Friday, December 24, 2010

Jack Davis Gave Me a New Kitchen for Xmas

A true story 12/24/10

The day before Christmas eve, I was checking out Craigslist searching for a nice (hopefully Victorian) style make-up vanity for my new wife Andrea. They have a "Free" section and only a few times before was I able to score something worthwhile like a nice desk or maybe a plant or two. I've been doing this for the past year in the hopes of picking up some needed items for the 110 year old Victorian fixer-upper we bought last year. Brand new "anything" is expensive so we often visit salvage yards and garage sales hoping to find useful items in good condition. Rarely, does one EVER find anything in good-great condition.

One of the major renovations needed in our house was a new kitchen. The current one had not been updated since 1940! (See Last Post Below). Everything was old wood that made the drawers sticky and the doors were falling off. 'Ghastly' is pretty much how I would describe it yet it can costs thousands of dollars to renovate a kitchen and we just don't have that kind of dough. We're artists, of course. And being good ones is even worse).

So while I was looking for something else at the time, I came across a posting, in the free section, that advertised giving away kitchen base and upper cabinets. It included a pic of the kitchen and I noticed that the ad was up at least a few hours. Now I knew from past experiences that these things come up very rarely and are usually gone within an hour or so. Typically a contractor, or similar sort of person with a truck, swoops on these and picks them up to add to some house they are going to flip. The posting was in West Oakland, a few blocks from where we live, so I sent a quick email hoping that they might still be available. To my horror, my email was bounced back with the "this post is no longer available" almost immediately. "Some one already scooped it up", I thought. I took a long look at the pics of the nice, white cabinets in the ad and sighed a little. But then it dawned on me, "I've seen this kitchen before!" I was sure it was from a Victorian I saw with my realtor last year. It was one of the nicer Victorians I had seen with newly updated everything, including kitchen. We had made an offer on it over asking price as did about 12 other people and was disappointed we didn't get it. Now I'm really not that impulsive a person but I decided to jump in the car, drive to where I remember the house to be and see if I was correct in my assumption and if there was a slight chance of getting this 1year old kitchen cabinet set.

I drove on a bright sunny day to the house on Willow St., where I thought the post pic was located, pulled up to the curb, got out and saw a young man casually working on something on his top steps. I went up to the top gate and said, "I'm here about the Craigslist cabinets?" He blinked his bespectacled eyes, "Really? I just got off the phone with you." I told him that I wasn't that person, introduced myself, and told him how I had actually made a bid on this house a year ago and recognized the photo from Craigslist and if he wouldn't mind bartering for them since I am a digital artist and would be glad to design something for him, if it wasn't too late.

His face crinkled a bit, "Well, I just got off the phone with someone who is going to pick them're here now so...go ahead and take them." "OMG", I thought and he took me into the garage to show me these great cabinets. He said that it wasn't there style and that I was doing him a favor by taking them off his hands. Now some of you reading this might think, "It's too good to be true. There must be something wrong with the cabinets." But I KNEW they were only a year old and I checked them out and they looked great!!

This young man's name (I’m guessing 28) was Colin Babcock, a young artist living in the old Vic, that resembles our own, with his girlfriend and co-business partner Stephanie (Shipcock Fabrications: Custom Wood and Metal Designs). Colin was a tall, thin guy in pretty good shape with shoulder length, scraggly light brown hair tied back in a pony tail and a matching beard that stopped at his sternum. He wore the clothes of a person who worked with his hands a lot with confidence and a deep but non-menacing deep voice. I knew almost immediately that this was a nice but fairly no-nonsense person so I was quick to load my little beater car with as much cabinetry as I could. When I returned later to pick up more and expecting to make at least 3 more trips total to haul it all, Colin offered to take it all in his truck and drop it off at my house. I was extremely grateful and started to talk to him about what he does. I learned that he works, among other things, crafting sets for the Berkeley Repertory theater and helped create a “rocket ship”( that recently launched from ‘Burning Man’, the annual, gargantuan arts extravaganza that takes place in the desert. I told him how ‘Burning Man’ began at SomArts where I used to work as the media artist-in-residence. It was then that it began to slowly dawn on me that I was looking at a young Jack Davis. Same height, same hair and beard I recognized from the early, youthful pics of Jack I used in the documentary about the legendary ED of SomArts. I stood in awe as Colin lifted these big cabinets on his truck, strapped them down and tied knots easily. The cabinets stuck out all over the trucks’ back, top and sides and held down by a few red straps and I knew this was a person who knew how to truck heavy things around with ease. Remind you of somebody?

