Category Archives: kitchen remodel

Spicing Up My Life- Installing Tiny Spice Shelves

As part of my ongoing endeavor to assemble every last still-boxed Ikea project in my home, I give you Bekväm- cute , tiny, wooden spice shelves with their own little jars.

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Just a little Ikea…

These little Swedish jewels are a snap to assemble. Assuming you read the directions and insert all the pieces in the correct order.

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Awesome hex driver

Partway through this project I thought I would be SO SMART and use my drill with a square bit to drive in these screws. In reality, they are a hex screw which requires a hex driver bit in a size I cannot currently locate (but know that I own. This is a good lesson to all of us to RETURN OUR TOOLS TO THEIR PROPER STORAGE LOCATIONS when we are finished with their services.)

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My drill with incorrect size and shape of driver bit. It seemed like such a great idea.

So when I realized that I had forgotten to insert the little rail prior to attaching the sides, I had to back out the screws– one of which I stripped using the wrong driver bit. Fortunately, the screws on the other side were still intact and I was able to back them out, insert rail and screw them back in (with awesome Ikea hex driver).

Installation (leveling, marking, screws) was similar to the rails, only this guy is only 16 inches and I was able to use wood screws in studs instead of anchors.

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Assembled and installed near stove.

And here is the entire ensemble in the Stove Cove.


Omni-functional stove area.

That concludes my Ikea Production for last weekend. I only have a few more Ikea objects left uninstalled/unassembled in the house. I’m hoping to wrap those up this month.

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Jazzing Up A Kitchen Corner- Wherein I Install More Ikea Backlog



The Ikea backlog is almost depleted. I purchased the kit for this kitchen wall rail about 3 months ago, prior to kitchen wall painting.


Fintorp kitchen rail comes with two brackets and one 22.5″ rail

The system is expandable if you want to install a longer rail. My rail is going to be placed on the wall to the right of my stove which is just barely wider than a standard counter top depth, so one rail will work for me.

First we mark the location of the back plates (which will connect to the brackets) on the wall. I’m using a level to make the marks. It’s not easy to photograph yourself using a level.

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Me and my gigantic level



You will need your own wall fasteners for this project as Ikea does not provide any type of screw or anchor with their hardware. I like the Ikea Fixa fastener kit for this purpose. It contains 6 different types and sizes of wood screws and 3 sizes of wall anchor.


This is the Ikea Fixa hardware kit, sold separately.


It is unlikely that you will be able to locate two wall studs spaced 22 inches from each other so you if you have common drywall/gypsum board you’ll want to use a drywall anchor.


Medium size anchor and 7/16 drill bit


Choose a drill bit that’s slightly smaller than the diameter of your anchor. You’ll want to be able to insert the anchor, but you want it to be very snug.


Anchor partially inserted into hole

Once the anchor is partially inserted, use a small hammer to tap it all the way in so it’s almost flush with the wall (but don’t squish it AND/OR damage your wall).


As the instructions below indicate (more or less) when you insert the screw into the anchor you’ll leave just a bit of space. Which allows you to slide the wall plate in snugly.


Ikea instructions featuring “ghost screw”, my screw is 1 1/2″. Note the head is domed and not flat.


We dry-fit the plate to make sure we’ve placed our anchors at the correct distance apart. Flat side out, beveled side in. Plate will slide in between the anchor and the screw.


Then we install the brackets, removing them a few times and adjusting the screws to make sure the fit is snug.



Tested for snug


Next we install the rail. Once the end of it is inside the far bracket (towards the back) I contort myself over the oven and place the end-cap on with my left hand. This will be easier to do if you are installing it on a portion of a wall that doesn’t terminate in a corner.


We leave one end off to add hooks.

Rather than the Cirque du Soleil-like moves I performed, you could also assemble the unit then attach it to the wall. But I like a challenge.

Now we insert rail into the other bracket and add the end-cap to the other side.


Voila! Relatively level.

Last step is to take your tiny hex-driver (allen wrench) and tighten the rails so they don’t slide (insert into hole at the bottom of each bracket).

