Monday, February 6, 2012

The Breakfast Room

I have so many plans for this little cottage and farm.  Because it's winter and rainy and tax season and I have a husband who is a tax software engineer and is always working which leaves me with no help for projects...I have decided to tackle what I can on the inside of the house.  Well, I thought I had no help.  I usually don't, but my boys are so big and helpful now, that combined, it's like having another adult to help.

They had no problem taking a hammer to their lesson room when I decided to turn it into a sunny breakfast room.

When it came time to rip up the old vinyl flooring I had put down when we were "bandaging" the house well enough to get a good appraisal as renters so we could purchase it, they were demolition monsters!  I've never seen anyone rip into something like they did with that floor.  Specially outfitted with dust masks (until they realized how uncomfortable they were) and leather gloves, they went to it and finished before I could say "allowance bonuses this week."

It was my husband's idea to make that room a breakfast room.  You have no idea what a big deal that is.  I did mention that he is a software engineer?  He's a genius.  I know this.  I can't even comprehend the things that go on in that head of his, but if you've ever met anyone of this mentality you know that ordinary, every day things and artistically creative endeavors are as foreign to them as a sandbox is to a fish.  This fish out of water of mine (I have called him on different occasions an alien, robot, Vulcan, human computer, and now a fish.) usually has no idea what I am doing when I talk about renovating, landscaping, cooking, or when I pull out the power tools, hammers, wrenches, and screw drivers with a plan that must be executed by the end of the week, preferably by the end of the day if I'm to sleep soundly.  So when I was rambling on about a gas stove one evening and how I couldn't believe that I am still cooking on an electric, then began wondering aloud where would we even put the size stove I'm thinking about and he very simply suggested making the room that adjoins the kitchen into a breakfast room, I think the Earth stood still for a moment.  The fact that I agreed with him probably knocked it off its axis for another.  The fact that it worked out so beautifully is just mind boggling.

We are the same kind of people, basically, but beautifully opposite in so many ways.  The important thing is that our tastes are the same, with the exception of music and lipstick color maybe (he likes "Hooker Red', I don't), and we differ only in the ways in which we are creative.  We are both work horses, honest, by the book, caring, family oriented, old-fashioned nature lovers but because we are gifted in different ways we don't work well together...AT ALL.  He drives me nuts which drives him nuts.  He sees things in a completely different way (the "wrong" way, of course...I mean, he is a man after all.  Giggle.).

So, he is my calculator, my wood cutter, board holder, wire fence puller, plumber, and electrician, and that is about all he's allowed to do around here.  I happily take on the rest knowing it will save us both a lot of frustration in the end and he is more than happy to let me have at it.  I say all of this knowing that he is in full agreement and won't be offended in the least when he reads this.  Love you, honey!!  Oh, and you are more than welcome to continue taking the trash to the recycling center on your way to work.  Thanks.  My hero.

That's why I am still so pleasantly surprised every morning when I sit in my new breakfast room with the morning sun streaming in (or rain pattering at the windows) knowing that I never would have had this precious space if it weren't for my husband's brilliant idea.

We are a homeschool family.  We need an entire room devoted to school, don't we?  I thought so.  Everyone seems to think so.  I never ever thought that room could be something other than a school room or a nursery, had we ever been sprung with the surprise of another baby on the way.

The room was odd to begin with.  It had in the corner, a neat little cabinet and small closet, about half the size of an armoire, long short windows, siding on one wall that used to be the outside of the house, plumbing in the corners, and an extremely low ceiling.  It was so obviously added on to the back of the house over an old patio and sandwiched between two more additions, a bathroom and a laundry room, that I decided when we moved in that it would be the perfect office/lesson room.  My farmhouse kitchen table just had to go in the middle of the farmhouse kitchen, or so I thought.  As a result, I have spent the last six years rotating the kitchen table and refrigerator around and around the kitchen trying to find the "perfect" arrangement.

When we really started looking around the lesson room, we realized that we only used the closet, which I had added shelves to, the cabinet, and two drawers of one of those ridiculously large, mid-twentieth century metal file cabinets to do our school work.  Parts of speech cut outs and two bulletin boards with hanging calenders attached were the only other school related things in the room.  It was an easy decision to make once we realized that we could still use the closet and cabinet and consolidate what was in the file cabinet so we could get rid of it all together and just move the bulletin boards.  My son was very happy to have the computer and printers moved to his room since his brother already had an antique of a desk top in his.  With the decision made and the idea that we could easily return it to a school room if any of us panicked after the job was done and thought we had made a mistake, we set to work. 

I started out planning to only demolish the core door I had put up on day one of moving in as renters to give us something of a counter to use in that room, remove the file cabinet, and repaint.
I chose the same 1940's "Coke bottle" green that is in the kitchen.

I love it when I find more Pepto Bismol pink paint in this old house.  It shows me that I really do live in an antique. I have left the pantry shelves this original color so that when you open the doors you see right away that it's a special house. I will abide it for as long as I can.  Now that I am living with the green, I wonder how we ever stood the chocolate brown.  What kid wants to do school work in a cave?

These neat little cabinets were built in when we moved in.  They line three walls at the ceiling.  Perfect to hold our movie collection.

I did those things, but on morning number two I got the brainy idea to redo the floors in black and white checkered tiles to match the kitchen so it would be a continuation of that space, maybe knocking out part of the wall eventually to combine with an existing doorway to make a larger entrance.

