Upstairs Bath

Someone pointed out recently that we haven’t been showing what we’re doing right at this moment.  (Sorry about that, there is so much past work to show, it’s hard to squeeze it all in.)  Well, Bill’s next post will unveil the biggest recent project and we’ll walk through each day of renovation in fairly real time so that you can see how long it takes us to finish a project.

Original wall paper

In the meantime, I wanted to show you what we’ve just completed — the upstairs bath.  There are only two bathrooms in the entire house, and the one upstairs is the only full bath.  When we moved in, the tub was actually brown with grime.  Thankfully, my sweet husband scoured it for me.

The dark green wallpaper was peeling from everywhere and the ceiling had also been wallpapered to hide cracks (also peeling).  The woodwork was dry, and the closet unmentionable.  So, we got to work.

Bill doing the wall paper peel

We started the bathroom renovation almost immediately when we moved in last July.  However, we couldn’t do much at that time as we were waiting for the full purchase to go through.  So, we removed the urine stained carpet in the closet and put 3 coats of paint on the closet walls to cover the dark green.  It was enough for the time.

Once this spring rolled around, we got to work on the main part, removing wallpaper.  It took us weeks to remove the paper, considering it had been put on bare plaster and bare sheet-rock in some places.  Nothing takes it off when it is glued directly to sheet-rock.  The only thing one can do is cover it, so we did.  Bill, the everlasting plaster machine, loaded on 6 layers of plaster to cover wallpaper, cracks and divets in the walls.  Then, I was able to prime and paint and stencil.  We both restored the woodwork with our new favorite treatment, Danish oil.  To round out our work, I repainted the light fixtures and sink brackets in hammered copper.  If you notice in the top photo, the marble sink has two brackets underneath holding it up, or pretending to hold it up.

Completed Bath

Our greatest treasure was finding an old marble topped vanity (matching the sink marble) to use as a counter and storage.  The bathroom is oddly shaped, but big enough to hold a small dresser.  To top off the new look, we got new sink hardware in oil rubbed bronze.  Course, there was no way I wanted to change the sink.  We think it is original, a small corner marble sink–couldn’t be more quaint.

Bill topped off the room by giving the floor a coat of polyurethane, and we called it done.  Really, this is the first room in the house that is fully complete~ floors, hardware, linens, everything.

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the Attic

When Bill and I were first looking for a house together, there were a few things that I really wanted.  I didn’t care how many bedrooms or baths, and I didn’t care about the year it was built or the style.  Granted, house-hunting is quite different here in New York than anywhere I’ve been.  There aren’t “suburbs” and new construction means “double-wide” or anything after 1960.  So, I adapted with a few requirements that stuck.

First, I wanted a place to garden.  Pulling weeds is relaxing to me, so I need a place to plant things, that I may or may not kill in my own way and time.  (I have started a garden of sorts here and the cherry tomatoes are growing!)

Secondly, I really wanted a fireplace. It is so cold here, and the snow makes that bearable.  But, the fireplace is my winter therapy.  The light even makes a room seem warmer than it is.  We’ve adapted the coal fireplace here to a usable status; so we’ll show you that in a later post.

Lastly, I wanted a walk in attic.

the attic stairs

Now, I didn’t realize that could be something that one could want, until we visited a glorious Federal home a few towns away.  This amazing brick house was a consideration of ours, but the trailer park neighborhood across the street drove away our interest.  However, it had a full walk up attic, where “I” could stand!  And it had windows, and old trunks!  Quickly, needing an attic became a requirement.

East side, and windows to house front

For most of the houses we visited, Bill looked at the attic and the basements first, to give me a full report.  At 60 West Main, it looked promising when I saw the STAIRS that led up to the attic for this house.  Bill shook his head and said, “Well, its a deal breaker, you’re not going to like this.”  I couldn’t have imagined what it would look like.

Windows facing the back yard

The trap door opened to reveal a full walk up attic, with windows on all four sides and the original beams showing their hardy structure.  I was in love, and ready to move my studio in right away.  Apparently, though, I’m not allowed to put a wood stove up there, and its not safe to heat without changing the whole thing.  We would have to put up sheet rock to cover the beams, and insulation and ultimately hide its glory in order to “use” it for living space.

So, instead, I visit it when I can, and I’ve put a light up there so that it shines through the three stained glass windows up there on winter nights.  This year, I might even put a small Christmas tree in one of the front windows.

At the top of the attic stairs

Dining Room, phase 1

We started with the dining room first, because it seemed to have the least work to do and we wanted to feel as though we really accomplished something.  When we originally looked at the house, there was a huge drum-

Dining room, pre paint

set in the room.  The walls were patched, and the undercoat was a dirty yellow.  But, its a HUGE room, with three large windows at one end and a curved cove at the other.  Yes, the light appears to be original, too.

