Laurel Street Blog

Archive for the ‘Before and After’ Category

Literarily – this was completed December 31, 4:00 p.m. Let’s take a stroll through time:

House on inspection day – 80’s everything.

Gray formica boxes with plastic handles. 80's everything - this was how we found it. And hated it. But we knew we wouldn't do a full renovation for several years.

Hulking black appliances.

Hulking black appliances.

Obviously this is not the style of kitchen I would have chosen for the Laurel Street cottage…. but I was going to have to ‘make friends’ with it for a while.  Once I had to come to terms that the kitchen was ‘modern’ whether I liked it or not, then the path was clear. I’d make it look intentionally modern rather than accidentally modern. I started by replacing the plastic kitchen hardware… Lesson learned? Check eBay first! My $10.00 a piece hardware from Lowe’s or a catalog could be had for $1.88 a piece on eBay. Total investment: $88.00. A loss I could live with when we do the big remodel later.

Then I took a risk and painted the black, perfectly functioning appliances with stainless steel paint. YMMV (Your Milage May Vary) but I was happy with the result. It is not magic – it basically changes the color and value of your appliances – for me it was fine. I do not recommend it if you have white appliances. Total investment about $60.00 and a weekend of meticulous painting.

Freshly painted dishwasher and compactor.

"new' stainless fridge

"New" stainless steel fridge. See how the cabinets just float on this wall - totally disconnected - lost in space.

But you see that white formica backsplash? That thing has been killing me from the beginning. Totally dated. I wanted to glass tile (or anything!) from counter straight to cabinet but that little 6″ chunk of formica covered plywood was always in the way. It would have to go.

Monday I spent the entire day considering my alternatives. Backpainted glass is very slick (I’ve seen it on a friend’s house) but by the time you get tempered glass cut for outlets and carefully backpainted, it’s no longer inexpensive.

The glass tile priced out at $600-800. This was vetoed as it would be soon ripped out. I was getting really creative and went to my bamboo supplier and was going to install some slick natural bamboo plywood or cork material back there.

I found you could buy 30″ sheets of stainless backsplash ready to hang at Lowes so I went to check it out – that’s when I spotted 18″ square slate tile. Once the old backsplash was gone it would fit perfectly. It was a dark gray so it complimented the bland gray cabinets and the existing red/gray granite insert on a side work area. I will say the old plywood and formica backsplash did not go easily (or willingly) but it was eventually convinced to leave Wednesday. I convinced it to go with multiple chisels and a pry bar. Good riddance!

New Year's Day pic - scrambled eggs, fresh biscuits (with country ham) and a touch of champagne... in a 'new' kitchen! I hung a colorful silkscreen over the stainless steel backsplash to add some interest to the rather industrial looking room, now.

Okay - true confession - I only go to Wal-Mart twice a year... it's just always so crowded and I can usually get my stuff at the grocery or drug store. But I was looking for a store that would be open on New Year's Eve and hopped over there for sundries - and I found this adorable little lamp. $15.00 (!!!) and it beautifully lights up this dark corner.

Wide shot. The counters are no longer floating in space and the kitchen and breakfast room are better delineated now.

So let's see... $24.00 for tiles and $40.00 for stainless steel sheet backsplash. Lamp - $15.00 and an $8.00 silver picture frame. Total cost for a new(ish) kitchen in two days? $87.00.

So… 87.00 for tile & accessories, $88.00 for new cabinet hardware from eBay and $60.00 for stainless steel paint – a whole kitchen update for $235.00. That’s something I can live with until the real renovation!

Bon Appetite and Happy New Year Friends!

I know, I know. Every single one of you told me to go BIG with the print concept. But I spent all day wrapping presents and had paper and scissors out and I thought – why not go ahead and cut out templates of all my little prints and paintings from wrapping paper and try the gallery wall idea?

Before: Don't look at me! I'm naked!

After: Hey look at me! Bling!

As Tim Gunn would say, “It’s a lot of look.” And it may be a little over the top but it was really fun to do! You know how fun it is to completely rearrange the furniture? This is almost as good – almost every wall in my house got rearranged yesterday.

Since I have an eternally growing collection (errrr, pile) of things that need to be framed I can always switch things out as they come online. Since is an unrepentant enabler of all my framing fantasies – so I know this wall will continuously evolve.

The ‘kraft paper template model’ of hanging art (from Martha Stewart) is well know to us all.

Since I was wrapping presents and had all the gear out - I thought, "Why not?"

But of course I don't do anything without a plan, so I sat down at the computer first. Stan, meet plan.

I bought this laser level for another project but didn't use it then - I should've done so. It is very handy.

Templates all go up on the wall with bits of painter's tape.

Holy Martha Stewart - this worked perfectly! Thank you Martha!!! P.S. If you remove the paper & painter's tape carefully, you can save the templates for next time.

The after, again. Fun and free project.

And since I spent zero money - I went to Whole Foods and picked up one of these for a treat.

So what do you think? Too much of a good thing? Let me know!

