Archive for the ‘madness’ Category

a controversial project? you decide. . .

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

There are typically two approaches that people take when restoring a Victorian house. Approach one is a total renovation-taking a Victorian and turning it into a completely modern house with the exterior shell of a Victorian. Walls come down, walk-in closets and lacquer kitchen cabinets go up. The second approach is to rehab the house–maintain the architectural quirks and details while completing all the necessary structural and cosmetic updates. Of course, in either of these approaches people can get a little extreme in their approach. The renovators may knock down the entire building and simply leave the facade–which leads me to wonder why they bothered starting with a Victorian in the first place. The rehaber may retain (or introduce) details that were appropriately discarded decades ago (really ugly wallpaper is my favorite example).

Here at mad maison we’ve mostly taken approach number two-rehab. We haven’t knocked down any walls (though we’ve taken down some doors), and we didn’t paint any walls chartreuse green. There is one project we completed that the traditional rehabers will probably object to. Strongly.

Our living room is not particularly large. Typical of a Victorian, it’s somewhat narrow (it’s under 12 feet wide). Our dining room is actually a little larger than the living room. When mad moved into the house, we realized that the original mantel for the decorative fireplace took up a huge amount of space–and it’s larger-than-life presence completely dominated the room. It was the definition of a “focal point,” only we weren’t happy with was it was pointing to. The tone of the wood was something akin to “Florida orange” and the design, with it’s oval mirror, didn’t allow us to display art or anything personal. It was old, but it didn’t feel antique. Dear reader, you can judge for yourself:


The original mantel. Note the height, depth, and color. Ignore the ghost in the mirror.

After considering our options (including painting, restaining, and taking out the mirror), mad made the controversial decision to remove the mantel. Yes, remove it. It actually came down in almost one whole piece–and we quickly learned it was hollow. Which made us think maybe it wasn’t that “precious” a detail as we might have originally thought. At that point we didn’t care either way, because immediately, the room opened up and felt better. Once the mantel was down, we were left with a fireplace and tile surround that were looking a little naked. So mad enlisted my brother to build a simple mantel. Here you can see the fireplace with the wood cleats he screwed into the wall:


naked mantel, about to be dressed. and please, don't ask what that stain is on the tile (we didn't).

After installing the cleats, my brother cut some standard pieces of moulding, and a top piece for the shelf. After the mantel was built, we realized that there was a gap in the baseboard because our new mantel was so much sleaker than the original one. So we liberated some small pieces of baseboard from the deepest recesses of our bedroom closet to fill in the gaps. Behold, here is the new fireplace, with a new mantel and a beautiful expanse of wall above it:


If you’re curious, we removed that icky stain with a natural degreaser that worked like magic, SafeChoice Super Clean. Of course, the fireplace still wasn’t perfect in my eyes. While the red firebox, brassy metal frame, and green/beige mottled tile may appeal to some, it just wasn’t our style. We seriously considered replacing all the tile, but also realized that would be a more appropriate project years from now when the rest of the house is complete. After extensive consideration and research (and a motivational post on yhl), we decided to paint the tile. Yes, paint the tile. Even though it’s a decorative fireplace we do use it with gel-fuel, so I painted the firebox and metal surround with a high-heat roll-on paint. For the tile, I sanded them lightly to “rough up” the surface, primed them, and painted them with two light and even coats of the same white semi-gloss paint we’ve used on all the woodwork in the house. Finally, I applied two light coats of Safecoat Acrylacq. It’s been a few months and the tile has done fine with and still looks fresh. We hope you agree:


mad maison's "new" fireplace

I know there are people who will disapprove. They’ll suggest we should have embraced the old mantel and (what was for us) the nausea-inducing tile. One of my regular resources, This Old House would call us reckless. But this is our maison, after all.  All the work we’ve done has reinforced that you have to make your house work for you. We spend time in our living room every day. Our fireplace has gone from something we hated, to something we felt ok about, to something we love to look at and can’t wait to decorate with holiday lights in December. If that makes us mad, so be it.

fool me once. . .

