Design in time for New Years: Pt II ” Ty-Tips”


With the carpet installation scheduled it was time to take a moment to re-think my approach to all the work I’d intended to do in the apartment. And with about two-thirds of my money spent it was time to re-evaluate my budget.

I had $ 500.00 left and there were still two to four things left on my “Design on a Dime” wish list. There were the appliances for the kitchen yet to buy plus all the paint and accoutrements. So I talked to my brother and we increased the budget by a thousand dollars, which would give me the option of shopping for an appliance (or two) as well buying all the paint and supplies I needed to tackle the kitchen.

Sometime in the 1980’s Miss Cathy got the idea that she wanted an all white kitchen cabinets, appliances, etc. Well, she had white GE appliances, which was a good start, but her cabinets were all dark wood with heavy brass hardware and handles. Since she couldn’t be bothered to paint all of the cabinetry, she bought white shelf liner contact paper and rolled it out over all the doors and drawers only, leaving the cabinets themselves dark wood. Suffice to say, the overall effect was not very appealing.

Since I couldn’t afford to replace/re-face all of the cabinetry I decided, “Design on a Dime” style that I would change the appearance of the existing kitchen with paint and new hardware.

So, bright and early one morning I’d gone to the local box hardware store and spent close to $50.00 on brushes and trays to get started. Soon after I got home it dawned on me to take a look around the house to see what we already had that I might be able to use.

A “Ty-Tip”: BEFORE starting any project always check your basement, garage or wherever you may store things from past projects, there may be items there that you can use and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the process.

We live in a condo, not a house so I went to the storage unit instead of the basement to scrounge for things I could use. The good news is that I found brushes, rollers, trays, etc. Everything that I needed was there in a box among my late Pop’s things.

The bad news was that I had this brainstorm “after” I’d already spent the fifty dollars but, that’s why we always keep our receipts for at least 90 days after each purchase (another “Ty- Tip”).

No matter, I just returned everything on the next trip to the hardware store when I needed to shop for more of something else that I needed. That’s the thing about home renovation or decorating projects-you become a “regular” at your local box hardware store.

A” Ty-Tip”: Speaking of hardware stores, it’s a good idea to befriend a sales associate who knows the store, the products and how to use them. It’s not always easy since most hardware stores don’t require much of their employees besides a pulse so many have little in the way of knowledge, you’re lucky if you can find someone to help you that speaks standard English and doesn’t have an attitude (like a postal employee). But, usually there are one or two people who really like appliances, paint and everything else” hardware” and they are gems-but like most semi-precious stones you have to “pan” for them.

Once you have your hardware store advocate find out his/her schedule (not in a stalker kind of way) just casually ask, ”Oh, and when are you here next in case I have anymore questions” and try to shop when you know they will be there. It helps to build up a rapport with one person who knows the merchandise, can help you compare and contrast generic vs. name brand, can help you with returns, knows about special deals and can help you locate hard to find items.

My go-to guy is “Mike”, I found him quite by accident when I was shopping in the appliance clearance center looking for bargain appliances when he revealed that the paint department was really his “wheel-house”-Eureka! I struck gold in Lowe’s.

Mike was able to advise me how to remove the contact paper (a spray solution similar to wallpaper remover if the paper didn’t peel off by itself-luckily it did). And he was able to help me select a primer and line of paint that were similar in quality to the “name” brand (the “name” being the nom de plume used by one Mr. Ralph Lipschitz). So, I found top of the line quality products at a better price point. Ah yes, I could see that this was “the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.

Since the condo hadn’t been painted since Reagan was in office (and was in as many colors as could be found in a jar of the jellybeans he so loved) Mike strongly suggested priming every surface first. The primer not only absorbed odor, it covered stains and when dry creates a foundation for the paint color to lay on top of and not be absorbed into decades old walls thirsty for moisture.

With a bagful of supplies and new knowledge I went home to tackle the kitchen. It took me one week, two coats of primer but in the end the kitchen cabinetry was freshly painted the white that Miss Cathy always intended, with new brushed, nickel hardware (to match the stainless steel appliance that were on my wish list) and the pulls removed to add a cleaner, more contemporary look.

Miss Cathy was surprisingly quiet during all the chaos in the kitchen during the week. True to her word she asked no questions and just reached into cabinets that had no doors as if that were normal until they were put back up.

Most of the work I did in the afternoons when she was down for her nap and again in the evenings after she “went under” (her expression for sleeping). I started on Sunday the 19th and was finished on the 24th in the evening. I went to Miss Cathy’s room where she was laying down watching TV and asked her to come into the kitchen for the second “reveal” (the first being the ladder bookcase that I replaced her black lacquer and chrome monstrosity which housed the family pictures in the living room.)

It was then that I told her that her Christmas present would be a “revealed” over time and that there were many to come.

As she rounded the corner to the kitchen I had her close her eyes (just like they do on TV) and after a pregnant pause (those TV hosts ain’t got nothing on me) I said, “Open your eyes!” and by the look on her face it was all worth it.

“Ohhhh my goodness!” she explained as her hands fly up to her face in disbelief, “This is Gorgeous!”

“I had no idea you were going to do all this!”

I smiled to myself thinking,” Two down and more to come…..”

Next, Design in time for New Years Pt III “A magic carpet ride”

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