I am getting close to the finish line on updating the main bathroom

My Saturday Christmas shopping was moved online as New Orleans was blanketed with rainstorms throughout the weekend. I had hoped to find a new, larger clock for the bath. I tried oversized round, but the tiny space wouldn’t accommodate anything wider than 18.” But this kid hopped in my browser at a good price from Tall rather than round, I think it works!

Dodgy iPhone Photo but you get the idea. Tall rather than round. For $50 I'm very pleased.

A nice ornamental 'New Orleans-y' shape that looked well made online. The curves help balance out the stiff lines of the shelving...

I managed to sneak away during lunch yesterday and made my way to the ever-wonderful Perch.home. on Magazine Street. Valorie of Visual Vamp fame mentioned she had a few Venetian mirrors in stock and at a great price. I did admire this one:

A shapely Venetian mirror from Perch New Orleans - I mean, just beautiful.

However, I think we need a little more practical mirror surface area since we’ll be shaving in it each morning. Sigh. But I did manage to find this one from Wisteria – and on sale! It’s taller and wider, if not as shapely as the one from Perch.

This should fit over the flat builder mirror perfectly. I think the overall shape is pretty, and the rectangular shape will work better in the tall, tight space.

But I’ll have to contain my excitement until January since it turned out to be on back-order. That gives me plenty of time to figure out how to hang a mirror OVER a mirror. Maybe with a chain covered with ribbon? Hmmm.

Today, special congratulations to all of our shelter blog friends who made the UK’s Times Online “Top 50” design blogs for 2009. Oliveaux, Brooklyn Limestone, Coco & Kelley and Desire to Inspire. I was so tickled to see a few of my ‘Dutiful, Daily Reads’ selected for the honor.

And how about Megan at BeachBungalow8? She and the bungalow made the cover of the New York Times National Section today. Congratulations!


Well, let’s say that ‘master’ is overly generous. Our tiny bath, added in the 80’s (and never again updated) has undergone cosmetic surgery. My design brief was simple: Make it less of a rat hole for as little money as possible.

Like the kitchen, I didn’t want to make any changes that cost real money because a major renovation is coming within three to five years (-ish).

I only have one real ‘before’ picture (I’ll get to that in a minute) so I had to steal this other image from the Internet to show you what is not visible in the ‘before’ shot – a special gift to us from the previous owners. Here it is:

Behold. The only thing I can say about this is that for some months I had to resist the urge to call out, "Ahoy, Matey!"

So that was the err, focal point if you looked to the left upon entering. Here’s what you would’ve seen if you looked to the right (taken on inspection day before we bought the house).

Oh my God what the hell is that run for your life!

Truly, truly awful. I think the 80’s renovators ran out of steam (or money) when they hit this room. The shelving was clearly completed by a weekend not-so-handy handyman.

The paper-based stick-on floor tile had been laid over a particle-board sub-floor which was disintegrating (haha on me – I didn’t know that at the time!) and whoever installed the floor in previous decades had not known that flooring should actually go all the way underneath the commode.

The labor-saving concept of cutting out a toilet shaped hole in the flooring material and laying it around the fixture simply will not give your home improvement projects a superior degree of polish.

The marble sink is an antique – it was salvaged from a laboratory from old Tulane Medical School. My position on antiques is fairly well known – one is not required to love them all equally. Consider this is also an antique:

Merklen Victorian Chair

Merklen Victorian Chair

See what I mean? So while I’m a little nostalgic about the history of the laboratory sink, I can say that if you shave for any length of time in something about the size of a soup bowl, well… nostalgia eventually fades.

Replacing the sink was beyond the scope and budget of the project, however, so I ripped out everything but that. I’d just been focused instead on a new floor, new paint and reworking the shelves.

Whew. I'm no longer afraid to approach it and brush my teeth!

Really, just a little (well a lot) of Brasso on the sink taps makes me almost as happy as everything else I did to our microscopic ‘master’ bath. The paint is ‘Stone Lion’ from Sherwin-Williams and was chosen to complement the veining in the marble sink.

Now that I’ve posted this (and maybe at the time) I think I played it too safe with the wall color however. If I repaint – I might go with a very dark color. Walls and ceiling.

The shelves were tricksters as they are not square toward the back, instead they meet the wall at an angle. I should’ve asked to borrow a protractor from Toad. Anyway, just a little lumber and new fascia and I think it is all hanging together now.

And this may sound crazy, but I can’t rip the existing mirrors from the wall without major damage. So I thinking about hanging a prettier mirror OVER the existing mirror to add some “OOMPH” – like one of these:

Mirror over a mirror? Crazy talk? I could always use it again later after the full rennovation...

Oh why not?

I bought a few yards of this toile and made the skirt for the sink. And since the plain window wasn’t really adding much of anything to the room, I made a pelmet with the fabric as well.

Spear and magic pelmet!

