Sunday, March 29, 2009

Soapstone vs. Granite

Last week I started to price out the counter materials for the kitchen once more. I must have already done this about 400 times, but I just wanted to get some more options. Having almost settled on black granite I started to wonder about soapstone. I mean, look at these pictures of Brooklyn Limestone's kitchen:


Calling around for pricing was a little discouraging as the first places I called did not sell to homeowner's, just suppliers. I finally got an answer of $80/square foot from Grantops in Fredricksburg, MD. The bad news there is that is was for a green soapstone and that's not really what I want.

Compared to the quote of $45 for absolute black granite (this included measuring and installing), the soapstone was coming in at about double the cost. The good news is that I budgeted a lot for counters. I don't know what I was thinking, but I budgeted for $100/square foot. Maybe I just thought I had more space?

I guess we'll have to see what other parts of the kitchen go over budget before we can see if the soapstone is in our future.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies

Here is my e-mail correspondence with the IKEA contractor regarding the cabinet height:


Thank you for taking the time to help me with my kitchen layout yesterday. We discussed my idea of having an open shelf at 54" and then a 39" cabinet 10-12 inches above that. I know you mentioned this wasn't "code" but I figure it would be like if I did open shelving in the whole kitchen. I am just doing it for the first part. Either way, I have attached the picture of the kitchen I am using as inspiration as an example, as well as a picture of my current kitchen. Do you think this is possible? Thanks

His reply:

It would be up to you as far as the height of the cabinets to be placed at, but if a licensed contractor did the install like I was saying there is a code height for the install, but if you all do it, it will be what you want it to be. In looking at the picture- the picture is a display picture for a few different reasons, but the most important thing that I see and please do not do it, the shelf above the stove not only is it a code problem but it does not let the range hood do the job that it was designed to do and that is for grease,heat, and steam, and the two lights that go with the unit is not funtional, due to the stove. but over all good luck with the kitchen install.

This guy is obsessed with "code".

The truth and nothing but the truth

Thank you to all who suggested I contact a local inspector. I did just that. Here is our e-mail exchange:

My original e-mail:

I would like to do this in my kitchen: The "open shelf" is mounted at the standard height with a cabinet about that. Essentially, the open shelf serves at the "first shelf" in the kitchen and the rest are enclosed. Recently a contractor informed me this would not be "code", and the cabinets have to be mounted at 54" from the ground. My argument is the open shelf will be at the 54" line and thus is still within "regulation". It would be as if I choose to put all open shelving in my kitchen - just the top shelves have doors. Can you help?

The glorious reply I got was this:

When you say “contractor,” you mean the ikea kitchen designer, I’m not sure where they got that information. There is a requirement above ranges because of the potential for fire due to the heat generated, but not in any other cabinet space. Some municipalities may have a requirement because of issues specific to their jurisdiction, but DC is not one of them. I asked around last night and there isn’t a requirement by the IRC or ICC because I had never heard of this before. I suspect that maybe their design software doesn’t have the option for a shelf.

The level of joy I got from reading this was probably not normal.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My Experience with IKEA Cabinets: Part II

Open the IKEA Kitchen Catalog.

Go to page 52. . .

Interesting. Isn't it?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Experience with IKEA Cabinets: Part I

A while back, I talked some smack about IKEA cabinets. The first time (about a year ago) I checked out the kitchens in IKEA they seemed pretty flimsy and . . . yucky. I just hated everything about them. I also have an extreme love - hate relationship with Ikea. Somethings are really diamonds in the rough and others are just crap.

After looking at all the models, I picked out a style I liked and headed to the design section to see if I could take a closer look. The place was mobbed and I barely got to grab a price sheet before someone toting a big yellow IKEA bag knocked me out of the way to get to a drawer pull display. It was a fight or flight situation and I choose flight.

Back at home, I re-measured the kitchen space and began planning out a design. I soon learned IKEA cabinets do not have all the sizes that say Kraftsmaid does and it gets a little more difficult to plan out a space. After a few days of playing with different styles, I headed down to the store.

This time, I was smarter. I did not go on a Saturday afternoon and instead choose a time during the week to head down there. This made a HUGE difference. About a minute after stepping into the kitchen design section, I was greeted by an IKEA kitchen contractor and set up on a computer to start my design. A few questions about the dimensions of my kitchen and I was clicking and placing cabinets into my design.

Then this happened:

I explained how the plan was to set an open shelf the standard cabinet height (54" above the ground) and then start the closed cabinets about that to go to the ceiling.

Contractor: You can't do that. The cabinets would be too high.

Me: Well, see the open shelf would be like the base of the wall cabinet - just no door.

Contractor: It's too high. It wouldn't meet code.

Me: Well... but, see, it's like the shelf would be like the wall cabinets. But, but. . .

Contractor: No licensed contractor would do that. It's not code.