And here it is with useful kitchen stuff on it.


Cute Ikea bucket and 10 hooks. The hooks are sold in packs of 5.

One more Ikea project done! But I’m on a roll, so please stand by for my next Ikea kitchen project —tiny spice shelves–coming this week!

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Subway to Heaven- Installing a White Subway Tile Kitchen Back Splash

I have always had an obsession with subway tile. It likely started when I bought my 1936 two-story cottage (that’s what it’s called here in the Northwest, Cape Cod is probably another frequently used term.) I dreamed of restoring to its former vintage glory with 1″ octagonal floor tiles and wainscoting and of course SUBWAY TILES. Brick-set, thank you, none of this trendy grid or herringbone crap.

I never actually got the tile into that house, I ended up going a bit more modern. But subway has always spoken to me with it’s timelessness and refusal to be trendy.

Other reasons to choose subway tile for a back splash or tub/shower surround:

  • It’s CHEAP. Dirt cheap. Generally under $2/sqft
  • It’s always available in your local orange or blue store
  • It’s easy to install
  • It’s easy to cut
  • It’s easy to layout

Most subway tile comes with built-in lugs so you won’t even need tile spacers for most of your installation.

I recommend white on white for several reasons:

  • It goes with everything
  • White grout on white tile will make all your DIY sins evaporate- like MAGIC
  • If you choose rounded end trim, or any type of spacer trim or chair-rail tile (like in a bathroom) those pieces are also very available in white

I know a lot of white subway is installed with black grout, and yes, this looks fabulous — if you know EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE DOING. In order to use a contrasting grout, all your cuts have to be absolutely perfect. We are not perfect- we are DIYers and we need all the help we can get. If you absolutely hate white and still want to install subway, consider black. Also readily available in tile and trims.

We Begin:

MEASURE: You’ll need to measure your wall area where the tile will be applied, then do some math (not much! won’t hurt!) to calculate how much material you’ll need. My project was about 56 square feet x 10% for waste and mistakes. Since you’ll likely be buying by the box, you want to round up to the next box if you have a fraction. My tiles came in boxes of 12.5 sqft, for me that was 4.92 boxes, so I got 5.

WALL PREP: Sadly, the least fun part of any project is the tedious prep work. If there is any glue on the wall from a previous attachment scrape it off as best you can. Sometimes part of the gypsum board paper will come up as well, this can be plastered down with spackle or mud.

MATERIALS: Just about everything you’ll need is conveniently co-located in the tile area of your orange/blue store.

  • Adhesive: I used this and it was super easy to work with. You can mix your own but why do that to yourself? Are you going to spend a half hour trying to get it it to the consistency of peanut butter?? (And why do they SAY THAT?? It’s more like hummus, really.)
  • A notched trowel: If you’re working in a small area with small tiles, get a small one.
  • Putty knife: you will use this in areas where your trowel won’t fit OR when you realize that it’s easier to splop adhesive on the wall first, then notch with trowel.
  • Tile nippers: to bust off tiny pieces of tile for corners and tight spots. This is an art, do not get discouraged.
  • Clean up rags: about a million
  • Grout: LISTEN TO ME NOW!!! Get the right grout for your project. Subway tile has very tiny grout lines an should be installed with un-sanded grout. Do not make the mistake I did and buy the pre-mixed grout in a convenient bucket. It costs more and it doesn’t say “sanded”– but it is!! Unless your grout says “un-sanded” on the package, it will have sand in it and that will make you CRY when you are trying to smooth it (smoothing not actually possible) on to a vertical surface and then moosh it into tiny tiny grooves.
  • Grout float: although some of it will be installed with your fingers, believe it.
  • Grout sponge: to wipe off excess grout from tile surface
  • Tile saw: Yep, you need one. Borrow one if you can, if not they don’t really cost that much (about $300) and remember that you are doing a job that would cost $1500-2000 or more if you hired it out, so it’s really worth the expense. Barring that, there is a newish product that I almost bought but ended up borrowing one instead. I don’t recommend the cheapie ones that only score the tile and then you snap it, you’ll waste a ton of tiles and your husband will suggest calling a contractor (don’t listen to him!)
  • Tile: I used traditional 3″x6″, You can buy locally or buy online, but I recommend buying locally so you can run out and get more if you need it. However if you decide to do a fancy color buy extra- even if you can purchase it locally, you may not get the same color lot.
  • Grout sealer: I bought a bottle with a spout, then bought another product in an aerosol can, which seemed infinitely easier.
  • Tile spacers: 1/8″ and 1/16″
  • Tile caulk: for the spaces between your tile and your cabinets or counter surface or ceiling or floor.
  • A really good friend/willing spouse: you can do this alone, but you have a Cutter and an Installer your job will go much faster. Even having someone hand you tiles while you are shoving your body up in to the corner under a cabinet will be of great assistance. Also another “eye” is useful.


