Monday, July 24, 2017

Happy Campers!



Well, it's been months now since Lance brought home the camper (a 1996 Palomino Colt),  but I'm excited to announce that our camper re-do is FINALLY done! In all honesty, it's a project that could probably have been completed in just a couple of weeks, but we didn't even start on it until the school year had ended and we'd returned from a family vacation. Then of course everything takes 1000 times longer when you're trying to wrangle the world's most active toddler at the same time.  So for the most part we had to work during nap times or take turns watching her while the other worked on the camper solo. Our saving grace came when my parents visited for a few days, which gave us some much-needed child care and and extra set of hands at the same time. Thanks Mom and Dad!

In writing about everything we did, I realized that there were a LOT of changes, so for now I'll just give a really general overview and then I can provide more detail about specific parts of the project in subsequent posts (ha ha ha ha ha ha the thought of having time for more posts anytime soon is hilarious!).

Anyway, as you may recall, here is what the camper looked like when we started. In perfectly good shape, functional, and it easily could have been camped in almost immediately:

However, while we may like to revel in the nostalgia of 90's music, movies, clothes, and Zima from time to time, we weren't really eager to revisit 90's decorating.

Step 1: We started by pulling everything out, including the kitchen sink, which we decided to remove since we weren't planning to use it anyway, and it made the camper much lighter and gave us a lot more storage space:



 

 

Step 2: Small Repairs
There were a few areas that needed some repairs, including some small tears/thin spots in the canvas, a wheel well that was rusted through (all fixed, thanks to some Bondo and rust converter we already had on hand) and a spot where the wood veneer was coming off (we just replaced it with bead board and painted over it). We also replaced the lights on the outside and caulked the seams to make sure there are no water leaks.

Step 3: Cleaning, inside and out


For the canvas, we used a mixture of Woolite and water and then used diluted vinegar for dirt and mildew spots.  On the vinyl, we used dish soap and water and then finished it off with some Protect All to make it really shine. I also have to give a shout out to the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, which worked wonders on all of the black marks.

Step 4:  Priming and painting.
I had originally wanted to paint the cabinets gray to hide dirt and scuff marks, but then Lance pointed out that with all the gray canvas, the inside was going to look really depressing. After looking at several camper re-do's online where people noted that white cabinets really weren't any more difficult to clean than darker colors, I decided to go with a nice bright white (Dutch Boy Mold and Mildew Resistant Paint in White, to be exact. 1 gallon was MORE than enough and we saved money with a rebate). For primer, we used BIN Oil-Based primer left over from our master bedroom redo. Once it was dry, we gave it a clear coat of water-based polycrylic (remember you can't use polyurethane on painted surfaces because it will yellow over time).  Lance found some appliance epoxy (it's durable and heat resistant) and used it to paint the fridge, outlet covers, heater grate, and fire extinguisher cubby. We were skeptical that it would actually look like stainless steel, but were pleasantly surprised to find it actually does (for the most part, anyway). I don't know that I'd use it in our kitchen, but for a camper it worked pretty well.

Before
After


Step 5: Table and Countertops
We also replaced the table and counter tops with wood instead of the old chipped formica and particle board combo. We used edge-glued spruce, which we cut to size using the old table and counter tops as guides, and we made a new counter for the space where the sink used to be. We know spruce is softer, so it's going to get some dings in it, but we're ok with that because it will give the wood a nice distressed look over time. We stained it with Minwax Dark Walnut,  which brought out some beautiful grains in the wood and it matches the floors perfectly.

Step 6: Floors and Molding
Speaking of floors, Lance and my dad spent a day and a half putting in snap together vinyl planks and finishing them with quarter round molding. We'd considered peel and stick vinyl, but it just looked really cheap and we were afraid it wouldn't stick well the the linoleum underneath. We're really happy with our decision- the floors look AWESOME!

Here was our progress at about the mid-point:
 

We also replaced the old yellow brass cabinet hardware with brushed nickel, though we discovered that with the addition of the molding, we had to make some modifications to make the doors fit properly:


Step 7: Fabric
The most difficult decision was actually what fabric to use for bunk curtains and re-covering the bench cushions.  We thought about using pre-made curtains, table cloths, or cloth shower curtains, but we weren't really able to find a pattern that we really liked.  Finally, we settled on a pattern for the bunk curtains (Covington Carson Fiesta) from fabric.com and then we were able to pick coordinating fabric for the bench cushions and pillows. Now I am NOT experienced at sewing, and I found this to be the worst part of the whole project, although part of that might be because my sewing machine is terrible (I'm now in the market for a new one, preferably one that doesn't suck). I used this tutorial for re-covering the cushions, except that I finished the edges and instead of hand sewing the covers right onto the cushions, I used velcro to close them so that they can be removed and washed. The bunk curtains are just clipped on with Ikea Riktig clips and bungee cords. For pillows I just re-covered a few of the billion throw pillows we have lying around the house.

Step 8: Bedding
I know that sleeping bags would be waaaay easier, but we felt like so often sleeping bags are just too hot for summer, and that there is something really nice about crawling into an actual bed with actual sheets at the end of a long day. For now we are keeping the original bunk mattresses, but we put a layer of foam tiles (the kind you see on the floor of children's play rooms) underneath and will be adding a memory foam topper. We got sheets from Marshall's and bed spreads on clearance from Boston Store.

At this point I'm guessing most people have skipped over everything I just wrote and scrolled town right away to see the "after" pictures. At least that's what I do when I look at this kind of stuff. So....

AFTER 

Grownup bunk- not nearly as cute and colorful as Ellie's!

Vinyl snap-together flooring

We thought the door panel could use a little color.

Goodbye sink, hello new wood countertop!


A nod to the old pea green VW Van from my childhood


The dark stain really highlights the wood grain.

Ellie's Bunk


Sunday, April 23, 2017

That Time We Bought A Camper.......

So I am realizing that the last time I posted, it was August 2015. Ah...life was so much simpler back then, wasn't it? I'd planned to do a post about our daughter's nursery (oh yeah, we had a baby), but then it was never really quite ready for pictures (it still isn't, and she's 11 months old!) and we've been too busy to really get much done. Until now. Ok we're still too busy but also itching to do SOMETHING creative, as it's been a while.

Now as public school educators in different districts, it's rare that both Lance and I have the same week off for Spring Break, and this year was no exception. So a couple of weeks ago, on the first day of Lance's break, I got a text from him that said "Well, I didn't buy Ellie a pony, but I did buy her a Palomino!" It turns out he and Ellie had taken a road trip to Appleton and purchased a 1996 Palomino Colt from someone on Craigslist**.  Of course I wondered if he bought a pop up camper on the first day of break, what kinds of things would the two of them be coming home with by Friday!?

Because it was cold and rainy for the rest of the week, I didn't actually see it until the following weekend when we were able to set it up out in the driveway:



It came with an outside canopy, which is pretty nice, and while the inside is in decent shape (if it were a house I'd say it has "good bones") but definitely very dated and in need of a deep cleaning. The previous owner(s) had added a sound system (as in, put in a car stereo and hooked up some of those speakers that EVERYONE had in the late 90's). I can't imagine why you'd want such huge speakers taking up valuable space in a pop-up, but who knows. Maybe this guy just really liked to crank up some Ace of Base and rock out in there, I'm not here to judge.




The camper has a sink, heater, and fridge, but was missing the stove that hooks onto the outside.  I was ok with this, because I'd rather just use a Coleman stove that is smaller, lighter and more portable anyway. I'm ok with keeping the fridge, as we have a small child and I think it could come in really handy in that regard, but I feel like the counter/sink combo really just takes up a TON of space and weight and is really unnecessary. It's like the sink is really large enough to wash dishes in, and I would much rather have room for storing clothes and supplies rather than a huge water jug. 



Originally I had planned to just clean the whole thing from top to bottom, replace a couple of worn parts, and patch a few thin spots in the canvas. But then Lance alerted me to the fact that apparently pop-up re-do's are a big thing nowadays (rookie mistake!). And once I started looking at Pinterest and various blogs and getting way too many ideas, there was no turning back. 

There are a couple of things getting in the way of the visions of a fun project dancing in my head, though.  One, there is road construction on our street that is SUPPOSED to start on our block July 1, but it appears they've already started. So the street is torn up and the end of our driveway is a narrow dirt mound with deep ditches and orange barrels on either side.  Not exactly ideal for getting a camper in and out.  And once the street gets closed, we will have to park on side streets for a while and will have no way to access the camper with a vehicle.  So we're kind of in a time crunch to get this renovation done. Secondly, let's not forget we have an almost-toddler. And she isn't exactly the type to sit patiently in a playpen in the yard while we toil away on a project. We don't really have a lot of babysitting options, either, so finding large chunks of time for both of us to work is going to be a little bit of a challenge.

So right now, here's our to-do list:
1. Clean (obviously), patch canvas, and replace a few small parts
2. Take out sink and plumbing
3. Paint cabinets
4. Re-cover cushions and add foam mattress toppers to bunks
5. Replace curtains
6. Replace flooring
7. Replace table top and counter tops

Stay tuned for project updates! 


**Now to be fair, he had been talking about and researching pop-ups for quite a while, and I knew he was likely going to buy one that week, but the story is way funnier if it sounds like he just showed up at home with a random camper. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Kitchen Re-Do, Part Deux

Wait, what!? Didn't I already post about the newly painted kitchen? Yes. Yes I did.  Confused yet?  Well, let me just go back to the beginning when we were choosing the color.  We wanted a vintage minty green, like this one from Glamorous Housewife:


So we went with our usual color selection method of going to the Sherwin Williams website and using the color selection tool.  This has worked out really well for us in the past, with the new master bedroom, and the front porch, so we figured why mess with a good thing?  So we originally chose a color called Mint Condition, but at the last minute we changed our minds and decided to go with Aloe instead (even the name "Aloe" suggests GREEN, right?).  We were a little nervous to go with a full on minty color and the Aloe was a little less minty.  Or so we thought.

After the painter finished, we looked at the kitchen and realized it wasn't the least bit green.  It was full on BLUE.  Or teal to be more exact.  It was almost the same color as our foyer, which is a very pretty color for sure, but not quite what we were going for.

The worst part is that the color completely changed depending on the light.  In some places it looked like the green color we'd wanted, while other places is was bright blue.  But regardless of which color it appeared to be, it didn't match anything. Every single thing we tried to put in the room clashed with the walls.  Originally we decided to wait a little bit, get used to it, and then decide whether to repaint.  But pretty quickly we knew we needed to fix the color ASAP because it was driving us nuts.  And we wanted to get it done before school starts.  So within an hour of the painter leaving, we were off to the paint store to pick a new color, and feeling very defeated.

The guy at Sherwin Williams was actually really helpful.  When we explained the problem he asked us if there was any yellow in the room.  Of course our hideous linoleum floors are yellow toned! He explained that anything yellow toned (including maple woodwork) brings out blue tones.  So when choosing a color, we needed to go even farther to the greener end of the scale to make up for it.  So we chose three sample colors to take home and try out before we settled on a new color.  It was the last day of a 35% off sale, so they suggested we buy the paint we needed that day so we could get the discount and then just bring it back when we decided on a color and they would tint the paint for free.  So if you are planning on painting but aren't sure of a color yet, you can totally buy the paint when it's on sale and just come back when you're ready to add the color to it! Good to know for future reference!

Anyway, so we brought our samples home and painted them on the wall:



We painted them in several places in the room and left them for a few days to see how they looked in different lights.  Finally, we settled on a color called Jocular Green (or "Jockstrap Green" as I call it.  Because I'm mature like that). So last night and this morning we re-painted the walls that had just been done a few days ago.  Luckily we didn't have to prime, and we didn't have to do the cabinets and trim, so it actually went pretty quickly.  And NOW it looks just like what we wanted in the first place!




I made sure to take pictures before we moved most of the stuff back into the room, so it looks way cleaner than usual. :)

We still have a lot of plans for the room (shelves, floors, countertops, lighting....pretty much everything besides paint), but for the time being, we're just happy we finally got the paint color right!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Kitchen Nightmares

In previous posts I've alluded to some ongoing work in our kitchen, so it is finally time to elaborate on all of the goings-on in there. While there were things about the kitchen we didn't particularly like, it wasn't high on our priority list for a renovation, given that kitchens are insanely expensive and we had plenty of other more pressing projects. But then the ghosts of owners past struck once again and we had no choice.

When we first bought the house, the kitchen had been freshly painted yellow. While it wasn't our first color choice, it was definitely something we could live with for a while.




However, shortly after moving in, small cracks began to appear in the paint on the walls.  Over time, it got much worse and now, three years later, huge chunks of paint were literally falling off the walls. Here's an example of what pretty much every wall in the kitchen looked like:



 The strange thing is that it wasn't just the top layer of paint, it was ALL layers of paint (and in a 120 year old house that's a LOT!) coming off together, leaving bare plaster underneath.  We couldn't figure out what was going on until we realized that in their haste to sell the house, the previous owners must have just slapped on a coat of latex paint over several layers of oil-based paint without any prep work (sound familiar?).  Most likely there were already small cracks appearing in the old paint and they just painted right over the top to hide them.  So the latex paint seeped into the cracks and caused ALL of the layers underneath to come off. The worst part about this is that the layers underneath contained lead.  So in short, there were literally chunks of lead paint raining from the walls in the room where we prepare our food.

We knew there was lead in the house- pretty much any house build prior to 1978 has it. And it really isn't a danger as long as it's encapsulated under non-lead paint and isn't chipping off.  So had they just prepped properly before painting, there would be no problem.  But because once again they took the easy/cheap/lazy way out, we were faced with a huge problem.

