Laurel Street Blog

Archive for the ‘Home Improvement’ Category

As traditional as my home is, I think I could find a way to work one or two of these beauties into my front parlors. I love that they are at once modern but give a nod to the flourishes and embellishments of calligraphic script from the past (or a traditional fabric pattern – I can’t decide which is the influence here). Either way, I love them.

These stylish fireplaces are a product from a German company called Redwitz. These units are kinder to our environment than wood-burners as they only use bio-alcohol to add the romance of flame to a room. They don’t even need to be vented – just hang one on the wall.

Mazzetto blanco by Redwitz

Blanco Close-up

Mazzetto blanco

Mazzetto Nero

Nero Close-up

Mazzetto Rosso


And they also make a round fireplace which I also like very much:

Rondo by Redwitz

Bravo. Tip of the hat to Buzz-Beast.

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 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.


Take a look at what can be done in a small San Francisco apartment with a small renovation budget (and obviously wonderful taste and some wonderful antiques!). Enjoy out the clever work of the talented designer, Grant K. Gibson. A coplete slideshow is here on Photographs are by Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

A custom built banquette makes a cosy dining area. If I'm not mistaken is that a burlap tablecloth from Ballard Designs?

A custom built banquette makes a cosy dining area. If I'm not mistaken is that a burlap tablecloth from Ballard Designs?

A tidy corner for a drinks tray.

A tidy corner for a drinks tray.

It helps to have great antiques - many of the prints were pulled from old books and put in inexpensive frames. My favorite trick...

It helps to have great antiques - many of the prints were pulled from old books and put in inexpensive frames. My favorite trick...

Classical lines even in a tiny powder room. The silver loving cup hides the T.P.

Classical lines even in a tiny powder room. The silver loving cup hides the T.P.

Creative upcycling of a $500 bed from PB Teen with a custom mohair headboard.

Creative upcycling of a $500 bed from PB Teen with a custom mohair headboard.

Greek Key trim boosts the linen curtains

Greek Key trim boosts the linen curtains

Color Capture Ben Paint Matching Application for iPhone. Photo via the New York Times.

Color Capture Ben Paint Matching Application for iPhone. Photo via the New York Times.

Ha ha – another post “Ripped from the Headlines” of the New York Times home section today. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I am an unabashed fan of the iPhone and this app sounds too cool (and will be FREE)!

The concept is simple and elegant. Take a picture with your iPhone, zoom in on an area of color that you want to match in paint. Click “match” and the application will evaluate your chosen color against the Benjamin Moore color families and find the best matches! Save your favorites in the application for the next time you’re in the paint store. You’ll also be able to see that color’s nearest neighbors, in both lighter and darker shades.

I’m impressed. And I bet that other paint manufacturers will be following suit very soon. Color Capture Ben is being released on June 1st. Read more about the application on

Home Apprasial Update:

I probably over-worried the entire home appraisal process. Richard was the one that got me started by saying “I wish we could paint the kitchen before the appraisers come…” which sent me into a weekend marathon of cleaning and clearing and patching and caulking. All of which was a good thing of course – but I was working right through the time I left for work Monday morning. The house looks great – if I can only keep it that way!

We really can’t say if all of my home improvements added to the appraisal (though many were noted) but the house appraised higher than our original purchase price. Given the depressed state of the U.S. real estate market, there was some nagging feelings that we might be in for an unpleasant surprise. To the contrary, we’re very pleased with the results.

Sheesh. I wish I were doing more fun things around the house this weekend but I’m stuck doing detail work. The bank is sending an appraiser as part of our refinancing homework Monday morning.

One job already under my belt for today:  I repaired the 150 year old bathroom doorknob that literally came off in my hand the other night and kept me trapped in there for 20 minutes until I could raise a sufficient rescue alarm. Antique charm, right?

So it goes… a little caulk here, a little paint there. Cleaning out the storage room, whacking back some overzealous ginger plants, sweeping pavers…

But if there was one thing I wish I could have FedExed to the house my 9:30 Monday morning it would be a substantial, historic mailbox. Not that I mind the one we have – it simply amuses me to no end.

A Victorian Specimen - You can't find these at Lowes or Home Depot, dang it.

A Victorian Specimen - You can't find these at Lowes or Home Depot when you are on a deadline, dang it.

What’s funny about a mailbox? Well, it’s A) the wrong type of mailbox, B) it’s incorrectly affixed to the front iron fence by previous owners with rope and C)  then it was incorrectly fixed again with bailing wire!

I know, I know. It's a scandalous state of postal affairs. But it just tickles me. Except when it has rained.

I know, I know. It's a scandalous state of postal affairs. But it just tickles me. Except when I find that it has rained.

