Tag Archives: Craigslist finds

Getting in the mood

Our bathroom remodel has incrementally gone from a minor makeover, to a major job, and I haven’t even started it yet. It’s almost like our bathroom heard about all the work I did in the upstairs bathroom, and wanted to get in on the action.

At least the upstairs bathroom had the decency to wait until I was underway before it started throwing curved balls at me. Like a sibling who feels s/he has been shortchanged, the downstairs bathroom is being downright pushy and demanding in comparison.

The first step beyond the quick fix I planned was when we discovered the leaking tile problem in the shower.

Then we decided to replace the stupid tiny shallow bath with a shower enclosure.

And then this week, the beloved managed to drop the tank lid of the toilet and break it. Oops.

How did he manage to do that? Well the filler part of the toilet sometimes sticks, and you have to take the tank lid off and give it a bit of a tug to get it filling again. And …

So now, instead of replacing the guts of the toilet tank, we are in the market for a new toilet as well.

And what did I do when the beloved rather sheepishly confessed he had broken the toilet? I kissed him. Then danced a little happy dance. New toilet! YAY!!!

I had been planning to put down some laminate click lock flooring over the blah vinyl we have in there as a quick and temporary cover-over, but now the bath is coming out, and the toilet is coming out, it is the perfect opportunity to tile the floor at the same time.

Existing vinyl floor. Could be worse, I suppose …

So, we seem to have added floor tile to the list of things happening in our bathroom. Replace toilet, replace bath, new backerboard and tile on the walls, new tile on the floor. Seems like our bathroom is up for a major renovation.

I have been collecting things for our bathroom makeover for a while now. A few months ago I came across a beautiful black marble vessel sink on Craigslist for $50. Bargain. The same place also had faucets/taps incredibly cheap, so I got one of those, too.

Then I found a place that sold off-cuts of marble, quartz etc for countertops at bargain prices, and had a piece of white quartz cut down and edged to fit the top of our existing vanity cabinet. Suddenly we had a modern black and white vibe going on, which immediately suggested an art deco-style bathroom.

My challenge is how to use the tile to bring it all together. There are so many options, and so many possibilities. As we are trying to do this on the lowest budget possible, I am now scouring Craiglist, the salvage yards and any tile sales I come across in an attempt to find the cheapest, and best, tile possible.

It’s great to find something cheap, but it also has to fit with what I have already collected. So, every time come across something that might work, I set up a mood board to see how it might work.

Here are some that I have already put together:

The first one was inspired by some ‘salt and pepper’ granite tiles that I found at the salvage yard. They have a lot of them, so there would be enough to do the shower surround and the floor.

Option 1

The problem with this is that I think the speckle of the granite and the speckle of the quatz countertop will compete with each other and seem busy. I would prefer a more tranquil feel in our bathroom.

Plus they are salvaged tile, which will need the grout scraping off, and not all of them are in great condition. They clearly weren’t removed as gently as the white carerra marble tile I used in our upstairs bathroom.

My second option was to use some white subway tile from a large hardware chain store, then liven them up a little with mosaic accents on the wall and floor.

Option 2

Then I found some glass mosaic tiles that were on sale. I quite like these small tiles, and would pair them with grey marble tile on the floor (also on sale). I tried two options with this. The first has a plain feature wall.

Option 3

And a striped wall. Which I love the idea of, but might be too busy with this tile.

Hmmm … I like all of these options, and they are all perfectly do-able. None of them are really getting me excited enough to get going with them. What do you think?

In the meantime, my latest craigslist crawl has turned up some white glass subway tile on close-out special. Looks like another mood board might be in order.


Everything and the kitchen sink.

Plumbing is a bit like childbirth. It is pretty horrific while you are going through it, but once it is over you forget how bad it was. You bask in the glory of your new sink and faucet, with a profound sense of satisfaction, love and delight. You forget how challenging the process was to get it there until right before you are about to do it again, and then you remember. By that time it is too late, you are in it, and there is only one way out.

This week started well, I began work on my transformation of the upstairs bathroom, and I picked up the new counter top for our bathroom downstairs. It was while I was collecting said counter top that I noticed a stainless steel kitchen sink leaning up against a skip/dumpster outside the counter top place.

 Exciting!  You see our existing kitchen sink was disgusting.

The enamel was gone on the bottom, and no amount of scrubbing would get it clean again. When the beloved cooked a curry with a liberal amount of tumeric the other week, the bottom became a tasty shade of yellow. It was fluorescent at first, but settled into this nasty brown stain after a considerable amount of elbow action on my part. Maybe I should have stuck with the yellow.


