Saturday, October 19, 2013

New Floor!

The one thing this apartment really needed was a new floor. The old floor wasn't in terrrible shape; it was just sort of terrible. This was a really cheap-looking and feeling roll of grey faux marble vinyl. It made everything feel cold and awkward, and didn't seem to belong with anything else.

So we replaced it with a really nice, warm cork floor. Cork is hypoallergenic, anti-static, eats sound and feels great to walk on. It's also got a lot of other things going for it. I'm a cork evangelist now.



The room looks so much better with a warm, natural floor:

This was while the lacquer was still wet, but you can see the color of the floor in daylight:

The top of the false wall in our bedroom coordinates well, as does the ceiling fan in the living room: 

Cork: I'm in love.

Carpentry For Beginners

The previous owners had the bed on the wall close to the closet, but this meant only one of them had a nightstand. The bed also stuck out completely across the doorway, which was awkward. It would have made much more sense to have the bed on the other side of the room...

...however, there is a lovely-yet-defunct original fireplace on the opposite wall. We couldn't (and wouldn't) take out the fireplace, but it threw a monkey wrench into setting up the room. So we decided to build around it, making a false wall and bookshelves to even out the room.

First, I built a frame:

I was originally going to try and even out the black marble top of the fireplace with something that matched. But I realized this was going to be a giant pain in the neck and maybe beyond my skill. And then I realized that formica countertops came in almost exactly the right size and were pretty affordable. All I had to do was trim one side and cut out a space for the chimney. So I used my jigsaw for the very first time:

I wasn't sure how I would do the curves, but it actually worked. I had to work from both sides and meet in the middle. And I almost got my cuts lined up. So close - d'oh!

But the cut was in the back anyway, and when we set the countertop on the frame, BOOM- it fit perfectly! Not bad for a first try.

I intially thought some LED strip lights would be nice running along the top, to brighten things up a bit, especially in that dark little corner on the left.

But then I spotted these recessed LED spots, which gave a much nicer, more diffused light. 

However, the LED spots required a 45mm hole. So I asked my local hardware store how to go about doing that, and they sold me one of these:

Once the holes were drilled, the LEDs set in perfectly! Our false wall began to look pretty professional:

Then I put the front on, and it began to look and feel like a real piece of furniture! I cut a hole in the left side so that we can run an extension cord. I also put in a small door on the right side, with a piano hinge and a little magnet to keep it closed, so we can use the space inside to store suitcases.

Finally, we painted it with high-gloss paint to match the rest of the trim in the house. I still need to paint the trim along the back here:

I'm super pleased with it- it looks just how I imagined it in my head beforehand, and maybe better! You wouldn't know it hadn't been part of the room all along. Granted, the bed and everything else will hide most of it, but the finished product is exactly what we set out to accomplish. Go us!

Home on the Range

The only really beat-up looking thing in the kitchen was the range hood. Upon further inspection, it wasn't even properly installed, and was held up by some adhesive and a random screw driven into the cabinet trim, which was caving in under the weight.

We took it out, reinforced the front of the cabinet with some L-brackets and wood, and installed a shiny new range hood. We needed a curved ventilation pipe, since the exhaust in our new range hood is in the center.

We also got an oven, which required a new electrical group.

 Since the oven sat too low, we built a supporting shelf, and then had the former door for the cabinet cut to form a surrounding trim, so that the oven fit in with the rest of the cabinets as though it had been there all along.

Let There Be Lights

So we had a junction box by the wall, and a big hook in the middle of the ceiling where our dining room table would naturally go. It was pretty obvious what needed to happen here.

I'd never wired anything in my life, but with a little help from our friends at the hardware store, I got the wires connected, ran them through a wire guide, and our awesome new lamp fixed up. Success!

And then, having successfully wired one light fixture, I was literally mad with power. So I wired up our ceiling fan in the same room. This was also when I moved the light switch in the studio.

This is the "Globo Mistral" fan we got for the living/dining room:

I did the same thing as in the dining room for the bedroom, where there was already a wire running across the ceiling, but one that looked terrifyingly ancient, and which was run across the ceiling by a method that no one would use today- a double wire split down the middle and fitted over little plugs. Weird. Also, our neighbor told us the red lantern shade here made the room look "like a bordello" (a little of that classic Dutch bluntness for you!) Luckily, we were already planning to ditch it.

We replaced the "bordello lantern" with this much classier Tiffany lamp. This lamp was hilariously described in the catalog as "XXL White Lady". So our room doesn't look like a bordello anymore, but there is a big white lady swinging from the chandelier!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Studio 1: Studio Switch

We're doing some work in what will be the music studio- some light soundproofing and general nice-making for what was a very bare-bones space badly in need of some TLC. It used to be a storage room, so whatever work was done up there was naturally a little slapdash.

I realized there was no current in this outlet. So I took the facing off and found two green wires- not standard. I asked my local hardware guys, who said to take it off the wall and check behind it. There were just two dead green wires sticking out of the wall.

The same dead, green wires were inside the awkward wire tube sticking out of the base of the wall. Whoever installed it didn't feel like moving the baseboard, so this was what they came up with. And then when the re-wiring was done, they didn't bother removing the old wires at all. Once we knew it was a relic, I was thrilled to be able to just hack it out of the wall and seal the hole up with compound.


Then I looked behind the light switch near the door, which also seemed to be a relic from when the room was shaped differently. It was wedged against the door frame at an odd angle, so I took the switch off. The base plate seemed weirdly...melty. And it had a big hole in it. So I took it off, and found more dead, green wires. It seemed obvious that these had at one point run through the hole in the plate, and probably caused the meltiness. 


And because this used to be just a storage room, when they re-wired the house, they just used the old base plate, running wires over the door with a really ugly wire guide, as you can see below.

So it seemed there was no good reason for the light switch (and now the only plug) to be jammed up against the door frame like that. I got a new wire guide, a new base plate, and moved it under the junction box.

And then the light switch was like "BOOM! I'm over here now!"

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Well, well...Here we are!

So we got our keys, and can get started in here! We're pretty lucky in that the place doesn't need too much work. One thing we are going to replace is the floor. This weird-looking fakey grey tile patterned vinyl is going. Instead, we are getting cork flooring.

Standing in the living/dining room, facing the back:


 Standing in the same spot, looking into the bedroom, which faces the street. We bought the couch and shelves from the previous owner. But the cow came for free:

I like cork, which has been used in libraries and archives for a very long time, naturally, because it's quiet. As flooring goes, it's warmer and more forgiving than laminate, is anti-static, has mold and insect-resistant properties, and it's also a sustainable resource. We're going with this pattern below:

It's also moisture-resistant, so we're putting cork in the kitchen, living room and bedroom. It should warm the whole place up beautifully. Which leads me to one of the best parts of this apartment- the wonderful light.

The bedroom faces east, and the dining room west, so the whole place is flooded with light throughout the day. There are some great beveled-glass windows in the wall dividing the living room and bedroom, making the whole place feel airy. And there's also a huge window over the sink, facing onto the balcony. All of the windows are enormous, and in a place with long, dark winters, we're pretty excited about that. We may put double glass in eventually, for cost savings and toastiness.

The area between the houses is full of nice, big trees, and our neighbors downstairs have a series of lush gardens: 

This photo does not do it justice- there's an unusually diverse range of trees and flowers down there, and a lot of color. It's just so peaceful and lovely. You can hear crickets and cicadas at night in the heart of the city.

I think we're going to like it here.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Just a blog so I can share home improvement stuff for our new place in Amsterdam...

Aug. 16 - SOLD!