Somewhere along the way when I was Googling “how do you take a toilet apart to renovate your bathroom” I took the toilet apart. Seeing it dissected I realized I had no real affection for the old thing and zero motivation to put it back together again. Someone else in the house agreed and decided his contribution to the overall re-do effort would be to go out and buy a nice, new fixture. Yay!

A vast improvement.

The little shelves came from Pottery Barn and all the rest of the accessories came from a clever little shop called ‘somewhere else in the house.’

The shelves are fine – I rotate fun travel photos out periodically, but I had originally intended for a REALLY BIG CLOCK – something with an out-sized scale to add some real surprise to this wall. I’m still hunting for something that’s not prosaic. I’m hoping to stumble over something while out Christmas shopping.

And that’s it – for now… I’m still shaving in a soup bowl, but at least the rest of the room feels somewhat less ‘accidental’ than it did before. And other than the new commode, I spent less than $350 (it would’ve been less if I hadn’t had to redo the sub-floor, but I did discover that a sub-floor was necessary if you wanted actually to walk around the bathroom, or use it or anything).

Right now it’s fine, but would love any ideas to pump up some drama in this tiny (did I mention the room is tiny?) little bath.


A toast!

A toast! Here's to us...

I adore you...

I adore you...

I love everything you do for me...

I love everything you do for me...

You look mahvelous.

You look mahvelous.

In Memoriam: O’Keefe & Merrit enjoyed a rich and long, long, long life. I know that he will find a welcome home in the bottom of the Mississippi River. Salut!

Farewell, my changeable friend.

Farewell, my changeable friend. It will forever be 2:08, wherever you may be.

The Vamp's Stunning Alabaster Lamp

The Vamp's Stunning Alabaster Lamp

I do not like to paint. There. I said it. I wish that I could do decorative techniques – like my blog buddy Mitchell of Optimism and White Paint fame or Valorie, the famed Visual Vamp whose ‘alabaster’ finish on  her bedside lamps had me convinced they were real. I just don’t have the touch. My one attempt at color washing a wall is to this day is ruefully remembered by Richard. It was a mess – I stopped at 3 square feet.

So, I mentioned in a previous post that I was suspicious of a painting ‘solution in a can’ but had great success with the Rustoleum Classic Leather kit when I painted my coffee & side tables. Consisting of a reddish brown spray paint, a dark brown can of glaze… all you do is spray, wipe on the glaze, then press crumpled up old grocery bags over the wet glaze and yank it off. Even I can do that.

I picked up these four inexpensive little fern prints from Louise’s store, MadoniaBotanicals the other day – $5.00 a piece. I loved the little fern prints, but I wasn’t at all fond of the dime-store gilt finish on the frames. So I pulled out the leather kit and gave them a new finish.

The canonical before shot:

The canonical before shot - the gold foil frames are washed out against the green fabric that pads the back of these bookshelves.

Dime Store Gilt Frames

Dime Store Gilt Frames

Rustoleum Classic Leather Kit

Rustoleum Classic Leather Kit

Red Base Coat

Red Base Coat

The glaze dries from a milky brown to a burled mahogany pattern, after the excess glaze is scrunched off by crumpled plastic grocery store bags.

The glaze dries from a milky brown to a burled mahogany pattern, after the excess glaze is scrunched off by crumpled plastic grocery store bags.

Ella is guarding the frames as they dry in the sun.

Ella is guarding the frames as they dry in the sun.

Presto. An Idiot-proof finish (and I can attest to that!)

Presto. An idiot-proof finish (I can attest to it!)

Wide shot - from a new camera I'm test driving. Happy Easter & Passover Everyone!

Wide shot - from a new camera I'm test driving. Happy Easter & Passover Everyone!

Whoa - How - Who - When did this happen?!?

Whoa!!! How - Who - When did this happen?!?

Nathan, really. (I imagine this in my mom's voice)

"Nathan. REALLY."

Ok. Much better. Keep an eye on that would ya?

Ok, better. Keep an eye on that would ya?

And keep an eye on this!

And keep an eye on this!

And don't forget this collection of piles? Got it?


Living with Lindsay is my de-cluttering inspiration today. I just wish my kitchen looked one ounce as fabulous as hers!


UPDATE: Everybody seems to be on the same page today…

Ballard Designer and Blogger James Swan posts today Bail-out Decorating Part III –  The Big Clean:

A good quote from Swan, Unless it is a substantial furniture piece, an important sculpture, or an aging family member it does not belong on the floor of our home.

Laurel Street Blog

Nate and Louis

Well, hey there. I'm Nathan and this is the Laurel Street Blog. It's a place for talking about design, decor and DIY (with small amounts of snarkery snuck in). I'm a pretty restless guy who loves house projects and lives in a 150+ year old cottage on Laurel Street in New Orleans. Since the house always has something going on with it (or falling off of it) I'm subsequently blessed with a never-ending supply of Web content to share. Oh - and you can drop me a line anytime Enjoy!

Can I get a tweet up in here? Follow along @LaurelStreet

The Laurel Street Cottage

March 2020