Tag Archives: linoleum

5 years later: the kitchen project revisited

When last October rolled around, I thought about how I’d been writing this blog for four–oops, five years. Sporadically, sometimes. (I even began this post way back then.) I started blogging when Eric and I decided to renovate our kitchen. Remember that? Ever wonder how the kitchen’s holding up after five years of use? No? Well, you’re about to find out.

“If there’s anything you don’t want the world to know about in our kitchen,” I warned Eric, “fix it now, or it’ll be in the blog.” My threat elicited no response. So here we go, warts and all.

This kitchen has been lived in a lot. Forty individual feet (eight cats, one dog, and two humans) tramp through it many times daily, in all weather. We cook a lot. The critters are messy eaters. We accumulate too much stuff. We fail to put things away. We are not perfect, and we are not minimalists. This is real life.

Old kitchen needs remodel.

This is where we started in 2012.

Remodeled bungalow kitchen

This is what we have today.

After five years, what’s working well?

Quartz countertops. Best decision I made on the whole project! They are perfect and indestructible. Easy to clean, hard to hurt. And when they’re not clean, the subtly mottled black color of Caesarstone “Raven” hides a multitude of sins.

closeup of quartz counter

Caesarstone quartz in Raven, just after installation.

Linoleum flooring. Real linoleum, not vinyl! Made of natural, fully biodegradable materials. Soft and comfy underfoot. It’s exactly the right look for this Craftsman bungalow. And the classic gray marbled pattern hides, yes, a multitude of sins. The only problem we’ve encountered was our own fault: For a long time, Duke had a rubber placemat under his food and water dishes to catch the inevitable mess. But Duke drinks like a moose drooling in the swamp. Water collected under the mat, causing the linoleum to discolor and roughen. Do not let water sit around on linoleum!

Boxer and cat on new linoleum

We looked so young back then! And so did the cabinets.

Stains from water on linoleum

The linoleum has been stained and damaged by water.

The glass-front cabinets. Eric built new face frames and glass doors for this original feature, and we splurged on wavy “antique” glass. The original doors were wood. The original shelves (these are actually shelves with doors on them, not typical cabinet boxes) are so sturdy that they hold all of my super-heavy Fiestaware and our Seattle-sized coffee mug collection (of which we regularly use maybe eight).

finished counters

We splurged on wavy glass. No backsplash at this point.

White Shaker cabinets and black quartz counters

The same view today.

The original pantry cabinet. I didn’t do much other than clean, strip, and paint Old Mother Hubbard, who holds much of our food and cooking supplies. Like the glass cabinets, I’m happy we preserved this original feature, which, back in the day, was a cold storage cabinet, vented to the outside.

Removing paint from old cabinet door.

Refinishing the tall pantry door.

Tall pantry cabinet in Craftsman bunglaow kitchen.

Old Mother Hubbard today.

Eric’s wonderful cabinets. Eric hand-crafted all of the other cabinets for the kitchen. We learned a lot about cabinetmaking, finishes, paints, hardware choices, and how dang long it takes to DIY your own kitchen. We had professional help with wiring, plumbing, and flooring, but the rest we did ourselves. The only design change I’d make would be to combine the two drawers over the pet food bins into one wide drawer. I’d gain about six inches of space. It never occurred to me in the design stage.

The base cabinets as they were being built.

The cabinet hardware. I wanted to keep the look of the old-fashioned oval spring latches that were on the original upper cabinets. I ordered new ones in brushed nickel, but I didn’t know if they’d last. I’m happy to say, they’re holding up just fine.

Brushed nickel oval cabinet latches

Tougher than I thought!

What didn’t work so well?

Sadly, my vintage sink. I love this sink, saved from the original kitchen … or at least from the 1940s-version kitchen. We had it refinished by Miracle Method, but one guy was training a new guy, and I think they did an inferior job. The moment the warrantee expired, chips began forming, and by now the finish in the bowl is shot. We’ve since learned that some other refinishers don’t guarantee kitchen sinks because they take such a beating. Eric read that refinished kitchen sinks typically last abut five years before they need refinishing. I’ll have this one refinished again, because the alternative—a 30-inch farmhouse sink—would require recutting or replacing the quartz counter and possibly rebuilding the base cabinet. I don’t want to go there. Besides, I really, really love this old sink with its built-in drainboards!

refinished old sink installed

The pristine refinished sink perched on temporary counters.