Me: So, what? I would get a fine or something?

Contractor: Yes. It wouldn't pass inspection.

Me: AugjakjhGAKJYkjhkngknnf. Fine. You win.

to be continued. . .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Too much?

Do you think these drawer pulls are too much? I don't want them to overwhelm the space . . .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Only reason why the bad economy is good

Everyday the news, the stocks, our moms, and the guy at the metro stop tells us how terrible the economy is. Yes, it sucks. You could name one thousand and one reasons why it is so awful and how much it has impacted not only the United States, but the world. The economic wrath is not messing around.

I am here to give you the silver lining. The one thing in this garbage dump of a situation that makes is a little easier to handle. Best. Excuse. Ever.

Let me give you some examples:

DC police department calls your house for the four hundredth time asking about a donation. Your reply: I'm sorry, due to the economy we are not donating this year.

Contracts who have given you bids calls to check on your decision. Your reply: I'm sorry, due to the economy we are holding off on that project.

Someone comes to door to get you to buy (magazines, candy, whatever...). You say: Not this year (and then you give them the look that says: Bad economy ya know?).

The point. There is no comeback. There is no debating with this. What are they going to say? It is the end of the line with that reply.

The bad part is that it's true. But fending off solicitors with a few words to which there are no sales pitch rebuttal makes it all a little better.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm making some progress

The kitchen is becoming the bane of my existence. While I love picking things out - it is certainly a little stressful. You want to make the right choice. The best decision for you and for your house. I have decided on the following so far:


Counter (black granite):

Backsplash (still not sure about the grout color. Any ideas?):

Two of these for the other wall in the kitchen:


Door hardware:

Window treatments:

It's a mix of colors and textures. Oil rubbed bronze and polished nickel combined to make the kitchen more uniform with the house (which has all oil rubbed bronze lighting). At first I wanted to do all chrome in the kitchen, but recently realized that would just look odd. I still wanted the nickel hardware and faucet and I think it will look great once it's all together.

How to test if your neighborhood is safe

**Do not try this. EVER. **

I like my neighborhood. I like it more and more all the time. When we first moved in (in 2006 -we rented the house for a year before the owner decided to sell it), I was too focused on the glory of having a yard and a door that went directly to the outside that I didn't notice the neighborhood imperfections right away.

Soon, I noticed there was some problems with the house two doors down. I claimed for months and months to Dan that is was a "crack house". He called me crazy. He blamed it on my obsession with The Wire and left it at that. Then, our mail was stolen. Many times. During the day. Paychecks were taken. Again, I blamed it on the "crack house".

The cops started showing up at the house. Again, Dan denied the "crack house" was an actual crack house. Then cops came to our house by mistake. This all got annoying. A broken down looking van started showing up on the street. I claimed it was surveillance, Dan claimed it was just a regular van.

I heard a car drive up to the "crack house" and say to the tenant "where's my re-up?". Yeah, I watch The Wire. I know what a freakin' re-up is. Dan assumed I was making it up. I mean, I admit to getting a little too excited about it. Not in a good one, but in a curious way.

One day, we came home and noticed there was an entire house worth of furniture and house goods left on the sidewalk. After calling 311 to let them know the 411 I ran into my neighbor who knew the owner of the house and asked him what the deal was. He was all "Oh, the tenants were squatting for months. A few weeks ago the cops did a big drug raid and busted a lot of the people. The owner was finally able to kick them out." Ha!!!!

Surveillance van? Perhaps. Crack house? Definitely.

Now that the house has new tenants there have been no problems in the neighborhood and all is well and good. They moved out a year ago and we have seen a big difference. It just feels safer and all around a better place to live.

Fast-forward to this morning. I walk out the car and notice that Dan not only left the trunk of the car wide open since yesterday afternoon, but the car was also unlocked. Ummm. . . not good. However, nothing was missing and it looked like it had gone unnoticed. Thankfully it was in our parking spot and not on the street.

Not the best way to test the safety of your surroundings, but I was pleased it worked out OK.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hoping for spring . . .

Earlier this week it was about 65 degrees so I opened the back door to let the warm air in. As usual, Dylan was the first one there. I have to say, this picture is pretty slimming compared to some of the others I took.

Today, it snowed.


one of these things is not like the other

At the end of the deck staircase, I spotted an unusual site. A tulip growing among the grass. I suppose this is the result of using the old planter soil to level out the yard.

I think I'll try and pot my new friend and bring her inside!

The pain is over. . . sort of

My splinter was squeezed out eventually and now typing with a non-painful, yet bandaged, finger is less of an annoyance.

The pain continues with the constant struggle for kitchen design. I pulled out my Lowe's quote and checked the date . . . February 23, 2008. Oh sweet Jesus let this be over soon. I have been thinking about cabinets for over a year. Arranging. Re-arranging. More re-arranging. Styles, counters, lighting, appliances.

