Tag Archives: before and after

Nana’s Condo – The Kitchen

I’m sorry my last post ended so suspensefully. Here’s the best material I’ve got from the condo, so I hope this makes up for it. To start, my parents (sometimes with my help) made some decisions about the kitchen to just get it done:

  • The cabinets, countertops, and appliances all came from Home Depot. There was no way my mom was lugging Nana to different stores all over the place.
  • They hired a contractor (who they are friendly with and have hired before) to fit out the room. His bid was well under the Home Depot contractors and he said afterwards that he had never worked in a high rise before and should have charged more.
  • The room is small, so we did away with the wall oven and put in a range to make it look bigger.
  • There was a clear wall opposite the cabinets that a lot of people take out. We left it intact but added a countertop with seating, a desk base cabinet with a file drawer, and wall cabinets for dishes. The convex mirror was on the other side – more important than an open kitchen.
  • All the plumbing ran through all the cabinets from a pipe chase in the dining area. A flexible gas line made the range possible, but we had to change the order of the appliances to make everything fit. (Here’s the old plumbing… and some pretty impressive rust stains.)
  • We raised the ceiling from the original 7-foot drop ceiling to 7′-9″. There’s a concrete slab 3 inches above that. My mom really wanted recessed lighting in here. She didn’t seem to get that recessed lights would get in the way of making the ceiling as high as possible. We had a fight, I won, and the room got 2 cute little schoolhouse fixtures and under cabinet lighting.

And here’s the new cabinets. You can see a paint line near the exhaust fan where the ceiling was and the shadow of the old oven cabinet in this corner.


One more weird detail: the old exhaust fan stuck out from the wall at an angle and both the duct and the grille were notched to fit around the cabinet. As you can see above, all this was now exposed.

We have lots of notches and filler strips to make this fit, so I wanted it to be a pretty elephant in the room. I picked up this fancy grille online and possibly in the bloggiest thing I’ve ever done, spray painted it oil rubbed bronze. (Also, I picked out the wall color and she yelled at me the whole time I was painting only to decide she liked it after all when I was done.)


First off, Nana laid into me while I was painting this room that the wall color I picked was too dark. “Well you’re not the one who’s gonna have to live with it!” Thankfully, she liked it once I was done.

Now we’ve got a kitchen that’s nice enough  but just a little bland. The oil rubbed bronze hardware, caramel colored paint, fake granite countertops, and bamboo floors were all just a bit generic. The room needed color, and I was thinking of the wallpaper she used to have. She loved this wallpaper. (Picture circa 1985)

Nana's Kitchen 1984.jpg

One more view of the space recycled from an earlier post:

Mom and Dad with red armoire

Also, I didn’t want to strip the wallpaper from the backsplashes. And I certainly didn’t want to repaper them. That’s not nearly durable enough. My solution was tin ceiling panels. I went over them with a thin nap roller just dampened in red paint so it only painted the raised design. (First I repainted them to match the walls.)


On the breakfast bar side, I put up a bulletin board made of Homasote wrapped in gingham fabric. If you do this, use a pattern that’s not geometric. Getting the lines straight was no fun.


And one more before/after.



We can play a game and try to spot all the things I took.


4th Anniversary Tour – Back Bedroom

The back bedroom, oh my. At the start it was tiny, the floor had a terrible slant (normally I’m okay with crooked floors but this was too much), and the closet was once again 12 inches deep.


Back bedroom

Let’s not forget the horror story of the wall behind the radiator. Whoever did this can’t have been sober. It didn’t look this bad in the before pic, did it?


Moving the bathroom made this room 34 inches longer, or about 12 ½ x 9 feet, plus an alcove where the closet used to be, making half the room 10 feet wide. You can still see the footprint of the bathroom in this picture of the new closet


There were some unique challenges in here, like marrying new framing into old when we made 1 window into 2. And the new studs warped so we had to clamp them back into place.


And we put custom cut sleepers on top of the original joists to level the floor while still allowing the exposed beams in the kitchen downstairs.


Then I glued down the original pine floors (which were under the oak in the before pic) onto the new subfloor, plus a bit of extra wood I had to buy.


And are you ready for this one? A sloped ceiling designed expressly to fit the salvaged doors I had already bought. Here’s the deal. Rowhouses have low slope (not actually flat) roofs, so when this house was built, a level ceiling was framed out at a different height in each room. I measured the bathroom ceiling since this end of the bedroom was then the bathroom, which had a higher ceiling. See how the break in the ceiling slope lines up with the corner where the closet was? I was obsessed about that detail. Also, I left the exposed brick where the closet had been so you can see the original low ceiling. The chimney is abandoned and was for the original stove, so I guess that hole was to heat the bedroom with kitchen exhaust?