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

When you rehab every room in a house there are always small, lingering tasks. They don’t prevent you from using the room, but you know the room isn’t quite ready for prime time (or a blog post). Here at mad maison we have more than a few. Sometimes, completing those tasks can be more fulfilling than all the other work you put into a room. Recent examples are the ceiling fixtures in both our bedroom and mike’s office. You may be surprised to learn that mad wanted to replace the identical light fixtures in the two bedrooms:

Mike's Ceiling Fixture, before

original bedroom fixtures

Perhaps you recall from a much earlier mad maison post, we were almost undone by the wiring in the living and dining rooms. In the bedrooms, we delayed replacing the lights until we found fixtures we loved and a better method. Once we found the fixture for mike’s office from Room & Board, I knew I would use a similar simple pendant/drum shade fixture in our bedroom. The night we purchased the light, as I was laying in bed looking at the old fixture, I remembered something Bob (the Room & Board salesperson) said about the wiring: “you could easily replace the housing unit for very little money with one that’s suitable for your house.” You see, the tops of the living room, dining room, and both bedroom lights all looked like this:

Dining Room Light, before

original dining room fixture

As you can see, there is a canopy (that sits against the ceiling), a rod that screws into the hickey (I swear, that‘s the name), a chain attached to the rod, and then the rest of the fixture. As I looked at the fixture still hanging in our bedroom, I realized I could probably cut the chain, reuse the rod and the canopy, spray-paint them (someone had painted the top of the fixture in the dining room), and then string our new pendants through them and install them quickly and easily. So that’s exactly what we did. I’m thrilled with the results. The pendants are very secure (especially since they’re much lighter than the earlier chandeliers) and I prefer the look of the white canopy on white ceiling to the chrome on white we currently have in the dining room and living room. And, the design works better with this 103 year-old house. See for yourself:

Mike's office Ceiling LIght

new ceiling fixture in mike's office

Bedroom Ceiling Light

new bedroom ceiling fixture

In fact, when we’re done with everything else in the house, and I’m able to find suitable canopies and rods for the living room and dining room, I might even rewire our current pendants in those two rooms. Of course, that won’t happen for quite some time. We have many other small tasks (like our kitchen, bathroom, and hallway) to finish first. Perhaps most satisfying of all is the realization  that we’re actually getting smarter and learning from our mistakes. Our house may be able to fool us once, but not twice.

a day in the life. . .

Friday, April 8th, 2011

One of my favorite things about the blog mi piace kate are Kate’s adorable cats. Not only are her cats cute, but they really like to cuddle. While our cats typically hang out in the same room together, they rarely cuddle. Today, while I worked at home, they assumed a series of poses that came dangerously close to (though not quite) cuddling:

Now you know who we’re really rehabbing this house for!

The saga of the window coverings

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

It’s interesting how a room comes together–and the little challenges you face along the way. Given that the upstairs of mad maison is petite (two bedrooms connected by a small landing/hallway that is also connected to the bathroom and the staircase), mike and I knew that we wanted to use the same color paint in both bedrooms to “tie them together” as they’d say on HGTV. Which means before we started stripping the wallpaper in mike’s office we knew what color the walls would be. And a few months ago, while looking for a chair we encountered a beautiful grey felt pendant lamp at Room & Board. It was a great deal (over 1/2 off the retail price), so we snatched it up even though we knew it would be months before it was installed. And before you can say “color splash” we had “selected” the primary colors for the room–the soft blue on the walls and grey (and then I decided we could throw some splashes of red in the mix). Given that we’d already chosen red window coverings in the living/dining rooms, we decided to go with grey window coverings in this room. In addition, we figured out that we’ll probably put a low console under the windows, so we knew that shades or blinds would be better than curtains. We also really like the clean and tailored look of minimal window coverings that show off as much of our beautiful window frames as possible. Never fear, I knew that ikea would serve us well. Two of my favorite shelter blogs have sung the praises of the ikea Enje roller shade, and I learned they produced a dark grey version of the shade. I mean, they really are perfect. We wouldn’t even have to cut them:

Ikea Enje Shade, dark grey

ikea delivers, again

Or not. As I start looking for a local ikea that has the shades in stock, I keep coming up short. There aren’t any in our two Bay Area ikeas. There aren’t any in Sacramento, or Southern California. I quickly realize they aren’t available anywhere in the US. So I email the good folks at ikea only to learn that they’ve been discontinued. Which is what can drive you crazy about a place like ikea–what could have possibly possessed them to get rid of a clearly popular item? Alas, we’ll never know. We’ll also never know why the shades are still available to our noble neighbors to the north but not us (I’m sure I could come up with a sarcastic political joke, but this is not that kind of blog). But I do know that I have some pretty immediate window covering needs. Any time we wanted to get dressed we needed to close the door to mike’s office. Direct sunlight left mike’s computer unusable due to glare for the better part of the day. My only recourse was the interwebs. I encourage all of our fearless readers to start looking online for grey roller shades that are between 24-25″ wide. Oh, and of course, please limit your search to coverings that will cost less than $50 a shade (which is still more than I wanted to spend). You’re not going to find much. From Target and to the shade store and blinds galore. I finally found a shade I thought would work from my good friends at Option

perfect, you would think

Alas, when we received the shades, here’s what it looked like:

Window Covering Misstep

not so perfect. notice the transparency feature!

Not only will you notice that the shade looks a lot more black than grey, but they aren’t that private either. . . so back they went. And back to door closing and computer screen glare. My partner was getting understandably frustrated. In a moment of weakness, he even did this:

Temporary Solution #1

glare can cause desperate acts

For those of you who know me well, you know that when I rarely admit defeat in such situations. My research continued. So one day I was browsing and encountered a temporary, paper grey shade for only $9–that was in stock at my local store. And, it had a good review by a happy customer. My curiosity and my skepticism were definitely piqued. $9 seemed like a pretty safe gamble to me. So on the way home from work I picked up said shade, completed the quick and easy process of cutting it to size and Mike installed it. And here is the result:

Temporary Solution #2

our temporary fix that we want to keep

The color works well with our beautiful pendant light. The texture is a lovely. The light blockage is right where we want it–no glare, but continuing to let a little light in. mike is so happy he’s proposing they might work as a “permanent” solution to our window covering challenge. Even if that’s not the case, we now have a realistic solution that will work until we find another covering that we absolutely love–or we decide to take a trip to Canada.

a quiet return

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

mad is returning from a long hiatus with a short explanation and a follow-up on one of our little mad projects. The good news is that mad is still here, still in the maison d’etre (oh no, bad international puns), and still working. We’ve thought of our little blog and our faithful readers many times, but we simply fell off the mad maison wagon for a bit. Part of it was my employment situation–I (denise) left my job at one technology company and found a great job at another (better) technology company. In truth, however, that’s not the only reason. While I won’t say that mad stopped working on the house completely over the last few months, we definitely slowed down significantly. Call it a break, call it a little home repair burnout, mike and I needed to catch our breath for a bit. With a new year, of course, come new resolutions and new convictions. We’re back to repairing plaster, spackling, and working on our little projects.

As you may recall from this post, I wanted to make an old lamp I found in the house a little more mad. I’m happy to report that the project is complete (after spending a few too many months in our garage). It’s still old, it’s still funky, but it’s much more to our liking:

a little lamp project (after)

a little lamp project (after)

And for those of you who would like a reminder of what it looked like before:

a little project

my little lamp project (before)

Thanks to those of you who have patiently waited for our return; we plan to reward you in 2011 with more frequent posts about our ongoing adventures!

a mad rabbit hole. . .