I am going to investigate new cabinets this weekend. Hopefully make a decision on what to use soon enough. I also have a lead on two great re-modelers to help with installation of said cabinets and some other projects.

Realistically, we are going to be without a kitchen for about 4-5 weeks during this process. Yuck.

Do you think I can plug in the old fridge on my deck and use it out there? I can handle grilling and microwaving food for over a month - but dealing with a fridge is a little much. What about rain though? Could I tarp it in some way? I am assuming you cannot get the back of a fridge wet, correct?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Could be worst injury yet. . .

Everyday I hate the kitchen more. Last night was the final straw. It assaulted me. See, we have this wood border running around the outside of the counter. Check it out in this picture (taken on move-in day):

In a freak turn of events while loading the dishwasher, I hit my pointer finger on this wooden border (from now on referred to as "devil's rail"). I felt a bizarre amount of pain . . . and odd pressure. I looked down. I had somehow jammed a hunk of wood under my fingernail. Essentially inflicting a movie-style torture situation (bamboo under nails). I cannot describe how uncomfortable this is. And by is, I mean I couldn't get it all out. I cut as much of my nail back as possible and I still cannot get out the last splinter. Now, I know your probably squeamish reading this but take it to the next level by imagining typing. It's . . . unpleasant.

Later tonight I'll have to try some more home surgery on it. Always a good idea, right?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Buying in Bulk: Homes

Apparently, word has traveled about the situation in Detroit. The AP is now reporting the average home sale in Jan 2009 was 6,035. Though, to put it in prospective, in 2003 the average home sale was $46,702. But still, that's a pretty big drop.

Here is a snippet from the AP article:

"Welcome to Landlord Nation, where foreclosure notices are plentiful and for-sale signs offer at least 1,800 homes for under $10,000 that once were worth at least 10 times more.
In extreme cases, homes are on sale for $1 or less, which has enticed investors to Detroit from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia.
"In the past few months, I've picked up 10 new clients from out of state that are buying in bulk," said Mike Shannon, a suburban Detroit real estate agent. His office specializes in foreclosures in a city that's among the national leaders.
"They're coming to us, saying `Look, I want to buy 50, 100, 1,000.' They want to own every decent and cheap house they can find."
Despite a stagnant retail housing market, real estate sales of foreclosed homes are booming. Shannon regularly fields calls from eager prospects, and recently sold 30 homes in one day to one buyer. A trio of U.K. investors has bought a half-dozen and plans many more."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Got $7500?

You can buy a house. If you want to live in Detroit that is. As quoted in a recent Chicago Tribune article, "The median price of a home sold in Detroit in December was $7,500, according to Realcomp, a listing service.Not $75,000. Remove a zero—it's seven thousand five hundred dollars, substantially less than the lowest-price car on the new-car market."

I turned to Craigslist to see what I could dig up. . .

You can buy this 3 bedroom bungalow for $59,900:

This 3 bedroom "starter home" for $27,000:

For $25,000 ($950 down and a mortgage of $350 a month) you can get this 2 bedroom with finished basement:

This "Investor Special" is on the market for $8,000:

For only $5,000 you can get this 5-bedroom 1 1/2 bath home:

Is this something we will ever see again? I hope not. . .

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our New Addition

I have a confession. For the last 2 years we have been living without a coffee table. We simply rested our glasses (or beer bottles, let's face it) on the floor. Shameful! The constant re-arranging of space, decor and location simply did not make for an ideal time to buy one. I decided on a glass table months ago as I figured it would tend to maintain an "open" feeling in the space. I had intended to purchase two glass cube tables and use them together as one. Then I saw this:

The Bonaparte coffee table from Pier 1. The best part. . . it was on clearance for under $50! I walked in to "browse" and walked out with this fab table that has promptly made herself at home in our living room. In fact, Dan didn't even notice anything new when he came home. I'm not sure what that's saying . . .but to me it meant like it was a perfect fit!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Super Steal: Glasses

I happened to be in IKEA this weekend when I stumbled across a similar wine glass collection to those displayed in Friday's post. IKEA's 365+ IVRIG glasses are $1.99 for stemless and $2.99 for tall wine glasses - a bargain! Here is the white wine glass:

And the red wine:

They also have 2 stemless, a 10 oz. and a 15 oz.

Happy shopping!

Injuries Obtained

  • Sprained Toe/Foot: 1
  • Blood Blisters: 2
  • Splinters under fingernail: 1
  • Bird Shit on me: 1
  • Eye Injuries: 3
  • Burns: 0
  • Falls off ladder: 0 (this is because we don't have a ladder yet)
  • Headaches: too many to itemize
  • Broken Bones: 0
  • Bandages Needed: 5
  • Electric Shocks: 2
  • Stiches: 0
  • Bruises: way too many