Been a while. . .

Hi All,

We haven’t forgotten about the blog (or the housework), but early September has been a busy personal season for us.  My parents came up from South Carolina for a visit and Bill had a work weekend with the local arts festival, Colorscape.  So, we have been puttering around getting a few smaller projects done here and there, and my dad really helped us out with cleaning the garage.

The pile we made from the previous owners' stuff

As I mentioned eons ago in one of my first posts, Bill and I had to clean out the house when we moved in.  Up here in rural New York, it is quite common for owners to move out of their house and leave a LOT of stuff behind. . . like old paint and doors, or sometimes furniture and trash.  The pile that we moved out of the house had 5 mattresses, at least 3 old carpets, a baby bed, a box of hymnals, loads of wire hangers and just a lot of junk.  The pile was the size of a large dumpster, but, we ultimately had a lot more to go.

The pile -- complete with mattresses. 20' x 8' x 5'

Since that first week, we’ve been taking trips to the dump to get rid of other stuff.  But, mostly, we’ve been stockpiling the garage with all of this so that we could take it in one big trip (or 5 trips, as we only have a station wagon).  With my parents help, we took 4 carloads to the dump last week.  And, we put another 2 loads on the curb for freebies.

Another rural NY anomaly is free curbside consignment.  Anyone can put almost anything at the curb with a “free” sign and people will stop to gather in the treasure.  Within an hour we had gotten rid of old plywood, broken book shelves and stacks of unused shingles.  The only thing that has remained are some buckets of broken bricks.  It’s truly amazing what people will pick up.  I think my parents were astonished at how easy it can be to “get rid of” clutter by just putting it on the curb.  Really, I’m astonished by it, too.  But, we live in a deprived area of the country.  People are resourceful here, and it is a gift to share what we can’t use.

Garage, pre-cleaning. I took this the week we moved in, before we touched the yard

After the dump runs, my dad removed several old shelving units and swept out the whole building.  We are left with a very clean garage, in which we think we can actually park both cars.  It is labeled as a “one car” unit, but it is quite wide, so maybe we can get both cars inside for the winter storms.  We still need to hang the tools and clean out the garage attic.  Yes, there is a garage attic, but there is no hurry.  Right now, we can use the space a lot more easily than we have for the past year.

Cleaned out garage, with room for more than one car!

So, I think most of the big dump runs are behind us as we won’t need to tear out any more sheetrock or shelving.  But this house holds surprises at every turn, so we’ll keep you posted.

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The Kitchen

This weekend we worked mainly on the kitchen, and getting ready for the winter.  Bill spent some time refinishing our solid cherry storm doors.  (Another treat discovered as he sanded away.)

In process of removing the borders and plaster work

We aren’t planning on getting new counters or appliances for a while, but I was tired of the sad decor and dusty cabinetry in our kitchen.  I wanted it to be a place that I really wanted to work in, and we accomplished just that.

The counters are a mish mash of cobbled together plywood and tiled tops in some spots, laminate in others.  The appliances are black and in fairly decent shape, although it did take me the better part of an early move-in weekend to clean them.

The paint job was an awful pale yellow with a sad apple border placed on top of an older border.  Poorly matching to say the least.  So, I began by taking down the old borders and Bill touched up the plaster work in both the kitchen and pantry.

Before . . .

The pantry, by the way, is a full floor to ceiling butler’s pantry, with window and a swinging door into the dining room.  One of the first things we did last fall was paint the interiors of those cabinets to clean them up.  It’s a luxury to have such a huge pantry, and its beautiful to boot.

Unfortunately, I still need to finish painting it, but I just had to share this post on the completed kitchen.