 Which brings me to the faucet.

Existing faucet. Not exactly pretty.

It leaked like a sieve out of its side.

Not exactly functional either

Oh dear. Every time I used it, I lived in fear of a catastrophic faucet failure, plus we couldn’t keep anything that minded getting wet in the cabinet underneath.

Clearly things needed to change in the kitchen sink department.

I have mentioned our 50 cent remodelling budget before, and so I have been scanning Craigslist for weeks looking for a replacement sink. There are any amount of white enamel sinks on Craigslist, but there was no way on the planet I would replace our existing sink with another white one. They are such a pain to keep clean, and the enamel goes on them and … well why would you do that to yourself?

I know America has a love affair with white enamel sinks, I guess it is for their old timey feel. Personally, though, give me stainless steel every time. Its shiny, it cleans up beautifully and it will take anything you can throw at it. One of my beloved’s fabulous curries included.

Given the number of white enamel sinks on Craigslist, clearly America is waking up to their drawbacks as well. The stainless steel sinks on Craigslist sell in the blink of an eye, the white ones sit there for weeks before they disappear.

Having missed out on several sinks by not being obsessive and quick enough, you can imagine my delight when I found this one sitting there waiting for me.

I immediately whipped my trusty tape measure out of my bag and determined that the sink would fit in our existing sink space, gave the sink a once over to check there were no dents or anything nasty, and then hot-tailed it inside to ask the guy if he minded if I took it.

Because dumpster diving etiquette demands that you ask first. I’ve never known anyone to say no, but it is simply good manners to make the request.

The guy was happy for me to take it. He said ‘You have got a real bargain there’.

Umm, yeah, it was FREE! You can’t get a better bargain than that. Seriously.

Here it is after I got it home:

sink in my studio

Not only was it a bargain, even better it was a deep one-bowl sink. One of the other things I hated about our existing sink was the garbage disposal was attached to the really shallow small sink, which just doesn’t make sense to me. If you are rinsing crusty stuff off baking pans then surely it is better to have the garbage disposal in the big sink.

We had a wonderful weekend the other week staying with our friends W and J at Lake Tahoe, and I developed an extreme case of sink envy. They had a deep one-bowl sink, with the garbage disposal in the bottom, soap dispensers, and fabulous faucets and everything.

I came home after that weekend, refreshed and relaxed, and looked at our revolting stupid sink and garbage disposal attached to the wrong side, and its leaky faucet and sighed.

But sometimes the universe gives you what you wish for. And as an extra-added bonus occasionally it is something you are actually glad you requested.

I brought my free sink home, gained the beloved’s approval (he liked it for itself and not just because it was free), and stowed it carefully in my studio.

Now all I needed was a faucet.  On a budget of almost nothing. Back to Craigslist.

My dream faucet was one of those high arc ones; a simple contemporary design, that evoked a cool laboratory-esque style. Unfortunately these were w-a-y out of my price range. A long way out of my price range. They may as well have been on Mars.

The kind of faucet I lusted after. Image from National Builder Supply

Or so I thought. And here is a bargain tip for you. When manufacturers update their designs, and decide to stop making a particular style, they sell their leftover discontinued stock very cheaply.

And so it was that I came to be the proud owner of my dream high arc faucet, with pull out spray and all its attachments for $50. For a seriously high end German Hansgrohe faucet that a year ago would have cost me $400.  Cray-zeee. Sometimes you can play consumerism to your advantage.

I had my faucet, and I had my sink. And as with the vanity sink the other week, they sat there in my studio singing their siren installation song.

 Oh, I thought. I learned so much from installing the vanity. Putting this sink in should be a snap! Besides, I said to myself, our kitchen faucet could go at any moment. I really should get it out before it does.

You know what happens next. The plumbing equation is applied. The plumbing equation tells you the amount of time it will actually take to do a plumbing job.

 It works like this: Let (a) be the amount of time you think the job will take.  (a) x 10 = the real life time it will take.  So I thought it would take me maybe a couple of hours, and it ended up taking me 20.

I stopped taking photos really early on. Because it was that bad, and when the going gets tough, the camera stays in the camera bag.

Suffice to say it involved 20 hours of my life, about 4 hours of my neighbor’s life, a lot of swearing and ewwy drain water, lying on my back in a cupboard, plumber’s putty, caulk, teflon tape, adaptor fittings, internet troubleshooting research and trips to the hardware store.

