Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Roof Reveal: Cedar Shakes = Cottage Love


There are a lot of new plastic or rubber shingles that have a cedar look, but we chose to go with old fashioned wood shakes. And Arthur and his crew installed them the old fashioned way, nailing them in one by one (with the modern application of course of the nail gun!)

We chose white cedar because it weathers gray - and gray will be a sweet look for a modest cottage like ours with white trim.

Here is what the shakes looked like out of the box:

Before you can begin, you have to remove about five layers of old asphalt roofing. Then level out any unevenness where the pitched roof of the original cottage meets up with the 1980s addition. 

The plywood boards are covered in felt paper, then a ventilating underlayment goes on. This made of an airy material allows the next layer of rubber sheathing to breath. After this, the shakes are added over the rubber sheathing. 

Here are a few progress shots from my phone about midway through the work, starting at the back of the house, where you can see the deck and outdoor shower shelter:

A bit closer:

And a shot of the palette of shingles:

Finally, a close up of the shakes on the roof:


While he was at it, Arthur replaced the rotted out boards of the front stoop:

And cellar hatch:

He also did some much needed though not so visible tuck-pointing to the cement-block foundation -- and more importantly, some animal-proofing so that no little critters can burrow under the house. 

We are so happy to be able to take care of these things this fall. These types of projects are not as much fun as, say, the kitchen renovation or even painting the beadboard was -- but so necessary. 

We just bought this house another 30 years of good health. Which means many more years of summer fun for us.

Next up for the cottage - landscaping. I can hardly wait for Spring!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Remove a Broken Lightbulb From a Fixture

Sutton Double Sconce - Restoration Hardware

We've been very happy with the fixtures we chose for our bathroom renovation. The chrome medicine cabinets and sconces complement the console sink and give the room exactly the retro modern look we were going for.

So I have to say I was surprised and a tiny bit annoyed when a bulb blew out in one of the sconces after only 7 months wear, and when I went to replace it, the bulb snapped apart with the metal base remaining stuck in the fixture.

Normally I wouldn't get too worked up about a broken bulb stuck in a light fixture. It has happened before, so I know all about the potato trick.

DIY Network
And the soap trick.


The real problem was with the fixures themselves.

You might think, as I did, that you'd simply shut off the breaker to the bathroom, unscrew the bottom sconce, use your potato or soap to remove the stuck part of the bulb, replace a new bulb, screw in the glass again, restore power, and be on your way. But the Restoration Hardware Sutton Sconce doesn't work like that. Twist and turn as I did, the thing would not come apart. And as you can see the glass is too long and narrow to squeeze a hand-holding-potato inside.

The one bright spot (hi-yo) in all this was that the fixture is still available on the RH site, so I was able to download the installation instructions. I found the sconces had come with a special tool that you slip up inside the glass to tighten (or in my case, remove) the thin nut holding the glass globe in place. Problem was, I didn't know what my contractor had done with the tool after installing the fixtures. It was very likely in a box of leftover tile and plumbing parts that I had stowed in the attic of our summer cottage - a two hour drive away.

Ug. I had been out to the cottage just a few weeks back to look at the roof work, and I wasn't planning to make another trip out before Christmas. But we had guests coming over Thanksgiving weekend and I wanted the house to look its best. I couldn't just leave the lights looking like a missing tooth in a perfect smile.

Was there another method to remove broken bulbs? I googled and found several good bits of information, should this ever happen to you:

1. There is actually a tool for this. Several in fact. They are called light bulb extractors.

2. This very problem has actually happened to another Restoration Hardware Sutton Sconce purchaser, one lucky enough to have the tool on hand (note to anyone considering buying this fixture).

3. And as it turned out, perusing the comments of Ron Hazelton's Handyman site, I stumbled on exactly the right tool for my tall and narrow sconce: the humble paint stick. (Thank you to Ron's reader Barbara!)

Ron Hazelton's Handyman Site

I am enamored with the paint stick solution! First of all, how many handy men and women carry a potato in their tool kit? Second, certainly you've shut off the breaker, but even so, daughter of an electrician, I feel better inserting a wooden stick in a fixture than a wet potato. Third, I've banned bar soap from my bathroom due to the soap scum factor.

So, the paint stick wins first place in my book on availability and safety.

To recap on how to remove a broken lightbulb that's stuck in a fixture:

Step 1: Shut off the power at the breaker box.

Step 2: If you will be standing below your bulb wear safety glasses and take precautions, as you will likely be showered in glass shards and metal bits.

