Before and After. . . Renovations so far

Dining room, before we began
Dining room, complete with lemon trees

Here are a few images to give you an idea of how far we’ve come in 2 and a half years.  We still have a ways to go, but our house has become “ours”.  I’ll move through the images based on the order in which we completed the work.

We moved in during July of 2009, but since we were only renting (waiting on our loan to go through), we didn’t want to start any major work.  We spent the summer cleaning out the house, pruning back vines and readying for our paint crew.

When the outdoor work was underway, we began by cleaning up the kitchen and sealing the pantry.  We pulled carpet out of the laundry room, which I still haven’t show you.

And then we started the big work.  Since the dining room looked as though it would be one of the easier rooms, we started there.

Library with window still boarded
Library finished

Next we worked on the library, though we still have yet to put in shelves.

Bathroom before demolition
Completed bath

Then we started upstairs with the full bath and alongside we painted the kitchen.  It took us a LOOONG time to do the bath because we had to remove crappy wallpaper, which was adhered with caulk and a soldering gun.  Just kidding, but it was put on eerily strong.

Kitchen, fall 2009
Kitchen, freshly painted

We stayed upstairs to work on the master bedroom and redid the ceiling in the dining room, not even a year later.  Then we began the nursery and finished up with the living room, where we are still putting final details in place.

Pantry in progress
Pantry, painted

We’ve yet to redo anymore floors except for the master bedroom, though we did consider having someone else come in and do them for us.  We are still debating what to do there.  Such a big job for us.

We still have yet to put up the chandelier in the living room and attach the mantle, though Bill has completed it.

Master Bedroom, with windows covered
Master Bedroom completed, except for ceiling fan and stencil
Nursery first used as our bedroom
Nursery with mural begun

Once those pieces are in place, he will begin our bookshelves!  I cannot wait to get all my books in place.  I feel as though we still haven’t moved in because my books are waiting patiently in boxes all over the house.  I’m not a hoarder by any stretch, nor a collector of anything in particular, but I do love books.  And, thankfully, Bill loves building and working with wood, so this will be a great project for us both.

While Bill is working on the shelves, I have yet to finish painting and stenciling several areas in the house.  I am also going to draft up plans for our garden.  I’d like to get some flowerbeds in place this spring, for once.

Living room, first week moved in
Living Room complete!
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Changes are coming

Well, we’re off to a slow start this year.  The master bedroom is my pride now that it is complete, however, we’ve found a major glitch in our renovation system.  The baby appears to be allergic or irritated by the products we used on the floor!  So, that great little nursery nook we made?  Well, it all had to be moved, and moved again.  At first we didn’t know it was the room, so it took us a while to figure out that our son was agitated and stuffy because of the solvents.  I can still smell them faintly, but Bill can’t smell them at all.  So, we were hoping to be settled.  But, the baby has a sensitive system, so we moved him next door into the guest room/green room.  Alas, the floor still seems to bother him, so we moved him down to the library.  And now, currently, the baby’s room is in our library.  (And, our bedroom is the close-by dining room).  The green room still holds the crib, and there is a pack and play in the kitchen.  It is a long story, but when one has a baby, the house seems to collect baby things in every room.

We were going to focus on finishing the floors this summer, but we aren’t going to move forward on those until we know what finish to use.  Our previous choice was not only easy to maintain and looks great, but it is extremely durable.  The best choice for low odor will be softer and more likely to scuff.  Throw out ideas if you have them.

But, we are plugging away at Will’s new room, whether or not we do his floor right away.  Bill is spending bits of time here and there plastering and I’m well. . . I’m nursing and diaper changing a little man who will eventually be helpful on the home renovations, too.

You can see how much he has grown in 3 months.  He is giving us a workout physically but we’ll get back to full swing eventually and finish this project! 😉

Taken last week, just after a feeding
in the hospital the day after he was born

Stay tuned for a video tour soon!

the Library

Middle window was sided from the outside and boarded up

We started the library eons ago.  It was the second room we completed, but we have a long way to go considering we’re going to put in built in shelves, and I’m going to stencil the whole ceiling.  Yikes.  But, considering that the plastering is completed and it is a viable, usable room, here are the pictures of our process.

Originally, this room would have been the front parlor, the more formal sitting room.  And, from what we know it was used that way with a piano on the back wall at least for a time when the Skinner family resided here.  (There were two sisters, the Skinners, that lived in the house for many years, related to the original owners, the Ives family.)

My amazing superman

When we first looked at the house, there was a large pool table in the room and nothing else.  The middle window had been sealed up and boarded over from the inside and siding put on from the outside.  So, from the outside, it didn’t appear there was a window.  The interior colors were pink and off white wallpaper, with a glass Tiffany wannabe light hanging in the center of the room.

