Belling the Fish

Oh boy! We’re drilling holes in the house!

Things are done slowly, and sometimes not in logical order around here, but eventually they do get done. Although they might get done in strange ways — tonight, for instance, we tried belling the fish, and now our ceiling jingles, but we have successfully achieved a goal we’ve been working towards for several months now… very soon, there will not be electronic spaghetti dangling all over the back of the wet bar, and as of about 90 minutes ago, there is no dusty speakerwire trailing along the floor and threatening to trip the unwary (not to mention throttle the vacuum cleaner). Soon, very soon now, we will have a normal family room at last.

Tonight, for example, we did something we’ve been trying to figure out how to do for months – David drilled two holes in the ceiling and we ran speaker wire from one side of the room to the other. Not a big deal? We’ve been mulling this one over for months. Run it along the corners and install crown molding? Run it behind the mantlepiece and paint the wire the same color as the grout? Bend it around all kinds of odd corners and bricks and paint it the same color as the ceiling? We couldn’t run it under the floor – slab. We thought we couldn’t run it through the ceiling… until today.

David realized that if the ceiling joists ran perpendicular to the room, we might be able to run a fish across. And then he had a brainstorm and figured “Shortest path, straight line, no corners. Drilled the first hole where he wanted it, and then I listened for progress overhead while he tried to fish it over to see if there was an obstruction or not. We tried tying a jingle bell on the tip of the fish tape to see if it would make it easier to hear it, especially as it got closer to the target area.

I thought I could hear it thudding up against the far wall, and then I fished for a bit and thought I felt it actually fall down between the studs on the far side.

Okay, time to drill the second hole. Rather than eyeballing it, like we normally would … we measured. Drilled. And pulled out a chunk of pink insulation. Oooh, maybe this wasn’t going to work. Maybe the fish won’t be able to punch through that.

So more fishing around, no success. Then we tried fishing from the other direction – that didn’t seem to be getting all the way across. Lost the jingle bell in the ceiling when it wouldn’t come back through the hole, so now our house is permanently festive. Tried again fishing from the wet bar side. I thought maybe if David got close, I’d see debris falling from the hole.

Fishing, fishing, fishing.

Finally, it seemed like I was hearing noise coming from the hole in the ceiling rather than through it… maybe? Maybe? Yes – drywall dust fell out! More fiddling around trying to make the “fish tape” flail around in there and maybe be able to see it. At last, I spotted it as it moved across the opening. We had a dental mirror and were prepared to make the hole bigger, but we never needed it. Then it seemed I was right before – several feet of tape had gone down into the wall beyond the opening, so I kept it centered over the hole with a screwdriver while David pulled it back. At last, the end of the tape came into view, and I grabbed the tip with the needlenose pliers and did battle with it mightily. There was no way we were going to have to cut a larger opening, it was just a question of “holding my mouth right” and getting the right angle on it.

At last, out it came. Success!! There was much joy and rejoicing, also extremely passionate kissing. Hey – we’re geeks, this stuff really gets us going.

Very quickly, the speaker wire was pulled through, the speakers were hooked up and placed approximately where they’ll be installed, and at last, at last, NO visible speaker wire!!!

We are just… so… weird about this home improvement stuff.

We’ve approached all the projects with vague ideas and gradually refined them, and then noticed on completion that some of our choices mysteriously “worked out” seemingly by chance.

Subconsciously, we seem to have very good taste. Our projects would probably go better if we’d just stop thinking about them and do them already…

DIY Project Management: Our Other Home Is A Depot
I suppose the ongoing “upgrade the family room” project really started the day after we moved in, almost 3 years ago now. We sat on our couch (which David’s parents gave him 15 years ago) and watched our old TV, in its place on the peeling chipboard entertainment center with the sagging shelves (a castoff of his parents’). We had no coffee table, because very soon I gleefully wrapped the chipped glass top of the old one in an old sheet and broke it up with a hammer and threw it out (I hated that table, the top kept falling off the chrome frame). Sitting there, I could see that our old furniture looked really, really shabby in the new house, and not in the “comfortably shabby” way, either. It was a white room with a white couch and love seat and a filthy tan carpet (no amount of steam cleaning could get the stains out, so the former owners covered them with area rugs).

In fact, in spite of the great fireplace, it was pretty boring with our stuff in it – it had looked really good with the former owners’ furniture. And really, there were a lot of things that needed to get done around the house before we could tackle the family room – it could wait until some other, higher priority issues were addressed.