Refinished sink with chips.

The finish in the bowl is chipping badly.

The bridge faucet. Oh, it works just fine, and I like its slightly steampunk aire, but it’s hard to clean around, and I wish I had a sprayer. If I had it to do over, I’d get one of those big, industrial-looking gooseneck jobs. The caulking is discolored and shrunken, and needs to be replaced already.

brushed nickel bridge faucet

So shiny!

Bridge faucet on antique sink.

Even after a beauty treatment of Soft Scrub and CLR, the stains remain.

Lazy Susan. Susan is so lazy, she needs to be fired. The revolving shelves in this corner base cabinet are attached to a central pole. They haven’t held up under the moderate (I think) weight of the contents. The support pole dislodged at the top and, because the shelves are attached to the door, the whole unit looks cockeyed. Eric wants to remove the inner lazy Susan unit and install two L-shaped shelves that would each support a separate revolving shelf. That means building a new double-hinged door that will open out instead of disappear into the unit as it turns. Rebuilding the innards of an existing corner cabinet sounds awfully awkward to me, but it must be done, because Susan has become a recalcitrant pain in the butt.

Lazy Susan cabinet

Back when Susan was just lazy … now she’s broken.

The wonky cabinet between the stove and fridge still stands, although it’s been missing a rail for some months. Every time I pulled out the towel drawer, the damned thing fell out, and I tossed it in the trash the thousandth time it clattered to the floor. Now the bank of drawers looks gap-toothed. This cabinet warped as it was being constructed, and needs to be completely replaced. Eric didn’t attach it  to the wall in case we bought a wider refrigerator  (our new fridge is the same width). I really need its storage space, so we’re considering replacing the interior with a Rev-a-Shelf unit. That way, Eric would only need to build a new carcass and one front panel—much simpler than constructing all of those drawers. One of these days …

Warped stack of drawers

Functional, but compromised.

The Frigidaire appliances. Won’t buy that brand again! The stove didn’t last more than a few years, and the fridge not much longer. They’ve been replaced with Samsung units that I like much better.

The old pair.

SamSung French door fridge and electric stove.

New Samsung pair.

So, what’s next?

Someday, I hope this project will be a wrap. Maybe 2018 is our year. In addition to Eric needing to reconfigure a couple of cabinets, I still need to paint the doors and window trim. This summer … I promise!

If we get ambitious, we’ll even start Phase 2. We’ll build cabinets to fit on top of the shelf behind the stove and fridge. (The shelf is the posterior of the built-in buffet in the dining room.) This is why we pounced on the glass doors that came out of our neighbor’s house when it flipped. They’re the perfect size! These cabinets will be hard to access, but they’ll be great for seldom-used items or for display. You can never have too much storage.

Finally, can you guess our number-one favorite kitchen item? The island, of course!

Old boxer sleeping on kitchen floor.

Duke, our kitchen island.

Have a fabulous, productive 2018, everyone!

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it



New Mother Hubbard

As usual, the process of bringing Old Mother Hubbard into the 21st Century took longer than I’d anticipated. When we left her in the middle of her extreme makeover, her doors were on the operating table being stripped of decades of old paint. I used three applications of stripper on each side, which took time. The insides of the doors had a different color-layering scheme than the exteriors, including this bright Chinese red, which was en vogue in the late 40s when the kitchen was remodeled.

stripping paint from cabinet doors

I made three of these Jasco “casseroles,” weighing over six pounds apiece.

aluminum tin of stripped paint

Sanding, priming, and painting also took more days than I hoped … you just can’t rush drying time. Because the interiors of our other cabinets are natural, I decided to polyurethane these, too, even though I was unable to pry all the old dead paint out of the joints. Call it character.

It had been quite a few weeks since I’d used the Benjamin Moore Glacier White paint. (I am impressed that one gallon has easily double-coated all the cabinets in our kitchen.) Imagine my horror when I opened the can and found THIS staring up at me:

mold on white paint

OMG, it’s alive!! It’s … mold. I have never had this happen to paint before. What the heck got in there?? Eric pulled on rubber gloves and scooped it out. De-molded, the paint seemed fine. It stroked on smoothly and I haven’t notice Mother H growing a fuzzy green coat. Yes, I used it! Stuff’s expensive, and I didn’t feel like driving to north Seattle for another gallon when I was so close to finishing.