I began by removing wallpaper, which was rather easy in this room, considering it was put on correctly.  It took me weeks, but it came down smoothly.  Bill had to re-plaster one whole section of wall, by first removing old plaster and the filling in.  The plaster had been severely damaged and was quite soft.  It wouldn’t have worked just to put on our mesh and go over it with joint compound.  You can see from this photo the lath underneath.  It is super cool to see how the house was put together.

Working the plaster at night

And, from this work, we were also able to see the horsehair in the plaster.  Yup, real horsehair plaster for those that aren’t familiar. I suppose it gave the plaster more structure to adhere.

Once the repairs were complete, the wall paper removed, we fixed the double hung windows, re-plastered the ceiling, primed and painted the whole room.  We also fixed these pocket doors.  They were the first ones we tried to repair and learned how to do so in the process. All of the doors hang on tracks, and they can be adjusted up and down as needed.  Since the doors are solid cherry, they are quite heavy.  And, with constant use over 100 years, they have begun to hang low and expand.  With a little work, we were able to raise them on the tracks and get them moving again quite easily.  We did not, however, remove them completely to refinish the back sides.  I would like to do that at some point so they match the interior woodwork, but it is a ways off.

The room is plastered and primed, waiting for color

Currently, we use the room as an office, with both of our desks.  We are also letting Will nap in there regularly because it is quiet and dark, and I can be downstairs with him all day this way.  It works well for a variety of purposes, but it isn’t decorated or attractive this way.

The upcoming shelving project will do a lot to enhance this room.  Bill will build all cherry shelves along the two full walls and I will stencil the ceiling to give the room more character.  I suppose if we are lucky we’ll be able to start on this room in the fall.  We have to complete the nursery and refinish the downstairs floors before then, so I can’t guarantee our timetable.

Finished and waiting for decor

Of course, I will show pics of Bill’s process on the shelves and the stenciling along the way.

Have a wonderful Easter!

It’s all in the details

Working set of pocket doors going to the library

While I’m waiting for our newly refinished floor to cure so that I can finish the stenciling and move in to my new room, I thought I’d share some of the more intricate treasures in the house with you more closely.  Although our house is not the typical over the top Victorian that one may think of when they hear the word Victorian, the Queen Anne style certainly suits our tastes and the detailing that we do have is superb.

We have both mentioned the woodwork in the downstairs and front hallway before, solid cherry paneling.  I think we have also mentioned that there are sliding pocket doors downstairs, seven to be exact.  The difficult piece for us in this is the work we’ll need to do to get them all rolling again.  Only three of them work smoothly, but we have figured out how to repair them without damaging or even taking apart the woodwork.  The tracks that the doors live on can be raised and lowered within each housing case, and once we start working on a set, Bill will likely take you through the process on how we can maneuver them.

Swinging door push plate

Each door has beautiful hardware inset handles and locks.  When we first came to the house, I had assumed that this hardware was bronze.  To my surprise, when polished, it is a rose colored brass or copper plated.  I can’t polish all of the hardware fully, so as not to wear down the plating, but fresh lime juice and sea salt work wonders.  My favorite piece of hardware so far is the push plate on the swinging door between the pantry and the dining room.  I think we’ve been very lucky that so much of the hardware is intact and in good shape.  Many houses are stripped of the hardware simply because of its worth.

Along with the door and window hardware, the floor hardware is stunning.  Yes, the floor hardware.  We have heavy iron floor registers in each room leading to our basement oil furnace.  Actually, my studio register is not connected to anything, thus leaving that room with no heat.  But, in all other rooms, there is a large register.

A single unique register in the kitchen floor

In only room is the register in the wall, and I believe we have three types of registers.  Most of them are quite large and replaceable if we ever needed to get a new one.  However, to replace a single register alone would cost $300. For each room that we have worked in, we’ve cleaned and repainted the registers.  Mostly they are dull and rusty, but shine up quite nicely with high gloss black paint.

Once again, Vandyke’s Restorers is our go to place for finding any hardware replacements.  I’ve had to buy window sash locks and strike plates through them, and we have appreciated the quality they serve up.

Not all of the glorious details we’ve found have originated in the house itself.  As we go, (slowly), we are adding tidbits to each room to make them unique and sassy.  The Victorian era was full of flourish and mismatched floral patterns.  I can’t say that we’ll end up with a house reeking of 1890, but I can say that we are intending to create an updated Victorian feel.

Unreal, right?

This past holiday, in a small art co-op in South Carolina, we came upon a perfect detail to add to our dining room.  A porcelain switch plate, painted ideally for our already stenciled walls.  I was in shock when I found it and bought it without hesitation.  I’ve even thought of writing the company to let them know how perfect it is for us.  Take a peek, the company that makes these plates is called “Now that’s a switch“.

More details to come, as we continue to unfold!

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!