After following me to the house and gently unloading the rest of the cabinets, he handed me his cards and I took him to the backyard and gave him some fresh lemons. He responded with telling me about how to make a great lemon liquor with them. I promised him that we will have him and Stephanie over for dinner once the cabinets are installed. I am looking forward to that.

I smiled and waved as he drove off and basked in this spiritual moment of receiving a much needed gift to our house from a person who seemed identical to one of the truly great people I ever met in the arts world. When I look at our gradually changing kitchen, I marvel at the circumstances of the day and the person I just met and how it reminded me of the giving nature, kindness and intelligence of Jack Davis. Jack helped me make the decision to become an artist, and I’ve been appreciative of that ever since. So now I will befriend this young artist and share what I know and give where I can as he and Stephanie grow as artists themselves. It’s my way of honoring Jack and I can’t think of anything else that could honor him best.

Merry Xmas Colin, Stephanie, Jack, Judy, Adam, David, Martina, Sylvia, Deborah and Alain and to you reading this.

-george aguilar

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Raining aqua

We finished painting the wall behind the stove in the faux glaze aqua.

George added trim and some finishing touches on the ironing board/spice shelf too.

He put up more copper backsplash behind the sink. We think it looks pretty good and needed to buy 3 sheets or squares or whatever you call it. So far so good. This week it was back to structural work fixing a water issue in the attic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


George did some repair work on this small wall and used some extra paint we had. Originally I wanted to do the bathroom in aqua and copper (which did not work) so you can imagine my surprise when I saw this. I LOVE this wall. It prompted us to start painting the whole kitchen. I also love the glaze painting which is what we did.




Sunday, November 28, 2010

A little art goes a long way

While out thrift shopping we found some nice paintings/prints of some places we've been. (Thanks Sylvia!) It's so nice to sit down and gaze at art.

Living Room - Framed art of Venice

Monet Prints ~ Gare St. Lazare and Madame Monet in her Garden.

These are smaller but seemed nice for the Victorian Parlor to hang on the picture rails.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The kitchen is where the fun is

We are back from Europe and over our jet lag. George is working on a nice long travel blog post.
We saw some charming places from the French countryside to quaint towns along the Rhine.
After enjoying good food, drink, and conversations in the kitchens of our friends in France & Germany, George is already making some much needed improvements to our kitchen. It's already more functional. He cut the ends off the main only counter we had, cleaned them up & moved them to other walls, and we added a new laminate counter top.

Having visited Monet's Maison & Jardin, we happened to find a nice Monet print at Urban Ore that we hung above the refrigerator, and a nice wooden stool for a seat by the counter.

We are still looking into flooring, sinks, and various kitchen components. Each little improvement transforms the kitchen into something more functional and a little more towards the distressed style we like.

From George - While in Europe, I noticed how different Europeans approach their kitchens and baths and will try to incorporate that into our space. One important aspect I learned is that Europeans add a lot of charm to their kitchens and baths even though those spaces are pretty small. The furniture, use of height in the space and warmth are very compelling.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our consultant for le petit jardin

My cousin's wife Marleen is my gardening/urban farming hero. During their visit this weekend, she told us what we have in our backyard and gave us a few valuable tips which included that newbies like us start with a little test planting area. Like paint on a wall, you can always change it. So with a few Home Depot gift cards, we started on this little plot on the side of the shed and planted two mum plants and a small bougainvillea including our new "Bengtson Bougainvillea".

I even managed to finish chopping down the Deadly Nightshade' weeds (before crazy George eats them) in a corner of the garden (now we can see how bad that fence looks too, Oy!) where tomatoes will go one day....

You got to start somewhere... right?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"More Saving More Doing More Love"

We weren't quite sure how our alternative wedding registry approach would go over with friends and family (or for us that matter) but it has worked out better than we hoped.

We received many Home Depot (HD) gift cards as well as one from Target. Of that, the HD approach to gift cards was the easiest to deal with. The cards sent to us were ready to use and every penny used went towards the house. The Target online gift approach can only be used at the online store and you had to go on the website pics to see what you want. Here are a few items and house updates since our wedding 2 months ago:

This fan and corner palm tree was from Home Depot courtesy of Chuck Levine. It now hangs in the parlor and looks really, really good. We also picked up needed supplies like gloves, masks and painting supplies. Thanks Chuck & Melanie!

Thanks also to Harriet Rubin in Las Vegas & Heather Pepperdine in Portland for two more HD gift cards! These will most likely be used towards replacing/updating our electrical panel and some wiring. We really appreciate your generosity.

Cousin Mindy's Target gift card went towards a new, high-powered indoor/outdoor HD antenna as well as 6 solar-powered Victorian style lanterns. Thanks Mindy!

The rest of our gift cards went towards a variety of materials that enabled us to finish the hardwood floor in the parlor, plants for the garden, Romex wires, etc.
Wow, as I sit here and write this, Andrea just opened the mail and we received yet, another HD gift card from our friends David and Marilyn Bengtson of Minnesota!

We LOVE all of the wonderful gifts we've received from family and friends for our wedding. Everything seems to fit right in to our old house but the HD cards make us giddy and ecstatic. It's probably really hard for you to imagine that both Andrea and I get "giddy and excited" about getting a HD gift card.....but we do! Not only do we need to go to HD at least once a week, we don't need to use any honeymoon funds to pay for things like buckets, rags, wood and fly traps. Plus working on this home together allows us to learn more about each other, this old house and ourselves. There is a poem in there somewhere and I'm sure it will come to me when I am able to sit back and make another cinepoem/film.

I think if anybody we know is working on fixing up a house of any type, we know that giving a HD gift card is a great gift that truly keeps on giving.

Much love,

from the Aguilars

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Shine Like It Does

After several hard and difficult weeks dedicated to the parlor floor, we are close to the "finish" line (pun intended).

When we moved in, we peeked under the carpet and discovered a pretty ugly mess covered in paint, dark varnish and who knows what else. The original floor probably had not seen the light of day since the turn of the 20th Century.

Although you could see impressions of past furniture placement, various strange cut lines and several small gouges, this old oak floor has it's own stories to tell. It is highly likely it was timbered from an oak tree in Oakland in the days when it had oak trees. It's very sturdy and we were happy to find no warping or broken slats.

This project was very hard on the knees and wrists so I had to take breaks in between working on the floor but now I've applied the final 4th coat of Tung Oil on the floor and will give it a few days before laying anything on the new floor.

It's not a perfect looking floor and still contains many small nicks and nacks in the floor but I decided to pretty much sand off only a thin top layer of the wood....just enough to take off the gunk on top and retain much of the past embedded on to it by long ago residents.

The final result totally changes the vibe of the room and contains a look and glow that I have not seen in most new flooring. It's enchanting to say the least. What do you think?

Thursday, August 19, 2010


The renovated Entryway is looking nice :) We even got antique picture rail hooks. Now George has moved into the Parlor to finish the hardwood floor.

Yep, he did a final prep of sanding and a final cleaning with alcohol, it dries fast. Today he stained the floor with "Classic Oak" and applied the first layer of Tung Oil. It's great for shine and reinvigorates while preserving the wood.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Razor's Edge on Skull Island

One of the interesting things about working on an old home is how one thing leads you to something unexpected and how a little patience, and a razor, can go along way in bringing back to life some old door and floor molding.

We knew there was some water damage behind a closet wall adjacent to our entryway and tried to figure out the best way to deal with it when the walls are all made of plaster and the roof is, well, really, really high up (don't care for heights). So I decide to take down one of the entryway walls to see how bad the damage is and replace any wood rot. What I found was a long neglected leak issue that allowed rainwater to run down to the subfloor and into the basement. Andrea wondered aloud if we could somehow open up part of the entryway so that the 2nd bedroom closet could also become accessible from the entryway. It was also a very dark entryway and we hoped that the light from the little window in the closet would shed more light and perhaps open the space up a bit more functionally. But first I had to replace a piece of rotted subfloor. I almost always keep any wood I remove from the house in the basement and it turned out that the floor boards in the master bedroom that were painted white were actually pieces of old subfloor! So I removed the paint and was able to replace the rotted piece with an almost exact fitting piece of solid flooring.

After fixing the wood damaged pieces we now had a fresh new entry way wall with a new opening. This led me to heat gun the paint off the original floorboards,
Victorian hanging rail and door trim that led into the parlor. This is a painstakingly long process that involved slowly peeling away 3-5 layers of old paint inch by inch. I prefer the heatgun method over scraping paint and using chemicals since the heatgun method pretty much keeps all the paint intact without chips flying all over the place and less fumes. But it's kind of like pulling gum out of your hair if the gum covers your entire body and you happen to be King Kong. Andrea and I wondered how we could make the entryway seem more like it was in the old days so a quick trip to Urban Ore turned up a brand new double roll of wallpaper (geometric tulips) from York, Inc., the oldest wallpaper company in the U.S. She also found a nice floral border for a grand total of $3.50.

We spent one evening putting up the wallpaper after studying videos from a master wallpaper installer on Youtube. We didn't know if the paper would hold since it was discontinued in 1971 but everything went on smoothly, straight and now looks pretty good after a few weeks! Also from Urban Ore, we picked up some nice looking distressed trim for the new closet doorway and wood threshold for about $2.
Wood threshold at HD alone is $20!

After sanding the new newly exposed wood down and filling the decades of gaps and scratches with wood filler, I applied one coat of mission oak stain and about 4 coats of Tung Oil. Yes, I did get on my hands and knees with a razor and pick and plug out the little bits of white paint hiding in the grooves. A single razor is a good thing to have around but again it is very easy to spend an entire day just picking up pieces of paint on a floorboard. So now I just finished applying a light, classic oak stain to the oak floor in the entryway. Now this bland entryway seems the most authentic Victorian part of the whole house with all original wood stained to virtually the original colors with vintage wallpaper. I found some metal Victorian wall hangers for artworks on Ebay for $4.00 and the nice looking cloth medallions for about $10. Sylvia sent us home with very nice pieces of art that will soon decorate this redone entryway that will hopefully transport people the moment they step into the home.

I'm a bit tired now, hands hurt, knees hurt but I'm feeling pretty good about the results. How about you?

P.S. This entryway was brought to you courtesy of Andrea's friends Heather and Tricie who contributed HD gift cards (for our wedding) that went towards purchasing wood filler, stain, masks and other materials.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Photo Update

There is a lot to share but my update will include photos of some new furniture items. George is busy working hard on the Entry Way Renovation. A nice long story about that is forthcoming!

Here is a photo of our little love/wedding alter shelf.

I applied a decorative window film to the closet window.

We found this treasure at Urban Ore recently. It's a dresser with carved wood handles and we are using it in the kitchen where the ole ironing board was.

We also found this unique wrought iron Eiffel Tower for the backyard.

We received some amazing antique furniture pieces from the generous Beckerley's for our wedding! These are a few of the items - this Victorian Chair - rope curtain tie - oval wood table - corner shelf - full length mirror - spice rack that we are currently trying in the bathroom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Plum yummy

We have been harvesting an abundance of plums from our plum trees. I made a couple of plum cobblers that came out pretty good.

George just made his first experimental batch of plum jam which is on my peanut butter sandwich today; and it's quite good!

We've also discovered that we have blackberries which will be put to good use.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

George and Andrea were married, July 16, 2010

Darling vintage wedding cake toppers from my new Sister-in-Law.

George is trying out our weed-eater (wedding gift from my parents).