to be adjusted but I can make quick work of that



These pictures also need to be moved down a little bit but that’s not a big deal.


Here is the before picture:


Thanks Emily for the local inspiration!

Take off your skirt.

8 Jan

Alright so, I tried out that rocking chair that  I re-did last week  and in comparison with the rest of the furniture it looked tiny. So I started to look online for an accent chair.  Anything I liked was going to run me around 300 dollars and I couldn’t find anything that I was really in love with. So I happened to stop by a thrift store that I hadn’t shopped at in a while and I came across this chair:


I was pretty excited because it looked a lot like many of the chairs that I had been looking at online. Clean lines, tufted back, and  mid centruy-esque. It was very study had no major signs of wear and had no spots of or stains (that dark spot is a wet spot from some melting snow outside when I unloaded it) I spoke to the clerk and was able to get it for a song- $14.95. I threw it in the car and brought it home. There was only problem- the skirt had to go. Twenty minutes later, we have a winner!

I love it when things are cheaper and easier then you ever thought.

PS. There is a matching one left. – Won’t reveal my source here but if anybody is interested I’d be happy to share the location in private.


New Year, New Chair

2 Jan
















I found this great Mission style rocker on Craigslist this week and wanted to use it to break up my matchy-matchy living room couch, loveseat and club chair set. So I did an ol’ fashioned make over on it this morning. Lightly sanding it and adding a new stain made  a huge difference. Afterwards, I added a new pad (I can not believe how expensive foam is) and recovered the pad with a Dwell Studio upholstery fabric in cream with a slight pattern to it. I really liked the juxtaposition of the old style of the chair and the modern material. A few hours worth of work and this is what I wound up with:


I am pretty happy with how it turned out but, I had a hard time with the upholstery tacks. I’m wondering if anyone has any suggestions as to how to get them to go in straight. They were all lined up but when I would go to pound them into the chair they would bend and then the head would land cockeyed on the material causing them not to line up well. You can really see that here:


As soon as the Christmas Tree comes down I think this chair will look right at home.