Step 3: Stick the "handle" end of a wooden paint stick firmly into the fixture and turn counter clockwise (lefty-loosey). The metal end will come right out. 

Step 4: Screw in a new bulb.

Step 5: Restore power at the breaker box

Step 6: Flick on the switch and admire your handiwork.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving: DIY Table Extension to Seat Six

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm not cooking today, as we'll be guests, so that gave me some time to work on a project that I've been meaning to get to: Extending our four-top table to seat six.

Saturday we will be hosting "Second Thanksgiving" for family members we won't get to see today. It will be our first dinner party in our new home and I've been planning it for weeks, with every weekend spent knocking out some little DIY task not big enough to merit a post -- like caulking the kitchen backsplash ( finally), painting the molding alongside the cabinets (finally), removing a broken lightbulb from a fixture (I did post about that, actually), and finally, this project: Extending our 42" round table of four into a rectangular 42" x 68" table for six.

So, let's get right to it.

Step 1: Measure the space around your table and determine how large your new table top extension can be. Consider how many people you need to seat, how much space the chairs you will be using take up, as well as how much space around the table you will need for easy clearance. 

Step 2: Purchase a panel of sanded plywood from any big box store that will do your cuts for you. This will become your temporary table top.

Step 3: Purchase enough oil cloth from a fabric store to cover your temporary table top plus an additional two inches either side. My store carried a roll that was 54" wide for $5 a yard so I ordered 2 yards. I chose white so that if I choose to use a white tablecloth, no pattern will show through. But there were some fun retro patterns and even a few holiday ones.

Step 4:  Lay the oil cloth out on the floor, felt side up and position the plywood panel so that the fabric overage is about even on all sides.

Step 5: Load your staple gun (I use a lightweight Powershot that shoots staples or nails) and, folding one side of the fabric over tightly, staple it in place. 

Do this on all sides, folding your corners in neatly, as you would when wrapping a present.

Step 6: Staple the folds.

Repeat on all sides until the plywood is completely covered.

Step 7: Cover your tabletop with a soft covering to protect it from scratches.

Step 8: position the plywood, evenly distributing the overhang.

Step 9: Do a dress rehearsal, setting your table with the dishes and cutlery you plan to use. Make sure the table is steady and that all chairs have plenty of clearance. You may need to place some clamps to ensure the top doesn't move around.

Now, you are all set to host a sit down dinner using your DIY table extension. 

I plan to put ours in storage and break it out as needed. I may even make another longer one that seats 8.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

DIY: Making White Slipcovers Without a Pattern

The holidays are approaching, and I have a to-do list as long as my arm. Nothing like the prospect of entertaining guests in your home to get you to finish off all those tedious five-minute projects that would otherwise never get done. Projects such as caulking the kitchen backsplash, painting trim, hanging shelves -- post-move projects that I had put off for the summer months. Well, now here we are in November and its crunch time. It took this weekend and last, but I crossed a big one off the list: slipcovering the little mod settee in our entryway.

If you are wondering why I didn't just ship this off to professional seamstress Trish Banner at Cottage by Design, who had sewn the new slipcovers for my old sofa, chair, and ottoman, I did try! But the old slipcover was made of a stretchy poly fabric and, 30-years-old, the material simply crumbled in my hands as I was stripping it off. I had nothing that could serve as a pattern. And as Trish is located on the opposite coast, she couldn't just stop by our home for fittings. I briefly considered cutting and pinning and sending the fabric to her. But quickly realized that the cutting and pinning is half the work anyhow. In addition, the curved shape of this settee was going to present some challenges that would require quite a bit of pinning and alteration work to really get it right.

Nothing for it, this was a DIY project. So, how do you go about making a slipcover without a pattern? 

The first step is choosing your fabric. I thought about matching the beautiful nubby linen Trish had used on the living room slipcovers:

But the settee sits in our foyer under a very bold painting we call the "Fake Pollack" that seemed to call for an equally bold primary color for the slipcover. I first considered lipstick red, and even purchased the fabric. I left it draped across the settee for a few weeks to live with it and see how I liked it and though I love red, in the end I felt it was too blue a red for the Farrow and Ball "Blackened" paint color we have on the walls. I finally decided on white - which was the original settee color. But canvas. 

White canvas is actually a great choice for removable slipcovers because it washes and wears well and if you find stains you can bleach them. In a home like ours with pets, white canvas slipcovers are one of the most easy-care choices available. 

The second reason is that I am a self-taught and not very accomplished seamstress, and sewing stretchy fabrics requires fairly advanced sewing skills.