I was going to draw out my grid on butcher paper and then lay out my tiles..but that suddenly seemed really tedious and I just wanted to start getting them up. So I bagged it.

Start from the bottom and work your way up and over.

In this area, I started on the left next to the tall cabinet:

Tile under the cabinet

Tile under the cabinet

Since my tile run stopped and started in a corner it didn’t really matter, but in general you’ll want full & half tiles (for brick joint) on the end where it’s going to show. That way, your small pieces and slivers will be in a corner and eventually swathed in grout.

Slivers of tile in corner

Slivers of tile in corner

Your first row will require 1/8″ tile spacers between the tile and counter surface (or back splash if you are starting above that). This is to accommodate the caulk that will form a water-proof seal. Determine how many tiles it will take from the bottom row to the top (including spacer measurement) and pre-cut half tiles (these will start your 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc rows and create the brick joint pattern). Smooth some adhesive on the wall and notch it with your trowel, it should be about 1/8″ thick, enough to stick the tile on but not squish out between tiles. This takes a bit of practice. Work your way over as far as you can go with full tiles. YOU WILL NEED TO MAKE SOME CUTS.


You will need to fit cut tiles around light switches and electrical outlets. Measure the space you need to fit and cut while keeping in mind the finished tile edge always goes next to the last full tile, the raw cut edge goes next to the outlet (it will be covered by a plate) Also keep you pattern going. Sometimes you have to “imagine” the pattern continuing through your outlet so that it matches up with full tiles on the other side.

Tiles cut around outlet

Tiles cut around outlet

A note on electrical outlets: your existing and new outlets will need to be “raised” about 1/4″ to be flush with the adhesive and tile. Picture above is actually below the tile surface and needs to be shimmed. You can see below an outlet that was shimmed. My electrician advised me that (at least in Oregon, please check your local codes) you can shim an outlet as long as it’s 1/4″ or less. He used washers for this but there are plastic outlet spacers as well. If you are installing/replacing outlets you can buy extended boxes for this purpose.

Shimmed outlet

Shimmed outlet

Cutting tip: we found that placing a full tile against the saw fence as a buffer kept the tiles from chipping as you finish your saw cut. You can reuse it by moving it around, but saw should bite into an uncut surface of the buffer tile each time.

You will also need to cut small pieces to fit directly under cabinets or into corners. Just keep the pattern going. These small pieces will likely need to be “back-buttered” by applying adhesive directly to them as you won’t be able to get a trowel into small spaces.

Tiles cut to fit in place

Tiles cut to fit in place

When it came to the back splash above the stove I had just enough space for a decorative line of trim and terminating tiles so I chose that over cutting down tiles.

Decorative trim tile on stove backsplash

Decorative trim tile on stove backsplash

And here’s the whole stove backsplash

Stove backsplash

Stove backsplash

In this area, I started on the right at my terminating line. I determined where the tile would stop then used a level (with plumb reading) to draw my line. Because this end is finished with terminating trim tiles (they are rounded for a finished look), I measured in from the line the width of the trim tile and drew another line.