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

While we’ve made plenty of progress over the last year, our home is still very much in transition. As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are many items mad is waiting to unpack until our rehab efforts are complete. Thankfully, there’s a room in the garage (that was once my dad’s bedroom) that facilitates this storage.

Storage Room

The garage storage room that enables the mad approach

Sometimes, however, our approach can be a little frustrating (especially given our well known type a tendencies). The good news is that today’s rabbit hole was started for a good cause. I brought a few things back with me from my five years in New York. An appreciation for real seasons, a partner in life, and an affection for the New York Mets baseball team. My fandom was prompted in part by Mike (who loves all things baseball) but also by getting to know the Mets over a four-year period. I like that they’re scappy–even though they have a pretty high payroll. I like that they always act like a team (as opposed to a gathering of well-paid position players). I like that they’re the ancestors of the Dodgers and the Giants. I like the big apple in the top hat and the whole Met mascot family. And I like that they’re always the underdog due to another NY baseball team that we don’t need to name. I will even admit that I even like the way the Mets make you earn your fandom. Mike and I don’t have any animosity towards other baseball teams, but the Mets are menschkeit to us (especially with Isaac Benjamin Davis at first base and Howie Rose announcing the plays).

How does this relate to our storage room? The Mets are kicking off their west coast roadtrip this week. In honor of this, Mike and I decided to get some bleacher seats to see them at AT&T park here in SF. There really aren’t any bad seats at our local ballpark, and one of our best dates was going to see the Brooklyn Cyclones at Coney Island in the bleachers. Of course, to properly pay tribute to the Mets I wanted to bring my super-cool stadium seat cushion. And of course, this cushion was still packed away in one of our many boxes full of art in the storage room.

nym stadium seat

the cause of today's rabbit hole

Mike was kind enough to halt work on his office to locate the cushion. After a couple of hours, he found it–in the last box he looked in (why are these things always in the last box?). Of course, he found a few other items that we’ve agreed to take out of storage (towels and sheets)–and the room is neater and more organized than when he started. I showed my appreciation for Mike’s efforts by making him a homemade pizza while he was working away. Now both residents of mad maison are sated.

mad pizza

a little thank you from one member of mad maison to another

mad bling

Monday, July 5th, 2010

Back in February mad shared our project to add a vanity area to our bedroom for me. After a few months, I realized there was a component missing. As part of my DIY streak I have quite a few necklaces. I wanted to find a way to store them that would discourage tangling and make it easy to incorporate them into my morning routine. Previously, I stored my necklaces in a hacked wooden medicine cabinet–but having them behind a door in a cabinet that was a little too “country” for my evolving tastes wouldn’t work in mad maison. I had seen numerous open displays of jewelry that I thought worked well, but none of those displays supported the number of necklaces I have. I also wanted something that could “tuck away” to avoid tempting the cats from turning my creativity into a cat toy. After a little bit of research I realized a towel holder might do the trick. I found one at ikea that had clean lines and a little upturn to keep the necklaces on the holder. Mike and I installed it on the wardrobe we have in the bedroom. I absolutely love it–my necklaces are readily available but not in the way.

jewelry storage

my new necklace storage, with Max's approving gaze

You might be surprised to see my necklaces organized by type and color (if you’ve forgotten that I built a database for our cross-country move). Mike wasn’t surprised at all.

jewelry storage 2

my necklaces in action

a little mad project

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Mike and I have started to make great progress on our second bedroom (which serves as Mike’s office). The room was being used even though it was in quite a state, so the first thing we had to do was move out of it. We’ve temporarily relocated Mike’s desk and miscellany to our bedroom, and all the items that we were “storing” in his office have been moved to various undisclosed locations. This room is exciting for a few reasons:

1. We removed about half of the wallpaper “dry” (without DIF or steam) right after we moved in.
2. There is only one layer of wallpaper on the walls.
3. We don’t need to “live” in the room while we work in it.