So, I purchased about 10 yards of white cotton canvas at my local fabric store at $4 per yard. I estimated my yardage using Cottage by Design's handy fabric yardage chart. 

Cottage by Design
In the end, I probably could have gotten by with 8 yards. But I didn't know that I might not want a skirt until I was nearly finished. Also, when I'm sewing without a pattern I tend to over-cut, to give myself more margin for error.  While I was there, I also purchased 6 yards of white piping with lip, which I find invaluable in making slipcovers and pillows.

White piping "with lip"
As you will see, you simply match up the edges of your two pieces, then flip them inside out, pinning the piping between the two pieces with the lip on the outer edge. Sew a straight line, keep close to the actual piping. Tie off your thread, turn it right side out, and voila! A professional looking edge.

So, a quick step by step to making slipcovers without a pattern:

Step 1: measure and cut. 

When I don't have a pattern, I use a tape measure to cut a rectangular piece of fabric, lay it across the furniture and trace using a pencil or tailor's chalk, then trim to fit.

Step 2: Look at the outlines of your furniture and figure out the lines (where two pieces of fabric will join) that you want the piping to accentuate. 

I chose to accentuate the straight lines of the back then follow down the curved arms of this  settee. 

Step 3: Turn your two pieces inside out, join the edges with piping and pin in place.

Step 4: Sew the fabric-piping-fabric edge together, stitching as close to the piping as possible. Tie it off, then turn right side out.

Step 5: Do this for all of the edges where your pieces meet. Cut, pin, sew, fit. Cut, pin, sew, fit.

Until all of the pieces are joined and you have the beginnings of a slipcover.

I'm not going to pretend to be one of those perfect bloggers who gets it right the first time. The curvy lines of this settee presented me with quite a few challenges. The biggest issue came at the end - how to finish the hem. 

Did I want a skirt? Should I leave some length and let it skim the ground?

I decided against either of these. The original slipcover was very snugly fitted, to accentuate the curved lines. And the feet of the furniture are carved walnut, quite beautifully shaped. I wanted them to show. Furthermore, the furniture has beautiful curved arms that I wanted the fabric to hug.

So, how to make coarse canvas fabric fit snugly? I decided to trim the fabric short and put a drawstring in the hem. Pulled tight, the drawstring would gather all of the loose edges in at the bottom, right under the seat.

How do you get the drawstring in the hem? I don't know how real seamstresses do it, but I use a wire hanger - the kind that come with your dry cleaning.

Step 6: Remove the cardboard tube from the hanger if there is one. Untwist the wire leaving a small hook on the end and knot your cord tightly.

Step 7: (Sorry, I missed a photo - probably because this was a very tedious step.) Slip the hanger into the hem of the slipcover and push it through, bunching up the fabric along the wire as you go until you come to a complete circle then pull the cord through giving yourself enough slack to be able to fit the slipcover over the furniture and tie the ends.

Step 8: Fit the slipcover, pull the drawstring snugly, and tuck the ends of the cord under the hem so they don't show.

Before and After

Step 9: Sit back with a glass of wine and enjoy your handiwork.

White was exactly the right color to complement the "Fake Pollack"

Monday, October 6, 2014

Goodbye Tulip Chairs, Hello Catifa 53

Catifa 53 (x 4)

I can tell you exactly when I fell in love with the Arper Catifa 53. It was January of 2011. I was working for a nonprofit in a donated office within a swanky health PR firm that was filled to the gills with stunning iconic furniture and pop art. Their clients were the likes of Pfizer and Ely Lily -- you know the kind. My chair was a boucle-covered red swivel on wheels, with sleek chrome arms. Not only was it the most comfortable office chair I'd ever sat in, it was also the most beautiful, and it swiveled and rolled with well-oiled perfection.

When form and function meet in perfect alchemy, there's no feeling like it in the world. I knew that I would have these chairs in my home some day. And that day has come.

It's not that I had fallen out of love with the Saraanin-style chairs we had been dining on. I will always admire the unfurling shapeliness of the tulip chair:

The Old Saraanin-Style Knock-Offs

It's that mine were poorly made knock-offs - whose bolts fell out with regularity and had to be screwed back in (approximately every 6 weeks).

I didn't end up with these reproductions by accident. I knew they were knock-offs when I had them delivered from a showroom in SoHo that specialized in such goods. But I had just moved into my apartment in Carroll Gardens and spent all the Renov8or dough on, you've got it, renovations, and these were what I could afford at the time. I had found an original pedestal table on Craigslist for $175. But, though I waited several months, checking classifieds, no tulip chair turned up that was within my budget. So, taking a feather from Newmod's cap (We Committed a Carnal Sin), I sprang for the knock-offs.