Tile on window wall- sink side

Tile on window wall- sink side– cable outlet needs a new cover

Same application, working left,  til we get to the window, then I had to wing it. I wanted to do something “fancy” around the window trim so I measured out from the frame, drew a line and continued my rows to the line. Then I placed the rope and pencil trim tiles around the frame, spacing them with spacers more or less equally between the tile row and window. These required a diagonal cut to resemble mitered picture frame. I used a carpenter’s triangle to get a 45 degree angle. Mitering tile trim is a lot like mitering crown molding, you have to flip your adjoining tile backwards and upside-down to the get the two 45’s to meet in a 90.

Rope trim and pencil trim around window frame

Rope trim and pencil trim around window frame

Any tile without a built in lug (terminating or decorative trim) is going to need a spacer to keep it in place, either a 1/8″ or 1/16″ depending on your look or how much room you have to fill. You’ll end up using both sizes turned in various directions.

A note on cutting tiles for weird spaces: it is very hard to cut a puzzle piece out of tile. So get the size and shape as close as possible then use generous amounts of grout and/or caulk. Try to keep the funky cuts in corners or under cabinets where you are not really going to see them.


Once the tile is installed it needs to cure for at least 24 hours before you apply your grout. Which brings us to…


My nemesis. Not my favorite part. Theoretically, you should be able to scoop grout onto your float and smooth it into all the spaces. In reality, you have to shove it in. So do yourself a favor and accept that it’s going to be super messy and put more grout on rather than less. Work the grout in with edge of float moving at a diagonal (where you can, this won’t always be possible). If you need to use your fingers, so be it. You can smooth it out later. Also, you may want to cover your counter surface prior to grouting. It should come off of surfaces like granite but not easily, I had to scrub a bit. There are products however that will remove excess grout, so don’t worry too much.

You should be wiping your excess grout off with a wet grout sponge every 10 minutes or so to keep it from drying on your tile, but be careful not to get the sponge too wet or press too hard or you’ll scoop the grout right back out of your joints.

Let grout cure for 24 hours.


Now it’s time to caulk. You’ll be caulking all the seams where the tile meets another surface.

Caulk in seam between tile and granite

Caulk in seam between tile and granite

You are supposed to let it cure as well before you introduce water (such as behind the sink) but I’m a gambler and I needed to use my sink. And that’s why I need to re-caulk this area. You make the call.

Icky caulk needed to cure before water was introduced

Icky caulk needed to cure before water was introduced

Apply grout sealer to grout lines. Technically this is supposed to cure too, but it’s a wall, right? Try to avoid splashing on it.

And that’s it! This project took me (and a friend! Thank you, Jackie!! also my husband helped) two weekends, about 20 hours total not counting trips to the DIY mart. I did the grouting and caulking on my own.

Total cost was about $250 (I borrowed the saw, otherwise it would have been more).

It won’t look really glorious until I get the walls and cabinets painted, and now that I’m taking closeup pictures I can see some areas that need to be re-caulked or scraped or need more grout, but it’s better than a powder blue laminate back splash and fugly wallpaper.

I hope this post inspired someone to do their own tile, even if it isn’t subway. It sounds a bit complicated but I am telling you that anyone can do this. Also, I hope it was worth the hype.

If you have any questions about something I missed or wasn’t clear about, or if you have a suggestion for something I could have done better, please post in comments or message me at

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Subway Tile Project Post Forthcoming

I swear. I have it written, just need to update pictures. We appreciate your patience. You are very important to us. We know you have choices when it comes to looking at DIY blogs and we’re thrilled that you’ve chosen this one. Please remain on hold…


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1970’s Tri-Level Kitchen Update- Pt 2- We Leave Behind The Kitchen Carpet Forever

So it’s looking better already and we are not finished completely. We still need to paint the cabinets, finish painting walls, and install baseboards. I’ll explain what we did and WOW you with our frugal good taste.

