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Monday, December 19, 2011

Salvage Love

So it turns out I'm a bit of a hoarder.  Not of cats or coupons or canned goods.  But of twists of rusty metal, glass jars, and wooden crates.  Since we've started this horrific restoration/renovation project, I've found myself scrambling up piles of scrap metal at the salvage yard and digging through dusty root cellars at estate sales to find objects I can re-purpose.  I'm not much of a crafter or seamstress, but I can go to town with iron wool and a palm sander. 

There is so much cool stuff out there, guys! 

Above and below are photos from Housewerks Salvage, the most bad ass salvage spot in Baltimore.  Jon and I have become building material tourists, and unfortunately the result is a bit of hoarding blue balls (sorry, Dad).  We see amazing things when we're traveling that we have no means to bring home with us. So instead we take pictures and caress old doors and metal lockers lovingly, mournfully.

My latest project is a redwood window frame with peeling green paint.  I found an old, huge mirror at a yard sale that I'm going to cut to fit the window.  It's going to be awesome and look something like this:

This is Jon's latest project, but I couldn't resist mucking around. 

He found an algae-covered clawfoot tub (without feet) at a used furniture store that's going out of business.  The proprietress basically begged Jon to take it away, but she thought it would be too heavy for us (ahem, ME) to lift.  We hauled that sucker out and away like it was nothing. Jon wants to turn it into a fountain, but until then I'm scrubbing layers of mud and green gunk off the cast iron.  I'm thinking of leaving some of the green, though.  I reminds me of the well in the Princess and the Frog. 


If you need me, I'll be rooting through your trash.

Phase F#$*ing Two!

This blog has been dark for a while, not because we've taken any time off from the Coat Shop.  Rather, we've been bringing new meaning to the phrase "DIY." 

As it turns out, DIY doesn't just mean tiling your own shower or sanding your own floors or making cute little sconces out of wood chips.  DIY also means shuttling your own blueprints to the city building department, taking copious notes on the detailed reasons the city is rejecting your plans, and then crying a little in the bathroom of City Hall. 

During the past few months, Jon and I have become intimately involved with the City of Eureka.  We read fire and building code at night on the couch.  We got to be on a first name basis with the Fire Marshall and the Chief Building Official.  I'm pretty sure they finally approved our plans because at some point they were just ready to see other people.

Once our plans were approved by the city, we brought our business proposal (written on the beach in Maui by Jon on our honeymoon) to our local credit union.  We were terrified that they wouldn't approve our construction loan due to the economic climate.  But the credit union's VP came to the Coat Shop and took a tour.  He said he was really impressed and has since helped fast-track our loan.

Now things are moving at light speed.  We're lining up sub-contractors (because at this point neither of us is willing to turn the project over to a general contractor, we're still steering this ship ourselves) and tenants and re-drawing plans and begging friends to join our demolition crew. 

We're doing a week of major demolition and then two weeks of framing and floor laying and then HVAC and electricity and plumbing.  We're moving in at some point after the floor is in but before the basic utilities are hooked up, because we like urban camping.

We have a hundred decisions to make.  We need to figure out where to put the heating vents and how to remill the redwood and whether to spend $4000 on the gas fireplace Jon is currently obsessed with. And amidst that chaos, it feels like things are working out. 

We have been preparing for doomsday since Day 1 of this project.  What will we do if the economy collapses? If the walls fall in? If the basement floods?  We have laid in bed and mapped out worst case scenarios, along with second-worst case scenarios.  We have meticulously planned for doomsday and and it has not arrived. 

While that worst case scenario might still occur, I will be surprised if it does.  As opposed to opening the door, sighing, and saying, "Oh, there you are.  Come on in.  I've been keeping dinner warm for you."

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Before and After: downstairs

Carpet, another layer of carpet, rubber, staples, and lots of dirt.


After demo we scrapped, sanded, and sealed (Amy below) We added in new electrical on a separate meter from the commercial space.

Microwave, washer and dryer, industrial shelving, 2 windows, an induction burner, a new faucet, and exposed beams.