It’s a typical New Orleans thing to be amused by something like this. And it’s a pretty New Orleans attitude to just let things be. But I have a feeling this thing will be gone by Monday a.m.

First of all, I want to thank everybody who talked me down from painting the kitchen floors black (or any other color)! Your feedback was thoughtful and really helped me get some much needed objectivity. I’m looking at them differently now – and learning to love them for what they are. And TartanScot really said the magic words – clean up! I actually do keep livestock in the kitchen (see below) and the last thing I need is having my floors betray my secret.

Here's the livestock!

The aforementioned livestock: Ella, Louis & Sister.

So thank you TartanScot, Melissa, Camila, Toad, Jennifer and Linderhof – good advice from great folks.

I feel like I should apologize for the paucity of posts lately. I’ve been in decision making mode on two final details of the ‘how cheap can I update the kitchen?’ series (rather than actually doing stuff). These things are a tile backsplash and new countertops. Today I’ve got tile on my mind. As a refresher – the blacksplash would go here:

I adore you...

Formica backsplash would be removed and tiles would stretch to the upper cabinets and behind the stove.

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

We'd do the same on between these cabinets as well.

Want to look at some tile options with me? Here we go!

When I first started thinking about glass tile, I began with dark grey. I wanted the kitchen look to be more modern and I thought this would add some drama underneath the pale gray cabinets. But I've been second guessing this the more and more I look around.

When I first started thinking about glass tile, I began with dark grey. I wanted the kitchen look to be even more modern and I thought this would add some drama underneath the pale gray cabinets. Maybe help them look like they were, I don't know, something to actually look at. But I've been second-guessing this the more and more I look around.

This is not my shower. However it's a pretty good picture of this shimmery opalescent glass tile called Peal Moonlight. Like it?

This is not my shower. Nor my multi-function scrubbing device. However it's a pretty good picture of this shimmery opalescent glass tile called Pearl Moonlight. Like it for a backsplash?

Pale, surf colored grass subway tile... that's pretty 'now' isn't it?

Pale, surf colored grass subway tile... that's pretty 'now' isn't it?

Here's a wild card. The blues and the grays are nice and the 'bricks and sticks' tile pattern is interesting.

Here's a wild card. The blues and the grays in these glass tiles are nice and the 'bricks and sticks' tile pattern is interesting. This may be too old fashioned? Or would it be a surprise? I can't tell yet.

Another wildcard. I'm liking this because it has gray and some earth colors in case I go with butcher block on the counters. Too weird?

Another wild card in glass 'brick and sticks.' I'm liking this because it has my first instinct of dark gray but is broken up with earthy colors )in case I go with butcher block on the counters). Too weird?

Help a fellow out. What do you think? For Julia at the fab Friday blog party, I’m hooked on a new backsplash.

P.S. I’d be remiss without another note of thanks to Toad who nominated me for a fab blog award. That’s pretty good coming from a blog like his. Read it every day. Look for my nominations soon!


Cute, no?

Stained kitchen floors - but not in a good way.

Our current hardwood floors are original to the house – you gotta love that.  150+ years old. However, in the kitchen they have been badly stained over the years. I’m considering painting them black – is this crazy? Take a look at this concept in a kitchen I saw in Kitchen and Bath Ideas magazine:

Painted black floors? Yes? No? Maybe?

Painted black floors? Yes? No? Maybe?

The reason I ask if you might think I was crazy is that Richard actually recoiled in horror when I mentioned that I was thinking of painting them (even though he knows that they cannot be rescued by sanding & refinishing at this point)! The floors look wonderful  in the rest of the house, though. We were lucky there.

Okay – a few more painted floor treatments. I favor the black in our temporarily ‘modern’ kitchen but I thought these were just a treat to consider…

Soft Green Checkerboard (via Country Living)

Soft Green Checkerboard (via Country Living)

Another green checkerboard - with a border. Hmmm.

Another green checkerboard - with a border. Hmmm. (via Country Living)

Or plain white?

Or plain white? (via Country Living)

Okay – so when we do the actual big renovation, I’m thinking tile. The room gets a lot of biped and quadruped traffic and I do need something durable. I won’t tile the whole thing – it would look out of place with every other room in the house. BUT! Could I somehow blend tile in? Here’s what I’m thinking (of stealing, wholesale, from this house in Traditional Home):

Not crazy about the rest of the room, but I love these floors.

Fun room, not my style, but I LOVE these floors. A blend of tile and hardwood would connect the future floors to the rest of the hardwood in the house.

More floors, please!

More floors, please! The secretary is adorable, too, I think. Floors.... one day.

But in the meantime, I’m thinking… paint ’em. I just need to soften the blow somehow for Richard.

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

August 2020