Sink Area


We tore out the old double-bowl stainless steel sink with the counter tops; crappy non-sprayer faucet also departed. We were originally planning on a porcelain apron sink for the “farmhouse” look, but changed our minds after several considerations:

  • Cost
  • Structural additions to cabinet necessary to hold weight of enormous sink
  • Additional fabrication needed for granite installation

So we opted for a 9″ deep square-bottomed single-bowl porcelain sink, specifically the Kohler Cape Dory. It lists for $699 but I was able to get it through my local plumbing fixture store for $350. You’ll note it is top-mount sink- the bottom-mount was problematic due to the weight issue again (this is cast iron, it weighs about 200 lbs).

For the faucet we went all out on the fabo Glacier Bay Pull Down Faucet, a mere $148 at the Depot. Total cost for sink, faucet, parts, installation (and a new garbage disposer) was $900.

Dishwasher was a fortunate open box find at our local Best Buy, about $400. It’s a Samsung and matches the fridge. The old dishwasher was a Bosch (the appliance people always want to sell you a Bosch, “Oooooh, it’s  BOSCH! YOU NEED THE BOSCH!” I hated it. Not only was it white (ewe) but all the control buttons were placed vertically on the front panel so that people who innocently leaned on the counter inadvertently “butt washed” the dishes. After hand drying my millionth load of previously clean dry dishes I gave the Bosch the Boot.

Tile: Subway! All the way up the wall. Dahltile, .29 each 3×6 tile and some trim pieces. More on this in another post.

Stove Area


This was not the original range area. This is actually where the old nasty while refrigerator lurked. The fridge (Samsung stainless steel side by side) was another Best Buy open box revelation that I thought just miiiiiight fit in the spot. But it didn’t. No way. So we tore out the silly desk on the left of the oven cabinet (see here ) and slid the fridge in the there. Not for lack of trying, I assure you.

The original plan called for a sexy smooth cooktop to replace the coiled monstrosity in this pic.  However, the new gaping refrigerator-shaped hole in the line of cabinets opened some possibilities. So, one day while strolling through, oh I dunno, BEST BUY MAYBE, we came across open box goody #3– deeply discounted GE Profile stainless steel double oven gas range. Retailed for $2199, we picked up it for about $1100 (on 12 months no interest!)

Problem– we did not have a gas line running to kitchen. There is gas in the house (furnace and fireplace) but no stub-out in the area where we needed it. So the range sat in our garage for 10 MONTHS. I went out and talked to it occasionally, pretended to cook on it, etc. Eventually my plumber friend (of the sink installation fame) installed our gas line for $500 (including permit).

We purchased a higher-end stainless Broan range hood (with 3 speeds, and LED lights) to complete the look. You’ll note a weird gap on the right side of the hood- this was my mistake. the range is 30″ (standard) but the fridge area is 36″. For some reason I thought the hood should be the same width as the stove or it would “look weird”. Uh-huh. Weird like the gap?? So not sure what I’m going to do with that area. I have a few ideas about a small cook book cubby, or pull-down spice drawer….suggestions would be welcome.

Subway tile continues in this area. I had some sleepless nights trying to decide if the tile would continue from the hood horizontally to the adjacent wall at the same height, go all the way up the adjacent wall (like the sink area) or drop down to the height of the tile under the cabinets. I choose option C, with the thought that I might want to install some shelving on that wall.

Long Wall


Enter a caption

To right in this picture. Removing the old range hood left a 12″ opening where I thought my microwave should go. Unfortunately, my old microwave was probably the biggest one you can get- GE 1100 watt 2.0 cubic feet, 30″x18″x16″. If I tried to cram that big boy in the small opening it would have loomed mere inches from the  countertop (which sort of negated the extra counter space I was gaining from mounting it). So I got a new one. New ‘wave is diminutive and cute. It closely resembled an Easy Bake oven in comparison to the mother of all countertop appliances and actually appeared to have been birthed by titanic GE. It’s only 700 watts. The teens were not amused.