After a few days of wallpaper removal and plaster work, we primed and then I painted a few coats. I have chosen a palette for the whole house, so every room goes with the next one, and in looking into one room from another, there is a synchronicity.  Since the dining room is a soft green, I thought the pantry and kitchen would look good in a deep rusty orange, really the color of a football.  I’m quite pleased with the outcome, as the kitchen is very warm and Tuscan feeling.  My plum dishes fit nicely in both rooms.

and after

After the painting, I spent hours cleaning the woodwork so that I wouldn’t have to repaint at this time.  Every once in a while there is still a lingering “pet odor” from the multitudes of dogs that lived here long before us.  But, every cleaning makes it better.

Then, Bill put in a new ceiling fan light to replace the potpourri light that was there.  Can’t describe it well, so I thought I would attach a photo. We polished the light above the sink, thinking it might actually be 80 years old. As a last touch, Bill sanded and resurfaced the large cutting board block that is our penisula counter.

With new carpet, too. 🙂

It is warm and homey, ready for bread baking and winter stews and long conversations with good friends.

Working on the kitchen, library and bedroom

Well, there isn’t a lot to show this week in pictures because the progress shots aren’t nearly as exciting as the finished pics with the “before” alongside.  But, I can promise you there is a lot happening.

This week, I started working on the kitchen.  No, the bedroom isn’t complete, but I needed a project of my own while Bill plasters his heart out.  He has done such a beautiful job in the Master bedroom that I’m still shocked it looks almost normal.  AND, we’ll be able to move in this fall.  I’ve picked out colors, stencils and I’m ready to put on the finishing touches.  While he works on that ceiling, I started peeling wallpaper in the kitchen.

Mid-project kitchen shot. . . looking towards the backyard and laundry room

To peel wallpaper in a normal setting, one would find a corner and just pull.  If it is put on correctly, it will come down smoothly without marring the walls.  “Put on correctly” meaning that the walls were primed beforehand.  In our case, most of this paper was put directly onto sheetrock or plaster, meaning that it takes hours to pull down 4 square feet.  The reason people put up wallpaper on un-primed surfaces is that its cheaper and it sticks really well.  I’ve spent four afternoons, so far, peeling down the border in the kitchen.  Spraying with a mix of water and fabric softener loosens the glue and then I can scrape with a razor blade.

Once I’m done, I’ll prime and paint.  We aren’t changing out appliances or counters in the kitchen yet, though it could really use it.  Down the road we’ll either custom build or get something more suitable.  Right now, there is just a mish mash of cobbled together counters and parts.  Except for the spacious butler’s pantry.  🙂  Yum!  I’ll shed light on that space down the road.

And, I mentioned the library in the subject for a reason. . . There are several other ongoing projects that we have yet to mention.  Bill is setting up his wood-shop in the basement, which is in process because of ongoing projects and major clean-out needed down there.  We have also finished the library, which was originally the front parlor, except for the bookshelves and stencil work we’re going to to.  It will definitely be my favorite room in the house once it is complete.  And, last November, we put in a pellet stove, which was a small overhaul in itself.  All of those we have yet to share here with photos, mainly because we want those pieces to be complete before you see them.  There is much to come!

Rooms you’ve not seen. . .

Entering from the front door

Since the master bedroom saga will be ongoing for a while, I thought I would show you a tour of some of the rooms we haven’t yet shared.  Rooms that are way down on the list of getting in order.

The house has four main rooms downstairs and a half bath, and four bedrooms upstairs and a full bath.  Out of those ten rooms, we’ve completed three (the library which we haven’t yet revealed) and we’re onto our fourth, the master bedroom.

Cherry staircase

The hallway, however, is quite large in itself, and very intricately designed with cherry paneling and woodwork all the way through to the second floor.  Once the floors are done and the ceiling replastered, it will likely be the most spectacular part of the house.  I intend to stencil it quite delicately as well.

The living room is nothing special right now, though completely usable.  It’s got an old coal fireplace, which we removed and replaced with a stove for optimum heating.  Currently, its painted an odd red color, but in fine enough shape that we live in it comfortably.

Upstairs hallway, showing doors to the master bedroom on the left and a guest room on the right

We’ve shared the dining room already and the library, or parlor, is yet to come.  Lastly, downstairs is the kitchen and butler’s pantry.  Though it might be a while before I’ll have new cabinets, its still a comfy working space and brightly lit.

Upstairs, besides the master bedroom, we are using a back bedroom for our own, and there is a second guest room.  The smallest bedroom is my studio for now, and I hope to keep it that way.

Our bedroom. . . for now

Bill thinks I should take something larger, but I really like the crowded space for studio work.  I’m not one of those people that likes to spread out.

Looking at my studio from the doorway

Lastly, the house has a full basement, which is currently Bill’s wood shop and paint storage.  It runs a bit damp, and a little too dark for my taste.  But, we’ll eventually make it more usuable and even add a wine cellar if we can get that far.

At some point, we’ll have to discuss the garage, too.  It has held treasures of its own, considering it has its own attic and is larger than a normal one car.  Way off in the distance will we be able to work on it.

The more I write, the more I realize how much there really is to do. 🙂

Front guest room, waiting for company

Master Bedroom Part 2

We’ve put in about 10 full days of work so far on the Master bedroom.  That might not sound like much, but ultimately those are weekend days with both of us working on the room.  And, we’re likely not even halfway done.

Cleaning up debris after sheetrock removal

To give you an idea of how we have spent that time so far. . .

Day 1 & 2:  Dad and Bill pulled out sheet rock covering windows and removed faux closet and shelves.

Day 3:  Bill and I worked on the front window sash cords.  All of the windows in this house are double hung, meaning they open from the top and bottom.  Most of the sash weights are in place for each window, except those two windows in the front in the master bedroom.  So, I had to dig around the attic and basement looking for stray weights.  Then we had to pull out all the insulation alongside the sashes in order to put in the cords so the windows would work.  It’s a beautiful system and easy to do IF there isn’t insulation stuffed in the pockets.

Sash weight and pocket

As you can see to the right, there is a pocket in the woodwork seemed in beautifully.  It removes with a single screw and then each weight for that side of the sashes can be accessed.  So, the old cord needs to be cut, and a new cord fed through the pulley at the top and tied to the weight at the bottom.  The windows open easier than the new vinyl ones once the cords are working.

Day 4:  Bill puts on the front window moulding.  (All of this was completed before our inspection at the end of May.)

Day 5:  Bill took down the lovely bright red shelves in the bedroom nook.  Eventually we’d like to make this part of the room into a master bath, if we could get the plumbing to work.  It’s about 8 x 7 feet, so it could work as a nice HUGE walk-in closet, too.

Red shelves, don't they go nice with pale pink walls?

Day 6:  I cleaned, vacuumed really while Bill began to stabilize the plaster in the ceiling.  There are mostly cracks, but some lose plaster that needs to be adhered before we can really start plastering over everything. Bill is the king of plastering, so I’m sure he’ll explain the process more thoroughly in another post.

Day 7:  I put in sash cords on the other two windows while Bill finished putting up the base moulding and repaired the moulding in the interior window.

Day 8:  Bill painted sashes. . . and I was likely doing laundry, but I can’t remember

Day 9:  Bill finished up all the moulding he could and I started learning how to plaster.  In the afternoon, Bill plastered and I began priming all the woodwork.

Plastering and moulding

This room originally appeared to be a light turquoise.  When it was re-done with all the sheetrock and fake closets, it was painted pink, from ceiling to floor and all woodwork in between.  Below you can see a closeup of the lathe under the original plaster (which was horsehair) and the reason why we need to do so much more plaster on top and repairing the moulding. . or at least filling in the moulding.  When the closet was put in, the owner removed a lot of the moulding and we’ve had to scrounge around the corners of the house to find stuff to fill in.  Thankfully, there are years and years of stored goodies in the recesses of this house.  And, I’m married to a wood working wonder.

Day 10:  Bill plastered like a mad man and almost the whole first coat is completed.

We won’t even start discussing the floor.  That will be a whole new adventure, as this room will have the first floor that we’ll redo from scratch.

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.

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