Monday, September 24, 2012


I like water features as much as the next person...just not a geyser in the middle of the kitchen.

Poor Doug has been battling the pipes at the beach cottage for a few weeks now.  He started out trying to work with what we had, but he quickly realized that like so many other things about this little place, what we had wasn't going to get him where he needed to go.  The pipes had frozen at one time, and he explained to me that when copper pipe freezes, it expands but doesn't contract--it just stays expanded.  Not good when you're trying to work with standard size fittings.

So he consulted with his good buddy Martin and decided to use a product called PEX, a type of plastic tubing that's pretty flexible.

Here is Doug with his first order of PEX:

But it was far from his last.

Every day, he either went to Home Depot or placed an online order with PEX or McMaster Carr.  Sometimes, it was all three.  By the end of last week, I think the UPS man could have walked up our sidewalk blindfolded.

What emerged from all of this activity was a couple of cute boards with little plumbing things neatly attached. Doug referred to these creations as manifolds, which I thought was something you found only under the hood of a car.

Anyway, this is what it looked like when he installed it:

Unfortunately, plumbing is not a team sport, so all I could do while he was working on this was hang out and keep my fingers crossed. My poor husband had been losing sleep over this part of the project for weeks.  If it leaked, I was worried about his sanity.

Uh-oh, the first test, and we had leaks.  I persuaded him that it was time for a lunch break.

But all good lunches come to an end, and it was soon time for him to go back .... and redo each of the connections. One at a time.....

The first two went well.

Time for the third one.

I was sitting on the futon in the dining area, leafing through a Vintage Style magazine, when all of a sudden I heard water hitting the floor.  And I'm not taking about drips here. I'm talking about a lot of water. I looked up and Doug literally had a fountain spurting a couple of feet into the air.

He scrambled for the shut-off valve, and I raced for towels and old sheets.

But by 2:00, all was well. The braided rug was draped on a paper towel box to dry out, and all the leaks were fixed. Here is Doug with a half-smile/half-grimace celebrating his victory over the PEX and pipe fittings:

And here is the plumbing safely encased by the stand Doug built for our vintage sink, which is to be installed later this week with the help of his son Corey:

We do have one more pipe in the kitchen, which is completely useless but stands as a reminder of the cottage's earlier days.

The pipe in the photo below was hidden behind the old formica wall.  We discovered it, all dirty and corroded, when we demolished the kitchen.  Doug planned to enclose it in bead board, but I thought it had a kind of cool industrial look. So I painted it black, and Doug clamped it tight with a plastic clamp that I painted with metallic spray paint:

I had my share of pipe troubles too.

This pipe hangs really close to the bead board, so I taped it off with Frog tape while I painted the bead board. Then I removed the tape and shoved cardboard behind the pipe so I could spray paint it.  That worked pretty well, but I managed to get some black on the bead board. To make a long story short, I had to touch up the bead board AND the pipe at least about three times each.

But I think it looks neat.

Kind of "beach cottage marries industrial."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bedroom Preview

With plumbing challenges setting us back a little, Doug and I decided to take a break from the kitchen last week and paint the bedroom.  Although it's not ready for prime time yet--we're still storing tools needed for the kitchen project in there, and we haven't painted the floor or bought a bed yet--I thought I'd share a few before-and-afters as a sneak preview.

As you can see from the photo below, there is a built-in dresser in the room, which was overloaded with junk when we bought the place:

And the two large wall mirrors just added to the impression by reflecting junk in all directions.  Both of those mirrors went into the dumpster, along with everything else in this picture (except me).

When I took the drawers out of the dresser to clean and paint them, I discovered that they were lined with lovely green faux wood contact paper.  Who does this kind of thing?  It's a dresser, intended for clean clothes, and you need contact paper to protect the wood?  Oh, yeah, that's right--these are the same people who painted a sink.  Never mind.  Back to the drawers....

Here is one partially done--of course, the stuff was old and brittle, so it didn't come off in nice whole sheets or even big pieces:

 And another one finished:

And here's the dresser itself with the drawers out before the paint job and the hardware removed:

I spray painted the hardware, which was rusty and corroded, and Doug bought me all new screws.

Here's the dresser all painted, with its shiny hardware installed.  We also hung a mirror that Doug found in the basement of a house he rented several years ago:

And I couldn't resist these cute padded hangers that I found at Goodwill.  They were $4 for a pack of four, still in the original package marked $19.99.  I bought all three packs.  I know Doug is thrilled to have six of these hangers in the closet on his side of the bed.  I think the word he uses for items like these is "frou-frou." I call them cottage-y.

And here is a picture of one of the cabinets over the bed, where we can store extra pillows:

It kind of reminds me of the overhead bins on an airplane.

But the best part of all this is having everything clean and freshly painted. One of the most disgusting things about the cottage when we bought it was the smell--dirt and mold with a hint of mothballs.