So let’s see – the first thing we did (after breaking down the coffee table and tossing it out) was have the whole inside and outside of the house painted. We weren’t all that happy with the painters, and we picked the inside colors too conservatively, and soon the place looked almost as boring and neutral as it did before (although we did do interesting things with different pale neutrals on adjacent walls, because I was trying to work with the “keel wall” thing even then). On the other hand, the painters were so disorganized when they left (not sure, think somebody got fired for being a flake on the job) that we ended up with a big extendable ladder. We called them a couple of times, they never came out to get it. Oh, well.

Bathrooms, mostly decorated and painted to our liking. May re-paint them all something more daring later. Fine for now. May need to replace floor in master bath – broken edge of linoleum tile is harbinger of wet-rot underneath if we don’t do something about it. Someday.

Then we got a biggish slush fund from my mom for furniture, and the living room was a completely empty wilderness that I vacuumed every week or so, so housekeeping in there was a snap. We decided to keep budgeting for furniture on a monthly basis and let it keep building up.

So we went out furniture shopping every few.. months or so. After a lot of looking and shopping, mostly at Carson’s, we went back there one day during a sale, walked in, saw a set similar to one a friend had that we liked, and said “that’s it.” And that really was pretty much it – stock sage-green sofa and chair, three light oak tables, and a nice Karastan rug with a semi-southwestern color scheme. It all looked good against the dark green carpet. Aside from needing to put more framed pictures and art on the walls, the living room is essentially done (I wouldn’t mind nicer curtains someday, but no rush).

The dining room is hopeless and doesn’t come into this narrative. Once the family room is completely “done,” then it’s time to find the right stuff for the dining room, which needs to be compatible with the living room. When I point out less expensive temporary alternatives to the current busted-down and scarred “table” and the folding chairs (!!!) we currently have in there (along with the beat-up Art Deco buffet I bought at a garage sale), David scoffs, yet when we price gorgeous Mission stuff, he keels over. More scoffing and keeling over is called for, at least in the dining room, which snuck into this narrative anyway.

So. We have light cheap crap in the family room. Some time goes by.

Some more time goes by. I start to get kind of bored with light neutral walls.

With a girlfriend, I painted the two spare bedrooms: the former shrine to “Precious Moments” that was pink, blue, and purple, and the former fan-teen lair that became the kitty room. Approximately 3 dozen anchor holes had to be patched and sanded before we could paint it – he had a sword collection (very cool) and had anchored each with at least 4 anchors in a diamond pattern every couple of feet(very uncool). I got to be rather good at patching.

Room is now painted a cozy melon color, and for a while contained a spare futon, the kitty litter containment system, and a few odds end ends of bookshelves and lighting. Vague plans of making it a reading room or study eventually, with twinbed or daybed seating for use as an overflow guest room. The bigger spare bedroom painted a nice yellow, and is now a bright and pretty room in yellow, blue, and green. Needs a bit more stuff on the walls, but is essentially done. Still need to slap a bit more ceiling white over the door and attic access panel while muttering about people who paint ceilings funky colors.

Master bedroom has Mission king size bed and dresser and highboy and two end tables shoehorned in. Six months after moving in, we finally figure out how to stagger the endtables next to the bed so that the closet doors can be opened and closed. Needs to have some pictures we bought framed and hung and maybe a new lamp on the highboy, but again is essentially done.

The front hall is and ever shall be a sort of lumber room of arrival – a random table (family castoff) and a coat rack. Really needs a good teak or mahogany bench – there’s a niche for one, but we haven’t found one we like. Needs something else, not sure what.

Which brings us to the family room/kitchen, which in addition to the basement (shudder) is where we spend the majority of our time.

We finally found a coffee table we liked – golden oak with corniced edges and traditional decorative trim (not too fussy) and a glass display top. It’s a pretty good match for the mantlepiece, and we realize we’re onto something for the rest of the furniture needed in there eventually: golden oak, cornices, maybe some fluting or beading on the corners, possibly crown molding and false beams? We stick interesting stuff in the display drawer – trip mementos, maps, my dad’s old photo album open to a specific page.

We watch a lot of DIY shows like “Hometime” and others of that ilk. We occasionally tackle little projects that always start out with the fateful phrase of doom: “Well, they come in standard sizes,” invariably delivered while standing in the aisle at Menards or Home Despot. We mostly succeed in completing them.

I start the floor project in the former “kitty room,” which involved noxious fumes and at least a gallon of Kilz. Kitty banished to other areas of house due to his rather inaccurate aim, litter containment system goes into high gear due to his moderate diabetes (easily controlled, however). This brings us up to sometime last March, by the way.

Various and sundry stops and starts on the floor. I spot some faux leather at a fabric store and decide that the box valances in the family room need to come down and get recovered (they used to be something Laura Ashley-ish, and David loathed them). The first one takes 3 weeks (about 3 hours or less actual labor). The second one got recovered much more quickly, but I ran out of nails and lost interest. It’s in the dining room of no hope, but needs maybe 6 antique brass nails added (have now gotten them) and it can be reinstalled… tonight, now that I found my tack hammer, which mysteriously found its way into David’s toolbox instead of mine.

