Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thinking About Christmas...Already

I know it's only Halloween, but instead of buying presents for our siblings, this year we're making them. So i've got to get cracking. Some people may look at the three dirty wooden boards below and see junk. Me, i see Christmas presents in the making.

...To be continued...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Join the Sorauren Park Pumpkin Parade on Nov 1

The pumpkins will unite
Along the paths of Sorauren Park
The glow from their lights
Will light up the dark

So bring your pumpkins
On November One
And bring your munchkins
To join in the fun

The Sorauren Park Pumpkin Parade has become a very popular annual event. People bring their pumpkins for one last glowing hurrah. Last year it was estimated that there were over 2000 glowing pumpkins in the park. Each year it seems to get a bit bigger, so who knows how many there will be this year. It's fun, it's free and it saves you from having to hang on to your used squash until garbage day. On Nov 2nd, the city comes to take away all the pumpkins for composting. Have a safe Halloween, hope to see you all there.

This will be my contribution to the parade this year:

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Won, I Won, I Won!

Shannon over at 8foot6, one of the blogs that i really enjoy following has awarded me with a Versatile Blogger Award. Thanks Shannon!

The way it works is i write 7 things about myself and then pass on the award to 15 other bloggers. So here goes:

1. My daughter just turned 1 today and we have a new baby on the way!

2. My real name is Kyle and I'm 36.

3. This month I celebrated my wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, my wife's birthday and my daughter's first birthday. All events that reminded me of what an incredible life I have.

4. I grew up really poor, and consequently didn't have much throughout my school years. As i got older, i kept a mental wish list of things i wanted, some practical (e.g. nice house in the city), some absurd (e.g. really cool espresso machine). Much of what i blog about are things that have sat on that wish list for a VERY long time, and are now actually being fulfilled. So never under-estimate the power of dreaming.

5. I've been working in some form or another since i was 11 years old.

6. I work as a Derivatives Analyst. While it's interesting, challenging and satisfying work, I'm counting the days until I have the freedom to retire and do something i love.

7. I often find that i have Stars songs stuck my head.

Over to you:

Covet Of The Week: 2-Storey Libraries

The first time i ever saw an image of a 2-storey library was well over 10 years ago. It was Brian Gluckstein's very own personal library from his Forest Hill home (see below and drool). And since then i have been covetting them.

Even after more than a decade, Brian Gluckstein's 2-storey library still looks just as fresh today:

image by Gluckstein Design

Here are 3 reasons i need to have my own 2-storey library one day:

1. Sure, most of the books pictured below can now easily fit onto an i-pod, but libraries are more than just a place to hold books. To me a library represents a peaceful, quiet place. A respite fom logins, passwords, ringtones, lcd screens, vibrations and other "modern advancements".

2. As a fan of wood working, i also think libraries are a temple to fine craftsmanship and architecture. Oh how i'd love to one day have enough space, time and skill to build-in beautiful bookcases and paneling. A 2-storey library would be my Everest.

3. I think a house with a 2-storey library speaks volumes about the owner. And as someone prone to geek-outs (not the comic-con type of geek-out, more like, WAY too much useless knowledge type of geek-out), i think a library is kind of my style.

Now when i eventually realize my dream of building a 2-storey library, in true Bruce Wayne fashion, i will probably design a secret door in one of the bookcases to lead to a secret room. However, instead of hiding bat costumes, i'd probably hide all my earthly geeky treasures. You know stuff like Guarnerius violins, original Tom Thomson paintings, hickory golf clubs and maybe some tumblers and scotch.

The only thing i would dislike about my 2-storey library is changing the light bulbs:

image by Matthew Millman

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Covet Of The Week: Conservatories and Orangeries

So what are conservatories and orangeries? They're basically glass structures similar to greenhouses, however they are attached to the main house. Conservatories typically have peaked glazed roofs while orangeries typically had flat roofs with a central portion of the roof glazed. So you may be thinking that's just like an enclosed porch. And to that i would emphatically say, No! Often enclosed porches poke their thumb in the eye of the main building's architecture for the sake of having a place to keep your shovel and sidewalk salt in the winter and your bike in the summer. Little known fact: during much of the 70's and 80's enclosed porches single handedly kept the manufacture and sale of that tacky green astro turf carpet stuff going.

Long before people had family rooms, rec rooms or great rooms, they had conservatories and orangeries. These where the rooms where well-heeled families would gather, not to watch TV or listen to the radio, because those things weren't around back then. Instead they would gather around a piano and play music, or they would pursue their hobbies and interests, like collecting exotic plants. So what if i don't know how to play the piano and can't keep house plants alive? I still want one.

In my last house i seriously considered adding a conservatory to use as a family room, but two things made it non-ideal. First, most conservatories available in Canada these days are framed in white PVC (vinyl), which i find a little bit cheesy for a structure that is suppose to look historic. Second the conservatory would have had a Western exposure, meaning late day sun would have turned it into a sauna inside. Unfortunately the house we have now is a semi detached and too narrow to add a conservatory or orangery to. So alas i am left to covet them from afar.

Here are some fine examples of conservatories. You wont find any PVC in these structures:

image from Amdega
image from Amdega
image from Amdega

Here are some fine examples of orangeries. Shovels and bikes not allowed:
image from Amdega
image from Amdega
image from Amdega

Friday, October 14, 2011

Cheap and Cheerful Garage Makeover - 2011

We are lucky enough to have a 1.5 car garage, which is a bit of a luxury for downtown Toronto. We had toyed with the idea of rebuilding it, because it was so crooked and ugly, but it actually functions and serves our needs quite well. And frankly who wants to pour a bunch of money into something that just stores your car and other junk. So instead i came up with a cheap and cheerful makeover. This makeover is going to extend into next summer, simply because i have lots else to do on the inside of the house and wont be getting around to finishing it before winter comes.

First lets take a look at a before pic. Prepare to be horrified...

Here's how the garage looked when we first moved in. Kind of looks like where someone might hide dead bodies:

Pretty scary looking, eh? So first i found a new home for the garbage can. And this past summer i scoured Kijiji for old windows. I was lucky enough to find a pair for $60. These windows actually came from an old mansion in Rosedale. There's a complete makeover happening in the rest of the back yard, which took care of burying that wire on the top left of the before picture. I also pulled all the pink Unilock paving out and found a happy person on Kijiji to take it all away. I put in planting beds on either side of the garage door, and i laid a square cut flagstone pathway from the garage to the new deck. Total cost of the stone was $180 from Rock Valley Natural Stone. I then bought 4 dwarf Burning Bushes from Sheridan Nurseries fall sale. Total cost for the four shrubs was $90. Small changes but dramatic results. I'd say it was a pretty good use of $330.

Here is the after:

Lots more still to go for next year:
- Buy more plantings to fill in the beds
- Replace that door with a cool antique one
- Add casings around the door and windows
- Install cedar shingles on the wall
- Paint and stain everything
- Build some window boxes, and fill them with perennials
- Add some landscape lighting.

All in, i want to keep the makeover under $1000. While it won't straighten out the structure, it will make it far nicer to look at, and will be much cheaper than a garage rebuild.

So that's it for the garage makeover for now. I'll show some of the other work going on in the rest of the backyard in future posts.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Covet Of The Week: Port Cocheres

It's fun to dream about what i'd do, if i were ridiculously wealthy. Some people collect exotic cars, others collect ex-spouses. Me if i were rich beyond belief, i think i'd collect properties. Old ones, with lots of character. I'm a little bit addicted to all things home. I recall when growing up, i would watch This Old House, Hometime, and Home Again. My poor brothers who wanted to watch cartoons would instead be subjected to countless hours of Norm Abrams, Dean Johnson (with his fake-wife du jour) and Bob Vila whenever it was "my channel". To this day i'm a sucker for old houses, especially when they have some of those architectural elements i covet (and oh how there are so many architectural elelments that i covet), which is what i'll be blogging about in this regular (hopefully) feature.

My first Covet of The Week* is dedicated to Port Cocheres. So what is a port cochere? It's basically a structure attached to the main house, that one can drive a car under, so that people can get in and out without getting wet from the elements. Cynics may be asking, but isn't that like an attached garage without the benefits of a garage door? And to this i would emphatically say: No, that would be a car port! Car ports and garages are purely functional, they are where you park your car, and store your lawn mower and your garbage cans. Port cocheres on the other hand, are covered passageways were people get in and out of their cars. They remind us of the days, when men would retrieve the car and then open the door to allow ladies to enter the vehicle, all under the dry shelter of a port cochere. Unlike garages and car ports, where function trumps form, port cocheres are meant to compliment the beauty of a home.

I'm fortunate enough to live close to some incredible homes that still have original port cocheres. So here are some pics from the net and some from the 'hood. In all cases i love how the port cocheres blend in with the architecture of the homes. Enjoy!

You wont find any lawn mowers or garbage cans under here:
image from flickr

Some nice Craftsman-style bungalow examples, bonus covet points for the full width verandas:

images from flickr

A few examples from around the 'hood:

bonus covet points for the turret and round porch!

* May not actually be weekly in reality.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Bathroom Reveal

As promised, here is the final reveal of my bathroom. It's a small bathroom, so i took pics to give you a a 360 degree view of the bathroom.

Here are the vanity drawers in action:

The vanity with statuario countertop, American Standard Studio sink, and American Standard Town Square faucets:

The paneled vanity wall, pivoting mirror and sconces:

Azzura Adora tub with American Standard Town Square faucets:

The frosted window and shampoo shelf:

American Standard Town Square toilet tucked away in the toilet nook. I really like how this toilet has easy to clean flat sides, instead of the hard to clean trap:

The paneled doorway. Oh darn, before taking the picture i should have folded the toilet paper into a point like they do in the fancy hotels:

And that's it. Although it took a while to finally complete the last few finishing touches. It's served our family well and stood up well over the year. I really liked designing and building this bathroom. In the next few posts i have an idea for a regular feature and i'll be sharing another project going on here in the Roncy Vic household.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vanity Insanity - Finale. Bathroom Reveal Next!