While the doors were curing, I turned to Mother Hubbard’s innards. A purge was in order, and I could put it off no longer. Out came everything. Each piece had to show me its pull date before I would let it back in. I was a merciless gatekeeper—cute packaging could not melt my heart. I was searching for antique food … and I found plenty. Quite a few items came from Eric’s pantry before he moved in in 2007. Not including the Pleasoning (which, by the way, is still made in La Crosse, Wisconsin), the vintage food award went to … a box of Sunmaid raisins from 1998. Guess it pays to clean out you cupboards occasionally.

Some of my finds puzzled me. Besides white vinegar, I have red wine vinegar, blackberry vinegar, and rice vinegar, all unopened except for the white. And for someone who seldom bakes, here’s my collection of colored sugar and cake decorations. A lifetime supply! How did all this stuff get in my house? Eric … ?

colored sugar collection

At last I could get to Mother H’s insides. I thought that because she was already painted white inside, maybe I could get away with just washing her out and applying new linoleum liners to her shelves. HA! What an optimist I can be! I peeled the old linoleum off the shelves. This could be the house’s original lino because it goes (sort of) with the red and gray wallpaper I discovered when patching the walls.

gray and red original linoleum

Of course, you knew it would be nasty in there, didn’t you? Yup.

pantry shelf befpre cleaning and painting

middle shelf with contact paper

I washed the whole thing down with soap and water, but some of the stains wouldn’t budge, including a dreadful dark cascade of goo from long ago that ran from the top shelf clear to the middle one. I would have to paint, too. Dammit. My big time-saving trick was to use gloss white spray paint instead of a tedious brush. But within two squirts, the house was filled with obnoxious lacquer that us had us all gagging. So much for that idea. Oh, hand me the damned brush …

I spent a day with my head inside Mother Hubbard, painting all the nooks and crannies as best I could. Huge improvement, even though the dreadful stain, so impervious to soap and water, had no trouble softening and bleeding through three coats of paint. More character. I know many people would be grossed out by that stain, but living in a century-old home sometimes requires forgiveness—and the willingness to seal unmentionables under a new coat of paint. I’m dealing with the stain here by taking photos at an angle that doesn’t show it. And, now that the pantry’s full again, I can’t see it! Hey, problem solved!

painted and lined pantry shelves

Things really started to come together when Eric cut linoleum liners from spare material left over from our flooring job. I tossed my vintage turntables (bought back when avocado green was popular) and invested in some new ones, plus a set of riser steps for a choir of spices.

Finally, I reopened the Glacier White paint, donned the rubber gloves, scooped out yet another growth of pond scum, and painted her exterior. After a few more days of curing, Eric hung the doors. Are you ready? First, Old Mother Hubbard’s before photo.

floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet

And now … ta-da!! See, Mother H, I told you that you’d look fabulous! Beautiful inside and out! Tall, glossy white, and lovely once again.

white painted pantry cabinet

finished pantry interior

close-up of pantry interior

I’m very proud that Mother Hubbard is the matriarch of our kitchen. Here’s to your second century, Mother H!

PS – Yes, the vintage shaker of Pleasoning made the cut … grandfathered in. It comes from a good family.

Pleasoning seasoning on a turntable



Thirty-two feet

It’s amazing what we can accustom ourselves to living with when we’ve been in the midst of remodeling chaos for over a year.

ugly old linoleum

This is the story of how all that changed in one day. Months ago, Eric hacked up the floor and removed about 3/4 inch of accumulated vinyl and plywood underlayment, leaving us with what may have been the original linoleum … or maybe linoleum from the 1940s remodel. At any rate, it was in sorry shape with cracks and chipped edges. We removed what we could in the area where the new cabinets were installed. And it sat that way … for months.

We made our flooring choice early on, after considering our lifestyle, which can best be summed up as “parents of fur kids.” Ideally, I’d have liked hardwood to match the color of our fir floors, but wood would not hold up well to Duke’s toenails. I love the look of cork, and although it’s supposed to be tough, I doubt it’s tough enough to withstand a bouncing 90-pound boxer who leaps and spins when asked if he wants to go to Starbucks. Then there’s all the winter wetness that our feet track in the back door … and I’m talking about ALL our feet: two humans, one dog, and six cats. That’s a total of thirty-two feet. One hundred forty-four individual toes.

Then I thought about linoleum—no, not vinyl—the real thing! It’s tough enough for hospitals, totally green and recyclable, and best of all, appropriate for our century-old house. The perfect solution. We chose a light gray, finely marled pattern guaranteed to hide pet hair. Our pattern is Armstrong Linorette ‘Silver City.’

But before the linoleum could go down, the crew would have to level and prep the floor. The night before they arrived, I felt compelled to sweep and mop the old lino before it disappeared forever. FOR-EV-ER.

old lino is clean

First, the floor had to be made level again where we’d chipped the old linoleum away. The installers used the same quick-setting concrete compound that we used to level the subfloor under the new cabinets. Then they started covering the whole floor with 1/4 in. plywood. You can see some of the gray leveler compound in the background.

floor being covered by plywood

Even the paper-faced plywood made the room look so much brighter and cleaner. (You know it’s been bad when plywood is better than your previous floor.)

plywood underlayment covers floor

More leveler smoothed the seams between the sheets of plywood. And then … the back hall (which I’m trying hard to call the mud room, but it doesn’t seem to stick) went from this … to this.

mudroom before and after

For about a minute, you could eat off the floor in the breakfast room. After that, you’d probably swallow a cat hair.

breakfast room with new linoleum

Duke and Fred checked out the new surface. Duke is happy he has lots of room to play kitchen island again.

Boxer and cat on new linoleum

The next day the installers were back to heat seal the seams. Some people don’t bother with this step, and trust that nothing will get in the crevices … but we have those 32 feet. Pets do have accidents sometimes (me, not so much). I wasn’t going to take any chances. I was concerned, though, that the gray weld rod would be so obvious that I’d curse it every time I walked in the room. Linoleum is only 6 ft. 7 inches wide, which meant there was no way to avoid a seam smack in the middle of the kitchen.

gray linoleum weld rod

I am amazed that most of the time I don’t even notice the seam. During the day it’s virtually invisible.

broom and linoleum

At night, the overhead lights pick it up a bit, as Lacy points out.

Black cat sits near seam in linoleum

We didn’t move appliances back in until two days later, after we had a chance to paint and install base molding. I’m still working on that little task! (Prime, sand, prime, sand, paint, paint … remember?)

white base molding applied

I am beyond thrilled with the linoleum. It feels great underfoot, and looks perfect in our kitchen.

I immediately reclaimed the breakfast room as my paint lab, covered in rosin paper, of course. The cats are miffed that their Kit Kat Lounge is taking so long to reopen … but I’m afraid it’ll be a while longer. Sorry, kitties.

base molding being painted

In the meantime, all you critters—wipe your paws!


Kitchen Drought Diary

We have entered the maelstrom, the waterless whirlpool of strained tempers, murmured epithets, and … dirty dishes. The total destruction of the north wall of old kitchen cabinets has been accomplished. This is the part I’ve been dreading, and now it is upon us. We will be forced to live without a kitchen sink for an undetermined period of time. How long? Eric says it will be merely “a long weekend,” but I didn’t just fall off the renovation turnip truck. If I’ve know anything about home renovation, it’s that whenever a man estimates how long a project will take …  triple it.

Yes, we have water in the bathroom and we can use the washer and dryer and water our plants … so it’s not as if we are living in a tenement. But I don’t relish doing dishes or washing veggies in the bathroom sink. Can we survive this without going crazy? I decided to keep a diary of our waterless adventures to gain some perspective.