 The 4 hours of my neighbor’s life came about because the old sink was so heavy I couldn’t lift it by myself, so I ducked over to ask if he could help me get it out. He spontaneously stayed and assited me to cut through the tile on my counter top when it became clear that the new sink wouldn’t fit in the old sink’s hole. Fantastic, awesome, and I owe him major neighborly favors as a result. I am hoping some of my plum muffins will act as a small token of my profound appreciation.

I am sure sometimes replacing sinks and faucets is as easy as they make it look on the DIY network. And if you are in a relatively new house with standard fittings it probably is. But when you are dealing with 60 year old plumbing, and ancient stop valves that are different sizes, well, shall we just say things can get more than a little interesting.

Plumbing is my idea of hell. And having done a couple of jobs around the house, I have a deep and abiding appreciation for how much plumbers charge. They deserve every cent. And when I am rich and famous, I will gladly pay them to do my plumbing for me.

In the meantime I just have to suck it up and get on with it.

Anyway, after a Herculanean plumbing ordeal, the new kitchen sink and faucet are now in. And they look beautiful, plus they work perfectly.

I think the sense of satisfaction I feel when I look at this is partly because of how much better it looks, and partly reflects the difficulty of the installation battle.

The new sink and faucet also sit beautifully with a DIY project undertaken by the beloved. Anyone who knows him will by now be gasping with incredulity.

To them I hold up my hand and say ‘enough’!  And admit I nearly fainted in shock at the time. The beloved is famous for his utter lack of anything that might remotely be known as DIY skills.

Mind you, it was electrical work. I will get down and dirty with the plumbing (although I draw the line at anything to do with toilets), but electrical stuff, no way. Terrifies me. The beloved, though, has an affinity with electronics and electrical stuff in general.

And it was him who installed new lighting in the kitchen not long after we moved in; directly after I moved the kitchen cabinets he was bumping his head on.

Here is what was there before:

Lighting before

Pretty diabolical in terms of trying to see what he was doing in the kitchen. And this is what he replaced it with:

new kitchen lights

New sink with new lights. Perfect match!

Cool, huh? Now anything electrical is his department.

So after I put the sink in, I was standing there admiring how great they looked, and feeling deeply relieved to have scraped through another plumbing task unscathed when I my eyes fell on the dreadful venetian blind we have in the kitchen.

Venetian blinds in the kitchen

One of the very few things I dislike about the house is the fact that the kitchen looks straight out onto our street.

view out kitchen window

Our street has little traffic in terms of cars, but because it is quiet, a lot of people walk along it. And as much as I don’t like looking directly out onto our cars and the street, I also don’t like passing pedestrians to have a window on our life.

So we keep the venetians mostly closed most of the time. Which cuts down on light, and makes what is a tiny weeny space seem even smaller. And I loathe venetian blinds. Especially cheap nasty damaged ones.

Ever since before we moved in I have wanted to put some privacy film on the window, but balked at the extreme cost. And then, on one of my favorite websites, Design*Sponge, I discovered this very clever trick:

DIY window project from Design*Sponge

You can use regular everyday contact – the stuff you used to cover your school books – to create an etched-glass effect. It is cheap, easy to apply and peels off readily, with no lasting damage. Great if you are renting, or want a temporary fix like I did.

It just so happened I had some clear contact knocking around, so this fix cost me a total of nothing.

Now, I debated doing something fancy with this like cutting it into cool patterns, but the kitchen is small and crammed with enough stuff without adding another layer of things to look at. So, in the end I went with something simple.

First I took down the venetions:

Removing venetians

 Oh, that is better already.

Then I had to remove some leftover wallpaper that was underneath.

Remember this? Seems like eons ago since it covered the entire kitchen:

I measured and cut out the rectangular pieces of contact:

Cleaned the window thoroughly:


And applied the contact rectangles to the window. First peel off a small amount at the top:

Peel off a small amount of backing paper and apply to the window

Rub back and forth with a cloth as you peel away the backing, it mostly goes on easily and without bubbles:

Rub back and forth with a cloth as you slowly and evenly peel off the rest of the backing paper

 Any bubbles you do get can be gently removed with rubbing. If they are really persistent, you can pierce them with a pin, and then rub them.

repeat for each window panel

And there you have it! Now I can show you the new kitchen sink and faucet in all its glory.

But first a little reminder of what the kitchen looked like originally:

The kitchen in its original state

And here it is now.

 This week our kitchen took a quantum leap. And is so much the better for it.