Here is the last post in my cabinet-making adventures. Hopefully all the technical stuff hasn't bored everyone away. I promise next week will be the full bathroom reveal.

To complete the bathroom vanity, i built Shaker style doors. 1. Because they're easy to build, 2. Because i like they're classic good looks. For stiles and rails i used 1 x 3 poplar, and for the panels i used 1/4" mdf.

My first job was to cut a 1/2" deep dado in all my 1 x 3's. I did this on the table saw with a dado blade. If you're trying this, be sure to run each piece through twice from both directions. This ensures that the dado bottom is flat and centered:

Then i cut the 1 x 3's to the right lengths on my miter saw. I then create tenons on the ends of the rails, using the table saw and dado blade:

After all my stiles and rails are cut:

I then cut out the mdf panels and assemble using glue:

Clamp it all up while the glue dries. Then you can sand, prime, paint, install knobs and install the doors to the cabinet. I used butt hinges from Home Despot about $4 per pair to install mine. To line up the hinges i found a good use for all my old Metropasses and Starbucks cards:

I finished off the bottom of the cabinet with a simple toe kick made of 1 x 4 poplar and a small piece of moulding. I just need to finish priming and painting this last bit:

So that's it! A years worth of starting, stopping, restarting and re-stopping. And there you have it, my first home made vanity. Now, next week i promise to have less tech talk and more pretty stuff. In the meantime, check out Janice's bathroom and vanity if you want to see some really pretty stuff.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vanity Insanity - Part 2

My last post was about building the vanity cabinet. This post will cover how i built the drawers. This post is a bit on the technical side, but not to worry the pretty stuff comes soon.

I installed the cabinet, counter, sink and faucet before building the drawers, so that i knew how much space the plumbing would take up. The drawers are U-shaped to maximize storage while staying clear of the plumbing.

The drawer bottoms are built of the same 3/4" good on 2 sides plywood, leftover from the 4' x 8' foot sheet, that the cabinet was made of. And i used 1/2' mdf to build the drawer sides, fronts and backs. The key here is making sure you have accurate measurements and precise cuts:
Then i simply glued and brad nailed the pieces together:

Prime and paint the drawer and voila. This is the first of two drawers:

Next the drawers are installed into the cabinets using drawer glides that you can buy from any big box.

NOTE: For the Richelieu drawer glides that i used, the drawers should be 1" narrower then the face frame opening, as the glides require 1/2" of clearance on either side. I also had to build out where the glides where attached until it was flush with the face frame.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Vanity Insanity - Part 1

Those that follow this blog will recall i started a bathroom renovation, oh about 15 months ago. I can finally say it is done (almost). So next week there will be a big reveal, but in the meantime i wanted to share how i built my vanity.

It's difficult to say whether building it myself was cheaper than buying a vanity or having one built, because from the start i knew i wanted to try my hand at building cabinetry, so frankly i didn't shop around. I was hoping to use this as an opportunity to practice and learn some cabinet making skills, so i could one day build my own kitchen cabinets. The materials and hardware cost me about $150, the paint i already had on hand and the counter (my splurge) was $550. Unfortunately the time it took me to start, stop, restart and finally complete the vanity, has convinced my wife never to let me try building cabinets myself again, so who knows if i'll ever get a chance to build my dream kitchen. Ah well, designing it and seeing the end result is most of the fun anyway.

Here' s how i did it:
All cabinets are a variation of a basic box, which is often called a "carcass". I built my carcass out of 3/4" good on 2-sides birch plywood. I had Home Despot cut the 4' x 8' sheet into the dimensions i needed. Then on the inside carcass sides i routed out a dado (groove or channel) so that the floor of the cabinet can rest in the groove. Once you glue and brad nail the cabinet floor into this groove it creates a very strong carcass and forms an "H" shape as seen in the picture below. I then cut a piece of plywood and glued and brad nailed it to the top backs of the side. This piece will eventually be what i use to attach the cabinet to the wall. The diagonal piece of wood is just a temporary brace to hold the cabinet square while the glue dries.

I then built a face frame out of 1 x 3 poplar. The face frame does 2 things, it hides the ugly plywood cuts and it makes the whole cabinet super-strong. I could dance on top of this cabinet (not that i would...often). Having cut the 1 x 3's to the right lengths, i tried out my new pocket screw kit. Honestly i don't recommend this version of the kit, it was very hard to keep the guide stable while i drilled the pocket holes, and the bit would often jam full of shavings making drilling quite tough. I'm guessing one of the higher end kits that includes clamps to hold the guide stationary might be easier to use. That said, pocket screws and glue definitely make for a strong butt joint.

Here is a glued joint using two pocket screws:

Face frame fully assembled and ready to attach to the carcass with glue and brad nails:

And voila the finished cabinet, next comes painting and installation:

Next post building the drawers