And so, the real work began.  We have to re-paint and repair all of the rooms downstairs before we can refinish the floors, and that is another post of course.

Bill priming the ceiling

I chose a soft lime sage green for the base coat.  We had to patch and prime the entire room and ceiling beforehand, though. What we didn’t know at the time, however, was that the ceiling had been wallpapered at one time.  That old glue showed up much later, after the whole room had been completed and the ceiling started to peel.  Thankfully, it was our first ceiling, so re-doing it was more of a lesson learned well than anything.  Bill is still working on that part, but should be done in the next few weeks.

Dining room, post stenciling

Painting the room was a quick process, but the stenciling took about 6 weeks or so.  It was well worth it.  Though you can’t tell from these photos, we fixed all the windows, cleaned the hardware and the woodwork.  Most of the original hardware appears to be either copper or a rose colored bronze.  Most, if not all the windows in the house are dual hung, so that the sashes open from the top and the bottom.  We have replaced all the cords here in the dining room, so they are all completely functional.  The second phase of the dining room will involved refinishing the floors and getting real furniture.  Might be a ways off.

Other side of the dining room, (swinging door goes to pantry.)

Our last piece of the dining room came as a bit of a surprise to both of us.  Bill actually finished the ceiling while I was away this past week and we both decided that the light needed a little something.  So, we planned to put a plaster medallion in place around the base, and I thought I could clean the fixture while it was down.  Originally, I had thought it was plated with brass or gold and needed to be re-done.  However, with a closer look and some cleaning, I discovered that it was silver!  And, might not be just silver plate, either.  Check out the before and after!  Woo hoo, another sweet surprise that the house holds.

Dining room light before cleaning. . .
. . . and after polishing

An outdoor tour

To give you a full view of what Bill and I are dealing with, let me give you an outside tour.

Removing the huge raised bed in the back

The house was in need of a deep cosmetic painting job, requiring us to get a renovation loan in order to buy it. Right now, in NY state, any home that has peeling paint requires a renovation loan, as banks don’t want to be stuck with foreclosed homes in need of work. Once we found a painter, got an estimate and knew we could afford the home. . .we pursued.

Bill pulling cinder blocks up out of the yard

With the weather being so calm in August and September, Bill and I worked on clipping back the yard so that it was ready for the painters. This is a shot of the back yard and house before the painters even began scraping, so you can see. . . it needs work.

We had to do a LOT of preparation for the painters in terms of pruning back the vegetation, which had been growing for a good 10 years without any clipping. We left at least two piles of debris the size of a car next to the curb for pickup in the first month of cleanup.

Second visit to the house, pre-purchase

(Here you can see that one of the front windows on the ground floor is boarded over. How nice. . . and really weird.->)

After pulling out a chunk of hummingbird vine, we removed a large “L” shaped raised bed from the middle of the backyard. It had road ties to hold in the soil and was set upon cinder blocks. We spent a weekend taking it out.

The backyard is still quite full of vegetation, and the whole house is rather shady because it has been so overgrown. But, we managed to pull the vines off the south side of the house and started pruning the front yard, too.

One can barely see the house for the trees. .

I will show an after picture later of what the house looks like post-purchase with the vegetation cleared. But, this is really amazing growth, I think.

Moving In

Hi All,

This is my first post for our house blog.  I thought it might be interesting to write about what we’re doing and occasionally share photos and glimpses to the finished product.  Bill and I will take turns sharing our views about the house on West Main.

Bill and I officially moved in July 23rd, 2009, and formally bought the house in late September.  To start our blog journey, I wanted to share some moving day photos.

It’s difficult when you move into a new house to know where to put everything, especially if you have a lot of crap to move out. . . like the junk the previous owner left.

What we found in the house when we moved in. . .

This is what we found when we moved in. .. old mattresses, rotting books & shoes, loads of paint, dusty rugs and curtains. A filthy place, we couldn’t even walk around barefoot for a few weeks.  The house had been rented out for several years, which meant overgrowth in the yard, grease in the kitchen and a shower that was brown (instead of white).  The owners lived in Florida and were “shocked” to hear about the pile that we moved out.  And yet, they were confused about why we didn’t want the metal desk in the smallest bedroom upstairs.  They had just accepted it from their previous owners and used it.  Well, Bill and I weren’t accustomed to living with other people’s junk and dust.  So, we’ve been cleaning out ever since.

Course, our piles of stuff on moving day didn’t help it look any better.  We moved most of our stuff into the den and parlor so that we could clean floors.  Below, you see the den facing the front of the house.

Moving stuff in

It will be a long, enjoyable journey to get this house where we want it. My mom and husband have an agreement that it will be done in five years. I think it is possible, but we’ll see. Each room holds its own treasures and challenges.