The sink wall as we knew it. Hey, it’s not so bad! Those were the good old days!

base cabinets on the sink wall

Day 1

Our plumber arrives this morning to disconnect our kitchen sink and cap the pipes so Eric can pull the sink and demo the old cabinets. As a reminder that the sink’s out of commission, Eric tapes a green X over the drain. How many times do I go into the kitchen only to be rebuffed by the big green X? Every time I need water.

sink with green tape X

We buy paper plates and disposable cutlery. I refuse to do dishes in the bathroom. Except for wine glasses. I refuse to drink wine out of paper cups. And coffee cups. I refuse to drink my morning coffee out of Styrofoam. We forget to buy paper bowls, but I don’t like eating ice cream out of paper bowls, either. Am I making any progress?

We microwave leftover lasagna for dinner. Mine fuses to the plate, and smoke roils out of the microwave. Lesson 1: Cooking (if you can call heating leftovers in the microwaving “cooking”) on paper is different than with real dishes.

Day 2

While I am at work, Eric texts me to suggest he might take the day off and drive to the Canadian border to take photos at a Scout camp for their website, which he manages. We don’t usually tell each other where we can or can’t go, but this time I drop a hint. Okay, I tell him where to go.  “We have no kitchen sink and you’re skipping out to summer camp? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?” He changes his mind.

Cabinets out and wallboard disappearing:

cabinets goe and wall surface being removed

Here goes the lath and plaster!

removing lath and plasterremoving lath and plaster

Day 3

I no longer walk into the kitchen expecting to see a sink. In fact, I wonder if I will ever see a sink there again. This is what I see now. What used to be here is now in the utility trailer, bound for the dump. Those vertical pipes tell me the original sink (not the one we refinished) had a wall-mounted faucet. Cool.

open wall showing studs and plumbing

Blocking access to my new cabinets are several boxes that hold all the cleaning junk that crawled out from under the sink like clowns out of a Volkswagen. I once read that you only need maybe six products for all your cleaning needs. If that’s true, all this stuff can be thrown out. Any chance? Because we’re installing a dishwasher, space restrictions leave us about half the under-sink space we had before. Something’s gotta give.

boxes of cleaning products from under the sink

In the middle of the room, sawhorses support the sink cabinet while I polyurethane the interior. I get up in the middle of the night to let cats in, sleepily note how extra dark the kitchen seems, and run smack into the cabinet. @#$%!!!

Day 4

Duke is impatiently waiting for Eric to make his breakfast. “Dad, I’m starving! Hurry!” demands Duke. “Hang on,” says Eric, “Mom’s still in the bathroom.” “Just barge in,” insists Duke, “She won’t mind. I do it all the time.” Fortunately, Eric has better manners than Duke.

Duke waiting for breakfast

Day 5

It’s hotter than hell on the deck, and I’m out here sanding cabinet pieces and getting them ready for polyurethane. But before I can finish the heat forces me indoors. I don’t want Eric’s progress to be held up for lack of polyurethane.

I’m getting a little testy about all the mess (I know Eric would agree) … and oh yeah, that we’re having a party in—holy cow—a week and a half!! The closer the party looms, the more overwhelmed I feel. I don’t even know where to start cleaning. I want to move boxes from the dining room to the spare bedroom, but the dishwasher in its crate is camped out in the middle of the bedroom floor. Eric insists all will be done because he’s taking the week before the party off (but not to go to camp). I know it’s foolish to think we can do it all in one week. Civilized people don’t live like this! Obviously, we’re less than civilized.

clutter on floors and counters

Tonight as I rinse salad makings in the bathroom sink, a bowl of berries spills all over the bathroom floor. @#$%^!!!!

Day 6

Day 6 already? Would you still consider this a “long weekend”? Tonight we go to a flooring store to inquire about getting an estimate. We were there several months ago to look at linoleum, and chose our Forbo Marmoleum “Granada” pattern. But tonight we walk in and—where’s the Forbo? GONE!! They don’t carry it anymore because of distribution problems. However, we hardly miss a beat and quickly pick an Armstrong linoleum pattern that we like even better than Granada! How often does that happen? Plus, they carry our Ceasarstone “Raven” countertop material … so we’ll have two estimates coming. And the guy is coming out to measure on FRIDAY. There is NO WAY Eric can have the cabinet carcasses in place for him to measure. No way.

Floor: Armstrong Linorette “Silver City” and countertops: Ceasarstone “Raven.” In between: white cabinets—nice!

floor and counters

Day 7

We play golf. Clearly, we lack the killer renovation instinct required to push through to completion.

Day 8

Eric is downstairs sawing wood, and I am upstairs with a cat in my lap, writing this post. It’s too dark to poly the cabinet pieces (which I’ve been doing out on the deck because the breakfast nook/paint studio/OR is occupied by one enormous, shiny sink). I’m going to stop keeping a diary. We will have water by Friday, Eric insists. When it happens, you will hear me hoop and holler around the globe. Now, it’s time to clean something. Better yet, it’s time for ice cream. In a china bowl. With a real spoon.

Day 9

Okay, one more entry. Eric is postponing the plumber’s visit from Friday until Monday to give us time to finish the cabinet bases. What did I tell you? This is the longest long weekend of my life. More ice cream, please.


Domestic archeology

The vertical dig

You know when you have a sunburn that’s beginning to peel, and you just have to grab that piece of snakeskin and see how big a sheet you can pull off? It’s irresistible. That’s what happened when I looked at some loose wallpaper in the breakfast room. I knew a couple different patterns of wallpaper were under all the layers of paint. I’d indulged in peeling before, over behind the fridge. So I picked … and I pulled … and picked and pulled some more. Until I created this. Oops.

The yellow-and-white plaid with cheery cherries is from the 70’s (Eric remembers the pattern from his youth). Under it is a much older paper with red trellises and gray ivy vines, handpainted little red starbursts and stripes of tiny silver leaves. (Click the photo to see the detail.) I believe this is the original kitchen wallpaper because it’s the same color scheme as the gray and red geometric linoleum that’s in the back hall, under today’s laminate. When I picture either of these busy prints covering the entire kitchen, my eyes cross!

Of course, I had to keep peeling–I couldn’t stop until I got to a point where the paper was once again adhered to the wall. But inevitably, when you’re peeling that sunburn, you go too far and—ouch! Uh-oh … what’s this? Some loose plaster. Hmm … I thought this wall was in good shape. Let me say here, I know real renovators would gut the whole room and start from scratch. But we’re not fixin’ what ain’t broke. We have enough on our hands just replacing cabinets, flooring, counters, lighting, and paint. I don’t want to get into plaster repair. But oh dear … now look what I’ve done! The wall is practically bleeding.

Whoever papered these walls didn’t properly tuck the paper into the corner. They just kind of swooped it around the corner like a banked track. Close enough! I sliced into the corner and kept peeling (thinking, what have I gotten myself into?) and finally, finally … peeled it back to a point where the paper stuck to the plaster and the plaster stuck to the lath. The broken plaster was a bit powdery, making me wonder if it’s been water damaged. I’ve never noticed moisture in this wall in the 29 years I’ve lived here, so maybe it’s just, well … old. Or maybe the damage was caused when we removed the plastic tiles.

A large tub of spackle later, and it’s much better. Apply bondo, sand, repeat. I’m pleased—feels quite smooth and ready for paint. See the new bead board paneling that replaced the white plastic tiles? So far it’s only primered … waiting for its coat of glossy white.

The horizontal dig

While I was away on a business trip, Eric lit into the floor with a variety of Medieval-looking tools. We could see the layers where the built-up floor formed a small cliff that we had to jump off to enter the dining room. I installed the black and white checkerboard commercial tile in 1995. I liked the look, but the tile was hard to keep clean and never had the shine I’d hoped for.

The checkerboard covered some ugly Mediterranean-inspired 70’s vinyl, which lay on a bed of particle board, and, last but not least, was swirling ochre, dark red, and black linoleum.

This was not what I expected. I thought we’d find gray and red inlaid linoleum like on the back porch. Had the gray and red layer been removed? Is the ochre stuff original? I sure can’t picture it with the red and gray wallaper. We may never know. The ironic twist is that this old pattern is almost the reverse, colorwise, of what we intend to install: Forbo Marmoleum, Granada pattern.

This ochre layer will also be removed before we have the new floor installed. For now, we’re enjoying the old lino even though it’s scuffed and scarred.  It’s proving its boxer-and-kitty resistance and feels good under foot. And if I drop some crumbs, I dare ya to find ’em!

With these layers gone, our kitchen floor has lost nearly 3/4 inch of elevation, and is now level with the fir floor in the dining room. No more cliff to scale!