The first thing I did was call my doctor to have my blood lead levels checked. Luckily, because I opted NOT to snack on any of the paint chips that fell from the walls, my lead levels were fine. Then I started calling around trying to find someone to do lead abatement.  This turned out to be a MUCH more difficult task than I'd thought.  It turns out that some of the bigger painting companies who are lead certified refuse to come out to Columbus because it is "too far" from Madison (despite their Angie's List profiles clearly stating that they serve our area). Others told us it would be months before they could even come out to give us an estimate.

Finally, I expanded my search area and called Fine Line Finishes. Matt, the painter, came out the same day to look at the kitchen and give us an estimate to remove the chipping paint and paint the walls, trim, and cabinets.  The price he quoted us was extremely reasonable, and once we signed a contract, he was able to get started within a week.



First he had to seal off the whole kitchen in plastic, and then he had to scrape off everything that was loose and chipping.  The only silver lining here is that since most of it was chipping off on it's own, there wasn't a ton of lead dust flying around.  Then all of those spots had to be filled and sanded to smooth out the walls before he could even start priming and painting.  From start to finish the whole process took about 4 days and we are extremely happy with the quality of Matt's work. We will definitely be calling him again when it's time to paint the outside of the house!!



We also switched out the hardware on the cabinets and decided not to replace the old ugly curtains inside the glass cabinets.


As you can see in the earlier pictures, there used to be a shelf above this counter top.


When we started getting ready for painting, I decided I was sick and tired of the decorative pieces on the shelf and I tried to remove them with a chisel.  Unfortunately, they were stuck on with some kind of impossible to remove glue, so all I ended up doing was  damaging the shelf underneath.  That was actually fine with me, because I hated the shelf anyway, so we just took the entire thing off and we plan to install floating shelves on the wall above instead.

The only problem is that now with the newly painted kitchen, the floors and countertops look TERRIBLE.  So the slippery slope continues, and we will probably have to look at replacing those things in the near future.  But for now, we're just happy to not be living in the middle of a lead paint avalanche.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Storage Solutions

Well, we've only got a week left until school starts and as usual, we've crammed a ton of work into the last few days.  We are settling into the newly painted room, and the painter just finished in the kitchen about an hour ago, so things are starting to fall into place.  And not a moment too soon, since my parents are scheduled to arrive for a visit tomorrow.

So the whole motivation behind switching bedrooms was to come up with a better storage solution for all of our clothes.  For months now, Lance has been working on an idea for a clothing rack that can go in the bedroom and will look like a nice piece of furniture instead of just a generic rack.  His inspiration was something like this one from Oilfield Slang:

Big Bertha Industrial Garment Rack

However, we've found that most racks like this cost upwards of $900, and we were looking for a more affordable solution. Up until this point the only expenses we've had for this room have been paint, primer, and new curtains* (and of course blood, a LOT sweat, and even a few tears), so we weren't looking to break the bank on a clothes rack. 

*not counting the trip to the ER when Lance's back seized up after carrying the table tops by himself...

Luckily, Lance found some old table tops that he was able to get for free, so all we had to buy were the iron pipes.  This required going to a couple of different stores to get enough pieces and I was surprised to find how much a bunch of pieces of pipe cost (though still WAY cheaper to build it ourselves). Overall, we ended up using somewhere around $200 for the pipes (I'm not sure of the exact costs, since we made some last minute changes and have quite a bit of pipe left over to return to the store). 



The design for the rack went through countless revisions, and for a couple of months now, I have been finding sketches like this one all over the house:


First it was going to have two shelves on the bottom and be L-shaped, then we decided to eliminate one of the bottom shelves to leave room to store laundry baskets underneath. Then we made it shorter than originally planned and opted out of making it L-shaped because it would take up too much space. Even today when we were putting it together, we decided to attach the top shelf differently so that it would be a little lower (ie so that I could actually reach it). The nice thing is that the pipes just screw together, so it isn't too hard to change things up as needed. 

Lance started by cutting the boards down to size- which required some assistance from his stepdad since the boards are super heavy and I am waaay too much of a weakling to help hold them steady on the table saw. 



Then he stained and put on a couple of coats of poly and attached flanges to the bottom.


Finally today we were able to put the whole thing together! 


We had to put wood pieces under a couple of the feet because of course our floors aren't level (NOTHING in this house is level or square! It makes me think of the Weasley's house from Harry Potter). 



I feel like this makes our bedroom look like a Banana Republic store :)  I'm also acutely aware of the lack of color variation in our wardrobes! We are planning to put either metal or wood bins on the top shelf and possibly on the bottom, too.  

In the closet, we also added a second clothes bar and some hooks to give us even more storage space (obviously we aren't done moving all the clothes in there yet).


Overall this has been a really good opportunity to purge a LOT of things from both the bedroom and the kitchen.  I think we will be dropping off a pretty big load of stuff to St. Vinny's this week! And now, I should go get started moving things back into the newly painted kitchen!