Now it smells...clean....

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Doors Unlimited

Last summer, Doug built a shed on our property to house bikes, garden tools, and his riding mower.  Since our house was built in 1939, we wanted the shed to look kind of vintage too, so we decided to buy used doors and windows.

When Doug saw an ad posted by someone selling five old wooden tongue-and-groove doors, he snapped up all five even though we needed only three.  When he got to the barn where the seller had the doors, the guy also offered Doug an old shutter for $4. He took that too.

I latched right onto the shutter and carried it around the house, trying it out in different spots.  It finally found a home in a corner of our bedroom, decorated with a small wreath hung from a glass knob left over from another project:

Three of the doors were used on the shed, along with some vintage windows that we found at a junk shop in Strasburg:

Now, a year later, as we're working on rehabbing our beach cottage, we suddenly remember that we have two doors left, and we have ideas for both of them.

Doug has already made a countertop out of an old maple lab bench and four legs.  He's going to cut one door down to make a shelf to go underneath the tabletop and use the rest of it to make a small shelf to go on the wall above.

Stay tuned for pix of that project once it's installed in our remodeled cottage kitchen.

The other one is going to make an appearance as a headboard.  We're going to leave the old handle on for added interest and position it at the top:

Both doors have that great worn, chippy look that looks best when it just comes naturally, so all we're going to do is wash off the mold, scrape off the loose pieces of paint and then put on a couple coats of water-based urethane (left over from our floor project--this stuff is getting a lot of mileage) to seal them.

The hardest part of all this is seeing it in my head but waiting for it to be real....

And the moral of the story is never pass up cheap (or free) old doors--they can have a new life just about anywhere.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Of Kohls and Kittens

The day Doug and I got back from vacation, Christine and I went to Kohls to buy some extra bed pillows for our house here and for the beach cottage.

In the same shopping center, there is a Petco that just happens to have a satellite adoption center for the Faithful Friends Animal Shelter. 

After we stuffed our five huge bags of pillows into my Honda, we decided to go to Petco "just to look."

Are you kidding me? There is no such thing as "just looking" when it comes to two die-hard cat lovers and four adorable kittens behind a plexi-glass window.

A shelter volunteer just happened to show up as we were looking and told us that two of the kittens had been adopted, but two--both male dark orange tabbies--were available.  Christine picked one of them up, and he immediately relaxed into her arms, while the other one tore around the little room behind the glass kitty condo.

We knew we had our kitten.

He's four months old and has already been neutered, vaccinated, and micro-chipped. He even came with a name.  Well sort of. The five kittens in the litter had all been given "P" names, which were listed on the display case. We weren't sure which kitten he was, but one of them was named Paxton, which we both really liked.

So Pax came home with us and settled in really well. He loves to stretch out and sleep on the couch:

and play in boxes:

He has carefully checked out the bathtub:

And he definitely likes Facebook:

As for Doug, he doesn't believe for a minute that Christine and I went to buy pillows. He's positive that was a ruse for getting a kitten.

But the man who allegedly "hates cats" has willingly shared his ottoman with a little guy who's exhausted after a round of playing with toy mice:

We all still think of Casey alot, but Pax has filled a hole and an empty spot on the couch for all of us. And like all babies, he's endlessly entertaining and cute enough that he can get away with just about anything.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Vintage Surprises

We knew that the trailer part of our beach shack was old, but we were surprised to find out just how old.  When we went to settlement, we received a copy of the "title" from the DMV and learned that it's a 1952 Ventura. Sixty years old.... which means that we probably shouldn't have been surprised when we ran into a lot of issues in remodeling the kitchen.

Right now, poor Doug is in the middle of a big plumbing mess:

And every time we work on the place, we tear away more of the old crap in the kitchen, including rotted wood, old electrical wires, and filthy insulation.

So, since it may be awhile before I have any startlingly wonderful before and after pix of an entire room to post, I thought I'd share a few of the fun things we found on our vacation that will eventually show up in our remodeled kitchen.

One afternoon, we stopped at Blackwater Trading Company, an antique shop outside Cambridge, Md., which had a lot of great stuff at really great prices.

We found these cool vintage canisters, which are in really nice shape, for $15:

And this cute sifter for $4:

We chatted with the owners, who were really friendly, and mentioned that we had passed their store several times but always found it closed.  They told us they lived in the house that's attached to the store, gave us their business card, and said to just call if we came by again and wanted something else.

The next day, Doug said to me, "You know we really should have bought that blue chicken dish at Blackwater." So we called the owners, and they graciously agreed to meet us the following afternoon so we could make our purchase:

We spent a delightful half hour with them and learned that they buy out entire houses to stock their shop. We got on the email list for their giant spring yard sale and told them about our beach shack project.

We were really glad we had gone back because we felt like we had made new friends.

And besides, every Delaware beach shack needs a blue chicken, since our state bird is the fighting blue hen: