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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Bare room

You can see original wallpaper under the top layer of paper inside closet

We are pricing out and starting to order materials for the baby’s room.  As I mentioned in the last post, we’ll be putting sheet rock on the ceiling in here, so we’re going to order a  shipment that will allow us to also have enough for 3 other rooms in the house.  Once that arrives, Bill will be able to start prepping the room.

Right now, we haven’t done anything to it except clear it of all furniture and decorations.  An empty canvas if you will, ready and waiting.  It is one of my favorite rooms in the house, so I’m looking forward to transforming it into a comfortable living space.

While we are waiting on supplies, and giving ourselves a bit of renovation break waiting for the baby, here are some photos of the room completely bare.

Faces the east side of the house, envision this room directly above the dining room
Two corner closets and entrance from hall
Interior of closet, showing wallpaper that needs to be removed

Moved in

The master bedroom is complete and we moved in this weekend.  I have a touch up of stenciling to do, but other than that — it is a livable, decorated space.

Painted cornice and velvet curtains

You can see that we completed the paint job by painting in a cornice moulding around the top of the room in the trim color, leaving the lines crisp.  Without the furniture, it looks rather tailored and formal, unlike the frilly Victorian feel the room would have originally had, likely with flowered wallpaper.  So, the stenciling should help that feel quite a bit.  As I mentioned earlier, I may go ahead and stencil the whole room, but I’ll have to sit with that for a while before I take the leap.  Doing one wall is weeks worth of work.

Furnished

The wood furniture is turn of the century, coming from my grandmother’s cousin’s parents, known in the family as Uncle Gus and Aunt Ella.  The bed, dresser and gentleman’s bureau were their personal bedroom furniture.  I am very lucky to have these pieces as they fit beautifully into our home and are in wonderful condition.

The  black and white upholstered chair was my Christmas gift from Bill.  I had wanted a nice glider or rocker for the baby’s arrival, but something that would endure many years and not look dated.  This is what I chose, a glider that is also a recliner.  Very comfy and a nice contrast to the solid gray walls.

Nursery Nook

The nook is also completely furnished with the baby’s goodies: crib, dresser and changing table.  We’ll plan to have the baby with us in the nook until his room is ready for moving in, likely at least five months.

Now that we’re all moved in, we’ll be taking a close look at our old bedroom, the octagon room, and deciding how to attack it next.  Eventually it will be the baby’s full time room, to be decorated in turquoise and chocolate with a Peter Rabbit theme.  (You can tell I’ve been ready to do this one a while.)  Pictures and process yet to come!

Stenciled wall behind the bed

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!

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

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

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.