All of this allows for a cleaner and smoother room rehab that we’ll be reporting on in future mad maison postings. In the meanwhile, I thought I would share another little project I’ve taken on myself. This was another mad garage find that I’m going to try to turn into something we’ll use and enjoy. I’m going to try to improve a lamp that belonged to my grandparents with some gumption and spray paint. This lamp caught my eye for a few reasons–it doesn’t have any flowers on it (which is unusual for my grandparents belongings) and I like the “two-tier” effect of the lampshade. I will share after pictures when I’ve completed the project. I do recognize that it’s a little odd that I’ve taken on smaller “hobby” projects to distract me from my huge renovation “hobby.” My commitment to mad maison is that profound.

a little project

my little lamp project (before)

the mad kitchen

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

This weekend mad took a break from scraping, painting, staining, sanding, and the like. Instead, we put our energies into the fun enterprise of making Fathers’ Day cupcakes for my dad. While I have fully embraced the DIY attitude of my generation with plenty of crafty hobbies (that would include knitting, making jewelry, cooking, and of course, home improvement), my dad does not have a lot of hobbies. He doesn’t make models, golf, sail boats, or play chess. He also doesn’t have a strong hankering for geeky toys like I do. mad was challenged, therefore, to find an appropriate Fathers’ day gift that he would use and appreciate. He does  occasionally like a snack, with a sweet tooth that leans more to the carrot cake and key lime pie end of the spectrum. However, he’s also been on a bit of a health kick for the last few years, eschewing refined sugar, flour, and excessive starch. I decided, therefore, to use our very functional (though still less than attractive) kitchen to make him carrot cake cupcakes that would jive with his clean living attitude. The cupcakes are sugar free, reduced fat, and contain organic whole wheat flour and organic shredded carrots. Despite my DIY nature, I’ve never been a baker, so I baked test batches of a few different carrot cupcake recipes. My brother came over last week to help beta test the batches (as well as help Mike carry our newly refinished furniture up to the dining room). We all unanimously picked the recipe that I used for tomorrow. Mike provided critical sous-baking and cleanup skills to the endeavor. I’m hopeful that my dad will enjoy and appreciate the surprise. Interestingly, he isn’t a faithful reader of mad maison (he delegates that to my mom), so this blog post shouldn’t spoil the surprise for him. You’ll also notice we’ve created a new category (the mad kitchen) for us to share future culinary hi-jinks with you.

Fathers' Day cupcakes

mad's Fathers' Day Carrot Cake Cupcakes

Welcome, Shlomo

Monday, March 29th, 2010

A photo of a Northern Mockingbird, and one of Shlomo's mishpocheh (brethren)

Last week activity at mad maison slowed a little because I was on a business trip to Plano, Texas. While I could write an entire post (perhaps even a few) about the differences between the Greater Dallas area and the Greater San Francisco Bay Area (and why I’m grateful to live in the latter), today’s post is about the new neighbor who greeted me upon my return to mad maison. Our new neighbor didn’t announce himself until after night fell. Once it was dark, he sang his song all night long. Yes, loyal mad maison readers, Shlomo (which is Hebrew for peaceful) is a bird (and yes, irony was present when we named him). After a little bit of research it was clear that Shlomo is a Northern Mockingbird. It seems that when male mockingbirds are without a mate, they sing throughout the night to attract one. While Shlomo hasn’t prevented the residents of mad maison (human or feline) from falling asleep, it’s our hope that he finds a date soon. Of course, Shlomo is one of those small reminders of the differences between New York and the Bay Area. For all of the articles I read about the Peregrine Falcons in Manhattan, I didn’t see many non-pigeon birds in New York City. And of course, avian sightings were even less likely before April or May. But here in temperate San Francisco, with plenty of hills and trees for friends of the forest to make themselves home, Shlomo is welcome.