And now it is back to the upstairs bathroom for me. Unless something else comes along to distract me …

In the pink

Once my studio was done, and with the drainage under control, I had thought painting the hall would be my next big project, however, this week my to-do list underwent a seismic shift. It all happened because I keep a weather eye on Craigslist.

For those of you who don’t know, Craigslist is an online classified advertisement site. You can list things for sale, and also find all sorts of brilliant stuff to buy. Mostly incredibly cheaply, including great remodelling bargains: it’s like a giant online salvage yard.

I don’t look at what’s available every day. Or even every week. I have Craigslist fits, where I become completely obsessed for a few days, and then I get bored …

In the throes of my most recent Craigslist fit, though, I managed to find something very exciting.

You see, along with ancient fixtures and fittings, both of our bathrooms are blessed with truly hideous vanity tops.  The one in the upstairs bathroom is particularly bad. Here it is:

Our existing vanity top

How do you survive looking at something like that every day? Particularly first thing in the morning when you are at your most vulnerable. You stagger out of bed, creak your way to the bathroom, and the first thing you see is …eeewww!

Well, you do it by pretending it doesn’t exist, by wilfully ignoring said item, firmly telling yourself that it’s ok, one day it will no longer be there. There are a lot of these One Days going on in our house. Denial is a wonderful thing.

I can’t help wondering, though, what would make you voluntarily choose a vomit-colored top for your vanity? I guess we are all different, and that’s what makes the world the marvellously interesting place it really is.

In fairness to the taste of the previous owners of the house, I have been told that so-called cultured marble yellows with age. Perhaps that is part of the ‘culturing’ process, a bit like yogurt?

So, with the magic that is digital image manipulation, let’s imagine it BEFORE it yellowed:

De-yellowed courtesy of Photoshop

Ummm … nope, still not doing it for me.

Perhaps the decision to buy this was based on budget? Back in the day before the thrill of Craigslist, these were the choices foisted upon you.

Luckily for us we do have it, and during my most recent obsessive Craiglist fit, I happened upon an advertisement for a white vanity top that was the exact perfect size for our upstairs vanity, brand new, unused, still in its box. As a bonus, it was listed as being in our area. And the cost? A princely $20.  Mine!!!

I phoned the number on the ad, and it turned out the guy selling it lived just around the corner from us. Literally. So I jumped in the car, drove 200 yards to his place, and returned with said vanity top in the back. The time elapsed from seeing the ad, to arriving back home again was about 15 minutes. What a buzz!

In 15 minutes we went from having to endure vomit-colored vanity denial with no end in sight, to being the proud possessors of a nice new white vanity top. For $20.  And here it is:

Our new vanity top

Admittedly it is also cultured marble.  But, this isn’t our ‘forever’ vanity top, it is a cheap quick fix until we totally redo the upstairs bathroom, sometime in the next couple of years. And. It. Was. $20. You can forgive a lot for $20.

Now, I could just have removed the existing tap/faucet from the old vanity and transferred them over to the new top, but it also was old and not exactly pretty:

Our existing tap

So, egged on by my awesome vanity top success, I started looking for a new one. And succeeded again! I found this fantastic streamlined hansgrohe faucet for $50:

Oh pretty!

They normally retail for around $230. Score!

So, we get to revolutionise our upstairs bathroom experience for a grand total of $70. Happy happy happy.

Except the cabinet is pretty worn, tired and sad looking. It is also solid wood, and well made (which blows the ‘they bought this because it was what they could afford’ theory). The cabinet is seriously high end. Or would have been back in the day.

Peeling varnish. Not a good look

Nothing that a bit of sanding, an upcycle hack, a bit of paint and some new handles and pulls won’t fix. Stay tuned on that one.

And then I got to thinking about the bathroom generally.  As you do. If I was going to paint the vanity, then what color should it be? And if I am painting the vanity, I may as well paint the wall as well.

We didn’t do too badly on the bathroom décor front. When you consider what we might have had, given the rest of the house, I think we lucked in with the upstairs bathroom.

Bathroom currently

Existing wallpaper is pretty cool!

I actually like the wallpaper, and the pink and blue 50s tile. So, they are staying for the time being. The obvious safe color choices for the walls and vanity would be blue or white.

This, however, is a temporary bathroom fix, not a forever bathroom, so I can afford to be a little playful, a little risk taking, a little out-there. Oh goody!

It seemed logical to play up the groovy 50s vibe we have going on in there already and paint the walls and vanity something funky! A few weeks ago I bought the Benjamin Moore paint color fan decks. So I got them out and starting auditioning colors. Tangerine orange:

Mmm, not really

Lime green?:

Oh, I quite like that ...

