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Lee Wallender

Home Renovations


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What Basic, Everyday Element Do These Kitchen Designs Have In Common?

Friday April 18, 2014

Wood, of course!

Decades ago, beginning in the 1930s, the movement was away from wood in the kitchen. That whole "better living through chemicals" era. Formica counters. Metal cabinets. Linoleum or vinyl floors.

It wasn't just that wood, being an organic thing, performs poorly when subjected to moisture and can rot. It was more the idea that wood was a vestige of the past. It was so...Victorian.

By the 1960s and 1970s, wood was coming back into the kitchen.

Today, wood belongs in the kitchen. It's no longer a pariah. While I'm still on the fence about wood countertops, I love things like the copious amounts of wood found in designer Jeremy Levine's kitchen, pictured here: recycled wood beams and joists in the ceiling; wood island; wood floor; wood doors; and so on.

See: 6 Kitchen Designs With Wood

CC-Licensed; Flickr User Jeremy Levine

Do You Know What Horrors Lurk in Your Cabinet Soffits?

Tuesday April 15, 2014

It's one decision of kitchen cabinet-buying that gets brushed over fairly quickly, but which I believe is highly important:

What to do with your kitchen wall cabinet soffits.

A cabinet soffit is that empty space between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. It's a great place for collecting dust clods and mice turds.

In this picture, the soffit is eliminated by purchasing taller wall cabinets, running the cabinets straight up into the ceiling. No soffits, no accumulated junk.

That's only one option. Besides the open soffit, I list 5 others in this article about kitchen cabinet soffits.

Image: CC-Licensed; Flickr user Charley

Can I Paint Just One Coat of Paint or Are Two Necessary?

Monday April 14, 2014

Wiping down the kitchen counter a second time. Vacuuming the rug again. Running the computer virus checker right on the heels of a complete scan.

All examples of things you do that feel unnecessary, redundant. What about painting your wall with a second coat of paint?

Well, take a look at those examples in the first paragraph. Maybe that counter had bacon grease and it needs a second swiping. Maybe the rug was especially dirty and needed another vacuuming.

Even though the second coat of paint feels unneeded, it usually is needed. For one thing, imperfections--roller overlaps, brush smears, etc.--don't show well in ordinary artificial household light. Even natural light doesn't reveal these problems well. That's why professional painters use strong lights to check their work.

Here is a list of conditions where you'll want to use two coats of paint--or just stick with one coat.

Image Lee Wallender


The Sad State of Tile Calls For Designer Tile

Friday April 11, 2014

Recently, while walking through a local tile store and looking for a unique, fun, distinctive tile, I was struck by the charmlessness of 95% of the tile on the shelves.

The name of the tile store shall remain anonymous, but I will say that it was neither The Home Depot, with its paltry collection of four or five ceramic tiles, nor was it some super-fancy tile store that catered to high-end, million-dollar-plus new-construction homes. It was one of those stores that every community seems to have with names like The Tile Store, Tile Works, or Tile Mart.

Most of the tile was earthen-brown, ranging only a few degrees darker and a few degrees lighter. It was tile that said: Whimper, whimper...I'm inoffensive, don't pay me any attention.

Whatever happened to tile that stands out and beats its chest, saying, "I am tile, hear me roar!"

Enter the designer tile. Guaranteed you won't find either of the two pictured tiles, from Tabarka of Scottsdale, AZ, on any shelf at your Tile Madness store. Tabarka tantalizingly doesn't identify the left-hand tile, but the one of the right is from the studio's Maghreb Collection. And no, not all of their tile is Persian-inspired. They have collections styled after influences from all parts of the globe.

Just try finding those at your local orange or blue big box store.

Image: Tabarka Studios

Priming Before Painting? Not Always Necessary.

Wednesday April 9, 2014

At one time in my life, I thought you always had to prime before painting. More recently, through experience, I've found that it's not always necessary.

Some items, I've painted un-primed, and they still look fantastic years later.

Other items, I've painted un-primed, and...well, I have no idea. I sold the house or condo and passed the problem onto someone else (sorry about that).


  • If something is bare (bare drywall, bare wood, bare metal, etc.), it needs priming.
  • If it has been painted and the current paint is clean and in good condition, you do not need to prime.

The real answer, of course, is more complex. Check out the article linked above for a more complete list of conditions that warrant priming before painting...or not.

Photo Lee Wallender

Before, During, and After: Watching an Attic Bathroom Remodel, Step By Step

Friday April 4, 2014

What happens when you remodel, or add anew, an attic bathroom?

All hell breaks loose.

In this image, you're looking at the very beginning (i.e., the "ugly" bathroom) and the very end of the project, cats included.

What you're not seeing is the bare lath corrugating the walls, pre-remodel. At that point, homeowners with faint hearts may die of shock, because the road ahead looks so daunting.

Stouter homeowners, or at least those who've hired a remodeling company, can see the project through to perfect completion.

This "attic" bathroom (you'll see why I use quotation marks if you read the article), is interesting because of the problem of the slanting ceiling.

Read this article--Attic Bathroom Remodel/Addition--to see how the homeowner solved the problem.

Image CC-Licensed; Flickr User Cheryl Marland


Lose Big Money on These 3 Home Remodeling Projects

Wednesday April 2, 2014

Loss can be instructive. You lose that boy/girlfriend, yet gain knowledge to help in subsequent relationships. You lose your keys, yet learn that it's best to buy a key-hook and install it next to the front door.

Same with remodeling.

We all like to talk about remodel projects that do an excellent job of recouping your investment when you sell the house. But what about those money-draining remodels? Knowing what to stay away from is just as valuable as knowing what to pursue.

So, here are the three lowest-value home remodel projects, at least in terms of money recouped upon sale.

Image Lee Wallender


5 Home Libraries: Ideas For Renovating Your Own Place

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Maybe you're not ready to build a wing specially dedicated to housing your extensive collection of Renaissance-era maps, Shakespeare folios, and first-edition Jennifer Wieners, but you can always take a cue from these real-live home libraries to create a special corner in your own home with a bookcase, chair, reading lamp, cat, antler chandelier, and corgi pillows to wile away lazy, rainy Sunday afternoons with--what else?--a good book.

Image: Alvis Upitis / Getty Images

Pictures of Breakfast and Dining Nooks

Monday March 31, 2014

John Merkl; Photo Used by Permission of John Merkl

Above, you're looking at the epitome of breakfast/dining nooks. Located in a Marin County (CA) house, it's clean, spare, bright, and functional. When you get tired of looking at the gorgeous California landscape, you can draw down those Roman shades.

Breakfast nooks were popular in the 1930s. They were always built-in, constructed solely of wood, rarely incorporated cushions, and often were window-less.

Today, they're more accurately called dining nooks, since you are allowed to eat lunch and dinner, as well as breakfast, in them.

See: 11 Pictures of Breakfast/Dining Nooks

Before and After Photos of 5 Kitchen Remodels

Thursday March 27, 2014

There's just something especially satisfying about before/after pictures. It's part of the fix-it, redemption mindset of Americans: we took this barren tract of over 3 million square miles and managed to civilize it (or ruin it, depending on your view) in just under 200 years.

Or, in less high-falutin' terms, we just love to see all of that nasty stuff like...

  • Kitchen fluorescent lights
  • Carpet in bathrooms
  • Plaid wallpaper
  • Cheap MacGyver-era track lights

...be violently torn out and replaced by something less offensive.

You get the picture.

As such, I present to you five before/after kitchen remodel pictures.

Image: CC-Licensed; Flickr User Brad Holt

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