Before and After: Bathroom

The bathroom was a big nasty mess: Two toilet holes, one very small metal stall, blue flooring, drywall backed with cement board, and old windows.

Behind all of that was beautiful redwood and solid framing + beams.  We added exposed copper plumbing with kohler shower heads...

We added double pane windows, redwood window casing, towel rack, a new toilet, redwood baseboards, exposed hardwood floors (cealed and finished), and nickel fixtures.

...built a bench, added a shower pan, cement board, motar, tile, grout, caulk (complete with a day full of cock jokes), and plexiglass for the ceiling

Dark grout

A recycled sink with a new cabinet.  Copper curtain rack with a drop cloth curtain.

Before and After: loft apartment

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Things we have learned

Here is a list of thing we would have done differently, had we known better. This list could also be titled, "I have never done this before. What do you expect?" 
  1. Don't buy the cheapest tools or materials. There is a reason that foam paintbrush is 99 cents. It's because you will have to throw it away after you use it. If you are doing it yourself, you're hiring VERY unskilled labor. So do yourself a favor and spend an extra $4 on the caulk gun.
  2. For God's sake, put down a drop cloth. Cleaning up a project is worse than doing a project. It takes 5 minutes and saves you hours of scrubbing or scrapping. See also- taping the edges.
  3. The guys at the hardware store have a lot of opinions and know quite a bit. In that order. Take their suggestions with a grain of salt. Then blame them when the project goes awry. Which it will.
  4.  Keep your receipts. You will return a good 20% of what you buy, which adds up. Your husband will not believe this. But it's true. Or at least a comforting idea.
  5. If you have a non-traditional idea and three contractors laugh at you or look at you like you're high, find a fourth contractor. Your idea is worth it.
  6. The scrap yard and recycling center are the greatest places on Earth. But what you save in materials you will almost certainly spend trying to make the cool thing that you bought actually fit where you want it to in your building. That's OK. Just know that from the beginning.
  7.  Listening to the entire Tribe Called Quest discography, from "Bonita Applebaum" to "The Love Movement," is the only way to survive a day of tiling.
  8. The most important decision you will make throughout this entire project is selecting your DIY partner. Pick someone who works differently than you, has different ideas, and different talents. Pick someone who, despite these differences, respects your perspective and sometimes lets you have your way. If possible, marry this person. The rest will figure itself out.

Before and After: front and back

Our building used to be ugly and sad. Our goal was to create "curb appeal." Our building is now happy.

The sign is a recreation of the original building sign, when the storefront was used as a men's tailor. The beams are reclaimed cedar, the door handle is scrap redwood, and the flower pot is an old wine barrel. We repaired and stained the concrete and built a wood panel with new street numbers. The photos are of NCAC clients.

We reinforced the back porch, welded salvaged steel gates, removed some ugly plumbing, and installed a new door and energy star windowsred. The windows are now framed in redwood. We painted the whole building and trim, and cleaned out and mulched the "yard." We continue to beat back the ivy, which seems to multiply like Tribbles.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Finishing Phase I

So, we finished Phase I of our project! Amy and I got married, went on an amazing honeymoon, then we spent two weeks working on the property almost every night and two full weekends.  We are tired and so stoked!  Here we go...

Mulch, $12 for a truck full, nice!  This is for the side of our property next to all the electrical meters.

Our loft apartment is laid-out and ready for our renters

Our bathroom was about 8-10 days of soothing, then detailed-oriented, then angry work.  At the end the scope of work is extremely satisfying.  Note the Kohler heads, exposed copper piping, copper curtain rod to match piping, subway-like tile, dark grout, plexiglass on the ceiling to expose the studs, and an industrial drop cloth as a shower curtain. 

Hanging towel and a local potted grass

White seems the theme

We added Redwood baseboards and stylized hooks

We are really happy with how the bathroom came out 

The aluminum siding, the tub, and bamboo really go well together 

 Our entranceway, laundry room, kitchen, and storage

And the Stairs

 Look forward to our updated business plan and completed Phase II plan soon.