Or bright yellow, perhaps?

Nah, I don't think so ...

In the end, I decided to quieten things down a little and go with pink. Not meek quiet baby pink, though. Loud, crazy over-the-top HOT pink.

Oh yeah, loving that pink

The winning candidate was Benjamin Moore Cactus Flower.

Benjamin Moore Cactus Flower

And if you are going for hot pink then it just has to be high gloss. So I now own a tin of Cactus Flower in high gloss. Too exciting.

Then because I was thinking about the upstairs bathroom generally, I started looking at the rest of it.

Existing light is perfectly fine. It can stay.

The ceiling light fixture was fine, so it could stay as it was. The one over the mirror, however, needed a little make-over.

Mmm ... this one needs some work.

I am truly deeply excited about what I am going to do with it, but I am going to keep it as a surprise for you for later.

Stained plastic edging. Ewwww.

The glorious flaccid plastic base board (who knew such a thing even existed?) had to go, but that left me with the gap between the tiles and the floor. What to do with that space? That had me stumped for a few hours. It would be easy to replace it with proper baseboard and paint it, but like most of the upstairs rooms the bathroom is asymmetric, and the thought of cutting the angles to get around the non 90 degree corners was doing my head in. W-a-y too much math.

I could, of course, delegate the calculations to the beloved, as anything mathematical is his department, but the thought of having to accurately saw such an angle was too much.

Luckily I came up with a very cool solution. As it relates to what I am doing with the over-mirror light I am also putting this in the ‘you will have to wait and see’ pile.

Finally, my vision alighted on the floor.

And the floor ...

Those glorious vinyl tiles. As you know, I scored enough Carrera marble tile to do the floor in here at our local salvage yard. So I guess it would make sense to lay it? Well not really, because the toilet and bath also need replacing (the bath has almost zero enamel left on it), and if we lay it before then, we will have to fiddle around with it later, pulling bits up and then maybe having fill in other places. Messy.

And my brain, being my brain, thought ‘Oh I could just find a new glass frameless shower screen, toilet and bath and replace them too.’ Then lay that beautiful marble. I toyed with the idea for a couple of hours, hunting around on Craigslist for a new bath, shower screen and toilet, but I soon came to my senses.

I firmly reined myself in, and reminded myself that this was not meant to be a major remodel.  We are going to do this bathroom properly later. This. Is. The. Quick. Fix.

So it made sense to just leave the floor as it was; it isn’t what I would chose to have there, but it is practical, functional and relatively innocuous.

But there is something about stick-on vinyl tile that just makes your fingers ache to see what it is underneath.

I tried really hard to resist, but I couldn’t help myself. I just had to see if there were mosaics under there, which was conceivable given the age of the tile on the walls.  Plus the floor level in there was considerably higher than the floor in the hall outside, so it seemed plausible. Likely even.

Before I did anything, I thought I had better undertake a reality check, as once I pulled up one corner, I knew it would all have to go. I wouldn’t be able to bear having one unfinished corner sitting there, accusing me. So, I ran my mosaic tile theory past the beloved. And he was in. He watched eagerly as I did a section in the corner behind the door.

And what was under there?

Floor layers

Another layer of stick-on vinyl tile.

And under that? Another layer of stick on vinyl tile. Not 1, not 2, but 3 layers of vinyl tile. Piled on top of one another in a kind of historic décor stratification. Underneath all of that were floorboards. Hence the height of the floor. Ugh.

Alas no mosaic.

So my bathroom quick fix has gone from replacing the vanity top and tap, to painting the cabinet and the walls; fixing the vanity lights; replacing the plastic base board; pulling up all the layers of vinyl tile and painting or varnishing the floorboards. Painting, if they are in really bad condition, and varnishing if they look like they will do ok with a skim sanding.

Which was the solution I ultimately arrived at. All those layers of vinyl tile will have to come up sometime, in any case, and it is sadly too soon for my lovely marble.  Plus I think varnished or painted boards will look way better than the vinyl tile ever would.

Now I am wondering what color to paint them, if I have to. Not pink I don’t think, there is a limit. Seriously. Maybe blue … or … the verdict is still out on that one.

I think you can already guess what I will be doing after finishing the last few studio-finishing projects. That’s right: not painting the hall as planned. The upstairs bathroom got shuffled to the top of the list. It’s all Craiglist’s fault. And I can’t wait to get started.

Stay tuned for updates. I might even go back to daily posts once I get going.