This also meant that the center of the room has a level ceiling which allowed me to use a flushmount light fixture. This one was a bargain at Philadelphia Salvage. I needed a flushmount in here because the ceiling is about 7’-9” so I was grateful to find something that didn’t suck or cost hundreds of dollars.


I was emphatic that the jamb extensions and casings needed around the windows needed to come down in the middle so I could inside mount two sets of blinds. This was hard to do but the Irishman came through.


And I painted the room green because I wanted a color that brought out the really great morning light. I didn’t think I liked this color while I was painting but now that it’s on the walls it’s perfect. It looks bright in the morning and quiet in the evening. And the doors, also from Philadelphia Salvage, are 1930’s Georgian. Not quite right for the house, but just the right size.


I also scored a third knob matching what came with the closet doors and put it, incongruously, onto the Victorian door into the room. Remember: door hardware is the most important thing in the world, but I haven’t finished installing it anywhere in the house.


I had the room entirely furnished with leftovers. Every piece is a different age, style, and type of wood, and I really loved it just like that. The braided rug was very good quality; the comforter was by some cheap brand like Dorm Essentials. It’s showing its age after 5 short years in college but gets the job done.

Now, I’ve had this room rented to a friend since last Easter. Yes, she moved in Easter Sunday. So here it is as it appeared right before that.

Then a reader mailed me curtains! Thank you Mary Elizabeth! (Also note my friend’s bed in the room. I’d say the biggest downside of having a roommate is having to store the bed I had in my bedroom.)


And I scored this lamp during one of my grandmother’s several moves.


My roommate wants to live on her own sooner or later, but since it’s never too early to plan, feel free to weigh in on finishing off the room now.

4 Year Anniversary Tour – Front Bedroom

The front bedroom is the least changed room in the house. To start, it had a crazy 1-foot-deep closet and a door connecting it to the middle bedroom, which is now the bathroom.


So there was enough of the middle bedroom left over to get me a good closet, but I needed a bigger door opening than the one above. I found big fancy doors at Philadelphia Salvage that were just the right size.


I stripped them, bought reproduction pocket door hardware that was big and fancy and covered where the knobs used to be, and the Irishman hung them as bypassing sliding doors.

This is a little bit anachronistic, trying to make a 1950’s-60’s door configuration look like a Victorian one that is too grand for the house anyway. But it gave me nice doors that don’t swing out into my furniture so I say it’s fine. And plus, it means that a house in South Philly has a closet like this. Too bad I’m not into clothes and have no intention of filling it.


Now that the new closet door took one wall away, I wanted to make the old closet wall usable. But the chimney can’t just go away, so I built the whole wall in, making the room about 1 foot smaller. There’s room for a bed in the middle, but on either side the wall is framed out for cut 2 niches for built-in bookcases. One is where the closet was; the other used to be part of the room. Right now there are sections of wall with no framing behind them.

bedroom wall during

On to décor. I inherited this rather ornate Victorian bedroom set. It came from my grandmother’s aunt who got it right the third time and married a man who owned half the Wildwood boardwalk before the stock market crash of 1929. Then a good friend of the family gave me a little pan light, probably from the 1920’s or so, and a traditional Oriental style rug.


With that I have a cheap bed from IKEA, a pair of Colonial style chests, and a pair of mid mod lamps. I said with how formal the room was coming to look I wanted to make it look like a Victorian whorehouse. But then I painted the walls a sedate color. So anyways, before I show you the room now, here’s my worst progress photo. Yes, I was using the room like this.


And the after. The one below is about the same angle as the first photo in this post. When the bookcases are added, they’ll be in the wall behind the night stands.


And that fancy furniture I was talking about. The desk belongs in the back bedroom, as do the mattress and box spring behind that piece of plywood.


I’m at a bit of a stalemate with the décor in here. After Phase 2 is complete and I have permanent windows and no awnings, the cheap blinds have to go and I need something nice that blocks out the street lamp that’s like 8 feet from the window. Don’t forget where the radiators are though. The comforter is not nice (Nana bought it at Bradlee’s) and is starting to age, so it will also go. I have no attachment to the bed frame and may want a queen size bed eventually. The rug could stay but I’m not wedded to it. If you have ideas on how I can decorate around the marble topped furniture, I’m all ears. Understatement is usually my thing, but I was considering letting this room be more eccentric.