our own little legacy

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

I will admit, mad has strange taste in television programs. Mike enjoys televised sporting events, while I am a sucker for certain procedural dramas. However, we share an appreciation for PBS and documentaries of all shapes and sizes. So it’s not surprising that I’ve been watching the PBS series that sparked the 2009 White House “Beer Summit,” Faces of America. I find myself watching the show with a mix of pride and longing. Mike and I come from salt-of-the earth folks. There are no founding fathers, original settlers, or 600 year-old ancient Asian family histories for either of us. As best as we can tell, there weren’t any mad ancestors inhabiting the new world before 1880. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were farmers, mechanics, salesmen, blacksmiths, bus drivers, and gardeners. No statesmen, no artists, and certainly, no bloggers. But they worked hard to create their own family traditions. As I watch a show that’s all about people seeing generations of family legacy placed before them, thereby renewing their commitment to that legacy, my own commitment is renewed. Because while the legacy we’re a part of in this house is only 67 years old–that seems pretty significant to me. Knowing that we’re not just making a home, but making it in the same place that my pops played ball, learned to read, and learned to drive. It may not be a colonial piece of history, but it works for us.

a mad kind of gothic

a different kind of distraction

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I know that a lot of people use the internet to distract from the frustrations of everyday life. For some it’s reading every news article on their subject of choice. For others it’s checking out every video on You Tube on their subject of choice. For yet other people it’s all about wikipedia. And of course, there’s always Facebook. For me, while I try to have a nice balance to my internet interests, I’ve been finding myself spending an inordinate amount of time looking at light. Honestly, adding more lamps and lighting is item 1,011 on a 1,200 item list here at mad maison, but I can’t help myself. And, I’ve found my muse. There’s  a beautiful lamp at Room and Board that has become the grail of my quest. My goal is to find a slightly shorter, much less expensive version of the Olinda lamp. I love that the glass base reduces the “visual clutter” as my teachers at HGTV would say. My distraction has begun. I only hope I don’t have to distract myself from my distraction.

My current distraction. Photo from Room and Board

a mad approach

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Since I’ve started cross-posting madmaison to my facebook page, mad has started seeing an uptick in the comment traffic on our site, for which we’re very grateful. One of the questions we received via comments warranted an answer in a new post. Faithful reader Michelle wrote “That sure is a lot of work! do you take breaks in between rooms?”

The short answer to the question is no, but with most things mad, the truth is a little more complex. Now that mad has worked through a couple of rooms, we’ve realized that we’ve developed a bit of a rhythm when it comes to completing our rehab work. We’ve already started working on our next project, which is the floor of our bathroom. It has older, dirty linoleum tiles that were installed by my grandfather when my pops was just a lad. We’re many years away from doing a full reno on the bathroom, but as an interim measure we want to get down to the original wood plank flooring (as we did everywhere else in the house). We’re often motivated to start working right away on the next room due to the enthusiasm and excitement generating from finishing a room. Inevitably, once we start working on that next room, we start to realize we’re a little wiped out and slow the pace down a bit–only for that pace to pick up again as we start to see the progress we’re making. In addition, mad tries hard to incorporate a little fun in our fair city. When you’re working on a project like this it’s easy to get frustrated, burnt out, and yes, even a little bitter. We try to make sure we take time to enjoy San Francisco so we can remember why we’re on this adventure in the first place.

All things considered, we think we have a pretty healthy yet productive pace for rehabbing the whole house before we get too far into this new decade.


the two mad cats, trying to teach us how to pace ourselves

desperate mad innovations

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

We’ve mentioned before the essential role that Big Wally’s plaster repair has played in the rehab of both our Living Room, what will be our bedroom, and we expect every other room of the house. Big Wally’s reattaches the plaster walls to the wooden lathe that sit behind it. When mad used Big Wally’s in the living room, we came very close to running out of the precious caulk. Therefore, I ordered twice the amount of caulk for the bedroom. Unfortunately, the walls in the bedroom were in worse shape than the living room. And with about 12 holes that still required caulk, we ran out. You can only buy Big Wally’s on the internet, so mad needed to implement some combat tactics in order to stay on schedule. As documented before, mad performs well under pressure. Using a chopstick and a pair of scissors we were able to squeeze those last few drops of caulk out of every tube. Thankfully, it was just enough to fill those remaining 12 holes. Most important, it kept the final week of the bedroom rehab work on track.

Completed bedroom plaster repair thanks to scissors, chopsticks, and guile.

sometimes you eat the bar . . .

Monday, December 28th, 2009

and, as the dude would say, sometimes the bar eats you. While it’s been a struggle, mad continues to make progress towards completing the rehab on what will be our primary bedroom. Our goal is to have the bedroom complete around the first of January, which means the clock is ticking. In case you’re new to mad maison, or our living room rehab feels like a distant memory, the steps for being “primer ready” are extensive:

1. Remove crazy-glued, band-aid brand wallpaper that was hidden under layers of paint. Remember to employ water, steam, DIF spray, and anything else you can think of to get the wallpaper off. Curse occasionally when a piece of wall accompanies the wallpaper. Sacrifice at least one outfit to the wallpaper removal deities and tell yourself you still have three rooms and a hallway to go (and with them, plenty of opportunities to wear this crusty ensemble).
2. Identify all of the cracks in the walls of the room and determine how many of those cracks represent the walls coming of the lathe. Grumble when you realize it’s most of the cracks. Stare in wonder at the crack that goes up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the other wall.
3. Drill holes in the wall in preparation for the Big Wally’s treatment. Remember to get out all destructive feelings during the drilling.
4. Complete the Big Wally’s repair process by spraying conditioner and then caulk into the holes you just created (yes, even upside-down on the ceiling). Screw in temporary clamps to ensure the Big Wally treatment does it’s job. Wait 24 hours.
5. Slather copious amounts of joint compound/patching plaster over every hole, gouge, crack, and crevice in the walls (yes, even upside-down on the ceiling). Wait 24 hours.
6. Sand the walls as smooth as possible without removing all the joint compound you just applied.
7. Apply two coats of primer–the first primer these walls will see in their 101 years on this planet.
8. Apply two coats of paint.

This room should have been easier than the living room. It’s smaller, the ceilings are lower, and there was no mantle to remove. Alas, this was not the case. The wallpaper was beyond comprehension and underneath that wallpaper the walls were in much worse shape. Despite this, mad endures. We’ve completed all plaster repair and we’ll have finished all the joint compound application before we head to bed tonight. I’m taking off this week from work so we can achieve our goal. Our plan is to sand tomorrow and prime on Wednesday. Painting, which Mike used to hate more than anything, will be our favorite part of the process.

I read a lot of “shelter” and home design blogs when I’m not working or working on mad maison (feel free to check out Apartment Therapy’s 2009 Homies feature to see the variety of blogs out there). When I lived in New York, these were a fun distraction that provided the occasional inspiration for a small tweak to our perfect (in our eyes) home. Now, they inspire me to action and, I will admit, occasionally make me feel a little slow and inadequate. But then I remind myself that Mike and I signed up for the entire journey together, not just the destination. I remember that I live in one of the best cities on earth where I get to enjoy not only the history of this 101 year-old building but the family history that comes with living in the house my Dad grew up in. I remind myself that all of this home rehab work will be well worth it when it’s done. I remind myself that we’ll be living in chaos for only a fraction of the time we’ll be living in this house. And I look out the window of what will be our beautiful bedroom, past the rooftops of those uniquely San Franciscan homes and at the peak of the Bay we get to see and remind myself that this is all well worth it.

We at mad maison definitely have more in common with the tortoise than the hare. Finishing will be all the 'win' we need. Photo courtesy of

I can see clearly now. . .

