Christmas Trees and Christmas Saws?

The hardest thing about living in a home during remodeling is life needs to go on. Homework, birthday parties, sports practice and holidays do not stop while you tear down and rebuild. Certainly some activities are skipped and invitations declined, but in thirty years the boys won’t remember picking paint colors as fondly as they’ll recall going to a Christmas light show.

We wanted to really enjoy the holiday season, celebrate it and be thankful for the real reason for the season. I had visions of going as a family to pick and cut down a tree, but four little ones and a chaotic house sometimes means choosing practicality.  Oh, and of course the need to stay within the budget. Every dollar spent on other things is one less dollar going towards completing the rebuilding. Budgeting during this is a delicate balance of getting the house done while still experiencing some normal life.

We found a Black Friday deal on a pre-light tree at Lowes. No Norman Rockwell style family adventure. Though anyone with kids knows there’s no perfect outing regardless of location. Hopefully the boys remember our impromptu stop at a gourmet donut shop and not the toddler emergency potty incident involving a bottle in the car… Life with boys is never dull!

The layout of our old home only allowed for a small tabletop tree. This meant we did not have enough ornaments. Due to the character and architecture of our house I wanted classic style ornaments.  Not being able to justify spending a lot on ornaments, I bought ribbon and hooks and made simple bows. I might be the least artistically talented person so while not an impressive task I was still very pleased with how it turned out.

This picture perfectly illustrates our lives at the moment.  The Christmas tree showing an attempt to live life and the saw showing the state of our house.


From Holding Up The Roof To Holding Our Dinner

What do you do when you want a classic wood table for a big family but it isn’t in the budget? You build it! With all of the demo work going on we had lots of extra wood pieces just laying around. Not only does it cost money to dispose of debris it also seems unwise to get rid of good solid wood. When the kitchen ceiling was raised there were a lot of beams left over and there were also some beams from the third floor demo. Ed’s creative nature saw this as a future table:


He cleaned up the wood and used a biscuit joiner to put the pieces together. Once the table top was secure and put together he used a belt sander to prepare it for staining.


He used Minwax espresso stain to match the bar and used polyurethane for a top coat (not pictured). One side of the table was secured to the brick wall. The other side is supported by a leg also made from the beams.


We were given old pub style chairs that need to be re-stained. Will share an update whenever we get around to finishing them. The table very comfortably seats six, but with some closeness there is room for eight or nine.

Trash to Treasure

I am amazed that Ed can see something so random and picture it as something not only useful but pleasant for the eyes. We had a pot rack in our old home and we really wanted another one. We are also working with less cabinet space than our old kitchen had. Ed found some old wood fence or railing type item curbside on trash day. He cleaned it up, screwed each rail for reinforcement, and then stained it to match the bar. He got a thick wire roll and used that to secure it to the beams. (He did say the wire was very difficult to work with and would recommend another method, perhaps chains)



The Test of Our Patience…The Kitchen

The kitchen, the room where food and memories are made. In this case, it was also where nightmares were made. The kind of nightmare where you realize you have to cook dinner for a family of six in a microwave. Things could have been much worse though, and I am being slightly dramatic. Our first kitchen was in the living room. The house had an existing kitchen but after living in a finished home it was difficult for us to picture using it. This is what we started with:


Nothing except the wall frames were salvageable. We began by ripping out the cabinets which showed just how damaged the plaster was. kitchen2

Once we had the cabinets out we really needed to decide what exactly our first floor layout was going to be. We considered doing an open floor plan but with such an old home we did not want to mess too much with anything that might impact weight bearing. We decided we would have a bar facing the kitchen. Cutting and measuring that out happened before we made the kitchen layout.


We needed electric work done. There were only two outlets in the kitchen and neither were up to code. Extension cords had been used for appliances which made us a little uncomfortable as far as fire safety goes. One of the biggest hold ups was getting an electrician in to update the current wiring, add outlets and doing so without ripping out the walls completely. We have a basement but unfortunately under the kitchen there is only a crawlspace. This meant suiting up and climbing under there to access the plumbing and electrical lines.


We decided to add a skylight and do a vaulted ceiling so we could make the smaller kitchen feel more open. Opening the ceiling was a great choice because we found some beams in poor shape and we were able to replace them. After the ceiling was done and we had electrical wires and plumbing in place we were able to add drywall. We did not want to take down the plaster walls in the kitchen so we cut into them for electrical lines, added insulation and then drywalled over it.


Once we had measurements our next step was to design a kitchen. We took to Google and started a search for the kitchen of our dreams that would fit into our budget. The fourth picture was our loose inspiration:

We wanted quality cabinets but we also needed them to fit into our budget. We had looked into IKEA but with our computer packed away and four kids the idea of sitting in the kitchen design area induced panic attack like symptoms. Several contractor friends recommended AAA Distributors. We took our measurements and within five minutes they designed a wonderful kitchen layout. We bought bottom cabinets and had them assemble the cabinets before we picked them up.

With cabinets ordered we needed to get shelving, appliances, flooring, lighting and accessories within our budget. We bought wood and wooden brackets, basic commercial tiles, lighting, and in-stock laminate counter tops at Home Depot. We went to IKEA for accessories, organizers and butcher block for the bar. We reused the barstools from our old home, purchased used appliances and used left over paint from the kitchen in our first house.

As mentioned before, I am not a photographer and our house is quite lived in!

kitchendonecorner bar

We will likely add and change things in the kitchen as we get a better feel for our needs in this house. For now though, we are very thrilled. I am thoroughly amazed with my husband’s skills to build a custom kitchen for under $4500 that included electrical and plumbing work. The boys are enjoying finally having a place to sit and eat!


Our First Kitchen

Moving into a house that needs to be essentially rebuilt is difficult, to say the least. Not only did we need new cabinets and flooring, but we had to repair ceiling beams, walls and plumbing. Those things take time, nearly eight weeks to be exact, not that I was counting…

What did we do in the mean time? At first we used a lot of take out but quickly realized it was cutting into our kitchen budget which turned out to need every penny and then some. We slowly built our first kitchen…and it was in the living room. Ideal? Definitely not, but it helped to keep take out costs down and provide just a slight sense of normalcy. Cooking for a family of six with just a microwave, mini fridge and crock-pot wasn’t easy but we did survive!


This living room really became just that, a room full of living. With the rest of the first floor tarped off this room became the laundry sorting room, play room, kitchen and office. My work packages and books were nestled under a folding table, my kitchen sat on top and my children played a couple feet away. I’m very thankful this is no longer my kitchen!