Fall/Winter Project Review

Since last fall we’ve done a wide range of projects around the house, and we’ve got a lot planned for this year. Here’s a quick round-up of some of the things we’ve been working on:

Fall Landscaping – we planted cedars, “Prairie Fire” crabapple trees and lots of grass. Hopefully the grass will help with the spring runoff issues, and the Cedar Waxwings seem to love the crabapple fruit. It’s important to keep the native birds happy!

Front Steps – multicolored slate for entryway (with four concrete tiles we are testing for use on the path)

Once there was too much snow to work outside, we headed indoors and did some updates to the office. Since we’re both there all day, we want it to be nice!

Blue Valchromat drawer fronts, with one black piece just for kicks

(Fun fact – the small drawer is exactly the right width for a box of tissues. It just worked out that way.)

We finished off the back wall of the office with cypress paneling and a display shelf for our toys:

Pantry doors in the kitchen – the off-center split lines up with the red strip of Marmoleum. We’re planning to add spice racks on the inside.

Entryway stools, using the same fabric as our sofa (post coming soon), and black Valchromat bases. The bases are hollow for extra storage.

By now the snow is pretty much gone here, so it’ll be time for more outside projects. Good thing, too, because it makes it hard to walk the dog!

Kitchen Drawer Fronts

Our biggest finishing touch for the kitchen yet – the drawer fronts! As a “cosmetic” detail, these had been holding on our to-do list for a long time. Winter is a good time to get in the shop and get some projects done, though, so over the past two weekends we finally got to mill these up and install them.

As mentioned in our previous post, we chose to use Valchromat, a recyclable material superior to typical MDF, made of waste wood fibers and low-formaldehyde binder. As the color goes all the way through, it is easy to work with and doesn’t need to be painted – two coats of clear penetrating oil is sufficient to darken the color and increase water resistance.

Kitchen drawers “before”:

Installers at work:

Edge detail – angled so that drawers can be opened from top or bottom, no pulls necessary:


Interior Details: Caps

Kitchen window sill

Finishing the tops of interior walls and windowsills with drywall gives them a clean, modern look, but is a difficult process that adds greatly to the cost of plastering. Our compromise was to have the builders leave the edges unfinished, and we would add wood caps ourselves. This let us vary the materials by location; the kitchen windowsill above uses Valchromat, eco-friendly colored MDF that will coordinate with the drawerfronts.

The burnt poplar we installed on the office walls matches the floor grid:

Office Caps

as well as the stair railing (nail gun holes can be filled with a wax crayon):

Stair Rail Cap

In the bedrooms and bathrooms on the upper floor, cypress caps top an interior wall that completely covers the foundation. This creates a foam-insulated barrier around the cold concrete (as well as a handy shelf).

Bedroom Caps

Reclaimed Wood Stair Treads

Long time, no update! And no excuses – we haven’t been hibernating, just busy working on the house. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting updates on our winter projects. First up: treads for the stairs adjacent to the office, made from scrap wood.

Inspired by the idea of a butcher block, but not wanting to deal with hundreds of little end-grain pieces, we selected 4-foot-long strips of wood leftover from other projects. These include white oak, red oak, douglas fir, birch, beech, cherry, maple, walnut (now I’m hungry). Cut to size and glued overnight, these were trimmed and sanded, and finished with two coats of clear penetrating oil to deepen the color.

After a week, the oil was followed by three coats of polyurethane, to prevent it rubbing off on anything, and the treads were ready to install. And we were more than ready for them – that construction wood has been here since the beginning!

Finished and installed: