Monthly Archives: July 2011

St. Charles Retro Metal Cabinets Circa 1954 For Sale

Please note these were sold in October 2011.

So I’ve got this thing. And it’s, it’s bleepin’ golden! Well, technically, it’s “buttercup,” but still-metal cabinets for sale in Chicago I’ve got vintage steel cabinets. When we told our contractor that we wanted to salvage as much as we can from the demo it was because of our desire to keep things out of landfills, but then I learned that our retro St. Charles metal kitchen cabinets, the kind in our kitchen, are a thing. That is, serious retro renovators covet them to the point that they will pay for them.

Fabulous. Empty the landfill and fill my empty checking account.

Before I officially list them on the Chicago CraigsList and in the forum at Retro Renovator, I thought I’d post pics here.

It is a small, but amazing set. Mrs. B must have been the toast of the town back in the day with her fancy pull out shelves and whatnot. (Silly me, I thought those were modern conveniences thought up in the 1990s. Really.)

Take a look at these Buttercup Yellow lovelies, a set consisting of a corner cabinet, a sink base and a 20-inch(ish) side cabinet with the above mentioned fancypants shelves. The true color is represented pretty well in the photo at the top right, though it varies in the other photos.

Like a Mercedes hood ornament, this nameplate is a coveted item in some circles

care label for st. charles cabinets

Still intact after all these years

pull out cabinet drawer, St. Charles

st charles swing out door

st. chalres cabinet drawer pull for sale

If you’d rather see these cabinets in your Chicagoland or Midwestern home than my basement, drop me a note at reluctantrenovator {at} hotmail {dot} com.

The Poop on Overhead Sewers

Day 2 of overhead sewer installation. I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves. (What a mess. And I thought the basement was bad before!)

A picture may say 1000 words, but you cannot understand the odors that come along with this mess without experiencing them firsthand (lucky you). More chemical than poop, but unpleasant nonetheless. Sorry, I didn’t hang around to work on the lighting and get the best shots.



construction mess

Edited 10/16/11 to add: See what it looks like in our basement after the overhead sewer pipes were installed on this video.

Overhead Sewer Installation

As is common in our neck of the woods, and indeed many of Chicago’s suburbs,cracked plumbing stack our house has flooded in the past. But there are two kinds of floods. The first is a result of groundwater seeping in from over-saturated soils and drain tiles or overflowing sump pumps; let’s call this the “good” kind of flood. The second is a result of an overwhelmed municipal sewer system that backs up through basement floor drains, showers or toilets; let’s call that the sh*tty kind.

At least once upon a time, our mid-century house flooded. We know there was at least one big sh*tty flood after 1980, before the completion of Chicago’s Deep Tunnel Project. Who knows if we’d experience a sewage back up again?

DH put it to me this way, “How much would you pay to guarantee you will never have to clean up someone’s poop from our basement?”

Thinking it an unlikely scenario (I’m optimistic like that), I capped the amount at under $3,000. The husband capped it closer to $15K.

He won.

He does have a point.

And now we have a new overhead sewer system, plus a sump pit and an ejector pit in our basement.

Gone is the silvery old cracked sewer stack which leaked out just a teensy bit of poopy water (pictured above).

And now, after Day 1 of a 3-day install, we’ve got this snazzy 4-inch PVC running the length of our entire basement. Yes, it willsoon be filled with freshly flushed toilet water, so let’s hope it doesn’t leak!

overhead sewer pipe in basementSee the remnant of our cracked old stack? It’s going to get clipped off at floor level and sealed up.

overhead sewer PVC pipe exits the housePer code, the line exits the house four feet below grade, so it’s really only overhead if you’re the smallest person on Earth.


digging near foundationOf course, it’s not a done deal until our new piping meets the city sewer lines. Yes, that used to be our front lawn. But what really kills me is this:

breaking open a wallThe plumber had to open a wall in my office to vent the new lines and DH did not tell them to put down cardboard or anything to protect my shiny new floor! #Ugh.

On a lighter side, we look pretty cool with this parked in our driveway.

Updated 10/16/11 to add. What do overhead sewers look like? See our YouTube video about them.



Basement Workshop: The original mancave

basement workshopNearly every mid-century house we looked at had a substantial basement workshop. The original mancave.  Picture all of the walls in the photo on the right walls lined with racks and shelves of old yet well-organized tools- rugged, worn wooden and metal tools. That’s how it appeared when we first toured the house.

Tony, the former owner, the man who literally built our house, must have put in many hours there. Oh, but we hope to build and destroy and  tinker to our heart’s content in the basement workshop!

The reality is, though, that this dark, dank basement space is completely uninviting. Creepy, even.

And after removing some wall damage  in order to fix crack in the foundation, it looks even worse, especially given that I’ve been acquiring handy items during my shopping hauls and filled up the workbench without organizing it.

Also, both the plumber and the electrician will be messing it up even further in the coming week or two, as the former digs a sump pit near the workbench and the latter installs a new panel.


At any rate, the workshop currently looks something like this:

workshop with wall damage

Let’s hope this is not so much an “after” shot as merely an interim photo.

Let’s hope we get to building and making things before the end of the year.

New Uses for Old Doors

Behold our kitchen door. I think we had one quite like it in the house where I grew up.old kitchen door Even without the curtain and covered by a fresh stain or new coat of paint, I sense it will look out of place in our soon-to-be updated kitchen. More importantly, the glass panels near the top shake just a little too much for my comfort and I don’t think they are made from tempered glass, meaning we could be in for a nasty accident when someone slams the door a bit too hard, whether innocently or in anger.

Just a few feet away from this egress, there’s a lovely pocket door that is similarly doomed. The pocket door divides the kitchen from the dining room, but as is the modern way, we’re knocking down the wall that divides the two rooms. Which means the pocket door will be pocketless.

We haven’t figured out a way to re-use these doors. Make that I haven’t found a way; DH is less concerned. We don’t have any other door needs to be filled, but there could be a brilliant creative use out there for these items- like as tables or headboards or…something.

So I got excited when I saw @EllieFunt tweet about a corner shelf made out of an old door that she posted on Pinterest. Pinterest is like a series of virtual bulletin boards you create on topics of interest (books, food, design, fashion, etc.) and share with your friends. You (virtually) pin interesting things. Get it?

I’m @KimMoldofsky there, but I’ve yet to figure out the intricacies of the space. It’s just fun to look at pretty, cool things. Drop me a note if you’re on Pinterest and would like to be able to pin things on my Crowdsource Kitchen or Crowdsource Bath boards. (Clearly, I need help. Right now the only item pinned in the kitchen space is actually a bathroom item. Ugh.)

At any rate, Ellie’s pin inspired me to dig a bit further until I found entire websites devoted to repurposing old doors. So I will save doors (cabinets and anything else I can up to the point of nearly causing DH a nervous breakdown) and hopefully find uses for them in the coming decade year and then I will turn the remainder over to the local salvage joint or Freecycle.

Do you have any inspired uses for my old doors?

Upstairs Bath BEFORE

This is the upstairs bathroom, AKA the Boys’ Bath. It’s currently ours, but once we have a master bablue bathroom wall with toilet and storageth, it will be theirs. Sadly, this room has been relegated to the renovation B List.

Unless I win the lottery.

But seeing as I consider the lottery a tax for people with bad math, we may not get around to updating this whimsical room until 2012.

It starts out normal enough, if a bit off-center. (Any suggestions for filling that space alongside the toilet? It seems a bit large for a mere magazine holder.)


Not surprisingly, it could use a lighting update.

vitnage fluorescent light

Uh, here’s where it starts to get a bit funky.


HVAC venting in the shower and the eave from the roof add quirky touches, but the real zinger (literally) is the fact that one can flip the light switch on while lathering up and turn it off while rising away the suds. Danger, Will Robinson!

shower with light switch in it

That’s what I’m talkin’ about.

And for convenience, one can plug in her blow dryer in the base of that fluorescent light to the right of the mirror and get to work on her hair without  leaving the tub. Perfect for the night owl who needs a morning shower to jolt her awake.

On the bright side, the tub and the tile seem to be in pretty good shape.

I know, I’m grasping at straws here; aren’t I?


Based on popular demand, I came back to add a link to our totally retro pink bathroom.