About the same time the floor project stalled out, we committed to starting two more. This time, however, we were going to the pros. Again, long time shopping, quick time making the decisions about color and finish once we found some stuff we liked. They came, they installed, they went in two days, and we had a new kitchen floor, and a new hardwood floor (engineered) in the family room.

Ta da. Two days.

We would have been impressed, except that the workmen tried to pull a fast one on a minor fix they had to make to fit the boards around a floor vent, so we won’t use them again. We kind of had to get the floors done because the rug was horrible and we were having some big thing last summer. The kitchen floor was pure bonus – it’s so small that it wasn’t that much more to add it in, and it’s much nicer than the dark brown patterned linoleum tiles that were there before. Theoretically easier to keep clean, too — when I remember to get around to it.

We picked up a relatively inexpensive patterned rug at Home Despot. It’s modern-ish but not too stark. I liked the colors in it and started thinking about how some of them might work as wall colors or window treatments.

I went back to my floor project with renewed vigor and almost got it completely done, as said elsewhere here. Now in the process for shopping for a good deal on a miter saw, etc. etc.

Some time around then, we had everything paid off from before, and the “house fund” had built up again. So we’re thinking “TiVo” and a bigger TV, and fairly soon we had them both. To my everlasting joy, the new TV was much, much too big for the old entertainment chipboard piece o’crap, so out the crap went to the garage to be reduced to manageable pieces and thrown out, and the big TV and all the home entertainment components found a “temporary” home on the wet bar. And all the wiring went behind, and all the junk we couldn’t put away got stuck back behind where we couldn’t see it.

And so we were shopping and shopping for quite a long time for a large, heavy entertainment cabinet that would fit in the one place that would work. And also thinking that sometime pretty soon the old sofa and loveseat would find their way to the curb.

On our trip to Disney in July, we had spent some time in the Adventurer’s Club, and that’s when we finally realized what we were vaguely aiming for – a comfortably clubby atmosphere with stuff brought back from fabulous adventures (more likely, garage sales, but really cool stuff, not junk). We decide to go for it, but will probably omit things like the talking genie’s head floating in a cabinet.

Pause for 3 week vacation in England…

Pause for… oh, just pause for a few months.

Things start to happen. On a whim, based on seeing a couple of ads and knowing there was a big selection, we go to a large furniture store about an hour north and realize that the have a supplier that can pretty much build whatever size, style, and color entertainment cabinet for us that we want, based on a fairly broad selection of choices. It’s solid, good quality, and the price is right. We order it and a matching bookcase, after painstakingly measuring everything (TV and the largest components). It’s set for delivery 8 weeks later.

We discuss painting at least one wall a strong color of some kind. We decide on the jalapeno, which contrasts pretty well with everything else in the room. We know we have to get this done before the behemoth and bookcase are delivered, so we actually get cracking and gather the painting stuff together.

The next weekend – an incredible effort on our part – we actually completely finish painting the wall the second day and it’s done aside from touchups. These are completed by the end of the next week. There’s still a couple of fiddly bits David thinks he can fix with small brushes, I leave him to it.

Suddenly the room has a personality, and is seems warmer. The kitchen picks up the color and glows. It’s a shock but we get used to it quickly.

We get the call from the furniture place – it’s ready 2 weeks earlier than expected. The delivery is arranged, the problem with the shelf height is discovered and a fix is devised – the furniture store and factory figure something out and it will be taken care of in a week or so. The warm colors already in the room make the new furniture look very rich. The old sofa/loveseat looks even more horrible by comparison.

Breaking our usual “pay new furniture off before buying the next piece” rule, we decided we’d better think about a new sofa, so today we went to Carson’s and looked at a few things… pretty much as we expected, we liked the dark, “clubby” leather stuff the best, and it’s compatible with everything else. Thank goodness for “0% interest” and credit card application discounts, because the Carson’s card has probably expired again – we only use it about once every 18 months to buy furniture, and it lapses in the meantime. Oh, well. 😉

At this moment, I think we’re in a state of “furniture marination.” We’re thinking about whether to take the plunge, we’re thinking about variations in color and price and so on.

And we’re waiting for the leather sale, which starts in 7-10 days. I think I know which one I want, but I don’t know if David has a strong favorite.

You’ll read it here first. Wow! An incredibly long post about furniture and home redecorating!! Absolutely riveting, eh wot? ::eyeroll::

Recent Related Posts

One thought on “Belling the Fish

  1. Pingback: Geeky Ramblings