Do I regret it? Well, no. In spite of the constant mechanical adjustments and in spite of the $50 I spent on all new hardware and white lithium grease to try and fix that defect and in spite of the one pedestal that rather scarily snapped in two the night my nephew joined us for poker (I did warn him not to tip his chair back like that), I genuinely enjoyed these chairs for about 7 years before I felt ready to graduate to some real furniture. 

And even when I did, I kept the two in best condition for re-use. in our office:

But when the day came that I could finally have any chairs I wanted, I went searching for my true love the Catifa 53. 

Once again, I turned to Craigslist. And I found this perfect set of four in white, listed by a guy living in a fabulously decorated apartment in Washington Heights - he had just moved to a larger space and was trading up to some leather Arpers! Ross and I brought the chairs home carefully wrapped in blankets in the back seat of the Mini Cooper, top down - it was one wild ride down the West Side Highway and across 57th Street with our finds! And though they were spendy even secondhand, it was still less than half what I'd have paid to import them new from Arper in Italy.

No, they are not the red boucle that I first fell in love with, nor do they have wheels or arms, office-style, but they are the same sleek well-designed chair, a pleasure to sit in and so perfectly suited to their surroundings.

And solid! I will never need pause before offering a guest - even a back-tipping, poker playing nephew - a seat at our table in these babies.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cottage Renovation: Cedar Shake Roof vs Asphalt Roof

Our little cottage, with photo-shopped cedar roof -- hah! wish it were so easy!

It's been a while since I posted about our little cottage on the Northfork of Long Island, NY. But that doesn't mean nothing's been going on there. We do try to make at least one improvement each year, depending on the Renov8or budget. 

We knew last year that the roof was starting to go. When we engaged a carpenter to build us a shed out back, he pointed out the wear and tear to our roof and said that ought to be our next project. The asphalt shingles were peeling in places and it was starting to sag in spots over the porch. At that point we had to make a decision - shed or roof - we couldn't afford to do both. We already had the shed plans drawn up and in our imaginations the thing was already built, so we went with the shed. 

It could have been a risky move if we'd had another "Sandy". But luckily no bad Nor'Easters came our way, and when we opened up in spring the cottage was snug and dry. However, we knew better than to press our luck another season, so as summer waned this year, we sought roofing bids from three contractors -- two we had worked with before and a new guy Arthur, who had just done some work for our neighbors. We had all three give us two estimates -- one on replacing the existing asphalt roof with a like product and another if we chose to go with cedar shakes.

I'm sure you already know which one this Renov8or wanted!

Asphalt is cheap and it lasts a long time. Wood is expensive in both materials and labor, but it does last as well. In the end, its really a matter of what you can afford, what your goals are for your property -- and what you want to look at every time you drive by. 

Throughout the summer I had started to really pay attention to cottage roofs on my morning bike ride through Orient Town. And cedar tile roofs really make a difference -- and not just on the grand victorians and Queen Annes. Every design decision is more important on a small cottage like ours. 

Sadly, I did not do the good blogger thing and jump off my bike with iphone in hand to snap some photos for you. But here are some favorites courtesy of Houzz that will give you an idea of what I'm talking about.

Cedar shakes give a small cottage a fairy tale feeling:

Cedar shake siding and roof - Charming!
Cedar shakes are especially nice on a small house when the siding and roof match and the trim really pops. White cedar shakes weather gray over time, which looks totally charming with white trim:

For a little while, we may have a mixed situation such as this, where the newer shakes are still tan but the older shakes have weathered gray:

Because if you recall, a few years back we replaced the vinyl siding on our cottage with white cedar shakes. It made a world of difference. Those shakes are just starting to weather now behind the bushes and along the foundation. In fact, the cottage is really coming along, as you can see from this side by side where I have photo-shopped a shake roof on the left (okay, the pitch is a bit off): 

Here's how the cottage looked the day we bought it:

So, the bids came in from the contractors a few weeks ago, and they were roughly similar. The two guys we've used in the past are both busy this fall, so we're going with Arthur, the new guy who did some great work for our neighbors. He paid us a visit last week and we talked through the materials and the plan.

And even though the cedar shake roof came in twice as high as the asphalt, we're going with the shingles. Arthur says it will last us a good 30 years -- which brings us to about age 80. If we're still alive and kicking, I think we'll not be regretting the joy we feel every time we look at our little beach cottage.