The boys and I headed out to our local home improvement center and looked at our options.  We ended up deciding on a concrete stain that would make the floors a vert-de-gris hue and ditched the checkered idea.  My older boy thought the black and white would be too much of the same.  I agreed.  The only problem was that I had torn up a portion of the old floor that morning and saw that it was in terrible shape.  It was cracked and unlevel in so many places.  I knew something permanent would have to eventually be done about it.  The cleaning and concrete staining process was daunting and seemed dangerous and BIG and I just wasn't prepared to go the whole nine yards knowing that we would cover the floor one day.  Instead, I decided to buy concrete garage paint and do my best to make it look like green stained concrete.

The boys ripped up the rest of the vinyl, then I scrubbed and removed all the grit from the floor.  I painted next with a dark green paint and let it dry.  I had to let it dry completely because it was oil and the other colors I was using were latex and like oil and water, oil and water-based paint don't mix.  I dry brushed on white, then worked it in and rubbed it off with a rag.  Then I did the same with a dark brown that I watered down.

I was going to seal the paint when I was done with the technique with a heavy duty polyurethane, but when I was finished I wasn't sure enough about the look to seal it in permanently.  I decided to pull out my favorite project stain, one I used a lot when "antiquing" furniture and hand painted signs for clients when I sold art and antiques, brown Kiwi shoe polish.  I used almost an entire large can that I had left over from those good old days and decided to leave the floor as it was and live with it for a while to see if I wanted to stain it a deeper color.

We moved the furniture in that night and started decorating.  It was so odd.  Every time I added a piece, it looked as if it had been waiting its entire life, a life much longer than mine for most items, to be placed in that room. 
We are going to build a cabinet on the left that matches the one on the right to cover the plumbing and water filter.  I had planned to build a bench with storage along the wall between the two cabinets, but I am loving the bench that's there.

I love this bench.  I made it years ago out of half a shipping crate and a twin head board.  It wasn't supposed to go in this room, the red toile isn't really appropriate, but now I love it. 

The first day I saw the 1883 Victorian home my parents had bought in the Blue Ridge Mts. I found this bookcase in the attic and pulled it into room that would be mine.  As a 16 yr. old in the late 80's, I knew I needed somewhere to apply all that Aqua Net and electric blue mascara, so scavenged around some more until I found an old mirror to hang above it.  When my dad sold the house over a decade later, he saved it for me.  One of my prized possessions!  The house itself is for sale again.  I often toy with the idea...

The next morning the boys and I ate breakfast at our little 50's red chrome legged table with the sun coming in the window and our ducks happily wagging their tails on the other side.

We found that we enjoyed doing lessons much better in the room with it re-purposed and everything we needed was still within reach in the existing built-ins.  Sadly, I realized that since my older son is considering attending high school and, either way, I only have a few years left with them before they are grown men, that I was very glad we had changed the room together and I never have to do that alone and suffering from empty nest syndrome while they are off at college.  It will be hard enough dealing with empty bedrooms and an empty house when the time comes.

I set to work again and planted my herb seedlings which I knew would grow well in the sunny windows.

Because we moved the coffee cabinet, an off brand of an old Hoosier which contains our coffees, teas, mugs, microwave, and coffee makers, into the breakfast room, the boys found it fun and convenient to make tea without even leaving the room.

We drank a lot of tea together that day, and in the evening, we made chocolate doughnut holes with our electric maker right on the table in the breakfast room.
I can tell by looking at the edges of the ceiling where it is unfinished in a couple of places that there is old bead board underneath.  I really want to rip that silly plywood down and see what condition it's in.  Another time.  I'm tired and it isn't going anywhere.  This old light fixture,  however, did...go somewhere.

Our new light in its box.  It is now installed, but I have yet to take a picture of it.

Our new red and "chrome" clock.  Perfect!  It quit working about an hour later, when the box it came in had already been taken to the recycling center, of course.  I hate Kmart.   

Looked all over the place for my dadgum meat mallet so that I could pound chicken for Chicken Marsala one night.  "Oh yeah."  Fortunately, I remembered that while decorating I found that I needed one more metal kitchen implement to hang from this rack in the breakfast room to complete the look.  Dinner was saved.

No, I don't "have" a Coke memorabilia collection.  It just sort of happens when you have a red mid-century kitchen.  The thermos was my grandfather's, the coffee carafes were my godmother and German grandmother's. There was one more but I broke it about two days before the renovation.  I guess it wouldn't have fit on the shelf, anyway.  The Calumet baking powder can I found in the old garden shed of the house when we moved in.  Treasure.

Almost two full weeks later, lessons still get done without a lesson room, even though I've been asked on two different occasions by well-meaning, concerned individuals, "But where will you do your lessons?!" Everyone in the family is sublimely happy with the change.  It's the only place in the house where morning light streams through and I wonder how we survived all along without it and the heavy curtains that used to block the light of those windows so everyone could see the computer screen.

The kitchen is a little bare now that we moved so many big pieces out of it, but looks a little more grown up.  There's plenty of room for my must have big gas stove.  Hubby loves the change and loves taking credit for the idea, which I gladly give.  He walked in on day two of decorating and said, "I like how open the kitchen looks now.  It doesn't look as...white trash as it did before."  Well, I hope the next time something around here looks a little too hillbilly someone will tell me! And I guess that means that since the things that are missing from the kitchen are now in the breakfast room that it looks trashy?  Oh well, one man's trash...


  1. I love it!!! It looks wonderful!

  2. Thanks! Coffee and donuts. MNO. I'll start looking at my calendar. :)

  3. Wow!! Great job, love it!!! :-)

  4. I love it and thanks for sharing. It so reminds me of my grandmothers kitchen.

  5. Thanks!

    I guess I hit the nail on the head then, Tammara. You just made this old fuddy duddy's day! :)