Monthly Archives: September 2016

My Hope Chest

While I was out of town with my girlfriends a few weeks ago, Nik got to work on a surprise wedding present for me. He built me a beautiful hope chest, totally from scratch, and totally his design – he didn’t even look for plans to base it off of! He got red oak lumber from Lowes, and the feet were salvaged from a thrift store find a while back. All the lumber joinery was done with biscuit joints (Nik’s grandfather gave us this biscuit joint-maker device which I was certain would never be used, Nik has proven me wrong again) and the Kreg jig pocket hole drill I got Nik last year. The impending tropical storm got me home from the beach a day early and derailed his plans to line it with cedar boards…but this will come soon, when we have some time after the wedding.

Here it is – I meant to take some better pictures, but there’s a lot of other things distracting me this week!




What is a hope chest for? Traditionally, an unmarried woman would have one to add special clothing items and linens to as she grew up, in anticipation of married life. I believe my grandfather (or great grandfather?) built one for his wife when they got married to collect items from their life together. Nik and I refinished this particular hope chest a couple years ago, and it resides in my parents’ bedroom: IMG_0447

So what will I use my new hope chest for? Well, it’s beautiful, so I imagine it will always be a special piece of furniture in our home, wherever we are.  I don’t know what we’ll put in it yet, but as I look forward to beginning my married life with Nik, there is so much that I hope the future will bring – and perhaps these hopes will help us fill the chest over time. I hope we are always happy and healthy. I hope we always have a home that we love with things in it that we love. I hope that we always enjoy the things we do, for work and for play. I hope that we have chances to travel to unique places all over the world. I hope that we can someday experience the joy of raising our own children. I hope that we can always remember to respect each other and our differences. And most importantly, I hope there is always love. I hope that our love for each other does not fade over time, but instead grows and changes with us as we get older. But hope is just hope – and I know it is impossible for all these things to happen perfectly as we go through our lives. I believe this is what a partner is for – to help each other get beyond the challenges life presents that may not have been hoped for.

I think these thoughts, these ‘hopes’, are what I’ll be stashing in my new hope chest for now, and they may end up being more important than the physical items that will accrue in there over time.  Together, refinishing furniture and our home was something Nik and I discovered a love for together, and working on and completing projects together has also helped make our relationship stronger and more complete. I hope this hobby is something we enjoy (and I can blog about!) for years to come, and I think Nik picked the perfect wedding gift to sum up our past renovation adventures and bring hope for the future.

There’s only 3 more days until our big day, and I couldn’t be more excited to marry my best friend!

As Finished as Can Be

My parents came into town from Friday to Monday to help us wrap up projects, and based on the amount of wine, beer, and martinis that were consumed over those three days you’d never think we could’ve gotten as much work done on the house as we did! That’s just how the Giffins roll!

I scrawled out a “to do” list to keep us on track, and every single item on it got checked off. For the yard, we had to hedge bushes, edge the driveway and sidewalk, plant some mums, mulch 5 garden beds, transplant 2 large tomato plants into the garden, and trim off some dead branches from a maple tree out back. Inside, we had to finish adding hardware to all the cabinet doors and mount them, nail the floor trim behind the fridge, finish the last row of tile under where our open shelves will be, grout those last tiles, cut, stain and seal the floor transition pieces for the living room and dining room, caulk all the cabinets and the seam between the backsplash and counters, put door bumpers on all the cabinet doors, add shelf liner to a few more cabinets, finish all the wooden box/vases we’re using for wedding decor, iron some wedding linens, and clean all the windows. The list makes me tired just thinking about it. But it’s done!

The only thing we’re waiting on for the kitchen is the open shelf brackets, which haven’t all come in yet. And eventually adding crown molding to the tops of the cabinets, but not before October. So here are the obligatory “before pictures”:


New house Aug 2015 037

New house Aug 2015 033

Then we lived in this mess for a few months:

And here are our “after” shots!






I liked the cabinet color before, but after getting the doors all on to really see the color, it’s even better than I had imagined. It’s a little less teal-ish and more green in person than these pictures show it. It looks so rich with the counters, and the subway tile is the perfect shiny touch that doesn’t make the room look too busy. And I love the hardware we picked – a little angular to keep it from looking “country,” but not too harsh. And the floor doesn’t make the room look as dark as I thought it would, it just adds to the richness of the cabinets.