Monday, November 16th, 2009

When you spend your entire life in one region and you’re presented with the idiosyncrasies of other regions, you’re sometimes caught off-guard. While I had lived in various parts of California before I moved to New York in 2004, I lived in California exclusively. There were two of these issues that affected me more than the others. I’ve already spoken about the summer weather (and particularly the humidity). The other one, I’m a little ashamed to admit, is a particularly virulent case of New York city hard water. While I had seen the occasional dishwasher detergent commercial that alluded to it, I had never experienced it for myself. Then, when I moved to New York, over the years, I noticed our drinking glasses started to look, well, disgusting. We had a dishwasher–which didn’t help. We purchased products like rinse aid, jet dry, etc. . .none of them helped. We even brought the hard water stains back to California with us. We were on the verge of purchasing new glasses (which would have cut into our wallpaper removal gel budget), when I turned to my old friend, the internet. And then I discovered a potential fix. That bottle of white vinegar hiding under the sink.

Neither the internet nor the vinegar disappointed me. mad is happy to report that our continued wallpaper removal efforts will not be stalled. After a little soaking, and a little scrubbing, we’re happy to report that we have glasses that look like glasses again. Perhaps they’ll even stay this way now that we’re here in the Golden State.

Before, with the hard water stains.

Before, with the hard water stains.

Clear as well, glass, after

Clear as well, glass, after. And yes, that's the same glass.

A small mad success, brought to you by. . .

A small mad success, brought to you by. . .

Lighter moments

Friday, October 9th, 2009

For the majority of my childhood, I lived within a few miles of the house mad now occupies. I have many fond memories in this house–assembling jigsaw puzzles with my grandfather, applying 4 layers of my aunt’s lipstick, enjoying my grandmother’s peanut butter sandwiches, and the occasional holiday celebration. It’s been a long time since my grandmother entertained in what is now mad maison–at least 20 years. Needless to say, mad was surprised to find decorative items still in the house that don’t have any real monetary value. Some of these items are so hilarious that we can’t help photographing them before we purge them. What’s most amusing to me about this “salad” is that the ingredients are now so passe. I mean, iceberg lettuce in a salad for company? Please.

I think mixed greens would be more appropriate, don't you?

I think mixed greens would be more appropriate, don't you?

mad tips

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Did you know that in addition to a wonderful companion to any home-cooked meal that Trader Joe’s Canola Oil spray is a great home-repair lubricant? It’s true. This was discovered by the brother-man when he was customizing the brackets for our window coverings. You can always count on mad for a little advice for your own home repair projects.

The secret's in the spray. . .

The secret's in the spray. . .

Wish Fulfillment

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Patience and a healthy outlook can sometimes be difficult to maintain while in the midst of a home renovation. So it’s important to take inventory of the small, unheralded victories that take place.

For example, mad scored a coup today at a certain international, Swedish-founded big-box furniture retailer that will remain nameless (Ikea). 2 contemporary, elegant ceiling lamps were procured for not all that much money after careful research, and considering other light fixtures that were several times the price. Of course, we haven’t installed these units yet, but we’re allowing ourselves to feel pretty good.

I’d also like to offer a small home repair tip to our loyal readership. If you’re unfortunate enough to find parts of your computer desk slowly disengaging themselves, a 6″ “C – clamp” and a polyurethane adhesive named after a large primate (Gorilla Glue) are very helpful. Rest assured, you’ll find yourself typing away happily and being downright giddy in no time.

Everyone can agree that a buoyant mood and a cocktail really helps the home improvement process along. CClamp

another small step. . .

Friday, August 14th, 2009

mad is a household that loves books. A love of reading and literature is one of the cornerstones of mad, and together we’ve rediscovered the libraries in both New York City and San Francisco. I knew I was falling for Mike on a Sunday back in ’06 when we were able to discuss the Canterbury tales (that and the fact that we ended the day with a ridiculously wonderful Isaac Hayes movie).While our living room isn’t completely done, we are at the point where we’re able to introduce our belongings into the room.  So today, after work, I actually unpacked some of our books and put them away. More than our rug (which is going to be cleaned on Monday), pictures, or tschotkes, our books help us feel at home. They immediately make us feel grounded and comfortable. Plus, they give us something other than painting and blog updates to do. . .

Cozy, no?

Cozy, no?