At this point, the plan is to build a 30″x12″x12″ open cabinet and install in that space, trim and paint so it becomes one with the existing cabinetry. Tiny ‘wave will then slide effortlessly into it’s new cubby with a sigh. Electrical outlet has been installed at cubby height.

You can also see in this picture that granite overhangs the peninsula by 12″, creating a real bar you can actually sit at without straddling your stool in a manner most unbecoming and awkward.

Granite is New Caledonia pattern, total with installation by a local stone fabricator $2000. Completed in one day (love you Silver Stone & Cabinets!)



Where, you may ask, did the wallpaper go?? IT’S STILL THERE! I got so frustrated with scraping and steaming and stripping that a gave up and painted over it. More about that later.

And finally…



Beautiful hand-scraped distressed oak with cherry finish was installed (also in one day) all throughout the main level (street level) which includes kitchen, dining area, entry and living room. We considered 12″x 24″ striated tile for the kitchen, but ultimately (and perhaps influenced by the Property Brothers) chose “flowing hardwoods”- it’s actually engineered, $4000 including installation.  And I’ll tell you RIGHT NOW, if you get these dark planks, purchase a matching stain marker. It will make you cry less when you, say, scratch up your brand new floors by trying to muscle a giant refrigerator into a too-small cubby.

So that’s we are up til now. Here is an approximate total of my kitchen upgrade costs:

  • Engineered Hardwood Floors: $2000 (half of total cost was kitchen area)
  • 3cm Granite $2000
  • Open Box Stainless Fridge $700
  • Open Box Stainless Gas Range $1100
  • Stainless Range Hood $350
  • Porcelain Farmhouse Sink $350
  • Pull Down Chrome Faucet $150
  • Open Box Stainless Dishwasher $400
  • High end garbage disposal $200
  • Tile and Materials $250
  • New Tiny Microwave $100
  • Plumbing, Gas line $1000
  • Paint, texture, 2″ Faux Wood Blinds $300

Grand total: $8900

I will add new posts detailing specific areas and how-to’s such as tile, pull out spice cabinets, painting of wallpaper, etc. I will also post updates of progress and new projects and finally, one day, the completed, Tour-of-Homes-looking, ready-for-House Beautiful, food-blog-worthy completed kitchen.

1970 Tri-Level Kitchen Update Part 1- We arrive in 1990

Picture if you will:

A u-shaped kitchen with light oak inset paneled cabinets, powder blue laminate countertops, white appliances, carpet (circa 1978) and hideous wallpaper covering everything that isn’t either powder blue laminate or light oak.

Better yet, I’ll show you




This would be perfect if you were

  • Living in 1990
  • Amish
  • Blind

All it’s missing is cheerful grouping of duck-shaped canisters and frilly valance. By the way, that IS a telephone on the wall. You could almost imagine the previous owners standing around on their kitchen carpet drinking Yuban and talking about ways to uglify the rest of the house with their hideous paint choices (mint green in the master bath?? Yes! Believe it! Pix coming soon!)

This is what my kitchen looked like when we moved in 3.5 years ago. The cabinets, we suspect, were handmade by the previous homeowner in what used to be his shop in the basement (we are now using it as a music studio.) They are solid oak, they are sturdy, and they were BUILT IN PLACE. There is nothing modular about these babies. If you want to change something you have to cut it. The backsplashes were pine 2×6’s with that famous powder blue laminate ironed on to them- after they were SCREWED INTO THE STUDS. When we removed the counters we literally had to beat them off the wall.

But wait, you say. Was there a mention of kitchen carpet?? Yes, there was fiiine quality kitchen carpet- brown (really? REALLY? Brown??) kitchen carpet. Glued down within an inch of its life. The skeeze factor with kitchen carpet is too high to comprehend. I, a famously sloppy cook, had slopped many a sauce or an egg or a glass of wine on the carpet with no perceptible stains. Who knows what else might be lurking in the petri dish of this floor covering?

Fortunately, it no longer looks like this. Please stay tuned for the next installment (as soon as I clean the kitchen to take pictures.)