Although, honestly, at this point it could look like total crap and I’d still be happy it was done so I could have my kitchen and living room floor back! So the fact that it’s done AND looks great is the cherry on top.

The cost of all of this was $2200 for the appliances (stove, microwave, dishwasher, and fridge) and about $3700 for everything else, bringing us in just below $6000. I think my budget for everything else was about $3000 or $3500, so we’re not too far off. We splurged on getting the sink/plumbing installed ($325 and $80 for an unexpected new disposal), and the shelves ($155 for the brackets, and if we use the stair treads we bought for shelves, they were about $105, but we might upgrade depending on what that wood looks like on the brackets). I have no idea if we’ll get all this money back when we go to sell the house, but I’m certainly happier cooking in a kitchen that doesn’t look like 1995, and I like to think that counts for something =)


3 Weeks to Go!

Well we have about 3 weeks to go till our wedding, and I’m pretty sure we have more than 3 weekends of work to do on the kitchen before then…so we’ll see how far we get, and our guests will just have to accept the slow reality of DIY renovation!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and since then I’m happy to say our backsplash is installed and about 2/3 of the way done with being grouted. Here’s some pictures of the backsplash pre-grout:


And the cutouts Nik made around the window frame:IMG_1048


And also the new cabinet in the corner:


We had a minor set back Saturday, when we turned on the tile saw and smoke erupted out of it. We figured out it was the capacitor which had fried…and of course Skil is not opened on the weekend to help us deal with it being covered under the 1 year warranty. So we went to Lowe’s and just bought a new one for $90 so we wouldn’t be slowed down. Once we get the part to fix the old one…is there anyone who wants a tile saw?

After giving all the tiles time to dry out, we applied grout yesterday. We wanted a light gray, and tested out a few ratios of dark gray grout with white grout. We settled on mixing 1 part gray grout with 2 parts white grout:


And then the fun (read: stress) began:




Even though I’ve grouted twice before, and should know by now that IT’S GOING TO LOOK LIKE CRAP WHEN YOU DO THE INITIAL APPLICATION BUT IT’S GOING TO BE OK IN THE END, I still freak out when applying it. Grout is stressful because you have to apply it heavily to make sure you get it in all the cracks adequately which takes a while, then 20 minutes after application you wipe it down with a slightly wet sponge, then wait anther 30 minutes to buff it. But it takes longer than 20 minutes to do a few feet of wall, and then you want to keep going with the grout in the bowl to not waste it before it hardens…but it’s time to start sponging, and two people can’t be in the same place at the same time…and you see where this is going.

But after several near-nervous-breakdowns and several hours of time we managed to finish about 2/3 of the kitchen, and sure enough it looks wonderful:



In retrospect, subway tile was a challenge – not because of the tiling part, which went very well, but because of how time consuming the grouting was. With larger tiles, it’s less work, but with these small tiles there are so many edges and you really have to ensure every edge of every tile gets good grout coverage. But I love the look, and I love the subtle gray grout color we made.

Our cabinets have made substantial progress (although not yet done). The doors all have 2 coats on the front, so just a coat of sealer and the fronts will be done. Then the backs need another coat or 2, and a coat of sealer. And the cabinet frames (in the kitchen) need their sealer.


So what’s the plan for the next 3.5 weeks? Our goals are to finish the grout and caulk around the tiles, hopefully finish painting/sealing cabinets, drilling and adding hardware and re-mounting the doors, cleaning up the quarter round floor trim with some paint-touchups, putting our pantry door back on, and hopefully making and mounting the shelves for next to our sink. We bought these cool rustic brackets off of Etsy  for the shelves:

DIY Rustic Shelf Bracket Hangers Lip Metal Shelve Mounting Angle Industrial HANDMADE 2

And we’re actually planning to use 1″ thick oak stair treads for the shelf – which will be stained and sealed. But we’ll see how far we get – there’s lots of wedding-to-do-list items for the next few weeks too, and getting successfully married might have to take priority over the kitchen!